After Azcapotzalco, the Tepanec Capital, and other important Tepanecs towns fell, the Mexica-Aztecs and the Acolhua people found themselves with a new challenge to face, this time of creating and not destroying.
Their independence achieved, or almost achieved, as the Acolhua were yet to re-conquer Texcoco, their capital, new dilemmas and questions were born. What will the new world look like now, with the Tepanec domination gone, subdued, squashed into insignificance?
After storming Azcapotzalco, Nezahualcoyotl and his Acolhua and the Highlander allies stayed for long enough to conquer the city of Coyoacan, where Maxtla, the last Tepanec emperor, fled, having left his own capital for the invaders to sack. But the moment the cowardly ruler was executed, they hurried back home, crossing the Lake Texcoco, seemingly uninterested in inheriting the fallen Tepanec Empire for themselves.
The Highlanders headed for their mountains, to enjoy the fruits of the successful campaign, while Nezahualcoyotl went to re-conquer his Capital, altepetl of Texcoco, and reorganize its old provinces, disrupted by the long years of the Tepanec domination.
In the meanwhile, Tlacaelel had different goals. Somebody had to take care of the wreaked Tepanec Empire, and in his opinion, his Mexica Aztecs were the perfect candidate to do that.
So, instead of heading back for his island-city, to enjoy the tribute-free existence, he led his warriors on, to subdue towns and altepetls who might have not understood the nature of the changes as yet.
One such, altepetl of Xochimilco, presented a challenge, their strategy of not offering battle but blocking every access to the city not working, not against the fierce Mexica.
By the time the victorious Mexica finally headed home, Tenochtitlan was beginning to enjoy a flow of tribute. Not something out of the ordinary, but it was a beginning.
Tlacaelel intended not only inherit their previous overlords’ realm. His plans reached farther and wider than the visions of anyone else. He intended his people to evolved into true power, true greatness.
The Tepanecs were sloppy, he would say again and again. They conquered, intimidating their neighbors into obedience, but they didn’t bother to manage those whom they subjugated. Their tribute system was sporadic, robbing some out of existence, taking next to nothing from others, distributing conquered cities among their allies with no pattern and no sense.
This was no way to run an empire, he would say, staring at the distance, or sometimes smiling at her, challenging her to ask questions. A tribute system should be well-organized, leaving the conquered to prosper enough to produce this tribute and to be content, but not enough to think silly thoughts of rebellion. Take the altepetl, change its ruler, put a tamed person who would be accountable to you, the conqueror, and then leave it be. Don’t force the regular people, the minor nobility and the commoners, to give up on their way of life. Leave them content, well-fed and well-clothed, to go on with their lives, enriching themselves and you, the conqueror, producing the tribute, contributing to the might of your empire. Oh, how wise he was!
In the meanwhile, the Acolhua reclaimed Texcoco and many of their old subjected provinces. So in 1431, Nezahualcoyotl was finally able to assume what was taken from him and his father more than ten years ago by the conquering Tepanecs – the throne of Texcoco.
His coronation was reported to be a grand event, attended by many neighboring powers, Mexica Aztecs included. The close contacts between the two powerful altepetls remained as it was – a strong bond.
Which actually caused some discord among the old Acolhua nobility. There were those who did not forget the first Tepanec War, when the Aztecs helped the Tepanecs conquer Texcoco. Some of the influential Acolhua neither forgot not forgave. Thus close to his coronation, Nezahualcoyotl might have faced his first crisis as a ruler.
An excerpt from “The Sword”
He stood her gaze, suppressing a shrug.
“And yet, a further cooperation, a true alliance and friendship, will benefit both our people. You should let the past rest.”
“My people will do better alone, with no cooperation of the people led by a ruler they cannot trust,” she said stubbornly, her eyes blazing. “Many important people are sharing this opinion of mine, and there will be more of these soon. My brother will be made to listen.”
“Neither your brother nor your husband will do anything to change their policies.”
“You may be surprised.”
Something in the way she said it made his skin prickle. She was up to something. He knew it now. Something more tangible than a pure hatred and a desperate wish to sway Coyotl to her side. The ruler of Texcoco was a pleasant man of great manners, but he was not a person to have his policies dictated to him. If Tlacaelel might have had any doubts before the battle of Azcapotzalco and Coyoacan, he had learned what the well-mannered Acolhua was made of.
A pure marble, very hard, even if beautifully polished, pleasant to deal with, but impossible to break. Nezahualcoyotl would not be told what to do, neither by the influential Texcocans nor by his favorite sister.
As to his Chief Warlord, this woman could move the Smoking Mountain of the Highlands sooner than she would make her husband betray his most trusted friend. He was not a man anxious to please his women to that extent, letting them tell him what to do. He would sooner send her packing. Unless…
He watched the beautiful face, trying to find a clue. What devilment do you have planned, or maybe have already done? he thought. He had better set his spies in this palace to work at once.
“I wish we could reach an agreement,” he said, non-committal, anxious to escape, to think it all over. She would not yield any more information, he knew. She had told him too much already. He had seen it in her eyes, suddenly worried, guarded, apprehensive.
“I hope so too.” A reserved nod of the royal head and she headed toward the closest cluster of mats, her maids trailing behind, ready to serve her refreshments or find a scroll the mistress may wish to read.”