When plotting How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings, I knew I had to include a battle scene. Here’s how I learned to survive their battles. If I were to ever time travel back.
1. Dig up some of the nastiest names you can find.
The Ancient Maya were similar to other ancient cultures. They lined up on their perspective sides of the fields and then attacked. But before they attacked they shouted insults at each other.
At first I found this kind of humorous because I thought about first graders out at recess calling each other out on cheating during a kickball game.
But the more I researched I realized it was a ritual with a purpose. To get pumped. Similar to athletic teams before a big game.
2. Try to hide the fact that you’re a king or a noble.
Of course, the Ancient Maya didn’t do that. The kings and the nobles would have the most decorated headdresses, the fanciest quilted armor, and the most tattoos. But they were also the most prized reward in a battle.
My impression is that to hide their kingship or nobility would be shaming themselves.
Yeah, not very smart.
3. Carry a longer, bigger club than your enemy. Or have bigger muscles.
The Maya fought with a club embedded with pieces of sharp obsidian. Ouch!
Battle came down to fighting one on one. It was a pride thing. All the warriors wanted to walk away victorious with an enemy bound and demoralized.
4. Pray that you sacrificed enough blood the day before!
Before the battle, the Maya sacrificed blood to their gods, hoping for their blessing during battle. No surprise there. The Maya sacrificed blood for just about any reason.
If all these don’t work, then be prepared for the worst. You’ll be lucky to be a slave. Most likely, you’ll get your heart ripped out and decapitated.
Before revising the battle scene, I wrote out a battle with Chak Tok (shortened name) as the main character. He ruled Tikal from 360 AD to 378 AD. Below is just a portion. But it really helped set the mood before writing my own battle scene.
The mass of decorated warriors stood at the edge of a field. Beating war drums matched the king’s heart in anticipation of the fight. For a short while the only sounds were the roar of the howler monkeys and calls of macaws and toucans sounding from the jungle.
A voice broke the silence, then another. Warriors called out insulting names to their enemies. The hatred and anger behind the name calling filled hearts and the shouting intensified. Adrenaline pumped through bodies that minutes before were still and silent. Sweat beaded on foreheads, muscles twitched and trembled, ready for a fight. Clubs imbedded with sharp obsidian shook in the air and wooden bows stretched with sharpened arrows ready to be released. Restless feet shifted side to side and faces contorted with emotion.
The name-calling climaxed, breaking into a war cry. Both sides thundered across the field, trampling any long grass or bushes in the way. Chak Tok surged across the field. Clashing in the middle, each warrior fought with all his strength. The goal was not to kill the enemy, but the greater honor was to capture a noble or maybe even the king, to return to Tikal and offer up in sacrifice.
As the first wave of adrenaline ended the warriors retreated to their side. Any captives were stripped of their war costume and bound.
The name-calling resumed and soon the warriors were at it once again. Chak Tok wrestled with his opponent. Each man taking and giving blows. Finally his enemy bowed under the Tikal’s king’s might and will. Each side retreated for the last time. Chak Tok considered it a victory. They tended wounds, bound prisoners and headed for home.
Many battles between the same two city-states could be fought and it did not always result in a winner and a loser. Sometimes the battles went on for years, resulting in the capture of elite nobles to be sacrificed and farmers to become slaves.
What about you? What time period are you glad weren’t around for? Or that you’d love to go back to?