A blanched fictional account of the explorations, conquests, and depredations of the conquistador Hernando Cortez in Mexico and northern Central America from 1519 to 1530--alternately narrated by Malinche, an Indian princess sold into slavery and acquired as Cortez' interpreter (later his mistress), and by young footsoldier Arturo Mondragon. Arturo adores Malinche, but both are magnetized to Cortez (seen by Malinche as a ""warrior-god, bearded and stern-faced""); and the pair's loyalty holds constant throughout the punishing treks, the stealthy bargaining with Moctezuma's enemies, the prompt quelling of incipient revolts among Spanish colonizers, and the massacres that are part of the iron impositions of Christianity. Poor frazzled Aztec emperor Moctezuma confesses to Malinche: ""I cannot believe what has happened to me in these last weeks"" and dies of a broken heart. And Cortez does show occasional kernels of conscience: ""I regret our near-annihilation of the Aztecs of the capital. . . . ""But he's soon flashing about accomplishing further expedient advances, while Arturo continues to worship Malinche, who will bear Cortez' child; she will leave him forever, however, her love dead, when during a terrible trek to Honduras, Cortez hangs the Aztec ruler Cuauhtemoc. Arturo, also somewhat disillusioned, will eventually find Malinche again, only to be robbed of his love by an earthquake and left with some somber final thoughts: ""Where men kill in God's name, there God is not."" Couched in often-engorged prose (""awe filled me. . . a secret expectation filled me""), this stolid fictionalizing may be passably palatable for those wishing a painless nodding Cortez acquaintance without recourse to the contemporary Castillo account or (Brandt's source) the work of William Prescott.