“Did witchdoctors really know what they were, sir?” Carlos licked lips while sitting with Lina, Paolo, and Lucky.
“Oh yes,” Q. answered. “Or, in a way, they did, yes. Knowledge from cultural healers, passed down over centuries, has led to discovering important drugs: quinine, ephedrine, tubocurarine, and many others, for example. Plant pharmacology is big science. Researchers do their best to quickly learn ancient practices of traditional healers, many of whom are passing as their habitats, too, are lost.”
“Gee, Dr. Hi.” Lina twisted dark strands of hair behind her ear. “I had no idea plants could be so medically important.”
“Oh yes, Crew,” Ziaz said. One hand held a cup of coffee. He sat comfortably, his right leg crossed over his left thigh. “It is not only animals that count; but, the producers, the plants are important. Plants are primary o’ all food chains. Without them we would not live. Their compounds capture energy from the sun. As well, products, sugars and starch for living things, are consumed. Fungi and microbial species, as well, hold ingredients for important medicines, today. Consequently, we collect as we move through protected preserves. Should certain organisms’ habitats be lost, we might have a means of continuing the line in the lab, propagating species elsewhere.” He blinked and went on. “The facts are, a majority o’ people living in developed countries count on traditional medicines using natural ingredients, mostly from plants, lassie.”
“Yes, sir,” said Charles. “We’ve heard; like licorice root, rhubarb root, and ginseng root. They can help your body.”
“Exactly.” Dr. Hi’s eyes spun left and right as he casually, continued. “Simple plants here, for example, like cats claw, a woody vine, it helps the immune system deal with osteoarthritis; and it’s sometimes used to treat cancer. Another common plant, simple sundew, is often used to treat asthma, coughs, and stomach ulcers.”
“Golly, Dr. Hi, Ziaz,” Eddie remarked. “I think we can all appreciate the importance of plants.”
“Very good, lad.” Ziaz rubbed hands. His khaki shorts matched his khaki shirt with multiple pockets. “Soon, I want you to meet a good friend o’ mine. He is working in a beneficial manner for man and the environment. Later, I will make you aware of another man who’s not.”
Students gazed to one another and then returned focus to the professor.
“Let us return to Xunantunich, students.” He brushed his nose and tugged one ear. “We know Mayan colors: red, white, yellow, black, and blue-green to be important, just as their correspondence to fire, earth, water, air, and the underworld all have significance. Also, cardio rubra, the living ceiba tree, and parrot glyphs are paramount. What we need to do is pinpoint the exact location of three chambers, or tombs, which, apparently, house ingredients that cure these illnesses. We have two locations and secrets, now. We’re not sure of others.”
“We must find them quickly, Doc.” Eddie whined. His eyes narrowed and his voice tightened like a drum skin. “Suzy might not have time as we do.”
“We understand, Eddie,” said Mary. “Calm down, please.”
Eddie nodded; yet his anxious voice still screeched. Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving turkey days, he’d spent many with Suzy. The last three years they’d exchanged Valentine’s cards, ridden an old train that circled Tennessee mountains, and they’d even fished together, often, in addition to playing checkers when it rained on warm summer days.
“Okay,” Eddie sighed. “But what are the ingredients beneath the parrot picture at Xunantunich?”
“Hold on, Eddie…mate.” Ziaz smiled. “I think we are on to something. Listen. We took the second square pyramid, which Louie retrieved. Then, last night, acting logically, based on results o’ the first one from Tulum, we had Yax Pak hold the blimey bugger.”
“Ah,” students gasped.
“Excellent,” said Charles.
Shardul started, “Did it…”
“Yes, Shardul,” the professor replied. “The second pyramid glowed. It’s made as the first piece we found. It has the same strange characteristic: it draws energy from Six Sky or Yax Pak’s hands. Additionally, the artifact has a fine white line next to the gold streak imbedded in the chrysocolla and lapis lazuli matrix. It’s a beautiful piece like the first.”
“Did it have symbols or letters?” Jeekiva raised one hand.
“Yes,” said Ziaz. “Here is the key; and we need your help. The following were inscriptions as Yax Pak held the prismatic stone: a downward arrow; the letter B with a number, the number 1, a subscript below it; the letter X; a mouse glyph, apparently; and the numeral 2.”
“Ooaa,” Itsy moaned.
“Strange,” said Johnny.
“Like notes from the first pyramid, is that right sir?” Bigha’s lips pooched.
“Yes.” Ziaz nodded. “The key, we think, is to unravel the meaning behind each of those characters of each face. We believe they hold the secret to where all five chambers are, which hold medicinal mystery ingredients. Further, we believe one of the five chambers—if we can assume the remaining shaman secrets are in such places—contain the code for all five sanctuaries of their sacred learning.”
“That is interesting.” Charles held a glazed donut atop a napkin. “Were you able to decipher the five items where Lippy, Cleat, Shank, and Bogey were?”
“Yes,” said Ziaz. “We were. Cleat’s camera, his film, proved invaluable. We found the parrot glyph. We mentioned it would likely be there. The ingredients read as follows: turtle-tongue, bark from the mangrove tree, a crocodile nostril, two figs, and one good leg of a spiny lobster.” Ziaz chuckled.