Tlatoani Picture

TLATOANI - from the nahuatl "speaker", a title used by the rulers of the Mexica Excan Tlahtoloyan (Mexica Triple Confederation or Mexica Triple Alliance, a.k.a the ruling corpus, government or state of the 14th Century altepetl - city-states of Tenochtitlán, Texcoco & Tlacopan, in the Valley of Mexico, the heart of the Mexica "Aztec" Civilization). For short, "Aztec rulers" - want to know why I often refer to the pre-hispanic civilization as Mexica rather than Aztec? read this.

Digital painting, shading & editing over this sketch

I developed this series of concept arts & characters for my personal project, AZTLÁN, an original, multi-layered story that starts in Aztlán, a Mexica/Aztec cosmology inspired fantasy realm, and loosely follows the traditional Legend of the Five Suns, as it reaches the 16th Century Mexico, during its latest installment, Nahui Ollin ("Movement of the Sun", refers to the Fifth Sun Era according to the Mexica, which is the era of the Mexica and is still our own).
The story of AZTLÁN begins around the first Sun Era, with chapters set around the 50th-40th Centuries b.C, telling about the foundation of the ancient plan of Aztlán, and follows into the second sun era (30th-10th Centuries b.C), a time when Gods and Goddesses competed, and "Anahuac" (earth) was colonized by some natives of Aztlán, humans and inhumans (including the Cuetzpalin - from the nahuatl "lizard", the name of a race of reptile humanoids that play a major role in the story, and that used to live alongside humans until the spanish colonization. These guys featured here are Cuetzpalin themselves, though they can also shift to human forms) alike. The third and fourth sun eras take place on pre-hispanic Anahuac, respectively the classic Mayan era and the rise & fall of the Toltecs. The Fifth Sun Era accounts the foundation of Mexico/Tenochtitlán by the Mexica (mistakenly referred by many as "Aztecs"), and these characters in particular are loosely inspired on the eponymous Tlatoani of Mexico during the arrival of the spanish assailants - but as you can tell by their "Cuetzpalin" forms, it's in no means supposed to be historically veracious, nor to present a biased vision of historical facts. As an enthusiast of pre-hispanic cultural studies and anthopology from an early age, I encourage the study and preservation of the pre-hispanic Mexican culture, as well as that of several other pre-hispanic cultures in the continent, that still resist up to this day against threats such as colonization and systematic persecution.

AZTLÁN introduces the past of an universe I've been creating (writing) for some years now, and is thus part of a larger story, which I currently call the IN LAK'ECH Mythos, and I plan to introduce as a series of comic book stories & graphic novels. As I lack major resources, this will likely be an independent comic and will take a while to be done.

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If you're interested on the background of these characters, read the following, but be warned that several SPOILERS of IN LAK'ECH follow as well:

The Cuetzpalin

In the In Lak'Ech Mythos, the Cuetzpalin are an ancient race of reptiles that originated in Aztlán, and were reputedly created by Huitzilopochtli after the realm of Aztlán has been created from the capture of Cipactli. The Cuetzpalin have lived among the peoples of Aztlán, including the rabbit-like Centzontotochtin, for some time the vampiric cihuateteoh, the deadly ahuitzotl, the snake-like cihuacoatl and even the undead Micteca, as well as the humans that populated several of Aztlán's villages & city-states. The lifespan of a Cuetzpalin is considerably bigger than that of a human, and in life an individual undergoes several transformations - after hatching from an egg as a serpent-like Tonalcoatl (from the nahuatl "tona" - meaning either time or heat and "coatl" meaning serpent), a young Cuetzpalin soon grows paws and become a bipedal lizard. In a more advanced age, a Cuetzpalin grows a tail (that can be cut, and if so, will regenerate weeks or months after), and later, even wings and feathers.
Most of the Cuetzpalin reach up to two or three hundred years, but they can extend their lifespans even beyond that, as in the end of their lives - or by suffering fatal injuries - they return to the state of Tonalcoatl (that's like a special gland that acts as a second brain, and can be ejected, retaining one's consciousness, memories and a compact nervous system), and can live as these small parasite-like snakes for some decades - or even more! If one of them finds a reliable source of Teyoliatl (a portmanteau of the nahuatl words "teyolia" - a vital energy or human consciousness associated to the heart in the pre-hispanic Mexica cosmology - and "atl" - water, Teyoliatl is a greenish vital liquid found on several caves of Aztlán and in large quantities on some lakes and rivers of Anahuac before the colonization process. This liquid restores a Cuetzpalin's energy, and is also used to bathe their weapons, as its properties can cut through unnatural enemies such as the shadowy centzonmimixcoa), they can live in that source, such as a lake, for centuries, until they find a new ixiptla (from the nahuatl "impersonator". In the In Lak'Ech Mythos, ixiptla are whatever hosts a Cuetzpalin's Tonalcoatl can take: most of them have been humans, but other vertebrates can equally become a Cuetzpalin's ixiptla).
During its first years, a Tonalcoatl lives symbiotically with the ixiptla, this symbiosis grant the ixiptla the ability to transform its own body into a Cuetzpalin (the transformation can be more or less succesful depending of the vertebrate's compatibility, but whatever likeness it becomes, it never fully matches the Tonalcoatl's previous Cuetzpalin form) and the Tonalcoatl can even telepathically communicate with it, but the ixiptla always remains in control - unless it's fatally injured and the ixiptla chooses to remain as a cuetzpalin instead of its original form. If the ixiptla continues to use the power of transforming into a Cuetzpalin for the next years, it will eventually not only be unable to return to its original form, but will also lose control of its body to the Tonalcoatl. It won't necessarily kill the ixiptla, but rather put it in a state of coma while the Cuetzpalin possesses it for the rest of its life - or until the Tonalcoatl may be removed, and if the ixiptla's body is still fit to function after such a removal (the Tonalcoatl always parasites a vertebrate in a region near its brain).
During the time when a Tonalcoatl takes over an ixiptla, it can still transform itself back to the ixiptla's original form, in this case being able to take over more than one's identity, but also its life, its place in society, steal its family and so on. Most Cuetzpalin that use this "technique" have deceived their ixiptla in their first years, claiming the power to become a Cuetzpalin is a gift or that their relation is symbiotic, while in the end it's actually parasitic. That deceit, of course, is only employed when the victim isn't chosen to suffer its "transition" through socially accepted ritual means. A Cuetzpalin can also lie to its host about its own identity or even live as a parasite without even bothering to telepathically communicate with its host, or never revealing its identity and past deeds.

The institutionalized Sacrifice
For generations, both in Aztlán and Anahuac (the Earth), the Cuetzpalin have used such a parasitical ability to take advantage of humans in social organization, their likeness even granted some the status of Teteoh ("gods", or rather "that which can't be explained"). Sacrificial victims were chosen by the Cuetzpalin to be their next hosts, and in some cases that was considered an honor. Several Tlatoani were themselves Cuetzpalin - some few were born as humans and had become hosts to other Cuetzpalin sometime in their lives. Especially from the second to third Sun Eras, this kind of sacrifice was common among the Aztec and Anahuac civilizations, however since the time of the Toltecs several Cuetzpalin have chosen to abstain from using other individuals as ixiptla, stealing their lives, honors and deeds. Some say this altruist abstence was first promoted by one called Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, a Toltec ruler. The legislation concerning the possession of ixiptla varied from city-state to city-state, as well from time to time. In the fifth Sun Era, following the defeat of Azcapotzalco by the Mexica Excan Tlahtoloyan (Triple Confederation, a.k.a the government or ruling corpus of the Aztec Civilization in Central Mexico), the cihuacoatl (lit. "snake woman", a title of high priest/general held during the Fifth Sun Era, a figure perhaps more important than the Tlatoani themselves, despite understandably not as public) Tlacaelel (named after the eponymous historical figure), a human who lived some years as a host to the super powerful ancient Cuetzpalin Ehecatl ("Wind", one of the six Cuetzpalin gifted by Huitzilopochtli with a special power, that was also passed to his hosts. His power is that of super strength, able to topple a Quinametzin - "giant" with little effort), under orders by Huitzilopochtli himself, has created a legislation which offered a Mexica citizenship (as pipiltin - a class of nobles, that also included some warriors) to all Cuetzpalin of Anahuac, in an effort to centralize the allegiance of the previously segregated Cuetzpalin of Anahuac to the Mexican Triple Alliance. With the Cuetzpalin on their side, several enemy tribes have been defeated by the expanding Alliance, some betrayed by the reptilians who lived among them. But some still remained true to the "Toltec code", some Cuetzpalin such as Macoel have turned back on the interests of the Triple Alliance and left his position as a Mexica warrior to become the defender of the Taino people on the far South caribbean. All of this after Macoel had served years in the war against the Incas (yes, you read that right. But this is a story for another day). Montezuma was friends with him and understood Macoel's good intent, however most of the Mexican Cuetzpalin have regarded him as a traitor. Ironically, after the Spanish colonization and the forces of darkness (a.k.a Centzonmimixcoa) would hunt down and enslave the Cuetzpalin to almost extinction within a century, it was Macoel (alongside Cuauhtemoc) who would become a major importance liberator of his kind, and as well of the indigenous humans - but that's also a story for another day.

The last relics of a more noble time
Moctezuma was miraculously born alongside his sister Papantzin at the margins of Lake Texcoco (in the time, a source of Teyoliatl, later purposely wasted by the colonial management) in 1466, and were raised by the nobles of Tenochtitlán. Moctezuma was taught in war, strategy and major knowledge by the cihuacoatl Tlacaelel and the Tlatoani Tizoc. From an early age, he and his sister showed their special abilities: that of super speed, able to reach 500 mph, and as well of far-seeing (for if someone has to come with super speed, it also has to be able to look where it's going to, and of course have enhanced resistance and skin tissues, in their case, scales), that overcame any other Cuetzpalin or human warrior in the battlefield. Tlacaelel intended to use these two, who he saw as gifts of Huitzilopochtli, to increase the already growing military power of the Mexica Confederation, and so it has been. But Moctezuma's fate wasn't just that of a Tlacochcalcatl (a title roughly equivalent to high general, it literally means man from the house of darts), he would become the Tlatoani after the human Chimalpilli, Tizoc's sucessor. But since his 15, Moctezuma was an adventurous and reckless warrior whose power constantly put him at odds with the commanders' orders - because he always trepassed the front line and attacked the enemy before they even realized his presence. It wasn't as easy, however, during the 12 years war against the Incas (between 1481 and 1493, a time when the Incas were ruled by Tupaq Yupanqui. They employed the Yacarcae sorcerers, who used necromancy & telekinesis, the Amaru dragons, ride by the Tupaq Chasqui magicians, the Pururauca stone giants and also the Yana Phuyu demons, better known by the nahuatl speakers as Centzonmimixcoa), that has taken the life of two Tlatoani - Itzcoatl and Tizoc. In that time, Moctezuma has been granted the title of Tlacochcalcatl, while his sister, by being a cihuatl (female) didn't get to that privilege, even though she still managed to fight and inspire other women to fight alongside her. The war against the Inca only stopped with Tupaq's death, poisoned by his own sister and wife (but history would blame one of his concubines, that unlike his wife was executed and had her son forced into exile). Moctezuma suceeded Chimalpilli in a time of military expansion for the Mexica, reaching the southern portions of Hopi territory and the northern of the Taino, as he led campaigns against the Mayan on the south and "Chichimec" tribes on the north. His sister passed away in 1509, though she returned one last time, taking the form of a human ixiptla, to tell him about some omens, claiming that the children of the sun would come, clad in silver. Moctezuma has mistaken them for a possible return of the Inca, however nine years later he'd find out the truth.

  • By the time MONTEZUMA met the Spanish, his ixiptla was a 52 years old man. This tuatara-like Cuetzpalin ruled Tenochtitlán and was the most powerful ruler of the Confederation.
  • CACAMATZIN the chinese crocodile lizard-like Cuetzpalin was the youngest Tlatoani, the 37 years old ruler of Texcoco, who had just suceeded the late Nezahualpilli.
  • TETLEPANQUETZAL, the Ceratosaurus-like Cuetzpalin, was the 44 years old ruler of Tlacopan.

The historical accounts of the Cuetzpalin have been mostly erased, and their ability to take humans as ixiptla hosts has merged well with the reputation of human sacrifices. But most of the spanish invasion was planned by the shadows, the Centzonmimixcoa, who wanted not merely a revenge against the kind of the Cuetzpalin (not for their defeat at the battlefields of Anahuac during the war between Tahuantinsuyu and Mexico, but for their defeat in the First Sun Era, which led the Centzonmimixcoa to experience a 3000 years old imprisonment), but their complete eradication, for the Cuetzpalin are the only ones able to use the Teyoliatl in weapons, and the Teyoliatl is the only substance that can defeat a Centzonmimixcoa, not to mention that by the time of the spanish invasion, the Cuetzpalin were likely the only ones that knew of the Centzonmimixcoa's existence - some of the Inca Yacarcae magicians that sided with them during the war had already lost their motivation following the sucession wars following Tupaq Yupanqui's death in 1493. Tupaq, who was the incarnation of the one the Mexica called as Mixcoatl ("Cloud Serpent") saw the Inca as traitors and moved his resources elsewhere, but he wouldn't rest until all of the Cuetzpalin were extinct. And this is exactly when the spanish get in. Several of Cortés' soldiers have made pacts with forgotten Yacarcae that have exiled themselves in the jungles of Cuba, exchanging gold for their worthless souls, and many have become puppets to the darkness because of their greed. These conquistadores imbued with darkness would eventually take Tenochtitlán and defeat the Mexican armies, in the process killing the current bodies of these noble warriors - and collecting the Tonalcoatl of some of them for secret purposes.

The world isn't black and white, there's no forces of good or forces of evil - every kind of government, rule and hierarchy are based on repression, alienation and subservience. Neither the Mexica nor the Spanish were heroes and villains, and no one has been or will ever be. Among their own ranks there was inequality, conflict and deceit, what makes one "side" an irrelevant flag to mask a foreigner interest never present in the battlefield. These governments are only in feet because people are forced into miserable conditions, selling their force of labor to third parties, and the same has been true to either Mexica and Spanish. Their military corpus only serve to keep the status quo, and even the slight changes doesn't change its function - never to protect the "people", but a small privileged class and the means by which they keep such a privilege - exploiting the people, through slavery, banks and so on. There's no darker or lighter note to look upon the Cuetzpalin as a species, as isn't a lighter or darker tone to look up the human species. All that matter are individuals and their individual decisions, taking in account their consequences. But on a larger scale, most people aren't able even to fathom what the consequences of their actions may be - or aren't willing to know. This is where alienation, the lack of knowledge and the lack of wisdom, resides. The automation, a global process where human breeding is promoted to keep moving the machine of misery, where paying bills is all one can do, if born on a wrong caste.

Such as the culture of Mexico, the Cuetzpalin would resist against the centuries of ignorance, deceit, blindness, alienation, christendom, falsety, plague, repression and degeneration - in a lesser number and in the shadows, taking some ixiptla, becoming urban legends and even prophecies. Some descendants of the Mexica and other nahua speakers who moved far north into the territories of the Hopi and Zuni would still wait for the coming of a prophesized Montezuma, that would free them from the foreigner government - those that moved far south, into Amazon, in the territories of the Kogi, Pano and nawa indigenous would talk about Paynal - the messenger of Huitzilopochtli, the god of war.

Even as those prophecies have vanquished from the populace's imagination, as if by fate, Moctezuma would open his eyes again, and this time see the world through the eyes of a 14 years old Brazilian student, William Mattoni, in August 8th 2008. How will this emperor from the past live alongside a young anarchist whose main motivation is the liberation of animals, even if he has to destroy civilization in order to do so? Commence IN LAK'ECH.


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