"A number of independent and warlike kingdoms developed in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala during the Postclassic Period. They may have originated through the migration of populations following the collapse of the Classic cities of the lowlands. With the end of the Classic Period, various Maya groups ventured into the highland regions, bringing with them a powerfully Mexicanized Maya culture as a result of contacts with the Putún or Chontal Maya of the Gulf Coast and the Usumacinta Basin.
"The most prominent of these groups of invaders were the K'iche', who claimed to descent from the legendary city of Tollan. Through their skillful political and military strategy, they rapidly managed to extend their domain across a broad region of the highlands. According to K'iche' mythology, narrated in the epic cycle of the Popol Vuh, the ancestors of this group married into some of the noble families of the highlands, establishing the bloodlines that later came to be known as K'iche', Kaqchicel, Rab'inal and Tz'utujil.
"These mythological accounts coincide with archaeological data, indicating Jakawitz as the first K'iche' settlement, founded in about AD 1200. From here, the K'iche' ruler Tz'ikin supposedly conquered the Rab'inal and Iqomaq'i. A few decades after these conquests, the K'iche' moved their capital to Ismachí, where internal conflict led to the division of the three groups that formed K'iche' society. The most noble and powerful of the three groups founded a new capital at Q'umarkaj (Utatlán), led by a ruler who -- significantly -- was named Q'uq'kumatz, or Feathered Serpent, testifying to the fact that this group shared some of the political models that were most common in Mesoamerica during this period. During his reign and his successor's, the K'iche' managed to extend their control over the entire highland area and to a stretch of the Pacific Coast. It seems that during this era a political organization founded on the coexistence of independent lineages coalesced into a centralized state in which the various lines nevertheless continued to play a key role."
* Foster 2002 p77
"The native chronicles recount the founding of the Quiché confederacy. In the 14th century, the Quiché Maya, under their legendary leader K'ucumatz (Feathered Serpent), who is said to have ruled from 1375 until 1425, waged a series of wars to control the central highlands of Guatemala. His son Qik'ab (d. 1475), with Cakchiquel and Tzutujil allies, extended the Quiché kingdom; by the late 15th century, the Quiché controlled the Guatemalan highlands from the frontier of modern El Salvador on the east to Chiapas on the west, and included the Pacific coast well into Chiapas. From their sacred capital of Utatlán (or K'umarcaaj in Quiché Mayan), the Quiché appointed governors to conquered cities and demanded tribute from others in a realm that covered 67,358 square kilometers (26,000 square miles) and included an estimated 1 million Maya.
"They consolidated their hold on the region through intermarriages and the joint perfomances of important rituals. They established themselves as a capital of learning, producing sacred books and history recorded with Long Count dates. These books were seen by 16th century Spaniards but subsequently disappeared. And the Quiché Maya controlled trade in highland obsidian and lowland cacao production. At the time of the Spanish Conquest, it is estimated that 50,000 Quiché lived in the province around the capital of Utatlán."
* Foster 2002 p147
"The Late Postclassic highland Maya had an avian military order, and some native documents describe the great warriors as eagles; the Cakchiquel Maya described Quiché warriors as covered with feathers and wearing metal crowns with precious stones."