Blood on the Marble by Konstantine Paradias

by


bloodonthemarble-cover

BLOOD ON THE MARBLE

Konstantine Paradias

“Live, from Tenochtitlan, it’s the Ullamaliztli world series finals!”

“Yes, Tototl and it’s already shaping up to be a great one! Hi, I am Patli of Cotyolapan.”

“And I am Tototl of Tepeyacac and it is a glorious summer day in the year of the Rabbit, a day that is certain, according to the word of numerous Imperial Sports Analysts, to be the ‘one for the history books!’”

“Funny how they say that about almost every finals game.”

“Careful there, Patli, you don’t want to cross the astrologers! Yes sir, I can see that the tlachco is already filled beyond capacity! The tickets for this one were sold out since wintertime and the ratings are already through the roof!”

“No wonder they rushed for those tickets. His Majesty is to attend the ball game himself. Word on the street is that a great number of the skulls on the tzompantzli rack were supplied from his personal stash of Conquistador remains. Some of those beauties are over five hundred years old!”

“You think there’s a little bit of Cortez in there too?”

“I don’t think the Emperor would dismantle his toilet even for this, Tototl.”

“That’s right Patli, the stakes this year are indeed high! The teams on the tlachco today are the Tlacopal Stags squaring off against the Texcoco Monkeys! Both teams are sponsored by the heirs of his Majesty himself and each player has been specifically picked just for this match. This is the big one, folks!”

“Well I don’t know about big, but it’s sure going to be messy, Patli! I can already see the Ixiptla of Tezcatlipoca being led into the field, escorted by the High Priest himself. And there’s the obsidian slab, carted into the center of the field…say, is it just me or does this slab look familiar?”

“No, Tototl, you aren’t mistaken: this is the altar where Cortez himself was sacrificed, along with the last of his men on the Year of the Eagle. Straight out of the history books and on your TV screens, ladies and gentlemen, we are about to see history unfold! And there’s the High Priest, brandishing the tecpatl that hamstrung the original Spaniard…the Ixiptla is making his way on the reed flutes up to the slab, he’s kneeling, getting himself in position and—oooohh!”

“Oh I did not expect to see him kick the High Priest in the privates.”

“I’m surprised he hadn’t seen that coming after last year’s fiasco. The Ixiptla is off the slab and he’s making a run for it! His concubines are…by Huitzilopochtli’s codpiece, they are attacking the royal guard! Where were they keeping those knives?”

“I can think of a couple of places…”

“The Ixiptla is running out of the tlachco and the security staff can’t get out of his way fast enough! If his blood is not spilled on the altar this could mean a very bad year for the Empire. But what’s this? One of the Royal Guardsmen is arming his ahtatl, he’s hurling it… by the Gods, he’s got him!”

“Back of the knee too, now that takes some skill! I see the concubines have been pacified by the guards.”

“They never stood a chance, Tototl. These people are veterans of Havana and the Chichimec wars. The High Priest is closing in to check on the Ixiptla’s wound. Can we get a close up? If his blood has stained the marble then that guard is as good as dead. And yes! It is a clean blow, the ahtlatl is stopping the blood flow and the doctor is dabbing the Ixiptla’s wound clean before it can touch the ground! I expect this man will enjoy a great bounty at the end of the day.”

“It’s good to know that at least this Ixiptla didn’t have a knife on him, Patli. That means security wasn’t as lax as last year. Aaaand back to the slab he goes…the High priest doesn’t bother with the niceties. The mask is off and yes, it’s a clean cut across the sternum, into the ribcage…the Ixiptla is struggling, there’s some spillage…”

“It’s out! The heart is out and the High Priest takes the first bite!”

“Makes your mouth water…”

“No Ixiptla for you Tototl, the flesh of the vessel of Tezcatlipoca is only reserved for royalty. But I bet you can get some of that concubine-flesh later.”

“I don’t know Patli, will it come with some Itacatl Horno quatl-sauce?”

“Does Mictlantehutli tell dead baby jokes? It is after all one of today’s biggest sponsors and it has more than twenty thousand franchise stores across the Empire, serving today’s meat at yesterday’s prices! And you can reserve parts of the sacrificial victims by dialing the phone number on your screen right now for a limited, one-time offer!”

ITACATL HORNO-Long, long pig at low, low prices.

“And his Majesty has just entered the stadium with his sons and retinue, Tototl.”

“All rise for the Imperial Anthem.”

From the Halls of TepoztecoTo the shores of CihuatlantliWe will soak the Empire’s soilWith the blood of enemiesFirst for Huitzilopochtli’s honourso Xipe Totec’s appeasedWe are proud to lay down our livesThat Nanahuatl’s burden’s eased

Here’s to our Eagles and JaguarsWe are proud to call them kinAcross far shores they have clashed for lifeAnd upheld our treasured peaceWhen death leads you into Mictlanand the Underworld seems grimYou will bathe with your brothers in Tonatiuh’s running stream!

“That was the Imperial Children’s Choir all the way from Ocuilan, giving us the best rendition of this anthem I’ve heard.”

“Yes, Tototl, the kids really did do their best today but now that we’re done with the pleasantries let’s play…some…Ullamazitli!”

“The Stags and the Monkeys are assuming their places in the court. I see the Stags came in full battle-dress today; Captain Cuali even put on his head-dress. Those horns are ivory, correct?”

“All the way from Africa, Tototl. But look at Captain Ueman of the Monkeys! He’s got his soot-paint all over him, even got himself a Spaniard’s replica helmet! Oooh, look at him, beating his chest. You’d think he already has this one in the bag.”

“Prince Zolin doesn’t seem too happy about it. There must be a lot of tension in His Majesty’s booth.”

“Not too much love lost between the brothers there, Tototl. This is, after all, the game that decides who will be the sovereign of Europe. There’s been a lot of bloodshed leading up to this. And His Majesty is presented with the obsidian chit…it’s in the air…the Monkeys get the ball!”

“Tlaloc of the Monkeys sends the balls careening in the air—good blow—I can see Itotia of the Stags circling him, headbutts the ball away from him to Xipil. Xipil knees it into the air, it’s coming down, the players are kicking and bumping all over each other. Oooh, I can see a couple of black eyes already!”

“Yes Patli, we’re barely a minute in and it’s getting heated. Quathli of the Monkeys gets the ball, kicks it high in the air, blows it past the Stags. He’s going in too deep; there’s no way he can make that shot. He takes it anyway and…”

“Off the ring face-first on the marble, oh I might faint! But the ball’s still in the air and the Stags are coming his way with a vengeance! By the Gods, he’s being trampled! Now the Monkeys are moving in to intercept, leaving no room for the doctors to reach Quathli but there’s Xipil, clutching his nose. Xipil elbows the ball away halfway across the court and Captain Uema gets it with a backhand, sending it all the way back! This isn’t a game, it’s a melee!”

“I see Quathli being carried off on the gurney by the doctors. The Monkeys are already one man down but that’s never stopped them before.”

“Not when you’ve got an African war veteran as head of your team, no. Captain Uema might not be known for his sportsmanship, but he’s never abandoned the field without a fight, either.”

“Well, Tototl, Captain Cuali isn’t underqualified for this, either. He has been bred for Ullamazitli, what with his father being the captain of His Majesty’s personal team. The Captain has been reared in the tradition of the sport and has a firmer grasp of it, judging by his impressive track record.”

“Fat good that’s gonna do him, way things are going…and Captain Cuali has the ball! He’s bouncing it on his knees, making his way across the field, passes by the Monkey defense…I can see Zuma of the Stags motioning him for a pass but Captain Cuali keeps moving, milking it for all it’s worth. And here comes the tackle…”

“Captain Cuali sends the ball careening to the other side of the field! It’s going, going, it’s going to touch the ground! Will the best player in the Empire end up disqualifying his team? No! Xipil saves the day again, launches the ball sky-high! Captain Uema is making a beeline for him, going past the ball and ow!

“Pow! Right in the kisser! Is that even legal?”

“That’s up to the referee to decide, but the game keeps going. I see Xipil getting up, spitting teeth. The doctors move in to retrieve them.”

“He won’t be getting those back, that’s for sure.”

“Captain Uema gets the ball; he’s going back into the ring, the Stags hot on his tail. Xipitl shoves the doctors away, moves in and tackles Captain Uema, getting him right in the belly! The Stags have the ball and they’re heading back, but I can see that Uema and Xipitl are otherwise preoccupied. There’s a fist fight going on back there. Is the referee going to stop this?”

“No! His Majesty is motioning him to stand down! Folks, this is unprecedented in the sport! Captain Cuali is leading his team toward the Monkey’s ring, gets the ball in the air and it’s point for the Stags!

“I see the referee signaling halftime, but the security staff can’t break Uema and Xipitl apart. Uema seems to have gotten Xipitl in a headlock and isn’t giving an inch. Any more of this and we are going to have our first fatality on the tlathco.”

“I see the royal guard is moving in to break them apart. Captain Uema is being contained, while Xipitl is being carried off in the gurney. We’ll be right back.”

The Ullamatiztli finals are brought to you by COCA LEAVES. COCA LEAVES! You can smoke them, too.

SciPhiSeperator

“Hello and welcome back to the live broadcast of the Ullamatiztli finals. I am Tototl of Tepeyacac.”

“And I am Patli of Cotyolapan. This has been a dark day for the sport, hasn’t it? We haven’t seen such brutality since…well, since the Dark Ages.”

“That’s true. The Stags have already lost a player on the field, a grievous violation of the spirit of the game, but have scored a point against the Monkeys. Tensions are running high and this could turn ugly. It is still a better resolution than another civil war, though.”

“You’d think there wouldn’t be so much fuss over a dead continent.”

“Not so much. According to recent studies, the Imperial scientists have verified that indeed the plague which eliminated the European population 500 years ago has finally run its course. The continent is barely populated and it presents a grand opportunity for the Empire to establish a foothold in the New World, especially in the aftermath of those costly African wars.”

“It’s strange, how this continent still threatens the Empire. Princes Zolin and Montezuma have been at each other’s throats for a decade over it. There was blood flowing in the streets of Tenochtitlan, for Ixtab’s sake! Too much bad blood over that piece of land.”

“Then what should we do? Leave it all to flower war and hope the Africans play nice and don’t take it from right under our feet? Folks, let us know what you think on our website. But I can hear the High priest ringing the ceremonial brass bell and I can see the teams…oh no.”

“The Stags have entered the field in funerary garb. I can see that they have streaked their limbs and chests with clay and they all have the war-paint on their faces. I can see Atl, he’s wearing his Eagle warrior helmet…if I didn’t know better, I’d say there’s a war brewing in the field. Doesn’t seem to be phasing the Monkeys too much, though. Captain Uema is letting out his war-cry. The referee is at a loss for words.”

“The crowd doesn’t seem to be faring any better, from where I’m standing. If this goes on for much longer, we could be looking at a riot. His Majesty is sending out the royal guard to subdue any trouble-makers…”

“Might as well call off the game. A couple of soldiers won’t do much good once the ball starts flying. The obsidian chit is back in the air… and the Monkeys once again get the ball!”

“Oh, this is bad…I can already see the Stags are going for a full offense now. Quathli of the Monkeys has the ball and he’s making his way across the court to the Stags’ side, both teams are too caught up in this mess to stop him…he makes the shot, sends it flying…”

“And it bounces off the stone ring and back into the mess! The referee is pleading with his Majesty to call for half-time, the players are pummeling on each other. This is a disgrace. The Princes are arguing in the booth with their father; His Majesty seems to have no intention to stop this. It’s up to the gods, now. I can see Captain Cuali breaking out of the melee, running for the ball…if it hits the ground after he’s touched it then the Stags will be disqualified but he gets it right at the last minute, sliding down the field and sends it right back up in the air! I can see Ichtaca of the Stags headbutting it and sending it back to the Monkeys’ side of the field, but there are too few of the Stags ready to react. The Monkeys are breaking away from the melee all at once. It was all a feint! They’re moving out, taking the ball back to the Stag side of the court. Captain Cuali is all alone against nearly the entire team, he goes for a tackle, tries for a steal…Captain Uema gets the ball and it’s a point for the Monkeys!”

“From halftime near-fatality to guerilla tactics. I guess this one is going to make it into the history books, after all.”

“It creates a terrible precedent, but you’re right, Patli. One can only wonder what’s going to happen next. Both teams are at a tie which means that this next round will determine everything. Sudden Death, right after these messages!”

Scientists across the Empire Agree: Fifth Sun Summer is going to be the hottest. Drink QUETZATLICOLA, the beverage of the gods!

“And we are back for the sudden death round of this year’s Ullamatiztli finals! Hi, I am Patli of Cotyolapan.”

“And I am Tototl of Tepeyacac and I believe that things are already looking pretty damn grim.”

“I think we are way past that point. We have already had fights erupting across the stadium during the break. Apparently, a number of the members of the royal guard were assaulted and beaten before the crowd turned on each other.”

“That’s putting it mildly, Patli. We can’t tell what’s going on in those locker rooms, but if the last round was any indication, things are going to get uglier now. I am getting some feed relay that there was a bit of a brawl between the Princes in his Majesty’s booth. This…this is unprecedented in the sport. Never before have we had such a violent outburst from the royalty.”

“The teams are making their way back into the field. I see that they all look worse for wear…something must have happened back into those locker rooms, the Stags and the Monkeys seem almost feral now. His Majesty throws the obsidian chit in the air…the ball goes to the Stags and the Monkeys are going for blood this time! I can make out Captain Uema in the fray, with Cuali leading the advance on the Monkey’s field; by Mixcoatl, what is going on down there?”

“I don’t know, but it doesn’t look much better in the crowd. It looks like a full-blown riot! The teams don’t seem to be paying any heed to the referee’s calls to stop the game. Captain Uema is moving away and I can see Atl of the Stags on the ground…what’s that in Uema’s hand? Tezcatlipoca! He’s armed! Captain Cuali is heading for the ring. I see Ichtaca of the Stags striking Uema at the back of the head, now they’re rolling on the ground…this is a black day for the holiest of sports, folks.”

“Cuali is moving toward the ring…Quathli goes for the tackle and steals the ball at the last moment, only to be grabbed by the hair and pummeled by Iuitl of the Stags. Captain Uema now has the ball, sends it high in the air. Cuali hasn’t seen that he’s armed. He’s making his way towards him….Uema strikes Cuali, he’s got him in the back! The ball is coming down, it falls!”

“The Stags are disqualified! Match over! The Monkeys…they have won this day and the Ullamalitzli finals!”

“If you could call this a victory, even. This is a bloody sham and a grisly example of poor sportsmanship.”

“Careful, Patli…”

“Careful? I have to be careful? There’s a fire in the stadium, there’s good men’s blood on the field! We’re worse than the Spaniards, we’re less than barbarians and I will not be a part of this!”

“Patli, where are you going? What are you…we’ll be right back.”

EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. PLEASE STAND BY.

SciPhiSeperator

“Whether this day will be remembered as the highest-stakes game in the history of the sport or as a black mark in the history of our Empire, one thing is for sure: the sovereign of Europe has been declared, by virtue of his team’s victory. A new age is dawning for the Empire and it is this announcer’s privilege to announce that the Monkeys, the team sponsored by Prince Montezuma, will be the ones taking the plumed helmet home.

And I can see the Stags being lined up for sacrifice, according to the terms laid out by the Princes. Captain Cuali is the first to go; the High Priest makes a slash across his chest, removing the heart…slightly quicker than usual. The son of the Empire’s greatest sportsmen goes with dignity, his remains to be divided among royalty as befits a man of his station. There’s Iuitl, he…seems to be struggling…this could take a while…

“I can see the referee bringing the festive garland to Prince Montezuma. His Majesty is nowhere to be seen, having left the stadium the moment the game was concluded. Prince Montezuma shall be sovereign of Europe and absolute ruler of the Imperial colonies, the leader of the New World. This is history in the making, ladies and gentlemen. And here the Prince’s concubines, bringing Captain Cuali’s heart on a silver platter for the Prince to consume it, according to custom, but…what’s this?

“Folks, if you are watching this, Prince Montezuma seems to be faltering! He’s gasping for breath, seems to be trying to remove the garland. Xipe Totec, Prince Montezuma has fallen to the ground! Excuse me…I have just been notified that Prince Montezuma has been poisoned by venomous thorns hidden in the garland! Prince Zoli is nowhere to be seen! I can see the medical personnel running in to secure him…

“Patli was right. Gods-damn him, he was right. This is nowhere near over. From Tenochtitlan, this is Tototl of Tepeyacac, signing out.”

Food for Thought

How might the world have been different if the new world has not been conquered? I have always enjoyed alternative history and this is a wonderful peice of it. What strange sports and customs would have been adopted from the Meso-Americans if they hadn’t fallen to the Spanish?

About the Author

Konstantine Paradias is a jeweler by profession and a writer by choice. His short stories have been published in the AE Canadian Science fiction review, World War Cthulhu and the BATTLE ROYALE Slambook by Haikasoru.His short story, “How You Ruined Everything” has been included in Tangent Online’s 2013 recommended SF reading list and his short story “The Grim” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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