From Carthage to the West is the tentative title of the twelfth planned novel, and the last in my notes so far, in the “Alternate Universes” sub-series of the Shine Cycle, and is set in a world where the Muslim conquest of Spain never happened. Today’s post is a brief introduction to this planned work.
In the alternate history of From Carthage to the West, the Muslim conquest of North Africa foundered when the Berber tribes, as led by Caecilius and Dihya, repeatedly defeated the Muslim Arab invaders, so that the Muslim armies never crossed the Strait of Gibraltar or conquered any of Spain. More importantly for our story, these campaigns also preserved several of the North African cities—perhaps remaining as part of the Byzantine Empire, perhaps as independent city-states.
Several centuries later, after European explorers discover the New World, some of these North African states send their own expeditions west. The Quester finds himself in the North African desert, within sight of one of these great cities (perhaps Carthage), as negotiations to outfit ships for a voyage are taking place there.
He makes his way into the city and begins talking to people to learn the context in which he finds himself. Once he learns of the plan to sail to the New World, he works to make the necessary connections to join one of the ships, not only as a common sailor or potential colonist, but as one with some small voice in any discussions that will take place before decisions are made.
As final preparations are being made, the first need for him becomes clear, as the leaders of the expedition have not quite understood the distance and the vast quantities of supplies needed, being fired with excitement from the garbled and romanticized tales of European voyages; he convinces them to at least consider the stories he knows to be more accurate, that speak of a particularly long and arduous passage, and prepare the ships to survive the trip even if conditions are even worse.
The ships set sail, pass through the Strait of Gibraltar, and cross the Atlantic, eventually making landfall at a site that, in our world, either became a failed colony or was not colonized at all until quite late. (At the moment I’m thinking they will sail past Florida and land near the mouth of the Mississippi, but I’m not sure.) In any case, the environment is very different from the Mediterranean climate they’re used to, and the Quester’s knowledge and experience again prove invaluable as the colonists begin building the colony.
They make contact with natives. (Another point I’m not sure on yet is whether this is because the colonists send out scouts or because the natives visit first.) With a little subtle guidance from the Quester, the colonists build a peaceful but equitable relationship with their neighbors that will last at least for awhile.
As time passes, it becomes clear that the colony is really too small, and there are several crafts and trades that are either needed but missing entirely or present in far too few numbers. Once the winter is over, the Quester joins the sailors who will sail back to North Africa. On their return, he presents the colonial leaders’ report, and adds to it his own explanation of the conditions in the colony and its needs. At some length, he persuades the leaders to send more colonists, including the needed trades, and supplies.
Once the second voyage has sent off, the Quester feels the call to move on to another place, as the need for him has passed. So he bids farewell to the city leaders and the friends he has made, and rides off into the desert and on to wherever he will next be needed.
The principal characters of From Carthage to the West will likely be the Quester, the leaders of the city-state(s) from which the colonists principally come, the leaders of the ship and of the colony, and to a lesser extent the native leaders they meet with.
Do you have any thoughts about my plans for From Carthage to the West?