Posts Tagged: war

The Rise of the Iroquois, part I – In the lands of the Crooked Tongues

14 September 2013 Comments (2)

The most recent studies place the formation of the Five Nations’ Great League, people whom we know today as Iroquois, at around 1142, basing their conclusion on the oral tradition, archaeological evidence, and specific events such as full solar eclipse that was most clearly mentioned to occur above a certain area on either August 1142, or somewhere around 1450.

At this time the lands of today’s upstate New-York and southeastern Canada were torn by ferocious warfare, with many nations fighting each other, relentless in the mutual hatred, swept in the ever-rising tide of revenge and retaliation. A murder has to be avenged by murder, an attacked by a counterattack. There was no safety anymore, and not even a resemblance of peace.

People lived in well fortified towns and villages, surrounded by a double-row of palisade fence and sometimes even protective ditches. To wander the woods, in order to seek privacy, make love or just meditate, was absolutely out of the question, with people venturing beyond the safety of their palisade only in large, well organized groups. Women in the fields were working carefully, allocating enough fellow workers to climb the high platforms erected for this purpose on either side of the field, to watch the surroundings, to sound the alarm should the enemy warriors be spotted. Men were hunting in large groups, ready to fight the enemy, not always to return.

Slowly but steadily the situation had worsened, with bad harvest being a more frequent occurrence than not, with famine threatening toward every coming winter, and the deceases spreading.

The Harvest Ceremony was nearing, usually one more happy celebration, but this time the amounts of the harvested corn were pitiful, creating a problem. Reasons and explanations kept mounting, as they did now in the beginning of every fall, plenty of reasonable excuses, but their mutual nature was difficult to overlook. It towered menacingly, indicating the farmers’ state of mind and even the lack of manpower. Women in the fields were busy keeping their watch, ready to sound alarm at the sight of approaching enemy, so the rest could make it safely behind the town’s fence. However, for every justified warning, there were quite a few false ones and those pointed at the disoriented state of the people’s minds. Nervousness and lack of confidence had been mounting for decades, reaching for all aspects of life, growing with every summer, steadily, if imperceptibly.

Every town struggled as best as it could, trying to work the land and to harvest the forest fruit, to dry enough meat and fish, to collect enough firewood for the winter to pass on comfortably; yet their main resources were still turned to warfare. To equip as many warriors’ parties was important because there were always neighboring nations and settlements that needed to be punished and made to learn a lesson, and the town’s defenses always needed to be strengthened, because the neighbors were expected to retaliated, never failing this particular expectation.

A vicious circle that kept ruining people’s lives. A vicious circle that needed to be stopped, somehow. There were probably enough people who saw that something was wrong, that something wasn’t working, but they either kept silent or simply weren’t listened to.

“The enemy grew too bold!” exclaimed the Wolf Clan’s man. “The People of the Hills grew too bold. They should be punished for their brazenness.”

Some heads nodded in agreement, while others just shrugged.

“To ensure our well being through the upcoming winter, we will have to send out as many hunting parties as we can organize,” said Atiron, taking the pipe in his turn. “The men will have to leave their clubs in favor of their bows and their fishing spears. We have close to two moons to do as much hunting and fishing as we can.” He let the smoke linger in his throat, enjoying the sensation. “The women will finish their winter preparation sooner than usual, due to the small amounts of corn to grind, and so they will be free to gather more of the forest fruit, and plenty of firewood.” Passing the pipe on, he sighed. “Our duty is to ensure the well being of this town, so the Frozen Moons will not prove as terrible as two winters before.”

They fell silent, remembering the terrible winter when the illness spread like a lethal storm, killing people in its wake, unmerciful, oblivious of the identity and the age of its victims. All due to the lack of food and firewood, Atiron knew. Not to the displeased spirits as many chose to believe.

The Great Peacemaker came from across the Lake Ontario. He belonged to none of the five powerful nations of the modern-day upstate New-York. His foreignness might have been one of his greatest advantages because as a person belonging to neither side, he could be expected to have a measure of objectivity when no one trusted the other. On this, the other, southern side, of the Great Lake his people were called Crooked Tongues, because they talked in a language that was difficult to understand, regarded generally as uncouth foreigners, also an enemy but not as bad as the local foe.

By crossing the Great Lake he gambled mightily, with his life and not only his status as a person who had left his own people for the sake of the unknown. In those times the death was quick to come upon a lonely man who could not even speak in a proper, not-crooked sort of a way.

So why did he do that? Was his own country folk proving too stubborn, refusing to listen?

It may have been the case. The Huron/Wyandot people on the northern side of Lake Ontario were in a somewhat similar situation. They were divided in four different nations, and they had probably warred against each other as zealously, as relentlessly, unforgiving of offenses, imaginary or real.

Maybe they didn’t trust a person of their own, having difficulties to see beyond the obvious strangeness of his ideas. Maybe they needed an outsider to come and tell them that.

But no outsider was heading their way, while one of their own seemed to be on his way out.

An excerpt from “Two Rivers”, The Peacemaker Trilogy, book #1.

To leave or not to leave? The question kept circling in his head, examining all the possible angles, arriving at a dead end, always. To stay was fruitless, to leave was insane. The town of his childhood offered nothing but frustration, boredom, emptiness. But so did any settlement of his people. His reputation would go with him wherever he went. They all knew about the prophecy and about the strangeness and unacceptability of his ideas.

To leave it all behind by crossing the Great Sparkling Water, on the other hand, was tempting but plain insane. He had nothing to seek among the enemies of his people, nothing to ask, nothing to offer. Nothing but a spectacular death that they would be sure to inflict upon him. That might give them an interesting diversion for a day, but he would gain nothing but a painful end. Even taking the boy along might not solve the problem. The promising youth was nothing but a child when he had left his people, with no influence and no weight. A son of a War Chief, admittedly, but still just a child. No one would probably remember him at all.

No. The attempt to cross the Great Lake was the worst idea of them all. And yet…

The scattered drops of rain sprinkled his face, waking him from his reverie. Time to go back, back to suspicious glances, hatred, and mistrust. He shrugged. The hatred was new, all the rest – not so much.

Hesitating upon the top of the trail, he watched the woods to his left, his instincts alerting him for no apparent reason. He scanned the open patch of the land, all the way to the clusters of trees that began not far away from his vantage point. As though unwilling to disappoint him, a figure sprang from behind them, progressing in a funny gait, seeming like running upon an uneven surface.

Puzzled, he watched her for another heartbeat, then rushed down the cliff, his heart beating fast. Something was amiss. Even from this distance, he could see that it was a woman and that she had been in some sort of a trouble, with her hair flowing wildly and her dress askew, but mostly because of the desperate way she ran. Were enemy warriors spotted in the proximity of their woods?

He hastened his step, but the girl must have been running really fast, as she was close by the time he reached the flat ground. Close enough to recognize her. The pretty Beaver Clan girl. His heart missed a beat.

The Rise of the Aztecs Part VII, Nezahualcoyotl, the heir to Texcoco throne

26 November 2012 Comments (1)

In ‘The Rise of the Aztecs Part VI’, we left the Tepanec Empire ruling the lands around Lake Texcoco, holding the whole Valley of Mexico in their firm grip.

Yet, eastward to Texcoco, over the high ridges where the Nahua people were not yet present at force, one person of importance was hiding, sheltered from the Tepanecs’ wrath.
Nezahualcoyotl, the heir to Texcoco throne, a man who would matter greatly in the future, but only a youth of seventeen at those times, had managed to survive. With no choices left, he had fled into the Highlands, the traditional enemies of his people.

Nezahualcoyotl

Surprisingly, the Highlanders, people of Huexotzinco (or Tlaxcala, according to some sources), did not harm him, giving him a shelter instead. Whether due to the Tepanec invasion and the uncomfortable necessity to grow accustom to the new dangerously aggressive and power-hungry neighbors, the new masters of the Lowlands, or for some other reason, the Highlanders, a mix of Nahua, Otomi and Mixtec were inclined favorably toward their highborn refugee.

For three or four year, the heir to the Texcoco throne had lived among the highlanders, making friends and leaving a good impression as it seemed. Good enough to make those people back him up when, a few years later, his chance to fight for his Acolhua altepetl and provinces had come.

However, neither he, nor his new-found allies, hurried the events. What they waited for was the death of the Tepanec Emperor, the mighty Tezozomoc. The ruthless, greedy, brilliant ruler was very old, so a youth like Nezahualcoyotl could afford to take their time.

And not that, while waiting patiently, Nezahualcoyotl remained idle. Although grateful for the support of the fierce Highlanders, he knew that to take his lands back he would need more than that. His own defeated people needed to be made aware of his plans, needed to be reminded that not all was lost. So, disguised and drawing no attention, he had traveled Acolhua lands, not stirring trouble, not yet, but talking to people, reassuring, letting them to arrive to all sort of ideas all by themselves.

He visited Tenochtitlan too, making friends with Chimalpopoca, Tenochtitlan’s young emperor. Whether he felt resentment at the betrayal of the Aztecs, when those sided with the Tepanecs in the war against his people, or not, he didn’t let his feelings show. At some point he even moved to live in Tenochtitlan, when Chimalpopoca interceding with the Tepanecs on his behalf. Being a grandson of Tezozomoc, Chimalpopoca seemed to be, nevertheless, inclined toward his newly acquired Acolhua friend. Together they commissioned many building projects, among those another causeway and the first aqueduct that was destined to bring fresh water to Tenochtitlan, carrying it all the way from the mainland and the springs of Chapultepec. Nezahualcoyotl was reported to design this construction personally.

Yet, the water construction was the one to bring trouble – between the Aztecs and the Tepanecs this time. Having no foothold upon the mainland, Tenochtitlan needed to acquire the Tepanec permission every time the aqueduct broke and more building materials to repair it were needed. Built from a double row of clay pipes running along the earthworks, the aqueduct ceased functioning on a regular basis, leaving the island-city with no fresh water frustratingly often. Permission to commence the repair works and the list of requested materials were forthcoming but slowly, reluctantly. The Master of the Valley felt that the Aztecs were asking for too much.

The tension grew but then, before the trouble broke, Tezozomoc had finally died, leaving the Tepanec royal house in turmoil, with multitude of heirs, some more dissatisfied than the others. Nezahualcoyotl held his breath. Did his chance to rebel was coming after all? He liked living in Tenochtitlan, enjoying the hospitality of the Aztecs, but he wanted his Texcoco back.

An excerpt from “Crossing Worlds

The man’s smile widened, yet the twinkle was back.

“Oh, I’m sure you would have learned much, given a chance. You are a smart youth and very observant. But you won’t have this chance.” He laughed while Coyotl struggled to regain his composure, banishing the stunned expression off his face. “What? Did you think you would live here in peace, hunting and fooling around with local girls until it’s time to roll down our mountains in force? Oh no, Future Emperor. You’ll have to work, to work hard. You’ll have to get things all ready for my warriors to go and take your Texcoco back. Don’t tell me you are afraid of hard work.”

“No, I’m not,” mumbled Coyotl, hating the acute sensation of helplessness. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”

“Well, then let me explain the situation to you. In the Lowlands people don’t know what’s happening. They don’t know where you are. They have no idea if the Emperor’s heir is dead or alive. So, first of all, they have to discover you are alive and well, and that your spirit is not broken. The Acolhua people have to see the fine, young man who was supposed to become their next Emperor.” One rough palm came up, extending one finger. “That’s the first thing – Acolhua people coming to all sorts of ideas all by themselves. Now,” another finger came up, “the Tepanecs. They also should know about your existence. This would be a more difficult task. You would have to convince them that you are completely harmless.

You would have to let them know that the only thing you crave is to live quietly somewhere around the Lowlands. They won’t let you go back to Texcoco. Not right away. But eventually they might, if convinced of your usefulness and your harmlessness.”

“Do I just go down there then?” asked Coyotl, his mouth dry. It didn’t make any sense, yet the man in front of him seemed so wise. There had to be a reason for his proposal.

The Warriors’ Leader shook his head vigorously. “No, of course not. You’d be put to death quietly and efficiently. Or maybe with great pomp. Depends on Tezozomoc’s mood.”

“Then how?”

“You’ll need someone influential and in a good stance with the Tepanecs to intercept on your behalf. Someone who would be willing to be responsible for your behavior until the Tepanec Emperor was convinced by your performance.”

Coyotl stared at the narrow, wrinkled face, refusing to ask any more questions. He had made a complete fool of himself so far, promising to be a good emperor, then proceeding to show how simple and unsophisticated his thinking was.

The amused smile playing upon the man’s lips made him understand that he did not need to utter the question to make matters worse.

“You’ll have to go to Tenochtitlan.”

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.

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.

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