They crossed the dried-up fields and joined the procession of people making their way toward Azatl. Omechoka’s jaguar armor inspired immediate respect. The beleaguered families and haggard young man all gave them a wide berth. Until another, larger man, also wearing jaguar armor came along, accompanied by 10 strong-looking. This man challenged Omechoka with a cryptic greeting and, when Omechoka did not respond, accused him of not being a real jaguar warrior. As the two faced off, Omechoka insulted Tezcatlipoca and promised that he would fight to the death rather than be sacrificed to him or any of the other gods. He freely admitted that he had never captured a single prisoner and had stolen his jaguar armor from a warrior whom he had killed in ambush. Such sacrilege so distressed the larger man that he ordered one of retainers to fight the duel in his place, encouraging him to do his best to capture Omechoka and so proceed to the next warrior rank.
The other warrior fought with a maca, while Omechoka fought with a knife in each hand. They circled, Omechoka, constantly backing away from the wildly swung maca. As Omechoka retrated, the other warriors tightened the circle, and one of them pushed him into the way of his opponents weapon. The blade caught him above the ear and he was sent sprawling. He lay face down in the dirt. The jaguar warrior and his retainers cheered and the warrior brought out a rope to bind Omechoka. Omechoka let the warrior grab his arm, and then sprung into action. He kicked with his legs and stabbed the would-be captor in the armpit the warrior went down. His companions rushed into stop him from dying and the jaguar warrior ordered Omechoka to take his prisoner. “You have defeated him. Take him to the temple and give him the honor he has earned.” Omechoka, still bewildered by the ways of city people, bound the man.
Omechoka himself was badly weakened by his wounds, so Zolin took charge of the prisoner. As they proceeded toward Azatl, the other travelers were even more deferential than before.
Azatl did not seem to offer anything like what the travelers had expected when they left Otoch so many months before. There were many more people, but they were all hungry. Many of the houses were in ruins. From the tops of the tall pyramids, fires burned day and night, but the constant sacrifices seemed to have purchased little in the way of divine favor. In the market, those with money found little they wanted to buy—jewelry, feather clothing, and fine pottery were available. But food was scare, half-spoiled and still too expensive.
The travelers spent the night in an abandoned house and the next day returned to their place on the cliff.
After a few days, it was clear that the sick people weren’t getting better. Hoscotl thought that they should go back to Azatl to buy medicine and perhaps to find out something about the cloak of the one plume. If they could find it and bring it back to the Village of the Cetay, then they would be honored and welcomed for a long time. Omechoka, still nursing his injuries, and Divemoye took his place.
Divemoye was shocked at the desperation of the of families traveling to Azatl. He gave away all the food he carried and agreed to adopt a child from parents too poor to take care of him. As the travelers reached the city, other migrants noticed that they carried plenty of food and begged to trade something for some of it. Zolin firmly excluded Divemoye from these negotiations, and through shrewd trading, acquired a gold quill from a sunken-faced merchant. This merchant said he could get them medicine, too, and also knew something about the cloak of the one plume. He asked them to meet him that evening and told them where to find his house.
The travelers spent the rest of the days, looking for a safe place to rest. They stayed well away from the pyramids where priests were preparing sacrifices. The quiet parts of the city were barricaded and patrolled by jaguar warriors. In the other parts of the city, they couldn’t avoid deserving beggars.
At nightfall, they found the merchants house. They traded some more food for the promised medicine and listened to the merchant’s tale. In these strange times, the beast people, including half-human jaguar were showing themselves again. A group of tabaxi had come to Tezat recently, stating that they knew the location of the cloak of one-plume and intended to retrieve it. The jaguar warriros, not knowing what else to do, killed or captured the tabaxi. At least one was still waiting to be sacrificed. Zolin noted this with interest, intuiting that his face would be to seek the rescue the tabaxi.
And then there were some surprise visitors. Three men, with macas and spears, who demanded all the travelers’ food. The merchant seemed little surprised. Divemoye charged the leader of the thieves, striking at him with his bronze-headed axe. The man was a powerful warrior; he repelled Moye’s blows and pushed his way into the room. The other two thieves chased Hoscotl and the porters into the corner of the room, stabbing them with their spears. Paal stepped forward to defend Divemoye from the lead warrior while Zolin attacked and killed one of the spearmen. The powerful warrior struck Paal a grievous blow and demanded again that Zolin surrender his food. Instead, Zollin killed the second spearman with his stone axe. The powerful warrior did not like these odds. He fled, warning the travelers that they wouldn’t leave the city alive.
Zolin turned on the merchant. He tearfully apologized and promised both that the medicine was real and the information about the tabaxi was true. He returned some of the food that Zolin had traded.
It was now night but the travelers decided to flee immediately. They climbed up onto the merchant’s house and crossed the rooftops to leave the city.