Historical Fiction and the Mexican Valley

Reinforcements from the Otomi north

31 October 2017 Comments (0)

While Axayacatl was busy recruiting his army, which in as giant an island city as Tenochtitlan was not an easy or a short process, the independent city-states of the Toluca Valley weren’t idle as well. Not only Tenantzinco sought alliances outside of its immediate surroundings. The altepetl‘s of Tollocan and Matlatzinco had ideas of their own.

To the north of the Toluca ValleyOtomi people, who generally inhabited the Toluca Valley along with their Matlatzinca neighbors, coexisting there since the times of the legendary Toltecs, or maybe even prior to those. The Mexica considered the Otomi to be fierce, skillful warriors, if not highly civilized or otherwise worthy, according to Sahagun, Duran and Torquemada to name a few. In the latter-day Tenochtitlan, there was a special combat unit called Otomitl, where the Mexica warriors of special valor were expected to display great fits of courage worthy of elite fighters, their peers Eagle and Jaguar warriors.

Yet, besides their reputation on the battlefield, the Otomi people were considered to be barbaric, less civilized than their Mexico Valley peers, prone to be compared to the legendary Chichimecs, the ferocious invaders who were said to destroy the Toltecs some centuries ago. As a matter of fact, Mexica themselves admitted to having such origins in their own lineage, however civilized they claimed to become later on, claiming Toltec ancestry as well. Clearly influenced by traditional Mexica narrative, Sahagun, in his “General History of Things in New Spain” (Codex Florentine) says: “…some Chichimec people, such as the Otomi,… knowing agriculture, living in settled communities, and having a religion devoted to the worship of the Moon…”

Until 1474, the Otomi settlements from northern Toluca Valley seemed to be more interested in their western neighbors, the Purepecha/Tarascans, fighting off occasional advances of this organized and strong regional power. However, with the conflict in the southern part of the valley brewing, they seemed to become more involved in their southern neighbors’ affairs as well.

B’otzanga, or Tlilcuetzpalin, as the man was known in the Nahuatl-recorded history (both words mean Black Lizard in different tongues) was reported to be a war leader of Xiquipilco, an influential Otomi settlement in the mountainous northwest. Clearly an ambitious warriors’ leader, the man was reported to bring considerable reinforcements to the Tollocan and Matlatzinco’s assembled armies. Today, he is still remembered among the modern-day Otomi as a national hero, even though other sources claim that his famous duel with Axayacatl happened later on, when the victorious Mexica invaded his native mountains of the northwest. In any case, a spectacular battle and a duel of two worthy war leaders was imminent, awaited probably by both the Mexica ruler and the Otomi warlord, if the spying activities in both regions were as widespread as reported.

In the meanwhile, Tenochtitlan, busy with its war preparations which, when it came to a faraway campaign, usually took up to eight days to organize without paralyzing the giant city’s daily life, faced an annoyingly rebellious lack of tribute payment from none other than their troublesome neighbors, the newly conquered Tlatelolco. A tribute which the formerly independent altepetl was to deliver once every four moons was reported to be paid only partly, without due eagerness and goodwill. According to Duran, “… eighty days later, when the first payment of tribute was due, the Tlatelolcans did not bring slaves as they had been instructed… they excused themselves, saying that they had been unable to obtain them…”/p>

The reaction of Tenochtitlan was neither lenient nor violent. Busy with his war preparations, Axayacatl did not seem to be tempted to bring his newly gathered warriors’ force to the neighboring city in order to punish it. Instead, he decreed that “…the noblemen of this city are no longer to wear splendid mantles… they must use maguey cloaks, like people of low rank…”; Duran says that Tenochtitlan went as far as prohibiting Tlatelolcan nobles from wearing jewelry, or maybe even sandals, detained from certain appearances in public offices and places – “… like women, they were to stay at their houses until eighty days after their second payment had passed…”

That served to bring Tlatelolco back to its senses and not to be late with any further payments. Codex Mendoza, on the other hand, while going into great detail, listing every item of tribute that was to be delivered each fourth moon, does not mention any trouble in the initial payment.

An excerpt from “Morning Star”, The Aztec Chronicles, book #5.

The man nodded with surprising acceptance. “We’ll go and look there all the same. Maybe they are still around, lingering somewhere nearby.” His wide shoulders lifted briefly, decisively. “The maps and the tales of our courageous villager should reach your emperor before he sets out. They are good and extensive and they may influence your redoubtable ruler’s plans. I wonder if that boy learned something even more interesting while staying in the vicinity of the renowned Otomi leader who has no business sticking his nose into those lowlanders’ affairs.”

Necalli couldn’t help it. “Tlilcuetzalin?” It was difficult not to remember the Emperor’s reaction to the word of some fierce Chichimec or Otomi coming to join the enemy Tenochtitlan was about to engage in fighting, the unbecoming agitation he never expected to see on the Tenochtitlan ruler’s face. And that ominously spectacular name, TlilCuetzalin, Black Lizard.

“Oh yes, that’s the man. So now you know his name as well. Interesting.” The smile twisting the Texcocan’s lips held nothing but amusement this time. “I bet the Tenochtitlan emperor’s wish to be on his way tripled after your news. No wonder he looked agitated, that one. Loves spectacular ends to spectacular battles, that emperor of yours. But Tlilcuetzalin, or Botzanga as he is known among his own people, is no Moquihuixtli of Tlatelolco, far from it. He will give your emperor a decent battle and a challenging hand-to-hand if they get to it. Remember my words, YoloNecalli. It might be a battle worthy of watching, its outcome not as certain as the one we managed to glimpse back in Tlatelolco.”

A gesture of the wide palm invited Necalli to leave the comforts of the shade the Great Pyramid provided. Fascinated, Necalli followed obediently. “Who is this man?” he asked, remembering the royal hand-to-hand upon the top of the Tlatelolco main pyramid, the glimpses he managed to snatch while keeping an eye on Moquihuixtli’s exquisite chief wife on behalf of this same man of Texcoco, saving the lady from the worst aspects of conquest.

“The Otomi leader from the western valley?” His companion grinned without much mirth. “Oh, he is a renowned warrior and Axayacatl must have heard about him as well. Your villager friend’s news surely took the sleep out of Tenochtitlan ruler’s eyes. He won’t rest now and he will hurry his advance toward the west more ardently than before. Predictable that.” The frown came suddenly, replacing the amusement. “Botzanga is a great warrior and a skillful leader, a ruthless man of great merit, very sharp, very perceptive. I hope ItzMiztli did not come too close while spying after this one. He is not skilled enough yet to handle such a man. I would rest easier if it was he himself who came here to tell us the news of this man’s forces joining the Tollocans. One doesn’t go tracing a jaguar on its path, daring to follow its actual footprints, without proper training and skill.”

Necalli’s stomach twisted uneasily. “You think he managed to come close to such a man? How? It should be difficult, shouldn’t it? He is not a noble pilli and this Otomi leader must be a noble in his lands.” He tried to remember what they had been taught about the mysterious Chichimecs, the fiercest warriors and the wildest people with no scruples and no morals.

Historical fiction and the war on Tlatelolco, part 1

27 December 2016 Comments (0)

By the second part of the 15th century, Tenochtitlan was already an important, dominant altepetl with quite a few provinces to rule. A member of the Triple Alliance, situated between its powerful allies and so probably playing a central role, the great island-city was thriving, growing in proportions and might. The provinces it ruled on the mainland were many, already more numerous than those controlled by its allies, yet Tlatelolco, a fairly large city, located practically in Tenochtitlan’s backyard, remained untouched until 1473, when unexpected trouble broke.

Situated on the nearby island, or maybe on the side of the same island Tenochtitlan occupied, Tlatelolco was inhabited by the people of the same Mexica-Aztec origins, the only two settlements in the entire Mexican Valley to claim that.

Both altpetls were founded not so far apart from each other, in the first part of the 14th century, and both suffered a fair share of contempt and oppression from the surrounding regional powers, mainly from the all-powerful Tepanecs of Azcapotzalco.

When in 1428 the tides have changed, with Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan turning against their oppressor, conquering its capital and thus inheriting the riches of the former Tepanec provinces as well, Tlatelolco remained neutral, enjoying the sudden freedom of the tribute-free life, but not benefiting from the lavish conquests its sister-city had set upon. The Triple Alliance that the conquering altepetls formed had a huge impact on the history of the Mexican Valley and those who did not take an active part could not complete with the expanding giants.

Still until 1473, no major conflicts troubled the neighboring sister-cities. Until two younger rulers succeeded the thrones of their older predecessors. Axayacatl, Tenochtitlan’s new tlatoani was vigorous, warlike, with mounting marital achievements behind him despite his unimpressive count of years. On the other hand, Moquihuixtli, the new Tlatelolco ruler, was of a more refined type, a good looking man and an eloquent orator, but seemingly given to other people’s influences, especially this of his adviser, dominant, militantly vigorous Teconal.

According to both 16th century annalists Diego Duran and Chimalpahin, Teconal was the one who desired to explore the warring course, even though Moquihuixtli did not oppose. His chief wife, Axayacatl’s full sister, did not please him anymore, and so did Tenochtitlan’s dominating, overpowering presence.The existence under the shadow of the glorious, more powerful neighbor began wearing on Tlatelolcan royal house’s nerves.

The problem the Tlatelolcan ruler solved by replacing his Tenochtitlan chief wife with the daughter of the same notorious Teconal, then by proceeding to hold warring competitions and conducting military exercises with considerable amount of warriors while making plenty of militant speeches. According to Duran, Moquihuixtli’s words indicated not only his willingness to break free from the overpowering influence, but also a clear wish to switch places, setting the tone to Tenochtitlan instead of the other way around; and maybe also collecting nicely rich tribute along the way. Or so both Duran and Chimalpahin report to us. To what degree of accuracy, we’ll probably never know.

Little did Miztli’s father know when he decided to send his promising youngest son to the Great Capital of the Aztecs in hopes of a better future. A miner from a small village, he believed that, in the big city, the boy might have a chance at developing his talents, becoming a metalworker and not just a simple miner or a peasant like the rest of the family. A glorious future for a simple villager, as shiny as the golden-copper jewelry his son would be producing after learning the intricate trade.

However, the great island capital with its towering pyramids and gushing industrial life was busy with its internal politics, disdainful of foreigners, especially barefoot villagers among those, indifferent to their small aspirations. A civil war was brewing, preying on everyone’s minds, and when the actual trouble erupted Miztli found himself in the heart of it, swept by the powerful surge that cared nothing for his private frustrations with the big city, thrown in with the most unexpected company: from pretty Chantli, the workshop owner’s daughter, to a pair of adventure-seeking noble school pupils Necalli and Axolin, to the wildest kid of them all, Ahuitzotl, the youngest brother of none other than the Emperor himself.

A fun escapade of sneaking into the underground tunnel full of hidden weaponry and other anticipated treasures turned out to be not as harmless as they expected, pitting them against ruthless smugglers and worse, unleashing a series of events none of them could have foreseen or foretold.

An excerpt from “Obsidian Puma

She grinned with one side of her mouth. “That would be nice.” Then the smile widened, evened out. “You can repay me now. Tell me what your story is. Why were you running all over as though all the worst spirits of the Underworld were after you?”

“It’s a long story,” he said, feeling surprisingly at ease, not threatened or even troubled for a moment. But it was good to be here in this hideaway, to relax for a little while, not to think of all the terrible things, from the games of Tenochtitlan or Tlatelolco nobility, to the kidnappers who were after him, to the troubles that awaited him back in the workshop. His mood began to plummet once again. “What are they going to do now, these people out there on the plaza?” he asked, thinking about his possibilities. “Go home?”

She made a face at him, opening her huge eyes too widely, her eyebrows arching in different ways. A funny mask.

“You wish!” Her thin arms flew up, outlining wild pictures. “I told you it was just the beginning. Now as we speak, or so I’d say, they are cleaning the pieces of the stone statue, rewarding the best shooters and all that.”

Pursing her lips, she fell silent, leaning toward the opening once again, the image of attentive listening, an exaggerated one. “Yes,” she confirmed, nodding in confirmation to her own words. “He is speaking now. Can’t you hear? Rewarding the winner or winners, I bet.”

“And then?” he prompted. “What will he do afterwards?”

“Oh, then they’ll put up a wooden statue to replace the stone one. And they’ll make the other young warriors, those who brought along spears and bows and atlatls, to show their skills, against a wooden enemy this time. But it’ll be as huge and as heavily armed, I can promise you that. To represent all sorts of enemies, you know.” Her grin again turned uneven, one corner of her mouth climbing up, the other down. “Like presumptuous Tenochtitlan brutes, eh?”

“Tenochtitlan?” he asked, frowning. “But your islands are not at war!”

Her eyebrows lifted high again. “Maybe not now, but that may change. They do presume to tell us what to do. All the time they do that. And they are violating our rights, and sometimes even our citizens. Think about it.”

One of the narrow palms came up, extending a long slender finger. “They violated those girls on the marketplace not so long ago. Then, only a market interval later, they filled up our canal one night.” Another finger thrust forward. “And they have been full of all sorts of demands, all because our ruler put that fat whiny fowl aside, preferring my sister in her stead.” She nodded sagely. “And my sister is so much prettier than the complaining turkey, so much more fitting to be the Emperor’s Chief Wife.”

His head reeled from so much information, delivered again in a breathless rush. But what was she talking about, this strange, curiously chatty girl?

“Also, our altepetl is not a tributary of Tenochtitlan. They can’t lord it over us as though we were nothing but a tiny village. They can’t tell us what to do!”

He watched her eyebrows knitting, creating a single line below her high forehead, her expressions changing as rapidly as her spilling words, too rapid to follow.

“Will you slow down?” he asked, when she paused for a heartbeat, probably in order to draw a quick breath. If she dove under water, she would be able to stay there for a long time, he decided, longer than many boys he knew. It would be funny to see her taking part in such a competition. “Tell me how to get away from this plaza without drawing all these thousands of warriors’ and onlookers’ attention. There must be a way to do that.”

Historical fiction and the true rise of Tenochtitlan

4 March 2014 Comments (0)

I am happy to announce the release of another new book

Below the Highlands

The remnants of the 13 years of his reign, Itzcoatl, the fourth Mexica-Aztec emperor, spent on the attempts to inherit as many of the former Tepanec provinces as he could, making it clear to every neighboring town or city-state who the next rising power of the region would be.

The Acolhua were busy reestablishing their old territories and influences, but the Mexica-Aztecs had no such claims of the past. Only the bright future to look up to. They were the rising power, and they made sure everyone understood that.

With the troubles on the immediate borders settled, the allies turned their eye to the greater distances. The fertile lands of Cuauhnahuac and its surroundings in the south were reported to be a mutual enterprise, with the Mexica and the Acolhua, and their junior Tepanec partners of Tlacopan, acting in tandem, conquering side by side, sharing the spoils and the tribute, leaving a little to their junior partners of Tlacopan to pick.

“I speak for myself and for myself alone,” she said, her gaze wary but firm, not wavering, not dropping. “I do have eyes and ears and a mind to think, and what I see is a blatant inequality.”

Nervously, she licked her lips, but went on, her words coming in a rush.

“They fought alongside the Mexica warriors in Cuauhnahuac. They sent the required amount of forces, and they did everything you and your warriors did. Yet, they now receive only one fifth of the tribute coming from these lands. Why? Have our warriors not fought as bravely as yours? Are our efforts not as valuable as those of the Mexica or the Acolhua people?”

Indeed, the Triple Alliance shared its spoils in not an entirely equal way.

Two fifths of the collected tribute went to Tenochtitlan, located most conveniently between its two allies, in a position to hold the balance of power carefully and wisely, and in the way that put Tenochtitlan in a leading place.

Two fifths went to Texcoco, the aristocratic Acolhua capital, back in power but as always in a refined, reserved manner.

The last fifth went to Tlacopan, an equal partner of the Triple Alliance but only in name. The Tepanecs were defeated, and even though Tlacopan made a wise choice by joining the winning side in time, they were not in a position to demand full equality.

Tlacaelel’s hand came up, stopping the words of protest that were forming upon the girl’s stubbornly pressed lips.

“Tlacopan could not be the equal companion in the Mexica and Acolhua partnership. It will never be a full-time partner in our Triple Alliance. The Tepanecs have lost, young princess. Your husband’s father made the best out of the situation, but in the new world, the Mexica are the leaders, the rulers, the dominant power. The Mexica and the Acolhua,” he added, not sounding convincing for some reason.

Itzcoatl died at 1440, a relatively old man. His mark on Tenochtitlan, and the entire Mexican Valley’s history, was significant, impossible to underplay. Thirteen years that shone on his rule brought the Mexica island-city from an insignificant status of a small vassal city of the Tepanec Empire to a prominent place of a great altepetl, an owner of vast provinces and influence, growing richer and more powerful with each passing moon, feared and respected by every local power, even the distant lands over the Eastern Highlands.

Tenochtitlan mourned the passing of its liberator from the Tepanec yoke, but afraid they were not. Tlacaelel, cihuacoatl, the Head Adviser, the man who had actually conquered Azcapotzalco and other Tepanec city states, the man who had architected these critical changes, was still alive, relatively young and full of power.

True to his word, he declined the offer to became the next emperor, casting his considerable influence behind a candidate of his choosing, his half-brother, Moctezuma Ilhuicamina.

In the Aztec Capital, Tlacaelel, the Head Adviser, is busy reshaping the island-city to fit its rapidly changing status from a regular city-state to a true capital, an owner of provinces and tributaries. The old system is not working anymore, but Tlacaelel’s radical reforms and changes anger influential people, from priests to elders of districts, those whose power is dwindling due to his reforms.

During a ballgame being held between Texcoco and Mexica teams to celebrate the upcoming winter festival—a fierce competition that will add much honor to the winning city-state—one of the players, Coatl, a promising warrior, the Texcoco Warlord’s son, is prepared to do anything in order to win. What he was not prepared for was becoming entangled in a political intrigue that starts while he is busy chasing a pretty girl, with the unexpected arrival of his twin brother complicating matters even further.

An excerpt from “The Triple Alliance (Below the Highlands)

“Good answer.”

The Adviser grinned, then picked up a piece of tortilla soaked in the meat juices. “Our people will not war with each other as long as great leaders like Nezahualcoyotl and your Father are leading Texcoco.”

“And as long as Tenochtitlan is led by great people like you and your emperor,” said Coatl politely, believing in his words.

“Yes, that too.” The man nodded affably. “I hope your emperor decides to join the war against Chalco altepetl. You will enjoy this campaign. It would be the first great-scale war for you, wouldn’t it?”

“Well, yes.” Eager to attack his plate, he forced his thoughts off the tantalizing aroma. “Father wants to join this war. He was advocating our full-time involvement. I hope the emperor listens.”

“Why wouldn’t he?”

He concentrated under the penetrating gaze, not sure how much of what he knew he could relate here, in the Mexica Palace.

“Our emperor does want to fight along with his allies, but he wishes to know more detail before he commits his warriors and their leaders.”

“Well, he would not be required to join us with his eyes blindfolded.” Tlacaelel shrugged, reaching for an exquisite goblet full of clear water. “We would never expect our most esteemed allies to follow us like a subjected nation would.”

“But you would require that from the other less highly esteemed ally of yours.” Citlalli’s voice rang loudly, startling them all. She had been so quiet in her corner, they had forgotten her existence.

The Adviser pressed his lips, while the mistress of these rooms frowned in distress.

“All our allies are highly esteemed and respected, young lady.” Tlacaelel toyed with his cup, his face losing much of its previous mirth. “I don’t think Tlacopan has anything to complain about. It has been treated with an utmost fairness, all things considered.”

“What is there to consider?” Not taken aback by the barely concealed reprimand, Citlalli straightened her shoulders, her yellow eyes sparkling, bringing back the girl Coatl grew up with. It didn’t suit her to be all ladylike, he thought, unsettled by her outburst, but amused at the same time. The Head Adviser would be better off to not engage in this particular battle. “Tlacopan is supposed to be a full-time partner in the Triple Alliance, but it’s treated in exactly the opposite way. It is anything but an equal ally, never consulted or apprised of the plans the way the Acolhua Capital is.”

Historical fiction and the trouble in the Acolhua Capital

13 February 2014 Comments (0)

I am happy to announce the release of another new book

The Sword

Re-conquest of Texcoco, the Acolhua Capital, did not happen right after the fall of Azcapotzalco. It took nearly two years for Nezahualcoyotl, the Acolhua Emperor, to install himself back upon the Texcoco throne.

Reported as being a man of great learning and taste, he most probably accomplished it in grand style, beginning even back then to develop Texcoco into what it was reported to have become later—he cultural center of the Mexican Valley and beyond it. “The Athens of Mesoamerica” some latter day historians had called it. Maybe with a good reason, maybe not. We’ll never know.

The troubles he might have faced with his own old aristocracy and some more independent-thinking provinces are reported in quite a few sources. Some Acolhua people seemed to dislike his continuous cooperation with the Mexica Aztecs of Tenochtitlan. Whether the dissatisfaction was strong, or rather vocal enough to bring up a possible first crisis for the new emperor to face, we’ll never know.

What we do know is the fact that the Acolhua and the Mexicas, along with their third junior partner of Tlacopan, who represented the defeated Tepanecs but in a small, humble manner, continued to cooperate very closely, developing their altepetls into spectacular capitals, fighting in many mutual campaigns, expanding their rapidly growing empire.

While Nezahualcoyotl was busy re-conquering and reorganizing his capital and provinces, Tlacaelel, the Mexica Head Adviser, set to work establishing his island-city as the firm heirs of the fallen Tepanec empire, absorbing dependent or semi-dependent city-states such as altepetl of Xochimilco.

…So when Xochimilco refused to give an open battle, but chose to block every possible access to the city, making Tlacaelel irritable and deeply occupied devising his new best-fitting strategy, Tlalli surrounded herself with scrolls of amate paper and attacked her lack of ability to decipher the glyphs.

… by the time the Mexica warriors stormed Xochimilco’s walls with such vengeance, the defenders surrendered before the first of the attackers had a chance of threading the city’s stones, she had finished her first scroll, hard put not to whoop with joy.

… Thus, Xochimilco was fined with providing an extensive force of workers to speed up Tlacaelel’s numerous construction projects of rebuilding Tenochtitlan, in addition to the full recognition of the Mexica supremacy, and the unconditional agreement of a high tribute to be paid.

It was important to make the former Tepanec provinces understand that they were to pass into the custody of the new overlords. It required plenty of careful planning and work, aside from the extensive warfare, of course. Still relatively young men in their prime, Nezahualcoyotl and Tlacaelel worked hard to adjust their altepetls to their rapidly growing importance and riches, each in his own way.

In the re-conquered Texcoco, the young emperor is preparing for the Great Ceremony, eager to ascend the throne that was taken from him more than ten summers ago by the now-defeated Tepanecs. Visitors from the provinces and other city-states are flooding the decorated capital, making it gush with activity, buzz with celebrative feasts and preparations.

Yet, not everyone is happy with the newly anointed emperor and some of his policies, namely his close contacts in the neighboring Mexica-Aztec Capital. Some nobles even think they would be better-suited to occupy the Texcoco throne.

When mysterious black-clothed killers sneak into the Chief Warlord’s house on the night of the celebrative feast, stealing the carved sword, the most precious weapon in the entire capital, a weapon that is believed to hold magical qualities, the troubles in the capital escalate, taking matters out of the hands of even those who paid for this crime to take place.

An excerpt from “The Sword

… “And we still have a lot of work ahead of us.” Stretching, Tlacaelel eyed the hubbub in his turn. So many people, and still the marble-lined hall didn’t look cramped or overcrowded. “Coyotl finally got what is rightfully his, against all the odds, eh? This man enjoys benevolence of the gods, but he had to work hard to achieve his ends. His struggle changed him in many ways.”

“Coyotl will make a great emperor. Texcoco and the Acolhua provinces will prosper like never before.” The Highlander’s face held none of his usual light-hearted mischief. “He has so many projects, so many ideas. It would make your head reel.” The mischievous spark was back. “All right, maybe not your over-busy head, but that of any other ordinary person.” Another assessment of the glittering eyes. “You have even more plans buzzing around that stubborn skull of yours. I’m prepared to bet my newly acquired wealth on it. Even the great house by the Plaza that is yet to be rebuilt for me to show it off and make my wives happy.”

Receiving a friendly nudge into his ribs, Tlacaelel grinned. “I’m glad to have your faith in my abilities, old friend.”

“So what are you up too, old fox? A causeway to connect Coyoacan with Tenochtitlan, I understand. A sound, good idea, especially if built at the expense of Xochimilco. I do see why you had to make this altepetl submit. But why are you eager to head farther to the south?”

Against his will, Tlacaelel frowned. “Your spies are good. I hadn’t talked about it to anyone of importance yet.”

“You mean Itzcoatl doesn’t know?”

“He knows, of course he knows. There is little that escapes our revered emperor’s squinted eyes.” He measured the Highlander with his gaze, taking in the rough handsomeness of the broad face, the newly acquired scar running down the high cheek, the tough spark to the widely spaced eyes. “Won’t you join us in that campaign?”

“Well, yes, maybe. I haven’t talked to Coyotl about that yet.” The man narrowed his eyes. “I can see what’s for you there in the south. You need to make your point, establish yourself as the firm heirs to the Tepanec Empire, before anyone foolish enough to assume otherwise does something silly.” A shrug. “But us? I don’t know. What will we do with Cuauhnahuac or the surrounding towns?”

Historical fiction and the fall of the Tepanec Empire

19 March 2013 Comments (0)

I am happy to announce the release of another new book

The Fall of the Empire

The “Rise of the Aztecs” series ended with the siege put on Tenochtitlan in the beginning of 1428.

Prepared, the island-city didn’t panic, blocking the causeways and making sure no water-borne offensive could have been launched by the angered Tepanecs.

Itzcoatl and Tlacaelel were ready, fighting defensive skirmishes while waiting for their Acolhua allies to join in the prospected war.

Reinforced by the Highlanders of Huexotzinco, and even the more distant Tlaxcala and Xaltocan people, Nezahualcoyotl did not make his besieged allies wait. Not stopping to re-conquer even his beloved altepetl of Texcoco, he crossed Lake Texcoco, instead, in a swift well-organized operation, heading straight toward the Azcapotzalco, the Tepanec Capital.

… The siege put on the island looked promising, but then another figure re-entered the game. The same notorious Nezahualcoyotl, refusing to disappear into oblivion once again. Down from his mountains he came, bringing along hordes of fierce, warlike Highlanders, enraged and bloodthirsty, gathering hundreds Acolhua into his ever-growing force as he went.

Some enterprising fellow must have prepared this uprising beforehand, was Etl’s conclusion, because the defeated, oppressed Acolhua flocked to enlist too readily, too well organized, not afraid of their conquerors anymore, as though expecting this opportunity, as though knowing the where and the when.

And did they stop to re-conquer Texcoco, their capital? No! Having taken a few strategically important towns, the whole force, now containing more than twenty thousand warriors, headed straight toward the shores of the Great Lake, somehow finding enough fleets to bring the whole horde across the vast waters to the Tepanec homelands.

Alarmed, Maxtla, the Tepanec Emperor, had abandoned the blockade, rushing back, anxious to defend his capital, with the Aztecs hot on his heels.

Some sources say that the siege of Azcapotzalco lasted for 114 days, with Nezahualcóyotl and the Highlanders keeping the western watch, while the Mexica warriors sealed the other roads leading to the great city. Others argue that due to the relatively flat terrain, Azcapotzalco was most likely blockaded for a much shorter period of time.

In the end, after many sorties and one large battle with the suddenly appearing Tepanec relief force, the Tepanec Capital fell to the hands of its former tributaries and subjected nations, and the history of Mexican Valley changed.

Following the great victory, Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan formed the Triple Alliance, or what we came to know as the famous Aztec Empire. Many sources state that the future empire, which had, indeed, stretched almost from coast to coast, encompassing much of the modern-day Mexico, while reaching far south into Mesoamerica, was the fruit of Tlacaelel’s work. Many hold this man to be the architect of the Aztec Empire, although he had never been an emperor.

Both Tlacaelel and Nezahualcoyotl lived long, fruitful lives, ruling their corners of the empire differently, but with much success.

Having just been advanced into the ranks of the first-class traders, Etl thought his life could not get any better. He was a trader of the Tepanec Empire, living in the Great Capital itself. Yes, there had been a war, an outright revolt by the united tributaries and other subdued nations of his beloved city-state, but those would be squashed easily. The Tepanecs were always victorious.

The only thing that made him worry was the decision of Tlalli, the girl from the marketplace he liked, to sell herself into the Palace’s services. He didn’t want her to do that, having intended to take care of her himself, but the stubborn, pretty thing went on and did it all the same. Why?

Apparently, Tlalli was not just a simple market girl, but a young woman with a very unusual agenda. She had her own grudge to settle, and with no lesser person than the emperor himself.

But then the enemies struck…

An excerpt from “The Fall of the Empire

Gradually, Tlacaelel made his way eastward, toward the fighting Acolhua, where the avalanche of his reinforcements was already rolling down the hill, their war-cries powerful, making one’s blood freeze, a lethal wave of spotted shirts and the raised obsidian swords. Oh, what a beautiful sight! He wanted to whoop with joy, seeing the dismay in the faces of the surrounding Tepanecs. And the surprised joy of the Acolhua people and their allies. His Mexica warriors knew, of course. Yet, they were elated, too, as though having forgotten all about their hidden comrades.

“Oh, you dirty son of a rat,” cried out the Highlander, waving his sword at him, his broad, Tepanec-looking face beaming, hardly recognizable, caked with dust, dried blood, and smeared paint, glittering with sweat. “I should have guessed you would have something like that to surprise us with. Good work.”

“Thought you’d welcome some help, you lazy dung-eater,” shouted Tlacaelel, making his way toward the man, recognizing the tall figure of Nezahualcoyotl, the heir to the Acolhua throne, waving his sword not far away, flanked by many Acolhua warriors, well guarded. Like Tlacaelel, he was too important a person to risk his life like a simple fighter.

“Listen, that warlord of theirs, he is not far away,” breathed the Highlander, drawing nearer, reeking of sweat and blood, like any of them. “I tried to break through his warriors, but they fought like wild beasts.” He wiped his brow, smearing more of the sticky mixture upon it. His wrist was bleeding, noticed Tlacaelel, who, by now, was covered with minor cuts himself. “Yet now, with your fresh reinforcements, I may have a chance. If I take with me about twenty of those, will you have a fit?”

With his private guards there and alerted, Tlacaelel let himself concentrate on his friend, his eyes brushing past the famous sword, now smeared with too much mud and blood to see the carvings, the ones who had given this weapon their magical qualities, allegedly.

“Yes, you can choose from my Mexica warriors, but I have a better idea. Show me this son of a whore, and I’ll challenge him. He can’t get away from something like this. His name would be ruined forever if he tried.”

The Highlander’s eyebrows climbed up. “Oh, the Honorable Warlord wants the glory all for himself? All right. Let us go and find your worthy rival.”

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