Time on My Hands Chapter 41 - 347-352 CE: Colonizing the Azores

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Time on My Hands

Chapter 41: 347-352 CE: Colonizing the Azores

Since Christianity had taken hold of the Clan Ravn the burial practices changed. The circular burial mound of Olvris was huge, 180 feet in diameter and 19 feet high, had been fine for the honoring the Norse gods, but was considered a bit too ostentatious for Christianity. Svenn decided the mound could become a dynastic memorial for those who led Bazram.

Family members had been buried around the burial mound and that would continue, however, the successors of Olvris would be buried atop the mound. As the first successor, Bjorn would be buried on the top with a simple gravestone. When Svenn’s time came, he would be buried beside his grandfather, with future successors following suit as the grave sites wound around and down the hill. There would be more than enough room to bury centuries of successors. Svenn would also erected a huge memorial stone listing the names and lineage of those buried in and on top of the burial mound along with the dates of the birth, rule, and death. Additions would be made as needed.

Three days later Bjorn was laid to rest at noon, then an all afternoon celebration of his life was held.
Two days later, Raben took a ship heading south to Zarbam. He’d decided to increase the emigration immediately to start settling the new colony. He sent raven mail to Barmaz requesting a battalion of Raven Raiders and their families as well as 1000 masons, 3000 farmers, and 500 carpenters and their families to be ready with tools to emigrate to the new colony of Azores, heading to Zarbam over a 9 week period in groups sailing 1 week apart starting in a month. Each of the 4 skill sets were to be equally divided amongst the 9 fleets. The message also told Zarbam to prepare a fleet to carry these new colonists to the new colony in nine fleets setting off 1 week apart.

The first search from Ramzab for the mid-Atlantic islands had been successful. They discovered an archipelago Raben had decided in advance would be named Azores. A Raven was dispatched to notify Ramzab that the small fleet was going to explore the islands and that they could re-supplying from the islands along with fishing so they could spend the next several months exploring. That message had been passed on to Raben who began organizing colonists. The first island had a large population of ravens and no animals. They named the island Santa Maria {GM 36.977479, -25.085990}, an oblong 37.6 square miles, 7 miles in long and 3 miles wide. Due to the impermeability of some clay soils the west was dryer because the water run off so there were fewer leafy plants or grasses. However, the fine clay would be ideal for pottery. There were also limestone deposits they could process for cement. The next and largest island, also with a large raven population, was Sao Miguel {GM 37.778299, -25.474763} 55 miles to the north covering 290 square miles being 39 miles long and 10 miles wide. There were numerous volcanoes and cones across the landscape with hot springs and geysers in the center. The entire island was green with vegetation and quite fertile. The last part of the initial island grouping was a grouping of lifeless rocky low outcroppings they simply named Formigas Islets {GM 37.271242, -24.780598}. They were located 27 miles northeast of Santa Maria.

While they had been exploring the islands they sent ravens exploring to the northeast. They returned having found more islands. The 3 ships sailed northeast finding a grouping of 5 islands, each with large raven populations. Terceira {GM 38.723792, -27.202767} was 117 miles northwest of Sao Miguel. The fertile oval island had an area of 153 square miles was 17.7 miles long and 9.7 miles wide. Graciosa {GM 39.057023, -28.021102} was 45 miles northwest of Terceira, the northernmost of this group of islands was oval with an area of 23.5 square miles being 6.2 miles long and 4.3 miles wide dominated by a 1 mile wide central caldera in the southeast. It was a fertile island ideal for agriculture. São Jorge {GM 38.646666, -28.035517} was 40 miles southwest of Terceira and 29 miles south of Graciosa. The long narrow fertile island had an area 95 square miles, was 34 miles long 2 miles wide. Located 11 miles south of São Jorge was Pico {GM 38.484442, -28.393352} had an area of 173 square miles, was 29 miles long and 10 miles wide. Located 17 miles west was Faial {GM 38.577267, -28.703401 PD} had an area of 67 square miles, was 13 miles long and 10 miles wide.

While they were exploring these islands the ravens were again sent out to the northwest. Again they returned having found more islands. After exploring the five islands they sailed to the next grouping 144 miles northwest of Faial. These also had large Raven populations. The closest was Flores {GM 39.438072, -31.204089 PD}, with an area of 55 square miles, was 10 miles long and 8 miles wide. Corvo {GM 39.699449, -31.107254} was 17 miles north with an area of 7 square miles was 4 miles long and 2 miles wide.

The ravens were sent out again but no more islands were found. They had found an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in 3 groupings of 2, 5 and 2 islands. The closest group of 2 habitable islands were 860 miles west of the Iberian Peninsula and 544 miles northwest of Ramzab, a sailing trip of 3 days from Ramzab.

There were nine major islands and an islet cluster in three main groups stretching 377 miles, all in a northwest direction. They had multiple volcanic cones and calderas, with fumaroles and hot springs. Five of the islands showed signs of small lava flows well over a few hundred years old judging by the vegetation that overtook the flow. None looked as if they'd had cataclysmic eruptions for thousands of years. All the islands had fresh water streams and were covered with vegetation and trees. The islands lacked large animals but had numerous birds, the most plentiful of which were ravens. Seasonal camps were established on each island as they did a quick exploration of the island.

The initial fleet and people to colonize Azores were waiting for Raben when he arrived in Zarbam at the end of July. The fleet sailed within 3 days carrying 1333 men, women and children supplies and farm animals on 3 of the new large ships available and 20 of the refurbished ships. Each weekly sailing would have the same number of vessels and nearly the same people for a total of 12,000 colonists. The shipyard workers Raben had recruited had traveled to Madeira with the regular spring colony trips which had only taken 45 of the refurbished ships which would also make the end of summer trip.

The first fleet set sail to the Ramzab colony on Madeira with Raben aboard. Upon arrival they briefly unloaded on Madeira. They picked up duplicate charts made by the initial explorers of the new colony. They resupplied, let the people stretch their legs, then sail onward to Azores Archipelago. A pair of clinker ships was being pulled out of storage to sail with each fleet to provide the colony’s meat requirements by fishing. More clinkers would be added over the years as the population grew, crews were trained, and ships became available.

Raben accompanied the fleet as it sailed to the closest island, Santa Maria, in the Azores Archipelago. The 3 day voyage was uneventful. The colonists landed on the south coast in a sheltered cove {36.945641, -25.147256 PD Vilo do Porto}. The entry to the cove was about 2500 feet wide between worn cliffs with shallow short rocky beaches. The cliffs closed in at 45°, one to the northeast and the other to the north west, for 2000 feet where they joined a 750 feet wide sandy beach that ran east to west. The slope behind the beach rose 300 feet over a distance of 3000 feet to the island's main plateau. On the east side of the slope was a valley 150 feet wide with a stream. On the west was a valley 75 feet wide with a smaller stream. In the center was a valley 50 feet wide with a tiny water course. Sloping rounded ridges connected the valleys as the rose to the plateau. The Raven Raiders explored the land situating the camp on the ridge between the east and center valleys. They selected areas suitable for agricultural fields and others for pasture. They found water sources that would be secure and safe from pasture runoff. They then laid out paths, roads and streets. By the end of the first evening everyone was on shore. It took 4 days to unload the ships. The masons and carpenters began building homes and barns. The farmers set up pastures and began planting crops. Once the foundations were built for the buildings, the masons began working on building breakwaters for the harbor.

A wind mill was built to operated a small saw mill to cut planks and timbers. The selected agricultural areas were prepared for fields of vegetables and winter grains and planted. Steeper areas were properly fenced off for pasture. It took two weeks for them to flesh out the initial settlement.

Raben had prepared several dozen ravens for raven mail before he left Madeira. The birds knew their duty roost on Madeira. Each island in the Azores Archipelago would have a raven mail roost established with Ravens designated to fly to the other islands for intra island messages as well as an inter island roost for communications between Santa Maria and Madeira.

By the time the next fleet arrived, Raben joined them as the sailed on to the next island. São Miguel was on the southern shore {37.716672, -25.429843 PD Vila Franco do Campo} just east of the island's center point, a voyage of 6 hours. Just as they had done on Santa Maria the initial colonists set up a main camp destined to become a town as the masons and carpenters began construction later securing a safe harbor. As the weekly colonial fleets arrived, Raben divided them between the 2 islands as he explored them. As the new fleet arrived, he sent the previous fleet back to Madeira keeping the 2 clinker ships as well as one refurbished caravel for each island.

By the end of October 347 the initial Azores migration was completed, the island of Santa Maria had a population of 5335 people while Sao Miguel had 6665 people. The new colony was well under way. Raben returned to Madeira and then Zarbam, using the time to meditate on the status of the Clan Corvo. Madeira had received 4909 colonists that year.

Raben came to a startling realization. With the current size of the still growing Corvus Shipping Fleet, they far outnumbered any commercial fleet. As far as sea going vessels, they also outnumbered the Sea Fleet of the Roman Empire. With 3 active shipyards, those gaps would continue to grow. With the steadily growing population of the Clan Corvo and it's growing sea power, Raben decided to established the Clan Corvo Marines, again to be made of both male and female warriors.

One portion would be warriors on ships who doubled as crew. Each vessel would be equipped with an onager mounted atop the forecastle. Those with cargos of 180 tons and larger would have a second onager mounted atop the quarterdeck.

The expansion into Azores showed the need for disciplined multi talented units that could explore new islands, establish base camps that would become the basis of settlements, able to secure water sources, blaze trails, set up farm land and pasture as well as to scope out natural resources. They would need basic skills in mapping, masonry, carpentry, farming, herding, fishing, and mining within each unit in addition to fighting skills. These Clan Corvo Marine units would be the Pathfinders.

The Pathfinders would need on the job training. They'd be built off the militia with a core of 1 out of 10 coming from the Raven Raiders, again being of mixed genders. The military training and discipline would serve as a solid base from which to grow.

Upon arriving in Zarbam he had the shipyard begin arming vessels with the Raven Raiders training crew in the use of the artillery and honing their fighting skills. A few hundred Raven Raiders transferred into the Pathfinder units forming their backbone.

The yearly fleets transferring 12,000 colonists to the Azores would continue doing so in the weekly departing 9 fleet mode done for the initial colonization. The first unit of pathfinders sailed on 4 vessels independent of but attached to the colonial fleet. They had 3 well supplied 180 ton caravel ships, each with 115 Pathfinders, and one clinker ship with 15 Pathfinders. They would follow the first fleet staying in sight. The weekly fleet dispatch method was extremely efficient and avoided jams loading and unloading.

In 348, Madeira received 4909 colonists. Of the 12,000 Azores colonists, 10835 landed on Sao Miguel since Santa Maria only needed 1165 to meet their maximum population of 6500. Raben checked both islands, then joined the 4 ships of pathfinders as they sailed the 89 miles to the island of Terceira, the largest of 5 island central group of islands.

As several men secured a water source, the main portion built a jetty to create a secure harbor. They then laid out their base, the future settlement site. While some mapped the island and it’s resources, others prepared fields and planted crops before establishing pastures. They had a year to prepare for the initial influx of colonists. The 360 Pathfinders had plenty to do over the next year. Raben returned to Sao Miguel in time to catch the return of the last delivery fleet.

The 349 fleets were quite similar. Madeira received 5016 colonists. This time 6 fleets with 8000 colonists landed on San Miguel while 3 fleets sailed a further 89 miles to the second island cluster of the Azores Archipelago with 4000 colonists. They landed and settled on Terciera, taking over the prepared settlement, planted farmland and pastures the Pathfinders had created. A new Pathfinder unit arrived with the first fleet to Terceira. They accompanied the soon to be departing original Pathfinders as they showed the colonists what they had prepared. The first Pathfinders embarked on their 3 caravel ships leaving the clinker for the new colony. They returned with the last fleet to Zambar to be refitted and enjoy a shore leave. The 4 new Pathfinder ships reloaded their men and sailed 37 miles northwest to the island of Graciosa which they would prepare for the next years colonists.

By 350, the jump in emigration was ready. Zarbam had far outgrown it’s initial space. The port and shipyard employed 10,000 people. As the home port for the Corvus Shipping Fleet, 266 vessels with 1780 crewmen called the port home. Then there were 1080 Pathfinders and a division of Raven Raiders. This created an employment of 18666 men. When you added in families Zarbam had a population of 46,000. The settlement spread across the entire valley occupying about 40 square miles. As usual, the Clan Corvo had already bought the land. In fact, they now owned all the land around the Etang de Berre including the entirety of the Mediterranean coast from Fos-sur-Mer in the west to the Pointe de Corbiere in the east, just northwest of Marseilles which included the Chanel de Caronte, the waterway connecting the Etange de Berre to the sea. Fortifications were began all along the coast similar to those along the Rhone and Lac Leman totally eliminating the shore with 75° 30 feet high glacis with defense walls 30 feet high above the glacis with watchtowers every 1000 feet. The 400 feet wide 2 1/2 mile long Channel de Caronte was likewise walled into a sinuous stacked triple ‘S’ becoming a deadly kill-zone for any vessels trying to force the passage.

Bazram sent 120 vessels to Bonna with the spring iron shipment to collect the 3000 settlers. Svenn had prepped housing spreading the new arrivals amongst those already living along Trondheim Fjord. population, which with the new arrivals swelled to more than 19,000. They began purchasing or marrying into neighboring farmsteads so they now controlled the entire peninsula extending southwest from Olvrishaugen.

The spring fleets to the colonies set sail in mid April. Each fleet took an average of 1333 colonists. The Madeira group was the largest at 10,000, Sao Miguel took the smallest at 4966, Terceira took 4000, and 5000 went to Graciosa taking over the settlement and farmland the Pathfinders had prepared. The colonists on Graciosa filled the population cap for that island. Once more the Pathfinders swapped out. The new unit set up on the island San George.

In 350, the duce of the Diocese of Gaul, Magnentius {technically making him the military commander of the Province of Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae} declared himself emperor with the support of the troops on the Rhine frontier and, later, the western provinces of the Empire. Constans, lacking any support beyond his immediate household, was forced to flee but was captured and killed. Constantius II broke off the seemingly never ending war in Syria with Persia and marched west, appointing one of his surviving cousins, Gallus, as his Caesar to maintain an imperial presence and hold the eastern empire against the Persians. Magnentius pulled more than fifty percent of the troops from the Rhine border before advancing his armies across Raetia and down the Danube to meet those of Constantius in the Battle of Mursa Major on September 28, 351. Magnentius led his troops into battle, while Constantius II spent the day of battle praying in a nearby church. Outflanked and defeated, Magnentius was forced to retreat. Between them, they suffered 54,000 casualties out of the 116,000 engaged in the bloody battle.

Magnentius fled across northern Italy through Turin to the Col de Montgenèvre. Although the gate complex was built along with a great deal of the adjoining defense walls, Raben was not ready to stop or disarm Imperial troops passing through the Province of Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae. The inter-provincial roads were still a work in progress so the division of Raven Raiders stationed at the gate complex allowed the bedraggled force entry. A company of Raven Raiders accompanied Magnentius in a successful effort to keep them on the designated route.

The ever restless Franks and Alemanni took advantage of the Roman civil war with the resultant draw down of border troops and subsequent high losses to launch raids into Gaul and Raetia. Magnentius appointed his brother Decentius as vicarii of Gaul during the winter of 351-52, to oversee the defense of Gaul and the Rhine frontier.

Constantius II sent a letter to Chnodomar, a king of a sub-state in the Alemanni Confederacy, instigating an invasion across the Rhine well behind the rear of Magnentius' main forces. In early 352 Chnodamar led the Alemanni across the Rhine defeating Decentius and crushing the depleted Roman forces in the area. Several forts/towns along the Rhine were sacked and major incursions were made into Raetia and Gaul. The Alemanni captured many of the Roman forts along the Rhine, demolished their fortifications and established permanent camps on the Roman west bank of the river. The camps were used as bases to pillage Gaul, stopping commerce on the river. The defensive line of the upper Rhine had largely collapsed. The fort/cities of Moguntiacum {PD Mainz}, Borbetomagus {PD Worms}, Nemetae Vangionum {PD Speyer}, Tabernae {PD Saverne}, Saliso {PD Wagenhausen, Switzerland} and Argentorate {PD Strasbourg} were all in German hands. Apart from the major fortified city of Colonia Agrippina {PD Cologne}, only three strong points on the upper Rhine remained in Roman hands: a single tower near Cologne and the forts, at Rigodunum {PD Remagen) and Confluentes {PD Koblenz} All of the province of Germania Prime and the northern quarter of the province of Maxima Sequanorum had been overrun by the Alemanni. With the exception of the forts at Rigodunum and Confluentes, the Roman roads from Colonia Agrippina to Basilia were cut.

The 352 iron shipment had already left Barzam when the Rhine front collapsed. At the end of April Raben led 3 divisions of Raven Raiders through the walls at Lac Leman into Maxima Sequanorum. Each division had 6789 men, 2791 ravens, 81 wolves, 9 eagles and one tiger 9 artillery squads each with 1 onager with 3 crew and 3 scorpios with 2 crew each. The 4 artillery pieces were mounted on sturdy custom built wagons drawn by 4 horses with each artillery piece having a second wagon for ammunition. The Raven Raider's most important asset was their fierce reputation. Being accompanied by the Demon Slayer totally intimidated any opposition.

Fortunately the 120 ship fleet, now armed with onagers was imposing and the crews trained in fighting. They discovered the turmoil on the Rhine but decided to push north. They reached Colonia Agrippina, the last accessible port/fort on the Rhine without major incidents.

Raben led the column accompanied by the 3 tigers and their handles as they headed north. Three eagles flew high overwatch as did a third of the ravens. The remaining eagles rode atop one of the ammo wagons. Many of the ravens rode atop the wagons or on special leather aprons on the back of the horses. The raven banners of each of the 162 troops, 54 companies, 18 battalions and 6 brigades and 2 divisions along with Raben’s personal flag waved both defiantly and tauntingly as they rode through Roman held territory toward Basilia. They made no secret of their destination or purpose.

Word of the Raven Raider expedition quickly spread as the Franks and Alemanni had many spies and informants watching out for Roman legions. The story of how one company of Raven Raiders had annihilated over 1000 Goths with no losses was very well known reinforcing how a brigade of Raven Raiders utterly routed Constantine’s opposition at Milvan Bridge. The massive and growing fortifications surrounding Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae were also well known. That 3 divisions of the dreaded Clan Corvo unit had stepped outside Clan Corvo territory sent fear through the Franks and Alemanni. The presence of so many ravens, harbingers of misfortune and death, sent shivers through all potential opposition. The sheer number of wolves and eagles was also quite unnerving. What they found truly horrifying were the 3 massive 9 feet long, four feet tall at the shoulder 500 pound tigers walking calmly alongside the dreaded Demon Slayer. The huge felines looked at everyone they passed as if sizing up their next meal. Most people felt like a mouse hopelessly facing a stalking cat. That a crack combat unit not only had such a menagerie but that they fought with the troops was chilling.

The column traveled slowly as it was escorting 220 supply laden wagons from the Clan Corvo with the 3000 Clan Corvo people heading to Barzam in Norway. By the time they reached Basilia, merchants had gathered with their own wagons and guards hoping to accompany the column. Raben allowed another thirty wagons to slot in between his troops and wagons.

By the time they left Basilia, the road through the Frank and Alemanni held former Roman provinces was desolate. Scouts from the Franks and Alemanni stayed close to the column but never interfered. The eagle and raven overwatch kept a close eye on the watchers. Most towns and villages had been sacked, the population fled, killed or captured. While they killed the legionaries, the invaders preferred to take the inhabitants as slaves, sending them to their homes to tend their fields while they remained campaigning.

The Alemanni remembered the legendary Demon Slayer had saved 240,000 of their people from slavery during the ill fated invasion of Italy 93 years before and absorbed them into his then smaller Clan Corvo. They had no doubt that the Clan Corvo now numbered an intimidating 1.6+ million people. They felt they owed a tribal debt to the legendary figure. They were also aware that the Demon Slayer and Raven Raiders had utterly destroyed a force of Goths 4 times their size just nine years ago with no losses. Their fear of the Demon Slayer and Raven Raiders was very real and they did not want a confrontation.

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Definitely An Alternate Timeline

joannebarbarella's picture

With the colonisation of Madeira and The Azores over 1000 years before our time there is no way that Raben's civilisation can just sit still and stagnate. The Americas, Bermuda and The Bahamas are almost within reach, while Rome has not yet withdrawn from Britannia.

Clan Corvo has become a major factor in keeping the peace along the Empire's Western and Northwestern borders. Like it or not they will bring Christianity to those areas as they consolidate their holdings.


The western Roman Empire is fragmenting, and Raben, Roman senator or not, doesn't seem to feel that trying to assert authority there, either on behalf of the natives or the Alemann invaders, is in his best interests; instead, he's looking at Scandinavia and the western ocean to expand his sphere of influence.

A nitpick, I suppose, but I had a problem with your having Raben give the islands their present names. Maybe he would have named them for Christian saints, but he certainly wouldn't have used modern Portuguese and Spanish to do so. I found that sort of jarring.

Also, Wikipedia tells me that "azores" is a misnomer; the bird of that name (a goshawk) isn't native to the islands. True, this is 1000 years before the chain was actually named, and I guess it's possible they were there then, though I don't believe you've mentioned them among the native bird life. But given Raben's ability to talk with animals and to use ravens as scouts and mail-carriers, he seems unlikely to make that kind of mistake, even if you did have him name the archipelago before he went there.

Anyway, as always, looking forward to finding out what comes next.


re: Using modern names

I'm currently working on Chapter 56. When I wrote these chapters I did use non-current names, variants of Barmaz or RAVEN in different languages. I set up a spread sheet to keep track of those names. As the story progressed it became too awkward. If I was having issues keeping track of what was where, those reading would quickly lose track. I decided using the current names, although inconsistent with the story, was a better solution, especially since the expansion will continue. Two weeks ago I went back and removed the 'story based' names for the real life names. I had to rewrite 16 chapters.

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

Jennifer Sue

The first comment nailed my thoughts exactly

Wendy Jean's picture

Definitely a alternate timeline. The roman empire came very close to having an industrial revolution, using waterwheels to power machinery Clan Corbin is going to have the same event soon as a civilization usually advances in time. It will be interesting how they handle those problems, while not quite a democracy they incorporate many features of one
In short Loving the series!