Welcome back to Assassin's Retirement. Zane is about to find out what is going on...
Copyright Lexi Ander
The long walls facing East and West had open faced windows. The horizon of the setting sun was shot through with magnificent colors from gold to crimson. Stars, more stars than Zane had seen in a long while, already started to shine in the layers of indigo of the darkening sky above the treetops. Where the hell was he—were they?
The room was huge. At the opposite end was a low banquet table piled high with food, some he didn't recognize. The North and South walls were completely painted with more scenes. A massive crocodile being split apart by shadowed beings and fashioned into land. People like Alonzo, giants foraging for food, cultivating the land, riding… was that a prehistoric Terror Bird? Huge beak like a macaw's and a heavy head, two long strong legs with huge clawed feet, and tiny wings. The creature had been one of South America's top predators. How had the Maricoxi tamed and ridden it? The next panel was of the sun falling from the sky into the ocean. Jaguars whirled up from the depths of the water, swimming to the shore. In their midst was a black Jaguar the size of a mammoth. When they reached shore, they chased the Maricoxi, eating them.
Oh, that couldn't be good. Zane immediately headed to the only door on the west side. Stepping out, he found himself on a torch-lit platform. A shiver rushed over his skin as if he had walked through some kind of barrier. The sound of the night creatures filled the air, almost deafening compared to the quiet the room. Zane stepped back into the room discovering that more than sound was being blocked. From the inside he confirmed the view hadn't been lit by torches, the view only that of a dark landscape. Moving to the window, he reached out his hand, stopping when he felt the electrical zip across his skin. If he turned his head, he could barely see a purple haze around his hand.
Withdrawing, he rubbed at his face and came away with some kind of yellow paste… face paint? His frustration growing, he left the hall again. He needed to find Alonzo and a way out of this dream. Walking to the edge of the platform, he found he was on top of a step pyramid. The stairs were blocked off by the encroaching jungle, the saplings and thick vines had created a barrier. It looked as if no one had ventured that way for a long, long time. Voices carried on the wind and Zane turned, but no one was there. He hurried around the building, reminding himself to be careful. But the closer he came to the sound of people talking, he was sure Alonzo was the one speaking.
Cautiously peering around the corner, Zane frowned. Alonzo knelt before a stained carved-stone altar. He was huge, a giant, hairy man possibly twelve feet tall if he had been standing. As it was, Alonzo was still taller than him while kneeling. Zane was staggered by the sudden rush of relief, but it was short-lived when he realized who Alonzo spoke to: the being of smoke who had appeared in the middle of his living room.
"Please, do not take Zane from me."
Zane hated the begging quality of Alonzo's voice. No one could make him leave.
"You would rather die?" the being asked.
Zane charge from the corner, and Alonzo glanced at him in surprise then with fear when he looked to the… Alonzo had claimed this being was a god, but Zane didn't care. He placed himself between the god and Alonzo, feeling like a mouse among elephants when he looked up and up some more to meet the luminous amber eyes within the smoky figure. He didn't know what was going on. He thought he should say something but wasn't sure what. Before Cord and Crimson Comet had entered his life, Zane wasn't sure he believed in God much less multiple gods. Today he had come face-to-face with not only one, but two.
He held out his palm for a handshake. "We haven't been formally introduced. I am Zane Snow Cortese and Alonzo is mine. While I'm staking territory, so to speak, the people in the… house," Zane motioned to the building behind the god. "They are mine as well, and I will protect what I claim."
Skyld had taught Zane how to hide his emotions but he wanted this being to know he wasn't bluffing. God or not, Zane would find a way to crushed them if they posed a threat.
"I know who you are." The air around the god shifted, crackled with power, and Zane was suddenly faced with a massive black Jaguar—just like in the story panel. "I have been called by many names over the eons. Many lost to time, forgotten by the People, or simply renamed. I have been called Titlacauan, Ipalne Moani, Manikin Sceptor, Father Ocelotl, Necoc Yaotl, Lord of the Near and Nigh, Smoking Mirror, Tepeyollotl, Father of the Night Sky, Possessor of the Sky and Earth, Yohaulli Ehecatl, Ome Acatl, and most recently Black Tezcatlipoca or simply Tezcatlipoca."
Zane hoped he wouldn't have to remember all of that. He swallowed, his mouth arid dry. "Nice to meet you." He waved before he dropped his hand, thinking well, not really. But one did not say such things to a god.
As if he'd heard Zane's thought, the Jaguar grinned, revealing very big sharp teeth.
"I just stopped by to pick up Alonzo. We will get out of your way as soon as I find a door out of this… place."
Behind him, Alonzo snorted out a laugh and the noise eased Zane's apprehension. That wasn't a sound of fear, so Zane trusted they weren't in imminent danger. But the thought was fleeting as he recalled the story panel of jaguars eating the fleeing Maricoxi.
When Alonzo touched his back, Zane turned, still keeping the jaguar in his line of sight but also able to look up into Alonzo's face. There he found reassurance, a silent promise that Alonzo would keep him safe. Zane might have melted a little bit at the endearing expression.
"We protect each other. We are partners," Zane said into the silence.
Alonzo's enormous hand cupped the whole of Zane's torso and pulled him back into Alonzo's splendidly hairy chest. He didn't resist. This felt so right, and he always trusted his instincts.
"Why are you not afraid of him?" the jaguar asked, sitting primly on his haunches.
Zane was immediately annoyed, his attention pulled away from Alonzo. As absurd as the timing was Zane wanted to wallow in Alonzo's embrace. He'd never felt more connected to anyone in his life, not even living with Skyld had given him this sense of belonging.
"I don't know why," he finally responded.
Unintentionally, his eyelids fluttered closed. Alonzo's hand was still wrapped around his torso and the bottom of it kept brushing against Zane's dick. His body reacted to the sensation as if he hadn't had sex in a year. Well, if he didn't count the quick hand job with Alonzo the other night, then yes, it had been a year since he had intercourse. He clawed his way up from the fog of lust, not surprised to find Tezcatlipoca staring intently at him.
"I am not afraid of anything that is happened so far," he confessed. His reactions and possessiveness of Alonzo. The visceral attraction he had toward all six members of Crimson Comet, he was aware that all of it was unnatural. But he was also hard-pressed to bring himself to care.
The jaguar rose and prowled around the darkly stained altar, his whiskers brushing the stone before he gave the surface a long lick. Alonzo seemed to trust Tezcatlipoca, but Zane was well read in ancient Rome, Greek, and Norse myth. One thing that was the same across the regions was: gods were fickle, giving favor one moment in taking it away the next. They could be vengeful. Just that afternoon he had watched the crone aspect of the Goddess Anatha turn Ella into stone. What little he knew about Tezcatlipoca came from Aztec lore, and they had a bloody history of sacrificing humans to all their gods. At the moment, Tezcatlipoca was licking the stone altar like a bloodstained popsicle. Zane would err on the side of caution and protect Alonzo.
Table of Contents
Chapter Two - Normal is not supposed to be this hard
Chapter Three - Caught
Chapter Four - Crimson Comet
Chapter Five - Mountain Magic
Chapter Six, Part 1 - Harbinger of a Nightmare
Chapter Six, Part 2 -
Chapter Seven, Part 1 - Stolen Answers
Chapter Seven, Part 2 -
Chapter Eight, Part 1 - No such thing as heroes
Chapter Eight, Part 2 -
Chapter Nine, Part 1 - Dead is supposed to be... dead
Chapter Nine, Part 2 -
Chapter Ten, Part 1 - Gathering Allies
Chapter Ten, Part 2
Chapter Eleven - Combustible
Chapter Twelve - Standing His Ground
Chapter Thirteen - Choices
Chapter Fourteen, Part 1
Chapter Fourteen, Part 2
Chapter Fifteen, Part 1 - To kill, or not to kill
Chapter Fifteen, Part 2
Chapter Sixteen - Maricoxi Guardians
Chapter Seventeen - Coincidence?
Chapter Eighteen, Part One - Guns Ablazin'
Chapter Eighteen, Part Two
Chapter Nineteen, Part One - Reckoning
Chapter Nineteen, Part Two
Chapter Twenty - Mercy
Chapter Twenty-Two, Part One
Chapter Twenty-Two, Part Two
Chapter Twenty-Two, Part Three
Chapter Twenty-Five, Part 1
Chapter Twenty-Five, Part 2