My “Pre-Aztec” series ended toward the second half of the 14th century, leaving Mexican Valley under the stern rule of the Tepanec Empire; empire which spread around Lake Texcoco, encompassing it, holding many provinces and city-states in its firm grip.
A few decades passed and some of the city-states began feeling they could do with more independency. The tribute the Tepanecs demanded could be difficult to pay and some of the large cities felt the sting to their pride as well.
So in these series the action shifts to the other side of Lake Texcoco in time for the turbulent Mexican Valley’s history to start boiling.
The year is 1409 and the war is brewing, because Texcoco, a very large, very aristocratic city-state decided to stop paying the Tepanecs the required tribute.
But will the Aztecs help their old allies against the mighty Tepanecs?
Kuini, the young highlander who belongs to neither side and who shouldn’t be there in the first place but for his unexplained attraction to the might and the politics of the Lowlands, is trying to understand it all.
As the story progresses and his troubles are mounting, he learns much more than he wanted to know about the Lowlanders’ politics and about his own dark family secrets.
Born in the Highlands, Kuini thought his life was simple. You hunt and you fight, defending your towns against the raids of the Lowlanders and then raiding their lands in turn. His father was the Warriors’ Leader, and he wanted to be just like him.
Yet, Texcoco, the mighty Capital of the Lowlands, seemed incredibly beautiful, sparkling, its pyramids magnificent. A friendship with the Lowlander boy, the First Son of the Texcoco Emperor, seemed harmless in the beginning. They were just boys, and their clandestine meetings were always fun, providing great entertainment.
However, on the day Kuini agrees to finally enter the magnificent city, it would all change. He expected to get into trouble, but he could not foresee the extent of the trouble and, worst of all, he did not expect to uncover hidden secrets concerning his own family.
An excerpt from “The Highlander”
She glared at him, attractive in her righteous anger.
“So, where are you from?” he asked, mostly to keep her from turning and storming away. She looked like she might do just that.
As she pondered her answer, he studied her face. Shaped in a sort of rectangle, her wide, sculpted cheekbones narrowed toward her gently pointed chin. A beautifully carved, perfectly polished, wooden mask, with a generously applied layer of copper, and two large obsidians for eyes.
“It doesn’t matter where I come from. I can find my way home,” she said finally. “And I do thank you for saving me. You were very brave.” Her face twisted. “They are such savages, those Aztecs.”
“Are all of them like that?” he asked, curious, yet not liking the word savages.
“Most of them, yes. Warriors, commoners, they are all the same. A wild, unpredictable lot.”
“That Chief Warlord of theirs looked like a sensible man,” commented Kuini thoughtfully, remembering the broad, noble-looking face.
“Oh, he is the most unpredictable of them all! He has had the reputation for ruthlessness and unpredictability for summers upon summers, since before any of us were even born.”
“Did he come to join your upcoming war against the Tepanecs?”
The girl shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. With those Aztecs, one never knows.” She peered at him, lifting one pointed eyebrow. “And what are you so excited about? Those are your Tepanecs we would be warring against.”
“I’m no Tepanec!” he cried. “Why does everyone keep assuming that?”
“No Tepanec? But you do look like one. Except for the tattoos of the savages.” She frowned. “And I heard you saying to the Aztec that you are from Tepanecapan.”
“Where is this Tepanecapan?”
“Here in Texcoco. Where else?” She narrowed her eyes. “You are not from there, are you?”
He tensed. “It doesn’t matter where I am from. I have to get out of the city. Can you show me to the Great Pyramid? I’ll find my way from there.”
She studied him carefully. “All right. I’m kind of lost too, but the Great Pyramid is a good landmark. We’ll find it together. I’ll know my way from there too.”
“All right.” He pressed his palms against his forehead. The clubs pounding inside his skull grew worse by the moment. “Let’s go.”
“So you won’t tell me where you come from?” the girl asked as they made their way back toward the main road.
“Then I won’t tell you where I’m from either.”
He glanced at her, amused once again. “There is nothing to tell. You are from Texcoco, it’s obvious.”
She lifted her eyebrows. “Texcoco is not a village. There are four large districts here. Tepanecapan is one of them. Where do you think I live? Guess!” He liked the way her eyes danced.
“In this same Tepanecapan.” He said laughing. “Or anyway, somewhere away from this marketplace. Aren’t you supposed to know your way around here?”
“Oh, this is the first time I came here on foot, silly. I visit the marketplace from time to time, but in a litter. With servants.”
He grinned. “Of course.”
“You don’t believe me?” She stopped abruptly, all sorts of expressions chasing each other across her face. He was hard put not to laugh the way her eyes flickered, undecided, offended and amused at once. There was something about this girl, something frolicsome and mischievous.