In a race to stay clear of the danger, Christopher has begun the trek back to Machu Picchu with their young child and Shama, the beautiful Inca priestess he loves-but how safe are his grandfathers, Joseph and Robert Bennett, from the brutality of the invaders?
Faced with an unscrupulous conqueror ... there's only one place they can all go where they won't be found. When Joseph and Robert are captured and held hostage at knife point-they must use their wits to outsmart an arrogant
Dangers posed by the invaders become critical, compelling Christopher to get his family to safety in the New World. Unexpected obstacles thwart their goals ... their plans all postponed ... when Christopher is called upon to rescue his son from a horrific fate at the hands of a zealous Inca priest.
As the Inca Empire declines amid atrocious treatment at the hands of the Spanish occupation, Shama must choose between life in a disintegrating culture and Christopher's world 500 years in the future. Will they end up in the same time frame ... or will they be lost forever to the unfathomable power of the Gateway?
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Read an Excerpt
Eye Of The SolsticeA Novel
By JoAnna Daniels
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Christine Schlichte
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHigh on the ridge of a mountain overlooking the doomeds ettlement of Cajamarca, Joseph Bennett, archaeologist, adventurer, and visionary turned and looked back down on the historic valley, a beautiful, fertile expanse of only a few miles, but remarkably flat at 8,600 feet. He could see the thousands of tents of Atahuallpa's army spread out across the hillsides, in perfect order and looking so peaceful now. By evening all would have changed for the Inca ruler. Joseph had to get his family clear of the danger.
"Robert," he said softly, meeting the discerning eyes of his elderly son. "From now on the trek will be more difficult. Are you ready?"
The older man had not expected to be traversing the vertical landscape of sixteenth century Peru at the age of eighty-two. Having this time with Joseph somehow made it more adventurous than daunting. Smoothing back the silver hair that framed a wise, aged face, he smiled at the intrepid man he had been without his entire life; since the age of six when Joseph Bennett had decided to explore an ancient culture, leaving his young son and wife behind. Standing at the ancient altar in the path of the solstice sun, Joseph had not realized the incredible consequences of his exploration. It was 1920 then. Now Robert found himself in the year 1532.
"As ready as I'll ever be," Robert responded without hesitation.
"Good." Joseph called to his Inca son, "Rotoq!"
"Stay close. Watch for any sign of movement beside our path—then tell me immediately!"
The twelve-year-old boy nodded, responsive. On the brink of manhood, he was proud to aid his father in any way. With serious intent, he put his hand to the club that hung at his side, his eyes already scanning the trees beside their path.
Francisco Pizarro's army of a scant 168 mercenaries had encamped in the town square of Cajamarca, and his mounted soldiers roamed the hills, on the lookout for anyone who might pose a threat to the conquerer's planned assault.
Joseph gave Rotoq an encouraging nod then set his eyes to the path before him. At sixty-three, he was a strong man, as much a part of this land as any native. His graying hair was pulled off his face, tied with a piece of yarn, and hanging down the center of his back; he wore a single string of beads and relics over a loose-fitting tunic. Dark eyes gleamed. With just a few hours of sunlight left, the three of them moved away from Cajamarca, away from the once tranquil valley and the event that would go down in history as the massacre that had changed the Inca way of life forever.
The trek north to Chota to pick up Joseph's wife, Sayra, and his two daughters would be long and exhausting. From there, they would all turn around again and head south to Machu Picchu, where they planned to meet his great-grandson, Christopher, Shama and their son, Jiroq. The three of them had left earlier in the day to stay clear of any danger.
* * *
"Quistoph," Shama called out softly.
Dark, brown hair fell casually over his forehead now, as deep-set hazel eyes looked up in response to Shama's voice. His full mouth pulled slightly at the corners as he turned a warm smile to the woman who had come to him in his cell upon his arrival in Cuzco all those years ago. Wounded and bleeding, she had tended to him, healed him, and then enchanted him with her guileless charm. Christopher liked her modification of his name. "Yes, my love."
Sweat streamed down her face, cheeks flushed with the last of the day's blistering heat. "I must fill this aryballo with water. It's empty again."
"I'll fill mine, too," he said, running a hand through his lengthy hair.
At times, their path ran close to a stream, and they would always fill their bags with the cold, clean mountain water. With that done, they would splash their faces, wet a cloth to put around their necks then continue the trek.
They had covered at least fifty miles from Cajamarca in the first few days, and Christopher felt they were out of any real danger. They had experienced a few tense moments where the path snaked along the side of a cliff, and they prayed for a safe passage through the gorge—but that was the price they paid for not taking the highland route. Chris had chosen safety over ease. The Spaniards would be patrolling the King's Road day and night. This way, they avoided a confrontation. They hoped to reach Machu Picchu without incident.
Jiroq was a good traveler, but approaching age four and with the Bennett genes, he was getting tall and heavy. Christopher had to insist that he walk part of the way, which he did, in fact, Jiroq's energy was boundless, which made Chris wonder why he was carrying his son in the first place. Eventually, however, even that inexhaustible and youthful vitality gave out, and Christopher would heft him onto his back again.
Shama found it very enjoyable to watch how Quistoph interacted with their son. As a Chosen Woman and a priestess of the empire, she had never expected to have children. Their love and the extraordinary circumstances surrounding their encounter and subsequent love affair had changed her life on every level. Pulling a turtle shell comb through her long, dark black hair, she let it hang over her shoulder as she arranged it into a single, thick braid. Discerning eyes smiled as she spoke.
"He has taken to you, Quistoph," she said as Jiroq collapsed on a rock, then held his arms out to his daddy—his plea to be carried.
"You'd take to me too if I carried you on my back," he joked with a grin.
Shama ventured, "Would you?"
"No ... but I'll sleep next to you and keep you warm, light of my life," he promised with a kiss. Shama's response was a beautiful smile. Her dark, exotically defined eyes sparkled above a flawless bronze-colored complexion that enhanced high cheekbones. Raising his hand, Christopher caressed her face.
By the time the sun was going down that evening, Chris was ready to stop and make camp for the night. In a few more days they would be in the Ucayali River Valley, and the hiking would be much easier. Even now, their altitude was decreasing a little more each day, and the meadows were becoming wider and flatter. They found a grassy area, sheltered by trees, and settled down for the evening.
Once Jiroq was fed and soundly asleep, Shama made them some tea, and they spoke in quiet tones as the night descended around them. She picked up on his mood.
"Are you worried about your grandfathers?"
He gave her question a moment's thought. "I'm sure they've reached Chota by now and are probably on their way south again. They'll be going through Cajamarca ... but I'm not worried, love," he assured her. The truth was, some shadow of a doubt, that even he could not explain, had crept into his psyche where Joseph was concerned, as though Christopher were suddenly assessing him through someone else's eyes.
Traveling back in time nearly five centuries through the sacred Inca gateway, then finding his great-grandfather in this ancient land, had answered questions for Christopher, which he had asked himself his whole life. Getting to know Joseph had changed his perceptions to an immense degree. Christopher had been brought face to face with his fears and his expectations. When his grandfather, Robert, decided to go back through the gateway with him the second time and find the father who had left him at the age of six, Christopher had his doubts. Now Robert was in Joseph's hands, a man who had dared to place himself in the middle of one of the most violent conquests in the history of mankind—and Robert was with him.
"This is what troubles you then," Shama said. "You don't want them having to go through the Cajamarca valley and risk meeting up with the bearded ones."
He stroked her arm. "I wish Robert had stayed with us, Shama. I promised my mother I'd keep him safe."
Thoughtful, "Joseph will take good care of him, Quechiri. I see that they are well."
"Perceptive and beautiful," he smiled at her. As a Chosen Woman, trained in divining, these attributes came naturally to her.
But Shama was serious. "Tell me what happened in the town square in Cajamarca," she said, more insistent than usual. "I want to know."
Christopher let out a long exhale and looked at her. "You need to know ... but you won't like what I have to tell you, Shama." A pause—"It's the beginning of the end for your beloved Tihuantinsuyu," he told her, grim, hesitant to reveal all of the details.
"I feel it also, Quistoph, but I need to hear of the danger that my emperor now finds himself in. Please tell me."
He took a sip of his tea. "All right."
"Is Atahuallpa still alive?"
"Yes," he reassured her, taking a deep breath. Momentarily reflective, he envisioned the gruesome battle, one that stood at the forefront of his mind through years of study.
"When Atahuallpa entered the square with his entourage of thousands, he felt sovereign and powerful, confident that he was there to talk peace. But all that met his eyes was a solitary priest, a Dominican friar."
As Christopher recounted the events to her as he knew them to have happened, he pictured it in vivid detail before his eyes....
The road had been swept clean by a squadron of Indians as the ruler and his colorful cortège approached their meeting place. Atahuallpa and hundreds of nobles, all in ceremonial dress, along with thousands of warriors, squeezed into the town square, then stopped. They waited. The powerful sun deity was sinking into the western sky, its bright rays making the gold and silver of their helmets blaze in a dreamlike fashion. There were no soldiers in sight; only the solitary friar who now approached the Inca with something black in his hand.
The emperor sat rigidly, high on his golden litter, apprehension colliding with indignation. Could he have misjudged the strangers? Every one of his warriors was unarmed, and the stillness of the courtyard boded ill. Why was there just one man? He had agreed to meet with the leader. His senses told him, be wary.
The hundreds of singers and dancers who had preceded the cortège stopped abruptly, as friar Valverde stood before the ruler and held out a bible for him to take.
"Where are they?" Atahuallpa demanded when no bearded ones appeared.
With the help of an interpreter, the friar began a lecture on the merits of Christianity. He told the Inca about the Holy Trinity, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the infallibility of the Pope, forcing him to recognize the Church, or suffer the consequences. He was demanding Atahuallpa renounce his own pagan religion and acknowledge the suzerainty of Charles V of Spain, who would protect him in this world.
But it sounded like an ultimatum to Altahuallpa, and it enraged him!
The friar handed the bible up to the Inca. "This book speaks the truth," he said.
Atahuallpa took it from the man, played absently with the clasps, then opened it. It was a weak token, at best, he thought, compared to the powerful stone huacas the Incas worshipped.
Rising, Atahuallpa pointed to the sun. "The Christ you speak of was put to death by the very men he created, whereas my god never dies. He lives forever and protects his children. How do you even know your god created the world?" he asked the nervous friar.
In answer to his question, Friar Valverde pointed to the book in his hand.
Having never seen the written word, Atahuallpa took only a passing interest in the foreign script. He dismissed it with a grunt and glowering, threw the bible to the ground. "This says nothing to me!" he stated with contempt.
With that declaration, the friar turned to Pizarro who hid with his men.
"Did you not see what happened?" Valverde shouted. "Come out! Come out, Christians! Throw yourselves upon them! I absolve you!"
With the prearranged signal, Pizarro launched the ambush. A sudden blast of bugles startled the Incas, two roaring cannons thundered into the mass of Indians, and from out of the trapezoidal doorways, silver-armored horsemen charged at the defenseless warriors on huge beasts, shouting the battle cry, "Santiago!" Rattles placed on the horses, meant to terrify the Indians, added to the confusion, as blaring trumpets followed the foot soldiers.
The hooves of black Barbs and spirited Mustangs rang on the flagstones then trampled human flesh as honed, Toledo blades slashed and thrust into bodies too tightly packed into the square to flee the slaughter. The small gate prevented escape.
Atahuallpa's nobles tried valiantly to save their emperor by holding his litter high in the air. In doing so, many lost their hands to the sharpness of tapered steel. They then supported the king on their shoulders, and when they could no longer hold him, were replaced by other men, determined to save their king. But the square and the surrounding fields had been turned into a killing field, with Indians cowering before powerful war horses and razor-sharp lances. Finally, unable to withstand the onslaught, the bearers collapsed, and the Son of the Sun fell to the earth. Only Pizarro's intervention saved the Inca Ruler.
"Let no one wound the Indian upon pain of death!" Pizarro shouted above the melee, rescuing him. Hurrying his royal prisoner into the building, he was accidentally injured by one of his own men, as he parried the soldier's dagger meant for Atahuallpa.
The emperor was held inside under guard, but outside, the massacre continued. Well into the night, crazed soldiers galloped over dying Indians and pursued fleeing survivors onto the plain. Not until the bugle called them back did they give up the fight.
In that span of several hours, six to seven thousand Inca warriors were killed in and around the square, yet not a single Spaniard died. The minor cut to Pizarro's hand, saving Atahuallpa, was the worst injury the Spanish sustained.
And they felt their brutality was justified because they had a holy purpose—to convert the heathens to their Christian faith, which the Church had sanctioned.
From that day forward, life in the Four Quarters would never be the same. The Spanish had become the new masters of the Inca Empire.
As Christopher recounted what he knew had happened a few days ago in Cajamarca, Shama became increasingly still. He could actually feel her shock, her sadness.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered, cradling her against him. "I wish I could have saved your empire."
When she looked up at him, tears were streaming down her face. They fell on his hand; he brushed the wetness from her cheek.
"The strangers had spoken only of friendship and alliances," she said, confused.
"That's why Atahuallpa went to meet them unarmed ... even though Joseph begged him to go with weapons. The ruler trusted what they had promised. So many lies threw him off course."
Shama was frowning. "Tell me what you mean by that."
"When Atahuallpa's spies reported to him that the bearded ones were huddled inside the building, the king took that for cowardice," he explained. "He never thought that Pizarro, with his paltry force of less than two hundred men, would actually attack him—amidst his vast army and in the heart of his empire. That never occurred to him," Christopher said gravely. "His lack of insight cost him dearly."
"But he is unharmed?" she reaffirmed.
"For the moment."
With that answer, she bowed her head with a sigh; her shoulders sagged with inconsolable anguish.
"In my culture, the men fight with honor, and they respect the dignity of the opponent," she stated, hurt and angry.
"These men want only the gold and the right to say they own the land. To them, honor has nothing to do with it," he stated, ashamed.
Shama put her hand to his face and kissed him. "You had no part in what happened, Quistoph. You are a friend to my people. Don't blame yourself."
"Joseph tried to warn Atahuallpa. He was obsessed with wanting to influence the emperor's opinion of Pizarro, but there was nothing we could do to alter history. What I don't understand is how Atahuallpa could have lost that battle. The Spaniards were outnumbered fifty to one!"
"Without weapons, they were easily overpowered," Shama suggested, baffled herself.
"And the horses had to be intimidating. They're so much larger than any animal you have here."
Shama stroked his arm, sensing his troubled mood. "What will happen to my king?"
Christopher let out a long breath. "Pizarro will use him to get what he wants," he answered. "But in the end ..." He trailed off, shaking his head. He didn't wish to go into any more detail than that. Not tonight.
Excerpted from Eye Of The Solstice by JoAnna Daniels Copyright © 2010 by Christine Schlichte. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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