Time on My Hands Chapter 59 - 407-408 CE: Burned at the Stake

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Time on My Hands: Chapter 59: 407-408 CE: Burned at the Stake

By 407 the explorers of the African Coast had circumnavigated the continent, the Arabian Peninsula, and reached India. Westward exploration and colonists were moving into the New World. They did this by reallocating those being sent to Senegal, which had reached 3.8 million people. Racial bigotry in Senegal was greatly reduced as the younger populations became increasingly racially blended. The Clan Corvo had explored the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean establishing bases.

Bases were established, each manned by a battalion of Pathfinders, located throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Carribean Sea. The Lucyan Archipelago consisted of the Bahama Islands and the Turk and Caicos. The base at Freeport {GM 26.520804, -78.771989} on Grand Bahama, the northwestern most island and the base at Matthew Town {GM 20.944833, -73.674412} on Inagua the southwestern most island were 509 miles apart. Another base was Sandy Point on North Caicos, 532 miles from southeast of Grand Bahama and 140 miles east of Matthew Town, Inagua. Another base was in Havana {GM 23.092554, -82.327539}, Cuba, 325 miles from Freeport, Grand Bahama. From Havana it was 312 miles to Cancun and 667 miles eastward along the north coast Cuba around to a second base on Cuba, Guantanamo {GM 19.913432, -75.153533}. Guantanamo to Freeport, Grand Bahama was 608 miles, Guantanamo to a base at Guanica, Puerto Rico was 632 miles. Guantanamo to Santa Marta, Colombia was 604 miles. From Guanica {GM 17.951193, -66.229945}, Puerto Rico it was 447 miles to Sandy Point, North Caicos; 630 miles to Port of Spain, Trinidad; and 495 miles to Chichiriviche, Venezuela.

The continental bases starting from Havana were 669 miles to New Orleans {GM 29.926819, -90.010052}; New Orleans 601 miles to Port Isabel {GM 26.070105, -97.209766}, Texas; Port Isabel 486 miles to Veracruz {GM 19.203036, -96.139425}, Mexico; Veracruz 667 miles to Cancun {GM 21.174781, -86.829034}, Mexico; Cancun 459 miles to Lempira {GM 15.263732, -83.776846}, Honduras; Lempira 509 miles to Colon (GM 9.354596, -79.896577}, Panama; Colon 413 miles to Santa Marta {GM 11.246380, -74.212884}, Columbia; Santa Marta 461 miles to Chichiriviche {GM 10.928586, -68.271539}, Venezuela; and Chichiriviche 471 miles to Port of Spain {GM 10.649497, -61.502755} Trinidad. Each base would also serve as the anchor point for a colony. In this manner no place in the vast area was more than 3 days away from another by ship and 1 day away by raven mail.

The Faroes and Iceland were growing, each with populations over 11,000. Igaliku in Greenland and Cartwright in Labrador had reached their population cap of 5000 each. Cheticamp, Newfoundland and Nantucket, Massachusetts were still growing, each at over 17,000. The Nantucket population had spread onto the Island of Martha’s Vineyard and to the Cape Cod Peninsula. Hatteras was over 2400 and had just set up a settlement on the mainland. The North American settlements lived in peace with the natives. At this time the native American populations along the east coast north of South Carolina were sparse so there was plenty of space. Georgia and Florida had higher concentrations of natives. As the colonists learned the local languages, they began incorporating the Native Americans into the Clan Corvo. Trade flowed freely as did ideas and concepts. Both sides learned from the other. Many younger Native Americans along with a few respected elders traveled to the other Corvoian colonies and to Barmaz. They returned home with stories of wonder and the greatness of the Clan Corvo. Several from each colony attended Clan Corvo University, returning to teach their people to read and write as they urged the blending of their cultures in that of the Clan Corvo.

Similar things were happening in the south. The population in the Bahamas and other islands and bases was still growing at 73,000. The base at Colon, Panama had sent out an exploration party having heard rumors of another ocean 3 days away to the south. The discovered another ocean, just 36 miles to the southeast! Raben decided to send more people there. The Coba Mayans were prospering. The trade with the Clan Corvo brought them wealth and better tools. Red Jaguar wanted weapons but those were refused. The Corvoian base at Cancun was flourishing and the Mayan common people, always under the thumb of arrogant kings, saw the difference between their lives of repression and the freedoms of the Clan Corvo. Raben had been aware of the disconnect between the ruling elite and the common people. Red Jaguar would not even consider changing the way he treated the common people, they were merely servants of the God-King. Word of the growing discontent came back to Raben. Raben had to decide what to do about it.

As population growth in areas of the Clan Corvo produced excess of the population cap, they became colonists shipped to growing areas. The early exploration and trading had paid handsomely. Maize, beans, squashes, tobacco, pineapples and chili peppers proved their nutritional wealth. Already the plants had been added to the crops of the Atlantic Islands, Barmaz, Norse Bazram and Senegal in Africa. The crops from Africa flourished in many areas of the Clan Corvo. All Atlantic islands grew bananas and coffee. Sorghum, watermelons and yams added to the agricultural diversity and prosperity of the well fed Clan.

Clan Corvo University made an amazing discovery. In 402, on the Azores island of Sao Miguel, an unusual event happened. Workers were gathering guano from an old lava tube cave, a usual practice since the guano is an excellent fertilizer. The workers built a fire to illuminate the cave and to serve as a source for lighting replacement torches. Each day the fire was in a different location. One day as they were wheelbarrowing a load of guano out, the wheel bounced over the remains of an old fire causing the torch jammed into the load to light the way to fall. As the torch hit the old fire, a tremendous flash occurred. The man was engulfed in the flash of a guttering fire. Fortunately he was only singed but the acrid smell choked the workers. Everyone scrambled to exit the cave.

While no one died, the operation stopped so they could figure out what happened. The initial fears the flash was some sort of volcanic quickly faded. Investigators checked the area of the flash and questioned the workers. The wheelbarrow operator said he’d pushed into the site of an old fire site and the flare happened when the torch landed in the old fire. There was a 6 inch wide 1 inch deep bowl like crater in the floor and all debris blackened in the 2 feet around the crater. The wheelbarrow was also blackened.

They began checking other fire locations. They found ashes, charcoal, guano, and sulfur crystals, none of which were unexpected. The investigators mixed varying combinations of the 4 compounds, then exposed them to fire. A few did violently flare. The results and sizeable samples of ingredients were packaged along with their incident report and findings to the Clan Corvo University. The proto scientists at the university began controlled experiments. The result was the discovery of black powder in 407. Set off in confined spaces it exploded. Raben immediately saw the implications and uses ordering an immediate lockdown on the formula. He also set the engineers in finding ways to make reusable weapons that could shoot deadly objects of different sizes at an enemy.

A factory was set up in Barmaz, well away from the trade routes with strict safety rules. Others was established on Sao Miguel, Madeira and Tenerife. The ceramic fire bombs used by the military were easily adapted to make ideal explosive grenades. Fine crosshatch lines were incised in the clay exterior before it was fired. The wicks used to ignite the bombs were replaced by black powder fuses. A fuse was narrow piece of paper bent into a V with several cotton threads running the length, a solid line of black powder was placed in the V, the 2 sides of the V were folded over to keep the powder inside, additional cotton threads were then wrapped around the paper string and the entire assembly coated with wax waterproofing. In addition, paper tubes of varying width were made, one end crimped shut, filled with black powder, the other end closed, then dipped in wax. These tubes could have a hole poked in 1 end and a long wick inserted, sealed in place with wax. These could be used in excavation to blast rock.

The actions of Stilicho and Constantine III created issues for the Western Roman Empire and Barmaz. Raben was fed up with the stupidity of civil war when barbarian invasions went unchecked. With the massive defensive walls that surrounded Barmaz they were fairly safe from the barbarians. The biggest issue was the internal dispute between Stilicho and Constantine III. It was already established practice that armed merchants or travelers had to turn over their weapons to pass through Barmaz and that any troops had to be escorted by Raven Raiders. This meant neither Constantine III nor Stilicho could move troops through the province without permission. Since the Province of Barmaz was officially an Imperial Province, it no longer fell under the auspices of the Diocese of Gaul, which Constantine III had seized. Thus Barmaz owed no allegiance to the usurper.

Raben then traveled to discuss the matter with Stilicho. While Stilicho was still upset with Raben, he knew he had to agree to meet him when asked. Raben was not gentle.

“Barmaz is an Imperial Provence,” Raben reminded the indignant General Stilicho. “We are subject to the Emperor’s orders, no one else. Despite being Magister Militum, you, General Stilicho, are NOT the emperor. My allegiance is to Emperor Honorius.”

Stilicho was furious at Raben’s attitude. Calling his guards, he had them seize Raben, ordering that he be burned at the stake as an example to any who thought of resisting. When Raben smiled, Stilicho grew incandescent. Ordering his troops to assemble, he had Raben tied to a stone pillar set up in the center of the parade grounds. Faggots of bound twigs, small branches and straw were piled about the pillar to Raben’s knees for a distance of three feet from the pillar. A further 3 feet width of faggots was stacked to 3 feet high beyond that. The faggots were used because they would burn quicker and hotter than slower burning wood.

“This is the vaunted Demon Slayer,” Stilicho announced. “He is nothing! Now watch him die! Light the fire!

Olive oil had been spread over the outer circle of faggots so when a torch was touched to the piled combustibles, it burst into flames. The heat would torment the victim prolonging the agony before the flames actually reached the victim.

Raben had smiled and joked with his captors as they bound him to the pillar and piled the wood. As the flames engulfed the piled faggots, Raben laughed. “I am the Demon Slayer! I can not be killed! You will see and believe!”

The flames grew higher and the fire crackled and roared. Raben felt the heat cooking him but gritted his teeth enduring the excruciating pain. At the same time he held his breath taking only short breaths to avoid searing his lungs. As the flames neared, his clothes ignited as did the ropes holding him fast. Raben felt his flesh blistering and burning. With supreme control he began twisting and straining against his bonds. By that time the outer band of faggots had subsided into smoldering piles as the inner circle burned brightly.

Stilicho was as shocked as his watching soldiers. They had expected him to be dead, not still moving! Yet all could see Raben was still alive and moving. Fear gripped everyone as the Demon Slayer fought his bonds.

Finally the fire weakened ropes binding him snapped. His burning clothing and rope strands fell as Raben shrugged free and calmly stepped from the inferno while biting down the pain. His skin was blackened and cracking as he moved. Yet he was not panicked and moved with deliberation.

After several steps a crispy naked Raben faced Stilicho. “Today is your lucky day, Stilicho,” Raben declared while pushing his empathetic powers to generate fear and awe in the minds of everyone. “Despite your treachery I’m in a forgiving mood. I’ll let you live. But know this. As punishment henceforth I will not allow your troops access to Barmaz. You have lost that privilege! As further punishment, I hereby announce that Barmaz will now annex everything south of the Col de Larche to the Mediterranean along the watershed divide to the village of Ventimiglia on the Mediterranean where a gate complex will be constructed. The passes at the Col De la Lombarde, the Col De Tende and the Col de la Perle will be closed. Defensive walls will be built along the annexed area. Any attempts to prevent this will be stopped with deadly force. Let the word be spread that General Stilicho has earned the enmity of Barmaz, the Raven Raiders, and the Demon Slayer! The Roman Empire will pay the price of his arrogance!”

His words coupled with his empathetic projection to generate absolute terror in all who heard. Especially as they could see the black burnt flesh crack and fall off revealing new pink flesh. Slowly Raben walked to the gate as the healing continued.

Looking at the commander of the gate guard a naked healing Raben bluntly ordered. “My horse.”

The commander nodded to one of the men who rushed off to get Raben’s horse from the stable. As he waited, Raben did some stretches as the last of the burnt flesh flaked off revealing pink flesh beneath. Even his hair began to sprout. The soldiers in the parade ground still stood in formation with every eye locked on the Demon Slayer.

When the horse arrived, Raben pulled a robe from the pack and quickly slipped into it before mounting the horse. “Remember what you saw here today! Anyone who dares face me in battle will die!” With that he turned the horse and calmly rode away.

Once he was out of sight the fear he’d been projecting released. Stilicho was trembling. With as much dignity as he could muster he returned to his office. The shaken officers dismissed their troops who fled the parade ground. That night, everyone who could got rip roaring drunk. The story of burning the Demon Slayer at the stake and his healing from what appeared to be catastrophic burns swept across the Roman Empire and beyond.

The damage to Stilicho’s reputation was nasty. The soldiers no longer fully trusted him. When dispatch riders brought the news, Honorius learned of the failed burning and Raben’s declaration of annexing more territory to Barmaz, he was angry at his father-in-law’s incompetence. Raben showed up in Ravenna 2 days later asking for an audience with the emperor. Although terrified of the Demon Slayer, he felt he had no choice but to approve.

The room was filled with armed guards when Raben was shown in. After bowing to Honorius he spoke. “I’m sure you heard how Stilicho tried to kill me by burning me at the stake. You have doubtless also heard that as punishment I am annexing coastal Narbonensis east of the Rhone River. Since you allow the incompetent man to be your Magister Militum, I need you to issue a proclamation granting that annexation as a permanent part of Barmaz. It will be less area the empire must defend against the barbarians.”

Raben also added that instead of supporting Stilicho or Constantine III, he pledged neutrality in the dispute while guaranteeing merchants safe passage through Barmaz. In turn he insisted on safe passage through territories they controlled for merchants and others from Barmaz. Then to add salt to his brazen demands, he informed Honorius the Raven Raiders would accompany Barmaz merchants and travelers as precautions since neither side could guarantee their safety.

While the request was done politely, everyone knew it was really a demand to legalize what Raben had already announced. The terrified Honorius had the proclamation promptly drawn up, signed it, applied the imperial seal, and handed it to Raben.

Raben thanked the emperor and left, returning to Barmaz. As soon as he entered the newly annexed area, Raben had the Pathfinders and Raven Raiders promptly begin construction on the walls to cut off outside access to the area annexed onto Barmaz. They began at the three Alpine Passes that would be closed blocking them off. At the same time they began constructing a gate complex at the village of Ventimiglia on the Mediterranean Coast.

Neither Constantine III nor Stilcho were happy with Barmaz but they realized they could do nothing to the virtually independent Province. However they also knew they could depend upon the pledge that Barmaz would remain neutral. Both feared the Raven Raiders and the Demon Slayer so they begrudgingly accepted the situation. Raben understood Stilicho and Constantine III would break the agreement if the opportunity presented itself. Barmaz gained the 75,000 citizens who lived in the annexed area. They were offered the chance to join the Clan Corvo or to sell their holdings to the Clan and move out. The vast majority stayed.

Thereafter, Raben sent a division of Raven Raiders with road caravans within the empire. He also decided that since the emigrants from Barmaz would no longer be heading north, the cost of trading along the Rhine was too great. The fleets would thereafter trade around the coast of Europe.

After six years of captivity in mid 407, Patrick heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home, and later that his ship was ready. Fleeing his master, he traveled to a port 200 miles away where he found a ship and with difficulty persuaded the captain to take him. After three days sailing, they landed in Britain. As the entire crew set off to raid, Patrick accompanied them, walking for twenty eight days in a "wilderness" and becoming faint from hunger. Patrick prayed for sustenance. They encountered a herd of wild boar. Since this was shortly after Patrick had urged them to put their faith in God, his prestige in the group was greatly increased. After various adventures, he returned home to his family, now in his early twenties.

By May 408 Constantine III had made Arles his capital. Arcadius, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, was a weak ruler. His reign was dominated by a series of powerful government ministers and his wife. Arcadius himself was more concerned with appearing to be a pious Christian than he was with political or military matters. Only nominally in control of the eastern empire, he died in 408. His son, 7 year old Theodosius II, became emperor of the east.

Another invasion of Italy by Alaric was prevented in 408 by Stilicho when he forced the Roman Senate to pay 4,000 pounds of gold to bribe the Visigoths to stay out of Italy. This act of submission to Alaric by Stilicho further undermined what little support that remained for him amongst the ruling class and the soldiers. When the news reached Honorius of his brother's death in May 408, he planned to go to Constantinople to help set up the court in the wake of the accession of Theodosius II. Stilicho advised Honorius not to go as it might prove dangerous to be so far from his portion of the empire. Stilicho went in his stead.

That summer, as Stilicho’s newly recruited troops assembled and trained in northern Italy, Constantine III sent troops under general Gerontius into Hispania. Emperor Honorius had several cousins in Iberia who could attack from that direction in concert with Stilicho attacking from Italy in a pincer manoeuver. By striking at Hispania first and defeating the cousins, such a threat was eliminated.

While Stilicho was in Constantinople several people gained the confidence of Honorius, convincing the emperor that his father-in-law was conspiring with Alaric to overthrow him. On Stilicho’s return to Ravenna, Honorius ordered his arrest and on August 22, 408, his execution. Those who plotted Stilicho’s overthrow quickly moved against all of the general’s allies, killing and torturing key individuals and ordering the confiscation of the property of anyone whom he had appointed to office.

Raben decided to take advantage of the chaos created by Stilicho’s death to sail to the new continent. He organized 3 divisions of Raven Raiders and 3 divisions of pathfinders, 40,716 people plus 20,000 colonists for a total of 67,176 emigrants. This required 26,377 additional people from Barmaz. They were heading to 2 sites, 2 divisions of mounted Raven Raiders, 1 division of Pathfinders and 10,000 colonists and Raben went to Cancun. A division of Raven Raiders, 2 divisions of Pathfinders and 10,000 colonists including shipwrights went to Colon. They would cross to the Pacific ocean cutting a road and building bridges as need. Upon reaching the ocean they would build a base and town with a shipyard to build ships to begin exploring the coasts of the new ocean.

Raben was on the first ship of the colonization fleet to land at Cancun. A messenger was sent to Coba announcing Raben’s return and asking for an audience with the Mayan king. Raben promptly began talking to the Maya who worked for the Clan Corvo Cancun base. They were very happy since they were treated with kindness and respect, a very far cry from the disdain and disregard they received from the Mayan upper class. This distinct dichotomy created great unrest amongst the lower class Maya who were steadily growing more disenchanted with their king. A revolt was brewing. Raben talked to hundreds of Maya who wanted to join the Clan Corvo. When he realized how far the discontent had grown, he told the Maya to gather all those who wanted to join the clan Corvo to come to Cancun to do so, warning them to not let the upper class know what they were doing by leaving their homes after night fall in 4 days to head to Cancun, a three day trip by foot.

Great care had been taken not to bring horses to the mainland bases. Two divisions of Raven Raiders and their mounts were hastily unloaded from the fleet at Cancun’s piers and docks so the appearance of the beasts startled the Mayans. Explosive grenades were a part of each soldier’s arsenal. Tobacco was also an essential ingredient, smoked in pipes, the smoldering tobacco was perfect for lighting fuses. Flint and steel with balls of black powder sprinkled cotton as tinder quickly ignited which in turn ignited the tobacco filled pipes. It took 2 full days the 2 divisions of Raven Raiders and 1 division of Pathfinders to come ashore.

At dawn on the fourth day, alone, Raben ran the 75 miles to Coba to speak with Red Jaguar. The Mayan King was not happy. He was aware of the growing discontent amongst his people and knew the source was the Clan Corvo. When he learned that Raben had returned and wanted to meet he sent out word for his warriors to gather in a threatening show of force. When Raben arrived in Coba he was met by the massed Mayan warriors, most definitely not a good sign.

“The king does not wish to talk to you or see you,” the general announced with a sneer. “You are ordered to take your people and leave our lands. If you have not left in 2 days, we will destroy your settlement and all inside! GO WHILE YOU CAN!”

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Well, looks like we're about

Beoca's picture

Well, looks like we're about to have another Dakar. Mayan elites/soldiers, you're screwed.

The discovery of the Pacific (and continued spread up and down the Atlantic Coast) will keep Clan Corvo busy for QUITE a while. With Stilicho out of the way, and the Clan's neutrality pledged, Barmaz should be able to go on autopilot for a while. The Romans are about to have some bigger problems to deal with (Clan Corvo won't save them from the foes who were their RL downfall, and who are already making themselves felt). Stilicho won't be breaking any agreements since he's dead, and I can't see anyone get a seriously good shot at Barmaz barring some sloppiness on the part of the Clan.

A Little Surprising...

...to me that Raben wanted to expand his Roman empire holdings. Seemed to me the Clan had bigger fish to fry with all the expansion in West Africa and the New World than to take on more provincial territory and all the physical engineering it required; even the people there seem to be an afterthought.

Beoca seems to have said most of what I'd been planning to. But I have to wonder what they're going to do with their access to the Pacific. Certainly they're a long way from reaching East Asia that way, in space and time.


Here's my guess as to why:

Beoca's picture

For the naval empire that Clan Corvo has become, their main holding is almost entirely landlocked. Expanding into southern France (which is roughly the territory in question, will honestly likely REDUCE rather than increase the length of Barmaz's external land border. Currently, their port is connected to Barmaz by a rather lengthy walled corridor. Additionally, it's a lot of both territory and people that will help fuel the ever expanding colonial ventures (and I have no doubt about Clan Corvo's ability to protect their sea borders from invasion). Also, Stilicho did kind of try to kill him.

As far as reaching East Asia, that's what the colonists who went around Africa are doing; they're already to India, after all. The groups will probably meet up somewhere towards the North American side of the Bering Strait (if not further SE along the North American coastline), if they keep going as they have.

With the discovery of gunpowder can

Wendy Jean's picture

chemistry be far behind? Their understanding of the mechanical arts is already pretty advanced, which to me implies the have a strong start with mathematics, Their trade with the middle east will eventually stimulate this with trigonometry and other math disciplines, much of this is inevitable with the higher population base, which will lead to the occasional genius who will survive in this civilization. Advancements are harder with higher mortality rates.

Even better

Beoca's picture

They won't need to turn to the Middle East to get that mathematical knowledge. The Arabs got if from Roman texts that they carted home from their conquests. Clan Corvo can get it from the Romans - and they already have an Corvus Scriptorium outpost right by Constantinople that will end up being quite convenient for these endeavors. Raben may have to rebrand when the empire eventually switches from speaking Latin to speaking Greek, but he's got a couple of centuries before that became an issue.