Time on My Hands Chapter 68 - 456-457 CE: Taking the Middle East

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Time on My Hands
Chapter 68: 456-457 CE: Taking the Middle East

All non-Corvoian Christian priests along with the few Arianist priests were replaced by Corvoian Christian priests. The removed priests were taken to the regional administrative city. There they were given options ranging from re-education to slavery. Likewise Corvoian civilian administrators ousted all local administrators, rounding up all who held positions of authority and power along with their families as their possessions were confiscated. This included the pompous senators, military officers and other governmental officials.

These people were held prisoner for a month allowing the public to lodge legal complaints against the deposed officials. These societal elites were split into family units, then shipped off to locations ranging from Senegal to the Americas to be integrated in the Clan Corvo. Those who had abused their power, which were all too numerous, were sentenced to slavery. The common people, who had lived under the heel of the former elites, were taught about the egalitarian Clan Corvo as the Corvo administrators moved in to begin assimilating the locals. Family run farms were allowed to continue. Farms where tenants worked the land for wealthy land owners were confiscated as was their wealth. The land was divided amongst the tenants allowing them to take ownership of their parcel. The land owner was given a chance to join their former tenants farming a family sized plot. If they refused they were relocated at least 500 miles away. Most chose to be relocated since their former tenants held deep seated beliefs, usually justified, that the land owners had taken advantage of them.

In every church and monastery, Raben sent scribes to gather up the writings, records, and relics. The same was done in every political jurisdiction. All records and relics were gathered. The religious and political writings and relics were labeled, packed up and sent to Barmaz for collation and storage or display.

As the first year of action of Operation Harmony ended, Raben accompanied the caravan with Pope Leo, his aids and the other top Roman Catholic officials and priests traveling to Barmaz. Each evening they held intense discussions on Christianity and the Clan Corvo. When they arrived at the Barmaz border they were stunned by the walls surrounding Barmaz. But it was upon seeing the vast library of the Corvus Scriptorium that they were truly gobsmacked. They had never imagined such a huge library could exist much less that it did. They had thought Raben had been exaggerating about the huge library, they began to understand that Raben was well read and indeed the foremost Christian scholar.

That first night Raben had a formal supper with Leo and his priests. They had also seen the many women already consecrated as priests or studying to do so, which disgusted them.

Raben entered the dining room dressed in his normal homespun robe while his guests were dressed in their best robes. After having them take seats around the round table, wine was served. "I have much to tell you tonight. I told you I was trained as an Ianuarian as a child. I was one of a set of triplets. Our widowed mother was just 14 and had a difficult time with the pregnancy and birth, not making it to full term. My brothers were born before me and were just a bit undersize. I was born considerably undersize. No one expected me to survive and my village didn't want to waste their resources trying. Fortunately the tribal Ianuarian, an older woman, saw something in me and adopted me. I grew up by her side, traveling from village to village as needed. I learned her secrets. I learned herbal lore. As I slowly grew we discovered my body was not normal. While I was a boy with normal male genitals, we discovered I was also a girl with normal female genitals. I was and am simultaneously fully male and female."

Leo and his priests were shocked. "Then you are an abomination," Leo pronounced.

"Once more you are wrong," Raben gently declared. "God made humans in his image. Most humans are made male or female. God is, by his very nature, everything, therefore God is both male and female. Men much like yourselves misunderstood that when God made us in his image, they incorrectly assumed God was male rather than simultaneously both male and female. I speak from experience, being both male and female is not easy. God took pity on humanity by making most of us only male or female. Like me, a few of us are truly born in God's image, both male and female."

Leo realized he could neither confirm nor refute Raben's words. That really irritated him.

"As we talk I'll step behind this screen to switch to my alternate identity, my twin sister Fiach," Raben declared as he started to disrobe. "The Celtic Goddess of healing, Ianuaria, exists. I have met and spoken to her several times."

“BLASPHEMY” shouted Leo indignantly. “Ianuaria is a pagan myth! There is only the ONE TRIUNE GOD!”

“Another misinterpretation of the scriptures,” Raben/Fiach calmly replied. “The Triune God we worship is the supreme God. Remember this, throughout the scriptures other gods are mentioned. They can not compete with our God. God has commanded ‘thou shall have no gods before me’. Ianuaria is a lesser god of the Celtic Faith. She has told me she is actually an Angel of the Triune God. The pagan gods are in reality the angels of the one true God. Earlier peoples were not ready for one God so angels became God’s puppet godlings.”

One of the priests asked, “So why did they compete with our God?”

“They didn’t,” Fiach explained. “Their followers acted on their own. That’s why none of them ever showed up when God’s prophets challenged them. Their worshipers lost faith in their lesser gods and they were able to slip into obscurity. Some of their followers turned to the victorious God.”

Fiach stepped from behind the screen. “Now you see me in my female guise, Fiach. Since I am both male and female, I know that women are just as capable of being in the priesthood as men.”

Leo and his compatriots were once more left confounded.

“Now, back to my history. As my adopted mother aged I began treating patients while she supervised. By age 14, I was the tribal Ianuarian. I developed an affinity for wildlife becoming the best hunter in the tribe. Due to the circumstance of my birth, I was always smaller than my brothers and other age-mates. It was at that point the Roman Slavers attacked our tribe. I was out doing rounds so I missed the actual attack. I found my adopted mother crucified to a tree, dying. I was too small to get her down. She told me it was too late to save her but that I could rescue the prisoners. Then she asked me to ease her death. I did so and hugged her as she passed. I was furious and set off after the slavers. I took out the night watch with arrows, then slipped through the camp slitting the throats of the sleeping men. Then I freed my captured tribesmen. As I was doing that, one of the men I’d killed returned to life, Marcellus Longinus. He was weak so I was able to pin him to a tree with a spear then used arrows to pin his arms and legs. He realized I was different since I’d single handedly wiped out his band of 98 men. He was tired of living and begged me to kill him, going so far as to name me his heir. He even told me I had to utterly destroy his body, burn it to ashes and then pound the charred bones to powder. Only once he was nothing but ash and powder would the regeneration end. Those who knew Marcellus thought he was a Demon since he didn’t age and quickly healed all wounds and even came back to life if killed. I utterly destroyed his body. As I pulverized the last bit of bone, I felt the Curse flow into me. I have not aged since that day. I heal all wounds. I’ve died and came back to life. By killing Marcellus Longinus I killed the Demon thus becoming the Demon Slayer.”

“I continued as tribal Ianuarian well into adulthood. But since I never aged people began whispering that I was a witch, so I headed out into the world entering the Roman Empire. I sought out the farm Marcellus Longinus owned that I inherited. That farm was Barmaz. Later I brought my birth mother, my triplet mate brothers and their wives and kids and my step brother and step sister and their mates and kids to Barmaz farm. They were the start of the Clan Corvo. Many of the members of the Clan Corvo are my nephews and nieces. In time all will be my descendants through my mother. I am the head of the Clan Corvo and my longevity and unending leadership is what keeps us centered and strong.” Fiach walked to a side table, picked up a large drawstring bag made of undyed wool and brought it to the supper tables.

"Marcellus Longinus saved this," Fiach said as she opened the bag and reverently drew out a spear point. "It is the Lance of Longinus, the Holy Spear. This is the tip of the spear that pierced Christ's side. The brown residue is the dried blood of our lord and savior."

Pope Leo and his aides made the sign of the Cross and knelt before the Holy Relic. "You keep that hidden away here in your mountain stronghold," Leo whispered in disbelief. "It should be kept in Rome so all might be blessed by seeing it."

"No," Fiach replied. "It's too dangerous. Look how you have reacted. You pay homage to it. Those with weaker wills would worship it, tearing them from Christ. I feel the same way about the cross. While the cross is important, too many people pray to the cross, not God."

So began the re-education of the Roman Catholic clergy. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church was torn apart and destroyed. Many who refused to accept Corvoian Christianity were banished to monasteries on remote islands where fresh air and physical labor cleared their minds. If they refused to work, they were not fed. Leo and many of the bishops eventually headed to obscurity in monasteries in the isolated Faroe Islands and Shetland Islands where everyone had to work to live a meek subsistence style life of piety. The more reasonable clergy accepted the re-education offered at Corvo University after which they were returned to the ministry but never in a familiar place. Even if they managed to return to their former parish they would find the population much changed due to the rapid assimilation of the formerly downtrodden 95%. Many older priests felt their calling to be a priest made them better than the common people entitling them to ‘lead’ their parishioners in the mysterious ways of Christ. They could not accept the Corvoian Christian concept that priests were servants of the common people. Many simply could not accept the humility required of the Corvoian Christian priests, choosing to leave the ministry. None were allowed to return to their homeland. Along with a few hard core theologians, the older priests found themselves enslaved working on state organized engineering projects until their defiant attitude broke or they died. Those who broke were freed to join Corvoian society as freemen or to head to a remote monastery.

Overall during the first year of Operation Harmony, the few times stiff resistence occurred, the cannons of the brigade artillery stunned and destroyed all resistence. At sea, the cannons on board every Corvus Shipping vessel easily annihilated all resistence. From amongst the conquered peoples, the tribes and clans in Europe, the Middle East and Africa; the elite were rounded up and relocated hundreds of miles away. Those who remained, the common people, for the first time in their lives were treated with respect and allowed to flower. Their sense of belonging and security was easily transferred to the Clan Corvo.

There had been 225 divisions of Raven Raiders committed to the massive assault, 1,526,850 warriors from a Clan Corvo population of 40,223,755. Raben had been quietly building the troops and fleets for over 25 years so there really was no quick massive arms build up. Logistics had been mastered as well as unit army communications via raven overwatch. Grain and other food supplies had been stockpiled. Specially trained and experienced Clan Corvo farmers spread into every region to teach the progressive techniques and new crops. Attempts by local defenders to catch the Raven Raiders by surprise or in traps never succeeded thanks to the vigilant birds and animals. Eagles did long range overview flights while the ravens did follow-ups and near range observation. The wolves and tigers provided protection to the camps and units during the night. In addition, the Raven Raiders and their mounts were conditioned to travel at a rate of 30 miles a day for a week. With a rest of one day they could do so again. They Raven Raiders were able to outmaneuver all opposition. All targeted areas were occupied by September. The troops built winter barracks and patrols rounded up those who had fled into the wilds.

The colonial expansion in the Americas continued. {The Inca had not yet coalesced into a viable civilization.} The only semi-organized culture in South America was the Moche in Peru but they were not politically organized as an empire. They were a group of mini-states that shared a common culture. In North America the tribes along the Mississippi were just coalescing into settlements from semi-nomadic lifestyles. There were dozens of other proto-cultures in Americas but none were even remotely organized enough to provide meaningful resistence to the incessant expansionist pressures of the Clan Corvo. The fact the native Americans had no beasts of burden or wagons put them at a tremendous disadvantage as compared to the Clan Corvo. There were many brief small skirmishes but no major battles. As much as possible, the natives were gently assimilated into the Clan Corvo. To assist in Operation Harmony, another 25 divisions of Raven Raiders were transported to Europe.

During the winter of 456-457, Clan Corvo civilians and priests were well into the process of assimilating the people of Britain, Gaul, Iberia and Italy in Europe. The same was happening in the newly occupied areas of Africa. As the enslaved monks finished the Pharaonic Canal, they would be sent further east along with other enslaved prisoners to work on state engineering projects such as dams, roads and bridges.

The Eastern Roman Empire was in turmoil. After the fall of Italy and the easy overwhelming wholesale destruction of the Roman Navy as well as the simultaneous conquest of Roman Africa and Europe, Emperor Marcian, along with the rest of the Eastern Roman Empire, was stunned that the entire Western Roman Empire and their barbarian Federatae had fallen to the Clan Corvo within a span of 3 months. The fantastical tales of the ferocity and battle acumen of the Raven Raiders no longer seemed so far fetched. Tales that they commanded thunder and lightning to destroy walls seemed even more chimerical. The loss of Egypt and the loss of control of the seas hit them especially hard. Those in power had difficulty believing the Clan Corvo had not only overrun the Western Empire, they overran the many barbarian tribes the Western Empire had been forced to accommodate for centuries. The utter destruction of the Imperial Navy was a devastating blow and they correctly feared the Corvoian onslaught would hit them next. They hurriedly recalled what forces they could from the eastern borders and unsuccessfully attempted to hire Huns and other barbarian mercenaries to bolster their forces. The barbarians were also stunned by the rapid and utter conquests by the Corvoians. The barbarians could see the large numbers of Raven Raiders across the borders. After 3 months of hard campaigning, they witnessed well disciplined strong units who seemed as if they'd just taken to the field rather than the expected weary haggard warriors after 3 months and hundreds of miles of campaigning. The barbarians too were depleted, weary by the many years of unending fighting and were too worried about their own fate to send any assistance to Constantinople.

The Persian Sassanids took advantage of the chaos and withdrawal of border troops by the Eastern Roman Empire to push north against the borders of the Western Roman Empire aiming for control of the southern shores of the Black Sea. A deeply religious man, Emperor Yazdegerd II also wanted to firmly establish Zoroastrianism as the state religion. Unlike the religious tolerance of his predecessors, he grew suspicious of the Christians in the Sassanid army and expelled them all from the governing body and army, persecuting the Christians in his land, and, to a much lesser extent, the Jews. His mistake was discounting the threat of the distant Clan Corvo. After all, they had over 3 centuries of back and forth fighting with the Roman Empire. They knew all too well that the Roman Empire was a tough enemy so they assumed that to have taken Rome the upstart Corvoians had caught the Roman Empire unprepared.

They also incorrectly assumed the Romans had made the Corvoians pay dearly for their victory. They also assumed the Romans in Constantinople would be able to battle the Corvoians to a stalemate.

Army Group K arrived from the Americas in December, 456. They spread out to occupy and hold Iberia, Gaul, Switzerland, Italy North Africa, Egypt and garrison the Mediterranean islands. Replacing Army Groups A, B, C, F and G allowing them to participate in the coming spring offences.

In February 457 Amy Group F renewed the Corvoian advance from the Sinai Peninsula. I Corps, the Camel Corps, swept around the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba into Saudi Arabia taking Medina, Mecca, Riyadh, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen and Oman, the entire Arabian Peninsula. The II Corps moved across the Sinai into Palestine moving between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea/Jordan River taking Jerusalem, Trye, Tripoli, Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and Antioch. The III, IV and V Corps, 101,790 Raven Raiders, paralleled II Corps along the east side of the Jordan Rift taking Petra, Amman and Damascus. After turning Petra, Amman and Damascus over to II Corps, they headed east into the Syrian Desert.

The Romans had controlled most of the territory within 130 miles of the Mediterranean Coast. While the Sassanid Empire was centered around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, it also occupied Iraq, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Sassanid capital was Ctesiphon located on the east bank of the Tigris River, about ten miles south of the end of it's navigable portion, roughly 20 miles south of Bagdad. Because of the terrain, the border between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanid Empire was not fixed due to the barren lands, much of it desert, between them. The distance from Amman to Ctesiphon was 511 miles crossing first the Euphrates River and then the Tigris River.

The Sassanids learned of the successful Clan Corvo attack along the southeastern Mediterranean Coast, easily overrunning the vast majority of the Eastern Roman Empire forces allowing only a handful to escape into Anatolia. They knew the Clan Corvo had utterly destroyed the Roman Navy and taken the islands of the eastern Mediterranean. They were happy the centuries old adversary of the Sassanids was crumbling. However the Sassanids were caught unprepared when a large cavalry force unexpectedly emerged from the Syrian Desert to swat their border troops guarding the Euphrates River as if they were nothing more than bothersome flies. By the time word of the Raven Raiders unexpected attack reached Ctesiphon, the Raven Raiders had crossed en mass at Ramadi, just 70 miles from the southern most ford across the Euphrates which was just 13 miles north of the capital. After the initial messenger from Ramadi, news from the area ended. Scouts sent to investigate never returned.

Disbelieving the Clan Corvo could mount a significant long range offensive they assumed it was just a small scouting force that had caught their forces unawares to test their strengths. They figured it would take a month for sufficient forces to reach the area before they could mount more than a harassing attack.

As a precaution Yazdegerd II sent out messengers ordering all available troops from the southern and eastern borders to the capital to meet the unexpected new threat while ordering his northern forces to press their attack to the Black Sea. Larger scouting parties were dispatched to gauge the size and composition of the Clan Corvo forces. None of those scouts returned, however a small haggard remnant of the troops that had been stationed at Ramadi on the Euphrates stumbled into the troops guarding the vital ford.

Only 3 of the nearly 3000 man border cavalry force made it to the Tigris and they were horribly wounded. Not from battle wounds, but from raven attacks! They were rushed to Ctesiphon and the Emperor where they relayed that thousands of ravens had appeared over the city the day before the attack. The attack came shortly after dawn when thousands of cavalry troops accompanied by wolves and tigers with eagles and ravens overhead slammed through their defenses as if they didn't exist. They reported the troops on the west bank of the Euphrates were slaughtered and overwhelmed in fifteen minutes forcing the river crossing and sweeping through the city within a half hour of the initial assault. The ravens and eagles swarmed anyone who broke ranks raking them with their claws, plucking out eyes with their beaks and even ripping open throats. They reported they'd been part of a mounted unit, 300 strong, who were dispatched to warn Ctesiphon. As they fled the debacle, the birds had harassed them and the unrelenting Corvoian cavalry had cut them down. The survivors admitted it seemed clear they had been allowed to escape. Worse, these terrifying troops were less that an hour away.

Emperor Yazdegerd II and his staff were stunned. His personal body guard and other available troops were rushed to the ford where they saw dozens of eagles circling menacingly. Shortly thereafter, nearly 70,000 raucous ravens arrived circling high above the Sassanid forces. As in many cultures, ravens were considered harbingers of death and disaster. As the sun set they watched in disbelief as thousands of cavalry troops calmly arrived on the other side of the river to set up their camp. The banners and flags of the Raven Raiders had never been seen. Sassanid riders were dispatched to rush the still gathering Sassanid army.

The Raven Raiders had smashed through all the troops, skirmishers and scouts the Sassanids had deployed as irresistibly as storm waves crashing against the beaches. The ravens and eagles flying overhead easily spotted and harassed the terrified troops. Night patrols by the wolves and tigers smelled out every soldier and scout hiding or trying to spy.

The Raven Raiders camped within sight of the ford, the size of the encampment, the howls of the wolves and roars of the tigers intimidated the Sassanid warriors. As night fell the Sassanids couldn't understand why so many strange wagons were taking up positions on the west bank of the ford.

Shortly before dawn Yazdegerd II came out to survey his foes and encourage his troops. The size of the Raven Raider encampment was unnerving. As the sun rose 70,000 ravens took flight from the camp darkening the sky over the terrified Sassanid troops. After fifteen minutes the ravens suddenly parted clearing the sky.

A lone obviously young female rider rode into the river with a large pink banner emblazoned with a raven and a green skeleton. The rider stopped mid stream. Behind the rider 70,000 warriors with their banners flying lined the west bank. The sight was intimidating.

“I am Fiach Corvo. I am the founder of the Clan Corvo, the Corvo Christian Church, the Corvus Scriptorium, Corvus Shipping, Corvo University and am the founder and commander of the Raven Raiders. In addition, I am the Demon Slayer. I have led this small portion of my troops to conquer the Sassanid Empire. I call on you to lay down your arms and submit to the Clan Corvo.”

“You are a delusional fool,” Yazdegerd II replied with disdain. “The Demon Slayer is a myth! You are but a child and a female at that! Your elders abuse you!”

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Another one in the process of biting the dust.

Beoca's picture

Persia would not have been an easy nut to crack at the time, unlike the collapsing Western Empire or the tribesmen in the Gulf. "Lucky" for Clan Corvo, they caught Yazdegerd II off guard. The walls of Constantinople, and the hordes of the Huns, look to be much tougher tests than whatever the defenders of Ctesiphon might assemble. But there won't be an Attila. Unless things really drag out, there won't be a Belisarius. Circumstances will need to be perfect for there to be a chance of the Raiders getting stopped somewhere, and it doesn't seem like it will happen.

As far as Leo et al, Raben/Fiach could have probably been a tad more diplomatic. Nonetheless, there was never going to be a happy ending.

Historically, this will put Clan Corvo on the map for both China and India (who the Sassanids did have diplomatic relations with). India in particular may well be feeling a bit nervous, much like the Byzantine Empire is.

So Much for Neglecting the Middle East...

...as I mistakenly thought was happening after the last chapter.

Once again, though, Fiach, leading attacks by ravens and wild animals along with her more conventional but (to the victims) impossibly fresh forces with unimagined technology, seems to be presenting herself more like a demon than a demon slayer. In the Zoroastrian duality that Yazdegerd II favors, she's clearly a "disruptive spirit" (Ahriman) and not an emissary of the Lord of Light.

I keep sliding to the conclusion that Raben/Fiach cares (even?) less about trying to avoid bloodshed than they used to. The "I can't be killed, so there's no point in fighting us" demonstration, as futile as it might have been, used to precede the massacre at the enemy border rather than follow it.