The two girls crouched behind an oval shaped rock that was overlooking the bridge and also provided a view of their side where the llamas were tied in a line back beyond the platform area and in relative safety. Zolin meanwhile took his stance with his machete ready and attack anyone trying to get off the bridge on their side.
With a howling scream, a conquistador charged across the swing bridge with the second about three paces behind him. The bridge shook in a wave like movement and the men’s sheer speed almost caught Meztli unprepared.
As in similar situations, a strange calmness enveloped her as she stood, uttered her own scream of deviance and swung her weapon around. By the time the first pebble was whizzing through the air she had already grabbed another and let it fly. Within seconds four pebbles were catapulting in an arch through the air. The first conquistador was already past the lowest point in the bridge and half way up the near side but Meztli had anticipated his speed and all her practising over the years came to a climax. All four pebbles hit the runner. He staggered and plunged forward on his knees but managed to grab a side rope to prevent himself from falling over the side.
Cualli had been almost as accurate with the second man who frantically tried to fend off a last pebble that actually hit him on a raised arm. The bridge shook in an alarming fashion but the second warrior managed to grab both side ropes and move his feet wide to steady the swaying structure.
“Go back!” Meztli screamed at the men in Spanish. “We will fire again if you come forward!”
Whether they heard or not, she didn’t know but they certainly understood her intentions as she nodded at Cualli and they both begun slow swings of their weapons.
The front conquistador pulled himself to his feet and managed a brief wave of acknowledgement before grabbing the guide ropes again. He turned back to the second man and said something. Both walked slowly backwards with their faces staring at Meztli and Cualli with the slingshots spinning above their heads. They reached the beginning of the bridge before they finally turned away and almost staggered back to their mounted companions.
Meztli grinned at Cualli. Round one was won but what would happen now?
Several minutes that felt like hours, slipped by before the conquistador leader approached the edge of the bridge and stood there with his opened left hand across the centre of his chest. Meztli recognised this as a request to form a temporary truce before Apu the spirit of the mountains and talk. She frowned for the conquistadors rarely if ever, recognised Inca protocols or gods. His face appeared neutral with neither a positive or negative expression. He was though, within range of their slingshot pebbles and showed no sign of fear. Nor did he wear any weapons in his belt. As well, all the others had stepped back to gather around the horses that were out of range.
She glanced at Zolin who still stood on their side of the bridge looking up at her. She lifted her right hand with her fingers wide and moved it to signal for him to retreat. He acknowledged her request with a slight hand movement, placed his machete in his belt and stepped back.
“The conquistador officer wants two to be allowed to cross,” Cualli said. “See he had two fingers showing on his right hand.”
Meztli had missed them. “Thanks,” she said. “We’ll allow two to come across but nobody else or the horses. Keep your slingshot in sight, though. I still don’t trust him for they have no regard for our gods so will feel no fear of retribution from Apu if they break this truce. Don’t wait, just fire if there is any hint of a trick.”
Cualli nodded. “Nobody else will get across the bridge,” she whispered. “May the spirit of Apu protect us.”
“Thanks.” Meztli stood with two fingers extended and waved the conquistador forward.
Unexpectedly, coming across with the conquistador was their other enemy, priest Etalpalli. This was unexpected and Meztli almost gritted her teeth. However, she was not about to renege on her promised of safe passage for two. Also, even if the conquistador didn’t belief in their values, Etalpalli did and no doubt would be terrified of divine retribution if he attempted to dishonour this fragile agreement.
Anything could happen!
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