Posts Tagged: warriors

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 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.”

The Rise of the Aztecs, Part VIII, Chimalpopoca, the Third Emperor of Tenochtitlan

1 January 2013 Comments (0)

In ‘The Rise of the Aztecs Part VII’, we left Nezahualcoyotl enjoying his life in Tenochtitlan, but missing his beautiful Texcoco; and probably, his royal status as well.

Yet, this young man had evidently learned from the mistakes of his father. To try to mobilize his former Acolhua people and his newly acquired allies from the Highlands prematurely was not the wise thing to do, as it might have led to another defeat. He needed to have Tezozomoc, the old Tepanec Emperor, dead first. He needed to see how his successor will deal with too-huge-of-an-empire he’d receive. Then he may act, accordingly.

So he had curbed his impatience and waited, spending his time studying poetry, history and engineering. And touring his former Acolhua lands from time to time. Just a tourist, really. He did nothing that might have aroused the Tepanec suspicion. He was just a harmless noblemen succumbing to the spells of nostalgia from time to time. If he talked to prominent people of his former lands, if he made them arrive to all sorts of conclusions, if he offered on altars of any of the gods, praying for the imminent death of the Tepanec ruler, he did this privately and with no fuss.

In the meanwhile, his friend Chimalpopoca, the third Aztec emperor, felt differently. This young man had ascended the throne in 1417, while being only a boy of ten so years old, upon the death of his father, the Second Aztec Emperor, Huitzilihuitl. Why he had been the one to inherit the throne, no one knows. There were better-fitting candidates among the Second Emperor’s brothers, or even his sons. Tlacaelel, for one, was a few years older, and as legitimate, although sired by Huitzilihuitl’s less exalted wife.Chimalpopoca Chimalpopoca’s mother was impeccably noble and very well connected, being one of Tezozomoc’s favorite daughters. Maybe this was the reason why Tenochtitlan’s council of four districts decided to put Chimalpopoca on the throne. They might have wished to seek a favor with the old horror of the Tepanec ruler (or maybe the ambitious mother was the one to push in this direction. Like all women in history, her way to reach a real power was limited to the possibility of ruling through her underage child).

For this or that reason, Tenochtitlan’s council of four districts crowned Chimalpopoca with the special diadem, anointing him with divine ointment, and placing proper insignia of a shield and a sword in his hands.

Pleased with the fact that Tenochtitlan was ruled by his progeny, Tezozomoc, through the ten years of Chimalpopoca’s reign, demanded less and less tribute, reducing it to a mere token. Many favors were granted to the island-city, such as the permission to build the aqueduct, using the springs of the mainland. And, although the water construction broke often, the relationship between the Tepanecs and the Aztecs remained affable enough.

And then, in 1427, Tezozomoc had died – a very old, very contented man, leaving his invincible empire encompassing all the lands around Lake Texcoco, and far beyond it. There was no point in trying to enlarge it any further, so he had left his throne to one of his numerous sons, a reasonable, quiet, able man.

Yet, one of his other sons, ambitious Maxtla, was not happy with his father’s choice of successor. Being sent to rule the province of Coyoacan, Maxtla didn’t seem to take it well, thinking that the throne of Azcapotzalco had suited his talents better. Only a few months into his reign, the new ruler of the Tepanec Empire had died, probably due to poisoning, and the ambitious Maxtla had taken his place.

Yet, the actions of the new Tepanec Emperor were strange. Maxtla did not rush to change the policies, conquer more lands, or make new laws. Instead he busied himself changing the governments of his tributaries and subjected lands. Successful in disposing of his own brother, he proceeded to commence a few similar projects at once.

First he tried to assassinate Nezahualcoyotl, who had managed to evade death by fleeing back into the Highlands. Unabashed, Maxtla had sent other killers to assassinate the ruler of Tlatelolco, a sister city of Tenochtitlan, situated on a nearby island and governed by another of Tezozomoc’s progeny. This time he was successful and Tlacateotl, ruler of Tlatelolco, had died under mysterious circumstances.

Encouraged by the neatness and easiness of his international policies, Maxtla decided to drive his point home further by trying to murder Chimalpopoca himself, who had previously, very openly and unashamedly, sided with Maxtla’s brother, the Tepanec lawful ruler, angering the ambitious new Emperoro beyond any reason. This time it was personal, so Maxtla had made a special effort. Various sources are debating the possible ways of Chimalpopoca’s death, but most agree that the Third Emperor of Tenochtitlan was murdered in his sleep by a bunch of skilled killers that penetrated the Palace under the cover of the night. He was around the age of twenty by this time and not a bad ruler, his political mistakes notwithstanding.

Tenochtitlan was in turmoil, but if Maxtla had counted on the hated tributaries to huddle on their island, subdued and cowed, his calculations were wrong.

In the next post, The Rise of the Aztecs Part IX, Itzcoatl, we’ll see what happened when the Aztecs were pushed too far.

An excerpt from “Currents of War

The old leader’s grin matched that of his friend.

“My nephew is a law unto himself. But I hope they have more warriors like him.”

“Oh, please,” said Itzcoatl, then fell silent as the slaves brought in plates with refreshments, and two more flasks of octli. “Come to think of it, your nephew can be useful in more ways than just leading warriors and killing useless advisers,” he muttered, almost to himself.

Something in the former Warlord’s voice startled Tlacaelel, and he concentrated, trying to read through the dark, closed up face of his superior.

“What ways?” asked the Tepanec suspiciously, obviously as alerted.

“He can rid us of some people who are rapidly becoming a nuisance.”

“No!” called the old leader sharply. His pipe made a screeching sound, banging against the side of the table. “He is not to be involved in any of this.”

Itzcoatl looked up, unperturbed. “Why not?”

“There are twenty reasons and more, and I won’t go into any of them.” The Tepanec’s voice rose. “We are not ready for that move either, and when we are, my nephew is to be left out of it.”

“The wild beast has a mind of his own, you know. And a great will into the bargain.” Itzcoatl’s eyes glimmered, the way they always did when he was pleased with himself for having thought of a way to solve his problems. After so many summers, fighting under this man’s command, Tlacaelel had learned to read his moods as if they were written on a bark paper. “You tried to keep him away from the Palace’s troubles seven summers ago, Old Friend, and he just pushed himself more forcefully into the middle of the maelstrom. He is a law unto himself, indeed, and a priceless asset, if used correctly.” A shrug. “And anyway, he never has kept away from our politics.”

“He gets involved when his Acolhua friend is involved. But this time, the Texcocan has nothing to do with it.”

Itzcoatl’s lips were pressed thinly, his grin – a mirthless affair.

“He guards the interests of more than one highborn Acolhua. The Emperor’s Chief Wife is involved in this, even if not directly.”

Tlacaelel watched the old weathered face of their host twisting as though the man had eaten something incredibly bitter.

“Leave my nephew out of it,” he repeated stonily. “You can use his warriors’ skills all you like, but don’t make him cause any more trouble in the Palace. What happened seven summers ago was more than enough.” He picked up his pipe, concentrating on the beautifully decorated wood, running his fingers along the carvings, deep in thought. The Highlander must have made this thing for his uncle, reflected Tlacaelel, recognizing the patterns.

“It may be too soon to do the deed,” he said finally. “We should wait and see what happens in Azcapotzalco, what their new Emperor is up to.”

Weapons in the Mexica period

29 December 2012 Comments (1)

A guest post from , an artist, painter, and web designer, a man who knows way too much about anything Mexica-Aztec related, a man who would not miss a single archeological conference in the Temple Mayor museum.

Enrique is a talented painter and I promise to link to his works later on, when his beautifully detailed and historrically accurate paintings will be properly water-marked and protected (soon, as he promised). He is also one of the founders of In Tlilli In Tlapalli – pre-hispanic blog where you can read many more fascinating articles by him, and other knowledgeable, well-versed in history people.

Weapons in the Mexica period

We all know about the military reach of the powerful Aztec civilization, whose armies dominated more than 500 different cities in the states of Tabasco, Veracruz, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Edo, just to name a few, reaching out beyond even the current Mexican borders, colonizing parts of Guatemala.

But if you wondered how those Aztec legions were armed and what weapons they used, you will find your answers in this article because today I will write about the weaponry used by the Mexica warriors.

The instruments of war are always divided into offensive and defensive.

This article will talk mainly about the offensive weapons, although I would like to mention the defensive weapons such as chimalli – a shield, which was made out of wood, reinforced with reeds, sisal fiber, then covered with leather. Also ichcahuipilli, a padded cotton armor, hardened with salt water, or made out of sisal.

Among the offensive weapons of combat first comes the ever popular macuahuitl – the obsidian sword, which consisted of a pine stick inlaid with razor-sharp obsidian. It is said that macuahuitl could cut an arm or a head without a problem, but if it was the first blow, as, colliding with a shield or another wooden item, the obsidian blade could broke or became damaged. Even by accounts of Bernal Diaz del Castillo, we know that there was a version of this weapon used to be handled with two hands (the Hispanic version of the European bastard sword). A couple of photographs taken in the late nineteenth century confirm this observation, showing a very long macuahuitl located in the Royal Armoury of Madrid which was destroyed with many other pieces when a fire occurred inside the compound previously mentioned.

Spears/javelins were also quite popular weapons used by the Aztec warriors. A great diversity of those weapons ranged from javelins, favored by light troop and called teputzopilli, to heavy lances. These were very characteristic to various Mexican civilizations, because the tip of the spear had also been inlaid with obsidian slabs. No doubt those weapons was used mainly in close combat. If in America had been existed contingents of pikemen or spearmen, Europe would certainly have used a Mexican teputzopilli.

Closely related to spears was atlatl. This weapon consisted of a piece of wood with two handles for fingers, which worked as an extension of the warrior’s arm. Using the atlatl, its owner would achieve more accuracy and cover greater distance (current experiments establish that had a range of 100 to 150 m with the ability to impale a man). The wood it was made of, was pine, due to its durability and lightness.

Atlatl and spear were linked with the ruling class of Tenochtitlan, as well as with the gods. There were numerous representations of Tezcatlipoca and Huitzilopochtli handling atlatl in one hand, and the other holding the darts to use. Ceremonial atlatls were primarily decorative, not intended to use in battle. They were inlaid with turquoise, jade, bone, gold and endless precious materials.

Another, but a less popular weapon, were a bow and arrows (made of one piece and not as the Mongolian composite bows, made out of different materials for the added strength and propulsion shooting). The arrowheads could be made from obsidian, bone, or charred wood. It is noteworthy that the primary function of this weapon was the hunt, like the blowpipe, therefore its use in a battle was not as extensive as this of atlatl or macuahuitl. Bow and arrows were valued differently among peoples of ancient Mexico. For example, the Tarascan were famous archers, inflicting heavy defeats on other nations with their use of metallurgy and their mastery of archery. For Chichimeca nomadic groups, living mainly by hunting, the bow was essential in their lifestyle.

A basic part of the arsenal of a commoner warrior would be a sling, woven from sisal or other plant fibers. In chronicles of anonymous conquistadors, the Spanish squadrons referred to groups of slingers among the Mexica forces. The ammunition was usually river rocks or slabs of stone, carved with angles to increase the impact, and the damage. Today in some populations of Mexico there are still people who know how to make these slings with one sisal cord, using it for hunting, although this traditional craft is getting closer to extinction with each passing day.

I hope this brief overview of the Mexican weaponry was of an interest. Although there is not quite enough information on this subject, it is logical that there is much more than reflected in this limited space. For example, it is interesting to note (albeit briefly) that wooden mallets barbed some obsidian were used, along with axes and copper weapons (the latter probably brought from faraway kingdom of Michoacán). Just look and you are invited to begin your own investigation into the rich culture of the people who had inhabited this country called Mexico before the Spanish arrived.

Comments, suggestions or questions by twitter account

Cheers and good night

Enrique Ortiz

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.”

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