Indiana Jones and the Serpent of Evil
Chapter 17: Prisoner of Ula Thol
Indy came to with a start, his head aching as if in a vise. He groaned and raised a forearm to rest against his brow. Then, with his eyes closed, Indy breathed deeply, willing the pain to a manageable level.
When he finally opened his eyes, Indy found himself staring up into the underside of a wide, circular roof crafted from bands of thatch woven together with intricate patterns of vine work.
"What the hell...?" he mumbled. His mind felt as if it were clouded in fog. Indy glanced about quietly, trying to focus his thoughts. Tepid ribbons of light from the setting sun managed their way into the small hut through imperfections in the simple doorframe to his left. It was enough for Indy to note that the room appeared no larger than 30 feet in diameter. Even so, the farthest walls remained cloaked in shadow.
A leafy mat carpeted the bare floor. To his right, resting a foot away from his head sat a clay bowl. Indy sniffed cautiously, wrinkling his nose as he did so. Surprisingly, the smell was rather pleasant. "Stew?" Indy whispered, rolling up onto his right elbow. He pulled the bowl closer and examined its contents. Sure enough, it appeared to be meat and vegetables in a thick gravy of some sort.
Well, Indy mused, whoever they are they're not trying to starve us. Us? Indy looked around a second time, suddenly registering Angelina's absence. My god, he thought. Angelina!
He pushed himself up and immediately fell over against the wall near the door, his head spinning. He touched the fingers of this left hand to a point a few inches behind his ear. They came away tacky with blood. Indy slid down the wall and landed on his butt with a thud. He remembered, then, the blow from the black stone cudgel that had brought him to this place. At least he wasn't bleeding badly.
As if in response to his thoughts, a strange voice drifted out from the darkness opposite where Indy sat. "It appears to have been a glancing blow. You were lucky." The voice was deep, the English heavily accented in a fashion Indy didn't recognize.
The archaeologist held a hand up to his eyes and peered into the darkness. "Who are you?" he asked. "Do you know what they've done with the woman?"
Indy heard a heavy sigh and the awkward shuffle of movement from someone who'd been confined for too long. From the dark recesses of the building walked a tall, extraordinarily lean Indian. He wore only a loincloth, dressed around the hips with a leather wrap embroidered with tiny black stones. His straight dark hair, cut just below the level of his jaw line, framed a long face with eyes mirroring the stones at his waist. "I had hoped you were captured alone," the Indian said.
"No, there was a woman with me. Young, about 28. Spanish."
The Indian waved his hand dismissively. "Your woman would be held in a hut such as this on the other side of the Great Square - if she is still alive."
Indy grimaced at that. "She'd better be." He paused a moment and looked the Indian up and down appraisingly. "Where are we and who are you? How is it you speak English? Are you...Mayan?"
The Indian walked across the hut toward the heavy wooden door, responding to Indy's questions as he did so. "You are a prisoner of Ula Thol, home of the sons and daughters of Itzama, Ahaukin and the Great Turtle Pauahtun, they who provide all - life, death and in-between."
"Ula Thol?" Indy said. "That's the name of your city? And Itzama is one of your gods?"
The Indian nodded and, to Indy's surprise, launched himself at the door with a fierce scream, ramming it with his shoulder. The hut shook and dust sprinkled down from the rafters like dirty talcum powder. Indy froze against the wall, his mouth agape at the unexpectedly violent display. The Indian shrugged. "It is expected," he said simply and sat down cross-legged in front of the archaeologist. As he did so, Indy noted how truly awesome a specimen this stranger was. Tall, as Indy noted before, but powerful, the man's leanness disguising the strength bunched up within his lanky frame. His skin rested tightly against muscle like a silk wrap. His every move, every twitch betrayed a monstrous strength that Indy determined very quickly he wanted no part of. He would have to tread lightly indeed.
"As to your other questions," the Indian continued, "we are all Maya. I am one called Ix Mun."
"Icks Moon?" Indy echoed.
"Yes. I learned your English and Spanish when I traveled beyond the rim as a youth. It was long ago." The Mayan picked up Indy's bowl of stew and pushed it toward him. "Eat this," he said. "You'll need it." Indy nodded and took the food from him. There were no utensils to be found, so he began to scoop the contents out with his fingers. Ix Mun smiled. "You. You are what?" he said, pointing at the archaeologist.
Indy looked up and responded, chewing heartily. "I'm an American. Indiana Jones. Friends call me Indy."
At this, Ix Mun nodded agreeably. "The name of one's friend is to be kept close to the heart. You must be honored indeed to have a name meant for friend's alone."
"Well, it's just a nickname really. But...well, yes, I have some good friends."
"That is as it should be. A man should not depart from this land of sun and sky with no friends to mourn his passing."
"Passing...what do you mean?" Indy asked.
"I will be honoring the gods tomorrow night. You and the girl will be joining me."
"Hold on," Indy pleaded, raising his hands in a show of surrender. "What are you talking about?"
The big Maya smiled. "Tomorrow at dusk we will take part in the Ux Chem Ul. The Dance of Fangs."
"I'm unfamiliar with it," Indy admitted. Suddenly, he recalled a gruesome memory and gasped. "It's not a Mayan ball game is it?"
Ix Mun threw back his head and laughed. "No, we will not partake of sport such as that. We are unworthy."
Indy expelled a sigh of relief. "Thank god," he said. The one ball game he knew of - practiced by the Maya anyway - centered around two teams, each one attempting to drive a rubber ball through an elaborately inscribed series of rings positioned high along the sides of a special court. Hand and foot contact with the ball was illegal, however, turning the game into a vicious and extremely difficult variation of European football. The leader of the winning team received accolades and jewelry, his victory representing the triumph of the city's gods over the underworld. The leader of the losing team was simply decapitated, his headless body rolled down the temple steps to the plaza floor below. The idea of such brutality made Indy shudder.
"Listen," he said finally, "we've got to warn your people. There are many men following me. Evil men who will kill you all if they have to. They want your silver mine - the Mine of Itzama."
Ix Mun chuckled. "These men you speak of, they are nothing to the people of Ula Thol. As you fell, so shall they."
Indy shook his head. "They are ruthless. They have many weapons, many soldiers and ...explosives. Lots of explosives."
"I see," Ix Mun said. "But it does not matter. I cannot warn my people. They would not listen if I tried."
"But why?" Indy asked, incredulous.
"I am a thief. I have lain with another man's woman. I am a deceiver, considered foul beyond tolerance. It is assumed my words are false in all things."
"Because you slept with another man's wife?" Indy pondered this for a moment. "There's got to be a way to make them listen to me. Perhaps another of your people could translate my words?"
Ix Mun waved away the suggestion. "No. You too are considered a deceiver - one of those who cannot be trusted. They will regard no one who speaks on your behalf."
"Damn it, how stupid is that? They have to!"
"Indiana Jones, you worry about the Mine of Itzama. You should not. The mine can protect itself."
"What do you mean?"
"Itzama is our most high god - our protector." The Mayan paused, considering how best to continue. "Long ago, this mine was simply a cave. Until strangers, men from the country of... France... happened upon it. They were explorers and conquerors. In this cave they discovered the silver so precious to them and they were determined to take it. They made promises to tear down the jungle and force my people to dig. Some of these French left to go bring others. My ancestors knew this would be a bad thing and they were afraid. But, the French would not be the ones to cause them trouble. A party of Spaniards attacked the French and killed them. These Spaniards came to my people and told us that the mine was theirs, that our land was theirs." Ix Mun noted Indy nodding in agreement with what he had said. "You know this story?"
"I'm...familiar with it."
The Mayan continued. "These men brutalized my people. By doing so, they called down the wrath of Itzama."
"How do you mean?"
"The Spanish began digging in the mine. 'Testing it' they said. Measuring its worth. But in digging, they pushed too far. A new cave was exposed and Itzama rushed through the opening disguised as a terrible wind. The Spanish dropped their guns and fell to the ground screaming. They pulled out their hair and ripped their clothes. Those who made it out of the mine were mad with fear. My people killed them." Ix Mun smiled. "Very few, if any, escaped."
"As a sign of thanks," he continued, "a temple was constructed over the mouth of the mine, a shrine to Itzama - he who watches over us. In the twenty generations since, we have never again been bothered." The Mayan placed his hands in his lap, ending the story.
Indy sat silently, considering the more fantastic aspects of the tale. He knew that many cave networks contained trapped gases, gases that could kill - perhaps even cause hallucinations and madness. The Spanish regiment must have simply opened up a passage filled with one of these. Coal miner's ran into them all the time. In any case, neither legends nor poison gas would stop Vargario and his men. Indy would have to think of a new plan - to both protect the mine and the people of Ula Thol.
Site Author: Micah Johnson
Page Author: walker
Created: Sept. 17, 1999
Last modified: October 2, 1999