Chapter One

Sweat mixed with blood ran down Ma’xu’s forehead and dripped into his eyes. The salty, burning sensation made the long rectangular playing field difficult to see. A hot midafternoon sun scorched the players and added to their battle fatigue. The mental and physical rigor of Temple Ball would challenge every ounce of willpower the players could muster. The annual match would, in any ordinary year, dictate who went on the village hunts. This, however, was no ordinary year. This year, the village would welcome its newest warrior. The two captains, Ma’xu and Kanul, were vying for the right to take the village offering to Tikal. The winner of this year’s match would meet the gods in Tikal and the loser would meet the gods in paradise. One way or the other, each of their destinies would be fulfilled this day.

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Chapter Two

“They’re on their feet, Mason, you really should say something,” the moderator reiterated into Mason’s ear. As he placed his hand on Mason’s shoulder, they both experienced a shock that penetrated their bodies. Their eyes grew large as the intensity of the shock grew. Their eyes were drawn to each other’s. Time stopped. Neither of them could breathe. The moderator was powerless to stop the spiritual assault on his now exposed soul. Mason knew what the pulsating energy meant. Something he hadn’t experienced in over a year. The fate of the moderator was clear. Information was now burned into Mason’s mind. The shock stopped abruptly as the moderator removed his hand from Mason’s shoulder. They both took deep breaths. The moderator’s confusion quickly began to subside with each breath.

“What was that?” he asked Mason.

“Static electricity I guess,” Mason replied, knowing well it was not. “You’ll be okay, just be sure to call your children when you get home.”

“All right,” he said calmly, “I will.” Not sure what had happened, the moderator stepped back and tried in vain to figure out what Mason meant.

Chapter Three

The brilliancy of the stars pierced the cool nighttime shroud that encompassed the town square. The surrounding mountains provided a backdrop of majesty, a constant reminder of the arduous culture they lived in. With restless anticipation, the people waited to be enlightened as to the nature of the lastminute assembly. The low rumble from the gathered villagers erupted into cheers as Ahmed Mirza Almazor walked up to the elevated stage and stood at the podium. He looked up at the cloudless night and out over the thousands of villagers gathered in the square to hear their leader speak. When Ahmed raised his arms, a hush came over the crowd. No one dared make a sound when Ahmed spoke. He began to deliver his scathing proclamation.

“Tonight Allah bestows great favor on us, my fellow Almazorians. I come to you as the last of many great prophets. Allah has revealed to me that some of you question his will for us. I assure you that Allah will give a great sign that you will believe we are his favored people.” He waited for the crowd’s cheers to subside before continuing.

“He will deliver to us our enemies, and we will be victorious!” he shouted to the masses. “No longer will evil nations disrespect our culture. Infidels will bow down to us or they will perish!” he continued.

The loud cheering crowd fed off every word Ahmed delivered. Their shouts became louder. His words were like verbal cocaine. The villagers held their rifles and guns in the air in elation as they listened to their leader.

“Our time draws near, my brethren, when Allah will call on us to act. Prepare yourselves physically and mentally. For the spawn of Satan prepares his armies for battle. We will attack any infidel nation that will not bow down to Allah, especially the Americans. The eagle will bow down or become extinct. Feast now, for soon we go to battle and claim what is ours. All hail Allah! All hail Allah!” Ahmed concluded and exited the stage with his advisors. His vocal orgy transformed the crowd into a spectacle second only to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Ahmed hurriedly climbed into his chauffeured limousine with his brother Macmul.