In the year that Lord Twelve Serpents sacrificed his nine virgin daughters to make the rain fall from the sky again was born into the world a child.
And at his first cry his mother rolled up her eyes into her head and chanted:
He shall be called Jaguar Claw
He shall eat up his enemies
And sacrifice their daughters
Their blood shall rise to heaven
And praise his name for ever
Crying: We are here in heaven
And it was Jaguar Claw that sent us.
He shall be as a temple on a mountain
While the world sinks beneath the sea.
Great is the day of the birth of my son
So said his mother and then she convulsed and fell back onto her soft birthing mats and shuddered out one last breath, then died.
She was taken to her family tomb and buried with honor as a prophetess with paintings made on the walls of Jaguar Claw biting the throat out of a feathered king.
The father of Jaguar Claw bought a woman from the north who's child was given to the god of suffering and she had her tongue removed so she could not breathe evil words while she gave him milk from her breasts.
Time passed and the days were counted and when Jaguar Claw reached the age of accountability he was taken by his father before the lords or the city and there he offered the blood of First Penance by thrusting a sting ray spine through the foreskin of his penis. The blood ran down and dripped onto parchment which was carefully folded then burned and while the smoke rose up to heaven Jaguar Claw prayed that he would be a great warrior as his mother prophesied he would be.
And then after his performance of First Penance he was human and was his fathers heir, and the woman from the north that was his wet nurse was sent to the priests for sacrifice.
These were the last days of peace for Jaguar Claw.
It was his younger sister from his father's lesser wife that first called attention to things when she asked her father, "Why are Jaguar Claw's fingers so small?"
"In what way do you mean small, my daughter?"
"He has stubby little fingers. Smaller than mine, and I am three months and five days younger than him."
Father nodded wisely and said, "Boys will often grow more slowly than girls. Perhaps this is the case with him."
"Perhaps, Father, but his fingers look funny to me."
And so when it was time for the evening meal, Jaguar Claw's father took his sons hand in his own and looked down at the fingers.
He gasped, and a look of fear came into his eyes.
"Tell me son. Explain to me about your fingers. Why are they so small? And now that I look at you, I see your arms are short as well. Explain this to me!"
Jaguar Claw frowned. He hung his head. A great salty drop slipped from his eye, fell down his nose, and dripped down onto his toes. His toes were small too. And so were his feet.
"I don't grow, Father," he said.
"What? What do you mean, you don't grow?"
"Since First Penance, Father, my fingers have not grown. My hair has grown, my face has grown, even my penis has grown, Father, but my arms and legs and fingers and toes do not grow."
His father fell back on his mat with a look of astonishment on his face.
"Never have I heard of such a thing," he said.
"How can I be a great warrior if I don't grow, Father?" wailed Jaguar Claw, crying freely now as small boys are want to do from time to time when their world collapses and their fathers show fear.
His father thought for a long while with a stern look on his face, his bottom lip jutted far out and his brow heavy. Finally he announced, "We will take you to the priests. Perhaps they can cure you, or perhaps they will sacrifice you. I don't know what else to do. We will let them decide."
Jaguar Claw wailed loudly then and his sister joined him as did the servants and his fathers lesser wife and even the dog howled, and there was no peace in Jaguar Claw's father's house that night until far after the gods let the golden sun fall beneath the sea.
When the moon rose, his father lifted himself from his sleeping mat and walked out to the courtyard and looked up to the stars and prayed:
On the night that you died
You gave me a son
Jaguar Claw is his name
And a good son he is.
But he is not formed
As you or I.
What am I to do?
The moon smiled down at him, and the stars danced, but no answer came.
He considered, and then thought, "Perhaps the god of suffering is visiting us, or perhaps not. Tomorrow we shall see."
And he went back to his mat and slept.
When morning came the servants could not get Jaguar Claw to leave his sleeping mat. He rolled himself up in it and cried saying that he did not want to go to the priests.
What an honor, they said, to go to the priests. What an honor to be choses for sacrifice! Perhaps they will ask you to send a message to the great Feathered Serpent when they cut out your beating heart.
This was no comfort.
Finally his father came, clapping his hands, and announced that there was no longer time enough for the morning meal and if Jaguar Claw did not rise himself, then he, his father would offer him as a sacrifice personally. Even if he was still wrapped in his sleeping mat!
And so Jaguar Claw, with eyes red rimmed, shoulders hunched, body shivering came to the temple following his father, and when his father prostrated himself before the great high priest clothed all in feathers, Jaguar Claw was left standing alone because he had his eyes screwed shut so tightly.
"Ahem..." said the high priest.
Everything was silent except for a small sniffle from Jaguar Claw.
The high priest tapped his foot.
Jaguar Claw's father lifted an eye, then peered sideways at his son and saw him still standing in the presence of the high priest.
He gasped, mortified, and hissed, "By the gods, son, prostrate yourself!"
Jaguar Claw opened his eyes and saw the man, his white hair colored red with blood, his body covered in feathers towering over him. His eyes grew large in his head, he screamed once, then fell down on his face.
The high priest sighed and then said in a clipped voice, "Yes, yes. Right. No harm done. Happens all the time. It's the all feathers, you know. Gets the little ones every time. Not to mention the threat of sacrifice."
He lifted his hand and waved it over their heads and mumbled a prayer over them and then he leaned over Jaguar Claw and said in a loud voice, "Do not fear, young man, today is not a day of sacrifice."
Jaguar Claw trembled and didn't look convinced.
The high priest tapped his father on the head and asked, "What is the reason that you bring yourself prostrate before me?"
His father gulped, and then said, "Oh great high priest we come to you because it is found that my son does not grow."
"Does not ... grow?"
"Exactly so, great lord, he does not grow."
"Does not grow what?" asked the high priest.
"He does not grow taller, great lord. His hair grows, his face grows, and even his penis grows, but his arms and legs do not grow, and his fingers and toes remain small."
The high priest was quiet for a moment, and then he whispered, "Can it be so?"
Then in a louder voice he commanded Jaguar Claw, "Stand, boy. Stand up and let me see your hands!"
Trembling, Jaguar Claw lifted himself up from the ground and stood in the presence of the high priest.
The old man grasped his hand and examined the fingers, each one separately, and then did the same for the other hand. He took a long time, peering down his long nose as he turned each hand over and then back again, and finally he whispered, "By all the gods in heaven and even the Great Maize God himself, the boy is a dwarf. Not in seven generations has there been a dwarf born to our people. A dwarf! And I have lived long and yet I still live to see this."
Jaguar Claw's father lifted his head in surprise, "A what?"
"A dwarf!" shouted the high priest. "A dwarf has come to our people!"
The priest had met them in a small receiving room, and his shout echoed against the walls and out the door and down the hallway where it was heard by a guard who came running with his war club out and ready for a fight. He looked at the boy standing in the presence of the high priest and rushed forward to attack.
"No, you fool!" shouted the priest and stepped in front of the boy. The guard hesitated and slowly lowered his club.
"Quickly! Summon the priests and the lords. Tell them that this is an exceptional day. Tell them a dwarf has come to our people!"