Mahaway pounded at the Calendar in frustration. Jasaw had told them they needed to create a Long Count Calendar, a complicated system that had been around for thousands of years. Of course it had taken them longer than a week to finish, and she was getting desperate—especially after learning that Jasaw had already killed most of her fellow scribes for not knowing enough about the Calendar.
Guards were always posted, watching them, and each day Jasaw had come to check on them. But he was an impatient man, and his temper grew short. He had threatened to kill them, but Mahaway had persuaded the king that she, Yochi, and Ichik were all necessary. They were the only ones who knew about the Calendar, she had argued, and without them, he would have no hope of learning Venus’ cycle in time. Eventually he had agreed, and now the Calendar was nearly finished, a large round rock with carvings of the different gods.
Mahaway gnashed her teeth and grunted as she worked.
“Mahaway,” Yochi warned. “Don’t do anything rash.”
Before she had a chance to respond, Jasaw appeared for his daily visit. But he looked angrier than usual. His fists were clenched and Mahaway could see a vein popping out of his forehead.
Mahaway, Yochi, and Ichik stood up, and saluted.
Jasaw slapped Yochi in the face, and he stumbled. He raised his hand to hit Ichik, but Mahaway stepped in front of him. “Your highness, please. What is the matter?”
Jasaw’s eyes narrowed, and he moved his hand away from Mahaway to point at the sky. “Do you see that?”
Mahaway looked up to see a bright ball of light. Venus. She shivered. She had been dreading this day. Early on she and Yochi had realized the Calendar would not be finished before Venus came back, but they had decided not to tell Jasaw. They didn’t want to let him ravage any more cities and kill innocent people if they could help it.
“Yes,” she said, mustering all her courage for her next word. “And?”
Jasaw lunged at her, gripping her shoulders and shaking her. “That is Venus. It is up now and because you failed to inform me of its cycle, I am unable to ready my troops in time for battle. You have lost me a victory.”
He let go, and Mahaway bit her lip, willing herself not to cry. Yochi had recovered from his blow, and his face was red. He stepped towards Jasaw. “Don’t you touch her again!”
Ichik grabbed Yochi and tried to calm him down. But it was too late.
Jasaw straightened up and placed his hands behind his back, staring at Yochi. “Well, that settles it,” he said, his voice low. “You’re first.”
Jasaw’s guards seized Yochi, one on either side of him. Another guard lay the calendar flat on the roof.
“What are you doing?” Mahaway screamed. Two more guards stood in front of her and Ichik, blocking them from Yochi.
“It’s ok, Mahaway,’ Yochi said. His voice trembled. “I’ll be all right.”
Jasaw continued to speak in a low voice. “Go ahead, take a look.” He gestured towards the city below.
Mahaway and Ichik edged towards the side of the roof. A large crowd was gathered, looking up at them. “What is this?” Mahaway said.
“A gathering of my citizens, come to see my first human sacrifice to the gods. They have all been informed of your treason, which according to my law means decapitation.” Jasaw smirked. “I have already announced that the gods have spoken to me, telling me they need human sacrifices in order to ensure we live in times of peace and prosperity. Now they are awaiting to see my sacrifices.”
A scuffle broke out between Yochi and his guards. The two guards watching Ichik and Mahaway turned to help. “Run!” Yochi yelled. “Go back the way we came and find a safe place.”
“No!” Mahaway screamed. “Yochi, I won’t leave you.”
“We have to go now.” Ichick was suddenly beside her, pushing her towards the stairs.
Mahaway was in shock. The guards had taken down Yochi, and now Jasaw was yelling and waving his sword. She looked back for a second and locked eyes with Yochi, just before Jasaw delivered the fatal blow. She thought she saw him mouth the words, “I love you.” She whispered to him, “I love you too,” while singing their favorite lullaby in her head.
As soon as his blood dripped on to the calendar, Mahaway felt her body rush with adrenaline fueled by anger. Then a bright light flashed and Mahaway thought she felt a wave of heat for a split second. Suddenly feeling numb, she let Ichik lead her to the room with the tunnel and back to their secret cavern.