N exercise 1.14
Tupac Amaru saw the damage the invaders had done to his people. Sickened with diseases heretofore unknown, shackled, brutally killed by bright sticks of fire – these are but a small sampling of the horrors inflicted upon the Inca, and the Spanish were to blame.
The rebellion started as furtive whisperings in the home of Arca Bijabu, the second-mother of Amaru, between himself and his most loyal compatriots. Together, they sipped strong tea of beckabark root and aired their grievances.
“These filthy monsters took everything,” grumbled Ota Muntoo, a stocky man with flat black ochre painted below his eyes, war-time or no. He slurped at his tea, spat onto the ground. “Everything.”
“The Inca are still a mighty people,” Tupac said, but his eyes were on the fire in the centre of the room, the low embers painting his face a deep orange-red. “We still have much to show the invaders.”
“Have we?” Ota barked a single laugh full of bitterness and resignation. “What, shall we show them our backsides so that they may flay us, too? May hang our withered skins from their palisades for Arca Bijabu and all to see?”
Arca came into the room to refill the men’s teas, and the talk stopped. She seemed to deliberately take her time, slowly filling each cup to a precise point a centimeter or so down from the lip. The only sound was the soft burble of the water passing from kettle to cup. When she left, the silence remained, low crackles from the fire punctuating the men’s thoughts.
“There must be something we can do,” said Toac, the youngest and most recent admission to the mens’ gathering. “Or shall we sit here forever?”
“I’d rather sit here on my backside than have it flayed,” Ota said. “At least here there is tea.”
“Toac is right,” said Tupac, standing. “There is something we can do. We can take the fight to the Spanish. Show them the warrior spirit of the Inca.”
Ota chuckled, but the others in the room were somber. He stopped when he caught the mood of the room. “Really?” he said. “Take the fight to the Spanish? Why not just submit to their puny hanging god and be done with it? Bend the knee. Surely this will be more painless than a long and bloody war we’re sure to lose.” Ota stood to meet Tupac’s gaze. “Personally, I like living.”
“Then you betray the spirit of your ancestors,” Tupac replied in a flat tone that brooked no argument. “Any of you who wish to see your father’s grave desecrated may leave here at once. Any of you who wish to see your mother’s body ravished may leave. Any who wishes to make clear to the Spanish that we are warriors, we are Inca, may remain. There is much to discuss.”
Ota stared at his friend for a long moment before taking his seat on the floor. The room buzzed with the energy of what Tupac had just said, but no one spoke. Arca shuffled into the room.
“Your mother’s body ravished, yes? What a mouth you have on you, Tupac Amaru,” she said. The men chuckled. Even Tupac felt a twinge of relief at the breaking of the tension. “I may be but your second-mother,” Arca continued, “but I’ve no wish to see anybody’s body ravished – not so long as it was against that body’s will.”
More laughter. Tupac smiled, gestured for his second-mother to sit to his left side. Others moved to make space for her and she warmed her hands by the coals. Tupac passed her his cup and she drank deeply.
“Can we get our hands on any of their muskets?” someone asked.
“Perhaps. With a satisfactory force of a dozen men, and some careful planning, we might find a place in the jungle to raid their supply chain,” Tupac said.
“The Ruarua River has poor visibility,” Ota said. “We might hold our breath a while and spring from the depths as they tried to cross.” No one laughed at this. Ota slurped noisily at his tea.
“Or the pass of Unabag?” Toac said after a moment. “The rocky walls might pin their wagons.”
Tupac stroked his chin, staring into the fire. He fought to keep his eyes open, though he had been awake now for several days. “With careful camouflage for night, we might surprise them.”
“But once we have the fire sticks,” Ota said, “we’ll need a lot more men to wield them than fit in this rotten hovel.” He caught himself and added, “with respect, Arca Bijabu.”
“Respect from you is like water from a firepit,” she said, grinning. “Or mercy from a Spaniard.”
“Plenty of men are upset,” Toac said. “Many of us Inca have been wounded by the invaders from the sea. A force might be gathered, with the right words of encouragement.”
“We have no choice,” said Tupac. “We surrender or we fight. There is no middle ground. Forced from our homes twice already, narrowly escaping with our lives, with only rags on our backs and thin bark in our stomachs. Where does it end?”
The crackle of the fire filled the room, seemed to swell in volume. Tupac continued, “there is no end. There is only blood, now or later. I refuse to flee again, to turn my back and run from these miserable beasts. The time must come.”
“Perhaps those are just the words of encouragement we need,” Toac said.
The men in the room talked quietly among themselves, joking telling stories of bravery in warfare, making plans to rouse warriors – to solicit friends and appease enemies, to bring together the disparate, scattered Inca, to bring the fight to the invaders. A council some time later, held in a ruined village square, elected Tupac Amaru the leader of the resistance. Years of furtive discussions would elapse, plans made and dashed and made anew, before the fighting began, but when it did, Tupac Amaru was there, at its head. He died fighting in 1572, the last Sapa Inca king.