A novel exploring the injustices of Native and African Americans in history.
| Chapter 4: Cuetlachtli
The Maquahuitl was the blade I weld during my journeys, the most commonly used weapon of the Aztec warrior. The sword was made of wood, typically from oak, and was known as a powerful and close-contact weapon. The user had the decision on whether or not they wanted their sword to be designed as a one-handed or two-handed. Mine was two-handed, meaning it was wider and as tall as I was.
My son, brothers, and I conquered smaller territories surrounding the capital, killing anyone that would get in our way or seemed to be worthy of sacrifice. The Aztecs owned most of the land within Mexico due to our expanding empire. We held a ritual of dance and song over the remnants of corpses before cleaning the blood off our own bodies and clothes in a nearby river.
"Father, the sun is setting," My oldest son informed me. "We are going to be later than usual."
"I know..." I replied, staring down at the necklace my wife made for me. Wearing it around my neck made me feel close to my wife, even if I was so far away. It was made with fine materials such as gold, silver, obsidian, and amethyst. I got out of the river, putting my garments back on after rinsing and draining them.
There was a sound within the heavy winds and swaying trees, a thunderous one. "Tahtli!" My son attacked me, pushing me down to the ground. He was protecting me from something we've never seen before. I picked up the small object on the ground, observing it. It came from a weapon that didn't exist in our world. "What the hell is this-" That sound played on repeat in our minds, striking our ears. A scream of agony followed along with the dropping of a body. An Aztec body, one of my older brother's. "Centenya!"
There was finally a clear image of the men attacking us. They were not Indians, which was clearly presented with the armor they wore and the color of their skin. They couldn't have been of the Quetzalcoatl tribe, in which we honored. They wouldn't have been attacking us if that was the case.
"Do your father a favor," There were only a few of these men that infiltrated our land and may have just killed my brother. "Get my brother back to the capital quickly. Cuetzpalli and I will take care of them..."
Cuetlachitli II bent down towards his uncle, lifting him up over his shoulder. I could easily tell, within his eyes, that he didn't want to leave me here with these unknown men and their weapons. "Fine, but you better come home to us."
Cuetzpalli and I served as a distraction in order to reassure my son's departure. There were other Aztecs that were terrified over the sounds of this new weapon, but their bravery rose above it. The neighboring Aztecs joined my brother and me in a battle against the three. Since we prevailed in numbers, we were able to kill the soldiers standing within our path. I, specifically, tormented their corpses even if they were already dead. They hurt my brother, and I wasn't going to let that pass. Again, we sacrificed the body parts of these men to the gods, who smiled upon us after our victory.
We returned home later than usual that night when the stars filled the night sky. When I stepped into my home, nobody seemed to be asleep. Even my youngest was up, bringing a concern to me. "How is he? My brother..."
Atlacoya stepped closer to me, her hands reaching up to cup my face. Her eyes were watery, causing my heart to drop into my stomach. At that moment I could already predict the fate of my brother. "You had no idea how worried I was..." She started. "I'm sorry, Cuetlachtli..." She moved her hand behind my head, pushing it down to rest her forehead against mine.
During our hour of mourning, the door opened unexpectedly. I was so occupied that I didn't notice that my daughter wasn't home. I didn't know whether to discipline her or not or bother asking where she was at this hour. A male followed her inside, one that was dressed similarly to the men I've encountered earlier. My wife held me back with her arms. If she didn't, I would definitely have killed the man that just stepped into my house.
"Lo siento, Román. Mi padre es muy sobreprotector," My daughter spoke in a whisper. She wasn't speaking Nahuatl, so what language was she speaking? And, how could she learn it in just a day?
"Huitzilli, stop talking in that language. Listen to me, please." I started. "Your uncle was just killed by a man wearing the same armor. I don't want you near this guy." I took her by the arm, pulling my daughter away from the male. "Get out of my house!"
"Dad, Román isn't anything like those Spanish men that attacked you and my uncle! He is generous, and I'm sure he doesn't want to hurt any of us!"
"¿Puedes decirle al padre de mi mujer que no ordené a mis hombres que atacaran a los Indios? También, dígale que me disculpo por la pérdida de su hermano, y quiero hacer una alianza. Y… finalmente, yo deseo casarme con su hija…"
"He doesn't speak in Nahuatl, Cuetlachtli. He is from Spain, and the men you encountered earlier are from there too. He was unaware that his men attacked you and guarantees that it won't happen again. He apologizes that you lost your brother. In return, he wants to form an alliance, and wed your daughter."
"There is no way I'm letting him have my daughter...Tell him to wed someone else. How could I be certain that he wants to form a permanent alliance with us?"
"I'll give you a full supply of weapons, the ones my men had before. They're called guns, and you don't have to fight a close combat battle. It's better than using those swords..." Román mumbled. "I'll also exchange animals, such as horses. It will make travel and conquering lands much easier.
"You... do speak Nahuatl almost fluently..." My daughter observed.
"There were men before me that told me of the language. I decided to learn some of it before coming here. Spending time with you enhanced my ability to speak in a second language quite nicely." The Spanish man boasted. "So, what do you say? Will you allow me to marry my daughter?"
I was on the fence. My instinct told me not to trust this outsider coming from another world. His voice seemed as humble as the Quetzalcoatl people, along with the color of his skin. Not to mention, what the Aztec people would get in return was tempting. How would he treat my daughter? Should I consider this idea from a father's perspective or a clan leader perspective? I sighed, scratching the back of my head. "I will need a few days to take the offer into consideration. I would appreciate it if you could wait patiently until I make my decision."
"Anything for you, future father-in-law," Román spoke confidently before turning around to face my daughter. "I'll see you tomorrow, then?" He asked before kissing the top of her head.
"Yes, at the shop then," Huitzilli smiled.
I sighed loudly once the Spanish man left. I gazed at my daughter before sitting down on the floor. "This is all too much for me to deal with right now..." I said with a frown, rubbing my temples. "Cihuaconetl, you could do so much better. Why fall for a man like him? He isn't even Indian."
"I can't choose who I fall in love with, father. It just happened. I never considered marriage until now, and I'm sure Román will do good for both the Aztecs and Spaniards. I'm sorry about the situation with Uncle, but I'm sure we will be provided greatly with him on our side." She bowed her head. "Goodnight, father. I love you, sleep well,"
When all of our children fell asleep that night, Atlacoya moved her hands to my shoulders. She attempted to remove the overwhelming tension I was feeling, leaning in to kiss my cheek. "I'm sorry that you have all of this stress to deal with..." She whispered. "Tomorrow, we could give your brother a proper burial and talk about our options together."
"Thank you, Atlacoya. For being my beautiful, strong wife..." I whispered to her. "Let's go to bed."
Chapter 5: Román
"We've contacted more Spanish conquistadors back home. There should be a greater army in just a few days. Then, we can fully take over the Aztecs." Ernesto, my twin brother informed me. "What do you plan on doing with the Aztec girl, hmm?"
"It's obvious, brother," I started with a smirk. "I'm still going to wed her. She is beautiful, and I do love her. But... she is still just a mere Indian. I can use her for whatever I want, I am superior in our relationship. Now that she fell in love with me, she won't step away. She will be my slave, and amongst us, many enslaved Indian children."
"And the rest of her family? What do you intend to do about her brothers and parents?"
"That is quite simple as well..." I chuckled. "You see, her father is responsible for killing a number of people. Since he is indecisive about what he wants, I'll eradicate him beforehand. Then, it is a guarantee to marry her. Besides, imagine the torment I will cause the family, especially Atlacoya. She will be mourning her husband's death and she will be too distracted to deal with her daughter. Then, I will send Atlacoya to an encomendero and make her a slave, while her daughter will be living a 'happy life' with me. As for my future bride's brothers, I'm not sure yet. I either kill them or make them slaves. Separating the family will be the greatest pain they face, selling them into slavery, and beating them will just add on to the fun."
"Will you sell Atlacoya to me, hermano?"
"Depends, do you deserve her?" I questioned. "How about this? Huitzilli has one more uncle on her father's side. His name is Cuetzpalli. Murder him, and then I will reward you with not just Atlacoya, but the wife and children of the eldest Tlatilpa. How does that sound?"
"Perfect. With Moctezuma's fall, it will be easier to obliterate the smaller tribes within the Aztec. Without clan leaders, they will fall weak. What should I do with Cuetzpalli's body, anyway?"
"Truly, you cannot be a Spanish conquistador if you ask me how to do everything..." I commented with a sigh. "Do whatever you want, I suppose. Send his head back to his family? Dispose of it completely? Or, even better, burn him. You can set him to flames while he is alive, experiencing torment. If that is not your method, then burn his corpse after you shoot him down."
" Or, all of the above! Shoot him down, sever his head, send it to his family, then burn the other parts of his body. Oh, brother. You are so wise." Ernesto searched through our finest weapons, picking out multiple defensive and offensive arms. A lance was strapped to his back on a sheath along with a shield. He held the gun in his hands, already prepared for the mission attire-wise. "I will meet with you later. May the one with the most deaths and slaves win."
"That is if you can strategize. Don't get yourself killed out there, Ernesto. We may look down upon them as inferiors, but they are barbaric animals. Don't act stupid, there must be a plan for everything."
Once my brother took his leave, I took the opportunity to prepare as well. It's only been a day since I attempted a negotiation with Cuetlachtli. He was most likely grieving the loss of his brother and focusing on his burial. However, he didn't seem like the man who would just stop conquering land just because he lost his brother. Which meant, he and his older brother may be together at this very moment.
Huitzilli was clearly unaware of my plans. I could easily get her father's current location out of her. I wouldn't have to flirt either, she is a woman easy to manipulate. I hid most of my weapons within my armor before mounting on my horse and riding to the Tlatilpa clothes and craft shop. Once I arrived, I hopped off and entered the building. "Mi amor," I called out to her.
"Román!" The Indian girl proclaimed, rushing over to me in an instant. She wrapped her arms around my neck, despite all the heavy plating in the way. "Are you going somewhere?"
"Yes, actually..." I smirked. "Do you have any idea where your father is right now? You see, I want to make an unexpected appearance and help him during his adventures. Then, he will be able to trust me more. What do you think?"
"That's a great idea! I'm sure he will appreciate your assistance. He may not want it at first, but once he recognizes your worthiness, he definitely will give in." Huitzilli leaned in to kiss his cheek. "Good luck on your mission, I wish you well. My father traveled to Tlaxcala, a city just east of Tenochtitlan. The Tlaxcaltecas are our greatest rivals and he wishes to conquer the land and call it his own."
"Gracias, mi amor. Siempre puedo confiar a ti." I kissed the top of her head before stepping away from her. "I'll see you later, alright?" I walked out of the shop, returning to my horse, and getting on.
I traveled eastward and arrived in the land of the Tlaxcaltecas to see a body. As I ordered my brother, he successfully accomplished the slaying of the oldest Tlatilpa brother. I hid in the shadows, letting my brother take his leave before I made myself present. I got off my horse, watching Cuetlachtli mourn the death of his older brother. Before I could even approach him, he turned his head to look back at me.
"That man looked a lot like you... the one who killed my brother..." The Aztec remarked in a dark tone. He stood up onto his feet, letting the corpse of his older brother lay on the ground. "You don't want any alliance with us. You came here to kill us all... you cold-blooded monsters!"
"So, you figured out the Spanish motive, huh? Since you are about to die in a few minutes, I'll let you in on all of my little secrets. Us Spanish conquistadors decided to come here for riches and land. But you see... these Indians seemed to be in the way..." A chuckle emitted from my mouth. "So, I decided to pretend to form an alliance with you in order to get the girl, your very own daughter. Whether she likes me or not after this, she will still be my wife? Want to know why?" I finally pulled my weapons out from underneath my armor so they were presentable. "The conquistadors are enslaving Aztecs by the seconds. We are oppressing the Indians, they will work under us for all of eternity. So... your pretty daughter, su hija hermosa, she is my slave. I'm selling your wife and two sons too. You should be lucky I'm not killing off the males, especially your eldest. I was told he was a prodigy, a warrior as grand as you-"
At that moment, Cuetlachtli swung his sword towards my neck. The blade wasn't strong enough to slice through the layers of armor covering my skin. It was amusing, watching his attempts for some time.
"How dare you manipulate my daughter! Don't you dare touch my children or my wife! I will kill you after you disrespected-!" There was a gunshot, one that I aimed lowly so he could hardly notice. He fell onto his knees once the bullet infiltrated his abdomen. I stepped back for a moment, watching as a pool of blood surrounded his body. His glare was admirable, one out of pure hatred. "Nocenyeliz..." He mumbled under his breath, which translated to 'my family.' "Atlacoya, Nimitztlazohtla. cemiac...Tell the kids.. I'm proud of all of them, both their strengths and weaknesses as individuals..."
"Rest in peace, Cuetlachtli, a former Aztec prodigy. Join your brothers, and allow me to end your suffering quite easily." I momentarily placed the gun down just to grab the sword I brought. When the Indian was laid on his stomach agonizing over the wound, I placed my foot onto his upper back. I beheaded him with the sword of mine, separating his head from the remainder of his body. I debated whether the head should be a housewarming gift, or if it should just rot and disintegrate with the rest of his body.
"Hermano," Ernesto called out to me, his horse and carriage following after him. "Allow me to handle the bodies. When we return to Tenochtitlan, we will set them before flames in front of their loved ones. Even if they're dead, their torment must go on."
"I thought you left, I guess not Well done on your work. I am successful as well." I picked up the Indian men's bodies one by one, placing them in the carriage. "I will return to the capital soon to greet my wife. As of now, I am traveling around to slaughter more Indians. No worries, I will have a backup in case you are concerned for my life."
"I'm not really." He chuckled. "I will see you in a few days, brother. Your secret will be kept from Huitzilli until you tell her yourself. You have my word."
That night I cleaned my armor and leather boots within a nearby river. Once the dirt and blood were off they seemed polished and as good as new. The scent of the great hunt was momentarily off of me but will follow around me as the extermination of Indians continues.
Huitzilli, my dear wife, I can't wait to see you when I return to the capital.
Chapter 6: Atlacoya
A few days passed without the return of my husband. My oldest son didn’t accompany him during his most previous adventure; I felt that had something to do with the death of Centenya. Perhaps, he was too worried to lose another life so dear to him, so he demanded our son to stay home for now on. However, Cuetlachtli II loved nothing more than traveling. It would have to take more than a few words for him to stop what he was passionate about. It was perplexing. After my husband’s disappearance, our son never went after him. He seemed to be under some strict house arrest. Not to mention, Teoxitaca, my sister-in-law, reported that Cuetzpalli also did not return.
So, where did our husbands go?
There was a knock on the door, and for a moment I was exhilarated. Then I remembered, why would Cuetlachtli knock on his own house door? He would step inside immediately. Certainly, this would be some sort of guest. A moment after the knock, there was a more violent approach. The entire door itself was kicked off its hinges. A man walked in, dressed head to toe in armor. His skin tone represented that of a Spaniard, having a similar facial appearance to that of Román. “Who the hell are you? What gives you the right to barge into my home like this?” Almost immediately, my youngest child jumped into my arms. In the quietest voice possible, I told him that I would protect him no matter what.
“If I were you, I wouldn’t talk to your encomendero like that…” The male mumbled. There was a metal object in his hand that dangled on the floor. I realized it was a chain that was long enough to extend to the outside of the house. There were two. He gave one a tug, a woman falling to the ground as a result. It was Teoxitaca. “You see? You Indians are nothing but our servants. Do you really think the Spanish would try and befriend you pitiful people? That is where you have made a mistake.” He tugged on the other chain, revealing Cuetlachtli II. When did he leave the house? Was it when I was working on the gardens in the backyard?
“Mom, get out of here now!” He ordered. “You can’t let him get to you and Ahuiliztli! Ernesto...” There was a pause. “He killed dad! Uncle Cuetzpalli too!”
My eyes widened, not wanting to believe him. I backed into the wall, shaking my head. I denied it, even though my son would never lie about such a serious topic. “He is the strongest Aztec warrior out there… there is no way he could have fallen in battle…”
“Do you want proof, Atlacoya?” Ernesto asked me, dropping the chains onto the floor. He was confident that my son and sister-in-law wouldn't be able to escape due to their restraints. He left the house for a moment and instantly returned. My heart dropped into my stomach at the sight. Tears immediately filled my eyes and rolled down the sides of my face once I saw what he was holding. The head of my very own husband. “You… monster!”
“P… papa?...” Ahuiliztli, beginning to cry as well. He buried his face within the crook of my neck.
“You’re the one who wanted proof. Your son is wrong, by the way…” Ernesto carelessly tossed my husband’s head onto the floor, reaching down to pick up the chains. “I was responsible for killing your brother-in-law, actually. You see… my brother was the one to actually slay your husband. I’m pretty sure you know him, Román de la Cavallería. I’m pretty sure he wants to wed your daughter actually…” He chuckled. “I was there to see it all. Your husband got all mad since, in the end, us Spanish are just here to manipulate and use you scum…He was ashamed that he even considered trusting us for a moment. The idea was slight and in the back of his head. He put up a decent fight, but our weapons are far more superior and took him down. He also had a message for you,” He started. “He seemed to mumble the Nahuatl words nimitztlazohtla and cemiac. I’m sure you know what those words mean. He wanted you to tell your pitiful children that he is proud of them. There is nothing to be proud of, though… a daughter who was easily manipulated, a son who failed the will of his father, and another son that is nothing but a weakling.”
I closed my eyes, holding my youngest child even closer to me. There was no way I would let this man any closer to him. For a moment, I completely disregarded the fact that Román was responsible for the murder of my husband. All I could think about was the fact that he was really gone. I wouldn’t wake up with him each morning or fall asleep by his side. I will never see him again. When Ernesto spoke those two Nahuatl words, it caused me to cry more. Often times before Cuetlachtli would depart, he would kiss my lips, then the top of my head, and say ‘Nimitztlazohtla, cemiac.’ This meant. ‘I love you, forever and always.’ I would respond by returning the kiss and repeating the same words before he would leave. Sometimes I would ask him to stay for an hour, just so I could spend more time with him. He would always remind me that his job as a clan leader would mean separation from our family from time to time. When our first child was just a toddler, he would promise me more children when he returns. Oftentimes I would fall victim to that tactic since I was obsessed with children.
And now, he is really gone…
“Cuetlachtli…” I sobbed, placing my little boy on the floor. I moved in closer to the head of my husband, leaning down to kiss his forehead. “Nimitztlazohtla, cemiac,” I whispered, taking the necklace from him. I wrapped it around my own neck. “Don’t worry about me… I will protect our children with my life. May you rest in peace…”
It was after I vowed to protect our children, that I realized Román was held accountable for murdering my husband. He still had intentions to marry my daughter, as Ernesto said previously. I have to warn her about the nature of the Spanish! The moment I was about to get up and rush out of my house, I was immediately pushed back onto the floor. The Spanish man hovered above me, using a third chain around my neck. It was attached to the chains that held my oldest son and sister-in-law captive. “You bastard!” I recognized my son had a chance to escape while Ernesto was too focused on restraining me. I turned my head to look at the small child. “Ahuiliztli, get out of here now!” I demanded.
This was the same child that stood up to me when an Indian man critiqued me for being a woman. Why would he run away from me now? I knew he wouldn’t want to run away, but he had to. He had to leave me, and Mexico if it meant he could live a normal, prosperous life. “I know it’s hard for you to do… but please! You have to go now!”
“No!” The boy shouted with teary eyes. His entire body was trembling in fear. He was still far too young to understand the risks this situation had. He looked over at the head of his father for a moment before his eyes were back on me. “I’m not leaving you, mama… we already lost daddy! I don’t plan to live the rest of my life without you…” He pounced on the Spanish man’s back, using his small fists to punch the back of his head. “Let my mother go!”
“Ahuiliztli, damn it! You’re smarter than this! Why would you try to worsen the situation!” Cuetlachtli II called out. “He still has so much to learn…” He mumbled.
“The stories about him were true after all. A big heart, but a rebellious one when the life of his mother is threatened. Interesting…” Ernesto picked him up by the collar of his shirt. Mercisscley, he threw the child to the wall. Once he finished hampering my mobilization by chaining my wrists and ankles, he strolled his way over to my son. “So disrespectful, I tell ya… You did a poor job raising him.” He picked my son up by the hair, punching him down to the floor. I could easily see through his plan; knock him out unconscious so he wouldn’t have to chase around the energetic child.
“Ahuiliztli! I cried out. I already failed my promise to protect our children. I couldn’t move with the chains around me. I was forced to watch him attach shackles to his body. Now that we were all chained, he dragged us all outside to his carriage. I wasn’t sure where he planned on bringing us, but hopefully, we could all stay together. Before Ernesto got on his horse, he took two bodies out from the back of the carriage. One was Cuetzpalli, and the other was the rest of my husband’s. Again, both melancholy and anger overwhelmed me.
But it was only going to get worse.
I wondered why he left my husband’s head behind in the house. Either way, both his body and Cuetzpalli’s were laid on the ground. There was a flash of a red-orange color, spreading rapidly throughout the ground. My eyes widened when I realized the flames, screaming. Even if my husband was already dead, I couldn’t bear with the fact that his body was still being tormented. Neither could Xeoxitaca, who was also witnessing the burning of her husband’s corpse. “Stop!”
“Don’t look, mom…” Cuetlachtli II advised, looking off to the side when he spoke to me. “Witnessing it will just bring greater pain to you…” He mumbled. “One day, we will all escape. As of now, we need to strategize.” He whispered to me.
“How? Huitzilli is out there and she is in danger...how could I protect her from Román? He could kill her!”
“There is nothing we can do as slaves… Trust me, I want to save her. I want her here with us so her safety is reassured. But we can’t do that when we can hardly move…I’m sorry, mother. We just have to hope that she will be alright…”
And what if hope wasn’t enough? Huitzilli was imperiled. Would she be able to fight for herself? Aztec gods, please, hear my plea. Take care of my husband in the sky, and protect my daughter until I can reach her…