by Nara Kagerou (奈良蜻蛉)
illustrated by ryuu no dokoro
From the private memoirs of Hernando de Soto, conquistador to their majesties Carlos and Isabella of Spain:
We arrived at Cajamarca in late fall, the cool heights of the mountains a welcome relief from the jungle lowlands. Atahuallpa’s army was encamped near there, at a hot spring, as he was fresh from defeating his brother Huascar in war. Eighty thousand men he had, and we were barely a thousand, only a tenth of that in Spaniards. Our little army revered us as gods, but they were untrained savages, and most didn’t even speak our language.
Francisco Pizarro, the leader of the mission and a man I am wary to call friend, was a man unknown to fear. Faced with the armies of Atahuallpa, each warrior experienced and fresh from a bloody civil war, Pizarro sneered at those who would dissuade him. He was determined to return to Spain rich with Inca gold, and no army would be large enough to stand in his way.
Atahuallpa must have seen our little army, for his empire was vast, the roads were remarkable, and his spies were clever, but he showed no concern, waiting for us to make the first move. So Francisco prepared his envoy: Vincent de Valverde, the amoral friar; Filipillo, our little translator; and myself, a commanding Spaniard in my own right, but no less disposable to Pizarro’s grand expedition. (I have no doubt that Pizarro’s greed would have quickly outweighed his friendship had he heard of my death by savages, nobly taking it upon himself to bear my share of treasure in addition to his own.) I had no real grounds on which to object, since I was known to be the better diplomat and the better choice for the task, so I took my holy man and my translator and went to see the great Sapa Inca, the Sovereign Emperor Atahuallpa.
The gates of the city opened for us, and an escort came out, armed with heavy spears. Filipillo began to greet them, but was ignored. Our escort seemed uninterested with conversation, and I was loathe to resist, unwilling to start our diplomacy with blood, and knowing that the barbarians did not suspect our guns for the weapons they were. The great city was silent as we passed, peasants and warriors staring at us with varying degrees of curiosity and suspicion. Filipillo chattered frenetic Spanish by my side, the only words spoken from any of us on the walk to the palace.
Curiosity outweighed suspicion in the court, especially among the women, who whispered to each other and smiled at us. I recognized them with a polite nod, pretending I did not notice the greed and hunger in de Valverde’s eyes, nor the clamoring of my lonely men.
At last we entered the crowded throne room, where the Sapa Inca himself sat waiting. My men waited outside, so that there was only myself, the priest and our interpreter to face the king. He did not rise to greet us, but frowned, eyes narrowing as he measured us up. He was younger than I had expected, barely thirty at best, and fit, a mighty warrior in his own right. On the steps in front of his throne sat the most beautiful boy I had ever seen. Ixtapa of the Green Eyes, secure in his position as a favorite dog at his master’s feet. It was Ixtapa who broke the silence of the frozen court, rising to his feet and advancing to meet us.
Ixtapa of the Green Eyes, as he called himself, was the most remarkable creature I have ever met. He was a native, as wild and barbaric as the rest, but among the drab brown skin and eyes of the indigenes, Ixtapa was an emerald. His skin was as brown and his hair as dark as the rest, but his eyes were green, and for those who never knew Ixtapa, I say it in earnest: his eyes were green, bright as emeralds, vivid as the silk on a lady’s gown, fresh as the leaves on a newborn rose. He was beautiful, skin smooth as a babe and dangerously sensual. When he approached us, he walked on the balls of his feet, like a dancer. I found out later that he had been captured and tortured in the Incan civil war. His feet were slow to heal, and promised to pain him for the rest of his life. He went barefoot always within the palace, where the floors were polished clean, and his passage could sometimes be marked by the bloody footprints he left behind. I asked him once why he did not arrange to be carried on a palanquin, for surely the king’s consort deserved as much. He smiled at me, amused, and asked how he would dance for the king, while he was carried about on other men’s shoulders. But he did ride about in the palanquin when he left the palace, treated as Incan nobility, for all that he was born a peasant, and a foreigner.
He dropped to one knee in front of me, and spoke in accented but fluent Spanish. “My lord Atahuallpa, the Sapa Inca, great Sovereign Emperor of the children of the sun, mighty warrior, destroyer of cities, welcomes you to his court, strangers.”
“You speak Spanish,” I said in shock, my courtly manners lost to surprise.
The smile he gave me was as sweetly sinful as the devil’s own whore. “If it pleases you, my lord, I am Ixtapa of the Green Eyes, favored pet of my king Atahuallpa the Terrible.”
I have also never met anyone, savage or civilized, who held so much pride to introduce himself as someone’s pet.
Impatient, de Valverde stepped forward, in an effort to remind me of the purpose of our mission. I think he always suspected my weakness, and I have no idea how much of a fool I looked then, drooling over the pet of the man I intended to ruin.
“Your majesty,” de Valverde began, and brought out the copy of the Requirement. Ixtapa listened faithfully to the words, and reported a much shorter version to the king, informing him in summary the demand that he accept Christianity and the King of Spain. I understand now why the Requirement is sometimes read to empty beaches or without a translator, for what fools we must have sounded to the great Atahuallpa, with over eighty times our forces, head of a great empire.
He laughed at us. Ixtapa stood on the steps before the king as he interpreted for us. “Atahuallpa, Sapa Inca, mighty warrior and loyal servant of the gods, will be no man’s tributary. He declares that he has no interest in this Pope and his religion, for the gods of the empire are good and generous, and the people are happy. Nor will he bow his head to the King of Spain, for the Sapa Inca does not believe there is a King greater than himself. It would please him to be friends with Spain, for he must be great to live in a land beyond the sea, and to send his armies so far. And besides, he asks how your Christ can be so great, if the Sapa Inca has never heard of him, and how do you know that your God created the world?”
At these words, delivered so casually from the King’s courtesan, de Valverde’s face was as green as his name. “The wrath of God be upon you for this impudence.” He turned and stormed from the room, followed by the derisive laughter of the court.
I had not moved, so when the doors closed behind de Valverde, signaling his dismissal from before the monarch, the attention of the nobles turned upon myself. Filipillo, fearing to be left behind in the city, had followed the priest, leaving me alone.
Ixtapa approached me, the green cloth at his hips swaying with the deliberate sweep of his feet. “Yet you remain, Spaniard. You have not yet told us your name.”
Alone among the savages, without the strength of God or Spain to protect me, I knelt, humbled by the might and nobility of the King before me. “I am Hernando de Soto, your Majesty, servant of God and the King of Spain.”
“And are you of one mind with your companion?” Ixtapa’s smile was amused, almost patronizing with mirth. “Will you destroy us single-handedly, with the might of your god?”
I, against the entire Inca empire. “I am a man,” I confessed, “and though I believe that the King of Spain is as mighty or more than the Sapa Inca, it is in no one’s interests if two such great empires destroy each other in petty squabbles. I beg you to consider the words of the priest, for though you are not aware of him, our Christ is a mighty Lord, and it is not wise to mock a God.”
Ixtapa relayed my words to the King, and the two of them shared a brief conference before turning back to me. “The Sapa Inca bids me invite your people to his great City of Cuzco, so that he may prepare a feast in honor of his new friend, Spain.”
“We are honored, great King, but I must convey this message to my companions, some distance hence. I know not what host he will bring as an escort, but I am sure he will gratefully accept your generous offer, so that our nations may speak of peace.”
“If,” Ixtapa smiled, his eyes glittering with something I learned to recognize as desire, “you wish to stay, you may travel with us to Cuzco. But the Sapa Inca will understand if you prefer your companions to be… Spanish.”
The amount of innuendo in his smile was remarkable. My senses had dissolved into mash.
“His majesty is generous,” I responded. “But I must beg his leave to confer with my comrades before making my decision.”
“Of course,” Ixtapa relented. “But you must at least let us entertain you for one night. You must be weary from your journeys, as we are weary from war.”
I thanked him, and made my exit from the court. De Valverde was standing where we left the horses, and fuming. “You stayed to exchange pleasantries, after that heathen’s insults?”
I spoke softly, uncomfortable with the knowledge that more here spoke our language than we had estimated. “You may recall the reasons yourself, that Pizarro asked us to gain their friendship, and to gather information. That is what I am doing.”
“We might as well offer the gospel to brute animals.”
I interrupted before he could commence ranting. “They have invited us to a feast at the capital. All of us, to establish a treaty between our nations.”
He started. “Surely you don’t intend—”
“To gain information, and perhaps their trust. It is called diplomacy, Vincente.”
“They are savages.”
“We have to take this information to Pizarro. They will give us a guide, so that he might bring our party to this new city, Cuzco. You and Filipillo will return to Piura and tell Pizarro everything we have learned.”
He stared at me. “Are you not accompanying us?”
“They have invited me to travel with the court to Cuzco. We need the information I can acquire.”
I could see the disgust in his eyes, but my mind was full of Ixtapa, and I paid no attention. “Then I will pray for your soul.”
“At least stay tonight in the city, Vincente. They have offered us a feast. It is too late to depart tonight.”
He agreed, and we parted there. I returned to the palace, met on the steps by a pretty youth with a tendency to chatter. He spoke none of my language, and I spoke none of his, so he led me before Ixtapa to translate.
I know I am a sinner, but Ixtapa smiled when he saw me, and my heart leapt. “You will stay?”
“I will stay tonight with my companions, and then I alone will travel with the court to Cuzco, if his majesty pleases.”
Ixtapa nodded, green eyes glittering. “As you will. I regret I cannot easily leave the palace, but this boy will show you the wonders of our city of Cajamarca. He will return you to the palace when the feast is prepared.”
I bowed. “I am honored by the King’s generosity.”
Ixtapa bit his lip to fight a smile. “He is no mere King, Spaniard. He is the Sapa Inca.”
The boy led me out, and de Valverde agreed to accompany us, so we began our tour of the city. I thought it would be in my best interests if de Valverde did not leave with wrath towards me in his heart, though I would have preferred to take the tour alone. Our guide was pleasingly attractive, and I suspect that Ixtapa chose him intentionally, suspecting my weakness. The priest also suspected, and I was lucky that my mind was so full of Ixtapa that I scarcely noticed the youth before me. By the time we returned to the palace, even de Valverde had begun to relax.
My memories of the feast are a blur of color, as a bevy of adoring youths served us with bites of things so exquisite I thought I could die of pleasure. De Valverde was laughing, drunk and sandwiched between two pretty Incan girls. The king watched all, and Ixtapa flitted between him and myself, but came to settle more often at my side. His command of the language was extensive enough that he could be witty, teasing and making jokes, telling us tales of the court. De Valverde scarcely listened, but I was enrapt, lust multiplying at his display of playful wit. At last he settled into my lap, laughing at a joke. The priest stirred at once, face red with rage.
“Demon barbarian! Will you flaunt your unnatural affections so?”
Ixtapa stilled, looking from him to me in confusion. The court went silent, watching us.
“Our god condemns men to lie with men,” I explained.
Nodding once, Ixtapa rose, lifted his goblet, and said something to the court. I know not what he said, but they laughed and went back to their feasting. He did not touch me again for the remainder of the feast, and I mourned the loss. Later in the night, a girl approached me, all smiles, and since de Valverde was watching, I went along with her. I knew I could simply not consummate the invitation, and hoped it would not be taken as too deep of an insult. She led me to a sumptuous room, where Ixtapa lay across the bed, naked but for the strings of jade around his neck, to match his eyes.
The girl hesitated, fingers lingering on my arm.
“Tell me, Spaniard,” Ixtapa smiled, challenging. “Will you obey your god or yourself?”
“I have always known myself to be a sinner,” I replied.
Ixtapa gave the girl a brief order, and she turned and vanished without a sound. “Come,” he said to me, tone gentle. I approached and sat by him, guiding his hands as he began the complicated work of unfastening my clothes. He worked patiently, finding the clasp, discovering how they worked and coaxing them open. His hair was unbound, and hung forward over his shoulder like a woman’s.
“Does the Sapa Inca allow all men such intimate access to his favored pet?” I asked.
He glanced up from the laces of my boots, his smile full of amusement. “Only those I wish. I answer to no man but the Sapa Inca, and all others must bow and obey me. This is how much my lord trusts me, though I am a foreigner.”
“Then it is your will to be here with me, or his?”
“Mine, though had he asked me to refrain, I would not have come.”
“And your Spanish? It’s excellent. How did you come to learn it?”
“A Spaniard taught me.” He pushed me back into the soft bed, gazing down from above me. “Enough questions.”
“Yes,” I agreed, my breath going out of me in a rush.
Though he allowed me to penetrate him, Ixtapa of the Green Eyes held the reins that night. He guided and controlled me, and what pleasure I received was what he chose to give. He allowed no haste and no distractions, my entire world reduced to the roll of his hips, drawing me within and riding me, soft gasps and murmurs of pleasure spilling like rubies from his lips.
When he reached his pleasure, he lay upon me or under me to rest, then stirred and woke me again, teaching me where to place my hands and mouth, how to move so as to awaken new realms of pleasure, things of which I had never dreamt. The sun was tinting the sky again when finally he became exhausted, falling asleep in my arms. I woke in the heat of the day, unused to sleeping such late hours. Unprepared to wander the halls of a strange empire without my protector, translator, and now bedmate, I lay beside him in silence, intrigued by the youth and innocence of his features. With his marvelous eyes lidded, one would not know that he was called Clever Ixtapa, Wise Ixtapa, the Sorcerer of the Green Eyes. Sleep robbed him of his power and mysticism, and he could not truly be more than twenty, barely more than a boy. He slept solidly, with far more trust than I could have expected from one who claimed to be the second most powerful man in the Incan Empire. I was his enemy, come to destroy him, and he slept in my arms like a babe.
He barely stirred when the door opened, a young slave entering and beckoning urgently to me. I left my lover asleep and dressed quickly. Outside the door were two guards, standing vigil, and I recognized that Ixtapa had been less defenseless than I had suspected. The boy led me outside, to where de Valverde was waiting for me. He was infuriated that he had not been permitted to seek me out, but reduced to waiting attendance upon me.
“You still intend to remain here, like a fool?”
I nodded. What doubts I’d had before were now quelled with lust, lost in Ixtapa’s vivid eyes. “Yes, I do. We shall meet again in Cuzco, I hope?”
“We might not come back for you,” de Valverde threatened. “Surely the Inca girls aren’t worth that much.”
“I’ll take my chances.” He was right, my choice greatly increased the risk that I would never see Spain again, but one did not become a conquistador if one feared death or exile. There was no one to await me in Spain, only wealth and glory if I was successful, and if I was not—Ixtapa was worth the risk.
“What of your men?”
“They will return with you. I won’t inflict my self-imposed exile upon them. I’ll speak with them myself.”
My poor, loyal men. They didn’t understand, but they agreed. None wished to remain behind with me, and I did not blame them. I saw them depart through the gates of Cajamarca, then I took the packs from my horse and returned to the palace. The natives continued in fear of the beast, and even Ixtapa referred to it sometimes as a dragon. I was met by a servant and led to a room, where I was provided with a small meal and left to my own devices.
They fetched me after sunset for dinner, leading me to the king’s own chambers. I dined privately with Ixtapa and the king.
As I entered, they were laughing and jesting like old friends, Ixtapa relaxed in the Sapa Inca’s arms. They greeted me as a guest, smiling and welcoming me, though neither rose, and they remained in contact. Ixtapa stayed at the king’s side, and even ate from his plate, like a lapdog.
“Welcome, Spaniard,” spoke Atahuallpa, gesturing to an empty place. I bowed, thanking him, and took my seat. Servants brought in trays of food for us, and we dined.
“You intrigue me, Spaniard,” the emperor confessed. “You show no hesitance or fear to be alone with the leader of a nation upon whom you have just declared war.”
I stared at him. “You speak Spanish, as well?”
“I thought it might be useful. Ixtapa speaks very well, does he not?”
“But there have been no Spanish here before, have there?”
The king snorted, amused by my frustration. “No. You are the first I have met.”
“Then why have you seen fit to learn our language?”
Ixtapa spoke up from beside him. “When I was a child, a man called Cortes came to my city and used our ignorance to destroy us. Now you have come here and declared your intent to conquer. Can you blame us for being prepared?”
It took me some moments to recover from shock. “You’re Aztec.”
“Mexica. Yes, I was, once. My people are enslaved now, and my loyalty is to the Sapa Inca alone.”
I had the sudden sensation of feeling the world drop away around me. Their army was eighty times our size, and these were not the unsuspecting natives Cortes had met. They knew. How much, I couldn’t be sure, but at least enough to make fools of us. I had to tell Pizarro, before he did something foolish. I also had to stay alive, for the Sapa Inca could be rid of me without a thought, if I did something foolish.
“You have convinced me over again,” I told him, “that peace is in everyone’s best interests. I have no desire to see our great nations destroy each other. I must return to my companions and dissuade them from any remaining thoughts of war.”
“Do you think they will reject my invitation to Cuzco?” He gazed at me, judging my reactions.
I feared him, not as a monster, but as a great king. Though some may judge my words as treason, he was civilized in ways I had never dreamt, and his gaze was cruel and benevolent at once. He would destroy me in a moment if I earned it, but once he had chosen to befriend me, I felt safer with his court than ever I have at home in Spain.
“No. Pizarro will not refuse. He is too proud.”
“Then you may tell this Pizarro your thoughts when he arrives. It pleases me that you remain with the court. We will proceed tomorrow to Cuzco.”
“I am honored.”
Ixtapa began to laugh. “You are stealing his appetite, my king. Let us talk of lighter things.”
Atahuallpa laughed with him, a large, rolling chuckle. “True, my clever Ixtapa. I am showing my failings as a host. I defer to you for our entertainment.”
We ate and drank, and Ixtapa entertained us with jests and stories, his deft hands dancing as he spoke. The evening passed too quickly, and too soon the last of the food was cleared from before us.
“Ixtapa, my love,” the King murmured. “Will you dance?”
“If it pleases my king.” Ixtapa beckoned to the musicians, telling them his desires, and rose. He shed clothing and jewelry as he stood, leaving himself with only a few trinkets to catch the light, accenting his bronze skin, and the vivid green cloth that he wore about his hips. I had never seen such dancing, so wild but so refined. I suspect his dance contained a story. I know not what it was, but he became both warrior and whore as he danced. I learned later that he combined the Aztec styles of ferocity with the Inca dances and skills. It was his appeal: he was as exotic to the Inca as he was to me.
“Incredible, is he not?”
I turned at the voice, so enrapt in Ixtapa’s dance that I had nearly forgotten I was in the presence of the king. If Atahuallpa was a jealous man, I should soon be dead.
“I have never seen a creature to compare,” I answered, honestly. “He is truly the gem of your majesty’s court.”
“He came to my court, some few years ago, and has been a part of it since. I once doubted his loyalty, as a king must. He had a chance to exchange his loyalty to me, in favor of my brother, Huascar. My brother had all the advantages. His was the stronger army, and he even had me held captive. I escaped, and betrayed Ixtapa by leaving him in Huascar’s hands.
“When our armies faced each other, Huascar’s forces crumbled and fled before me. I was mystified by triumph, and when we entered the tents of the army, Ixtapa came to greet me, with my brother’s blood on his hands, and his own blood on his feet.”
I looked over, to where Ixtapa still danced, and saw that his bare feet had begun to leave trails of blood on the floor. The king had noticed, as well.
“Ixtapa. That is enough.”
The youth stopped, seeming as surprised as I by the tracks of blood he had left. A servant scurried to polish away the stains, another bringing a bowl of scented water to wash and bind Ixtapa’s feet. The dancer resisted, but the king ordered that he allow it. Ixtapa’s eyes showed anguish at the order, but obeyed. I think he disliked the evidence of his own weakness, and despised the handicap it created. The bandages were always gone again as soon as Ixtapa dared to remove them.
“Why, Ixtapa?” I once asked him. “Do you fear he will tire of you if you don’t dance for him?”
“I fear my soul will – what is your word? – stagnate if I do not dance, and the magic in my eyes would fade.” Ixtapa smiled at me, green eyes shining. “Then I should only be Ixtapa the Ordinary, with eyes brown as dirt. If the gods have given me magic, I cannot belittle their gift by neglecting it. The gods of my people have a taste for blood. This is the price I have paid in the service of the Sapa Inca.”
“Do you think the gods have punished you for your alliance with the Inca?”
“What?” He seemed bemused by the idea. “Do you think my gods would be happier if I was the pet of a Spaniard who said they were lies made up by demons? No. The Sapa Inca knows better than to ignore the signs of a god. He allows me my blood.”
He returned to the king’s side, taking a cup of wine and drinking from it. “Rest and attend, pretty green-eyes.”
The king dismissed all but a few of his servants and musicians, his eyes weighty upon me. “You do intrigue me, Spaniard. What is it you seek? Wealth? Power? Knowledge?”
“Adventure,” I offered. “Meaning.”
Ixtapa laughed. “Passion.”
“My weakness,” I confessed.
“It drives you,” the king said. “You have risked your safety and the quest of your god and king for passion.”
“You intrigue me, as well, Sapa Inca. I have never met such a king as you.”
“Oh? You flatter me. What of Spain?”
“He is older, frailer, perhaps wiser, and with the might of god. But you are different. Wild, exotic—”
“Passionate.” Ixtapa laughed again, perhaps a bit intoxicated. His eyes darted between us, excited at the presence of two men he so desired.
Atahuallpa chuckled. “Does that draw you, Spaniard?”
I had struggled through the jungles of a green Hell to enter the court of the Devil and his favorite whore. He laughed and asked me for my immortal soul. Did I desire him? Was it worth it?
Ixtapa’s hand moved upon me, relieving me of my clothing, while my eyes were full of the king. He watched me, judging, a hunger in his eyes that I had never seen from another men. I had seen the lust of men for women, but never for myself, and never so proudly. His eyes studied my bared skin as Ixtapa revealed it. I have been called handsome, and because of it had less shame to be so unclothed before the king, though I was lanky of limb and pale.
The king was a large man, handsome of face and form. His shoulders were broad, the planes of his chest flat and wide. He was tall, long-legged, with thighs like great trees. The only comparison I could make were the men of the traveling-circuses, great muscled men who could lift a whole family with one arm. Atahuallpa was different even than them, for he was a king, noble in his own right, and proud. He moved to the bed, settling himself with satisfied self-possession. We followed him, Ixtapa hanging back to allow me to enter first, into their sacred domain.
I had never lain with a man before like this. When I was a youth I was led by men, and as a man I have corrupted youths, but always it was a surreptitious thing, in the hope that shadows would hide our sin. In Atahuallpa’s chamber, the lamps were bright, shining on their bronze skin like angels.
He drew me into his lap and kissed me, lips sweetened with the wine we had drunk. Like Ixtapa, he was slow and patient, exploring my boundaries, but his was a barely restrained power, only allowing patience out of generosity. Behind me, Ixtapa’s fingers trailed caresses down my spine. His hands shone with the fragrant oil he always seemed to have within reach, leaving paths of it over my ribs and muscles, like a river, each tributary trickling down to join the others at my spine. Ixtapa led the droplets like a pagan flautist leading a parade, touches flickering over my flesh.
His fingers pushed inside me and curled, Ixtapa’s smiling lips at the apex of my spine. The sensation was so alien and irresistible that it seemed a natural part of my lovers, Green-Eyed Ixtapa and the mighty king Atahuallpa. I could refuse them nothing. Ixtapa laughed with delight at my gasps, his fingers venturing deeper, scissoring wider, trawling for reactions; pleasure, pain and surprise. I withheld nothing, ensconced in the king’s arms, and a thousand years away from God, King and Country.
Playful Ixtapa withdrew, at an indication from the king, leaving me empty, abused and wanton for more. They—my lovers, the Devil and his whore—guided me onto my stomach, and the king knelt above me, his phallus cleaving me in twain. Ixtapa curled by my head, coaxing me up to my elbows and stealing kisses, chiding me to relax and making playful jests about his own mishaps with Atahuallpa’s great size. I was pinned down by the king’s weight, pinioned with pain, and lifted up by Ixtapa’s laughter, weightless with ecstasy.
“Hernando,” Ixtapa whispered, leading my hand to the hard curve of his arousal. My palm wrapped around the smooth heat of him, each touch eliciting strings of sounds, like a skilled harpist on an instrument, though I was barely an amateur on the most exquisite instrument that had ever been formed.
Atahuallpa’s palms swept over my back and hips, the heat of his hands branding me as his possession. I moved beneath him, drawing Ixtapa closer so that I could swallow him.
Ixtapa’s skin was salty with sweat and spunk, underlaid with a sweetness that was Ixtapa’s own flavor, if the color of jade could be tasted. His knees were wide on either side of my head, back arched so far that his crown brushed against the blankets. The king rumbled his pleasure above me, within me, lifting my hips so that I settled onto my knees, and he could drive deeper and deeper, thrusting into the molten core of me. Unskilled but willing, I invited them within me, filled at both ends and eager to be so used.
Pretty Ixtapa cried out as he came, fingers clutching at my hair and the bedsheets, filling my throat with foam. I drank it like milk, and he slipped from me, bending forward to thank me with kisses and smiles. Behind me, the king strove further within, so that my whole body slid beneath him, driven forward and pulled back, possessed wholly and used as a vessel. Lounged across the bed, Ixtapa merely watched, green eyes dark with satisfaction.
Time melted for me, pleasure heightened to a blur, and all I could see was the green of Ixtapa’s gaze. The king relaxed at last beside me, and Ixtapa’s eyes flicked up to him, then back down to me, smiling constantly. My thighs were sticky with my own spend, added to the unfamiliar slick of the oil and seed within me. I slept in a tangle of limbs, exhausted but satisfied.
We traveled to Cuzco, and I found myself readily accepted into the court at the king’s side. Perhaps it was the influence of Ixtapa that so inured them to the presence of outsiders, or perhaps it was merely their way. The king left me to my space, displaying little of the same possessive affection as he showed with Ixtapa, but he kept me close, and I could not help but feel I’d assumed the title of “King’s Pet.”
Atahuallpa was inundated with duties, struggling with the repair of a kingdom under civil war. Ixtapa helped loyally, but we all knew it wouldn’t do to have all the king’s advice come from foreign advisors, so he sent us away and surrounded himself with quarrelsome nobles. Ixtapa and I became inseparable. We were both outsiders, kept for pleasure in the king’s bed, and the Sapa Inca found also that he favored us for political advice, though he liberally excluded me by his choice of whether he addressed Ixtapa in Spanish or Incan for a particular conversation. He might as well have spoken in Aztec for privacy, Ixtapa’s native language. I could not tell the difference, and began to regret my ignorance. So Ixtapa began to teach me Incan.
Months passed. I know now the dates, but then, time was a blur. Their calendar didn’t match mine closely enough that I could translate, so I was only aware of the change of seasons. I began to believe Pizarro would never come, that I had been left forever in my heathen paradise.
Ixtapa and I explored the kingdom. I taught him to ride, and mounted on my horse we rode out into the wild. Ixtapa delighted in how quickly we could move, taking me to visit all the natural wonders. Everyone had heard of the Sapa Inca’s green-eyed consort, and the villagers we encountered greeted us with flowers and kisses, not even alarmed at the presence of the ‘dragon’ we rode. We went to the hot springs by Cajamarca, lavishing in our own pleasure. We stayed up all night drinking, laughing and kissing. I learned more about the arts of love in a day with Ixtapa than in all the rest of the years of my life.
When the Spanish came, I had nearly forgotten that I had ever been anything but Incan. My former friends told me that even my voice had changed. I yet retain an Incan accent to my speech, even my native Spanish. The Sapa Inca commanded a feast, celebrations in their honor, but my heart was frozen with fear at Pizarro’s intentions. Atahuallpa knew, I think, though I said nothing. Ixtapa always knew.
We scrambled to find my old clothing, tracking down my Spanish armor. I had worn Incan finery for months, and the Spanish garments were rough and alien on my skin. Some pieces could not be found and had to have substitutions.
I stood by the king when the Spanish entered, feeling like a traitor to both countries. Pizarro had brought all his men, except a few to hold Piura. They looked like wolves in their shining armor, Pizarro and his brothers, the bastard Conquistadors, with Francisco in the lead. He greeted me as he entered, ignoring the king.
“Hernando de Soto.” Pizarro greeted me with a smile. “Mad, perhaps, but alive. We are pleased to see you.”
I longed to spit in his face, to warn Atahuallpa that Pizarro was a monster, a murderer. I knew the Inca outnumbered them astronomically, but I still feared Pizarro’s smile. Instead I smiled and bowed in greeting. “Pizarro. How nice to see Spaniards again.”
I was invited to the meeting of generals the next day, after the feast. Pizarro smiled again as I entered. “How nice of you to join us, Hernando.”
It aches me to write the details of that meeting. I argued for peace, but Pizarro would have nothing less than total domination. I told him it was suicide, and Pizarro told me my sympathies had sent me mad. He threw me out, and set some of his men to watch me. My own men met me with restrained enthusiasm, and it was clear that even they feared I’d gone mad. The announcement I heard was the same that the Sapa Inca heard and accepted. I knew none of the inner workings of the plan. The court would return to Cajamarca for a peace ceremony in the king’s honor. No one asked for my opinion.
We returned to Cajamarca.
Atahuallpa told me later that Ixtapa had suspected. When the court entered Cajamarca, it was with only a few thousand in attendance, most of the empire’s vast army left outside. Ixtapa begged him to take more, and it was a compromise that the escort was as large as a few thousand. Ixtapa of the Green Eyes was furious, but the King was a proud man, and did not wish to seem afraid of a mere two hundred Spaniards.
I watched on the sidelines, helpless to interfere as Pizarro began his charade, sending the Priest forth as envoy. Vincente de Valverde. I have heard that he died in captivity among the natives. The legend has it that they poured molten gold down his throat as a punishment for greed. I hope the stories are true.
Vincente told him again the requirement, and Atahuallpa became annoyed. He again used Ixtapa as an interpreter, letting them think he knew no Spanish. Vincente gave him a copy of the Holy Bible, and Atahuallpa flipped through it, uncomprehending. They did not use a writing system there, as we do. When Atahuallpa cast the book aside, the Spaniards had the excuse they needed.
They opened fire.
The Inca banded around their king with fierce loyalty. Some turned and fled the bullets, but most stood, trying in any way they could to stop the torrents of death. Row after row of bodies, stacking up in the defense of the king. A knot of loyal nobles stood around the Sapa Inca, who raged with pain and fury, but not even Atahuallpa could stop bullets. His nobles restrained him, knowing that if the king fell the empire would be destroyed.
Pizarro wanted Atahuallpa alive, so he was careful with his orders, careful with his bullets, careful with his men, until they were picking off the last stand of nobles one by one. Ixtapa was the last, for he stood directly in front of the king and would not be moved, even by Atahuallpa himself.
Pizarro took the shot himself, striking a hole through Ixtapa’s chest, just below the throat. Clever, magical Ixtapa, Wise Ixtapa of the Green Eyes, favored pet of the Sapa Inca, the Emperor Atahuallpa of the last free pagan Empire in the New World. Bare-chested and unarmed, Ixtapa fell back against the king, collapsing without a sound on the steps of the great temple. His blood poured like libations down the steps of the temple of the sun, the last sacrifice of the Aztecs, far away to the North. Threads of sticky blood dripped from his fingers, spattered even into the pristine green of his sublime eyes.
The City was filled with a remarkable silence. Atahuallpa stood alone, surrounded by the golden and gem-studded corpses of an empire. Pizarro’s soldiers held back, silent in awe and horror of what they had done. The unarmed civilians who remained within the city, those Inca women and children who had not fled or died in the massacre, crept forward as if begging permission. A great, keening wail of mourning went up around us, as if they cried for Ixtapa, as if the Sapa Inca himself were already dead.
Atahuallpa knelt, brushing back a sheaf of his lover’s hair with a blood-spattered hand, gazing into the lost, broken beauty of Ixtapa the Glorious, Gift of the Gods. He cradled the body, as Ixtapa’s blood flowed out in crests. When the Spaniards took him away, he went like a lamb, though he allowed no one to touch the body of Ixtapa. He took the corpse with him to his cell, only relinquishing his beloved when at last the Spaniards despaired and allowed Incan attendants into the room to carry off the body, to buy in the old traditional ways. I have no idea if they did, or if Pizarro intercepted the body and had his Spaniards dispose of it.
I went to see Atahuallpa in prison.
He sat on a plain, stunted, three-legged stool, the sole monarch of a bare dusty room, a table, and a spread of blankets. There were still bloodstains on the threshold. He stared into space, lost in thought, and did not stir as I entered. I sat across from him, silent, waiting on his attendance.
“Hello, Hernando,” he said at last, though he did not look at me.
“Not ‘Spaniard’?” I asked.
“I did not see you take up weapons against us with the rest of them. Is it true you are out of favor among your companions?”
“They believe I’m mad or enchanted.”
He nodded, thinking over my words. There was no hurry in him. No longer did he need to be a quick-witted monarch. Day after day Atahuallpa sat in thought, all alone with only a tiny window within his sight. There was no haste left within him, a man with all the time in the world, waiting for his death.
“Is there anything I can bring you?”
“There is nothing.”
“You won’t look at me.”
A mirthless smile crossed his lips. “You remind me of him. The two of you, unrestrained, bursting with curiosity and laughter. Like children, you were. I hear you now and think of everything I have lost.”
“Then shall I leave?”
“No.” He looked up and met my eyes. “I would not turn away the company of a friend.”
Months passed, wasting away like sickness. The Inca sent armies against us. Atahuallpa’s subjects raised a great ransom of gold. Pizarro took it and gave no thanks. The Sapa Inca remained in prison, and Pizarro gave the order to have him executed.
I gained permission to take the news myself.
My audience began as all of them had since Atahuallpa was imprisoned. I sat in silence until he addressed me, and then we conversed as equals, or nearly so.
“They are preparing to kill you, Atahuallpa.”
He looked up at me. “How?”
“How? I believe they intend to burn you, as a heretic.”
His face went slack with fear. I had never before seen Atahuallpa show weakness, and it unsettled me.
“Then how will my soul be reborn? They cannot.”
“Ask that I may be strangled.”
Valverde and Pizarro smiled and fawned, and commanded that Atahuallpa convert as a Christian, if he wanted his last wish.
I returned to Atahuallpa, and we spoke for hours.
“Tell me, Hernando, what does your Pope say will happen when we die?”
I leaned back, watching the dust settle on the fading stains of blood. “If one is righteous and repents of sins, one enters into the glory of Heaven. Those who do not will be tormented forever in Hell.”
“Will we meet again, Hernando, in Heaven?”
“We’d be better to hope for reunion in Hell. You will repent in word for the priest, but in your heart we shall never leave our sins. It would mean betraying Ixtapa to burn in Hell alone.”
Atahuallpa laughed, and went to confession. I met his eyes one last time as I left that room, and we shared a smile. He pressed a single jade ear spool into my hand. I remembered it as belonging to Ixtapa. “I will wait for you in Hell, Hernando de Soto.”
I laughed, the last piece of my heart breaking within me. “Give my love to Ixtapa.”
Author’s Note: History is written by the victors, and usually the straight white male victors. If this story is fabricated, then it stands for a hundred other stories and a hundred other voices that have gone unheard. Ixtapa is a character from my own mind. All other names and places are accurate to the best of my ability. I could not for the life of me find a reliable account of where Hernando de Soto or Francisco Pizarro were and what they were doing between November 1532 and July 1533, so I chose the version that best suited my story.
I have absolutely no idea what the Incan views on homosexuality were. We don’t have any written records of the Inca at all, or at least none that we can read. The Aztecs did at least recognize homosexuality in their culture. Tezcatlipoca, Ixtapa’s patron deity, was the god of sorcery and (according to some sources) male love (or at least lust).
Bonus: Ixtapa’s Story, the bonus prequel to Ixtapa of the Green Eyes. Ixtapa’s backstory, if you liked him and wanted to know more.