Time on My Hands Chapter 13 - Spreading the Family

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Time on My Hands
Chapter 13: 203-206 CE: Spreading the Family

“Idiots like you never learn,” Raben sighed. “Let’s make this interesting. I’m an Ianuarian. I’ll take on the six of you at one time. If I win I’ll patch up your wounds. If I lose you can have your way with the girls.”

The girls gasped and huddled together as the guys licked their lips.

“You’re on, kid,” the leader laughed. “Come on guys, the sooner we beat this smart ass the sooner we get the girls.”

As Raben stepped away from the girls the guys surrounded him. “This is your last chance to walk away,” Raben smiled at them.

The guys swarmed Raben only to find themselves charging into each other as the small boy leapt straight into the air tucking into a somersaulting ball before coming down on top of the confused bruised guys taking the staggered group to the ground. Before they could recover a flurry of kicks and punches began to rain down on them. The girls watched in disbelief as their small wiry uncle tore into the six guys. The fight was savage but brief.

In under two minutes the six guys were sprawled upon the ground. Three were unconscious and the other three groaning in pain.

Raben stood amongst them. “I warned you to walk away. Heck, you didn’t even land a blow on me. You’re lucky I held back and didn’t break any bones. You’re even luckier I didn’t pull out my knives or you’d all be dead. Come on girls, lets head back to camp.”

The girls were stunned. Even though they witnessed the brief skirmish they had trouble believing their eyes. They had heard the tales of their small uncle taking out ninety eight Roman slavers to free their captured family and other clan members. For the first time they really thought the stories could very well be true.

Naturally when they arrived back at the campsite the girls excitedly told their tale about uncle Raben taking out six bigger guys at once. Raben just shrugged his shoulders as if he’d done nothing out of the ordinary.

“I haven’t changed a bit since I gained the Curse,” Raben explained. “I still have all the physical abilities I had back then.”

“We’ll post a watch tonight just in case they want revenge,” Adlefuns said.

“You’re right. Just because we’re inside Roman territory doesn’t mean we’re safe from thieves and troublemakers,” Raben advised. “We should post a watch every night while we’re traveling.”

Raben took his four unmarried nephews and six horses to head back to town to the stable. There he picked up the three wagons he’d ordered before he crossed the border. He also bought six additional horses. The stable crew explained and demonstrated how to attach the harness to each horse then attach the harnesses to the wagons. They would have four horses per wagon plus Raben’s original horse and packhorse. After loading grain bags, water and wine amphora on the wagons they headed back to the camp.

The night was peaceful. Upon breaking camp they took some of the tents to cover the wagons then loaded a lot of their gear in the beds of the wagons. In two wagons they loaded nine of the five and under kids with ten of the five and under kids in the third wagon. Each wagon also had two mothers and two teens to watch the little kids. The ten mothers, all of whom were nursing, would rotate riding so they could nurse their infants. The four unmarried nephews were the designated wagoneers. Raben’s mother, the family matriarch at fifty six would ride on a horse as would Raben so he could ride up and down the column and be readily available if one of the wagons spooked. Several times a day Raben broke out his flute and played happy tunes as they traveled.

The trip through the mountains and valleys of Switzerland was eye opening for the family. Accustomed to the tree heavy low mountains and valleys of their natal home to see the higher mountains and broader valleys not to mention the numerous large lakes drew their eyes to nature’s bounty. The further south they traveled, the higher the mountains grew, many of the highest still capped with snow. Back where they came from the difference between the valleys and hill tops was no more than 400 feet. By the time they entered the Rhone River valley as it entered Lake Geneva the difference between the valley floor and the surrounding mountaintop had grown to 5250 feet. The towering snowy peaks were simply awe inspiring.

They reached Monthey at noon and turned up the Vieze valley. They stopped for the night in Champery, the last village of the valley. The family found it mind boggling as he pointed higher into the surrounding mountains as their final destination. The trip to Barmaz took the family twenty one days. Needless to say they were all weary.

The next morning, the start of the last full week of August, they set out from Champery. A mile outside of the village they arrived at the cleared land. They saw the barn and house built onto the slope with some crops in the fields between the tree stumps. There was a man and woman working the fields that Raben rode out to greet.

“They are two of my slaves. This is the first of three levels of my farmstead,” Raben explained when he returned to the group. “Some of you will live here in that house.”

They then followed Raben as he led them beyond the fields through the low pastures, then up the switch back road to the middle pastures. The vista as they topped the switchback road onto the plateau of the middle pastures stunned them in it’s simplistic beauty. The houses and barns with the chickens, young lambs and their mothers gamboling about brought a smile to everyone’s face.

The circling flight of a pair of golden eagles drew everyone’s eyes. Raben smiled then dismounted, reached into a pack on his horse to pull out a leather pouch and ran out into the field away from everyone else but close enough for them to easily hear and see. Cupping his hands to his mouth he let out a nerve shattering screech. The circling eagles replied with their own nearly identical screeches. Then one of the eagles came lower and circled Raben. They once more exchanged screeches. By then his family, the Bricus family and the slaves were all watching. The male eagle swept down as if it was attacking Raben. Raben stood his ground raising his left arm to hold it straight as the observers gasped. At the last moment the eagle feathered his wings to land on Raben’s outstretched arm. Smiling he reached out and scratched the head of the eagle. Reaching in his pocket he pulled out a piece of jerky which he gave to the eagle.

The eagle quickly gobbled the jerky strip. Raben and the eagle chirped and screeched for a bit then the eagle flew into the air to rejoin it’s still circling mate. The majestic birds chirped and screeched then the male eagle flew back to land on Raben’s arm. Raben and the eagle called out to the circling female. After a bit of hesitation she flew down to land on the ground several feet in front of Raben. Raben sat and pulled a piece of jerky from the pouch.

Everyone watched in awe as Raben took a bite of the jerky, then tore a chunk off which he gave to the male eagle before offering the remaining meat to the female. Hesitantly she moved until she was able to take the jerky. Within five minutes Raben was able to stroke the female eagle.

After ten minutes the magnificent birds then flew off. Even the Bricus family stood with mouths agape as Raben strode back to join them. Raben explained his encounter with the male eagle eight years previously when he took possession of Barmez.

Everyone enjoyed lunch. Then he took his family to the upper pastures. Needless to say they were impressed with the amount of land that Raben owned. Even taking into account that nearly a quarter of the land was too steep and rocky, useless for farming, the remainder was still impressive. The herds of cows and goats and flocks of sheep were also mind boggling for the Germans accustomed to forests. They returned to the middle pastures to set up camp for the night.

The next week was spent with Raben’s family exploring life at Barmaz. The Bricus family was happy. By the end of the week the son who had been running the farm moved down valley with his family leaving the family patriarch and matriarch behind. The older couple didn’t want to leave their life long home and would assist in teaching the newcomers how to handle the farm. Raben eased their minds when he told them they could stay as long as they want, even until they passed.

Each day the eagle pair would seek Raben out. After five days, when they arrived a pair of juvenile birds were with them. When the adults landed, the youngsters flew closer, then cautiously landed. In minutes they were enjoying scratches and jerky.

Realizing his family would grow rapidly Raben did a lot of thinking. When he was fourteen he’d had six blood relatives including his stepfather. Now twenty six years later there were seventy seven in only two and one half generations. Assuming all the children married and averaged three and one half kids each, along with assuming only three generations alive at a time, in another five generations, a hundred years, there could be just shy of twenty thousand in his extended family. Of course some would not marry and others would set out to see the world, but even if half left, he’d need land enough to support ten thousand!

As his family settled in Raben spent a week riding through the surrounding valleys talking to the herdspeople and farmers. It was clear he needed to expand Barmaz because his family was already too large for the present area to support. A half mile south and upstream from Champery the Vieze passed through a narrow canyon. The first tributary heading southeast, was the Saufla. That stream’s watershed was much like Barmaz. The upper reaches were steep and mountainous soaring to rocky snow capped peaks. The lower and middle reaches had plenty of trees, pastures and land suitable for small scale farming. It was about the same size as Barmaz.

The next major Vieze tributary was the Torrent De Barme the watershed of which made up Barmaz. There were no more major tributaries to the VIeze but it’s remaining watershed drained the adjacent valley situated to the north of Barmaz. This valley had an area equal in size and altitude similar to both the upper and middle pastures. Both areas had large areas of evergreen trees but if the trees were harvested it took nearly fifty years for new trees to grow to harvestable size.

Raben spoke with the herders and farmers occupying the land to determine who owned the properties. He discovered no one knew who owned the land. Those who lived there had been there for generations, well before the Romans had come into the area. The land was so marginal no one had ever registered title much less questioned or even desired ownership. Herding was barely above subsistence level so owning the land wasn’t profitable for landlords. Other than rocks and trees the land had no natural resources. It would be nearly impossible for an absentee owner to make any profit off the land. Only someone like Raben... or his predecessor Marcellus Longinus who had initially purchased Barmaz... with multi generational long term self interest would make such an investment in subsistence level pasture land. It was perfect for Raben’s desire to protect and preserve his family. There were fourteen married couples in his family. The couples traveled with Raben as he visited the neighboring farms to negotiate buying the land and arrange for the selling families to spend a month training the new family how to milk the goats and cows, make cheese and tend the flocks of sheep.

Wisely Raben had been including coins in his document shipments. Hidden amongst each shipment of terra cotta boxes, were three with coins wrapped in cloth to limit and muffle their movement and to keep them in a similar weight range of document bearing boxes. Retrieving coins from the archive he took his family shopping for additional land.

Raben rode into the provincial capital at Forum Claudii Vallensium. There he thoroughly checked the archives for any records of ownership for any of the lands adjacent to Barmaz. He discovered beyond Monthey, there were no records that anyone owned any of the Vieze watershed. Inquiries revealed that very few of the isolated mountain ringed valleys forming the watersheds emptying into the Rhone had documented owners since there was nothing of value there. With a well placed bribe he returned to the valley with a clerk from the governor’s staff and a magistrate to draw legal property bills of sale and transfers with all required provincial seals.

Arriving at Barmaz they spent the night in the newly built house. The next day they went to each of the original owners where the transfer of ownership was documented. Raben made sure the documents included the suitability of the land: primarily steep barren rocky slopes with marginal pasture in the valleys between with no natural resources. The entire La Vieze watershed upstream from Champery was now officially listed as being owned by Raben Corvo, head of the Clan Corvo, with his descendants listed as his heirs in the provincial capital of Forum Claudii Vallensium. An imprint of the raven signet ring was embossed on the documents. The last thing he did was to hire a childless widow who knew how to read and write to continue to teach his family when he left.

Raben returned to Barmaz. After talking to the elder Bricus’, his mother, and his siblings and their spouses it was clear that once most people reached the age of forty their physical prowess began to decrease. His siblings and spouses were right on the cusp, being between thirty five and forty two. The Bricus’ along with his mother were on the downslope, being between forty seven and fifty six. While mentally sharp they were having stamina issues. They didn’t want to stop working since in the pastoral society of the Bricus’ and the Celtic/Germanic society of the Corvo’s, retirement was unknown. One worked until they could do nothing. Living past the age of contribution was only possible if one’s family supported them. No one wanted to be a burden. Raben suggested that as people aged they had to recognize and admit their decline by earnestly training their younger family to replace them in the day to day work load. Then, once the younger were ready, to allow them to take over. To avoid power struggles, the older people needed to step away yet provide wisdom and sage advice for the Clan Corvo. They would form a Council of Elders. The large three story building Raben had built to camouflage the Barmaz archive would be a perfect place for the older family members to relocate. The toddlers of the family, once weaned, would stay on the top floor where the widow he’d hired would teach them how to read, write and do simple math. They’d also record a family history. Basic work skills would also be taught including cooking, cleaning, laundry, animal husbandry, carpentry and such to the boys and girls. Raben’s nephews and nieces agreed with the plan.

Within a week the fourteen families were spread across the watershed of La Vieze upstream from Champery. They were close enough to assist each other but far enough apart to thrive. Over the next month the fourteen families settled into their new homes. Any renovations or additions were begun with the help of the slaves. Then Raben’s mom and the Bricus’ moved into the archive building, now renamed the Elder House. The Bricus’ advised and demonstrated what was needed to prepare the herds and farmsteads for winter. Raben’s grandnephews and nieces between three and five moved into the third floor of the Elder house where he taught them to read and write.

The snows began with the start of December. The entire Clan Corvo was awestruck by the pristine whiteness of the surrounding mountain peaks. The snow in the pastures melted but the mountains remained white. With each succeeding snowfall the snow pack built. By January the upper pastures were snow covered. By the end of January the middle pastures were snow covered and the high pastures were snowbound. Although there were a few stumbles the family adapted to the harsher Alpine winter. As the snows melted the streams in Barmaz stayed in the sharp canyons they had cut over the eons.

As the accumulated snows melted the pastures erupted into alpine flowers. Once the pastures were snow free the Bricus’ taught the Corvo’s how to shear sheep and goats. Soon they were processing the wool and the lambs were born.

It was end of April of 204 when Raben left Barmaz to return to Rome. His nephew, seventeen year old Harl, Adlebert’s youngest son accompanied him. To those who met the travelers they assumed Raben was the younger of the duo. Harl found it difficult to believe the road to the Poeninus Pass was so high. The road just kept climbing and climbing. When they started down the other side he was relieved. Raben’s natural affinity for languages astounded the teen. During rest periods Raben demonstrated simple self defense moves while reinforcing the best way to survive a fight was to avoid one.

Taking their time it was third week of May when they reached Mazbar. Ulixes and his family warmly welcomed Raben and Harl. It quickly became clear that Harl and Ulixes youngest step daughter, sixteen year old Spuria were entranced with each other. Harl began working in the scriptorium learning all aspects of the trade. The lovebirds planned to wed in October. Raben felt the need to tell his family and accompanied the mid July Mazbar to Barmaz shipment. Staying only a week he returned to Mazbar arriving in late September for the wedding accompanied by his niece, Lisl, Adalfuns’ youngest daughter.

Harl warmly greeted his cousin and she was welcomed by Ulixes’ family. Just as happened between Harl and Spuria, Lisl and seventeen year old Lucius, Ulixe’s stepson, hit it off. They would marry in the spring. Raben’s family was firmly intermingled with Ulixes’ adopted family.

Raben spent the next few years shuttling back and forth between Barmaz and Mazbar. During that time his musical interests grew. The Pandura was a modified centuries old Greek version of a 3 string lute with a medium length neck mounted atop small resonating chamber to which the Romans added 4th string. Raben bought one and learned to play it with zest and flair.

The Roman empire was seething during this time. Emperor Septimus Severus and his co-emperor and son Caracalla had been in Rome rewriting Roman law while transforming the government into a military despotic monarchy. The constitutional power of the Roman Senate was quashed and many senators executed. This was partially accomplished by getting the near absolute loyalty of the army by increasing their wages by one third. Severus was popular with the citizens of Rome, having ruthlessly stamped out the rampant corruption of Commodus's reign.

Raben’s family continued to grow. Both Harl and Lisl had children with their respective spouses. In 205 Raben brought fifteen year old Jarl, his step brothers youngest son, from Barmaz on his last trip before the pass became snowbound for the winter. Jarl found the scriptorium quite intriguing and began to copy scrolls.

Even better was that Corvus Scriptorium was turning a hefty profit and business was booming. The quality of the copies produced was impeccable and it was becoming scrolls and codexes from the literary enterprise. Instead of hiring scribes, Raben had made it policy to find orphan street urchins with above average intelligence to bring into the scriptorium as apprentices. The homeless kids, both male and female, were truly grateful for regular meals and a warm safe place to sleep. They were eager to learn and being young were able to be trained to be the exacting scribes for which Corvus Scriptorium was increasingly noted. Even with the expense of finding and housing the kids, Corvus Scriptorium was reproducing documents in half the time of competing scriptoriums at a quarter of the cost.

In December Raben decided it was time to return to Alexandria. Jarl was eager to accompany him. Since only Fiach was known at Zamrab, Raben decided she should make the trip with Jarl. Like the rest of the family Jarl had seen his uncle assume his feminine identity. This was the first time it would be a continuous role. The voyage across the open Mediterranean was not easy for Jarl. The first three days he was barely mobile being seasick. Not wanting to clean the messes, the crew normally tied a person with chronic seasickness to a side post where they could toss their cookies over the side without the risk of falling overboard. Fiach tended to her nephew until her motion sickness remedy took hold. While never really getting his sea legs, at least he could move about the vessel. When the coast of Africa hove into view Jarl was elated even though they were still two days out of port. They landed in Alexandria mid morning with Jarl vowing to never sail the open seas again.

It was noon when they reached the town side dock of Zamrab. They had to signal the island to send their boat over to pick them up. Clearly her arrival created a stir as dozens of men on the distant dock began to scramble about. It had been three years since Fiach left for Rome. By their reaction she knew something was not right but played innocent so as not to make them more unpredictable. Quietly she warned Jarl to be prepared for trouble by staying out of the way.

“I apologize for arriving unannounced,” Fiach smiled when the boat carrying the scriptorium manager and half a dozen armed men reached the dock. “I didn’t decide to come until a month ago and took the first ship.” With that Fiach and Jarl stepped onto the boat with their gear. “There is no need to scurry about making special preparations. We’ll just go to my fourth floor apartment.”

“NO! Ahh, we had a bad storm a few months ago and the roof was damaged,” the anxious manager exclaimed. “Ahh...”

“You’re not a very good liar,” Fiach icily declared as she glared at the sweating man.

The armed men, who clearly did not look like scribes began to fidget but kept silent. When they stepped off the boat at the Zamrab dock additional armed men surrounded Fiach and Jarl as the manager stayed huddled on the boat. She noted the well used swords at the sides of the new men.

The men had heard the story of how Fiach had single handedly killed a number of men attacking a Christian compound. She had claimed to be a Demon Killer. They assumed she must be an Amazonian Warrior. Yet what they saw before them, a slight girl, barely a teen... what kind of a warrior could she be? If she was lucky the only demons she could slay would be rampaging squirrels.

With sixteen to one odds Fiach wasn’t about to wait for them to attack... or risk her nephew. With a lightening move she drew her own sword quickly and harshly struck Jarl between his legs with the flat of the blade. With a painful grunt her suddenly breathless nephew dropped to the dock curling into the fetal position groaning in agony.

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I had expected trouble near Rome

I assumed Alexandra would be in order. She struck Jarl to keep him out of the way then?

She is going to see her family grow to enormous size, assuming that many are not killed in wars.

Very Nice


So, what happens

So, what happens when the Goths and Huns arrive???

They May BE the Goths...

...by the time that happens, at the rate they're expanding.



joannebarbarella's picture

If only people like Raben/Fiach had really been around to organise things in that era.

And a bloodbath

Wendy Jean's picture

ensues. Wonder how much property survives?

All the different Goths

After looking at the comments, perhaps you'd care to carefully explain the different eras in Gothic history??? I'm learning things that had never gotten my attention. :)

The talk in the comments about the various kinds of Goths, and then my own experience with Islamic history (Of course told from their point of view), has me sitting on the floor with my eyes wide open. For those interested, it appears as if the Goths had just swept through southern Europe, and then the next century, Islam began. Of course the Muslims take credit for occupying almost the same territory that the Goths had in the 7th century.

Some of you may not know that I was an active very mild Muslim from 2005, and now Trump has made it very frightening to be Muslim even if I never did a violent thing.

I love this exposure to history ! :)