During the night Xanthos disassembled his holy symbol necklace into a makeshift lockpick set. The trouble was he didn’t know how to pick locks but he did have a general idea of how locks worked. With some luck he managed to pop open the padlock holding the chain around his neck. Then he tore off a bit of his shirt and blocked the mechanism so he could re-close the lock without it latching shut. He was not able to free anyone else however.
The rest of the night was miserable and very tiring. The pyramid must have been 90+ degrees and filled with the stink of BO, urine, and feces. Occasionally the crowd would surge back and forth as one person struggled and set off a chain reaction. This would squeeze people or crush them against the walls. By the time the doors were opened at day break, the prisoners were more tired than when they entered.
They were dragged into ordered rows next to the little pyramid. Drums began pounding and the Eagle Warriors performed a short dance. Then the doors to the building opened and the rest of the Eagle Warriors exited carrying Ximena on a chair. She was wearing skull makeup again and dressed beautifully. At her side was a shiny bowie knife with a stag horn handle. She held a gleaming chain in one hand. It lead to a spiked dog collar around Joanne’s neck. Joanne walked in her riot armor, but it sported a new paint job. It had been highlighted with red and white stripes.
Ximena began to speak to the assembled crowd. Everyone was in attendance. Most of the speech was translated for them. She introduced herself as Santa Muerte but told them it was not always her name. Before the Christians arrived she was known as Mictēcacihuātl, literally “Lady of the Dead”. She is Queen of Mictlan, the underworld, ruling over the afterlife with Mictlantecuhtli, another deity who is her husband. Her role is to watch over the bones of the dead and preside over the ancient festivals of the dead. The caretakers of Mictlan slumbered for centuries but awoke at the end of the Calendar. There is great distress in the Otherworlds now and the dead lost their way. This turmoil has brought her back to the land of the living. There was a reason each of us arrived in this place.
Her she would raise a pyramid like the ancients did. The modern pyramid here would be transformed into something in line with the Aztec design and the old ceremonies would be held on it’s summit farther north than ever before. She told them it would be their labor that would construct this pyramid and as a mercy to them only the slowest, least effective group of builders would meet their fate on its summit. Then she gave orders to her subordinates. Work groups were organized. The Mexicans were split up. Some stayed at the pyramid and the rest accompanied the group to the east to a dilapidated fence that they disassembled for the boards. A few elderly joined Marcel, the one armed, in carrying water to the workers. Marcel carried the bucket and an old man ladled water out to the sweating obreros.
Xanthos had other plans. After a few minutes he spoke to the foreman and told him that he had some engineering experience and had some ideas to help build the pyramid. He was taken off the line and escorted back where he shared his thoughts with the foreman. The current plan from the Lady of Bones herself was to add a cement staircase to the eastern wall and a flat platform on top. In this way the structure would resemble an aztec pyramid albeit a tiny one. One group of Mexicans were flagging out were the fence boards would go to become cement forms and another group was digging a hole at the base of the future staircase. After a while the foreman became annoyed with Xanthos and assigned him to help dig.
The morning was rapidly heating up and made the work harder. It was going to be an exhausting day and it seemed like the people in charge were deliberately working them hard and being stingy with the water. When they had enough boards they carried them back to the pyramid. All the workers were lined up for a public address. The Aztec group (minus the prisoner guards) stood across from them along side the post office. Soon drums began beating and the eagle warriors present began dancing. Ximena climbed on top of the white suburban.
A truck drove up and parked in the empty space between the Aztecs and the prisoners and guards. Joanne was led to the vehicle and her chain was padlocked to the bumper. Santisima Muerte declared that before construction began there would be a sacrifice to bless the job. They don’t sacrifice lesser animals. Only people are an appropriate sacrifice to the gods and the greatest among people makes the greatest uauantin. Here was a great warrior that would be given a rare opportunity to reenact a famous past sacrifice by combat of a chieftain. Joanne was to fight to the death against the eagle warriors. Of course it would not be fair without weapons, thus Joanne was presented with two macuahuitls shortened to wakizashi size. Where the macuahuitls of the eagle warriors had sharp metal, obsidian, and glass embedded along their sides though, Joanne’s were decorated with feathers. Ximena motioned one of her warriors forward. Let the fight begin!
The warrior stepped forward with his small shield and macuahuitl and initiated the fight with a swing that Joanne easily parried. Then she countered with a quick strike to his chest. He tried again and failed and Joanne smashed him twice. He hit the ground unmoving and apparently unbreathing. Both side roared.
Another warrior stepped up. Xanthos had the idea of using his glasses to reflect light into his eyes. That seemed like a good idea and Dr Graves joined in the attempt. The warrior held his own and the second time Xanthos directed the sun in his eyes, he pointed Xanthos out and shouted something to the guards. While the fight continued, a guard strode up and swung at Xanthos’ hand with an ax handle. It was a near miss. Now there was two fights for the people to watch. Joanne finished hers and her opponent was soon was dragged away unconscious. Xanthos was taken down to the ground by two guards. Marcel tried to calm people down.
Then a third eagle warrior closed for battle. Joanne put him down like the others. Again both crowds roared approval. She was doing fantastic but her luck was running out. Dr. Graves moved up to take on one of the guards attacking Xanthos but another guard came up behind him and broke his leg with a club. Graves was down and Xanthos had one of his arms stretched out on the ground. He was terrified of what they had planned for his offending hand.
For round four the Lady of the Dead motioned two warriors forward. Graves shouted “Bullshit!” Xanthos now had a third guard on him applying a chokehold but had managed to snatch his arm back. Joanne cracked one warrior with her feather club and jumped up on the truck’s hood. The injured warrior dove low and grabbed her chain. The other took a couple of swings which she avoided. Then she changed her mind about fighting from the hood and jumped down slashing at each warrior. The man on the ground received a glancing blow. The other, nothing. Xanthos continued being choked struggling to retain control of his arm.
Then Joanne smashed the prone, injured warrior twice more and he was out of the fight. Now it was just one on one. Trevor joined Marcel in trying to calm everyone down. It did not look like a winnable fight. Milhouse knelt down and let his miraculous healing tears drip onto the broken leg and the doctor was healed. The last warrior held out a little longer but ended up like the rest.
Now the lone jaguar warrior stepped up. He was a hulking man with a two handed macuehuitl. The two sparred briefly neither gaining a hit. Xanthos tried and failed to head butt the man on his back choking him. Graves gingerly stood up and looked for help from the priest and his group but just got a shake of the head. Then Joanne took a solid hit in the side. Her armor was not up to the task of stopping that blow unlike some others. But she kept fighting on. She couldn’t land a blow on the jaguar warrior though.
Then the warrior caved in the side of Joanne’s head. It was hideous. But somehow she was able to keep fighting. It didn’t seem possible. Graves yelled “Fight!” and looped the chain around one of the men on Xanthos. The priest’s group didn’t move. Then the warrior took out her leg with a snap and she fell unmoving. Milhouse howled. The warrior, Timoteo, raised his weapon in triumph before smashing her a couple more times. He stepped back as Trevor’s bae moved up and made an incision under Joanne’s ribcage. The girl pulled out the heart and took a bite. Her people went wild.
Xanthos and Graves were piled on by guards and beaten senseless. Their naked unconscious bodies were lashed spread eagle on the hood of the truck and the suburban. The rest of the group had to watch as Joanne was skinned. Timoteo would wear her skin for the next 21 days as an honor and to acquire some of her power.
Joanne’s body was placed in the hole next to the pyramid with her wakizashis. Ximena next slit the throat of a dog. The corpse was placed next to Joanne. Then the order was given and the hole began to be filled.
1 Eagle Warrior Killed
4 Eagle Warriors Defeated
1 PC Killed