Indiana Jones and the Serpent of Evil
Chapter 18: The Dance of Fangs
Indy spent the remainder of the evening resting. According to Ix Mun, they had until the dusk of the following day to make plans. Unfortunately, Indy could think of nothing. He was exhausted and aching, the rough leaf-covered floor doing little to provide him with any comfort. He tried upon occasion to question the Mayan further as to the details of the Dance, but Ix Mun refused, stating only that it was forbidden to speak of such things.
The night passed quickly, with Indy only managing to sleep in brief dreaming intervals, both fitful and unpleasant. At dawn he woke slowly, bleary-eyed and bone-weary. The blow he had taken to his head made it difficult to think straight, and worse yet, he didn't even know if Angelina was alive. In short, his situation was miserable and he knew it.
Where's Shorty or Sallah when you need them, he thought. Hell, even Ernie would be a blessing now. The memory of his old college roommate made him laugh softly. Who would've thought that 'Blowhard Ernie' would one day go by the name 'Ernest'? It struck Indy that if things had gone better in Spain he probably could've tracked Hemingway down. The writer was reputed to have been living in Barcelona. Indy sighed. It was a missed opportunity.
Had Ernie been here, he would've pulled out his elephant gun, blown the door off its hinges and hollered for every man in the jungle to come fight him, 'man to man'. It would have been glorious and he would've died, simple as that.
Well, there's nothing to be gained from that line of thinking, Indy chided himself. He didn't even have his Webley, much less an elephant gun. He needed a plan for escape, not combat. Perhaps if the Mayan couldn't tell him about the specifics of this Fang Dance, he could at least set the stage....
"Ix Mun?" Indy probed.
The Mayan looked up from his usual spot on the floor. "Yes?"
"This 'Dance of Fangs', where does it take place? In the Great Square?"
The Indian shook his head. "No. We will be marched northeast of the city. All but the youngest and their mothers will follow. Then at dusk, before the mouth of Itzama's temple, we shall dance."
"The temple...you mean the mine?"
"Yes. Our sacrifice is to Itzama himself, he who protects Ula Thol from deceivers such as you and me."
Indy thought about that for a minute. Then he asked, "Ix Mun, have you ever been in the temple?"
"No. None but the priests may enter. It is forbidden to all others. Some have tried, but they offended Itzama with their boldness, so he scared them."
"To death," the Mayan finished gravely.
Indy weighed this information carefully. There was the makings of something worthwhile in it, he knew. The kernel of a plan. He needed to learn much more, however, and he needed to learn it quickly.
By late afternoon, Indy had pulled about as much useful information as he could from Ix Mun. And that was a good thing because soon after the door to their quarters swung inward and several very hard and solemn-looking Mayan warriors entered. Each wore what Indy guessed to be the proper ceremonial garb for the occasion, consisting of elaborately woven skirts and short, feathered cloaks. Simple pieces of leather and wooden armor adorned their arms and legs. The warriors addressed the captives in a language Indy didn't understand. Their tones were low and soft. Indy looked to Ix Mun for a translation.
"It is time," the Indian said. "They will escort us to the ritual site. You may find the walk an opportunity for contemplation and prayer." He rose from the ground and allowed himself to be taken from the room.
Similarly, two warriors walked to Indy's side and took hold of his arms, pulling him towards the door. At first the archaeologist resisted, but then thought better of it. He squinted into the light of the setting sun as he emerged from the darkness and took in his surroundings for the first time. They were magnificent.
The hut in which he had been confined did little to indicate the true nature of the Mayan city. He could detect a large number of additional huts scattered about, similar in size and construction to his own. But in and amongst these rose up great columns and buildings of stone, each one fashioned with such care and craftsmanship as to appear new. Indy also observed a number of stelae covered in elaborate pictograms. The most impressive of these jutted up from the center of the Great Square to a height of almost 40 feet. It appeared to be carved from a single giant piece of obsidian, its surface covered with a relief of human skulls, the eyes of which were set with jade. Finally, just south of the Great Square, stood a narrow stone pyramid, its height mirroring that of the central stele.
The surrounding jungle had grown high and thick, effectively concealing the city from explorers on foot for hundreds of years - as if it were cradled within a gigantic, living coliseum. All it would take was one lucky plane to fly over, Indy thought, and this invaluable cultural artifact would be ruined.
A gentle shove between the shoulder blades prodded Indy forward and both he and Ix Mun began the final march through the jungle towards their respective destinies. During the course of their walk, it became apparent that many of the Maya citizens would be following directly behind or to the sides of the prisoner's party. There was nowhere to run.
Indy noticed a momentary disturbance in the crowd to his right. He peered intently into the mass of bodies to try and detect what was happening. The Mayans parted as a smaller group of warriors worked their way towards him. A glimpse of long dark hair and leather boots caused Indy to brighten considerably. They were bringing Angelina to him! As their eyes met, both broke into grand smiles despite the seriousness of their predicament.
"Indy," Angelina began, hugging tightly to him, "I thought you were dead."
"Same here, kid. Same here. We may not be out of the woods yet, but I certainly feel more optimistic now than I did five minutes ago. Have they made any effort to communicate with you?"
She nodded. "One of the elders speaks Spanish. He came to see me yesterday only to tell me that we were going to a dance of some sort. I tried to tell him that we'd done nothing wrong, but he wouldn't stay to hear me out. What are they going to do with us?"
"I've got an idea, but there's no way to be sure until it happens. I've been working on a idea though, one that may just save our skins." As they made their way to the temple site, Indy quietly outlined his plan.
An hour later, just as the sun fell beneath the edge of the mountains, the prisoners and their massive escort broke out into a moderately-sized clearing that ran from the jungle's edge to a high stone ridge a football field's distance away. Built flush against the cliff wall, a curious stone building stood alone and imposing. A stone staircase led from ground level to a single man-sized entrance halfway up the building's face. An arch of black stone surrounded the aperture and even from this distance Indy could detect the snake-like figures etched deeply upon it. At the foot of the stairs sat 3 large block-like structures, the nature of which Indy couldn't quite figure. They appeared to have been draped in blankets meant to obscure any details from prying eyes.
Just before these Indy noticed a wide circular pit, perhaps 40 feet across. He, Ix Mun and Angelina were escorted to its edge where they all peered in, wide-eyed. The pit was perhaps 8 feet deep. At the bottom, around the walls, a 5-foot wide trench had been dug, creating a moat of sorts, separating the floor of the pit from the sides. This moat appeared to be full of a viscous black liquid, smelling strongly of oil or tar.
The crowd of people began to chant as the night sky slowly turned black. From the mouth of the temple, three old men bearing staves slowly marched down the steps. From the top of each staff, a powerful open flame blazed, feeding off of some fuel mixture housed in the upper portion of the elaborate device. These priests, clad in long feathered cloaks and sandals, advanced to three points spaced equally about the edges of the pit. And then, crying out like wild beasts, they thrust the burning rods high above their heads and brought them down hard, stabbing them deeply into the ground.
Four warriors carrying a long wooden plank worked their way around to Indy and his fellow prisoners. There, they shoved the plank into the pit, creating a bridge between the upper edge and the floor. One of the priests shouted a harsh command and Indy, Angelina and Ix Mun were directed to walk down the plank.
"Now Indy?" Angelina asked.
The archaeologist shook his head. "There's too many of them. We'll have to see what's expected of us. Then perhaps we can make our move when they least expect it. I figure it's at least 30 yards to the base of those steps and we're gonna need a clear path to have any chance in hell of making it. Keep your fingers crossed and your eyes open."
After stepping from the plank, the shaft of wood was withdrawn and the chanting stopped. Three more planks were placed opposite the prisoners. Using poles, the Mayans pushed the three odd blocks to the edge of the pit, one in front of each plank. As this was done, Indy heard an alarming growl come from one of the blocks. As if in response, growls sounded from the other blocks as well.
Suddenly, the crowd broke into a frenzied roar. Several Indians pulled the blankets from atop the blocks, showing them to be, in fact, wooden cages. Within each paced a monstrous jaguar, angry and frightened by the noise and confinement. Indy's heart sank and Angelina screamed. The door of each cage was pulled open with a rope, providing the great cats access to the plank bridges. The Maya prodded them harshly, moving them out toward the pit. As each one exited, its cage door was shut allowing the beasts only one way to run.
We're dead, Indy thought, any hope of a successful escape descending with the advance of the angry creatures before them. "This couldn't get any worse if I wanted it to," he sighed. Just then, each of the priests tore their fiery staves from the ground and threw them down into moat. There was a moment's hesitation as everyone held their breath, even the cats pausing to flatten their ears, and then - the oil bursts into flames, surrounding Indy and his friends in a towering ring of fire.
"Aw, shit," Indy said.
Site Author: Micah Johnson
Page Author: walker
Created: Sept. 24, 1999
Last modified: October 2, 1999