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Timeline 1500-1600 (Zheng China)

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Columbus and Cabot in Vinlandia

In late March, Columbus departed England on his third voyage to the lands he and Cabot discovered, which came to be collectively referred to as Vinlandia. After a rough trip over the sea in the ten ships he commanded, he arrived in early June along the coast of the Gulf of Saint Wenceslas, and found a very different scene from his previous voyages. Instead of the occasional fishermen, he found whole villages clinging to the coasts as people reaped the bountiful sea. Using the experience he gained from his previous two voyages, Columbus quickly opened a dialogue, trading metal fishing hooks for furs, which proved considerably more profitable due to the timing, as the locals acquired furs over the winter and needed fishing equipment for the summer more than they needed furs. This time, Columbus refrained from kidnapping natives, as he was considerably outnumbered this time and needed their support in what he had planned: travelling up the river he noted earlier. Giving local natives gifts in exchange for their help as guides and using a ship with a low draft, he travelled up the river.

The river, which he named the Saint Wenceslas River, travelled on a nigh steady course southwest, with some erratic bumps and twists along the way. Over the next five weeks, as Columbus sailed down the river, he noticed the climate shift to a warmer, more humid type. He also noted a shift in the language, becoming less and less familiar to him the farther south he travelled. Eventually, he reached a point where the people on the eastern side of the river were completely unintelligible to him, and seemed to be hostile to his guides. After the new people launched a raid on his camp, whether to capture his guides or his crewmen, he decided that he had seen enough and sailed back down the river to his ships.

When he returned, he found that the locals had become sick with some disease that involved pustules on the skin. Recognizing the disease as influenza, Columbus and his men tried to help but nothing they did helped, nor any of the locals' traditional remedies. The locals, believing Columbus had brought the disease to them, reacted violently against him and he was forced to leave prematurely, though he still carried the rich stocks of furs from his transactions.

Concurrent with Columbus' adventures in the Gulf of Saint Wenceslas, Cabot and a fleet of six ships, had returned to his previous location, and to a very similar sight as Columbus farther north, with large groups of locals fishing along the coast. Quickly opening trade, he acquired a large wealth in furs and began talks about travelling up the river he had visited earlier. The locals agreed to help him travel the river, which he named Saint Francis River after the saint's feast day that he discovered it. Using local canoes and hiring local guides, he made his way up the river, while his men scouted farther south, but not before being ordered to return within a month to pick him up.

As he travelled up the river, he received a glimpse into the locals' lifestyle. He saw that they primarily relied on hunting and gathering, foraging depending on the seasons, living in domed huts made of wood. After three weeks of travelling the river, John Cabot turned back to the sea to his crew, but not before leaving a small stone tablet commemorating the king at the farthest point he had travelled. When he returned he found that his ships had travelled south along the coast and had reached a strange peninsula that stretched out and up, forming a kind of hook. Interactions with the local tribes revealed a remarkable cultural continuum tha stretched from north to south, with the people all speaking similar languages, akin to French and Catalan, and having a very similar culture, with the same lifestyles as those farther north. After conglomerating their charts together, Cabot quickly stocked up on supplies, including furs and some natives, and soon departed home for England.

When they returned to England, King Henry was quite impressed with the amount of furs they had brought back, immediately calculating the riches the furs represented. However, the thing that interested him most turned out to be Cabot's report on local subsistence and soil conditions, which indicated that it might be possible for the English to grow crops in the area, meaning that they could make their colonies self-sufficient in terms of food, cutting costs significantly. However, Columbus' reports on the effects of disease proved to be a double-edged sword for Henry to consider: it opened the potential for England to reduce the local populations, so they posed less of a threat to the initial colonies, but it also meant that the locals could start trouble if they believed the diseases were caused by the colonists. Columbus' reports on the apparent antagonism between the locals and the raiders opened the possibility to further relationships with the locals despite the devastation caused by the new diseases: with reduced numbers, their enemies would have a tactical advantage, so the locals would be searching for something to even the odds again, which the English could provide via weapons and supplies. To test this out, Henry planned another expedition to launch within a few years to give the diseases time to travel through the group, and leave the locals relatively vulnerable to their enemies, to see if their weakened military state would persuade them to seek an alliance with England.

On March 24, 1504, Columbus and Cabot made another voyage across the Atlantic, this time carrying cargo ships filled with guns, ammunition, and gunpowder ingredients, among other goods. After nine-weeks of travel, slowed by storms and disease, they arrived at their respective destinations. In the Gulf of Saint Wenceslas, Columbus found a much smaller group fishing than he had seen barely three years before, and a much angrier one at that. They had not only received diseases from direct dealings with Columbus and his crew, but also from the clothing and blankets they had received due to the fomites, as well as dealing with those that had managed to recover, which surprised Columbus to a degree. This meant that the disease spread far and wide across the area among their friends and neighbors, until eventually they had burned the pieces hoping to rid themselves of the disease, though this only prevented it from spreading farther via this particular route. Hoping to curry favor and perhaps forgiveness, Columbus offered to give them a new means to defend themselves against their enemies, the ones whose language Columbus did not recognize.

Unfortunately for Columbus, while the locals were impressed by the power that his matchlock guns possessed, they were not impressed enough because they had lower range, accuracy and reload time when compared to their best archers, even when wielded by the best of Columbus' crewmen. Also, their style of fighting was different from the Europeans and Asians. Instead of armies forming lines across a battlefield, the locals raided each others' camps and sites. This meant that stealth and surprise was more important than numbers or firepower, and the loud noise that the firearms produced undermined these elements considerably. Finally, the guns had a potential reliability problem: they had to keep the match lit for it to work, which meant that for those attempting to lay an ambush, the light and smoke could give them away. The only advantages the guns possessed over bows and arrows were their penetration power, their lower learning curve, which was what won them the advantage over archery in Eurasia, and the psychological effect on those unfamiliar with them.

In the end, the locals acquired the guns more for hunting than for warfare, as their greater power meant that even the biggest prey could not escape, though their warriors did make use of them as well, fighting alongside the archers. This enabled Columbus to repair the diplomatic damage the diseases had caused and slowly negotiations resumed. This time, Columbus, and his crew, thanks to the captives they had taken, had a strong enough grasp on the local language to conduct talks instead of being limited to trade.

Meanwhile, in the south, Cabot had returned to find a very different landscape than before. Thanks to trade and kin connections among the locals, the diseases that Columbus and his crew introduced farther north had travelled southward, decimating the population, and souring relations with the natives. After convincing them that the ship they had heard of, the apparent origin of the disease, was not affiliated with him, he offered the natives matchlocks for warfare and hunting. The natives assessed the matchlocks on the same criteria as their neighbors to the north and came to the conclusion that on their own, the guns left much to be desired. Still, their power was impressive enough that many matchlocks were given, though the secret of making gunpowder remained safely in English hands, leaving the natives dependent on them for trade and supplies. This would prove very important in the early colonies and their dealings with the natives.

Upon their return to England, they discussed with King Henry their next course of action. Columbus wanted to settle along the northern route, with the endpoint on the Gulf of Saint Wenceslas for direct access to the fur trade. Cabot, on the other hand, suggested establishing a fishing colony on the first island Columbus visited to make the colonies more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports from home, thus cutting costs. The king decided Cabot's suggestion made more sense economically and asked him to begin preparations for the colony. He asked Columbus to embark on one final voyage to the north to see what lay north of the gulf. He wanted to know if there was land or sea north of the gulf. If it was the latter, perhaps it would lead to Asia via the north. Columbus, now quite old and sick with arthritis and ophthalmia, decided to turn down the king's request, and was instead assigned to oversee the burgeoning colony while John Cabot was assigned the voyage to the north.

On their last voyage in April of 1506, Columbus journeyed to the island that he first encountered, now named Newfoundland, where he oversaw the first colonists disembarking from their ships. After some quick repairs and recuperation for Cabot's ships, Columbus gave him the latest charts of the Gulf and bade him good luck.

Over the next seven weeks, Cabot and his ships hugged the coast as they travelled north. They noted a gradual turn in the coast heading west-northwest. The climate grew increasingly cooler, though the summer months kept it within tolerable levels. They took careful notes of what they saw along the way, including the many fjords and islands, and they eventually came to a turning point, where the land abruptly turned south before giving way to the sea again, in the form of a large bay. A cursory look of the gulf proved that the area was too cold for trees or crops, though there were still small villages along the coast, and that the other side gave way to a strait heading west-northwest. Cabot attempted to open talks with the locals, but their language proved incomprehensible to him. The long trip and the unfamiliarity with the terrain also took its toll on the ships, and the dwindling supplies took its tool on his men. After a quick restocking of supplies via trade with the locals, exchanging food and animal hides for metal tools, in mid autumn of 1506, Cabot turned eastward for the nascent colony on Newfoundland. Fortunately for his return journey, the strong current flowing southeast from the north expedited his journey and he returned within three weeks as opposed to six on his journey north.

Cabral's Journeys to India and Brazil

Meanwhile as Columbus and Cabot explored the north Atlantic, King Manuel I of Portugal, first of the House of Aviz-Beja, became intrigued about the new lands they had uncovered. However, his primary interests remained in the trade in India and commissioned Pedro Alvares Cabral to command a fleet to open diplomatic ties with India in the hope of expanding Portugal's commercial base in the east. A particular target was Kozhikode, a dominant city on the south Indian coast and a key port on the spice trade. He also wanted to see how influential the Chinese were in India when compared to southeast Asia. A third objective was to find the city of Sofala, a key seaport of the Kingdom of Mutapa and the local gold trade. Finally, they were to acquire large cargo holds of spices on a commercial spice run. Along with the various gifts and trade products, the fleet also carried a group of Franciscan missionaries, led by Friar Henrique Soares of Coimbre, to "reconnect" with and "upgrade" the "Hindu Church", whose religion was thought by some to be a derived form of Christianity.

On March 9, 1500, the fleet, comprised of 13 ships, departed from the Tagus. On March 22, his fleet arrived at Cape Verde during a storm, which damaged several ships, including one that had to be sent back to Portugal. After undergoing rudimentary repairs, Cabral made the fateful decision to sail southwest instead of southeast, to catch the trade winds and avoid the counteracting currents along the African coast. The storms also forced him to sail southwest to avoid the worst, so catching the trade winds was deemed more economical than trying to return to the African coast. On April 22, his men saw the outlines of a hill, which they called Monte Pascoal. The next day, they anchored at the mouth of the Do Frade River and, seeing a group of locals assembled on the beach, prepared to go ashore, but the turf proved too strong and they were forced to turn back and try again tomorrow.

That night, strong winds forced the fleet to pull anchor and turn north to find a more protected area, where they captured two locals in a canoe and brought them onboard for questioning. While the linguistic and cultural differences proved a challenge for both parties, the natives were treated well. The next day, Nicolau Coelho and Bartholomew Dias went ashore, along with the captured natives, where they encountered a party of armed natives. After a brief, tense moment, the captured natives managed to diffuse the situation by signaling the locals to lower their weapons and the Europeans were able to gather food and water without fear of attack. Over a week, interactions between the Europeans and the natives increased, and eventually trade opened up, exchanging European nails and cloth for trinkets, spears, parrots, and monkeys. The trinkets planted a seed of suspicion in the Europeans that precious metals might lie in the land they had discovered, so some crewmen stayed ashore with the locals while the rest returned to their ships.

On May 1, Cabral decided to resume the fleet's voyage to India, though he sent a supply ship filled with goods from the land they discovered, which they named "Brazil", as well as some men with the locals to survey the land. In late May, Cabral reached the Tiān fēi jiǎ, albeit at a great price as strong winds blew against them, sinking three ships in the process, including the ship destined to sail to Sofala. After making some quick repairs, they reached the Primeiras Islands off the East African coast on the 16th of May, then the Island of Mozambique, and then the city of Kilwa on May 22nd. In Kilwa, Cabral attempted to open talks with Emir Ibrahim, the de facto ruler, but due to suspicions on the latter's part, very little came of it and Cabral set sail for India.

After stopping to pay respects to the Sultan of Malindi on August 2, Cabral and his fleet five days later. On August 22, Cabral and his fleet stopped at Anjediva Island for repairs and recuperation before travelling down the coast of India. On September 13, Cabral and his fleet finally arrived at Kozhikode and began to open talks with the Zamorin. A commercial treaty was agreed upon, where the Portuguese would be allowed to build a trading post in the city of Calicut, and soon, Cabral began buying spices to bring home. In October, the Zamorin requested that Cabral dispatch his fleet to capture a group of Arab merchants, aligned with the Kingdom of Cochin, carrying war elephants to the Sultan of Cambay, claiming that they were delivering illegal contraband and hoping to capture the elephants. Cabral, hoping to further ties with the Zamorin, agreed and sent one ship to intercept the Arabs, which initially managed to escape, but were captured later and brought into Calicut with their nearly intact cargo, minus one elephant that had been killed in the fighting.

Unfortunately, their success was soured by an incident that occurred in December. The Portuguese were only able to buy enough spices to fill two of their cargo ships. Believing that the Arab merchants, the predominant traders in Calicut, were colluding to keep them excluded from the rich spice trade, the Portuguese factor Aires Correia brought his complaints to Cabral, who promised to look into the matter and take it up with the Zamorin. However, while the Zamorin made vague promises to help the Portuguese, very little came of it. After much lobbying and little action, on December 17, Cabral finally took action and seized an Arab merchant ship, claiming the Zamorin had granted the Portuguese spice market priority, inflaming the Arab merchants to direct a riot against the trading post, killing over 50 Portuguese, including Aires Correia and several friars. 20 survivors later claimed that the Zamorin's own Hindu guards were assisting in the riot, either directing it or actively taking part.

Inflammed by the claims, Cabral prepared a retaliatory strike, though he gave the Zamorin one day to redress the matter with him. When the Zamorin remained unresponsive, Cabral seized ten Arab ships, confiscated their cargoes, killed their crews, and burned their ships. Then, after accusing the Zamorin of sanctioning the attack, he ordered his ships cannons to open fire on the city and the nearby port of Pandarane, killing hundreds.

Cabral, acting on the advice of Gaspar da Gama, decided to sail to the Cochin Kingdom, who had long enjoyed a relationship with Kozhikode akin to that between Vietnam and China, and desired an opportunity to break away. An emissary was sent to the Trimumpara Raja to make contact, and the Portuguese were warmly greeted, their earlier bombardment of Calicut outweighing their seizure of the war elephants. An alliance was quickly formed, with the Portuguese promising to make the Trimumpara Raja the ruler of Calicut upon the city's capture, and the Portuguese quickly built a trading post in the city. The trading post was soon after burned down, probably at the instigation of Arabs, learning of the events at Calicut, but the Trimumpara Raja quickly cracked down on the arsonists, earning the respect and gratitude of Cabral and the Portuguese, though the smaller spice markets meant smaller returns for the Portuguese.

In early January, Cabral received invitations from the rulers of other rival states of Calicut, but he declined, not wanting to insult his Cochinese ally. He responded to one ruler, though, the ruler of the Cranganore Kingdom, which had fallen on hard times. Seeing the supply of goods in Cochin running low, Cabral accepted and departed for Cranganore. Their arrival gave the Portuguese a tremendous shock-the city hosted significant populations of Syrian Christians and Malabari Jews, exploding the idea that the "Hindu Church" was a primitive version of Christianity, as it was clear that the Hindus had extensive contact with Christianity for centuries and remained a distinct religion. Two Syrian Christians, one of which came to be known as Jose de Cranganore, applied for passage back to Portugal, which Cabral accepted, hoping to gain key intelligence on India.

On January 16, after hearing that a large fleet of 80 ships had departed Calicut to confront him, Cabral, despite offerings by the Trimumpara Raja to defend him, departed and left to the north, swinging wide to avoid the Zamorin's fleet. Prior to their departure, they left behind some men, including the factor Gonçalo Gil Barbosa. They had also, inadvertently, took along a couple of the Trimumpara Raja's officers, who had been serving as noble hostages to the Portuguese. As they departed, they paid a quick visit to Cannamore, where the Raja, seeking an alliance against Calicut, offered to sell the Portuguese spices on credit, though Cabral paid him anyway. His cargo holds now full, Cabral made sail back to Portugal.

As he travelled down the coast of Africa, he realized that Diogo Dias, the man delegated to finding Sofala, had not returned nor had been found, and so he sent the fastest ships home while he personally searched for Sofala himself. He also left some men on the coast with instructions for Diogo Dias to avoid Calicut due to the turn of events. After failing to find Sofala, Cabral and most of his men turned south to return to Portugal, though one man, Sancho de Tovar, managed to find the city and quickly scouted it from his ship before turning home.

Meanwhile, Manuel I, learning of the discovery of Brazil, sent a small force commanded by Gaspar de Lemos, to explore it further. The force also which included the navigator and explorer Amerigo Vespucci from Florence. While the force was stationed in Senegal, they found Diogo Dias, who recounted how he lost his way around a large island off the coast of Africa, and tried to sail directly north to link up with Cabral, only to stray into the Gulf of Aden and be attacked by pirates, and had just managed to get back to Senegal. While there, Amerigo Vespucci pondered two potential arrangements for the lands of Vinlandia and Brazil. One was that they were two distinct islands or continents, separated by a corridor of sea centered around the equator. The other was that they were two halves of a much larger landmass, though there was no way to support the latter, and was just pondered for the sake of speculation. One thing was certain: they were distinct from Asia, not part of it, as others, including Columbus, initially thought. In mid-June 1501, Vespucci and de Lemos departed for Brazil to explore it further, and shortly after they left, Cabral arrived for supplies and repairs.

Cabral, after returning home to Portugal on July 21 of 1501, he faced a great deal of criticism. He had lost over half of the fleet, and had failed to establish a treaty or a trading post with Calicut or Kilwa, and he failed to bring the "Hindu Church" back into the Catholic faith. In his defense, he managed to establish good relations with some Indian powers, albeit weaker, poorer ones in comparison to Calicut. He had also brought back tons of spices, which brought huge returns for the crown, and he discovered a new island and a new land, Brazil, which the court considered using as bases for future runs to India.

Almost immediately after the return of the fleet, King Maneul I decided to launch another fleet to India to recover from the losses they sustained earlier, but Vasco da Gama was selected to command the fleet, irritating Cabral to no end. Hoping to placate him, King Manuel decided to give Cabral a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of the court by exploring the new land of Brazil. Figuring that it was the best he would receive, Cabral agreed and was placed in command of a fleet of five ships, as opposed to the 12 ships Gama commanded on his journey to India.

On March 1, Cabral's fleet was launched and headed south-southwest, following the route he took to reach Brazil. Within six weeks, they had returned to Monte Pascoal and began scouting the coast for a suitable location to build a port. Eventually, they decided that the place that they first landed, which they named "Porto Seguro" for future reference, would be the best place. The chief resource of the area was the forest, in particular the brazilwood, which they found useful as a dye for textiles. To help plan for their future settlements, they took detailed maps of the area, and, with the help of a skilled botanist and metal expert, created a thorough inventory of the resources in the area. They also made contact with some of the natives, mainly hunters foraging in the forest. Attempts at opening a dialogue proved fruitless as neither party could understand the other. After spending over five weeks studying and researching the area, and after capturing some locals, on May 29 Cabral set sail back to Portugal, arriving home in Lisbon in mid August.

King Maneul I, upon receiving the maps and the inventory, soon began contemplating a full-scale colonization of the area, and perhaps along the coast of Brazil, if only to monopolize the brazilwood industry west of India. However, knowing that such a scheme would be highly risky and expensive, he had to figure out if the potential profits were indeed worth the effort. Perhaps da Gama's relative success in India and Africa made the king more open, or susceptible, to further commercial gambles and he soon began planning another expedition to Brazil, once more with Cabral in command. On March 25, 1502, Cabral, commanding a fleet of eight ships, once more departed Portugal for Brazil. After nine weeks crossing the Atlantic, upon his return to Porto Seguro, Cabral split his force into two divisions, one to scout the coastline to the north, and the other to the south to seek out additional sites for colonies. Their criteria for choosing sites were their proximity to the sea, the disposition of the local inhabitants, and the resources available within a few days walk from the site. The resources, especially botanical and geological, were to carefully catalogued for future reference, and every site were to be thoroughly mapped. After approximately two months of travel, the two halves were to return to Porto Seguro to repair, resupply, and eventually return to Portugal.

Cabral, leading the fleet north and westward, encountered a large river delta, with the river flowing from the west into the Atlantic after travelling north for over six weeks. Stopping for water and supplies, he noted the sheer size of the delta, considerably greater than anything in Europe. More astonishing was the presence of a fairly large city seated on an island at the river's mouth. With great care, Cabral ventured into the city in his longboats, hoping to get an idea of what lay ahead, and perhaps open a dialogue with the natives. He was soon seen by the locals who approached him warily and with arms. Cabral, seeing the people's reaction, attempted to allay their concerns, though their language, which he found virtually incomprehensible but strangely familiar, was a considerable barrier. Nevertheless, Cabral, with great care and patience, and the captured natives' assistance, managed to convince the locals that they were not a threat, and trade soon commenced. The trade pattern, exchanging local trinkets and exotic animals for metal tools, gave Cabral more time to open talks. The local trinkets indicated that precious metals were nearby, probably upriver, meaning that the idea of colonization became much more tempting to the king back in Portugal. Also. he learned that there were other cities like this farther upriver, opening the potential for future trade. Finally, he learned that many of the cities were in decline and that trade up and down the river was slowing. After stopping for repairs and supplies, as well as bringing some of the natives abroad, without the use of force, Cabral turned back to the coast to meet up with the rest of his fleet.

Upon his return he looked over the charts his men had put together and conglomerated them into a legible map of the Brazilian coast. He also met up with an unexpected guest: Amerigo Vespucci, who had gone farther south than his men did, taking detailed charts along the way. Using the map, he discovered several ports for settlement, including Porto Seguro. They included the mouth of the river he had encountered as well as the ports of other rivers along the coast. Of particular interest to him were the highlands to the southern coast, which might contain iron and other useful minerals and metals. One thing that interested him were the distribution of the natives along the coast, which were predominantly of one linguistic and cultural group but lacked a unified identity or political structure. After compiling the map and taking on supplies, on August 28, 1502, Cabral left for Portugal.

Upon his return in late October, Cabral and Vespucci presented the map and the catalogues to King Manuel I. Convinced by the trinkets that much wealth lay in Brazil, and realizing the race to colonize that would soon ensue, he immediately made plans to colonize the area, starting with Porto Seguro. However, seeing the sheer size of Brazil, as indicated by Vespucci's charts, he knew that colonizing Brazil would be a long, difficult process, so he had to figure out where in Brazil to begin. Fortunately, he saw an opportunity in the river, specifically the city at the mouth. If he could forge an alliance with the natives, they could provide the labor, the knowledge, and perhaps the infrastructure necessary to colonize Brazil, expediating the colonization process and securing Portugal's control over the land's resources. To find out if this was an option, he commissioned Cabral to undergo one final voyage to Brazil, with two primary objectives: explore the northern coast; and venture up the river. For the latter, a ship with a shallow draft was built for the purpose and Fernão de Loronha was assigned to travel up the river.

In May of 1503, Cabral and Loronha set out for Brazil once more, arriving at the river's mouth approximately two months later. After undergoing some quick repairs and resupply, Cabral and Loronha parted for their respective missions. As Cabral ventured westward, toward more mountainous areas, he took careful note of the area, particularly the resources and the people along the coasts, making sure to open trade whenever he had the chance, hoping to acquire information on what lay ahead. Unfortunately, their language was very difficult to understand, even with the help of the locals they had captured earlier, though they did catch some familiar words now and then. Eventually, they opened trade with the locals, trading metal tools, such as axes and knives, for local trinkets and exotic animals. Unfortunately, they did not have time to gather information on what lay ahead due to the linguistic barrier and so had to press on without much help. As they travelled northward, they encountered the southernmost island of an archipelago stretching northward, with people speaking a similar language to those along the coast. Attempts to open negotiations again proved fruitless though they did notice some European goods, such as knives and ax heads, leading them to the realization that someone else had found the islands, or had been trading with neighbors of the locals. Either way, someone else had been there, and they too were likely contemplating colonization.

Seeking to find out, he followed the archipelago until he came across a large mountainous island, where he stopped for supplies and repairs. Upon encountering the inhabitants, he attempted to open talks but found that their language was different from anything that he had previously encountered, hampering attempts at investigation. His attempts at trade were hindered by the relative abundance of European goods compared to the natives he had already encountered, though their friendly manner made first contact comparatively easy. Through some rudimentary communication, he learned that other Europeans had indeed arrived at the islands around the same time that he did in Brazil. Knowing that the English were exploring the far north, he concluded that they must have been the Spanish. Having received the information he needed, he turned south to explore the northern coast. After travelling westward for another two weeks, he arrived at a lowlying area hidden within a gulf open to the north. As the men searched for repair materials and supplies, they encountered the natives, which spoke a language very different from what they had previously encountered, though it bore a strange but distant resemblance to that spoken on the mountainous island to the north. After some rough, slow attempts at communication, the familiar trade pattern of metal tools for local trinkets commenced. After approximately three weeks, Cabral turned eastward to the city.

Meanwhile, Loronha journeyed down the river, taking care to avoid hidden obstacles. To improve his navigational capabilities, he employed locals as guides, giving them gifts in exchange for their assistance. Over the next seven weeks, as he travelled up the river, he took careful note of the locals, in their mannerisms and their language, and found that the locals they shared many similariities with the locals they encountered along the eastern and southern coasts. Along the coast, he discovered hamlets and a few towns along the river, all sharing a similar language to that at the rivers' mouth, though this decreased the farther inland he travelled. Eventually, after travelling for nearly fourteen weeks, he turned back, returning to the city at the coast. Upon his return he underwent repairs while waiting for Cabral's return.

When Cabral arrived shortly after Loronha, they compared the notes they took along their respective journeys. After taking on supplies and repairs, which took approximately two weeks, they found that the locals began getting sick, some of which developed pustules on the skin. Seeing the natives struggling to fight the illness, Cabral and his men tried everything they could, but nothing helped. Over the next two weeks, over forty percent of the population died of the disease, despite everyone's best efforts. Feeling that they were overstaying their welcome, in mid October, Cabral and Loronha quickly left to return to Portugal.

When they returned to Lisbon in mid December, they presented King Manuel I their findings of the river and the islands north of Brazil. The King confirmed Cabral's suspicions that the Spanish were exploring the area as well, and were planning to colonize the islands shortly. Spurred by this information, Manuel decided to accelerate his plans for colonization by building a trading post by the river's mouth, as well as ports along the coast. While the settlers would still take time to recruit and dispatch, the trading posts and ports would provide preliminary infrastructure and hasten the colonists' activities, giving Portugal a headstart as it were on colonization over Spain. However, news of the outbreak posed a problem, as earning the locals' co-operation might prove difficult. Manuel decided to try offering new gifts to the locals, to earn their trust again. In case that did not work, he decided to arm his fleet with weapons akin to those on the Fourth Indian Armada to help "persuade" the locals.

In April of 1504, Cabral and Loronha departed Lisbon for the Brazilian coast, this time heading for the city by the coast. After nearly two months at sea, they arrived and opened talks with the locals. In their absence, the disease had devastated the local populace, killing over a third of the population. The death toll meant that fewer people were available to work the fields and the waterworks, leading to famine and flooding in the city. Upon Cabral's return, the population had almost been cut in half, as many fled the city or died or disease or hunger. Cabral saw that the city was living on borrowed time and that if nothing was done to stem its decline, the city would soon be deserted and the Portuguese plans would be undermined. After going over several ideas with his captains, Cabral decided to try to convince the people that remaining in the city was better than deserting it for the rain forest. He offered a wealth of goods, mainly metal versions of what the locals already possessed such as shovels and troughs, that helped decrease work loads without sacrificing agricultural yield. To an extent, the yields actually increased than before the Portuguese arrived. As part of the negotiations, Cabral offered to help replace and repair lost or broken instruments as very low prices, but only if done at the trading post. Outside the trading post, the prices were much higher, so the people had little choice but to use the trading posts. This embedded the Portuguese into the lives of the local peoples, tying them to the city and delaying its decline.

Rodrigo de Bastidas' Equatorial Adventures

Concurrent with Cabral's voyage to India, Rodrigo de Bastidas, a Spanish explorer and conquistador, was dispatched by King Phillip of Castile to explore the equatorial Atlantic, along the longitude of the sites visited by Cabot in the land of Vinlandia. Not sure what he would find, he decided to travel only to the same longitude and then turn back if he failed to find anything. His fleet, comprised of six ships, departed from Palos de la Frontera on March 12, 1500 for the Canary Islands. Hopefully, Columbus was right about his discoveries to the north and they would find something other than open ocean.

After travelling southwest for just over eight days, Bastidas arrived in the Canary Islands to rest and resupply before heading west-southwest into the Atlantic, much to the trepidation of his men. Over the next seven weeks, Bastidas and his fleet sailed west, struck by storms, much like the ones that struck Cabral farther south, forcing a slight course alteration to the north, and damaging two ships. After tending to the storm's casualties, Bastidas pressed on, determined to reach the destinated longitude. Disease and dwindling supplies tapped the morale and strength of his men, though they kept going, if only to satisfy the king and Bastidas. As they approached the longitude in question, they saw huge flocks of birds, indicating land was near. Immediately invigorated, Bastidas and his crew pressed onward and on May 17, 1500, they arrived at a mountainous, tropical island, covered with rain forest growth.

The next day, Bastidas, along with about 20 crewmen, went ashore to find food and water. They also searched for local inhabitants, which soon came ashore curious about the strange vessels that appeared on their horizon. After a brief moment of silent stillness, the natives quickly began treating Bastidas and his crew as honored guests and gave them much food and water. Quickly, trade opened up between Bastidas and the natives, trading metal tools and cloth for food and trinkets. As Bastidas and his men treated and traded with the locals, his crewmen repaired the ships damaged in the storms while the other ships were used to circumnavigate the island. They quickly formed a rudimentary map of the island, which they named La Isla Espanola, meaning "The Spanish Island", and found that they had landed on the northern coast. Later sailors and navigators would call the island "Hispaniola" due to translation errors.

They also learned that La Isla Espanola was divided into several chiefdoms, which occupied various portions of the coast. For the most part, the people were polite and friendly, though the inhabitants of one peninsula to the east of their landing point proved hostile and approached the sailors armed with bows and arrows. When negotiations proved difficult, violence broke out and two sailors were killed, though they managed to kill six natives and capture ten. Sailors exploring to the north indicated that there was another large island to the northwest of La Isla Espanola, while sailors going westward noted another island to the west. Intrigued, Bastidas decided to visit the northwestern island, though he stopped to capture several natives before hand to act as guides. When they arrived on the southeastern tip of the island in question, they discovered remarkable similarities between the inhabitants of the two islands. Soon after, trade and negotiations commenced, as well as circumnavigation of the island. They discovered the island was signficantly larger than their first island, and flatter as well with fewer mountains. They also found greater cultural and linguistic diversity, with the majority of the inhabitants holding similarities with the Isla Espanola natives akin to those between Spain and Italy. On the extreme western tip, they found a very distinct group from the rest, akin to the Basque in Spain.

After exploring the large island and seizing some more natives, Bastidas visited the smaller island immediately west of La Isla Espanola. They found that the island was inhabited by people with a language and culture similar to those they had already visited, though more similar to the larger island. Using the captives they had acquired, they quickly opened trade with the natives, trading exotica for metal tools and cloth. After stocking up on supplies and captives, on November 30, 1500, they departed east back to Spain.

Reversing their course westward, they arrived home on February 7, 1501, where they presented their king the fruits of their exploration. Phillip I and Joanna, his co-ruler, were very intrigued by what Bastidas had brought back, especially the gold earrings he had obtained from the Isla Espanola, which indicated that gold was nearby. The possibility of finding gold, as well as the relative ease that Bastidas captured the natives, made the prospect of colonizing all the more tempting, and plans were being drafted for a second voyage as well as a follow-up with a fleet of colonists.

On June 22, 1502, after nearly nine weeks at sea, Bastidas returned to Isla Espanola with a larger fleet of six ships, stopping for supplies before sailing north and eastward. After three weeks, the ships to the east quickly discovered an archipelago curving south in an arc. Following the islands, the ships saw some coastline and catalogued it for later. The ships to the north reported another archipelago running northwest in a slight curve. Following these islands they also discovered coastline, which they catalogued for further exploration. Faced with these discoveries, Bastidas decided to travel northward, due to the prevailing currents and trade winds, and preliminary research among the natives showed greater similarity between the peoples to the north and the Isla Espanola natives than those to the south.

The northern archipelago led to a long strip of coastline that stretched far to the north. Preliminary expeditions found the area to be very flat, just above sea level, covered in subtropical rain forest to the north with the forests opening up in the southern extreme. Curious as to the lay of the land, he sent his ships to map the coast alongside tentative steps into the interior, though his men were forbidden to journey farther than a few hours walk into the more densely forested regions, for fear of them becoming lost. Over the next few weeks, he discovered that the coast turned northward as one travelled westward, indicating that this was either a long island or a peninsula, perhaps connected to Vinlandia. They also found natives, either fishing along the coasts or foraging in the forests. Bastidas attempted to open talks, but discovered that they spoke a very different language from any he had encountered before. Not even his local guides could help him, so trade was slow to develop and was limited to the most rudimentary form of communication. Eventually, even as his men explored the area, Bastidas and the locals developed a trade along the same lines as the other locals they encountered earlier, local trinkets and exotic animals for metal tools and clothing. After spending nearly eight weeks in the new land, Bastidas and his men returned to Isla Espanola to prepare for the return home. On October 26, 1502, after stocking up on supplies in Isla Espanola, Bastidas and his men returned to Spain and arrived in early December.

Upon his return to Spain, Bastidas presented his findings to Phillip and Joanna. While they were intrigued by the new discoveries and the exotica that Bastidas had brought back, they were disappointed in he reported largely flat areas where he explored, meaning low probability of finding gold or other precious minerals. Fortunately, he reported seeing high mountains on the island immediately west of Isla Espanola, meaning that gold or other minerals might be there. In addition, the presence of so many non-Christians presented tremendous and tempting opportunities for conversion, eliciting the Church's support to continue the voyages and follow through with colonization.

Da Gama's Indian Adventure

Meanwhile as Bastidas and Cabral explored the new lands to the west, Maneul I sent Da Gama on a mission to the east to re-evaluate the situation to the east in India. While the king wished to punish the Zamorin of Calicut for the destruction of the factory and the massacre of the Portuguese, he knew that the Chinese had established a trading post at Diu, as well as other cities in Southeast Asia and India. Thus, he knew that the situation had to be handled "carefully", meaning no loss to Chinese property, money, or lives. While the Ming had little interest in the world beyond south Asia, he knew that no government, regardless of its international policy, could tolerate an attack on their people, so he ordered da Gama to handle the situation as peacefully as possible. He also knew that even if China itself was not threatened or attacked, an accident or mistake on Gama's part my inadvertently threaten their array of tributary states, and thus put the Ming on military alert. He knew that if Gama through some accident or mistake instigated a war with China, the conflict would bankrupt Portugal. He explained in clear, simple terms that the mission was to gauge Calicut's willingness to open talks as well as evaluate how their previous interactions affected the wider international picture. His primary objective was to find allies in India to further establish Portuguese influence, followed by an investigation of Ming feelings regarding Portugal's commercial expansion. Revenge against Calicut would have to wait.

On Februrary 10th, 1504, da Gama departed Spain leading a fleet of 15 ships, nearly two squadrons of the fourth armada, from Lisbon, stopping in Senegal to take water as they headed down the African coast. After passing Senegal, Gama decided to turn southwest to take advantage of the trade winds, hugging the coast of Brazil and taking on supplies before heading back out into the open Atlantic toward Tiān fēi jiǎ. Meanwhile, the final squadron, led by Estevao da Gama, Vasco's cousin, departed Lisbon in April, taking a different path that would meet up with the main body in India. Due to unexpected storms near Tiān fēi jiǎ, the fleet was dispersed and the captains were forced to navigate to the rendevous point separately, delaying their progress toward India.

In early June, after rounding the cape, Vasco da Gama stopped for supplies and repairs in Mozambique and waited for the other ships to arrive. As his ships began trickling in, he sent one of his captains, Pedro Afonso de Aguiar, abroad two of his ships to Sofala, a major city of the local gold trade, centered on the Kingdom of Mutapa. After some preliminary dealings in the local market, Aguiar sought an audience with the local ruler. Soon after, he met with the local ruler to discuss a treaty between Portugal and Sofala. During negotiations, perhaps to make a noteworthy impression on the Sofalaese, Aguiar escorted the local ambassador back to Mozambique to meet with Gama and see his fleet. After negotiating for a few more weeks, the treaty is signed, opening Portugal to trade with Sofala. Almost immediately, Gama began building a trading post in Mozambique to capitalize on the trade with Sofala.

Once his ships had all been repaired and resupplied, Gama departed along the African coast and arrived at his next destination, the Kilwa Sultanate in early-mid July. The Kilwa Sultanate was the predominant power along the East African coast, akin to China in East and Southeast Asia. Because of the Sultanate's influence on trade in the region, he sought an audience to guarantee safe trade routes for the Portuguese. On July 12, he arrived in full force, inviting the ruler, Emir Ibrahim, aboard to discuss a treaty. Initially, Emir Ibrahim refused to go abroad, fearing treachery, but agrees upon the advice of an influential and wealthy nobleman, Muhammed Arcone. Once abroad, Gama lays out the terms of the agreement: any treaty signed with Portugal must be paid in a large cash payment. Insulted at the "dishonor" of paying tribute, Emir Ibrahim refuses, but relents when Gama threatens to level his city with his impressive firepower. After sending the nobleman and his advisor as hostages, the Emir returns ashore to make the arrangements.

After waiting several days and with no sign of the promised tribute, Gama dispatched a messenger to find out what had happened. The messenger returned with news that the Emir had reneged on sending the tribute, and decided to leave the nobleman to his fate as his bad advice was what led him to the situation he was now in. Furious over the Emir's decision, Gama coerced the hostage into a boat without water or shade, and left to die of exposure, though after the nobleman's family offered a large ransom for his release, he lets him go. On July 20, hearing of the nobleman's fate, the Emir decides to send some tribute, 1500 gold meticals, to Gama. Not wanting to miss the monsoon winds, Gama agrees to the tribute. As he prepares to depart, the last missing ships, as well as some ships of the third squadron, straggle into Mozambique. On their way to India, in late July, Gama and most of his ships arrive in Malindi, to stock up on supplies and repairs before heading out over the Indian ocean.

On the 20th of August, Gama finally arrived at the south Indian coast near Anjediva Island. Following their arrival at the island, they encounter three ships under the command of Timoja, a Hindu privateer operating from Hannovar on the behalf of the local raja. Desiring greater knowledge of the area, Gama signaled to the three ships that he wanted to talk. The three ships signalled him to follow them farther down the coast, where they came to the city of Hannovar to meet Timoja. Gama, suspecting treachery, follows at a great distance and keeps most of his fleet at sea in case the locals attempted a surprise attack. After waiting for over three days, Timoji and an entourage of men dressed in ornate robes, representatives of the raja, arrive at the dock and signal that they wish to discuss a treaty with the Portuguese. Gama agrees to talk, but only in the harbor, as he swore to not set foot on Indian soil until after he had finished his business in Calicut. Eager to begin negotiations, Timoji and the entourage agree and meet with Gama on the docks. Over the next few days, Gama and the entourage settled on a treaty. Gama would receive a yearly tribute of rice and gold for supplies, receive permission to build a factory, and a restriction on the power and activities of the Arab merchants if he left the city and its large Muslim population alone. While Gama wanted to demand more, including a cessation of the pepper trade and a complete exclusion of Arab merchants in the city, he knew that the Chinese merchants travelling to and from Diu might fill in the void left by the Arabs, so he kept them in to block the Chinese, at least until the Portuguese could more firmly establish themselves in the area.

With his business in Hannovar completed, Gama set sail for Cannanore in early September. During their travels southward, they set anchor at Mount d'Eli, a common stopping point for ships sailing between Calicut and Jedda, apparently hoping to intercept some valuable cargo along the way. On September 29, after waiting for over three weeks and only capturing a minor ship, they spotted a large merchant ship, heading southward, apparently for Calicut. Gama, his yearning for revenge burning inside him, sent Gil Matoso to shadow the ship and see who and what it was carrying. After a brief chase, Gil Matoso boarded the ship where he found that the ship was carrying Chinese merchants and their cargo to trade in Calicut. Matoso, fearing the repercussions of his actions, quickly apologized and allowed the merchant ship to proceed unmolested, though he did warn them about stopping in Calicut in the near future. Hearing this, Gama breathed a sigh of relief that he had managed to hold down his temper and refrained from attacking the ship. His curiosity satisfied, Gama resumed his voyage to Cannanore.

On October 11, Gama finally arrived at Cannanore, where he delivered the local ambassador that travelled to Portugal with the second fleet commanded by Cabral. The Kolothiri Raja invited Gama over for an elaborate celebration, but due to a vow that Gama made, that he would not set foot on Indian soil until he completed his business with Calicut, agreed to meet on a wooden scaffold built over the water. After exchanging gifts and pleasantries, negotiations quickly commenced and soon a commercial treaty was signed, whereupon the Portuguese were granted permission to build a factory in the city of Cannanore, and that Portuguese merchants would receive preferential treatment over their Arab counterparts. In exchange, the Portuguese merchants would be subject to the same prices as those of all other nationalities, and they had to pay a tax to provide for the upkeep of the factory. Gama stayed in Cannanore for a few weeks as he took on supplies and repairs, and spent his time gathering as much information as he could on the situation in India. He learned that while not much had changed in the military and political situation, some sources said that trade between Calicut and Diu, China's westernmost trading post, seemed to be rising, indicating an attempt to strengthen diplomatic ties with the Ming Dynasty. However, other sources seemed to contradict this and indicated that China, as Gama suspected, had little interest in becoming entangled with the internal politics of India. On October 23, in order to find out the truth, Gama sent Pedro Afonso de Aguiar on three ships ahead of them to find out how Calicut had changed over the past few years.

In early November, Aguiar returned to Cannanore to report on what he discovered. He reported that Gama's initial suspicions that the Chinese would try to remain outside of Indian politics was correct and that the rumors that closer diplomatic ties were sought were just that: rumors. However, he did note that Calicut seemed better armed and fortified than when Cabral visited before. He also noted that commercial traffic did seem to increase after Cabral's visit and the destruction of the factory, but over the years it declined until it reached pre-1500 levels. Apparently, the Zamorin, fearing the Portuguese would return for revenge, sought to increase trade and strengthen ties with China, evidently hoping to prepare for a showdown. However, the Chinese proved rather unco-operative, as they had no interest in becoming entangled with Indian politics, so his diplomatic venture was a failure. Fortunately, though, he was able to increase trade with China, as Cabral had helped to weaken the Arab merchants and the Chinese found a niche to occupy, bringing more money into Calicut, which the Zamorin used to strengthen the defenses. Gama pressed him for information on the presence of Chinese merchants, and found that most had departed after conducting business. The ship that Matoso investigated was among the last of the merchants making their way to Calicut. His confidence restored, Gama sent Aguiar back to Calicut to demand that the Zamorin compensate Portugal for the damage done to the factory and the slaughter of the Portuguese during Cabral's visit. The Zamorin sent several letters declaring his willingness to negotiate with the Portuguese, promising to compensate them for the destruction of their factory. However, the Portuguese factor at Cochin sent Gama letters indicating that the Zamorin was playing for time, trying to rally support for his confrontation with the Portuguese.

Determined to find out the truth, Gama departed Cannanore with his entire armada, arriving in the city's harbor on November 18. The Zamorin sent a Brahmin, dressed as a friar, as an envoy to negotiate with Gama. The envoy tells Gama that over 16 rioters were arrested, indicating the Zamorin's willingness to co-operate with the Portuguese, and offering to return all the goods seized from them, though the Zamorin wanted to keep some as compensation for the damage inflicted by the Portuguese. Angered and suspecting the Zamorin of treachery, Gama demands that all the property be restored in full and that the Zamorin sets an upper limit in the number of Arab merchants allowed to visit as a prerequisite for further negotiations.

While waiting for the Zamorin's response, Gama patrolled the harbor, hindering trade between Calicut and her partners in an attempt to persuade the Zamorin to negotiate. During one of his patrols, he captured some fishing boats and held them hostage, angering the people of Calicut alongside the Zamorin. Enraged, the Zamorin responds that Calicut is a free port and would not impose any such restrictions on any merchants regardless of ethnicity or religion. He also demands that Gama release the hostages or they would not be allowed to trade at any port in India.

Furious, Gama sent a powerful ultimatum: return all the factory goods to the Portuguese by noon tomorrow, or else. Frantically, the Zamorin prepared his defenses: digging entrenchments, re-inforcing the city walls, and bringing his cannons to the beach. Meanwhile, Gama sent his boats to scout the harbor for the best firing positions. On noon of November 22, after receiving no response from the Zamorin, Gama had the hostages hung from the ships' mast, horrifying the spectators from ashore. Soon after, the armada opens fire on Calicut, primarily aiming to clear out the trenches and the cannons. The Calicut artillery responded with a valiant defense, sinking three ships and damaging five others. This damage was due to their unexpected range and damage, which came from ammunition inspired by the Chinese, including their arrowhead bullets and a type of exploding shell. As night fell, both sides fell back to assess the damage and the situation.

Unsure of how to proceed, Gama called a council of war with his captains to go over the events of the day. While they had managed to level a considerable portion of the city, most of the damage was done to the poorer areas, leaving the elite and the wealthy untouched. Also, the bombardment cost the Portuguese fleet nearly seven ships, though most were only damaged. On the plus side, most of the entrenchments and nearly half of the cannons were destroyed and rendered inoperable. Still, some captains were concerned that they failed to destroy all of Calicut's artillery, meaning that further battles might cripple the fleet. Gama decided to resume the bombardment rather than reconsider opening negotiations, but he sent the damaged ships away for repairs.

In Calicut, the Zamorin looked over the carnage of the bombardment. While his artillery managed to turn the Portuguese back, a good portion of the city was leveled by the barrage. Furthermore, his cannons on the beaches suffered heavy damage, and he knew that the Portuguese were likely to return, perhaps to finish the job. While he could probably turn back a second strike, he knew a third one would probably be the end of the line, both for his cannons and his city. To prevent further casualties, he decided to try to open negotiations again, hoping the Portuguese would see reason and end the fighting, if only to preserve their fleet and their naval power. In case the Portuguese felt vengeful or spiteful, he pulled the cannons back, giving himself a slight range advantage if the bombardment resumed.

The next day, the Zamorin sent an envoy asking Gama to reconsider negotiations, promising to deliver all the seized factorgy goods to Portugal, but Gama decided to resume the bombardment, The Zamorin returned fire, but due to the damage they suffered the day before, their impact was considerably weaker. Still, the Calicut artillery managed to inflict further damage to the Portuguese armada, sinking an additional two ships and damaging several others, some of them critically. This helped distract the Portuguese from the city, as they sought to clear out the remaining artillery, though they still managed to damage the wealthier areas of the city. As night fell, both sides withdrew to assess the damage.

Gama had lost five ships and had to recall nearly ten more for repairs, cutting his strength in half in just two days. While he had damaged the wealthier areas of the city and he had the feeling that the Zamorin was losing his artillery and would soon be helpless against Portugal's might, he feared that the cost might be too much for the fleet. Recalling the hostile and humiliating return of his predecessor, Cabral, he sought to avoid the same fate and decided to reopen negotiations, with the only fixed term being that all the seized factory goods would be returned to Portugal. Just in case the Zamorin tried his luck, or treachery, Gama decided to change his plans so that most of his ships would blockade Calicut rather than bombard it. Only five ships would be assigned to attack if the Zamorin proved unco-operative. These were also bait to lure out the Zamorin's cannons so the rest of his ships could destroy them later.

The Zamorin had lost almost all his artillery, leaving him with only two cannon batteries left to fight the Portuguese. While he had over five rocket batteries, built along Chinese lines, he knew that these would be virtually useless against the Portuguese ships. Realizing the Portuguese had the edge in firepower, he aimed to resolve the situation as peacefully as possible. He knew the Portuguese would demand the return of their factory goods, so he ordered that every one of said goods were to be gathered and prepared for delivery to the Portuguese. He also had his too remaining cannon batteries moved in case the Portuguese decided to resume the bombardment.

The next day, Gama sent an envoy detailing Gama's demands: the return of all the factory goods seized in the riot; a restriction on trade with Arab merchants; the construction of a new factory in the city limits; and fixed prices on the goods and services rendered. If these demands were not met, then Gama would impose a commercial blockade on the city. The Zamorin, noting that Gama threatened the city with a blockade instead of a bombardment, decided to play for time, and sent the envoy back, promising to return the goods if Gama agreed to return the bodies of the hostages and promised to agree to come back to negotiations. Simultaneously, the Zamorin sent messengers to other cities, asking for help to relieve his city. Gama, inquiring on the Zamorin's stance on the other terms, found that while the return of the goods was a virtual given, the Zamorin refused to agree to the others unless Gama agreed to negotiate. Deciding against pushing his luck, Gama agreed to talk and they met at the dock.

Unfortunately, while both sides agreed on the disposition of the seized factory goods, they could not agree on the other terms. While the Zamorin was willing to grant the Portuguese permission to build a factory in Calicut, he stood by his principles of Calicut being a free trade city, which meant no restrictions on merchants or prices. Gama tried to lessen the terms, but the Zamorin refused the terms in any form. Frustrated, Gama and the Zamorin agreed on an exchange, the hanged hostages for the seized goods, and both decided to consider building a new factory, though neither could agree on who would pay for its construction. The Zamorin wanted the Portuguese to pay for the majority of it, but Gama wanted the Zamorin to pay for it all. When neither side could agree, Gama decided to order a blockade of the city until the Zamorin agreed to be more co-operative.

With his blockade in place, Gama sailed to Cochin to resupply and repair the rest of his armada while also stocking up on spices for the return journey. As his armada was repaired and resupplied, he took the opportunity to discuss diplomatic and commercial relations between Portugal and Cochin with the Trimumpara Raja. Both soon agreed to construct a new factory to replace the one destroyed four years ago. However, more problematic was Gama's request for the Trimumpara Raja to restrict the activities of the Arab merchants in favor of their Portuguese competitors. In the end, in order to keep an ally in India, Gama agreed to drop this request and soon plans for the new factory were being drawn. As he and the Trimumpara Raja were finalizing their negotiations, Gama received a letter from the queen-regent of Qilon, inviting him to sail and stock up on spices. Gama, while enticed by the invitation, politely explained that he wanted to consult with the Trimumpara Raja first, in order to not offend him. The Trimumpara Raja initially wanted to ban Gama from going, as Qilon had a greater spice market than Cochin, but decided to grant Gama permission albeit under two conditions: only two ships would be sent to Qilon, and that the Portuguese would not establish a permanent factory there.

Between late November and mid January, as he repaired and resupplied his armada, Gama and his men gathered intelligence on the Chinese and Southeast Asian merchants travelling through the area. For the most part, little had changed in terms of the frequency and quantity of commercial and diplomatic interactions. However, recent interactions with the Portuguese, particularly the violent reactions at Calicut during Cabral's visit as well as the recent actions taken by Gama, had put these merchants on alert and had decided to give Calicut a wide berth for the time being while they waited to see how the situation would turn out. Rumors also circulated that local rulers in India and Southeast Asia, including China's vassals, were stepping up security in the area, both in their cities and in their trading fleets. A small handful of rumors, mainly from Malacca and Sumatra, indicated that even the Ming Emperor was considering these measures, though these were largely discounted. Nevertheless, the rumors convinced Gama that Portugal would probably be better off adopting a less militaristic approach until Portugal could establish itself further in India.

On January 23, 1505, after nearly two months in Cochin, Gama decided to visit Calicut once more to see whether the Zamorin decided to co-operate. As he was preparing his fleet to depart, he heard news that the Zamorin had somehow contacted Khoja Ambar and hired him to fight for Calicut. Now, a large fleet of ships, consisting of sambuks armed with cannons and smaller oar-powered ships were approaching Calicut, preparing to do battle. Facing a powerful force, Gama had to decide whether to give battle or not. If he gave battle, he risked pushing Calicut into the camp of a foreign rival, such as the Ming or the next European power that came along, as well as disobeying the king's orders. If he refused, he risked losing face to the Zamorin and the rest of India, potentially losing his only allies. He also had a shipment of ginger in Cannanore that he ordered upon his last visit, and did not want to leave without it.

After a brief discussion with his captains and the Trimumpara Raja, who advised him to leave straight for Portugal, Gama decided to try to resolve the situation with the Zamorin peacefully, so he sent a letter to the Zamorin asking to call off the privateer fleet if the blockade was lifted as a prelude to negotiations. The Zamorin upon receiving the letter, decided to indulge Gama, if only to give the privateer fleet more time to organize. Gama arrived just ahead of both his fleet and Ambar's. Gama requested that the Zamorin call off the privateer fleet and allow him to return to Portugal without harassment. In exchange, Gama would not only call off the blockade, but he would also help pay for the damage caused by his bombardment of the city. He also requested that the Zamorin remain open to future negotiations with Portugal the next time they arrived. After some brief discussions with his advisors, the Zamorin said that he would agree to Gama's requests with one strict condition: Gama's payment for the damages cause by his bombardment would include one ship's cargo of valuable spices. Gama, feeling the Zamorin was playing for time, asked to discuss the offer with his captains and left for the harbor.

Upon his return to the ships, he learned that Ambar's fleet had not still not yet arrived, perhaps due to its sheer size. This gave Gama a rather tempting opportunity to broadcast Portugal's power to the whole of India, and possibly even Asia. However, he reminded his men that their mission was primarily diplomatic, not military, and that they had largely accomplished their mission: find out the international repercussions of Cabral's visit in 1500. The findings confirmed that while the local rulers in India and Southeast Asia, including China's vassals, were becoming a little edgy, though China itself remained largely uninterested. The Zamorin was also somewhat willing to reopen relations with Portugal, though now he was becoming harder to convince due to the bombardment. Feeling that he had accomplished his mission, Gama decided to leave without fighting. One last matter was whether to acquiesce to the Zamorin's condition or simply flee while he could. He decided that to better improve Portugal's standing with Calicut, which would make establishing herself in India easier in the long-run, he decided to agree to the Zamorin's conditions and prepared for the cargo to be deposited. Also, with the cargo of ginger from Cannanore, he could replace part of his cargo given to the Zamorin as payment.

The next day, he returned to Calicut with a cargo of valuable spices he procured in Cochin as part of the negotiations. The Zamorin, apparently surprised that Gama stuck around instead of fleeing, accepted the cargo of spices and ordered Ambar's fleet to leave the Portuguese alone. Gama soon departed Calicut for Cannanore, stopping for supplies and the cargo he ordered. On January 28, 1505 he left Cannanore for the return trip to Portugal, stopping only once at Mozambique Island for supplies and repairs. On September 3, he pulled into Lisbon with his cargo and his information. While the king was somewhat disappointed in that Gama had to sacrifice a ship's cargo of spices, the fact that the rest of the fleet was relatively well-stocked alleviated this sacrifice. Also the information proved infinitely more valuable: the Zamorin was willing to reconsider opening relations with Portugal; but more importantly, it proved that China was not much interested in Indian politics so long as her people and her vassals did not get directly involved.

Early Colonies

As Columbus and Cabot made their last voyage across the Atlantic, the first colony ships were being launched from Spain, England, and Portugal for their respective destinations. Following Columbus' voyages across the Atlantic, English fishermen and woodcutters soon made their way across to settle along the Grand Banks, eager to make a fortune. Soon after, settlers began to follow Cabot's footsteps, seeking fresh farmland. In Spain, Bastidas led a fleet of colonists to the new islands, seeking gold. Finally, Portugal sent its own colonists to the shores of Brazil to secure it as a port on the route to India and to monopolize control over the brazilwood.

As Cabot returned to Newfoundland, he found the colony was building up slowly, with most buildings dedicated to logging and fishing, which were exactly what Cabot needed. Unfortunately, repair work on his ships was slow because the labor force was stretched thinly to build housing, wharfs, etc. Columbus contemplated enslaving the natives to bloster the labor force, but all attempts to find them proved fruitless, and sometimes dangerous. While the settlers had the edge in technology, the locals' numbers and familiarity with the terrain tipped the scales in their favor, and any attempts to enslave the mainlanders would leave them hostile and thus resilient to colonization. In the end, Columbus was forced to simply leave them alone until somehow the tables turned. To compensate for the labor shortage, Columbus and King Henry devised a system that used indentured servitude, where petty criminals and indebted people were shipped across to the colonies and put to work as a means of punishment, which helped alleviate the labor shortages. Later, the system was supplemented by slaves imported from West Africa, some through Portuguese intermediates, but most through direct dealings with local tribes and chiefdoms.

In the Caribbean, things were not much better for Bastidas and the settlers he led. Their crops fared poorly in the humid, tropical conditions, leaving the colony dependent on foraging and imports from Europe. To make matters worse, the local gold was quickly used up, and the colony had to find new sources to convince the king the colony was worth the price. Needing a new source of labor, Bastidas turned to enslaving the natives and forcing them to work in the mines, scouring for gold. Harsh conditions and hard work dwindled the natives' numbers, and their patience, until eventually, after nearly a year, the natives rebelled and attacked the colony. While the Spanish had superior technology, they were outnumbered over ten to one, and weak from hunger. After a brutal battle, the Spanish were forced to flee for their ships, abandoning their colony.

Five years later, the Spanish returned, in greater numbers and more weapons, and restored the colony. However, due to large populations of natives, the colony's expansion is temporary put on hold. Over the next few years, warfare with the Spanish and introduced diseases devastated the native population, cutting their numbers in half in just over fifteen years. With the native populations dwindling, the Spanish were soon able to impose complete control over the island, but the dwindling native populations forced them to find another labor source. They eventually settled on a combination of indentured servitude for petty criminals and people unable to pay their debts, and importing African slaves via the Portuguese and local African chiefs. The system had the advantages of making runaways easier to distinguish from the native populations and having fewer laborers dying from infectious diseases.

In Brazil, the Portuguese have built a small colony whose intent is to re-supply and fix Portuguese ships on the way to India. An additional purpose was the harvest and export of brazilwood back to Europe. The colony was built in Porto Seguro. Unlike the Spanish colony, the main problem facing the Portuguese is the extensive forest that restricts the colony's growth. Hence, the Portuguese colony begins expanding along the coast rather than inward toward the interior, eventually linking up with the city on the river. To solve the problem of labor, paricularly to help harvest and clear the vast forest, Portugal begins taking slaves from West Africa and forcing them to cut down trees. On the other hand, to support the growing number of slaves needed, Portugal is also secures a position in Elmina, where locals were captured and sold. 
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Portuguese Slave Trade

With the slaves imported from Africa, the Portuguese slowly begin clearing some of the forests, allowing the early settlers to make preliminary attempts at farming. Unfortunately, like the Spanish, many of their crops fail to take root due to the thin, acidic soils they are encountering. This puzzled the Portuguese as they saw that the cities on the coast and the river relied primarily on agriculture, leading them to import seeds and sprouting plants to transplant in their own gardens. To their disappointment, the native crops, while faring better than their own, did not meet their expectations, yielding less than what they observed in the local cities. Rumors began circulating that the locals sabotaged their efforts by giving them low-quality or sick plants, escalating an already tense situation. Others, including early explorers in the region were not so convinced, as they noted that the soils were different in the cities they explored. Instead of the thin, tan-colored soils found in the early colonies, they encountered thick black soil, terra preta they called it. Realizing that this soil had to have been man-made, the Portuguese investigated the locals, hoping to uncover the means to manufacture it for the long-term survival of the colony.

Over the next decade, the European colonies slowly took root, as the colonists learned to adapt to their new homes. In the tropical islands and coastline of Brazil, the colonists adopted local plants, including maize, a staple of the local food supply. In Newfoundland, the indentured servitude boosted the labor pool and hastened the construction of the naval infrastructure. As they became more firmly established around 1520, their respective governments started to contemplate expansion farther into adjacent areas, except for Portugal who was more interested in India than Brazil. The British established their second colony, at the mouth of the Saint Francis River as a first attempt at establishing an agricultural base in Vinlandia. They also established a few trading posts along the western coast of the Gulf of Saint Wenceslas to further monopolize the fur trade and expand relations with local trappers and hunters.

In the southern islands, the Spanish expanded their colonies to include the mountainous island immediately west of Espanola and the mountainous tip of the large island to the northwest in the hopes of finding gold. As their prospectors and miners worked the mountains, some small-scale farms were established, both for subsistence and cash crops, along with the seeds of future plantations on the larger islands. While some gold was found on both islands, it gradually became apparent that their greatest economic value would be as agricultural centers, especially for cash crops, such as sugarcane and a local plant called tobacco.

Verazzano's Trans-Atlantic Voyages

Meanwhile, as Spain, Portugal and England were building colonies in the new lands of Vinlandia and Brazil, France finally began to catch up with her rivals. Hearing of the reports of gold, furs and other valuable materials in the new lands, King Louis XII wanted to commission his own voyages of exploration and colonization from almost the turn of the century, but was occupied with finishing a war in Italy. In 1504, King Louis had finally ended the war with a series of treaties with the other belligerent nations, giving him the chance to launch the first French explorers. One of the first explorers of French employment was Giovanni da Verazzano.

In April of 1508, Giovanni da Verazzano, in command of eight ships, departed France in a west by southwest direction, aiming to explore Vinlandia south of the English colonies. After approximately eight weeks at sea, during which he lost a ship during a storm, Verazzano spotted low-lying land and dropped anchor before departing to forage and to explore. The high humidity and temperature somewhat slowed his progress, but he soon discovered signs of human habitation and continued exploring the coasts. He soon encountered some native fishermen and attempted to open negotiations, but the linguistic barrier proved difficult, as neither party could comprehend the other. Through patience, caution, and determination, the French managed to convince the fishermen that they were not a threat, allowing rudimentary trade to develop, with the French trading metal tools, especially hooks and knives, for local trinkets. Over the next five weeks, as Verazzano explored the coastline, he took careful note of the landscape and later compiled it into a rudimentary chart, which showed an irregular coastline marked by flords and bays north and south of his landing point. He also studied the surrounding forest to catalog all the plants he could, mostly trees and herbs for future reference.

As August drew near, Verazzano decided to return to France, but not before kidnapping seven local fishermen to take back to show the King. As Verazzano's fleet travelled home to France, he encountered an unfortunate complication: his captives became deathly sick from European diseases, including influenza. All but two died of disease before reaching France, and those that survived remained weak and lethargic for weeks. In early October, Verazzano's fleet pulled into Dieppe, France. As his men unloaded the ships, Verazzano went to report his findings and show the captured natives to the King. While King Louis was fascinated by the exotica Verazzano presented him, he was disappointed that Verazzano did not bring back any of the valuables that England, Spain, and Portugal were receiving from their travels. However, Verazzano's soil and flora reports indicated that the area was excellent for growing crops, including European crops and that perhaps France could use it as a gigantic cash crop colony, or perhaps simply grow large surpluses of food for export. In any case, King Louis wanted to investigate farther, and commissioned another fleet to sail for the new areas.

On April 15, 1509, Verazzano, in command of a fleet of 12 ships, set sail once more for the new lands. After nine weeks at sea, he returned to the new lands, where he divided his fleet into two groups of six ships each, both with similar missions: map the coastline and scout the area's resources and inhabitants, keeping a sharp eye out for European influence, primarily Spanish and English. One under his command would head north. The second headed south on a similar mission under the command of a Jean Alfonse, his second-in-command of the fleet. They scheduled to rendezous at their starting location in twelve weeks time to amalgamate their respective findings. After stocking up on supplies, the two commanders went their separate ways.

Verazzano hugged the coastline north, taking his time to map the area in detail, a task that was made more difficult by the northward flowing currents. As he travelled north up the coast, he found it turn slightly westward and become more convoluted, with more fjords and inlets, which he explored via the boats. As he explored the area around the first of these bays, he made contact with some of the local fishermen. Fortunately for Verazzano, while the locals spoke a different language than any of his crewmen, their language had some similarities with the tribes he first encountered, so trade developed somewhat quicker than on his prior voyage. As before, the French traded metal tools, including fish hooks, knives, and axes, for local exotica, including clothes and some furs. Over the next two weeks, as Verazzano explored the area surrounding the bay and traded with the locals, he took the opportunity to try to learn more about the area, namely what other peoples they had contact with. The locals mentioned that they did have contact with other tribes, including one that spoke a language different from their own to the north as well as those that shared a similar language to the west and south. When Verazzano pressed for information on the Spanish or English, the natives responded with puzzlement at his questions and the descriptions. This response along with the lack of European goods found with them indicated that they had no contact with the English or the Spanish, leading him to deduce that neither had visited the region nor had their goods reached the area. Satisfied, Verazzano departed and left to explore the coastline north of the bay.

As Verazanno sailed farther north, he explored the coastal plains and a second bay, where he encountered local fishermen. Hoping to gather more information, he tried to open talks with the fishermen, but they spoke a language slightly different from those to the south, hindering his efforts. To expediate the process, he opened trade with the locals, exchanging metal tools for local trinkets. Over the next few weeks, as his men gathered supplies and information, he slowly learned enough to open preliminary talks. His talks with the locals revealed that they subsisted on hunting and gathering with some limited agriculture. He also learned that they had some copper tools, but these lacked any sign of smelting or alloying, meaning that they were not as durable as European steel, something he noted later for the king. As with those to the south, most of the tribes only had contact with other locals, mostly with others that spoke a language similar to their own, but there was a small group to the west whose language differed from theirs. When he pressed for information on the English, they replied that they did not know who he was talking about, indicating that the English still had not reached this part of Vinlandia. Satisfied, Verazzano packed up and headed farther north.

Farther north, the coast became more regular, with fewer bays and fjords, but more rugged, with more mountains. Seeking a good place to land, Verazzano stopped at a point between two pieces of land, which he surmised was another bay, akin to those he encountered earlier to the south. He decided to stop for supplies and repairs, as well as to explore the region. As his men foraged in the woods for wood and berries, they encountered some fishermen from the west. Verazzano, eager for more information, quickly attempted to open a trade with them, offering much the same goods as before. However, here he noticed something different with the locals: some of them had European tools, from knives to hooks to axes, though they were still eager for more. Thinking the English had arrived ahead of him, he asked the locals about them, but they showed only puzzlement at his request. When he asked where they had received the tools, they revealed that they obtained them through trade with other tribes, meaning the English still had not reached the region. After taking on supplies and repairs, he contemplated sailing farther north to try to gauge the southern edge of the English sphere of influence, but he had already spent nearly six weeks travelling north, and the northward heading currents meant that he would risk running behind schedule and turned south, though he acquired some locals before doing so for presentation to the king.

Meanwhile Alfonse travelled south, maping the coast as his went. He noticed that the coastline became more regular, with fewer fjords and inlets than farther north. In their place were many salt marshes and estuaries along the coasts, followed by sand dunes farther inland. The climate also became warmer and more humid, which combined with the marshy coast, slightly inhibited Alfonse's exploration of the area. After exploring the coastline over a few weeks, he eventually made contact with some of the local tribes, mostly fishermen. Unfortunately for Alfonse, many of the fishermen spoke a very different language than any he or his men had encountered, including sailors from Verazzano's first voyage, inhibiting trade and talks with the locals. Eventually, preliminary trade, involving metal tools, such as fish hooks and knives, for local exotica, such as clothe and sometimes furs, developed between the Europeans and the natives. As his men traded with the locals, Alfonse continued to explore the surrounding area to study the local ecosystem and peoples. When he asked them about what peoples they interacted with, they mostly described other tribes, and never mentioned anything that sounded like the Spanish. Confident that they were still north of the Spanish sphere of influence, Alfonse soon departed to explore farther south.

As he travelled farther south along the coast and some of the rivers, Alfonse took careful note of the landscape and the local peoples for particular features. He noticed that farther south, there seemed to be raised mounds of earth near the settlements, as if they were constructed by the people themselves. He also noticed that the people possessed copper tools and trinkets, many of them splendidly decorated, indicating that they were valued as prestige items, akin to fur in Europe. Re-inforcing this impression was that most of the locals used tools made of wood and stone rather than copper, which allowed a rich trade in steel European goods, such as knives, hooks and some farming tools as well. This convinced him that the Spanish had not yet reached the region, and so he briefly contemplated travelling farther south, but he had spent nearly eight weeks as it was, and he feared running behind schedule, so he turned north to rendevous with Verazzano, but not before capturing some of the locals to take back to France.

Upon their rendevous, both Verazzano and Alfonse went over their notes and their charts, and compiled their findings and their charts together. After stocking up on supplies and repairs, the fleet, now back under Verazzano's full command, turned west to France on October 15 of 1509. After a two month long voyage, which cost nearly half the captured natives and the loss of one ship in a storm, the fleet finally reached France. As the crew set about overhauling the ships, Verazzano and Alfonse made for Paris to report to the king, who planned to make a run near the end of the year. King Louis was once more intrigued by Verazzano's findings. While he was again disappointed in their relative sparcity of valuables, he was amazed by the amount of land open for settlement, which seemed equivalent to the current land area of France. King Louis decided to draft plans for settlement, starting with the area that Verazzano first landed, and spreading southward. However, King Louis decided to commission another expedition to see how far north the Spanish held influence in Vinlandia before sending in settlers. For this, he appointed Verazzano to lead the next expedition, with Alfonse as his second-in-command.

On March 28, 1510, Verazzano and Alfonse set up on their third voyage, aiming farther south on the Vinlandian coast. After nine weeks at sea, they arrived at the area that Alfonse explored the year before, just north of where he stopped in his travels. After stocking up on supplies and checking their ships for damage, they sailed south, searching for signs of Spanish contact or influence, primarily through the presence or absence of Spanish goods. Over the next seven weeks, as they travelled the coastline and foraged along the rivers, they encountered settlements with more prominent and more decorated mounds, as if they were approaching the cultural "capital" of the region. They eventually arrived at a region on the coast with ruined buildings amongst a number of large mounds, which they came to name "Chateau de Vinlandia", as a handy reference point on their maps. Stopping for supplies, Verazzano came into contact with some local fishermen and attempted to open negotiations. Linguistic differences on both sides hindered negotiations to a degree, but the locals captured the year earlier helped give the French some help in the local language. Eventually, a trade opened up with the French trading steel tools, including hooks and knives for exotica, including a few beautifully decorated but somewhat corroded copper plates. As Verazzano talked with the locals, while his crew stayed on their ships, he sent Alfonse to scout south down the coast to learn more about the area while he learned more about the people in question.

During his talks, Verazzano heard stories of great cities with splendid mounds that fell into ruin following heightened fighting and unrest, forced the people to abandon the cities and seek refuge elsewhere. Verazzano saw these stories, provided they were true, as mixed blessings, because they indicated the area was suitable for large-scale agriculture, but with the settlements abandoned, any infrastructure that existed would be useless and the French settlers would have to start from scratch. He then asked about other peoples that they knew about, and learned that there were people that practiced small-scale agriculture along the river and the coast. During his commercial exchanges with the locals, he noticed that they did not possess steel tools, indicating that the Spanish had not reached this far north yet. Figuring the Spanish had not yet arrived, he decided to do a quick survery of the land along the coast and the river for planning future settlements, taking careful note of the hydrology of the river and the properties of the soil, as well as the trees and herbs in the forest. Approximately four weeks following his arrival, Verazzano departed the area and turned south.

As Verazzano travelled south down the coast, he made detailed observations of the natives and their environment. He found that most of the people engaged in small-scale agriculture along the rivers, along with hunting and fishing, though the stories of great cities still abound in some areas. He also noticed that most of them lacked metal tools, except a few copper plates in some cases and the occasional steel knife or ax, indicating that he was still north of Spain's sphere of influence, so, after stocking up on supplies and acquiring some locals as guides, he pressed on south. After over six weeks of travelling down the coast, Verazzano began to notice a shift in the people and the environment. As he travelled farther south, the land became swampier, and the locals shifted from agriculture to fishing and coastal foraging. They also spoke a different language than that which he encountered earlier to the north, hindering his efforts at negotiating with the locals. Over the next two weeks, he noticed that the locals had comparatively higher quantities of steel tools, including knives and axes, before the French tried opening trade than with those farther north. Seeing this as indicative that he was approaching the northern limit of Spanish influence, he stocked up on supplies and turned east-northeast to return to France, but not before capturing some locals to present to the king.

Approximately three weeks into his return journey, the locals began to get sick with a disease that Verazzano and the French recognized as influenza. Despite their determined efforts, over two-thirds of the captured locals, eight of twelve, died, and those that survived were left weak and all but one would die shortly after arriving in France from additional infections. After spending nearly two months at sea, the fleet returned to France in early December. While his men recuperated from their long voyage, Verazzano reported to the capital to inform the king of his findings. The King was immensely pleased with the findings, as they indicated that the region was well-suited, perhaps even ideal in some places, for large-scale agriculture, and that it was well outside the sphere of influence of both Spain and England, which would give France time to colonize and consolidate. Almost immediately, King Louis and his ministers and Verazzano began drafting plans and recruiting settlers for the first colony.

On March 19, 1512, Verazzano once more set sail across the Atlantic, only this time he was accompanied by over 300 French settlers, aiming to establish the first colony in New France. After a nine-week journey, they arrived near Verazzano's first landing site and began developing the area into a small village. Under Verazzano's direction, the settlers built a lumberyard to gather wood and to make room for farming in the future. As they cleared the forest, they built cabins for shelter along with small gardens, as a preliminary for the farms they would grow next spring. After over a month, they eventually came into contact with some of the locals during a foraging trip into the forest for wild food sources, and soon talks and trade opened between the settlers and the locals, exchanging metal tools for local supplies and exotica, which helped booster the colony's food supplies in the early times.

During their talks and their subsequent encounters, the French gradually learned more about the locals. They learned that most of the locals on the coast shared a similar language and culture, subsisting on a combination of hunting, foraging and agriculture, centered on a strange plant that resembled bamboo but grew large kernels along the stalk. However, these people while sharing linguistic and cultural similarities, did not form a single nation or empire as in Europe. Instead, they were organized into different chiefdoms that sometimes competed or fought with one another. This information was a double-edged sword to the French: it made it possible to set the chiefdoms against each other to France's advantage; but it made conquering the area more difficult, and presented the same opportunity to the Spanish, the English and any other European power that made it to Vinlandia. As such, the French sought to establish and maintain good diplomatic relations with the locals, until they could establish themselves more firmly in the area.

Over the next decade, during the War of the League of Cambrai, the French colony, though almost neglected, grew very slowly as the people adapted to the local environment, incorporating some local crops and agricultural practices to boost their food supply, as well as attracting some locals to immigrate into the area. As they became better adapted to their environment, they developed closer relations with some of the local chiefdoms, slowly forming a network of alliances that spread into the interior, giving the French more influence than was expected of the colony's size. After approximately a decade, the French, under the direction of Verazzano, built a second city farther south to expand their influence among tribes farther south along the coast. However, this city was nearly abandoned as France was pulled into another war and resources had to be diverted to the fighting in Europe rather than a small town across the ocean. By the time the French resumed their efforts at colonization, they found the city almost abandoned, with most of the early settlers dead or simply vanished, with some evidence of fighting in the city. The newest settlers decided to settle a different area, closer to their first colony for better support, while French officials briefly investigated the colony's demise.

The Emperor's Curiosity

As the Europeans conducted their voyages of exploration, stories of their discoveries trickled into East Asia, though little came of them initially. The major powers in the area either were not interested in something so far away, as in the case of China, or were too busy with internal or external conflicts, as in the case of Japan. Everything changed upon the coronation of Zhu Fuli as the Taihu Emperor on February 20, 1509. The Taihu Emperor, intrigued by the stories of new sources of gold and furs discovered by the Europeans, decided to launch his own voyages of exploration, though he had to wait a short while to build up the resources and the support for the next line of voyages, as Europeans, particularly the Portuguese had begun exerting more influence over India, and even pushed into the areas under the control of China's vassals, including the Malacca Sultanate, drawing China's attention. After a brief but tense few months in 1511, in which case the Ming threatened to mobilize its fleet, Portugal withdrew itself from the Strait of Malacca, but they continued seeking alternative routes to the Spice Islands. Soon after, a young Portuguese captain named Jorge Alvares reached China in Guangzhou. Though his voyage failed to provide any immediate profits or trade benefits, his sailors told stories of the new lands, reinforcing the Emperor's decision to explore the seas to the east. The following year, the Chinese confirmed that the stories of new discoveries, albeit exaggerated, were true, enticing the Emperor to follow Europe's example.

By 1515, he had assembled a small fleet of ten ships, organized in a similar manner to the esteemed Treasure Fleets of nearly a century before, but the legendary Treasure Ships were completely absent for both economic and political reasons. In their place stood a line of flagships that were still larger and more decorated than the other ships in the new fleet, but not nearly as much as the Treasure Ships. These were sleeker than the Treasure Ships and better built for battle, but had the same overall purpose as their legendary predecessors: to display the wealth and power of Ming China to all they encountered.

As the fleet was constructed, the Taihu Emperor and his admirals discussed the direction for the fleet to sail. Some wanted to sail directly east, but the majority argued to sail north, along the coast. They argued that they did not know the longitudinal width of Vinlandia and Brazil, so sailing directly east risked them losing the fleet and any information they may obtain. The Emperor agreed and the fleet was scheduled to sail northeast along the coast. About halfway in the fleet's construction, the Emperor sent envoys to Jungjong of Korea as well as various Daimyo in western and northern Japan, hoping to obtain more information on the north seas. While most of his inquiries resulted in dead ends, the northern Daimyo offered Ainu guides who knew a string of islands that stretched to the tip of a peninsula to the north. The islands had very bad weather for sailing, with long, cold winters, and short, foggy summers. This peninsula was highly mountainous, and was very cold in winter, predominated by tundra, though forests grew on the southern areas. They also said that the peninsula was inhabited by hunter-gatherers who spoke a language incomprehensible to them and seemed to have very short tempers. Armed with this information, the fleet was equipped with gear to withstand cold temperatures, including thicker hulls, crops better adapted to cold environments and furs imported from the Mongols and Jurchens. They also arranged for the fleet to stop in Japan and Hokkaido along the way for supplies, before travelling along the archipelago described by the Ainu.

On March 14, 1515, the fleet, under the command of Zheng Zun, set sail from Nanjing for Korea, arriving in the Gyeonggi-do province near the capital of Hanseong approximately a month later. After stocking up on supplies, they departed on April 19, hugging the coast on their way to Hokkaido. As they approached the island of Tsushima, the fleet turned east by northeast to cross the Sea of Japan. In mid April, they arrived at the northern tip of Japan under the authority of the Nanbu and Tsugaru clans. While stocking up on supplies, they hired up some Japanese fishermen and merchants who could act as interpreters for the Ainu. A week later, the fleet left northward, following the Hokkaido coast, stopping for supplies and repairs along the way. As the fleet approached the archipelago, they gave local Ainu fishermen gifts of silk and gold in exchange for their service as guides, and in some cases, interpreters.

In early May, the fleet started sailing along the islands, they took care to space themselves apart from each other, to prevent accidental collisions in the fog. They also used bright red lanterns to try to navigate through the fog. Even with all their precautions, they still had accidents, and had to stop for repairs. Once, during a storm, three ships collided and were heavily damaged, forcing them to make emergency repairs, though one ship was deemed irreparable and salvaged for parts. This forced Zheng Zun to rethink trying to continue sailing north or try to sail in a more eastern direction. Zheng Zun consulted his Ainu guides on the distance to the peninsula in question and learned that their destination was just a few weeks away and decided to press on, though he promised to turn back if they suffered more serious losses. By late June, they arrived at what local Ainu identified as the peninsula in question. As the fleet stopped to take up supplies and make some repairs, Zun, twenty soldiers, and several scribes went a short way up the coast to explore and perhaps encounter some of the locals. He also sent some ships immediately eastward as well as up the coast to scout ahead for islands or other land in preparation for the next leg of the voyage. They met up with some local hunters and attemped to open negotiations, but encountered a tremendous linguistic barrier than neither could overcome. When the linguistic barrier proved more difficult than anticipated, they attempted trade, exchanging steel knives and other tools for some local supplies and furs, but what the Chinese really wanted was information. After nearly a month of working on the linguistic barrier, they eventually gave up and decided to leave.

Zun's scout ships reported that there were some islands to the east of the peninsula, rocky in nature, very cold, and almost constantly hidden in fog, with very few trees except for some willows. There were also some local peoples on the islands, which subsisted on fishing the coast, and spoke an incomprehensible language. The scout ships also amalgamated their charts on the islands, which seemed to indicate that the islands were an archipelago that stretched northwest-southeast from a point farther north up the peninsula. This left Zun with a dilemma: assume the islands were part of the archipelago indicated and head eastward; or head north along the coast and explore the nearest islands and leapfrog it across. Zun asked about the climate to try to settle the debate, and learned that it only became cooler farther north, but remained foggy much as it was farther south. He decided to play it safe and began travelling north along the coast, sending scout ships ahead to warn of potential icebergs. After inching up the coast for several weeks, with relatively few accidents, the fleet arrived near the first island, and after stopping for supplies, they turned east-southeast to look for more islands.

As the fleet followed the chain southeastward, they took careful note of the islands and the ecology. The islands farthest north were uninhabited by humans and had no forests, and very few land animals lived upon them. However, they did sport a rich marine ecosystem, with high populations of fish, otters, seals, and a strange creature that looked like a large seal but had a whale-like tail and two short, stocky forelimbs. This large animal, which they called Hǎiniú (海牛 literally "Sea Cow") after its herbivorous diet and extremely placid, even tame reaction to humans, was a particular favorite of the men as a source of food and oil for their lamps. As they travelled farther south, the climate became warmer, allowing for some stands of willows, though no other trees were found. They also found local fishermen, and Zheng Zun tried to open talks with them, but their language proved incomprehensible to his men. Over the weeks, as Zheng Zun tried to bridge the linguistic gap, his men slowly developed a rudimentary trade with the locals, exchanging metal tools for local foods. After acquiring some grasp of their language, Zheng Zun tried to question them about the sea to the east, and learned that there was land farther eastward, including what was a long peninsula. When he questioned them about the inhabitants and ecology of the peninsula, he learned that the peninsula was quite mountainous, with some willow forests, and extreme in geography, with the north being considerably flatter than the south, with muddier, more turbulent water. The locals of the peninsula shared a similar culture and language with the natives of the archipelago, which led Zheng Zun to offer some gifts of silk and porcelain in exchange for some of the natives accompanying him and the fleet as guides and interpreters. After stocking up on supplies, the fleet sailed eastward, following the islands.

However, Zheng Zun and his crew encountered an unanticipated problem: their guides became deathly sick with a disease, most likely influenza. While his doctors tried to help them, most of them died from the disease, leaving only four survivors out of the original ten. This meant that Zheng Zun had to look for more guides as his travelled eastward to replace those that had died. He also worked with his doctors to try to reduce the death rates, and as a backup measure, his scribes worked harder to learn their language in case all of them should die. Eventually, he reached the southern coast of the peninsula the natives described, but by then it was early September. He also found that the coast was subject to heavy rains and intense storms, one of which sunk two ships and damaged one of his flagships. Seeing the damage the fleet was taking, he did a cursory exploration of the southern coast and prepared to turn back, though the exact route was somewhat up for debate. He could turn back the way he came and simply follow the archipelago, albeit taking shortcuts to the peninsula and then to Japan. On the other hand, he could simply head straight to Japan from his current location. While his navigators were confident that they could chart such a course and it had the attraction of avoiding potential icebergs in the warmer water, they warned against it, as they had no idea of what islands or other lands were between their present location and Japan. Zheng Zun decided to take the risk and travel southward.

On September 9th, Zheng Zun and the fleet turned southwest back to Japan, crossing the open sea. They stood on lookout for any islands or peninsulas that they could use, but they found nothing but open water. By early December they had reached Edo in Japan, stopping for supplies and were soon on their way back to China. By mid January, they pulled into Nanjing, where his men disembarked and his ships underwent repairs while he made his way to Beijing to report to the Taihu Emperor. The Emperor was greatly interested in learning more about the lands to the northwest, but the court, however, was not as ready to explore, as the voyage cost three ships and yielded no gold or anything of value, except the occasional fur that Zun's crew had obtained from hunting and trade. Zheng Zun informed the court that the islands and the peninsulas they encountered were exceptionally rich in fur-bearing animals, which were worth a high price on the world market, and that China had a golden opportunity to virtually monopolize this trade, somewhat confusing the court. He explained that with the Japanese embroiled in their incessant in-fighting and Korea still recovering from the factional fighting, neither could spare resources or men to exploiting the northern lands, giving China almost full monopoly on the fur trade. This argument swayed enough of the court to support another expedition to the new lands, which they scheduled to depart in early March.

On March 16, 1517, Zheng Zun set off once more to the islands, though this time, the fleet departed from Qingdao in Shandong Province near the Bohai Sea instead of Nanjing as it did the year before. Travelling along much the same route as the year before, Zheng Zun reached Hokkaido by mid April, and by mid May, he reached the first peninsula he encountered the year before. Then he travelled directly east, knowing the position of the archipelago that he explored earlier. As he travelled the islands, he found that several natives had became sick from diseases introduced by the Chinese, and that a small handful had even died, which made the population suspicious of the Chinese fleet upon their return. This proved problematic for Zheng Zun, because the natives he brought with him on his first voyage had all died upon their return to China due to complications from additional infections, and he needed new guides for his voyage. Fortunately for Zheng Zun, the products he traded earlier proved valuable enough that some locals were still willing to work as guides for the Chinese, and Zheng Zun had a new item to trade: steel harpoon tips. These proved more durable and malleable than their bone and wood counterparts, though they were vulnerable to rusting in the high humidity, so to compensate, the Chinese showed the locals how to clean their new harpoon tips to delay the damaging effects. These helped Zheng Zun repair their diplomatic relations and acquire more guides for his exploration of the peninsula.

By late June, Zheng Zun had returned to the point on the peninsula where he travelled prior to turning back. His first order of business was to send his scouts to search for a bay or fjord that could help mitigate the danger posed by the intense storms along the coast. During their searches, the scouts encountered some local fishermen, and they began opening talks. Thanks to their prior experience with the islanders, talks and trade opened up faster and more smoothly than in their previous attempts. A trade developed along much the same lines as before: metal tools for furs and some supplies. As the Chinese traded with the locals, Zheng Zun explored the peninsula, taking note of multiple bays and islands that could be useful as harbors for repairing and housing ships in the far future.

After travelling up the coast for several weeks, Zheng Zun, thanks to help from local guides, found a large island off the coast of the land he was exploring in mid-August. As his men travelled the coast, they encountered some local fishermen, but unfortunately their language, while sharing some similarities with the natives they had already encountered, was harder for the Chinese to understand. Eventually, a trade opened up between the Chinese and the locals, exchanging metal tools, such as fish hooks, axes and knives for local wood and furs. While exploring the island, Zheng Zun's men shot one of the largest bears they had ever encountered and took the fur as a gift for the Emperor, impressing the natives with their guns' sheer penetrative and killing power. When Zheng Zun heard of this, he briefly considered capturing a juvenile or infant bear to add to the Emperor's menagerie, as his ancestor once did with the Yongle Emperor's qilin, but decided against it. Further exploration showed the island had many bays that provided shelter from the storms, as well as heavy forest on the north and east sides and rich fishing grounds. Zheng Zun realized that this island would be key to control the fur trade in the area and prepared his arguments at the court.

As September arrived, Zheng Zun realized that it was time to leave, and decided to travel over the open water rather than back along the archipelago. After stocking up on supplies, he turned the fleet west-southwest on a course for Edo, Japan. By late October, the fleet had pulled into port at Edo for supplies and repairs, as one ship had taken a beating from a storm three-quarters of the trip to Edo. By early November, they had returned to their port at Qingdao, where Zheng Zun departed for the Emperor in Beijing, along with the furs they had procured. This time, the court was much more impressed, as they had far fewer losses and more capital gained from the furs, and they acquired some very useful information on the local ecosystem and inhabitants. They considered the possibility of building trading posts on the large island off the coast as well as in some key bays along the peninsula to provide a safe haven for coming and going ships, as well as a convenient base for future exploration of the region.

On March 27, 1519, Zheng Zun set off on his third voyage to the northern seas, commanding a fleet of eight ships, he set off from Qingdao for the large island, which they called Kē dí yà kè dǎo (科迪亞克島 from a transliteration of a local word). However, this time, instead of travelling along the coast of Japan and the Kuril Islands, as they did in the past, they went to Edo before heading out across open water, as part of an experiment to see if they could save time and/or capital by travelling one way or the other. The fleet stopped in Edo for supplies and repairs prior to setting off across the open ocean, making sure to carry an abundance of supplies in case something happened. The Chinese also sought to hire local fishermen and whalers who had some experience in the open water, but they found that most of the fishermen and whalers hunted primarily near the coast, so they gave up, but they did acquire some useful information on typhoon patterns and frequency before departing.

On their eight week journey across the water, they took careful note of the weather patterns, as it was their first time crossing the open ocean in the summer months, and had little idea of what to expect save for the information they obtained from the Japanese fishermen. Fortunately, they managed to avoid the height of the typhoon season, but still encountered a handful of storms on their trip north and suffered some damage. In mid June, they returned to the northern coast of Kē dí yà kè dǎo, where they first assessed the full damage they suffered in the typhoons along with foraging for supplies and water. After taking on supplies and repairs, they began a survey of the island for the best locations for building a trading post, based on the available resources, the lay of the land, and the disposition of the locals. They found a number of sites along the island and the peninsula with high potential, and sought out the locals to ascertain their disposition to the construction of a trading post. They discovered that as with the islands before, some disease, most likely influenza, broke out among the locals and many had died in epidemic numbers, leaving over 30 percent of the population dead, diplomatic relations soured, and Zheng Zun facing the difficult challenge of re-establishing relations.

Fortunately for Zheng Zun, he brought a number of items, including steel harpoon tips and fish hooks, that proved valuable enough that he was able to re-establish diplomatic relations with some of the tribes. Zheng Zun also had his doctors look over the most recently sick, whom they tried to treat, but their efforts had little impact, though it convinced the tribes that the Chinese did not intentionally spread the disease, helping to smooth over diplomatic tensions. With the diplomatic tensions mostly smoothed over, Zheng Zun opened talks on the plan to build a trading post on the island to the locals. He found that they were mostly indifferent to the presence of a trading post, until he mentioned the increased exchange of metal tools, along with other goods from China, which piqued their interest. Eventually, they decided that both Chinese and local labor would be employed to build the factory, with the Chinese providing metal tools, some silk robes, jade trinkets, and other such goods in exchange for the natives' help.

Meanwhile, as Zheng Zun talked with the locals, he sent his scout ships along the coast to the east to investigate it ahead of the fleet. When they returned some weeks later, they brought preliminary information on the regions they explored. They described a rough, irregular coastline, including two large bays, ringed with mountains and often shrouded in fog. The areas near the inlets consisted mostly of coniferous forests, and, to much their surprise, the coastline farther east, especially after the second bay, consisted of temperate rain forests. The people were mostly fishermen and hunters that spoke a variety of languages, including a number that were incomprehensible to the Chinese, posing a challenge for the fleet's continued exploration. Zheng Zun inquired some of the locals about these peoples in case some of them might be useful as guides and/or interpreters. While he was able to find some who knew the terrain better than his men, very few had any knowledge of the languages of the areas Zheng Zun's men had visited.

Zheng Zun decided to visit at least one of the bays before returning home to China if only to get a feel for the land and the people. Being pressed for time, he visited the closer of the two bays, and found a rich marine ecosystem that included fur-bearing otters, which fetched among the higher prices on the market. During his two-week exploration of the bay, which he named Zhǎng wān (長灣 literally "Long Bay") he found that the people spoke a very different language from the people on the island, but had a somewhat similar lifestyle to the islanders, living off the sea and living in small villages in a semi-sedentary manner. He found that as with the islanders, he could trade metal tools and small trinkets for furs and some supplies. After a total of three weeks of exploring, he turned back for China, travelling southwest out into the open water.

After an eleven week journey over the open water, the fleet stopped in Edo for supplies and repairs, as well as to return the Japanese fishermen. On September 23, they returned to Nanjing and began unloading supplies and goods while Zheng Zun went to Beijing to report to the Emperor and his court. His report indicated that in terms of travel time, there was no real difference between hugging the coast or heading out over open water, but it was safer in terms of dealing with fog, and if the journey was timed and directed right, they could avoid the worst of the monsoons and typhoons. As for the people, they were open to the notion of trading posts and even offered to help in exchange for Chinese goods, though Chinese labor would be required. The court held a quick debate over the merits and costs of building trading posts, but the matter was settled when Zheng Zun reminded the court of the fantastic opportunity they had to monopolize the fur trade. The court decided to commission another expedition, this time with ten ships to carry the supplies, people, and trade goods necessary to build the first trading post.

On March 23, 1521, Zheng Zun led the fleet out from Nanjing to Edo, and then to Kē dí yà kè dǎo once more. Accompanying him were over 200 Chinese laborers hired to build the trading post, many of whom were peasants in deep debt to merchants or landholders who agreed in order to pay off their debts. There were also carpenters, stone masons and other skilled artisans as well as merchants, looking for opportunities to acquire greater wealth.

After a nine-week journey across the western ocean, the fleet returned to Kē dí yà kè dǎo, where they stopped for supplies and to talk with the local tribes to organize the construction of the trading post. After a quick discussion with the local leaders, they started building on the northern side facing the mainland to avoid the worst of the storms. The trading post, upon completion after approximately seven weeks, resembled the trading post stationed at Diu in India, with largely Chinese architecture but with steeper slopes for the rain and snow and subterranean storage units for extra space.

Meanwhile, Zheng Zun took a few ships to explore the area farther east, including the bay that his scout ships reported the year earlier. He found that the natives of the second bay, which he named Shān huán bān hǎiwān (山環斑海灣 literally "Mountain Ringed Bay") shared a language similar to that spoken on Kē dí yà kè dǎo, which helped accelerate talks and trade with them. After negotiating for a few days, the locals decided to join in the fur trade with the Chinese, though whether a trading post would be built was not yet decided. However, farther south he found that the people spoke very different languages than any that he encountered before, so trade was mostly limited to supplies for tools, though some exotica were traded at times. He found that the coastline evened out after the bay as it turned east-southeast. After approximately five weeks of exploring, he found a small bay, but due to lack of time, he turned back before he could more thoroughly explore the region, though cursory analysis showed that it held a rich ecosystem. Fortunately for Zheng Zun, the prevailing current carried him quickly back to Kē dí yà kè dǎo within three weeks.

When he returned he found the trading post built and open for business, with trappers already bringing in furs by the time he returned. However, he also found that during construction, a number of additional diseases, including smallpox and measles broke out at near epidemic levels, leaving many bedridden and killing at 25 or even 50 percent mortality rates. While the doctors did all they could to treat the sick, most never recovered, and those that did were severely weakened. To try to mitigate further outbreaks, the Chinese began using vaccines against smallpox, though it took some time to convince the tribes that they were trying to hinder, not facilitate, spreading the disease.

A few weeks later, after taking on supplies and repairs, Zheng Zun decided to return to China, though a few ships and soldiers stayed behind to oversee the operation of the trading post, as well as to provide an emergency means of escape in case relations with the locals turned hostile. The artisans and merchants also stayed behind, along with some  peasants who pondered the possibility of agriculture or ranching on the island. After a nine-week journey across the open water, the fleet arrived in Edo for supplies and repairs before making the last leg to Nanjing. Upon his return, he reported his new discoveries of the coast farther east and the construction of the trading post. While the court was pleased at the prospect of additional trade with the other tribes, they were somewhat more hesitant to build more trading posts, as they were unsure of the profitability of the one they had already constructed. They decided to wait and see the profits from the first trading post before beginning the construction of new ones. One other matter was the artisans and merchants that stayed at the trading post. While commercialization had been ongoing for nearly a century and merchants enjoyed greater freedom and respect than at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, the court and gentry still wanted to keep the merchants under survelliance to check against embezzlement and corruption. However, unfortunately the great distance meant that the best the court could do was to send officials and troops to check on them from time to time.

In March 23, 1523, Zheng Zun, commanding a fleet of eight ships, once more departed for Kē dí yà kè dǎo to check on the trading post. After a brief stop at Edo for supplies and repairs and a nine-week journey across the open ocean, they arrived at the trading post. They found that over the last eight months, the trading post had done quite well, stockpiling furs and other goods from the island and the local area, as well as some more distant regions. The trading post also accumulated decent stocks of lumber from the forest and some copper from some local mines. Also, disease rates, particularly smallpox, had decreased considerably and fewer locals were dying, though their population had been cut by half and disease remained a significant problem despite their best efforts. In addition, the island had long, cold winters and short, mild summers, which would make agriculture difficult except for some herb gardens and small orchards and the thick forest on the north and east coast would hinder ranching, but the southern coast had a mild climate and some more open landscape, making them better for ranching.

After a few weeks inspection of the trading post and its records, Zheng Zun prepared for another expedition farther east, aiming for the bay he visited last year. After returning to the bay, he stopped for supplies and pressed farther east, taking careful note of the terrain and the inhabitants as the fleet moved on. After a few weeks of travel, the coast turned rugged and irregular, with islands, fjords, and bays abound. With great caution, Zheng Zun sent most of his smaller ships into the larger of the bays to explore farther and try to make contact with any locals. While a week, they found several local fishermen, but they spoke a language quite different from any the Chinese had encountered. Over the next few weeks, as his ships and boats explored the area, they developed trade with the locals, exchanging metal tools for local supplies and exotica, and slowly acquired a feel for their language. After approximately six weeks of exploration, they had a good idea of the area and its inhabitants. The area harbored a very rich marine and terrestrial ecosystem, and, thanks to this bounty, the people developed an equally rich and complex society, centered in sedentary villages without the use of agriculture. However, while the people often shared a similar culture and language, save those farther south, they were not united into a single nation, but were divided among chiefs and clans which periodically competed with each other in displays of wealth, often giving them to other chiefs in grant displays, or in rare cases, destroying things of value in a seemingly wasteful manner.

Meanwhile, while he explored the islands and fjords, Zheng Zun sent his remaining ships farther east under the command of Chen Yun, one of his subordinates. They scheduled to rendevous after eight weeks of exploration and then return to Kē dí yà kè dǎo. After passing the southernmost island of the archipelago, which he called Mígōng qúndǎo (迷宮群島 literally "labyrinth archipelago"), his fleet hugged the coast, keeping careful note of the layout and resources. After approximately two weeks, they encountered what seemed like a channel and turned west to circumvent the land. The coast turned rocky and irregular, with many bays and fjords, making Chen Yun pause for supplies and repairs. While his men foraged the coast for food and supplies, they came across some local fishermen and Chen Yun tried to open talks, but they spoke a language that he had never encountered before. Slowly, as the Chinese went over their stocks and ships, trade slowly developed, with the Chinese trading metal tools and clothing for local exotica and supplies. Chen Yun also acquired some useful information on the people and their environment, including the rich resources they had at their disposal, which like those farther north, allowed them to develop more sedentary villages without agriculture. Unfortunately, Chen Yun, pressed for time, had to turn north to rendevous with Zheng Zun before returning to Kē dí yà kè dǎo.

At the rendevous, both captains went over their charts and their notes to conglomerate them into a more concise form for the court and the Emperor. For their return journey, they decided to try to cut time by travelling straight across the open water rather than along the coast as they always had, though they kept the direction of land in mind in case they had an emergency. After approximately five weeks, they returned to Kē dí yà kè dǎo in relatively good shape, though a few ships were damaged in a handful of storms, though none were sunk. While the ships underwent resupply and repairs, Zheng Zun went over the trading post once more before heading back for China.

When he returned to China, Zheng Zun gave his report to the court and the Emperor. His report indicated that building additional trading posts would increase China's wealth considerably due to the area's tremendous richness in natural resources. Also, Zheng Zun suggested that they could use the locals' competitive nature to make them vassals by promising lucrative commercial privileges and wealth to those that sent the most tribute. He also pointed out that according to Chen Yun's findings, there was more coastline to the south of where he stopped. The Emperor, his curiosity and greed, enticed, began a debate on extending the expeditions to cover the southern coast of the new lands they had uncovered. While some were against the idea, citing the unknown danger across the sea, the majority decided to fund still further expeditions, though the construction of additional trading posts would not commence for years.

Unfortunately, tensions in the north caused the Emperor to put a hold on the voyages. The Oirat Khanate once more found itself under seige from its eastern rivals. Bars Bolud Jinong, one of the sons of Batumongke, had gathered a powerful following among the Khalka and other central tribes, organizing them for a new attempt at reuniting the Mongol Empire. With great skill and patience, he formed a powerful alliance and began mobilizing against the Oirat Khanate, which drew China's attention away from the expeditions, though a few trade ships made periodic trips to Kē dí yà kè dǎo.

The Emperor attempted to soothe tensions over between the tribes, but Bars Bolud Jinong was not interested and instead pressed on for war. Chinese troops mobilized to the northern frontier and caravans began making their way to Oirat territory to boost their defenses. Initially, the Mongols did most of the fighting, with Jinong trying to wear down the Oirats' support by attacking their pastures and supply routes, though he did launch a few odd raids into Chinese territory. All the same, the Oirats launched counter-attacks to do the same, but Jinong, as his predecessor did, held a numerical advantage over the Oirats, though thanks to Chinese support, the latter enjoyed a slight advantage in defense. It seemed that history would once again repeat itself.

The Emperor, seeing the situation, decided to use the strategy that his ancestor once deployed against Dayan Khan nearly fifty years ago: attack Jinong's allies to undermine his support while building support for the Oirats. However to do so, required better intelligence on the allegiences of the various tribes, so he dispatched scouts, mostly Mongols born within China proper or from tribes allied with her. Concurrently, the Emperor's cavalry launched periodic raids into Mongol territory to disrupt Jinong's military efforts. However, most of China's efforts were concentrated in intelligence and supply rather than combat, as the Chinese wanted the Mongols to wear each other down rather than one side to triumph over the other and present the Chinese with a united Mongol border.

As the Oirats and Jinong battled for supremacy, Chinese troops stood on standby to repel Mongol raiders against their caravans and outposts, though they were not always successful. After about a year and a half of this stalemate, the Emperor, eager to resolve the situation, called in his intelligence corps to decide which tribe to attack to undermine Jinong, who began styling himself as the next Khan. For logistical reasons, the Emperor, his generals, and his spies agreed to concentrate their efforts on the southern or eastern tribes, as they were closest to China's borders and thus more supportable. Preliminary intelligence pointed that most of the tribes immediately north of China were neutral but armed and ready to fight, apparently waiting to see who would attack them first, though they seemed to be leaning toward Jinong. The eastern tribes, including the distant Jurchens, seemed to be a mixture of allegiances, from pro-China to neutral to pro-Jinong. During their discussions, two tribes in the east seemed the most promising: the Uriankhai and the Korchin. The Korchin, allied with Jinong, attacked and defeated the Uriankhai, forcing them from their best pastur, which was now occupied by the Chahar, their allies, and into harsher terrain near the Jurchens. Seeing an opportunity, the Emperor sent envoys via the sea to contact the Uriankhai and offer a chance for revenge.

After approximately four weeks of travel, they arrived in the tent of the Uriankhai leader, who agreed to see them in. Although he did want a chance to strike back, the leader was unwilling to engage his people in additional fighting, even with Chinese weapons, as he knew of the logistical challenges of supplying them, either by land or sea. The envoy, seeing the leader's point, made a different offer: in addition to food and supplies, the Chinese would offer direct military assistance by attacking the tribes in question in raids and ambushes. This was more an experiment to see his reaction, but it was enough to convince the leader to reconsider the idea. While he and his nobles went over the offer, the envoys sent word to China via Korea to inform the Emperor about the leader's reaction, recommending that they ready their troops. After a few days of discussion, the leader and his nobles decided to take up the offer, but only if the Chinese launched the first attack, offering them valuable intelligence if they agreed to do so. The envoy agreed and the exchange was made, but before they departed back for China, the leader made it clear that if the Chinese reneged on their agreement, then he would surrender to Jinong and join his army.

Back in China, cavalry and light infantry assembled on the northeast border near Korea, and prepared to launch their first raid against the Chahar and Korchin. The plan was to launch a feint attack on their camps, and a real attack on their pastures. The attacks were initially very effective, thanks to the element of surprise and the intelligence they received from their spies and the Uriankhai, but over the next two weeks, the raids became less effective, though it did divert attention away from the Oirats' territory. As the new border began to stabilize after five weeks of fighting, the Korchin and Chahar tribes received yet another surprise: the Uriankhai launched their own attacks. With their forces stretched at the southern border, and the Uriankhai armed with Chinese weapons, the Chahar and Korchin were forced back from their new territory. Feeling the pressure of two fronts, the Korchin and Chahar petitioned Jinong for assistance, but around the same time, the Oirats launched their own attacks on Jinong's allies, though theirs were not as effective as either the Chinese or the Uriankhai.

For nearly six months the Chinese and their allies pecked at Jinong and his supporters, slowly weakening him and forcing him to withdraw from his recent occupations. The withdrawal allowed him to shorten his supply lines while forcing his enemies to travel farther to attack him, but he lost some valuable allies, several of which defected to the Chinese or the Oirats. This loss of prestige, and the threat of losing further support, caused Jinong to plan an attack on Hami, the far west Chinese outpost and a key link in their supply runs to the Oirats. If he could take the city, preferably before the next caravan shipped out, he could deprive the Oirats of their next line of supplies and if he could hold the city long enough, he could launch a fast, brutal campaign against them, and rob them of China's support. After a few weeks of organizing and mobilizing his troops, he started a series of raids into Chinese territory near Beijing, hoping to distract them from the real attack. When one of these raids actually penetrated the city for a brief moment, the Emperor conveyed a meeting with his generals and his court to discuss Jinong's actions.

While some of the court members believed these raids were a setting ground for an attack on the capital, most of the generals, and the majority of the court, argued that these raids were just a diversion for Jinong's real plan of attack, which opened a debate as to what that plan was. Some thought Jinong was planning to keep China occupied with defending herself while he attacked their allies on the steppe. Others, including the senior commanders, thought that he was planning an attack on China herself, though where and what to do was unknown. A quick debate narrowed the targets to the steppe and northern China, as these were the only feasible targets given typical Mongol tactics and logistics. After some discussion, they decided that the attack was to commence on China rather than their Mongol allies, as the attacks were concentrated on a particular point rather than all over the border, and they figured that the most likely target would be Hami, due to its relative remoteness from the rest of China and its importance in the caravan runs. However, some believed the raids were a preliminary for an attack on the capital and wanted to re-inforce Beijing rather than Hami. The two sides briefly argued on whether to re-inforce Beijing or Hami, when the Emperor intervened and ordered that they overtly re-inforce Beijing and covertly re-inforce Hami. He decided to try to trick Jinjong into believing that the Chinese were ignoring Hami for their capital, luring them to attack Hami, which he thought was their most likely target. After some final planning, they decided to put their plan into motion.

Over the next few weeks, while the Mongols continued raiding the area near Beijing, the Chinese sneaked additional troops and supplies into Hami while overtly increasing their defenses at the capital. After nearly a month, the Mongol raids near Beijing slowed, and soon a lull began along much of the eastern half of the border, with skirmishes and raids decreased considerably. However, this lull abruptly ended barely eight days later, when Jinong and his Mongols, mostly horse archers and cavalry, attacked the area around Hami, setting the countryside ablaze and conscripting or killing many of the peasants. After the first attack, his infantry and siege weapons, including his cannons, moved into place to begin attacking the city itself while his cavalry circled the city to search for weak points to exploit or re-inforcements to attack, taking care to stay on the edge of the range of the city's guns. After circling the city a few times, the cavalry returned to Jinong to report on their observations: no re-inforcements outside the city were spotted, but there were no obvious weak spots to exploit. Jinong decided to open up with a barrage from his seige equipment to try to persuade the populace to give up rather than fight.

Over the next few days, the Mongol seige weapons bombarded the city walls while the cavalry circled, intercepting all wagons coming to or from the city to try to increase the pressure on the populace to surrender. However, the garrison held out, repairing some of the damage and even managing to hit the Mongols back a few times. Even so, the Mongol seige continued and there was no sign of re-inforcements approaching. Days turned to weeks, and though the city garrison was battered, tired and thirsty, they steadfastly refused to surrender. After nearly seven weeks, though, the situation seemed hopeless, with Jinong maintaining his tight grip over the city and supplies running low. Also, the Mongol bombardment managed to knock a few holes in the city walls, ones too large for the garrison to quickly repair, undermining the defenses. After nearly nine weeks, after battering more holes in the city walls, the Mongols finally attacked.

Opening up with a quick bombardment, the cavalry soon followed to break the inital resistance and give the infantry more time to advance. At first, all seemed to go according to plan. The Chinese were caught off guard and their cavalry made quick work of the first defenders, only to circle round and attack again, unbalancing the defenders yet again, then coming around for a third pass. By this time, the Mongol infantry had caught up and prepared for city combat, the cavalry taking up positions on the flanks in case of a sudden surprise. As the infantry entered the city via the holes, the Chinese garrison counterattacked, stalling their attack and robbing them of their momentum. After managing to push the Mongol infantry out of the city, their light artillery opened up, causing confusion among the Mongols and buying time for the city garrison to better deploy themselves. Jinong, seeing the garrison, armed with muskets, bows, and spears, and their morale still strong, decided to hold his infantry and cavalry back and try his seige equipment, but the garrison simply pulled deeper in, tempting the Mongols to follow. Jinong, suspecting a trap of one sort or another, decided to try to flush them out with a series of bombardments. To watch for surprise attacks, Jinong ordered his cavalry to circle the countryside to watch for re-inforcements.

His second string of bombardments caused more damage to the city, but the garrison held out, still trying to lure the Mongols in. As Jinong was about to order another round, a scout arrived and reported that Chinese cavalry, estimated to be of similar size to Jinong's, were fast approaching, and would arrive in approximately two hours. Jinong decided to redeploy his men to defend against the cavalry. As they redeployed, the Chinese garrison formed up behind the city, preparing to attack the Mongols once the cavalry arrived, though Jinong, anticipating trouble, had his seige weapons make brief attacks on the city to hinder them, though he saved most of his artillery for the upcoming battle.

As the Chinese cavalry approached, seeing the Mongol infantry line up, they ran to their left rather than head-on. As they passed, horse archers, mostly allied and hired Mongols, opened fire on the Mongols, disrupting their formation. During their attack, the Chinese garrison opened fire on the cavalry and infantry. Jinong, seeing he was caught in a tight spot decided to withdraw rather than risk becoming encircled. To make the most of his withdrawal, he ordered his cavalry to hold off the Chinese re-inforcements while his infantry guarded the seige weapons. The Chinese cavalry, though comparable to the Mongols in number and better armored, were not as skilled or as experienced as their Mongol counterparts and eventually were forced to withdraw, easing Jinong's withdrawal, though the Chinese garrison wore down his cavalry and infantry.

After over five hours of fighting, Jinong managed to withdraw most of his forces from the battle, though the Chinese cavalry periodically harassed him before withdrawing into the remains of Hami. Though the Chinese claimed themselves the victors, they paid a rather heavy price: the city was badly damaged and required a larger garrison to be adequately defended due to the state of the walls. Also, they used up much of the supplies in the city and had to delay sending the caravan to the Oirats, and their soldiers had taken significant casualties. Fortunately, Jinong and his forces were no better off: their cavalry and infantry had taken heavy casualties, and they had failed to take the city or the caravan, though they did succeed in stalling the next run. All in all, the Second Battle of Hami was a washout for both sides. However, over the long run, Jinong would pay a higher price for the battle. His failed attempt to take the city or its supplies, at the cost of valuable men and equipment, lost him needed support among the nobles and the tribes, including some key allies.

After approximately eighteen months after his failure at Hami, Jinong, under pressure from his supporters, sued for peace and called the Chinese to mediate. Both sides agreed to send representatives to discuss peace talks at Karakorum, though skirmishes and raids continued sporadically. During the treaty negotiations, the Chinese representative insisted that Jinong relinguish any claim as Khan of the Mongols and recognize the "border" between his territories and the Oirat Khanate. Also, Jinong was required to pay significant reparations to both the Oirats and the Chinese, as well as pay tribute to both the Chinese and the Oirats. Finally, in honor of their agreement with the Uriankhai, their respective representative and the Chinese diplomat insisted that they be allowed access to lands taken by the Chahar and Korchin tribes. Though talks continued for a few weeks, eventually the Treaty of Karakorum was signed on October 22, 1528, and "peace" was restored to the steppe, though tensions still simmered. While Jinong was weakened by the fighting, the "border" had slightly shifted westward as the Oirats withdrew to better consolidate their power. Also, while he now had dual tributary status to both China and the Oirats and had a large debt to pay, once his debt was paid, he was able to cut down on tribute by sending more missions to give the illusion of paying more than he actually was. Furthermore, while the Uriankhai enjoyed better access to their old lands and many moved back, they were still weak in comparison to their rivals and only enjoyed it on account of China's strength and influence. Still, the border was stable enough that the Emperor decided to organize another expedition to the new lands.

On March 24, 1529, Zheng Zun set sail for Kē dí yà kè dǎo, and after a nine-week journey, arrived at the trading post. After taking on supplies and repairs, as well as looking over the trading post, he looked over the post's inventory for his reports to the court, he set sail to explore the coast farther south, starting where Chen Yun stopped the year before, only he would try to go straight across open water rather than hug the coast. After approximately six weeks, he and the fleet arrived at the place Chen Yun encountered earlier, where they stopped to take on supplies and repairs. During their brief stay, Zheng Zun attempted to talk with some of the locals, and found that, like their previous travels, they had become sick with some strange illness and many had died from it. Fortunately, Zheng Zun brought some trade goods that convinced the locals to continue dealing with the Chinese. Also, the language barrier was still difficult, but after a few weeks, they managed to crack part of it, but talks were still a ways to go, so they contented themselves with trade.

As they prepared to travel farther south, they offered some Chinese trinkets, such as jade and silk, for some fishermen to act as guides for them on their trip farther south, though Zheng Zun, remembering the fate of previous guides, told his doctors to try their best to protect them from disease. About ten days into their journey south, the fleet encountered a channel that opened into a body of water. A brief exploratory look showed that it opened into a small sea, which they called Xiǎo dōnghǎi (小東海 literally "small eastern sea"). Cursory trade interactions with the locals showed that the people inhabiting the area shared a similar language and cultural to each other, as well as some similarity to those they encountered on the western coast, though probably from contact and trade in the case of the latter. Fortunately, the guides Zheng Zun brought with him had enough experience to act as rudimentary interpreters, allowing the Chinese to open some preliminary talks. Zheng Zun learned that the local chiefs, like the people farther north, also partook in the customary conspicuous consumption and destruction of goods to display their wealth. As part of an experiment, Zheng Zun offered some of the chiefs a small amount of exotic goods, such as jade trinkets and silk, and some metal tools, in exchange for local supplies, a few luxuries, and some guides for his travels farther south. Several chiefs took his offer, and even had a small competition to see who could give him more goods than the others, which indicated that his hypothesis that he put before the court was correct. Eventually, he took on the services of the chief with access to both the sea and the ocean, and he, along with his guides, continued on their way.

Over the next eleven weeks, as Zheng Zun travelled the coast, he took careful note of the ecosystem and the inhabitants. Initially, the area under study was rich in marine and terrestrial resources, allowing the people to live in semi-sedentary or even permanent villages without agriculture, akin to those they had encountered earlier. However, as he travelled farther south, the people were becoming more nomadic, as he found sites with signs of housing greater numbers than they did upon his discovery. To his dismay, he also found signs of large numbers of people dying, the cause of which he surmised, based on accounts of survivors, that it was some kind of disease, which sounded very similar to influenza. He also noticed considerable linguistic diversity, as his guides were becoming less and less useful in interpreting the locals, forcing Zheng Zun to gather new guides as he travelled to try to keep ahead. Near the end of the eleventh week, he stopped near a river farther south. During his brief stop at the river, he observed and traded with the locals, exchanging metal tools for local supplies. Slowly, he learned enough to ask of the lands farther south, where he learned that it became warmer and wetter, with great forests of gigantic trees, populated with people that spoke different languages than those previously encountered. Zheng Zun, greatly intrigued, wanted to explore the area farther south, but pressed for time, they departed back following the coast to drop off the guides before sailing back for the trading post. After arriving at the trade post, he conglomerated the charts as his men prepared to depart, loading supplies and trade goods before departed a few weeks later.

Upon his return to China, he found the court was unwilling to finance further expeditions for the time being, as they cost more money than they were generating from trade. While merchant ships would continue to travel to and from the area and would be escorted by warships for their protection, they would be far and in-between and would be restricted to lands already visited. Wisely, Zheng Zun acquiesced to the court's decision, though he planted a seed of potential voyages later on by showing a map of the eastern ocean and the lands they explored. The map showed the possibility of travelling directly east and west rather than hugging the coast to reach the new lands, though this was an experiment for another time.

Cordoba Goes West

In 1519, Bastidas, governor of the Spanish colony on Espanola, realizing that the local gold supplies were long depleted, had arranged for a new expedition to explore the area to search for new sources of gold. However, at nearly 60 years of age, he was too old to undertake the voyage himself, and instead appointed a man named Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba to lead the fleet in his place. A small fleet of three ships was commissioned to sail westward with an eight-week supply of food and resources. Unsure of what lay westward of Espanola, Bastidas ordered Cordoba to sail within a four week trip of the known islands and to turn back if he failed to discover any land farther west of the large island north of Espanola which they came to call Cuba after a local word cubao.

On May 18, 1519, Cordoba set sail for Cuba, hugging the southern coast before turning west into the unknown waters. While hugging the coast, Cordoba also did a survey of the island, paying attention to the rugged southeast tip to ascertain the probability of the presence of gold or other precious minerals. After travelling along the Cuban coast for over three weeks, Cordoba stopped at the western tip to stock up on supplies and pick up a few guides for the voyage ahead.

In early June, Cordoba and his men set sail west-southwestward from Cuba, unsure of what exactly they would encounter. One thing they were certain of was that land was west of Cuba and within easy sailing distance based on what they learned from the guides that they picked up, as well as local fishermen and traders on the islands over the first decade of Spanish colonization. However, whether this land was an island or more was what they were unsure about, so they set off in a fan-like formation to increase the chances of at least one ship sighting land.

On July 3, 1519, Cordoba's men spotted land in the distance, and soon dropped anchor off the shore. Cordoba's first order of business was to organize a foraging party to search for food and water. Unfortunately for him, while the area hosted an abundance of plant life, including many that his men could forage, there was a strange absence of rivers, puzzling him to no end. Out of curiosity and concern for their water supplies, Cordoba ordered more extensive searches of the area to find water sources, but the only surface water sources they found were swamps and lakes, whose water was quite brackish and unfit for drinking. For two days, they searched the rain forest for rivers or streams, but found very few. On the third day, they encountered some local hunters in the rain forest and attempted to communicate with them, but found that they spoke a very different language from those that they had previously encountered. Their guides proved little help in cracking their language, but they managed to accomplish some preliminary trading, exchanging a metal knife and axe for some pieces of jewelry and a small container of water. When they asked about the water, the hunters seemed to indicate a nearby source, which they later found to be a small sinkhole not far from their position. While there, they noted something that resembled a pyramid in the distance, but leaner than what they had usually seen, which they marked for exploration later.

When they returned to Cordoba, they presented their findings on a rudimentary chart, marking the pyramid and sinkhole for future reference. The next day, Cordoba sent a party to retrieve water from the sinkhole, though they also carried some metal tools and a few trinkets for trading purposes in case they encountered more locals. During their trip to gather water, the foraging party encountered some hunters at the sinkhole. After a brief moment of tension, the Spanish managed to convince the hunters that they were only interested in the water, party by giving the hunters some metal tools, including axes and knives, as well as some small, portable trinkets. Upon their return to the ships, Cordoba decided to explore the coast to the west and east of their landing point and map the coast as they travelled. Cordoba, commanding two ships, travelled westward, toward the site where they saw the pyramid, while Vasco Nunez de Balboa, a skilled and experienced sailor from Bastidas' previous voyages, sailed eastward in the third ship. They scheduled to rendevous after eight weeks of travel, though if either used half of their water supply and had no means to replenish their stock, they were to return to the site with the sinkhole at their fastest speed.

On July 9, 1519, Cordoba and Balboa departed on their respective voyages. As Cordoba travelled westward, he took meticulous notes of the coast and the resources they found, particularly the sinkholes that held precious water. He also observed the people they interacted with at the sinkholes and along the coast. After approximately two weeks, the coast turned sharply south, and after another two and a half weeks, they came across an island and a small lagoon as the coast turned westward again. Stopping to forage, they found the lagoon was fed by fresh water rivers and supported a rich marine ecosystem, including mangrove forests, a boon for their supplies. As they foraged for food, water and wood, they encountered a city on the far side of the lagoon.

Preliminary investigations of the city, hindered initially by the thick coastal swamp to its eastern flank, showed a prosperous and affluent people, trading in goods that puzzled and amazed the Spanish. The most remarkable find was the presence of men clad in fine feathers and jewelry made of greenstone, and gold. Enticed by the gold trinkets, the Spanish investigated further and found these people were apparently foreign to the city, as they spoke a very different language compared to those they had encountered and seemed to be in the minority of the people there. Over the next few days, the Spanish gathered more intelligence on the area, including a shoreline that stretched northward to the west of the city, which they called "Gran Mercado" due to the large amount of trade going on, as well as a rudimentary understanding of the trade routes running through the city, namely which goods came from whom. After approximately a week, Cordoba departed northward back to the rendevous point, albeit while kidnapping some local hunters along the way, though he stopped temporarily after a particularly violent incident, when three men were seriously wounded, one fatally so, while trying to capture some from a party of five.

Meanwhile, Balboa travelled eastward, hugging the coast tightly. After approximately one and a half weeks, the coast turned abruptly south-southwestward. After approximately two and a half weeks, they came across some ruins by the coast. Preliminary investigations brought them into contact with some local fishermen, but unfortunately for the Spanish, they spoke a language completely different from any the Spanish had encountered before, so talks were virtually impossible, though some trade still occurred, the Spanish trading metal tools for local trinkets. After spending a week foraging for supplies, they left the ruins and travelled farther south.

After approximately six days of travel, they noticed that the coast became more rugged and irregular, with two bays south of the ruins, and after another seventeen days, they encountered another, larger bay. After a quick stop for supplies and repairs, they made a cursory examination of the bay, looking for anything of value or locals to trade with. However, except for some strange mounds on the interior of the bay, all they encountered were some local fishermen that spoke a language similar to those farther north. After capturing a few locals, Balboa turned north to return to the rendevous point. Fortunately for him, the prevailing currents, travelling northwest, sped him on his journey and he arrived mere days after Cordoba had.

After returning to the rendevous point, they conglomerated their findings into a rudimentary chart and set sail back to Espanola to present their findings and their captives. Unfortunately, most of the captives died from disease, and the two survivors remained weak from thereafter. After returning to Espanola, Cordoba and Balboa presented their charts to Bastidas, which indicated that the area they first encountered was a peninsula of another, larger land mass, though the exact configuration remained a mystery. The discovery of gold trinkets at the Gran Mercado was particularly interesting, as it indicated that the mystery landmass held new sources of gold, possibly new gold mines. The lack of iron, steel, and gunpowder weapons indicated that taking the gold by force would be relatively easy when compared to Europe or Asia.

Thrilled by the possibility of finding new sources of gold, Bastidas arranged for Cordoba to command a second expedition. On June 16 1520, Cordoba and his fleet of three ships, set sail for the peninsula once more, this time taking a more direct route than the last year. A few weeks later, after stopping at the sinkhole for water and repairs, the fleet set sail down the peninsula for Gran Mercado. On August 3, they arrived, ready to trade and investigate. One thing that became clear was that since their previous visit, some disease, most likely influenza broke out among the locals at an epidemic level, killing over a third of the population and undermining trade as fewer merchants travelled to trade and more people emigrated to the hinterlands to try to escape, reducing the population of the city to approximately a quarter of what it was the year before. Those that remained were mostly farmers and fishermen, with some artisans and only a handful of merchants, so the main demand was for steel tools, such as axes, knives, fish hooks, and some hand-held farming implements. In exchange for these and a few other items, some locals became guides and to an extent interpreters for the Spanish as they travelled west along the coast.

Over the next five weeks, as the fleet travelled west along the coast, they took careful note of the area and the people inhabiting it. They noticed some ancient ruins along the coast, but most of the people they encountered were hunters, fishers and subsistence farmers. One thing that soon became apparent was that there was considerable linguistic diversity, which increased as they travelled farther west and they had to keep exchanging metal tools and European trinkets for additional interpreters, as well as replace the guides who died from disease along the journey.

When the coast turned west-northwest, the Spanish stopped for supplies and repairs. One of their foraging parties caught sight of a city by the coast, which they later heard from their guides was called "Zempoala". Intrigued, Cordoba and a party of twenty, including several local guides, approached the city the next day, hoping to open talks with the local leadership. Fortunately for Cordoba, some of his guides from a bay farther south spoke a language similar to some inhabitants of the city, which made communications a little easier and trade opened more quickly than before, with the Spanish trading metal tools for local exotica, including more of the gold trinkets they encountered the year before. Over the next few weeks, Cordoba made frequent trips to Zempoala, learning more about the geopolitics and the language a little per day. He eventually learned that many of the gold trinkets were worn and brought by a people called "Mexica" who came from the interior highlands and were the predominant tribe in the region, commanding a powerful army, including a local garrison and exacting tribute, and unintentional resentment, from defeated tribes.

After a few weeks, and some preliminary understanding of the area, on September 30th Cordoba decided to depart for Espanola to report on the situation. Upon his return a few weeks later, he reported on the situation to the west, including the apparent source of the coveted gold trinkets and the general feeling of the local peoples toward the Mexica. He argued that the locals could be valued allies against the Mexica's powerful army. While the Spanish had technological superiority, the Mexica had far greater numbers, superior familiarity with the terrain and a base close to the front lines would greatly shorten supply lines in the conquest, particularly if the Mexica turned to guerrilla warfare. Bastidas, while intrigued and enticed at the tempting target the Mexica made, had some objections to Cordoba's plan and called a meeting with some of the local officials, including a soldier named Hernan Cortes. They decided to try to investigate the Mexica further to try to find out more about their economic wealth and military strength to see if an invasion would be worth the cost. In the meantime, they decided to build a series of bases in Cuba in case such an invasion proved to be worth the cost.

In May 30 1521, Cordoba set off on another voyage to Zempoala sailing directly west from Espanola, while Cortes traveled to Cuba to oversee the establishment of the bases in question. Five weeks later, Cordoba arrived at Zempoala and began talks with the local leadership, which, thanks to captured natives from farther south that spoke a similar language, were considerably smoother than the year before. However, upon his arrival, he found that some disease had spread through the population, infecting many and killing at epidemic levels. The locals, suspecting that the Spanish introduced the disease, they turned hostile toward them, but Cordoba managed to convince them to talk with him and to reopen trade with the Spanish. Through his talks, and his observations of the city's populace, Cordoba learned a little more about the Mexica, including that they did indeed control a great degree of wealth, including gold, and controlled a powerful army. However, rumors circulated that the Mexica had become sick of some strange illness and were dying in large numbers, and as such were demanding higher tribute, especially captives, to try to appease the gods to halt the spread of the disease. This presented Cordoba with an opportunity to forge closer ties with the locals, offering to fight for them against the Mexica. They initially scoffed at the idea, but a few remained open and continued planning with him, where he learned of a state called Tlaxcala, which engaged in constant war against the Mexica that always ended the same way: defeat followed by tribute. This presented Cordoba, and the Spanish, the prospect of a natural ally, but only if they could convince them that it was worth the risk. Cordoba decided to wait under Cortes finished setting up the bases before trying anything, and left after fourteen weeks of talk and investigation for Cuba to check on Cortes.

Meanwhile in Cuba, Cortes oversaw the establishment of military bases and docks in Cuba to house soldiers and ships for the potential war with the Mexica. Most of these were built on the pre-existing docks and storehouses used for when the miners and workers were extracting minerals and metals, but a few were expanded to accommodate greater numbers of soldiers and horses. In collaboration with Diego Velazquez de Cuellar, one of the soldiers that led the colonization of Cuba, they increased the manufacturing of gunpowder, ammunition, armor, and swords considerably for the invasion and training of additional soldiers soon commenced. After a few months, the military capabilities increased considerably and Cortes was confident that the current strength, plus a few allies on the mainland, would be enough to defeat the Mexica. When Cordoba went to check on him, he went over the preparations made, but decided to wait for additional re-inforcements from Spain before launching the invasion, and sent word to Espanola to arrange for the arrival of more ships and soldiers.

Over the next two years, as soldiers, supplies and horses arrived from Spain, Cortes, Cordoba, and Bastidas discussed who would lead the expedition to the mainland. Cortes argued that he and Cordoba should lead the next expedition together, with one acting to secure a stable supply line to Cuba and Espanola in case war did break out. However, Cordoba and Bastidas disagreed and placed Cordoba in full control of the fleet, given his experience with the tribes. In order to placate Cortes, though, they placed him in charge of supplying the fleet and its soldiers, as well as naming him second-in-command of the fleet if Cordoba should die or become incapacitated. Cortes, sensing this was as good as he would receive, acquiesced and resumed the fleet's preparations.

Pizarro and Balboa

Concurrent with Cortes' preparations for contacting the Mexica, Vasco Nunez de Balboa planned a smaller force of three ships to explore the area farther south. In March of 1421, Balboa sailed south, accompanied by a handful of local guides that had visited the region in question. A few weeks into the journey, they stopped on Jamaica, the mountanous island west of Isla Espanola, for supplies and repairs before they resumed their journey. Along the journey, their guides fell ill from influenza and several died, though a few managed to survive. Around mid June, they came across a tropical beach, where Balboa dispatched his second, Pizarro, to forage for food and water. During their foraging, Pizarro and his men encountered some local hunters and initiated some basic trade via their surviving guides. Over the next few days, as the Spanish explored the nearby coast, Pizarro and the locals established a rudimentary communication between each other and learned that to the direct south of their current location there was a large sea, and they heard rumors of a wealthy people farther south. Intrigued Pizarro and Balboa began planning for additional expeditions to the south, either continuing along the coast, or, more ambitiously, overland to the southern sea. After a few weeks of exploring the area and the coast farther east, Pizarro and Balboa turned north back to Cuba to report on their status. Over the journey back, Pizarro and Balboa made a map of the area they explored thus far to present to Bastidas.

Upon their return to Cuba, Pizarro, Balboa, and Bastidas went over their findings and decided to commission another expedition to the south, with the aim of exploring the coast farther east. In April of 1520, Pizarro and Balboa set sail with a fleet of four ships for the stretch of coast they encountered on their first voyage, stopping in Jamaica for a quick resupply and repairs. Upon their arrival on the coastline, they picked up a few guides for their journey ahead. Travelling eastward, they hugged the coast, stopping only for repairs and supplies. Over the weeks, they notice the coast turn southeast, leading to hopes of a sea passage to the South Sea they heard about from the earlier locals. Near the end of May, however, they notice the coast turn northeast, undermining their hopes for a naval passage. To complicate matters, as they travelled farther up the coast, they heard some of the locals using loanwords from Portuguese, indicating that they might be approaching the Portuguese colonies in Brazil, and Balboa decided to turn northwest back to Hispanola.

Upon their return, they went over the new charts with Bastidas and estimated that if there was a naval passage, then it was probably within Portuguese control. Pizarro then suggested that they try an alternative approach: find the narrowest strip of land and reach the South Sea overland. To support his suggestion, Pizarro offered an interesting story he heard from some traders which said that if he climbed to a certain mountain peak, he could see the South Sea. Balboa and Bastidas, though not entirely convinced, decided to explore the option by sending additional expeditions to explore the coast in question, albeit only as a fact-finding mission.

On April 15, 1523, Balboa and Pizarro embarked on another voyage to the south coast with three ships, albeit with a smaller crew and ships due to Cortes' dealings with the Mexica. Upon their arrival, they surveyed the area and found the soil to be more fertile than the surrounding area. This combined with the demographic havoc wreaked by disease made the area a promising location for a new colony if they could find sufficient incentive. During his talks with the locals, Pizarro learned more about the mountain he heard about earlier, including its probable location, and reported this to Balboa. Though Pizarro had managed to gather more information, the difficult terrain would have made it very hazardous for anyone to reach the area, especially without an on-site base to operate from. Pizarro tried to make a case for a base and inland exploration, but could provide neither motivation or a logistical means to pursue his plans. Within a few weeks of trade and dialogue, Pizarro and Balboa packed and turned north back to Hispanola.

Upon their return, they presented their findings to Bastidas and discussed the ramifications. While Pizarro's investigations indicated that the South Sea was within a relatively short distance, given the probable location and distance to the mountain referred to by the locals, the difficult jungle terrain and unknown tribes would make the journey long, hard, and hazardous, especially without a base to operate from. Cortes' activities with the Mexica also meant that the Spanish were low on material and manpower for the time being. Though nothing was promised, Bastidas decided to send Pizarro on another expedition to the area, an inland mission to investigate the case of the southern sea, on a later date when the situation with the Mexica stablized.

Over the next few years, the Spanish took steps to establish a base of operations on the lands to the south for their next expedition to the south sea. Pizarro, Balboa, and Bastidas drew up plans for the base, which they hoped would develop into a full-fledged colony in the years to come. By 1530, Bastidas and Balboa had passed away from old age, but their plan for a base had been completed, and with the situation with the Mexica stabilized, Pizarro now had the men, opportunity, and resources to carry out their plan.

Cortes and the Mexica

After amassing a strong force of six hundred soldiers, in early April of 1523, Cordoba and Cortes set sail from their base at Cuba to conquer the Mexica. After approximately five weeks, they arrived in Zempoala, where they contacted the local leaders that were open to the idea of an alliance. Though they were still in the minority, they were able to supply the Spanish with guides for the road to Tlaxcala, which Cordoba wanted to contact as soon as possible. Within a week, the Spanish, taking care to avoid the Mexica and protect their weapons and supplies, departed for Tlaxcala, and arrived nearly two weeks later. Though there was some initial hostility between the Spanish and the Tlaxcalans, Cortes and Cordoba were able to convince them that they shared a common enemy, the Mexica. The Tlaxcalans, rendered poor and hungry by a blockade by the Mexica, quickly agreed to help the Spanish, giving them vital intelligence, supplies and complementing their army with re-inforcements.

Soon after, the Mexica, hearing of the Spanish arrival, sent emissaries to meet with them and ask to negotiate with them at Cholula, a city under Mexica control. The Tlaxcalans argued against accepting the Mexica's offer and vouced to march on Tenochtitlan, the capital with all haste. Cortes and Cordoba, however, were split: while they were confident of their chances of winning, the location of Cholula seemed to pose a threat to their rear guard, which they wanted to deal with first. Also, while they were ready to fight, they also wanted to better gauge their enemy before attacking, so, after some discussion, they came to a compromise: they would go to Cholula, escorted by Tlaxcalan warriors and porters.

Upon their arrival at Cholula, they were greeted by the local leaders and treated to food and drink. A quick inspection of the city showed minimal defenses and a small garrison, as the leaders put their faith in their gods and their prestige. Negotiations opened up with gifts of gold and silver, which the Spanish were eager to accept. The Mexica ambassador offered annual tribute of gold and silver if the Spanish promised to share their technology and leave the Mexica in peace without a fight. While intrigued by the offer, the Spanish countered with a request that the Mexica cease their pagan activities, namely human sacrifice, and convert to Christianity. While the ambassador promised to consider the offer, he was greatly offended by the request and planned to have the Spanish sacrificed once the army arrived.

Stalling for time, the ambassador tried to convince the Spanish to drop their request of conversion, but made no progress. After a few days, Cortes and Cordoba, frustrated with the ambassador, received intelligence from a scout that a large force was moving to the city. Furious, Cortes and Cordoba attacked the city, taking the garrison by surprise and pushing them up the pyramid. While outnumbered and outgunned, the garrison fought hard and long, managing to wound several soldiers and even Cordoba in the scuffle, but they merely delayed the inevitable. After fighting for nearly a full day, Cortes, assuming full leadership, had the local leadership, nobility, priesthood, and the ambassador tortured and executed, sending a chill through the countryside as Mexica allies began to falter. After the bloody aftermath, Cortes sent messengers to Moctezuma, offering to leave in peace if he converted to Christianity, swear fealty to Spain, and send him greater gifts of gold. Moctezuma, feeling that he needed to restore himself in the eyes of his allies, invited Cortes to the capital to discuss the arrangements personally, while his army ran to the capital to set up an ambush.

Cortes, upon receiving the invitation, called a meeting with Cordoba and their allies, to try to determine the right course of action. Cordoba, wisely, suspected that it was a trap and advised against accepting it and wanted to wait to recruit more allies. Cortes, seeing the wisdom, agreed to wait for re-inforcements, and recommended to send envoys to other tribes to hasten the process. Sending messengers to Zempoala and other tribes, they spread the word of Cortes and his abilities, encouraging them to send troops to take advantage of this "historic opportunity". They also sent scouts toward Tenochtitlan to see what Moctezuma and the Mexica were planning, but several of their scouts were captured before they could return, and those that did reported seeing new fortifications and additional numbers of troops. This indicated that Moctezuma was preparing for a military confrontation, though it was unclear whether he was planning an ambush or a counterattack, though they suspected the former.

After nearly a week of preparation, Cortes decided to march on Tenochtitlan with his now enlarged army of nearly 1200 soldiers, mostly native allies that wanted to break away from the Mexica. When they arrived, the Spanish stood in awe of the capital, stunned by its beauty, size and architecture. After a brief moment, Cortes enacted his plan: he left most of his artillery, cavalry and men, including natives who acted as artillery support, in the hills while he and nearly 150 troops, mostly Spanish and local nobles, went forward to speak to Moctezuma. While he strongly suspected an ambush, he wanted to see what his adversary was planning.

As Cortes approached the city, Moctezuma and a small party walked across the causeway to meet them at the city limits. After some linguistic difficulties, Moctezuma offered Cortes some gifts of gold to show his good faith, which Cortes eagerly accepted. Moctezuma then invited Cortes into the city, obsteniously to entertain his guests. Cortes accepted, but not before sending messengers to his troops to watch out for ambush or attack. As they traversed the city, Cortes and his men smelled dried blood and a tinge of fresh decay. They also noticed that the city was rather quiet relative to its size, with fewer people than would be expected. Sensing an ambush in the wings, Cortes and his soldiers inwardly prepared for attack, but they arrived at the palace without incident.

At the palace, Cortes and his party were treated with great respect and hospitality by Moctezuma, who treated them to food and drink. After a quick bite, they began negotiations, in which Cortes lay his terms for the Mexica Emperor: in exchange for annual tribute of gold and silver, cessation of human sacrifice and the establishment of Christianity as the main religion, and acceptance of vassal status to King Charles of Spain, Moctezuma would receive military support and medicine from the Spanish to shore up against his enemies. Moctezuma, trying his boundaries, asked for Cortes' assistance with the garrison in exchange for cleaning the human blood from the main temple and replacing the Aztec idols with Christian ones as a sign of good faith.

Over the next two days, Cortes and Moctezuma bantered back and forth, testing each other's limits and terms as they negotiatied. While Moctezuma was willing to submit to vassal status for the support he badly needed, he wanted to retain control over all the tribes, including Cortes' current allies. Cortes, not wanting to lose their support, refused and tried to convince Moctezuma against it, arguing that he lacked the power to retain control of them even if granted, a point that Moctezuma granted. The negotiations concluded with Moctezuma's cleaning and remodeling of the main temple pyramid as a sign of good faith to Cortes along with a considerable gift of gold to the Spaniards, who left a few men and some supplies to help the Mexica. Cortes, happy with the results, left with his troops for the rest of his army while dispatching messengers to relay the news that negotiations had concluded with Moctezuma signing a treaty accepting vassal status with the King of Spain. With their business completed, Cortes and his men prepared to move back to Zempoala.

After several weeks of travel, while Cortes was staying in Zempoala, he received reports of increased fighting and civil strife in the peripheral areas of the Mexica. While the core areas remained under Moctezuma's control, some of the tribes managed to break away, reducing his influence and power. Cortes, hearing of this, talked about heading back to Tenochtitlan to further prop Moctezuma up, but when he brought this up to Cordoba, the latter argued that doing so would require the right kind and amount of support lest Moctezuma grow too bold for their purposes. After some discussion, they agreed to come to Moctezuma's aid if he requested it or if it seemed that he was in dire need of it.

A few weeks later, they received word that a cousin of Moctezuma, Cuauhtemoc, was engaged in fighting with some of the western tribes and was forced back. To make matters worse, Cuauhtemoc, to reserve his strength, retreated farther east toward the core, essentially signalling that he was abandoning the provinces to the rebels. When the Spanish received word of this, they initially thought to send only material aid to help prop up Moctezuma and his forces, but when the Mexica told them of the layout, they found that some of the richer gold mines were now under the rebels' control. Cortes argued that they needed to go in and reclaim the territory themselves to show the strength of Spain and the consequences of attacking her vassals. After much debate, Cordoba agreed, and Cortes set off for Tenochtitlan to offer his help in putting down the rebellions.

After several weeks, Cortes and his men arrived at Tenochtitlan, where they consulted with Moctezuma and his generals to update the news on the war. It turned out that the Mexica were losing steadily, as their numbers, resources and prestige had been badly undermined by the introduction of European diseases and their aftermath. With the retreat of Cuauhtemoc and his troops, the rebels were gaining support at Moctezuma's expense, sapping the empire of the gold they promised as tribute. Cortes, not wanting to lose the gold mines, argued that they should counterattack and crush the rebels quickly, to demonstrate that Moctezuma, as Spain's vassal, was not to be trifled with. Eager for revenge, Moctezuma agreed and after a quick resupply saw Cortes and his men set off westward.

Along the way, they encountered a village that had recently fell to the rebels, only for them to become sick from diseases, the same disease that so badly undermined the Mexica. The survivors quickly surrendered, not having the strength to resist, and Cortes began questioning them with the aid of local interpreters. After a few days of rest and interrogation, Cortes learned that the rebels were receiving aid from the Tarascan state, which controlled significant amounts of gold and had been an enemy of the Mexica for years, and seeing the Mexica's recent decline, seized the opportunity. Armed with this intelligence, Cortes and his troops, save a small garrison, resumed their march westward.

A few weeks into their journey, Cortes' scouts reported a large Tarascan army up ahead, seemingly outnumbering Cortes three to two or maybe more. When he inquired on the terrain, he found that it was a flat open area, perfect for cavalry and artillery. While he prepared his men, he sent envoys to the Tarascans, offering them the chance to withdraw peacefully if they withdrew assisting the rebels and returned the territory they acquired from the Mexica. The Tarascan leadership refused and sent the envoys back with the demand that Cortes leave their new territory and that Moctezuma cede control of the territory to them. Cortes, furious at their defiance, sent the envoys back with the declaration that they would either give up the territories or he would take them back. Furious at Cortes, they forged ahead right onto the battlefield Cortes had chosen.

As they approached, Cortes' men formed up on the battlefield with cavalry on the flanks, and artillery, skirmishers and pikemen on the front. As the Tarascans formed up, Cortes' artillery opened fire, inflicting serious physical and psychological damage on the troops. Dazed and mortified at the barrage, the Tarascans were briefly stunned, allowing Cortes' skirmishers to advance and open fire, inflicting serious damage on the enemy army. As the Tarascan army lay in shock and disarry, Cortes opened fire with his artillery and skirmishers again. After nearly half an hour of artillery fire, Cortes ordered the skirmishers to open fire as his foot soldiers prepared to charge and the cavalry maneuvered to attack. The Tarascans, while shocked and frightened by the Spanish weapons, were able to regroup and fire, though their javelins and arrows did little damage due to their enemies steel armor.

After a second volley of projectile weapons, the Spanish opened up with another barrage from their skirmishers just before their cavalry attacked the flanks with lances and swords. With the cavalry on the flanks, the infantry engaged in melee combat via pikes, spears, axes, clubs, and swords. Though the Tarascans fought fiercely, the technological gap proved fatal and they were forced to retreat, pursued by Cortes cavalry.

As the cavalry harassed the retreating Tarascans, Cortes looked over the battlefield and found, much to his satisfaction, that he had suffered much lower casualties than the enemy, and most of his were native allies. After taking account of the casualties and the damage suffered, he regrouped his men and set up a perimeter while he waited for the cavalry to return. A few hours later, they returned, with news that the Tarascans were routed and the way west seemed clear, though Cortes suspected a trap of some sort. Deciding to play it safe, he ordered his cavalry to take some guides and interpreters and relay a message from him to the Tarascans. If they withdrew support from the rebels, returned the territory they conquered from the Mexica, sent a few hostages to Tenochtitlan, and paid a considerable reparation of gold and silver, then he would return peacefully to the Mexica. Meanwhile, he sent some native allies to circle the perimeter in case of ambush in the night.

The next day, his cavalry returned, unharmed and accompanied by Tarascan diplomats bearing good news: the Tarascans agreed to the terms and sent a large faith payment in gold, along with a few noble heirs as hostages back with the envoy. Cortes, receiving their assurance that the king, Tangazuan II, empowered them to speak on his behalf, accepted the tribute and his army turned back to Mexica territory.

Upon their arrival at the "border", Cortes and his troops reported the new agreement to the Mexica commander and sent a runner to Tenochtitlan to notify Moctezuma. Upon their return, however, they received news that skirmishes occurred on the north and south borders with the Huastecs and Zapotecs respectively. Although most of these were easily defeated, some garrisons were overrun, weakening Moctezuma's hold over the more peripheral regions. While Moctezuma wanted Cortes to march forth and crush these incursions, the Spaniards were confident that once news of their victory to the west reached the other tribes, the skirmishes would cease lest they elicited a similar response.

Within weeks, news came in from the north and south borders: hearing of the Spanish victory over the Tarascans, the skirmishes slowed, allowing the Mexica to regroup and strengthen their defense. Cortes and Moctezuma decided to send reinforcements to the borders and envoys to the Huastecs and Zapotecs. Cortes and nearly 2,000 troops, mostly native and Mexica allies, march south against the Zapotecs while a Mexica prince is dispatched north to deal with the Huastecs. A few days ahead are envoys, sent to scope the prospects for peace with their northern and southern neighbors.

A few weeks into the southward march, Cortes stops at a small town to rest his troops and gather intelligence. Shortly afterward, an envoy returns from meeting with the Zapotecs, reporting that the Zapotec king, Cosijoeza, will cease the skirmishes in exchange for restored autonomy from the Mexica. Cortes, knowing that Moctezuma would not permit this, refuses the terms and offers Cosijoeza the chance to surrender peacefully in exchange for his non-violent withdrawal. While he and Cosijoeza barter terms, Cortes had his scouts survey the geographic and political terrain, discovering that like the Mexica, the Zapotecs had been infected by disease. Though the epidemic was not as severe as in the Mexica case, Cortes predicted that within years, the situation would be very different.

Using this information, Cortes decided to press his advantage and urged Cosijoeza to seek a peace, warning him that in the presence of the epidemic, he would have to either defeat the Mexica quickly or be ground down in a war of attrition against the Mexica and their Spanish allies. Cosijoeza, seeing Cortes' argument, agrees to cease the skirmishes and accept Cortes' terms. As a sign of good faith, Cosijoeza sent a gift of jewelry as well as a son of his as a hostage to the Mexica. After a few weeks the skirmishes declined and Cortes, deciding the situation had been resolved, ordered his troops to march back to Mexica territory.

Upon his return, Cortes received news from the northern border while his troops rested and resupplied. He learned that the Huastec skirmishes had been defeated in a manner similar to his own, albeit somewhat bloodier. The Mexica general offered the Huastecs a peaceful resolution if they ceased the skirmishes and accepted the status guo. Though the terms were similar, the Mexica general, Tlaltecatzin, one of Moctezuma's sons, failed to translate the terms correctly, perhaps inadvertently insulting the Huastecs. Tlaltecatzin and his army established powerful defensive points to discourage additional skirmishes and force the Huastecs back to negotiations.

Cortes, hearing this, offers counsel to Moctezuma to discuss other options, including an attack against the Huastecs led by Cortes and the Spanish. After some debate, Cortes agreed to lead the attack but asked for some time to give his men time to rest and resupply. In April 1524, they departed north to meet the Huastecs to renew negotiations, this time with a better translator. The Huastecs, hearing the Spanish were included in the force, decided to meet Cortes rather than risk battle. After some banter, they decided to meet the Spanish in one of the forts near their border to renew negotiations.

Upon their arrival, Cortes treated the Huastec diplomats to a small meal as they discussed terms for peace. Cortes offered the diplomats the same deal as the Mexica general before him, with an apology for the inadvertent insult. The Huastec diplomats, realizing the mistake, agreed to the terms and left to inform their leaders about the agreement. Cortes and his soldiers remained in the fort as insurance against the Huastecss reneging on the deal. Over the next few weeks, the skirmishes declined, though did not completely cease, so Cortes left a strong force within the fort to guard against a resurgence of attacks while he left for Tenochtitlan.

Over the next few years, the Mexica situation improved, as their borders settled, albeit not entirely, and their population began to stablize, after the outbreaks of disease, though their numbers were significantly lower than they were prior to the arrival of the Spanish.

Cartier Turns South

Meanwhile, as the Spanish, led by Cortes, were consolidating their control over the Mexica and the other tribes, the French, having more firmly established themselves in Vinlandia, decided to launch another expedition to the south, to learn more about the sea, which they referred to as Diviser la Mer. In 1530, a fleet of four ships, commanded by Jaques Cartier, a skilled sailor that served in previous voyages to Vinlandia, set sail in early April, heading south along the coast. After approximately seven weeks, they arrived at the last point visited by French explorers, where they took on supplies and repairs before carefully making their way farther south, taking care to avoid being seen by the Spanish. They learned that while Spanish influence remained strong in the region, despite the geographic closeness of their colonies, they had not yet built towns, fortresses or other buildings on the peninsula - save the occasional trading post. Having acquired this information, the French cautiously rounded the tip and headed north-northwest.

As they travelled, Cartier's crew took careful note of the area and the local tribes, building up on their prior expeditions. After nearly four weeks, the coast turned abruptly westward, while the area remained largely subtropical jungle. As they travelled, they encountered increasingly diverse languages, making communication difficult and hindering trade, though they did deduce that they were well outside the influence of the Spanish due to the scarcity of metal tools. After a few weeks, they came across a series of islands and inlets that led to a large lake, where they stopped to explore and forage. During their exploration, they encountered some local fishermen who, after a brief but tense moment, they began to trade with, exchanging metal tools, such as knives and hooks, for some supplies. During their stay, Cartier made preliminary efforts at opening negotiation, slowly learning their language and their ways while his men explored the region. Their explorations showed a large swamp fed by a river flowing from the north into the sea. After several weeks of trade and exploration, Cartier left to travel farther westward, though not before convincing some locals to accompany him as guides.

Over the next few weeks, Cartier carefully and meticulously observed the coast, seeing it grow drier as the swamp gave way to coastal plains. As he travelled, he looked for local fishermen and hunters to trade with, usually trading metal hooks and knives for some local supplies and some occasional exotica. However, attempts to open talks with them proved difficult as they spoke languages different from their guides, though they shared a few loanwords. To make matters worse, though Cartier tried to protect his guides from disease, they became sick and most died, and the lone survivor was rendered too sick to work, forcing Cartier to pick up more guides as he travelled.

After approximately three weeks, they noticed the coastline begin to turn southwestward, then sharply south, toward the area that the Spanish encountered and conquered the Mexica. While looking at their maps, Cartier began entertaining the possibility that Vinlandia and the lands held by the Mexica were part of the same continent. To test this, he decided to go farther to see how the coast turned as they travelled southward. After a few weeks, they noticed the coast continuously running southward, and they were running dangerously close to the lands of the Mexica. Cartier decided to turn northeast to return to New France to avoid becoming entangled with the ongoing conflict.

On the way back, he amalgamated the charts and notes that he and his men took of their journey, stopping to drop off the surviving natives and to take on supplies and repairs. After nearly sixteen weeks of travel, Cartier returned to New France and reported his findings to the governor. His findings indicated that Vinlandia and the lands of the Mexica were part of the same landmass, so if there was a sea passage between Brazil and Vinlandia, it was probably within effective Spanish control. The governor, though, saw a potential opportunity for France to expand her influence into the area while the Spanish were busy with the Mexica and any other tribes that they were fighting against. To investigate this possibility, Cartier was sent once more into the sea, this time to go farther south and see how extensive the fighting was.

In mid May of 1531, Cartier led a fleet of four ships along the Vinlandian coast to the sea, stopping to pick up supplies and conduct repairs. After nearly seven weeks, he arrived at his last stopping point on the westward coast of the Diviser la Mer, and stopped to organize further explorations of the area, both the coast and some of the inland areas. A party of twenty-five men, led by Cartier, travelled down the coast on foot while another travelled west into the interior, being careful to avoid possible detection by the Spanish.

Along his travels, Cartier took careful note of the terrain and made periodic contact with native fishermen and traders, both to trade and, albeit less successfully, gather intelligence on the Spanish. After more than a month of sailing, he came upon some coastal fishermen who told him some news of what was happening farther south. They told him that the Mexica were engaged in border skirmishes with the Huastecs and Zapotecs on their north and south boundaries respectively. However, there were rumors that the skirmishes were slowing as the Zapotecs and Huastecs were succumbing to some strange disease, undermining their martial strength. Upon inquiring on the location of the Huastecs, Cartier learned that they were between a few days and one week sailing time from them. From this, Cartier concluded that they were quickly approaching Mexica territory, and decided to turn back.

Meanwhile, the party sent inland made their way westward. With the help of local guides, they managed to make good time, though the terrain was difficult and progress was slow. Approximately 20 days into the journey, they came across a mountain chain running north to south. Knowing that time was running short, the party leader, a sailor known only as Robert, asked the locals about the mountains, namely what lay farther west. Unfortunately for him, all they could tell him was additional tribes and more land, as well as another mountain chain in the distance. With this, Robert returned to the coast to await Cartier's return.

Picking up Robert and his party, Cartier made the five-week long return trip north to New France, travelling in a north-northeast direction, stopping for supplies and repairs. Upon his return, he conglomerated the information they attained and assessed the extent of Spain's reach. He decided that an expedition could be organized to take the territories far north of the Mexica without much difficulty from the Spanish, if it was launched quickly enough. He prepared to give this assessment to King Francis I on his return voyage to France. During the long voyage, he prepared an assessment of the supplies and manpower needed to add the new territory should the king give the go ahead. Unfortunately for him, while the King approved of adding further territory to New France, the court argued that to seize territory so close to the Mexica would be costly, impractical, and potentially provocative. Instead, the King decided to commission additional colonization along the coast and ordered that Cartier would organize and defend this latest wave, though the king stood ready to shift his plans in case the situation changed.

Turmoil in the Andes

Meanwhile, as Eurasian explorers travelled along the coasts, diseases spread in their wake, eventually reaching the peaks of the mountains in western Brazil, killing hundreds and even thousands. One of the victims was the Sapa Inca Huayna Capac, whose death, along with that of his eldest son, triggered a violet struggle for the throne between two half-brothers, Huascar and Atahualpa. Huascar was of pure royal blood and Atahualpa was considered illegitimate, but the former only managed to gain partial control of the empire, so he demanded that Atahualpa swear allegiance to him as the new Sapa Inca. While Atahualpa complied with the demand, Huascar, suspecting his half-brother of treachery, refused his offering and sent his messengers back dressed as women. For over six years, the two contenders for the throne, Huascar and Atahualpa, battled each other to be the Sapa Inca. While Huascar had the advantage of having the support of the nobility and the religious orders and the purest royal blood, Atahualpa had the advantage of greater popularity among his subjects in the northern areas he controlled.

The war began when Huascar, supported by the Canari tribe, invaded the northern areas to oust his brother and gain full control over the Empire. While the incursion briefly succeeded in capturing Atahualpa, he soon escaped and, rejoining his army, counterattacked, pushing Huascar back. After regaining control over the northern territories, his soldiers massacred a large number of Canari as punishment for siding with his brother. His vengeance fulfilled, Atahualpa pushed southward to Cajamarca, where he added to his numbers by convincing some of Huascar's soldiers, either peacefully or violently, to join him along the way. When he arrived in Cajamarca, he sent most of his army southward to conquer more of his brother's territories while he stayed in the city to consolidate his new conquests. His army, under the command of his skilled and loyal generals, proved more than a match for Huascar's troops, defeating them at almost every turn, fighting their way to the capital of Cusco. In 1532, after nearly three years of fighting, Atahualpa's soldiers decisively defeated Huascar at the capital and took him prisoner, leading Atahualpa to declare victory and claim full control of the throne upon his entry into the capital.

However, his victory was short-lived, as Huascar, with the help of his half-siblings, managed to escape captivity after a mere half a year of imprisonment. With his escape, Huascar and two of his siblings, Tupac Huallpa and Manco Inca Yupanqui, organized their troops to resume the civil war. In March of 1533, Huascar and his allies attacked Atahualpa at Cusco, forcing him and his soldiers to withdraw northward back to their original territories. Huascar, impatient and eager for final victory, pursued his half-brother northward, but his troops found themselves harried by Atahualpa's soldiers, who used guerrilla tactics, such as destroying supply caches and roads, to slow Huascar down.

When Atahualpa returned to his northern territories, he rallied his army and prepared to counter Huascar's northward advance as his generals harassed Huascar in his march. In October, the two brother's fought in the southern reaches of Atahualpa's territories, where Huascar's men, tired, hungry, and worn out from constant harassment, were routed by Atahualpa's better rested and more numerous soldiers, forcing Huascar to retreat southward back to Cusco once more, Atahualpa in close pursuit.

Upon his return to Cusco, Huascar called out for support to counter Atahualpa and to conquer his territories for good. Tupac Huallpa and Manco Inca Yupanqui responded by sending a quarter of their troops to his defence at Cusco, where he waited to decisively defeat Atahualpa.

However, to his surprise the next attack came from the south instead of the north. Tribes that resented Inca conquest, such as the Diaguita, rebelled against Huascar's rule and, led by Paullu Inca, declared themselves to be a new independent empire. While infuriated with their rebellion, Huascar had no time or energy to deal with them, his attention focused on Atahualpa, whom he considered a greater threat, and so sent his brother Manco Inca to deal with them while he and Tupac defended his territories.

Unbeknownst to him, this was precisely the opportunity that Manco had been waiting for: the chance to rule an empire of his own. Moving his troops southward to Vilcabamba, where he organized his armies and planned his campaign against the insurgents. After wintering in Vilcabamba, his army moved southward in early spring of 1534, encountering guerrilla resistance from local tribes in their move southward. After nearly nine weeks of harassment by guerrilla tribes, Manco Inca and Paullu Inca finally fought near the Cordoba Mountains. Although tired and hungry from the guerrilla raids, Manco's troops, superior in number and in training, managed to hold their own and force Paullu's forces back. To consolidate his new gains and to try to restrict the movements of the guerrilla fighters, Manco took over a series of outposts along the roads south of the Cordoba Mountains, though the raids continued on and on.

Meanwhile, encouraged Paullu's example, other members of the family made their bid for power, including Quispe Sisa, one of the Sapa Inca's daughters, who married into a noble family, giving them enough confidence to break off and form their own kingdom, centered around Tiwanaku. With Huascar contending with Atahualpa in the north and Manco and Paullu battling in the south, Quispe and her husband expanded their influence through the south-central portions of the Empire. Eventually, they came into conflict with Tupac, who sent his forces to counter them when they began moving north toward Cusco, apparently to try to claim the throne. Through a series of guerrilla raids and ambushes, he managed to impede their progress long enough to force them to turn back, though sporadic fighting continued along the "border".

Over the years, as the siblings tore the Empire apart with their bids for power, foreign disease and famine caused by the destruction of crops, storehouses and roads dwindled their numbers. The fighting also enabled tribes along the eastern and far northern and southern borders to rebel against the Empire in a series of guerrilla raids against the outposts and storehouses. By 1536, due to pressure from the eastern tribes and diminishing numbers, the siblings called a temporary truce and met to try to settle hostilities. After a few weeks of talks and negotiations, the siblings acquiesed to ruling portions of the Empire rather than trying to rule all of it. Atahualpa received the northern territories that he ruled at the onset of the war, save a few cities that broke free as most of his troops were focused fighting Huascar. Huascar retained the regions around Cusco, with a southern border at Lake Titicaca. Quispe and her husband received the territory centered around Tiwanaku. Manco and Puallu split the province of Qullasuyu between them, with the former to the north and the latter to the south, though a few cities to the far south broke free from Puallu's control since he lacked the military means to retain control of them. However, the Antisuyu province was left to the eastern tribes, though it would later become a point of contention between Quispe and Huascar as both sought to reclaim it for themselves.

With the negotiations over and the Empire split, the siblings turned inward to repair the damage done and relegated their armies to defense, fighting off encroaching tribes or suppressing further attempts at secession.

Pizzaro turns South

Akbar Rules India

Conquest of Siberia

Hideyoshi the Conqueror

In 1590, after centuries of incessant civil war, Toyotomi Hideyoshi finally unified Japan under his rule following his victory over the Houjou clan. However, he soon found himself in a rather tense situation: he had a large, seasoned army, possibly among the finest in the world, but he had no one to fight, which could lead to civil war or rebellion. Also, being born a commoner, he could not take the title of Shogun and had to rely on military power to legitimize his rule in Japan. To solidify his rule, he sought an external enemy to fight, looking westward to his immediate neighbor, Joseon Korea. However, he soon realized that an invasion of Korea could only lead to disaster, for Korea was a vassal of Ming China, which hosted a large and powerful navy, presenting the threat of severing the sea-going lanes his army would need for supplies and reinforcements. He also knew that while his army was more than a match for Korean or Ming soldiers in battle, his navy was another story, lacking cannon artillery in contrast to his would-be enemies, so he decided against invading Korea and turned elsewhere.

Turning north and south, he found two very tempting targets: Hokkaido and the Ryukyu Kingdom. Hokkaido was inhabited by hunter-gatherers, who had neither the resources or the numbers to successfully resist invasion or conquest. However, the Ryukyu Kingdom posed a problem: they had a relatively large navy, and tributary relations with China. Toyotomi decided that invading the Ryukyu Kingdom was too dangerous and decided to go north to Hokkaido.

Using both ships and the roadways, Toyotomi moved 8000 soldiers, including 5000 infantry armed with muskets, bows, and spears, 2000 samurai, 1000 cavalry, mostly abusame horse archers, and ten pieces of artillery. Most of his military remained in Japan on standby to re-inforce the invasion army. As his army arrived in northern Honshu, Toyotomi laid out the final details of the invasion of Hokkaido. He planned to divide the invasion army into four groups, three of which would board the ships and sail for the coastal plains on the southern and eastern coasts of Hokkaido. Once there, the cavalry would attack to break up whatever resistance the Ainu may offer, then the ashigaru would follow to establish a defensive line for the full force to rally behind. Once established, the soldiers would move forward to occupy the coastal plains and move up the mountains, with the artillery following and supporting the soldiers. As the soldiers moved up the mountains, they would establish rudimentary, stationary defense points on the plateaus to house their artillery and cavalry. The fourth, consisting entirely of infantry armed with swords, lances, bows, and muskets, and commanded by the head of the Matsumae clan, would depart for the southernmost tip of Hokkaido, which Toyotomi promised to them in exchange for establishing the invasion forces, and he promised more territory in exchange for their help in conquering Hokkaido.

On May 14, 1592, Toyotomi's army landed on the coastal plains of Hokkaido and the invasion began. As expected the Ainu provided little resistance in the initial skirmishes on the coastal plains, as their weaponry and numbers were insufficient to defeat the Japanese soldiers. However, as the Japanese soldiers moved up the mountains, the Ainu began to put up greater resilience, though this was more due to the terrain than anything else. The Ainu, knowing that they were no match for Toyotomi's troops in battle, launched a guerrilla campaign to try to cut the Japanese off from supplies. They also launched ambushes and raids against the Japanese scouts and encampments, one of which lit a gunpowder cache that killed over 13 soldiers and injured 20 more. However, despite the stalwart and cunning campaign launched by the Ainu, they were simply prolonging the inevitable. They could not cut the Japanese troops off from their supplies, as Toyotomi's fleet controlled the seas, and they were not able to inflict the necessary damage, physically or psychologically, on the Japanese to force them to surrender.

However, due to the rough terrain and the guerrilla campaign, total victory still eluded the Japanese upon the onset of winter. As the snow began to fall, the fighting slowed, with both the Japanese and the Ainu settling in for the winter, though both still fought when they encountered each other, usually through foraging or scouting. As spring returned, the fighting resumed, but on a smaller scale as both sides suffered loss of strength from the icy winter. As spring progressed to summer, the two sides returned to full strength as they acquired more food, and in the case of the Japanese troops, received additional supplies and reinforcements. By summer's end, the Japanese controlled the interior plains, the southern and eastern coasts, and half of the western coast.

However, despite their advantage of numbers and technology, the interior plateau and northern coast still remained in Ainu hands, whose guerrilla campaign continued, albeit on a smaller scale and slower speed. As autumn arrived, the fighting slowed as both sides prepared for the bitter cold. Upon the arrival of winter, fighting was restricted to the occasional ambush on a scouting or foraging party on either side. During the winter, Toyotomi took the time to plan the next stage of the campaign, as he was not overly happy with the results. The Ainu remained defiant and victory elusive, so he looked over the options for the next phase of his campaign. One was that after the snow melted and the soil hardened, his troops on the southern and eastern coasts would attack the central plateau. By occupying the interior plateau, Toyotomi hoped to corral the Ainu resistance to the northern peninsula and slowly squeeze them into submission. To distract the Ainu from the attack, he ordered the northeastern troops to prepare for a feint attack along the coast to the north, which would also deprive the Ainu of further access to the sea and their fishing grounds, cutting into their food supplies. Some of Toyotomi's commanders actually suggested that they use the attack on the interior as a feint and focus on taking the coasts rather than fighting over the mountains. Others countered that such a strategy would require extensive supply lines and would divert troops to guard said supply lines. Toyotomi decided to try to occupy the interior, using attack on the western and northeastern coasts to divert the Ainu's attention. To prepare for the attack, re-inforcements, including over 2000 ashigaru infantry, and an additional 15 pieces of light artillery, and additional supplies were summoned from Japan to support the attack on the interior plateau.

In mid-spring of 1593, most of the re-inforcements arrived at the southeast and northeast coastal plains, in preparation for the attack, while a small group of ships carried the remaining soldiers to the northern coast. In early summer, the northernmost soldiers, mostly light infantry and cavalry, began raiding the Ainu fishing sites, stealing their catches and killing several men. These raids caused the Ainu to fight back, cutting down on their catches as they had to spend time and energy fighting instead of fishing and foraging. Still the Ainu were able to cause some damage, killing Japanese soldiers and horses, who lacked armor to make for more effective raiders and were vulnerable to Ainu spears and arrows, which were often coated in toxic venom to help with hunting.

Meanwhile, as the raids continued on the northern coast, the bulk of the Japanese army, moving from the interior plains and the southeast coastal plains, advanced onto the interior plateau. The Ainu on the interior put up a valiant defense, erecting wooden pallisades to slow the Japanese down and conducting hit and run attacks on their supplies. However, despite their best efforts, the Japanese soldiers outnumbered them two-to-one, and sometimes more in certain skirmishes, and had better weapons, including light field cannons. Within eleven weeks, the Japanese controlled the interior plateau and effectively forced the Ainu into the northernmost areas, though the campaign took longer than they initially thought it would.

As autumn set in, both sides began to settle in for the winter, so the fighting slowed to skirmishes along the new front and within the newly occupied territories. As winter set in, Toyotomi and his commanders looked over their progress so far. While the Japanese now controlled more than half of the island, including some of the Ainu's key hunting grounds, final victory still eluded them. The Ainu continued their guerrilla campaign against the Japanese, and the new territories were proving very difficult for them to hold and supply, due to the rugged mountain terrain. While the Japanese supplemented their supplies by hunting and foraging, they were not as effective as the Ainu as many of them were farmers and peasants instead of hunters, and so winter sapped their strength, although they were still better prepared for it than when the conquest began.

Toyotomi zealously sought final victory over the Ainu and began planning for a final thrust into the northern hinterlands, but his commanders vigorously counter argued, saying that they did not have the supplies or manpower yet for such an undertaking. They argued that they should wait at least a year before making such an attack, taking the time to cement their hold on their conquered territories, meaning increasing their stocks of food, ammunition and other supplies, as well as putting down the Ainu guerrillas and saboteurs. Toyotomi, heeding their wisdom, decided to wait a year to bring supplies and reinforcements, as well as fine tune the plans for the final attack. One point that his naval officers were quick to make was that they would be prudent to blockade the northern peninsula from ships coming in and out. While neither Korea nor China had any interest in getting involved in Toyotomi's campaign, they wanted to keep the Ainu from receiving supplies and support from friends and kin on other islands.

As Toyotomi and his commanders sorted out the plans and brought up the supplies, the Japanese navy, led by Kuki Yoshitaka, began the blockade of the northern peninsula. The ships would also serve as transports for troops and supplies to attack the beaches while the bulk of the Japanese army attacked from the interior. The troops that would attack from land, commanded by Matsumae Yoshihiro, were beefed up with additional ashigaru troops, muskets, cannons, shot, and powder. These reinforcements helped to cement Toyotomi's hold over the new territories, evidenced by a gradual decrease in guerrilla activities behind the new front. Within a year, the Japanese had nearly 12,000 soldiers on Hokkaido, with an additional 1500 on their ships along the northern coast. In addition, extra ships were recruited to support the invasion, giving the Japanese an additional 350 soldiers to attack the coasts.

Meanwhile, the Ainu in the northern lands, began to weaken from disease and famine caused by the higher population density, and raids and skirmishes with the Japanese soldiers took their toll. In early spring of 1595, sensing weakness, Toyotomi sent an envoy to the Ainu, with terms outlined for their surrender: in exchange for a cessation of hostilities and permission to return to territories behind the lines, the Ainu were to submit to Japanese rule, pay tribute, either in money or goods, and allow Japanese settlers to come into Hokkaido. While some tribes, normally those behind or directly along the front agreed to the terms, those more distant refused and continued the fight.

Upon receiving word of the continued defiance, Toyotomi, Matsumae and Kuki launched the attack on the northern areas. In late May of 1595, Kuki's fleet, carrying 1850 troops, landed along the northern and western coasts and began pushing inland, but the rocky terrain and the Ainu fighters slowed them down. Meanwhile, Matsumae launched a three-pronged attack from the land, with 7000 soldiers launched from the interior and the remaining 5000 attacking from the coastal areas. Aided by Ainu that submitted to Japanese control and with the resistance busy with the coastal attacks, his men make relatively rapid progress in their advance into the north. Within ten weeks, the Japanese had effective control over a third of the territory formerly held by the Ainu and had de facto hegemony over the seas, but the campaign cost them over 2500 casualties, dead and wounded.

Many of the Ainu tribes, now effectively surrounded by Japanese soldiers and facing famine and heightened levels of disease, began to surrender to the Japanese, submitting to the same terms that Toyotomi proposed earlier. By early October, the Japanese had gained de facto control over three-fifths of the territory the Ainu held at the beginning of the year, but a handful of Ainu tribes still held out against the Japanese. With winter approaching, many Japanese and Ainu began to settle in and wait for spring to resume the fighting. However, this winter, Toyotomi tried something different: he had Matsumae organize teams of Japanese and Ainu soldiers to scout out the areas still held by resisting clans so he could better plan to take them in the spring, as well as harass foraging teams and guerrilla scouts. Once he acquired this information, he moved his men closer to the resisting territories to better attack them upon spring's return. While many of his commanders objected to this, Toyotomi insisted and pushed the men onward.

In late February of 1596, Toyotomi once again offered the resisting clans the option to surrender and submit to Japanese authority, but once more he was rebuffed. In mid May, after hauling his field cannons to the right positions indicated by the scouts during the winter, his men attacked the few remaining strongholds, but were fiercely resisted by the Ainu. Still, due to the field cannons, the Japanese breeched the strongholds within weeks and soon the fighting degenerated into melee combat, where their superior steel weapons and training won out. Still, the resistance continued as the strongholds fell a few at a time. By early August, the last stronghold fell and Japan won control over Hokkaido, but at the cost of over 3400 casualties.

As a reward for their assistance in the campaign, Toyotomi granted Kuki and Matsumae fiefdoms in Hokkaido, in charge of collecting tribute and overseeing settlement of the hinterlands. Many of the Ainu clans retained their leadership, and some, mostly those that aided the Japanese, had their territories expanded at the expense of those that resisted the invasion. As the new territorial lines, of both the daimyo fiefdoms and the Ainu clans, were drawn, many of the soldiers, save those necessary to garrison key checkpoints and strongholds, were dismissed from military service to reduce the logistic demand of the army. Most dismissed soldiers returned to Japan, though a significant portion remained in Hokkaido, as farmers in the employment of the Kuki and Matsumae landholdings, or as independent farmers in the fringes of the new fiefdoms, the first step in Japanese consolidation and colonization.

After two years as de facto ruler of Japan, Hideyoshi died on September 18, 1598 from complications caused by the bubonic plague. In his place, the Council of Five Elders was established to rule until his son, Toyotomi Hideyori, came of age. He hoped that the five elders would balance each other out and keep Japan stable until his son was old enough to rule in his place. Instead, the elders almost immediately began fighting among themselves, eventually dividing into two camps: "Tokugawa" and "Everyone-else". Tokugawa Ieyasu, planning to become the ruler of Japan for himself, made strategic alliances with daimyo and army commanders throughout Japan and the newly conquered Hokkaido. Though Maeda Toshiie did his best to support the Hideyoshi heir and maintain stability, he died in April 27, 1599, sparking a renewal of hostilities.

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