Divine Ixtapa of the Green Eyes was born in the last years of the world, in the reign of Montecuzoma the merciless. It is said that his parents were nobles, a mother of great wit and beauty, and a father who was a renowned warrior and a mighty general, but these things are not certain, for the priests knew at once that Ixtapa was chosen by the gods.
Even as a babe, he was marked by his skin, smooth and dark as cacao, his hair, that shone like obsidian in the sun, and his eyes, like chips of jade. His eyes were magic, it is said, for it is undeniable that they were green, green as life, green as the feathers of the Quetzal bird. So the priests took him, to serve the gods by raising him as a prince, intended as a gift to the gods. When he came of age, Ixtapa would be returned to the gods, so that they would take him as cupbearer, and shower blessings upon the obedient priests who had so righteously raised him for this purpose. In their care Ixtapa grew to youth, slender and swift as the jaguar, gentle and obedient as the deer, wild and wise as the Quetzal. He served ever loyally to the gods, attending upon each ceremony, each sacrifice, so that they might see him and be pleased.
Ixtapa was still young when the Shining Men of Silver came from the East. He greeted them as the priests did, offering garlands and strings of Jade, for they suspected that the gods had come to Earth, and were testing their obedience.
That is when things began to go wrong.
You know the story. I will not repeat the words you have already heard; how the mighty Montecuzoma was deceived and destroyed by the men from the East. The priests met and consulted what must be done. No sacrifices were permitted by the Spaniards, who said it was barbaric, and that there must be no gods but Spain. Each day the priests bled, in order that the sun might still rise, though they could not offer the rich heart blood that was needed to overthrow the invaders.
They hatched a plan, and one night while the Spanish slept, the priests took Ixtapa of the Green Eyes to the sacrificial altar and prepared him, so that the gods would have the strength to smite the conquistadors, and Ixtapa would beg the gods to save their people, when he came before their divine council. The priests prepared the jade knife.
“Stop!” The invaders shouted. “Are you mad? Do you intend to kill this youth?”
They took the sacrificial knife and crushed the precious blade. They took the priests and burned them in Spanish fires, so that there would be no blood to reach the gods. They took Ixtapa, though he screamed and fought them, seeking to draw his own blood with his long nails.
“You are mad,” the Spanish told him. “Only a child, and deceived by the lies of the Devil! Repent, and the Christ will forgive you, for he loves little children.”
Ixtapa heard none of them, but continued to scream, until the Spanish despaired that he was possessed of a demon.
“What shall be done with him? He cannot be sent to the mines, for his madness would dishearten and disrupt the workers. He cannot be returned to the care of the barbarians, for such a child as this would be murdered in their satanic sacrifices.”
“Give him to me,” said one of the captains. “I had a son once of such an age. Let me try to civilize the boy.”
Relieved, the Spaniards turned him over, and Ixtapa began his second life, among the enemy. The Spaniards took away Ixtapa’s tokens of status, they took his religious robes, they took his strings of jade, and renamed him Iacob, to make him a Christian. Iacob spoke the enemy language. Iacob ate the enemy food. Iacob praised the enemy gods.
Every night, while the enemy slept, Ixtapa snuck out into the sacred places, and bit his fingers to make them bleed, so that drops of blood spilled out onto the stone. Ixtapa knew he could not save his people, for he could not give the precious heartblood the gods needed, but Ixtapa could make sure his people always endured. Every day until his death, he poured out drops of blood to the gods, because there was no one else left to do the rites.
The Spaniard was good and kind to Ixtapa, treating him as a son, and if he suspected why the boy’s fingers constantly scabbed and bled, he did nothing to restrain him.
“Iacob, my son,” he said. “You speak the words of the prayer, but your heart is not in them.”
“Forgive me, father,” said Iacob. “But I cannot betray my people.”
“Iacob, my son,” he said. “You call yourself by a Christian name, and you are loyal and obedient to me in my old age, but you allow the others to call you by the name you had when you were a heathen.”
“Forgive me, father,” said Iacob. “But I cannot betray my birth.”
“I fear for you, Iacob, that you may never reach the mercy of Heaven. I pray to God that you will repent of this stubbornness.”
“Father,” said Iacob, resting his head on the captain’s knee. “When Montecuzoma ruled, there was a great empire to t he South, and we traded with them each year. I beg of you, do you know if the Spaniards rule there?”
“We do not know of any other empires, Iacob. Not like the Aztec empire.”
Ixtapa knew what he must do, for the gods commanded that he no longer remain a slave to the enemy. So he gathered his things; his beads of jade, and a knife of obsidian, and went to say goodbye.
“Forgive me, father,” said Iacob. “But the gods have commanded me to journey south, to the Inca. I thank you for your kindness to me, though I have been a burden to you.”
Ixtapa smiled upon the Spaniard, who had been so gentle with him, and gave him a kiss of farewell.
“Forgive me, father,” said Ixtapa, and offered up his heartblood to the gods.
Leaving a trail of bloody footprints behind, Ixtapa went to the stable and took a horse. He went south, while it was still dark, and fled his homeland. He fled the land of the Spanish conquistador.
The trials of Ixtapa upon his journey were many and varied. He lost his horse, suffered hunger and wounds, heat and cold, natives and Spaniards, kindness and cruelty. At last he came to the court of Atahuallpa, exiled brother of the mighty Sapa Inca, Huascar.
Ixtapa dressed himself in rags, powdering his clothing with dirt and ash, binding a cloth across his eyes. Then he took a staff, and hobbling like an old man, he begged entrance to the prince’s court.
“Great lord,” he said, voice creaking with age. “I have traveled very far and for many years, and I have come to your court because the gods have sent me, with a gift.”
“A gift?” Atahuallpa of the broad shoulders, son of the great king Huayna Capac, extended a hand in invitation. “Show us.”
Ixtapa’s hand opened, graceful fingers disguised with dirt and rags, and revealed a cunning jade figurine of a jaguar. “My lord, within this stone is contained a mighty spirit, as clever as he is beautiful. A gift from the gods themselves, for the Sapa Inca, Atahuallpa.
The court rumbled with awe and suspicion. The Prince’s brow was stormy. “You mistake me for my brother, Huascar. I am not the Sapa Inca.”
“The gods make no mistakes, my lord.” Ixtapa knelt, making a great show of his aching joints. “If I may crave the prince’s indulgence, I will begin the ceremony to release the spirit, and you may judge for yourself if my words are true. If my lord is displeased, I beg you to destroy me as a liar and a heretic. But if your servant pleases you, I beg that you cherish and protect this spirit, for the gods have decreed that it will be loyal to you alone. It is unwise to shun the gifts of gods, my prince.”
“Proceed,” Atahuallpa rumbled.
From his bag, Ixtapa lifted a set of pouches, creating a neat ring of black powder and one of white powder, overlaid with a shimmering green dust. It was a trick he had learned from the priests who raised him, and perfected with gunpowder stolen from the Spanish supplies.
“In the name of the king, Atahuallpa,” Ixtapa said, and brought his palms together.
The clap expanded into a roar of thunder, a cloud of white smoke enveloping the court. The courtiers gasped and cried out, fearing some infiltration by Huascar. As the smoke cleared, the court coughed and squinted. At the center of the room stood Ixtapa of the Green Eyes, a pile of rags at his feet. He shimmered with dust of gold and jade, clad only in a cloth of jade about his hips. Barefoot, he advanced, a boy who had finally grown to manhood, tall and slender with the stride of a jaguar.
“My lord.” Ixtapa knelt before the prince, offering forth the jaguar figurine on an open palm. “My name is Ixtapa of the Green Eyes, and the gods have sent me to destroy your enemies.”