Time on My Hands Chapter 21 - 217-235 CE: The Last Sibling

Time on My Hands
Chapter 21: 217-235 CE: The Last Sibling

Raben traveled to Barmaz. The slaves he’d left behind on his last visit with the assistance of those he had sent after getting the imperial summons had completed basic stone boundary walls and had constructed sturdy stone bridges at every stream crossing. The log homes scattered about greater Barmaz had all been replaced with sturdy homes, barns and even outbuildings with sturdy stone foundations on terraced slopes. In the tiny village of Champery the main road opened onto a sloping plateau about a half mile after crossing the Torrent le Chavalet. There he selected a site that backed up against the steeply sloping ridge to the peak Crois de Culet [GM 46.180992, 6.871805 at 1962m].

At that site he had the slope excavated back 60 feet and down 30 feet using the excavated rock to build a five story building that had ground level entries on each floor. The building was 80 feet wide by 320 feet long. There would be stone galleries to serve as library galleries. The huge stone building would become the main base of the Barmaz office of Corvus Scriptorium. The new slaves provided the labor to assist with the heavy lifting as well as continue building boundary walls and terraces. At the same time Raben encouraged some of his grandnephews to learn all aspects of the building trade, carpentry, masonry and plumbing with the intention of taking over the Barmaz branch of Corvus Construction to handle all future Barmaz building as well as bringing money into the enclave from regional projects.

The Torrent de Chavalet drained the valley just north of Champery. At an altitude of 4600 feet [GM 46.186205, 6.857685] just off the stream Raben had them begin digging a tunnel with a one percent slope southeast through the ridge. The tunnel would be 2530 feet long with a drop of 25 feet so it would exit the ridge at a height of 4575 feet [GM 46.183764, 6.864784]. At the exit a cistern would be dug/built into the slope 80 feet high and 50 feet round with the bottom being at a height of 4525 feet. Once the tunnel and cistern were complete, a dam with a height of 4605 feet would be built on the Chavalet to divert water into the tunnel to fill the cistern. The cistern was well above the Champery so it could provide running water to the village.

Raben’s brothers and their spouses died while he’d been with Elgabalus. His stepsisters and spouses, living in the Elder House, were nearing the end of their lives. Feeling the loss of his generation cut him. They had married and had families, something his eternal prepubescence and intersex condition prohibited. The Demon Slayer would never have children. Watching his siblings age and die was difficult but he forced himself to stay and face the pain to build up the strength to endure it happening again and again. He now understood the agony of being stuck at one age.

The forestry project that Raben had began years ago was finally paying dividends. A nephew figured out how to successfully germinate the seeds to create seedlings. There were four species that were propagated. At the higher altitudes the Swiss Pine was the choice. The trees grew and flourished between altitudes between 3900 and 7500 feet which cover all but the highest peaks. The mature size is between 85 and 115 feet with trunk diameters up to 5 feet. They can reach an age between 500 and 1000 years however, it grows very slowly and in tough conditions may take thirty years for the tree to reach four feet high. Only 3% of Greater Barmaz was higher than 7500 feet. The seedlings were grown to a height of 18 inches in the lower areas protected from the harsher weather conditions. In the spring a month after the snows melted the small trees were transplanted to the higher more inhospitable slopes. The hearty Swiss Pine seedlings, with moss and grass wrapped roots, could be planted in cracks and crevices in the steepest slopes. While the highest altitudes meant they wouldn’t grow high, they would indeed grow. Their pine cones produced an edible nut commonly known as pine nuts. The wood was highly aromatic with antibacterial properties.

At lower altitudes the tree of choice was the Silver Fir, a large evergreen grew to 130 to 160 feet high with a trunk diameter of up to 5 feet. It flourished up to an altitude of 5600 feet. A resinous essential oil can be extracted. This pine-scented oil can be used in perfumes, bath products and medicinal oils or distilled into turpentine. Its branches, including the needles, bark and wood can be used for production of spruce beer. The white wood is strong, lightweight, light-colored, fine grained, even-textured and long fibered, mainly used as construction wood and furniture. This tree could be grown in seventy five percent of Greater Barmaz.

The Yew Tree was an evergreen growing 33 to 66 feet tall, with a trunk diameter up to 6 feet. The bark is thin, scaly brown, coming off in small flakes aligned with the stem. The tree is quite poisonous and often gnarly. Straight pieces are valued since they make the best bows. They would be planted in small groves hidden amongst the silver fir trees.

The apple tree selected had a good fruit quality, both acid and sweet, which produced a golden yellow juice with a pleasant taste that could be brewed into a hard cider. They were also good for storage and drying. These were planted in lower sloping areas. Nearly all the slopes unsuitable for pastures would become forests. A companion project was bee keeping. The flower filled alpine pastures as well as trees made excellent honey.

During those years, in 224, news arrived that Julia Maesa had died. Much to his relief, with her passing went the Roman elite knowledge of his dual identities. Raben also spent time with his numerous niece and nephew descendants getting them accustomed to being without their elders and using them to replace the deceased on the Elder Council in order to continue self oversight for when he was not present. It wasn’t unusual that he had to demonstrate his physical prowess and martial skills to the older teens who often questioned why he led the Clan Corvo. In Rome he had commissioned paintings of himself as Raben and Fiach that now hung in the main room of the Elder House as well as in Mazbar and Zamrab. It wasn’t that he was vain, he wanted the younger generations to know what he looked like for times when he was away for extended periods of time.

In 227 Raben’s last surviving sibling, his step sister, passed. For the next five years he once more began to make the rounds of Barmaz, Mazbar and Zamrab while moving restless teen clan members to different sites. Three began working at the Corvus Scriptorium in Mazbar and another three at the Corvus Scriptorium in Zamrab. The plan was for them to spend several years learning the operations then return to Barmaz to run the newest location currently under construction in Champery. At the Corvus Scriptorium in Mazbar, Raben ordered copies made of all documents in the archives. These would be transported to Barmaz pending the completed construction of the Corvus scriptorium which would also serve as a library. This would allow the hidden catacombs at Barmaz proper to remain untouched and hidden.

Barbarian incursions and pressures on empire’s the eastern borders in both Europe and Asia continued unabated, especially in the East where the Persian Sassinid Empire was stretching its muscles. In religious matters, Severus Alexander kept an open mind. He wanted to erect a temple to Jesus but was dissuaded by the Pagan priests but pushed through the construction of a synagogue in Rome.

Raben did his best to avoid the political turmoil but had to have an ear tuned to the pulse of the empire, sorting reality from rumor to keep his family safe. The legions began to grumble as some benefits had to be reduced or eliminated due to budgetary restraints because of the near constant fighting on the frontiers. In 230 the Sassinid Empire invaded across the Tigris River into Roman territory. The Roman armies suffered a number of humiliating setbacks and defeats, but were able to retreat in order. In 232 Alexander led one army which gained victories but a second army was defeated by the Sassanids incurring further losses during retreats in Armenia. The fierce fighting depleted both sides militarily, supply wise and financially. The fighting dissolved into a stalemate. However the conduct of the Roman army showed an extraordinary lack of discipline. There was a mutiny in the Syrian legion but Alexander managed to suppress the uprising. The emperor returned to Rome and celebrated a triumph in 233. As he traveled back to Rome the northern portion of the empire was being invaded by Germanic and Sarmatian tribes.

In the early spring Raben decided to travel north into Germania Magna to see if he could mitigate or at least anticipate the border turmoil as well as to check if any of the family he left behind were still there. In secret Raben crossed the border at night. Neither the Romans nor the Germans watching the border noticed his passing. Staying mostly in the thick forests of Germania Magna, Raben moved silently living off the land.

It had been thirty years since Raben had left with his siblings. Now he was returning to the villages he served as clan Ianuarian thirty eight years before. Only a handful of the original population was left, having died, moved away or been absorbed by the invaders. Only one recognized him as he strode into the village pulling a travois with a gutted deer.

“It’s him,” an old woman exclaimed. “The Demon Slayer has returned! He looks the same, the years have not changed him!”

Raben sighed as he called out to the woman. “Hello Sig. It’s good to see you haven’t pissed anyone off enough to kill you.”

“Several have tried but failed,” Sig replied with a laugh as the pair hugged.

“I brought some fresh meat so we can have a feast,” Raben smiled.

Even though the population had changed, the language was similar and the old tales were still told, especially that of the Demon Slayer. Word that the Demon Slayer had returned swept through the village and everyone gathered to see the living legend. Runners set out to the neighboring villages to spread the word.

Raben took a few younger teen boys hunting. When they returned with two boars the boys raved about his hunting skills.

The women set to work preparing the meat as they set up for a feast. All afternoon people arrived seeking to see the living legend, the infamous Demon Slayer. The village’s population of eighty had tripled. Only those very few former clanspeople over age forty five remembered seeing Raben. Those younger were eager to see the living legend. Most had difficulty believing the small person could be the legendary Demon Slayer. They also had difficulty believing he’d brought two freshly killed boars and a deer to the feast.

Raben regaled the people with the stories of his exploits. The younger people found his stories of traveling so far and being head physician for Emperor Severus’ Caledonian expedition quite exciting. As the drink emboldened them Raben understood he’d have to show them his prowess. The old woman laughed knowing what Raben could do. Raben had a row of ten targets set up at one edge of the village. Then standing across the clearing near the maximum range he fired his bow, hitting the dead center of each target in a minute. The younger people were stunned while the older people laughed. Then Raben began running a zigzag path across the open ground firing on the run once again hitting the center of each target in a minute. Next he challenged the three strongest men to hand to hand combat. All were quickly dispatched without a blow landing on the eternal youth. The tales about the Demon Slayer suddenly didn’t seem so outlandish.

Raben spent a week going from village to village learning that what little remained of his birth clan had been absorbed by newcomers. The old leadership had died out and new leaders had moved in. The new people were a conglomerate of tribes that had splintered like his had, calling themselves the Alamanni. Only those who accepted the changes remained. When he asked about those he knew well who had remained behind he discovered they were dead or had packed up and moved across the border. With hearty goodbyes he set out on his northern trip. His heart was heavy knowing he’d never see anyone from the clan of his birth again.

With his skills he was able to observe and even listen while avoiding contact with villages. Only after several hours of observation did he make contact at the major towns. Raben silently slipped into the now almost universally walled towns after dark, then made his way to the town’s chief where he waited for the man to wake. Needless to say the chiefs were startled that he had made his way over the palisades and into their home without notice.

Then he identified himself as the by then legendary Demon Slayer who had single handedly wiped out the Roman slave raiders fifty seven years before explaining he’d been cursed by the Roman who came back to life to never age. Many doubted his identity until he demonstrated his battle skills with impossible arrow shots, sling stone accuracy, and hand to hand fighting with skilled warriors twice his preteen size. Once they begrudgingly believed him he asked about the tensions between themselves and the Romans. Naturally as an Ianuarian he treated the ill and injured as he traveled.

They felt the greedy Roman merchants were overcharging for their wares and underpaying for the Germanic trade items. In addition the Roman border guards held the Germans in low regard. Added to that was the ever increasing migration pressure from the east. Knowing the Romans, Raben admitted they would not change and their greed would only grow. While he urged against open warfare, advising that if they had to engage in battle, to do so with raids of overwhelming strength without attempting to wrestle territory from Rome.

His travels and meetings took him north on the German side of the Rhine River where he witnessed several hidden staging points for small hit and run Germanic raids across the river. After several weeks he reached the North Sea near present day Amsterdam. Then he followed the coast east traveling around the Danish Peninsula to the Baltic coast, following the coast to the Oder River. As he made his way upstream he stopped in the larger villages and towns to discuss their situations. Most were feeling pressure from the east while putting pressure on those to the west. In present day Czechia he reached the headwaters of the Oder. Three thousand feet south of the spring, over the land saddle forming a continental divide {GM 49.610070, 17.518642} is the headwaters of the Olesnice. That stream merges with the Moravaka-nahon which in turn merges with the Morava. Up to this time he had been traveling through areas populated by Germanic tribes who had heard of the Demon Slayer Ianuarian.

In the area of present day Slovakia Raben left the German settled areas. The people in that area were the Iazyges, a subtribe of the ancient Sarmatian tribe who traveled westward from Central Asia onto the steppes of what is now Ukraine in 200 BCE. Later on, in 44 BCE, they moved further into Hungary and Serbia, settling on the east side of the Danube east of Vienna and north of Budapest in the steppe between the Danube and Tisza rivers. Although originally migratory, they became semi-sedentary after settling in the steppe between the Danube and the Tisza rivers. They were herdspeople moving between pastures for their cattle and horses. They fought on horseback as cavalry at times serving Rome as mercenaries. They knew nothing of the Demon Slayer Ianuarian.

Fortunately the Curse gave Raben fluency in any language he heard so when he spied on the locals he understood them. Instead of sneaking in at night he boldly walked into the settlements an hour after dawn. His sudden appearance startled the community who immediately sprang to arms.

“I come in peace, Raben called out as he held his arms out from his sides to show he had no weapons. “I’m a Roman citizen who is traveling through your lands returning to Roman territory after traveling in the north.”

“You are but a child,” one of the warriors sneered. “A child doesn’t travel alone. Tell your companions to come out.”

“I’m an adult,” Raben replied. “I do travel alone.”

“You don’t even have whiskers,” the man scoffed as others gathered while some watched the perimeter.

“That’s true,” Raben chuckled. “I was Cursed when I was fourteen years old and have not aged since.”

“A witch! He’s a witch,” an old woman screeched. The men stepped back a bit and pointed their spears at Raben.

“I’m not a witch,” Raben declared. “I am a demon slayer and a healer.”

“Leave us,” the leader ordered. “Leave our lands!”

Raben could see the people were worked up and quite anxious and they were becoming more agitated with each passing second. “I’ll leave,” Raben declared with his arms raised not wanting to get into a fight. With measured steps he backed out of the settlement.

“NO! The witch will curse us,” the old woman screamed. “Kill it! Kill the witch!”

One man threw a spear. Raben dodged as several others threw spears. Reaching inside his cape he whipped out his sword knocking the spears out of the way. “Let me leave before I’m forced to fight you!”

Several men appeared with bows. Raben ran from the village as more spears and arrows were launched at him as he quickly outpaced his pursuers. Before he’d gone too far he heard the pounding of hooves approaching. Realizing he couldn’t outrun the horses on foot and since there was no place to use as cover Raben slipped his bow from his back, stopped, set the bow string, then pulled arrows from the quiver inside his cape. As the eight horsemen charged shouting their battle cries with their lances pointed his way, Raben began loosing arrows. Another dozen riders, the rest of the settlement’s warriors, were just coming out of the paddock.

With each shot, a mortally wounded rider toppled off their steed. By the time the first horse reached him all were riderless. With knickers and neighs Raben spoke to the horses who moved behind him then stopped in a milling herd. The rapidly approaching men and the watching women and children were not only stunned their men had been so easily picked off but that the youth had obviously enchanted the horses proving he was a witch. The riders checked their charge in fear.

Seeing their hesitation Raben leapt upon the back of the strongest horse with the bow still in his hands. “I came in peace, you threatened me so I tried to leave but you were foolish enough to try to attack me. I am the Demon Slayer thus have no fear of men! Now eight of your warriors have died and I have their horses. Their deaths bring the total I have personally killed in battle to two hundred sixty four. I am not proud of that total but I don’t hide my deadliness. I’ll take my leave with the horses as forfeit. I’ll kill any who pursue me.” With the bow still in his hands the horse he was riding turned and trotted away with the other seven horses following.

Upon seeing the fearful warriors watching him ride away, the old woman who started the debacle began screaming. “You cowards! Kill the witch! Don’t let him escape!”

One of the young women grabbed a spear and drove it through the screeching old woman’s gut until the point emerged from her back. The skewered woman grasped the spear, her startled pain filled eyes wide in shock. “You are the only witch,” the woman yelled. “Your bitterness is what just killed my husband! Die Witch!”

The other newly made widows picked up whatever was handy and began beating the dying woman.

No one shed a tear over her passing.

Raben knew there would be no pursuit. With his small herd he rode out of sight of the settlement, carefully avoiding nearing any settlements. After twenty miles he stopped for the night

Raben followed the Morava River until it joins the Danube. Then he turned upriver traveling thirty miles to Vindobona [PD Vienna], a part of the Roman eastern border defenses. He sold six of the horses, obtained Roman tack for the two horses, one to ride the other to serve as a pack animal.

Now safely back in Roman territory, he talked to the local Roman commander of the fort sharing information he’d gathered during his travels, basically that all the barbarians were restless and under pressure from other barbarians from the east and north, especially the Goths who were a Germanic people migrating south from the Baltic Sea. After that he headed upriver until he reached the route he’d taken traveling north. At that point he turned south returning to Barmaz.

It was the middle of October when he arrived back home. The snow was already beginning to accumulate on the Poeninus Mons rendering the pass unusable until mid May. After the long journey he was happy to relax with his family, the Clan Corvo. On the Spring Solstice he gathered everyone living on the Barmaz Estate for a celebratory feast. The construction of the large building for Corvus Scriptorium in Champery was wrapping up. Smaller buildings and barns were built in the growing village for those clanspeople not involved in agricultural work. The imported masons and their families were marrying into the clan.

The Vieze flowed down the bottom of the valley below Champery. In mid summer when the stream flow was at its lowest, at the point where the valley narrowed to a 50 feet wide canyon with sides 120 feet high by 500 feet long, a strong stone dam 60 feet high by 40 feet thick was built diverting most of the water into a long millrace while allowing excess flow including spring flood meltwater a safe bypass in the original streambed. A waterwheel driven blacksmith shop, lumber mill and grain mill were built along the mill race.

Raben established a school to further educate the clan. In the fall he headed to Mazbar, staying a month before moving on to Zamrab. In February 234 he returned to Mazbar with the three clansmen he’d left to learn how to run the scriptorium. Arriving in Rome at the end of March, the three joined up with the three clansmen he’d left at Mazbar to learn to run that scriptorium. For the next six weeks the six compared notes and shared the knowledge they’d gained over the last seven years.



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