Time on My Hands Chapter 72 - 490-530 CE: Operation Harmony Phase 2 Ends

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Time on My Hands

Chapter 72: 490-530 CE: Operation Harmony Phase 2 Ends

The army group in Siberia continued east. Further south, 3 of the 5 army groups of Raven Raiders headed into Mongolia and the Irkutsk area of south central Siberia around Lake Biakal.

The Rouran were a confederation led by the nomadic Xianbei people who lived in the irresistible steppes. {In our reality they emerged in Europe as the Pannonian Avars starting in 568 fighting the Byzantines.} The Rouran overpowered the Hephthalites, a people to the southwest who broke free of their vassal status in the early 400s by migrating southwest into the Hindu Kush Mountains where they came into conflict with the Sassanids and later the Raven Raiders. The Rouran were engaged in the west fighting the raids of the Gaoche and in the east fighting the Northern Wei in China. As nomads they were dependant upon their horses, yaks, cattle, sheep, goats and Bactrian Camels. Battles were brief but savage, however the raven/eagle overwatch and wolf/tiger scouting proved unstoppable as the Raven Raiders outmaneuvered every trap and ambush. The use of breech loading artillery and the rapid fire rifles literally cut the normally irresistible mass cavalry charges of the nomads to pieces. The dead men and horses of the Rouran nomads littered the field of battle.

Fiach loved and hated the lopsided battles. She loved that the Raven Raider losses were minimal. Back in 461 she'd been pleased with the Raven Raider casualty rate of 0.0053% and death rate of 0.0013%. In this campaign with the new weapons the casualty rate dropped to 0.0025% and the death rate to 0.0006%. She hated that the nomad losses were so extreme. The Rouran were accustomed to their massive horse mounted thundering charges sweeping their opponents from the field. When they tried that tactic with the Raven Raiders, it proved deadly. The artillery and repeating rifles cut the Rouran down like a scythe cuts wheat. In nearly every brief battle, the nomad warriors had suffered about 85% casualties with a death rate of 63% of their battle committed forces. The only positive was that it didn't take long for the broken Rouran warriors to flee east instead of fighting. However, the injured warriors, elders, women and children and their herds and yurts couldn't move nearly as fast as the fleeing mobile Rouran cavalry. The result was the Raven Raiders were able to sweep up the civilians and herds en masse. The fact the wounded were medically treated instead of being killed and the civilians were treated well and fed. Their assimilation was astoundingly rapid. The yurts became models for the entire Clan Corvo as durable mobile shelters that could keep the extreme cold of the Mongolian plains at bay.

To the south of the Rouran, 2 Raven Raider armies moved south of the Rouran through the Xiyu city states of east central Asia in the Tarim Basin in southern Xinjiang and the Tuyuhun Empire to their immediate east. The area had been conquered by the Chinese Han Dynasty in 74 CE to gain control the Silk Road trading routes. After the Han collapsed in 220, the area returned to the control of it's nomadic Xianbei peoples. The Xiyu city states asserted their independence with none strong enough to take over their neighbors. Thanks to the artillery, rifles and pistols the city states fell to the Raven Raiders with little effort, the Tuyuhun, being mobile, proved more difficult but not prohibitively so.
The 3 army groups went through the Hindu Kush into the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayan Mountains. The Zhang Zhung civilization consisted of 18 small kingdoms in the west and northwest portion of Tibet. They had established a system of hilltop citadels as a defense against the steppe tribes of Central Asia. The cannons of the Raven Raiders made short work of the stone fortifications. The biggest obstacle the Raven Raiders faced was the thin air at the 2 mile plus altitudes. The tactic of blasting the fortifications and offering to accept surrender during pauses kept Raven Raider casualties low.

By the end of 495, the Raven Raiders had subdued their foes. The combat of Phase 2 of Operation Harmony came to an end. They had reached the borders of China, the Korean Peninsula, and India. The assimilation of the conquered areas began using the lessons learned during Phase 1.

There were far fewer elite amongst these conquered peoples. Thus once the masses saw they were not being killed or enslaved there was not much resistance to the assimilation.

The assimilation of the newly conquered areas went smoothly. Instead of sending all the local priests/shamans to Corvo University School of Religion, most were allowed to stay in place as long as they accepted at least 2 Corvo priests to accompany them to document their beliefs and rituals and to respectfully mutually discuss their theology. The Corvo priests would also teach the local priest comparative religions. With the exception of fomenting rebellion or resistance to the Clan Corvo assimilation, the assigned Corvo priests did not censure what the local priest did. Only if the priest/shaman rejected those limitations, they were sent for reeducation.

As before, Clan Corvo people settled amongst the new peoples to set up schools, medical centers and administration centers. Farming and animal husbandry was refined for each local. Natural resources were explored and documented for future utilization. Most importantly, the locals were respected and treated as equals. The schools taught a secular course on comparative religions that neither recommend nor condemned any faith. It was made clear that no faith was better than another, that all were equally valid. It was also stressed that participating in a faith was a free will decision.

China at this time was split into 2 competing nations. Evolved from the Tuoba tribe of Xianbe nomads, the Northern Wei ruled north China and the Liang ruled in the south. Neither Chinese empire was ready for an all out war and with the extended supply lines of the Clan Corvo, all sides backed off, thus creating a very narrow quasi demilitarized zone that allowed brisk trading to continue. The 2 Chinese empires did not trust each other. Both were glad the incessant raids of the nomads had been stopped but they knew the Raven Raiders had to be a powerful adversary to have done what China, at the height of the Han dynasty, had failed to do.

Even though the Clan Corvo had defeated the nomads, they made no move against either Chinese Empire. The 2 Chinese Empires made no move against the Clan Corvo, content to reinforce but maintain their borders. They had enough to handle with the intrigues within their empires as well as their inter-Empire turmoil.

Fiach had discovered during the Phase 1 fighting, that 95% of the conquered people had been effectively subjugated by their ruling elite and the wealthy. Once those people saw the egalitarian ways of the Clan Corvo, the vast majority slid into life as part of the Clan Corvo with little opposition. Of the 5% elite class, 90% of the men and nearly a third of the women resisted assimilation. The main reason the majority of women accepted their reduced status was that the Clan Corvo guaranteed their families would remain intact and the threat of rape was removed. With the Clan Corvo zero tolerance of resistance, those elite who copped attitudes ended up enslaved within 2 months of capture. The policy for such slaves was serving 3 years of slavery before achieving freedom, however the 3 years didn't start until they proved they'd lost their arrogance and sense of self importance, in other words until their self centered spirits had been broken. About 25% would die in slavery.

As for the common people, at first they assumed the conquest by the Clan Corvo was like every previous conquest, where their overlords used and abused them while living in luxury. If they even dared to protest, the elite would ruthlessly crush those protesting. It took weeks for the downtrodden masses to realize the Clan Corvo was indeed different and actually cared about them. They saw no one living in luxury. The extravagant estates of the elite were repurposed for public uses. They became schools and hospitals administration sites. They saw food was plentiful and shared so no one went hungry. They saw the establishment of schools to educate the youngsters and even interested adults. They marveled that the Clan Corvo was actually treating them as equals. Even more importantly, they were treated with respect. The ill, infirm and elderly were respectfully housed, fed and clothed. Once they realized they were able to improve their peasant existence, the masses quickly sought to better their lives. The assimilation of the locals into the Clan Corvo flowed with little resistence and much eagerness.

The peaceful status quo held for 35 years as the Clan Corvo assimilated those they had conquered, built rock paved roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, churches and temples as well as towns and huge supply depots. The Clan Corvo brought in specialists who experimented and determined the best crops and herds for each local to help their economy become better and more reliable. The assimilation actually went smoother and better than before because while the conquered areas were similar in size, the populations were not. The newly occupied areas had far fewer people with fewer high status elite.

For centuries the Chinese had endured regular raids and occasional invasions by the nomads of the Mongolian Steppes, the latest being the Rouran. The fact the Clan Corvo conquests willingly stopped at the Chinese borders and not only allowed trade to continue but actually increased the volume pleased the Chinese elite. The fact the Clan Corvo did not raid the Chinese was welcomed. They were lulled into a false sense of security. The few who worried that any Chinese spies crossing into Clan Corvo territory never returned was shrugged off since the Clan Corvo openly warned the Chinese against crossing the border. For their part the Clan Corvo upheld their pledge not to send spies into Chinese territory. The bird overwatch kept a close eye on things in the Chinese kingdoms for the Clan Corvo. As before, trading was done at border posts with Chinese citizens not allowed to cross into Clan territory. The Chinese were not as strict granting travel documents to Clan Corvo traders.

While the Chinese had hired the fleeing defeated surviving Rouran warriors they ignored their warnings about the thunder weapons the Clan Corvo wielded. The haughty Chinese elite dismissed the Rouran's fantastic tales of unmitigated slaughter as a means of saving face. The eagles and ravens performed daily patrols over the borders, covering strips 10 miles wide on both sides of the border. Anyone who crossed the border into Clan Corvo territory were spotted and quickly hunted down. If they resisted they were killed, if they surrendered, they were thoroughly questioned then sent at least 500 miles away to be assimilated. If they were not cooperative they were enslaved. Because of the relatively peaceful coexistence, neither Chinese nation did anything significant to prepare for war with the Clan Corvo. All they had done was to initially increase their troops along the border areas. Within 5 years, as trade continued and there were no attempts at incursions, the sense of concern and urgency against their new unknown foe faded. The expense of maintaining the increased border guard personnel overwhelmed their concern about the Clan Corvo. This peaceful coexistence resulted in the Chinese reducing their border guards as a money saving effort. Even worse, without any fighting, those remaining border guards became lackadaisical in their training and attitudes.

Neither Chinese Empire trusted the other to even consider uniting their forces. They assumed any war that did develop would be similar to those they fought in the past. The Northern Wei were in the midst of a massive cultural revolution trying to shed their Xianbe nomadic roots by inculcating the more civilized Chinese culture. During the reign of Emperor Xiaowen {477-499}, court advisers instituted sweeping reforms and introduced changes that eventually led to the dynasty moving its capital from Datong to Luoyang in 494. They renamed themselves the Han people surname Yuan as a part of systematic Sinicization. {In our history, in 534, near the end of the dynasty, there was significant internal dissension resulting in a further split into Eastern Wei and Western Wei}. The adoption of Chinese names and culture was mainly among the elite. Wei's military depended on a group for whom soldiering was a hereditary profession. These military households were given land they were responsible to see was farmed by the peasants. The children of these hereditary military households could only marry into the families of other military households. In effect, a military career was inherited. When a soldier or commander died or became unable to fight, a male relative would inherit his position. These hereditary soldiers provided the bulk of the infantry. For the purpose of cavalry, the Wei recruited large numbers of Xiongnu nomads that were settled in southern Shanxi. In addition, provincial armies, which were very weak under the Han, became the bulk of the army under the Wei. This system created the earliest forms of the equal field land system where each headquarters commanded about one thousand farmer-soldiers who could be mobilized for war. In peacetime they were self-sustaining on their farming land allotments and were obliged to do tours of active duty in the capital.

In 523, rebellions broke out on six major garrison-towns on the long peaceful northern border facing the Raven Raiders and spread like wildfire throughout the north. Exacerbating the situation, Empress Dowager Hu poisoned her own son, Emperor Xiaoming, in 528 after he showed disapproval of her handling of the affairs of state as he started coming of age and got ready to claim the power that had been held by the empress in his name when he inherited the throne as an infant, giving the Empress Dowager rule of the country for more than another decade. Upon hearing the news of the 18-year-old emperor's death, the general Erzhu Rong, who had already mobilized on secret orders of the emperor to support him in his struggle with the Empress Dowager, turned toward Luoyang. Announcing that he was installing a new emperor chosen by an ancient Xianbei method, he summoned the officials of the city to meet their new emperor. However, on their arrival, he told them they were to be punished for their misgovernment and butchered them, throwing the Empress Hu and her candidate, another puppet child emperor Yuan Zhao, into the swift flowing near flood level Yellow River. Over 2,000 courtiers were killed in this massacre on the 13th day of the second month of 528. One of the princes managed to escape south to the Liang.

The general dominated the imperial court thereafter, the new emperor held power in name only and most decisions actually went through the general. The general, through imperial authority did stop most of the rebellions, largely reunifying the Northern Wei state. However, Emperor Xiaozhuang, not wishing to remain a puppet emperor and highly wary of the widespread power of the general’s clan and questionable loyalty and intentions towards the throne, killed the general in 530 in an ambush at the palace, which led to a resumption of civil war.

Southern China coalesced into the Southern Qi in 472 and lasted to 502 when the 3rd generation of the imperial family was overthrown after numerous rebellions by a distant cousin. Emperor Wu renamed the empire Liang. While he was diligent and frugal and fostered willingness for his officials to have different opinions than his, there was an immediate troubling sign for his reign which would become increasingly serious as time went on. The Emperor tolerated corruption by his own family members and those high-level officials who he felt contributed to his establishment of Liang. On top of that was regular border conflict with the Northern Wei with border areas switching hands. In 528 he sponsored the Wei prince who fled the courtier massacre during the rebellion against the Northern Wei emperor. The rebellion ended in the winter of 530.

While the Clan Corvo was confident of their ability to successfully conquer the 2 Chinese empires, they were also aware doing so could prove difficult and possibly disastrous if their opponents had time to organize their forces. Preparations were made knowing the 2 Chinese Empires could field armies of hundreds of thousands. However, most would be levies since until the arrival of the Clan Corvo, both empires had depended heavily upon mercenaries hired from the steppes of central Asia. While the Chinese knew their source of mercenaries had dried up, it really had not seriously effected them since the mercenaries they had, stayed. Since the homelands of the mercenaries had been conquered, the few who had escaped the conquest went into the easiest job available, being a mercenary. For many years there was no need to seek more mercenaries. It was only in the last few years their advancing age was seriously effecting their performance as the mercenaries aged out of being fit for duty, finding replacements had been difficult.

Both empires were embroiled in internal conflicts regarding succession to their individual thrones as well as the intermittent border skirmishes verging on open war between the 2 empires. This meant their attention was drawn inwards. Many small battles and skirmishes occurred but no extensive fighting occurred nor were the peasant levies called to arms. The mercenaries were kept busy with brief easy fighting. By 531 the professional Chinese warriors made up only 10% of their potential armies with another 15% being the mercenaries who were their cavalry meaning their active military was only 25% of their potential. The nobility, trained as warriors in their youth, made another 15%. That meant 60% of their potential armies would be untried and poorly trained civilian levies. That's not to mention the 6 to 9 weeks time it took to call up, train and supply the levies. While 40% of their troops were trained, the continual internal dissension and rebellion fractured their unity. Each district was required to maintain a military force to deter rebellion and dissension. These local troops were trained but their loyalty was to their district leader. These local leaders had to maintain their forces to maintain their power base. As such they were reluctant to be dispatched to trouble spots. The vast majority of their active military consisted of small units scattered across the empire which meant the local leaders would be reluctant to send their troops to form a massed army.

As 530 ended Fiach was ready to begin Phase 3 of Operation Harmony. Fiach pulled together a massive 66 Armies for the initial resumption of Operation Harmony with an additional 80 armies due to become active by 532. As before she had twice that number of people following behind the troops to immediately begin assimilating the conquered peoples. In the fall of 530 she set sail with a massive fleet from Egypt with 1 army sailing through the Pharonic Canal into the Red Sea, through the Gulf of Aden then the Arabian Sea into the Indian Ocean. There she sailed to the islands where Corvus Shipping had already established colonial bases. First was the Maldives Islands, a mid-Ocean base and colony. The Maldives {GM -0.664250, 73.123657} were 1715 miles southeast of the Horn of Africa and 610 miles southwest of the southern tip of India. From there they headed southeast 1810 miles to the Cocos Islands {GM -12.168280, 96.870001}, another colony. Then it was 605 miles northeast to the colony in the Christmas Islands {GM -10.495932, 105.633084}. From there it was 1315 miles southeast to Australia to the base and colony at Derby {GM -17.296322, 123.611660}. Then it was north east along the coast for 680 miles to a base colony at Darwin {GM -12.455042, 130.843454}. Continuing east along the northern coast for 825 miles to another base colony at Nanum {GM -12.654954, 141.849496} then 750 miles to Cairns {GM -16.940405, 145.764520} and finally 935 miles to the main Australian base and colony Brisbane {GM -27.482419, 153.128546}.

After a bit of shore leave, ship repair and maintenance and restocking supplies, in the beginning of December the fleet and army sailed north stopping at Cairns then sailing 3605 miles around the west side of New Guinea then up the east side of the Philippines to the Miyako Archipelago consists of the islands of Miyako-jima {GM 24.753559, 125.353944}. The 61 square mile island had 5 smaller adjacent islands; Irabu Island at 11 square miles, Shimoji-shima at 3 square miles, Ikema Island at 1 square mile, Kurima Island at 7/8 square miles and Ogami Island at 1/8 square miles, all were within 2 1/2 miles of the main island. Two additional islands, Minna Island and Tarama Island are 5 miles apart in a north south direction and lie 34 miles west of Miyako Island, together they cover 8 1/2 square miles. They were located 200 miles east of the northern end of Taiwan and 170 miles southwest of Okinawa.

The fleet arrived just after New Year 531 to begin the initial part of Phase 3 of Operation Harmony. The unexpected massive naval invasion easily secured the islands as a naval base so Corvus Shipping could control the East China and Yellow Seas. A fleet of 3000 ships and an army of 33,960 Raven Raiders landed on the island taking the population of 25,000 totally by surprise. The occupation was total and completed on the first day. By the end of a month the naval supply base was firmly established with sheltered harbors and breakwaters.

They then landed on and occupied the neighboring islands of the Yaeyama Archipelago just southwest of the Miyako Archipelago consisting of the islands of Ishigaki, Taketomi, Kuroshima, Kohama, Hatoma, Iriomote, Yonaguni, Hateruma, Aragusuku, Sotobanari, Uchibanari, Yubu, Daichiri, Kojima, Macipanari, Hirari, Kayama, and Kamiji which together have an area of 228 1/3 square miles.

The populace of the islands were descendants of Japanese whose ancestors had migrated south from the main Japanese islands sometime around 2 BCE. They were so overwhelmed by the unexpected invasion they could not resist. Fiach assisted the Corvoian priests who accompanied the invaders to learn the native language while teaching them the Celtic/Germanic/Latin Corvoian language used by the Clan Corvo thus beginning their assimilation. As soon as the base was built and secure, the vast fleet began shutting down sea trade. The ships of Corvus Shipping were far faster than the regional seagoing vessels. Korean, Chinese and Japanese ships were stopped and searched. Those that resisted faced the rifles of the Corvus Shipping Marines. Very few vessels were sunk as most capitulated when the crew began dropping at distances they couldn’t hope to match. The use of deck mounted artillery were few and far between. The captured crews and vessels were brought back to the Corvoian base where the vessels were impounded and the crews interned. Fiach was instrumental in breaking the language barriers and recruiting volunteers to come aboard the Corvus Shipping vessels to act as interpreters. These interpreters were disbursed amongst the appropriate Corvus Shipping vessels and later the Raven Raider divisions and Corvus Shipping vessels. Fishing vessels were allowed to go free but warned to expect to be boarded if encountered. The interned crews were educated in the ways of the Clan Corvo. They would be utilized to ease the assimilation of their home ports.

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The end is coming - of the beginning?

Beoca's picture

When decades of assimilation seems at times to get barely a couple paragraphs’ mention, it’s no wonder it feels like the Operation is war unending. Well, the world looks to be part of the Clan pretty shortly here. Then what?

The clan corvo sound more and

The clan corvo sound more and more like the Borg your given 2 choices assimilate or die, and your uniqueness will be added to the collective.

Digesting China

So Fiach's going to use land forces out of Mongolia (more or less) and a naval incursion through the East China Sea area to take over the Far East.

She's going way out of the way -- around Australia and New Guinea -- to avoid engaging India. Even though there are Corvo outposts and colonies (undoubtedly with raven mail stations) and trade partners en route, it seems to me to be more of a logistical challenge than even her conquest of the Americas was.

(Though that also involved a "land" group coming down from the Arctic -- in watercraft, but getting their supplies from the coastal natives -- and another crossing the open Atlantic to the West Indies and Mesoamerica. And Corvo technology has improved in the century or so since then.)

It seems that I was wrong about the Raven Raiders having to face explosive projectiles like their own; Wikipedia says that Chinese gunpowder technology doesn't seem to date back much past 900 CE, though alchemists there had discovered most of its ingredients by the time of this story, and of course Greek-fire-type incendiaries go back to classical times.

I'm looking forward to what happens when the Clan really encounters Chinese culture. The one feature of all the "barbarian" invasions of China -- from the Ch'in (Qin) circa 200 BCE who provided the name that the western world uses for the region even now, at least through Genghis Khan and his successors after 1200 CE -- was that assimilation took place to an extent that Fiach would truly appreciate. But it went in the opposite direction: the invaders absorbed and adopted Chinese culture rather than imposing their own. (The chapter notes that the Wei who ruled northern China here were doing that at this time.) So if Fiach tries to impose Corvo's ways on the Chinese, she'll be working very much against the grain.