First, we will travel to the beautiful, sparkling, bubbling with life Mexican Valley/Anahuac, the place of constantly shifting powers and political games, wars and alliances, great cities and states, well regulated life and laws, incredible engineering feats; the place where Tenochtitlan, one of the most incredible cities of its time, was at its highest just as the world as they knew it came to an end.
However, it all starts much earlier – a century and a half earlier – when Tenochtitlan, the mentioned above Mesoamerican gem, was nothing but a petty island full of mosquitoes and cane-and-reed houses, paying a tribute to the previous masters of the Mexican Valley, the mighty Tepanecs and their beautiful capital Azcapotzalco.
At Road’s End
It’s mid 14th century and the Tepanecs are growing as a regional power, expanding through military as much as through a dynamic trading net. Pochteca, the elite long-distance traders, are traveling far and wide, reaching as far as today’s Southwest and the lands of Anasazi, the ancient Pueblo People. It is a truly long way, and not a safe one, so guarding warriors would be usually sent to protect the traders delegation, to keep it safe.
Tecpatl is one such man, a young promising nobleman, a talented warrior with much ambition and aspiration, a perfect choice. And yet, he himself do not see the importance of his mission. On the contrary, to his private estimation this whole expedition is an effrontery to his upbringing, belittling of his talents and skills. Slugging through desert, guarding a bunch of lower class traders seemed to be the worst way of spending his time, while slowing down his budding career.
However, when they encounter the first attacked village, it all changes. Nothing is simple and clear, learns Tecpatl. There is more to life than what he has been taught, growing up in the noble family of a powerful city.
As the days pass and the journey continues, and the troubles and dilemmas escalate, he is forced to learn a few new lessons, and in a hard way.
The Young Jaguar
Fifteen years later, back in the Tepanec Capital, the old Emperor is dying, leaving a firm legacy but more than one heir to aspire to the marble throne of Azcapotzalco’s Palace. The times are changing, and the politics around Lake Texcoco are getting more complicate. A strong ruler is needed to ensure the Tepanec ascendancy. But what if both main contestants to the throne are strong and determined?
Tecpatl, the Chief Warlord and quite an admired leader among the elite warriors, is content to follow the dying Emperor’s edicts. However, Atolli, his eldest son, a very promising but a hotheaded youth, creates a crisis while stumbling into the thickest of the Palace’s politics, drugging his entire family into a whirlpool of trouble and danger.
The Jaguar Warrior
In the meanwhile, the Aztec island is struggling under the Tepanec domination, desperate to gain a measure of independence. In the dangerous sea of Texcoco Lake’s politics, Acamapichtli, the first Aztec Emperor, navigates his way wisely, paying outrageously heavy tribute with the coming of each full moon, careful not to anger the overlords of his city, but as careful to draw no attention to the its rapid growth and development.
Oblivious to these politics and undercurrents, Atolli, now a full-pledged elite warrior, even if still as free-spirited person as he has been ten years earlier, when the Tepanec Capital was in turmoil, arrives at the island city on the mundane mission of gathering warriors for yet another campaign the Tepanec Emperor is ready to launch.
Expecting to have a good time in the strange island of the most notorious tributaries of his city, he is caught unprepared when the past comes to haunt him, bringing forth series of turbulent events that force him to grow up and face himself.
The Warrior’s Way
Back in the Tepanec Capital, the Emperor prepares to launch a campaign against the neighboring cities of the Lake Chalco, those who still do not accept the supremacy of the Tepanecs. The Aztec warriors Atolli brings come as a welcome addition, but the unusual ideas the young man carries along appear to be less acceptable.
Tecpatl, these days the Emperor’s closest adviser, welcomes the changes in his son ardently, even if the young man’s new goals sound strange to him. Even so, he is ready to help, but the price of support he ensues turns out to be heavier than he ever expected. Soon he finds himself facing difficult choices, his troubles as grave as ten years ago upon old Emperor’s death, yet even more difficult to solve.
The year is 1415.
Close to forty years have passed since the historical and fictional events described in Pre-Aztec Series, and the Mexican Valley is about to face more political earthquakes. The shifting of powers begins again.
Yet, the challenge to the mighty Tepanec Empire comes not from the Aztec island as expected, but from the other side of Lake Texcoco. The refined, aristocratic city-state of Acolhua people and their capital, city-state of Texcoco, decided that to pay extravagant tribute to the greedy Tepanecs may be something they could do without.
The sentiment sweeps all over the beautiful city, igniting its dwellers’ fighting spirit, commoners and nobility alike, while the Acolhua Emperor, father of yet to become the most famous Mesoamerican ruler Nezahualcoyotl, refuses to pay tribute, takes independent titles, seeks allies among his provinces and neighbors, all the while preparing for the worst.
And into this political turmoil steps Kuini, a young Highlander with rebellious strike.
Leaving the temporary neutrality of his native mountains for the sake of a brief adventure and out of share curiosity, suspicious of nothing, he could not have predicted that his exploits in the beautiful Texcoco were to change his life, while revealing dark secrets concerning his own family.
Two and a half years later, Acolhua, who enjoyed surprisingly long strike of marital success, are put back in their place. The Tepanec Empire was no entity to rise against. Texcoco is lost, the rebellious emperor dead, with his heir, Nezahualcoyotl, fleeing into the Highlands, the only place the Tepanecs did not attempt to conquer or intimidate into paying a tribute.
However, would the Highlanders be able to help the highborn but fleeing youth with more than an offer of a shelter. And would they be willing to do that? Kuini believes in the more promising scenario, counting on his influential father’s help, but the life proves to be more complicated than the youths of eighteen summers would naturally assume. Both Kuini and Coyotl are to face their fair share of trouble, while growing up and maturing along the way.
The Emperor’s Second Wife
The highlanders may have considered it premature to extend an actual help to the displaced Acolhua heir, yet if nothing else, Coyotl receives a valuable advice. He is to try and make the Aztecs involve in his case. He is to make friends with Tenochtitlan’s young Emperor Chimalpopoca while letting the mighty Tepanecs know that he, Nezahualcoyotl, is harmless and no threat, even if alive and well.
Until 1418 and the fall of Texcoco, the fierce Mexica islanders played a careful game, switching sides from time to time. In the Acolhua-Tepanec War they had kept neutral until pressed by the Tepanecs to send more than a token amount of warriors. Then they joined the fighting with their usual zeal, apparently tipping the scales.
And yet, harboring a personal sense of resentment or not, Nezahualcoyotl, the displaced Acolhua heir, needs the Aztecs, so the pride and memories of wrongdoings had to be put aside. Thus, Kuini and Coyotl arrive at the Aztec island, only to find that they are expected to take part of quite a few Palace’s intrigues, getting rid of the Emperor’s mother who is in reality ruling instead of her underage son’s, being only one of them.
Currents of War
The year is now 1426 and the Aztecs’ discontent with their Tepanec overlords is growing by leaps and bounds. Tezozomoc, the old Tepanec Emperor, the one who had made this empire so strong and invincible, died, and his heirs already began squabbling for Azcapotzalco’s beautiful marble throne.
The Acolhua are still subdued, with Nezahualcoyotl still living in Tenochtitlan but allowed to travel to Texcoco as a visitor after years of convincingly good behavior. All the while, the Aztecs, who were allowed to build their first aqueduct a few years ago, to carry fresh water to Tenochtitlan all the way from the mainland, are quiet but not overly happy with their water construction that is breaking down too often, build out of inadequate materials the Tepanecs allowed them to use.
The revolt against the stern masters of the Valley seems to waft in the air, but Chimalpopoca, the young ruler of Tenochtitlan, is afraid to make something drastic, striving to resolve the matters peacefully, to the chagrin of his closest advisers Itzcoatl and Tlacaelel, who believe it is actually time to act, that the indecisive policy is a mistake.
In the meanwhile, Kuini, now a minor leader of warriors and a man with a family of his own, is mixing in Tenochtitlan’s politics, ever ready to protect his Acolhua friend, carrying out affairs that make even the Emperor angry with him in particular. Careless and sure of himself, he was yet to discover that some politics, and politicians, may have been too devious not to take seriously.
The year is now 1428 and the revolt against the Tepanecs is finally happening. Not at the time of Tenochtitlan’s or Texcoco’s choosing, as yet. But the moment Nezahualcoyotl manages to convince the Highlanders to send an impressive warriors’ force, the things starting to look more promising.
The siege the Tepanecs put on Tenochtitlan was a brief affair, and the moment the Acolhua soon-to-be Emperor came down the eastern mountains, followed by thousands fierce warriors, the Tepanecs’ attempt to discipline their rebellious tributaries was over, with the Masters of the Valley fleeing and the Acolhua, the Highlanders and the Mexica hot on their heals.
And so the tides has reversed, with Azcapotzalco now under attack, besieged, fighting on the defensive.
The Fall of the Empire
For the citizens of Azcapotzalco the things did not look actually too bad. The Emperor and the nobles, along with the first-class traders, might have been worried, but the commoners went about their business unperturbed. The Tepanec warriors were always invincible. The problems with rebellious subjects and tributaries would be solved soon.
Tlalli, a market girl who had sold herself into Palace’s service for the time being, certainly wasn’t worried. She had her own pressing problems to solve, setting score with the Emperor being one of them. But for her friend Etl, the trader of the second-class, she might have gave the war outside the city not even a passing thought.
Neither was Etl overly worried. On his last expedition outside the besieged city, he overheard the news of the approaching relief force under the leadership of the renowned Tepanec warlord. All will be well, he knew, as the Tepanecs were always victorious and he has his ascending career to think about.
But the invaders had heard about the relief force as well – Nezahualcoyotl, Kuini and Tlacaelel, each leading their own segment of armies – and they’d had their warriors ready. The battle of Azcapotzalco was reported to be very long, very bloody affair.
But the aftermath of it was even more complicated, surprising the invaders and defenders alike, even the innocent bystanders like Tlalli, catching them completely unprepared.
Three years later, in 1431, Texcoco is back in the hands of its rightful owners, with Nezahualcoyotl once again occupying the throne, ready to restore his beautiful capital back to its former glory, and then take it up to the greater heights.
The ceremony of his anointment is a huge affair, to which all the prominent allies are invited, the members of the Triple Alliance that has been formed upon the smocking ruins of the conquered Azcapotzlaco between Acolhua, Mexica-Aztecs and the remnants of the Tepanec Empire, the city of Tlacopan which helped the conquerors when they needed help.
But there are undercurrents. Not all Acolhua old aristocracy is happy about the policies of their young ruler. Some think they might do better occupying Texcoco throne. Some Texcocans are unhappy about the alliance and sometimes too-close cooperation with the neighboring Aztecs.
Thus Nezahualcoyotl must face his first crisis as a ruler, while his most loyal of friends, Kuini the Highlander, now Texcoco Chief Warlord, is required to solve more than just political problems of his friend and sovereign, having his family entangled in the same trouble as well.
The Triple Alliance (Below the Highlands)
Eight more years have passed and while the Triple Alliance was prospering, the Aztec island had grown into something unrecognizable. From a medium sized city of ambitiously industrial people, Tenochtitlan turned into a true capital, a large altepetl-city-state with provinces and much influence. Even among its partners in the Triple Alliance it was gaining more and more power, turning more influential, dictating the Alliance’s foreign policies and campaigns.
Tlacaelel, the Head Adviser of Itzcoatl the Emperor, now undeniably the second most powerful man of Tenochtitlan, is busy reforming everything and anything, from laws and state regulations, to distribution of wealth, to internal and foreign affair and even religious procedures. He knows that to grow successfully, his capital should start to think big, should stop acting like a small island .
And yet, his reforms are angering many influential people, priests and those who used to be in power, even if behind the scenes. A plot against the Head Adviser may be afoot, with his old friend’s, the Highlander’s, wild sons, happening upon it by mistake.
This time we travel to the Great Lakes of North America, the bountiful forests, magnificent rivers, sprawling valleys and hills.
It is mid-12th century and the people who inhabit these lands are numerous, powerful nations who might have enjoyed their well regulated life but for the long tradition of ferocious warfare.
Five powerful nations of people, whom we know today as Iroquois, inhabited the southern shores of Lake Ontario (upstate New York), while on the other side lived Wyandot People, four nations of similar life style and relatively related languages.
The Great Peacemaker was reported to come from among these people, but it were Haudenosaunee, the Iroquois, who had listened to his message of peace, accepting his incredibly detailed, intricate set of laws, turning into one of the earliest, most progressive democracies of their times.
The year is 1141 and on the northern side of the Great Sparkling Water – Lake Ontario – all is not well. Too much war, too little harvest. The people are not starved, not yet, but there is enough trouble to make farsighted members of the community worried.
The enemy is made to suffer, made to pay for the past wrongdoings, yet the balance of power remains the same despite the efforts to tip it. There are just too many people to war against, hostile neighbors and the terrible enemy from the other side of the Great Lake, the enemy who is so un-human that their leaders are reported to feast on human flesh and to have twisting snakes for a hair.
Even though annoyed by such wild rumors, Tekeni, the captive youth from across Lake Ontario, doesn’t dwell on any of this. His life is too frustrating to bother with silly stories. Held to be a troublemaker, a wild boy unwilling to adapt, he has enough on his plate as it was. With no possibility of running away, he does his best to live up to his bad reputation, instead.
Two Rivers, on the other hand, is a respectable hunter and warrior, a man with strange ideas and unconventional way of thinking, but still a satisfactory member of the community. Still, his notions are unacceptable and his way of telling his mind is irritating at times. To talk to the enemy? To stop warring on the neighboring nations? No, no one considered such suggestion seriously. Not even Tekeni, the despised enemy in himself.
However, when the paths of these two cross and intertwine, everything changes. Not always for the best.
Across the Great Sparkling Water
On the other side of the Great Lake the matters are as bad, if not worse. The war is relentless, pursued ferociously, claiming a heavy price. Not always enough food is stored for the winters. The danger of perpetual raids prevents fields from being tended properly, and sometimes hunting expeditions receive lower priority than the war parties. Wise people are worried, but they are at loss as to the proper solution. Something must be done, but what?
Two Rivers’ arrival on this side of the Sparkling Water is greeted with doubt. But Tekeni’s ever-ready translating services and his independent explanations, often accompanied with much embellishment as to the mysterious visitor’s mission, help. Challenged but not too often, they are making a good progress, gathering allies, overcoming suspicion.
Yet, Tekeni has a promise to keep, a promise that doesn’t go well with his loyalty to the man who had saved his life. And the true challenge is still ahead of Two Rivers. The test of the falls in the lands of the Mohawk People will prove the divine nature of his mission, will make them listen, but first he needs to survive it.
The Great Law of Peace
With the first powerful nation convinced, Two Rivers, now accepted and held to be the Messenger of the Great Spirits, began working for real. To organize the Mohawk People was a challenge in itself, but to make them share a pipe with Oneida People, their closest neighbors to the west, turned out to be even more difficult.
And then on, to the west, to draw in more nations, Seneca and Cayuga, and the last, the most difficult people to convince – the Onondagas. Countless gatherings, endless councils, solving problems, dilemmas, impasses, the task of organizing the League of Five Nations seemed to be impossible at times. But he was the Messenger of the Great Spirits and the man of the vision.
Yet, will the Great Peace demand of both Tekeni and Two Rivers sacrifice their private happiness for its sake?
A full year have passed since the First Gathering, when the Law of the Great Peace was delivered to the Five Nations, memorized, sanctified, regulated with the government composed out of fifty representatives instructed as to the ways of conducting their future annual meetings. Time to convene the Second Gathering.
And yet, the Peacemaker is unable to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his work. More people should be drawn into the Great League, he maintains, while traveling far and wide, talking to distant nations, inviting their representatives to come and sit around the Central Fire of the Great Council. A questionable business, according to some of the local leaders.
However, the real trouble arises when the delegation from across the Great Lake arrives, invited by Two Rivers himself. A natural invitation. Weren’t his former people good enough to participate in the union of his creation?
However, those who wish him harm see a different sort of opportunity, not beneath acting dirty, proving too devious even for Tekeni, now an influential leader despite his young age, brilliant in organizing and getting things done.
The problems escalate fast, but will they threaten the Great Peace itself and not only its creator? Tekeni is determined to safe both, but when the past comes to haunt him, he finds himself with too many troubles on his hands to cope with them all.
Close to thirty years later, the Peacemaker’s creation, The Great League of the Iroquois/Longhouse People was thriving, slipping into the leading regional power quite naturally, its impact on the entire region of Lake Ontario and far beyond it unquestionable.
Five nations, five families, five hearths, one longhouse – this is how the Great Peacemaker had put it, while giving the Longhouse People his exhaustive, intricate, wonderfully detailed set of laws. What worked for families and clans, apparently worked for nations as well. And even though this remarkable man had mysteriously disappeared after the first, or maybe the second, gatherings, what he left behind had flourished and prospered, developing into real regional power.
In the far east, along the Hudson River, relative newcomers had found a new home, people who had migrated to these areas over the recent decades or more, people who had nothing to do with the Great League to their west. Known to us today as Mahicans, they called themselves River People, making their living by working the land, hunting and fishing, dwelling in mid-sized villages and towns that spread all over the bountiful rivers and woods. To the Great League, particularly the Flint People (Mohawks), called the Keepers of the Eastern Door by their fellow league’s members, the Mahicans seemed to be a threat. Taking their responsibility of keeping that same ‘eastern door’ of the metaphorical longhouse safe, they felt obliged to sent more and more warriors parties, to raid those newcomers and maybe make them leave.
Beyond the Great River
Kentika, the daughter of the War Chief in her people’s village, was never happier than while sneaking away from her women’s duties and into the woods, feeling more at home while roaming around, reading the earth, running or climbing, even shooting occasional rabbit with her small children’s bow. When on one such foray she spots a warriors force from the lands of the setting sun, her skills of running and reading the earth comes in most handily, even though they are, as always, not appreciated at first.
Okwaho knew they were being watched. Whether by spirits or a wandering local, he could not ignore the feeling of the wary, frightened, hate-filled eyes staring out of the forest, burning his skin. But of course! Of course, the local woods distrusted them. He and his people were invaders, not coming to trade or engage in other peaceful dealings, but to raid these settlements. The enemies from the lands of the rising sun were bad, evil, impossible to understand. And yet…
Desperate to prove their worth, both Kentika and Okwaho go out of their way to make their leaders listen, bringing along a clash that would influence many lives, their own included.
Back in the Great League’s lands, trouble was brewing. The notorious Crooked Tongues from the other side of Lake Ontario, rumored to now be organized into a sort of an alliance, were posing a threat, more so than ever before. And yet, the War Chief, out of all people, was the one advocating negotiations, insisting on seeking a peaceful solution to the generations-long hostility and war. His followers were puzzled, the opposition outraged.
Meanwhile, Kentika has her own troubles to face. Was it ever easy for a foreigner to fit into a new life? For a girl who never even fit in among her own people, the challenge was becoming nearly impossible. But then, on top of it all, the political trouble hit.
The question of who his mother was puzzled Ogteah, but not to the extent of bothering him for real. His other troubles, the results of his life as a gambler and a lightweight, breezy and free of responsibility, were the ones to land him in trouble time after time. The people of his own hometown frowned, more and more direfully as the summers passed, until his mounting transgressions made him leave for good, mainly to stop embarrassing his father. A great leader and a very dedicated person, his father was working hard to create an alliance between their own people and their various neighbors, mainly in order to contain the traditional enemy from the other side of the Great Lake.
Gayeri wasn’t concerned with political developments, powerful leaders, or their less successful sons, either. No troublesome newcomers entered her thoughts or caught her attention, certainly not a good-for-nothing gambler with a mysterious past. Having survived a brutal kidnapping but determined to forget all about it, she was busy carving a new life in her new surroundings, set on ensuring that it would shelter her from any more dangerous happenings. Large-scale politics were of no consequence, whether those of her former Longhouse People or her new Crooked Tongued countryfolk.
And yet, the formation of the four Wyandot nations’ union was to interrupt their lives, to demand their involvement and participation, causing them to influence each other’s lives more than any of them could have imagined or foreseen.
All was not well in the lands of the Erie/Long Tails People, on the western shore of Lake Ontario and around Niagara Falls. Tucked between two growing unions, the mighty Great League and the newly formed alliance of the Wyandot to the north, the Long Tails tried to remain neutral, playing for time, doing little while earning no respect from their powerful neighbours on either side.
However, there were some who were enraged by the shameful neutrality. Although Aingahon was not one of those. His reasons for hating the Great League were personal, his desire to take the warpath originating in a thirst for revenge. Leading a serious faction of rebellious elements from his town and its surroundings, he was determined to make the enemies of his people pay; still he got nowhere, until Tsutahi, the mysterious girl from the woods, had crossed his path, changing his world in ways he could never have foreseen.
Back in the lands of the Great League, the generation of younger leaders, Ganayeda and Okwaho – not to mention Ogteah, the newcomer facing new troubles and challenges – sensed the winds of change as well. The relationship between the Five Nations, conducted just like the Great Peacemaker’s legacy prescribed, wasn’t enough, not anymore. A closer cooperation between the nations might be needed, a mutual help and support, even if it came to sending reinforcements and fighting in wars that were not strictly theirs.
The War Chief’s sons’ way of going about pushing their plans was as unconventional as it was forceful and decisive. To bend laws and customs was not the same as breaking them. Or so they thought, heading toward the inevitable clash with the notorious Long Tails from the west, a clash of proportions neither side could have foreseen or foretold.
Echoes of the Past
When approached with a request to spy on his former people, Ogteah rejected the mere idea of it vehemently, even though it made his loyalty to his current people suspected, to a degree. Still, he wouldn’t do it. It was shabby, unfitting, more suited of the old Ogteah from his previous life. Yet, with the circumstances conspiring against him, he had found himself plunging into the vastness of the Great Sparkling Water, nevertheless, alone and armed mainly with their unofficial warriors’ leader’s instructions and some goods to trade, a meager attempt to camouflage his true purpose.
In the meanwhile, the Wyandot from the other side of the Great Lake were working hard, anxious to convince the rest of the local nations into joining their union, perturbed by the Great League’s growing power and might, troubled by it. Even the defeated Long Tails did not keep quiet, recovering some of their former fighting spirit, the unlikely survivors among their leaders, people Ogteah certainly didn’t care to meet or remember.
All this and more awaited Ogteah as he headed across the Great Sparkling Water, against his and everyone else’s better judgment.
Mississippians is a general term for culturally related people, who had flourished from Midwest all the way to the Southeast of today’s USA, dealing with large-scale agriculture, wide network of trade, ambitious architecture undertakings in the form of huge earthwork pyramids serving several purposes and more. Their society was usually complex and the separation classes not uncommon, especially in the largest urban central of them all, Cahokia – the beautiful gem of the Mississippian culture.
Settled around the 7th century, Cahokia gradually evolved into a great urban center, populated more densely than London of the same time. Over hundred mounds spread through the busy bubbling, noisy city, with its crowded neighborhoods, plazas, marketplaces and different-size pyramids, some ridge-top for the burial purposes, some flat, platform-top for the ceremonial ones. Wooden stockade, fortified with watchtowers, enclosed the important, ceremonial center of the city, separating the nobility from the lower classes. The royal Great Mound, ten storey tall, spacious and terraced, hosted main temples and the large dwelling of the ruler, who was tracing his dynasty straight away to the Sun God himself.
It’s mid 13th century and the royal house of Cahokia is in turmoil. The old emperor is dead and his nephew, who was to inherit according to the all-important tradition, is not a satisfactory replacement. The city is restless, some say even in decline, with more bad than good harvests, series of hurricanes, and general unrest among the population. A stronger ruler is needed, or so some of the royal family members think, having in mind their own candidates for replacement.
Acoto, a hardened veteran warrior and an ambitious leader, doesn’t wish to be involved in any of that, but when he is summoned back to the city he learns that to keep away from the whirlpool of royal intrigues might prove impossible. Maneuvered into doing the unspeakable, he still hopes to reach his goals by sailing to the far northeast, to restore the fading glory of the empire against encroaching ‘barbarians’.
However, the League of the Iroquois is not an easy target. Before the day of the crucial battle is over he discovers his life is about to take a very unexpected turn.