“The city finally got abandoned when some dry years killed the crops and the constant wars made continuing impossible. Some got carted off by enemy armies to populate other cities. Gluga and I found a few people here. More have come. Mostly artists and workers tired of all the fighting and killing. We have tried to keep the settlement small, so the armies won’t bother us. We have a small group of Shemsu here. Imagine, after all these centuries, some Shemsu have remained apart and not entirely blended into the larger population. We hide them, mostly. You know, they are in big demand to build and maintain things in the cities.”
“I can imagine,” Katie said as they stood and watched the people bring a whole deer to the open porch in front of a very large building. The men bowed and backed away, quickly. Gluga stuck her head out and grabbed the deer. They saw the light of the flames as Gluga ate.
“The building has no roof on it, so Gluga does not feel confined,” Yamaya explained what she already explained. “She can come and go as she pleases. I think it was a funeral building. There are dead bones, broken shields and weapons, and lots of shards of old pottery. There are even some gold, silver, and jade things there. I would think it would be very uncomfortable to sleep in, but Gluga loves it. She has marked it all as her nest.”
“And woe to anyone who imagines stealing something from the nest,” Lockhart said.
“No one is that stupid,” Yamaya said.
After three days of rest, the travelers with Yamaya and Gluga headed off toward the northern lowlands. Boston complained, but Alexis explained to her that Yamaya would bring them to the place where the time gate showed. It was for their own safety.
“But the gate will just move further away, the closer Yamaya gets,”
“Yes, but then Yamaya and Gluga will fly back to Mirador. It should take a couple of days, and the gate will come back to the place it is now.”
“Oh,” Boston understood. “That should work.”
On the road, Yamaya said little outside of lovely, pleasant conversation. She admitted early on that she was honestly not very smart in this life. “I don’t know. I think all the brains got saved for other lifetimes. I got no education. Gluga probably has as much brains as I do. Maybe that is why we get along so well.”
“Yes,” Katie said. “Gluga seems to have a very big vocabulary.”
Yamaya paused and looked serious for a minute, a look which did not fit on her face at all. “Gluga is still an animal, not a person, I think. After being in a cage for five hundred years and hearing all the talk around her, she learned an amazing number of words. She has a much bigger vocabulary than a dog or a chimp. She understands complete sentences and can even respond in sentences when her tongue and lips cooperate. But my lifetimes say she is still an animal, and not a person. I don’t get how that works. Anyway, she adopted me. Much better than a watchdog. She is the mother, and I am the baby. I don’t mind.”
Later in the evening, Boston, who in the end bonded a bit with the dragon, at least more than any of the others, went to talk to the beast. She scratched a little behind the dragon’s ears and then leaned on the snout.
“So, you adopted Yamaya,” Boston said. She had to wait for the answer.
“Yamaya is baby. I protect baby.”
Boston nodded but had a more serious question. “You love her?”
“Yes,” the dragon responded rather quickly. “Saved me. Fly again. Love.”
Boston nodded. “I love her too,” she admitted.
“I know,” the dragon said, snorted, and appeared to smile, just a little.
Boston returned the smile and in a moment of madness leaned over and kissed the dragon’s nose. The dragon rumbled a minute, which someone might have thought of as the dragon’s way of preparing to let out some fire, but Boston understood it was something more like the purr of a cat.
On another occasion, Tony asked how Yamaya came to be in Tikal and slated to be sacrificed. Nanette shook her head, as if to say that might not be a good subject to bring up, but Yamaya did not mind, and Tony explained. “Nanette and I are both students of history, though mostly Greek and Roman history. What is more, we are from 1905, when not much was known about the Mayan world. Katie, from 2010 knows more than I know. Professor Fleming never said much if anything about the Maya. I am curious.”
“I don’t mind,” Yamaya said and smiled for Tony. She sat for a long time and people stayed patient and quiet. Finally, she spoke.
“My father was a great man. Lincoln said our city was…” She could not remember.
“Palenque,” Lincoln prompted.
Yamaya nodded. “My father was a great man in the city. Jonab Pakal. Maybe you heard of him? No, I guess not.” Yamaya sighed. “He got killed when the army of Calakmul came. I was very young. I hid. King Chan of Calakmul found me anyway. His brother, the evil K’ahk wanted to sacrifice me to the gods, but Chan had another idea. He betrothed me to his eldest son, Cauac. Cauac was about fourteen. I was about half that age, maybe six or seven. Cauac was not the greatest thinker. He was showing no interest in girls, or in the idea of marriage. But we got thrown together, and we became best friends.” Yamaya paused to sniffle a bit. “His younger brother Chan, now King Chan II, was mean and ambitious. You know what I mean ambitious?” They all did. Sukki had to interrupt.
“You did not get married at age seven, did you?”
Yamaya shook her head, said, “No,” and laughed at the thought. “I was fifteen. Cauac was twenty-three. But we were happy. We loved each other.” Yamaya kept trying to smile. “Well, when old King Chan died, Cauac got named king. I got to be queen. I did not expect that. It was different. People who did not care for me at all, suddenly became nice to me. I was happy for a minute, but then Uncle K’ahk took over. He ran things and made all the decisions in Cauac’s name, and had his name written in the city. I don’t know that. I can’t read. But Cauac and I were kept like prisoners for almost eight years.”
“That must have been hard,” Alexis said.
“I did not mind so much,” Yamaya said. “I was not sure about this queen business, anyway. And I stayed with my best friend. We had a son. But he died.” Yamaya sniffled again. “I had a sister when I was young, an older sister, but my sister died when King Chan came. That was a sad time, but I was very young. Well, the city that just got taken by Caracol…” she could not remember the name.
“Naranjo,” Lincoln said. Yamaya wrinkled her brows to question the name, but Lincoln gave her an answer. “That is what the city is called in the database.” Yamaya shrugged.
“We, I mean Calakmul took Naranjo away from Tikal, but they rebelled, and Uncle K’ahk died trying to get it back. Cauac got to be king, for real. He listened to his brother, Chan, and they took back Naran… that city. I got to be queen for six whole years. After being in prison for eight years, like Gluga. I understand being in prison and understand how it hurts. So Cauac and I were happy, but the kings in this world have to fight. They fight to protect the trade, and to make new trade and trade places, and to keep some cities small and make their city big. Kill, killing, fighting, sacrifices for the gods, and more killing. The kings do not know what peace is.” Yamaya almost looked mad, though Boston said later she was not sure if Yamaya knew what anger was.
“You were queen for six years?” Katie prompted in case Yamaya lost her place in the story.
“Oh, yes. Then Cauac got killed fighting in another city. The evil Chan became king, and I got driven into the wilderness of Tikal.”
“They did not try to sacrifice you?” Lockhart asked.
Yamaya shook her head. “Chan was afraid,” Yamaya said. “He doesn’t seem afraid of anything, but he seemed afraid.” She paused and looked down at her hands. “I have little ones who follow me around. I told them I was not Huyana. I did not need to see them. I said I would call them if I needed them, but they are very protective. I know they are there.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “I think they threatened Chan.”
“All right,” Boston shouted into the wilderness. When the others looked at her, she admitted. “I know they are there, and I agree with them. If anyone wanted to hurt Yamaya, I would threaten them, too. How about you, Gluga.”
“Yes,” everyone heard, and some were startled. They did not realize the dragon was sitting there the whole time, in the dark beyond the firelight, listening.
“But I don’t want anyone to be hurt,” Yamaya said.
“Why didn’t you tell us there were others around?” Nanette asked Boston.
“You could have told me,” Sukki said.
Boston shrugged as Alexis spoke up. “No reason to tell. You must assume they are somewhere around wherever we go.”
“Okay, but what happened?”
Yamaya tried to pick up the story. “I escaped… I mean, I got caught… Cadmael and men from Tikal caught me in the woods. The king of Tikal was going to cut my heart out. He said cutting out the heart of the Queen of Calakmul was like cutting out the heart of the enemy city. But the little ones helped me escape, and I helped Gluga escape. We went to the wilderness of Uaxactun for a while. Poor Gluga was so skinny, and her wings were all but dead. She is better now. Of course, the people of Tikal and Calakmul have not bothered us. I did see Cadmael and told him he would not be bothered if he moved south. I guess he did. He seemed like a nice man. Anyway, after a while we moved to the old city, and we are happy there.”
Everyone smiled for her, and she said, “I think I will go to sleep now.”
A few days later they arrived at Chichen Itza. They found Shemsu there who were wary of strangers, but nice once the travelers got to know them. Thus far, they only had the ground floor of the famous pyramid built, but it would not take too long to finish once they got to it.
In the meanwhile, everyone got distracted as a giant globe of an alien ship moved slowly overhead. The travelers all recognized the ship, and Yamaya borrowed Elder Stow’s communication device, tuning it quickly to the right frequency.
“Agdaline. You are welcome here, but you must follow me and my andasmagoria to a place where you can safely set down. Send word to your fleet. I am the one in this place designated by the gods to help you. Please cooperate.”
Yamaya shrugged as she handed Elder Stow his equipment. “The Agdaline think too highly of themselves. I can never tell what they will do.”
“Will you be all right?” Katie asked.
Yamaya nodded. “Not your problem. Martok and the others are already volunteering to help.” She smiled a great big smile, and Katie could not resist hugging her.
Everyone said good-bye to Yamaya and Gluga. Yamaya explained that it would take them two days to get home because Gluga’s wings were not one hundred percent, and probably never would be. The dragon could not fly all day and all night. They would have to stop about half-way and rest.
Everyone said that would be fine, and they all smiled for her. After she left, Lincoln got sulky quiet.
“What?” Alexis finally asked around the campfire
Lincoln opened up. “Yamaya only lives another three or four years.”
Decker asked. “What does she die of?”
“Monkey Brain Fever. A different strain. Highly contagious but not as deadly.”
“Still,” Alexis said with a shake of her head.
“No, Boston,” Lockhart spoke right up. “You cannot go back and warn her.”
The Byzantines are barely able to hold the line in Anatolia against the arabs, but the Masters have plans to help bring the Byzantines down. The travelers fall into the middle of it all in Trouble Big and Small. Monday. Happy Reading.