I'm trying to identify a book, or series of books I read as a child. The setting was pre-columbian Central America, the protagonists belonged to a river based tribe (lots of big canoes etc).
If memory serves, the premise of one of the books was that the beautiful wife-to-be of one of the protagonists was kidnapped by members of a rival tribe. A rescue party is formed by the protagonists and some of the kidnapped girls kin (from the rival tribe?). They track the kidnappers, and soon discover that the kidnappers have sold her to slavers or have been themselves taken by slavers (my recollection of this bit is a bit hazy). The rescue party learn the destination of the slavers by talking to salt traders.
The slavers are heading for the far away mountains to sell their catch to a (relatively) advanced city-dwelling nation ruled by a god-king. To look at the god-kings face means certain death (unclear if this death is instant, or if it means that the offender is shunned as lawless/banished to a wasteland). The girl is sold to the temple of the god-king and are to be wed and/or sacrificed to the king. The rescue party find a local ally to help them, and end up saving the god-king from a plot by the evil vizier/main priest or whatever during a jaguar hunt. As a reward the girl is freed and reunited with her betrothed, the protagonists get fancy gifts and travel back home.
Some details (that might be from other books in the series):
- There is a tapir hunt, involving using a big bow which have to be drawn using the feet while lying on the back.
- At one point the protagonists have to climb trees to escape/hide from aggressive peccaries
- Some people worship a giant (evil?) snapping turtle living in the bottom of a cave and feed it human sacrifices.
- There is a sacred gathering of the tribes where conflicts are resolved, trade agreements are made, weddings are decided. All feuds and violence are banned during this gathering, but traveling to the gathering can be dangerous as the restriction on violence only applies to the gathering proper.
- Salt, well crafted items and hides are the main trade goods, the protagonists doesn't understand the mountain nation's fascination for precious metals.
- There is a character called something like Stonefist because his tolerance of pain (he receives the nickname after holding a burning coal in his hand for a dare?)
I don't know how old these books might be, I read them in the early 90s, but I'm guessing they were from the 60-70s.
The original might not be English! The version I read was in Norwegian, and I've always assumed they were originally in English, but that might not be the case.