Chapter Nineteen (Temple of Twilight)

Previously: Soshay prepares both for her initiation into the temple and for her meeting with Setch. The two priestesses both believe they must work together to stop the Unnamed God. 

Mitlan, the High Priest of the Temple of Twilight has returned from the Capital to oversee Soshay’s initiation. In his meeting with her, she accused Tenoch of using the gift of diplomacy to manipulate Mitlan. 

Keron paced his chambers.  The white-washed stone walls bore only the simplest of decorations, a border of obsidian jaguars, who raced endlessly around the walls.  A few colorful, feathered hangings kept the chill from his room.  Even his furniture was plain, the same utilitarian desk and chair that he had used in the novices’ dormitory.  While he could easily have followed the example of Neldo and priests like him, using his position to amass material wealth, Keron found he had no time or interest in such things.

His standing as High Oracle gave him more renown among the populace than any position other than High Priest, and he was uncomfortable with his fame.  After his own training and initiation, Mitan had taken him to serve the Imperator directly.  But Mitlan was disappointed that Keron had no skill at politics, and when Keron’s visions of Soshay began, Mitlan allowed him to leave the capital and train the girl himself. For that alone, Keron believed himself in her debt.

Now, Keron had Telmax harranging him about his lack of interest in the outside world, in politics. And Keron knew that he had failed in this too.  And this failure endangered Soshay.

Keron continued to pace, waiting for Mitlan to return from his first meeting with Soshay.  He had no doubt that Mitlan would see her potential, but what he would make of her mark or her status as Tez’s Bride was another consideration.  Mitlan was a good High Priest.  He was pious, but not inflexible.  He often counseled Keron to enjoy life more.  Life, Mitlan would say, was Tez’s greatest gift.  No matter how short the span, it was an insult to Tez to squander the years he gave.  But for all of his piety, Keron knew Mitlan was a political creature first.  Will he view Soshay as a threat to his power?  The Imperator is already demanding that she attend him in the Capital as soon as her initiation is complete.  Until now Mitlan hasn’t said anything about that command, nor has he commented on the cult developing around her.  Once, all the servants and lay people  in the Temple of Twilight venerated Mitlan in the same way. Would he be jealous? Keron wondered. He had not seen Mitlan in five years, and he knew that power changed men quickly and unexpected ways.

Keron forced himself to stop pacing.  He sat heavily and glanced at the stolen Codices.  He had secured both Soshay’s book and his own.  He had found the prophecy that Soshay had told him about.  Her copy clearly deviated from what Tenoch had recorded in her book.  And he recognized the Second Priest’s handwriting as having recorded the vision, even if Tenoch had not used signed his own name to the prophecy.  Keron wondered how Neldo would respond to knowing that Tenoch had forged his name on the false prophecy.

Keron had ordered the Keeper of Records check the temple accounts.  The money from the increased tithes was being collected, but it did not seem to reach the temple accounts.  Even if Mitlan’s jealousy is not pricked by Soshay, I still must present evidence against Tenoch to him.  Keron ran his hands through his hair.  “Tez, let him at least listen to my claims.  Please help him be reasonable.”  Keron whispered the prayer, resting his hand on Soshay’s codex.

A soft knock on his door interrupted his fretting.

He expected to find Mitlan returned from his interview with Soshay, but instead, found Pelo.  The kitchen boy looked worried.

“My Lord High Oracle,” He paused and bowed, “As you ordered I have been following the apostate Neldo.”

Keron ignored the boy’s slur against Neldo and gestured for the boy to sit and poured him a cup of water.  He watched, stifling his impatience, while the boy drank.  Pelo was one of his first spies.  When Telmax first broached the subject of spies, he had pushed Keron to start with the temple servants.  Most priests overlooked them. They came from circumstances too poor to enter temple service as initiates; instead, they used their service as a way to gain entry. Once they earned enough, they would be allowed to enter the temple. For Keron, they were a ghostly army that cleaned and cooked, but were generally ignored.  This became a great asset to Keron.  The servants had been well aware of Neldo’s mistreatment of Soshay, but he while it pained Keron to let it continue, he was bound to do as his visions bid him. And they had bid him to not intervene.

When Keron had first brought Soshay into the temple, his visions were clear. Neldo was involved in shaping who she would become.  He believed that the pains she suffered were Tez’s will.  That this was how Tez sought to shape her into the woman she had become.  And in watching this, he questioned Tez for the first time in his life.  He questioned if should have defied Tez’s will, or perhaps him understanding of his visions and intervened.

“Where has Neldo been going, Pelo?” Keron asked.

“He had a meeting with Tenoch this week.  I cleared the cups and chocotle away.  I couldn’t hear what they spoke about, but they had a jug of some potion.”

Keron nodded for the boy to continue.

“Then Neldo went to visit the witch, Anacoana again.  This time, I watched through the windows.  If she curses me, you can fix it right?”

Keron stifled a sigh, “She is a repudiated priestess, not a sorceress.” Noting Pelo’s concerned look, he amended his speech, “Yes, I will help you. And if I cannot, I promise the sorcerer Ohili will help you.”  The servants, and the priests who knew about him, all called Ohili a sorcerer.  Ohili found endless amusement in frightening the younger children, but Keron wondered if it was dangerous to foster such a reputation.  Keron gestured for the boy to continue his report.

“Neldo procured potions from her.  I could not hear much of what was said inside the house.” He paused, “But I heard them both speak of poison.”  Keron paled, but Pelo continued.

“I have already made arrangement to take over food preparation for both you and Soshay, My Lord.  Of course the cook is trustworthy.  He would not knowingly poison you, but he is not always smart.” Pelo shrugged.

Keron smiled, “Do not forget to include the High Priest’s food to your list.”  He chastised lightly, again worried that the boy considered both himself and Soshay more important than Mitlan.  Of course with the cult developing around Soshay, I would expect she would rank higher than anyone other than Tez himself.  “Has Neldo returned?”

Pelo grinned, “That is the interesting part My Lord.  After he took the potion, he and the sorceress, sorry,” he amended seeing Keron’s dark look, “he and Anacoana spoke in the alley.  She is running away from some great evil that is brewing.  She warned Neldo to do the same.”

Keron considered this information so the heretic priestess knows the Unnamed One is rising? Was this information she took with her after her exile from the Temple of Midnight?  “Did Neldo seem to heed her warning?”

Pelo gave an undignified snort, “’Course not.  He wouldn’t listen to anyone.  I left him roaming in the plaza market.  He seems to be heading back here,” Pelo stopped to breathe, “But with the poison, I had to return before him to prepare the kitchen staff.  I have some of the other watching him.  I will know when he returns.”

Keron nodded, “Send word to me as soon as he returns.  And keep close watch on him.”

Pelo grinned, “Of course.”

“And what word do you have of Tenoch’s doings?”

Pelo shrugged.  “He’s been trying to see Mitlan in private since the High Priest returned from the Capital.  We’ve been doing all we can to prevent that meeting as you asked.”

Keron nodded.  If Telmax’s suspicions are correct, and Tenoch has the gift of diplomacy, no one can be alone with him.  He could make any of us bend to his will with only a word.  Keron paled at the implications of Tenoch’s gift.

“M’Lord,” Pelo asked hesitantly, “After all this time, why have you turned your attentions to Tenoch?”

Keron sighed, “Because I have been a blind fool, and I can only hope that Mitlan will be less a fool than I.”  He caught Pelo’s blank look and smiled.  “Mitlan and Tenoch have been friends for many years.  I must have evidence against Tenoch if Mitlan is to believe my claims.”

Pelo frowned, “But, the High Priest trusts you too.”

Keron gave the boy a sad smile.  “Before I came to the City of the Jungle, I witnessed Mitlan’s anger.  Many years ago, during the Century war, all of us were in the City of the Lake.”  Keron’s voice grew soft remembering.  “During our war councils, a priest of Maxtli spoke against Tenoch.  He priest claimed that Tenoch sought to manipulate the war councils for his own ends.”  Keron paused to make sure the boy was still following the story.  “At the time it had seemed a ludicrous accusation, but Mitlan  reacted with such frightening fervor.”  Keron paused, recalling Mitlan’s rage.  The High Priest had stormed into their quarters, almost insensible with anger.  Nothing Keron said could calm him.  Mitlan then used his influence with the Imperator to have the priest sacrificed to Maxtli at the start of the campaign.  There was no valid religious argument to use a high level priest in such a sacrifice, and he was an experienced warrior whose knowledge of battle had, until then, be invaluable in planning the campaign.  Yet the priest ended his life on Maxtli’s altar to assuage Mitlan’s anger at a slight to Tenoch’s reputation.  Keron realized he had becoming lost in his memory, and began again.  “The High Priest used his power to have the offending priest of Maxtli killed.”

Pelo cocked his head, “So, the High Priest killed this man just for speaking against Tenoch?”

Keron nodded.  “Mitlan is loyal to her friends, and Tenoch is a friend.  So you see why I need as much information as I can find about Tenoch.  I must be very careful in how I tell Mitlan about Tenoch’s crimes.  If not,” he shrugged, “I may end up dead too.”

Pelo grew pale and nodded slowly.  “I’ll double the number of servants watching him, my lord. We can’t allow anything to happen to you.”

Keron laughed, “Am I now more important than your True Bride?”  He meant the words in jest, but Pelo grew serious.

“My Lord, the servants know that Soshay as the True Bride.  She is the avatar of Tez on earth.  I know you mean to make light of it, but never do so around them.”

“Pelo, you can always speak your mind with me.  Tell me more about this cult?”

Pelo hesitated, “I’m not sure you’ll like it,” He caught Keron’s commanding look and continued.  “She is Tez’s bride.  They believe that she will in truth marry the Lord of Death.  She will speak in his voice. But you are important to the cult as well.”

“Me? How do I fit in?”

Pelo hesitated again and blushed.  “Because I’m friends with her, they treat me differently.  They don’t want me to know all the secrets of the cult.  But they have named you her protector and consort on earth.  They say you love her,” he paused, “as a man loves a woman.”

Keron grew grave.  “Why would they say that?”

Pelo looked away, “My Lord, I know you think you hid it well, but anyone with sense can see that you’re in love with her.  And no servant belonging to the Temple of Twilight would ever think ill of you.  You care for us, and have even paid our way into service.  Your generosity to us does not go unnoticed.” Pelo stumbled over his words, “So, they needed a way to make your love for her, not forbidden.”  He frowned searching for the right words, “If she is Tez’s bride, than your love should be forbidden, but they can’t hate you. So they name you her consort on earth.”

“Tez save us all.” Keron muttered.  Pelo’s story about the cult frightened him.  It was common enough for all of the servants to create their own cults, and most priests ignored the practice.  But his own role in their mythology was troubling.  “It is so obvious that I care about her?”

Pelo nodded slowly.  “To us it is.”

Keron shook his head again.  “Thank you Pelo.  I don’t know what I would do without your counsel.”  He tried to push aside his worries about the cult.  “But, I have work to do if I am going to convince Mitlan of Tenoch’s guilt.  I cannot worry about my role in the cult of Soshay.”  He tried to smile, to make light of his fears, but he knew that even the slave boy did not believe him.

“Yes, My Lord.  I will report back as soon as we learn anything else.”

Keron nodded absently at the boy, lost in his thoughts.  Ah, Soshay will I be your death?  If Tenoch commanded me to speak the truth, I could not lie to save you.  To protect her, I have to find a way to stop Tenoch’s gift.

He forced himself to look back at the codices on the table.  Inside Soshay’s book was the altered prophecy, as of yet, it was his only evidence against Tenoch and it was slim evidence.  He had Ohili searching the archives for some method to test Tenoch’s power, but he doubted that the far-seer would find anything in time to help him in this confrontation.  He would consider them blessed if Ohili found anything before the trial started.  He liked the far-seer and more importantly he trusted the man, but he also recognized that Ohili’s strengths did not lie in research.

He would rather have used Telmax to search out the secrets of the gift of diplomacy, the under-priest was better suited to research, but Keron had already sent Telmax away for his meeting with the priestess Setch.

He realized how much had come to rely on his under-priest in the last year.  When Telmax had come into Keron’s service, it was he who had persuaded Keron to consider starting a network of informants.  The younger priest had already served in the City of the Lake and was well-acquainted with the intrigues and power-plays of the temple elite.  While it went against Keron’s nature to suspect that any within a temple would work against its best interest, he agreed to start collecting information.

Through his spies he had learned much about the goings on in the Temple of Twilight and the temples beyond.  Somehow, Telmax even managed to gather information from the Temple of Midnight.  As far as he knew, no one had successfully placed spies within the Temple of Midnight.  But Telmax always returned with information and Keron never asked how Telmax secured his information from the Tzi’s servants.  It was the information from the Temple of Midnight that finally helped him make sense of his prophecies about the Unnamed One.

Keron opened his own codex to the first prophecy he had made about the Unnamed One.  They had started a year ago.  Unlike Soshay’s prophecies, his own were more subtle.  Like most oracles, he saw limited scenes but far more symbols.  Soshay’s witnessing of events was unheard of in temple history.  In Keron’s first vision of the Unnamed One, he had seen the god.  His clearly Suyuian features, his spear, and his serpent.  He saw blood and fire, something more than a simple war.  He saw the symbols of the High Priest, the black jaguar skin and the mantle of his rank hidden in mist.  Then he saw Soshay.  He saw her in the clothing of a full priestess and she broke the spear of the Unnamed One.  That was his first vision and in all future visions about the Unnamed One, Mitlan remained lost in mists or darkness.  Now he reconsidered his interpretation of the visions.  Keron had consistently interpreted this to mean that the Unnamed One’s rising must be kept from Mitlan.  Keron had tried to have a vision about what would happen if Mitlan knew, but never received any clear guidance.  Mitlan remained outside of the events.

Keron still debated telling Mitlan the truth about the Unnamed One.  He reasoned that Mitlan would sense or recognize the danger now that he was in City of the Jungle.  It should not take long for Mitlan to realize that all of the oracles in the Temple of Twilight no longer received visions.  How long until he asked to review the codices, how long until His awakening would come to Mitlan’s attention?  More important to Keron was trying to learn why the visions demanded that Mitlan be kept in darkness, why would Tez hide this threat from Mitlan?

All Keron’s concerns about Soshay and even Tenoch’s traitorous behavior, paled in comparison to his fears about the Unnamed One.   No matter how much he needed Telmax here, he had to send Telmax to Setch because the alliance between the Temple of Twilight and the Temple of Dawn had to be made, and soon.  But there were still so many unanswered questions.  Keron longed to defy the visions and tell Mitlan everything.  The High Priest would certainly bring new eyes to the threat, but both Telmax and Ohili counseled him to follow the visions.  He trusted the two men, and he trusted in Tez.

So armed with his prophecies and with his network of spies, Keron believed, even in spite of all the questions he still had, that he knew everything he needed about how to defeat the Unnamed One.  As his visions predicted, Zel’s servants had already fractured, creating splinter groups that had yet to coalesce into a unified front against their corrupted High Priestess.  His spies were reporting gross abuses of power by Este, the High Priestess of Zel.  Most of the servants in the Temple of Dawn believed her to be mad.  One moment she issued orders and in the next moment had no memory of any orders being issued.  Rumors abounded of Este forcing her priestesses to engage in forbidden rites and rituals, using sex and blood to raise power.  The number of priestesses and servants leaving the temple rose every day.  Many were already in hiding staying safe houses created by the Sisterhood.  He suspected that with Setch now aiding the Sisterhood, and that their struggle would come to a head soon.

He wanted, no he realized, he needed the alliance between Setch and Soshay in place before that.  His visions had made clear that all the Cetza needed this alliance, needed these two young women to work together, to lock the Unnamed One away again.  With the Unnamed One’s power increasing, he could no longer seek visions the way he once had, but the last visions he recorded were of the alliance between Soshay and Setch.

He reviewed his last prophecy.  He had seen the priestess Setch marked with the glyph of pregnancy.  The prophecy left the father of the child occluded.  He wondered if the father was important or if it would be the doubts of the child’s parentage that would be important.  He also wondered if the child was in fact Tenoch’s, and if she was, would the child possess the gift of diplomacy too?  From the vision, he knew that Este was coming to the Temple of Twilight to seek an audience with Tenoch.

Everyone knew that Setch and Tenoch had a long standing affair.  Would she use the child against him?  What would he bargain with to end the pregnancy?  And if such a bargain was struck, how would that effect Setch’s agreement?  Would the loss of her child destroy Setch?  The only thing that was clear to Keron was that Setch would bear a daughter, but whether it was this child or some future child was still in question.  He had seen Soshay and Setch involved in a binding ritual sealed with blood, both of the cutting their arms with a ritual knife of the Temple of Twilight and then mixing the blood.  And as always he saw Soshay holding the broken spear of the Unnamed One.

Keron continued to stare at the glyphs in his codex, until they blurred before his eyes.  After his last meeting with Soshay, he had taken both of their codices from the records room.  He hoped the Master of Records would remain on his side.  He knew about the missing money, and had never loved Tenoch. “Tez, I need all the allies I can get.”  He whispered.

***

It was hours later when Mitlan stormed into Keron’s chamber.

“I have spoken to the novice, Soshay.”  Mitlan growled.

Keron frowned, “What could she have said to anger you so?”

Mitlan glared, “I do not doubt she is a powerful oracle and chosen by Tez to be his True Bride.”  He threw himself into an empty chair.  “It is her accusations against Tenoch that concern me.  That she would so blithely accuse him of plotting against me, makes me concerned she considers herself above temple law.”

Keron sat stunned.  He thought his warnings to Soshay to avoid discussing Tenoch had been clear.  His thoughts raced to consider how to defend Soshay from her own folly.  Maybe she does consider herself above temple law, Keron considered, but that wouldn’t make her wrong, only foolish.

Mitlan barely glanced at Keron before he continued, “Tenoch has always been my strongest supporter.  He understood my vision for restoring the temple to its past glory.  He supported my efforts to elevate Tez, making him the highest god among the Cetza.  He supported you when I brought you to the council meeting.  He has always worked for the betterment of the Temple of Twilight.”  Mitlan’s voice rose, until he was shouting.

“Peace my friend.” Keron began, wondering what had possessed Soshay to say anything about Tenoch.  “Do you trust my devotion to the temple, to Tez, as well as Tenoch’s?”

Mitlan gave a harsh nod, “Of course.”

Keron took a deep breath, “Then trust her.  She has never lied to me.  I do not believe she would lie about this.  She has no cause to defame Tenoch.  And she does not make these accusations on her own.  I…”  Keron paused, watching Mitlan’s expression grow darker with each word, “I told her of my suspicions.  She is only repeating my accusation.”  Keron paused expecting another outburst from Mitlan.  The older man had grown silent and still.  Keron could see the rage in his eyes.  “Is it so impossible to believe that Tenoch may be working against you?  Do not forget that you were chosen High Priest over Tenoch.”

Mitlan rushed from the chair enraged.  “You too would overlook all he has done?  All because of this girl?”

Keron flinched at the vehemence of Mitlan’s tone.  “She is not just some girl. She is…”

Mitlan spun to face him, “She is what? Beautiful? Clever with words?” He narrowed his eyes, “Are the rumors true?  Have you forsaken your duties for this girl?”

Keron stifled a shudder, the accusation cut too keenly for his comfort.  He doubted even Mitlan would accept his vision of he and Soshay.  He certainly knew no one would believe that he could love the girl and maintain an unromantic relationship.  “I have served Tez’s will since you brought me into this temple.”  He spat the words, but continued.  “What hold does Tenoch have on you, that he inspires such rage?  You claim I am your friend too, yet you defame me without such violence and without any evidence.”

Mitlan abruptly stopped his pacing.  He rubbed his hand over his face, smearing his habitual makeup.  The skull paint becoming a ghoulish smear of white and black.  “It is not just her accusation. It is the question she asked me after.”

Keron could see the confusion in Mitlan’s face.  The older man had been his mentor and friend for over fifteen years and in all of that time, Keron had never seen him unsure of anything.  “What did she ask?”

Mitlan gave a thin smile, “She asked if the gift of diplomacy was lost to the Temple of Twilight.”  He sat heavily in the chair holding his head in his hands.

Keron gave a silent prayer to Tez, and wondered if Soshay’s words were inspired or a death sentence for them both.  He sat across from Mitlan and knew he had to consider his words with great care.  “Mitlan, my friend, Does her question anger you or make you afraid?”

Mitlan looked up and glared, then slowly shrugged.  “She had spoken in Tez’s voice before, what if these words were sent by Him?”

Keron smiled thinly, “That would not surprise me at all.  He speaks to her in ways that we cannot imagine.  When she speaks of her relationship to Tez, it is as real to her as her friendship with the young people of the temple.  She sees him, and he speaks directly to her.  He has possessed her.  It has been almost a century since He last possessed one of His servants.” Keron paused letting the words sink in, “What if Tenoch has this gift?”  Keron knew that he must present his case slowly.  Keron must let Mitlan believe that the charges against Tenoch came from Mitlan himself.  Keron did not want the High Priest to believe that Keron had manipulated him.

Mitlan looked at Keron, “Then I must doubt everything, every decision I have made in the past twenty years.  Every judgment I have made must be reexamined.”  Mitlan looked lost.  “Does he control me?”  His voice was barely a whisper.

Keron shook his head “I have been researching this gift, and it seems that you must be able to hear the voice for it to work.  The years you have spent in the City of Lake have protected you from Tenoch’s manipulations.”  He saw Mitlan’s expression change to the ghost of a smile.  Keron continued, “I am using a trusted,” he paused unsure how to explain Ohili to the High Priest, “a trusted priest to search the archives for the records on the gift.  There may be a way to counter his power, to test him and prove his abuse of the power.  I do have evidence that he has been altering the records of prophecies and altering the words of the oracles to patrons.”

Hearing this, Mitlan slumped back in the chair.  To Keron, the High Priest looked utterly defeated.  “His abuses of his station are my responsibility, and if he holds the power of diplomacy, then I lose my standing.  I cannot be trusted.  I am compromised beyond redemption.” His voice was flat.

The horror of the situation descended on Keron.  The remainder of the council would likely vote to remove Mitlan from power if Tenoch’s manipulations were discovered.  The council may even decide it must dissolve entirely, and call in priests serving in the City of the Lake and farther.  They would hold inquisitions to discover which priests were poisoned by Tenoch’s gift.  Those priests may never be cleared of the suspicion.  Good priests could be destroyed.  The Temple of Twilight could not hide corruption this deep from the people or the Imperator.  Everything Mitlan had worked for was at risk.  And this would create an opening for those unhappy the Imperator. He thought of the unfair taxes levied by the Temple of Twilight, and how the farmers would not blame only Tenoch, but would use this as an example of the Imperator’s flaws.  Even with his ability to see visions, Keron saw the pieces falling to place – and he saw it leading to civil war. And behind it all, he wondered how much was the Unnamed God’s influence.

And now Keron watched Mitlan on the edge of giving into despair; in the time of its greatest trials, the Temple was in real danger of losing its leader.  Keron wondered if Mitlan would ever trust his own judgment again.  “There must be a method to remove his influence, to suppress his gift.”  Keron paused, “We will find it.  And once we have that method, we can keep the rest of the temple from discovering his crimes.”

Mitlan nodded slowly, “Mayhap, it has been years since I last looked at the archives.”  His gaze grew distant as he considered this, “But what if we have all been tricked?  I have known him for twenty years. Have I done anything of my own will, or has he manipulated me for so long?”

Keron could see the utter doubt overwhelm Mitlan.  “I do not know my friend, but you have been away in the capital a long time.  He has spent little time there since the Council to end the Century war.”

Mitlan shook his head.  “But what did he make me do then?”

Keron signed in relief.  “Even if he influenced you then, his words have not influenced you often.  It has been three years since your last visit here.”  He tried to catch Mitlan’s eye, hoping to reassure him.

Mitlan narrowed his eyes in thought, “I must go and review my records on this gift.” He glanced at Keron, “I trust my private library is still intact?”

Keron’s nodded, silently cursing himself for not starting his search in Mitlan’s library.  Now it was too late for him to access those codices.

Mitlan continued, “If there is a test, I will force Tenoch to undergo it.”

Keron was relieved to hear some of Mitlan’s confidence returning.  “May I help?”

Mitlan started to shake his head and stopped, “Yes.  I need an oracle.”  He narrowed his eyes in thought, “You can tell me now if her accusation is accurate.”

Keron shook his head slowly, “I can try.”  He paused, “But you know I can only see possible futures.”

Mitlan waved away the caveat.  “Make yourself ready.  We do this now.”

Keron nodded and rose from his chair.  He went to the small cupboard in his chamber.  Inside he kept a small store of liuqui and the ritual obsidian bowl.  He could not tell Mitlan about the difficulties all the oracles were having now that the Unnamed One was awakening.  After Soshay’s initiation, he decided that regardless of what his visions indicated, he would tell Mitlan everything.  He could not hide His corruption of their gifts forever.

He carefully measure out the potion and watched the dark liquid swirl around the bottom of the bowl.  Over the past week, his visions were quashed by images of the Unnamed God, terrible in his beauty and awful in his destruction.  The images of blood and fire haunted him for days after a vision.  Will I reveal the existence of the Unnamed One to Mitlan with this vision?  He was taking a risk by waiting to tell him, but it was more important to have Mitlan make a clear judgment of Tenoch’s guilt first.

He returned to his seat with the bowl.  “I am ready, Mitlan.  I hope you find the answers you seek.”  He gulped down the liquid, feeling it burn down his throat.  It took a few minutes for the potion to overwhelm his senses.  He began the ingrained, measured breathing and felt the world begin to fade away.

He distantly heard Mitlan question him about Tenoch and a vision began to form.  At first, he saw the face of the Unnamed One.  His dark smile filled his vision.  He fought to push the image away and slowly the altar room appeared in his sight.  Everyone was present and clearly dressed and arrayed for an initiation.  Soshay stood before them in tears.  No fear crossed her face, only a rage he had never seen in her.  She glared at them all, including himself.  Tenoch called for silence and everyone except Soshay ceased speaking.  She continued to rail against them for their lack of faith.  Tenoch ordered her removed from the room, and the guards responded without hesitation.  He watched them all listen to Tenoch’s words.  Words that rang hollow to the Keron watching the vision, but his vision self nodded slowly and seemed to struggle to keep his emotions in check.  Tenoch told them all of her evil influence, and all of them agreed.

The vision shifted and again Keron struggled to dispel the image of the Unnamed One.  The blood and fire that always accompanied her threatened to overwhelm him.  Instead he focused on Soshay and watched her forced into the ritual clothing for sacrifice.  He watched her led to the altar.  She walked with slow dignity.  Her face was grave and when she looked at him in the vision, her eyes reflected only despair.  He watched her grimace as she was tied to the altar.  This he did not want to see, but with the liuqui he was powerless to stop the images.

He saw the obsidian blade in Mitlan’s hand.  He saw the blood pooling on the altar, flowing slowly down the gutters on the sides of the altar.  He heard the shrill laughter of the Unnamed One and the howling rage of a jaguar.  He watched the City of the Jungle descend into chaos and violence.

Keron blinked slowly, the horror the vision inspired leaving him gasping.  He felt Mitlan press a cup of water into his hand.

“Who is the man?  Who laughed when the oracle died?”

Keron sipped the water.  He had an opportunity to tell Mitlan everything now.  It would allow him to drop the burden of carrying this information alone.  As High Priest, Mitlan could help.  Instead Keron found himself shrugging, “I do not know.”  The words were a low rasp.  He drank more water, feeling the cool liquid sooth his throat.  “Did you learn what you needed to know?”

Mitlan gave a sad nod.  “I will test Tenoch and see if the archives offer a way to prevent the effects of his gift.  But, if he learns what we are about, he can stop us with a word.”

Keron nodded, too weak from the vision to offer much more.

“I will send your under-priest to you.  Rest my friend.  I will be careful in my efforts.”  Mitlan rose and began to rifle through the small desk and began scrawling a fast note.  Keron watched curious, but too drained by the vision to speak.

Mitlan handed him the note.  “This is a record of your vision and the truth of Tenoch’s gift.  If I fall under his control, or he learns of our plans, use this.  I may doubt, but these words are written in my own hand.  It may be enough to call his influence into question.”

Keron nodded.  “Be careful, my friend.  Tenoch has been laying his plans for longer than we know.”

Mitlan nodded.  “I will go to my archives now.  I pray we find a way to counter his gift.”

Keron watched him leave.  Normally a vision would not leave him this drained.  The strain of fighting through the Unnamed One’s image was becoming more and more tiring.  He knew that this may be his last vision, at least until they defeated the Unnamed One.

We must find the way to defeat Him.  He cannot be allowed to rise.  His thoughts offered no further answers, but they kept him from recalling Soshay’s eyes in the vision.  It was not only despair he saw in them when she had looked at him.  It was betrayal.  It was that image that made him want to weep.

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