A novel exploring the injustices that Native and African Americans experienced in history.
Chapter 2: Ahuiliztli
Why? Why did I have to learn how to fight? I didn't want to have to rely on my parents and older siblings to defend me, but there is no reason to fight. With the desire for land, there is the danger of encountering new people. Then, violence will most likely arise and there will be bloodshed. Why do our people promote hatred? Why do they promote brutality amongst one another? Why can't we all live peacefully and form alliances? That was the image of my world, the world I wanted to create when I was older. I hoped that there would be a future of negotiation, a future where we didn't have to hold our weapon high and kill those who come in our way. That's what I want.
That wasn't the Aztec way, though. The Aztec men of the empire had to be brave warriors. At the age of seventeen, they would have to expand the empire by conquering lands and taking others prisoner. With these captives, they would be sacrificed to the god of war, Huitzilopochtli. The sacrifices our people performed were gruesome and nauseating, cutting open the heart of the victim with the use of a knife. The heart was usually offered to the god of war, while the remains were offered to other gods, such as Tlaloc, the rain god, Tezcatlipoca, the god of wind, Ometeotl, the god of duality and creation, and Quetzalcoatl, the god of the priesthood.
I didn't want to get out of my mat this morning. I wanted to avoid this training for as long as possible. I knew I could convince my mother to prolong the session for at least an hour. Or, so I thought.
When I opened my eyes and sat upon the bed, I almost immediately heard the arguing voices of my two uncles. Why were they here so early? Were they here for my father and brother? Would they be adventuring this soon? I was able to eliminate all possible reasons when I heard the topic of the dispute was me.
"Macamo xinahuati!" My mother yelled, which translated to 'be quiet.' "My son is trying to sleep! Nobody gave you two permission to just barge in like this anyway..."
"You're only a cAhuatl, Atlacoya..." Uncle Cuetzpalli spoke lowly. "You cannot protect him. You can hardly fight for yourself."
"That isn't true! Atlacoya is an amazing archer!" My other uncle, Centenya added. "Stop with the sexist viewpoints, would you? Gee... you're so rude..." He sighed lowly.
"No worries, mommy..." I finally crawled out from underneath the mat. I stood up and walked into the kitchen. "I'm already up. Besides..." I stared up at my two uncles. "I don't want to be a disappointment to the family. All of you argue about my inability to fight, so now, I should learn limited archery skills."
I went against my wishes. I decided to learn how to fight in order to prevent arguments between my mother and uncles. "Tlahtli Cuetzpalli, will you be willing to teach me your moves? Since you're here and all..."
"Hmm..." He clearly had a thoughtful, debating expression on his face. "Training you would mean your father and brother will be conquering different lands and people without me. Could they really survive without me? Their heads may be delivered here if they don't have me to lead them." He boasted proudly.
"Cuetzpalli!" Mother snapped. She was just about done with his shenanigans at this rate. "Out! You're not welcome here anymore!" She walked over to the front door and held it open. "Rendezvous with my husband. I am Ahuiliztli's mother. Therefore, I will be training him." She then turned towards my other uncle. "Centenya, you may stay. Thank you for joining my side once again."
"Hmph... damn woman...To think that your son will actually learn how to fight from you. It is absurd" My uncle mumbled before taking his leave. I was relieved, after all. I didn't want him to train me, but I never assumed that he would give up so easily. Luckily, I will be able to train just with my mother.
"I'm sorry about my brother, Atlacoya. You know how rude he is. It's astonishing that he has a wife of his own despite how ignorant he is to woman."
"There is no reason to apologize. I'm used to his impoliteness." She said before turning her head to face me. "After breakfast, we will get started, alright?"
I puffed my cheeks but nodded in agreement. "Yes, mom..." I walked into the kitchen and sat down. Breakfast was already prepared, a tortilla with fresh fruit from our garden. As I began to eat, my uncle approached me. He patted the top of my head and smiled.
"Just be you..." Uncle Centenya whispered to me.
Those words meant a lot to me when he spoke them. Despite my desires for inspiring a world of peace and change, I am also an Aztec. Perhaps if I learn how to use a weapon now, I can prolong the stage. If I pretend to be a slow learner, it could take me days, even years until I go on my first journey. But then, would I be criticized for it? If I can easily comprehend the countless rules of a complex board game, I should be able to understand the basics of wielding a weapon. Maybe I will change with age, maybe I won't.
When I was done eating, my mother, uncle, and I all headed to a public training grounds facility. All the male children were there accompanied by their fathers. Being trained by my mother didn't bother me. If anything, I preferred for her to teach me. I knew she would take it slow, and that she sympathized with me more than my father or elder brother. There were spare bows, arrows, and quivers ranging from all sizes and material type if someone never constructed their own or simply forgot. I grabbed a child-size weapon, strolling over to one set of targets. Aiming at objects didn't bother me, but as the training sessions progress, the simple white and red targets will be replaced by scarecrows, then animals. "Alright mama, I'm ready!"
I turned my head to look back at my mother. Again, there seemed to be arguing, and my mother was again the victim.
"Shouldn't you be cooking or weaving? That is the job of a cuatl, after all." A bulky Aztec male remarked. His viewpoints were the same as Uncle Cuetzpalli, but he was much bigger in size. "Did your husband suddenly pass?"
"No, my husband is still roaming the earth, thanks for asking." I could easily sense the tone of sarcasm and boiling anger within her voice. "You're a stranger, you have no reason for interfering with my family."
"Atlacoya, maybe you shouldn't talk so boldly towards him..." Uncle Centenya advised.
As a child, I simply stood there and watched. There wasn't much I could do to end the situation. "Mama..." I called out to her again, wanting her to focus on me. I didn't take action until I noticed the male touch her. Once he grabbed her by the wrist, I was quick to move. Kicking him in the ankles wouldn't do much to bring down this man, but I tried anyway. Why was my mother seen as inferior? I bet her fighting capabilities were just as good as any other Aztec man. I'm sure she would go adventuring with my father if I wasn't young. I knew she used to before she had us...
"Hmm...?" The Aztec man gazed down at me. I was practically the size of his hand, and he easily picked me up from the ground. "This is your pipsqueak? Gee... I expected Cuetlachtli to do so much better than this..."
"Hey!" I kicked my legs and waved my arms, trying to escape his grasp.
"What a disobedient child, Atlacoya. You do know what happens to disrespectful children, right?..."
"He is not your child! He is only defending me, and I will not punish my child-"
Uncle Centenya wrapped his arms around my mother's body. He seemed to pull her back. I watched her struggle against him. My eyes stayed on my mother until I was suddenly thrown to the ground. A fire was ignited beside me, smoke filling the air. This guy clearly loved torturing children during his free time, and just happened to have a chile pepper handy. After placing the pepper in the fire for a few moments, he pulled it away. The fumes of the pepper smoke, compared to the flames, were far more torturous.
I could hear my mother's screams continue, her cursing aimed towards the random man and my uncle. I turned my head slightly and simply smiled. Perhaps, this is what real strength and courage were like. I didn't have to fight in order to defend my mother. This was a sacrifice I was willing to make for her. I couldn't keep my eyes closed, then they would be forced open. To avoid that, I inhaled the chile smoke willingly, letting it cloud my vision. My eyes began to burn and water, but I was forced to stay in the ground for several minutes.
That is until my mother decided to display her own superiority over the man. This moment should have scarred me for life, but it didn't.
My mother finally escaped the grasp of my uncle. When she did, she picked up a bow and arrow. Her aim was perfect, directly hitting the bulky Aztec man in the chest. When he was knocked down, she took advantage of this moment. Brutally, she shoved the arrow deeper into the male's chest. Once she yanked the arrow out, his heart was pierced by the tip. Blood spurted everywhere. "Disrespecting me... and your clan leader! You are nothing but a disgrace!" Not a single Aztec acted in a mortified manner when witnessing this. In fact, the fathers and sons stopped their training and engaged in a dancing ritual. There was a human sacrifice, and the gods looked down upon the Aztec people (particularly my mother), happily. There seemed to be a flash of red tainting within my mother's eyes. Or perhaps, I was seeing things since my eyes were burnt.
Mom used a wet cloth, patting my eyes in an attempt to clear out the smoke. The burn was still within my eyes and nostrils, but it was better than lying above the pepper itself. As promised, my mother still trained me for just an hour. She taught me the basics of using a bow and I was truly astonished by her getting a bullseye each and every time.
We had to go home early since she had to prepare dinner. Despite the conflict this day had to pose, I managed to be content. Using a bow and arrow actually seemed fun, and I seemed to have the urge to go back to the training grounds tomorrow. However, archery would never beat Patolli. It was still my favorite game, nothing could beat it.
Again, that night after dinner, my father and I played a round of Patolli. The same result as yesterday, I beat him. When he tucked me within my mat, he leaned down towards me. "Nopiltze, nocuzque, noquetzale." He whispered, which translated to, 'sweet son, my jewel, my feather.' "Your mother told me what happened today. Your bravery is developing, I am proud of you for standing up for her. She is bold, that woman, my Namictli. She is supposed to act submissive towards men, but when someone argues against her, she can't stay quiet. That's why I love her because she will fight for herself. Everything has to go her way." He kissed the top of my head. "Tlazocamati, for being her light while I'm away. One day, we all may travel together."
"Maybe that day will be one where all the violence ends?" I remarked.
"Possibly, yes. Let our hopes be high, and pray to the gods that one day, we will all go on a nonviolent journey..."
Chapter 3: Huitzilli
When I wasn't working on the maize fields with my mother, preparing meals, or weaving clothes, I worked part-time in the family business. Started by my mother, our business was based on original Aztec craft and wardrobe. We'd work from home as well, where we would weave clothes for our family and sell extras within our store. Since we were nobles, our prices were quite high. However, we always had other Aztec nobles coming in and our business was typically booming.
I was fifteen years old, meaning that I would have to get married soon. I didn't think about marriage that much since I was occupied with my younger brother and chores. I don't feel ready to be a wife yet. Not to mention, the process of marriage was quite complex.
First, an Aztec male would go to the council with a request to marry a particular Aztec woman. The father of the wife-to-be would be unaware of this request for quite some time. Next, an elder, particularly a woman, would have to establish courtship between the couple and test their compatibility. Finally, the father would be contacted and he would have to approve as well. It was a regulation that we had to marry within the same clan.
Oftenly, I didn't come in contact with Aztec men my age. Most of them were away with their fathers, so I never got the opportunity to meet any members within the Tlatilpa clan. Likewise, the men were as occupied as I was.
The door opened, a short Indian woman walking inside accompanied by a tall male. The garb was far different than the typical Aztec attire, clothed in what seemed to be armor. The breastplate was made of fine silvers and shun brightly. The sleeves and trousers seemed to be padded with overbright color amalgamations and long-legged leather boots. The helmet on top of his head was oddly shaped, decorated with plumes. The weapons were different too, wielding a shield, halberd, and blade. This man definitely was not an Aztec. What was he here for? Why was he here? Unlike my mother, I had no experience with weapons at all. I couldn't defend myself if I tried, and there weren't even weapons in the store. Perhaps, he didn't pose a threat since an Indian woman accompanied him.
"Niltze... Tinahuatlahtoa? I spoke, which translated to 'welcome, do you speak Nahuatl?'
"Bienvenidos, tú hablas en Náhuatl" The Indian woman spoke in a language I did not understand. It made me assume that she was a translator for the man beside her.
"Hola, yo no hablo en Nahuatl. Me llamo es Román de la Cavallería, y yo soy de España. Vengo aquí por la paz y para conocer a los Indios. Mujer… es muy hermosa..."
"The man says hello, and that his name is Román de la Cavallería. He is from Spain and comes to make an alliance with the Indians. He also thinks you are beautiful, but I don't think he wanted you to know that."
I didn't know how to react. Where is this Spain? Either way, his skin was light and glowing, looking much like a person of the Quetzalcoatl tribe. The Aztecs honored people of that clan, but from what I knew so far, he was not an Indian. I was in no place to make an alliance with this stranger. If anything, this was a situation my father would have to deal with. I didn't bother to keep my eyes on him, now that his image was fully in my mind. I stood up, keeping my distance. "Tell him I said thank you for the compliment. Also, I am not the leader of my branch of Aztec. If he wishes to form an alliance, he should meet my father. He doesn't come home until the evening. So... I guess he could stay with me until then..."
"La mujer dijo ‘gracias’ por el cumplido que le diste. También, ella no es la líder de su tribu Azteca, su padre lo es. Si quieres formar una alianza con el Tlatilpa, deberías conocer a su padre. Él no regresa a casa hasta la noche."
"Vale, eso está bien. Me encantaría pasar el día con este hermosa india."
"He said he would love to spend the rest of the day with a beautiful woman. I guess I will have to stay here with you two since Roman doesn't know Nahuatl and you don't know Spanish. While we wait for the sun to set, I can teach you both some basics of each other's language and culture."
Luckily, I wouldn't be alone with this man. I didn't know the Indian woman with him, but she made the situation slightly more comfortable. "Can you ask him if he could take off his helmet?" I asked the translator.
"La mujer amablemente te pide que tu quites el yelmo, Román."
Román removed his helmet, holding it in his arms. He looked over at me for a moment with a kind smile. Then, he faced the translator. "Yo quiero saber su nombre. También, yo quiero un tour de Tenochtitlan."
"He wants to know your name and desires for you to show him around the capital."
I sighed, looking off to the side. I would have to close the shop early to give this stranger a tour. I still didn't know him well, or if he would do anything to me if I were to deny it. I was silent before finally agreeing to the terms. "Huitzilli is my name. I will show you around the capital until my father returns home."
After the translator informed him, we all walked out of my store. I gave the average Aztec tour, showing the temples, buildings, and shops. Every now and then we would stop, Román would ask questions, and the interpreter would tell me in Nahuatl so I could answer. He seemed to be entertained by our language and culture and even picked up a few words.
"Yectli..." He muttered with flustered cheeks. This meant beautiful. "You... you're beautiful..."
I turned my head to face the linguist, wanting to get the proper Spanish word for 'thank you.' "Gracias..." Perhaps, the Spanish people weren't that bad, and that them and the Aztecs can live in peace if there were more to come to the capital.
Remember when I said I never considered the idea of marriage? Now I met a male my age, young and heroic, willing to form an alliance with the Aztec people. Perhaps it was finally time to take marriage into consideration.