Tenochititlan! The ruling City of the Aztecs. City of Moctezuma; mightiest of all the Kings.
Tenochtitlan! The dazzling white City of massive stepped pyramid temples, and giant palaces, shimmered above the waves, on the man made Island of Mexico, in the midst of the waters of mighty Lake Texcoco. A natural fortress of jagged mountain ranges, stood between the Lake and the lands of their enemies, to the east, west and south.
Above the mountains to the east, the highest was the snowcapped triangular peak of Popacatepetl, the Smoking Mountain, which stood glistening under the mid-day sun. To its south, the snowcapped crest of Mount Ixtacicoatl also glimmered in the tropic sunlight.
The mountains had been no barrier to the mighty men who called themselves Spaniards. They had come from beyond the endless water, where the sun was born every morning. They had built a settlement along the shore, which they named Vera Cruz. Then under the command of their mighty Lord Cortez, 600 of them had moved inland, defeating many armies of much greater numbers that had been sent against them. They had conquered many kings, and brought down the temples of their gods. They had massacred 3,000 unarmed men in Cholula.
Then they had headed straight toward Tenochititlan. King Moctezuma had sent out an Aztec Army, led by the betrothed of Princess Anyanctla.
Princess Anyanctla had stood upon a balcony of the King's Palace, with a half dozen other handmaidens of the King, watching the Army march out of the City, along the causeway to the east. The handmaidens were all in their mid to late teens; lively and cheerful; wearing simply embroidered short skirts, with daggers in their belts.
"Princess." A maiden named Miltlana had said, "This is a great opportunity for your betrothed."
"Indeed," the Princess spoke proudly. "When he returns in victory, he will surely be chosen as Lord of all Aztec War Chiefs. We are planning to wed, right after the Harvest Celebration."
Miltlana told her, "That's providing that you are not the one who will be sacrificed at our Initiation."
Anyanctla joked. "That would take the heart out of it indeed."
The other maidens laughed.
One maiden named Honatl spoke with a naughty tone in her voice. "And you'd never know how adept your Warrior is, at the use of his other spear."
The Princess laughed along with the other Maidens.
A third Maiden joined in. "But if you are sacrificed, marriages are not arranged in Paradise. There you would marry someone you love."
The Princess had then stopped laughing. "You shouldn't say things like that."
For the next two days, everyone in Tenochtitlan had waited for word of the battle. Then they were told. The Aztec Army had been defeated by the Spaniards. The betrothed of Princess Anyanctla had been killed.
We are a warrior people. She thought, This is part of war. She remembered Honatl's naughty joke. Now I never will know how adept he was with his other spear. I can not laugh about that now.
The Spaniards had come into the Valley of Mexico, approached the City along the causeway from the south, and were welcomed into Tenochtitlan by Emperor Moctezuma himself. They were now quartered in the Palace of King Moctezuma's father.
Today Moctezuma was seated upon his Throne, waited upon by all his attendants and guards. Princess Anyanctla, Ladies Miltlana and Honatl were among his dozen handmaidens.
The Handmaidens wore elaborate garments, with bejeweled daggers hanging at their sides. They looked prepared to kill, as they moved about the throne, with a natural grace and dignity, adding their deadly beauty to the Regal Presence.
A Page entered the Throne Room. He approached the Throne, and made obeisance to the Emperor.
"Oh Mighty King! Lord Moctezuma" he declared, "The Spaniards have entered the Palace armed."
Everyone in the Throne Room jumped to attention.
The Page raised his arm in a calming gesture. "There are only eight of them your majesty."
The noblemen and women quieted down, but remained tense.
The Page continued. "Their Chieftain Lord Cortez is angry and demands an audience."
"Angry?' His Lord, the Emperor Moctezuma spoke calmly. "He 'demands' an audience?"
There were murmurs of outrage among the nobles.
One Lord spoke. "Pardon your Majesty; but how much of their arrogant insolence, must we Aztecs continue to endure?"
The murmuring increased.
The Emperor said, "The Spaniards are my guests, and are to continue to receive full hospitality, until I decide to have them sacrificed."
Now Lord Cortez entered the Throne Room unceremoniously, accompanied by six Spanish Officers, and a native woman Translator. They walked up to the Throne, with their hands upon their sheathed weapons. Then they halted in front of the throne. Only the Translator bowed in obeisance.
Moctezuma spoke calmly. "My Lord Cortez. Would you presume to approach your own Sovereign Carlos, who sits enthroned across the Great Water, in such an arrogant manner?"
The Translator repeated Moctezuma's words in Spanish.
Cortez spoke in Spanish, and the Translator repeated his words in the Aztec language.
Cortez said, "Your Majesty. I have received word that some of my men were attacked and killed near our settlement of Vera Cruz. Those we captured said that the attack was ordered by you."
The Emperor said, "That sounds like the slander of a desperate coward. I promise to have this incident thoroughly investigated, and everyone who has done this evil thing will be punished."
The Spanish Commander asked, "Does that mean you shall punish yourself, King Moctezuma?"
There was a gasp of shock. The Aztecs all looked highly offended.
Moctezuma tried to remain calm. "If one of my subjects said such an insolent thing, he would die by the garrote; but you are my guest. Do not presume that my patience is endless. As an ordinary man, I would ignore such conduct; but as a King I cannot."
Cortez spoke sharply. "Ahora! Pronto!"
The Spaniards encircled the Throne. Only Moctezuma and the Handmaids were inside the circle.
Cortez told him, "Your Majesty. You are going to have to come with us."
Moctezuma and all the Aztecs looked amazed.
He said, "When was it ever heard, that a great Prince like myself, left his own Palace voluntarily, to become a prisoner in the hands of strangers?"
Cortez told him, "I assure you, your Majesty. You will not be treated as a prisoner. You will be surrounded by your own household, and deal with your subjects the same as always."
"Even if I should consent to such degradation my subjects never would."
The Spanish Commander repeated, "Your Majesty. You are going to have to come with us."
Moctezuma looked around at everyone in the Throne Room. They were waiting for him to order that the Spaniards be massacred, here and now, at the foot of Royal Throne.
He said, "If you think you need a hostage, I will give you one of my sons or daughters, and spare us this disgrace."
Cortez shook his head.
"If not, I will give you all of my Handmaidens."
Cortez snorted in disgust.
"Do not laugh. They are all Princesses or Noblewomen. They are all daughters of very powerful families, who would be unforgiving if I allowed any harm to come to them."
Now a Spaniard spoke angrily, with a high pitched voice, while he pointed at the King.
Moctezuma was frightened by the sound of the soldier's voice.
He asked the Translator, "What did that man just say."
The woman trembled. "My Father, it would be better if you go with them now. Your life is in danger."
Around the Throne, the Aztec Guards began to move, behind the seven Spanish Soldiers and woman Translator.
The woman trembled even more. "Have mercy on me my Father. I am only a translator."
Princess Anyanctla and the other Handmaids moved. Each Handmaid stood between a Spaniard and Moctezuma.
Anyanctla spoke to the other Handmaids. "When they draw their weapons, grab them. Force them to kill you. Give the guards enough time to get to them, before they can reach the King."
The Handmaids Miltlana and Honatl exchanged troubled looks, with the men to whom they were betrothed. They were among the Guards, who were cautiously advancing.
The Handmaids placed their hands on their dagger handles.
The Spaniards gripped their weapons tight.
Princess Anyanctla watched the Captain of the Guard, who was about to give her a signal.
Then King Moctezuma stood.
The Spaniards began to draw their weapons; so did the Handmaids.
King Moctezuma addressed everyone assembled. "I will be visiting with my friend Lord Cortez for a time! You will all attend me there"
All the Aztecs in the Throne Room looked confused, as King Moctezuma got down from his Throne and walked up to Cortez. The Spaniards all stood around Moctezuma at a respectful distance.
Then King Moctezuma, Lord of All the Aztec Armies, stepped away from his Throne, with Cortez and the Translator at his side, and the half dozen Spaniards surrounding them. The King and his armed, threatening guests stepped out of the Throne Room together, followed by all his Aztec Guards and Attendants.
That day outside the Palace, the citizens of Tenochtitlan observed a Royal Procession coming through the gate. Moctezuma was seated upon a pallet, carried by slaves; and surrounded by Cortez and his Spaniards on horses; Palace Guards, who were followed by Palace Attendants, including the Princess Anyanctla and the other Handmaids, followed them.
The Procession moved in a stately manner, out through the Palace Gate, and out across the Temple Complex. Companies of Aztec Warriors were assembled in the Complex, ready to fight.
Moctezuma shook his head at all the Company Commanders. The Warriors lowered their spears in amazement.
The Princess Anyanctla was furious. She gripped her dagger handle.
"No Princess." Handmaid Miltlana told her "He's going with them, to keep us alive"
The Princess let go of her dagger handle. She said, "The King loves us too much"The Procession continued on without incident, in the direction of another Palace, which was strongly guarded by Spanish Soldiers, who were manning canons, and holding firearms