Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 24 - Part I

Jenny sat in the excavated kiva and stared at the completely exposed skeleton of the Magician. The men had gone outside to drink beer and watch the sun go down, leaving her alone to mull over the contents of the incredible burial.

As they had unearthed each prehistoric item, Jenny had tried to explain its purpose; before long, she had drawn the Magician into these conversations as a silent third part, asking him to confirm her explanations. At some point along the way, Jenny had started hearing the Magician's answers to her rhetorical questions. Doing cocaine for days without food or sleep, can cause one to see and hear some pretty crazy shit.

As the day drew to a close, B.T. had announced a break and had granted Jenny's request for thirty minutes to compile some notes on the dig, in the cause of science. Jenny now sat cross-legged in the dirt, facing the Magician, transcribing her analysis of the excavation. She was wired, her tired brain speeding at a hundred miles a minute.

Who was the Magician? He was obviously a man of great power, otherwise, he wouldn't have been buried with all of this marvelous treasure. They had already uncovered over six hundred burial offerings inside the grave, including turquoise from New Mexico; argillite from central Arizona; sea shells from the California coast, the Sea of Cortes, and the Gulf of Mexico; and feathers and bird effigies from mainland Mexico. The scope of the artifacts discovered so far was truly mind-boggling: decorated ceramic vessels, hand-woven baskets, a beargrass burial mat, large obsidian blades, projectile points, and small stone ornaments. This last group included pendants, nose plugs, necklace beads, a beaded skull cap, seashell fishhooks, and chisels and awls made of animal bone.

There were also several strange offerings that made little sense: rattles made from the nests of trapdoor spiders, a cottonwood root painted with red and blue symmetrical designs, and several ornamental mountain lion claws and teeth. There were wooden tubes and gourds, along with several small plates filled with different minerals: green malachite, blue azurite, and crystals of red cinnabar. In addition, there were wooden cups and bowls, tiny bows and arrows, and small pendants depicting various birds and insects.

The most spectacular find so far had been the nine perfectly preserved sword-swallowing wands. They had been arranged in three sets of three wands each, and grouped in a small-medium-large sequence. The wands in the smallest set were about ten inches long, and each had a differently colored deer hoof carved on one end, while the other end was serrated to a dull point. The ones in the second set were a foot long, and decorated on the top end with intricately carved human hands of green, red, and blue. The wands in the final set were about fifteen inches long, and had been carved in the shape of deer horns covered with wafer-thin pieces of turquoise. They were not only the finest articles in the burial, they were also the only items which shed conclusive light on the true identity of the Magician.

The modern Hopis of Northern Arizona spoke of an ancient ceremony called the "Motswimi", or Sword-Swallowing Ritual. It was thought to be associated with witchcraft, and up until the early 1900s had been practiced by some of the Tewa warrior clans who lived atop the Hopi mesas. According to the Hopis, it was supposed to strengthen the spirit of the participant and was conducted by a "Qaletaqa", or "strong man" of the Warrior Society. During the ceremony, the priest swallowed decorated wands of varying lengths and invoked the protection of predatory animals like bears and mountain lions. The nine wooden wands had been made sometime in the early 1100s, but clearly linked the Magician to the Hopis of the 20th century.

Jenny estimated the length of the skeleton at about six feet, which meant he was much taller than his fellow inhabitants of the Paria Plateau, who rarely grew to more than five feet tall. Like his contemporaries, he had a square-set jaw, high cheekbones, and a very pronounced forehead. He would have looked very much like a modern Pueblo Indian.

In the blink of an eye, the Magician came to life. He stood over the dirty, sweat-soaked archaeologist, whose mouth quivered as she blinked her eyes in amazement. Towering over her was the Magician, now wearing all the funeral finery they had unearthed from the burial. He looked like a God.

"Rise, Redhair, and behold the answers to your questions."

Jenny rose on shaky legs and reached out to touch the face of the regal Indian. "You're real!"

The Magician chuckled softly. "I have never doubted my existence. Have you?"

Jenny wiped her matted hair out of her eyes and made a conscious effort to stand straight. "Dead men normally stay in the ground."

The Magician looked amused. "Even after they've been dug up and their bones scattered to the four sacred winds?"

"I apologize," stammered Jenny, clearly at a loss for words. "Are you a ghost?"

The Magician frowned. "The word means nothing to me. I am a Warrior whose body has slept peacefully for many ages. I have watched in horror as you pulled my bed apart so you could steal my possessions. Do you not realize I need these gifts in the next world? Without my spear points, how will I hunt? Without my bowls, how will I drink? Without my plates, how will I eat? Without my rattles, how will I make my music? Without my paints, how will I create beauty? What could make you want to steal from the dead, White-Skinned Girl?"

Jenny looked embarrassed. "Believe me, it wasn't my idea. I am the prisoner of some men who have forced me to do this."

The Magician shook his head. "I do not understand."

"These men are murdering thieves and they plan to get rich off your inheritance. They captured me and I agreed to help them dig the grave so they wouldn't destroy most of your personal effects. They're greedy fools, who have no idea what they're doing."

The Magician's eyebrows raised in dismay. "And you do?"

Jenny felt foolish and tiny. "I have studied ancient Indian cultures. It is my life's work. I try to make some sense of your time."

"By stealing from us?"

"Look, what do you want from me?" cried Jenny. "Do you want your pots and baskets back? Well, I can't give them to you! They're history. They'll be sold to people all around the world. And believe me, the world's a whole lot bigger than it was in your day."

The Magician smiled as he shook his head in disagreement. "Then we must find a way to defeat them."

Jenny laughed. "Do you have some guns with you? 'Cause that's what it's going to take to bring these men down. They don't screw around."

The Magician pursed his lips. "You have many tools at your disposal. Use them."

"Yeah, like what?"

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