July the Twentieth
The Year of Our Lord 1533

It is done. After months of tribulations and slow victories, we have finally drawn out the secret of the Incan emperor Atahualpa. Soon he will be executed, and the arduous journey we have taken for Spain and Our Lord will reach its end.

But I must close quickly. Pizarro says we are approaching our destination within an hour or two, from what Atahualpa’s guide says. My excitement and trepidation prevent me from wasting any more time.

De Soto snapped his journal shut and looked up at the party ahead of him. Pizarro was at the front with Atahualpa’s guide, remaining unusually silent, as if they were entering a cathedral instead of the deepest reaches of the Andean jungle. In fact, all the men retained abnormally quiet expressions, eyes more commonly tilted down at the forest floor the further they progressed. It was as if some sentient emotion lived in this air, palpable in its intensity.

Presently, the native stopped in his tracks. They were close.

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