Time on My Hands Chapter 57 - 398-401 CE: Mayan Contact

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Time on my Hands
Chapter 57: 398-401 CE: Mayan Contact

Red Jaguar and his retinue were surprised by the confident demeanor of the young boy and how fluently he spoke their language. They were also awed by his reddish hair and piercing green eyes.

“Kneel when you greet the King, impudent one,” a man snarled as he lowered his spear and stepped toward Raben.

“You call me impudent?” Raben laughed while not flinching. Reading their emotions he knew he had to be confident and tough. “You dare to speak for your king? Heed my warning, dolt, I’m one person you do not want to antagonize. I am 237 years old and have personally killed 943 people in combat. Either put up your spear and step back or prepare to die!”

The outraged man screamed in anger and lunged aiming for Raben’s gut. The ravens took to the air. In stead of attempting to avoid the lunge, Raben drew his sword. As the spear skewered his gut Raben swung the sword decapitating the man. The man’s body collapsed with gouts of blood spurting from his neck as his head bounced and rolled down the causeway.

No one moved, stunned by the brief savagery. To there amazement Raben didn’t collapse but smiled as he sheathed his sword.

“Damn! I hate when this happens,” Raben chuckled. “Red Jaguar, you really should teach your men better manners. If I was a normal person, he would have killed me.” Then Raben grew serious. “If I wasn’t a good person, I’d be tempted to simply kill everyone in your city. Now, watch very closely so you can see for yourself I am NOT one with whom you want to trifle!”

With that Raben grasped the shaft of the spear and with a hand over hand motion, shoved it through the wound. Then he shoved his fingers into the wound to push the shaft deeper. Reaching around to the back, he grasped the bloody shaft and awkwardly pulled it all the way out. Once it fell free he brought the spear to the front to examine it. “This is a well made, sturdy, good balance, it’s a shame it was wasted on such an arrogant bastard.”

Needless to say everyone’s eyes were locked on Raben as he removed the spear and examined it. The bloody hole in the front and back of his tunic providing evidence that he had indeed ben skewered. Their fear and awe grew palpable.

“As I said I’m a Demon Slayer,” Raben smiled almost ferally. “I can’t be killed, I can’t be poisoned, and I do not age. I can fight your entire retinue by myself and kill everyone. I do not WANT to prove that to you but I WILL do that if you do not deal with me and my Clanspeople with honesty, honor, and fairness. Does EVERYONE understand that?” With that he shrugged off his tunic. The wounds were nearly healed with the blood flow ended. He turned in a circle so they could see the entrance and exit wounds. “You can see I’m already healing. In another five minutes there will be no sign I was injured. I came here in peace, I’d like to leave in peace. You’ve already lost an inept man. There is no need to lose anyone else.. So... let’s start again... Greetings Red Jaguar, I am Raben Corvo, leader of the Clan Corvo, speaker to animals and Demon Slayer.” The ravens landed about him.

“I am Red Jaguar, king of Coba,” Red Jaguar replied firmly after a few moments to gather his wits. “We welcome you to Coba.”

“I thank you for the welcome,” Raben replied. “Let us walk together to Xel-Ha. I’ll let you and your advisors tour my ships.”

The walk took the rest of the day. They reached the harbor an hour before sunset. Red Jaguar’s eyes widened as he took in the size of the 4 vessels, especially the huge 360 ton, 150 feet long by 35 feet wide 3 masted caravel.

The next day the Mayans were taken on a tour of the vessels. Raben ordered the crew of the smaller vessels ashore to serve as hostages while he took the Mayans out on the 360 ton caravel. The Mayans were amazed by the sails filling with wind and the speed the ship achieved without the need to paddle. The working of the sails were explained and a brief explanation of how to sail in any direction. They returned to port 3 hours later. The Mayans were more than impressed.

Raben told them he could not give them a ship but he could let the best Mayan carpenters examine the clinker explaining it was the easiest to build and sail and was easily scaled down for smaller vessels. Iron axes and carpentry tools were given as part of the trading. The Clan Corvo shipwrights even began to assist the local carpenters as they began construction of their own clinker. Eager Mayans were taken out in the clinker to teach them how to handle the single mast vessel.

Raben discovered much about the Mayan and he explained much about the Clan Corvo. The city of Coba was about 350 years old. The city was growing into it's prime. Step pyramid temples and other monumental stone building were being constructed. Plazas, palaces, temples and pyramids, as well as courts for playing the ball games that were ritually and politically significant to Maya culture were features of the city center. Without metal tools working with stone was difficult and time consuming. Each King wanted to leave a monumental stone legacy. Outside the ceremonial center of the city the surrounding buildings were built on low flat platforms of packed dirt inside low stone walls. The area around Coba was experiencing strong population growth and the city dominated the eastern end of the Yucatan Peninsula including the north of the state of Quintana Roo and areas in the east of the state of Yucatán. This power resided in its control of large swaths of farmland, control over trading routes and, critically for a Mayan city, control over ample water resources.

Raben was impressed with their writing and mathematics on stela and altars recording the political, social and religious history of the Maya using the long count calendrical system. Maya cities were surrounded and supported by a large population of farmers. Though the Maya practiced a primitive type of "slash-and-burn" agriculture, they also displayed evidence of more advanced farming methods, such as irrigation. The Maya were deeply religious, and worshiped various gods related to nature, including the gods of the sun, the moon, rain and corn. Raben wasn't surprised to learn that the top of Maya society were the kings, holy lords, who claimed to be related to gods and followed a hereditary succession. They were thought to serve as mediators between the gods and people on earth, and performed the elaborate religious ceremonies and rituals so important to the Maya culture.

However it was their agriculture that amazed Raben. Maize was one of the most important crops but so too were root crops such as sweet manioc. Beans, squash, amaranth, and chile peppers were also important food sources. Maize was typically boiled in water and lime, and eaten as a gruel mixed with chile pepper for breakfast or made into a dough for baking on a flat-stone as tortillas or flat cakes and as tamales, stuffed and baked in leaves. Fruits eaten included guava, papaya, avocado, custard apple, and sweetsop. A frothy chocolate drink and honey were also popular desserts. Another very popular drink was pulque beer, known to the Maya as chih and made from fermented agave juice. The bottle gourd was cultivated to make containers from its hard but light-weight fruit shell. The copal was valued for its resin which was burned as incense and used for rubber. Varieties of beans were grown, including pinto, red and black beans. The ancient Maya also relied on tree cropping for access to foods such as tomato, chili peppers, avocado, breadnut, guava, soursop, mammee apple, papaya, pineapple, pumpkin and sweet potato. Various herbs were grown and used, including vanilla, avocado leaves, garlic vine, Mexican oregano, tobacco and allspice. Maize, squash and beans were the known as the 3 sisters since they were planted together. The maize provided a framework for the beans to climb and the squash protected the soil from erosion and evaporation.

The vast majority of their farming was slash and burn agriculture, a farming method where trees and other plants are first cut down and allowed to dry, then the entire area to be planted is burned. The Maya would then plant in the rich ash that resulted. However, after two or three years, the soil and ash was depleted and had to be allowed to lie fallow for five to 15 years. Raised bed farming was used alongside canals. The Maya also farmed fields raised up from the low, swampy areas. They created these fertile farm areas by digging up the mud from the bottom and placing it on mats made of woven reeds two feet above the water level. In the canals between the beds were fish, turtles and other aquatic life. Water lilies grew in the water and prevented the water from drying up. Raised bed farming was quite labor-intensive but very productive. Each field provided two or three crops a year.

Raben noted the undeveloped areas were thin soiled thick forests. The slash and burn technique meant massive deforestation. Deforestation meant more rain runoff which meant soil erosion and lowering the water table. The larger their population, the more deforestation resulted. Raben had witnessed the results of deforestation in Europe, one of the reasons he was so insistent about replenishing the forests when they cut timber. While he tried to explain to the Maya they would eventually farm themselves to extinction, the time frame of their personal experience was too short. Those in power had not seen how lush their lands had been a century or 2 before so they had no concept of the damage they were doing. Raben realized it was his long life and long view of changes that enabled the Clan Corvo to prosper and avoid disaster that awaited the short sighted.

When the fleet sailed after 6 weeks, Raben had arranged for regular trading missions. Six Mayans volunteered to return to accompany the sub-fleet to see the marvels of the Clan Corvo. But most important was the seeds and seedlings he carried with him. Maize, squash, tobacco, manioc, peppers, tomatoes and several varieties of beans would revolutionize agriculture for the Clan Corvo allowing greater agricultural independence.

One of the many Christian factions in Alexandria, and in much of Asia Minor and the Middle East, were the followers of Origen, a deceased but prominent early Christian Theologian. Initially the Alexandrian Pope Theophilus tolerated and had even been friendly with the followers of Origen. While much of Origen’s theology was accepted and much quoted by the majority of Christians, his view of God being incorporeal contrasted too deeply with the anthropomorphic view of Nicene Christianity. In 399, local Alexandrian Nicene monks hostile to the ‘blasphemy’ of Origen began actively protesting the Origenists and vandalizing their property. Under increasingly intense political and religious pressure, Theophilus suddenly turned against the Origenists, joining in the persecution of the ‘blasphemers’. Placing himself at the head of soldiers and armed servants, Theophilus marched against the Origenist monks, burned their dwellings while beating any they captured. Nearly 10,000 Origenist monks and their followers were killed in the turmoil. All this from the religion that preached love. Raben was even more determined to keep the Clan Corvo out of the internecine turmoil taking root in Christianity as it bloodily progressed from a valid vibrant faith to a selfish arrogant religion.

The new crops from America were planted in Madeira where the climate was favorable. The intent was to propagate them for a year then to spread them throughout the Clan Corvo lands. In 399 Raben again accompanied the fleets, this time heading to the Shetlands to catch the much larger northern fleet. The Faroes and Iceland were each getting 2000 colonists, some of whom were Sami to assist with the northern climate. A troop of Pathfinders, 79 people including 25 Sami, with three clinkers landed at Tasiilak Greenland to establish a way station base. This would be a permanent base to service fleets and raven mail but they would not colonize the area. The people would be rotated out 20 each spring and 20 each fall so no one would be permanently assigned to the remote barren base. The fleet spent 2 weeks unloading lumber and supplies as well as assisting the construction of the base buildings.

The fleet continued on to Igaliku, Greenland where a battalion of Pathfinders began to establish a base, raven mail and colony. Sheep and sturdy ponies were offloaded. Again the fleet spent 2 weeks unloading supplies and lumber and building the base.

Then they moved on to Cartwright, Labrador where another battalion of Pathfinders would set up a base, raven mail and colony arriving just before noon. The native Naskapi people remembered the strangers from the previous year and were cautiously eager to trade for their iron tools and axes. They were surprised when the young boy stepped forward with 2 men they had met last year, greeting them in their own language. They were astounded and frankly disbelieving when he claimed to be the leader of the strangers.

“I am indeed the leader of the Clan Corvo,” Raben smiled as he read their emotions. “There are more members of the Clan Corvo than there are stars in the night sky. I am also speaker to animals, healer, hunter, warrior and Demon Slayer. I do not age, I can’t be killed or poisoned, I heal all wounds, and I’m 238 years old.”

It was clearly evident the Naskapi didn’t believe him, but all the people he arrived with clearly honored him. “We mean no disrespect, but you say many things that are difficult to believe,” an elder spoke.

“I understand,” Raben sighed. “I am accustomed to such reactions. Tell me, what do you want me to do to prove my words are true?”

That caught the elder off guard. He looked at the members of his clan for inspiration but saw none.

Raben sensed they were a peaceful people who avoided violence. He understood they would not want to harm him. Looking around their camp he saw smoke coming from a wigwam. “Bring a coal from the fire. Use it to make a large fire in the fire pit. Then I will prove what I say is true.”

It only took a few minutes to have a roaring fire going. Every member of the tribe watched with curiosity as Raben stripped his tunic. “I can be injured but not killed. I will reach into the flames, pull out a burning stick, then extinguish it with my hands. I will be badly burned but as you watch you will see the burns heal.”

That elicited many comments. They watched, many flinching, as Raben reached into the flames. Raben clenched his teeth as the pain engulfed his hand and arm. Fishing around in the flames he picked up a flaming branch 1 inch in diameter and 2 feet long. Lifting it aloft he held it high so everyone could see he held the burning branch. The odor of his burning flesh could be smelled by all. The holding it aloft he reached up with his other hand and began extinguishing the flames. When the flames were extinguished, he waved the branch so all could see, then dropped it into the flames. Then he held his hands high so they could see the nasty burns on his hands and forearms.

“That hurt like hell,” Raben said as he walked around the gathered astounded people so they could get a closer look at his horrific burns. “Now watch closely. I’m already healing.” For fifteen minutes he walked amongst them as he healed. Within an hour there was no evidence he’d been burned.

By then the ships had offloaded sheep, sturdy ponies and many supplies. They set up tents as temporary shelter and storage. Raben asked the clan hunters if they knew if a bear was nearby. Then he krocked and 30 ravens lifted off the ships to swirl around him clearly directing them to search. They flew in the direction the Naskapi.

Soon 5 Clan Corvo people and 5 Naskapi set out. They jogged through the forests with the ravens clearly reporting back to Raben. Within an hour they spotted the huge bear.

“Stay here. Watch and learn,” Raben said as he drew his knife and approached the bear shocking the native hunters. Raben began talking to the bear in guttural grunts and growls. Much to the amazement of the hunters the bear answered. When they were 5 feet apart the bear stood on his hind legs, roared, and swiped his paw at Raben. Instead of flinching away, Raben leapt in aiming the knife for the bear’s heart. The sound of their impact was immediately followed by an ear shattering roar as the bear lunged forward. The duo fell to the ground with a profound THUD. The bear tossed his head and his paws scrambled for a few seconds before he stilled.

When the bear began moving, the hunters drew their bows. Then they saw an arm squirm it’s way out from beneath the bear. The Clan Corvo hunters rushed to the bear, heaving it over to free Raben. Raben thanked the men then kipped to his feet. Turning to the bear, he pulled the knife from it’s chest. With a few strokes he gutted the 700 pound beast. A small tree was chopped down to provide a long carrying pole so they could transport it back to the camp.

The Naskapi were amazed by the tale their hunters told of how Raben walked up to the bear with a knife and attacked it as it attacked him. The bear was quickly skinned, butchered, and roasted over the fire as part of a feast.

Afterward, Raben explained he was establishing a year round base and village on the peninsula. He explained they did not want to displace the Naskapi but hoped they would join his people and become members of the Clan Corvo. He explained with the Clan Corvo mastery of gardening and herding, as well as the large ships for fishing, a plentiful steady food supply was possible. In addition, Raben agreed other members of the Naskapi tribe would be welcomed to join the Clan Corvo. Raben explained more colonists would be coming next year.

While the Naskapi were not sure about joining the Clan Corvo, they were interested in learning more. Raben began a lexicon for their language so that his people and theirs could converse. He began to write down their legends and history. As the buildings were erected the natives saw the techniques used. The interiors were bigger and sturdier than their more portable semi-permanent wigwams. A pier was built and berths made for the vessels staying behind.

After 2 weeks the fleet moved on to Cheticamp and Redman Bay where they would build their last base. Again a battalion of Pathfinders offloaded with their sheep and sturdy ponies. Construction began on log cabins as Raben and 2 men from last year’s expedition set out for the local village of the native Mi'kmaq a mile to the north.

The Mi’kmaq were not as accommodating as the Naskapi although they too were surprised that Raben spoke their language. For the most part the Mi’kmaq were peaceful but they were no strangers to warfare and raids although it had been many years since they fought. Raben explained and demonstrated his unique abilities. They were not at all happy with Raben’s announcement they would be staying and establishing a settlement. Raben showed them the sheep and took several out on a clinker fishing which impressed them. They didn’t appear interested in joining the Clan Corvo. Raben finally had to tell them bluntly the Clan Corvo was there to stay and they would be bringing more people next year. Raben explained he wanted a peaceful coexistence but was prepared to fight. Again he told them he much preferred the blending of their community into that of the Clan Corvo, assuring them their legacy would be honored and preserved. Again the fact women were part of the ship crews and of the Pathfinders kept hostilities at bay. The fact the Mi'kmaq were outnumbered 4 to 1 overall, 8 to 1 in warriors, also had a large part in the peace. Again Raben began a lexicon to facilitate conversations after he left. After 3 weeks the fleet headed back staying a week at each base.

The southern fleet was also busy. They sent a battalion of Pathfinders into the Caicos Islands with intentions of setting up smaller bases on the adjacent Turks islands. A battalion also landed on the Inagua Islands. These 2 island groups formed the southern end of the unpopulated Lucayan Archipelago, the islands nearest to Taino occupied Cuba and Hispaniola. Two additional battalions of Pathfinders landed on the larger islands of the Bahamas which made the north and central portions of the Lucayan Archipelago. A battalion of Pathfinders headed to set up a base on Nantucket. Bermuda, Grand Bahama and Great Abeco each took in 2000 colonists while 1000 colonists headed to Hatteras Island

In the year 400, 2000 colonists headed to Cheticamp, Nantucket, Inagua, Caicos, Grand Bahama and Great Abeco. Bermuda, Iceland, the Faroes Igaliku and Cartwright each received 1000 colonists. Hatteras took 500 colonists. In 401 2000 colonists headed to Cheticamp, Nantucket, Inagua, Caicos, Grand Bahama and Great Abeco. Bermuda, Iceland, the Faroes, Igaliku and Cartwright each received 1000 colonists. Hatteras was capped so received no colonists. The Colonists and Pathfinders in the Bahamas began spreading to the smaller islands in the Lucayan Archipelago. The distance between Bermuda and Flores in the Azores was too far for raven mail. The ravens could fly 24 hours covering 700 miles but it then took 3 days to recover. However working in relays ravens could carry a message from Bahamas to Barmaz in 12 days. By following the bases along the Atlantic coast raven mail was possible. Bermuda and Bahama were within range to Hatteras, Hatteras to Nantucket to Cheticamp to Cartwright to Igaliku to Tasiilak to Reykjavik to Faroes to Isle of Man to Belle en Mer to Barzam.

Britannia was feeling the stress of the continental turmoil. Raids by the Caledonians and Scotti from Hibernia {PD Ireland} and the Franks and Saxons from the North of Europe were increasing and the Roman forces were too weak to stop or even chase them. In early 401 a Scotti raid from Hibernia hit the west coast of Britannia. The estate of a Romanized Briton was sacked with much booty taken. The owner was a priest and his son a member of the local senate and a deacon in the town of Glannoventa {PD Ravenglass} in Cumbria. The 15 year old grandson of the estate owner, a noble by birth, soft and unused to work, was captured and taken to Hibernia as a slave and put to work as a solitary shepherd. While brought up as a Christian the youth was not an active believer. However his solitude, lack of proper food, clothing and shelter strengthened his relationship with God through prayer, eventually leading young Patrick to a fuller understanding of Christianity. He was grateful that the Lord had mercy on his youth and ignorance and afforded him the opportunity to be forgiven of his sins thus leading him into Christianity.

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Crossing the Oceans

I've long felt that Columbus was not the first to cross the Oceans. I'm pleased to see that your story reflects this and am looking forward to following it more.

Thank you.


Even in our history, he wasn't

Beoca's picture

Columbus gets beaten handily even without Clan Corvo. Leif Erickson was the first European to sail to the Americas, reaching Vinland (Newfoundland) in about 1003. That's almost five centuries before Columbus.

The Italian only gets the credit as his voyage led to permanent inhabitants. The Vikings didn't have enough technology to maintain a base against the hostile "Skraelings" (local native Americans).

These lexicons are going to

Beoca's picture

These lexicons are going to be invaluable, yet are so easy for Raben to put together (while including all necessary details). The Naskapi and the Mi'kmaq (the latter in particular) seem untrustworthy. We'll see how the natives near Hatteras and Nantucket react soon, as I imagine that that is where Raben will be heading next. Good to see that the raven mail will connect; two weeks from the Bahamas to Barmaz is amazing given the time (all the more so as it implies that the messages could get from the Caribbean to Dakar in under three weeks).

It sounds like Rabin will

heal the schism in the church that is forming, maybe this was his purpose all along?

Right Now...

...he just seems inclined to shut out the eastern Roman empire and its religious disputes by keeping the Clan and its version of the faith out of the controversy. Not that the western Roman empire seems likely to be any better on that count, IIRC -- except that the final paragraph suggests Clan Corvo's presence in the British Isles may influence the future Saint Patrick and the new version of Christianity that develops there. Whether it can make headway onto the European continent in this new version of history may remain to be seen.

I guess that may be where your comment is headed; obviously Clan Corvo could do more to make that happen, with their presence in Western Europe, than anyone did in our timeline. But Raben's primary interests seem to lie in the other direction, across the Atlantic.

On that note, I'm not sure whether the picture will change if/when his birds give him an idea of the scale of the two American continents. Then again, Rabin hasn't made much of an attempt to expand the Clan's African territory -- and he knows the general dimensions there from the trip around the continent made by the Phoenicians centuries ago.

In both cases, I guess he's in a unique position to take the long view...


Clan Corvo is becoming an empire

... and Raben is its enlightened despot (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightened_absolutism).
Could you share with us some more information about it from different point of views?
- laws: is all Clan Corvo using the same laws? Roman laws? is there a legislative assembly? are there elections?
- economy: is there a Clan Corvo currency? When Raben decides to make exploratory fleets of to make canals with locks, who is paying for that?
- education: are there various education levels? kindergarten to universities?
- police, jails, ...

Thank you for a very nice story.