"Golden ages leave behind the undying fame of their heroes. It is those who engage them as peers who become capable of initiating a new one."

There on a plain, a multitude. From a distance—a hill or the eye of a soaring bird—one could see numberless little dots in the shape of men assembled around a lesser crowd in the middle. There was a great distance separating them. Focusing the gaze, one could make out the silhouettes: a great many feathers brandished in the air over a palette of colors that gave the frenzy an almost carnival atmosphere. A pointillist would have had a field day with the scene, were it not for the shimmering, almost blinding brilliance of the crowd in the center.

The shimmer was that of metal. The surrounded crowd in the center was on guard in the full paraphernalia of battle: breastplate, spear, sword, and unmistakable quiet terror escaping from furtive faces. A great cry rose from the feathered circumference. It was a call to the gods. Despair won among the metalled men. They turned inwards and they too, on their knees, spoke words to their gods.

Then among the paltry men of the center, six broke from the mass and dragged their horses forward. They began to trot and the cataphracts turned towards a single point in the great multitude surrounding them. Their hooves drummed the no man’s land. On collision, this arrowhead of flesh and blood cut through the innumerable mass and launched many feathered men off their feet, strewing them about. Bucklers began cracking skulls. Behind the charge, a group of swordsmen closed in and began slaying the feathered warriors.

This maneuver was repeated against various points of the circumference to deadly effect. At last, on the final attack, one of the horsemen seized a great plume standard and, dashing away, held it high for all to see. The encircling army that had forced their attack froze and then broke. Their king had been slain and their gods had abandoned them. The metalled men had snatched victory from the jaws of annihilation.

It was a battle of Homeric proportions. We even know the names of our cataphracts: Hernán Cortés, Gonzalo de Sandoval, Pedro de Alvarado, Cristóbal de Olid, Juan de Salamanca, and Alonso Dávila—the last heroes of the Iliad. Yet the Trojans and Achaeans in this skirmish were two and a half millennia late to the battle of Troy.

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