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The Myth Behind the Gard - II: Xelhua the Builder and Melinoë Soul Shepard

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

The History

In Aztec mythology, the world is destroyed and rebuilt several times, each with a new god taking the role as the sun. Tezcatlipoca, the male counterpart to Zolea the Unclean, was the sun for the first age. Being represented by an obsidian mirror, he was only able to be half a sun. Jealousy grew between Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl, until quetzalcoatl knocked Tezcatlipoca out of the sky and plunged the world into darkness. The humans of the first age were then devoured by jaguars under the cover of night.

Quezalcoatl then became the sun of the second age, but when the people stopped showing reverence Tezcatlipoca turned them into monkeys. Quetzalcoatl then blew the monkeys into the trees with a hurricane, thus ending the second age.

The third age was ruled by Tlaloc, the god of rain, but when Tezcatlipoca seduced and stole his wife he cursed the land with a drought. When the people prayed for rain he instead made fire fall from the heavens.

In the fourth age Chalchiuhtlicue became the sun, and while she loved the giant humans, Quinametzin who were made from the ash of the previous world, they did not give reverence. In sadness, she began to weep which flooded the world and transformed the people into fish.

Only seven of the Quinametzin giants from the fourth age survived the flood by hiding in a cave atop the mountain of Tlaloc. Xelhua, known as the architect, whent to the city of Cholula and began building a great pyramid in the shape of a mountain to give reverence to Tlaloc for saving him and his six brethren. But the gods were angered by the audacity of the mortal's attempt to reach the heavens, so they rained fire on the temple to stop its construction. Afterwards, the pyramid was rededicated to Quetzalcoatl and still stands to this day.

There are many themes in Aztec mythology that have striking parallels to other traditions: The death and resurrection of Quetzalcoatl to Jesus, the great flood of the fourth age to Noah's ark, the temple of Cholula to the tower of Babel, the rain of fire in the third age to Sodom and Gomorrah, the Quinametzin giants to the Greek Titans, and Xolotl to Melinoë.

Like Xolotl, Melinoë shepherds the souls of the dead to the underworld. He name translates to 'dark thought' and is considered the goddess of nightmares and madness. She is also believed to be an epithet of Hekate, the goddess of magic. Melinoë was born from the union of Persephone and Zeus/Hades, who in the Orphic tradition were seen as two aspects of the same god much like Quetzalcoatl and Xolotl.

Because of her dual heritage from Zeus and Hades, Melinoë is depicted as having a white and black appearance. In the Orphic hymns she is also described as wearing a saffron veil which in Greek mythology was symbolic of the moon. She is able to take many forms, which she uses to confuse and frighten those who see her visage by driving them to madness.

In popular culture, her most notable appearance is in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series, where she appears as an antagonist to the titular character.

The Last Re:Spawn - The Descent

There are only two ways to enter the Xibalba server: respawning or portaling in. To ensure that high-level sweats could never join the server, ]:<1st_dE4tH>:[ altered the game code so all Arcadion portals into Xibalba opened at the head of an underground river. Unable to drink health potions, chant spells, or come up for air, no player could withstand the massive dps inflicted by the drowning debuff before reaching the mouth. Even the whaliest of p2w players would fall victim and become trapped within the server.

But Avanyu was no ordinary player: his magic did not need hands or words to cast, and his serpentine metabolism allowed him to go hours without the luxury of breath. His companions however did not share the same advantages.

As Junah and Blanque's damage counters skyrocketed above their heads in red ominous numbers, Avanyu rhythmically waved his coils over the twins. His tail glowed, bathing the pair in a soothing light. Fading into a tranquil torpor, their damage counters reset to zero. Few players knew of this exploit: players affected by the amnesia spell also forget they need to breathe, allowing them to avoid the deadly debuff.

Incapacitated for the spells duration, Avanyu gingerly towed the pair along in his floating jaw. He was careful not to touch the river's bottom where the gnashing hands of lost avatars lashed out in desperation. Console or mobile players could always walk away and start a new account, but players using the fully immersive VR version of the game were trapped in a perpetual cycle of respawning and drowning, doomed to be but ghosts in the system.

Families would come home to find their loved ones jacked-in and gasping for air. The true tragedy was that they then faced a horrendous choice: put them on life-support knowing they would be constantly reliving a brutal death, or pull the plug and have them die in the real world.

Avanyu lamented the desperately crazed look the lost gave him as he swam overhead. There was no way to help them, not now. All he could do was push onward with a greater resolve.

The river felt like it meandered for an eternity, and perhaps it did, but Avanyu eventually caught sight of the shimmering surface of the exit above. Lost avatars squirmed in an aggregated mound just beneath the opening, pulling each other down like a pot of crabs so that no matter how hard any of them tried none could escape. Just as Avanyu breached, he felt a rabid grip snag his tail. He reflexively lurched forward just enough to toss the twins out of the water before he got pulled under any further, refusing to condemn them to the same fate.

Avanyu had already resigned himself when he saw a massive shadow creep overhead. The tip of a giant staff dipped down towards him, knocking away the ravenous hordes. Seizing the opportunity, Avanyu coiled himself around the staff and slithered out from the depths.

At the other end of the staff stood a blue-skinned behemoth, his glowing eyes towering over a stern nod.

'It has been a long time since such selflessness has graced these waters. It is a refreshing breath to this troubled realm.'

'They may be fragile, but these mortals hold more hope for salvation than any god could offer.'

The twins coughed groggily as they stirred from their slumber.

'Humans worthy of a god's faith? Now that is special! Perhaps they will find more use of these trinkets than I.' The giant opened his palm to reveal a plethora of high-level loot.

'I was able to choose the giant class before it got banned, which is what has allowed me to survive for so long without respawning. I have slowly grinded XP picking the bones of the fallen since before the lords made this world their own, but am unable to make use of my collection. No matter how much I grow with each level, I will never be able to break through to the heavens. May these gifts serve you as well as my own key to freedom.'

The twins drew an ornate helm, a dragon-tooth dagger, and a quiver of vicious bolts from the pile.

'These don't seem like they would be...compatible with our weapons jefe.' Junah sarcastically tapped the bolts against her autopistol.

'Don't be so quick to dismiss ancient artifacts: there is a reason they have lasted so long.'

Blanque jerked his head back in amazement as one of the bolts morphed into a magazine. A gleeful grin split his lips. 'Gracias compa, we should have no problema sending the lords your love with these regalitos.'

'It's cute you think that getting here was the hard part.' A whispy woman materialized from the aether behind them. 'Do you really expect the lords to just let you waltz up to their court?'

'Has your hunger for souls sated any cravings for hope Noë, or is your misery that desperate for company?'

'We do no favors coddling them from the lords' treachery. Do you wish that they end up like the rest of my children?' Melinoë gestured to her retinue of spiritual followers.''

'We might not know everything, but I'm sure we can follow directions.' Blanque gestured to a twisted road sign tilted alongside a nearby crossroad. Melinoë scoffed.

'You would be wise to learn that the death lords never play fair, that's why they never lose. Follow the wrong path, and your little adventure will be doomed before it even begins.'

'That sounds an awful lot like you're offering to be our guide.' Junah arched her eyebrow over a smirk and crossed arms.

'There is no joy for me in sending another band of misguided optimists to a life on the stretcher. I may be the bringer of madness and nightmares, but have no taste for serving as a mere waitress to the twisted delights of the lords.'

' We are all trapped here now anyway. What are you saving us from but another flavor of damnation? You have nothing to lose and only your freedom to gain.' Avanyu stroked his chin thoughtfully with his tail.

'Very, well. Come little ones: It would be a pleasant surprise to be proven wrong for once.'

Melinoë led Avanyu and the twins through the warped landscape. The winding route littered with wayward travelers trapped in poorly rendered texture mods. Faint screams rang from invisible pitfalls where players that clipped through the floor fell forever into nothingness. Others roamed the jagged crags as horrendously buggy beasts, ambling erratically under pixelated skins stretched over contorted sprite skeletons.

After a lengthy trek through the treacherous terrain, Melinoë brought them before the gates of a stone citadel. Its walls were worn smooth by the seeping blood oozing through the cracks and pores.

'I can only show you the door, it is up to you to open it.'

'How do we do that?' Blanque asked.

'Like most doors, you just have to ring the bell.' Melinoë motioned to a massive bell mounted beside the gate before dissipating into the stagnant air, leaving them with her cryptic words.

The trio quickly realized the bell itself was a puzzle of its own: Despite the ornate decoration the bell lacked a clapper, and no matter how hard they struck the bowl the thick metal surrendered nothing but a deadened thud.

'No man or god can coax peals from this cursed chime! You will never be worthy to enter the royal court relying on brute strength alone!' A courtier spirit poked out from the wall, snapping her fan open to conceal a snide giggle. Junah's eyes lit up.

'Such a strangely specific choice of words, we will be sure to make no mention of your betrayal.' Junah flipped her hair back and stepped forward. Wiping the sweat from her brow, she ran her wet hand along the inside edge of the bell. A resonating hum rose from the lip, shaking the citadel walls until the stone doors parted.

'That's very interesting, what ever do you mean?' The jaded spirit winked wryly before disappearing back into the bloodied masonry. The twins brushed themselves off and adjusted their suits before stepping into the infernal lair.

The Deck

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