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When the Black Death Came to Celtic Atlantis (Abrittus)

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May 1031

The inhabitants of Avalum on the Easternmost point of Nova Hibernia - and the Easternmost point of Atlantis, but that was not yet known to them - expected the ship of the new Frisian Hanse, which was due in May and would bring iron for the local blacksmith, some glassware they had ordererd (new eyeglasses for some of the Celtic monks, a new still for a farmer, who dreamt of moving from uisca beata subsistence production to selling it to the entire village and maybe even to the Frisian Hanse?), some chemical substances for the apothecary, new ammunition for the hunters, and a couple of barrels of Hispanic red wine and a new novice for the Celtic monastery. In exchange, the ship would take wool, mutton cheese, salted fish and whale oil back to Europe. The arrival of a ship was always an exciting event in the village, whose other foreign contacts were limited to rare Beothuk fur- and Caribu-meat-traders and guests from other Celtic settlements on Nova Hibernia and the Atlantic mainland. When the Frisian shopowners` younger son had spotted the white sails on the horizon and shouted "Ship! Ship!", three dozen villagers - about a third of the village`s population - gathered at the quay to greet the arrival.

But they were not in the slightest prepared for what they would see and hear on this twelfth of May in 1031. The ship was full of unknown people, and they brought terrible news. A disease had struck Europe! It had come from Asia, and millions had already died. Besides the ship`s crew, there were 34 refugees from the British Isles, which the plague had not yet reached. on board.

After the negotiated goods and other news were exchanged, the Frisian crew set sail for Greenland again - and Avalumians and newcomers were left to sort out what to do now.

It was quickly decided that the newcomers would march to the West. Avalumians lent them axes, hammers, nails, saws and other tools for house-building as well as a large fishing net and promised to come and visit them in autumn (and demand their stuff back...).

That evening, families in all the houses of Avalum discussed the people and the news arrived on board the new ship 

Only few of them, though, anticipated the far-reaching circumstances to the same extent as Adianus, the Celtic monastery`s abbot. Adianus reminded his friars of what the smallpox and influenza epidemics had done to the Beothuk. This time, it seemed that people of European descent were in danger of suffering likewise from an Asian disease - unless the same rigid measures would be taken.

After a night`s thorough discussion in his monastery, Adianus walked down the hill the next day, and spoke to the duoviri of Avalum. They agreed on a tough plan: all arriving ships would be quarantined (held for 40 days before allowed to enter the harbour). Anticipating scarce supplies from Europe, no metal or glass was to be thrown away, chemicals were to be saved, holy communions with wine would be held less often, and if the plague should break out, the established isolation procedures from the last smallpox epidemics would apply again.

While the villagers assembled to discuss the plan, Adianus gathered some friars, boarded the monastery`s small ship and set sail for the West, where two more monasteries on the mainland had to be warned against European arrivals, should Atlantis be protected from the Black Death.

August 1031

After two months without ships, things became serious in Atlantis in late August. A ship sailing under the imperial Celtic flag refused to accept the quarantine in Avalum and sailed on. After two more port towns imposed quarantine, too, the ship disappeared out of sight. The settlers surmised that the crew and passengers would most likely try to land somewhere in the wilderness, and decided to send armed patrols riding along the coast the next day.

During that night, the last seven people aboard the ship who were not infected acted according to a cruel plan. Starting simultaneously, they went into the cabins of the sick wearing hooded masks over their heads and shot the sick with one bullet to the head each. Then they anchored and landed using a small rowboat.

The riders who patrolled the coast the next day found the anchored ship and the boat at the shore. They saw no movement on board the ship and concluded that everyone must have left the ship and landed. They scoured the landscape hunting for the dangerous newcomers in a wide perimeter, but didn´t find anyone - neither that day, nor on the next day, nor on any other day that year. The last arrivals from Europe for four decades had disappeared.

June 1033

After two years without any ships from Europe, the Celtic settlements ran out not only of luxuries like wine, spices or coffee, but also of important things they themselves could not produce. The apothecaries ran out of narcotics, and the blacksmith ran out of iron, which in turn meant that fishermen and farmers had to make do with outworn tools and even stuff like nails for repairing houses after a storm became scarce.

But not only the absence of arrivals from Europe was a problem - no ships also meant that people who had planned on returning to Europe, like the two research teams of geographers and biologists who had travelled upstream on a very large river and found huge lakes, were caught in Atlantis.

Members of these research teams, together with some local duoviri or triviri and monks from Celtic monasteries, initiated a gathering of representatives from all settlements in June 1033. Organised expeditions into the hinterland were needed to look for iron ore and to collect herbs and medical plants that could substitute the pharmaceutics the apothecaries had run out of. While most settlers were wary of attacks by natives - relations with the Beothuk and some Mikmaq had turned sour after the two epidemics of the last century -, the researchers reported of very helpful and cooperative natives further upstream, whose tribes had not been affected by smallpox and influenza. After heated debate, it was decided to first search the regions nearer to the coast for signs of iron and for useful plants with a large group on horseback, and that if no iron were spotted after two weeks, contacts with the natives would be sought. Time was of the essence, since the young men involved in the expedition would be needed in the harvest, come August.

July 1033

After two weeks, in which the riders had found nothing but untamed nature with no trace of treasures hidden in its soil, three men (a monk, a geographer with basic linguistic knowledge of Algonquin tongues, and a former shopowner now turned fisherman who knew a lot about chemistry) were sent to meet a native tribe which had been particularly cooperative with the researchers.

After a day`s ride, the three men encountered a group of Wolastoqiyik. Tertius, the geographer, managed to convey the purpose of their visit. A gathering of sagamae from all clans took place the next day. The collection of medicinal plants was not controversial, two learned Wolastoqiyik women would accompany the expedition and show them where to look for plants which helped against coughs, inflamed congestions of the inner ear etc.. But when Tertius had explained about oddities in nature which might signal iron ore deposits, a disquietude seemed to grasp the natives. Heated discussions followed, words spoken too fast for Tertius to understand them. Towards the end, sagama Sacobi explained to the three foreigners that he and some of his fellow tribesmen would come and help them with their quest for ore, too. Murmurs and protests continued half-loudly.

As the expedition group left the next day, the three Celts sensed that not everyone in the group had joined to help them. Evidently, sacama Sacobi had to integrate some representatives of the skeptics, too. They made only slow progress, collecting plants in several places throughout the morning and noon. In the early afternoon, the atmosphere seemed to become tenser and tenser. They finally reached a small river flowing over pebbles, whose surface was coloured in dark shades of orange and even red. To the monk, the chemist and the geographer, this was an excellent sign: iron oxide - or, in other words: rust - was a clear sign of iron deposits. Their exclamations of joy seemed to anger some of the Wolastoqiyik. Things became even worse when Tertius asked sacama Sacobi if they could return to this place with some tools and machines and other men to help them, and start cutting mines into the mountain and perhaps even smelt the ore here.

This time, the men clearly shouted at each other. After half an hour, some of the men left the group, swearing and clearly angry. Sacama Sacobi explained that he agreed to their plan, on three conditions: a group of young Wolastoqiyik would stay with them in the new village, to "guard" them and to learn what they did; the Celts would give a third of the iron they produced to the tribe, and they would have to abandon the village once and forever immediately, should anyone in the village ever "disappear".

The Celts understood the first two conditions pretty well. They had no clue what the third one might refer to. Darius, the former shopowner, tried to beat down the price to one quarter of the iron, but backtracked when he saw anger building up in Sacobi`s face. An agreement was reached, and the three Celts returned to their villages to recruit blacksmiths and strong people with experience in mining or smelting.

What they had not understood that afternoon was that many Wolastoqiyik believed that a cannibalistic monster was confined under the surface of this mountain, and that the small river was called "the river of blood", believed to carry the blood of animals killed by the mountain monster. A group of dissenters, led by sacama Escuti, feared that the Celts would free the monster and unleash it unto their territories. The three Celts also didn`t know that news of the terrible disease which had struck the Beothuk and Mikmaq_had_reached the Wolastoqiyik.

But they would all soon find out about this disagreement - which would go down in history as the first instance of a very long line of Atlantic conflict.

Escuti and his followers argued that the foreigners brought death because they disturbed the natural order. Smallpox, influenza, the plague from which the Celts tried to protect themselves, and now digging into the mountain of Kuku, all of this clearly showed that the foreigners were bad spirits and had to be sent away.

Sacobi and those who followed him, on the other hand, argued that "one cannot stop the river, one can only ride its waves". They saw the technological superiority of the Celts and tried to take as much advantage of their opportunities as possible, making themselves stronger and obtaining a better bargaining position.

While the Celts gathered a group which would start to produce the first domestic iron on the Atlantic continent, both Escuti and Sacobi tried to gain as many followers for their course of action as possible. They, too, only had a faint idea of the magnitude of the conflict they had started.

October 1033

A new small village had been built in the shadow of the mountain, which proved full of accessible ore. A small furnace sent its smokes into the sky, and blacksmiths produced new horseshoes, ploughs, ... Each Celtic craftsman had a native apprentice. In the evenings, when everyone had quite a bit of uisca beata, things got a little rough sometimes, but overall, Celts and Wolastoqiyik got along well in the village.

Then, in the night of the 19th of October, a particularly misty night, silent men came into the village, tore open the doors of the houses, and killed the sleeping men inside with knives made of bones. In the house of one group of miners, one Celt managed to reach for his musquet in time and shot the intruder. He alerted the rest of the village. Defending themselves with their firearms, about half of the villagers survived. Going after the attackers, they managed to kill eleven of them altogether before they disappeared into the fog.

The Celts, who gathered about a hundred armed men, were surprised to learn that Sacobi had prepared for this situation. He had more than twice as many men under arms (although their arms were mostly bows and arrows).

Sacobi led this heterogeneous army - he knew the territory and their enemy better than any Celt - in the pursuit of the attackers and into battle.

Escuti`s army was almost as large as Sacobi`s, but the Celtic firearms made the difference. While Sacobi´s army suffered only 37 casualties, more than a hundred of Escuti`s men were killed, and the rest only escaped after they had been chased far into the West.

Things were quiet this winter near the coast, and finally, the direly needed iron products reached the villages. On one of the cargo trips between the iron-producing village and the coast, the two sons of a Frisian tradesman found the decomposed bodies of seven human beings, clad in European attire. Now they knew what had happened to the last arrivals from Europe. What they didn`t know was that the military success of their fellows, driving Escuti`s men into the West, had also exported Escuti`s xenophobia and the conflict between two alternative ways of dealing with the Europeans to previously uninvoled Algonquin tribes like the Abenaki and the Penobscot.

Sacobi, on the other hand, knew this very well, and contacted people he had good relations to in these tribes, trying to knit an ever-expanding network, too.

1034

Another year without ships from Europe - and a year which brought another record battle to North-Eastern Atlantis: over 2,000 men on both sides. Again, Celtic firearms and horses bought Sacobi´s side a decisive victory - for the last time, though. The Celts were running out of ammunition and didn`t know where to find sulphur to produce more gunpowder.

The battle on the shore of the great river also brought the death of Escuti. But this didn`t end the opposition. It merely changed its nature - on both sides.

On Sacobi`s side, the exhaustion of Celtic firepower shifted the balance of power within the alliance in favour of the natives. After the regional escalation, natives now outnumbered the Celtic settlers by far, and they were skillful archers. As a result, the alliance, which even the Celts began to call "foederatio Wabanakiaca", was not only militarily led by native warriors. Algonquin tribes new to Sacobi`s network also demanded to be taught in the new crafts, and they demanded horses, too.

Among their opponents, a debate broke out after Escuti`s death between those who wanted to adopt some of the advantages of the other side - chiefly among this, horses -, and hardliners who opposed anything that their elders had not done already. The moderates finally won, and so the anti-Celtic alliance stole several horses and began to breed these animals, too.

///to be continued///

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