(Originally published in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #20.)
Hummingbird was to be the final sacrifice of the day. The man before her struggled on a raised stone slab, chest heaving as a flock of blood-spattered priests pinned his arms and legs. Sunlight glittered on the Cazonci's obsidian dagger--curved like a jaguar's claw to better hook bone and tear flesh. The crowd around the ziggurat waited, caught in the anxious pause between lightning and thunder.
The blade fell, but Hummingbird's gaze was not on the shrieking victim. Above, the sun was white-gold in a sky clear as the eastern sea. Lake Pátzcuaro sparkled in the light, the riot of sedge and cattails along its banks flecked with motes of bright color as wading birds combed the shallows for fish. The breeze shifted, cutting the heavy pall of incense with scents of wood smoke and cooking meat from the city below. Although they had been the enemies of her people for generations, the Tarascans shared much with the Azteca. If not for the guards holding her arms, Hummingbird might have even imagined herself back in Tenochtitlan as it was before the fall.
The sacrifice gave a gurgling cough as the Cazonci cut his heart free of its bloody nest of bone. The priests began a slow, twirling dance, but Hummingbird ignored them, her gaze fixed on the sun. She didn't look away even when tears stung her eyes. There was a small pulse of light, quick as a leaf on a bonfire. The crowd roared, and Hummingbird prepared herself.
By day, Evan Dicken studies old Japanese maps and crunches data for all manner of fascinating medical research at the Ohio State University. By night, he does neither of these things. His fantasy fiction has most recently appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and Daily Science Fiction, and he has stories forthcoming from publishers such as Chaosium and Gallery of Curiosities. Feel free to look him up at evandicken.com, where he wastes both his time and yours. "Mouth of the Jaguar" originally appeared in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #20, and as luck would have it, the fine editors of that magazine recently published another Hummingbird story in their August 2017 issue.
About the Narrators:
Summer Brooks is a bit of a television addict, and enjoys putting her sci-fi media geek skills to good use in interviewing guests. She has been a co-host for Slice of SciFi from 2005-2009, the co-host for The Babylon Podcast from 2006-2012, and host of Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas, before returning to Slice of SciFi full time as host and producer in August 2014.
She is an avid reader and writer of sci-fi, fantasy, and thrillers, with a handful of publishing credits to her name. Next on her agenda is writing an urban fantasy tale, and a B-movie monster extravaganza.
Currently, Summer designs and maintains websites for clients in addition to having fun with the Slice of SciFi websites, and also does voiceover & narrations for Tales to Terrify, StarShip Sofa, and Escape Pod, among others.