Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun
In a time when supernatural and industrial worlds are staged to collide, an Andean boy finds himself in the center of an epic struggle between the cosmos and the earth. Unawqi is born with both insurmountable power and a fate of certain death, both of which are challenged by his hunt of the emperor, Aakti, the Sun: the very force that desires to abandon the earth unless Unawqi can overcome him.
Genres: Mythical realism, Folklore, Science fiction, Adventure, LGBTQ.
How easily we take the Sun for granted. We are conditioned to its rising and setting on time, and assume it enjoys doing so, or more likely is indifferent. Unawqi, Hunter of the Sunreveals a more perilous tale: the Sun, Aakti, is a being who is a reluctant player in providing light and warmth to our world, and even more has always desired to leave us to die if he didn’t have certain personal complications standing in his way. Aakti will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if that involves murder of his own kin or annihilation of an entire living planet. Ironically, what holds him back is the very life he is creating; the family from which he tries to but cannot wrest control, and among them a young intrepid boy emerges, a hunter who sets out on a journey, not to stop the Sun, but to overcome him with a force we also take for granted: our humanity.
Enjoy an Excerpt: Chaper 2 – The Unawqi Awakening
Titu Ilumán walked quickly, his steps close together, to keep the altitude from decaying his pace. He was in a hurry, but he knew the Quijos canyon well enough to calculate it would defeat him if he broke into a run.
He clutched his treasure beneath his punchu, Aakti Amurugana, words from an ancient language no longer spoken, but everyone knew what they meant.
He was carrying the seeds of the Sun.
At that moment, Titu knew what he had, but he would not comprehend the devastation that would come from them.
He only knew of the seeds from legends he had heard as a child, legends he’d come to mock. He was unlike most everyone else. He was not a believer in legends, and so he had forgotten their important details.
The legends say Aakti, the Sun, is not an unfeeling object in the sky. It is not an it, but a he, a being, no different than are we. He has a relationship with us, albeit a contentious one. He is none other than the emperor of earth and sky, who is to be both worshipped and feared.
And here, Titu, a rather common man, had stolen the emperor’s seeds from the hands of his newborn son while his first cries of life were still piercing his ears from the valley floor below. Titu knew what he had done, but he bristled at the notion of his deed as a theft. The way he thought of it was that if he were the father of the child, then the seeds delivered through this birth were his rightful property.
Besides, Titu had a further motive. He was born in a place where his ancestors had been for thousands of years, but it was also on the edge of “the next world,” as his parents put it. Just over the next few hills from his own village, a people with pale skin had built their own village, made up of strange buildings, with everything laid out in squares. They were driven and ambitious. They behaved as if nature was theirs to command, and they used tools he had never seen before that were efficient. Titu craved to be a part of “the next world” and was a malcontent at home, uncomfortable with leaving the supernatural to gods and magicians. Mysteries were gifts meant to be unwrapped, he believed. They should be studied, tamed, and put to use for the purpose of advancing the lot of people like him, and not just the pale town a few hills away.
His parents did not encourage him as much. They wanted to maintain the family tradition and see Titu growing cassava and plantain as had they and their parents. But from the first time Titu lay ill in the house of the local shaman, he wanted to know what was in the bowls and baskets lining the healer’s walls, and how it worked according to nature, and not according to magic. His parents chided him for asking, for such matters were not his business to know, which made Titu all the more determined to know.
In a larger drama, Titu was the next in line to be in possession of the Aakti Amurugana, but this was the first transfer of hands in almost a millennium, as they had gone missing for 888 years. The emperor and the world did not know where they were, but in truth, they had been held captive all that time by the sorcerer of Antisana, the one they called Moche.
Moche was a completely foreign entity to the people of the Quijos. He was not of the family of the mountains, but a demon who had usurped the mountain in his control, burying its rightful goddess somewhere inside. Where he came from, no one knew, but his ways, though different, were also wanting of the Sun.
The local people feared him terribly, for he would hunt them and bring them back to the mountain to be sacrificed, drinking their blood, saying it pleased the Sun, even though this was not according to anything they believed or practiced.
As far as Titu was concerned, he didn’t care to think about all of that. The seeds were the most powerful medicine he could ever hope to find, and there were no parents this time to deny him from taking and demystifying this magic. This was an extraordinary opportunity for him to become a legend himself, if he could but harness the power of the seeds.
Still, the fact that he was running arrested his conscience. He was a fugitive, and he knew it. He had to leave Tamaya behind, a woman whom, at one time, he could not keep himself from. She was weak and without aid, the blood of her womb flowing, cold, onto the floor of her grass-roofed hut.
Titu loved her, and many times had thought of bringing her home to marry her, but he’d convinced himself he was protecting her from danger. A great many powerful people–sorcerers, kings, witches–would kill to have Aakti Amurugana. He needed to get them far away from Tamaya to keep her safe, so far that his footprints would be lost, even if it meant Tamaya would never be able to see him again.
Tamaya never laid her eyes on the seeds because her eyes were closed tight with labor’s pain when they were snatched from the child’s hand. So for her, Titu’s sudden flight was as mysterious as it was cruel.
Lost in his thoughts, Titu stumbled over a stone in his path. He rolled down the side of the canyon, and would have encountered his death if another death had not encountered him first. The still warm belly of a dead, black goat was braced to the edge of a cliff, bleeding, having succumbed to a thicket of tarapacana. Its bulging eyes stared directly into Titu’s as if pleading with him, a little too late.
Titu had been told to beware if he ever saw a dead, black goat in the wild, for it was an omen of a bad future, so he delicately raised himself to his knees, and blessed the goat with a nod of awe, fearing it might awaken from the dead. The black goat’s eyes would not leave him as Titu pulled himself back up the hillside.
Those eyes would never leave him.
Through the indigo night he ran west over the Papallacta plateau. The seeds under his punchu harassed him with a gravitational clash, some craving the fleeting sun in front of him, others pulling toward the cries of the child behind him. He wondered if the seeds were his captives or his captors. Who had the greater power, him or them? What if the seeds were to forever maintain two opinions?
When the Sun, the emperor Aakti, passed over the valley the next day, he sensed his amurugana had reemerged, and that they were pulling at him from the west. This meant they had been stolen, yet again, after 888 years of captivity, and Aakti heated up with anger, ready to burn the grass roofs of the huts underneath him into ashes.
But Tamaya, who had only the knowledge of an abandoned child suffering in the merciless heat, and none of the seeds, cried out for Moche, the sorcerer of Antisana, to save her, to send wind or rain to contest the Sun.
Little did she know that Moche well knew why Aakti had been angered. Moche himself had kept Aakti Amurugana successfully concealed from the emperor for almost nine centuries, and now he had been robbed of them, the same as Aakti. He wanted them back, just as much as the emperor, and was pleased this call from a common woman would give him a head start on retrieving them.
Having heard Tamaya calling, Moche put some coca leaves in his mouth, chewed them, and spit out a plume, high into the air, making the sky sneeze, expelling a squall of hail into the valley, and throwing a blanket under the Sun.
When the squall settled, Aakti had fled west to hunt for his seeds. Tamaya had barely a moment to be grateful when Moche showed up at her door to collect his debt.
He was a scrawny demon, no taller than Tamaya’s waist. He looked like any of the other people of the valley, but seven times older than old. His clothes were scavenged from whatever travelers had lost in the mountains: a white Cañari hat, loosely enveloping his tiny head; an Otavaleño scarf he had fashioned into a vest; and pants made from of a sack that probably had carried spices from the Amazon.
He held out his shriveled hand.
“I saved you from Aakti, but he wants what is mine. Give me the child before the emperor returns.”
The startled mother looked at the little sorcerer, no bigger than her dog, but with enough strength to squash her like an ant between his fingers. She knew well Moche’s traditions, and of his sacrifices.
“But this is my son! I cannot let him go!” Tamaya contested.
“Listen to me,” Moche warned, “for I will only tell you this once. You will not survive tomorrow if you stay, and you will surely die in the caves of Antisana where the child and I will live. Run away, east into the cloud forest, where the emperor does not know your name and will pass over you. The child will only be safe with me. Everything else will die.”
Helpless and terrified, Tamaya ran from Moche, but though he was smaller, he was faster, and stronger. He caught up with her and pulled the child into his arms, pushing Tamaya down and onto the ground. She screamed at him for mercy, and tried to pursue him, but the sorcerer stamped his foot on the ground creating a wide hole between them that she could not cross.
Despite his size, Moche had no problem bearing the weight. He carried the child away without hurry and disappeared over a hill, and Tamaya wept until she had no voice left with which to scream. Now both Titu and her child were gone. All that she had were the words of Moche saying the child will live. She resolved to find a scheme to get him back.
Fearing for the emperor’s return and destroying the rest of her life around her, Tamaya quickly packed her things, gathered her goats, and fled down into the cloud forest, as Moche had told her to do. But once there, the forest closed around her and she lost the trail she had made. She could not find her way back to the valley, as much as she tried.
Moche brought the child into the cool underworld of Antisana, a spectacle of a thousand tunnels and crystal streams, with glowing pools of azure-colored lava emitting light and warmth. It was a land the emperor had never seen, the land where his seeds had once been held prisoner.
The sorcerer entered a chamber so grand it seemed to have a sky of its own, its clerestory heights filled with flying bats, ventilating the air. There, he laid the sleeping child down on a bed of eucalyptus leaves, and one of the bats flew down and hung over the child’s head to protect him.
“The day will come,” Moche whispered to the sleeping child, “when the Sun will forget you, but I, on the other hand, have found you, and you are now mine. I will train you to be a hunter, but not of mere beasts. You will hunt for the atama who stole my seeds in the night, and return them here to my keeping. Aakti Amurugana: they are crying for you already; I know you hear them. They need you to keep them planted, here in the world. Until then, I know who you are. You are the most gifted creature to ever touch the earth. You are…Unawqi!”
The child awoke upon hearing his name, and cried like a shrill flute from another world, and all the million bats in the chamber fell stunned to the floor.
About the author:
PapaKali is the brainchild of Kali Kucera, an American artist, lorist, and entrepreneur.
Since he was 9 years old he has been composing plays, operas, short stories, and multi-disciplinary experiences. He has been both a teacher and performer as well as an arts mobilizer, and founded the Tacoma Poet Laureate competition in 2008.
After some time being a teller, Kali was concerned about the absence of both original and local lore, and no one seemed to be preserving the tradition of creating new narratives, tales, and myth about why the world around us is the way it is. He therefore devoted his energy to filling this void with PapaKali, beginning with tales of the South Sound and continuing with new tales emerging from the inspiration of the high Andes of South America, where Kali currently lives while also running a bus travel information service called AndesTransit (http://andestransit.com).
It is important to understand that in PapaKali lore, self-standing stories are often interconnected with other stories. Characters in one story will appear in a completely different context of another story, hence establishing a pantheon upon which lore can be constructed. The second important aspect is that the stories often change; they live and breathe as the influences of new narratives emerge to support the interconnectedness.
As a reader, therefore, we urge you to not read these like a book, but more like the oral tradition upon which they more appropriately relate. Check back on them to see how nuances have changed like you would listen to a story being told every year around a campfire.
Learn more about Papakali and Kali Kucera on his website at papakali.com.