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.
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.