Historical Fiction and the Mexican Valley

Historical fiction and the trouble in the Aztec Capital

19 December 2012 Comments (0)

I am happy to announce the release of another new book

Currents of War

the fourth book of The Rise of the Aztecs series.

It wasn’t until 1426, after living for more than a hundred years and ruling for almost half of this time, that Tezozomoc, the old Tepanec emperor died, leaving many sons to rule many provinces.

His death did not plunge the Tepanec Empire into a chaos, as the conquered or oppressed nations expected. Tezozomoc’s eldest son and his appointed successor, Tayatzin, seemed to be a reasonable man and a good ruler.

Yet, not everyone was satisfied with this arrangement. Maxtla, one of the other numerous royal offspring, appointed to rule Coyoacan, apparently thought that the marble throne of Azcapotzalco would suit his talents better than the petty province of Coyoacan.

Too busy to pay attention to the discontent offspring of the royal Tepanec house, Tenochtitlan faced its own problems. The water supplies. Though the first aqueduct was built successfully, carrying fresh water into Tenochtitlan all the way from the mainland and over the lake’s waters, it also brought along much trouble. Built of clay and other inadequate materials, the water construction broke down alarmingly often, leaving the island with no fresh drinking water again and again.

The Aztec engineers worked hard, fixing the problems, maintaining the important construction, yet the lack of appropriate building materials thwarted their efforts; this and the necessity to ask for the Tepanecs permission to do the repairs each time the need arose.

The relationship between the Aztecs and the Tepanecs began to deteriorate once again, with Aztecs being much stronger this time, backed by many of the neighboring nations.

Seven years later, the Aztecs are ready to revolt against the mighty Tepanec Empire. However, while the young Emperor is trying to solve the problems peacefully, his warlords and advisers believe he is making too many mistakes along the way. A much stronger leader is needed, but is there a way to change Emperors with no bloodshed?

Kuini, now a promising leader, but still considered a pushy foreigner by some, is about to find out that meddling in the Aztec politics could cost him more than he is prepared to pay.

An excerpt from “Currents of War

The Highlander’s smile was wide, back to his light, unconcerned, cheeky self.

“I like that vision of yours, Chief Warlord. I’ll join you in this undertaking, too.” His grin widened. “That is, if you still want me among your forces.”

“You? You will take Azcapotzalco single-handedly. Of course, I will bring you along.”

“Back in that dung-filled Palace, you promised this would be the last time you would trust me.”

Tlacaelel frowned, the thought of Tlacopan’s Palace spoiling his mood. “Back in that stinking, manure-infested place, I was angry with you for going into the city without permission. I thought you were after a flask of octli.”

The Highlander’s eyes sparkled. “I did get this thing. More than a pitiful flask, too. Their octli is nice, more delicate tasting than Tenochtitlan’s brews.” He pitted his face against the wind, smiling happily. “People always talk more readily when you buy them a round of drinks. I found this out some time ago, when I finally began to get those cocoa beans in reasonable amounts.”

“You are a hopeless drunkard. What else did you hear?”

“I told you everything already. Plenty of changes our dear friend Maxtla is planning, plenty of changes.”

“Maxtla is stupid. He is nothing but a dirty son of the cheapest whore from the filthiest corner of the marketplace!” Tlacaelel clenched his teeth. “And what he doesn’t understand – but why should he, when all he knows is how to poison people or try to trap them otherwise? – is that with Itzcoatl for an Emperor he’ll have a more difficult time. He hates Chimalpopoca, because Chimal was rude to him, and because Chimal supported his brother too openly. Stupidly too, if you ask me, but they did not bother to ask me, or to listen to my advice.” He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself, watching the hills sweeping by. “But what ruler, what leader, would allow his personal passion of revenge to cloud his judgment? Only a stupid manure-eater like him.”

“So Itzcoatl is the sure thing? No chance of you taking Chimal’s place?”

“No. I don’t want any of this. Even if Itzcoatl drops dead the moment he gets rid of Chimal, I won’t take the throne.”

“Does he plan to get rid of Chimal?”

Tlacaelel glanced at the suddenly guarded face of his friend. “Who knows?”

“You, for sure.” The Highlander wiped his brow, then waved away an insistent fly. “Well, it’s too much politics for one evening. There is only a certain amount of the Lowlander’s devious activity that I can take in one day.”

“One good turn deserves another.” Making sure no one was within hearing range, Tlacaelel touched his friend’s arm. “Keep away from the politics for some time. Don’t come near the Palace, or near Itzcoatl, if you can help it.”

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.

Historical fiction and the Aztecs

18 September 2012 Comments (4)

I am happy to announce the release of my new book

The Highlander

the first of The Rise of the Aztecs series.

My “Pre-Aztec” series ended toward the second half of the 14th century, leaving Mexican Valley under the stern rule of the Tepanec Empire; empire which spread around Lake Texcoco, encompassing it, holding many provinces and city-states in its firm grip.

A few decades passed and some of the city-states began feeling they could do with more independency. The tribute the Tepanecs demanded could be difficult to pay and some of the large cities felt the sting to their pride as well.

So in these series the action shifts to the other side of Lake Texcoco in time for the turbulent Mexican Valley’s history to start boiling.

The year is 1409 and the war is brewing, because Texcoco, a very large, very aristocratic city-state decided to stop paying the Tepanecs the required tribute.

But will the Aztecs help their old allies against the mighty Tepanecs?

Kuini, the young highlander who belongs to neither side and who shouldn’t be there in the first place but for his unexplained attraction to the might and the politics of the Lowlands, is trying to understand it all.

As the story progresses and his troubles are mounting, he learns much more than he wanted to know about the Lowlanders’ politics and about his own dark family secrets.

Born in the Highlands, Kuini thought his life was simple. You hunt and you fight, defending your towns against the raids of the Lowlanders and then raiding their lands in turn. His father was the Warriors’ Leader, and he wanted to be just like him.

Yet, Texcoco, the mighty Capital of the Lowlands, seemed incredibly beautiful, sparkling, its pyramids magnificent. A friendship with the Lowlander boy, the First Son of the Texcoco Emperor, seemed harmless in the beginning. They were just boys, and their clandestine meetings were always fun, providing great entertainment.

However, on the day Kuini agrees to finally enter the magnificent city, it would all change. He expected to get into trouble, but he could not foresee the extent of the trouble and, worst of all, he did not expect to uncover hidden secrets concerning his own family.

An excerpt from “The Highlander

She glared at him, attractive in her righteous anger.

“So, where are you from?” he asked, mostly to keep her from turning and storming away. She looked like she might do just that.

As she pondered her answer, he studied her face. Shaped in a sort of rectangle, her wide, sculpted cheekbones narrowed toward her gently pointed chin. A beautifully carved, perfectly polished, wooden mask, with a generously applied layer of copper, and two large obsidians for eyes.

“It doesn’t matter where I come from. I can find my way home,” she said finally. “And I do thank you for saving me. You were very brave.” Her face twisted. “They are such savages, those Aztecs.”

“Are all of them like that?” he asked, curious, yet not liking the word savages.

“Most of them, yes. Warriors, commoners, they are all the same. A wild, unpredictable lot.”

“That Chief Warlord of theirs looked like a sensible man,” commented Kuini thoughtfully, remembering the broad, noble-looking face.

“Oh, he is the most unpredictable of them all! He has had the reputation for ruthlessness and unpredictability for summers upon summers, since before any of us were even born.”

“Did he come to join your upcoming war against the Tepanecs?”

The girl shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. With those Aztecs, one never knows.” She peered at him, lifting one pointed eyebrow. “And what are you so excited about? Those are your Tepanecs we would be warring against.”

“I’m no Tepanec!” he cried. “Why does everyone keep assuming that?”

“No Tepanec? But you do look like one. Except for the tattoos of the savages.” She frowned. “And I heard you saying to the Aztec that you are from Tepanecapan.”

“Where is this Tepanecapan?”

“Here in Texcoco. Where else?” She narrowed her eyes. “You are not from there, are you?”

He tensed. “It doesn’t matter where I am from. I have to get out of the city. Can you show me to the Great Pyramid? I’ll find my way from there.”

She studied him carefully. “All right. I’m kind of lost too, but the Great Pyramid is a good landmark. We’ll find it together. I’ll know my way from there too.”

“All right.” He pressed his palms against his forehead. The clubs pounding inside his skull grew worse by the moment. “Let’s go.”

“So you won’t tell me where you come from?” the girl asked as they made their way back toward the main road.

“No.”

“Then I won’t tell you where I’m from either.”

He glanced at her, amused once again. “There is nothing to tell. You are from Texcoco, it’s obvious.”

She lifted her eyebrows. “Texcoco is not a village. There are four large districts here. Tepanecapan is one of them. Where do you think I live? Guess!” He liked the way her eyes danced.

“In this same Tepanecapan.” He said laughing. “Or anyway, somewhere away from this marketplace. Aren’t you supposed to know your way around here?”

“Oh, this is the first time I came here on foot, silly. I visit the marketplace from time to time, but in a litter. With servants.”

He grinned. “Of course.”

“You don’t believe me?” She stopped abruptly, all sorts of expressions chasing each other across her face. He was hard put not to laugh the way her eyes flickered, undecided, offended and amused at once. There was something about this girl, something frolicsome and mischievous.

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