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1

Late Summer 1516

I

had challenged Talon to the ballgame because my daughter Dew had been his slave as long as she knew how to walk.

At that time, I wasn’t yet the military leader of Tlaxcala, our small nation still unconquered by the Mexica, but I was already entrusted with an army of eight thousand warriors. Talon, himself a commander of a large Mexica garrison at our border, seemed delighted to test his strength against such an enemy as I.

We believed the ballgames foretold the outcome of wars, and our war with the Mexica was about to resume after the harvest celebrations. They had invited us to their festival under the pretext of praying together for a good crop. But we knew they really wanted us to witness the sacrifice of our warriors captured in the last war season. We knew they wanted us to understand the futility of our resistance and to lose our will to fight. The enemy’s lavish display of power didn’t disturb us, however. We only came to get my daughter back. The ballgames were a usual part of the festival, and it was common for prominent warriors to challenge one another over matters of honor or in a statement of strength. Winning a game was a legitimate way to reclaim Dew. Another good way was to conquer their city; but who could conquer the city of Cactus Rock, theMexica’s oversized nest that had become the foundation of heaven?

Talon and I faced each other across a ball court, with the bulk of their Great Pyramid blocking the sky on our left. The court was

P R O L O G U E

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