Time on My Hands Chapter 42 - 352-353 CE: Frolicking on the Rhine

Time on My Hands

Chapter 42: 352-353 CE: Frolicking on the Rhine

The Alemanni leadership were waiting in the ruins of the city of Argentorate {PD Strasbourg}. Delegates were sent out to the caravan asking for a parley. Raben agreed telling his people to set up camp for the night. Then he, 3 tigers and 30 wolves headed into the invader’s parley camp as 3 eagles and over 300 ravens circled overhead. That Raben went to the parley without any men told the Alemanni he had absolutely no fear of them.

For the first few moments the quite imposing Chnodamar tried to stare down the physically unimposing Raben. Accustomed to being dominant, the fact Raben met him stare to stare started to get under his skin. Then without breaking eye contact, Raben began to smirk. Suddenly the tigers let out simultaneous almost deafening deep throated roars that quite literally rattled the unprepared listeners bones while making their chests quiver. Much to his disgust, Chnodamar found himself blinking and taking a step back.

Raben’s smirk broadened into a smile of smug satisfaction. “We have a lot to discuss. Why don’t we sit.”

Everyone who heard Raben understood from the firm, unwavering tone of his voice that he was not asking them to sit down, he was ordering them to do so.

Without waiting Raben walked to and sat by a nearby fire. As the unsettled men took seats around the fire the tigers languidly moved to either side of Raben with the wolves providing menacing backup, glaring at the extremely nervous men. Raben began the deep bass chuffing tigers use to speak to each other and the tigers, who clearly understood, chuffed their replies. After a bit of back and forth conversation, which the Alemanni realized was an actual discussion, the tigers stretched out upon the ground and began to nonchalantly groom themselves, making the men shudder. Raben gave out a piercing screech and a majestic eagle flew down to land between his legs glaring at the unfamiliar men further unnerving the Alemanni. Raben then krocked several times and three ravens came down, one alighting on his head, the others on his shoulders. It was a clear demonstration that Raben talked to and controlled the animals, unambiguously adding to his already quite formidable mystique.

“I’ll be very blunt. I have not come to fight you,” Raben began after seeing Chnodomar and the other Alemanni Kings were too uncertain to begin. “I have Clan Corvo business in Colonia Agrippina, which I’ve conducted for over fifty years in Bonna. However, your invasion destroyed the town and fort making it impossible to conduct business there. I have goods and supplies in my wagons and am providing support for merchants to travel with me. We will resupply all Roman positions we pass both coming and going. If you interfere, you will regret it.”

“We can’t let you resupply the remaining forts,” Chnodomar angrily declared, not nearly as intimidated as the other Alemanni. “If you try, we will kill you and your men.”

“Let me show you something,” Raben smiled as he stood and drew a knife which he promptly thrust through his hand.

Several men gasped and the eyes of all grew large.

“I am THE Demon Slayer,” Raben continued as he held out his hand so all could see the blade was thrust through his hand. “I am not a fairy tale. Watch the wound closely.” With that Raben pulled the blade from his hand licking the bloody blade clean as if savoring the taste of blood before placing it in it’s sheath. Blood freely flowed from both sides of the wound as he held the hand out so they could see.

The bleeding quickly stopped, then as they watched in disbelief they saw the wound heal. Expressions of awe, fear and amazement swept through them.

“I am the Demon Slayer,” Raben stated calmly. “My twin sister, Fiach, and I inherited the Curse. Those of us who are direct descendants of the original Demon Slayer can, if we are worthy, inherit the Curse, thus becoming Demon Slayers. The Curse allows a set of twin brother and sister direct descendants of the original Demon Slayer to become Demon Slayers. The previous Demon Slayer must test their proposed successor before God. If God approves, the Curse passes from one to the other, freeing the previous now former Demon Slayer to resume aging and eventually die. Demon Slayers are Cursed to live without aging, heal any wounds and survive any poison. Demon Slayers are also Ianuarians so we can heal as well as kill, however we have no supernatural healing abilities for others. We’re not proud of being so good at killing and we only do so when provoked. In addition, as you have seen, we can talk to animals. The eagles and ravens are my eyes and ears. The tigers and wolves my teeth and claws. Our original tribe was the Hermunduri, a mix of Celtic and Germanic so we are distant relatives. The original Demon Slayer was the founder of the Clan Corvo. The current Demon Slayers are the heads of the Clan Corvo, who are all descendants of the original Demon Slayer’s siblings or married to those descendants. The Clan Corvo numbers over 1.6 million people. At age 13 everyone, male and female, join the Clan Corvo militia and are trained as soldiers. They remain in the militia the rest of their lives. The Raven Raiders are my cousins who have been further trained in combat. We do not want to fight you, but if you force us into battle, know that we WILL destroy you, take all your possessions, and then enslave your families for your stupidity. Do not underestimate us!”

Raben spoke loud enough so all could hear. Many didn’t want to believe him but they knew the legends, they saw the wound heal, they saw him talk to and control the wild animals. They feared a confrontation.

“You know my intentions,” Raben declared. “What happens next is up to you. I sincerely hope you choose to live.” The eagle and ravens took flight and circled above him as he stood. The tigers stood and stretched their sleek feline forms, then fell in with him as he nonchalantly headed back to the Raven Raiders encampment.

The ravens watched and listened as the Alemanni discussed Raben. Knowing the cost would be prohibitively high, most refused to consider confronting Raben and the Raven Raiders. Chnodomar was apprehensive but felt his dignity was impugned and he’d lose face if they allowed Raben to do as he intended, yet without the other kings and their men, his forces were too weak to go at the Raven Raiders alone. As the sun began to set no decision had been made and the Alemanni returned to their individual camps. As they left they could plainly see they were being followed and closely watched by dozens of ravens.

In the morning the Raven Raiders once more set out on the Via Germanica passing through the abandoned ruins of Argentorate. The eagle and raven overwatch expanded to cover the rear of the column. The ravens covered from the Rhine to 10 miles to the west of the road as well as 5 miles ahead and behind. To add to the Alemanni fears of the Demon Slayer Each band of Alemanni could clearly see dozens of Ravens roosting near their camps or flying above them as they moved, clearly keeping an eye on their movements.

When the ravens spotted someone they shadowed them, and there were hundreds of watchers. Quite naturally this unnerved the spying Alemanni who had no way of evading the wily sharp eyed harbingers of death. The column moved steadily past the burned empty forts, watchtowers and towns. The Via Germanica stayed away from the river in the upper reaches because the wide untamed Rhine meandered back and forth through the often swampy muck and mire of the nearly flat 3 to 4 mile wide flood plain. The forts in this area were spread further apart than anywhere else on the Rhine defensive network. Passing through the flood plain without the benefit of roads was impossible for wagons and difficult for anyone on horseback or foot. The first day they traveled 13 miles to Brocomagus {PD Brumath}. The next three days they covered 16 miles each day stopping at burned down way stations located every 12-19 miles apart which consisted of three parts. First were the Mansiones, operated by the empire for official business and couriers, the second were Mutationes, way stations that serviced vehicles and animals, and third were the cauponae, private inns called tabernae. The next day they covered 19 miles spending the night in the ruins of Noviomagus {PD Speyer}. Then it was 11 miles to the burned out remains of Rheingonheim.

The merchants that begged their way into accompanying the Raven Raiders grew increasingly nervous with each passing mile as they saw the destruction. Their smug sense of security in the strength of the Roman Empire was crushed. Most had traveled the Via Germanica many times selling their wares at the cities, towns and villages that grew up around the Roman forts and watchtowers. Now everything was destroyed. Never had they seen such devastation. In the past the Germanic incursions had been raids, at worst destroying a watchtower or 2 while avoiding the forts then rapidly traveling deep into the interior for richer plunder and returning to their side of the Rhine before the Roman forces cold rally to stop them. This time everything had been destroyed and Rome so far failed to even attempt to push the Germans back across the border. Magnentius had stripped the border troops to support his efforts to usurp the emperorship and the settlements along the Rhine as well as the provinces of Gaul and Raetia payed the price.

The next day they traveled 16 miles to Borbetomagus {PD Worms}, then 14 miles to a way station, then 15 miles to Mogontiacum (PD Mainz}, 17 miles to Bingium {PD Bingen}, 14 miles to a way station, 13 miles Boudobriga {PD Boppard} and 12 miles Confluentes {PD Koblenz}. The fort at Confluentes was still intact and manned.

The weary troops in the fort were spooked when they saw the ravens gathering from the south. They feared another Alemanni attack. When they saw the approaching column of disciplined mounted troops they broke into cheers thinking they were finally relieved. Then they saw the front rider being escorted by 3 huge orange cats with black stripes with eagles flying high above the ravens. It was only when they were close enough to see the ravens on the banners and shields they realized thses were not the hoped for relief troops. Like everyone else they’d heard the stories of the by then legendary Raven Raiders and their leader the Demon Slayer. Obviously they were not imperial troops but hopefully they could assist them.

Raben quickly popped their hopes by informing the battle weary troops they were not being relieved. The commander and officers wanted to speak privately with Raben but he refused insisting the weary brave soldiers should hear what he had to say. Raven Raiders relieved the guards in the towers so all the troops could gather.

“Constantius defeated Magnentius last year,” Raben began. “Unfortunately between them, they suffered 54,000 casualties out of the 116,000 engaged in the bloody battle. Magnentius withdrew with what was left of his forces but the troops of Constantius were too battered to pursue. Both are hurrying to rebuild their forces for further battle so no relief will be coming until one or the other is defeated. By then there may not be enough troops left to relieve you.”

The troops had been aware of the battle but none had known the costly and bloody outcome. They now fully understood there would be no relief.

“I can resupply you,” Raben continued. “I’ll let the remaining forts know you’re still here. I’m on my way to Colonia Agrippina. When I return I’ll bring more supplies and any replacement troops that can be spared. There are 2 other options. You can destroy this fort and accompany us to Colonia Agrippina, or you can do so when I return accompanying us to Basilia. However, if you abandon the fort without orders you’ll be considered deserters and treated as such. I will say this. You have proved your mettle and I’m proud of you. I’ll provide a report of your actions not only to the capital of Galliae, Augusta Trevorum {PD Trier}, but also to Constantinople. We’ll stay for at least 3 days and man the fort giving you time to think and regroup. We’ll also repair or upgrade anything you feel needs improvement. In addition, we will escort any civilians to Colonia Agippina now or to Basilia on our return trip. The Clan Corvo has made this trip every year for over 50 years. We’ll be making this trip next year. If this stalemate continues we’ll bring you supplies.”

One of the civilians shouted. “Why don’t you drive the Alemanni back?”

“We are the Clan Corvo,” Raben explained. “The Raven Raiders are Clan troops, not imperial troops. We also serve as the militia for the province of Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae. Constantine the Great asked us to accompany his troops as he campaigned against Rome and we did so ensuring his victory at the Battle of Milvan Bridge. Our charge broke the enemy before we even engaged. We have not been asked to interfere here. The Clan Corvo is of Celtic/Germanic decent so the Alemanni are our distant cousins. We met with the Alemanni in the ruins of Argentorate. We warned them about interfering with us during this trip and so far they have heeded that warning. That is our agreement and the Clan Corvo does not break their word. Unless they attack us, we will not attack them. But rest assured if they do attack us, we will destroy them.”

“But you live in a Roman province, Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae, yet you sound as if your loyalty lies with the Clan Corvo,” the commander of the fort declared.

“There is no province Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae without the Clan Corvo,” Raben declared. “The governor, officials and administrative staff are all from the Clan Corvo. The militia is made up entirely by the Clan Corvo. The population is 99% Clan Corvo. In effect, the Clan Corvo IS the province! Since I, the Demon Slayer, an head of the Clan Corvo, I make all major decisions. I decide if we go to war or remain at peace, and I much prefer peace. That does not mean we won’t wage war, but when we do, we do not lose.”

No one could say much after that blunt statement.

The troops appreciated the break. They knew their only choice was to stay and they really appreciated the Raven Raiders repairing and fortifying their positions. Their stay stretched to 5 days as it took that long to rebuild the defenses. Most of the civilians joined the Raven Raiders column as they moved down the Via Germanica. The refreshed and re-supplied troops now had hope.

The column set off covering 11 miles to the ruins of Antunacum {PD Andernach} where they spent the night. Then they traveled 14 miles to Rigomagus {PD Remagen} which was still held by Roman troops. As they had done at Confluentes they relieved the troops for 3 days and repaired and rebuilt the defenses while restocking the beleaguered force. Some supplies and a few reinforcements had gotten through to this location but both had been meager. The damage had not been as severe since this was near the southern extent of the Alemanni attacks.

The next day they traveled the 14 miles to Bonna {PD Bonn} spending the night in the ruins of that fort, the southern most fort to fall to the Alemanni onslaught. The next day they traveled 19 miles passing a still manned watchtower just outside Colonia Agrippina {PD Cologne} before reaching the still intact fort and walled city. Raben ordered the Raven Raiders to remain outside the city keeping the road to the surviving watchtower open.

The reception of the Raven Raiders in Colonia Agrippina was one of jubilation until they learned they were not an official Roman relief column. Still they were warmly welcomed and the civilians brought in from the isolated forts accepted. The trade goods brought in were welcomed. The merchants were not pleased with Raben since he insisted they not gouge their customers. The selling prices were much higher than normal since Raben had no objection to them making a profit and obviously their expenses were higher, it’s what business men did, but Raben made sure that while the profit was above average it wasn’t outrageously so.

The crews from Barzam with the iron shipment were relieved to see Raben. Their ships crowded the Rhine. They had heard the Raven Raiders had arrived in the city coming from the north on the Via Germanica. They were quite aware the Raven Raiders were part of the Clan Corvo. The ore was off-loaded and the trade goods and 3000 people loaded.

Because of the all too frequent raids virtually every town and city in Gaul was fortified with local militia and resisted the invaders. The Franks and Alemanni could storm most but the cost versus gain made that untenable. The invaders were not fighting for the joy of fighting although they did enjoy warrior bragging rights. Their intentions were to overwhelm their victims with as little loss as possible gaining as much loot as they could get. Their booty included humans for enslavement as well as coins and jewels and other easily carried and exchangeable booty. They put the effort into taking the Rhine forts because they knew the number of Roman defenders had been cut in half and that the reserves that normally rushed to reinforce forts under attack from central locations to stop the incursion had been drawn away into the civil war. The depleted forts and nearby towns were comparatively easy pickings susceptible to siege and distance weaponry like arrows. Under the circumstances created by Magnentius, the attacking Franks and Alemanni often outnumbered the Romans ten to one. So while most of the interior towns and cities of the provinces successfully resisted, the country estates and smaller towns were easy prey for the roving bands of invaders with the citizenry fleeing to the larger fortified havens.

Upon learning that the Raven Raiders had traveled down the Via Germanica, much of Gaul revolted due to Magnentius' dictatorial rule and excessive taxation to finance his civil war. Decentius was expelled from the Diocesian capital, Augusta Treverorum. The freed city headed the revolt with the intent to remain loyal to Constantius II.

The fortified settlements recruited warriors from amongst the people who had fled to the city for safety or who had been hiding to rebuild their local military forces in hopes of stopping or at least holding the still rampaging Franks and Alemanni. The newly recruited warriors were mixed with experienced troops who would train them on the job. Some of these mixed units were sent to Colonia Agrippina to join the Raven Raider’s column as well as wagons of supplies for the isolated beleaguered forts.

Unable to rally the Alemanni to attack the Raven Raiders, Chnodomar was able to muster forces to chase the expelled Decentius. Without enough troops to stand and fight, Decentius fled. Chnodomar chased him and his loyal forces to the city of Sens, trapping them inside.

As September began, the diminished Raven Raider column with a smaller wagon train set out traveling south on the Via Germanica. Chnodomar and many warriors were quite upset by the Raven Raiders arrogant two way trip along the Via Germanica. Despite their anger, they allowed the Raven Raiders to pass unmolested even as they escorted replacement troops and supplies to the still active forts. Decentius would face their wrath. The surviving forts were thus reinforced by the troops and supplies.

Raben led his forces into the safety of Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae in late September. They had not been in a single fight which made Raben quite happy. However he knew the fighting was far from over. Fortunately, many younger members of the Clan Corvo wanted to join the Raven Raiders. Preparations for next year’s trip north began.

Just before the Poeninus Mons closed for the winter Raben led two companies of Raven Raiders south. One company he installed in Mazbar to bolster the militia. The remaining company he took to Zamrab to install there. Returning in April, he traveled north from Zarbam to take command of the Raven Raiders spring 353 expedition north. Once more 3 divisions were going on the trip.

The 351 colonists had been dispersed with 5600 going to Madeira, 4966 to Sao Miguel, 4000 to Terceira and 9500 to San Jorge which met the population cap for that island. Again the Pathfinders traded out with the incoming unit going to Pico to prepare for the next year’s influx of settlers.

The 352 colonists were dispersed with 6790 to Madeira, 4966 to Sao Miguel, 4000 to Terceira, and 8500 to Pico. Again the Pathfinders swapped out with the new arrivals going to Faial to prepare that island for colonists.

The 353 colonists were dispersed with 7290 to Madeira, 4966 to Sao Miguel, 4000 to Terceira, and 8000 to Faial. Again the Pathfinders were exchanged with the new units sailing 136 miles northwest to the third and last islands, Flores and Corvo. These Islands are relatively small {55 & 17 square miles} and only 17 miles apart. The population they could support is 6000 and 1000 so the Pathfinders could prep both islands for a single influx of colonists.

The 353 Corvus Shipping Caravan had 120 wagons from Barmaz along with the 3000 emigrants as well as 200 wagons from desperate merchants who were eager to make a safe trading trip. The Raven Raiders with raven overwatch spread themselves amongst the wagons while maintaining troop integrity. Raben walked ahead with 3 tigers and 20 wolves and 50 ravens but other wise unaccompanied looking for the Alemanni.

Raben had no difficulty locating the various bases the Alemanni had set up on the west bank of the Rhine. One by one he boldly slipped into their camps without alerting their perimeter guards. The fact Raben, the tigers and the wolves were able to slip into the camps undetected quite unnerved the Alemanni. The huge tigers alone spooked the Alemanni. Raben simply explained he was a skilled silent hunter before he received the Curse, but that the Curse of the Demon Slayer enhanced his skills. In each camp he explained the Raven Raiders were escorting another Merchant wagon train. The difference this time was the Alemanni would be allowed to shop when the caravan stopped for the night.

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