In honor of the Mayan calendar ending, I thought I'd share this story of Vern and Quetzalcoatl. BTW, you did hear that they found a bigger calendar? Apparently only the wall calendar runs out.
Of Slings and Feeling Vexed (And Other Mayan Stuff)
By Karina Fabian
(Originally appeared in 10Flash)
“You want me to do what?”
“You will defeat the Mayan’s false god,” Cortez said.
“And bring these people to the True God,” Father Jose Dominguez added.
The conquistador ignored the little priest who stood next to him, and regarded me with a haughty glare. Although a small man himself, Cortez had presence.
That irked me. I was more the size of one of his dogs than the great dragon I once had been. St. George had spent forty days taking away just about everything that made me dragon, then forced me to serve the Church to get it back. At the time, I thought my world had ended, but it opened up the doors to a pretty interesting new one.
Of course, some days were more “interesting” than others.
“In case you hadn’t noticed,” I replied, with acid in my voice to replace the fire I no longer breathed, “I’m no heavyweight. Even when I was, I didn’t mess with demigods. What makes you think this will end well?”
He didn’t deign to answer.
“You will be as David against Goliath!” Father Jose said.
I snorted. And me without a slingshot.
Quetzalcoatl laughed. “This is your champion? This is the might of the foreign—”
Goliath or not, I did not want to deal with his monologue. I bit his tail.
Quetzalcoatl yelped and shot into the air, dragging me along. I barely had time to get my bearings before he smashed me against a pyramid.
Oh, it was on!
I caught his eye, stuck out my tongue to show the chunk I’d bitten off his tail, then swallowed it. While he sputtered in outrage, I lunged for his wings.
He twisted, quick as his temper. As I hurtled by, I snagged his tail
and spun into a twisting loop. He had to follow. Even demigods can’t ignore leverage.
Hack and slash. Bite and duck. First for hours, then for a day. A second day began. The Spanish kept the Mayans from offering sacrifices to rebuild Quetzelcoatl’s strength, but no one fed me, either. Once or twice, I spotted Father Jose fingering his beads, but I knew he chanted, “Thy will be done.”
They will. Great. I knew for a fact that God took a longer term view of things than sentients and His will didn’t often match mine. I ducked to avoid the demigod’s slashing claws and got a kick in the gut for my effort.
The sun had almost set for the third time. Quetzalcoatl and I perched on opposing treetops, hissing and spitting – posturing really – as we caught our breaths.
I ached beyond all measure. Quetzalcoatl’s poison burned in me. I couldn’t keep this up much longer. You ever read Psalms, chapter twenty-two, verse seventeen? “I can count all my bones. People look and stare upon me.” I figured it would be faster to count the handful that didn’t hurt.
Then something else from King David came to me, something Father Jose had mentioned. I decided to count the hours and the minutes. I plucked and shoved an avocado into my mouth.
“Let’s end this,” Quetzalcoatl panted. “Join with me. Defeat the Spanish and rule at my side.”
“Seriously? And spend eternity like this?” I spoke around my chewing.
Thirty nine hours – and almost one more –
“You prefer to bow to lesser beings? You would have me subservient to the likes of them?”
He spat toward Cortez.
I rolled my eyes to show my opinion of his stupidity. “Not them, to God. That’s your place as much as mine.”
Quetzalcoatl hissed at me, then reared back, eyes glowing fire, wings unfurled, godlike and larger than life.
I spat the pit at him. It struck his forehead.
And the demigod crashed to the ground. Forty hours. Another forty for God. He has a thing about that number.
* * *
Cortez and his men celebrated victory. I sat atop a lonely hill, licking my wounds. Poison ate at me, making me nauseous. Still, I couldn’t help but smile as Quetzalcoatl flopped onto the ground next to me. Nice to see I gave almost as good as I got.
With a grudging glance, he hissed a spell. I felt the poison fade. Got to love kindness from an enemy. “Good fight,” I said.
“I was outclassed.”
I knew he didn’t mean me.
In the camp, the conquistadors laughed and toasted God and each other. In the city, the Mayan people mourned.
Quetzalcoatl closed his eyes to a pain that had nothing to do with his wounds. “Their world is ending.”
The Mayans had worshiped Quetzalcoatl for millennia. He’d done well by them. Their empire spread across Mesoamerica, and for centuries, they prospered. Yet in mere days, pasty-faced invaders with a puny dragon changed everything.
“Why aren’t you down there with them?”
“They should not see me this way.”
Sandaled footsteps caught our attention. Father Jose struggled up the hill, carrying an urn.
“Blessed water,” he explained in broken Mayan.
He dipped a rag and reached for Quetzalcoatl’s wing.
The demigod reared back. “What hypocrisy is this?”
“No hypocrisy. Change must come.”
“Must it?” Quetzalcoatl sneered.
“You took from God. Now He welcomes back. Baptism tomorrow. Many souls saved.”
“What about me?” the demigod almost wailed.
“Quetzalcoatl great demigod,” Father Jose said. “Cares for people. But no more human sacrifice. Jesus only sacrifice. No more killing. Now, Communion and life.”
Quetzalcoatl presented his wing. As the priest washed away the dirt and blood, I saw new feathers already budding. Tomorrow, Quetzalcoatl would be back to his full glory. He would oversee the baptism of his people with a benevolent eye, as the Spaniards joined in prayers and celebration with their Mayan brothers.
And thus, a new world begins.