The same year that the Emperor Montezuma assumed the throne as ruler of the Aztec Empire, the instrument of his ultimate downfall was born many miles to the East. She was daddy’s girl from the moment she could breathe on her own.
Her father had wished for a child for many years and finally was rewarded. Although boys were much more highly valued, he didn’t care in the least. He had a beautiful child.
She is born on the 12th and named for the day of her birth: Malinalli or Grass, governed by the provider of Shadow Soul life energy. This day signifies tenacity and rejuvenation, that which cannot be uprooted forever. Malinalli is a day for persevering against all odds and for creating alliances that will survive the test of time. It is a good day for those who are suppressed, a bad day for their suppressors—a fact that will come to pass just as sure as the Prophecy of the Feathered Serpent…
Malinalli’s father loves playing with her and can not wait for his duties to be finished each day so as to rush home and see her. He is the chief of their village—and a good portion of the surrounding area and as such is always busy judging minor disputes and ensuring the needs of the people are met. His position also makes him wealthy and powerful—answering only to the governor and the Empire.
Before even her first birthday Malinalli recognizes her father from his brilliant turquoise earplugs and she is fascinated watching his gold necklace shine and sway as he coos to her each night. He never kisses her of course, his gold lip jewelry would have interfered even if he wanted to, but touching lips with another is just not done. The act of kissing is reserved for more ceremonial occasions.
It is some time before Malinalli realizes her father’s importance and her station in life. Her mother, the taskmaster of the family, manages to keep her from playing with the other children. But she can’t help but notice her family has plenty of food and she is even able to indulge in her most favorite of all: cocoa—a drink doled out carefully by her doting father when she is especially good.
It isn’t until she starts school and sees a dozen boys and herself as the only girl she understands she is special. While all children are instructed at home in the ways of the elders and the gods, only noble born attend the special school run by priest-teachers.
Females are expected to engage in activities suiting the role of wife and mother—such as cooking, spinning, and weaving. But though even noblewomen are legally subject to the authority of father or husband they are not discriminated against in any way and have all other legal status such as the right of inheritance.
Noble girls are encouraged to learn and in fact many serve as priestesses, midwives and pharmacists. First though, the class must learn about the gods—not an easy undertaking in a culture with 33 deities.
The priest begins the first day by explaining the calendars—to which the gods are inexorably tied.
“So my children, there are two calendars: the agricultural days and the sacred day-count of the gods.” The priest tells the class.
Malinalli is nothing if not a free spirit and constantly tries the patience of her priest-teachers by asking endless questions.
“What is agricultural?” The six year old Malinalli asks.
“It means farming: the planting and harvesting of crops—food.” The priest explains patiently. “This calendar has 365 days, each one the rise and fall of the sun and moon.”
Malinalli nods, she has witnessed this of course and it makes sense.
“The other calendar, the sacred day-count calendar has 20 days…” The priest teacher continues.
“But why?” Malinalli interrupts.
“Because there are 20 gods of the days and we must divide our time between them, so as to preserve the balance…”
“What is the balance?” She wants to know.
“Each of the gods strives for power, little ones.” The Priest explains to the class, growing a tiny bit frustrated with the girl. “If one god should vanquish another then the world would surely end.”
“Why would the world end?” Malinalli spouts out, clearly alarmed and frightened.
“Why if Lord Hummingbird Wizard, the Sun god, were to leave us then the world would plunge into darkness forever.” The Priest replies, a little smugly, secretly hoping to silence the girl with fear. “Just as Lord Smoking Mirror tricked Lord Feathered Serpent to leave the land.”
“How did he trick him?” Malinalli asks, unfazed.
“Lord Feathered Serpent’s departure from his people was the work of his old enemy, Smoking Mirror. Lord Feathered Serpent was a kind god who desired offerings of flowers and butterflies. Lord Smoking Mirror mocked this and demands sacrifice of blood to nourish him and his friends. Smoking Mirror tricked Feathered Serpent by getting him drunk and then holding up a mirror that showed Smoking Mirror’s cruel face. Believing that he was looking at his own twisted image, Feathered Serpent decided to leave this world and sailed east on a raft of serpents.” The priest explained, upping the scare factor another notch.
Malinalli finally falls silent, but it is not from fear. She is taken with the notion of kindly god Feathered Serpent and daydreams of flowers and butterflies.
“And so the weeks are 14 days and the year consists of 260 days. Then every 52 years, a ‘Reed’, time starts over again.” The priest continues, happy the girl at last gives him a chance to speak…