Posts Tagged: action

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.

The Rise of the Aztecs Part III, Tenochtitlan, The Aztec Capital

26 February 2012 Comments (1)

“… When we saw so many cities and villages built in the water and other great towns on dry land we were amazed and said that it was like the enchantments… great towers and cues and buildings rising from the water, and all built of masonry. And some of our soldiers even asked whether the things that we saw were not a dream…”

Bernal Diaz del Castillo, The Conquest of New Spain

In The Rise of the Aztecs Part I we dealt with the incident of the flayed princess and the first time the Aztecs made their powerful neighbors angry.

Then, in The Rise of the Aztecs Part II, they had made it to their swampy little island, relatively safe under the stern gaze of the Mexican Valley’s masters, the Tepanecs.

So now we arrive to the end of the 14th century, when the Aztecs were somewhat better off. Not allowed to campaign on their own, they still thrived, fighting under the Tepanec leadership, relatively safe upon their muddy island. Required to pay tribute every full moon, they contributed to riches of the powerful Azcapotzalco, the Tepanec Capital. The tribute was reported to be ‘oppressive and capricious’.

The island location has its benefits, separated from the mainland by a certain amount of water and thus safe from any military surprises. Yet, this location has its disadvantages as well. Bringing materials to the rapidly growing city was difficult. Most of the houses were reed-and-cane built and the markets were poor, while the city could not even dream of building a worthwhile temple or, gods forbid, a pyramid. Large slabs of stone and marble were impossible to bring by canoes.

But the Aztecs were not only a warlike nation. They turned out to be ambitious engineers as well. So, when Acamapichtli, a young and very vigorous ruler, was brought to lead the growing island nation, the Mexica energetic people launched into several breathtaking projects all at once.

First of all, the island was enlarged artificially, with much dirt and rock. Then a causeway was built to connect it with the mainland, making it possible for the large chunks of materials to be brought into Tenochtitlan, allowing the construction of the Great Pyramid’s second stage. Houses of cane and reed were replaced by the stone ones, temples constructed, laws made.

The agriculture was a problem. The island was too small to cultivate enough crops to support the rapidly growing population. Cultivating of many chinampas, the ‘floating gardens’, had helped. Yet the Aztecs needed more land. So far they were masters of their island only. They needed a permission to campaign on their own.

Well, Acamapichtli was a great diplomat. Careful not to provoke the Tepanec overlords, Tenochtitlan paid its taxes in time and when Azcapotzalco wanted a present in a form of a floating garden of beautiful flowers, a special chinampa was made in a hurry and floated over the lake straight to the shores of the Tepanec’s Capital.

Toward the beginning of the 15th century, after many such gestures and negotiations, the Aztecs were allowed to campaign on their own, provided their warriors kept reinforcing the Tepanec forces with the same vigor as before. The northern settlements of Texcoco Lake, such as Xochimilco were attacked immediately and many of their lake-shores chinampas captures and put to a great use.

Tenochtitlan was growing rapidly.

An excerpt from “The Jaguar Warrior

Her eyes flashed.

“I was glad, very glad! My husband is a great ruler and he is just beginning his journey. Tenochtitlan will be the greatest altepetl in the whole Valley one day. It will make Azcapotzalco look small. But by then Azcapotzalco may very well be just a cluster of ruins.”

He stared into her eyes, mesmerized. What she said was completely ridiculous, yet for a moment he could not but believe her. Her eyes shone with such power, radiating her hatred but more than that. Was she having a premonition?

He shuddered.

“What you say does not make sense. Acamapichtli is a very impressive man, I admit that. But he is leading a small nation that is stuck on the muddy island. His city has nowhere to grow. This altepetl cannot evolve beyond some mediocre status. You have no place to grow.”

“Oh, but you know so little. And you were never very bright, anyway. But Acamapichtli is wise, so very wise. Wiser than my father even. And he is patient. He plans for twenty, two, three-times twenty summers from now and he works to that end. His has grand visions and he his ability to apply his ideas is breathtaking. He invests all his energy in his plans, but he does so smartly and patiently. You just wait and see.”

He watched her animated face. Two red spots colored the high cheekbones now and the large eyes shone brightly, almost excitedly. He had never seen her like that. Yet what she said made his skin crawl.

“It feels too familiar,” he said tiredly, difficult to tear his gaze off her glowing eyes. “But you should know better than trying to use me again. I cannot be trusted. In the end I will not betray my people. You should know it better than anyone.”

The mysterious Anasazi and historical fiction

27 January 2012 Comments (0)

Around the eleventh century, the modern-day Southwest canyons were alive with architectural wonders, cliff cities and sprawling fields belonging to the Ancient Cliff Dwellers, more known to us as Anasazi.

Those ancients built their multi-storey great houses of hundreds of spacious, well-conditioned rooms with such skill, the ruins of those complexes survive to the present day.

They irrigated their fields with an intricate system of canals and reservoirs, collecting the sparse rainwater carefully and effectively, succeeding in supporting extremely large communities. They connected all of their cultural centers and the rest of the farming settlements with a network of well-planned and well-kept roads, so the trade with the south and the northwest flourished, with all manner of goods available to these sophisticated desert dwellers.

But there was one thing the fascinating ancients had not managed to achieve. They hadn’t been featured in historical fiction. There were some great mystery thrillers dealing with Anasazi, but never a downright HF.

So, I decided to rectify this matter. Months of research resulted in At Road’s End. Packed with action, love, lust, fighting and cultural misunderstandings, as all the happenings in one of the glorious cities of Anasazi presented from the foreigner’s point of view, this novel deals with the Cliff Dwellers and their impact on our modern Southwest.

A group of traders from the distant Central American lands crosses into Arizona’s desert, accompanied by the arrogant warrior who doesn’t want to spend his time on such a dismal expedition. Well, little did he know about troubles and adventures that were laying in wait for him among the Cliff Dwellers, definite to change his life.