Chapter 3: Vinlaas
Nath looked at the map, not really seeing it, not really seeing anything for that matter, he was lost in thought. Perhaps unsurprisingly the USA was nowhere to be seen on the map, despite the basic geography as to where it was supposed to be still being there. Instead, there was a kingdom called Vinlaas, which sounded suspiciously similar to the land Vinland from his own earth’s history. As it was this Vinlass and Vinland were almost exactly the same historically speaking, they had both been formed when a Viking or the equivalent of this world had landed in what Nathaniel would have called Canada, only Nath’s Viking explorer had decided to stay, and then invite some friends over, and over the course of two to three hundred years, they conquered almost all of Canada and Alaska and a few parts of America. Then, when pilgrims fleeing religious prosecution had landed in Georgetown and Plymouth decided they and several other colonies had formed effectively inhabiting areas previously owned by “Scraeling” peoples also known as Native Americans on his earth.
Then in 1776, both on his earth and this one apparently, a war broke out between those colonies and the empire that they had originated from. It was at this point that the real divergence between Nate’s world and Nath’s started to show. In Nate’s original world the colonies received help from Spain, the Netherlands, and especially France in order to resist the British, but in Nath’s world the colonies reached out to their much closer neighbors in Vinlaas.
Perhaps due to the fact that there were no guns or cannons of any variety, or maybe due to the influence of this essence that people used as magic the fighting had lasted much longer, and the casualties significantly higher. But the colonies had eventually won with Vinlaas’s aid, that is, and set up their own kingdom, a kingdom which due to its nearness to the kingdom of Vinlaas was eventually incorporated after several generations of both kingdoms’ royal families and nobles intermarrying.
After that, the kingdom of Vinlaas controlled all of North America and had remained that way for the better part of the past two hundred and forty some odd years now. He glanced down at the map and his fingers passed over the heraldic image printed in the corner. It was the banner, or flag, of the kingdom of Vinlaas. It was a quartered square, the top left was blue, the top right red and the bottom half of the flag was the opposite. The actual heraldic symbol was an eagle of all things, in white none the less, posed exactly the same way as the American eagle, and like its otherworldly counterpart, it also clutched the bundle of arrows in one talon, though in the other it held a laden grapevine. It was still the red white and blue, just not the one he had grown up pledging allegiance to.
Obviously, there were other changes, other points where history didn’t match between the two worlds, but he had spent the last week or so going over the country, its history, and the culture of the people that lived there as they seemed the most important to know for him. He found both the points of difference and the points of similarity to be odd. What made things like the eagle or the color combo of red white and blue the same in both worlds but things like Erickson the Viking deciding to stay or go differ?
Over the past week or so he had found that his initial estimation of technology had been wrong, it wasn’t the seventeenth-century level tech, it was more like the thirteenth through sixteenth had never ended. Life was largely feudal and most of the world was ruled by kings and the like. He didn’t know how that would affect him and his life, he was used to the freedom that a republic granted its citizens, though, he was smart enough to know that, while more restrictive in terms of how bad things were in past systems they tended to either be exaggerated or romanticized by people who came after they had come and gone after all the grass is always greener on the other side wasn't it?
He sighed as he rose out of the thickly padded chair that he sat in and carefully rolled the map, slipping it back into the protective leather case that it had come from and returning it to the spot on one of the shelves he had taken it from. James had told him that things would be different, he had said at the technology as a little behind, but this… He shook his head, perhaps for an immortal being that had lived for such a long time perhaps the difference between 2020 tech on his planet and the roughly seventy-hundreds level was not that big of a difference, but to him, that was like the difference between night and day.
Nath had spent the past week not only learning the way the world worked but also how to act and live in a society that for all intents and purposes was almost more foreign than any place on his earth. Everything was different, which in itself was not surprising, but was something he was fast coming to grow tired of being surprised by little things that he had thought would be one way and were not at all.
Still, somethings were better than what he had read about the medieval ages, for example, they had running water, heated running water even, and the level of hygiene was much much higher than he would have expected for an environment such as this.
Perhaps he was being unfair, after all, things were not exactly the same as the seventeen hundreds in his old world, in fact, he was pretty sure he had figured out at least part of how the stewards had suppressed technology in this world, it would appear as though there was no gunpowder. All the ingredients were present to make it, it was just when mixed in the same way they didn't form an explosive, instead it burned slower, in fact if he had to guess it would seem as though there was less rapid oxidation present on this world, which both meant rust was less common as well as most things no longer went boom. The general lack of rapid oxidation meant that it was generally harder to start a fire and that more things tended to smolder instead of burn, but it didn't outright prevent fires, which would have been vastly more detrimental to humanity then a mere lack of explosives. It was somewhat hallarious to have learned that what he called gunpowder not only existed here but that it was used in fire starting, as instead of exploding the substance burned really hot, which was quite useful when starting stubborn fires.
Not that humanity hadn't found ways to throw chunks of metal at each other, there were, for example, steam-powered cannons that while primitive in their design were also rather effective up to a point. Each one of these steam cannons needed a boiler that would have to be brought up to pressure and kept there, and once fired would need to be repressurized, and such a method was not something that apparently could be scaled down to personal firearms. As such the bow and crossbow were still the go-to for warfare at a distance, and melee weapons were still effective. There were a few air rifles that had been created, but seeing as the world hadn't gotten an industrial revolution like on Nate’s earth, and as such it seemed that mining iron ore and coal were more labor-intensive, which made them much more expensive, and as it was cheaper and easier to simply use the more readily available crossbow and longbow.
Without gunpowder, the world had been set back several hundred years, and that was not even counting the fact that there was a whole new subject to study, magic. Sir Isaac Newton was quoted as saying “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants,” and if several of those that came before him had focused their intellect on say essence instead of science then that would be extremely detrimental to any that came after them that built on top of their scientific discovery and theories, it obviously hadn't stopped human ingenuity, but it had slowed what Nate would have called scientific progress by several hundred years.
Science hadn’t been abandoned, just slowed, and without something like gunpowder and with no real alternative found this world had developed in a very different way. It wasn't quite steampunk, not with the fact that things still looked medieval to Nath’s eyes, but it did have a few of the trappings of it. After all, there were steam and coal-powered trains and even a few personal conveyances, but seeing as the industrial revolution hadn't ever really gotten going there was neither the steel and iron to make the vast swaths of tracks for the trains nor much need for them, they were more novelty for the wealthy. There were only two lines in the whole of Vinlaas, one going north to south and another east to west, with a single train going either direction before going back the opposite way. These two tracks pretty much quartered the kingdom and were used by both passengers as well as for shipping for individuals that could afford to rent the space available.
Speaking of which, as it was it seemed that his father and his family was well off, as it turned out the country of Vinlaas was divided into two hundred and twenty-five baronies, and while none of those baronies’ lands really lined up with the states of Nate’s world Nath was able to see that the barony he was currently in was one that covered most of Kansas and parts of Colorado. His father was not the Baron, but rather the Baron’s master of coin, which was apparently the medieval version of the person who did all the accounts and taxes and the like. The master of coin was apparently a very well paying position if the dwellings Nath was in was anything to judge by.
Nath sighed and was about to reach for another book from the pile he had pulled down when there was a knock on the door. He glanced over at the door and found that it was open, in fact, Nath himself had propped it open, the man standing in the doorway had simply knocked on it to get Nath’s attention.
The man looked to be in his mid-forties, perhaps a tad bit older, with a weathered and worn face that clearly had spent most of its time out in the sun and weather. His long hair was going a little salt and pepper and was tied back in a loose colonial-style knot, and like Nath, his father, though this man had a goatee, though like Nath and his father he had no mustache. And he was not the only one like that which Nath had noticed. Apparently facial hair here was supposed to be Shannadoan or Abraham lincoln style, Nath didn't know if there was some form of reason culturally speaking for that, so he had been keeping it that way.
“Hello,” Nath said, standing to greet the man, he had no idea who he was, and as such no way of knowing how to address him. He had already gotten informed he was being too nice to the maids and butlers and other staff on hand. Not that there was anything wrong with being respectful, he just had to make sure he was not being too deferential apparently.
“Greetings young master,” the man said, stepping into the library area and sketching a half bow to Nath, a sad look in his eyes. “The master has informed me of the situation, but I still feel the need to ask, ” he paused as he looked Nath up and down. “Do you remember me?”
“Unfortunately not,” Nath said with a sigh, this was becoming a nearly daily occurrence, what with people asking if he remembered them. The thing was, just because there were the same people, that didn't mean they were in the same place at the same times, as such he was pretty sure the only people he knew were his mother and father.
“I see, well, then this will be the second time we are introduced,” he said a little sadly but seemed determined to put a smile on the situation. “The first time was when you became seven years old,” he smiled. “My name is Jorona Halcoln, I am your father’s master at arms, meaning it is my duty to make sure his men are up to the task of protecting and defending the household, another duty of mine was to train you in the gentlemanly arts of riding and swordsmanship, and while you took the lessons about the sword very well, it would seem that I needed to focus more on staying ahorse eh?” Nath laughed.
“Am I to presume your task will be to take me outside and make sure I have those same lessons again?”
“Yes, young master,” Jorona said with a wry smile, “If I had to place a wager I think you will not enjoy the initial phase,” the smile on his lips was rather ominous. “Young master or no, I plan on making sure you remember the lessons this time...”