A female jaguar allows a Maya chief's baby to nurse at her full teat while the child's 16-year-old nanny, Wing, witnesses enactment of the legend of God's first incarnation as a jaguar. To interfere with the big cat's wild desire is a capital offense. When the child's bite causes mama jag to growl, Wing scares her away under scandalized rebuke from the chief who orders her to give herself to King Zac for heart sacrifice. On the way to the city, she encounters jaguar hunter Flint, the king's brother on a mission to warn him of invasion by enemy Toltecs. Wing trades death for life when she substitutes for the king's traitorous Toltec wife in a blood-letting ritual. She finds a friend who turns into a jealous rival after having a vision that Wing is destined for greatness. Events cast Flint and Wing's fate as husband and wife with the king's entourage aboard a fragile raft launched into the treacherous waters of the Gulf of Mexico. They earn their livelihood in life-and-death ballgames. Zac is a star player whose palace guard doubles as his unbeaten team in a fierce game where the losing captain's head is the rubber-encased ball in the next contest. The exiles trade the raft for war canoes, and recruit hometown challengers in the on-going adventure. One of these is a blue-tattooed prince whose uncle sold him into slavery and usurped his rightful title as king of the first city of 40,000 in what is now the U.S. Zac masterminds an alliance to reclaim Blue's kingdom, but at great personal cost to Wing, who helps build the huge pyramid still standing at Cahokia near St. Louis, Missouri, where a spectacular celestial event fulfills the old enemy's long-ago vision of a her star-crossed destiny.