Monthly Archives: October 2012

Historical fiction and Tenochtitlan

27 October 2012 Comments (6)

I am happy to announce the release of another new book

The Emperor’s Second Wife

the third book of The Rise of the Aztecs series.

In 1419, having conquered Texcoco and its provinces, the Tepanecs were the undeniable masters of the whole Mexican Valley, spreading further and further, strong and invincible. Curiously indifferent, they took the coastal towns, including Coatlinchan, but the altepetl of Texcoco they had given to their worthwhile allies, the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan.

Yet, Tezozomoc , the Tepanec Emperor, who, through his enormously long and fruitful life, had achieved all that, was growing very old. His death was imminent and there were many who awaited this event with eagerness.

In Tenochtitlan the opinions varied. While benefiting from its newly gained stance with their mighty overlords, having received the rich Texcoco as a gift for good behavior, some of the leading Aztecs were not happy with the way their city was turning into yet another Tepanec province. The rich pickings may not have been worth the loss of independence.

So, by the time Nezahualcoyotl , the surviving heir to Texcoco throne, reached Tenochtitlan, after spending some time hiding in the Highlands, the island-nation was ready to receive him, quite cordially at that. Busy expanding, building another causeway and the water construction, the Aztecs still tried to keep the Tepanecs happy, but it all was destined to change.

Back in the Aztec Capital, the troubles were brewing. While benefiting from its neutrality in the Texcoco-Tepanec War, many influential Mexica-Aztecs grew wary of the way their city was becoming absorbed in the mighty Tepanec Empire.

Upon their arrival in the great island-city, Kuini and Coyotl are quick to discover that something dangerous is about to happen, and that they are expected to take a part in it.

An excerpt from “The Emperor’s Second Wife

Only when they turned another corner and he could hear no footsteps but their own, did he allow his senses to shift to the young man walking beside him. Another First Son of another Emperor? The heir to Tenochtitlan’s throne? No, it could not be true. Tenochtitlan already had an Emperor, a mere child according to Father, and Father would know. If this youth was the First Son, he would have become the Emperor upon his own father’s death, wouldn’t he?

“You are not the First Son,” he said finally as the clamor of the marketplace grew stronger.

“Of course I am.” The lifted eyebrows of his companion made Kuini want to smash the broad face into a bloody mess. Coyotl was the First Son, and the heir, and he was never arrogant or haughty.

“How come you are not the Emperor then?”

The merry laughter was his answer. “You are such a provincial. It is not that simple, you know?”

“It is simple enough in civilized places like Texcoco.”

“Oh, stop bringing up this stupid new province of ours.”

Kuini clenched his fists. “Texcoco is not your province. This altepetl is more civilized, more beautiful, more magnificent than yours will ever be. Without your betrayal they would never have lost. They were victorious for more summers than your petty altepetl ever existed.”

To his surprise, Tlacaelel did not take offense. “So you are from Texcoco, aren’t you? I would never have guessed. You look like a Tepanec, but you speak like a foreigner. And your tattoos look completely savage.” He shrugged. “Whatever the reasons, your Texcoco is our province now, and they deserved that. Pitiful losers and worthless warriors.” The deeply set eyes measured Kuini once again. “So what are you doing here in Tenochtitlan?”

Taking a deep breath to control his temper, Kuini clasped his lips. “Nothing. I just came to look around.”

“And?”

“And nothing. So far, I ran into too many hostile warriors and strange royal family arrangements.” He studied his companion in his turn, taking in the broad, well-developed frame and the muscled arms. “If you were the First Son you wouldn’t be going around looking like a warrior, picking fights. That warrior was right. You would be escorted and well protected.”

“Would I?” Tlacaelel laughed again. “You obviously know nothing about Palaces and royal families. The Emperor, his wives, and his heir are moving about escorted. The rest of the royal family can do as they please.” The broad face darkened. “As long as they don’t stand in someone’s way.”

“So which son is your current Emperor?”

“The second,” said Tlacaelel lightly.

“Then why did the second son become the Emperor? Was the first one that unfitting?” Delighted, Kuini saw the deeply set eyes darkening with rage.

“You are still pushing it, aren’t you foreigner?”

“I’m curious.”

“Well, you will have to go and figure it out all by yourself. Go back to the Plaza and ask the people around. I predict by the nightfall you will learn a thing or two.”

Pleased with his companion’s obvious loss of temper and, therefore, loss of dignity, Kuini grinned.

“Weren’t we supposed to fight somewhere near your marketplace?”

Tlacaelel’s glare made him feel vindicated. “Yes! I was about to kill you, and this place will do.”

Historical fiction and the Highlands

12 October 2012 Comments (1)

I am happy to announce the release of my new book

Crossing Worlds

the second book of The Rise of the Aztecs series.

In 1414 Texcoco had rebelled against the mighty Tepanecs, dealing surprisingly well with the invasion that the mighty empire had promptly organized, landing almost thousand warriors upon Texcoco shores. The first offensive was repelled so thoroughly, the Tepanecs bolted for home with encouraged Acolhua gathering their fleets and crossing the ‘Great Lake’ into the enemy territory.

Enjoying more than a few seasons of martial success, the Texcocans came home, thinking they had taught the enemy an important lesson.

But then…

With Texcoco lost to the second Tepanec invasion, with the Emperor killed and the Acolhua forces scatters, Kuini takes his highborn friend to the Highlands, to hide among his people. He also counts on receiving more than just a shelter. He hopes for an active help of his powerful father, the Warriors’ Leader.

Yet, the enmity between the two nations goes back generations, and matters cannot be solved as easily as the two seventeen-year olds imagine they should.

Both youths will face a variety of troubles, ranging from local politics to local girls.

An excerpt from “Crossing Worlds

Gesturing for her to stay where she was, Coyotl neared the edge, where he could see the narrow path, twisting between the protruding rocks like a thin serpent. The wide shoulders of the climbing figure and the stub of his half-grown hair made him sigh with relief.

“Up here,” he called, waving his hand.

Kuini’s broad face beamed at him from below. “I’ve been looking for you all over, you dirty piece of dung,” he shouted, doubling his step.

“Who is there?” asked the girl suspiciously, not attempting to come nearer, poised on the top of their previous trail, ready to flee.

“It’s just friend. My friend. Oh…” Her darkening face made him remember. “I forget…”

“I’m leaving,” she said, not attempting to move. “And if your friend shows up here again, I’m not coming back. Do you understand? I come back tomorrow only if he does not–”

Her speech cut short, she glared at Kuini as he appeared behind the cliff, sweating and short of breath. Coyotl felt like cursing and laughing at the same time. How ridiculous!

“I swear I’ve been running all over these cliffs since midday.” Kuini’s eyes twinkled, brushing past the girl, but clearly missing her open animosity. “But I see you’ve been busy. A nice pastime.”

However, his Nahuatl only served to make her angrier. “Look who is here,” she said icily, voice trembling with disdain. “A wild warrior and a lousy hunter. What honor!”

Kuini stared at her, perplexed. “What?”

“Don’t stare at me like you didn’t know any of it. You are all of that and more.”

“Who is this cihua, and what does she want?” asked Kuini, turning to Coyotl, eyes wide. He didn’t switch to Nahuatl this time, so the girl had her chance to turn yet angrier.

“You know very well who I am,” she hissed. “And you are not worthy of my time.” Turning abruptly, she ran up the trail, her knee-length skirt swirling angrily, the hastily made braid bouncing.

“What, in the name of the Underworld…”

Coyotl took his gaze off the swaying bushes, then shrugged. “She doesn’t like you.”

“I can see that, but why?”

“You took her some summers ago, didn’t you?”

“What? I don’t even know her!”

Watching his friend’s stupefied face, Coyotl wanted to laugh, but bitterly so. There went his pleasant afternoon for the next day. “She says you did. She is still angry with you because of that.” He remembered his conversation with her from the previous day. “She said you promised to make her your woman or something.”

Kuini’s face grew more bewildered. “This cihua of yours has great imagination. I hope she was worthy of your time.”

“Oh yes, she was. Lots of times too.”

“Nice!” Kuini shifted his weight from one foot to another.

“Yes, it’s a nice pastime. You should get busy too, instead of sneaking around the passes, wasting your time spying on the Tepanecs.”

“Yes, right. Let them come here undisturbed. I really should lay with every cihua around the Highlands before they come here and take them all for themselves.”

Coyotl winced, sobering. “They won’t come up here. They wanted Texcoco and Acolhua provinces.”

“Of course they will. Two days ago when we went down there on that excursion that you refused to hear about, who do you think was lurking right past one of the passes? Those same Tepanecs, confident and happy. Five warriors, five hunters.”

“They don’t have hunters.”

“Oh, whatever. Peasants. Traders. Not warriors, anyway.”

“Peasants, yes. Or maybe servants.”

“Who cares? They were there, entering the Highlands, busy hunting like the place was already theirs.”

“Did you fight them?”

“Yes. Killed a few. Not all of them though. If you were there we would have finished the whole bunch together.” Kuini shrugged. “But that was not why I was looking for you. Listen–”

Horrified, Coyotl stared at his friend. “Did you try to trap ten Tepanecs all alone?”

“No, of course not! But those good-for-nothing’s who went with me were useless.”

“I’ll come with you next time, I promise.” Coyotl watched his friend, taking in the tired features and the fresh cut right above the wide forehead, hiding in the half grown hair. “I’m sorry. I should have come. It’s just that I hate to see what’s happening in my lands, and I don’t see any point in going down there to watch it. It’s useless. The Tepanecs are now ruling my provinces, and the Aztecs are looting my altepetl.” He felt his nails sinking into his palms and welcomed the pain. It took the edge off his bottomless desperation.

Kuini’s face darkened. “You may have no choice but to come next time.” He looked around, then began descending the trail back the way he had come.

The Rise of the Aztecs Part VI, Tipping the Ballance

2 October 2012 Comments (3)

In ‘The Rise of the Aztecs Part V Texcoco, The Acolhua Capital’, we left the Valley of Mexico boiling, preparing for the upcoming war between the mighty Tepanec Empire and the rebellious Acolhua people of Texcoco, with the Aztecs sitting safely on the fence, smooth-talking and helping neither side.

In 1415, a Tepanec fleet of countless boats crossed Lake Texcoco, approaching the eastern shores of the altepetl that bore the same name.

But the altepetl of Texcoco turned out to be a worthy adversary. Gathering an impressive force of over a thousand warriors from all over Acolhua provinces, the Texcocans faced the invaders eagerly, impatient and battle-hungry. Repulsing the Tepanec offensive most soundly, the Acolhua made their attackers bolt straight for home, there to regroup and to nurture their wounded pride.

And it’s not that the victorious Acolhua were done yet. Gathering their own fleets, they had promptly crossed the ‘Great Lake’, invading the Tepanec side of it. For over a year the Texcocan warriors roamed their enemy’s countryside, winning more battles, taking towns and even, at some point, laying siege to Azcapotzalco itself. Although the siege was unsuccessful, lifted after only a few months, the Acolhua Emperor felt that he had made his point. His people would better not be provoked again, he must have decided with satisfaction as the Texcocan army headed back to their side of the ‘Great Lake’, confident that they had taught the haughty Tepanecs a thorough lesson.

Well, as it turned out, a different lesson has to be learned, by Acolhua people most of all. Like the Romans, the Tepanecs could lose a battle, or two, but they were not prepared to lose a war.

In 1418, after through preparations, enlisting many other city states, or forcing them into siding with them, the Tepanecs invaded again. The Aztec Tenochtitlan was among those who had finally decided to get off the fence, either forced or just tempted to join the winning side, tipping the balance between the warring alteptels.

Feinting an offensive from the north, making the defenders of Texcoco to rush their forces to that side of their city, the Tepanecs launched their main attack from the south, taking important but undefended towns on their way.

In the end of the eventful day, Texcoco and its provinces were no longer ruled by the Acolhua royal dynasty, with its Emperor dead and his heir, Nezahualcoyotl, a youth of about 17 years old, fleeing into the Highlands.

Pleased with themselves, the Tepanecs divided many provinces and towns, giving some to their allies as a reword. Curiously, the altepetl of Texcoco itself was granted to the helpful Aztecs, as a price for their good behavior as it seemed.

Tenochtitlan, who had benefited from their neutrality in this three-years-long war anyway, by gaining control of the most trading routes around the Great Lake, began prospering like never before.

In the next post, “The Rise of the Aztecs Part VII, The Highlands” we will see how the Highlanders got involved in the Lowlanders conflict, and how the Aztecs came to the aid of their old Acolhua allies after all, while still trying to maintain a good relationship with their overlords, the mighty Tepanecs.

An excerpt from “Crossing Worlds

The sky was alight, blazing with different shades of yellow and orange, beautiful to look at against the deepening darkness. It spread to their east, but the light glow could be spotted in the greater distance, blazing to the north as well.

Speechless, they stared at it for a heartbeat, then broke into a heedless run, careless of the path, crashing through the bushes adorning the low hill.

Huexotla was on fire. But how was it possible? thought Kuini, forgetting his own morning observations. Wasn’t the fight supposed to be raging to the north of Texcoco? Heart pounding, his dread welling, he rushed on, heedless of the possible danger along with the rest of their warriors. Whoever had set Huexotla on fire had clearly not tried to do it by surprise. Oh, no! The conquerors of Huexotla were surer of themselves than that.

Slipping along the alleys that were awash with blood, stumbling over sprawling bodies, they stormed the outskirts of the large town, their obsidian swords and clubs ready, nerves taut. The Tepanecs seemed not too many, the brilliant-blue of their elite forces leaping dangerously into one’s view every now and then, forcing one to concentrate, to summon all his strength and skill. The rest were just warriors, some foreigners, Nahuatl-speakers from all over the great valley.

Even though exhausted and hungry, a hundred Acolhua warriors were more than a match for the mixed enemy forces. The swords clashed, the clubs rose and fell, the spears thrust. Arrows and darts flew by, shot from the rooftops, mainly by the enemy, although some defenders were still alive, with the remnants of their fighting spirits intact.
Something was wrong, thought Kuini, a part of his mind refusing to give in to the battle frenzy, as always. The Tepanecs were too few, too low-spirited to be the ones who had taken this town. No. Their main forces had to be elsewhere.

Locking his sword with a bulky warrior, Kuini refused to think about the other forces and where they could have been now. No, not in the north, pounded his heart as he disengaged, leaping aside, trying to bring his sword toward his opponent’s momentarily exposed side with the same movement. No, they could not have been in the north. The bulk of the enemy warriors must have been rolling toward Texcoco, must have been reaching the great altepetl from the south, using the comfortable roads and the favorable terrain, washing over the southern neighborhoods, with their defenders located elsewhere, fighting their meaningless skirmishes in the north.