Once all was prepared, the priests would come and tie him to a board. They would drape him with flowers and lead a procession toward the Holy Cenote. Feathered Warrior would even be there as well to participate in the ceremony, making it that much more special. He would tell the elite who attended that the gods themselves had ordered this sacrifice.
Red Bird wondered why the gods hadn’t told him that directly as he was lifted into the air for the march through the streets. He could smell the tallow burning all around him and he could hear the sounds of the incantations, but the potion clouded his mind, blending them together.
Was this really ordained, or was Feathered Warrior just jealous and eliminating competition?
At the water’s edge, Red Bird’s eyes began to focus. As he expected, Feathered Warrior was there and he was speaking, commanding his people to obey and commanding nature to accept the offering. It was obvious to Red Bird, if no one else present, that the king was as afraid of the people as he was afraid of the elements and the gods. The clarity that came from the potion showed Red Bird that his former king, and friend, hoped this sacrifice would discourage the leading warriors and priests from rising up against him.
With a suddenness that caught Red Bird off guard, he was lifted into the air and then he felt his body falling. His arms were bound behind him, but his feet were free. His eyes were open as he fell.
Hitting the water was startling for Red Bird. He had never been in water over his head before. He didn’t know how to swim and had no idea how long it would take for him to die. Red Bird noticed the water was warm and it felt good surrounding him. He felt at peace and at ease.
As he sank, his mouth closed and he held his breath, something it hadn’t occurred to him to do before. Red Bird opened his eyes and looked upward. He could see the light from above and could just make out the bodies of the priests, warriors and the king standing around the edge of the cenote, watching him disappear.
Red Bird didn’t know what happened when a living man was thrown in the Holy Cenote and he guessed no one else did either. He knew in his mind that the gods were there waiting on the sacrifice and would take the body away. He simply hoped it would be one of the kind and benevolent gods, not the violent and terrible ones. He hoped the gods would come quickly, ending his suffering.
The opening to the cenote seemed to move further and further away. Red Bird wondered if he was already dead and moving toward the nether world with the gods.
Red Bird’s body began to scream at him through the potion-induced haze. He needed air and he needed to breathe. He realized he wasn’t in the realm of the gods yet. He felt a fire in his chest and his vision turned red. He pulled on the ropes binding his hands and realized they were loosening. He knew, without thinking about what it might mean, that he didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to be a sacrifice to the gods. Somewhere in the back of his mind he wondered if all of the men he had put to death felt the same way.
It didn’t matter what he wanted, though. The gods would surely come for him to receive their sacrifice. Another pull and twist and suddenly Red Bird’s hands were free. His mind was starting to rage and his lungs felt like they were going to explode. Red Bird expected to burst into flames at any second.
The opening to the sky and the light where the king stood and ordered Red Bird cast into the water grew smaller and smaller as the water pulled him down. And then Red Bird noticed another light ahead of him. It began to grow larger.
The gods must be there. That is the opening to the underworld and the gods will receive me there as the sacrifice. Wanting the pain in his chest to end, Red Bird began to pull toward the light. He didn’t know how to swim, but he reached out with both hands and pulled at the water. His head began to grow light. He was sure it was the gods pulling him in. He relaxed knowing the pain would be no more in just a moment. He found his arms couldn’t move anymore; they were heavy. The light grew larger and Red Bird closed his eyes as he drifted toward the light.
The sacrifice was complete.