- You may be looking for the novel as it exists within the DWU.
- 1 Publisher's summary
- 2 Plot
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- 3 Characters
- 4 References
- 5 Notes
- 6 Continuity
- 7 External links
- 8 Footnotes
Every fifty-two years, the God Xiuhtecuhtli – incarnate for the purpose as a young Mexica male – would give himself in sacrifice in order that the universe should be renewed and the passage of time would continue as it had done before. Those born to other cultures and other eras might be forgiven for their failure to appreciate this great and selfless act.
It was therefore strange that such a profound understanding should arise in one so far removed from the heart of this world, both veteran and victim of the terrible, endless war in heaven, a man the Mexica knew briefly as Coahualxiu bearing a death wish the size of creation...
Primo Acamapichtli Isleño de la Vega stood at a fountain in San Miguel Coatlinchan and thought about water, how both science and faith had come to agree that water was the source of all life. Vehicles began to fill the square around him, and he thought back once more, to caves and lakes, to a memory that was out of place. Acamapichtli, the first Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan and the founder of the Mexica dynasty hid in a cave, thinking about the world and the world beyond, and those points where they would meet. Primo turned and walked the streets towards home, and he sees it still in his mind's eye. A man comes to him, sensing he is troubled, which Primo assents to - the idea of becoming full Tlatoani for the Mexica is discomforting. A stranger coming to him, with a name of Serpentine Fire. The Primo of his visions explains how he has been cursed, and the healer extracts a tool with four needles from his robes - the painful memory of it piercing him shaking Primo from his vision. A few minutes later he finds himself at his house, and walks in to his mother watching her telenovela. After reheating dinner, he tells her he's going to see Ultima. As he does, the family cat jumps upon the pet bird, throwing feathers everywhere.
Todd Calavero stepped out of his car before work and saw a girl with a dog. The spitting image of Selena and his old dog from childhood. Todd worked under the neon lights, spraying down dressers and chairs, moaning to his coworkers about the slacker who called in sick with frostbite. Knocking off early, he thought back to a simpler time, with childhood acquaintances and an old dog, not as he is now, with a wife who refuses to talk to him and a life in neutral. Not long later he was at his house, and his mother asked him if he had called his wife. He insisted that he would call Selena the next day, just three weeks in the house had passed since the two decided to take some time apart.
Emiousha stepped slowly out into the Netherweald, the dying local spacetime where House Meddhoran had come to rest. She traipsed the forty seven steps to Rhodenet's hogan, down from forty eight the previous day. Recognising his comment that her visits were becoming a nuisance, she mentions that their sister, Laethynrisa, has discovered another bellum notitia. Rhodenet grunts disinterestedly, and Emiousha departs back to the chapterhouse. She climbed up, passing the nosocomion to find Laethynrisa ordering some drudges in hanging the bellum notitia. The tapestry shimmered as it told the story of the anchoring of the thread. Laethynrisa slumped over, and Emiousha worries. First the males die in the netherweald, and now the prospect too of a female childe dying to the killing blight?
Day Ome Ozmatli of Ce Izcuintli, nine days before the New Fire Ceremony, not the best day for traveling, but one that Momacani had to take anyhow if he was going to depart the capital, Tenochtitlan, and return to deal with the mysteries occurring near the city by that time. He heads south towards his meeting in Xochimilco, thinking of his former patron, Ocotochtli. In particular his mentor's pronouncement, a prophecy that has lived with him.
- You will make war with the beast of the city, and the people will be grateful, and in this way will your fame be fortified.
Does this mean the city itself? The ruler? Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin was becoming increasingly erratic. But Momacani pushes these thoughts out of his head and carries on, further out from the city and proceeds up the hill of Huixachtepetl to find an incomplete temple and officials who inquire what a member of the Ixtilque is doing at the temple, being obviously dismissive of his concerns that the temple is unfinished. Rumors that Motecuhzoma intends to delay the renewal of time by a year are being whispered, the temple is unfinished, yet the officials insist to him that the years will be bound as planned. He accepts this, as he merely came to see the progress being made, and departs, moving down to the lake before climbing in a canoe and traveling south. A thought echoed in his mind.
- So this is where it will end.
Unsure of where it came from, and recognising that he cannot know, Momacani takes up his paddle yet again.
Palatine Goralschai wiped mud off his visor and glanced at Sendax, time congeals and she dies months ago. Slightly further out Palatine Enten hardens over centuries. Goralschai can remember five, how many were there originally? Fourteen? Or has that been retro-annulled as well? The enemy rip into him, recognisably human, in pre-industrial brass armor, repulsing Goralschai, as one of them, a biomorph with large eyes seems delighted to the point of tears to cut into his compassionate core.
Primo read to himself from an old account of the myths of the local people as he worked his job at a hotel. Points in the story speak to him, cause him to become certain that this myth, this book, is the source of his earlier vision. And he reads on, it talks about Huitzilopochtli making a demon from pale wood and breath, a demon called "Fire in the Serpent" and sends him east. The narrative quickly becomes too surreal for Primo, as it involves a character going in three different directions and hiding himself in a barrel cactus, so he places it down, though some of it still echoed in his mind - a cave, a ruler, Fire in the Serpent, or Coahualxiuh in Nahuatl. He walked home that night, heating up dinner, or, well, a midnight snack, and quietly turning to his room to continue with his reading. A twin was made, a twin who lived in the east, replacing the one who lived in the north, causing faces to appear within people and brought things back to life. Primo hears a noise from elsewhere in the house and goes to investigate. He opens the waste bin, prepared to find a rat, and instead finds his mother's cardinal, alive and well, if a bit bloody. Primo places him in his cage, and returns to his room, staring out his window at the vast twinkling lights in the blackness, admiring the beauty of Mexico City.
Todd thought about Selena some more while cleaning off more furniture. Meeting too young and staying together almost through momentum, he can't even remember what the fight was about, or if there's any reason for them to try to get back together now. After work he and his coworkers talk about his mother, who has spotty healthy. She's thinking about heading down to Mexico to see his grandmother, an old witch type, but he's cynical about it panning out. Finally, he works up the courage to drive home and talk to Selena. As he approaches her working outside, it slowly becomes clear that something is off. Selena doesn't recognise him, and instead, from the house, a man holding a child emerges, who she identifies as her husband of two years.
Emiousha browses through the athenæum of the chapterhouse, contemplating the changes thrust upon them as they came into the netherweald, how technology has regressed and how that was the least of her problems. In the shadows a red-orange invertebrate crawled, and she averted her gaze to see in the far distance two male figures. Gedarra enters, and offers her assistance, breaking Emiousha's concentration. When Emiousha returns her gaze, both the twin figures and the creatures have vanished. Gedarra and Emiousha discuss how imperative it is for communication to be maintained with Rhodenet, and Gedarra gives her consent to entangle her cognition with his in order to do this. Emiousha then travels up five flights to find Laethynrisa and Thraenrellis, with the former deteriorating, even experiencing physical pain, something none of the males had done. Thraenrellis then compares their situation to House Paradox and the Eleven-Day Empire, something that enrages Emiousha, who insists that there is no comparison.
Momacani arrived in Xochimilco, disembarked and proceeded through the avenues lined with adobe buildings until he came to the house of Atonal. The 65 year old man told him of how when he was younger he traveled to the cave at Atlixocan and met with Lord Huemac, trading 13 extra years of life for service in the world beyond. He wishes Momacani to in some way free him from this obligation - as he doesn't believe this was Huemac. As Momacani thinks to himself that it might be Tezcatlipoca taking the form of Huemac, he explains that either Atonal bargained with forces beyond his understanding, and there's nothing to be done, or he was drunk. Atonal sputters as Momacani turns and leaves before throwing racial slurs at him for being one of the Mexica. Momacani realizes that he is unable to return to Tenochtitlan before dark, so heads to the embassy for the night. While there, in the firelight, his shadow dances and ever so slightly moves out of place, leading him to wonder what trick of the light had caused it.
Goralschai stands disinterested, detached, in a hearing devoted to the Ganda Mnemma campaign, and fails to react as the atrocities he committed to his allies are recounted to him - he considers them necessary in the circumstances and understands this hearing to be a charade. He leaves, considering those around him to be as different as drudges are to them.
Primo took the bus up to Río Frío de Juárez, intent on visiting Ultima, thinking of the old idea of all things having an ixihtec, some essence that gave them their properties. He dozes off, and wakes up just in time to hit his stop. His grandmother is happy to see him, and pleasantries are exchanged, but she tells him that it's important he understand that the Mexico that was, what he's so interested in, never left. "The world is made of symbols. The things we see do not matter so much. It is what they mean that counts." He's politely skeptical, and she continues, stating that a brujera has taken a perverse interest in him, Yaotl.
Todd worked in the garden as his mother insisted that he should go see his wife. He didn't have the heart to tell her that Selena hadn't recognised him. She shuffles inside and he looks down, having lost all enthusiasm, thinking about how he had looked at the newspaper article of his and Selena's marriage from years ago to find it replaced with a picture of her and her new husband. And he just couldn't take it any more, so he got in his car and drove, to nowhere in particular, but around the town, first to a friend's house where their wife at home didn't recognise him, then to a diner, and finally to McAllister Park, where he tuned out the world, letting life get away from him, and, noticing something odd, he reached out to touch a nearby creek and found it to be ice.
Emiousha stood in the hogan, watching Rhodenet, the last male childe not to be afflicted by the blight, toil away at encoding archematical symbols into various rocks to tap into the Neatherwealde below. Realizing that there was no use standing over him, she departs, heading back to the chapterhouse, and on her way she sees a Towering Man. Rhodenet is beside her, his words a blur as he collapses, a drudge picks him up and they make a mad dash to the chapterhouse as the world feels wrong. They make it to the nosocomion, where Thraenrellis examines Rhodenet's collapsed body. Out of the corner of her eye, Emiousha notices his shadow begin to move, and it knocks both her and Thraenrellis down before fleeing as they give chase.
Momacani is certain that his shadow has moved, but it has been a long day, and thinks again of his former mentor, Ocotochtli, and how he called him not quite real, a story that thinks itself a man, someone from the clouds, a man who has come unstuck. He thinks again of how Ocotochtli and him worked to protect him from the sacred thanks to his dubious origins. As this happens, night has fallen, and he attempts to catch animals in his head to fall asleep, but his mind turns instead to the thought of him wandering in a cavern, in Tlalocan. Beside him walked an old woman, and as he inquired if she was his familiar, she dismissed him, and insisted he get down, lest the figure up ahead see him. Momacani sees another woman ahead who he immediately identifies as Yaotl. He's told she's taken an unhealthy interest in him, and has come from Cihuatlan and is heading to Mictlan. Deciding he had seen enough, Momacani opens his eyes.
Ordnance-Tetrarch Gorlaschaixianthellipse is introduced to the recently loomed childrene in ceremonial robes, the gaudiness of the circumstance disgusting him. A heavily edited account of his actions in the War is given in a speech to these tainted Newblood house experiments. He's introduced to Emioushameddhoran vel-Xianthellipse and Thraenrellismeddhoran vel-Xianthellipse; the childrene cluster and ask questions, though with a curious detachment to the War. One asks him about the Spike, not the battle, but the structure of the physical object. Gorlaschai wonders what he's doing here, these hybrids don't understand anything - it's as if they're a fundamentally different species.
Primo and his grandmother gathered plants, and she interrogated him about his dreams. He recalled being in the city, and meeting with someone - not a woman with dark hair, dressed like a clerk, as his grandmother asked, but instead someone who was white and was binding logs together with rope in the ruin of the Templo Mayor. Ultima then talks to him while making the poultice.
"The yolia is the breath, the part by which we live. The tonalli is in the head, and it is the heat and the part which travels to heaven. Then there is the ihiyotl, the dark shadow, the nagual; and it is my belief that your affliction results from damage done to that part of your soul"
She states that this is why special medicine is needed, it's a special type of damage. A dull brown paste is smeared on his spine, though she touches his upper arm and finds four strange pinpricks there, which he can't remember ever getting.
Todd labored in his job as he's forced to pick up the slack for another worker who didn't show. The jokes about frostbite continue. Todd becomes lost in his thoughts, frostbitten plants, hypothermic neighbors in July, and a friend of the family who told his mother that she'd never before heard of Todd, of her son. Finally, stressed, he snuck out of work and drove home, only to find it radically changed, no tree, different colored walls, the works. He goes inside and finds a middle aged white lady sitting on new furniture, say in a British accent, "You're taking this very well". Almost in a daze he goes to the kitchen and takes out a beer before listening to what she says. She introduces herself as Lorraine Conti, and states that there's a War being fought on a cosmic scale, where the history of this culture is one of many contested territories, and he got caught up in it, a death totem, a process of entropy and inter on a notional level. The jewel around her neck is the only thing stopping him from freezing her blood solid. He expresses that he only has interest in returning to his family, and she just denies that he ever had a family.
Emiousha feels out of sorts, as she had since she awoke, and listened to Gedarra insist that all their troubles were due to House Paradox. Thraenrellis returns from tracking the shadow holding a hidebound volume, Laethynrisa's biologue, and in the archemathical symbols finds that instead of the blight, it seems, Laethynrisa has developed a growth. Less certain, thinking that perhaps the blight, having worked its way through the males might jump to the females, Emiousha wanders off in search of the biologues for those who have already succumbed. But realizing that this task is silly, as the blight removes all evidence of them ever having existed save memory, she questions her own sanity, as rhythmic noises sound and she collapses. She returns to the nosocomion to find them still huddled around the biologue, for not only was a growth described in Laethynrisa, but biodata, a human newborn.
Momacani examines a ruined idol as he and and others in the Ixtilque poke around the burned ruins of a temple. Matlacoatl and Chitilma join him, stating that by his account it seems Xochimilco has suffered worse than Tenochtitlan, yet they are aware of no natural way for this fire to have been started. The three contemplate the idea that this might be part of a set of prophecies that have been made, and may yet come to pass, as the priest Tlohtoxcatl comes up to them. While disappointed, he understands, and moves on to other business, asking if Lord Huemac walks the earth again. Momacani relays his view that if Atonal might have met some form of spirit, but it was unlikely to be Huemac, and instead the man was most likely drunk.
Momacani asks Tlohtoxcatl about an insult Atonal made, an accusation that "the Acamapichtli we revere was a monstrous twin". Tlohtoxcatl dismisses it, saying that their founder was made ill from witchcraft and a foreign healer of bizarre appearance saved him, nothing more. He continues that Momacani himself was present when the Ixomitectin came to Tenochtitlan years back, and Momacani begs off as he sees movement in the shadows. Chasing in a dark room, Momacani grabs a young boy attempting to steal food. Scolding him and letting him go, the boy insists that it doesn't matter because the New Fire is a trick, and none of it matters.
Ordnance-Tetrarch Goralschai considers the assembled group and comes to the conclusion that not one has experienced genuine conflict. A nearby neighbor of his mumbles a rambling monologue that says much the same, but in a tedious, tangential direction. Someone comes forward and places a medal on him, marking him a hero of the First Wave, and also noting that he had been made redundant, that they no longer quite knew what to do with him.
Primo sat on his bed, aware he was in a liminal state, and stared up, both at the stone archway above him and at the stars the stone archway contained. He thought perhaps he was in Tlalocan, so this wasn't too worrying to him. Ultima asked him if there was an animal he felt connected to, and he suggested a chiauhcoatl, which she approved of, an eastern creature that was constantly reborn. The two crossed a great plain under the stone sky, intent on finding his nagual. Ultima leads him down to see where the animals are kept, and a car drives by with a man and a woman, which Ultima describes as the bruja. Primo awakes, and recalls being given his nagual, a chiauhcoatl, who Ultima told would guide him from now on.
Todd reeled as Conti showed him a picture of his mother south of the border. She never left Mexico, already having had a child, and yet here Todd stood, adrift as an oxbow existence. The two drove south, listening to a cassette, as his entropic existence disrupted anything with a chip in it, and a day later they were in Coatlinchan. As Todd sat eating his food, Conti directs his eyes across the square to María de la Vega Lunas, his mother.
Gedarra, Emiousha, Pyrhentana, and Rhodenet all cooperated to set up the gestalt, to link Gedarra's mind to Rhodenet's. Gedarra, previously relating experiences from Rhodenet from his hogan to test the link, had frozen, and Emiousha goes to the window to see what the cause is, and instead sees Rhodenet and Pyrhentana running inside, chased by a third figure, a twisted being with displaced limbs bandaged. As they come in, Pyrhentana notes that they saw the towering man, and then that creature began to chase them. The bellum notitia on the wall has changed. Emiousha doesn't dwell on this, the gestalt has succeeded, and the group instead reconvenes, letting Rhodenet return to his hogan, this time to examine the flaw in the Netherwealde and see what's on the other side. He does, and words come trickling through Gedarra, a world, like their own, not the most comfortable, but habitable. And then Gedarra begins screaming.
Momacani and Chitilma traipsed through the forest on assignment from Tlohtoxcatl, rumors of the Night Wind appearing before a nobleman. The Ixtilque thought little of this assignment, but Motecuhzoma already thought little of them, so being useful to their political superiors was a wise decision. The two discuss their reservations about the New Fire ceremony, and the prophecy dictated to Momacani by his mentor, Ocotochtli. The two continued through the forest, looking near where the noble had seen the Towering Man, and saw movement in the treeline in the distance before a man stumbles out. The two sigh, before they realize that the man is in fact twice as large as an ordinary person. A voice arises in Momacani's head.
If that's really what I think it is, you're going to need something a bit more impressive than big sticks and a positive attitude. It looks like some sort of Mal'akh hybrid to me, although I could be wrong.
Momacani interprets this to be the voice of Yaotl in his head, warned off from trusting her as he was before, and also grows cautious of his shadow, thinking she lives inside it, as it snakes after the Towering Man - fighting Chitilma - and slays it with some shadowy thorn.
Goralschai finds himself in Mictlan, with no memory of how he arrived, conversing with Lord Greatness-In-His-Hand, who questions him about the memecore he found and why he never turned it over to his superiors. Goralschai is unsure, but the moment just never quite felt right in some way. Despite his distaste for these traitors, their honesty and lack of pretense is refreshing, as Lord Greatness-In-His-Hand asks Goralschai what they can offer the man who desires nothing.
While on the trip back down to Mexico City Primo turned his attention to the book in front of him, it speaks of a house in Tamoanchan in the west, where the men have died to disease after being weakened by war. The women are asked to make a sacrifice, but sneak off with Serpent Fire instead. The Devil made himself a twin in Tamoanchan, fooling the women, using the loom that they had used, and left them alone and confused. It lapses again into what Primo considers absurdism, and he sighs, frustrated with the unhelpfulness of the text he had been reading - it even gives the false date for the New Fire Ceremony, Motecuhzoma had ended up postponing it for one year for likely political reasons.
As he left the bus, Primo comes back to the fountain in Coatlinchan and sees a car with US plates. The same car he saw in Tlalocan, with two figures, an anglo woman, and a black man about his age. He darts away, trying to get away from the car from his dream, away from Yaotl, yet the woman followed him and spoke his name, Primo, and said that she, Lorraine Conti, was there to help, he was part of a mechanism he didn't understand. Her shadow outstretched and a shape of liquid metal began to drip in the air above them. And then Primo's mind fell out of the world, or fell into it, the volcanoes, the shifting magma, the thin eggshell keeping all that energy contained.
Todd stood in the street, waiting as Conti had gone after his brother that could not be. Minutes pass, and Mexican Todd tumbles out of an alley, Conti nowhere to be seen. The Mexican stumbles into Todd's car and insists that they need to leave, so Todd begins to drive. They make their introductions, and Primo explains how he had seen the two in Tlalocan and identified her as Yaotl. Primo insists they go see his grandmother, as she'd likely know what to do. The two repeatedly discuss the goings on in their life and the surrealism they found themselves in, from Todd freezing things to Primo bringing things to life, to all of this being referenced in ancient stories. As they drove up the mountain, Todd caught the faintest glimpse of someone else in the car with them before the world explodes with light.
After Rhodenet's death and Gedarra's psychological collapse, the others attempt to recover, though Pyrhentana has also been deeply effected by the events that transpired, as if she too was linked to Rhodenet. Emiousha and Laethynrisa converse about the strange changes to the latter's biology, and Emiousha wonders if it has to do with their being trapped in this realm. A tapping was heard downstairs, a wraith. The two of them venture downwards and ensconce it in a tapestry before opening it up to find sand and rock. The two then come upon Pyrhentana, who had also joined in the gestalt with Gedarra and Rhodenet, unbeknownst to the others, and she informs them that Gedarra intends to use the knowledge gained from Rhodenet to force her way out of the Netherweald without regard to safety, and tells them to rush to the hogan to stop her.
Momacani lead the others through the forest, doubted both by them and himself - the extravagance of his and Chitilma's tale, the death of the Towering Man - doing them no favors; his knowledge that he was tainted by Yaotl eating away at him. The group arrives upon where the body lies and Tlohtoxcatl expresses his shock, admitting that he was incorrect. This troubled Momacani throughout the rest of the day, from discussing how the corpse should be buried to returning to the city past a minor disturbance over a lack of grain. He traveled to a small secluded shrine, and through ritual forced the voice in his head to speak to him. The voice acknowledge that it was, indeed, Yaotl, but that it was on his side, and found its way into his head as there was a vacancy. The universe is changing and soon his culture would be the only one left. Momacani felt sick, tainted, knowing that he would never again be clean.
A pair sat in a vast expanse on the side of the mountain, Water Sun, a slave of the Celestis, rambles to Goralschai about how this is not Mictlan, but just a realm that bears its name. He monologues about his loathing for his masters and his disdain for the false forms they appear in, while Goralschai thinks about why he's here. Unlike Water Sun, he has made no bargain. He ostensibly could leave at any time, though to do so would only draw further attention, so why do it?
Primo thought back to a story about the Mexica civilization, an old legend he had once read, and found that he himself had memories of that situation. He opens his eyes to find himself, Todd, the remains of the car, and a strange woman on the side of the highway. The woman, clearly nonhuman though she looked human, opens her eyes and introduces herself as Gedarra, and asks if this is the Netherweald, confusing Primo, before asking if it's Earth, making him laugh. He attempts to wake Todd up, as Gedarra talks to herself and Yaotl stalks in, her shadow following behind her. As she insists that she's on his side, Primo flees, Gedarra following behind him.
Todd finds himself back in his old life with Selena, convinced that the past few months either were a dream or had unhappened. The two have moved back into a comfortable routine, talking about yard work and their day to day life as his friend Justin comes over and drives him into the city. He and Justin talk about the war going on and Justin's upcoming deployment to Louisiana as glass pyramids rise on the horizon as they move towards San Antonio.
Dorhira, the biblarian, joins the rest of her remaining siblings and takes notes on the situation, of how Gedarra had arrived on the same planet as the one that observed the Nemontemi, and had met multiple creatures, including two who seem involved in the same situation as this by unknown means. The third is decidedly a member of Faction Paradox. Emiousha and Thraenrellis venture out into the Netherweald with a drudge, determined to get answers to a more local problem. Emiousha asks the drudge, as it's made out of the Netherweald itself, what the particular beetle she keeps seeing is, and points to it passing by. The drudge answers, a pinauiztli beetle, and as Emiousha feels a sense of triumph, it ominously exclaims, "She has stopped us from drawing breath. She has given us our flags and our strips of paper."
The Ixtilli gathered on the hill of Huixachtepetl, Tlohtoxcatl begs off, but sends Icnopilli, one of the senior Ixtilli, in his place. As they waited, Atonal, their reason for being there, ranted and insulted them, hurling even more racial epithets. As darkness falls and they wait, they come to realize that a pitch black giant is standing among them. The voice inside Momacani's head buzzes, it suggests that it expected interference from a group related to this giant. The figure identifies itself as Huemac, from Mictlan, and demands Atonal as is his right. Icnopilli asks why the figure identifies itself as being from Mictlan, as Huemac took his life from fear and so should be in Cincalco instead. Momacani offers that he be taken in Atonal's place. The figure is tempted, but grabs Atonal instead, and says that Momacani has yet to face the beast of the city. Momacani asks for more information, but the figure declines, telling him that the Mocolxiutecatl might be more helpful. As the scene fades, no evidence of it occurring exists save the disappearance of Atonal. The moonlight shines down and Momacani sees Chitilma ready to strike him down, and he reaches down for his club, severing Chitilma's arm.
Mictlan's Last Parliament convenes and the Lords Celestial begin their political dance, arguing over their latest scheme and the viability of it. Goralschai cannot recall the subject, but watches on as Lord Greatness-In-His-Hand stands up and insists that this plan has been undertaken for its own sake, amusement. Goralschai is still unsure as to why he's here as he looks on.
Primo and Gedarra pressed onwards up the mountain as he pressed her for more information. He had just gotten finished attempting to explain about Tlalocan, and tried to understand both her history - living in a house with siblings, following a brother, apparently - and Lorraine Conti - described as being a part of some organisation called Faction Paradox, and of stealing something from ancient Mexico which has caused a domino effect. Primo hears Gedarra muttering to herself again, about the Quintessence being overwritten. As they continue on, Primo's thoughts stray back to the story of Fire in the Serpent creating a twin, perhaps he was the twin, and kept coming back to the idea of of a brujo under the world, and how Gedarra had referred to a man called Goralschai.
Todd walked through the aisles of HEB, a lady there walking a dog, not just any dog, but certainly his old dog from childhood. He picks out a carton from the shelf, not chicken stock like he wanted, but tecuitlatl, whatever that is. He returned home, listening to the radio, a strange mix of drums and flutes, and chatted with Selena about the war, how the Enemy had occupied Kansas but been driven out of Oklahoma. He then moved out to clear out the tree in their yard, and as he did so, his dog, the one that died when he was a child came up and talked to him, saying that they had a lot to discuss.
Down in the catacombs, the childrene had come across the breeding engine, the one part of the chapterhouse that hadn't retrogressed into more primitive substance due to its link to the caldera. Emiousha despaired as the netherwealde was gradually shrinking, down to 15 steps long, and move upwards to listen to more of Gedarra's testimony, where she hears about a sorcerer under the earth. Emiousha turns to the drudge, who has decided to name itself Tecpatl, and begins to ask a question, before turning away, unable to conceive of a drudge as having a name. A scream echoed through the house, to which Emiousha ran, Dorhira writhing in agony due to her growths in the nosocomion. As Emiousha turns to the door, a bronze headless figure with a shimmering chest lurches in, causing her to scream as well.
Momacani is detained in his chambers and certain that he is to be sacrificed, before being visited with Tlohtoxcatl, who informed him that he had been selected to be the ixiptla of Huitzilopochtli, and as apparently Chitilma had fallen into beastly habits in his own home, he was being interpreted as the beast of the city. As Tlohtoxcatl left, Yaotl spoke to him again, noting that he'll be sacrificed, and that she too doubts that Chitilma is the beast of the city, that the prophecy has been fulfilled. She suggests that he escape, at least for the next few days, but he's skeptical, and is led towards the Great Temple at the heart of the city.
Goralschai watches, in a state partially constructed from the memories of Water Sun, the gods attack the earth monster. He watches on at the creation myth, of Nanautzin lighting himself on fire, of Tecciztecatl doing so too, and the pair becoming the sun and the moon. Of Xolotl sacrificing the gods to a barrel cactus so the sun can move through the sky. Goralschai is still not sure of his own intent, but if he is to proceed, it should be in accordance with nature, with honesty.
Primo and Gedarra drank mezcal and Primo began a ritual in order to send them on their way to Tlalocan. Gedarra interrupts him to ask about a being called a Youaltepoztli, which Primo explains is an aspect of Tezcatlipoca and should have a heart of precious stone you can take to force it to obey. As he answers, the two find themselves below, where there was no difference between a symbol and what it represented. Mentally, Primo walks through the Quincunx, finding the cardinal directions before deciding he needs to find the centre, and Gedarra asks him what the word "Quincunx" means - a strange coincidence. As the two approach Huixachtepetl, Primo can see a brujo building a great ritual platform on the hill, and Gedarra identifies him as Goralschai. Primo recognizes the import of Huixachtepetl on the Mexica cosmology and feels a sense of dread.
Todd and his dog had a pleasant conversation, well, as pleasant as one can be when your dead dog begins to tell you that he's your nagual and you're dying because a witch has stolen your yolia, your breath. Oh, and you don't even have yolia under normal circumstances but instead steal it from those nearby. It's the little things that make all the difference. The dog insists that they need to go to the underworld to get his breath back, and to do that, find a cave. So the two get into a car and begin to drive, but as they leave the city limits, they're pulled over by a cop, who insists that they're not allowed to leave the town. Refusing to accept this, Todd speeds away, getting into a car chase as the city rears up behind him, grasping, trying in one concerted effort to stop him. In his efforts to avoid this beast, Todd loses sight of the road, and ends up flipping over a barrier and crashing into the pitch dark waters of Salado Creek.
Emiousha pushed back the headless monster, forcing it out of the door and down the stairs. Inside, Thraenrellis was complaining, though Emiousha only half listened. Laethynrisa mentions something about the breeding engine again disappearing, and Emiousha darts up the stairs towards Pyrhentana. She asks the drudge who is there with her, Tecpatl, what the headless creature is. Youaltepoztli, like the pinauiztli before, is a terrifying omen. Emiousha asks Pyrhentana/Gedarra what to do about the creature, and information is relayed from Primo.
The Queen of the House went to the highest room to hear a message from the East, Tecpatl advising her what to do.
Emiousha begins to wonder if she's losing her mind, but the former drudge assures her that she's quite sane, everything must end, and his desire is only for order to return.
The Queen goes to seek the advice of the Message Bearer, who does not answer, instead trying to understand the message that has been delivered. Tecpatl saw the message though, and understood it was not good for him. Message Bearer tried to speak, but Tecpatl fell upon her with arrows, striking her down.
Pyrhentana's dead body stood in front of Emiousha as she realized that the Netherweald was turning into mythology. Glancing quickly at the corpse and at Tecpatl, she turned and ran.
Momacani, troubled that Yaotl and his former mentor might have a point, sneaks out of Tenochtitlan, and, on instinct, heads to the island town of Xicco. Inside his head, Yaotl speaks to him, saying that there has been a change of plans, and he needs to buy clothes for her, as she intends to leave his shadow. He does so, and moves to an isolated, if open, patch of wilderness, building a simulacrum out of vegetables. He stands still for ages, his shadow dragging across the figure, information filtering to him that she had lost the dead boy and her present location was useless. While this confused him, finally the body turned into a woman.
Goralschai approaches the House Meddhora childrene, the lesser species biodata within them not quite setting right and being deemed a failure. As they've been declared a failure, they have nowhere to turn, and Goralschai can use them in the Quincunx, unbeknownst to them. He offers to spirit them away, similar to how House Paradox fled, but this time to the Nemontemi, a place even more obscure where nobody will find them. All he needs is access to their breeding engine. He worries, realizing that this might be an overreach, but they accept with open arms.
Primo felt the tidal forces in the Earth below him, below Tlalocan, an ability that had rubbed off on him from Yaotl. As he awakes, Gedarra mentions that she has lost contact with Pyrhentana, and the two of them, hungry, head into town. The two discuss Goralschai and the ritual, how it's not just for sacrifice to restart time, but first it serves to incarnate a God. As they reach the town, they find it reduced to non existence, as Tlalocan contains all times and all places, they've traveled to before it had existed. They come upon some wandering traders, and one introduces himself as Icnopilli, and says that they've expected the pair, it being the year Ce Tochtli (1506).
Todd opened his eyes to the mist and the cold and the waters of the creek, his "dog" informing them that they were near Mictlan. The two traipsed into the realm of the fleshless, looking for Todd's lost breath, the monstrous avatar of the city in the background behind them. As they cross over, the dog warns Todd to take care, as they've entered the realm of Xochitonal. A monstrous crocodile slides slowly in the swamp before lunging out at them as the horizon splits open and the city also lunges, the two ending up at each others' throats.
The childrene gathered around, not entirely sure what "the restoration of order" could refer to, but Dorhira notes that the default state of the Netherweald is that of cold, stasis, in contrast to the childrene, and that Tecpatl is a manifestation of the Netherweald. The Netherweald had shrunk to just a Chapterhouse and Emiousha began to think about what put them in this situation, still not confident it was Faction Paradox. Yes, a Cousin was involved with Gedarra, but a situation like this was bound to cause some level of curiosity, implying this wasn't a more concerted effort. The group turned and fled downwards, intent on putting some space between them and Tecpatl. However, as they ran, an enormous skeletal hand descended from above and picked up Thraenrellis. They turned, and Youaltepoztli stood before them. Emiousha dove towards it.
Momacani and Yaotl headed further into the wilderness, looking for a cave, which puzzled him, as she had told him that they intended to look for the beast of the city from his prophecy. She states that she was helping two boys and for his own good imprisoned one of them in a dream of his home, but his "spirit guide" or some such broke him out and now the city he lived in had formed into a creature roaming down in Tlalocan, the Atepexolotl. As Yaotl sat with him in front of a cave, a mass of cacti, adobe, and roads streams forth before they find themselves in a town square. But not the town square of Tenochtitlan, instead they found themselves in a dream of Tollan, the capital of the Toltecs.
Goralschai approaches the cave entrance in 1375, finding Acamapichtli in a cave with a wound at the base of his spine that will not heal. Goralschai removes a biodata sampler from his robes and sticks it into his arm, extracting, copying, and replacing large amounts of Acamapichtli's history. Goralschai bows and retreats. He moves on from the mystery as the Quincunx worms its way into the local fabric.
As Primo, Gedarra, and Icnopilli walk into Tenochtitlan, Primo stares off into the mountains in the distance, knowing that there's something that he's missing, something he's not quite understanding. The group is escorted to the Templo Mayor. Gedarra believes they've been drawn here from Tlalocan due to the Quincunx, both being parts of it. As Primo looked around the square, he noticed that the shrines and temples seemed off. There were temples to water deities where instead there should be fire deities, and when he tried to conjure up their names, none would come. He asks Gedarra if it's possible to erase an idea from history, and she note that it is. So Primo realize that it's Yaotl doing this. Yaotl intends to prevent the Quincunx from coming to completion.
Todd and his dog trekked further in, at this point crossing over into the ninth and final region of Mictlan. Fog set around them as they carried on, minor death gods closing in on their sides. They're shepherded to the presence of a massive skeleton, Mictlantecuhtli, the ruler of the realm of the dead. Brandishing a cage of twigs containing a yellow bird, Todd's yolia, the god insists that he will not release the bird for four years, for if Fire in the Serpent is to succeed, it would be beneficial for him. Todd asks if there's some way to bargain, if there's anything they could want. Looking inside him, the days between his birth postponed and death denied, they see a house filled with many lives and reach into him to pull out a woman.
Emiousha had lost an arm, but in her other held up a blue-green jewel.
The Queen of the House hid from Tecpatl, and as she hid he said, "You are away from your fire. Here you will die in the night." Tecpatl went away then but she carried on to save the children from Fire in the Serpent. Youaltepoztli blocked her path, he cut off her arm. She held up the jade. And he told her about the sorcerer, the one who went to Acamapichtli and fooled him, who made a twin to live in the east. He went to the north and made a stillborn twin for the count of days, a servant of cold, living because of a house of heaven in his heart. He went to the west, where the house of the women stands, using the loom to make his twins. He took a boy from the house to the south to do his work in Tenochtitlan.
It was Goralschai all along, thought Emiousha, intending to turn history itself into a weapon. Thinking more about the ramifications of she stopping the chapterhouse from drawing breath, Laethynrisa doubles over in pain.
Tecpatl rose and threw arrows at those gathered yet again, at the Mother, just as he had at her sister. But the Queen catches them and throws them back, dropping the jade. She slays Tecpatl. But one day, a piece of jade falls from the heavens in front of a maiden who sweeps the temple, and she swallows it. The maiden becomes large with child, and the Queen of the House is born there on Huixachtepetl to the maiden.
Separated from Yaotl, Momacani wandered the streets before coming across an elder who showed him a book filled with pictograms of his life. It showed him escaping from a house and being recast into a living vessel so that Xiuhtecuhtli could be born. Momacani comes to a ball ring, spectators lining around and his opponent, Tlaloc, opposite him. The two played a game, and Momacani managed to place the ball through the stone circle. When he opened his eyes he was on a hill, Huixachtepetl, staring at the stars, and felt at peace.
Goralschai works carefully and stealthily with the breeding engine, sure not to leave any trace of his involvement. Due to the need to avoid prying eyes, the Quincunx is distributed, two parts past the Ghost Point. Once the process truly begins, it should infect the caldera, changing the structure of history. Acamapichtli's biodata is uploaded and lives 700 years into the future along with a half brother that never was. A protocol is put in place so that the first to leave the chapterhouse will become part of the design as well. The process has begun.
Gedarra and Primo were held down by guards and most likely to be used as sacrifices. Paleness and appearing randomly? Prime candidates for the sacred. Yaotl is also moved with them, where she mentions something to Gedarra about leaving Faction Paradox. She also states that Goralschai intends to take over the Spiral Politic in order to destroy it, becoming incarnate in Momacani to do so. The guards bring out Momacani to be sacrificed.
Todd and this new woman, Thraenrellis, found themselves beset on all sides by death gods. Noise echoed forth, and the silver sphere in her hand turned into a yellow ball, but the gods had vanished. He picked up the birdcage and they fled. On their way out of Mictlan, the death gods again fell upon them and ripped out Todd's heart.
Semiotic gravity had carried Emiousha to the center to Goralschai's plans, to the hill called Huixachtepetl. The child within her kicked, Laethynrisa screamed as she gave birth. Emiousha saw Rhodenet strapped to a catafalque, and the cousin, the Faction Paradox agent, prayed to the heavens, exclaiming that if she chose she could stop this, as she's removed the gods that hold back the lava flows from history, and given the work put in it would be a shame. But Primo fell upon her. Acamapichtli made her bloom, she regressed to plant matter, but Emiousha hurled the jade heart into the sky, the maiden Yaotl swallowing it and becoming large with child. It was then that Tecpatl was born again, the earth churning, magma rising up and falling, no longer held back by the gods, but forced down by the dead boy who stood there, cursing at Primo for what he had done.
Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin stands at the side of Momacani, holding a knife, and then was holding his heart. Momacani glanced down at his hollowed out chest as something as large as the sky began to move into him. He began to understand the entire scope of Goralschai's design, how he was Rhodenet, and began to merge with Goralschai himself, understanding just how nauseating life was to him. Xiuhtecuhtli expanded upwards, seeing cosmic strings, m-branes, gluons, and more, all that would be reduced to rubble as Goralschai began his work at last.
A new day dawns. There was light, song, a sacrifice, the death of another who had lived longer than everyone else gathered. Nobody knows what ran through his head, be it ending the pain of existence, or the pain of his existence.
Ultima and Primo met in Tlalocan where he explained to her where he had been and asked her to talk to his mother. He noted that in making himself Xiuhtecuhtli, Goralschai had made himself into a being with no free will, a process that itself sacrificed to generate, and he could not go against his nature. He awoke in Tenochtitlan, five days after the ceremony, he was expected to give an answer to Icnopilli. Would he stay or would he leave. He had knowledge of the future, but no real desire to stay given the ruler.
Todd went hunting down in Tlalocan with an atlatl and his dog, thinking about a tale Thraenrellis had told him, of a city at the end of the universe for dead humans to live in. He deemed it unlikely that they were there, especially as she was in Tlalocan as well. But maybe her and her sisters were human now. Who could tell. On his way back to the house Todd stopped at a bar to have a drink with a barkeep and quietly reflect.
Emoushia, Gedarra and the others, along with the children born on that fateful night, had managed to develop to the Bronze Age and began agriculture down in Tlalocan. Todd and Thraenrellis came into the makeshift village they had developed carrying rabbits and fish collected out in the wilderness. The group gathered round and exchanged jokes as they began to prepare food.
Momacani finds himself in his room five days after the ceremony, aware that this is his third time on the earth, but unaware of his first except in principle, and unaware of how he survived his second. As he thinks back, he finds there are gaps in his memories, things that don't fit, things that he doesn't know the answer too. This perplexes him, but he can do no more as Icnopilli enters. The two leave the city together, and Momacani expresses his desire to find Aztlan. He felt in his mind that there were only thirteen years before Tenochtitlan would fall, and while he knew not where this came from, he knew it was true.
- Emioushameddhoran vel-Xianthellipse
- Laethynrisameddhoran vel-Xianthellipse
- Gedarrameddhoran vel-Xianthellipse
- Thraenrellismeddhoran vel-Xianthellipse
- Pyrhentanameddhoran vel-Xianthellipse
- Dorhirameddhoran vel-Xianthellipse
- Rothismeddhoran vel-Xianthellipse
- Lavellmeddhoran vel-Xianthellipse
- Insoleanismeddhoran vel-Xianthellipse
- Arvenmeddhoran vel-Xianthellipse
- Nurismeddhoran vel-Xianthellipse
- Rhodenetmeddhoran vel-Xianthellipse
- Xochitonal is an Aztec myth.
- Ganda Mnemma, Aloophoa, Llammas IV, and the Spike were all sites of campaigns in the War.
- Primo de la Vega knows as much about Faction Paradox as he does about Transformers, robots in disguise.
- This book was originally developed for Random Static.
- The character Andrew is based on the author's real life friend Andrew Cox.
- The author has provided a glossary of Nahuatl terms used.
- A promotional prelude to this novel was published before its release.
- Atonal the Xochimilcan and Matlacoatl the Ixtilli both first appeared in Burton's rejected Sixth Doctor novel Smoking Mirror.
- A story from Icnopilli's life was told in Burton's later short story The Unwoken Princess.
- Among the visions in Primo's dream are Señor 105 and Rodrigo in a scene from the short story Señor 105 contra el Bigote de Perdición from Señor 105 & the Elements of Danger.
- Goralschai is a veteran of the First Wave of House Military. (PROSE: The Book of the War)
- House Meddhoran has an amaranth. (PROSE: Christmas on a Rational Planet)
- Primo and Todd live in a period shortly after humanity's Ghost Point. (PROSE: This Town Will Never Let Us Go)
- Tlohtoxcatl describes Yauhtloc failing to distinguish a foreigner from a sacred visitation. (TV: The Aztecs)
- While dreaming in Tlalocan, Primo sees a masked wrestler talking to a small boy. (PROSE: Iris Wildthyme y Señor Cientocinco contra Los Monstruos del Fiesta, et al.)
- Icnopilli is a noted Ixtilli. (PROSE: The Unwoken Princess)
- Lorraine Conti had also gone by the titles "Olympia" (PROSE: Newtons Sleep) and "the Immaculata". (PROSE: The Book of the War)