Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
Tonauac sprinted through the packed crowd in the main plaza as fast as he could, knocking down all in his path.
The Mexica people were stirred into an uproar as Tonauac toppled carts, crates, and the people themselves in his frantic dash to the enormous double staircases of Great Temple.
He pushed through thousands, not daring to stop to rest or see if the Spaniards had arrived yet. He couldn’t let his people die, not like this. Not at the hands of a man who was too impatient, too blind to see how peace can be achieved. Not at the hands of a man who was once his friend, even just minutes ago. Ten thousand of the greatest Mexica nobles and lords from the city and the surrounding area gathered together to celebrate, Tonauac had to make sure they lived.
Tonauac’s mind froze with fear as he reached the beginning of the left staircase, looking up towards the summit of the pyramid.
The sacrifice had already begun.
He clambered up the steep, chiseled steps, tears streaming down his cheeks. The entire gathered crowd, thousands upon thousands, was now fired into an uproar. Tonauac was seen climbing the staircase, an insult to the sacred sacrificial process. They called out for him to be stopped.
Tonauac watched as the feathered priests chanted, dancing in circles around the glossy sacrificial altar. He heard the captive’s screams as the head priest, dressed in a coat of black and gold beads, shoved his bloody hand into the man’s open chest, searching for his heart.
With a sudden pull, the priest ended the captive’s screams. He ripped his heart from the inside of his ribcage, watching the thick veins and vessels attached to the organ tear and break as he slowly pulled his arm back. Thick, dark blood gushed out from his chest, pouring over on all sides of the altar.
With a piercing shriek, the head priest held the still pulsing heart over his open mouth, letting the blood squirt down his gullet.
The circle of priests gathered around the convulsing body of the captive, grabbing hold of his arms, legs and head. They pulled long saws from their waists, and began sawing the captives appendages off.
Tonauac felt two Mexica guards grab ahold of him, dragging him down the steps of the temple.
He called out with all the strength he could muster.
“Halt the ceremony! The Spaniards, they will kill you! They’ve betrayed us! Flee the plaza! They’re coming, raise the garris-” The guards cuffed him on the head, knocking him senseless.
The disgusted guards threw him to the stone tiles at the base of the pyramid, leaving him to the anger of the crowd.
Enraged by his mad dash and sacreligious climb up the Great Temple, the people beat him with their canes, kicked him with their wooden sandals, and blinded him with the greasy scraps of their meals.
Pedro ran through the city, Fátima in his right hand, a brass bugle in the other. Tightly navigating the complex windings of the causeways, crossing multiple bridges and artificial islands, sixty of his men followed closely behind.
Finally they rounded a corner, and the sight of ten thousand Mexica nobles and lords gathered in the plaza stopped Pedro in his tracks. The noise was deafening as the men chanted and cheered as the captive was strapped down to the altar on the Great Temple.
Pedro turned around to the infantry, sliding up the visor on his intricate helmet so his men could properly understand his commands.
“Follow me down these steps to the plaza! Keep your weapons in their sheaths, and act like we’re just on another patrol through the city. And for all that is holy, don’t hurt a soul unless I blow this bugle! There’s a chance we might be able to return to the palace without a single drop of blood spilled. Onward!”
The Spaniards moved down the stairs, armor clanking. They quickly spread out to block off all the other stairways that led down into the plaza complex. The plaza was completely surrounded, and the crowd was too engaged in the ritual to notice.
Pedro squinted to look up towards the summit of the Great Temple, the dark overcast sky a twisting and thunderous backdrop to the ghastly scene. He could see the circle of priests dancing around the dressed-up captive, chanting and burning incense.
Then he beheld another sight. An enormous figure was pushing through the crowds, toppling over the prepared carts and baskets of the people.
It had to be Tonauac.
Pedro watched as he clawed his way up the steps, but it was too late. The head priest, with a slow, dramatic flair, drove his obsidian dagger deep into the captive. The crowd roared.
Tonauac continued up the staircase in vain, slowly coming to a stop near the summit as he realized it was too late.
Pedro shook his head in despair. He didn’t want to have to do this, but it needed to be done.
Pedro raised the bugle, slowly drawing it to his lips. He saw Tonauac get dragged down the face of the pyramid, and thrown into the crowd. All Pedro could do was pray that he’ll escape the chaos that was about to ensue.
The conquistadors around the plaza watched Pedro closely, waiting for the signal. Their gloved hands were itching at their swordbelts. The Tlaxcalans had smartly integrated with the crowd, waiting to ambush the nobles.
The two wings of crossbowmen and arquebusiers waited high up on balconies overlooking the plaza, taking aim at the nobles below.
Time froze for a second as Pedro drew a deep breath before giving all his lungs could muster into the bugle. The blaring note echoed across the plaza for a beautiful moment before being drowned out by the string of gunshots and heavy thuds as crossbow bolts and musket balls ripped through the crowd, the projectiles killing multiple men in their paths. The Tlaxcalans ripped out their maquahuitls, beginning a greedy killing frenzy.
Within seconds the entire plaza erupted into chaos, the screams deafening. The thousands of people watched their wounded bleed out on the ground in front of them. Soon they were either huddling together in masses, running amok through the festival, or trying to climb up the pyramid steps for safety. As the arquebusiers and crossbowmen reloaded, some of the smarter nobles in the crowd ran for the stairways on all sides of the plaza.
Pedro watched as a group of two hundred nobles made a mad rush in his direction, coming closer every second. Pedro gave a quick glance behind him, seeing only ten of his men covering the escape with him. He’d have to make do.
“This is it! Hold the stairway, we can’t have any escaping! Form a shield wall, cut down any man that approaches!” Pedro grabbed the buckler out from behind his back, quickly strapping it to his forearm.
The nobles slowed as the Spaniards prepared to hold a defensive. Picking up discarded crates and baskets from the plaza ground, they quickly distributed makeshift clubs amongst themselves. The two hundred, newly armed, resumed their charge against the Spaniards at the stairwell, joining in one singular cacophony of terrible screams.
Pedro raised Fátima high in the air, watching the beautiful gleam.
“Hold the line! Cut them down! ¡Santiago!” The swordsmen joined his cry.
Two nobles crashed into Pedro’s shield, nearly sending him sprawling backwards. He quickly regained his footing, cracking one across the temple with the rim of his buckler. Sliding Fátima under one’s legs, he jerked the blade upwards, disemboweling him. He collapsed to the ground, the tattered strings of his large intestines spilling out under him.
More of the nobles crashed against his shield, frantically banging the surface of Pedro’s armor with their sticks and clubs to no avail. Pedro battered them back with his shield, before stepping back and letting them trip and flounder in the bodies of their comrades. Fátima darted back and forth, tearing down more and more of the men. Pedro felt his men supporting him from behind, and could hear the gurgled screams of the nobles as they fared no better against the infantry.
Another string of gunshots rang out across the plaza, the smoke from the arquebus barrels gliding down from the balconies and into the square.
Pedro slammed his shield against the forehead of a noble, crushing the skull inwards. Just as he was about to finish the man with a quick slice to his neck, a pair of strong hands dragged him down into the growing wall of dead and dying around the staircase. Pedro fell to the ground with a clatter, losing Fátima under the shaking body of the man with the crushed skull. The hands tore at his visor from behind, completely ripping it off the hinges. Pedro quickly beat at the hands with his shield, hearing the fingers crack and break just inches from his face. The man recoiled in pain, and Pedro rolled over to face him. The man sat in a ball, staring at his bloody, mangled fingers. Quickly crawling over to Fátima, he slid the sword out from under the body.
Just as Pedro was turning back to face the mangled man, another noble fell on top of him, what had once been his head now a stump squirting blood all over Pedro. He pushed the body off of him, finally rising back on his feet.
Pedro watched as the arquebusiers let another volley loose into the crowd, killing fifty more of the nobles that pushed against the exits. The entire plaza was littered with bodies, torn apart by the bullets, bolts, or the hungry obsidian blades of the Tlaxcalans. Pedro searched the plaza, hoping every one of the exits had been guarded. He counted three that were still blocked by his brave men, but the other two were completely open, the nobles pouring out to escape the Tlaxcalans who continued to cut them down.
Their situation was compromised, it was time for a tactical retreat. Pedro searched the ground for the bugle he had dropped before the charge. Dodging more nobles as they charged against his remaining five men, he saw a golden glint under a pile of broken corpses. Digging through the pile, he tore it from the grasp of a Mexica noble who had been using it as a weapon.
Bringing the bloodied, bent instrument to his mouth he signaled the three notes for a retreat. The sounds were corrupted from the pool of blood that sat inside the mouthpiece, but they rang out across the plaza nonetheless. His men formed up a circle around him as they moved back up the stairs, the remaining nobles leaving to got take one of the open exits.
Pedro, his voice shaking from the carnage, spoke to his remaining men.
“Disperse and gather all our men. Tell them to retreat back to the Palace. We’ll hold out there until Hernán returns with reinforcements.”
The conquistadors, their armor and weapons splattered with hot blood, broke off in different directions, leaving Pedro to himself.