|Dates run:||August 18-25, 2008|
|Read the logs:||Xbalanque|
"I don't know about you, but I would like to leave this place. ...And never come back."
Another Elpis trip runs into trouble, this time in Guatemala, as Julio becomes an instrument of vengence.
Gavin Nash, Doña Teresa, Magistrate Duarte, Dr. Mendez
San Juan Ixtahuacan, Guatemala. Dr. David Méndez is a well-known humanitarian who has been working closely with the indigenous populations of Guatemala, including rehabilitating child soldiers used in guerrilla warfare throughout the region. When mutants begin cropping up, Dr. Méndez invites Elpis to come in and see if they'd consider setting up a branch in his (very remote) neck of the woods. The village and compound are known as Santo Tomas. When the group arrives, Dr. Méndez seems like a kindred spirit, showing Elpis around his compound, including an orphanage that has a few mutant children. They meet a local girl, Berta, and an eccentric old woman called Doña Teresa, (Some say eccentric while others would say batshit insane). They tour several neighboring villages, including some Mayan ruins and are first introduced to the idea of Jaguar cults, which run to even before the Mayan civilization and dating back to the Olmec period. There's also a rumor of a jaguar that's been stalking and killing livestock and people throughout the area for several years.
The group returns to the compound the next day, to find that Dr. Méndez has been murdered and the blame placed on a guerrilla faction calling itself the True Peace. They meet with Eduardo Duarte, the local magistrate, who is seemingly helpful and friendly at first, gets more and more obstinate as Elpis refuses to swallow the cover story, especially after interviewing the Mayan people that Méndez worked with, discovering that Méndez is not the first death in recent months.
What looks like a cut and dry case of political corruption gets weird, while Nash and Julio are investigating in town they discover just how bad Duarte's corruption has gone in that anyone who has remotely opposed Duarte winds up dead much like Méndez. That night, the compound is attacked by a large wild creature, it slaughters much of the livestock and is about to break into the orphanage Retreating with the children from the orphanage, Berta, Doña Teresa and a couple of the hands they retreat to a small cave used for storage. Barricading the children in, they stand watch for the creature. Then it starts to rain.
The creature drags away one of the hands, and then returns and attacks Julio. Shots are fired and the creature is mortally wounded by the Elpis team, for the first time they get a good look at it, resembling a large cat-like creature, and it retreats into the darkness. Julio is brought into the safety of the cave, while everyone else remains vigilant. The creature has bitten Julio's shoulder, nearly crushing it, but they are able to stop the bleeding, and he survives the night. Cryptically, even though she has shown zero interest in the group until now, Doña Teresa help tends to Julio through the night.
Dawn breaks and the rain stops, and the group cautiously makes it's way back to the orphanage. Julio is put into a bed and his shoulder is bandaged, but he needs to get to a hospital. The phone lines are not working, most likely because of last night's rain. Julio is not stable enough to make it down the bumpy mountain, so they send one of the jeeps down to the town to get medical supplies and get the helicopter, taking Nash, Kevin, John and Berta. Along the way they discover a body in the road. An emaciated, bearded man whose wounds match those inflicted on the creature, which raises ginormous red flags, they grab the body and load it onto the jeep.
Meanwhile, Jane goes to change the dressings on Julio's wounds, to find that he has healed significantly since last night, and though he bears no signs of infection, he has a raging fever. Doña Teresa keeps vigil in his room and refuses to leave his side, muttering in a language no one recognizes. Nash, Kevin, Berta and John reach town with the body, and Duarte meets them. Though it seems that he recognizes the body, he quickly recovers and says it's a missing worker. He also dismisses the creature as nothing more than a jaguar. Never mind that whatever attacked them last night was much larger than a regular jaguar. But instead of letting them call for help, he has them thrown in jail on trumped up charges.
Back at compound, Julio's fever worsens, and he becomes delirious, muttering to himself in Spanish and manifesting strange symptoms. Rashes on his knees and good shoulder, yellow eyes and lengthened canines. Monet, Terry and Jane try to figure out how to keep Julio stable, as he becomes increasingly volatile throughout the day. Unsure of where John, Kevin, Berta and Nash are, they decide to risk moving Julio and go to get the remaining Jeep. Only to find someone has sabotaged it, rendering it unable to start. Night begins to fall, and Doña Teresa comes out of the compound, smiling. The girls rush to Julio, only to find something very strange is happening to him. While they watch, he changes into large jaguar-like creature, just like the one that attacked them last night, and then he attacks them. They lure the Julio-creature out of the main house, where after another tussle he escapes into the night.
Meanwhile, Nash, John, Kevin and Berta stage a jailbreak that night, but are almost killed when the creature attacks the jail, killing several of the guards. They re-group with Monet and Jane that morning, and decide to put out a search for Julio. Because Mayan mythology states that nighttime is the time of the spirit world, Julio will most likely be human in the daytime and will change at night, thus necessitating they find him before nightfall. However, the day passes and there's no sign of him, during which they discover that while the creature Julio turned into had been black, the one that attacked the jail had been spotted. One of these things is not like the other... before more can be done, Duarte shows up. With some armed men.
Duarte has come to do away with the Elpis team and the compound members. He will blame a guerilla faction he has fallen out with in order to have the government take them out. Before Duarte and his men can attack, however, a very possessed Julio shows up, clearly Not Himself, keeping Duarte at bay. Doña Teresa, for the first time, begins to speak sense. With Berta translating, she paints a damning portrait of the local magistrate.
Doña Teresa is the only survivor of Duarte's brutal purge of her village. Sick of watching Duarte abuse his power with his supposed 'curse,' She summoned the still living Pvt. Sanchez, who had gone native and also carried the curse, with the promise of freeing him. But his mind and body had shattered after 20 years of living with his curse and he would not have been strong enough to face Duarte. When Sanchez had attacked Julio, he left him at death's door and susceptible to the spirit world. In her guilt for bringing the unstable Sanchez down on the people who had sheltered her, Doña Teresa coaxed Julio into accepting the Jaguar Spirit willingly, with the promise of being released once the spirit had had it's vengeance, saving his life in the process. It's why he's far from a mindless monster, and has come to take revenge for the village Duarte slaughtered during the civil war. Night falls and both Julio and Duarte change, and duke it out, while Elpis takes down the rest of Duarte's men. Julio emerges victorious in his duel, breaking Duarte's neck. The rest of Duarte's men flee. The spirit leaves Julio, it's vengeance finally achieved, and Julio returns to normal. And then promptly passes out.
Julio wakes up the next morning with absolutely no memory of the past few days and is stunned to find out the wounds from his original attack are completely healed. Duarte's men who aren't dead or in captivity have fled, and are being rounded up by Guatemalan authorities, due to a phone call to the now working telephone lines. It's anyone's guess as to if they'll be caught and prosecuted. Elpis beats a hasty retreat, and it's pretty much agreed that this week never happened.
Trivia and Meta
Julio taught Kevin how to say "You son of a goat and a whore, I'll cut you" in Spanish as a joke. Kevin later used the phrase at the worst possible moment.
Julio received a small protective charm that indicates it will be thoroughly hard to possess him again.