Thursday, November 23, 2006

What if, part 5

Claymore guesses where all this is going.

Meanwhile, over in Vinland, interesting things are happening. The original Icelandic colonists clashed often and violently with the indigenous skraelings, but in time they realized their future lay not in conquest and colonization, but in cooperation. This development was not as unusual as it might seem. An earlier wave of Norsemen had gone into Germany and Poland, settled down and married local women, and become the fathers of the Goths. Later waves of Vikings had settled in France, married local women, and become the Normans, while still others settled along the Dnepr River, married local women, and became the Kievan Rus. The Icelanders themselves were overwhelmingly the products of intermarriages between Nordic men and Celtic women.

[One can't help but wonder: perhaps the real reason why Norse men went viking was to escape Norse women?]

In any case, once peaceful relations were established, the Icelandic colonists found that they had brought some vitally important cultural baggage with them from the old country: things like masterful shipbuilding, navigation, and sailing skills. Sheep and flax, along with shepherding, spinning, and the art of weaving. Experience in mining, metal-working, and the knowledge of how to make and temper steel. And perhaps the most important thing of all, Icelandic parliamentary government.

In return, the skraelings of Vinland provided the four things the Icelanders most desperately needed. Manpower. Woman power. Food in abundance. And room to grow, free from Roman interference.

It is now the early 13th century. The loosely federated collection of tribes that calls itself the Iroquois Nation reaches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the eastern bank of the Mississippi River valley in the west, and from the barren polar wastes of the north to the swampy mid-south. To the west, the savage Sioux tribes are proving an obstacle to further expansion, while to the south, it's mosquitoes and malaria. Mines and foundries dot the Delaware River valley, productive fisheries line the Atlantic coast, and the St. Lawrence River has become the artery of commerce for a young and vigorous nation. Literacy is common, thanks to the legendary Sequoyah Olafsson and his Cherokee runic alphabet, and no self-respecting Iroquois man would be seen in public without his combination tool, weapon, and religious icon, Thor's Hammer.

Sorry, no, there are no Viking settlements in Mnisota. That's Sioux territory.

Far to the southwest, the Mayans are in retreat, and the Aztecs are coming to dominate central America. On the southern continent, the Incan Empire is in full flower. In Asia, Genghis Khan is dying, but the Mongol Empire is in the capable hands of his son, Ogedei. In Europe, the Romans are enjoying a brief respite from Mongol advances, but their economy is teetering and they're greatly worried about where they will find the gold necessary to maintain their expensive armies and navies.

The stage is set...