As the sound of the train receded in the distance the small group headed into the fog shrouded jungle in the dying light of day. They were on edge. Sean got a little frantic when he heard an owl in the jungle. Their mule was the coolest one of the bunch.
Tex found a trail down to the river and led them upstream as Jackson’s note indicated. They had some trouble but eventually found the remains of a camp. It had been abandoned for a while. They found broken cots, torn tents, empty bottles, an old fire pit, and an empty pack of Lucky Strike’s, Jackson’s brand. Most worrisome was the spots of old dried blood Dr Kelly found on a rock. Something bad had happened here.
They decided to set up camp when they heard the sound of chimes in the jungle. The chimes did not match the wind. Soon the chimes were joined by some chaotic sounds from a flute like instrument and the manic “music” soon picked up tempo. Suddenly, a sickly, intense red glow bursts to life in the jungle about 60 feet away. It appears to be coming from the ground, and casts long, strange shadows into the surrounding trees. The smell of sulfur wafts in on the breeze, and the flutes and chimes suddenly go silent.
Rising in the nearby jungle, partially obscured by the thick undergrowth, is what appears to be a man-like figure with a beaked, birdlike head. The figure is back lit by the red glow, and it holds a flaming skull.
It addressed them in raspy slurred spanish:
“Here is the skull of a trespasser! I
am Ah Puch, who escaped from Mitnal
and now I walk the earth. You will leave
all your food and goods here and never
return to this place or I will eat your soul
and steal your skull and… eat your
children! Quickly, I hunger!”
Tex shouted something snarky at the menacing figure in the jungle, it responded “Fools! I call los demonios from below the earth!” Rising up in the jungle were two figures. Both of them have faces, chest, arms and legs painted white in a skeleton-motif which contrasts with their dark skin. In the darkness, they appear fearsome as they lope forward, arms waving crazily.
Chaos ensued as the los demonios on the right seemed to fall and disappear from view. The other one continued forward howling maniacally and Tex shot over his head. The demonios threw a ball of magic at Tex which struck the ground nearby and began filling the jungle with horrible smelling yellow smoke. Dr Kelly threw a log at the demonios and hit him in the head. He yelped in pain and began dancing about holding his head. Another shot rang out and the owl headed figure in the jungle seemed to jump down from his perch, tear off his face and run away into the jungle. Tex menaced the howling demonios who also fled. Sean had been circling around and gave chase to the demonios but he proved too slippery and escaped.
Tex found the first demonios in the jungle groaning and holding his ankle. It was a local painted in makeup who had tripped over a log. Taking him back to their camp, Dr Kelly splinted the ankle. They found out his name was Jose, he was smelly and missing a bunch of teeth. It also became apparent he was not the smartest of creatures, and the fact that he was drunk and high on marijuana made interrogating him rather difficult. Tex went round and round with the drunken stoned idiot in an epic battle of wits. Jose didn’t know much, but they could piece together he was a villager that had fell in with a group of unsavory characters led by a man called Estaban Santos, a gringo from Texas. Santos led about 15 men, including one that scared Jose very much named Antonio Lopez. Apparently Santos was holed up in the nearby ruins and held prisoner one gringo, two mexican men, and two local boys.
Eventually they let Jose go and scouted the ruins. It took them a day and a half to reach them as they had some difficulty in the jungle. Along the way they found an ancient stele (obelisk). Barely discernible weathered Mayan hieroglyphs along one side. While the script is undecipherable (and will remain so for several decades) the imagery is clear, even by lantern light—a skeletal figure standing atop a mass of skulls looking upwards, flanked by two owls, all in a cave or chamber. Several scrolls (or perhaps smoke) reaches upwards out of the mouths of the figures depicted on the stele. Atop this scene stand a group of Mayans in elaborate animal costumes (priests perhaps), each of whom is holding some artifact—some corn, a knife, a bowl, a rod, and a disk. They flank a taller figure that holds what appears to be a pyramid. The top portion of the stele is broken off and cannot be located.
The ruins were nestled in a jungle valley near a bend in the river. The pyramid was up against the steep valley wall on the other side of the valley with long stone steps leading up to it. The ruins were badly overgrown by the jungle. Sean sneaked in and found a camp set up at the base of the steps. He saw at least 8 heavily armed locals at the camp, and one guard watching the valley. They men at the camp appeared bored and just sitting around playing cards. They formulated a plan.
They snuck around the valley to the cliffs above the pyramid. After dark Sean and James climbed down the steep jungled slopes to the back of the pyramid. They could see campfires at the base of the steps and torches near the top by the pyramid. Sean took a tumble and the noise attracted a guard. They were able to subdue the guard and take the rather nice new Mauser he had. Why did this local have such an expensive new rifle?
There were no other guards at the top of the stairs. They found the entrance to the pyramid to be lit by two torches. It was a crack in the stone and they had to crouch to crawl in. Inside they found a small room where the gring Estaban and the mexican Lopez were playing cards. They got the drop on them and Sean leveled the Mauser he had taken on Lopez. A true mexican standoff ensued as Estaban and Lopez had their hands on their guns, but Sean had the advantage on Lopez. Having some experience with the sort, Sean soon realized Lopez was bat shit crazy enough to go for his gun even though Sean had the drop on him. Sean became nervous and locked in on Lopez who smiled and winked. James Waldorf and “Senior Estaban” began negotiating. Estaban had a noticeable texas accent.
Soon it became obvious Estaban had Jackson and some others prisoner in the pyramid. Estaban indicated that he couldn’t let James and Sean leave and certainly couldn’t give up the prisoners. However, if they were willing to stay at the pyramid for a few more days, Estaban could conclude his “business” and then “what y’all do from there ain’t no nevermind to me.”
James was unsure what to do, but Sean was sure he didn’t want to become a prisoner here in a Mexican jungle! He pulled the trigger. Lopez noticed something in Sean’s eyes and moved just as Sean shot and Sean missed. Lopez pulled his revolver as he dove for cover and rained lead down on the irish gangster. Sean threw down the bolt action rifle and went for his 45, firing back as he ducked back into the cover of the entranceway. Estaban lept to his feet and kicked James in the head, who went reeling back. James and Estaban struggled, exchanging blows, but soon Estaban had James grappled on the ground. Meanwhile, Sean had been wounded by slugs from Lopez’s 38, but was able to get a lucky shot in and plugged Lopez in the head dropping him dead. Sean turned the gun on Estaban who quickly surrendered. “Now now, I’m sure we can work this all out pardners!” he said with a wry smile.
Meanwhile up on the cliff, Tex and Dr Kelly heard the sound of gunfire ring out in the pyramid. Apparently so did the men in the camp as they saw torches heading for the stairs and bunch of armed men heading for where their friends had gone.