Time on My Hands Chapter 55 - 393-397 CE: Svenn Smiles His Last

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Time on My Hands
Chapter 55: 393-397 CE: Svenn Smiles His Last

The only annoying issue with the Senegal African Colony was with the Berber traders crossing the Sahara. Camels arrived in Berber North Africa around 300. It took several years for the Berbers to adapt in learning how to control and breed and the oft stubborn large beasts of burden. Once they did, they quickly mastered the arduous trek through the barren Sahara Desert. Trade started with the sub-Saharan African natives. They quickly learned the sub-Sahara was eager for salt and soon were trading salt for it’s weight of gold. The salt the Clan Corvo traded for slaves virtually eliminated the Berber salt trade. Needless to say the Berbers were upset to lose the source of easy gold. In addition, it quickly became evident that anything they transported across the Sahara by camel caravan could be provided cheaper by the Clan Corvo. The incipient cross desert camel caravan trade was abruptly short circuited.

Fortunately for the Clan Corvo the Berber’s were a semi-nomadic people living amongst and south of the Phoenician/Roman traders and farmers of the Mediterranean coast. They were not strong enough nor organized enough to attempt to openly challenge the Raven Raiders. However they did begin to make snatch and grab raids in the areas north and east of the Senegal river. The Raven Raiders heavily patrolled the area and often pursued the raiders. There were few survivors when they were caught. Camels were captured during those clashes as well as Berber prisoners. Camel breeding began in the Clan Corvo and camel mounted Raven Raider patrols began. The raids dwindled as the Camels and raven overwatch provided warnings to meet the raiders. Plans were made to build a defensive wall along the barren northern border. Starting on the coast {GM 21.331584, -17.027784} 26.5 miles north of the village of Nouadhibou, the wall was built due east for 20 miles {GM 21.333522, -16.719185} with a gate complex at {GM 21.334832, -16.947633} before turning southeast through the desert. {Eventually, as more tribes joined the Clan Corvo, the PD countries of Burkina Faso, Cote de Ivorie, Ghana, Togo and Benin would be included in Clan Corvo Africa. The border would continue for 1199 miles to the Mali/Niger/Burkina Faso border at {GM 14.920488, 0.230661} The border followed the Niger/Burkina Faso/Benin/Niger to the Benin/Nigeria border to the Atlantic.}

Back in the Roman Empire Theodosius' army, made up mostly of conscripted barbarians, rapidly dissolved after his death. A fatal flaw in using large numbers of barbarians was thus exposed. The successors of Theodosius decided since they had not made the agreements with the barbarians, they didn’t have to honor those agreements thus didn’t pay off the debts owed to the mercenaries. Since the Romans didn’t honor the agreements, neither did the short changed mercenaries. The barbarians were angry at the betrayal but upheld their honor by reasoning they had pledged allegiance to their generals and/or the emperor, not to the Roman Empire. Thus with the death of the emperor, their pledge to fight in defense of Rome was absolved

The leader of the Visigoths who helped defeat Arbogast was Alaric. The upset warriors recognized Alaric was an excellent warrior and leader, thus elected him their King. The Visigoth former contingents began raiding as they returned to their families, raiding as far as Constantinople until diverted by the military forces of the capital of the eastern empire. Alaric moved southward into Greece, where he sacked Piraeus (the port of Athens) and destroyed Corinth, Megara, Argos, and Sparta. Since they couldn’t stop the Visigoths, the Eastern emperor Flavius Arcadius appointed Alaric magister militum (master of the soldiers) in Illyricum. {PD Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovena, Coatia, and Slovenia. Thus the Eastern Empire stopped the raids and by default allowed the Visigoths to settle inside the borders of the empire.

Svenn formally retired as head of Bazram in 395 at the age of 73. As planned, Ollie succeeded him. Now age 26 he’d worked under his grandfather’s watchful eye for the past 10 years gradually taking over the different aspects of running the northern portion of the Clan Corvo.

Also in 395 the Huns began their first large-scale attack on the Eastern Roman Empire. Coming from the eastern portion of the vast Eurasian Steppe, the Huns swept north around the Caspian Sea and to the west around the Black Sea attacking across the lower Danube into Thrace and moving south across the Caucus Mountains to overrun Armenia and pillage Cappadocia. From there they entered parts of Syria threatening Antioch before swarming through the province of Euphratesia. The forces of Rufinus were still rebuilding, bargaining with the Goths to recruit fighters, thus the Huns moved relatively unopposed.

In the spring of 396 Raben accompanied the emigrants moving to Olvishaugen in Bazram {PD Levanger, Norway}. Word had arrived via raven mail that Svenn asked to see Raben to say goodbye. The meeting was bittersweet as once more Raben greeted an ailing wizened relative and friend. Raben sensed the end of Svenn's life was near. Svenn smiled wanly, remembering the brave manner his grandfather faced his death, with dignity and aplomb. Svenn had lived a good life and now wanted to finish it with grace and a smile saying goodbye to those he loved.

Raben asked for an emergency session of the Bazram council. “Svenn will soon die. There is nothing I can do to postpone the inevitable. The best thing we can do for him is to celebrate his life. I hereby call for a Bazram Festival to celebrate Svenn’s life. We should schedule it for 7 days from now. I doubt we’ll have much time after that point.”

“Isn’t that a bit macabre?” one of the elders asked. “Normally we celebrate a life after a person passes on.”

“That’s because the living don’t want to face the person dying,” Raben gently rebuked. “That’s especially true when the person dying is having trouble facing their end. But there are people like Svenn. He knows and admits he’s dying and is not afraid to face death. He understands and fully accepts that dying is the final act of life. I can think no better way to thank a person for a life well lived than to celebrate their life WITH them. I want us to let Svenn know just how much he is loved and respected while he’s still alive. There is no doubt knowing he’s lived a fruitful life, experiencing our celebration of his life will help ease his passing.”

The celebration was scheduled. Via local Bazram raven mail word of the celebration and the reason quickly spread throughout the province. Knowing Raben was present and wanted the celebration for Svenn before he passed motivated the Clan Corvoians. All those who were able quickly set out for Olvishaugen to attend.

As the preparations continued, Raben took a walk along the shore to think. In his 235 years he’d witnessed thousands of deaths. For each death his grief was just as visceral. While the pain was sadly real, he was thankful he hadn't grown inured to it happening.

It was a warm sunny late spring day with a gentle breeze coming of the fjord. Thousands had arrived for the celebration including many Sami Corvoians. Tents had been erected in every available space to provide sleeping quarters. Raben had already sent raven mail messages to Barmaz to bring additional food to replace what the massive gathering would use.

Svenn sat under a canopy greeting all who arrived with a smile and laughter. As night fell, in the flickering torch and bonfire light, Raben and Ollie accompanied Svenn, who although not easily, was still able to walk. The trio slowly made the rounds of the revelers enjoying joint recollections taking many rest breaks. As the night progressed, aided by several mugs of mead, Svenn surged with energy, jovially joining his grandchildren and even a few great grandchildren in a rousing dance around the main bonfire. Clearly winded but smiling broadly he sat to rest... and that rest became eternal as his smiling aging visage nodded down to his chest. The music and festivities ground to a brief halt as everyone realized the great man had passed on to the next life.

“Let the party continue,” Raben called out as tears ran down his cheeks. “Svenn has died the way he lived, with a smile! We have given him a tremendous sendoff! A toast... To Svenn Olvrisson... May we always remember his loving smile!”

The party resumed as Svenn sat smiling in his chair until the dawn. With the rising sun, they placed him in the simple wooden coffin he’d ordered built. For several hours people passed his smiling corpse saying goodbye. At noon they carried him to the burial mound, to the canopy covered grave he’d ordered dug a week before Raben arrived. The canopy was struck and his coffin lowered. Raben was the first to toss a handful of dirt atop it. Everyone followed, nearly filling the grave.

The next day Raben met with Ollie and his council to review Bazram’s growth and future. Trondheim Fjord was solidly Corvonian. The present population target for the northern Clan Corvo was 600,000, but that would grow as the territory grew. The current population was 295,880. Like all of Clan Corvo, the birth versus death ratio yielded an average 2% growth each year. Even if no neighbors sought to join them in 35 years, they’d reach their target population at which point they’d have to move the excess population, averaging 12,000 people a year, to other Clan Corvo locations. The only thing that could push off reaching their maximum population was to continue to expand the area of Bazram.

Raben met with the Corvoian Sami elders to discuss their situations, especially those who lived north of the arctic circle. The Sami as far north as the Ofotfjorden with the village of Narvik {GM 68.438000, 17.402553} at it’s end joined the Clan Corvo. The entrance to the fjord was 65 miles north of Boda which brought in 3500 people. Many younger Bazram people, eager for the challenge, had moved north marrying Sami and many Sami youths went south to Olvishaugen so that the disparate ethnicities were blending with the new stronger than the sum of it’s parts. Many Sami had joined the Pathfinders and were eager to explore.

The elders embraced the change for they saw they were treated as equals to the Norse and those from Barmaz. The Sami legends, lore and history were being recorded and preserved as the new technology brought from far south made their lives better and more comfortable. Raben headed north to Narvik to see the new areas for himself and to show the famous Demon Slayer to the Sami people and listen to their joys and sorrows, often correcting minor issues before they had time to escalate.

Raben returned home in late September knowing the Norse Clan Corvo was thriving under Ollie’s guidance. That winter in the main library in Champery Raben reviewed the ancient texts. The Phoenicians explored the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, establishing Carthage and numerous smaller colonies. About 500 BCE Hanno the Navigator explored the West African coast. Raben compared the data Pathfinder explorations had made with the Greek writings, confident Hanno reached the Moa River {in PD Sierra Leone}. He may have gone further but the Clan Corvo expeditions had turned back at what they dubbed the Cape of 3 Points {in PD Ghana} so Raben had no reference points to compare. Several texts reported that about 600 BCE Egyptian pharaoh Necho II sent hired Phoenician sailors down the east Coast of Africa from the Red Sea to circumnavigate the African continent. The writings of Herodotus indicated hey sailed south, rounded the Cape {of Good Hope} heading west, then made their way north to the Mediterranean and returned home. The writings tell that the sailors paused each year to sow and harvest grain and do maintenance on their vessels. While Herodotus recorded the story, he doubted it’s veracity since the sailors' reported that when they sailed along the southern coast of Africa, they found the Sun stood to the north whereas everyone knew the sun was always to the south. However, Raben thought the tale was true. During the times he overwintered in Bazram he’d seen Sun barely raise above the southern horizon and noted that even in the summer it was further south rather than familiarly nearly overhead of the Mediterranean. When in Dakar in Senegal the sun was still to the south but much closer to being directly overhead. Since the further south you went, the higher the sun transited the sky, Raben believed that if one traveled further south, the transit of the sun could cross to the northern half of the sky. Raben decided it was time to re-establish exploratory voyages.

Just after the new year, raven mail told Raben the work on the Mazbar enlargement and increased fortifications had been completed after ten years of work. The tunnels were completed with the hidden underground aqueduct supplying the compound with water filling the moat. The overflow created a small stream that headed east around the toe of Mons Vaticanus to join the Tiber River.

Seeing the ever increasing turmoil of the Roman Empire including the sea raids by the Angles, Saxons, and Scotti, Raben ordered better defenses for the Corvus Shipping bases with room for all citizens to take refuge. The Isle of Man, Belle Ile En Mer, Isla De San Martino and Ibiza were to begin construction fortifying the beaches against invaders. On the other islands walled towns were to be built and the harbors fortified for sea or land attack with artillery set up on watchtowers.

Raben established 3 rotating series of 3 vessel exploratory expeditions starting in 397. Each mini-fleet would consist of 1 clinker, a 100 ton Caravel, and a 180 ton caravel. The 55 crewmen would also be Marines. There would be 50 Pathfinders and a troop of 79 Raven Raiders 32 ravens, 1 wolf and 7 horses. One unit with Sami mixed into the crews would be based at the shipyards at Levanger in Bazram. They would sail west from the Shetland Islands. The other 2 units would be based out of the shipyard at Madeira. One would follow the coast of Africa south from Senegal. The other would head due west from the islands of Flores and Corvo in the Azores.

The African explorers were to sail south from Senegal for 2 months meticulously charting the coast and rivers before returning. They would turn in their charts and review their findings with the next exploratory crew who would follow the previous route double checking the charts then begin their own explorations once they reached the turn around point of the previous crew.

Those heading west would sail for 2 months or until they discovered land, whichever came first. If they found land they could spend additional time exploring but were to return to port no later than 6 months after leaving. Plans were also made so that as soon as one voyage returned, reports and maps would be made and another 3 ship expedition would set out until something was found or to pick up where the previous crew stopped.

The 3 ships sailed west from Flores on their voyage of discovery. Although they did their best to sail due west it was practically impossible as they often had to tack into the wind during the voyage. Ravens flew out each day scouting ahead. They were into the seventh week when several ravens returned performing the ‘dance' that indicated they'd encountered seabirds and in what directions. Two days later the ravens reported they'd found land. Late the following day, nearly 8 weeks after setting out and just before they were due to turn back, the ships spotted land. They stayed off shore as night fell.

In the morning the clinker vessel led the way as they cautiously sailed closer to shore, plumbing the depths looking for signs of shoals and white water. They saw long white sandy beaches with grass covered dunes. Some were narrow, others wide with some shrubs and a few small trees. Behind the barrier islands were shallow bays with tidal marshes. Many meandering waterways snaked through the marshes. The barrier islands continued north and south. Near present day Ocean City, NJ, the clinker went ashore to erect a visible marker to serve as a rally point. One caravel then sailed north and the other south, each for 3 days while the clinker explored the large bay behind the barrier island {Great Egg Harbor Bay}. The larger vessels stayed safely off shore or at best entered the bigger bays. The smaller clinker went deeper into the marshes. The bays showed no sign of habitation. From a crow's nest atop the main mast, a lookout sought to chart a safe course towards the mainland.
What they saw inland was massive marsh which gave way to trees {Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area in New Jersey}. Then as the tide went out the lookout spotted people with baskets moving onto the exposed hammocks and sand. They were carrying woven baskets and wooden rakes. The men did the heavy work with the rakes as the women and children scooped up clams into the baskets. Teens speared fish trapped in the shallows. When someone finally noticed the ship, they all froze, staring in wonder at the bizarre craft. Dropping anchor, they lowered a small boat with six armed men to slowly row to the shore.

The meeting was cautious. Clearly conversation was impossible. The people had black hair. Their skin was darker but not as dark as the Africans. None had any type of foot coverings and the clothes they wore barely maintained their modesty. The sailors were able to make the natives understand they wanted water. Cautiously, tentative trading began.

Over the next few days the clinker launched their small boat exploring the marshes. Others visited the native village, clearly a temporary camp. The natives had a few canoes and were invited to visit the ship. Both sides were cautious but friendly. What clearly surprised the Corvoans was they natives had never seen a bow and arrows {Bows, arrows, maize, beans and squash didn't reach the Eastern Seaboard until between the years 500-600}. The natives were clearly impressed with the ease of hunting deer. Water supplies were replenished, fire wood replenished and fish caught. A few bows and arrows, several steel knives and an ax were given as gifts. After 5 days they bid farewell and sailed out of the bay into the ocean to the rally point.

The larger caravel went north along the barrier islands sailing into the larger bays {Great Harbor behind the Jacques Cousteau National Estaurine, Barnegat Bay, Sandy Hook Bay, Raritan Bay, Lower Bay and into Upper Bay east of Manhatten} before turning back. They used their small boat to go ashore to replenish supplies. In the area of Lower and Upper Bays they saw people on the shore but they fled in fear from the large ship.

The smaller Caravel sailed into the Delaware Bay and up the river as far as Wilmington before turning back. They saw a handful of people who fled when they tried to get close. They too replenished their supplies.

With replenished supplies they shared their discoveries, deciding to sail south. They bypassed the Delaware Bay. They sailed along the shore outside the barrier islands. The long thin barrier islands were a new landform, very few existed on the western coasts of Europe and none were as extensive. After about a 120 miles they encountered the Chesapeake Bay. Sailing up this bay they saw some natives but no permanent villages. There were several tidewater rivers on both sides. They sailed 2 days up the bay before turning around.

They continued sailing south for several hundred miles past virtually continuous barrier islands. The biggest was Hatteras {GM 35.248975, -75.582497}. They sailed into bays scouting rivers but did not go inland. Several times they stopped to replenish supplies. They saw natives inside most bays but saw no permanent villages. When they made contact, most were cautiously friendly but they were able to trade. Water supplies were replenished, fire wood replenished, fish caught, even deer hunted.

After a week they noticed palm trees on the shore and native villages with wood framed thatched walls and roof with logs hollowed and shaped into canoes. They did manage to trade with the villages, trading iron axes for supplies. The natives called the place Florida. After skirting and exploring the coast for a week the shore line curved westward. The beaches thinned and disappeared into swampy wetlands and marshes with sandy barrier islands and shallow bays and sounds. The overflight of ravens reported open sea with no land for at least 50 miles to the south and the marshes extended at least 50 miles north. Being south of the Azores they turned northeast heading home.

About 75 miles out the umbrella of ravens reported land. Following the birds they found tropical islands, Grand Bahama {GM 26.622651, -78.527529} and Great Abaco {GM 26.385119, -77.100728}. Both were surrounded by reefs and shoals with dozens of small islands inside the shoals. Making a close approach was dangerous and there were no inhabitants. Using the small row boats they topped off their water. The ravens reported more islands to the south.

After leaving they continued sailing northeast to reach the Azores Archipelago. They had gone about 700 miles when the crows flying overwatch returned indicating they'd spotted land. They turned to head toward the area the ravens indicated. After another 100 miles they discovered a small cluster of uninhabited islands, Bermuda {GM 32.367868, -64.686665}. Once more they replenished their water before once more sailing for home.

They reached Flores 2 weeks later, 16 weeks after setting out on the exploratory voyage. Raven mail was dispatched reporting on the successful voyage. Raben was quite exited by the vastness of what they reported deciding to personally investigate the discovery of this new world. The problem was how to get the time to do so.

The voyage along the African Coast did a detailed charting of the coast, bays and rivers. They reached the Peninsula of Mussulo about 200 miles south of the Congo River in Angola.

The northern Bazram fleet sailed northwest from the Shetlands. Near sundown at the end of the first day the ravens returned indicating they’d found land to the north. The ships sailed north during the night and by morning they sighted an island. The Faroe Islands are a grouping of 17 uninhabited but habitable treeless islands with a subpolar oceanic climate. The islands had natural protected harbors and were perfect for sheep. They were 210 miles northwest of the Shetlands.

After two weeks they once more set sail west. At the end of the second day the ravens returned once more reporting land to the north. They saw the island shortly after dawn. They were 375 miles northwest of the Faroe Islands. The large island was 39,315 square miles, only 23% being with vegetation and 63% being tundra and 14% lakes and glaciers. Many fjords punctuate Iceland's 3,088 mile coastline, which is where most settlements are situated. The island's interior is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand, mountains, and lava fields and volcanos. It took several weeks to sail around the island. There were forests of northern birch along with aspens, rowans, common junipers and other smaller trees, mainly willows. None grew to great heights and the soil was thin meaning great care would be needed to avoid destruction of the biome. By the time they’d completed the exploration of Iceland, it was time to head back to base.

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Quoth the Raven, "life is good".

Beoca's picture

Given that the Vikings of our history did indeed destroy that biome by cutting all the trees down, the reference to great care being needed does make me smile. RIP Svenn - to say that he has left his people in good hands would be an understatement.

I imagine that Raben will be heading west soon - should be interesting to see what happens. The Corvoians shouldn't have to deal with any natives in Iceland (humans don't reach Iceland until the 9th century in actual history), and they are more than set in Africa, so America is the frontier where the Demon Slayer is most needed. What they do as far as Raven mail logistics will be interesting to see - there's no particularly obvious chain of islands that comes to my mind (what they have is fairly far east, and I couldn't see ravens making it nonstop from there to Bermuda or the Caribbean. Maybe NE Brazil or Guyana, but that still seems like a stretch. Faeroes to Iceland to Greenland seems well out of the way, but may be the only way.

Beyond that, the Senegal colony is rapidly expanding. While the Berbers might be displeased, I suspect that their expansion to the south and east will continue.

In other notes, I will be curious to see if any additional expansion occurs in Europe. There will certainly be interested people with what is coming.

Beyond that - stunning that they sailed straight from the Azores to the Americas! Did not see that coming.

with all the isolated tribes

with all the isolated tribes they've visited I'm surprised the hasn't been any spread of diseases that the tribes would have no immunity for

I was wondering if

Wendy Jean's picture

they would hit the Americas. after that it gets complicated.

Complicated Indeed...

There's the whole question of personal relationships with the natives. Will the methods used in Senegal work here? No reason why not, I guess, though the tribal structure is different, with vertical movement possible. And disease may become a factor, as someone already suggested, with plagues likely to go in both directions, though Clan Corvo's level of hygiene seems superior to Europe's in our Age of Discovery 1000 years later. (The multiracial nature of Clan Corvo would seem to be a two-edged sword: more pathogens to exchange, possibly greater variances in relative immunity.)

But it's communications and extended supply chains that'd seem to be greater problems. Ravens aren't going to make it through the 1400 miles of open ocean between Bermuda and Flores unless they can count on a fleet of ships in predictable places en route, which seems unlikely even if possible, given weather conditions. Best bet for the ravens, as someone said earlier, is up the North American East Coast and over to Iceland; thanks to great circle air routes, it may not even lose time, but it's more complicated, with relief birds needed to spread the news from there.

Would it be better to send colonists and trade goods that way too? Maybe safer, I suppose, with less open ocean to cross and more opportunity to stop for fresh water and supplies. But they still have to discover that there's a navigable route there; at this point, if I'm reading right, they haven't been north of PD New York City, so they don't know what land if any there is between there and Iceland. And I'm not sure how good they are estimating east-west distances in open sea, so I doubt that they have good data as to how far apart Iceland and the bays of New Jersey are.

Anyway, it seems unintuitive to expect to reach due west of the Azores by going north first, so it'd take a major reconsideration of the whole process. And once they figure it out (if they do) it'll produce a lot more contact with different native groups and a wider variety of climate conditions and cultural issues.

But actually, if Raben's really going to try to open three different expansions -- south in Africa, north in Iceland, west in North America -- at more or less the same time, I can't help thinking he's biting off far more than he can chew. At the very least, he'll probably need to recruit a lot of Svenn-type chieftains to run North American operations as they expand. The religious considerations are likely to be more like Scandinavia than Africa: universal deities (mostly archetypal animals in this case) that need recognition rather than local gods they can conquer along with their communities.


Fair point

Beoca's picture

For the Vikings, New York was about as far south as they got. Clan Corvo will probably find that corridor, but it may take a couple more exploratory trips.

The Iceland expansion, it is worth noting, will not have to worry about natives until they reach Greenland (which was populated by natives well before Raben’s time). Iceland was uninhabited in our history until the Vikings, so Clan Corvo won’t have humans to worry about.

As far as the African expansion is concerned, it is now a case of leaping from neighbor to neighbor. The language barrier shouldn’t thus be quite as tough because the easternmost clan members have presumably been in contact with those to their east, and so on.

Out west, they will need Raben, and he will absolutely need to find some more leaders to groom. No argument there.

Too Much To Bite Off

joannebarbarella's picture

The Americas or Iceland would probably be enough at this point in time. Wait a few years before tackling the other. And best to keep hidden from the Roman Empire.