From Chapter 1 of The Chalciuhite Dragon by Kenneth Morris

In the Beginning

It was the Eve of Teotleco, holiest of festivals, the last day in the year House 12 in the holiest year-bundle in history. In a couple of hours the sun would set and the new year, Rabbit 13, begin, let but which pass and we would be in Reed I, Ce Acatl, the holiest year.

They were sitting at supper in the veranda-like open-room of Shal temoc's house in Huitznahuacan, with an outlook onto the gardens and neighboring houses below. The room was well-decorated with flowers and greenery from the forest, and the folk who sat supping, each seated on a cushion on the floor at a hassock that served as table, wore an air of holiday and holy day not to be mistaken. There was something about this sprightliness and genial atmosphere that aroused Pelashil's curiosity. She sensed great things afoot and was watchful for explanations. Not, however, from anyone but Nopaltzin, who interested her hugely. From her place opposite his, she made great love to him in the cooing, eye-illumined manner natural to her three years and undeveloped respect for convention. He was the one, she decided, who could and ought to make things clear for her; and he should do it.

Ketlasho, who was Pelashil's mother and Nopal's sister, knew with clear intuition what the something was that Pelashil needed; in fact, she had known it long before Pelashil spoke. Religion meant much to Ketlasho, and this was religion's holiest season. Nopal, her wonderful brother, could tell the story appropriate to it as none else could.

They knew, she said, that next month was called Teotleco, the "Arrival of the Gods," and that this was the night when the gods would arrive. That was why they would all go up, when the sun was setting, to the Top of the Town, where Ilanquey would give her flowers to the Soul of the World. It was the Soul of the World, our Lord Tezcatlipoca, who would be the first of the gods to arrive.

So Nopal began by telling them what it was like before the Rising of the First Sun, reciting the poem as it was written in one of the pictograph books of the priests. "The Sun," it says, "sat drowsily on the low horizon, nodding, dreaming and nodding, unaware of what he could do, peering out now and again over the world, muttering to himself helplessly. There were neither gods nor men on the mountains, no voices in the valleys. In the blue, unvarying twilight, great white blossoms shone and died unseen.

"Then Citlalicway Teteoinan, the Mighty Mother, hurled down Tecpatl, the Flint-stone, who struck the earth in rocky districts and skipped and slid from boulder to outcropping and from outcropping to boulder. Wherever he struck, there fire was born, until four score-score flames had been kindled and there had leaped up four score-score young, indomitable gods, dancing flamelike on the mountains, singing the Mother's praise. They leaped into being, fire-clad, rainbow-colored, beautiful; they moved like flames along the ridges of the mountains, gliding and dancing. All the time, they were chanting their joy. They saw the stars, their brothers, in infinity and regarded them with delight and love. They had their homes in the hollows of the hills; their speech was song; their thought was music; the substance of their being was essential fire. And thus it was with them through an age, and an age, and the age of ages.

"Then a thought came flying out of the vast and whispered from mind to mind of them, until they hung their beautiful heads and pondered, forgetting to dance from ridge to ridge, forgetting to sing.

"Citlalicway Teteoinan regarded them. 'Children, children, why do you ponder?'

"'There is no noonday, such as we desire,' said they. 'There is neither morning nor eve. We marvel that our Lord-brother, the Sun, arises not. Why does he sit there brooding and slothful, peering out distrustfully now and again over the delicate world?'

"The Sun heard and made answer to them: 'There are no men; ye have no men to be your Others. Wherefore should I rise when there are no men?'

"They looked at each other, nodding their astonishment and apprehension. 'That is true,' said they. 'He would rise if there were men.' For seven cycles of time they pondered, and the lily bloomed and they beheld her not; and the snow-white blossoms in the twilight went unsung. 'How shall we make men?' they asked. 'In what manner are men created?'

"Then was wisdom revealed to our Lord Quetzalcoatl. 'Out of fire from heaven and bones from hell they are made,' said he.

"Then was wisdom revealed to our Lord Tezcatlipoca. 'Our blood is the fire; it is fire from heaven. The blood of the gods is the fire from heaven,' said the Soul of the World."

Here Nopal paused. So far, he had been quoting directly from the Book of the Green-Shining Planisphere. The next incident he abridged. It tells of the raid the gods made on the realms of Mictlantecuhtli, king of Hell, and of how they stole from him the bones of humanities long forgone in ancient universes forgotten. These bones they moistened or kindled with their fire-blood and made thereof a new race of men. Nopal then went on from the book.

"So they made themselves men, their Others. For every Divine, a human being. But the Sun did not rise.

"'Why do you not rise, O Sun?' said they. 'There might be noon, heaven knows; there might be morning and evening in their beauty. Here are men, our Others, who would worship you. Adorable would be the moment of your rising. Consider that!'

"'No, no,' said the Sun. 'You know not all things, you gods. Sad will be the moment of my rising; lamentation will be heard in it. For when I rise, you will die.'

"They looked at each other doubtfully. 'Die — what is that?' said they. 'There is something in this that is not clear to us.'

"'Rising, I shall destroy you,' said the Sun.

"'Alas!' said they. 'You are our enemy! We sought to befriend you; we created you worshipers; we desired your companionship and love. Hateful to us is this grim hostility!' A shadow of deep thoughtfulness had come on them; they had never been thus solemn before. It is not to be said that they were free from grief.

"'Where I am, you cannot be,' said the Sun. 'This is the truth that I tell you: Compelled I shall be to make war on you, to be terrific, to exterminate you one by one. The men, your Others, will not avail you. The world I shine on, you may not abide in.'

"Then they spoke quietly, answering him. 'It will be better to delay!' said they. 'It will be much better to take counsel over this. Proclaim you not your war upon us, we beseech you! Rise not now, until we have considered!'

"'You, the gods, invoked my rising, and surely rise I must.' The Sun leaped up from the horizon, armed with his bow and his shining shafts. 'I proclaim my war against you!' said he.

"Then laughed our Lord, the Plumed Dragon; he laughed out loud, making mock of the Sun. 'There is that which is more ancient and abiding than thou art. Against thy war I proclaim my peace!'

"'Blessed art thou, Lord Quetzalcoatl!' said the Sun, but none heard him at that time."

Nopal explained, "Therefore art thou who preserves the universe in stability, O Plumed Dragon, O Quetzalcoatl Beautiful, O Shining Peace in the Hearts of the Stars!

"But the Sun leaped up and came on armed and terrifically singing. Golden was his armor; golden was his person, from the nails of his little fingers to the ends of his hair. He was terrifying, wrathful-compassionate, filling the worlds with a rumor of death. He was gigantic, golden, filling the sky. Amazed were the gods, not desirable their situation. They hated the thought of Mictlantecuhtli's kingdom; they had little understanding, at that time, of death.

"Then laughed our Lord Tezcatlipocâ; the Soul of the World laughed out loud, making mock of fate. 'We are the gods; we are the Radiant. Even if he slay us, it will be glorious to go against him, for behold how beautiful he is, how nobly he advances! As for the kingdom of Mictlantecuhtli — are we not the Immortals, the Sons of the Flame?'

"'Blessed art thou, Lord Tezcatlipocâ!' said the Sun, but none heard him say it, to be encouraged.

"But what the Soul of the World said made the gods warlike and of great cheer. They saw Tezcatlipocâ go forward and were proud. Singing, they followed the Beautiful Youth where he advanced, a running, leaping, lovely flame, against the Sun . . . and the Sun then slew them one by one, so that the flames vanished here to be kindled elsewhere; they waned into the daylight and were hidden in the beauty of the day, until only our Lord Quetzalcoatl was left.

"'Why fightest thou not, Lord Plumed Dragon? Why fightest thou not, thou Upholder of the Worlds? Behold thy companions, how brave and beautiful they were, how nobly they died! Emulate them, lest evil be spoken of thee!'

"'Will evil be spoken indeed?' said our Lord.

"'Fight, that thou mayest be at peace where they are, and lest I slay thee unresisted and thou comest by shame!'

"'Shall I come by shame in your deed to heaven?'

"'Lest the sorrows of man become thy sorrows and thou have no peace because of them throughout the age of ages!'

"Flaming, miraculous, filling the universe, shooting his beams through the kingdoms of the stars, our Lord the Sun came against our Savior. 'Fight,' said he, 'Lord Plumed Dragon!'

"Without defense stood Quetzalcoatl; without defense and without fear. 'Slay thou him whom slay thou canst!' said he. 'Against thy war I proclaim my peace; slay thou me if mine is the weaker!'

"Then the Sun dropped bow and quiver, and his shafts fell down through space like tears. 'Alas, thou art stronger than I am!' said he. 'For all I loved thee, thou hast defeated me! And now thyself hast pronounced thy doom wherefrom. I sought to save thee. Where the gods dwell, thou canst not abide; thou shalt be born among men forever in thy cycle; age by age thou shalt oppose men as thou hast me. Against their war thou shalt proclaim thy peace, until thou hast overcome them, O Quetzalcoatl!'

"So our Lord was not slain by the Sun, nor sent into the Hidden with the other gods; but age by age he is born here among men."

That being the end of the first part of the Teotleco story, Nopal paused.

"Will he be born next year?" asked Ilanquey.

"Who can tell, dear?" Nopal answered. "He comes when the world needs him, we may be sure. Perhaps it needs him now. But listen to the story of the First Teodeco." . . .