Starting Point: At the Festival of Ah Mun


From the Tikal Chamber of Commerce’s “Welcome to Tikal” guidebook:

“In spring, visitors to Tikal can participate in the Festival of Ah Mun, the god of maize. The pageantry of this all-important Mayan festival will draw you deeper into our culture. Our people are friendly and are willing to indulge tourists up to a point. The point is one of sacrilege.

More than one festival has nearly been ruined by a well meaning, but misguided individual, who mistakenly tries to stop the ritual sacrifice of a criminal or slave. The Maya do not take this lightly, and it is quite possible that you’ll end up as the next sacrifice.

However, watching is also not an option. Mayan religious practices are an interactive ritual. Hallucinogenic drugs, balche, an intoxicating drink made from honey and the bark of the balche tree, ololiuqui seeds, and other herbs and plant extracts will be… given to you. It will be expected that you take them, so do so, just keep your detox packs handy for afterwards, because you’re going on a little trip. Smokers are warned to stay away from Mayan cigars, as the nicotine level in them is enough to induce hallucinations.

As pointed out, the climax of the festival will be the sacrifice of a criminal or slave, as well as a blood offering of the current ruling monarch of Tikal, 9 Jaguar. The human sacrifice is performed in the traditional method, with obsidian daggers with the sacrifice bound prostrate on the altar.

When 9 Jaguar gives his sacrifice, do not be alarmed if several Maya around spontaneously shed blood from themselves too, either by piercing their genitals with knives or needles, or running a barbed cord through their tongues. If you decide to join in, please use the sterile needles in your kit, provided for this eventuality.”

June made her way through the market at the edge of the ceremonial district of Tikal, looking for her partner in crime. “Damn, damn,” she swore, looking at her wrist com, “Where is Alan!” She tapped her com and said in a harsh whisper, “Alan, were are you?! I’m in the market like you asked.”

The subdermal node at the base of her ear activated. “Oi, I’m here! Where are you?”

She looked about and then described her location, “I’m by a rug merchant. He has blue feathers on his awning.” She looked across the lane teeming with tourists and locals. “Kittycorner to it is a basket seller with a large woven monkey on his roof.”

“Ah! I see that,” replied Alan inside her head, “I’ll be there inna mo!”

Soon, the multi-colored capixay wearing young man was trotting up to June. “Hello my dear!” he said with a too wide smile on his face, “Are we ready to get dangerous?”

Realizing that Alan had taken some of the locals’ ololiuqui, she grabbed him by the ear and pulled him into a space between two stalls. “Be quiet you fool! My cousin’s life depends on us being clear headed! We only have a few days before he’s executed at the festival of Ah Mun! So take your detox pill!”

Alan gave her a giggle, pulled his detox pack out and popped a pill. He then promptly regretted that, as he threw up whatever he had had in his stomach. “Bugger! I hate that stuff. I’ll be alright in a mo June.”

“You better be!” she hissed at him, “What have you found out?”

So, what did Alan find out? Why is June’s cousin up for sacrifice by the Mayans? How do they plan to escape?

Image: Classic Maya ©Peter E. Spier 

At the Festival of Ah Mun ©2015 John H. Reiher Jr.

  • Steven Lyle Jordan

    “I found the Ixta family, right where old trader said they’d be,” Alan said after a moment to compose himself. “I only had a few minutes with them, but they had proof that their daughter, Nona, had spurned the advances of one of 9 Jaguar’s senior staff.”

    Alan coughed on the sour taste of the vomit still in his throat, and had to grab for his water bottle. After a second, he continued: “They said your cousin Dex had been visiting them when Nona was chosen for the very next sacrifice, and knew Nona’s story.”

    “No,” June moaned, knowing what was coming.

    “When he started publicly accusing them of intentionally ‘choosing’ people for sacrifice out of personal spite, they arrested him on the spot,” Alan finished.

    “Dammit! Dammit!” June hissed and fought the urge to stamp her feet, mindful of attracting too much attention from the locals. “Trust Dex to go all righteous at just the wrong time!” She took a moment to compose herself, and glanced about furtively to make sure they weren’t being overheard.

    “So, now we know why he was chosen for today’s sacrifice,” she finally said. “But is there anything we can do about it… that won’t just get us arrested and sacrificed next moon?”

  • Leonardo Faria

    I’m a trekker and won’t violate the Prime Directive, so I’ll sit and watch the Ah Mun festival without interfering.
    Also, I watched Apocalypto and that led me to inscribe on bronze the Second Directive: “You shall not f**k up with the Mayas”.
    Good luck to you all.

  • Paulo R. Mendes

    Hummm… I remember of this world. Tikal was colonized by Mayans taken from Earth by one of the Achailects… what is the name? oh, yeah! The Eternal Gardener. It is a beautiful world, but it was hit hard by the Jagarans when they initiated their 50º Expansion Cycle – now it is being strip mined to suply their forces in the sector. Their capital city – also called Tikal – now lies in ruins.

    • Leonardo Faria

      The obsidian dagger tool is consistent with the ritual of the heart removal (originally Aztecan), which furnishes a historical clue about when the Mayans were kidnapped (or whatever they did to take them away from the Earth). The ritual was performed in the so called postclassic period (900-1524). However, it seems that the victim of this ritual was usually a courageous warrior, and by no means a slave or a criminal. The captivity on Tikal had to affect their mores very badly.

      • Paulo R. Mendes

        Well, the Megafauna in Tikal is very, very… how can I said? badass and tough. There is few secure zones where one can build a city without fear of see it invaded by Night Horrors (!) or (uuuugh!) Korloggs. D:

    • I like your thinking. Stargate really should have given us some better central American people than the Tolan 🙁
      I think John was going for more of an alternate history thing though. Tikal is an ancient city in Guatemala. I’m guessing he’s imagining that the Mayan civilization never went into decline.

      • Paulo R. Mendes

        Probably. But I still prefer my vision of this Starting Point over that dumb Tolans from Stargate. 😉

        • Leonardo Faria

          Call it Nova Tikal, and place the venue wherever you like at stargate range.

          • John H Reiher Jr

            That’s a Latin name. A quick google and “New Tikal” would be Tumben Tikal, in Mayan.

            • Leonardo Faria

              Good point, okay for Tumben Tikal then. Although, wherever there’s a chamber of commerce pitching the charm of human sacrifices to paying tourists, I think the marketing folks, in their brand policy, will care more about appealing to the cultural background of the visitors than about philological and ethnological accuracy.

          • Paulo R. Mendes

            Good idea.