Time on My Hands Chapter 66 - 452-456 CE: Operation Harmony Begins

Time on My Hands
Chapter 66: 452-456 CE: Operation Harmony Begins

In the spring of 452, Raben steeled himself as he headed north to Zarbam. He received a raven mail message from Ollie, who at 83, was dying. Ollie wanted to say goodbye to his mentor and for Raben to officiate at his funeral and burial. Raben knew he couldn’t refuse. He thought back to 415 and what he assumed would be a difficult conversation with Ollie. The planning for Operation Harmony had just begun. A crucial part of that planning was the ending of hereditary leaders for trained under 40 leaders with firm time limits to their positions. The hereditary leadership at Zarbam would need to end with Ollie’s time as head. When Raben arrived to have the difficult discussion with Ollie, he was surprised by Ollie.

“Raben, I think it will be in the interests of the Clan Corvo if I am the last Olvrison to be leader of Zarbam,” Ollie said. “In all the areas the Clan Corvo has assimilated, the local leadership was removed, their wealth confiscated, then they were relocated; if they resisted they were enslaved. My lineage is the only one you’ve left in place as leaders. We’re an exception that could negatively impact future expansion.”

“That’s because your lineage never set themselves above those they ruled,” Raben answered. “Your family always led from the front. They never asked their people to do anything they wouldn’t do. They were also honest and fair. You’re also right that you’ll be the last hereditary leader. I was concerned how you would handle that but you’ve shown my worries were for naught. I should have trusted your intelligence and integrity. I apologize for my misjudgement.”

“Thank you,” Ollie said. “But considering how the rest of the world is going I understand it’s easy to become a bit jaded.”

The reflection on the past encounter ended with the summery that the rest of Raben’s time in Zarbam had been pleasant and profitable. When Raben reached Olvishaugen, he found Ollie worn and wasted, barely hanging on. Raben’s heart broke to see the withered old man as compared ot his still clear memories of taking the inquisitive teen on his Grand Tour. After hugging Ollie, Raben ordered that Ollie’s bed be taken outside so he could see the sun set one last time.

Ollie’s large family silently gathered around the bed, most were wiping tears away. As the sun began slipping behind the mountains, Raben asked two of Ollie’s great grandsons to help him out of bed and support him so he could stand for one last time. Ollie’s rheumy eyes glistened in the last sunrays as they winked out behind the mountain and a smile filled his ravaged wrinkled face. The his head drooped to his chest. Raben couldn’t help but join those gathered as they openly wept.

The Zarbam leadership had changed to the new system of younger triple leadership 20 years previously but Ollie had stayed active as a guide and advisor. The funeral was a celebration of Ollie’s well lived live. Raben through the first handful of dirt on the grave. Even in his saddness, Raben couldn’t stay. The workings of the Clan Corvo called him back to Barmaz.

The Clan Corvo colonial disbursements continued at the 432 levels with the exception of Mesoamerica which increased slowly from 9380 to 9964 through 452. Gran Canaria and Tennerife reached their population caps between 453 to 455. The colonists levels for Mesoamerica raised to 9500 matching Hatteras, Nantucket and the Gulf of Mexico/Carribean Islands. The colonists going to Ireland increased from 30,000 in 452 to 42606 in 453 to 59566 in 454 and 65081 in 455 yielding in Ireland a population of 1,490,840 of whom 271,440 were Raven Raiders, 40 divisions.

During this time the base at New Orleans evolved into a colony of over 315,000. The local Native Americans were known as the Troyville-Coles Creek people. Settlements were up to several thousand people and usually located on terraces along major streams. They made their own pottery. They hunted with spears and atlatl since bow and arrows were still unknown in much of North America. The native population was low and the land bountiful. They lived on gathered wild plants and local domesticates, maize was of only minor importance since farming was just becoming mainstream. Acorns, persimmons, palmetto, maygrass, and squash were all more important crops. Tobacco was cultivated as well, and protein came from fish, deer and smaller mammals. The great difference in technology encouraged trading which quickly evolved into native dependency. Many young natives flocked to the Clan Corvo and what they saw was a better way of life. As usual the Clan welcomed new members. The natives were never strong enough to mount armed resistence nor did the newcomers force their colonization into areas where the natives lived and hunted. However those areas slowly became isolated with the wildlife being driven away. The Clan Corvo provided training and animals teaching them how to raise cattle, sheep and hogs. The Native Americans steadily and peacefully slid into the Clan Corvo.

The colonies were also spreading out from the 18 remaining bases around South America with each numbering about 63,000 Clan Corvo colonists. The local peoples were unable to resist the Corvo expansion and about 1000 a year joined the Clan. It was Hatteras and Nantucket where the colonists really thrived. The local Native Americans were far fewer and still living in a hunter/gathering society. Seeing the benefits of the Clan, about 2000 a year began joining the 2 colonies. Nantucket population soared to 836,000 while Hatteras reached 782,000.

Mesoamerica reached south into Colombia and north occupying the Mexican states of Jalisko, Guanajuato, Nayarit and Tamaulipas which brought in the base at Port Isobel, Texas yielding a population of 6,896,000 of whom 339,300 were Raven Raiders, making up 50 divisions.

The population of Senegal reached 16,288,000 of whom 746,460 were Raven Raiders making up 110 divisions. The population of Barmaz was 5,374,000 of whom 339,300 were Raven Raiders making up 50 divisions. In the north, Barzam had a population of 1,295,000 of whom 67,860 were Raven Raiders making up 10 divisions. Madeira with 240,000 people, the Canary Islands with 2,073,000 people, the Cape Verde Islands with 449,000 people and Azores with 257,000 people yielding a total Atlantic Island population 3,019,000 which fielded 20 divisions of Raven Raiders of 135,720.

During this period, Aetius was unable to launch an attack on Attila, able to only cut his lines of communication and harass his rear forces. Hoping to avoid the sack of Rome, Emperor Valentinian III sent three high civilian officers as well as Pope Leo I, who met Attila at Mincio. Atilla's superstitious fear of the fate of Alaric, who died shortly after sacking Rome in 410, gave him pause so he negotiated peace. More practically, Italy suffered from a terrible famine in 451 and her crops were faring little better in 452. Attila's invasion of the plains of Northern Italy certainly did not improve the harvest. To advance on Rome would have required supplies which were not available in Italy and taking the city would not have improved Attila's supply situation. Secondly, an East Roman force had crossed the Danube and defeated the Huns who had been left behind by Attila to safeguard their home. Attila faced heavy human and natural pressures to leave Italy before moving south of the Po towards Rome. Wisely he led his forces home.

The Clan Corvo did their best to avoid the steadily increasing chaos swirling around them. For the most part those fighting avoided the Clan Corvo controlled regions. Every base port was heavily armed and manned. The Vandals as well as the Navies of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires were becoming increasingly aggressive bordering on acts of piracy. Raben traveled to the Vandal Court to remind them the neutrality of the Clan Corvo did not mean they would not respond to attacks. He warned them any future attacks would cause a minimum ten-fold retaliation. The same message was personally delivered to the Western and Eastern Roman Emperors as well as the federated tribes settling inside the empires. The Corvus Shipping Fleet was heavily armed and sailed in mini-fleets of at least 15 ships. The heavily armed Raven Raiders accompanied Corvus Shipping land trade caravans outside the Clan Corvo lands, with their Eagles and Ravens flying overwatch and the tigers and wolves prowling the encampments by night. The few times assaults were attempted, they were met with utter destruction as the eagles, ravens, tigers and wolves hunted the offenders down. None dared dispute the animals tracked down the guilty. When someone was dumb enough to attempt an assault, Raven Raider reinforcements were promptly dispatched to enforce the judgement of the aggrieved Raven Raiders. Attackers not killed were enslaved. The Raven Raiders let it be known that the families of captured attackers could appeal for leniency and submit to the Raven Raiders. Any who did so were taken on as laborers earning a living while allowed to live with the slave until they’d served their time when the family would be accepted into the Clan Corvo. The families of the attackers killed were offered sanctuary in the clan on fair terms. The Clan Corvo believed anyone foolhardy enough to attempt to attack a Corvus Shipping Caravan protected by Raven Raiders were in desperate straights. Such continual shows of force kept the vast majority of conflict at bay.

Many people fleeing the chaos of the crumbling Roman Empire came to the gates of the Clan Corvo looking for sanctuary. The established policy was that sanctuary would be given to all who asked if they publicly foreswore all previous allegiance to their tribes and clans and swore allegiance to the Clan Corvo. They also had to give up all their wealth and belongings. If they were unwilling to meet those terms they were turned away. If they accepted, they were evaluated and resettled in areas that would benefit the Clan Corvo and the refugees.

Atilla died in 453. Several sons and other powerful leaders began jockeying for supremacy resulting in fighting as the Hun Confederacy disintegrated under various competing leaders. At the same time, with a large fleet, the Vandals began looting the Mediterranean coasts of the Eastern and Western Empires. With Attila's death the Romans turned their attention back to the Vandals, who were in control of some of the richest agricultural lands of their former empire. In an effort to bring the Vandals into the fold of the Empire, Valentinian III offered his daughter's hand in marriage to the Vandal king's son.

Before this treaty could be carried out, Petronius Maximus, a wealthy senator and a prominent aristocrat, was instrumental in the murders of the Western Roman magister militum, Flavius Aëtius and later Emperor Valentinian III on March 16, 455, declaring himself emperor the next day. He strengthened his position by forcing Valentinian's widow to marry him and forcing Valentinian's daughter to marry his son, thus cancelling the betrothal of his new wife's daughter to the son of the Vandal king. Diplomacy between the Western Empire and the Vandals broke down.

Valentinian's daughter, Empress Licinia Eudoxia, begged her proposed Vandal groom to rescue her. The Vandals responded by attacking Italy. Fleeing the Vandals, Maximus was separated from his bodyguards in the confusion and killed on May 31, having been emperor for 2 1/2 months. On June 2, 455, three days after Maximus' death, the Vandal King Geiseric captured Rome and sacked it for two weeks. Amidst the pillaging and looting of the city, and in response to the pleas of Pope Leo I, the Vandals refrained from arson, torture, and murder. The Vandals shipped boatloads of Romans to North Africa as slaves, destroyed works of art and killed a number of citizens. After sacking Rome, the Vandals took the Empress and her 2 daughters before leaving.

The leadership confusion after Maximus lasted 5 weeks. Marcus Avitus was proclaimed the new emperor of the Western Roman Emperor on July 9, 455 in Arles by the Goths. He was a Gaulic/Roman senator and a high-ranking officer both in the civil and military administration, as well as Bishop of Piacenza. As an aristocrat, he opposed the reduction of the Western Roman Empire to Italy alone, both politically and from an administrative point of view. For this reason, as Emperor he introduced several Gallic senators in the Imperial administration; this policy, however, was opposed by the old line senatorial aristocracy and by the arrogant people of Rome.

The legions of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires were depleted and exhausted from years of near continuous battles and skirmishes. The Germanic tribes, many now settled inside or just outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire, the Vandals, Visigoths, Suebi, Burgundians, Franks, Rugii, Ostogoths, Gepids, Alans, Heruli, Lombards as well as the Huns were equally depleted and exhausted from the continual jockeying and fighting for living space.

Raben managed to stay neutral but was growing increasingly disgusted with the chaos. Several minor incidents had occurred, mostly at sea. In every case the Corvus Shipping Fleets, all armed with cannons, had crushed the ‘pirates’ capturing or sinking those stupid enough to dare attack. All captured survivors were sent off to the Americas in chains to serve their time in slavery before being released to join the Clan. As for those in the home ports the Vandal pirates sailed from, huge Corvus Shipping Fleets blockaded the ports. The remnants of the defeated pirates were displayed and the previously warned ten fold retribution was demanded either in coin, grain or slaves. If the retribution was paid, the Corvus feet sailed away. If it was denied, several divisions of Raven Raiders landed to encircle the port from the landward side while the fleet blockaded the seaward sides. The cost of Raven Raiders landing and blocking the port were multiplied ten fold and added to the retribution. If they held out for a week, the Clan Corvo artillery let loose on the walls and harbor. The destruction was horrendous. The walls were breached, the gates destroyed, the harbor battlements reduced to rubble. The port was sacked, stripped of everything of value and the people carried off to slavery. Every building was utterly destroyed. All that remained were piles of rubble and ashes. Fortunately this only had to be done twice before the demanded retribution were paid upon demand. The Clan Corvo also did their best to reunite the enslaved pirates with their families.

The Vandals as well as the Western Roman Empire were quite aware that the Clan Corvo was allowing them to exist as naval powers. While this certainly unnerved them they felt secure that the Corvoians would keep their word not to attack unless provoked. The 2 destroyed ports and the numerous Corvus Shipping caravan defenses by the Raven Raiders demonstrated the ability of the Clan Corvo to enforce their warnings. In their arrogance they didn’t think the Clan Corvo would attack them without provocation.

During that time Corvus University had set up several foundries around Barmaz and other locations to produce cannons with rifling. Now each brigade had a troop sized battery of 9 cannons and every caravel in the Corvus Shipping Fleet was equipped with multiple cannons while the clinkers had a single short barrel cannon.

In addition, the metallurgists had mastered making much smaller barrels. The smiths began with a sheet of iron that is much thinner than the required barrel. The sheet was rolled into a thin tube that is the length of the barrel and slightly smaller than the required barrel diameter. Then a thicker strip of iron about an inch broad and chamfered to a point on either edge is heated a few inches at a time and wound around the tube. This iron ‘ribbon’ was rolled around the tube using a pair of tongs where one beak is short and flat and the other is rounded and long. The long beak is used to turn and press the heated ribbon strip on to the tube. It took 5 feet of ribbon to make one foot of barrel. Since it is hard to make a barrel from a single ribbon, the smith often made three of these separately and then welded them together into a single three-foot long barrel. Then the whole barrel was placed in the furnace to heat it and forge it as a single barrel. Then the barrel was put into a drilling jig and the inner tube drilled removing most of it, then a rifling bit cut the rifling. A plug was installed on one end and a vent for the lock was drilled leaving the ribbon formed rifled barrel.

Using this method they made hand held single shot matchlock rifles and muskets. They also developed a pointed conical lead bullet so that when fired the cupped bottom would flare to seal the barrel. The rifle and musket fired the same bullet. One troop in each company was equipped with rifles with the other 2 muskets. The Raven Raiders kept their rifles/muskets in a waterproof sheath on their saddle. A 50 cartridge bag was attached to the sheath but could be attached to a belt.

Raven Raider divisions were established and trained in many locations to use the black powder weapons along with their lances and swords. Beginning in November 455, the Atlantic islands sent 20 divisions and the Americas sent 30 divisions to Barmaz. These 50 divisions trained and blended with 25 Barmaz divisions creating 3 armies of 25 divisions each with 169,650 troops, 69,775 ravens, 2025 wolves, 225 eagles and 25 tigers.

During the turmoil of the infighting over the next Western Roman Emperor, the invasion of the Huns as well as the Vandal sack of Rome, Pope Leo flexed his political muscle. At the same time there was regular conflict with the bishops in Gaul as well as the bishops of the Eastern Roman Empire. Pope Leo demanded the Bishop of Rome be recognized as the leader of the entire Christian Church and that all bishops and priests acknowledge his supremacy as the successor of Peter.

While Raben respected Leo’s faith, he felt he was not the humble servant true Christianity required. “The Clan Corvo and Corvoian Christianity acknowledge the Nicene Creed which recognizes Jesus Christ as an equal part of the Holy Trinity. We do not recognize any human claiming to hold earthly authority in Chirst’s name. The Gospels and the New Testament are the sole source of God’s Holy words. Nor do we accept the blasphemy of the Roman Catholic Church in regards to male dominance and denying priesthood to women. Males and females are equals.”

Leo was infuriated at the unequivocal rejection of his authority by the Clan Corvo and Corvoian Christianity. The fact the Clan Corvo continually openly refuted Rome’s claim as God’s earthly spokesperson, going so far as to convert the Roman Catholics in Ireland, infuriated Leo. Pope Leo issued a proclamation condemning Corvoian Christianity as heresy and it’s followers heretics.

It was with a lot of reflection and prayer that Raben knew time had run out. The wars and raids outside Clan Corvo territory were never ending. Pope Leo’s action was the tipping point. By declaring Covoian Christianity heretical, war had been declared on Corvoian Christianity thus violating Barmaz pledge of neutrality. If he didn’t stop the turmoil, thousands would die every year in war, famines, and pestilence. The last vestiges of the Western Roman Empire as well as the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church needed to be crushed and absorbed into the Clan Corvo.

On March 15, 456, as soon as the winter storms in the Mediterranean ceased, the Corvus Shipping fleets, over 8000 ships from every Clan Corvo port, set sail. All vessels of the Western and Eastern Roman Navies as well as the Vandal fleets were targeted. The ships would either surrender or be sunk. All ports that harbored Roman or Vandal vessels would be blockaded until Corvo land forces arrived to take the cities. All other ports would be blockaded, inspecting all ships entering and leaving. All trading vessels would be boarded and searched for contraband. This stranded all Roman and Vandal forces and cut seaborne communications. With the raven overwatch no ship could slip through the iron blockade. A week later the 3 Raven Raider armies moved out of Barmaz.

Raben led Army Group A into Italy. Because of the Vandal actions, Italy was starving. Not only did the Vandals hold the north African breadbasket of Rome, their fleet had cut off grain from Egypt. In addition, the deprivations of the Huns in the north of Italy had disrupted the planting of grains in the fertile Po valley of northern Italy. As a result, Raben had wagon loads of grain brought with him. Army Group A was split into 5 corps of 5 divisions each. The I Corps swept into Turin before they were even aware of the invasion then moved northeast through Milan, Verona, Padua, Venice stopping at Trieste. A brigade was left to occupy each city and pacify the surrounding area. All priests were taken into custody and replaced by Corvoian priests. While word of the invasion had reached the other cities, they were totally unprepared, basically able to shut the gates but with no supplies and few troops to withstand a siege. The fact it was the Raven Raiders approaching terrified them. With the ravens and eagles overhead and promises the population would be treated fairly, the people in the cities threw open the gates allowing the Raven Raiders entry. A division of Raven Raiders moved north beyond Milan. A brigade, 2256 people and their animals, occupied and secured the Gotthard Pass {GM 46.558883, 8.561776}, a second brigade occupied and secured the nearby Julier Pass {GM 46.471758, 9.727601} while the third brigade was held as reserve between them. A division headed north from Verona. One brigade occupied and secured the Reschen Pass {GM 46.832947, 10.510744}, a second brigade occupied and secured the Brenner Pass {GM 47.005545, 11.507220} while a third brigade was held as reserve between them. A last division remained as a strategic mobile reserve in the area of Trieste to counter incursions from the east. All this was accomplished in 5 days.

Raben led the II Corps dash across northern Italy through Parma, Modena and Bologna leaving a brigade to take each city. Coordinating their assault on Ravenna with the Corvus Shipping fleet blockading the city from the Adriatic, the Raven Raiders surrounded and isolated Ravenna in 5 days. Their objective was to reach Ravenna and the Visgothic personal guard of the new Emperor Avitus. Knowing they would receive no quarter if they dared to fight, the personal guard brokered a deal to surrender. The Corps left a brigade to occupy Ravena then moved north to the area of Udine in northeast Italy forming a mobile response unit in case the Huns attempted an invasion.

The III Corps swept through and occupied Genoa, Pisa, Florence. Raben joined them to seize Rome. Just as in the north, there was no appreciable resistance. In Rome, Raben sought out Emperor Avitus and Pope Leo. Ativus tried to flee but was spotted by the raven overwatch, captured and enslaved. Leo had saved Rome from being sacked by Attila and had successfully limited the sacking of the city by the Vandals. He was also the first Pope to unilaterally insist through the auspices of the Emperor that the Bishop Rome had primacy over all other church leaders. As the Raven Raiders secured the city, Raben sent word that the head of the Corvoian Church demanded Leo, his aides and all the priests of Rome meet at Mazbar.

Indignant that he was being so brusquely summoned, Leo understood that he had no choice. Leo had met Raben 25 years before at the Council of Ephesus and respected the learned young man’s scriptural knowledge. Having faced down the Huns and Vandals, he was not about to submit himself to the self styled leader of the Heretic Corvoian Christians. Leo made the short trek to Mazbar only to be stunned when he met Raben. Raben still looked like a prepubescent boy! In 25 years he had not changed!



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