In terms of religious movements, I don't see mainstream Roman Catholicism having too much sway over the native Mexica especially since it's not being forced upon them by a brutal Spanish colonial apparatus except at the fringes of society. I do expect it to conflict and to influence some millenarian movements which would grow in popularity especially as millions of people will inevitably die from Old World diseases. One possibility is perhaps something akin to a neo-Collyridianism, perhaps with TTL Juan Diego or someone in similar circumstances as him attempting to convert the masses to worshipping Mary-Tonantzin which would put him in conflict with both the Triple Alliance and the Europeans.
In terms of religious movements, I don't see mainstream Roman Catholicism having too much sway over the native Mexica especially since it's not being forced upon them by a brutal Spanish colonial apparatus except at the fringes of society. I do expect it to conflict and to influence some millenarian movements which would grow in popularity especially as millions of people will inevitably die from Old World diseases. One possibility is perhaps something akin to a neo-Collyridianism, perhaps with TTL Juan Diego or someone in similar circumstances as him attempting to convert the masses to worshipping Mary-Tonantzin which would put him in conflict with both the Triple Alliance and the Europeans.

True though I imagine the appeal of a religion not requiring blood-letting or human sacrifice would be quite appealing. That and the promise of salvation.

Hence the possibility of the Nahua equivalent of Peyotism being born (or perhaps a faith resembling a mix of Creole Voodoo and Peyotism with the Aztec pantheon) around maybe late 1500s or possibly early 1600s.
Part 3: An Invisible Enemy
Part 3: An Invisible Enemy

Cuitláhuac returned to Tenochtitlan on August 17, 1520. He and his men had been on campaign for two months, during which they had not only destroyed the Spanish as a threat - for now - but crushed the Totonac rebellion and brought Tlaxcala, who had been at war with the Triple Alliance for decades, to its knees, and they possessed the plunder and prisoners to prove it. This was a magnificent (if costly) victory, one that would be remembered for centuries to come, and everyone in the army expected to be rewarded accordingly, which only made the reception they were given all the more shocking.

The magnificent metropolis the soldiers knew was being ravaged by a disease whose symptoms no one had ever seen before, a plague so virulent and contagious that thousands of people perished every day, their corpses littering the streets since most of those who were still healthy shut themselves in their homes, fearing to catch whatever this was. To make matters worse, many
among the bureaucracy and nobility were infected, further hampering the state's ability to organize an effective response. Still, there were enough administrators left to impose a quarantine over most of the Valley of Anahuac, mitigating at least some of the damage (1).​


A Mexica doctor trying to treat people infected with smallpox.
Moctezuma was reportedly overjoyed after learning of his brother's triumphant return - it was the first piece of good news he received in months. Like any good Mexica sovereign of the time, he promptly ordered the preparation of a lavish festival to celebrate this event and appease the gods, a ceremony that would inevitably end with the sacrifice of all prisoners, regardless of their nationality. Many captains, however, believed that it would be best to keep some of the Spaniards alive, especially those few who learned a little Nahuatl during their time as prisoners, a line of thought which Cuitláhuac backed since he, like his subordinates, witnessed the effects of the weapons and tactics employed by the Europeans at Amaquemecan.

The tlatoani and the priesthood disagreed, the former because he was understandably scarred by the time he was forced to spend as a prisoner and the latter because they feared such a breach of protocol would enrage the gods even further, and if the plague was any indication they were angry enough already. Hours of deliberation ensued as both sides brought their arguments, most of them focusing on who among the captives deserved to be sacrificed the most, and although they all agreed that the Tlaxcalans brought their impending fate upon themselves, the culpability of (some of) the Spaniards in acts such as the Massacre of Cholula could be put into question (2). In the end, a compromise was reached: at the time of the ceremony, sixty prisoners were selected by Moctezuma himself and allowed to live, with the others being all escorted up the stairs of the Great Temple and sacrificed. Some, including Cortés and most of the Tlaxcaltecs, faced their demise in silence, while others, overcome by terror, screamed, struggled, cursed and cried out for someone, anyone to help them before their chests were cut open and their hearts ripped out (3).

A typical Aztec sacrifice.

While Tenochtitlan and the other cities of the Valley of Anahuac licked their wounds as best as they could, the scourge that was smallpox swept its way through Mesoamerica like a storm, the trade routes that crisscrossed the land serving as highways for the disease. The sickness spread so quickly most cities and villages didn't do anything before to contain its onslaught before it was too late and their inhabitants began to die in droves. By October the first cases were reported in Zaachila, nearly five hundred kilometers to the southeast of the plague's epicenter, and by the end of the year the disease reached the distant province of Xoconochco and from there the kingdom of Q'umarkaj, deep in the Guatemalan highlands. It didn't take long for the northewestern border to be crossed, either, with thousands upon thousands of cases and deaths taking place in the territories controlled by the Purépecha Empire and its smaller neighbors, such as the kingdoms of Colima and Xalisco.

The outbreak finally came to an end sometime on mid 1521, but not before killing at least five million people, a quarter of the Mesoamerican population (4). But this was only the beginning: as contact with Europeans intensified, diplomatically or otherwise, more diseases would show up, such as measles, typhus and influenza, sending the land's demographics into a continuous downward spiral that only stopped in the 1580s, by which time its population amounted to half of what it was before contact at best (5). The plagues' effects were felt far beyond the initial deaths they caused, with trade greatly diminishing or outright ceasing in several places and large areas of farmland being abandoned, crippling the production of foodstuffs such as beans, squash and, of course, maize.

The aftershocks of this demographic catastrophe hit the Mexica particularly hard, since their empire, despite boasting characteristics such as an organized bureaucracy, widespread production of paper and mandatory education for all of its subjects regardless of their social status, was not a "true" organized state like that of their Purépecha neighbors or the Tawantinsuyu. The Triple Alliance, like its name said, was more of a loose federation whose members were allowed to retain their local rulers and dynasties as long as they paid tribute to Tenochtitlan in the form of precious metals, agricultural goods and sacrifices. It became very difficult if not outright impossible for many of the subordinate altepeme to sustain the obligations they had with their overlord, and it wouldn't take long for the more poweful and rebellious among them to smell blood in the water (6).

Their opportunity would reveal itself in the future, and Moctezuma wouldn't be there to see it - he caught smallpox and died at the age of fifty-eight on November 7, 1524. Cuitláhuac, his most likely successor, suffered the same fate a few months prior, and because of this the nobles elected Cuauhtémoc, a son of Ahuitzotl who already had a distiguished career despite his young age (he was 27 years old at the time of his coronation), to become the Triple Alliance's new tlatoani. He would face his first challenge just months after rising to power: a new Spanish expedition had landed at Veracruz.


(1) The Mexica no longer have an enemy army breathing down their neck, so they can afford to focus on themselves for a while.

(2) Cortés might've been the leader, but one must always remember that the bulk of his army was formed by native allies.

(3) I wanted to highlight that the conquistadors were still human beings, rather than cartoon villains.

(4) I'm using this chart as a reference:


(5) Still a much, MUCH higher percentage of the native population than IOTL. The diseases still cause a lot of damage, but the native states (some of them, at least) manage to get their act together without the disruption and increase in warfare and exploitation caused by the Spanish conquest.

(6) The examples of Tlaxcala and Totonacapan are still fresh in the minds of most potential rebels for now, but the fear they inspired won't last forever.
Last edited:
So, if I'm understanding footnote (5), TTL's post-pestilence population is closer to around 10 million compared to the less than 2 million that remained OTL per that chart?
He would face his first challenge just months after rising to power: a new Spanish expedition had landed at Veracruz.
This time, there is little-to-no reason (to me, at least) to allow the Spaniards a foothold. As soon as they land, throw them back into the sea. If their ships have canons, wait till the Spaniards make landfall, then attack. I don't think they would fire into their own countrymen.

Splendidly written, as usual.
Part 4: New Opportunities
Part 4: New Opportunities

Outskirts of Xallapan
March 9, 1524 A.D.


"It's really bad." The soldier began, still panting after almost getting caught by what was very much an enemy just minutes ago. "Judging by the number of tents we got to look at before they saw us, I'd say there are at least 30.000 of them."

"Shit." The leader of the expedition, Pánfilo de Narváez, replied with a voice that carried more exhaustion rather than anger, before turning his attention to one of his lieutenants. "Are the cannons ready, at least?"

"As ready as they can be, sir."

"Good, very good." Narváez got up, straightened his back and sighed. "In case we somehow get out of here alive, we'll march back to Veracruz as soon as everything is over. And if Cuéllar doesn't like that, then he can go to hell." With those last, bitter words coming out of his mouth, he left his tent and inspected the 'fort' (more of a stockade and some earthworks, really) the troops spent the last few days building after they got word of the army marching in their direction. Though a part of him remained stubbornly optimistic, hoping, perhaps, that the cannons would deliver him a victory against all odds, the conquistador harbored no illusions: he and his compatriots were almost certainly doomed (1).

Fuck, he really should've stayed in Cuba, losing an eye and being imprisoned in Veracruz for a year should've been enough of a hint that this land was nothing but bad news. Narváez wondered what happened to Hernán Cortés, the man he had been sent to arrest almost four years ago and claimed to have discovered a city whose size rivaled that of Seville and Córdoba. Was he still alive? Did he abandon his Hispanidad completely and carve some petty kingdom for himself?

A sudden tide of shouts and whispers among the men snapped the captain out of his reverie, and he set about figuring out what was going on. One of the sentries had just spotted a handful of natives walking to their position, and if his description of them was accurate they were almost certainly men of high standing. Narváez silently thanked God for this opportunity, then ordered the soldiers to let them in.

The Mexica envoys hesitated for a few seconds, but entered the fort. Their clothes were certainly strange by European standards (loincloths, capes and sandals), but it was the gifts they brought that got the Spaniards' attention, for they were all made of gold, silver and other precious metals.

One of the ambassadors cleared his throat before speaking. "Greetings, señores. We hope you come in peace." Most of the soldiers couldn't believe what they just heard: did this man, who was clearly not an European, just talk to them in Spanish?

Who were these people?
The Mexica Narváez contacted were profoundly different from the ones Cortés first met four and a half years before. Ever since the slaughter of almost all of the latter's followers after their final defeat at the Battle of Ocotelolco, the Aztec bureaucrats worked overtime to decipher the knowledge the survivors - who became known as the "Lucky Sixty" - had on various subjects and write them down on their codices. They were grilled in many different ways, from outright threats to promises of wealth and power in case they fully accepted their new status as subjects of the tlatoani and adopted their overlord's customs. Some refused to submit to a "pagan" king and chose instead to goad their captors into killing them (since outright suicide was a mortal sin), usually with insults, or, in a few other cases, the most famous of them by far being that of Cristóbal de Olid (who was the quartermaster of Cortés' expedition), to escape at the first opportunity.

They were very much an exception, however, and most of the prisoners told the Mexica everything they knew either out of gratitude for being spared or because they knew they had nowhere else to go. The things they said were extremely alarming: far from being opportunistic marauders, as many aristocrats began to believe after their initial shock and awe wore off, the Spaniards were subjects of a distant but powerful emperor named Charles V, and not only there were a great many of them just a few hundred kilometers away, but they were all familiar with the weapons, armor and tactics that claimed the lives of thousands of warriors. They also stated, however, that Cortés had acted against orders and severely wounded the man the governor of Cuba sent to restrain him, a valuable piece of information which gave Moctezuma (and, after his death, Cuauhtémoc) the hope that it was possible to establish peaceful relations between Tenochtitlan and the Spanish.
codice asteca.jpg

The Spaniards' knowledge was transcripted to codices such as this.
The Mexica also began to adopt the Europeans' technology or, if that wasn't possible, at least understand it. Firearms were out of question, as was cavalry: the artisans' attempts to reverse engineer the few arquebuses available were unsuccesful, with most of the weapons being destroyed before the experiments were cancelled at last, while the horses the Spanish brought either died in battle or fled into the wilderness and became feral, forming the first population of wild equines in continental America since the end of the Ice Age. But even these failures taught them much, since they provided guides on what not to do the next time someone got his or her hands on these precious resources, something which would happen sooner rather than later.

They were much more successful in incorporating things such as pikes, swords, crossbows especially plate armor, a process that began before Cortés' demise thanks to the official creation of the "shining men" after the Battle of Amaquemecan. However, it would take a great many years for the Mexica to establish an industry capable of producing enough of these items to satisfy the army's needs, since not only were they not accustomed with smelting the iron and other metals needed to create steel (metallurgy was largely restricted to copper and precious metals in most of Mesoamerica, the Purépecha being the exception), but they didn't know the location of major deposits of said materials yet.

But there was one field in which the Mexica progressed at a remarkable pace: shipbuilding. One of the prisoners was Martín López, a low-ranking Spanish aristocrat who, despite not being a naval engineer by profession (as far as we know, at least), was nevertheless clever and, most importantly, eager to climb his new home's social ladder by proving his usefulness to its sovereign (2). He did this by designing a ship that could be best described as a strange mix between a brigantine and a galley, a vessel that, although unsuited for oceanic voyages, was still revolutionary for a nation whose inhabitants had never seen or piloted anything other than canoes and rafts. López's ship was launched on May 8, 1523, a day which is still commemorated as the official founding date of the Anahuac Navy. The vessel and its crew then spent the next few days touring the waters of Lake Texcoco, Xochimilco and Chalco, earning many amazed stares from the people who lived in the cities surrounding those lakes, and the tlatoani, who at this point was still Moctezuma, boarded it in person.

A miniature model of the ship designed by Martín López.

One must never forget, however, that technological advancements such as this would've been much more difficult if not impossible to achieve in such a short period of time were it not for the survival of Malintzin, the Nahua woman who Cortés took as his translator and mistress and the only known indigenous member of the Lucky Sixty. Her knowledge of Spanish, which she earned and refined during the sixteen months she spent under the conquistadors' custody, made it surprisingly easy for the Aztecs to interrogate the other prisoners and eventually learn their language as well. Because of this, they were able to form a small but capable corps of diplomats who, after a few years of training, were almost fully bilingual and played a critical role in ensuring meetings with future Spanish expeditions went along better.

Speaking of expeditions...

Pánfilo de Narváez, first ambassador to the Mexica.

Narváez's party, which had 680 foot soldiers (a number that included 60 crossbowmen and 20 arquebusiers), 50 horsemen and 12 cannons, had three missions to fulfill: first, they were to find out what happened to Hernán Cortés and his men, since no word ever came from them after the Battle of Cempoala almost four years before. Secondly, they would investigate whether the now rampant rumors of large, opulent cities far into the interior of the continent that dwarfed every native settlement the Spaniards encountered so far were true or not. The expedition's last task, assuming these rumors were true, would be to either establish diplomatic relations with these states, in case they were friendly, or conquer them by any means necessary if they were hostile.

The conquistadors ran into trouble almost immediately after they departed Veracruz, since not only it was extremely difficult to contact or kidnap locals they could use as scouts and translators, but most of those few who they managed to capture frequently told tales of how they would suffer the same fate the last white men who dared to enter the tlatoani's domains did. Deprived of reliable indigenous allies, demoralized by the tropical summer heat and the doomsayers' words, the Spanish nevertheless continued onward and reached Cempoala, whose population had been greatly reduced by smallpox and fled upon seeing them, on February 5, 1524. They spent a few days there, resting and sending messages to their countrymen in Veracruz and Cuba, before marching westward. The trek to Xallapan, the gate to the Plateau of Anahuac, was long and arduous, taking at least twenty days to complete since the expedition often walked in circles due to the lack of good scouts. The Spaniards were, needless to say, utterly exhausted by the time they finally reached the settlement, and then they learned of the force sent to deal with them.

Back in Tenochtitlan, Cuauhtémoc acted as soon l as soon as the first reports of European ships came in, first ordering the surviving prisoners to be sent to multiple locations in the empire to keep them from acting as a potential fifth column, then raising a host of 50.000 men and departing the capital in the hopes of negotiating with or crushing these new arrivals personally. At the forefront of the army was a corps of elite troops who sported not only the traditional suits which showed what military orders they belonged to (Eagle and Jaguar warriors, Otomies and Shorn Ones) but also helmets, cuirasses and swords all made of steel, a truly terrifying sight for a small, tired and isolated party whose members had never seen natives carrying this kind of equipment before. One can only imagine the relief Narváez must've felt when he learned of the tlatoani's decision to use diplomacy instead of storming his little fortification and massacring everyone inside. The first conversation with the envoys went along decently, and he was invited to come along with a handful of other conquistadors to speak with the Mexica sovereign in person.
cortes malinche.jpg

Narváez and Cuauhtémoc meet face to face. Malintzin's presence in this occasion is still a subject of debate among historians since only a few accounts mention her.
Assuming this codex tells the truth, she was probably there to make sure no one made any serious gaffes.

According to Narváez's journal, which was later sent to Charles V, "We were surrounded by guards clad from head to toe in heavy armor and armed with swords and strange, decorated clubs with sharp teeth who watched our every move with great suspicion. Their king, whose name is Cuauhtémoc, asked me through an interpreter if I was a friend of Hernán Cortés. I immediately said he was a bandit who defied the will of Your Majesty's faithful servant, governor Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, and that I had been sent to bring him to justice. He smiled after the interpreter translated my answer, and then, after a few minutes of debating with men who I suppose were his generals, asked me if I wanted to visit his capital, promising to give me and my men food, water, shelter and everything we wanted as long as we behaved properly. I couldn't pass on such a great opportunity to spread the word of God, so I accepted his offer (3)."

Though the trip to the Mexica heartland happened without a hitch and the Spaniards were received amicably by cities such as Texiuitlan, Tizatlan and Cholula, it was obvious to all of them that they weren't really guests, but hostages. Another, less famous conquistador's account remarked on the existence of a Mexica contingent which marched right behind the expedition and served as both a rearguard and a barrier. The unease created by the sword of Damocles which hung over the foreigners' heads was very much worth it, however, for they became the first Europeans to visit the great cities surrounding the waters of the lakes of the Valley of Anahuac and live to tell the tale. And they were an incredible sight to behold, in spite of the damage caused by smallpox.

16th century Tenochtitlan in all its glory.

But there was one jewel whose magnificence put every single one of the urban areas the Spanish saw so far to shame: Tenochtitlan, nerve center of the Triple Alliance as well as the largest metropolis in the Western Hemisphere. Narváez wrote that "many of us thought we were dreaming when we first saw their capital. It is a vast, sprawling city built on land and water, sitting atop an island that is connected to the mainland by five main causeways, all of them wide enough for ten horses to walk side by side. I counted at least forty palaces and large temples in the urban area, which is surrounded by a myriad of small islands where people plant their crops (4). Everything is bright, colorful and lively, from the buildings to the nonstop hustle and bustle of commoners and merchants going about with their lives." The next several dozen pages describe almost every major building in the city, from the Chapultepec Aqueduct to the Dike of Nezahualcoyotl and the enormous palaces built on the orders of Axayacatl and Moctezuma II, the latter of which now served as Cuauhtémoc's residence. Interestingly enough, human sacrifice is mentioned only a few times in this document, something that was almost certainly a political calculation on Narváez's part given this practice was still a core aspect of Mesoamerican religion (5).

The Spaniards spent a little more than three months in the Valley of Anahuac (from mid April to late June), during which only a small group of them was allowed to enter Tenochtitlan at a time while the rest were forced to camp outside and wait for their turn. Though a few incidents and misunderstandings were reported, relations between them and the Mexica were amicable enough for Narváez and Cuauhtémoc to hammer out a document that became known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which established formal diplomatic relations between Spain and the Triple Alliance and recognized Veracruz as a possession of the former.

A 19th century litograph commemorating the 300 year anniversary of the Treaty of Tlatelolco.
It is unlikely that Narváez was allowed to get so close to Cuauhtémoc: the handshake definitely didn't happen since touching the tlatoani was forbidden.

It was the start of a very profitable friendship, one which gave great rewards to both sides: one half gained access to livestock, beasts of burden, steel and a small but steady trickle of firearms and gunpowder. The other half, meanwhile, got its hands on fine fabrics, new foodstuffs such as maize and manioc, exotic animals and, most important of all, lots of gold and silver.

It wouldn't take long for Cuauhtémoc to use his new allies' gifts in an activity the Mexica were very famous for: waging war.


(1) Maybe not, though, since the Mexica never faced cannons in battle before.

(2) IOTL Martín López designed the ships employed by Cortés during the siege of Tenochtitlan.

(3) That's definitely what Narváez really wanted to do. What, did you think he was after something else? ;)

(4) These "islands" are called chinampas.

(5) It's kind of hard to convince your king that your new friends are civilized if you spend multiple pages describing their... issues.​
Last edited:
Very well done! This is quite fascinating and should be interesting here. I wonder how the Mexica will react when they hear of a similar city across the sea in a different land. I do figure comparisons to Venice will appear at some point, especially if some Mexicas visit Venice or some Venetians visit.
Sounds like Spanish Mexico won't form TTL, the Triple Alliance basically taking their place and them some. That's going to have all sorts of butterflies on event further north.
Sounds like Spanish Mexico won't form TTL, the Triple Alliance basically taking their place and them some. That's going to have all sorts of butterflies on event further north.
Oh there'll be a ton of them in the coming decades, some hopefully more unexpected than others.
A Spanish-Aztec alliance. This is one thing I was not expecting, but makes perfect sense now that I think about it.

Regarding Spain in the American South: Interestingly, IOTL Narváez is going to be leading an expedition into Calusa-held territories in a few years. Ended very poorly for him, but perhaps ITTL things change.
Last edited:
I fear for everyone north of Texcoco. That's a formidable duo indeed. The enemies of the Aztecs are in for a rough time.

Splendidly written, good ser. I kindly ask for moar. (Take your time tho)