A Tongue*Lash story
by Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier

The boy was raised behind the monolithic jade walls of the Eastern College of the great Mayan city of Tulun.

As provided by the Lords' law, his birth parents surrendered him at an early age to the mercies of the Chuch-Kahawib, the scarlet-clad "mother-fathers" whose mission it was to administer the long, painful rites of passage into adulthood.

At that time, the boy was still called by his child's name -- Little Jaguar.

Sensing his gifts, the Chuch-Kahawib tutored him in the arcane arts of the Lo. The boy was taken before the corpse of a man who had passed on. He was shown how to arrange the thirteen gourds and warm the six Q'abawilob stones with his hands and cast his spirit across the great void. The boy spoke and the dead man answered.

Yet, what Little Jaguar still enjoyed most was a game of pitzal with his friends: Fat Serpent, who always brought food because he was apprenticing in the kitchen of the Lords; slick, gabby Grey Fox, who could talk his way out of any kind of trouble; Snap Turtle, who was so good with figures that he grew up to become Chief Astrologer in Tikal; big, burly Wise Ox, who even then, didn't know his strength; and poor Running Deer, who would later be killed in the war with the Pia.

Together, the boys would play pitzal until all hours of the morning, their hips sore from hitting the hard, stone ball, their feet blistering inside their unyielding leather boots.

Then, one day, she was there.

Her birth mother had died two years before, so she had already received her adult's name -- Tongue -- but still she was a child. A child as yet unaware that she existed in a beautiful woman's body.

Sensing greatness within her, the Chuch-Kahawib entrusted her education to Master-Purifier Blue-Quartz, who was assigned the task of grooming her for the Lords' service. That one will go far, the Chuch-Kahawib thought. Whispers of a position as First Handmaiden of the Yatan were heard. It would mean much honor for the Eastern College.

The boys, of course, were all madly in love with her, but in a shy, respectful way. They already knew that spoiling her innocence would have been like throwing mud into the purest stream.

Tongue, oblivious to their feelings, only liked one thing, pitzal, and at that, she was outstanding. She was fast. Sleek and agile. Happy and free. Magnificent. They all agreed she was the best player they had ever seen. Their team's fame grew as they began challenging, and even beating, the teams of the upper city.

But Blue-Quartz hated seeing Tongue play pitzal with the boys. He threw stones at them, and cursed them, spitting and hissing and hurling the names of the dark ones. Tongue's mood began to darken. She clumsily tried to hide the marks of the lashings she'd received. For the first time, she cried. Little Jaguar urged her to go to the Chuch-Kahawibs, but she remained entombed in mournful silence.

Then, one day, Tongue didn't show up for a game. That afternoon, the boy overheard a conversation between two priests. The girl, they said, had to be sent north because she was with child -- by her own Purifier too. What had the world come to, they complained.

That night, Master-Purifier Blue-Quartz was found dead, strangled with his own lash. The boys had been at pitzal practice and they all swore Little Jaguar was with them, even though his shoes were not muddy. The Qaholom never found the killer.

The following spring, Little Jaguar took his adult name -- Lash.
This story was originally published in T*L Series 2 #1.

Tongue*Lash (c) 1997-2003 Lofficier/Taylor