"The invaders came, generations ago. They burned our homes, slaughtered our men to appease their heathen gods. Many in Iberia still hold their heathen beliefs - neither the Pope nor the Inquisition can change that!"
"Their diseases rampaged through our cities, killing millions. It was an outbreak not matched in scale until the Black Death descended upon us."
"We fought, by God, we fought, until these infidels were beaten back. We fought until we drove them into the sea, and sent them back where they came from."
"But we'll never be safe. Not so long as the Aztec Empire remains strong. They've taken breeds of Europe's horses back home with them, and gained the Andean weapons of shooting fire. They've learned of our strengths, and seek to return."
"We can't let them."
- Unknown, Circa 1492
It is well established that the Vikings reached the Americas well before Christopher Columbus, going so far as to building settlements in what is today Canada and Greenland, with some claiming they made it further down the eastern coast of North America. Viking-like symbols and carvings give limited evidence supporting that claim. Being the master seamen the Vikings were, it is possible they traveled south more than what is known.
But what if they did? What if contact was made with the native tribes? What if, after inevitable deaths and confrontations between the two groups, the native Americans attained Viking ships.
Let's say they did.
In 995, ten years after Leif Erikson discovered Nova Scotia, a Viking, his name lost to history, decided to sail into the unknown waters to the south. He and his crew made it to modern OTL Mystic, Connecticut, where contact was made with the indigenous people, who would later turn into the Narragansett tribe. The indigenous people were weary of the Norse explorers, but relations kept stable for the first few days. But after an incident revolving around their conflicting religions, a battle broke out. The majority of the Vikings were killed as scores of Native Americans flowed in from the surrounding area as re-inforcements. The survivors left in one of the three boats they arrived in.
Over the next ten years, the Natives attempted to duplicate the Vikings ships. They succeeded around 1009. The technology spread across the eastern seaboard over the next fifty years, reaching modern OTL Mexico in 1065.
Maya and Mexica
The Maya Civilization was in decline for almost two centuries by the time the first ships reached its coast. Word of the ships spread out over the civilization, causing panic. Decades of further decline followed, and Mayan territory receded. A group in the northern territories, part of the ever-growing Mexica tribe raised an army to take control. For almost twenty years they warred the Maya, seizing vast swaths of territory. The Mayan Civilization completely collapsed in 1130. Soon after, the Empire of Mexica was proclaimed, to be known to history as the Aztecs. For another decade, they battle to secure their realm.
During the war with the Maya, the Mexica attained the sailing ships from the northern traders (usually by slaughtering or capturing the crew). Mexica-made duplicates came around a few years later. Exploration voyages began around 1115, and by the time the Maya fell, upwards of 75% of the Caribbean was mapped, and voyages up towards OTL Charleston were becoming commonplace.
For over eighty years, the Mexica consolidated their gains, and honed their strengths. By 1175 there was a permanent Mexica population on Cuba, and the northern border continued expanding. Contact was made with many east coast civilizations, their naval skills having also increased.
In 1210 these civilizations made contact with the remnants of the Norse settlements in Greenland, with the Mexica hearing of it by mid-1211. After several failed expeditions, the Mexica arrived in Greenland in 1225.
By this time, the Mexica resembled their OTL counterparts, with warfare and human sacrifices becoming central in their culture, and their attempts to please their gods. In 1231, an invasion force five hundred warriors attacked and slaughtered the settlers, sacrificing many of them. Maps of the world known to the Norse were discovered, and the Mexica learned to craft armor from what they stole. Upon return, plans for an attack on this "new world" were devised. Large sea-faring nations across the east coast, Shawnee, Delaware, Pequot, also opted to join. Roughly three hundred thousand warriors were to take part.
The fleet headed east from Pequot territory in OTL Connecticut. Aided by the Gulf Stream, it took two months to cross the Atlantic, losing several ships. Finally, at sunset on August 3, 1272, the coast of Portugal was sighted.
Thousands upon thousands of warriors landed that first night. They marched south, and so reached the city of Porto, one of Portugal's largest cities. What military forces present were decimated, only a few escaping as messengers. The Mexica fashioned makeshift temples and began sacrificing those who survived the attack and were captured.
Word of the Great Heathen Army spread like wildfire across Iberia. Portuguese King Alphonse III quickly gathered the army to combat the threat, but they drastically underestimated to combat ability of the Mesoamerican empire. The Portuguese army was routed at the Battle of Aveiro, and soon the Mexica marched on Lisbon.
All the while France, Castile, and England made desperate preparations to defend their realms. Across the lands, feudal lords were quick to enlist their citizens in defense of the land (even so, better they die in battle than sacrificed to a heathen god).
Lisbon fell to Mexica forces in mid-September. While a small portion of the army was held back to quell unrest before pushing south, towards Gibraltar and Morocco, the bulk of the Mexica forces marched into Castile. Madrid fell, as an army of 150,000 infidels overran the native troops. The Mexica pushed west, into Aragon, where the Aragonese army of 25,000 was destroyed near Barcelona. Aragon's King James I was captured in the battle, and subsequently was the first European monarch to be sacrificed to the Mexica gods.
With the Iberian Peninsula firmly under their control, the Mexica began consolidating their gains. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, all were outlawed in favor of the Mexica religion. Puppet rulers were established, and Mesoamerican culture grew. But the Mexica weren't satisfied, and the ensuing wars changes European geopolitics forever.
In contrast to OTL, some strains of "old world" diseases, like measles and influenza, were present in the Americas, thus granting the Native Americans some defense against European diseases when contact was made. The bubonic plague remained absent, however. But the Native American invaders had departed by the time the mongol armies carried it into the continent.
The real threat to the Europeans was a North American strain of smallpox. This strain was much more contagious, and more aggressive against the unlucky recipient. Western Smallpox, as it came to be known, accounted for the deaths of one in six Europeans.
The sexually transmitted disease syphilis was, in contrast to the other diseases, completely native to the Americas. Syphilis began spreading, especially among the nobility, around 1288, when European armies started making progress against the Mexica armies. The exchange of diseases allowed the populations of the two continents to build immunity to those of the other.
With the capture of European technology, the American civilizations had put themselves on a level playing field. Even after the expulsion of their forces from Europe, they always planned to return. It is considered fortunate, though, that the Mexica never learned of the Black Death that swept across Europe less than fifty years after their departure, as they surely would've taken advantage of it.
- Great Heathen Horde
- Holy Alliance
- First Great Plague