Coming of Age Indigenous Fantasy

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The wind whistled the greetings of the morning to the boy. His eardrums throbbed gleefully at the song of the breeze mixing with the chatter of the birds. His toes hugged the dirt with passion as he danced his way across the chinampa, making the floating garden of vegetable goodies bob this way and that in the shallow waters of the lake. Playfully plucking the peppers from their perch on the plants he passed, he harvested with such joy that the lake was rife with ripples. 

A farmer working on a nearby chinampa steadied himself as his island began to jump up and down, courtesy of the commotion from the island of the boy. His aching arm reached up to wipe his brow. The heat of the Sun squeezed the moisture from his body. The farmer looked over to see the boy’s entire chinampa tremoring with elation. The leaves of all the vegetation bounced in unison as the boy dashed from pepper plant to pepper plant, moving to music no one could hear. The farmer didn’t normally admire the sight of slaves, but he’d never seen one pay his retribution so happily. Certainly not a child. 

The boy’s brain itched in the funny way that it did when he felt someone was watching him, and he stopped his dancing. Searching his surroundings, he found the farmer's eyes and locked into them. The boy flashed a smile of radiance so blinding that the farmer could almost glimpse a glow about his head. He was animated like a child of the Sun. If he’d not seen the marking carved into the boy’s face, he might’ve even returned his energy with a smile of his own. The farmer broke eye contact and returned his attention to his crops.

The boy wasn’t disenchanted by the farmer’s response. Ever since he’d been used as a harvester for the chinampas of the elderly, none of the people of the village had met his gaze or returned his smile. They only spoke to him in the evenings when they gave him a small basket of crops from the hundreds that he’d filled, so that he could feed himself when he returned to his tent at the carcel. The boy was thankful that the farmer had even acknowledged his presence, despite it being an accident. He was now certain that one day he’d get someone to smile back at him. The silence in the air began to sit upon the boy’s head. He shouldered the disappointment of the wind and the plants and the lake waters. They wanted to once again feel his joy radiate through their being, they wanted to feel their beauty reflected at themselves through his dance. The boy thanked the willow trees that gracefully laced their roots through the foundation of the chinampa and into the lakebed, anchoring the crop island in place. Without them he knew his dance would cause the island to float away. The shine from the Sun sparkled upon him. The virile red of the pepper skins lit firecrackers of adoration through his nervous system. He shook his hips and his loincloth flapped across his body. The heart of the chinampa beat once again to the rhythm of his movement. All of the plants danced alongside him.

Tezcat eyed the boy curiously from the boat in the lake, bobbing up and down to the rhythm of the gyrating chinampa he was tied to. His enthusiasm never got boring to behold. Tezcat was used to the boy’s behavior, having been his watcher for the past two years. The elders of the village feared the boy being unattended for even a moment. Only a fierce warrior such as Tezcat could be his permanent handler.

“Hey Tezcat!”

The voice startled him out of his mesmerization. The waves and the wind were teaming up to cheer the boy on. They’d become so noisy that Tezcat didn’t hear the approaching boat. He looked to see a fellow warrior, Auhtli, tying his boat to a willow tree and floating near him.

“Auhtli, how are you today?”

“I am well brother. I wish I could say I come with good tidings but there is a problem.” 

Auhtli glanced momentarily at the boy, who’d filled up another basket of peppers and was now tangoing his way through the bean plants, before continuing. 

“The elders request your presence immediately. I am to look after the boy in your absence.”

“Say no more brother, I will visit the elders’ temple now. Thank you.”

Tezcat trained his eyes on the boy as he untied his boat from the willow tree to leave the lake. His heart felt deflated although he wasn’t certain why. He’d been ordered not to speak to the boy or look him in the eyes, and yet a type of bond seemed to be trying to form between them. Tezcat shook his head as he rowed his boat through the ripples in the lake. It’s difficult to remember why that boy was a slave in the first place. Tezcat was becoming aware of a belief sprouting within him that the boy was actually normal and perhaps his mother was disillusioned. Shaking his head, he vibrated the thoughts from his psyche.

Tezcat soon felt that the spirits were stirring in a peculiar fashion. When he’d entered the elder’s tent, he expected the two elders themselves and the village mystic. What he hadn’t expected was the presence of another mystic, one unfamiliar to his tribe yet clearly wearing the feathered headdress of one who communes with the invisible. The mystic that lived in their village was not present in the tent. The enlightened foreigner smiled warmly. Tezcat greeted everyone and sat on his knees before them. That smile was familiar. It reminded him of the boy.

“For what glory have I been summoned grand elders?”

Tezcat eyed the two elders, who swayed wearily from left to right on their feet. They gestured to the foreign mystic, who spoke in their place.

“I have come here from a land far away, for I’ve had a vision from the higher realms. I’ve been told that the Sun has been born in the flesh and he is here amongst your tribe.”

Tezcat’s heart lurched. The Sun has been born? That could only mean that the ancient prophecy of war is coming to fruition. The mystic paused dramatically. Tezcat desperately wanted to cry heresy and force the mystic to prove himself, but he knew from the expressions of the elders that they had already taken that route. His face was still as a warrior’s should be when his inner world turns asunder.

“My vision brought me tears of ecstasy, for when looking upon the face of the Sun he shone so bright that I doubted I was looking at a mere man. I was only able to see that his face was terribly scarred. I was then blessed with the sweet nectar of his voice when he spoke his human name to me, so that I may find him in this physical realm.”

Tezcat felt joyous waters welling up behind his eyes but maintained his expression. He didn’t wait for the mystic to finish speaking.

“Nagualon. The Sun’s name is Nagualon?”

The mystic nodded slowly. The two elders knelt and laid their torsos on the ground. They were twins, and though their mannerisms were similar one had grown a full gray beard while the other had chosen to remain shaven. The bearded elder spoke.

“We must accept full responsibility for the scarring of the Sun. We approved the decision so that the town may know of his truth.”

The mystic was wrought from the trance of enchantment with his vision. His eyebrows furrowed and his smile decayed into a frown.

“The scarring I saw was not from birth?” He snarled with composure, furrowing his brow in disgust.

“The boy’s face was carved two years ago when his mother brought him to the carcel begging of the watchers to kill him. She’d told us he held the spirit of an evil nagual. We renounced him of his original name and he is now called Nagualon.”

The mystic slowly removed his headdress and held it against his chest as he digested the elder’s words.

“Did you… did you say he was just a boy?”

Silence barged into the tent. The mystic shook his head solemnly and looked to Tezcat.

“I care not for his position as a carcel slave. Bring Nagualon to me immediately!”

Tezcat paused to look to the elders for their say. They still knelt, laying over the soil. The shaven elder lifted his head to make eye contact and nodded, giving Tezcat permission to receive the mystic’s orders. He wasted no time. Tezcat burst forth from his knees and exploded from the tent to return to the chinampa where the Sun God Nagualon danced in the flesh.


Nagualon sat cross legged at the feet of the oak tree. The wind passed his pores with passion, but he couldn’t feel it in his soul as he normally had. He was already disturbed within, and thus also hadn’t noticed that the tree he sat against was trying to get his attention. Twigs and branches kept falling on the boy’s head and lap through the hood of darkness that the Moon brought with her. Storms of cosmic stardust roared through the upper atmosphere in an attempt to beckon the boy out of his mind. It was no use. Nagualon was deep in thought about the day he’d met the foreign mystic.

It’d already been two weeks since Tezcat splashed through the river, snatched him off the chinampa, and brought him before the elders of the village and a mystic from another land. Seeing the faces of the elder twins troubled the boy. The last time he’d seen them was when he was sentenced. That also reminded him of his mother. It was the last time he’d seen her as well. Nagualon shuddered. The disgust at the mental image of her was powerful enough to shatter his mental bonds. He summoned the wind into his lungs and held it there with him for a moment. It wasn’t like him to ponder so much. He wasn’t fond of remembering the times before he worked on the chinampas day in and day out. It was much easier not to mind these things when he had slave work to do and smiles to spread. Nagualon uncrossed his legs and leaned back against the thick gnarly bark of the tree. His head drifted to the sky, much to the delight of the stars. His pupils dilated and a trance washed over him. He almost wished he were one of those glorious baby suns that hung out with the Moon when she brought the dark. The boy knew though, that if he were then he wouldn’t be able to behold them. He wondered still, which perspective was more glorious? The being or the seeing?

Nagualon was finally beginning to settle into this vision quest that the foreign mystic had sent him on. He had been alive only six years. This was a year younger than the rest of the tribal boys were when they were made to fast for a week and then traverse the Puppet’s Forest for their Divine Insight from the Universe. Nagualon was told that he would never get the chance to embark on such an honor when his mother brought him to the carcel. He was eternally grateful then. He'd rather have been a slave than be free and run into her again. The whispers of the beans and pepper plants at home were carried to him all the way to the Puppet’s Forest by the wind. His cheek was warm from their supportive kisses on the breeze.

The boy brought more air into his lungs and blew it out harshly. It helped to ease the slight pains of his stomach. Two weeks had passed since he’d eaten last. It was time to let the forest take him to his Divine Insight. The sooner he received it, the sooner he could return home. Nagualon stood, thanking the tree for being such great company and giving him so many twigs. The wind spoke again, moving across the skin on Nagualon’s body. It was a short and rough breeze that shook his bones. This was not a song of glee. An impression of warning arose within the boy’s stomach. As he allowed his feet to feel his way through the tangle of shadows and massive snake-like roots, he couldn’t help but notice his brain started to itch the funny way that it did when someone was watching him.


Tezcat sheathed his body in the foliage of the bushes behind the tree, and yet could not sheathe his frustration at himself. He was going against the orders of the elders and breaking the code of vision quest by following Nagualon, but his heart beckoned him to stay with the boy. He could not leave him without feeling concerned for his well-being. Tezcat had lost sight of Nagualon, despite his careful eye. He could’ve sworn he saw him at the base of the tree. 

Tezcat carefully unfolded his limbs amongst the leaves of the bush, ready to emerge. A loud cracking sound rang out through the black blindfold of night and up to the sky. Looking down, Tezcat realized it hadn’t been him that caused the sound. His feet had yet to move from where he’d planted them. He pressed his eyes into slits, concentrating his vision into the surrounding landscape. What he sought was seeking him as well.

A few feet behind him was the looming shadow of a four-legged beast. Holding his breath in realization, Tezcat spotted multiple beast-shaped shadows stepping over the patches of plants. One of them walked ahead of the rest, proudly padding directly towards him. The Moon enlightened Tezcat with her luminous beauty.

The light of the celestial bodies above worked together to expose the alpha wolf stalking Tezcat. His pack waited behind him, scattering about the tree trunks to watch the kill. The warrior’s hand floated toward his loincloth. The beast knew not of his obsidian blade. His mind raced but Tezcat’s heart remained still as Death approached. The alpha wolf was not impressed. He was only a foot away from Tezcat’s bush now, so certain of his kill that he abandoned stalking and clawed through the grass with his head high.

You will leave that man alone lest you are willing to face my wrath.”

The warrior and the wolf both jumped in unison. The voice thundered from the direction of the tree Tezcat had been watching earlier. He turned, momentarily forfeiting sight of his predator.

There was no name for the species of what he was seeing. Wisps of conscious darkness folded in on themselves to solidify a demon’s form. It was hulking and drooling. Tezcat would’ve thought it to be a wolf if there weren’t three horns protruding crudely from its forehead. Its eyes beamed the ferocious white of the full moon, locked onto the other beast. Captured by awe and disbelief, Tezcat turned back to behold the reaction of the real wolf. There was no sign of him or his pack in the encompassing area. His gaze shifted once again to the monster that had spoken. There were no more tentacles of the abyss in the shape of a wolf demon. Tezcat finally released that breath he’d been holding and fully stood from the cover of the bush.

“Do you hate me now?”

The voice sent ripples of joy through the warrior’s being. No other sound mimicked silk so well, Tezcat recognized Nagualon before he saw him. The boy appeared, seemingly out of the shadows. 

“Why would I hate you Nagualon?”

The boy’s eyes shot straight to the ground. It was the first time Tezcat had spoken to him, acknowledged him, or looked him in the eyes. The excitement bred unease within. He bit his lip, cautious of his desire to trust Tezcat. He knew he’d come to watch over him despite there being rules against this. He knew he cared. Perhaps it wouldn’t be like last time. The wind passed softly over him, gently pushing him to relax into his vulnerability.

“When I last took that form, I saved my mother from a bear. I thought she would love me more because I protected her, but she instead beat me. Turned away from me. Will you do the same?”

Silence crept between the two of them. Tezcat understood. Nagualon had shapeshifted into that monster. It was real. This was why his mother wanted him killed. Was he a demon or a child? Could this truly be the incarnation of the Sun? Tezcat pondered little before discerning with his heart. He felt that this boy was sent as a beacon of hope and a path to understanding the nature of the higher realms. He also felt the healing the boy needed. He’d received so much pain because of his power.

Nagualon was too wrought with fear to look up at Tezcat’s face. He heard the grass parting ways and crunching beneath Tezcat’s feet as he approached. The boy shook with sadness. Was he about to be beaten again?

Warmth enveloped the boy’s whole figure. His eyes shot up. Tezcat was kneeling forward, wrapping Nagualon in his arms.

“Thank you for saving me. Thank you for existing exactly as you are.”

Tears streaked from the boy’s eyes. It was the first time in his life that he’d been held so tenderly. The Moon and the stars spectated, moved by the two beings in the forest below. How they wished they could be human and experience love’s truth.

March 09, 2024 03:42

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