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Disclaimer: The idea of the Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and Co. I have taken great liberties with the Aztec culture and religion in order to merge it with Whedon's vision. Readers should take note that this text is in no way masquerading as history. It's all in fun. It should be further noted that the name Tlantli means "teeth," Itzel means "precious one," and Nochtli means "prickly pear cactus." I think they were pretty fitting names for the characters.

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Watcher's Diary: 1262 AD, Central America (Translated from original hieroglyphs by Quentin Travers, 1967)

In this golden city of Tenochtitlán, the Lord of Two has favored his children with wealth and prosperity. His strength is unbounded, enriched by the offerings of his most devout. With the blood of our enemies we feed our gods and thus maintain balance in our world.

However, there is a shadow upon this great nation. As years pass a plague of darkness has grown, a blight on the glorious nation. The creatures seek to steal the vital life's blood of our gods and make them weak. The only outcome of this treachery shall be chaos.

As high priestess to sacred Ometecuhtli, our Lady of Duality, it is my duty to protect the world from those who would seek to subvert it. The creatures are not divine; they do not serve a purpose on this plane. They are usurpers of godly power, and are bent upon a most unnatural destruction.

There is a weapon we may wield against them. The powers of divinity fallen to Earth as a holy protection against the dark ones. They are housed within the form of a young girl. This child has a terrible task before her. Her body, her flesh, belong to the greater purpose. And when she has perished, the powers will rise again in another...

* * *

The man who entered the inner sanctum of Ometecuhtli's temple was covered in the mud of the chinampas. As summer slowly waned, it was soon time for harvest, and these broad floating gardens would yield a massive bounty. The farmer likely longed to return to his work, and believed today's excursion to be a waste of his time. This attitude was by no means an insult to Nochtli, but a general belief that one's daughters should not take a man's attentions from his livelihood.

The farmer wore the simple garb of a male commoner—an unadorned loincloth that preserved his modesty. His six daughters, lined up obediently behind him, all wore drab cotton dresses. Their greased hair gleamed like obsidian in the dim light of the temple.

When the farmer was beckoned forward by a temple priest, he turned to grab the shoulder of his eldest daughter. He hauled the girl behind him as he walked toward the high priestess, finally shoving her to her knees at Nochtli's feet.

The priestess gazed at him impassively for many long moments before finally speaking. "This is not the one I requested."

A befuddled expression crossed the farmer's face. "It is but one petal of the same flower," he argued. "The eldest will serve you better than that other one."

Nochtli raised a brow at his audacity. "If they are all identical, should I not choose amongst them with no loss to yourself?" she asked. If she'd been feeling sourly that day, she'd have asked him why an eighteen year old girl was as yet unwed and taken off his hands.

Casting her eyes toward the five remaining girls, she immediately spotted the one she sought. The girl was not the youngest sister, but in the middle of the group. Her father was incorrect in his assumptions, for she was inherently different than her sisters. She alone held the vast powers of the universe within her small frame. At some level, she understood this. Nochtli could see it in the way she carried herself. The girl did not dare raise her head in defiance against her father, and kept her eyes trained obediently upon the marble floor, but there was still a certain strength about her that was undeniable. She would never be cowed.

"I have requested that your child Itzel be taken as apprentice to the high priestess of Ometecuhtli," Nochtli continued coldly. "You would find offense in this opportunity?"

The farmer's gaze met hers as the color drained from his features. "I am honored that Nochtli has found favor with my family," he stammered. "I would never...that is, it is an honor..."

Finding him sufficiently terrified by her implied threat, Nochtli shook her head to stop his stuttering apology. The long peacock feathers adorning her headdress swayed alongside her face with the abrupt movement.

"It is the will of the Lady that the child remain here to train," Nochtli told him. "You shall relinquish custody of her and leave her to a sacred future here at this temple."

The man nodded vaguely, fighting off tears. The days when common men were cast up to the gods was long past, yet he obviously feared that his mouth had sacrificed his heart and blood to feed the divine. Nochtli shook her head again, this time in disgust. Motioning to her priests, she dismissed the man from her presence. The farmer and his remaining daughters slowly trudged from the room, leaving Itzel behind.

"Leave us," Nochtli commanded her men. She watched the girl carefully as the priests silently obeyed. Itzel did not meet her gaze, but stood straight for the first time since entering the temple. She had a strength, Nochtli thought again.

"Your mother was taken by the plague, was she not?" Nochtli asked. "You and your sisters have been caring for your father and brothers ever since?"

"My mother was murdered," Itzel spoke. Her voice was quiet, but firm.

"Truly?" Nochtli asked in mock surprise. "This is not reflected in the official report of her death."

The girl's gaze left the floor. Her dark eyes burned with an inner fire as she snapped, "The official report does not reflect the truth of the matter."

Nochtli's brows rose in surprise. "The truth of the matter is that your mother was killed by a creature that drank her blood from her body, isn't that right?"

Itzel watched her warily, refusing to exhibit surprise at the statement.

"Furthermore, you blame yourself for her death," Nochtli continued. "You know that if you had been there with her, you could have stopped the animal from attacking her. You know this because you have stopped others in the past."

When the girl still did not respond, Nochtli sighed in exasperation. "Do you not wonder how it is that I've come upon this knowledge? Why I believe in the same creatures that have earned you endless beatings at the hands of your father whenever you attempted to tell him about them? Do you not think we have a connection in this way?"

Itzel frowned. "I am not here to be the apprentice of a priestess," she guessed.

"No," Nochtli shook her head. "You have a much loftier purpose. But I did not lie when I told your father that you were here to train. You have much to learn about yourself before you'll be prepared."

"Prepared?" the girl wondered.

"Prepared to protect the gods from the dark ones," Nochtli murmured.

* * *

The two women hurried away from the center of the city, largely unnoticed. They wore the simple garb of commoners. If they were ever to be stopped by a man and questioned, two large men would immediately come forward from the shadows. Nochtli never left the temple without her bodyguards, especially now that the dark ones held sway over the night.

Itzel had quickly excelled in her studies. In the year that she'd been training at the temple, she had easily proven her abilities. The weak-willed creatures stalking the central plaza after dark quickly fell to dust under Itzel's stake. Now it was time to test her skills on more difficult prey.

"This creature is an ancient," Nochtli explained as they paused before the gates of the city. "It has lived many lifetimes on the blood of honorable men and women--blood that belongs only to the Lord and Lady."

Itzel did not respond. Standing quietly in the darkness, she clutched her stake to her breast as she watched the guards at the gates. Nochtli realized that she was afraid. She nodded in approval. Fear would keep her from attacking without thought. Fear would keep her alive.

They had a long journey ahead of them. Tlantli's temple lay high in the mountains, a two day hike away. They would leave now, under cover of darkness, to avoid any unreasonable questions. Nochtli's priests would find them if necessary, and would travel to the temple during daylight hours if the two of them did not return in five days' time.

"I am not the first, am I?" Itzel asked later that day. They'd stopped for a brief respite after crossing a river that had become engorged by the recent floods.

Nochtli paused a moment before answering. Her guards were nearby, close enough to watch them but too far to hear their conversation. "The history is unnecessary for the task at hand," she chastised her pupil.

Itzel nodded. "There were many others," she said. "Sometimes I dream of them. They lived in other times, and distant lands. They died young."

Frowning, Nochtli was alarmed by the stirring these words caused in her heart. Her attachments were to the goddess alone. This child was a vessel--sacred to the world but in the end more a tool than a person. It would not do to become infatuated with her only to lose her.

"There are many," Nochtli agreed. "An endless cycle of women born of the same line. They cross nations and centuries, just as you have dreamed. It is the power that connects them. It is the power of the gods."

"Should I be overcome by Tlantli, then another girl will be called to take my place?" Itzel asked.

Wary, Nochtli nodded her assent. This seemed to satisfy the girl, for she sagged in relief.

"But the one who comes after me may not be here, in Tenochtitlán," Itzel said.

"She likely will not," Nochtli agreed.

Itzel frowned. "But then who will protect you? You'll need someone to escort you back into the city."

Nochtli smiled. Was this what worried the girl? "You must not fret over my welfare," she urged the child. "My life is unimportant when compared to the work that you do. I will not allow you to think of me when you face Tlantli tomorrow."

To her surprise, Itzel smiled broadly. "One cannot forbid a heart from feeling love. I may be ruled by a greater power, but I am still a mortal girl. I do understand your worry, Nochtli, and will take care to remember it."

Nochtli found herself unable to reply. For the remainder of their journey, she hesitated to draw the girl into further discussion. Sensing her distance, Itzel didn't pressure her to continue their conversation. It was easy to maintain their silence at this point, for they spent the majority of the next day climbing rather rugged terrain. By the time they reached Tlantli's temple, the sun had nearly set.

The charred remains of an ancient city lay before them. The people who had built this city atop a mountain peak were long dead. No one knew exactly how they had perished. They did not leave a written testimony of their trials. But this place was now haunted by the souls of the departed—or so most of Nochtli's people believed. But she knew better. There were no spirits stalking this dead city. This was the realm of the dark ones.

Tlantli's temple had once been devoted to the sun. An elaborate carving along one wall depicted rays of light falling from the sky and feeding the earth below. It was blasphemous that a most unnatural creature now took up residence inside. Nochtli did not know the gods of the people who had built this city, but she guessed they would be most angry to know that the dark ones had taken over their sacred space.

"The ancient evil will rise soon," Nochtli told her pupil. "You must climb the steps of the temple alone. If you are able to destroy this creature, you will have proven your worth to the Lord and Lady, and protected them well."

Itzel stared up at the head of the temple, her eyes fearful. She had slain countless creatures in the year previous, but this one would be stronger than them all. Steeling herself, she nodded to Nochtli before mounting the steps.

Nochtli watched until the girl disappeared inside the temple, then continued to gaze at the open doorway she left behind. As night fell, the dark one began to stir around them. Her guards pressed close. They were strong and capable men, but would not be able to protect her from the things that stalked the night here. Nochtli found herself praying not to her gods, but to the girl. She secretly urged the child to be successful, to return to her unscathed. They would leave this place together, she told herself. They would both live to fight even more battles for the sake of their gods. She believed it with all of her heart.

* * *

Translator's note: The diary of Nochtli is incomplete. From disparate sources, the Council has been able to piece together a brief history of the Aztec Slayer Itzel. It is believed that the girl did not survive her first true test against the vampire Tlantli. Official records state that both Nochtli and her "apprentice" disappeared sometime during the fall harvest in the year 1263 A.D. According to these sources, one of Nochtli's prized bodyguards emerged from the jungle raving about men with yellow eyes and sharp teeth. He died of exposure shortly thereafter, leaving the location of both the high priestess and her pupil a complete mystery.

Quentin Travers
London, England
1967

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