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6

F I V E D A N C E S W I T H D E A T H

7

C H A P T E R

o n e

appearing to consider my words. “I may sell her, brother. But I won’t sell her to you.”

No one bothered me after that. I sat with my back against the wall, waiting for the game court to empty. The harvest festivities were over, and the next month our war would resume. That war had lasted since before I was born, and it used to be a sport for me, a chance to advance my fortunes. But in that moment, it became a special war for me, too.

Two years later, in the autumn campaigns of our war with Cactus Rock, I fought Talon in a duel of commanders before a battle and captured him alive.

March 1519

I

stretched on the jaguar mat next to my wife Broken Plume and closed my eyes, exhaling the last of the bitter smoke from my lungs. The world around me began to heave and roll, as it always did after I smoked my special mixture of mushrooms and bark.

The sensation nauseatedme, and I snappedmy eyes open. Plume lay motionless by my side. She was so still that, without thinking, I held a hand over her face to check if she was breathing. Her thick eyelashes trembled. She rubbed the tip of her nose against my hand and laughed.

“I told you not to smoke,” she whispered. “Now lie back and concentrate. We must keep searching.”

I ran a finger along the perfect line of her chin and neck, feeling her life pulsate under my touch. “I can’t focus,” I said. “My head spins.” “As I said, you shouldn’t have smoked. Relax. Wait for the drum roll to come over you. I’ll help you out.”

Slight tattoo lines around her cheeks and mouth gave her face a resemblance of a jaguar’s muzzle. I touched the faint design, feeling the familiar tide of excitement at the prospect of intimacy. The fresh scent of her skin drew me closer to her.

She pushed me away. “Please concentrate,” she whispered. “Today isn’t only about finding Dew. I have something else to show you.”

Plume wasn’t a civilized person from one of the Nahuatl-

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