Vicuña's Life (#73:Worship)
BtVs and timeline owned by Mutant Enemy and Joss Whedon. Elements taken/adapted from the Marvel U owned by the parent company and its *many* authors and illustrators.
Written for the TtH100 (Clawed!Slayerverse). Prompt 73:Worship. Word Count: 1,098 Time: Several Years Past 1492
My sources for the following chapters are mainly 'The Annotated Buffy' 'Wikipedia.org' 'MSN Encarta' 'The Collected What If?' and 'Military History Magazine'. This being my first attempt at AU-historical fiction, with some research done, but of the non-textbook variety, feel free to say where I'm wrong. It's healthy ;)
* will mark a few places where I made up stuff to fill in the gaps
I owe the outline of this chapter to'Acllacunas: Sacred Women'
and 'Child Sacrifice in Pre-Columbian Cultures'
... Ominous, neh?
On the southern slope of Mount Frog
(Hamp'atu urqu), under an auspicious astrological sign, a beautiful young girl was born. She was named Vicuña, after the llama-relative whose wool was held as next-to-sacred by the royal family of the Empire to the North. She lived a fairly average rural life, until the new Emperor, Splendid Youth
(Hauyna Capac), decided to celebrate his coronation by expanding his territory as far South as he could reach. Vicuña's small town, though of minor importance, was one of the first on the list.
The takeover happened peacefully. Conquest meant more trade for the village. Unfortunately it also meant bowing to the whims of the priesthood, so Vicuña and several more of the most beautiful girls between the ages of eight and ten that the area had to offer were respectfully marched to the Navel of the World
(Cuzco). They were to become chosen women
(Acllas). After years of intensive training, some would become virginal nuns, some would become government concubines, some would be sacrificed... and some would get to go home.
As time passed, Vicuña grew more and more beautiful and her skill at weaving her namesake's wool was unparalleled. She was loved by her teachers and it was hoped that she would rise high in the ranks of the organization once her training was complete. When strong pottery began to shatter in her hands and musical instruments would snap more often than not, she was called out from the mass of young girls and placed under careful scrutiny of the virgins of the sun
(Mamacunas). These women, the keepers of history and song, identified her as the Chosen of the chosen and a valuable asset, despite the property damage that was sure to occur. Without the right ancestors Vicuña could not join the high priesthood, so she was returned to her regular studies, under closer supervision.
Months later, when rumblings and portents of ill omen began to surface, it was decided that it was time for Vicuña to leave the school of the chosen
* (Acllahuasi), the only home she'd known for years, and serve her adopted country. There was a parade thrown in her honor before the procession marched south, towards the high mountains.
The journey was long, the path to this particular sacred site
(huaca) on the side of the volcano was seldom used, but she made it in reasonably good spirits. When one of the priests had fallen into a small ravine, she had been the only one strong enough to pull him out. When the food they carried was running thin and the alpine terrain showed no easy source of game, she was able to find some, using senses she barely knew she had. She was an asset, which was why she had been Chosen.
High on the side of Tongue of Fire
(Sabancaya) at the spot where the Emperor had said the mountain would take the most notice, Vicuña was handed a very important goblet. As she stared into the dark liquid, she took the time to think. It is ironic that, after traveling what feels like half-way across the world, I would come so close to where I started from. Home is just on the other side of that mountain to the south, yet I'll never see my parents again.
She raised her glass in a toast to the Emperor's health, wished her companions of late a safe trek home and downed the mind-numbing liquid.
As her consciousness began to float, she sank to her knees in the snow, a priest approached from behind and strangled her with the ceremonial cloth she'd* woven the last day at the school... a willing sacrifice to the volcano feared by many and worshiped by some... as ordered by the Emperor, who was feared and worshiped by all the Incan
(Quechuan) people as their God-on-Earth.
She died there, face-first in the snow, practically within sight of her hometown.
She was only thirteen.
When she began to breathe again, the priest was quite shocked.
He strangled her again, holding the ends of the cloth together long past the point of no return just to make sure she was dead and stayed dead.
This attempt too, was unsuccessful.
He considered hitting her head very hard with a ceremonial rock, as he had done with other children in the past, but he was truly worried about the brain damage that might result if that failed to dispose of her...
The priest was a well-traveled man and he had heard of what their Aztec neighbors far
to the north preferred to do when they
captured prisoners and their
pyramids ran red to appease their thirsty gods.
After calling for the knife used to skin last night's meal, the priest tied the cloth to minimize the blood flow to Vicuña's brain and rolled the still unconscious girl over, so he could cut through the top layer of her flesh.
He stared in rapt wonder as bone claws sprouted from her hands, a completely unintended effect of his attempted surgery. He stood and shivered, thinking about what 'the Chosen of the chosen' really might mean and if the Emperor knew what he was asking to have sacrificed.
Kneeling again, the priest decided it was not wise to second-guess the object of the Empire's worship, so he made short work of cutting Vicuña's heart out of her chest.
When the flow of blood slowed to a trickle and the removed organ began to grow back... The visibly shaken priest called for a litter to be made so they could carry her back down the mountainside for the long journey home.
The next morning when she awoke, surprised to find herself among the living, they told her their story.This happened,
she thought to herself. Because I have lived my whole life without thinking. I've always taken the route set out for me. Never again, will I lose sight of who I am and what I want. Never again will I forget to think.
Throughout the long trek back to the seat of the Empire, through the hastily organized welcoming celebration, through her installment in the Emperor's house - the capitol of the Four United Regions
(Tawantinsuyu) - she remembered her vow.
As the next few years passed she remembered it. It was in her mind as she stood covered in jewels next to the Emperor as the crowds cheered him and his 'immortal' concubine and bodyguard*. It was the last thing she thought each night when she fell asleep on the pile of blankets they shared*.
And when she had a dream that someone was coming to take her away from this temple for a man - this center of belief... She was happy.