Chapter 6. The First Lead and an Amazing Surprise

He did feel refreshed after a hearty homecooked meal by Juanita and a siesta. He met Fuego in her family kitchen, and she was prepared to give him all the answers he needed to find the first God Card. Charts, maps, a compass, a protractor, and a battered leather-bound diary, complete with lock were there. She was unlocking the journal. "You look a bit better. Seems some sleep and Madre's cooking agrees with you." She noticed the cur-ious look as slipped the tiny key into her pocket. "I don't lock it because of secrets, because there are none. I'm just trying to keep everything together."

There looked to be an amazing wealth of information on that table. Seto rubbed his eyes, and Fuego set a steaming mug of coffee before him. "We may be at this for awhile, so don't be surprised if Madre and Anita make us move later, unless you want to help them fix dinner. I may have to leave you to your own devices myself to help them out, then again, maybe even you can chop carrots."

Seto rolled his eyes. "Can we just get started, please?"

Fuego simply unrolled a map of the world, and he noted several red dots marked on it. "The reason you were sent to me to start your search for the God Cards was due to the fact that I have been studying this theory for quite a long time. You see these marks?" She pointed at the map. There were dots on Peru, Southern Mexico, two places in the United States, a couple of places in Europe, a dot on southern Africa, Southern Asia, Aus-tralia, and in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. At a closer look, it turned out to be Hawaii's big island. "These are not the places where we think the cards might be, but places where we might find clues to lead us to them."

"How many are there, theoretically?"

"Eight, unless there might be one in Antarctica, but I don't think the penguins play Duel Monsters with the seals down there. So, one for each continent, and Oceania. I'll lead you to your first card from here, since the clues are supposed to be in Peru."

"Where exactly in Peru?"

"This is most likely the Incan God Card, but I don't know it's name. Cuzco was the capitol of the Incan Empire at it's height, but the ruins of Maccu Picchu are more intact. We will have to do a sweep from there."

"Do you think this card is in Peru?"

"Possibly, but the Incan Empire was pretty big, it could be anywhere from southwest Columbia to north Chile or Bolivia. Remember, this is just for one card, and you're looking for eight. You'll get clues on where to find the next one, and whom to contact when you get to the next region. Hope you got all your shots. You'll be going places where the insects are so big, they would make Weevil Underwood go screaming home to his madre."

"You make it sound like so much fun," said Seto with some sarcasm. "If you could give me the clues how, I could find the cards on my own within 24 hours."

"And what kind of treasure hunts do you go on? That's what these are, you know." Fuego opened up the journal, and pulled out a map of the city of Maccu Picchu itself. "You know they are most likely not going to let you land your dragon in this place. We are going to either have to take the train or hike the trail. As I recall, hiking is a four day event, 13,000 feet to the city itself. Anything can be the next clue, but it is there we start."

Seto sipped at his coffee. It was soothing and smooth, but had a good bite to it. This was his card search. She kept saying "we", as though she had some stake in this. What would she gain by coming along? He had to do this on his own, or at least with his own research team. "What else can you show me? What do you know?"

"The theory is that most of these cultures that the God Cards are based on are shamanist in their religion, so the God Cards most likely are based on animal or elemental spirits, so that will be a big plus in what we are to look for. The Incans were a fun-loving group, but sometimes took things a bit far in their ancestor worship. Most likely the card we'll be looking for will be one based on a weather god, or a nature god."

"If this is based on Duel Monsters, then, will the clue we need to find be made in the same design as the current cards?"

"That's up to those who made them in the first place, the clues, not the cards, I mean."

Seto reached for a book on Incan mythology and scanned through it for plates and photos of what some of the neolithic artwork might show him. Lots of animals, some codices, some sculptures from the time. What exactly would this card look like, and even more important, what would its effect be? He looked at some of the other photos and plates. Lots and lots of Pre-Columbian art, but nothing that made a connexion for him. He looked at the panoramic photo of Maccu Picchu, and noted how the city looked like it was in the shape of the sun, as it would look setting over one of the nearby mountains.

"The Incans were really into sun worship, weren't they? I can't seem to get anywhere in these books without some reference to Inti, the Sun God."

"Anything based on Inti would make for a very powerful card. What do you see here?"

He picked up the photos. "I think I just found my first stop." He looked closely at a picture of what was labeled as "sun temple". This did not take nearly as long as he thought.

"That is assuming that Inti has anything to do with the God Cards. For all you know, the card be Cocomama, the goddess of recreational drugs."

"I find that highly unlikely."

"But it would make for a fun twist in the next Battle City tournament."

"Now that I have more information to go on, I think I can leave soon."

Fuego was about to protest this hasty decision just as one of the gauchos came running in. "Senorita Fuego! Dora is calving and Senor Manuel needs you!"

"Gracias, Domingo." She turned to Seto. "I have to go out for a bit. You can stay here and study if you like. Dora has been having problems with this pregnancy."

"I think I found out all I need to know from you."

"Then it's time you learned something else. All the money you have will never pay for an experience like this. Come with me." She tossed on her maroon duster, and gave Seto his coat. "How are you with horses?"

"Horses? I thought you said she was calving, not foaling."

"Can you ride?"

Seto shook his head. All his life had been about defeating those whom had belittled him in some manner. His contact with animals had been very limited. He hated admitting that he could not ride, but was curious to see where this would lead.

"I guess you can ride with me. Our horses are very friendly, but they can be wary of strangers.

He was not sure if he should stay here and study, or go out to the dusty pampas and witness whatever this cow Dora would do. He wanted to get away from the ranchero. He had found the "fire near the bottom of the world". It lead him to Maccu Picchu. He just wanted to get in his dragon jet and head to Peru, but there was something making him want to stay. Maybe it was the fact that he might need Fuego's help in Peru, or just the fact that he did not want to be treated like a "city boy". This was not going to be the first or last time he would encounter such simplicity, but it was rare in the scheme of his life. The last ten years of building game technologies and encounters with paranormal searches through ancient lands, lost nations, and time itself left little for space for simple things. This was something so rooted in the everyday life of these people, it was just too real. It has been so long since anything earthy and real had happened to him had happened to him, it was hard to resist what might happen next. "We can study later. Dora is waiting."

Fuego smiled, and went out to the stable, and came back grey dappled gelding. "This is Puntos. He's our ride to the pasture."

"Why isn't Dora in the barn or wherever you keep these cattle?"

"She wants to be near her sisters and mate, simple as that, and they are in the pasture. Respect these animals, and they will provide well for you." She saddled Puntos, and gotup on his back, and help Seto up behind her. "Hold on, this is going to be a bumpy ride. We don't trot around here." Fuego made a loud whistle through her teeth, and spurred Puntos into a steady gallop. Seto felt the sudden burst of speed, and quickly put his arms tightly Fuego's waist. He heard her chuckle, and just closed his eyes, hoping that this
primitive ride would soon be over.

Puntos made good time to the pasture. The five minute ride seemed like a lifetime to Seto, and he was very glad to slide off the horse's back. Fuego raced over to a cow on her side. This had to be Dora. She looked down into the animal's big brown eyes, and petted her snout. She said encouraging things in Spanish, and looked over to Manuel and another man whom Seto assumed was the local veterinarian. The gauchos has separated the herd from Dora so they could all work peacefully. Manuel looked over at Seto, and asked, "What's he doing here?"

"Observing," said Fuego. "He won't get in the way. We might just need another set of clean hands out here. How's she doing?"

"So far so good, but this will be her last calf. She's too old to take on another mating, and if you don't forgive Giovanni for what he did, you might be too old to take a first one."

"Not the time to discuss my relationship with Pablo's teammate, Padre." Fuego looked up at Seto. "I'm glad I brought you out here. Take my place here. Keep her calm."

Seto came down to where she was. "How do I do that?"

"Pet her snout, scratch her ears, just keep her calm. If she jerks about a bit, that's normal, just do what you can to keep her content." A small part of Fuego wished there was a cellphone camera focused on this scene. It would make such a wonderful story on IDN. As if her thoughts were being read, Anita came up on her horse, and was holding a camcorder. Fuego knew she was recording this for the family, and not for IDN, but it was still great to have Seto be part of it. Manuel nodded, and Fuego came down to where he

"The calf needs to be turned. I'm so glad you're here. Your hands are small enough to do this without too much pain on Dora. You know what to do."

Fuego did as requested, and Seto was startled when he saw Dora kick a bit, and she mooed softly. She had a glassy look in her big brown eyes, and she licked his hand. He petted her under the chin and scratched her eyes, anything to keep the cow calm. Fuego had removed her coat, and she had worked up a good glisten, but that's all he could see. He wasn't sure he really wanted to see more. "Come on, Dora, it won't be too much longer. I'm sure this baby will be strong." He looked over to the pasture and saw the bull that had sire this calf. He was big and looking very proud, but that was just how bulls were. Most of the calves here were most likely his. Dora's eyes looked a bit more clear when he looked down again, and he sensed that she was going to be fine. He could not understand the conversation between the vet, Manuel and Fuego, but it was less heated than before. It seemed encouraging.

"Dora, push for us now!" said Manuel. "Fuego made things right, all you have to do is what you've done before. Let's see this beautiful baby, querida!"

Soon the ordeal was over, and Dora was released of her burden. She turned and made her motherly attentions on her calf. Seto got up and noticed Fuego's dark-haired sister holding the camcorder. She shook her head to indicate that this footage was not going public. It was then he decided Fuego had to stay here. They just needed her too much, even if she thought it was unwise for him to go to Peru alone. She came up, and patted
him on the back. "You did great! Just full of surprises."

"More than you know." He dusted the dirt off his coat, and looked down at her. She was a mess, but genuinely happy. "Looks like we both need to get cleaned up."

"I'll try not to use up the hot water. I'd offer you a ride home, but not like this. Padre won't mind. The ride won't be as jarring this time, since there is no rush. Later." She went up to Puntos, and swung up on his back, and rode off. Manuel was holding her maroon coat, and came up to Seto.

"Thanks for the help, amigo. Dora could not have done this without you."

Seto looked down at the mother and calf, and smiled slightly. "Dora's a lucky lady, Senor. She's got a great support staff."

"Luck played some part in this, but timing is everything, even when it comes to birthing calves."

Or moving on to the next target. Seto had faced Fuego's fury before, in the duel arena. This next test would be far more serious. Maybe the cards would fall in place for him this time. Dueling might be his only option left after what he knew he was going to have to say.