Death Whistle

The jungle echoed as a small squad of men clad in steel armor marched. One of them kept looking over his shoulder while another kept his eyes on the jungle itself. The man in the middle scoffed at his panicked men, aggravation crossing his wrinkled face. He was an older man with a beard about as gray as his armor. He asked for soldiers, not scared children. The group continued on their trek until they reached a destroyed camp. A large jungle cat was seen dragging a dead soldier away deeper in the jungle.

“Fan out to see what we can find”, the older man said. The other three men moved in different directions and rummaged around for a bit, then stood in front of the older man, each one with an item in hand. One had a bundle of broken arrows each tipped with obsidian. The next one held some sort of helmet. It looked similar to a bird of some kind. The third held a journal. The elderly man grabbed the journal and slowly opened it.

May 6, 1519

We have just arrived in this new land. A new world as the others took to calling it. I myself don’t have much to say about it. I don’t really know what to make of it. Other than that it is rather hot. Then again, I would much rather take solid ground than those damn waves.

Even so, there is something strange about this place. I feel that I’m being watched. I’m not a paranoid person. I have seen my fair share of combat like the rest of the men that arrived with me. Yet deep down I feel that we’re not alone. Something or someone is watching us. Cortez seems oddly calm, almost like he’s expecting something. He told us to form small camps and march into the jungle. The camp I was in had no more than 15, myself included. By the time we set up camp, night had already fallen on us.

May 7, 1519

I had to double check my previous log. I had to just make sure there were 15 of us. I only write this for one reason: there’s 14 of us; someone went missing and we did search for him. The only thing we found was his helmet. At first, we thought the lad went insane. That theory held no gold as it didn’t explain the other footprints. A single man can’t make two sets of footprints and drag marks.

There are pros to having a small camp, such as an easier vote as a unit. I’m thankful that we agree on forming walls and having watch shifts. The wall took all day to construct but me and the lads felt a lot more secure. We even made a funnel point so if something does come, we will be ready.

May 9, 1519

Remember how I said that there were pros to a small group? I forgot to write about the cons. Not many of us are vigilant as five more of us have disappeared, but this time I saw our foes; we saw them. Savages, they were savages, the way they dressed and stalked us. Yet the jungle was the most chilling part of it all; as they approached the jungle came alive. The screams, oh god the screams, the screams are now carved into my memory. I heard hundreds of screams mixed with the screams of my comrades as they were dragged away. The next day they came back and by the name of the Lord we were able to fight them off. The moment they fled we ran back to the beach. I say we made it about half way before we were cut off by Cortez and the rest of the conquistadors.

“Where are you going” he asked.

“Sir, the savages, they took our men.”

“Savages? What savages?”

“The ones in the jungle, they crawl close to the floor. And the jungle screams when they hunt. And their faces lay covered in paint.”

“Stay calm, men. If you let your fear control you, more rash decisions will follow within the wake of these attacks. I order you to stay at your camp until further notice.”

“But sir the—”

“You will stay where you are told. Stand your ground and be known as the ones that conquered fear, or die as traitorous cowards.”

I wish I said that I stood my ground. I wish I said I fought Cortez and took the boat back with the rest of the men. But I couldn’t. I was about to grab my blade but Cortez beat me to the punch. His blade was at my throat. His eyes burned with anger as he stepped closer “Get out of my sight worm” is what he said as I with the rest of my camp ran back.

May 10, 1519

Words can’t describe the fear that runs in my blood. We track them to a city, a big massive stone city. Tenochtitlan, I think that’s what they were calling it. I’m not sure if it was the sun in my eyes or if it was actually what I saw that looked as if the whole city was made of gold. I see what Cortez wants now, the gold. But why should he get it? It’s mine, I want the gold for myself. It’s beautiful – no better. It’s my precious not his mine and only mine. If I survive I’ll take what I’m owed for this hell. And with it I’ll be the richest man in Spain. With all those riches I won’t have to take orders from that crazy bastard Cortez or the lazy royalty who sit on their rears and send us to die. I’ll be the one in control.

They’re here. The watch fell asleep and now they hear the screams. And the jungle is crawling with them. I can’t end here. I need the gold; it calls to me like a siren. They’re right outside of my tent.

The older man closed the journal. “Yep they were taken for good but they played their part. Come now, lads, we know where to go. Return to the beach.”

The group slowly made their way back until the first scream broke out. The unit broke out in a sprint as arrows passed their heads and the screams echoed. One of the conquistadors turned their head to see a silhouette blow into a small whistle. The whistle gave a high pitch call of the jungle.

“Whistles,” he cried. “The screams are only…”

His words were cut off as a dark silhouette tackled him; the others didn’t care if he was dead or not; to them he was already gone and his screams confirmed his fate. The jungle finally gave way to soft sand as the surviving soldiers led their hunters to the rest. Hundreds of conquistadors stood on the beach waiting, the sun reflecting off their armor and blinding all emerging from the jungle.

“Cortez,” the older man spoke. “They found it.”

“Excellent, men, we begin our march now.”

Three Days Earlier

“Xipil, Xipil where did you run off to?”

“Tlaloc, brother, they’re here!”

“Who is here?”

“The men from my vision.”

“Are you positive? The visions you see haven’t always come true.”

“On the name of Quetzalcoatl, I have seen them. Hundreds of them on the beach parts of their skin shine that of metal.”

“Take me to them.”

The two stalked their way to the jungle’s edge, holding near the foliage as cover. Xipil was right; there were the men with the metal skin.

“Brother what did your vision show you.”

“Nothing good.”

“Then we will strike first.”

“But how? There’s too many of them for the two of us.”

“We will bring jaguar and eagle warriors.”

“They don’t believe anyone. How are we going to convince them to help us?”

“An offering.”

The two retreated back the way they went and waited for the right moment. Just one, just one interloper to stray away from the safety of the fire and his comrades. Then the two struck quickly, knocking the man out and dragging him away.

“Macuilxochitl, awaken! We need to speak with you.”

“What do you boys want now?”

The brothers dropped the captured man in front of Macuilxochitl. “We brought him for the ceremony.”

“And there are more like him too.”

“We need to act now.”

“What do you mean we need to act now?”

“Xipil’s vision foretold of these men invading our home and destroying our people.”

“Xipil had a vision? You jest.”

“How can we jest when we brought this man?”

“We both know his visions are as unreliable as a newborn bird.”

“You need to trust me! This time they are making camps.”

If you boys fail, Mictlantecuhtli himself will have your heads.”

“We won’t let you down.”

“Wait, before you two go, you need these.” Macuilxochitl handed over two small ceramic skulls with a pipe on the head.

“Your death whistles. Now go with honor and defend our home with pride.”

They took the whistles and ran home to prepare.

“Xipil are you ready?” Tlaloc said adjusting his helmet and tightening bits of leather on his tepoztopilli.

“I’m ready,” Xipil said while applying paint to his face.

The two left and met up with the others. The group waited with bated breath as the interlopers slowly drifted into a slumber and their guard became distracted. Tlalco gave the signal and three members of the group blew their death whistles. The single high pitched note reverberated around in the jungle causing the already loud tool to grow in volume and awaken the sleeping strangers. Tlocal was the first to strike his tepoztopilli deep into the shoulder of his foe. Xipil followed close to his brother using his macuahuitl to block and counter.

“Too slow,” said Xolotl, stepping in and killing the man Xipil had disabled. Xipil grunted as he walked away. Tlaloc signaled a retreat as the group dragged five foes away that were a mixture of wounded, dead, and alive.

“He did it again,” Xipil whispered to Tlaloc.

“You two have always been at each other’s throats,” Tlaloc said. “I need to know why.”

“He is always interfering,” Xipil grumbled.

The two’s conversation was short lived as the hunting party from last night ran past them dragging two wounded jaguar warriors. The brothers nodded towards each other as Xolotl struggled to catch up with the others. They knew what happened.

“Xolotl!” Tlocal yelled. “What in the name of Quetzalcoatl were you thinking?”

“I don’t know,” he panted.

“Enough! You’re as mad as that cursed gold.”

Xolotl raised his macuahuitl in a defensive possession. “I’m taking the fight to them like you were.”

“No, you failed. You don’t deserve the rank you wear.” Tlocal turned his back and began to walk away.

“Look out!” Xipil cried. Tlocal turned a second too slow as Xolotl swung his macuahuitl. The weapon left a gash on Tlocal’s chest and he fell hard to the ground.

“Didn’t fail that time, did I?” Xolotl laughed as he loomed over the now wounded eagle warrior. Before he could end Tlocal’s life, Xipil grabbed his brother’s Tepoztopilli and blocked Xolotl’s strike.

“Out of the way, runt,” Xolotl snarled.

“No, I will not move.”

“So be it.”

With that Xolotl launched himself at Xipil and the two weapons clashed. Xipil tried to keep his footing as Xolotl pressed his attack. Shards of obsidian flew with each clash. Xipil was on the defense. His vision flickered as images of metal skinned men marched on his home, all led by the vestige of death riding on a black creature. A pommel strike brought him back to his present. Xipil fell to the ground as Xolotl stood over him.

“Praise me as I dispatch traitors to our glorious empire,” he gloated.

Xolotl looked to the crowd that surrounded them. Xipil used the opening to strike as he slashed with the spear and followed with a kick to the chest. Xipil was about to drive the weapon into Xolotl’s chest but stopped.

“What are you doing? End me.”

“No, no I’m not you,” Xipil said walking away. He knelt beside his brother and Tlocal gave a smile.

“Help me stand, brother,” Tlocal joked while holding his wound.

“Always, brother,” Xipil said, helping Tlocal up. “I need you by my side for the work we must do.”