What if the great conquistador Hernán Cortés decides to kill Pánfilo de Narváez when he defeats him at Cēmpoalātl (Cempoala) in May 1520, instead of taking him prisoner? Here is the original discussion thread... After a successful night ambush, Cortés captures Narváez and is overcome with anger as Narváez describes how Cortés is wanted for treason against the Spanish Empire. When his enemy begins to describe how he'll be executed when he's caught, Cortés loses control. He unsheathes his sword and stabs him in the gut. Realizing that Narváez won’t die quickly from his first wound he stabs him a second time with a thrust to the vital organs. Narváez bleeds out and dies shortly thereafter. His men are shocked; it wasn’t good form to kill a fellow Spaniard in cold blood, especially in response to charges of treason. It's almost like Cortés knows that he is a traitor to the Spanish crown and wanted to stop Narváez from revealing it to everyone else. The unnerving and disheartening nature of these events makes convincing Narváez’s men to follow Cortés to gold and glory a bit more difficult, but they follow him anyway. Cortés leads them back to Tenochtitlan where Alvarado has pissed off the Aztecs by causing a massacre during a religious festivity. On the trip back, though, the memory of murdering Narváez pushes Hernán Cortés to a dark place. He begins to take very seriously a plan that has been knocking around his head for a while: taking the great Indian metropolis for himself instead of taking it for King Carlos. It seems like he’d increase his chances of living if he would just outright rebel against his homeland. There are so many damn butterflies possible during the events to come that this darker, more rebellious Cortés might not even be as successful as he was in OTL. Take La Noche Triste, for instance, which is coming up fast. The timeline could easily change to “WI Cortés and his men are massacred in 1520?” which we've talked about before. Could this different Cortés decide to take a different route in escaping from Tenochtitlan, perhaps along the north causeway which would involve a longer route through the city, but a safer one and a shorter distance to Tlaxcala on the other side? Perhaps the southern causeway? If they still decide to take the shorter western route out of the city, they could be killed, and it is very likely Alvarado will die. His escape in OTL was very lucky. Working out the Butterflies I am estimating that there is a 60% chance Cortés still takes the western causeway, a 30% chance he changes his mind and goes north, and a 10% chance he takes the southern causeway. Using random.org to generate random numbers the result is: OTL decision, Cortés will take the western causeway. So far so good. Who dies then during La Noche Triste? I think Cortés and the others on horses had a good chance of escaping, they just formed a vanguard party and left the rest of their group to try their luck at making a run for it. There's no reason to butterfly the casualty rate just because Cortés has diverged psychologically from OTL, as he still makes the same escape plans. It was very likely at some point that Aztec sentries would detect their departure. What could be butterflied, however, is who dies. Gonzalo de Sandoval was part of the vanguard, as was Diego de Ordaz and Francisco de Lugo, so they live. Malinche was heavily protected close to the vanguard as well, along with the two priests Father Olmedo and Father Díaz. But what about the others? I don’t want this to become “Cortés Dies during La Noche Triste” so it is a given that he lives during this episode. The other important people are fair game though. I give each of them a 60% chance of survival, much higher than the regular foot soldier’s chance of survival. Using random.org for random numbers… Wow, better than I thought. Pedro de Alvarado perishes, but Velázquez de León, the other captain of the rearguard, survives, a swap of OTL. Also counted amongst the survivors were Alonso de Ávila, Cristóbal de Olid, Martín López, Jerónimo de Aguilar, one of the most skilled horsemen, Lares (unlike OTL), and the astrologer Botello (unlike OTL). Montezuma’s son Chimapopoca still dies, but his sister does not (unlike OTL). I think the most important change in all of this is the death of Alvarado and the survival of Velázquez. Would we see butterflies in the subsequent Battle of Otumba? I say it is unlikely, though the victory seemed miraculous. The Spanish didn’t do anything especially out of the ordinary, they just launched their cavalry attacks and stayed in a reinforced square formation. Aztec deaths could have been as high as 20,000 out of 40,000. The Spanish really did have a huge advantage with their cavalry. The same events will likely play out here. By the time Cortés reaches Tlaxcala in this point of the story, there are only a few divergences from OTL. First of all, Hernán Cortés is a little more disturbed and paranoid. His men, especially those that were from the Narváez contingent are even less trusting of their captain-general. Pedro de Alvarado is dead and his position has been given to Velázquez de León. Do the Tlaxcala still push for an alliance? Yes, especially because Velázquez survives. He had a strong relationship with the Tlaxcala after marrying into the local nobility. In the short-term though, there is a strong rebellious streak among the Spanish soldiers. They form around the leadership of Cortés’ business partner, Andrés de Duero, a shrewd man who declares that the best option is to cut their losses, return to Veracruz and reassess their circumstances (as well as turn in Hernán Cortés as a traitor and murderer and establish new leadership for the expedition). Unlike in OTL, they don’t even write a letter expressing their opinions, they come out against him vocally, demanding a retreat. There is a chance here that Andrés de Duero could have lead a successful mutiny, but Cortés had dealt with rebellion before. The man who burnt his own ships to keep his men motivated has only become more of a megalomaniac. Things get more heated than OTL: there are violent scuffles and some men desert the main group into the jungle, but Cortés establishes order by executing the ringleaders of the rebellion. One of them is Andrés. Cortés will not return to Cuba to face the gallows. He makes his OTL rousing speech about how "fortune favors the bold”, but it is a little less inspirational and a little more damn scary and intimidating. Things could have gotten worse, but Cortés makes his OTL deal with his men. They’ll launch an offensive with the Tlaxcalans against the Aztec stronghold of Tepeaca, which they would need to anyway in order to return to Veracruz safely, and if it goes well, they’ll continue on their conquest. It sounds reasonable enough; the soldiers really have no reason not to follow through with it, and they might just get to bring some gold back with them to Veracruz after the battle. Any plans for a mutiny are kept dormant until after Tepeaca is taken. On the first of August the Spanish host with two thousand Tlaxcalan warriors depart to the southwest for another battle against the Aztecs.