The Dukes of Fernau, for now.

Next-day thoughts:
My delay in getting this chapter out was less about the awkwardness of juggling the second-person perspective with actual plot points, and more about a busy couple of weeks in the personal life (nothing bad, don’t worry!).

After quite spontaneously choosing second person for the previous Kristina chapter, I simply had to return to it when returning to her. I knew for a while I wanted to throw her into the famous siege, so her preceding chapter landed her in the right place, waiting for history to catch up. Why? This timeline enjoys amplifying certain religious moments. The increased tolerance in Courland before occupation isn’t a template for all Europe in this timeline. Jasna Gora was a critical moment in bolstering Poland’s Catholic identity. It remains so here, with Kristina added as a wildcard and mascot. Probably emphasis on “wild”, as she's not the most controllable symbol . But symbols are never perfectly convenient.

In general, the war is following mostly the same template as it had OTL, with Courland & Semigallia and Lithuania & Ruthenia as the key differences. Mostly because inventing less of the European history allows me to keep the focus on the main story, while still playing with key moments along the way that fit thematically.

- - -

I can't anticipate my rhythms for the next couple weeks, but when next I write, coming chapters probably should show Libau, acknowledge Hungary, go wherever that Swedish army going to Brandenburg ends up, and then head back to the colonies with some things settled and some things left messy.
 
And they came up the hill. The first time, it looked like practice. The second time, it looked like they'd learned from that practice. The third time, it looked like commitment. Oh, cousin, is this the way you dream of taking me now, as you did when I was queen?

They climbed the hill, they attacked the walls. They did not retreat back down. The first day, you waved your Vasa banner and told them God knew what houses were and were not worthy of ruling Poland. The fifth day, you lost your voice entirely, screaming about Swedish inadequacies great and small. (Maria, preparing tea with what herbs she could find, mused that God had taken your voice to ask you to choose your words more carefully.)

When your voice returned, you climbed the walls again. This time, not with a Vasa banner, nor any Polish one. This time, you berated the Swedish army with the monastery's holiest of relics in hand.

"God does not choose Lutherans to rule Poland, my countrymen. The Virgin Mary was conceived immaculate, and as a fellow Virgin I stand with her to tell you now: you shall no more take the walls of Jasna Gora than any man ever took the Virgin Mary. And no man will take these walls unless he is worthy of taking me, Kristina Vasa of Sweden."

It had sounded cool in your days of silence while your voice recovered, in imagined conversations with Mary.

It sounded abhorrent to the monastery folk.

It sounded exactly right to the other defenders holed up in Jasna Gora.

Two weeks later, the Swedish army had decamped entirely, heading northwest toward Brandenburg. Two weeks after that came a message to the pope, praising those who had defended Jasna Gora, keeping their faith with the Black and White Madonnas.
20230903_102005.jpg


No words.
 
No words.

Heh. When I told my girlfriend I had two other possible timelines in my mind that I might have an interest in writing, the notion of a "Kristina Vasa's choices always play out in her favour" timeline, completely indifferent to implausibility, was the one she thought I should tackle next. Instead, I'm allowing Kristina a chance at having half her fantasies play out in her favour on the margins of this timeline, though while still serving her proportionate disappointments. I've written myself into a corner where I pretty much have to bring her back now.
 
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77. Various correspondence, 1657.
The Margins of War - part one

...it is indeed possible to smuggle a person or letters in and out of Libau. There is no sense coming directly by ship, the Swedes sink or swarm any vessel in the vicinity. (Lately, though, they have fewer vessels, probably to support troop movements elsewhere?) Your Uncle still lets discreet boats land at or near Memel, and from there, things can be taken overland via Lithuania, avoiding Polangen, which the Swedes monitor and intermittently wreck. Once at the border, it is a matter of finding Russian soldiers open to bribes. There are many, and it doesn't much harm Courland to pay these. Russia's forces are mostly trying to keep fed and resupplied, and beyond that, they are more preoccupied with preventing Libau from falling to Sweden than anything else. It is also important to avoid units whose leaders are pricklier about bribery. I have included with this letter a list of regiments and leaders to prefer and to avoid.
In any case, the price is generally low to convince Russians to let us help Libau, because it helps their aim of avoiding Libau falling to Sweden. Perhaps Russia will tire of this stalemate and will go further south to try for Polangen themselves. If all they want is a Baltic port, they can make Polangen into one that can rival Libau in its current state.
Now, there's still the matter of how much of what Libau was has been lost, but the city endures....

- - -

We were happy to discover that our soldiers who were injured though still capable of travel were permitted to pass from Poland into Prussia on their way back home. Prussia's alliance with Sweden is clearly only in their shared battles against Poland. Any Courlanders leaving Poland were welcome to go, and all they cared was that our soldiers promised not to come back to Poland. In their state, an easy promise to make. One curious thing though: the Duke apparently was trying to get his people to plant more potatoes. We stopped and spoke with soldiers involved in the scheme. They planted potatoes in guarded plots, then deliberately were lax in guarding them, so that peasants could come steal the plants and relocate them to their own gardens. Apparently more peasants deciding to eat potatoes meant more flour available for soldiers on campaign to bake into bread. In any case, poor luck for these Prussians to have some hungry Courlanders happen along, already quite familiar with potatoes from the colonies. We all do our part to set back Sweden and its allies, and if we do it by winning free crops to eat or plant once we get home, we will not complain. Prussians are stupid sometimes.

- - -

Father,

I will write only little and return to focus on matters of state. Mother surely tells you more. My bride-to-be is handsome enough, energetic, and seemingly eager for travel. I will show her more travel than her entire life has offered her thus far. I will hope it will not dull her interest in it, as I can not presently imagine settling quietly in Libau any season soon.

The promised regiment made it into Poland, and disrupted Swedish supply lines. They arrived to see Kristina, formerly of Sweden, hailed as a Catholic symbol of invincibility. Whatever we do to leave men free to worship God as they please, fate steers our suzerain to be ever more Catholic, it seems. I hope other options may present themselves when you return to Europe and I to Africa. I send many careful enquiries to that end.

- MARTIN -

- - -

...your offer of suzerainty is both credible and potent, Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich. The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia might regard it in a more positive light were Russian forces not presently occupying our lands as an invading force. Perhaps a demonstration of good will might guide us to look more kindly upon your soldiers' presence? In my great-grandfather's time, the Livonian order oversaw lands beyond the present Duchy's borders, to the north. Perhaps generously cleansing the Duchy of its other present invading force, to something like those old borders, might help us view your soldiers' presence in a more positive light.

I send with this letter two rifled guns. One looks plain, but is subtly made. It was manufactured in Courland, despite occupation, and has killed Swedes in Poland. The other is ordinary in both appearance and quality, but was manufactured in Fernau from materials found or prepared along the Guinea coast. It has felled an elephant (I am told this required reloading at least twice). Both are gifts to you, and reminders that Courland - and its means - persist despite any hardship, any displacement. Our vassalage is neither to be taken lightly, nor to be earned by promising merely to do us less harm. We await your further suggestions about better deployments of your forces, with no particular impatience. What we cannot yet make for ourselves in our colonies, we can buy with their sugar and more. Perhaps your men will see the black crayfish flying on the Baltic some day. Perhaps they need the help of a faithful vassal to have a presence on the Baltic at all....
 
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78. Various correspondence, 1657.
The Margins of War - part two

So yes, dear Martin, as Courland and Semigallia have been friends to Britain, we shall gladly offer you residency and safety in England during your studies, should studies in Libau continue to be impossible. Cambridge will surely gain as much knowledge and prestige from educating a Kettler as a Kettler might gain being educated there. We attach only the condition that you should pass through London on your way. Do send a man to establish your household in advance, and make him known to us that we might send him gifts. Congratulations as well on your engagement - we shall see you next summer for the wedding, then a summer or two after that for your studies.

Peace be yours, brother in Christ!

CHARLES R

- - -

I wanted to write to congratulate you on the occasion of the founding of your
Accademia del Cimento. Courland was fortunate enough to be able to create the Martin Maritime Academy in Libau, and dedicated it to the knowledge, industry, and discipline of Courland's maritime ambitions. That I or others cannot discern the structure of your endeavour is irrelevant. The pursuit of knowledge is yours, and perhaps the pursuit of purpose for existing knowledge. These aims are enough. Should your members have need of travel to new climates, latitudes, longitudes or vantage points on the heavens to further their studies, know that Courland and its colonies will be ever glad to welcome them as brothers in learning.

- MARTIN von KETTLER -

- - -

To whichever Swedes it may concern:

The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia will not entertain any offers of vassalage from Sweden while Swedish forces occupy the Duchy. Do better.

- - -

...and so I shall make no promises on behalf of the Nieuw Nederland colony as to the state of affairs your ships left behind in Fort Kristina lasting even a year. Our colony is grateful that you have evicted the Swedes, but having left behind the Finns and the Dutch and Germans leaves much unsettled. Oh, I do not doubt that replacing the Swedish investors' share of the South Sweden company with your own interest will be an improvement, having left the Dutch and German shares untouched. We have less reason to fight them for now. All told, you have done a thing we are grateful have done, however much we might envy losing the chance to have done it ourselves.
I am not certain whether Fort Casimir and Fort Christina are now Couronian, and therefore vassals to Poland, or private possessions of House Kettler, operated by its resident Couronian, Dutch, German and Finnish directors. Or perhaps the company itself owns the colony, independent of any European crown? Some future reckoning will settle it, I'm sure. Until then, I shall not much complain of Courland's sowing of chaos everywhere Sweden has touched beyond Europe. Should that chaos come to harm the Nieuw Nederland colony, though, I shall see Fort Christina and everything else in its valley stamped out, without apology. I say the same of the Lenape land the Swedes claimed, but which your men have unequivocally agreed belongs to the Lenape.
Lastly, I respect the cheek of calling the whole colony Christinia! They will surely hate that back in Stockholm.



- - -

Clem - when you make it back to the Delaware, please circulate and share copies of the letter I have included with this note. It instructs them to stop calling the colony "Kristinia" - things have changed in Poland. Call it "New Finland". I trust the six casks of Finnish liquor will help the name stick. If, by the time of your arrival, the Delaware should already be unruly, give them the casks all the same, wish them well, and try to remain friends. Within a month or two, I aim to send them a ship or two of Polish or Jewish or other replacements for the Swedish colonists we killed or returned to Europe. If they are unwelcome, we may bring them to Tobago instead.

- MARTIN -
 
Next-day thoughts, as usual:
I love and hate correspondence chapters. They let me change things on the margins of the story, or invest in minor things that could potentially pay off later (or not), or just inject a random fun thing for colour. But they also sometimes have stories that would be worth telling if I were more willing to follow butterflies around the world and dive into how things have changed across the globe. So, these chapters manage my storytelling regrets and my storytelling margins, both well and badly.


What have we done, then? A little more clarity on the state of affairs in occupied Courland and environs, adding to the Gediminas chapter before. A tiny dash of the diplomacy surrounding the war, with Sweden, Russia, Prussia and the Netherlands touched upon. Martin's choice of university and the barest minimalist compliment about his fiancée. And then, finally, acknowledgement of this timeline's impact on North America. Mostly, a repetition of what Courland's ships did to Sweden's African trading posts, just on the Delaware river this time.

Between the talk of blockading Göteborg with Denmark and this, Sweden will be without overseas possessions, and possibly without naval capacity beyond the Baltic. Which sounds like a pyrrhic victory for Courland, as the result is a Sweden projecting more of its power where it is freer to do so... and it is freest to do in and around the Baltic. Fun times.

The potato story is 80% truth - though it occurred a bit later, Prussia did promote potato planting by guarding potato patches deliberately badly so the plants would be stolen. Having non-Prussians take them instead felt like putting a perfect cherry on top of a dessert, so I put that strange bit of history here.

Next up? Nothing much else occurs to me for Martin to experience in Europe, so he's nearly due to leave again. I have one bit of mischief in mind for him that could be done from the Netherlands or Fernau. But one thing that's not flexible, timing-wise, is the winter of 1658. We've had wind play a small part in this timeline before. Soon we face cold.
 
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Ive just caught back up, thank you for writing this fantastic timeline.
Thank you so much for speaking up! I somewhat feared my longer pauses of late might have lost me some readership. I'm sure my pace will pick up again when I find myself at the start of an arc where I see the next five steps at once, rather than times like now where I'm cautiously testing out what each new step's impacts are.
 
79. Aboard Courland's Ark, 1657-8.
Martin's Other Maritime Academy - part one

The journey back to Fernau took planning on more fronts than merely logistical ones. Martin and Jakob each never travelled with fewer than 4 ships. for safety. For efficiency, that meant planning for at least four ships' worth of commercial, diplomatic, manufacturing or human value. Kettlers were not people to suffer inefficiency.

Martin had resolved to return home the long way, meaning via Tobago. The currents and winds of the Atlantic cooperated nicely with travel from Europe to the Caribbean, then cooperated less nicely with travel from Tobago to Fernau. The North Atlantic favoured roughly clockwise travel, making it easier to cross to Europe via Bermuda and the Azores, or further north still. Africa was a harder crossing. To go east from Tobago close to land fought the currents until the equator or Dutch Brazil, past which one might dance among the puzzling winds and currents around the equator or the follow a longer route along the reliable counterclockwise circulation of the South Atlantic. Further from land, a weaker current went in the right direction, between stronger ones pushing westward, if you had the freshwater supplies and patience for it.

After Tobago, they would sail this weak current toward Guinea, then veer south visit Dutch and Portuguese Brazil to trade and resupply. So they contracted to bring some Dutch colonists along the way, filling one of their ships. Another brought more Dutch and German colonists for the Cape, with a smattering of Portuguese and Scots. But en route to the Cape, a dozen madmen and women were to be dropped off at another mid-Atlantic island - Tristau to the Courlanders, or Tristão da Cunha to the Portuguese. Tristau was nearly the same latitude as the Cape, but further from any other land than even Saint Helena. It wasn't so much that Martin wanted to recreate the trading and resupply success of Saint Helena (though this time for ships heading toward the Indian Ocean rather than returning from it). Others, in particular the Dutch, seemed sincerely interested in way stations helpfully operated under Courland's industrious neutrality toward the greater seafaring nations. It kept spats between them better confined east of the Cape, or west of the Azores or Madeira, while the South Atlantic stayed peaceful. Maybe it was about who Martin was marrying. Maybe it was Jakob's diplomacy and hospitality at Saint Helena.

Ultimately, Martin grimly thought, Courland was in demand to keep the South Atlantic peaceful because Courland wasn't privileged to have peace at home.

- - -

Another front of planning was education, or boredom management from Martin's perspective. He remembered the first journey out of Europe, and the teaching of languages and sailing for nearly all travellers. For himself there had been more diversity of learning available. Now that he would face rather more months of travel, he needed to surround himself with knowledge, intuition, and people with the capacity to wield both. At sea. Without libraries.

Plentiful correspondence eventually succeeded at drawing the interest of various such minds. Established masters in whatever field preferred to remain in Europe. Some suggested promising or less-wealthy current or former students, or apprentices, or junior colleagues. Martin eventually managed to allocate all the available berths on Courland's Ark to adventurers, natural philosophers, glassmakers, promising engineers, shipwrights, mathematicians, astronomers, and (once again) language teachers. This time, he wanted to learn to read and speak Arabic.

And so Courland's Ark departed Amsterdam with the following on board:
  • Otto Edel, an engineer contracted to ramp up metallurgy on or near Fernau through the design, construction and operation of a modern blast furnace.
  • Nicholas Culpepper, a dedicated English doctor and writer of matters medical, 40 years old and politically far out of favour in England. and radical), 40, fleeing his present circumstances of being politically far out of favour in England. Martin hoped he might shed light on the tropical diseases killing or weakening so many Europeans in Fernau, and improve medicines for them. Martin was equally keen to ply him for knowledge of Cambridge, Culpepper's alma mater.
  • Roger Ensham, a dedicated linguist and student of the first Cambridge professor of Arabic, Abraham Wheelocke, who considered it part of his duty as a Christian and a vicar to discourage students from studying Arabic. Ensham outgrew his teacher's disenthusiasm and relocated to Leiden to work and learn under Jacob Golius. Sir Constantijn Huygens' son Christiaan was the one to suggest him. Having acquired a taste for travel, Roger leapt at Martin's offer to seek first-person experience in both Arabic and in Guinean languages.
  • Jan Amos Komensky, a Moravian theologian and educator lately evicted from Leszno, Poland, over his notional support for Protestant Sweden over Catholic Poland in the war. That eviction took the form of locals burning down his house, destroying his printing press, and ransacking his esteemed school. Forgiving his politics, Martin inspired the old man with new opportunity instead of having his traumatic flight from Poland diminish him into a shadow of his former self. Komensky was promised the opportunity to theorycraft and direct the education of Fernau and all its Guinean trading posts from the Joliba and Swedish forts to Loango and the Zaire river, with printing presses and school in each location. Already 65 years old, it would likely be his last commission.
  • Fritz Moser, a glassmaker and chemist who had apprenticed under Johann Rudolf Glauber in Kitzingen, Bavaria, before relocating to Amsterdam (as his master had) in search of better opportunities.
  • Uli and Liesel Braun, husband-and-wife gardener-botanists and obsessive note-takers on garden plants. Martin liked that they enjoyed looking at plants through a microscope for their obsessive notes, but he admitted they were mostly present for his mother's entertainment and planning.
  • Afo of Kaye and his manservant Fioti, returning home to Loango having managed to bring their German to full speed in their months in Europe, now both focused on learning English for Afo's future in Cambridge.
  • A luthier, his apprentice, and a few musicians, at Komensky's insistence.
  • Merima and Udo, the language teachers on the voyage to Europe, were also returning home.
- - -

"So, young man, what is it your people believe?"
"In God and in ourselves and in our river."
"And you celebrate God, each other, and the river?"
"We do. For the river, it is different. We mostly thank God for the river."
"Let me try to dig somewhat deeper. When I was a boy, my village was far from the sea, in a place called Moravia. The river that went through it joined a bigger river, which joined an even bigger one, which flowed through many little lands each with their own prince or duke before it found the sea. Even before I was born, Moravia celebrated God a little differently than the people further downriver. Then others had other ideas of how to celebrate God. And the more people discovered new ideas about how to celebrate God, the more they fought. So instead of everyone having their own way to celebrate God, now we have several different ways, but each of those has enough people agreeing on enough things that they don't fight among themselves, and only sometimes with others. How does that compare with the people and beliefs of your river, the Joliba, is it?"
"Martin calls it Joliba because when his people first found the river, it was in a place where they called it Joliba. To most of my people it is the Orimiri. I do not know those people who say Joliba. But other people upriver and other people elsewhere in its fingers - delta - I know. Everyone has beliefs passed to them from their grandparents and their grandparents' grandparents. Some people meet new people and get new beliefs from them. On the coast, Portugal made churches. People near the coast got God that way, and some brought that upriver. People near the desert made mosques. They were sometimes rich and sometimes powerful. People near them got God that way, and some brought that downriver. Martin tells me it's the same God either way. The real difference is the celebrating. How much do people still do things their grandparents' grandparents did? The celebrating can be different. Hopefully without fighting like you had in your rivers."
"Thank you. I have much to learn about the different ways and beliefs of your people, and people in Fernau, and people in Loango and beyond."
"Martin says people who learn more have more ways to be well-off. I teach language - Igbo first, then a little Arabic and now German too - and I see language and trade are... cousins. I think we must teach people with different celebrations and different Gods to trade with each other and celebrate each other instead of fighting over different Gods. Not like your downriver people."
"Not like them, no. We are too few to impose our ways anyway. Not like Portugal on your coast. Teach people so they have more to give, and hope they are giving in return."

- - -

It became a habit of the voyage to pose challenges to the assembled minds and see what might come of it.

"Gentlemen - and ladies! Today I ask you to imagine a waterwheel. As a boy, my father took me around the duchy. I remember a flour mill built next to a little waterfall. Water was guided toward the top of the wheel. It fell upon one side of the wheel. That side was pushed down, rotating the wheel. There was sufficient force to turn the millstone inside. The mill made some of Courland's finest flour, both wheat and rye. Now. The Zaire river flows south of Loango. It sends so much water into the ocean that the seawater is still drinkable well beyond its mouth. The lower parts of this river have many rapids and waterfalls. Above those the river is navigable. It is a voyage of weeks to get there. For today, though, let's consider the unnavigable part. You have an immensely powerful river. You have unrelenting water flow in all seasons. You have falls great and small. Suppose we might build the world's greatest waterwheel. What might we do with such power?"

- - -

"What do you know of the forests we shall find in Guinea, Frau Braun?"
"Too little, Herr Edel. Plants that never know winter - every season is a growing season! Only light and rain to make one different from the next. I have seen drawings of trees that try to reach high and put as many leaves as possible on the top. I assume this is because the sunlight comes from above rather than the sides?"
"I would not know. I've looked at the same drawings, I think. For me the lesson was that the supply of wood is plentiful and that however busy I might make our charcoal kilns, the forest will replenish itself."
"Perhaps we shall be allies against the trees least suited to agriculture and gardens, for a time. You shall take the unwanted ones for your charcoal, while my husband and I will replace them with fruits or flowers."
"That is surely better than having you see me as a killer of trees while you are a midwife to them."

- - -

As had become normal for Couronian ships departing Europe, they stopped at Lisbon for diplomacy, trade, and a last, slow taste of Europe. Then, as was beginning to be normal, they stopped again at Safi, Morocco, the port with the easiest access to Marrakech. Martin wanted Roger Ensham to recruit experts in the Arabic alphabet to be able to make and operate printing presses in Arabic. Ensham suggested any other alphabet would be better, as a good proportion of Muslims objected strongly to seeing the Koran printed, and a smaller proportion preferred not to see Arabic used for a printing press at all. Martin reassured Ensham he had no intention of printing the Koran, only wanting to establish his trading posts as places of learning in languages locals knew.
In two days, Ensham managed instead to recruit a scholar literate in a Berber language, though he said most who knew the language preferred memory and spoken word to the written word. His name was Idir, and he said he would be glad to return to the Joliba, once he realized that river was the same he'd lived beside in his youth, just known by a different name.
When Idir asked the importance of the written word to these people, Roger answered that they sought to better trade and communicate with the peoples they met, and through that trade and communication prosper and grow closer.
Idir then returned with another man "from Fez" with whom he first spoke in a language Roger did not understand. Then the newcomer switched to Arabic to speak to Roger:
"You share words and teach different peoples so they become generous to each other?"
Roger considered this summary of their goal, considered the number of words exchanged between the two men in their shared Berber or Tuareg language, and didn't feel a need to clarify.
"We do, inshallah."
"May I join you?"
Roger had come to know enough of Martin to agree without first seeking Martin and Martin's permission.
"Please do. I am Roger Ensham. From England. These boats belong to the Duke of Courland and Semigallia. I travel with his son, who is eager to learn and share learning. And trade. What is your name?"
"Maqrin." He bowed low, keeping eye contact.
"Do you need to collect any belongings from somewhere, Maqrin?"
Maqrin simply shook his head.
"Dervish."

- - -
 
Language: *exists*
Martin Kettler: This will be a fine addition to my collection.
Thank you for the reminder that I do need to put Martin centre stage for a couple of these snippets to explain himself.

And it occurs to me to think through what languages he has already at least partially acquired:
German/Dutch (less distinct at this time), Latvian, Latin, English, French, Portuguese, a Bantu language (via Njikobiya), and now a start on Arabic.

No Russian, Spanish, or Swedish/Danish (I don’t know whether they were much different yet) among the languages of others he would have conducted diplomacy in.

He will not be collecting another language teacher in Tobago.
 
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80. Aboard Courland's Ark, 1657-8.
Martin's Other Maritime Academy - part two

Maqrin and Idir coming aboard changed the language dynamics aboard. Prior to their arrival, all of Martin's menagerie of teachers/experts were able to communicate with each other in German, though some pairings would switch to Latin or English. Idir spoke no European languages at all. Maqrin could read Latin, but had so rarely had occasion to speak it aloud that comprehension was faster by having Roger or Udo translate.

Martin - stubbornly, patiently - tried his limited Arabic on Maqrin.
"You... from Fez?"
"Yes." Some spoke slowly to overcome a listener's lack of facility in a language. Maqrin simply spoke fewer words. He also took his time choosing those words, coming across as a smiling blend of animation and patience.
"You Fez... baby?"
"No. Fez child. Fez adult."
"If Fez child and if Fez adult, why here? Why Fernau?"
"Service. Jihad. Learning. Love." A longer pause followed the already long ones between those words. "Good acts."
Martin shook his head, not understanding the last. Maqrin looked him in the eye, evenly and brightly, without a flicker of movement.
"Act." He grabbed one of Martin's hands, quickly but gently, and formed it into a fist. "Do." He grabbed Martin's other hand, made another fist.
With Marion's pauses, Martin was not sure whether to wait for acknowledge some beginning of understanding.
Something in Maqrin's directness melted into warmth.
"Allah."
Maqrin broke eye contact, breathed deeply, and looked off into unimaginable distances. An easy thing, at sea, Martin thought. The dervish slowly turned, smiling, as though basking in a response from beyond the horizon. He closed his eyes for another deep breath. Martin's open eyes awaited eye contact. The contrast between Maqrin's slowness and his stillness was little, in a physical sense.
"The Prophet Mohammed." He held out his own open hand: "Do." Then the other: "Act."
Gently, as though moved by a breeze, he wrapped each of Martin's fists in each of his own hands and drew them together.
He then tapped Martin's hands to Martin's chest. "Do. Act."
He brought Martin's hands to Martin's forehead. "Do. Act."
He released Martin's hands and pointed gently to a sailor coiling a rope. He mimed coiling a rope himself. "Do. Act."
He pointed to Fritz Moser, standing at the bow, silently gazing at the sea. "Do. Act."

Martin looked at his fists, still held together in front of him. "Good acts." He thought of his sister, whose grave he would visit at Rohia after months of sailing. He bowed to Maqrin, then breathed his own deep breath before taking his leave. Ten minutes later, staring at the horizon in the direction of the Canary Islands, he finally realized he was still holding his hands together.

- - -

Louise Charlotte did not share her son's interest in extra months at sea. As they neared the Canaries, she took two ships back toward the coast, to visit Bandschul before following the Guinea coast to Fernau. The Brauns went with her. The Duchess insisted Martin not keep an old man unnecessarily long months away from comfort, and convinced him to allow Komensky to travel with her as well. Komensky brought the luthier with him, though half the musicians stayed with Martin. Moser, too, took the more direct route to Fernau. No amount of discussion would much change the role of a glassworks in Fernau. He was also seasick for a day every time they resumed sailing after pausing for water or anything else.

- - -

"Let's consider another river then. Here is a copy of a map of part of the great river. Between the red marks the river is rapids and defiles. This goes on for 50 miles. There are cliffs, gorges, river islands. The land is desert. Dry wind most of the year, rain for a season. The rain makes the river navigable above and below the red marks. Not between. But what water there is flows downhill. Is the bottom of this section of the river a desirable place to settle and trade?"
"It does not make a compelling case for a waterwheel as the Zaire did. Desert does not grow much grain to mill. The river is an artery of life and trade, but there is no crossroads. No people crossing the other way."
"One might build a dam during the dry season to hold more water for longer after the rains."
After hearing a translation from Udo, Idir spat what might have been one or two syllables. Udo translated: "Folly."
Heads turned to him in mild surprise. He spoke again, Udo translated again.
"Rich trade here come by camel. Trade by camel brings own water."

- - -

"How much farther apart are these semaphore frames working now?"
"The frames do their part by being larger: two yards across instead of one, and with thicker fingers. Changing the frames is simple and costs little. Improved telescopes drive the change. A telescope with a longer focal length works better, and a telescope whose image only uses the centres of lenses to be relayed to the eye is clearer. A fixed frame can be seen by a telescope on a fixed mount across a greater distance. In Courland, two or three miles apart was common. Geography permitting, we might manage five without difficulty if we were in Courland now. From Fernau across to the mainland, I am asking for 22 miles or more."
"But 22 miles unobstructed? A longer telescope with your best lenses, aimed precisely?"
"All those things. But also rain. I wonder whether south-facing slopes in Guinea are the rainiest places on Earth. Saulains faces north, so the clouds rain upon it less. But those same clouds cross to Fako and drop rain there. Rain is not the semaphores' friend."
"Is Tobago drier? Could a signal go island to island there?"
"The distance to Trinidad is nearly the same. I'm less confident about the rain there. Trinidad to the mainland would work. But there remains one problem."
"And that is?"
"Trinidad is Spanish."

- - -

The winds were kind to them, and the three ships arrived at Tobago having never faced rough seas beyond the Canaries.
 
81. Tobago, the South Atlantic, the Cape, and Loango, 1658.
Martin's Other Maritime Academy - part three

At least some of Martin's learning on the voyage was on land.

In its early days, Tobago was subjected to colonizing attempts by rival powers, and native raids. The native raids still continued intermittently, making the leeward west side of the island less safe than the rest of it. But Jakob's esteem from diplomacy meant previous Dutch attempts to colonize the northeast corner of the island were no longer a problem - they had peacefully assented to agree to his sovereignty over the island, and paid modest enough taxes to be friendly. Those less inclined to be friendly were shuffled elsewhere in the Caribbean by the WIC. The only restrictions Jacob placed upon them were that their sugar could only be worked on Tobago, other Couronian colonies, or the Netherlands, and that they could neither make rum nor import it except from the Courlanders across the island.

The small, but growing Dutch plantation at Little Tobago Bay was the first part of the island Martin visited. Two warships and oddity of Courland's Ark did a fine job of showing authority. A little trade and the privilege of being visited first showed friendship.

In the span of two hours, Martin and his informal academy toured the sugar plantation, mill, boiling house and curing house. One of the other ships went ahead to Garden Bay. The other two followed after.

- - -
Idir was puzzled.
"In the field, slaves. In the mill, slaves. In the house of boiling, slaves. The house of curing, slaves. All slaves here have dark skin." He gestured to his own face while Roger translated. "No Europeans, no Arabs. Easy to tell who is a slave. Where they served drinks, people in charge were Europeans and not slaves. Do Europeans make poor slaves?"
"Taking European slaves makes European enemies."
After translating that, Roger chimed in, both in Arabic and English: "The Quran says a Muslim may not take a Muslim as a slave, or the child of a Muslim, or even a non-Muslim living under Muslim rule. Christians likewise do not take other Christians as slaves."
"Yes. But why were slaves not doing the work of the Europeans? You speak of learning so much, Martin ibn Jakob. Why not have slaves learn the work of an administrator?"

Martin blinked, working through logic that spilled in various directions. The slaves would take over. The work would cease. Other ships would capture the slaves to work elsewhere. But also: If it worked, the educated slaves might be more loyal, for a time. If it worked, the profit might be greater.
Instead of pursuing any of those lines of thought, he asked only the obvious question.
"What work do slaves to where you are from that they do not do here, Ustad Idir?"
"A slave can be the revered advisor of a Mansa. A slave can be a philosopher or a teacher or a domestic or a soldier or a farmer. A slave can not hold authority over others, but can help those who do."
"And in Little Tobago Bay, you see slaves only doing the simplest or most physical work."
"Yes. It is a waste of slaves. And it does not improve them as people. It does not prepare them for their freedom."
"Are slaves usually freed in Islam?"
"Usually? No. There are different ways in different places. But it is a virtue to free slaves, or to buy slaves in order to set them free. One must be kind to slaves. Slaves and free men are equal in all but the law."

When Martin reached Garden Bay, he visited the equivalent sites there, more quickly. The plantation, mill, boiling house, curing house, and also their distillery. He saw little difference between the people, buildings, and work. Again, a veneer of learned Europeans overseeing the labour of poor African army. For all the expertise brought to Fernau, there was more profit being made for Courland in Tobago, with these slaves tending the soil (soil seemed to need lots of remedial work after sugar grew in it), harvesting, milling and preparing the sugar.

European tastes already preferred white sugar. The Dutch at Little Tobago Bay worked to produce the brown sugar cones in volume. The Courlanders, ever aiming for the top of the market, cured with extra steps to get the sugar white. The sugar came from black people, whatever its colour.

- - -

Martin enjoyed his mother's garden on Tobago for the better part of three days while the ships' crews took some time for repair, resupply, and rest. Governor Caroon needed no help with decisions on the administration and growth of the colony, so Martin was content to let his thoughts wander.

After Tobago, they would sail for Tristau da Cunha, stopping only for water and resupply en route. The dozen colonists heading there were 10 men and 2 women, generally quiet, hardworking people. But two of them - a brother and sister - had decided that the loneliness of life aboard ship had taught them they weren't made for life on an isolated island, and asked Martin's permission to joint Cape colonists instead.

Martin lay in the garden, pondering. 9 men and one woman would be a poor start to a little society on Tristau. He granted the request of the brother and sister, then told the remaining Tristau colonists their venture was at risk with only a single woman among them. They agreed, he offered help.

Then he found four young women among the plantation slaves and offered them their freedom if they would consent to live the rest of their lives on Tristau. Perhaps it only traded a great lack of freedom for a smaller one. But four accepted all the same, and the colonists accepted them.

By the time they departed again, one of the four had tried to escape and was returned to the plantation. Martin reasoned that she had ultimately declined his offer. If she was punished, it was not at Martin's command.

- - -

The three ships steered out of sight of the coast except to gather fresh water, as the currents and winds were more favourable that way. Martin did not suggest anyone swim across the equator as they breached it; there were no handy islands nearby.
They resupplied at Fernando de Noronha, then enjoyed Dutch hospitality again in their Brazil colony, then sailed south, then southeast, then east to Tristau.

The island was a conical mountain poking above the sea. It was two-thirds the height of Bisila on Fernau, but Bisila was also one of three peaks on Fernau, giving it more variety of shape. The lower slopes were green, the peak was grey and rockier. It looked the the mountain the most uncreative child would draw if asked to draw a mountain.

And for 11 colonists, it was now home. They were given goats, ducks, various types of potato and yam, a few musical instruments, best wishes, and the promise that Couronian ships would visit at least every six months if others didn't.

Maqrin watched the island fade astern.
"Their world is vast and tiny."

- - -

The Cape was only slightly less eventful, as colonists had been settling in for months already. This meant hospitality was available. Mapmakers and surveyors had chosen the landmarks to define the borders Courland would claim - broadly, the plain between the mountains and the sea at the Capes of Infanta, Agulhas and Good Hope. A northern boundary was harder to choose.

They unloaded fruit trees from Tobago and the Caribbean, and seeds of fruit trees from Portugal and Morocco. There was rye and millet and rice and wheat. With a few years, half these plants would die, and perhaps a quarter might be thriving, requiring that more be brought.

- - -

After dreams of great waterwheels strong enough to mill sugarcane grown to the scale of titans, Martin's fellow travellers were interested to see the Zaire River. But after so long at sea, no one wanted to attempt overland travel to see the wildest falls and rapids. Instead, they rested in Loango for a day before completing their journey to Fernau. Martin and Maqrin considered where a school should optimally be located. By now both had seen enough of isolation, trade, and diversity to think a placement further from the coast might be safer. People come by sea had enough learning already.

- - -

Then, finally home to Fernau. Martin knew he would likely enjoy less than a year there before Europe would again claim him. He had enjoyed months of learning at sea, due to his privilege. Now was time for the learning of others.
 
Next-day thoughts:

I already regret the name “Maqrin” having five letters in common with “Martin”, with four in the same places. Autocorrect now hates me.

This three-part episode was mostly assembled to have a place to put big ideas, to begin contrasting slavery in a plantation colony with slavery in Africa, and to show an emphasis on education and language in particular. I’ve sowed a few deliberate seeds I’ll reap down the line, and some less-deliberate ones that I’ll revisit if the inspiration takes me.

I was also seeing my momentum dwindle writing the European parts of the story.

A podcast introduced me to the first settlers on Tristan da Cunha. A handful of men only. Then they asked the governor of Saint Helena to send them women willing to spend the rest of their lives on the island. The governor was satisfied he had identified truly willing and capable women, and they were sent. One of the men swore to marry the first woman ashore, and did. To this day their community is two to three hundred people alone on the ocean. Together. A majority are descendants of those first settlers. I love such stories.

From here:
  • Fernau/Guinea happenings, told briskly
  • River progress
  • Freshman Martin
Meanwhile in Europe:
  • The March across the Belts would have happened concurrently with this last episode. War in this timeline went faster in some parts, slower in others… but Swedish forces have kept their date. What difference might arriving a day or two earlier or later make? It’s not an episode I’ll give a chapter to, but the results will turn up.
 
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82. Fernau, 1658.
Slaves, Sugar, Ships

Saulains was either bigger or more orderly than Martin remembered. Maybe it was taller? There were more roofs, more buildings with stone foundations even if most weren't deep. The most-travelled paths between the busiest buildings now had the occasional stone steps or reinforcement at weak points. Stone bridges crossed the two small rivers - streams might be a fairer word - running by the settlement.

And Martin heard another subtle change: in his absence, it was now firmly Solenz rather than Saulains. The most current map confirmed it.

And on a typical June day in Solenz, he was walking a circuit with his father - from the little port across both river bridges, upstream about a mile to where the Frederick river became a trickle in all but the rainiest times, then back west across the Wilhelm river, then somewhat following its course south back to Solenz. The five-mile circuit was already the Kettler walk, well-known as the place Jakob's biggest decisions were thought through with his closest confidants.

"I've done this same walk with the old man you brought me, twice. I am nearly fifty years old, and I pray it is in God's plan that I have that man's constitution when I'm sixty-five."
"Amen, vati."
"I wanted to have a longer discussion with you, such as this path affords. We shall surely see rain today, but other than that, the walk is lovely. It has also acquired the virtue of routine for me."
"So I have heard. I'm glad you make this place more of a home. Even if you long for a return to Courland."
Jakob sighed. "So much. I tire of the sickness, the unrelenting heat. Half the year being rain every other day. And you," he chortled, "named this place for its sunshine? Though you are my most serious child, you are ever an optimist, Martin."
Martin smiled and bowed slightly.
"I wanted to discuss our medium-term plans. Because while I respect the initiatives you are committing to, I do not want pursuit of either of our aims to detract from the other's. Beginning with the obvious: we both wish to regain control of Courland and Semigallia. We both wish to maintain and nurture successful and profitable colonies. to some extent, it feels as though we have settled into Europe, the Gambia and Tobago being predominantly my spheres of influence, while your initiatives focus on Fernau, Guinea and the Zaire and Joliba rivers. Which is fine - things developed this way naturally, based on who was where, at what time."
"I'll add that Fort Kristina in North America and the Cape are more yours than mine."
"For the same reason, who was where, at what time. I'll tell you the plans for those as well. Which would you have first?"

Martin chose the plans, figuring any possible tension between their plans would have enough time to be addressed in the remainder of their hike.

He learned that the Dutch were offering six ships and the island of Aruba/Oruba in exchange for Fort Christina and the rest of New Sweden. Spain was offering the island of Trinidad, long sought by Jakob. Accepting the Spanish offer risked antagonizing the Dutch. France and Denmark both flirted with an offer, though none had yet arrived at Fernau. The settlement on the Cape of Good Hope, which Martin had visited, was growing reasonably well. Jakob admitted he borrowed from Martin's approaches by inviting several blacks from Loango and the as many of the local people as possible to live and trade in and around the new settlement. There seemed to be no similarity between the languages of the Zaire river area and those of the Cape. Jakob had pledged to welcome as many Dutch and Portuguese at the Cape as he did Courlanders. Welcoming the blacks diluted the Dutch and Portuguese influence, and made them the tiniest bit more Couronian.

Then, those medium-term plans.

"Martin, I see a bias in your plans toward the long-term. Propagating a kind of colonial Courland education, language, and trade rules is noble, and seems to aim for lasting influence and profit for us. But I fear the payoff, however great, is far off."
"It is. Portugal bred an advantage for itself all down the Guinea coast. They left Portuguese-speaking half-Europeans behind as middlemen. To surpass them, our trade relationships must grow faster and be stronger than their extended family relationships."
"Good reasoning. But very long-term. I won't belabour it: how can this help us retake Courland and Semigallia within, say, five years?"
"Five? We may become the foremost traders to Europe of things not found too near the coast."
"Quantify the value of this."
"I can't. Which is why you put it that way."
"Exactly. I focus on slaves, sugar, ships. Slaves prepare the soil, sow, reap and process the sugarcane. Sugar, or rum made from it, is shipped to Europe, and sold. Profit. That profit buys more ships or slaves, or friends, for that matter. Each turn of the Europe-Guinea-Caribbean circuit adds slaves, adds sugar, adds ships. Adds profit. Profit can help us retake the duchy in any number of ways."
"And converting natives in the trade and education sense - not the religious sense - doesn't, in your view?"
"I can see the potential for local political gain. 'Local' not implying this continent doesn't dwarf the size of Europe. And political gain can lead to financial gain. But that's so much uncertainty, compared with slaves, sugar, ships."
"I understand, vati."
"And so?"
"Slaves. Sugar. Ships. Our shipbuilding is the industry most lagging behind its Courland equivalent. Our ZKs for river explorations are a good start, though. Let's give more to that effort. Education can get us shipbuilders. Diplomacy and trade can get us a suitable and stable place for a shipyard. Education can get us sailors, too. And time and pay aboard ship can win loyalty. So the more ships, the more loyalty."
"You say 'more' and 'more' as though unconcerned with diluting how Couronian those crews are."
"I am unconcerned. You have Scottish and German and Dutch captains and crew already. Couronian pay and Couronian interest in the sailors' home towns is enough."
Jakob cut off a dismissive sound before remaining silent, stepping uphill. The slope was gentle here, and only lightly forested. There was far more temptation to look up the mountain than out at the sea.
"You may be right with that. Suppose I were to concede that point. We recruit a maximum of human capacity toward shipbuilding. We have an even stronger navy. A navy alone will not retake Courland."
"We are already ramping up our ironmaking. Same thing. Educate ironworkers. Make a foundry. Make three foundries. Make cannons. Make guns. Saltpeter and charcoal are no problem. We can cut the reliance on Europe for arms entirely."
"Like the rifled guns our soldiers sent you, only made here."
"Yes. Guinea guns, made buy Guinea friends. You've seen how one people profits from defeating its neighbours and selling their captives to Europeans as slaves. What happens if our best friends are our partners in gun-making?"
"You would turn us into kingmakers. It's almost frightening to contemplate what our friends in this scenario might do to their enemies."
"You asked how education might help us retake Courland sooner. That is how. If it sets half of Guinea on fire, it is not our price to pay."
"Except, perhaps, before God."
"I believe in good works to honour God. Perhaps what we teach men makes their vices more destructive. But we also teach them to make their virtues more constructive."

They paused and ate some dried meat and fruit at Jakob's favourite place on the hike, which had good views both up to Bisila and down to the sea. Clouds made denser by being pushed up against Fernau's southern face dumped rain into the strait, cutting off their view of the mainland. At least they weren't being rained upon - yet.

Jakob updated Martin on the rules of trade he had begun applying to the league Martin had begun with Fernau, Diosso, and the river trading posts on the Joliba and and Zaire. Jakob had added two more to their number: Osu, near the Volta river, a half-built fort when they'd stolen it from Sweden; and Kamrau - a trading post on the estuary northeast of Fernau and southeast of the great mountain Fako across the strait. As Martin had proposed, these were somewhat based on the Hanseatic League.

Martin tied his educational goals to that effort: they would need records and bookkeeping understood by both Europeans and locals. Idir was tasked with choosing the likeliest of the languages on the Joliba's lower course to begin writing, to turn into a language of trade. Latin and Arabic were both dismissed for their complexity and liturgical roles - Martin wanted no prickliness about an Arabic printing press among Muslims to deal their trade and schools any setbacks. So he wanted German letters where they sufficed for the same sounds, and Berber or Tuareg letters where German letters weren't enough. Every letter would always make the sound, 'the way you can read Russian and make the right sounds, even if you don't know the meaning of the text."

Schools were already being built, and German already being taught, in Diosso, Nkuna and Onitsha. Soon, knowledge and skills needed for the industries Jakob needed would be added to those curricula.

- - -

When they reached the ford of the Wilhelm river, four men and a woman were using a rope to pull a large boulder to the middle of the river. it was intended to support the midpoint of a rope bridge crossing the river in two short spans. One of the men was a slave from the Fernau quarry. It struck Martin that, in this setting, here, the man was simply another member of the team of people trying to accomplish a task. The task was not beneath the Europeans present, and being a slave did not make the black man an unequal bearer of harder work, or work in general, as regarded the group's shared task. He again thought of the slave woman who uselessly tried to run away in Tobago.

The rope snapped, a man holding it fell over and accidentally knocked the woman into the stream. The rainy season was not yet at its peak; they were working to make Jakob's circuit a little easier in the rainiest times. Martin and the black slave strode into the stream to help her out again, then the slave reached in a second time to retrieve a bracelet that slipped off her in the fall.

"Thank you, my lord. And to you, Lari. This is the third rope that broke on us this week. And they were made here, so they are not old."
"My father and I have been discussing how better to invest in local industry. Does rope-making need attention?"
"I think not, my lord. This just happens to rope here. Too much rain. Just like cloth. The fibres wear out faster here."
Lari, the slave, said something to her, quietly. She answered in German, with some words in some language Martin assumed came from the Zaire rather then the Guinea coast.
"Lari also teaches me some of his words, my lord. As you've suggested. He says my bracelet is the answer. Lari, I don't understand."
Martin and another man of the crew looked at the bracelet, made of braided copper wire, at least a dozen strands in all.
"Because wire is stronger than hemp?"
"A bracelet of wire probably lasts longer than a bracelet of hemp."
"Were you a whitesmith before, Lari? A worker of soft metal?"
Lari nodded.
"If you solve this rope problem with wire, I will give you your freedom. You could stay on Fernau, free, or leave. Please come find me in Saulains - Solenz - to discuss how."
 
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