Posts Tagged: highlands

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.”

The Rise of the Aztecs, Part IX, Itzcoatl, the Fourth Emperor of Tenochtitlan

22 February 2013 Comments (0)

In ‘The Rise of the Aztecs Part VIII’, we left Tenochtitlan in turmoil, shattered by the violent death of its lawful Emperor. How dared the Tepanecs to do that? And did it mean war?

The people of Tenochtitlan were worried, fearing the powerful, ruthless, and so far invincible, masters of the Mexican Valley. The Acolhua rebellion of a decade before showed the fruitlessness of the appraising. And while the royal house of Tenochtitlan was determined to face the challenge, the commoners of the city had their doubts.

War

At those times Tenochtitlan’s council of elders, representatives of four districts and twenty clans, wielded still much influence – something that Itzcoatl, the next Aztec Emperor, had made sure to correct later on – so the rulers could not go to war on their say-so, aristocratic blood or not. They had to reason with their people, and so, many promises were made and many fearful oaths taken, while Itzcoatl, an illegitimate son of the First Emperor Acamapichtli and a warlord of many summers, was chosen to be the next emperor.

A very able, highly experienced man, Itzcoatl got to work. First his own people needed to be convinced, then the preparation for the difficult campaign had to be made, alliances struck and strategic plans attended to.

Luckily another very able man saw the force of his argument. Tlacaelel, the man who is generally held today as the “Architect of the Aztec empire”, was a young man in the middle of his twenties, but already an outstanding warrior and a promising leader, good in organization and administration. A legal son of Huitzilihuitl, the Second Emperor, Tlacaelel seemed to be indifferent to the power the throne of Tenochtitlan was offering, not aspiring for the highest office in the land.

Enthusiastic and passionate, Tlacaelel went about convincing people, even venturing to Azcapotzalco in order to deliver the declaration of war by his own hands. According to some ancient sources he got into a whole bunch of trouble carrying this particular message, yet back to Tenochtitlan he came, unharmed, proving his courage and his worthiness. For such bravery and loyalty he was awarded by the next highest office in the land – Cihuacoatl, the high priest and the closest adviser.

So, now that the people were convinced and the declaration of war ensued, Itzcoatl sought possible allies. The Aztecs could not war on the Tepanecs alone, but there were more than a few discontented nations around Texcoco Lake. The defeated Acolhua for one, although their lawful ruler Nezahualcoyotl was in the Highlands again, hiding from the wrath of the the unscrupulous Tepanec Emperor Maxtla. So the messengers were dispatched to climb the high ridges of the eastern side of the Great Lake, offering the fierce highlanders rich pickings and fame.

Tenochtitlan

The highlanders, by this time a mix of Nahua and Otomi people, had had their doubts. Historical enemies of all Lowlanders, they may have wanted to say a resounding ‘no’, but hosting the heir to Texcoco throne for such a long time made the offer look more reliable, tempting, difficult to resist. Azcapotzalco was rumored to be fabulously rich and the campaign against the Tepanecs could prove interesting. Nezahualcoyotl must have found it surprisingly easy to convince his newly-found allies.

And so the combined forces of the Highlanders, Acolhua and the Mexica Aztecs, joined by some discontented-by-their-own-capital’s policies Tepanecs, crossed Texcoco Lake, ready to war on the Masters of the Valley.

In the next post The Rise of Aztecs Part X, The fall of the Empire we will see what happens to an Empire that had became too large.

An excerpt from “Currents of War

Tlacaelel eased his shoulders, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He eyed the Plaza, far below his feet, enjoying seeing it packed with thousands of people. The excited crowds were spilling into the nearby alleys, watching and talking, and gesturing, their spirits high. Oh, his Mexica people were not fearful, not afraid of the approaching Tepanecs. No, the current Masters of the Valley would not intimidate them anymore.

His chest swelled with pride. The Tepanecs could not win, not this time. Tenochtitlan was not ready, stunned by the death of its Emperor and still alone, with no worthwhile allies, yet now, watching the Plaza from the height of the Great Pyramid, he knew that they would win, eventually. And not in the too distant future. The siege would be short, and it would not harm his beloved altepetl.

He eased his shoulders once again, then made sure his posture was straight and proud, reflecting his mood. This ceremony was being held for his sake. Today at the high noon he had been made Cihuacoatl, the High Priest, achieving the most exalted position, next only to Tlatoani, the Emperor. Itzcoatl, the new Emperor, had made sure to hold this ceremony before throwing all of his energy into the nearing war. He had needed to ensure his Chief Warlord’s absolute loyalty, reflected Tlacaelel, slightly amused.

Hence, the ceremony and the most exalted position in the land.

He grinned. No, he had nothing to complain about. He glanced at Itzcoatl, standing beside him, tall and broad, imposing, a perfect leader, a perfect Emperor. The ideal man to stand up to the Tepanecs.

Oh, yes, thought Tlacaelel, suppressing a grin. Tenochtitlan could have asked for no better Emperor in such difficult times. Despite his humble origins, this man was the right person for this difficult mission.

As though sensing his companion’s scrutiny, Itzcoatl turned his head.

“Not a small gathering.”

“No. And they did not come here only to watch the ceremony. They have come here to show us their trust. They are letting us know that they are not afraid.”

“An interesting observation, Nephew.” Itzcoatl nodded, his lips twisting into an untypically amused grin.

“Too bad we cannot lead our warriors out right away. I should love to spare us the humiliation of a siege.”

“It will be a short siege, Nephew. Never fear.”

“I don’t.”

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.

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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