The brothers planted a corn plant in the middle of the house and told their mother. “Mother, as long as we are alive and well, this plant will flourish. If it withers away, it means we are dead. Then you will have to take care of Chouen and Batz. Make them wise and learned in arts and craft. But never let them play the ball game lest they attract the attention of the Lords of Xibalba”
So saying they set out on their journey. The owls flew ahead showing them the way. The owls took them to the mouth of a cave. The cave was too narrow for them to enter. But there was no need to worry. The brothers were powerful magicians and they had the power to transform into any animal of their choice. One Hunaphu transformed into a rat and burrowed his way into the cave. Once he was on the other side Seven Hunaphu called from the other side, “Brother One Hunaphu, show thy true self. For you are not a rat but the most powerful wizard!” And One Hunaphu immediately transformed into his human form on the other side. It was now Seven Hunaphu’s turn to enter the cave.
Down the cave they descended into the underworld. Suddenly they were stopped by a pit filled with scorpions and snakes. They descended into the pit. The snakes bit them and scorpions stung. But they just walked over and crossed over to the other side for they were immune to all forms of poisons. Next they had to cross a river of pus and blood. The river looked so gory that any normal human would have fainted at its very sight. But here were the earth’s two most powerful wizards. They coolly swam through the blood and the pus. Their success in crossing these obstacles emboldened them. Their initial fear was now gone. Was this all the Lords had? They felt confident about facing the underworld Lords.
They were now at a cross road. There had come from one road. They had to choose from the three roads. The first road said, “I am the royal road, the road of kings. Walk along me and I will give you power. Absolute power! Even death will bow to your power if you walk along my path! ”
The second road said, “I am the golden road, the road of warriors. Walk along me and I will give you strength. Invincible strength! Strength that will strike down even death in one blow!”
The third road said, “I am a humble road, the road of truth. I cannot make you powerful or strong but you will be wise and able to see things in their real form.”
One Hunaphu without hesitation chose the road of power for power had always been his companion above the earth. Seven Hunaphu chose the road of strength for he was a man of brawn who could knock his way through every obstacle. As all roads above the ground lead to Rome, all roads below the ground lead to Xibalba. Soon both the brothers found themselves in Xibalba fortified by power and strength. Even the Lords of Xibalba would be no match for them.
The Lords of Xibalba were cunning. They knew they could not match the Hunaphu brothers in a straight match of strength and skill. They had to be more devious in their approach. The two Lords sat on the high throne and other lords sat on the lower seats on the sides. The two Lords moved to the side of the throne and placed two wooded dummies on the seats. The two brothers had never seen the Lords of Xibalba and had no idea how they looked. They assumed the ones on the throne would be the Lords. So they walked in proudly and addressed the wooden dummies, “Greetings to you, Lord One Death. Hope you are keeping well, Lord Seven Death.”
Immediately all the lords burst out laughing. The brothers realized their mistake and were shamed. Being shamed at the first contact took the wind out of their sail and they did not feel so powerful any longer. It did not feel so powerful to be a laughing stock.
One Death addressed the brothers, “Welcome to the Land of death, ball players of the middle world. Please accept our hospitality and take your seat.” So saying they beckoned to the two empty seats.
Within moments of having seated themselves our heroes jumped up, yowling in pain. The death Lords again burst out laughing again. For they had prepared special read hot stones and disguised them as seats. The heroes were now in pain and properly humiliated even before the game. The Lords of Xibalba had won the first round – the battle of the minds. That was most important. Battles were usually won or lost in the minds. The battle on battlefield was just an enactment of a pre-decided event of the minds.
Seven Death addressed them, “All arrangements have been made for the match. Let us begin the match early tomorrow morning. You have traveled a long way to reach here. So take rest and prepare yourself for an enticing match tomorrow. We have arranged sleeping quarters for you in the House of Darkness. Hope you find it comfortable.”
So saying, he clapped his hands. A few strange looking creatures emerged. One Death spoke up, “These are the guardians of the House of Darkness. They will take you to your quarters. They will provide you with a torch and cigar for your comfort. Hope you enjoy them. “
Now it was the turn of Blood Gatherer to speak, “I just wanted to tell you about a rule of the underworld. Anything given to you at any of the Houses has to be returned to the guardians in the same condition they were given to you. Failing which your lives will be forfeit. Enjoy a good night’s sleep.”
So saying they motioned to the guardians and the heroes were lead to their sleeping quarters. In the next episode let us see how the heroes spend their night and what awaits them the next morning.
Image credit: LostMyHeadache