Time on My Hands Chapter 37 - 331-334 CE: Growing the Colony

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Time on My Hands
Chapter 37: 331-334 CE: Growing the Colony

With his ability to communicate with animals Raben quickly understood the issue. Even when he told the seals they had to leave they resisted. They simply had no context to understand what the humans wanted. Even when Raben explained the humans would kill the seals if they didn’t leave, the large behemoths were not afraid of the puny humans. Raben sought out the alpha, a huge scarred bull seal. Despite his best efforts, the bull refused to yield the location and viciously attacked the noisy annoying little human.

Raben wasted no time. Taking a spear, he avoided the bellowing bull seal’s lunge, especially the snap of the sharp nasty teeth, to leap atop the humongous seal giving out with a banshee like ferocious battle cry as he rammed the spear through the vertebra of the monster’s neck severing the spine of the 850 pound beast. The seal squealed once as it spasmed in it’s death throes before expiring. The other seals had heard their vocal exchange, saw the alpha’s attack and the human’s counterattack. The other seals were accustomed to prolonged fierce fights for dominance. This battle lasted 5 seconds before they witnessed the death squeals and throes of their alpha as well as smelled his spilled blood.

Raben mentally shouted at the seals. “Fear humans! Flee! Leave the bay! Never return!”

Once the seals overcame their shock, they fled into the water and out of the bay.

“At least we’ll have fresh meat,” Raben sighed as he looked at the still body of the now dead alpha. Others helped to hoist the carcass by the tail to allow the blood to drain.

They were able to beach and pull 15 of the Norse ships up on the shore. Although crowded, they were able to fit the 30 Caravel deeper draft ships in the bay. The remaining Norse vessels were beached by the stream. Three ships departed to seek fish. Two ravens were dispatched to Zarbam to report their safe arrival. Ten days later they received a reply which meant the raven mail system was operating

Meanwhile the 5 dismantled wagons were reassembled and used to relocate the supplies from the beach to their camp. Areas for pastures were designated. Stones were gathered to build solid walls, first priority was for the hogs. They knew the danger feral pigs presented and it was made policy that if any escaped, they would be immediately hunted down.

Over the next 7 months they worked setting up their colony. They built massive tents along the lines of the Norse longhouse to serve as a common kitchen and meeting area with curtained segments for sleeping quarters until individual homes were built for the families. Barns were built for the animals and the brush walls of the pastures were replaced by stone walls. Vegetable gardens were planted, fields of grain planted, apple and cherry trees planted. Raben with 3 people and raven overwatch rode around the shores of the island carefully mapping the island indicating possible landing sites and available resources. The major valleys were sketched in. They also climbed the mountain ridge behind their settlement and mapped it over to the north side of the island. It topped out about 1700 meters. The first 400 meters of height was reasonably sloped and farmable covering an area about 1 mile deep by 3 miles long. The only native terrestrial animal life they saw was a few small lizards. There were plenty of birds and the waters around the islands were teeming with life, but there were no mammalian predators. Raben spoke to the island’s resident ravens and recruited them into being the eyes for the colony.

They built more dams and dug aqueduct trenches every 100 meters in altitude to the east and west of the stream. For the most part the water was kept in the channels only being tapped when needed. The channels were refurbished with stone bottoms and outer linings backed by the excavated earth. This allowed running water to be brought to the houses and barns. Under Raben’s orders and with his help, they began to construct terraces to keep the rain from flowing off the hillsides giving the water a chance to soak into the earth while providing flatter areas to till. They reinforced each dam to prevent washouts and created a stone box where the water fed the channels to limit excess water getting into the water channels.

Two miles east of the stream that was the colony’s primary source of fresh water, there was a 2000 feet long stretch of shore that was relatively flat for 300 feet inland. The area was set aside to serve as a shipyard. Unneeded ships were raised off the ground on cradles and a slip was built to make it easier to bring the vessels on shore as well as to launch them.

Every day but Sunday 3 ships set out to fish. Each trip they tried a different location. They always came back with good catches. About a quarter of the catch was dried to build up a reserve of food. With the aid of the ravens they explored the smaller island discovering it could support small scale farming but they were not ready to do so hence naming it Later Island. There was also a line of three skinny barren rocky islands about 15 miles southeast of Ramzab {Madeira}. They named them the Desert Islands, the nearest was Petite Desert, 1 mile long and at it’s greatest a quarter mile wide; next was Grande Desert, 7 miles long and at it’s greatest 3/4 mile wide; and Far Desert, 4 miles long and at it’s greatest 1/2 mile wide.

After celebrating the start of the new year, 332, Raben decided the colony was safely established and on the first day of February took several Ramzab {PD Madeira} ravens and 25 of the Caravel style ships with the crew people from Corvus Shipping to return to Zarbam The goodbyes were difficult. Those remaining on the island felt a bit apprehensive without Raben present but knew they had been trained and supplied well.

The return voyage was rougher than the outbound trip. The mid winter weather was rougher than what they’d experienced on the voyage to the island. Despite the rougher weather they arrived in Gibraltr after 4 days. After a day spent replenishing water. The fleet headed north east off the Iberian coast passing north of the Balearic Islands during the 6 day voyage to Zarbam. After mooring the ships Raben inspected the harbor. There were 50 docking spots finished as were most of the jetties enclosing the port. There were several warehouses and barracks as well as the sail and rope making buildings. By raven mail Raben had ordered 2 more brigades of Raven Raiders to the port to assist the brigade already there to assist constructing defensive fortifications, including stockade walls around the entire compound and the high ground to the northeast. This placed a full division of Raven Raiders in the port. While it was still under construction, progress had been made. As per his instructions, shipwrights had been hired and the shipyard was functioning. More recruits to become full time sailors had arrived and were being trained by the retired sailors in the 20 additional ships that had been bought after they had set of to found the colony. A raven mail station was firmly established and functioning in Zarbam. A pair of ravens was dispatched with a pair of ravens from Ramzab back to the island colony to let them know he’d safely arrived in Mazbar. Thus Ramzab and Zarbam became parts of the raven mail system. It would take a raven four days to make the trip between Ramzab and Mazbar/Zarbam via the El Bedouza, Africa way-stop.

Raben had no troubles enlisting another 50 recruits for the colony from his kin in Mazbar, many with skills in building construction and leather working. With a list of supplies they needed he left orders to gather the needed goods. Corvus Shipping would pick up what they made or gathered to store in the warehouses at Zarbam. He let it be known that Corvus Shipping was still looking to purchase additional ships with 70 ready to sail to Ramzab at the end of July.

Zarbam was utilizing a local company as a source of cement on the port construction. A new contract was made to provide bulk cement to be taken to Ramzab which had no source of the building material. Taking a horse, he rode north to Barmaz. The defensive walls along the Rhone and Lac Leman were progressing. Additional construction was underway at each overland entry into Clan Corvo lands. An additional 1550 colonists from Barmaz were organized for Ramzab as well as another 500 for Bazram. The excess people from Mazbar and Zamrab, 50 and 250 {The excess population that had been allowed to accumulate.} respectively, were heading for the colony as were the 50 from Bazram for a total of 1900 colonists.

By raven mail Raben told Bjorn the colony on Ramzab was doing well. This year Raben wanted 5 ships and 50 people from Bazram to move to Ramzab. He also requested a ton of bog iron in the supplies they were providing for the colony.

Once the arrangements were settled, Raben accompanied the 500 people heading north to Bonna with the Corvus Shipping caravan, accompanied by a battalion of Raven Raiders. The 23 ships that had sailed north last year returned with the iron delivery, then sailed back north to Bazram with the 500 new settlers.

Upon arrival, Raben was pleased to see that Bazram was a work in progress. The big hill had been cut into three levels with two 20 feet high steps with wooden palisades at the edges. A ditch forty feet wide had been dug from shore to shore at the base of the first step creating a moat. Several docks had been built and a palisade erected around the growing town. Excavated rock had been dumped into the fjord to create a protected harbor and the excavated earth was used to enlarge the town into the bay. A wooden bridge crossed the moat at the northern end to provide land access.

“I want to continue supporting the colony at Ramzab,” Bjorn explained. “Thanks to the 500 people a year you’re sending Bazram is really growing. I’d like to eventually bring the entire Trondhiem Fjord under our control. Combining the shipwrights in one place has been beneficial. We’re already putting out a ship a month so there should be no need to purchase more ships for us. We can send 23 of our ships a year to pick up the trade goods and people at Bonna. We should be able to supply 5 ships and 50 people to Ramzab each year as well as a ton of bog iron.”

“I’m glad things are going so well,” Raben acknowledged. “This year Barmaz has a population of 1,078,000+ so I need to continue to spread the population out. I doubt you can handle more than 500 a year so we’ll hold at that for now. I’m working to build up a large fleet at Zarbam to transport colonists. Last year we took 1500 colonists on 60 ships. This voyage will be a large one with 75 ships and 1900 colonists. I’ll see to it that detailed updates and communications from the Ramzab reach Olvishaugen with the regular iron trading ships. Letters can be sent to Ramzab on the 5 colony ships and return mail will come on the iron ships.”

The 5 ships sailed out of Bazram in mid June, reaching Zarbam the third week of July. After a quick refitting the 75 vessel fleet with 1900 colonists set sail the first of August traveling to Gibraltar. After a day replenishing water and food they set out for Ramzab reaching it 4 days later, an 11 day voyage. The ships unloaded the people and livestock, then the supplies including the much needed cement. As the Caravel ships unloaded, they set off to return to Zarbam in convoys of 10 ships.

With the charts and maps which had the star and sun readings, Raben shared his primitive lodestone compass with the ship captains. With those advantages, except for encountering a storm, there was little risk of missing their intended destinations. Needless to say the captains were stunned that such a tool as a compass existed. As Norse, they were familiar with lodestones but had never imagined it's magical qualities always pointed north. They understood Raben's demand the compass be kept secret and if discovery was imminent, to toss it overboard. One rule Raben established was that all Corvus Shipping vessels were, if at all possible, to avoid storms. All contracts would be written with the possibility of storm delayed delivery dates. The crew was more important that a delivery.

The initial colonists were delighted with the new arrivals. Several babies had been born while Raben had been away and others were on the way. Seal Bay was too small to hold the ships so some were pulled ashore and secured upside down on frames. Any ships deemed not worth repair were beached with the intent to dismantle them and reuse the lumber.

Maps and charts were once more compared and updated. Nearly half of the island had been extensively explored and documented. There was no doubt the mountainous north and west sides of the island received plenty of rain while the flatter southern and eastern side was significantly dryer. Unfortunately there were no suitable long term sites to serve as landing sites or suitable land for port villages on the wetter sides of the island. The terraces Raben had started with the original colonists proved their worth. Part of preparing new land for agriculture now involved terracing the hillsides to capture as much of the precious rain water as possible.

The north side of the island was considerably wetter than the south side. The prevailing winds were from the northwest. Thus the rains also came from that direction. Being a weathered volcanic island that had last erupted about 4700 years ago, it had weathered resulting in a central spine about rising between 1000 to 1862 meters. The spine stopped low rain clouds causing them to drop a lot more rain on the north slopes. Plans were made to dig small tunnels and more small aqueducts from the wetter north side to the dryer south side to supply much needed water.

The colony now had a better selection of experienced members including potters, weavers, healers, carpenters, masons and a black smith. While the initial colonists had done okay, the first year taught them they needed more experienced adults in those areas which they had requested by raven mail. Most of the unmarried colonists found a mate and were starting their own families. It was decided the colony would expand from it’s beginning location by expanding east avoiding long distance settlements. Thus the new colonists spread east constructing homes and barns as well as terracing the hills and mountain sides for crops. The new animals were put in pastures much further up the slopes in steeper unterraced but fenced areas for breeding. Grape vines, flax, hemp, olives, and figs had been amongst the plants brought for cultivation. The meat needs of the colony were still being met from the sea until the domesticated animals bred to sustainable levels. Now with a population of 3400+ the fishing fleet was increased to 6 vessels. Roads were being built with the intent to circle the island as well as a few over the central mountain spine to provide easy access to all parts of the Ramzab. The main roads withing the community would be stone paved. Most ravines near the inhabited area had sturdy mini dams built to retain water in order to feed irrigation aqueducts. That practice would continue as the inhabited area expanded.

Seal bay was crowded with ships. The seals had long abandoned the site due to the presence of the humans. The rocky point of land that formed Seal Bay proved inadequate for providing a safe harbor for all the vessels. The 5 caravel ships that had remained from the initial colonization really were not needed. They had tried using them to fish but found they required more work than the more maneuverable clinker ships. Rather than have them taking up space it was decided to send them back Zarbam by attaching them 1 at a time to the 10 ship return fleets. The crew needed to do so came from the ships returning to Zarbam, one from each until they had adequate crewing.

The southern coast where they’d landed and established the colony ran northwest to southeast. A mile east of Seal Bay the shore angled around a point to run in a southwest to northeast direction for a mile. In that stretch of coast were several small mini bays that could be used for the fleet. Roads would need to be cut through the steep 30 to 60 feet high hillsides to provide easy access to the shore line but the excavated rocks would be dumped into the water to create breakwaters to further prepare and enlarge safe harbors.

Raben regularly dispatched raven mail detailing future needs of the colony from people to supplies and crops. He also insisted upon mandatory militia training just as he did at the other Clan Corvo locations. Since all had been in the militias, doing so in Ramzab was not a hardship. Ballista and catapults were built to enable adequate defense. The main task of the militia was to develop and crew observation posts to keep watch for any approaching intruders. Raben tasked the ravens with assisting in the oceanic observation in return for easy food. The human watchers were trained to understand the ravens. If the Ravens spotted something, they would fly to the nearest observation post to warn the crew and fly off in the direction of the intruder. Whether the intruders were intentional or accidental, the colony needed to know and take action. If possible intruders would be captured and integrated into the colony. If they could not integrate they faced enslavement or death. None who came to Ramzab uninvited would ever leave. The colonists understood the need to be prepared to defend themselves.

While working on the colony Raben knew that the Empire was still shifting. For nearly two hundred years the Sarmation tribes had been raiding and fighting the Roman Empire along the western coast of the Black Sea and the lower Danube. With the arrival of the Goths, they had been pummeled and pushed westward. The Romans refused to let them cross the Danube and they had slowly been pushed along the northern bank of the mighty river.

In hopes of reconquering Dacia, in the late winter of 332, Constantine campaigned with the Sarmatians against the Goths. The weather and lack of food cost the Goths dearly. Nearly one hundred thousand died before they submitted to Rome. As a reward for their assistance Constantine agreed to allow the Sarmatians to settle on north banks of the middle Danube in the area of the former province of Dacia to form a buffer against Goths' attacks. To ensure their cooperation the Empire sold them weapons and food. At the same time the Goths were finding themselves coming under pressure from the east as the Huns pressed westward from the vast steppes of Asia. With the Sarmations blocking movement into the middle Danube, many Goths crossed the borders to enlist in the Roman armies. At the same time things were also shifting along the Rhine. The Franks were growing stronger along the lower Rhine. As they grew they expanded north slowly forcing the Alemanni southeast along the Danube until they bumped against the Sarmations from that direction. Many dispossessed Germans, Alemanni and Goth alike, contributed to the almost complete Germanization of the Roman Army.

At the beginning of February of 333 as the rainy winter season wound down Raben took the last 10 caravel ships to sail to Zamrab. They stopped at El Bedousa to drop off feed for the ravens and coins to the family maintaining the raven mail stopover. The winds were favorable and the weather fair so 3 weeks later the ten vessel fleet sailed through the harbor at Alexandria, then up the canal of the channelized branch of the Nile. The crews were surprised by the fortified size of Zamrab and the dichotomy of the side by side lush irrigated fields and the barren dry desert hills in the distance.

During the Palmyrene occupation of Egypt and the subjugation of and partial destruction of Alexandria, some wealthy citizens had fled the city to take refuge in Zamrab. They discovered the tranquility of the desert. Zamrab was close enough to Alexandria to take advantage of the cultural aspects the city had to offer. Several of the wealthy bought the desert adjacent to Zambrab to build their own retreats. They tapped into the Zamrab canals and moats to turn their desert plot into a private green oasis. The result was that Zamrab was now surrounded by dozens of adjacent Estate Oases.

The Zamrab militia sounded an alert when they saw the ten ships approaching. Raben quickly identified himself to the Zamrabian guards and had the fleet pull into the channels inside the walls. Raven mail had notified Zamrab of the continual need for colonists and Egyptian flora. They spent a week gathering warmer climate plants and seeds that would do well in the year round warmth of Ramzab. Loading enough supplies for the fifty Zamrabian colonists and their children to voyage to Zarbam, they set off. Several adults with their families were familiar with operating the irrigation system at Zamrab and could better organize the same at Ramzab. They adults were trained in the basics of sailing while crossing the Mediterranean Sea, arriving at Zarbam in mid May.

As soon as they landed Raben headed to Bazram to take care of business. There had been no issues with the 500 people heading north to Bazram on the return trip from the spring bog iron delivery leaving the northern settlement with a population of 5600+. The 1750 hundred adult colonists, including masons, were ready with their belongings so in mid June Raben accompanied them to Zarbam. This left the population in Barmaz at 1,098,000+ people.

The 5 ships from Bazram arrived at Zarbam. The vessels were inspected and repaired as needed. Cement and other supplies and farm animals were loaded before the people. On July 1 they set out. Although encountering some rain they didn’t encounter any storms and no large waves, arriving safely at Ramzab in mid-July. With the births amongst the existing colonists the colony now had a population of 5400+ people.

The cement was greatly appreciated. The Ramzabians understood they had to use it sparingly. The cement was transferred to a large barn. The new plants were placed in the appropriate fields. The colony was flourishing. Raben established a Council of Elders to insure uniformity.

Seafaring people from Bazram, the captains and crews of the ships, operated the Ramzab fleet of 37 clinker vessels. Three vessels from the initial voyage had been deemed unseaworthy and dismantled. Twenty ships had been drawn from the water, pulled a hundred feet up the beach and turned upside down for long term storage. Raben had the 2 fastest ships prepared for sea warfare. Under sail they could reach 15 knots, faster than any contemporary vessel. With a crew of twenty oarsmen, the vessels could be rowed for two hours at a speed of 2-3 knots. An intense high speed dash of 4 knots could be maintained for twenty minutes. The crew would consist of experienced archers and well practiced swordsmen. These vessels would chase down any intruding vessels. A ballista capable of shooting a bolt 6 feet long was installed on each vessel. In addition to normal bolts and arrows, the also had bolts and arrows that could be set aflame before being fired. With wooden construction and canvas sails, ships of that time were extremely vulnerable to fire. The 15 remaining vessels were used for fishing and local exploration. They all understood Raben’s insistence that no one outside of Clan Corvo could discover the location of the island and that all vessels traveling to and from the colony had to be crewed by members of the Clan Corvo.

As before, Raben sent the 70 ship fleet home in groups of 10 with a group leaving every 5 days. The difference was that the ships would load additional supplies at Zamrab and return. It was a 7 week turn around so each group could make 1 resupply before needing to be refitted. In mid-August, Raben left for Zambar with the last 10 vessels of the colonial fleet.

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Sailing the Atlantic

Being cynical about the western history I was taught, I think the people along the coast of Spain and northern Africa made regular trips across to south america and the Caribbean Islands well before Columbus and before Islam began. There is early Archeological evidence that seems to indicate strong trade.

Nice story.


A Thousand Years Early

joannebarbarella's picture

Raben's settlement of Madeira is about 1000 years earlier than the Portuguese settlement that we know of in our history (even though there are some stories but no real evidence of earlier human settlement). Your story must surely lead on to further colonial ventures into the Atlantic, particularly as the Raben colonies are so well organised and multi-cultural. I cannot imagine the Norse sitting there for a thousand years without getting itchy feet.

Well to be wary

Podracer's picture

and prepared. Someone is bound to have noticed all of this coming and going into the Atlantic.

"Reach for the sun."