Time on My Hands Chapter 32 - 298-299 CE: Clan Corvo Goes Norse

Time on My Hands
Chapter 32: 298-299 CE: Clan Corvo Goes Norse

Fiach learned about the Norse pantheon, a variation of the German pantheon but much harsher. She was most intrigued by Odin and his twin companions, the Ravens, Hugin and Munin. Odin was the ‘raven-god’ or ‘the priest of the raven sacrifice’, a poetic way of describing fallen warriors as “sacrifices” to the ravens and other carrion birds, with Odin as a decider of who lives and who dies in battle. In the same vein, ravens were called ‘the greedy hawks of Odin’. The spotting of ravens immediately following a sacrifice to Odin was taken as a sign that the god had accepted the offering. However ravens aren’t only birds of gore and carnage, they’re also exceptionally intellectual birds, and Odin was an exceptionally intellectual god. Hugin comes from the word hugr, thought. Munin comes from the word munr, which encompasses the concepts of thought, desire and emotion. They’re Odin’s intellectual/spiritual capabilities journeying outward in the form of fittingly intelligent and curious birds that resonate with Odin’s roles as battle god and death god. The sending forth of spiritual aspects of oneself to accomplish particular tasks, in the case of Hugin and Munin, the gathering of additional wisdom and knowledge to add to Odin’s already-prodigious store, was a common practice by Norse shamans and sorcerers.

Once Fiach realized the almost reverence and apprehension these proto-Norse had for ravens, she decided to go all out. She bided her time until one day she saw several ravens picking a harvested field just outside the homestead buildings. Using her ability to communicate with animals she mimicked their harsh guttural KROCKING. The ravens responded. To the onlooking human residents, for the next few minutes she seemed to be having a back and forth conversation with the birds, which is exactly what she was doing. Nearly everyone had gathered to watch the bizarre event. Fiach walked to the fence by the field and the ravens flew to perch on the fence on either side of her, where they seemingly had a merry conversation. Finally she bid them farewell and walked back to the stunned humans.

She explained her name, Fiach, meant Raven in Celtic and her surname of Corvo meant raven in Latin. Then she revealed the duality of her nature and that she also appeared as her ‘twin’ brother Raben, who’s name also meant Raven in German. Then she confessed that she spent the majority of the time presenting as Raben.

That she was two ravens like Odin’s spies made them a bit nervous but by then they had grown accustomed to her helpful and honest ways so they accepted her duality.

“I was fourteen when I received a curse and I have not aged a day since then,” Fiach confessed as she looked everyone in the eye deciding to lay everything out for them. “That was one hundred twenty one years ago. I am one hundred thirty five years old. I obtained the curse by killing a demon and am known as the Demon Slayer.”

When she saw their doubt she pulled a knife and sliced her arm. They all watched the freely flowing blood dwindle and stop, then with disbelieving eyes, watched the wound heal.

Needless to say they were spooked by her abilities. Fortunately they felt she was a gift to them sent by Odin.

As the winter advanced, the days grew shorter {at midwinter there was only a bit over 3 hours of sunlight with the sun barely reaching over the horizon}. The long nights were much less boring for the farmstead natives as Fiach regaled them with tales of her travels, explorations and exploits. They had difficulty believing such things as deserts with deadly unbearable heat and no water. They also found it hard to accept the massive monuments like the pyramids or the Pharos Lighthouse along the Nile. The splendor of Rome and Athens left them speechless. Fiach had learned to draw from the artists Corvus Scriptorium had hired so was able to render acceptable images of what she'd seen in her travels.

They realized Fiach would be a formidable foe and asked about her combat abilities. Like their descendants, they were all about fighting and marveled at her stories of combat. Like many warriors, they pressed her for how many she had killed in combat. At first she resisted telling them insisting she was a healer and killed only when necessary, but was finally compelled to admit to a total of four hundred seven deaths. That of course led to wrestling contests with her guests. They marveled that she never lost, even against giant men three times her size.

Saturdays found her traveling to neighboring farmsteads where she told stories and defeated their champions in wrestling and demonstrations of martial abilities. None could better her archery for distance and accuracy. The same for using the simple sling and throwing knives. At first throwing axes was problematic but she watched the best performers and copied their moves soon beating their best, quite impressing them that she learned the skill so quickly. They found it almost impossible to believe she could outrun their fastest horses over distances of three miles or greater. Her ability to swim across the 6 miles across the fjord and then the same distance back, 12 miles in all, in four hours, in the dead of winter utterly astounded them when anyone lasting fifteen minutes in the frigid icy water was considered miraculous. The more they witnessed her martial and physical skills, the more they wondered why her kills only amounted to four hundred seven. She smiled and reaffirmed she was primarily a healer, not a warrior

In the early spring she assisted harvesting bog iron nodules from a neighboring peat bog. The snows were just starting to melt but the decomposition occurring in the bogs created enough heat to melt the snow covering them. Since the seas were still too rough to safely venture out and the fields still frozen, nearly the entire community turned out. The hardy northern denizens ignored the cold as they cut the turf to reach the valued iron nodules. Fires and tents were set up on the edges of the bogs for the workers to warm up between taking turns in the muck. Fiach learned to appreciate the hard work required to ‘mine’ the vital iron.

One thing she found entrancing during her stay was the collection of lodestones they had, the magnetite rocks that attracted iron. She spent hours examining and experimenting with them. She explained to her hosts that nine hundred years before that a wise man named Thales had analyzed lodestones and his findings had been recorded in scrolls she had read. Thales concluded lodestones had souls, because iron is attracted to them.

{Thales was the first to be connected to knowledge of lodestones in history. A Greek with Phoenician heritage from the city of Miletus in Asia Minor, he was the first of the Seven Sages of Greece. Many regard him as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition, a philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer He is recognized as the first individual in Western civilization known to have entertained and engaged in scientific philosophy recognized for breaking from the use of mythology to explain the world and the universe, and instead explaining natural objects and phenomena by theories and hypotheses: science.}

Fiach bought one of the lodestones then carefully split off walnut sized chunks. In her experiments she suspended the disks from a thread. Everyone was entranced to watch them bob about as two chunks were brought into proximity, sometimes pushing apart spinning while other times snapping together. Using a bit of paint she dabbed a red color on the ends that came together. Soon she found that while the colors always came together if they were close, sometimes the unpainted opposite ends came together. Dabbing the opposite sides with a white color she discovered the same colors always came together and that the different colors tried to push apart. With those reactions she deduced that each had two poles, one that attracted the other and one that repelled the other. Both reactions were weak but nevertheless evident.

After several days of experiments she noticed that when the chunks were suspended far enough apart to not interact, they always settled into pointing the same direction, to the north. However, on one chunk the red pointed north, on the other it was the white. Spinning the suspended chunk always resulted in the chunk stopping with the same end pointing north. After swapping the colors on one stone chunk so the north pointing side was white, the spinning chunks always stopped with the white side pointing north. With that she concluded the alike poles repelled while the opposite polls attracted. Later she realized she had a way of determining which way was north without seeing the sun! Wisely she kept that discovery to herself. She built a small box to suspend the chunks just far enough apart to avoid being attracted. Then she added a lever that when moved one direction brought them into range which set them spinning, with the opposite colored ends eventually coming together thus creating a playful toy that secretly doubled as the first ever reliable compass.

Then as the winter tossed seas eased the ship was prepared for another voyage. Coastal voyages began the week after the spring solstice, the first week of April. Open sea voyages were done only between May and September. After tearful farewells, Fiach joined the crew to sail back south with the smelted iron. They set out the week after the spring solstice. She had set up an annual agreement to buy whatever Roman goods the proto-Vikings wanted to exchange for the raw iron. Each year they would give her a list for the following year. One of Olvir’s mid teen grandsons was fascinated with Fiach’s tales and begged to be allowed to accompany her and spend a year with her. After assuring Olvir she didn’t mind having the youth accompany her, Bjorn was added to the crew. She promptly began teaching him Latin so he could converse with her people.

The trip south went smoothly despite a few minor storms but they soon entered the Ijsselmeer, then into the Ketelmeer and finally the Ijssel River. Originally an individual river, nearly two hundred fifty years before the Romans had dug a canal from the Rhine to Ijssel to divert some of the Rhine flow and to provide a quicker way to move troops into the oft wet and marshy region. Fiach joined the crew in rowing upstream. It took 3 days of hard sailing and quite a bit of rowing to reach their destination, the Roman frontier fort town of Bonna {PD Bonn}.

Fiach leapt ashore and headed to the marketplace where she found several of her Corvoian clanspeople waiting per the instructions she had sent with the first iron shipment. She returned to the docks to introduce the Norse to her people. Placing several of her people on the ship she took the crew into the town to visit a tavern.

The next day they offloaded the iron and loaded the pots, farming implements, and other trade goods on the ship. Three days after they arrived in Bonna, the Norse headed home as did Fiach and her people. Bjorn was fascinated with the Rhine and the paved Roman roads.

After rising at the end of the first night on the road, Raben made his appearance. Bjorn had known Fiach was dual natured and that she would be swapping identities but he was still stunned when he met her ‘twin’. Raben quickly put him at ease.

The armed wagon train made it’s way south along the river to the Roman trading town of Basilia {PD Basel}. There the Rhine turned east but they headed south passing through Bern journeying to Lake Leman then up the Upper Rhone River to Barmaz. It was the last week of May when they arrived at Barmaz.

Bjorn was wide-eyed when he saw the 300 feet high hewn glacis topped by massive defensive walls on the mountains. The ride up the narrow cut defile of the entrance road and under the imposing bridge left him speechless. At the top Raben commandeered a pair of horses for himself and Bjorn as the wagons passed on to their destination. Raben took Bjorn to the top of defenses. The youth was speechless as he looked down from the heights. Everyone he saw eagerly greeted his mentor. They rode north across the mountains on the wide road cut into the mountain behind the defense walls, a distance of 9 miles as the crow flies. They spent the night in guardroom below the watchtower in the northeast corner of the defenses.

The next day they rode down into the valley of Abondance, then followed the valley to Champery. Bjorn was blown away by the fact everyone welcomed Raben back. The sheer size of the Barmaz Bailiwick and all the people numbed his mind. Raben told him his four siblings and their spouses had been the first generation. Their 19,000 descendants and spouses, now approaching the adulthood of the seventh generation, were related by marriage to 90% of the population of 563,000+, that had spread as far as 40 miles into the lands all around the Barmaz Bailiwick. The sixth generation had absorbed the last of those residents not of blood descent inside the Barmaz Bailiwick. In another 40 years the entirety of the ninth generation of children were on schedule to be blood relatives of Raben. Then there were 1600+ descendants at both Zamrab in Egypt and Mazbar in Rome.

Several of Raben’s mid teen clanspeople were intrigued with Bjorn and Raben’s northern expedition. In mid July Raben led the eight teen relatives and Bjorn on a grand excursion. First they crossed the Poeninus Mons into Italy traveling to Mazbar arriving the second week of August. While Raben reviewed the operation he had four younger adult men take the teens on a tour Mazbar and of the capitol of the Roman Empire, the city of Rome.

After a month Raben led the teens to Ostia where they boarded a ship to sail to Alexandria arriving in the third week of September. They headed to Zamrab which they toured while Raben reviewed the books. Then taking one of the Zamrab ships, the teens and some rivermen sailed/rowed/poled up the channel to the Nile itself. They were amazed by the size of the river as they traveled upriver. They stopped and toured the pyramids and saw many ancient sites. The teens were awed by the hot dry sandy desert right next to the mighty river.

At the end of October they set sail to return to Ostia. During the seven week voyage Raben taught them much of his life experiences. He made sure Bjorn was learning to read and write as well as learning about Christianity. After a two week stay in Mazbar they took ship to sail west to the city of Marseille. There they bought horses and set out on the road.

From Marseille they traveled north through the town of Aix en Provence to the Drance River, then they followed the river upstream to just beyond the village of La Saulce. {This portion parallels PD Route A51.} Their path then follows the tributary Le Rousine upstream to the town of Gap. They followed the stream Torrent de la Bonne to the Le Drac following that stream to the Isere River at Grenoble. {This portion parallels PD Route N85.} The route follows the Isere River upstream to just past the village of Pontcharra where it followed the tributary Rousseau du Bob de Loge up into the pass through the village of Les Marches and through the towns of Chambery, Aix les Bains, Annecy, Neydens, to Geneva. {This portion parallels PD Route 41} The trip from Marselles to Barmaz took 13 days.

By then Bjorn had fallen in love with one of Raben’s grandnieces who had made the grand tour. They spent the remainder of the winter learning more so that Bjorn could read and write Latin as well as the German dialect spoken in Barmaz. The young couple married at the spring solstice. Even though they knew life in the north was harsher than life at Barmaz, 24 of Clan Corvo teens, including 3 of those who had accompanied Bjorn on the gand tour, asked to accompany Bjorn north to seek mates of their own amongst his people. Raben agreed to make the journey with them.

So it was that the last week of April the wagons set out for Bonna. The farewells for the teens were tearful since they and their loved ones understood they would most likely never return. The teens were excited about the road trip. They arrived in Bonna four days before Olvir’s ship arrived at the docks.

Raben noticed a sturdy Saxon boat at the docks but the captain and crew were quite disgruntled facing an unsolvable problem. The crew and owner/captain had been together several years and this was to be their last voyage. The captain’s son and friends had accompanied the voyage with the intent to take over after learning the ropes. Unfortunately the son and his erstwhile friends found the work disagreeable and boring. Promptly upon arrival they had leapt off the ship headed to the nearest tavern. The captain and his crew sold off their trade goods and waited for the youths to return. The next day a detachment of Roman troops appeared on the dock looking for the captain. The youths had predictably gotten drunk and not unusually began to brawl. When the town watch arrived the brawl turned deadly. Three locals had been killed and the young crew arrested. The erstwhile crew, including the captain’s son were in jail. The captain was unable to bail them out and they’d been sentenced to slavery for their transgressions. The only way to save them was to buy them at the slave auction but they lacked the coin to buy more than two of the five.

After learning about their dilemma Raben offered a solution. “I’ll buy your ship and take you home as well as get the boys back. There is a Norse vessel that should be arriving shortly. My young friends and I intend to go with them but I fear the vessel will be too crowded with the cargo I’ve brought for their ship. I can get more cargo for your ship, then we can spread the cargo and people between the 2 ships. If you’re willing to sell, you can begin by teaching these youngsters how to handle your ship. Bjorn is Norse and grew up sailing so he already has seafaring experience. Once he learns the quirks of your ship and Captain the ship. When the Norse ship arrives, I’ll introduce you and you can help unload it’s cargo and reload it with my goods. When the Roman’s hold the slave auction, I’ll buy your son and his friends but keep them in irons and use them as slaves to row the Norse vessel. If they ask about you we simply tell them you must have returned home. When we set off, you follow, continuing to train these youngsters how to sail your vessel. You can keep an eye on Bjorn and continue to train the kids while we head to your home port. When we near your home port, signal us to turn in. When we dock, I’ll officially exchange your son and his friends for your ship. That way you can keep the profit you made on this voyage and it will teach your son and his friends a harsh lesson in reality.”

The captain and crew understood it was the best solution and agreed. Raben went to the slave auction and purchased the five destitute chained young men as well as a dozen other healthy slaves. By prearrangement Raben set the Saxons to work mucking the Roman military stables. The Norse vessel arrived and the iron was off loaded and the cargo loaded. Raben explained his plan and the captain checked out the Saxon ship finding it seaworthy. The dozen extra slaves were manacled aboard the Saxon vessel.

The Saxon vessel moved upstream out of sight as Raben collected his five slaves, led them to the docks, and locked them to the oar posts. As they set out he signaled the Saxon vessel to follow. For the next three days they sailed north reaching the North Sea. The slaves were treated harshly but not abused. On forth day the Saxon vessel signaled and the Norse captain ordered the slaves to row into the port. Since their backs were to the port, they didn’t know they were in their home port until they shipped their oars.

Raben leapt off the vessel and called out to the merchants and citizens. “I have five worthless slaves to sell. They might need reminders from the whip but they can work.”

As he was saying that the captain unlocked the young men from their oar posts and lead them by their chains onto the dock. It was only at that point they realized they were in their home port! Shame and humiliation overwhelmed them. The townspeople recognized the five. They had a reputation for bad behavior and sloth. At the same time they saw the Saxon vessel tie up along side the dock. The captain leapt down and stormed to the humbled slaves.

“Father, free us,” the son wept upon seeing him.

“How can I? I have no money to buy you,” he raged. “Your actions cost the lives of three Romans and the Romans sold you into slavery! All the profit we made I had to pay to ransom the ship! You’ve reaped what you sowed!” He then proceeded to give the details of the misdeeds.

The crowd belittled the chained youths and they broke down.

“Good captain,” Raben shouted. “Perhaps we can trade. I head north planning to sell these worthless slaves to the Norse if no buyers are to be found here. However I will trade them for your vessel and all that is aboard with one caveat. Since these five cost the lives of three, I feel they should remain in chains for a month to insure they have learned their harsh lesson.”

The townspeople cheered when the captain accepted. The youths were not freed from their chains. Raben and crews spent the night. The remaining slaves and some of the Clan Corvo teens were split between the two vessels. With Raben on board, Bjorn captained the former Saxon ship out of the harbor behind the Norse ship. The youths put their backs to the task of rowing as did Raben who also handled the sail.

The trip took longer than the last because the green crew needed frequent stops. It took ten days to reach Olvishaugen but by then the teens had grown lean and tough with the girls working right along with the boys. Olvir was delighted to learn that not only had his grandson returned, he had done so with a wife and ship. Although the ship was Raben’s, he’d appointed Bjorn as captain and gave it to him as a wedding gift. Raben was readily accepted as Fiach’s alter-ego. Raben explained the slaves were a gift to Olvir to do the back breaking work of digging the bog ore.

A wedding feast was held for the couple. Those from Clan Corvo were quickly swept up in the party. The Norse found Raben’s relatives pleasing. The Barmaz teens would also teach any interested how to read and write. Bjorn told of his tour to the deserts, Rome and the great fortress of Barmaz as well as the lesser fortresses of Mazbar and Zamrab. That Raben had the loyalty of so many people and owned so much was mind boggling.

Bjorn also told of the wolf pack living in Barmaz, wild but yet tame, and how Raben spoke to them. But learning that even eagles obeyed Raben really impressed the Norse. Raben explained communicating with animals was simply another aspect of his Curse.

After the celebrations of the successful journey, Bjorn sat with Raben in private discussion with Olvir. Bjorn explained: “The key to Raben’s success, and the success of the Romans, is the ability to read and write, to communicate over distances and share detailed data and plans. They also record their deeds and actions so that following generations can read the tales in the doer’s own words! Raben has three scriptoriums that copy writings and has a library with thousands of writings! I’ve learned to read and write as have my wife and those from Clan Corvo who came with us. We can now record what we do and see, we can grow and prosper like Raben has.”



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