Time on My Hands Chapter 46 - 362-364 CE: Securing Sea Routes

Printer-friendly version

Time on My Hands

Chapter 46: 362-364 CE: Securing Sea Routes

At 358 miles from Zarbam, the Island of Ibiza {GM 38.983162, 1.414738} was 64 miles east of the Cape de la Nau, Spain. The island was already populated when Phoenicians founded a port in 654 BCE. Ibiza then came under the control of Carthage. After Rome defeated Carthage, Ibiza negotiated a favorable treaty sparing further destruction. It's Carthaginian-Punic institutions and traditions continued well into the Empire days. The rocky island is 11.5 miles wide by 24.5 miles long oriented southwest to northeast making 221 square miles with a hot-summer Mediterranean climate bordering on a hot semi-arid climate. The island had some terracing for olive trees on the hilly interior with farm fields in the lower coastal areas with sheep and goats supplemented with fishing supporting a population of 5000. There was a well protected natural harbors also called Ibiza. Raben led a massive influx of Clan Corvo people, talking to the locals and buying land as ship after ship put into the port unloading the Clan Corvo immigrants.

First to land was a battalion of Raven Raiders, 746 people, then 2 battalions of Pathfinders, 1492 people, followed by 16,008 colonists. The Clan Corvo people outnumbered the natives 3.6 to 1, peacefully assimilating the natives making the island a Clan Corvo colony. A raven mail roost was also established.

They had been using the port of Derna, Lybia as the mid-point on the trip to Alexandria. The port was okay but it would be difficult to establish a separate area for Corvus Shipping. There really was no satisfactory port on the coast of North Africa. Fortunately, Raben remembered Zawiyat {GM 32.570040, 23.074273} the small Libyan village he'd had stumbled naked into after being swept overboard in 216. {See Chapters 17 & 18} He'd rescued the village from the bandit Syphax. The sleepy village was 28 miles southeast of Derna, well off the coastal trade routes from Alexandria-Tobruk-Derna-Benghazi-Tripoli-Tunis-Algiers-Oran-Tangier/Strait of Gibraltar. Umm Ar Rizam was a way station village on the coastal road 4.8 miles southwest of Zawiyat. Zawiyat is located at the point where the Shatib ar Rashash joins the Wadi al Jinan just southwest of the village. The joined Wadis join the Wadi as Sayd east of the village just before they enter Ziq ‘Ayn al Mal, a marshy coastal depression. The wadis are dammed and terraced to retain moisture from the infrequent rains allowing small scale farming in the wadis. He remembered there was a small point of land, Minqar Rabih {GM 32.533811, 23.106413} projecting into the Mediterranean 3 miles to the southeast. Accompanied by a troop of Pathfinders Raben traveled to check the point. Together they determined it could be easily made into a secure small part time port 635 miles southeast of Stromboli through the Strait of Messina, 410 miles west of Alexandria, and 324 miles southeast of Kardiotissa.

Raben then stopped into the village. The villagers had been aware of the visitors as soon as they left the coastal road at Umm Ar Rizam. When the mounted armed unit approached the village they sprang to man their defenses, ones that Raben had established for them and showed them how to use 146 years before. Raben stopped the troop of Pathfinders and had them dismount to wait while he approached the village alone.

"I see your village hasn't changed much since my last visit," Raben smiled as he walked forward. "I see you've maintained the defenses I helped your forebearer's build. I'm glad to see they passed down the military skills I showed them."

That the youth spoke their language as if he'd been born to it caused them concern as they tried to figure out who he was. That the youth claimed to have helped build the defenses and train their forebearers seemed impossible. The Demon Slayer, whom they revered as a hero, had done those things.

"I told your forebearers that I might someday return," Raben declared as he read their emotions. "That day has arrived. I am Raben Corvo, the Demon Slayer."

That certainly had them excitedly chattering. "How do we know you are the Demon Slayer?"

"That's easy," Raben laughed. "As you can see I've ordered my associates to stand down. Try to kill me."

They villagers exchanged worrying looks. Finally an elderly man armed with a spear stepped forward. "The Demon Slayer can not be killed."

"You're right," Raben smiled as he bared his torso and held out his arms. "Don't be afraid. Strike well!"

The old man swallowed nervously but stepped before Raben, hesitating a moment before thrusting the spear into Raben's exposed gut.

Raben grunted as the spear entered, twisting a bit so the penetrating tip missed his spine. The old man was not strong enough to thrust the point all the way through but the point stuck 3 inches out his back.

The old man stepped back, eyes open in amazement as Raben lifted his hands aloft as he walked around with the spear bouncing in his gut, turning so they could see the point protruding from his back as well as the blood trickling from both wounds.

"I am the Demon Slayer," Raben proclaimed. "After 146 years, I have returned."

The villagers were stunned, especially as they watched Raben grasp the spear and pull it out, then handed it back to the elderly man. Every eye was glued to his tummy as they watched the wounds healed.

"Tonight we feast!" Raben called out as he signaled his troops forward. "We have brought supplies so we will not burden the village."

As the feast was prepared Raben spoke of his initial visit discussing with the 150 villagers what took place with their forebearers.

The next day Raben explained why he returned, wanting to build a small port manned by a troop of Pathfinders who would interact with the villagers. With their approval a troop of Pathfinders was stationed there building a small warehouse/barracks and dock and setting up a raven mail Roost.

The Strait of Gibraltar was a vital crossroads for the entire Mediterranean world as well as the Clan Corvo. The Bay of Gibraltar had been populated by Neanderthals. On the west side of the bay the Phoenicians were the first to establish a port and was the site of the Roman port of Portus Albus with two nearby nearly adjoining cities called Caetaria and Iulia Transducta, which now make up the city of Algeciras. Due west, 5 miles across the bay, was the Rock of Gibraltar. The Rock was revered by the Greeks and Romans as one of the two Pillars of Hercules, created by the demigod during his tenth labor when he smashed through a mountain separating the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. There were temples and altars to Hercules on the Rock where passing travelers made sacrifices. While temporary look out posts had been periodically established on the 1398 feet tall rock, no permanent settlements had been made. Gibraltar had many disadvantages that hindered settlers. It lacked easily accessible fresh water, fertile soil or a safe natural anchorage on the shoreline. The shallow draft and dense mud of the shore made it difficult for vessels to land there. Clan Corvo representatives had purchased the entire eastern peninsula, a length of 4.5 miles from the tip.

A brigade of Pathfinders, 2256 people, and 4744 colonists landed on the flat area north of the rock. The first priority was 2 fold, to secure a steady fresh water supply and housing. Cisterns were built and channels dug to guide rainwater to the cisterns. The housing was built on slopes to keep valuable flat areas available. Roads and paths were cut into the sides of the rock with excess rock taken to the northwestern shore even with the northern end of the Rock. The adjoining bay area was shallow, filled with eons of debris filled mud washed off the huge rock and the mainland. A dredge was set up to clear the mud to base rock. The rocks brought down to the shore were dumped into the dredged areas to create a mole. Gibraltar was 436 miles from Ibiza, 687 miles from Madeira, 1100 miles from the Azores and 685 miles from the Canary Islands.

The turmoil of the Roman Empire wouldn’t let Raben rest. A “request” for Raben to bring 3 divisions of Raven Raiders to join Emperor Julian's spring 363 campaign against the Persians was received. Raben was not happy but also knew he couldn't refuse. A note was sent that he'd lead the Raven Raiders over the Poeninus Mons from the Upper Rhone training camps as soon as the snows melted in mid May.

Unfortunately, like so many previous emperors, Julian had succumbed to the "Alexander the Great syndrome"; the desire to emulate the legendary Macedonian general and conquer the Persian empire. On March 5, 363, he left Antioch to invade Mesopotamia at the head of an enormous army of 85,000.

Keeping his word, Raben led 3 divisions of Raven Raiders out of Barmaz into northern Italy in mid May. By June they were moving down the west coast of the Adriatic Sea heading towards Constantinople. Initially successful, Julian's campaign ended in heavy casualties. Forced to retreat, Julian was wounded and died three days later on June 26, 363.

The Raven Raiders were arranging transportation across the Bosporus when news of the Emperor's death reached Constantinople. At that point Raben decided to wait to see who the successor was and, since the battered Roman forces were withdrawing, if the Raven Raiders were still needed.

Even though Raben was tied up with service to the emperor, he continued his plans to secure bases for ports. With the issues along the Rhine he wanted to secure an ocean route north to Bazram. Because of the distance from Barmaz and Bazram, the bases would need to be well manned. Corvus Shipping Exploratory Fleets had laid out a route that Raben approved. In the spring of 363 he sent settlement fleets to set up 3 bases by occupying islands while telling Svenn to send out a fleet to establish a base on a fourth island chain nearer Bazram.

The first place was The Isle of San Martino {GM 42.195590, -8.905414}, the southernmost of the 3 Cies Islands at the mouth of the Ria de Vigo 4 miles from the west coast of Iberia. The tree covered rocky granite island is 1.5 miles long by 0.6 miles wide. Oriented southeast to northwest, the west side of the island is extremely rocky and steep, fully exposed to the actions of the open Atlantic. the east side is rocky but has a 0.3 mile long nice sandy beach 2/3 of the way up the shore. A mole would need to be added to make a safe harbor but there were plenty of rocks available. The east side of the island had a lot of land that was protected from the worst of the often harsh Atlantic storms. A battalion of Pathfinders, 746 people, was landed to build the harbor, a warehouse, and fields for crops and a herd of sheep and goats as well as a raven mail roost. They would also fish the surrounding waters. They were 595 miles northwest of Gibraltar.

The second place was the Belle Ile En Mer {GM 47.328897, -3.192951} 10.6 miles by 5.6 miles making 32 square miles. The semi forested island is oriented from southeast to northwest, The southwest side has sharp cliff edges and placid beaches and harbors on the northeast and located 15.5 miles from the mainland France. The island had a farming, herding and fishing economy. The island had a native population of 1000. A battalion of mounted Raven Raiders, 746 people, and a battalion of Pathfinders, 746 people as well as 4000 colonists were settled on the island with a raven mail roost. It was 486 miles northeast of the Isle of San Martino.

The third place was the Isle of Man {GM 54.171604, -4.596243} in the Irish Sea almost equidistant from Ireland, Scotland and England. The island is 32 miles long and 14 miles wide with an area of 221 square miles and a temperate oceanic climate. The island has a few trees but most of the land is pasture and farm fields with herding and sea fishing. There is a small native sheep, the Loaghtan, with short tails and fine boned, usually with 4 horns although some have 6. The native population was 3000 hardy folk. Knowing the Caledonians and the Hibernian seafaring traditions, Raben decided to establish an armed fishing fleet crewed by a brigade of Pathfinders, 2256 people, as well as a mounted division of Raven Raiders, 6786 people, along with 10,771 colonists with a raven mail roost. Belle Ile En Mer is 570 miles southeast.

Svenn sent a fleet to establish a base on the Shetland Islands {GM 60.301740, -1.268424} oceanic temperate maritime bordering on subpolar climate. It was 223 miles west of the Bergen, Norway and 110 miles north of mainland Scotland with an area of 567 square miles with a coastline of 1,679 miles. Only 16 of 100 islands are habitable. The main island is Mainland. Yell, Unst, and Fetlar lie to the north, Bressay and Whalsay lie to the east. East and West Burra, Muckle Roe, Papa Stour, Trondra and Vaila are smaller islands to the west of Mainland. The other inhabited islands are Foula 17 miles west of Walls, Fair Isle 24 miles south-west of Sumburgh Head, and the Out Skerries to the east. Made of sandstone deposits and granite, virtually treeless, it was perfect for herding, farming and sea fishing with native population of 1000 Picts. Svenn stationed a fleet there and 3000 colonists. The Shetland Islands were 600 miles northeast of the Isle of Man and it was 490 miles northeast to Levanger {GM 63.747454, 11.300493} in Bazram, the last link in the sea route between Barmaz and Bazram.

Julian was succeeded by Jovian, the new Emperor was forced to negotiate a humiliating treaty with the Persians. Jovian, a Christian, promptly reestablished Christianity as the state church, ending Julian's brief revival of paganism. It didn’t take long for Raben to receive word from Jovian that the Raven Raiders should return home. The Clan Corvo forces wasted no time heading back to Barmaz, crossing back into Barmaz near Zarbam. Raben sent Raven mail to Svenn in Bazram informing him that the 364 colonists and iron exchange would be conducted on the newly secured sea route.

As the colonial fleet was preparing to sail from Zarbam in the spring of 364, word reached Raben that Emperor Jovian died before he’d been able to reach Constantinople, ostentatiously after over indulging in mushrooms and wine, having ruled eight months. He was succeeded by Valentinian I.

Fiach sailed with the colonial fleet sailed to Ibiza where they left 5000 colonists, then on to Gibraltar, then around Iberia to the Isla De San Martino where 50 colonists settled. From there it was on to Belle Ile En Mer leaving 1000 colonists, then on to the Isle of Man where 8000 colonists were settled. Next came the Shetland Islands where 2 battalions of Pathfinders, 1492 people, a battalion of mounted Raven Raiders, 746 people, and 2762 colonists took up residence. The last stop was Levanger in Barzam where 2 battalions of Pathfinders, 1492 people; 2 battalions of Mounted Raven Raiders, 1492 people; and 2016 colonists joined the northern location of the Clan Corvo.

A visit by Fiach/Raben to the northern community was overdue because of what had been happening with the Franks and Alemanni. Raven mail and the yearly iron shipments had allowed communication but Svenn, the leader of Clan Corvo North, needed Fiach's eyes, advice, and language abilities. The community was steadily growing and expanding, with the current population, upon the fleet’s arrival, to 73,000+. With seventeen years as chief under his belt, Svenn was doing well governing Bazram as it grew bigger and more powerful each year. However the population of the surrounding areas were growing much slower and the wealth and cohesion of the clan made neighbors jealous and fearful. As they spread north they had encountered an arctic ethnic group.

As the large fleet sailed into Trondheim Fjord, Fiach recognized the expressions on the faces of those who watched them pass. They were indeed apprehensive of the successful Clan Corvo. They only lacked someone to unite and lead them against the Clan Corvo. A plan was needed to eliminate the jealousy and fear thus ensuring the security of Barzam.

Everyone in the watershed of Trondheim Fjord knew that Svenn and the Clan Corvo were actively buying every farmstead that came on the market. Truth be told there was no market for selling property as farmsteads were normally passed down in families or cut out of the virgin timberlands. The Clan Corvo had coin, something rare in the northern mostly barter based system of trading. So when a family fell on hard times, Svenn loaned them cash using their farmstead as collateral. If they failed to repay, he took ownership, often allowing the beleaguered family to remain as tenant farmers. In addition, he always paid a fair price, even if he was foreclosing, paying the difference between the debt and market value. In this way he created a housing/farming market as well as a primitive bank. It also unsettled the locals.

Fiach decided the best way to address the valid concerns of the neighbors was head on. An area wide invitation was sent out to all who lived in the Trondheim Fjord area to either attend or send a representative to a Thing. A Thing was a type of peaceful governing assembly in early Germanic society, made up of the free people of the community presided over by lawspeakers, those who knew traditional oral governing codes.

“Thank you for coming,” Fiach declared as freemen and guests from up and down the Trondheim Fjord gathered for the Thing and feast that had been nearly a month in preparation. “Svenn is the Jarl of the Clan Corvo here at Bazram. This is one of over a dozen locations of the Clan Corvo. Mazbar is a walled farmstead and business located in Rome, Zamrab is also a walled farmstead and business located in Alexandria in Egypt, Marzab is a small island business in Constantinople, Zabram is our shipyard and port on the Mediterranean. Then we have established colonies on 3 different archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean. Barmaz is our main base which has taken over an entire province of the Roman Empire. I am Fiach, co-head of the entire Clan Corvo along with my twin brother, Raben. We are also known as Demon Slayers.”

That comment drew a lot of consternation and mumbling from the guests.

“Our ancestor and namesake was a fourteen year old Ianuarian and skilled hunter living in Germania Magna when Roman slavers attacked our village,” Fiach continued. “He followed the slavers attacking them while they slept killing the sentries then slitting the throats of the sleeping men killing all ninety eight men. One dead man came back to life. The man had been a Roman soldier who killed the man known as Jesus, who was the son of God. As a punishment he was cursed to never die, never age, and heal any injuries. When our ancestor encountered him the man was 165 years old. Our ancestor figured a way to kill the man breaking the Curse. However, when the man finally died the Curse fled from the dead man into our ancestor.”

“Those of us who are direct descendants can, if we are worthy, inherit the Curse, thus becoming Demon Slayers,” Fiach stated. “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 successors 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, survive any poison. Demon Slayers are expert fighters but also Ianuarians so we can heal as well as kill. We're not proud being so good at killing but we only do so when provoked.” At that point Fiach began krocking.

The guests were confused about why Fiach suddenly began making realistic raven sounds. Several ravens flew from the surrounding fields to land around Fiach, 3 perching on her head and shoulders. The ravens and Raben proceeded to talk. The guests were truly amazed and spooked to see Odin’s pets being so close to a person.

“As you can see, Demon Slayers can also talk to animals,” Fiach explained. “Ravens are my eyes and ears. Wolves my teeth and claws. In the Clan Corvo 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 whom I have 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.”

Needless to say there was a lot of murmuring and snorts of disbelief. Looking about the guests Fiach selected an impressive man. She rolled her shirt up to her armpits and wrapped a cloth around the top of her pants as she walked to him.

“Take your sword and thrust it through my gut,” Fiach clearly ordered as she spread her arms exposing himself to an easy strike. “You will not be harmed because I have publicly asked you to do this. It is necessary so I can prove that I speak the truth. Now run me through!”

The man rose to his feet and drew his sword. “Are you sure?”

“Of course,” Fiach said. “Stab me!”

The man struck, thrusting his sword through Fiach burying it to the hilt with nearly two feet of blade protruding from her back. Everyone gasped in shock.

Fiach shook her head. “Damn, that hurts!” Then she turned and walked around the gathered freemen and Clan Corvo members so they could see blood trickling from the entry and exit wounds around the sword. “Like I said, I can’t be killed.”

When she returned to the wide eyed man who stabbed her, Fiach smiled. “You can take your sword back now.”

The man tentatively reached out to grasp the hilt of his sword and then slowly drew it out of Fiach’s skewered gut.

"That tickles," Fiach chuckled as everyone incredulously watched. "Now, watch the wound as it heals."

140 users have voted.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos! Click the "Thumbs Up!" button above to leave a Kudos


After so many times of doing

After so many times of doing that, it does seem that it would have to hurt just a little. :-)

It Starts To Seem A Bit Excessive

joannebarbarella's picture

Challenging someone to kill you at every meeting. There must be other ways to demonstrate that you are The Demon Slayer.

Almost Commented on That...

As far as we know Raben only started doing this recently. He actually went more than a century, IIRC, without ever being killed, let alone volunteering for it. He did fight at what seemed like absurd odds, knowing he couldn't lose. In effect, that was his previous method of introducing himself. It killed a lot of opposing combatants, which this newer strategy doesn't.

The further in time and location that he gets away from his origins, the more difficult it becomes for the groups he meets to credit his story; the Demon Slayer stories have now been handed down for generations and to many of the European migrant groups they're undoubtedly purely legendary. Even the groups that have been around for the whole time -- except for those he's been in direct contact with over the past, say, sixty years -- no longer have relatives or elders who can spread the story from their own experience.

And others like these more isolated islanders, as we're seeing now, don't seem to know the legends at all. So he may see a need to escalate the "proof". But I can't help thinking that someone who talks effectively to animals, apparently in their native languages, and leads thousands of troops and colonists, all of them with a clearly higher technology level than the islanders ("magical", Clarke's Law would say) at his/her apparent age -- shouldn't need a whole lot of help to be taken seriously.

But I did wonder if Raben was trying to tempt fate with this new strategy. He's now had the Curse for about as long as the centurion did when that man decided he couldn't handle it any more. Raben certainly has long-term plans that his predecessor didn't, but it didn't seem totally impossible to me that by doing this he was in effect telling God that if the deity thought it was time for another personnel change, Raben was fine with that.


Time on my hands

Since the other way usually involves slaughtering large numbers of people this way seems painful but more likely to get neighbors not enemies. It also gives a touch of the divine which makes it scarier and even more impressive.

Time is the longest distance to your destination.

Interesting that

Wendy Jean's picture

No one has made the connection that the current Demon Slayer and former Demon Slayer are in fact the same person.Not that it would be a big deal if they did.