Time on My Hands Chapter 39 - 343 CE: We Will, We Will Aurochs You!

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Time on My Hands

Chapter 39: 343 CE: We Will, We Will Aurochs You!

Since the head of harbor security had witnessed the deceased man’s attack on the harbor master he ruled Fiach’s actions justifiable homicide, thus there would be no criminal charges.

“Thanks for saving my life,” the harbor master shivered at his close brush with death. “Did you really try to buy this zoo?”

“Yes,” Fiach said. “But not at his price. I’ll pay for his funeral if I can have the animals.”

“That’s a fair price,” the harbor master eagerly accepted the offer.

“Can you round up teamsters and wagons,” Fiach asked. “I’ll pay them to load the cages and take them out to Zamrab. I have a touch with animals so I’ll keep them calm while they load and unload.”

Within an hour teamsters were loading the cages onto their wagons. True to her word, Fiach kept the animals calm escorting them to Zamrab. She sent a messenger ahead with orders to prepare space for the animals and to slaughter several sheep for the near starving tigers.

Most of the Zamrabians had never seen exotic animals. The peacocks were dazzling. The gazelles magnificent, the chimpanzees funny, the tigers terrifying, and the two elephants were ginormous. Fiach ‘spoke’ to the animals promising them better food and a better habitat asking them to be patient. The lack of food was easy to remedy, the rest would take time.

After much thought and debate, Fiach decided to take them to Barmaz. Setting up a 3 ship convoy of Corvus Shipping vessels took several weeks as adequate food supplies had to be loaded on the ships. Raven mail notified Barmaz what was needed for when they arrived.

When all was ready the three ship convoy set out. Fiach rode with the tigers, with sheep for food. The elephants and hay filled a second ship, the third held the rest of the animals and their food. The first leg was the longest. It took ten days for the convoy to sail from Alexandria to Crete, landing at the southern port of Tympaki to allow the elephants a day of walking about on the shore before reloading and sailing west around Crete then northwest to the Peloponnesian peninsula landing three days later at the village of Kalamata. They spent two days letting the locals view the exotic animals as they replenished their supplies.

Then it was an eighteen day voyage to the straits of Messina, stopping at Reggio Calabria for a three day shore break. Then north three days to Ostia for reprovisioning then northwest to Zarbam where they offloaded all the animals. Corvus Shipping provided the wagons and teamsters to haul the caged animals while the elephants walked.

The exotic menagerie attracted attention as they traveled. The animals felt a close affinity to Fiach who spoke to them daily assuring them they would soon arrive at their new home. Additional raven mail notified Barmaz of the needed accommodations for the various animals. That notification meant nearly a quarter of the population of greater Barmaz turned out along the route to greet their passing and arrival at their destination. Along the stream Gryonne, 2800 feet northeast of the Rhone {GM 46.266530, 6.983581} an enclosure was being constructed. The location had been selected because it received early morning and late afternoon sunlight year round. One of the few places in the mountainous region that was positioned to have full day exposure. A huge square with sturdy stone walls 20 feet high and 5 feet thick was constructed. Each side was 1 mile long. Open spaces were constructed with shelters and open areas. The elephants were released in one super strong enclosure and the tigers in another. Non dangerous exotic herbivores were released in a large pasture like enclosure. An undershoot waterwheel was built on the Gyrone to turn an Archimedes screw raising water into terra cotta pipes to conduct fresh water to each enclosure.

Raben worked with handlers to care for the elephants, others to care for the tigers, and others to work with the chimps. He assisted the animals and their human handlers in understanding each other. The elephants were soon moving about the province doing heavy lifting and pulling jobs. The chimps were trained to climb the mountains taking ropes up cliffs and rocks inaccessible by humans so humans could follow. The wolf pack was also released inside the compound.

Understanding this was their new home, the elephants and tigers accepted their new lives. Raben promised the animals that as long as they cooperated they would be well cared for and fed. The handlers understood it was their job to keep the animals satisfied. Stimulated by the zoo, Raben decided in addition to saving his family he should make an effort to save endangered wildlife like the aurochs and tarpans

A company of Raven Raiders accompanied Raben as they headed north into Germany. Mounted on their large black Arabian horses as they traveled through Roman territory they drew stares. People were accustomed to seeing mounted troops but quite uncertain about the accompanying wolves, crows and eagle and the Raven Banner and matching shields. The Roman troops were clearly awed by the spectacle. During the thirty years since the Battle of the Milvian Bridge the Raven Raiders had become legendary. The mere mention of the Raven Raiders drew shivers of fear from those who might have to face them in battle. Many thought they were exaggerated legend, no military unit could have wolves, ravens and an eagle as integral parts of the troop. Yet here they were seeing the mounted troop with wolves being overflown by swarms of ravens. Of course, none of the current Raven Raiders had been part of the original famous unit. In truth, most had not even been born. Raben was the only one who had been there.

They crossed the Rhine at Hemishofen {GM 47.673175, 8.834163} then curved to the north of Lake Constance heading east to Vindobona {PD Vienna}. From there they followed the south bank of the Danube to Aquincum {PD Bupapest} where they crossed the river leaving Roman controlled areas. moving into Germanic tribal controlled areas, specifically the Bastarnae, an ancient Germanic/Celtic tribe who were on the verge of collapsing. They had been repeatedly swept up in the back and forth raiding and fighting along the Roman Danube frontier. Located just north of Dacia they had avoided the worse deprivations but had nevertheless been a part of it. Now they were being pressured by the Goths and realized they could not hope to stop them. After the centuries long interactions they were too small and militarily weak to be able to form alliances. They faced annihilation as their tribe broke down. Some of them were already allowing themselves to be subsumed into the larger and more powerful Goths.

As soon as the Raven Raiders were outside Roman territory, they were on alert. Raben had the troops rotate positions in the column, swapping off lead at each rest stop. The troops proceeded double file, lead by the troop commander with the troop wolf walking beside the horse. The ravens of the lead troop and tail troop flew overwatch while the ravens of the middle troop rode on a special roost behind the saddles. Needless to say they drew the attention of the Bastarnae. The Germanic tribe did not welcome the armed intrusion but were intimidated by the ravens and wolves. Raben spoke to those who didn’t flee assuring them they came in peace seeking to capture tarpans and aurochs and asked if they knew the location of any herds. The further east they went, the forests thinned giving way to grasslands. As they set up camp at the end of the fourth day the birds reported the approach of a large body of hard riding mounted men from the southeast.

As the Raven Raiders settled in for the night Raben, the three wolves and forty ravens slipped away to investigate the approaching men. With stealth they approached the camp. It didn't take him long to discover there were over 1100 mounted Goths with a handful of Bastarnae guides intent on taking out the ‘Roman’ invaders. After learning what he needed Raben silently snuck up on the guards, whacking them on the head dropping them whereupon the wolves ripped out their throats and tore open their guts gobbling down the tastiest bits before moving on to the next guard. After taking out the 10 perimeter guards the wolves spread out around the camp. Raben tilted back his head and howled with the wolves immediately joining in.

The startled camp sprang to life as the haunting threatening howls continued all around the camp. As the warriors sprang to their arms, silhouetted by their campfires Raben fired arrows into them picking off anyone who seemed to be trying to organize the chaotic mass of men while the wolves trotted about the camp pausing to howl so at least one wolf was howling at all times. By the time the warriors had organized Raben howled once more.

“We are the Raven Raiders,” Raben shouted in their language as he stepped from the shadows followed by the three wolves. Forty ‘krocking’ ravens flew out of the dark night to settle on the ground in front of him.

The Goths looked around fearing an attack from another direction. But it was the small human with the wolves and ravens that shook them to the core.

“I am Raben, the Demon Slayer,” he declared. “My warriors are the Raven Raiders. We came here in peace yet you pursue us intending to kill us. You have already paid a high price for your arrogance. Leave us in peace or prepare for your death!”

With that the ravens took to the air in a flurry of wings and raucous ‘krocking’. Raben and the wolves used the distraction to slip away to head back to his camp leaving 43 dead behind.

The Goths were thoroughly spooked. Ravens were a sign of bad luck, danger and death. They never saw Raben and the wolves move, to them it appeared as if they had vanished into the night as blood curdling wolf howls once more erupted from the darkness about them. Arrows had cut down many of their best leaders with deadly accuracy. Then finding their guards dead, obviously silently killed and partially eaten by wolves, totally unnerved them since they knew the Roman troops they were seeking had been accompanied by wolves and ravens. The were so unnerved there was no way they could get back to sleep.

At dawn Raben had the Raven Raiders strike camp and move out as if nothing had happened. The Goths buried their dead and looked through the high grasses of the open plain for signs of the Roman sneak attack but they were unable to find any signs except that the wolf kills had all been urinated upon by the wolves.

Their leader was furious and humiliated. Word of the bold Roman incursion had spread fast. As a young warrior chief he had seen this incursion as an opportunity to prove his mettle in battle as did his followers. Now they were intimidated. If he failed now his hopes for a glorious future would be snuffed out. With a rousing speech he urged his men to mount and pursue the Romans. They all knew the only way to purge their fear was to annihilate the cursed Romans. They broke camp and with hearts filled with hatred charged after their prey. They found the abandoned Roman camp ten miles away from them and the path they traveled was plain to see.

Thanks to the raven overwatch Raben knew they were being followed. A bit after lunch the forward scouting ravens spotted aurochs and tarpans grazing along the marshy flood plane of the Tisa river at {GM 48.081362, 22.910460 near PD Tysobyken}. Raben had the Raven Raiders shift their route to intersect the half mile wide swampy ground leaving a clear path for their pursuers to follow. In this flat marshy 10 mile long sector the Tisa broke into two, three and four twisting and interconnecting tree and shrub lined meandering branches that were often too thick with undergrowth to ride into.

Raben ran ahead on foot to contact the herds of aurochs and tarpans. Raben openly and serenely walked into the grasses carefully approaching the grazing aurochs and tarpans. With his animal communication abilities he soothed them and as best he could explained his strategy. The animals certainly had no love for the local humans who often hunted them so when they learned Raben wanted to kill the bad men they were almost eager to help. The animals were spooked by the idea of fire but Raben explained they'd be safe in the river. They were to ‘flee' the fire to the closed end of the ‘horseshoe' moving into the streams then split in two, half to the upstream side and the other half to the downstream side, using their bulk to block the bad horse mounted men from escaping the trap.

Returning to his troops Raben led his warriors into the swamp, past the warily grazing aurochs and tarpans, across a 20 feet wide muddy stream, through a thirty feet wide shrub free and treeless low marshy island, then a 40 feet wide stream at the inside top of a huge ‘horseshoe’ shaped meander of the watercourse. Movement was severely slowed down and limited by the water, high grasses, reeds and mud. They headed downstream a half mile before finding a place to enter the sheltering forest that formed the far boundary of the wider channel. Once inside the mini forest the undergrowth thinned allowing them to ride back to where they crossed the streams. Raben set up two troops of Raven Raiders in the cover of the trees with their weapons at the ready and plenty of arrows. He split the third troop, sending two sections along the upstream side of the horseshoe and the other two sections along the downstream side. One wolf accompanied the downstream group and 2 the upstream group. Guided by the wolves and ravens they traveled two miles along the streams forming the arms of the horseshoe. They hid their horses in trees by the river, then spread them out in a line through the dry grass across the 150 feet wide mouth of the horseshoe stopping just short of the trail the Raven Raiders had left when they entered the area. Each warrior had fire starter kits and torches in addition to their weapons and arrows. They hunkered down to wait.

The raven overwatch reported the Goths were approaching but were about an hour away. It was an hour before sundown when the Goths appeared. The ravens soared overhead spooking the Goth and Bastarnae scouts as they headed into the marshy area then disappeared. Once they crossed the small island and were down in the larger stream they were hidden from the view of the main body. Raben fired the opening shot that signaled his men to cut down the scouts. With that he signaled the ravens of the two hidden troops with the wily ravens flying en mass ‘krocking’ raucously out of the trees. The warriors hiding in the grasses, now behind the main body of Goths and behind the aurochs and tarpans, lit their torches then ignited the grass, quickly moving to create a solid wall of fire. As Raben had hoped the prevailing wind from the west drove the fire towards the Goths, aurochs and tarpans. Once the fires were roaring the on foot troop followed the flames through the smoldering blackened earth with their bows at the ready.

The Goths, weary from the short sleep and long ride, were clearly unnerved by the sudden flight of the noisy ravens. Squealing and bellowing, the aurochs and tarpans stampeded through the startled Goths. Caught unprepared, the horses of the Goths were swept into the contagious stampede and fear. Bucking and jerking about several men were unhorsed and trampled in the chaos. In the chaos they realized the grasslands behind them were on fire and it was too late to turn back. Without orders the Goths broke and headed for the safety of the water.

The marshy land and muddy streams bogged down the Goth’s disorganized flight. The anxiously milling tarpans and aurochs had split into two groups effectively blocking the Goths from fleeing up or down stream. The Raven Raiders, deadly marksmen all, opened fire on the near stationary Goths haphazardly splashing about mere feet away from trees. Unaware of their perilous plight dozens were easily struck down. By the time they realized they’d run into an ambush, they were in the trap. Smoke from the fire made them choke and blink their eyes. They couldn’t see their enemy hidden in the trees which deflected most of the smoke upwards. A few tried to charge the hidden archers but were unable to penetrate the brush and were easily cut down. Several tried to flee back through the fire. Most of their horses refused to leave the safety of the water. The few who did, as they charged through the scorching flames they were cut down by the arrows of troop that had started the fires. The Goths were trapped between 163 archers from the trees and another 79 from the scorched earth. Several Goths tried to use their bows to counter the devastating barrage striking them down but they were terrible marksmen from horseback, especially with their horses trying to move in the muck. Several finally realized their only hope was to dismount as being on horseback only made them clearer targets. However the squealing of the horses, tarpans and bellowing of the aurochs made communication near impossible and being on foot in the swirling maelstrom of four legged animals, especially in the muddy now thoroughly churned water and reeds, proved dangerous as many slipped and fell being trampled beneath the water.

Within 5 minutes no Goths remained mounted and the muddy water had turned a deep dark reddish brown from the blood of the dead and dying Goths. As the flames died down a bit over a 100 surviving Goths managed to stumble up the stream bank they ridden down forming into a defensive fighting circle on the island. The on foot troop of Raven Raiders stayed back while pouring arrows into the group as did the Raven Raiders still hidden in the trees.

“Enough!” Raben bellowed as he moved out from amongst the milling aurochs, tarpans and horses to face the shattered Goths on the downstream end of the island. “I warned you to leave us in peace or face death! Now most of your companions are dead. Lay down your weapons and live.”

The Goths were clearly shocked by the lopsided massacre. Yet they were too proud to capitulate. One of them screamed and charged Raben with the rest quickly following.

“Fools! I warned you I am the Demon Slayer!” With that Raben drew his sword and a knife and charged the Goths.

The Raven Raiders watched in horror as the mob of soggy Goths engulfed the leader of the Clan Corvo. They had all heard the tales of Raben’s battle melee acumen, but few alive in Barmaz had seen it. Even now they couldn’t see it as the diminutive Demon Slayer was subsumed by the swarming larger Goths. They all knew there was no way one man could survive such uneven odds. Yet the clangor of battle raged, the screams and moans of the mortally wounded rent the air and the knot of men moved about on the bank leaving a steady trail of dead and dying Goths expelled from the bloody scrum.

After another 5 minutes the ever smaller cluster of Goths splintered and men dropped their weapons, kneeling in submission. Standing in the middle was a blood soaked apparition from hell. Raben stood, the sword and knife still clenched in his hands. No one spoke. The Raven Raiders were as equally stunned as the surviving Goths that the small hellion still stood.

“I warned you I am the Demon Slayer,” Raben growled, then tilted his head back to howl. The wolves joined in with the ravens ‘krocking’, the aurochs bellowing, and the tarpans and horses neighing.

Raben thanked the animals for their assistance and asked them to stay near as he wanted to talk to them tomorrow. The two troops of Raven Raiders emerged from the trees to join the third troop as they rounded up and disarmed the confounded and disheartened surrendered Goths. They had them pull the dead from the water, they’d bury them tomorrow. Raben walked amongst them, praising his troops and checking on their welfare. Four were slightly wounded. There were 56 Goth prisoners and when the count was finally tallied, 947 dead of which Raben was responsible for 64. No one doubted he was indeed the Demon Slayer.

Raben stepped into the river to wash the blood from himself. The Goths were tough. Not all the blood that had been covering him was theirs. Several had scored what would have proved fatal wounds if he didn’t have the Curse. But there was no way he was about to reveal that! By the time he emerged from the water the wounds were healing. He knew the bloody battle would reinforce the legends of the Demon Slayer and the Raven Raiders.

In the morning the Raven Raiders searched the bodies stripping them of weapons and other valuables. The prisoners then buried the dead. With the wolves guarding them, the disillusioned prisoners didn’t even think of trying to escape. Raben spoke to the animals explaining the human populations were growing and they would be hunted until none were left. After witnessing the slaughter Raben had inflicted upon the Goths they had no doubts he spoke the truth. That he promised them a peaceful and safe place to live seemed an acceptable deal. The tarpans and aurochs agreed to accompany them. Raben dispatched raven mail messages telling Barmaz to stock up on hay and straw for the quadrupeds.

The next day they set out at a leisurely pace allowing the herbivores frequent rest stops to eat and water. They had a herd of 20 aurochs, 35 tarpans, and 973 formerly Goth horses. As the caravan traveled back to Aquincum they encountered numerous Bastarnae who simply looked at the glum Goths and over 973 riderless formerly Goth horses in addition to the Aurochs and Tarpans.

Raben allowed the Bastarnae elders and leaders to talk to the Goth prisoners so the word would spread of the one-sided massacre by the Raven Raiders and the Demon Slayer. Raben also spoke to the leadership to explain he had come in peace. The fact the ravens, and wolves listened to him, not to mention the aurochs, tarpans, and horses, helped convince them to fear the Demon Slayer and the Raven Raiders.

Word of the massacre quickly spread through the Bastarnae and Goths. They knew that 1102 Goths had set out to crush the 243 Raven Raiders. That only 56 Goths survived as prisoners on their way to slavery while not a single Raven Raider was lost created a very real aura of invincibility. The legends of the Demon Slayer and the Raven Raiders were most certainly reinforced and quickly spread. The ‘barbarians’ all along the Danube now knew of them.

Instead of crossing the Danube at Aquincum, they stayed on the north bank. While the aurochs and tarpans were willingly accompanying the trek, they were still wild animals. The Danube at Aquincum was too wide and swift to swim. There was simply no way the untamed beasts would willingly board a ferry or even cross a narrow bridge across the 500 feet wide river. Raben also understood the animals would refuse to go through towns. The man made canyons dangerously smelled of humans and looked like traps. With the immense 1197 mixed quadruped herd this meant the road home took much longer with day long pauses to allow grazing. The Raven Raiders were disciplined enough to keep the herd together and safe. At most stops Raben negotiated grazing rights by giving away a few of the captured Goth horses. The ravens flew overwatch and served as a deterrent to any who might hope to cause trouble.

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Comments

Early Conservation

joannebarbarella's picture

How did Raben know that these species were destined to become extinct?

I think that the zoo will have to become much larger with all the different species being gathered there.

Raben began as a healer and hunter

Seeing the human migrations and growing populations, a hunter would know free range large wild animals were doomed. While most hunters would not be as aware of the future past their lifetime and maybe that of their children and grandchildren, Raben's long life gave him the ability to look beyond generational concerns.

Boys will be girls... if they're lucky!

Jennifer Sue

Still enjoying the story

Wendy Jean's picture

though lately I've been wondering if this were an alternate time line or what?

I hadn't really thought of that aspect...

I suppose it's evolving into an alternative time line as it has already diverted from reality.

Boys will be girls... if they're lucky!

Jennifer Sue