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AS THE sun rose above the peaks of Sallac and Piquicho, between which lies the castle of Sacsayhuaman, little Alana—relative and servant of Mama Anac the Empress—ran to the great round window and held up to the bright, new face of the sun a little carved box of rubra wood.

Far below, in Cuzco, fifty thousand people watched the sunrise. For this was Capak-Raymi, when the Sun-Lord, Inti. reached nearest to the land and told the people of the New Year.

About the mighty city of Cuzco, in the wall openings, four thousand sentries stood at attention and held their brightly painted shields and long lances very straight, the colored pennons whipping; and listened attentively to the music of a three hundred and seventy-five piece orchestra. Flutes, little organs, guitars, cornets, trumpets and drums, and instruments without names.

When the Inca raised his finger to the height of his mouth, every one of the fifty thousand uttered a cry of joy. For this was the beginning of a five-day holiday, including free chicha for everyone. The chicha was already standing in great ollas on every street corner, and had been tentatively sampled by not a few.

Then all were silent as the ceremony went forward—watching the brilliant figure of the Inca, his solemn face topped by the llauto, a diadem bearing two tall red plumes of the pillco-pichui bird and two white eagle feathers. About his neck was the royal collar of fifty-two emeralds the size of pigeon eggs, from each of which hung great topazes each carved to represent the sun and moon and the fifty-two phases of the moon. His robe was the finest the looms of Cuzco produced, and was bordered with gold embroidery. In his hand was the Champi, a big gold mace, elegantly formed and beautifully balanced—which included an axe blade in the round hammer head.

He looked very fine, thought Alana, looking down from her window in Sacsayhuaman, and so did everyone today. But Alana had more to do than watch silly ceremonies! Little Alana had just pilfered a most curious object from the baskets of gifts sent the Inca from every neighboring ruler, from every vassal Prince—from everyone who could afford a gift rich enough to interest the Inca.

So it was that Alana was not present at the ceremony, but stood looking out the round window into the eyes of the new sun through a little gem in the top of the box of carved rubra wood, with the bird called Ramantzan beautifully flinging its plumes about the red wood of the box.

Alana was young and darkly lovely, and the thing she had stolen was very beautiful. The room she had chosen for privacy to examine her prize was wood-paneled of virumna wood, and the panels fastened with gold nails. The great round window silhouetting her dark, serious head pierced two feet of solid stone wall to reach the outer air and light.

Into the room behind her strode the tall, strong figure of—was it an Inca? No, this was a priest's regalia, and from the objects in the room, this was his own retreat which Alana had appropriated.

HE MUST have come direct from the ceremony of welcoming Inti, the sun, again to earth for a year. He was still wearing the condor head-dress, with long golden sun rays terminating in the sculptured metal heads of jaguars. In his hand was the tall staff with the golden condor head. He flung off the rainbow sheen of the feathered ceremonial cloak. He bent over the girl, for she had hardly looked up. His copper skin was taut over smooth-sliding, powerful muscles on his bared limbs. The sun disc on his chest glittered with gems.

"Why do you sit here mooning, little flower of love? Why were you not in the procession? People will talk, you know!"

Her soft eyes looked up at his, still dreaming and hardly aware of his words, though his presence sent a thrill through her, compounded of love and a sense of peril and a kind of happy vertigo—like leaning over mysterious deeps filled with glorious tinted mists, far down.

"It is a magical little trinket sent as a gift to the Inca from that ugly sorcerer, the Masked Ruler of the Manabi. It contains some kind of crypt I have been trying to puzzle out. See, it is of rubra wood, tiny and carved beautifully as only the Manabi can carve. I open it thus, and upon the soft down is a tiny golden bead, and that is all!"

"What is so cryptic about that? Is gold so rare among the wood folk that they can spare no more for a gift than that?" His deep voice was not greatly pleasing, but harsh, from long chanting of the ceremonial words, from long barking of orders drilling on the military plain.

"Then you close the box, and put your eye to the little gem in the center of the carving. You hold it up to the light. . . . Here put it, so. What do you see?"

The Priest stared through the gem into the sunlight from the round opening that was the window. Then gravely: "Little one, this was never meant to fall into our hands. It was sent here with our Inca's gifts to get it past the border inspection unnoticed. It is a map—and a message; a message to some profound enemies of ours!"

"I knew it was a crypt, but I couldn't make it out. What is the map for?"

"Is is for the ancient treasure of the Bearded Ones. You know our race was visited by the mysterious bearded men, an age ago. They brought with them many magical instruments and formulas which were left behind in a hiding place long forgotten, or kept a secret to a very few. Those magical devices have been long sought by our wise men, and also by those among us who long for power to which they have no inherited right."

"Would the treasure give them such power?"

"Yes, little one, for the bearded ones were members of a race that knew much more than we of the powers of earth and sky and the Gods' ways. There are supposed to be weapons in this cache which kill mysteriously at a distance: formulas of medicines that make men young: jewels of magical value through which one can see—when one looks as you are looking at the small and invisible—even living animals which can be seen in no other way. It is a vast and valuable treasure—and it has been long sought."

ALANA'S black eyes shone with excitement. and her breath panted sharply as she looked at the scenes of the micro-engraving. "And we have it, the place of the Magic of the Bearded Ones!"

"Yes, the Masked One who rules the dark forests of the Manabi probably thinks to steal away a treasure rightfully ours. Only luck brings it into our hands. How did you come by it, truthfully, Alana?"

"The gifts wait in their baskets for the hour of the audience. I stole in when no one was looking and looked through the things. This little box so beautifully made caught my eye. I held it up to the light to catch the sun on the gems—and behold, the gem is a window into the world of the small—a world the skilled hands of the Manabi craftsmen alone can enter!"

"Come, little love—we will go and look at the other baskets; maybe we can catch the one who was meant to steal this box instead of you."

A rude and sudden voice broke in upon the conversation of Alana, sweet young sister to Mama-Anac, the Empress, talking with Huaycar Wira, chief aide to the High Priest of Pacha-Kamac, the Creator of the Universe.

The voice, in that room walled with the dignity and reserve of centuries of polite usage—that room for royalty or the relatives of royalty only; a room where no voice was raised in anger upon pain of imprisonment; a room where the wall carvings were set with rare and huge gems. and where the very foot stools were of gold . . . into that room came this voice, saying: "Spawn of Supay,1 accursed of Inti, you think to have tricked me, Tumi Hayta, out of the secret of the Bearded God's power! I paid many strong slaves to learn of the whereabouts of that little key to the lost secrets. I will not lose it so easily!"

1: Supay: the devil, Lord of Hack-Pachac (Hell).—Ed.

Alana sprang to her feet, her mouth a wide O of astonishment. For, through the door stepped Tumi Hayta. the Inca's brother-in-law! Two of the tall Lucanas of the Inca's bodyguard flanked him, carrying short, wide-bladed stabbing spears. In Tumi's big capable hand was a bronze axe of war, a famous "Champi" of the Inca's family. Facing these three conspirators, so suddenly coming upon him, Huaycar had but his dignity, his condor-headed priest's staff, and a tiny decorative dagger as weapons.

But Huaycar had his wits, and he stepped to Alana's side, standing between her and the spears of the grim-faced Lucanas, and picked up the little box of rubra wood, saying—"Ah, this little plan of yours should come to the ears of Tupac Yupanqui Inca. He, too, might be interested in the treasure his father sought for so long; in the map sent him so kindly by the Masked One of the Manabi."

The blood darkened Tumi's face with rage, he raised the heavy mace, but Huaycar went calmly on. "And how would you explain my death, Kayta? You would then have to kill little Alana to keep her quiet; and then your two bribed guardsmen to keep them quiet; and then you would have to kill the assassin you hired to kill these two! Since the Inca, my cousin is known to be more generous than yourself, you can trust no one! Quite a problem!"

The grim faces of the two fierce Lucanas, men sent from the North by their ruler to do honorary duty to the Inca-became thoughtful at these words, and they exchanged glances which were not missed by Tumi Hayta, for he looked to see if this thrust of Huaycar's clever tongue was understood by them—who were not expert in the subtler nuances of the Quichua tongue, themselves speaking Chimu. They understood well enough, for it was plain that if Tumi chose to kill these relatives of his to silence them, he would also have to silence themselves.

HAYTA lowered the heavy bronze mace, and a bewildered expression came over him. He muttered—"How in Supay's unspeakable name can I be so stupid?"

Huaycar laughed mockingly. "That is a question anyone can answer but yourself, my dear cousin-in-law. It were best that you go now, while you can, for I hear footsteps, and if my Incan ears2 are true, they are the footsteps of Mama-Anac Huarca, who is your sister and our Empress. She might misunderstand your presence here with our dear little Alana—especially if we are forced to speak of our mutual 'secret.' You and I will confer of this another time. Preferably when I, too, am armed."

2: Incan ears: The Indian races of South America are famous for an incomprehensible method of hearing, akin to telepathy, by which they know events that transpire even up to hundreds of miles distance; can count the number of horses approaching in pitch darkness at many miles distance; can follow a cold, spoorless trail for weeks . . . Dr. Juan Durand-A Hyatt Verrill.

Tumi Hayta had a problem before him too complicated for his dull mind. He backed through the doorway a picture of bafflement. As he disappeared, through the opposite doorway hurried Mama-Anac Huarca, Empress of twelve hundred thousand square miles of land and some twenty million people. But Mama-Anac was not thinking of the land or of the people; she was hunting little Alana.

"Oh you young scamp, it is past time for audience, and my hair isn't dressed yet and you always do it so much better—now come along. And you, Huaycar, you are worse than this little tri?er; why aren't you down entertaining?"

"Mama-Anac Huarca, my beloved cousin, the guests are quite as aware as myself that you are invariably at least an hour late to the audience. There is no one present yet but the cleaning women. Must I help them dust the carpet for your lovely feet?"

"Oh! You are insufferable, and what's more, not even polite! But I love you, you handsome rogue, as much as do the virgins of the Sun, who should have their minds on more worthwhile things than your own gorgeous self. If any more of our virgins become with child, the Inca will have to take some act-ion! Must all the children look like you? Couldn't you let some other man do a little sinning? You should be ashamed of yourself! How can you face people?"

As aide to the aged High Priest of Pacha-Kamac, he in a way was the earthly representative of the Sun-God, Inti being the Son of Pacha-Kamac, himself in ceremonial represented the Inti, and officially he was the only man with whom the Virgins of the Sun were allowed contact—their shepherd, as it were. In this position he came in for a great deal of "kidding", and if any of the Virgins backslid, he was always blamed for the resulting child; for all Sun Virgins are officially supposed to be in love only with the Son of God, and himself was his earthly vehicle.

Huaycar laughed off her sally, as he laughed off the usual jibes on this count, saying: "Well, if you love me, give me a cousinly kiss, and I will be off to tend to the preparations—the gift-bearing Ambassadors of the Masked One come from the Manabi and many another spying guest from afar, and things really should look as if we knew how to keep house, at least."

ALANA started up from her chair by the window, where she had sunk in relief at the departure of Tumi Hayta's dark and angry face, her hand going again to her throat in alarm. "But, Huaycar, what of the bead? Something will happen. What will I do with it?"

"That little golden bead from Manabi, eh? I had not forgotten you, little thief—I had only wanted not to alarm the Empress. But perhaps you are right; we should not delay in seeing it well guarded. Its proper use will require much thought." Huaycar reached for the great woven bell rope, and far off the mellow chime summoning the guard rang and rang again as he pulled the rope repeatedly.

Within seconds the chamber filled with the brown, scarred limbs, fierce faces, and the glittering obsidian weapons of the veterans who made up the palace guard.

Huaycar turned to the Empress. "Mama-Anac, this little box contains a treasure vastly greater than its size would indicate. Alana and I were just threatened by your brother. I will tell you all about the treasure during audience this morning.

"You can tell me while Alana dresses my hair, in my own rooms, in comfort —and not in forced whispers while everyone tries to get my attention-while I must watch every move of the foreigners so that none of them are slighted unintentionally. You come right along, you large, lovely man, and earn your keep by being pleasant to your Empress."

It was nearly an hour later that the three—Alana, the little ward of Mama-Anac; the Empress; and Huaycar, her cousin and a priest as well as a famous warrior of the Nobles—left Mama-Anac's chambers for the audience hall.

MAMA-ANAC, regally attired in the long plumes of the pilco-pilcui, red and brilliant streams of glistening beauty nodding from her head, a robe of fine cloth embroidered with gold fitting her full - blown womanly curves tightly, swept on ahead, with Huaycar and Alana just behind. She spoke over her shoulder, fretful as ever at the restrictions of her rank which made the two young people she loved walk behind her.

"That brother of mine gets too big for his boots. Now he has threatened you over some treasure! What can it be that leads him to such extremes? When the Inca hears of it he will send him to the prison at Macchu Picchu, and I for one will not miss him. Him and his sneering superior ways. He is no true brother of mine."

"I have often thought that myself, Mama-Anac, but it is not polite to say it."

"It is no secret that my mother was not always discreet, my Huaycar. But this little box; why should it upset him so? There is more behind it."

At this instant they were traversing the hall of the seven Gods, a tall and gloomy passage full of the great sacred images and their attendant trappings. They turned out of the lofty passage into the smaller hall leading into the great throneroom where the audience would be held.

From the shadows of the great stone figures, from the little hall into which the sturdy figure of Mama-Anac had just turned, sprang a dozen masked warriors. A heavy black mace crashed upon Huaycar's skull; as he fell, the tiny red box was twisted from his grasp. Mama-Anac screamed, the startled guards whirled up their axes, raised their spears or sprang to seize and grapple the black robed, masked, and terrifying figures. But the leader seized Mama-Anac and held a knife to her throat. Immediately another of the black-masked assassins took his cue from the leader, seized Alana. Their meanin...

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