The battered and beaten remnants of an army, we were marched into the city and along the streets. The citizens of New Tenochtitlan were understandably upset with us – evidenced by the fact that they were throwing… well… crap at us. And yes, I do mean "crap" in the most literal sense. You know, I expected tomatoes to be flying around like in the olden days, but they were tossing what could've been a tomato after having passed through a person's system. I'm here to tell you – I would've preferred the tomatoes.
Luckily, I was well-protected in the center of the column and managed to duck the few "projectiles" that came at me. Jalil and Christopher got some of the crud in their hair. Finally, we got to a type of dome-shaped building. Had the Aztecs in the real world even discovered how to build domes? Ah, well, they had here. After being ushered inside with the rest of the captured Vikings, the massive doors behind us were pushed closed and sealed. The room we were in was pretty massive, with small, primitive beds laid out here and there. On the side were cubicle-shaped booths. Bathrooms. Or, at least, the ancient Aztec equivalent.
Almost immediately after we entered, Eli went at David. He grabbed him by his shirt and threw him against a nearby wall, causing him to grunt with the impact.
"You were supposed to stick to the plan!" My friend's voice was harsh.
"Didn't help much, now did it?" David shot back.
"I don't care – we almost got killed out there going after your sorry ass. Pull that shit again and I'll shoot you myself."
I'd never seen Eli that mad – but I knew he was just being overprotective of us. As far as he was concerned, we were his responsibility. It was a good thing that the Aztecs had taken some of our weapons, or else Eli might have shot the guy. David was angry too, but he also looked a bit guilty. So he hung his head and sat a ways away from the rest of us.
It was a gloomy situation for us – sitting in a circle in the quiet dome we were in. Jayson was wringing his hands – he was worried sick about Libby. It then occurred to me that I hadn't even spared a single thought since the beginning of the battle for the girls. I was ashamed – who knows if they were even still alive? They'd been left on the ships. Maybe it would have been better if they had come with us…
"I'm sure she's OK," My words to Jayson surprised even me. Brett and Eli agreed, though.
Jayson didn't seem much cheered up by them, though – he just slightly nodded.
David slowly began migrating back over towards our group. He began discussing tactics – he pointed out that the Aztecs had kept very little guard on us and the Vikings, and that at most times, we outnumbered them. If we were able to convince the Vikings to revolt, we could just possibly bust out.
Seemed logical enough. I looked around, and it hit me that this army would need a lot of convincing. Apparently, the Viking mindset was different from our own. If they were beaten, they were defeated emotionally and mentally as well as physically. They were acting so very emo, to put it into perspective for you. They moped around and sat with their heads hung. They didn't even consider escape as an option.
We all saw this, and as if on cue, we turned back slowly to face David, eyebrows raised.
"OK – we'll have to work on that," he conceded.
Christopher stood up. "Well, Napoleon, you keep planning, I'm gonna go wash this crap out of my hair."
Apparently, everyone (myself included) thought suddenly that bathing was a good idea – at least the Aztecs had the decency to erect some privacy barriers.
Minutes later, now clean, we gathered again. And we still didn't have a plan.
Not too much of a problem, considering that we were then visited again by the not-so friendly Aztec guards, and this time we were taken to a building resembling the Great Hall back in… I don't know, Viking Land?
Upon first entering this new structure, you would've thought that we were VIP's, not prisoners of war. Seriously.
There were tables and tables stacked high with fruit and roasted pig. And it didn't take long to notice the "company" that the Aztecs had seen fit to give to their Viking prisoners: some (questionably clothed) Aztec women – it didn't take long to guess their purpose. Mysteriously enough, the Vikings conveniently suddenly overcame their gloom and began partaking in all the pleasures the place had to offer.
As for us, we sat at our own table (which I promptly christened the "Cool Kids Table"); purposefully off to the side of the room, as to avoid drawing attention. Didn't work.
It wasn't long before the Aztec maidens approached us. They seemed rather offended by our rejection of their services. Well, all except for Christopher. He began chatting one of them up. Between large gulps of beer, that is.
David yanked him aside. "Are you trying to get drunk or just get laid?"
Christopher's tone was highly sarcastic, "Well, Stonewall, it happens to be my intention to do both."
"I don't think so," that was Jalil, helping to pull Christopher away while shooing the girls away. One of them didn't take too kindly to that and slapped him. Her friend produced a crude knife from under her dress.
I stepped forward, and pulled the baton from my pocket. I'd managed to avoid it getting confiscated by the Aztecs, probably because they didn't recognize it as a weapon, due to the fact that I'd had it collapsed.
"Walk away, gals," I said, in a falsely kind tone.
The one with the knife was rather confident of herself. "You didn't ask very kindly…"
I sighed and rolled my eyes. Then, with a hard flick of the wrist, the baton shot out to its full length, with the same satisfying sound.
"Walk away, bitch," my tone was serious this time.
She was done playing games at the same time as me, so she took her friend and left. I turned back to face the group – their faces were a mix of surprise and humor.
"Crack the whip, huh, Jon? Or, the nightstick, actually," Jayson said.
I shrugged, "Golden Pimp keeps 'em in line, my friend," another inside joke between the two of us.
David called us all into a tight circle. Time to discuss a game plan.
"Alright, the Aztecs don't expect any trouble from the Vikings. That much is obvious. They've only got a few guards in here. If we're going to make a move, it better be now."
We agreed that it was worth a shot – we weren't sure why the Aztecs were treating us so well, but we really didn't want to find out. I was the only one that was armed. I had my baton and the stun gun. I handed the baton over to Eli (he'd always been jealous of it) and held onto the stun gun. Time to make our move. We began walking towards the two guards at the entrance.
I curved the weapon up, against the back of my arm to avoid it being visible. Approaching the first Aztec guard, who looked at me with interest, not caution, not anger, I made my move. I brought the device out and jammed it into his sternum, clicking the initiator button at the same time. Blue sparks flew, and the Aztec went down hard. I turned in time to see Eli's target hit the ground, knocked out cold.
"Let's go!" Christopher yelled. As I began to run out the door, I felt a tug on the leg of my blue jeans. I looked down – my guard was still conscious! I tried to yank my foot away as he raised his crude blade to plunge it into the back of my calf. Then, out of nowhere, a tennis-shoe clad foot kicked my attacker in the back of the head, KO'ing him cleanly. It was David, who then quickly grabbed the blade from the unconscious form.
He nodded. The seven of us regrouped outside and began running, hearing the yells of Aztecs all around us in the dark.
David's voice rang out, "Look! It's Senna!"
He pointed off to a side alley. I saw a wisp of blond hair and a shadow of movement, and when I tried to focus on it, it was gone.
"David, it can't be—" Jalil began.
"C'mon, she wants us to follow her!" David cut him off.
With that, he sprinted into the alley, and, without a better idea, we followed him – Aztecs hot on our trail. We followed this path for several feet in near-pitch blackness. Then, a loud thud was heard as David got to a wall, and Christopher didn't stop, slamming into him. A dead end.
There was a heavy door to our left. We tried to pull it open – no dice. It was sealed shut. We were trapped.
David looked confused, "She must've…"
He was silenced as the Aztecs entered the alleyway, cutting off our escape route.
"Oh, well, back to the party." Brett commented.
Our remaining weapons were confiscated after the escape attempt, and the number of guards escorting ourselves and the Vikings doubled as we were returned back to the dome. We didn't make anymore plans. We didn't even talk to each other. We just went to sleep. And that didn't last long, because a new group of unsavory characters entered the structure.
They were unsettling to behold – torn, long, black robes with hoods. They had crude piercings all over their faces – through their nose, lips, everywhere. Priests. They began to pick Vikings out of the crowd. It didn't take long to figure out for what – we overheard a few Vikings discussing it. Those chosen would be taken to the tall pyramid, have their hearts cut out, and while it was still beating, it would be fed to Huitzilopochtli. That's why they treated us so well – I guess a happy heart was more delectable to "Big H" (a name Christopher had supplied and we all came to use).
The priests pointed at different Norsemen, who were promptly hauled to their feet out of the dome by some particularly muscular Aztec guards. Then, out of nowhere, one of the priests pointed at Jayson.
"Him. He will go."
David stood. "If he goes, we go, too." The guards looked at David threateningly and approached.
The priest raised a hand to cease the guards' action. "No, no, it's alright. If they wish to go as well, then so be it. More hearts to our lord."
I looked to Eli. "Oh, this'll be fun!" Brett and I said with false enthusiasm.
He shook his head and said in an undertone, "I'll think of something."
As we were ushered out of the dome and into the street, I replied, "Might want to hurry with that, Delta."
We were marched to the great pyramid in the center of the city and to the steps. There, we were put into a line that was more than a hundred Vikings long, single file. This line went all the way up the stairs to the open area at the top – I remembered that as where Big H had stayed. Every few seconds, the body of a Viking, with a bleeding, gaping hole in his chest, would roll down the stairs lifelessly. Dried blood coated the stairs, making them sticky. The stench was terrible. Priestesses lined the steps, and above them, the priests.
The line moved rather slowly, I'd scale one stair every ten seconds, and there were a lot of steps. Not that I was complaining – I wanted to stay as far down the line as I could.
Minutes later, we approached the top of the great structure. There he was – Big H, at the back of the top area, seated in his throne, a smirk on his face. His arm was still gone. His top priests surrounded him. In front, a stone slab slathered with blood. The next Viking in line was placed on the slab; the terror in his eyes was obvious. The knife came down, plunging into his chest with a sickening sound. I looked away. Fear took me – I imagined what it would feel like to have the dagger sink into my chest, and my heart torn out. I wanted someone to do something, anything. I didn't want to die like this. Not like this.
"Interesting. His arm hasn't healed. So even gods have limits…" That was Jalil.
"Uh, I think we have bigger things to worry about," Christopher, of course.
That's when Jayson nudged me. He barely gestured with his head at a group of three priestesses a few steps ahead of us, in a tight clump. One was only about four and a half feet tall. One had brown eyes, and a streak of highlights flashed in my vision as she raised her head and smiled at us from under her hood. And the final one – I saw shining green eyes and quick glimpse of red hair. The girls were here.
Kelsey looked around to make sure no one else saw and slid something from her sleeve into her hand. My pistol. I nodded almost imperceptibly. April signaled to David, cocking her head towards a pedestal near Huitzilopochtli. There it was. Our only hope. Mjolnir. It was now David's turn. He got to the top step, and I noticed the girls reaching into their robes, grasping unseen weapons.
"Now!" David yelled.
April threw off her robe, revealing the load of Viking weapons she had hidden. She tossed a sword to David and Jalil, and an axe to Christopher. Kelsey pulled Eli's carbine out from under her robe where it had been hanging on its sling, and tossed it to him. He caught it expertly, checked the action, flipped on the laser-sight, and began firing. She also tossed me my two pistols. I caught one in each hand, and I could tell by their weight that they were loaded. Libby pulled a club from her robe, tossed it to Jayson, and then threw the rest of us our remaining weapons.
I raised my Makarov at the nearest Aztec and fired, catching him in the neck with the 9x18mm round. Blood sprayed and he went down hard. One of the priests made a move towards Kelsey. Libby stepped in and plunged a dagger into his ribs. With a yell, Kelsey grabbed the wounded man and threw him from the pyramid steps. He screamed as he fell. April tossed a rock at an approaching attacker. The stone pegged him in the face.
Our gunfire confused many of the Aztecs as we blazed our way to the hammer. That was our objective – Mjolnir was our only real defense against Big H, and it was the one thing that could rally the Vikings to our aid.
April and I went for the hammer – the others held their ground at the top of the stairs, covering us.
David wielded his sword well – he had learned quickly how to use the weapon. He sliced one approaching Aztec across the neck and kicked him down the steps, then smashed another over the head with the hilt of his sword. Jalil had a short sword in one hand and his pocketknife in the other, slicing wildly at anyone who got close. I watched as Christopher chopped at an attacker with his axe – the man's head separated and fell to the ground, followed by the body. The girls stuck together, using a variety of weapons to hold the flanks. Jayson was throwing rocks rapidly downwards, and any target that got too near received a blow from his club. Brett had retrieved his bow, and was putting it to deadly use, firing arrow after arrow downwards into approaching enemies. Eli was beside him, gun blazing, lasersight beaming here and there. An Aztec managed to keep coming after taking a round, so Eli used his rifle-butt to strike the man, knocking him back down the stairs.
April had grabbed Mjolnir. "Here!" she yelled, and tossed it to me. I caught the weapon – it was heavy. I could literally feel the power it had. I hesitated for a moment. Should I attack Big H? No. We had to rally the Vikings, and besides, I didn't trust myself with the hammer. I called out and tossed the weapon to a surprised Christopher, who caught it.
He shrugged, and raised the weapon into the air.
"C'mon, you pansies! This is Mighty Thor's hammer! Now, let's go kick some Aztec ass!"
That did it. The Vikings began cheering, and then attacked the nearest Aztec they could get their hands on. That's when I saw a shadow pass over me, and felt a whoosh of air. Huitzilopochtli landed five yards in front of me, behind Christopher.
Big H's facial expression as he looked down on the person who now held the hammer said it all: Your ass is mine.
"Christopher!" I yelled, rushing forwards, firing at the same time. Not the best for accuracy, but Big H was hard to miss. I managed to burn half a mag into the god's back before he got angry and backhanded me.
It felt I'd run into a brick wall. The blow knocked the air out of me and sent my flying backwards, into the sacrificial slab. I hit the ground, my pistol sliding out of reach. Pain flooded through my back. However, Christopher had heard my warning and turned to face the god. He threw the hammer wildly, which struck his target on the shoulder. The god wobbled like a drunk, then fell forward, nearly crushing my friends and actually crushing some Aztecs. Was he dead? I didn't know, and I so didn't care. He was down, and that's all that mattered for now.
As my vision cleared, I saw a previously unnoticed priest approaching me, knife in hand. My gun was out of reach, and I was helpless, on the ground. I pulled the KA-BAR and the baton out, extending the baton, all while laying on the ground, unable to move. He lashed out with the knife, and I made an X with the knife and baton, blocking the blow.
"Help!" I yelled. Then, out of nowhere, a blade was pushed through the man's torso from behind. He gasped with pain, and fell over. April. She helped me to my feet and I thanked her as I caught my breath.
"You alright? That was one hell of a hit."
I felt OK – no broken spine. "Yeah, I'm fine. Let's go."
Christopher handed Mjolnir off to Thorolf, who had made his way up to us. Then, David yelled for us to regroup, and we took off down the pyramid steps together, into the street, and out of the city, battle raging behind us.
Vikings rallied, Mjolnir retrieved, Big H down. Mission accomplished. Not to mention, the fact that we were all still alive was a definite bonus in my book…