Time on My Hands Chapter 52 - 386 CE: Landing at Dakar

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Time on My Hands

Chapter 52: 386 CE: Landing at Dakar

As soon as he felt the sand, Raben stood and walked ashore. It was quite evident he was unarmed and unafraid. The men, armed with spears and clubs, formed a protective line on the shore as the women and children stayed well behind them. When he stepped from the water the leader of the group stepped forward with his spear pointed in the general direction of Raben and spoke. With his Curse imbued ability to understand languages and feel emotions Raben smiled.

The leader asked. “Who are you? Are you fleeing them? What do you want? What do they want?”

Raben replied in a clear calm voice. “My name is Raben. I am not fleeing. I came ashore to greet you. I am the head of the Clan Corvo. The ships and the men and women on board are my people. We come in peace but are quite capable of fighting. We are here to establish a base and a colony. In doing so we have no intentions of fighting you, conquering you, expelling you or killing you. We want you to join us and become part of the Clan Corvo. In doing so we will honor and incorporate your culture into ours.” Raben could feel their surprise that he could fluently speak and understand their language.

“How do you speak our language,” the leader asked. “You are still a child. How can you be the leader of these people?”

“I have been gifted by the Gods and spirits with a Curse,” Raben declared. “As I said we come in peace. But you should know that in single or multiple combat, I can defeat any of my warriors. I can do the same with you and your warriors. But I don’t want to fight. That is why I came ashore alone and unarmed. I know I have to prove that I speak the truth. One way to do that is by fighting. The question is are we going to fight or not? If we do fight are the fights to be to submission or to death. I would prefer to not to fight but if fighting is needed I’d prefer to fight to submission but am willing to fight to the death.”

The people were whispering amongst themselves as the leader spoke. “So you are afraid of dying?”

“Not in the least,” Raben smiled. “Amongst the gifts of my Curse is eternal life and youth. I can not be killed. Just 29 years ago I fought 100 armed warriors at once and killed them all. In my long life I have killed 843 men. I’ll even fight your armed warriors while unarmed. But I do not want to fight.”

The whispering and murmuring grew intense as they digested what Raben had told them. The leader frowned. “Now you lie. You were not even born 29 years ago.”

Raben laughed. “You forget I have been Cursed by the spirits. All curses have both good and bad aspects. As long as I have the Curse I do not age. That is both good and bad since I do not change as those around me age.”

That really caused the murmuring to ramp up.

“Let me prove I speak the truth,” Raben smiled. “If YOU desire to fight, I will fight your warriors. They can use their weapons and try to kill me. I will fight unarmed and not kill them. They will, however, be bruised.”

“So if we kill you your people will seek revenge against us,” the leader accused as they saw the clinker ships approach the shore a half mile away.

“They will not because they know I can not die,” Raben answered. “But there is another way to prove I speak the truth.”

The clinkers beached and the horses and men began to come ashore as Raben lilted his head back and loudly ‘KROCKED’. From every ship in the fleet ravens took wing krocking as they flew to Raben. Dozens landed on the sand surrounding him while 3 landed on his shoulders and head. Hundreds circled the area, all krocking noisily.

Like nearly everywhere around the world, ravens were recognized for their intelligence and thought of as harbingers of death or at least troubles. The locals were quite spooked by the unnatural spectacle and raucous noise.

Raben once more krocked and the ravens fell silent. Raben pointed to an open space nearby and the flying ravens began to land in that spot. “As you can see, I can command animals,” Raben declared. Then he barked and yipped several times.

To the surprise of the already anxious villagers, every dog in the village began barking and ran to Raben. With a nod from Raben, the dogs fell silent and sat in a semicircle about 10 feet before him. With a second nod the dogs laid down on the beach. The locals were totally spooked.

Raben then let out a loud ‘meorowl’. Immediately the village cats trotted from the village mewing in response. They made their way through the dogs to stand before Raben. With a nod of his head the cats stretched out on the sand.

Now the locals were totally gobsmacked and awed.

“I am Raben Corvo, head of the Clan Corvo, speaker to animals,” Raben spoke in a loud clear voice. “We are here to stay and invite you to join us. Together we can grow stronger. We bring knowledge and strength. You bring different knowledge and strengths. Together we will be unstoppable. Send messengers to your neighbors. Invite them to join us tomorrow for a welcoming feast so we can get to know each other.”

By then the clinker vessels were returning for another load of horses and troops. The first company had mounted their black Arabian horses and each troop formed a battle line while remaining at a safe distance. They patiently awaited Raben’s orders.

The locals could see the troops were armed and disciplined warriors. Raben held out an arm making a series of hand movements. In response, 1 troop road slowly forward stopping at the ravens still clustered on the sand. Now that the armed warriors were closer, the locals could see there were women mixed amongst the men which created more murmuring.

“The Clan Corvo makes no distinction between men and women,” Raben stated. “All people are equals. No one inherits a position or job, all are achieved by merit.”

That created frowns and negative murmuring amongst the locals. The leader finally asked, “What about your slaves?”

“We do have slaves,” Raben answered. “But they can earn their freedom. Once free they are openly accepted into our society and have chances to advance themselves.”

“That is unacceptable,” the leader indignantly pronounced. “No one can improve their station in life. What ever class you’re born into is where you remain. The lowest of the low are the slaves. They can never improve their station.”

“I see,” Raben sighed. “Then we have a major difference. Giving everyone a chance is part of our society. If you cannot accept that, then we have a large problem. Obviously, we’ll have to postpone our feast. Know that we are here to stay and we will expand and we will welcome any who wish to join us. I suggest you send runners to gather your warriors. We will be on our guard as we begin to establish and expand our base. If you want to fight us, we will oblige. Our forces are prepared to fight at any time.”

The ravens took wing, the cats and dogs rose to their feet. Raben turned to walk to where his soldiers were landing as the cats and dogs followed him. The locals were left speechless.

The leader of the locals was furious. He wanted to attack Raben but knew his 40 warriors were far outmatched by those already ashore. What these newcomers wanted would totally disrupt and possibly destroy their culture. The strangers had to be destroyed. They watched as the foreign forces continued coming ashore. Gathering his men he set guards to watch the newcomers then sent runners to gather the warriors from every village of their clan and as many as would come from the larger tribe. They packed their belongings and moved south to the neighboring village taking their canoes and boats along with their fishing nets, abandoning their village.

The ravens provided overwatch for the Clan Corvo, following the runners as they headed up and down the coast as well as inland. The Pathfinders secured water supplies and established sanitary facilities. The Raven Raiders prepared defensive positions. The construction of windmills along the north coast were begun, initially for sawmills to provide lumber. The supplies were off loaded from the ships and the base was established. After they were unloaded Raben sent all 100 of the 360 ton caravels back to Zarbam. Four raven messengers were dispatched back to Barmaz. Raben wanted the 386 colonists, all 40,211 of them, to come to Senegal. The construction of a long pier into the bay to allow the caravels to dock to unload was begun.

Over the next 2 days Raben gave orders to his generals as to how to prepare the base landward and seaward defenses. The ravens on overwatch were crucial to observing the locals. Raben created a short dictionary with pronunciation guide to enable others to communicate with the locals. Orders were given that if any natives approached in peace they were to be greeted in peace. Trading was not to be done but if people came seeking sanctuary they were to be allowed entry. The pathfinders were to prepare fields and plant crops so the colonists would have a food source. Then as night fell at the end of the second day, Raben slipped into the darkness accompanied by 20 ravens and 3 tigers.

Moving silently as only Raben could do, they began checking out the villages of the indigenous peoples. While awkward, Raben could ‘read’ the minds of ravens. In this way he could sort of ‘listen’ to human conversations they heard. The method was iffy, especially with an unfamiliar language, but Raben was able to use the information so gathered to flesh out other intelligence. With his raven overwatch he was able to travel during the day while avoiding being seen. With his ability to run for hours and live off the land, Raben was able to travel between the Senegal River nearly 100 miles to the north and the Gambia River a 100 miles to the south as well as a hundred miles inland.

Raben learned a lot. The tribe was gathering. Most villages had between 30 to 50 warriors although a few had around 100. The local people called themselves the Haalpulaar'en, which means ‘those who speak Pulaar’. They were a non-nomadic people living in fixed villages. Their livelihood was based on farming, fishing and raising cattle. Their society was patrilineal, polygynous and with high social stratification that included slavery and a strict caste system.

Their hierarchical social stratification was an economically closed system, which meant a marked inequality. Property and land was exclusively owned by the upper caste members. Occupations and caste memberships were inherited. The castes were within-group, segregated and intermarriage was rare. The highest status and smallest group among their five castes were the aristocratic leaders. The second caste was divided into 3 subclasses, with the highest being the administrators, then the traders and last the farmers. The third caste were the artisan castes, in 5 subclasses from highest to lowest being the smiths, pottery workers, griots or history singers, bards, and leather workers. The fourth caste strata was the slaves or descendants of slaves who have been freed.

The fifth and bottom caste strata was slaves but even this had 3 subclasses. The slaves were the largest strata making up about 50% of the population. The village slaves were a privileged servile group who lived apart from the village and took orders from the village chief. The domestic slaves lived with a family and could not be sold. The lowest level among slaves were the trade slaves who could be bought and sold. Within a caste, there could be movement between the subclasses, but each level looked down upon those who were lower so upward level changes were infrequent. Downward level changes were a lot more likely.

Raben discovered the entire Haalpulaar'en society was based on their strict caste system, so much so that each caste meekly accepted their lot in life. The slaves were not chained or otherwise physically restricted. Several times Raben contacted slaves promising them a warm welcome and escape from their grinding hopeless servitude. None accepted his offer of freedom. Several shouted out alarms creating brief pursuits but Raben easily outran those giving chase. After the pursuits, he witnessed slaves being armed with spears and trained in basic combat.

Raben also learned they were very in touch with the spiritual world. Haalpulaar'en society emphasized piety and respect for elders. Families included not only living people, but also associated ancestral spirits. At the larger, more powerful village Raben witnessed their public exorcism dances and rituals as they attempted to martial the spirits to destroy the strangers. They believed the spirits are either the souls of ancestors or occult forces. They believed all places were ‘owned’ by the spirits who ‘lived’ there. In order for living people to be able to live in a place where a spirit lives, it was necessary to have rites and religious ceremonies in order to establish a harmony between the community, and all the forces of creation, coming from the Divine plan.

As he traveled Raben was surprised to discover numerous stone circles similar to what he’d seen in Gaul and Britannia {ie Stonehenge}. The stone circles and other megaliths along with numerous tumuli and burial mounds were located on the northern side of the Gambia River. After extracting the raw stone from quarries, identical pillars were made, either cylindrical or polygonal, averaging 7.5 feet high weighing seven tons. After witnessing a ceremony at one site he understood the various stone circles were places of worship, prepared to facilitate harmonization for the cosmic compatibility of spirits, places, and humans to continue.

In the drier interior away from the ocean and rivers much of the land was savannah. Various types of antelopes, giraffes, spotted hyenas, lions, and elephants were common. The animals were quite wary of the 3 tigers as they were larger than the lions. The wildlife was confused by Raben. They had never met a human who was respectful but unafraid of them. With his empathetic abilities and his ability to ‘speak’ to them, they spent hours together as Raben explained he was the first of thousands of new humans who were establishing villages and that they would displace the current humans. More importantly, they would not hunt the animals as long as they avoided the human villages and plantings. Because they had been regularly hunted the animals had learned to avoid the humans. This human was quite different. He understood them and could talk to them. They were entranced as Raben played his flute.

On the savannah lions and hyenas were natural enemies. Both recognized the tigers were at the top of the carnivore hierarchy. Raben kept tight control of the tigers. With the exception of food needs, Raben kept the tigers from attacking. Raben recruited elephants, lions and hyenas to join him fighting their traditional human enemies. It took a tremendous effort to keep the carnivores from fighting.
After 4 weeks exploring the bush and observing villages, Raben returned to Dakar at the start of the second week of October. The locals keeping an eye on the invading strangers were quite stunned by what they saw. The child who had made initial contact was walking boldly toward them blithely playing a flute. The 3 tigers walked before him. Lions followed behind him, 8 young males and 26 female adults as well as 12 cubs, 3 neighboring prides Raben had gathered. Behind the lions followed nearly 100 adult spotted hyenas with their cubs from 2 clans. Lastly came the elephants, 27 adult females with a dozen adolescents. Overhead swarmed thousands of local brown neck ravens. The bizarre menagerie calmly strolled into the Clan Corvo compound. Raben made sure there was plenty of food available as they settled in to await the inevitable attack. Word of the bizarre parade swept through the tribe.

During his time exploring Raben had learned the locals called the Cape Vert peninsula ‘Dakar’. Dakhar is their name for the tamarind tree, a leguminous tree which produces a pod-like fruit that contains an edible pulp. The pulp is used in traditional medicine and as a metal polish. The wood can be used for woodworking, and tamarind seed oil can be extracted from the seeds. When the locals settled in the area they were impressed by the huge numbers of Tamarind trees they saw and thus named the area after it.

Raben had the Pathfinders and Raven Raiders continue to prepare for war. The 45 remaining ships were prepped for combat. The 20 caravels, were divided equally between 100 ton and 180 ton vessels. Each was armed with an onager on the forecastle and a scorpio on the quarterdeck. Dozens of firebombs and stones were handily available for each onager. Hundreds of oversized arrows, some hollow filled with flammable fluid, were ready for each scorpio. Each of the 25 clinkers were armed with an onager. They would face the canoes and small boats hopefully stopping them before they reach land. The ships were divided into 2 nearly equal fleets, one for the north side of Cape Vert and the other on the south bay side. Since there were an unequal number of clinker vessels, the extra boat was added to the bay fleet.

At it’s narrowest point the Dakar peninsula is 2.25 miles wide. In the center lying diagonally is a soggy wetland marsh with standing water 1.33 miles long by 0.5 miles wide. At the center of the wetlands it was 0.875 miles from the north and south shores. From each shore they dug a moat from a foot below the low tide line to a point 150 feet from the wetlands where it turned 90° to parallel the wetlands leaving an unobstructed 100 feet wide gap. The bottom of the moats were 20 feet wide and a foot below low tide so the bottom of the moats always had water in them. The excavated sand was thrown up forming a 20 feet high sand dune-like glacis on the Clan Corvo side. That was no problem in the sandy shore area but inland they encountered worn, weakened rock which they chiseled down below the level of the sea. The excavated rocks were used to form a crude but effective battlement at the top of the sandy glacis. Sturdy high wooden redoubts were built several feet above and behind the battlements as well as in the middle of the wetlands. A brigade of Pathfinders would man each redoubts behind the moats and in the wetlands. The Pathfinders were deadly archers who had swords and spears to repulse any attacker that breached the battlements.

Hundreds of cheval de frises, 10 feet long, 6 inch diameter logs with 1.5 inch diameter holes drilled through the log with 5 feet long sharpened stakes hammered through into it every 3 inches but each at a 90° angle creating a series of ‘X's protected the battlements and redoubts severely limiting access. One division of dismounted Raven Raiders were assigned to the battlements above the moats on each side. The front battlements were defended by 2 brigades while the side line of battlements were manned by 1 brigade. The brigades of the remaining division would be mounted. One brigade defending the north beach from flankers and water assault while a second brigade did the same for the south beach. The remaining brigade would function as a mobile reserve. The scorpios were set up in the redoubts for direct fire on the attackers. The onagers were set up behind the second trench to launch their stones and bombs on the attackers. Watchtowers were erected so observers could direct artillery fire. The target areas were ranged in.

Once the artillery was zeroed in, they laid waterlogged pre-prepared planks in the bottom of the moat. The planks were 4 inches thick and 6 inches wide. Holes no further than 3 inches apart had been drilled into the planks in zigzag patterns with sharpened 3/4 inch diameter spikes jammed into the holes. The spikes extended 4 inches above the planks. The extremely dangerous spikes were hidden by the water in the bottom of the moat.

Narrow swaths 100 feet wide were kept unobstructed between the moats/battlements/redoubts on both sides of the central wetlands. These were set up as kill zones. The plan was to stop the attackers at the moats to funnel the enemy into the unobstructed areas where they’d be compressed and easier targets for the artillery and archers. The wolves and tigers of the Raven Raiders as well as the lions and hyenas would take care of any warriors who managed to make it across the kill zones. The reserve mounted brigade of Raven Raiders waited behind the carnivores to provide backing if needed.

The land 2000 feet landward of the moats was cleared and leveled creating a no man’s land. As the prep work continued, ravens were always aloft watching the locals. As soon as anyone ventured towards the defenses, the ravens raised the alarm. In addition, the tigers, lions and hyenas took turns patrolling no man's land, especially after dark.

While the defensive work was underway Raben took five of the clinkers and sailed north to the Senegal River. Raben dove in the water swimming with the manatees. The large mammals were wary of humans and surprised that a human could communicate with them. The adult aquatic animals ranged between 12 to 15 feet in length and 650 to 790 pounds. Their normal swimming speed was between 3-5 mph with spurts up to 20 mph. The locals avoided the manatees but when opportunity arose, they did hunt them, usually when the manatees were in restricted areas. The manatees often shredded their fishing nets and over turned canoes and boats. The meat, oil, bones, and skin of the large mammals was highly prized. Raben spoke to them recruiting several dozen to swim south to Dakar to exact revenge on the humans who often hunted them. Raben then sailed south to the Saloum, Gambia and Casmance rivers to recruit manatees there.

There were several fresh water wet lands and lakes on the Cape Vert peninsula, the largest was in the center portion. While the manatees could swim up to 50 miles off shore, they needed fresh water to drink. Raben had a narrow canal dug from the main marshland to the south shore creating a small fresh water pool which allowed the manatees access to drinking water.

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