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The Monarch’s Graveyard
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-257-7
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 79 Pages
Published: June 2005



From inside the flap

Meghan and Georgina Small bring mystery into their family’s life with a visit to a pen pal, Magdalene in Mexico. The family accepts an invitation to visit Mexico and soon the four children are involved in the mysteries of the Monarch butterfly and discover that Magdalene’s family has a responsibility handed down to them since the time of Montezuma. We are taken back into time and the secrets of Montezuma and the destruction of his empire at the hands of Cortes and his conquistadors. We also become involved in a modern mystery where the sacred places where the monarch’s return from their visit to America and Canada are being raided by unscrupulous people who have found a way of taking the monarchs that fill the trees and killing them to be shipped to market where the monarch wings are made into pieces of jewelry. Follow the Small children as they solve the mysteries of theburial ground of the Monarchs both the King and his secret messengers.

The Monarch’s Graveyard (Excerpt)


The Monarch’s Graveyard Prelude: The White Monarch

Azikin looked down from his secret, flat rock perch on a stone cliff to where the King of the World and all living things had his summer palace. The young boy always felt great passion and the glory when the soldiers, with their shields, spears, bows and arrows, came marching through the canyons to guard the King. They came by the thousands, wearing colourful feathered tassels. Each soldier denoted his rank with the feathers of the great many birds that thrived and bred in this part of the world. Orange oriole feathers distinguished the exalted rank of a division leader and Montezuma’s personal bodyguards displayed the tail feathers of the red tanager. Feathers of the bluebird and of the brown thrush signified the difference between a leader of a squad and a sergeant of a cohort. With the flashes of colour and the iridescence of the sun on the decorated bodies of these great bronzed warriors, the scene filled his mind. From his perch he watched enthralled by the sight. Each year he came to his lookout to drink in the marvels, as the hordes crossed the mountain and spread out over the plain before passing through the town to the palace of the King. Down below they came like a swarm of fire ants when something disturbed their nest; ready to attack and destroy anything that interfered with them. Soon the town’s square would become a rainbow of human strength and put a sense of fear and respect into the hearts of the local people.

***

Azikin remembered the first time he saw Montezuma. He was barely six years old then, and had accompanied his parents on their weekly trek to the marketplace when, suddenly, horns had sounded and the peasant class around him fell to their knees. He had watched spellbound as the King, Montezuma, the Ruler of the Universe, was carried on a gold throne to his palace. His orange and black cloak was so remarkable that the boy had stared and pointed in amazement.

"Oh, Father, look at his cloak! It’s made from the wings of butterflies!" the young Azikin had called out in his excitement.

His father had silenced him with an angry gesture. No one spoke in the presence of the King without permission.

From that moment on, Azikin knew the stories he had heard about a special place which lay hundreds of miles south must be true. That place was the capital city, Tenochtitlan, where it was rumored 100,000 people lived and from where Montezuma, the ?Gods? representative, ruled the earth. To see thousands of soldiers around him as they streamed forward in their annual migration to the summer palace and hear the strange humming sound with the tramp of many thousands of feet still sent shivers through him.

Here in Azikin’s world of rocky cliffs and spare forests the summers were cooler. Up in the pines, within two days walk of his father’s small farm, was the graveyard where millions of souls came from all parts of the earth to send messages to the Gods. They came in the guise of butterflies. It was common knowledge that when you died you had a chance to begin another life form. A butterfly took you to where the Gods could grant you another life. There could be no other reason for the skies to be turned into a blaze of orange. To see the trees covered with thousands of butterflies, and hear the wings beat as the messages were sent to the Gods was a sound and experience he could never forget. For Montezuma to wear a cloak made from the wings of these butterflies showed that he really was the Gods? representative on earth. No one else was allowed to wear anything made from butterflies. The penalty was always swift and certain. It was a death sentence to wear the souls of your ancestors and the ancients as part of your garments. It was a terrible insult, and might cause those who have died to wander aimlessly forever in the space between the different worlds. Everyone knew that. No one would ever kill a butterfly. If you did, then it would be like murder. Destroying a beautiful butterfly meant that the chance of some man, woman or child to gain a new life would be lost. No one would destroy a butterfly because if the Death Stalker, the creature that crept into your soul when the mind becomes careless, and plucks it from your body, came and took you, you still had a chance for another life, unless your messenger was killed. Butterflies were missives of the Gods.

From the moment he first saw Montezuma in the market years ago, when he was just a small boy, he knew what he wanted to do. Someday he would join the exalted ranks of Montezuma’s soldiers and carry his head high. He?d wear the colours, the feathered tassels that denoted rank and position. He would wear the uniform that shone: the copper woven chest guards, the brass wrist bracelets, and the ornate shin covers that acted like a drum, making the strumming and humming sound that even from beyond the hills heralded the approach to all those in their path of the greatest army in the world, the protectors of Montezuma. He looked at the simple clothing his mother had made for him; it was nothing compared to the uniform of Montezuma’s guards. Yes, that’s what he would do. He?d wait, and when he became older he?d ask his parent’s permission to leave the farm to take up the shield and spears and become a protector of his ruler.

Montezuma knew everything, even about a small 13-year old boy named Azikin. Seven years after Azikin’s first exposure to the King of the World a summons to appear before the King arrived. Azikin felt fear for the first time in his young life. Why had the soldier, the King’s messenger, traveled miles into the mountains to find him? He didn?t know what to do. Should he run away and hide? To fail to heed a royal command was impossible, but inwardly Azikin’s fear chilled his heart.

Azikin’s parents were frightened too. Had the Gods selected Azikin, their only son, for sacrifice? To be chosen as a sacrifice to the Gods was a tribute to their son’s virtue. To be chosen to die as a sacrifice to the Gods was an honour. Everyone knew that the victim’s family would receive gifts and higher social status. Yet it didn?t necessarily mean that was what the summons meant.

"Azikin, have you broken any of the sacred laws? Have you offended the Gods?" his father asked. "Azikin, what have you done to make it necessary for you to come before our King? Have you displeased him?"

"Father, I have done nothing wrong. Yet something strange did happen to me last week. I was working near the cornfield and listening to the birds singing, when out of nowhere a butterfly came towards me. It wasn?t like those we see flying high up in the mountains. It was white! It did not have a spot of orange on it. The black stripes were the same, but I have never seen a butterfly like that before. It came directly towards me and landed on my forehead. I didn?t know what to do. It stayed there for some time. I told the butterfly that I would not harm to it. I told it my name and that I thought it was beautiful in its white garb. It must have listened because it had no fear of me. Then it finally flew off towards the mountains. I felt very honoured."

"Yes, I have heard of the white version of these orange and black butterflies," his father said and his face looked deep in thought. "Son, no wonder the King demands your presence! That butterfly is called a White Monarch. It is said that it comes only when something monumental is about to happen. It might bring good news or it might be bad news. Those touched by it are destined to be great. Kings and nobles seek the advice of those so honoured. You must go to the King. The priests will show you what to do. They have the wisdom to allow you to repeat the secret message that the White Monarch gave you when he landed on your brow. My son, I am very proud of you."

His mother and father hugged him and suddenly his mother was in tears. "Oh, the Gods are good. I was worried that you were to be one of the chosen. We know that down in the capital, those chosen are destined to give up their souls when the priests cut out their hearts for a tribute, a sacrifice to the Gods."

So Azikin’s life changed. He was too surprised to question the orders of the King. He couldn?t have even if he wanted to. How did the King know about the White Monarch and himself? He had told no one about this. Had he received a secret message from this sacred butterfly? He didn?t know. When he fell asleep that night he had a terrible nightmare. Strange creatures with two heads, one of a man and the other with an elongated face; creatures that walked on four legs snorting and crying had filled his dreams. He had awakened in a cold sweat. In that nightmare he had seen the strangest form of canoe. It was so large that it stole fluffy white clouds from the sky and forced them to pull the large canoe over the water. That strange object held men who wore strange peaked hats made from a gray metal. It gleamed at him; its color reminded him of the cold look of a shark’s eye, compared to the gold and brass shields of the King’s own soldiers. Why he dreamed of these apparitions was beyond him. The nightmare had frightened him. In the early morning when he woke he didn?t want to go back to sleep. What could it all mean? Did the dream bring good news or bad? But the effects of his nightmare lingered as Azikin traveled with the King’s messenger to the capital Tenochtitlan. Those strange creatures, and men who looked like none he had ever seen before froze his heart. Why he had dreamt this worried him. It could only be an omen of evil and it frightened him.

He had never seen anything bigger than his village before; a city was totally different. Coming down from his poor home and arriving at the city of the King had filled his mind with wonder. The buildings were grand and carefully made from both stone and adobe bricks. Even the colours were mottled in red, green, yellow and orange. Everything he saw confirmed the magnificence of this city. The mass of people confused him, but the surrounding city that had grown up around the King’s palace was insignificant compared to the mass structures that sheltered the King and his household.

Azikin was welcomed into the King’s household. The priests protected the King and interpreted the messages from near and far. They wore robes of pure white edged in black borders, like the colours of the White Monarch. The material was not made of thick homespun wool like he and his neighbors wore. It had a smooth texture and the weave was so close that light failed to penetrate it. The gloss of the cloth made it shimmer and sparkle and the sun made it glow. Trailing after the priests were reams of cloth, which reminded Azikin of the tail of a guinea cock. Azikin soon learned the longer the tail of the robe, the greater indication of the wisdom of the priest and his rank. Each priest had a servant to look after the tail. The higher ranks of priests required more servants to arrange the tail. A priest with a lesser cloth tail interviewed him and told him what the White Monarch meant. The priests provided Azikin with examples of earlier visitations. They didn?t try to force him to reveal his inner thoughts. He learned the ways of the court. He began to learn to use all those useful things that scholars, builders and scientists learned. Once a month he was given a special potion.

When Azikin tasted the potion that was served to him in the strange curled shell of a sea creature, he didn?t know what to expect. Surely a bewitching enchantment would taste vile and disgusting. But never had he tasted anything like it. It was sweet and rich. It filled his mouth and his taste buds savoured the viscous, creamy, brown liquid. It made him feel blessed. His heart beat excitedly, then it became quiet. A strange feeling of tiredness came over him and he fell asleep. When Azikin went into a deep sleep, a priest sat patiently beside him and recorded his words, as the potion* slowly worked its magic in revealing the secret message of the White Monarch.

One day, after one of these sessions, the head priest, with a robe so long it took eight servants to hold it up to keep it from dragging on the ground, came and bade the boy to come with him to visit the King. Azikin felt his knees begin to shake. What had he told the priests during his strange and unquiet sleep?

He crawled along the floor before the King like he had been taught. The walls danced with the colours of rainbows. There the King sat on a throne of gold and precious stones which sparkled and dazzled, sending rainbows of colours across the room. The sight of the throne room and the mighty ruler Montezuma made Azikin feel small and unimportant.

* Today, we recognize this concoction as chocolate.

"Azikin!" the Supreme Ruler said, "come, sit on a pillow in front of my throne."

"Azikin, the priests have told me you are a clever lad and have worked hard in learning the administrative duties of a clerk. That is good to hear, and it shows that the White Monarch was wise in selecting you to bring his message."

The chief priest came forward in a bowing position. "Your Majesty, we now know the entire message that the White Monarch entrusted to the subconscious mind of Azikin. We have studied this message and must tell you, My Lord, that it is an omen that predicts evil. Strange creatures will come into your land. Soon men will come in canoes bigger than a house, and demand from you presents of gold and precious stones. These men can separate themselves from four-footed creatures that carry them in the way of an alpaca, but are like nothing we have ever seen before. The men are evil. They are not to be trusted. Those who fall within their control are destined to die or be forced into slavery. No one is safe! We have tried to understand, and advise Your Lordship of the best way to handle these invaders. You must attack them; send your entire army down to the seacoast and destroy them as they try to come inland. If they survive, then your Empire may not survive. You could be forced into a position where you too will be treated like a slave. The message from the White Monarch is a message to fight, My Lord."

Montezuma looked at his chief priest with horror. "How can this be? Our armies are invincible. Yet where do these invaders come from? Could they be Gods, as the legends predict? Is this not the year ?ce actal?? This is the year predicted that the God Quetzacoati will return. We must be certain before we do anything. Maybe they come in peace? If they are not Gods, then maybe they come to give me homage like the other border tribes do! It can not be as bad as you are saying."

Montezuma turned to Azikin. "You have done me great service. I now appoint you ?The Keeper of the Butterflies?. You and your family now and in the future must look after them. Let nothing harm them. For when harm comes to the butterflies so harm comes to the living, the dead and those that live in between the worlds. I give you a gift. It is the brightest of my jewels and the Crest of my Office. Some might think it is beyond value. Take it with you. Never let it go from your control or the control of your family. When you marry take it to your wife so she can hold it to her breast. She will be given healthy children after its touch, as will your children’s children.

This story that the White Monarch has given you foreshadows evil and the ruination of my Empire. I command you to go from my capital and find peace in the hills with ?The Messengers to the Gods?. Never come back here. If these invaders have the power to destroy my kingdom and myself, never let them find you with my jeweled Crest of Office. Azikin, go now. If the White Monarch means for us to destroy these strange invaders and we are successful, I will send a message to you. Until such time, it is your duty to look after the butterflies. I?ll give you gold, so that you can buy honey and feed them at the beginning of each month. It will show them that Montezuma honours them as they have honoured me."

And so it came to pass. After his two years in the capital, Azikin was leaving. He had gone to the city as a 14-year old boy and was returning home as an educated young man. The high priest escorted Azikin to the city limits. "Azikin, I fear that you will never come here again. Something is dreadfully wrong. Our King has suddenly become an indecisive man. No longer does he make decisions that are wise and show his might. Maybe the White Monarch with your news has affected his mind. I just don?t know. These foreigners will soon be here. Montezuma has already given his permission for them to come without fear of attack. He is wrong! They are not Gods. We have already heard that they have butchered peasants. They are not interested in peace tokens. They are filled with greed. Gods don?t do those things. In time we will know. Yet I know already. The White Monarch told us through you. Our kingdom is at risk and Montezuma does nothing. He sits like a feeble old man who has lost his powers of reason. You are not responsible for that. Go, with the protection of a trooper. You are a fine young man. Look after your new charges. They may need your help in time."

The invaders were not met with force. Montezuma was not a warlike monarch. He thought mountains of gold would satisfy the Spanish conquistadors. He knew little of the European mind. Each bar of gold made the Spanish want more. The more gold received, the more the troops were sent to Mexico, the newly discovered land that used gold as a common commodity. Montezuma finally understood the perils of dealing with Cortes, the Spanish leader. Many Spanish soldiers were killed, but the soldiers of Montezuma could not withstand the cannons and steel swords. Their brass and copper spears were quickly broken and their soldiers were slaughtered. Only when small groups of the Spanish conquistadors were overwhelmed by numbers was there a chance to defeat the invaders. The horses, those strange creatures, spread fear and Montezuma’s troops fled in panic when a squadron of horses charged into their midst. They had no history lesson to refer to. They knew nothing about Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who put fear into the Roman Empire by his use of elephants to defeat the Roman legions. They didn?t know that the Roman troops eventually learned to allow the elephants through their lines to be dealt with, while the cohorts continued with their solid phalanx of spearmen to oppose the enemy.

Slowly Montezuma’s country was taken from him and all the Aztec power wilted. Any gold hungry Spanish soldiers who had the misfortune to be captured by the Aztecs received more gold than they could swallow. They were put to death by having molten gold poured down their throats.

Back in the mountains, stories of all this strife and the destruction of the Aztec nation seemed only rumours. When those rumours were confirmed by escaping Aztec troops, it was already too late for the survival of the Aztec Empire.

Montezuma, in history, will always be a figure fraught with confusion. He ruled the Empire of the Aztec from 1480-1520. When Cortes invaded his country in 1519 he did nothing, when all that was necessary was to throw the weight of his armies immediately against the small number of Spanish troops. Yet he did nothing. He ignored his advisors. When Cortes reached the capital city Montezuma lavished gold upon him. Cortes saw in a moment that he could be destroyed easily and made Montezuma his captive. That further increased anger among the people and they soon rebelled.

Cortes called on Montezuma to speak to the people, and as the King tried to play the role of peacemaker the people reacted against him. No longer was he a representative of the Gods but a coward and they stoned him. He was struck down and died three days later. One wonders if he died of a broken heart because he was the one responsible for the destruction of one of the most elaborate and cultured nations on earth.

Azikin did what King Montezuma had ordered. He became ?The Keeper of the Messengers of the Gods?. There was no gold or wealth to be found in the isolated mountains and it was only once or twice that Spanish horsemen came near. The jeweled crest of Montezuma’s power was spirited away until it became only a distant memory that faded as Azikin’s lineage went through many generations. Azikin had fulfilled his promise and his charges were protected. He married and passed on his duties to his sons and daughters, as they did to their own in turn. In the mountains far from any sign of the European invaders, over the next 400 years his family kept true to his pledge. The Monarch butterflies found a sanctuary deep in the mountains. Only in the middle of the 20th century did the mysteries of the Monarch migration become known. Then, like the time when the Spanish came and conquered the Aztecs, did a new threat come and endanger these ?Messengers to the Gods?.