Elemental Linx (©The Tetrad Prophecy Book 1)

Birth, Death, and Rebirth... All is destroyed, One will choose... Born again through sacrifice, The cycle will end And bring forth a new age.

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1. Chapter One

©Copyright Protected All Rights Reserved Rose Castro

I was defeated by an internal struggle feeling a more powerful elemental force, but seeing nothing return. An immense fire overcame the opposing inner fight I was having, but it wasn't scorching me; why was it? Was this a foreshadowing of how death would come for me?

Those thoughts ran through me as I sensed a presence, taking in the surroundings I observed the dusting of snow over what appeared to be ruins of an ancient city. The decaying area didn't seem immediately recognizable, although something about the place pulled at me. The fallen stone walls created a labyrinth, and upon closer examination, the structures were not of my time.

Distracted by a faint ripple through the ground, the sensation of not being alone returned, as the hair on my arms stood on end. I spotted a dusty trail and ran in its direction, attempting to put distance between me and whatever was putting me on edge. I continued looking ahead, wondering if there were no better options. Would I be more visible on the trail, I contemplated, and then quickly shifted into the maze of walls I'd just been observing, taking caution of my breathing.

The sound of footsteps smashing the earth on which they walked grew louder. Whatever these belonged to had no desire in keeping their presence unknown.

A sensation of an internal burning engulfed my interims, as I fought to comprehend a sudden flash of radiant energy leaving my body. Shaken and confused, an unyielding force of energy overcame me. I felt an awakening of some sort within the very source of burning that penetrated my entire being.

The echo of the footsteps grew closer, as I felt trapped, realizing I had nowhere else to go without being detected. The walls perhaps in a more glorious time might have offered better protection, but in their current lackluster state were not of any use. Mustering up the courage, I stepped out into the open.

My heart raced as I became overwhelmed with fear, a paralyzing feeling set in as I faced a massive man, or animal, or both? A sinking feeling settled as I panted for air, dizzy with desperation.

"Please! Don't be afraid." It said in a masculine voice, even though I couldn't see its mouth move.

It drew closer to me, allowing for a better view. Upon closer inspection I realized this man wore a large headpiece, ceremonial perhaps; decorated colorfully in feathers anchored by the mask finished in a shiny metal, the color of gold, molded into an eagle.

"Who are you?" I hesitated, "don't come closer." I commanded, looking around at every angle, noticing this man was not alone; flanked by more similarly outfitted native looking men, like himself. Their headpieces were not so intricate and did not cover their faces. In the place of the mask, they wore face paint, to which I concluded must have been a show of hierarchy. Questioning to myself, where in the world could I possibly be?

"We are your Cuachicqueh, or your warriors of the highest realm; The Shorn Ones. We are here to protect you. My name is Tadeo, the Tlacateccatl, or the general." He said, as I unwilling found myself standing directly in front of him. Breathing in his musky scent, feeling the warmth of his body reach out to my own.

He removed his mask as he spoke, revealing a smudged layer of red and blue face paint similar to the others. His appearance was a young man, perhaps no older than me, at seventeen, his features were hard and chiseled.

I was about to question him, when he interrupted my thoughts, as I continued carefully observed him and his warriors.

"I don't have time to explain everything to you at this moment, but you need to follow me. Something is out there and on the move. My warriors and I need to get you to safety." He paused as he looked me straight in the eyes. "I believe you've made the connection with your element, correct?"

Just as he finished saying this and intensity from within was at the ready to combust. I fought to compose myself, worried about what this all might be.

"You must have mistaken me for someone else, as I don't know what you are saying. I cannot accompany you or..." My statement went interrupted by a rumbling throughout, in the distance. It grew louder by the second, except it didn't come from the sky.

"What is that?" I asked. My voice remained still, unmoved, as I felt my stomach ready to leap out.

"That is Mictecacihuatl and Coyolxauhuqui, one being the goddess of the underworld and the latter of the moon. Hurry, we must leave now!"

Driven by instinct, I followed Tadeo, as his warriors flanked us from behind.

We made haste first through the dusty trail I'd contemplated earlier, then switching to a densely wooded area. It came to my attention as we passed the ruined buildings that what I thought was snow, earlier, was ash.

I kept close to Tadeo, avoiding low-hanging branches and the tall overgrowth of the unfamiliar area, surprised by the little commotion we were accomplishing.

"Where are we going?" I inquired as I ran harder to keep at his side.

"To the city, for the sacred grounds of the temples will protect us from these demons, as they cannot trace us there." His words were smoothed, not even phased by the running.

I felt like I'd broken through a chain of linked arms during a game of Red Rover, as we slowed down; except there wasn't any barrier, at least not to the naked eye.

When we finally stopped, I gasped for air, drained of any and all energy. My body succumbed to the earth, as I noticed Tadeo look down at me, that inner flame I'd been carrying grew dim.

"You are much braver than I'd expected." He said as he leaned down to help me back up. Unsure if meant as an insult, compliment, or both, I chose to let it go. Considering what had just transpired, it simply was not worth my immediate attention.

The Warriors moved ahead leaving Tadeo and me with only a few trailing.

"Why are..." I stopped myself realizing I could never remember the names he'd said earlier. "...those goddesses following us?" Slowly, the question upon question crept to the forefront of my mind. "Where am I?" As I said this, I decided I must have been dreaming.

"Mictecacihuatl and Coyolxauhuqui" he smiled infectiously, causing me to blush.

We continued walking into what appeared to be a city, with ceremonial drumming and chanting. It grew louder as my ears attempted to pick up the direction of its origination.

"I agree to tell you as much as I can, later. Right now, we need to get into formation." He said as he and I took the lead and the Warriors followed.

Puzzled with what I was witnessing, I quietly inquired. "Tadeo, where are we?"

Tadeo continued walking keeping his focus astutely forward, speaking in a hushed tone under his mask.

"We are in the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan."

We slowed down as an entourage of people cut in front of us.

"That is the Emperors' family. Today a bloodletting ritual will be performed."

I took notice of how he clinched his jawline through the side of his mask, as his voice fell silent.

"What does that mean?" I continued.

"Silence now! We don't appease the Gods with this questioning." He expressed.

An ancient temple, I'd observed from afar came closer into view as we approached the gathered crowds of ornately dressed people,

The clamor fo those gathered grew louder, and a profound sense of confusion and dull pain settled in my chest; anxiety I thought, as I purposely took in more controlled deeper breaths to calm my nerves.

There were impressively placed open fires lit throughout the city, beautiful earthen pottery decorated the walkways, and the buildings geometrically designed; demonstrating an impressive advanced skill. The water causeways were beyond belief; rivaling Venice with a more rustic appeal.

From a distance I could hear a faint wailing of what sounded like a human, it grew louder as we reached the temple, causing me to cringe. I notice Tadeo catch a glance in my direction.

Tadeo gave instructions in a native dialect. I wasn't exactly sure what the dialect could be. However, he proceeded to explain to me in plain English, that we were taking our positions for the ceremony on the steps of the temple as The Shorn Ones. I suspected this was part of whatever festivity was about to take place.

What appeared to be a priest, the Emperor, the Emperors' family, and then The Shorn Ones was the order. I had no idea what was happening as I jogged my memory through my various history lessons, stopping upon Mesoamerican history; The Aztec Empire, of course! I recalled they spoke Nahuatl, a native dialect.

I looked up toward the priest when a realization came over me; I was about to witness a sacrifice, a ritualistic blood sacrifice of a human being.

"NO!" I yelped as a substantial presence was upon me.

A voice only I could hear, spoke to me. "Birth, death, and rebirth...all is destroyed, one will choose...born again through sacrifice, the cycle will end and bring forth a new age."

Shaken and panicked as I stood up, a dull pain penetrated between my eyes. I looked around wondering where on earth I could be. Surely my dream had evolved into a nightmare, as the room I was in slowly came into focus.

The lighting was poor, but I could make out the adobe structure. I carefully walked towards an opening in a wall, a doorway it would seem, as the most delicious aroma lead me into the next room. A thin medium height woman came into view, as I gently wiped my eyes so I could see her better, as I cautiously made my way to her.

Her dark hair was pinned up in braids, as she quickly maneuvered her hands in a funny back and forth way. I studied this carefully excitedly discovering she was making tortillas. Not sure what to do at that moment, she turned to me, smiling, so I returned the gesture.

The woman didn't speak to me, only motioning that I sit in what seemed to be a short wooden stool, in front of stone like a table covered in dry mud. Similar to what I'd seen in Pueblo, Colorado on a trip with my parents.

I obliged the woman's kind offer, adjusting my bottom in the seat.

A wave of savory spices floated around me, as she placed a pottery bowl filled with a dark substance which was releasing the pleasant aroma. Separately, on an earthen plate, she put the handmade tortillas, along with a mug. As I lifted the latter, I recognized the smell, atole; a decadent full hot drink made of corn masa, piloncillo which was an unrefined brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla bean.

Utterly content after an exceptional meal, I observed the woman's steady motions as she continued about her artistry in the kitchen.

I also noticed my clothes, noting she must have changed me, as I was wearing a long linen skirt, with hand stitched colorful birds and flowers along the floor-length hem. The sleeveless somewhat ill-fitting top was a lovely jade tone to match a precious stone jade bracelet dangling from my wrists. There were several other pieces of gold jewelry accompanying the lone jade bracelet, and a pair of not so comfortable sandals were on my feet.

My fashion critiquing was interrupted by a presence I hadn't noticed was standing in a doorway, Tadeo.

"I see you're awake?" His booming voice sent a shiver through my spine.

I considered his question for a moment. Technically I was dreaming, but I wasn't sure he knew this.

"Am I?" I said, wishing he had a sense of humor as the words left my lips.

"What happened at the temple will never occur again. Thank the God's you were standing in between my second in command and me, so no one detected your outburst! If you hadn't passed out, you could have posed a greater risk to yourself. The Emperor and the Priest would not have shown mercy." His chiseled features were more prominent without the face paint; I noted as he scolded me.

My eyes skimmed his chest area, slightly exposed through his neck ornament. His skin looked perfectly smooth, his abs shaped and defined, and a loincloth exposed all but his most intimate parts. I concluded the last revelation made me more uncomfortable than it had him; suddenly grateful for the wrong lighting because I was sure to have blushed.

A commotion outside interrupted my thoughts, as Tadeo swiftly exited. Wondering if I should've followed, the woman stopped me, politely shaking her head in objection. I didn't even get a chance to ask him her name.

I paced around the two rooms upon which I decided were living quarters, although to whom it belonged I did not know. I was curiously scrutinizing an exquisitely designed headpiece to pass the time.

"It's not a personal treasured one, but Magda keeps it around here. And because I esteem her, I don't question." He quietly breathed into my ear.

Immediately I turned on my heels to face him.

"Glad to see you've returned. Maybe now you can start answering some questions. First off, am I still in Tenochtitlan?" I demanded.

Tadeo's posture was more at ease as he leaned on the adobe wall, hands behind him, and his voice more at ease.

"I apologize. You've been unconscious." He trailed off before continuing. "This mission... It's impossible. I don't know what the God's were thinking. But who am I to question them?" He turned pacing toward the wall, all sense of relief now replaced with rigidness, as he opened a solid wood window to allow natural light into the room.

"Yes, yes you are still in Tenochtitlan. Well, kind of. You are dream traveling here, so your spirit can take on its natural form while you are here. It's complicated. I'm not even sure I understand anymore. But listen, we don't have time to sit down and discuss this right now. Those were guards who came to warn me of a possible breach of the barrier for the sacred grounds, which encapsulates the city to protect it." He said, looking me dead in the eyes as if speaking to my soul, "We will be joining them."

His perfectly shaped eyebrows accented his deep brown mysterious eyes, as his hair tousled to the sides framing his handsome face. The fear of what he'd just said was eased by the tone of his words, as I once again followed him into an unknown.

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