Time on My Hands Chapter 33 - 299-312 CE: The Raven Raiders

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Time on My Hands
Chapter 33: 299-312 CE: The Raven Raiders

“Bjorn is right,” Raben agreed. “Reading and writing is a key to success if it is used by wise men. Outside those of us in Olvishaugen, I doubt if more than a handful of people within 600 miles can read and write. If you keep the ability to read and write a secret within your family, you can create a dynasty just as I have done.”

“That’s all well and good,” Olvir said. “However, it takes wealth to create a dynasty. While we are not poor we certainly are not wealthy nor do we have a greater source of wealth than our neighbors.”

“You are correct and yet wrong,” Raben agreed. “I think you could find one. Iron can make you wealthy. Preserve the iron bogs, do not drain them for farmland. As you expand your land, do so looking for bogs with iron. Perhaps you could even rework the landscape to create more bogs by excavating the earth by a stream filling it with straw, twigs, boughs and such letting the water slowly pass over the rotting material. It will be a lot of work but the effort will, in the long run, be worth it. Maybe not for you but for your descendants. You’ll also want to preserve your forests. I’ve planted trees in places unsuitable for farming. When we cut down trees we plant new ones. You need the wood for buildings, ships, heat, and to make charcoal to process the iron ore. There is a place in Iberia where they’ve cut down all the trees to use in mines. There is a twenty mile hole in the landscape that used to be forest. The land is destitute and poisoned.”

“I saw places like that,” Bjorn said. “Not as bad as what Raben described in Iberia, but people abused the land until it became unproductive. In Barmaz, Raben’s main stronghold, everything is done with the idea of sustainability. Virtually nothing goes to waste. Even the trash is used in one way or another. Doing so lowers expenses.”

“That makes sense,” Olvir nodded. “Bjorn, I’ll put you in charge of sustainability. Use your Clan Corvo friends to teach our people how to live better.”

“If you like, I can send twenty five teen kin every year to marry into your family,” Raben stated. “One year I’ll send 12 boys and 13 girls, the next 13 boys and 12 girls, which should avoid any anguish about finding spouses. They’ll bring knowledge with them to share. If you have any questions or require certain products, send a letter with your requests with the iron shipments.”

Olvir frowned. “You’ll do all this just for our iron?”

“That and more,” Raben explained. “Bjorn has seen our faith in action. On my last trip I mentioned we worship Jesus Christ, the son of the one true God. I am a Christian as are all my people. We do our best to help others. Doing so is part of our belief.”

“Odin will not be happy that there is one supreme God greater than he,” Olvir declared. “I’m not happy with that.”

“You misunderstand,” Raben stated. “Odin is the chief of the Norse gods. Christianity does not deny the existence of Odin or the other gods. It merely states the other gods are under the authority of the one true God whom we call our Father. He is also the Father of the gods like Odin. Much like you as a father rule over your children and grandchildren. You set limits and expectation they follow, but they have the ability to follow your guidance or to go their own way. Our God loves us like his children and we respect and love him like a Father. It is not necessary to abandon Odin and his kin to acknowledge there is a supreme God. A God who loves us like a Father will never force someone to worship him, he wants his children to approach him of the own free will and love him the same way. No one is forced to renounce and abandon their gods.”

“That seems like a strange God who will not enforce his worship,” Olvir declared. “He will not punish those who don’t honor him?”

“He does not punish for not honoring him,” Raben explained. “He judges all when they die for how they lived. The good are rewarded, the evil are punished. He can weigh your heart and it is impossible to lie. I’ll be sure to send a consecrated priest next year, one of my kin.”

Olvir nodded. He agreed to the small steady influx of Clan Corvo teens and asked for an additional 4 - 18 year old slaves per year to help with the bog ore. His plan was that each year the 4 oldest slaves would be freed to join his family. That would give the slaves hope and motivation to do good work knowing they’d earn their freedom in 3 years. When not digging ore the slaves would enlarge the bogs or do other major excavation and forestry work.

Raben advised another thing. “As you grow wealthy and expand your holding, others will notice and grow jealous. If they decide to attack you, they will most likely do it when you are at your weakest, such as when you send ships south to trade or out to sea to fish. I face similar situations so I have established a militia in which I train everyone, male and female, age thirteen and over to be warriors. But not as individual warriors, I train them to work together as teams. At thirteen they do an initial two month training course. All train two days every month and two weeks a year to stay fresh. They learn tactics and how to take orders. They are also trained to act on their own in case their leadership is away or injured. Everyone remains in the militia until they can no longer fight in any capacity. In addition, any prisoners are kept for ransom, which can be anything of value, wealth, land, servitude or whatever you deem to be to your advantage. But be fair and just in your demands. Don’t get greedy. Your neighbors will learn of your fairness and respect you. If no one wants to ransom a prisoner, they become a slave. If they cooperate free them after 3 years and if they swear fealty to you, accept them as your kin. If they are recalcitrant and resist, warn them once before you castrate them. That gentles the meanest man.”

Olvir saw the wisdom in that and agreed to institute a militia, especially since Raben was there to set it up and his Clan Corvo people could demonstrate their abilities which were discovered to be quite impressive. Over the winter Raben set up and trained Olvir’s people as a militia. Olvir and Raben had many more discussions about the one supreme God. Olvir wasn’t ready to abandon Odin, but he was open to learning more about Christianity. By the spring solstice, all the Clan Corvo teens married Olvir’s grandchildren. Bjorn had learned much in his time with Raben and his wisdom showed as he guided his family towards sustainability. Olvir was proud of his grandson and began grooming him to one day take over. Together with those from the Clan Corvo, they revitalized and brought vital knowledge to Olvishaugen. Raben could see that in years to come, Bjorn would rise to be the next chief, earning the respect of all on the Fjord as they maintained ties and yearly trade with Barmaz. The exchange of kin would also continue.

When Raben returned to Barmaz at the end of May 300 he took the time to examine the Barmaz Bailiwick. The defenses were strong. Defense walls and 300 feet tall glacies surrounded every part of the estate. The defense walls were expanded inward with stone halls to provide covered passages to move about even in the dead of winter. The Barmaz militia established a headquarters, arsenal, and training grounds on the slopes above Vieze de Morgins between the villages of Morgins and Troistorrents (GM 46.233995, 6.884010). The lower elevations suitable for growing grains was cleared for farming. The steeper areas were terraced to allow farming. Trees were planted in the higher altitudes and on slopes too steep to terrace. The work of re-engineering the Barmaz Bailiwick was ongoing as were his yearly tours to Mazbar and Zamrab.

Arrangements were made to recruit twenty five boys and girls to relocate to Olvishaugen to marry into the Norse family. Each year 4 slaves would be purchased and sent north. Raben selected a priest to send north, already married to an educated woman with 2 children. Raben made sure he understood the necessity to incorporate the Norse pantheon into the Christian faith. It was Raben’s intent to head north to visit Olvishaugen roughly every five years or so.

The greatest concern was for the safety of those Clan Corvo members living outside the Barmaz Bailiwick. The population of the Clan Corvo was growing at 2% a year so the population was now 574.000+ in an area of 10700 square miles. {Just over the size of the US state of Massachusetts} The Clan Corvo militia was well trained but quite spread out. Manned watchtowers were constructed along the border areas with alarm bells to summon a call to arms. Smaller repeater towers were built within hearing distance to spread the warning, however, the system was slow and a faster means of communication was needed.

To accomplish all he needed, it was time to create a full time military. Since the militia was not gender specific, neither would the military. To this end he asked for male and female volunteers. The Raven Raiders would be the elite full time core of the Barmaz Militia. One division a year would be created until Raben felt he had enough troops. A Squad was made up of 1 corporal, 6 privates and 3 ravens [7m,3r]. A Section was made up of 3 squads led by 1 sergeant, 1 corporal and 1 raven [23m&10r]. A Troop was made up of 3 sections plus 1 Lieutenant, 1 Staff Sergeant, 1 Corporal, 1 Private, 2 ravens and 1 wolf [79m,32r,1w]. A Company was made up of 3 troops plus 1 Captain, 1 Master Sergeant, 1 Corporal, 2 Privates and 3 ravens [242m,99r,3w]. A Battalion was made up of 3 Companies plus 1 Colonel, 1 Major, 1 Lieutenant, 1 Chief Master Sergeant, 1 Corporal, 4 Privates, 5 ravens, 1 artillery squad made up of 1 sergeant, 1 corporal, 9 privates and 4 ravens manning 1 onager and 3 scorpios and 1 eagle [746m,306r,9w,1e]. A Brigade was made up of 3 battalions plus 1 Brigadier General, 1 Major, 3 Lieutenants, 1 Sergeant Major, 3 Sergeants, 2 Corporals, 7 Privates and 9 ravens [2256m,927r,27w,3e,3artillary]. A Division was made up of 3 brigades plus 1 General, 1 Colonel, 1 Major, 1 Captain, 2 Lieutenants, 1 Command Sergeant Major, 2 Sergeants, 3 Corporals, 7 Privates and 10 ravens [6786m,2791r,81w,9e,9artillary]. An artillery squad was made up of 1 sergeant, 1 corporal, 1 onager{3m,1r}, 3 scorpios{2m,1r ea} [11m&4r]. The four pieces were mounted on sturdy custom built wagons drawn by 4 horses with each artillery piece having a second wagon for ammunition. The ammunition wagons were reinforced and divided to secure ceramic fire bombs which were wrapped in fleece padding and rested on a bed of straw. Even if the outer shell broke, it would be extremely difficult to break the juglet acting as a trigger.

Unless stationed in a particular location, the Raven Raiders were to be mounted so they could quickly deploy. They were equipped with pink bucklers emblazoned with a green cross and a raven in upper right quadrant. Each troop marched under pink triangular banner emblazoned with a green cross, a raven, and their unit designation. Divisions were Roman Numerals by order of formation; Brigades were A, B, or C; Brigades were D, E, or G, Battalions were H, J or K, Companies were L, M or O, Troops were P, S or T.

With their high intelligence, Raben enjoyed talking to ravens wherever they crossed paths. Because he could have conversations with them, the ravens considered Raben to be a raven in human form. One day while he was in Barmaz, as Raben was talking to a raven he had an idea, actually several ideas. Once he fleshed out the ideas he first discussed it with a ‘conspiracy’ of ravens. In exchange for providing a steady food supply and safe roosting, the ravens would work for Raben. They would be provided with protected roosts at each watch tower and outpost, in effect being stationed there. They would perform flying observation patrols over the mountains and borders keeping their sharp eyes looking for possible threats. In addition, a few would have an additional job. Small lightweight watertight leather courier bags were made that could be fastened to a raven with a small harness. A message could be written on a slip of paper then rolled and placed in the bag. Raben explained to the ravens selected to be messengers that when they were given a message they were to fly to the Barmaz militia headquarters. There the message could be retrieved and the raven would return to where it had set out with a reply. Those militia or Raven Raider members who would be dispatching and retrieving messages would be taught simple hand signals to enable basic communication with the intelligent ravens who could report/reply by positioning their head such as one movement for all clear, another for warning and so on. Thus if they saw a threat they could report by the pre-arranged ‘vocabulary’ and indicate the direction by aligning their body with the beak the pointer. Messages could be spread by Ravens set up on specific routes.

Diocletian issued his "Edict against the Christians" in 303. The edict ordered the destruction of Christian scriptures and places of worship across the empire, and prohibited Christians from assembling for worship. The edict was harshly enforced in the eastern part of the empire but haphazardly in the west. The wealth of those persecuted was confiscated by the empire.

Raben already had orders in place that at the first inkling of persecution all Christian writings were to be hidden in prepared hiding places. Since all Clan Corvo established churches were held in pre-existing barns, there was no obvious place of worship. Barmaz wasn’t effected, Mazbar simply went stealth, but Zamrab was the most effected. The Christians Copts were prevalent in Egypt and several Christian Schools were in Alexandria. They were hit hard by the crackdown. Zamrab’s location outside the city gave them enough time to hide the evidence of their Christianity.

Raben was in Mazbar in April 304 when Bishop of Rome Marcellinus died. The Christian persecution, while relatively subdued in Rome, was still deadly. The meeting places and some of the burial places of the faithful had been confiscated, and the ordinary life and activity of the Church was interrupted. With the heat on, the Bishops were unable to gather to select a successor. Raben left in May for Barmaz.

The emperors Diocletion and Maximian agreed to jointly retired in 305, elevating Constantius and Galerius as the new emperors. They in turn appointed two new Caesars, Severus in the west and Maximinus in the east. When Constantius died in 306, his troops declared his son, Constantine, emperor. Galerius was furious but knew denial of Constantine would mean war. Galerius granted Constantine the title "Caesar" rather than "Augustus" which went to Severus. Constantine wisely accepted the decision avoiding a war. Jealous, Maxentius, son of Maximian, declared himself Emperor in Rome. Galerius ordered Severus into Italy to deal with the usurper. Severus moved towards Rome at the head of an army previously commanded by Maximian. Fearing the arrival of Severus, Maxentius offered the retired Maximian the co-rule of the empire. When Severus arrived under the walls of Rome his men deserted him for their old commander. Severus was captured and eventually killed. The joint reign of Maxentius and Maximian over Italy and Africa was firmly established. In April 308, Maximian tried to depose his son but failed and fled to Constantine.

Raben was in Rome at the time and despite the imperial turmoil, was instrumental in summoning a meeting of the Bishops within the safety of the walls Mazbar. On May 27, after four years without a Bishop of Rome, they were able to elect Marcellus.

An imperial conference was held on the Danube in the autumn of 308. Maxentius was denied recognition as emperor while Licinius was appointed co-Emperor in the west with the task of regaining the usurper's domain. Storm clouds gathered as the Roman legions were once more set against each other.

When Raben arrived in Rome from Barmaz in November 308 he found the Christian community in turmoil. At the height of the Diocletian persecution many Christians had given up their scriptures and burned incense as an offering to the Roman gods in order to save themselves. Unfortunately by doing so they lost their standing in the Church. Once the threat ended a large number of those who had fallen away during the long period of active persecution demanded that the new Bishop of Rome readmit them into communion. Marcellus set a penance they had to do before being readmitted to full communion. Many felt they had no need of penance since they had been forced to denounce their faith. Neither side budged and violence erupted. Raben left for Zamrab with the issue unresolved. Due to the violence, Bishop of Rome Marcellus was exiled by Maxentius a month after Raben left. The exiled Bishop of Rome died a few weeks later on January 16 having served less than eight months.

Raben returned to Rome in April 309 in time to join the convocation of Bishops to select a new Bishop of Rome. On April 18 they selected Eusebius to be the new Bishop of Rome. The new Bishop of Rome also insisted that those who had lapsed perform penance. The violence resumed and Maxentius exiled the new Bishop of Rome in August. In 310, Maximian tried to incite a rebellion against Constantine but the army remained loyal resulting in Maximian hanging himself. On August 17, 310 Bishop of Rome Eusebius died in exile. Raben had lived through many chaotic times but the convoluted events of these years were beyond ridiculous. At one point there had been six men claiming to be the emperor of the Roman Empire.

Raben knew things could not continue in the same manner. Things would have to come to a head before calm returned. Raben felt that, although not wanting it, he would be in the vanguard for at least part of it. It began when Galerius became incapacitated with a painful disease. Fearing, perhaps, that his illness was the vengeance of the Christian God, On April 30, 311 his final official act was an edict proclaiming an end to the persecutions of Christians and the resumption of religious toleration. Maximinus mobilized against Licinius seizing Asia Minor resulting in a hasty peace. In July of 311 Miltiades was selected as the new Bishop of Rome while Raben was in Barmaz. With all the turmoil in the empire Raben decided to stay in Barmaz. While Constantine inspected Britain and Gaul, Maxentius prepared for war fortifying northern Italy. Maxentius' rule grew shaky in the wake of heightened tax rates and depressed trade. Riots broke out in Rome and Carthage. Maximinus recognized Maxentius in exchange for military support.

By then travel became nearly impossible as war preparations continued on all fronts. Constantine’s advisers cautioned against attacking Maxentius since his soothsayers forecasted against it, stating that the sacrifices had produced unfavorable omens. With a spirit that impressed his followers, inspiring some to believe that he had supernatural guidance, Constantine ignored all cautions.

In the spring of 312 Constantine led 40,000 men into the upper Rhone valley to cross the Alps via the Poeninus Mons. As they passed by Monthey, Constantine was stunned to see the mountains had been made over into massive fortifications. Raben rode out to greet Constantine, introducing himself as Senator Corvo and that the massive fortifications of Barmaz was his estate.

Knowing that many senatorial titles were inherited, Constantine asked how Raben came to be the current senator.

Raben explained how his grandfather had been given the hereditary title for saving the life of Emperor Gallienus 46 years before and that he was the designated inheritor. Then he invited the Emperor and his staff inside the Barmaz Bailiwick for their evening meal.

Needless to say Constantine and his staff were amazed by the massive defensive works as well as the lush terraced farmland and Alpine pastures. All were stunned by the tome filled halls of the Corvus Scriptorium Library, now the largest library in the world. Raben explained he was head of the Clan Corvo who had occupied the estate for 117 years and that all 728,000+ members of the Clan Corvo were his relatives who were peaceful, well fed and happy people inhabiting the estate and 10700 square miles of the upper and lower Rhone river valley.

Like many in power, Constantine had been aware of the existence of the Clan Corvo but had no idea they were so large. That was due to Raben doing his best to have the Clan Corvo maintain a quiet low profile while supporting the empire. Impressed, Constantine asked if, as a loyal Roman, Raben could lead a contingent of his militia to join him on his campaign.

Raben smiled. “Please hear me out before reacting. I cannot send any militia. We are a peaceful clan. We built our defenses to avoid war. The militia is made up of EVERY male and FEMALE Clan Corvo member 13 years old and up until they are no longer capable to serve. The militia is designed and trained for self defense. However, we do have a core of full time military. I’ll personally lead a Brigade of Raven Raiders. Just so you know, the Raven Raiders are mixed gender soldiers, one third are female.”

That surprised Constantine. Greek literature spoke of ancient fierce Amazon warriors and many barbarian women took up arms. Constantine accepted Raben knew what he was doing and spent the night inside the Barmaz Bailiwick.

In the morning as Constantine’s troops were forming for the march when Raben led the Brigade of mounted Raven Raiders from the entrance of the Barmaz Bailiwick. The sight was quite impressive. The pink bucklers of the 2256 men and women emblazoned with a green cross and a raven in upper right quadrant were distinctive as were the 27 pink triangular banners each emblazoned with a green cross, a raven, and their unit designation of each troop. What was unexpected was to see a wolf trotting beside each troop. They found the 927 ravens flying overhead unnerving as the raven was a traditional omen of death. It took a few moments until they realized the 3 eagles flying majestically above the swarming crows were also part of the unit. Needless to say the unit was quite unique as they joined the imperial legions. Raben just smiled as he lead his Raven Raiders into the march under his personal larger pink banner emblazoned with a raven and a green skeleton.

Raben joined Constantine’s entourage. As they passed by Agaunum Raben pointed out the cemetery and memorial for the martyred Theban Legion. The message of the 600 men unflinchingly devotion to Jesus as well as accepting Imperial authority made an impact on Constantine. Upon reaching Octodurum they found the governor and duce had abandoned their posts and fled with all non-Clan Corvo staff and provincial soldiers as Constantine approached. The two provincial leaders were staunch supporters of Maxentius and correctly feared for their lives.

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Definately empire

Wendy Jean's picture

building in a way the none could imitate.

Still Fascinating

joannebarbarella's picture

Constantine's reign beginning to re-unite the Empire,

Looks like Raben is going to

Looks like Raben is going to become instrumental in helping to bring some peace to the declining Empire. Wonder if he will be appointed as a very special Advisor to Constantine?
From his people's Bucklers and Unit flags/Pennants; it does appear that Raben is beginning the custom of having a true Coat of Arms for Houses, and families; that wound it's way around Europe into the Middle Ages and beyond.