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In Life, In Death

Saga of the City by the Flowers, Book 1

by Adara Wolf

As a prince, Ahmiki knows that his purpose in life is to serve their city and help its people find prosperity. Until the night that he is named as the living representative of the god Teska’atl, to be sacrificed at the end of the year. Ahmiki has to endure one year of humiliating rituals, unpleasant ceremonies, and a fraught political landscape.

At least he can take some comfort in the handsome and strangely unbowed servant who has been assigned to him…

Note: This 30k novella is a dark romance and does not include a happy ending.

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Excerpt:

The evening celebrations took place at the square in front of the royal palace, in the north of Xochititlan. The fires were stoked high, and incense smoked freely. Tables had been arranged all around the square, with Colsatsli and his family and retinue on a slightly elevated platform. In the center, the musicians played flutes, beat drums, and shook rain sticks to form a lively tune.

Ahmiki settled himself into the chair next to his mother, the Lady Atoyakoskatl, on a side table close to Colsatsli’s elevated platform. Even in the orange light of the festival fire, she looked harried, her usually tightly woven braids coming loose at the ends. Her eyes, too, were a bit red, like she hadn’t slept well.

She was taking her husband’s death hard, Ahmiki thought, and he placed his hand on hers to reassure her. “I am here for you, mother. We shall pass into a new age, and we will carry on father’s glory.”

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His mother barked a strange laugh and lowered her head, so he could no longer see her face. But her hand squeezed his tighter, a sign that she appreciated his comfort.

To distract them both, he summoned a slave to serve them some oktli. Ahmiki barely waited for the slave girl to have finished serving before he began drinking, relishing the bittersweet flavor.

He sighed loudly after the first long sip. “Come mother, drink. Let tonight, at least, be a night of merriment for you.”

For some reason, that made her grip his hand even tighter. “Oh, Ahmiki. I wish I could.”

Ahmiki wanted to ask her what she meant, but the festival musicians suddenly stopped, and Tlanextic, the head priest, stepped onto the dais next to the fire.

“My Lord Colsatsli,” Tlanextic began, addressing Ahmiki’s brother. “My people of the great Xochititlan! Today we will determine who the next ixiptla will be, the one whom the great god Teska’atl has chosen to be his avatar, whose life will appease the energies of the west and ensure that our Sun continues to travel through the third heaven!”

After having heard the same speech year after year, Ahmiki thought he could recite it himself. The priests would read the stars and the flames, and in a show of great ceremony, announce the person who would take on the role of ixiptla for the next year. The great Teska’atl favored beautiful, strong slave men.

The priests carried the great obsidian mirror into the center, so that it reflected the flames and the stars back towards the front of the festivities, where Ahmiki’s brother sat.

Between the smoky scent of the incense and the strong oktli, Ahmiki found himself growing excited. The edges of his vision were somewhat blurred, so that his brother, surrounded by his three wives, five sons, and a large procession of advisers, became a smudge. Not truly visible to Ahmiki’s eye, almost as if a cloud had passed in front of him.

The flutes and drums started up again, louder than before, bringing Ahmiki’s attention back to the center stage in time to see a red-robed and a black-robed priest bring one of the sacred codices forward. They were about to read the ixiptla’s name.

Ahmiki’s mother leaned her head against his shoulder, and she clutched his hand so tight it almost hurt.

“The ixiptla,” Tlanextic intoned, “is decided, has been decided, was always decided. He is Ahmiki, son of the great Tekoyotl, born on the day 7-Jaguar, 1-Reed, on the exact halfway point between cycles.”

Ahmiki dropped his cup.

The rest of the oktli spilled across his lap, and his mother started openly crying. Around them, the usual cheers went on, celebrating the naming of the new ixiptla.

As was custom, the kingor, in this case, the soon to be king, Ahmiki’s brotherstepped forward to give his own blessings.

Ahmiki barely heard a word of it. His hands were shaking, and not from the drink and the incense. He hadn’t even smoked a pipe yet. All the while, his mother cried into his shoulder.

There had to be a mistake, Ahmiki wanted to shout, but that would be a sure way to get everybody angry at him. The priests did not make mistakes. The gods decreed, and the priests simply read the stars.

It even made sense, if he thought about it. He really was born at exactly the halfway point between cycles. The new cycle would begin in two weeks. There would be a new king, a new era, and only a most highly esteemed ixiptla would be able to appease the great Teska’atl in such an important, tumultuous time.

This was why he’d been called back. He had thought the summons strange, yes, but he also thought it might have been to ensure he would be in Xochititlan in time for the coronation.

They must all have known well in advance what was to come.

“I’m so sorry, Ahmiki. I’m so sorry,” his mother said, over and over, her tears rolling down Ahmiki’s shoulder.

Her reaction pulled at him. “Did you know?” he asked. “When I sat down. Before the ceremony started.”

“Yes. I… I begged them not to name you. You are my only son left, Ahmiki. I can’t bear to see you go.”

Her only son left. The other sons she had borne for Tekoyotl had both died young, before Ahmiki could remember them. He had one sister who would be able to care for his mother, but of course that would not be the same.

The rest of the festivities carried on as if Ahmiki’s life hadn’t just ended.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

I write almost exclusive m/m, but I have a fondness for bisexual protagonists. I enjoy a lot of dark themes and more extreme kinks, so you’ll see a lot of that around here.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading, painting, playing video games, and rescuing cats. I also enjoy learning about languages and other cultures.


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