Time on My Hands Chapter 71 - 490 CE: Operation Harmony Phase 2 Begins

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Time on My Hands
Chapter 71: 490 CE: Operation Harmony Phase 2 Begins

In the year 490, Fiach began the phase 2 of Operation Harmony. In Africa, 4 Army Groups of Raven Raiders moved north out of the South African colonies. Another 4 Army Groups launched from the southern boundary of Corvoian Africa. In Madagascar 1 Army Group landed. What little native opposition that arose was simply obliterated and the tribes subdued and assimilated. By 492 all of Africa and Madagascar were part of the Clan Corvo.

In addition, 9 Raven Raider Army Groups moved east. Fiach accompanied the 1 army that moved through Siberia. The native people mostly lived peaceful nomadic or semi nomadic lives living primarily in yurt style homes. Hunting and reindeer herding are their primary means of living with seasonal fishing. They used reindeer as a draft animal throughout the year enabling them to cover great distances. Primarily a hunter/gather society, they did a small bit of farming. They lived in small mobile villages to keep from overtaxing the land but maintained regular trade amongst their clans and tribes. They had no need for formal government in their clan-based social structure. Their faith was a shamanistic/animistic belief system which stressed respect for the land and its resources. They believed that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence and that all things; animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork and even words were animated and alive. Their shamans were naturally adept individuals who when young apprenticed with older shamans to learn the secrets and rituals of their faith. This included making and using hallucinogens to make contacts in the spirit world while in an altered state of consciousness. They believed in totems and animal spirit guides to help humans navigate the dangerous world. Signs and portents were taken extremely seriously.

The Siberian natives were highly suspicious of all travelers, especially when they arrived in large numbers. They had many experiences of heavily armed adventurers pillaging their settlements, killing, raping and kidnaping their populace. Because of their self sufficiency and remoteness, western knowledge of the natives was limited. Well in advance of the main Army group, Fiach accompanied a company of 242 Raven Raiders with 99 ravens and 3 wolves into the unexplored area. Fiach had 20 ravens, 2 wolves, an eagle and a tiger traveling with her. They took care to respect the land and all that was in it while using the ravens and eagle to map out and mark the easiest route. The birds reported the presence of natives discreetly following and watching them with the number growing each day. After 5 days Fiach slipped away armed with a bow and arrows and a knife accompanied by the tiger and 2 wolf while 30 ravens and the eagle flew overhead.

Fiach visited the camps the watchers used, learning their language and listening to their conversations. Based on what she learned she sent the birds to locate the villages, particularly the village of the clan headman. Fiach traveled to the village and slipped into the settlement. Utilizing her empathetic abilities she kept the village reindeer settled and the dogs quiet. She set up the largest kettle on the central hearth, added water, cut up potatoes and carrots from her pack, and added the diced meat of a Siberian musk deer she’d killed to make a hearty stew.

As the villagers awoke they stepped outside their yurts to find an unknown preteen girl smiling at them as she sat by the central village hearth surrounded by the village dogs. The kettle suspended over the cooking fire was steaming and a pleasant mouth watering aroma filled the village. Seeing the dogs placidly lying around the strange young girl unnerved them since the dogs were quite effective hunting and guard dogs. That the dogs hadn’t barked made them wonder about the mysterious girl. After arming themselves they cautiously looked around to see if there were any other surprises as they roused the other residents.

“I come in peace to talk with your elders and shamans,” the girl declared in their language as she used her empathetic abilities to broadcast serenity and peace. “I have come to prepare you for major changes in your way of life.”

An old man wearing many amulets, charms and talismans spoke. “Are you an evil spirit?”

“No, I am not an evil spirit although there are those who would disagree,” the girl replied as the village cautiously came to life. “When provoked, I am quite deadly. If I wished you harm I could have killed everyone while you slept. To prove this, I placed a green twig from an evergreen tree beneath your sleeping furs and blankets. Have someone from every yurt check and bring them forth.”

It was the women who returned to the yurts, all quickly returning with the small single stem evergreen boughs they found beneath their sleeping places. Needless to say that caused a great deal of consternation since obviously the girl had entered every yurt, placed a bough beneath each sleeping person, and slipped out without disturbing anyone.

“You could still be an evil spirit,” the old shaman declared. “You could have cast magic to keep us asleep.”

“Casting such powerful magic to effect everyone in the village would take a great deal of power and many hours of preparation,” the girl smiled. “I simply used my stealth skills, just as I did with your dogs and reindeer. You know charming animals is difficult, especially this many, but you see they come to me and trust me. Do you not trust their judgement of me?”

The old man nodded but was clearly cautious as he exchanged looks of concern with the rest of the villagers.

“I am Fiach Corvo,” she explained. “Please, come and eat while I talk, then I’ll answer your questions.”

The people posted guards as a precaution then gathered about the boiling stew. Fiach ladled a bowl for herself as the women stepped forward to check the stew.

“The stew contains deer meat,” Fiach explained. “It also contains a tuber cultivated on the other side of the world that my people have been sharing with other lands. You can easily grow it here and we will share it with you as well as many other crops and animals unknown to you. Come and eat your fill.”

The offer of food was considered proper courtesy and held sacred by the natives. Their world was one of subsistence living with little food to spare and starvation never far away. To have this strange girl prepare a hearty meal showed her good intentions. Still they were cautious but the aroma of the stew overcame their reticence. Once they tasted it, they dug in.

“My people are expanding into your territory, but we do not want to displace you,” Fiach began. “You know we are coming because you have sent scouts to spy on us. I’m sure they have reported we do our best to respect the land and take only the minimum we need and that we have wolves and ravens willingly working with us. It is our practice that we try to plant a new tree for each we chop down. We bring herds of cattle and flocks of sheep as well as captive birds to use for food so we do not hunt the animals you hunt. We bring new foods and ways of life so we will not be competing with you for food resources.”

"Instead of having your scouts spy on my people, we'd like to openly invite them into our camps. They can observe how we live and how we treat each other and our animals,” Fiach stated. “Your people can watch the power of our weapons so they can tell you it will be impossible to withstand us.”

“Our intent is to merge our peoples into one, as we have done with every people we have met,” Fiach continued. “We will teach you our ways while we learn your ways. When our peoples merged with others, we changed to adapt their ways while they adapted to our ways, we blended our peoples. We do NOT want to destroy your people but will preserve your knowledge and skills. We will honor and respect your spiritual beliefs as we share our beliefs with you. We want to acculturate our individual lifestyles into each other, hopefully peacefully with your cooperation. To be totally honest, we will expand into your territory whether or not you cooperate. You’ve noted our strange weapons, they can bring death at distances far greater than bows can reach.”

“My people are the Clan Corvo,” Fiach explained. “We started out as a family. As we grew and prospered, we tried our best to live in peace. Unfortunately others grew jealous of our wealth and prosperity so we had to defend ourselves. This went on for generations, as we defeated and absorbed an enemy, others appeared. We decided the only way to ensure peace was to eliminate the ability of others to fight. To do that we eliminated our differences by merging our peoples. We have conquer some peoples. We tried to kill as few as possible, especially women and children. We captured the vast majority of those peoples who fought us. After disarming them we then shared our knowledge with them while keeping their knowledge and history, merging their peoples into ours.”

The clan head and shaman were clearly concerned and apprehensive by what she said but let her continue.

“What I am about to say will be difficult to believe. Even though I look like a child, I am quite old. I am a skilled healer and a deadly warrior,” Fiach continued. “I am also the founder ond matriarch of the Clan Corvo. I have been Cursed by our God. It’s not an evil curse but it is difficult to live with. I received the curse when I was 14. I have not aged since then. I am immune to poisons and heal all wounds. If wounded severely enough, I can die, but my body will heal and I will come back to life. I am also 329 years old.”

That caused the men to grumble and scoff at her words. They knew it was impossible to be that old.

“I can also talk to the spirits of animals,” Fiach continued. “When I arrived last night I spoke to the reindeer and dogs. I settled their concerns about a stranger being in their midst telling them I was a friend who came to speak with you.”

The shaman frowned. “You spoke to the dogs and reindeer? They understood you?”

“Yes,” Fiach smiled. “I can speak with many animals. Please, let me show you. I ask that you not scream nor run away as I call my animal helpers.”

Fiach tilted her head back and howled like a wolf. The sound was so lifelike the villagers shivered.

A wolf howl replied from the east, another from the west. Fiach barked and yipped to the dogs and grunted to the reindeer telling them to not be afraid. The villagers were stunned as they could see their animals react to Fiach’s animal speech. Then a wolf trotted into the village from the east and another from the west. The wolves walked right up to Fiach for scratches before sitting on their haunches, one on each side. The villagers were stunned.

Fiach then tilted her head and let out a bone chilling roar. The villagers shivered with fear as an identical roar sounded to the north of the village. In moments a huge orange and black striped tiger sauntered into the village ignoring the people and animals as it walked to Fiach. Fiach scratched the tiger under his chin, then the tiger sprawled in front of Fiach.

The villagers were awed as they looked at the wolves and tiger with Fiach. Then she tilted her head and let out a sharp piercing scream that chilled their blood. From high in the sky an identical scream replied. Shocked, the villagers looked up to see a majestic eagle circling down until it landed on Fiach’s head.

The villagers had no idea how to respond. Then Fiach crocked like a raven. From the trees surrounding the village 20 ravens crocked and flew forth raucously cheering Fiach as they flew around her before settling on the ground around her. The villagers were clearly gobsmacked and awed by Fiach’s affinity with the animals. While they had to admit they witnessed Fiach controlling the animals, they still, they could not accept she was as old as she claimed.

“You need proof,” Fiach wearily smiled as she sensed their disbelief. She pointed to one man who she knew to be the leader as she held out her left arm. “Take your knife and cut open my arm from elbow to hand. You’ll be able to see the bloody wound, then you’ll see it heal. Do it!”

Realizing he was being challenged by this youngster he frowned. “I do not want to create an incident amongst our peoples.”

“There will be no incident because I’m telling you to wound me,” Fiach smiled. “Now cut me.”

The man looked into Fiach’s eyes and could see no signs of insanity nor any fear. Reaching out he grasped her hand while drawing his knife with the other. Then he placed the tip of the blade against the inside of her elbow. He kept searching her eyes for a sign of fear but saw only a calm serenity. Slowly he pushed the blade into her flesh, watching for pain and anxiety but saw a smile.

“At my age I’ve learned to enjoy pain,” Fiach smiled. “Finish the cut.”

The villagers watched in awe and fear as the sharp blade sliced down to the bone, then pulled down to the wrist. The flesh separated as the wound lengthened revealing the muscle and bone inside. Blood flowed freely. The man pulled the knife away leaving the gaping wound. Fiach continued to smile as she moved her arm so the astounded crowd could see the horrid wound. Even as they watched in amazement the flow of blood slowed and stopped. Then the flesh at either end of the long wound began knitting together pulling itself back together. No one spoke until the wound was fully closed.

“Now you have witnessed my Curse,” Fiach sighed. “I am doomed to never ending life, never aging, never becoming an adult, physically too young to have children of my own, watching those I love age and die while I continue unchanged. I’ve watched 16 generations of my family be born, grow up, raise families of their own, then wither in old age and die. During that time my family has grown into the Clan Corvo with me providing continuity and wisdom.”

Most of the adults began to consider how never aging or dying could be a curse. While still hesitant, the shaman felt the spirits were telling him to trust Fiach. Messengers were dispatched to tell the native scouts to enter the Clan Corvo camps and observe first hand.

For several days Fiach and the shaman used their hallucinogen enhanced consciousness to explore the spirit world. Fiach discovered much. The shamanistic beliefs of the natives were closely related to the shamanistic beliefs of the early Celts. While the gods and spirits had different names, their responsibilities within their pantheon had direct counterparts. With the guidance of shaman, Fiach traveled through the spirit world. Her affinity with animals enabled the shaman to derive greater insight to the spirits.

The multi day experiences didn’t make Fiach question her devotion to God, but it opened her eyes to the myriad paths to commune with God even if those paths didn’t recognize Jesus or called the deity Danu or Gaia or Earth Mother or other names. More importantly, the mystic experiences told her she’d been wrong about her approach to faith.

While her intentions had been good, the reality was not. The removal of priests and leadership of the conquered faiths to the Corvo University School of Religion had been misguided. The reason to bring them to the school was to document the tenants of their faith and rituals then to educate them in Corvo Christianity. The hope had been to convert them. Even worse was the fact the reeducated priests would not be sent back to where they came. She had already realized it was impossible to create a single faith that covered the variant valid concepts of the many faiths. She had tried to maintain an ideal to accept and tolerate all legitimate faiths. But her actions had the unrecognized consequences of gutting the non Christian faiths by stripping away their faith leadership and those who knew the rituals practices.

Studying with the Siberian shaman helped Fiach see the error of her ways. Inadvertently she’d allowed Corvo Christianity to become oppressive to other faiths.

Shamanic practices originated as early as the Paleolithic, easily predating all organized religions. Shamanism attempts to mediate between humans and the good and evil spirits. It was the precursor to organized religions.

The goals of training all priests to have a basic understanding and tolerance of other faiths was noble and still a goal. However, the Clan Corvo also had a responsibility to preserve the non Christian faiths. Accepting responsibility for her misguided actions, Fiach ordered the Corvo School of Religion to try to collect the diaspora of priests and send them back to the followers of their faiths. The documentation for each faith was gathered and published to provide the disparate faiths with a guide. It would take a while to correct the mistakes made, but Fiach was determined to make the best effort to restore the faiths.

Since the Clan Corvo didn't charge into Siberia raping and pillaging, they were accepted as visitors. The Corvoian priests had been trained to respect the shamanistic and animalistic worship/faith of the natives and to share with the people Corvoian morality. Christianity was NOT to be forced upon the natives. Any priests who violated those instructions would be severely punished. If Corvoian Christianity spread in the area it would happen by the example set by the Corvoian teachers, scribes and language specialists who joined them to learn and record their culture and faiths while sharing Corvoian knowledge. So as not to be a burden, the Corvoians brought their own supplies. The Siberian natives had no elite, being guided by headman and shamans. The natives were no threat so would be allowed an in place assimilation. The natives were consulted about cutting roads, building bridges, laying railroads and establishing trading villages so they didn’t violate sacred areas.

Further south in the great western and central Asian steppes of Kazakhstan and Mongolia, 5 army groups, 169,800 soldiers, moved east sweeping up the nomadic tribes and taking the towns and villages. Fiach traveled with them talking to the natives and letting the Raven Raider generals handle the military strategies. The first people they faced in the steppes of eastern Kazakhstan were the remnants of the Yueban who ceased to existed during the 480s when they were invaded by the Gaoche and split into four tribes, known as the Chuyue, Chumi, Chumuhun, and Chuban. Weakened by years of warfare that had caused the demise of their larger federation they were easily outmaneuvered and overpowered by the Raven Raiders thanks to the raven/eagle overwatch and the wolf/tiger scouting. Next in the Atali Mountains between Kazakhstan and Mongolia they encountered the Fufuluo, a Gaoche tribe of twelve clans of steppe nomads, who rebelled against but were defeated by the Rouran. They had escaped west and established a state in 487 after pushing the Yueban west. They still raided the Rouran. Again the Raven Raiders outmaneuvered and outfought the less organized and woefully under-armed nomads. In both cases, the warriors fought briefly and fled. Their villages and settlements were easily overrun capturing the women, children and elderly. The warriors were invited to rejoin their families under a truce for 1 month. At the end of the month they could leave taking their families with them. Fortunately during that month they were able to witness the benefits of joining the Clan Corvo, the majority stayed. The few who left discovered their families were tired of the wars and raids. Few families accompanied the leaving warriors. Many of those who left returned in a few months.

Even further south, the Raven Raiders sent 3 army groups east through the mountains of the Hindu Kush from Afghanistan and Pakistan to take out the Hephthalites. The eagle/raven overwatch coupled with the wolf/tiger assistance proved extremely valuable in the steep mountains and valleys as the Raven Raiders once more were able to outmaneuver their opponents although the Clan Corvo casualties were slightly higher.

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Vindication can be bittersweet

Beoca's picture

I feel like more than a few of the people who had been hoping that this moment might come, won't read it as they have turned away from this tale (based on in-comments arguments from previous chapters). If that's the case, I feel sorry for them. I have made the case that the Clan and Fiach aren't evil, haven't become drunk with power. It's good to see Fiach come to terms with the fact that she can't be fully aware of every on-the-ground reality. As the Clan's bounds continue to expand, it'll only become more true. This is, however, a reaffirmation, that her heart is in the right place. It is also a reaffirmation of that she's willing to own and face up to her own mistakes. The Clan will win out against the world - that much is certain. But it won't lose its soul in the process. The question now becomes "what then"?

Enjoy pain?

That is definitely a mental aberration.

So, Fiach has learned from her mistakes. Exactly what has she learned? She is still determined that she is right. Admitting you made a mistake, that you were wrong is no good if you still think that NOW you are right. Mistakes must be paid for. If you do not pay for your mistakes then there is no justice.

I have learned to enjoy pain. It wasn't easy.

I was in my late 20s in the late 70s taking my grandfather for chemo. He was clearly in pain, so weak I had to carry him from his home to the car, but he always had a smile and a laugh. One of the things he told me while sharing his accumulated wisdom: "To keep yourself from depression, keep a positive outlook and live a happy life, remember that no matter what happens, there is something good about it. Train yourself to look for the good first, then hold it close to your heart while you deal with the bad. The good buffers the bad."

I asked him, "What's good about pain?"

He smiled and replied, "As long as you hurt you know you're alive!"

It took a lot of effort but I mastered looking for the good first and it does work. I'm a frustrated TG who will never transition. My wife was bedridden and I took care of her for 9 years while working full time. When she passed she was ready, telling me she wasn't dying but was graduating. That was 9 years ago.

From 1970 until 2000, I had 9 surgeries on my right knee, the last being a full replacement at age 49. Since then I had surgery on the left knee then had it replaced in 2015. I also had back surgery (laminectomy) in 2014. In 2016 I had a sextuple bypass. I maintained a positive attitude throughout and in the process have indeed learned to enjoy pain, no in a perverse way, but utilizing the endorphins and adrenalin to push through the pain, making the negative of pain into a positive. As they say, it's all in the mind. I learned to enjoy pain as a way to deal with it.

Boys will be girls... if they're lucky!

Jennifer Sue

Bit by Bit Clan Corvo takes over

Wendy Jean's picture

and will continue to do so until it is done. I am sure people are getting tired of me saying this, but I wonder when their scientific revolution will come. Much knowledge was lost in the dark ages that never happened in this timeline.

Are you sure it hasn't happened?

Beoca's picture

Gunpowder has been discovered and is being used. Railroads and steam power are tools that the Clan has harnessed. There's an argument to be made that this scientific revolution has already happened (and is happening still). The "Revolution" that was the Rennaissance was simply the rediscovery of lost Roman knowledge that had ended up in Byzantine/Arab hands before being brought back via conquest. Here, that knowledge was never lost. The biggest set of breakthroughs after that were the Industrial Revolution - some of which has already begun here.

Thanks Letting Fiach Learn...

...about the religion problem. Interesting to put mind-expanding substances into the equation, so to speak, along with insights from her animal knowledge.

Her new open-mindedness should make it easier for her to accept things like "godless" Buddhism and Taoism, and perhaps literal ancestor worship, as she encounters them when she and the Raven Raiders reach Eastern civilization. (Not sure what she'll think about reincarnation and/or transmigration of souls.) But will she realize that not all of those she'll be encountering are in need of lessons in "Corvoian morality"?

Meanwhile, things seem pretty routine for them in taking over some other remote or troubled places: Madagascar, Afghanistan, Central Asia. Good point about her animal warriors making some of them easier to take than they've been for modern military powers,