So, in the category of catching up on items long-neglected - I used to post my alternate history map work pretty frequently, but the last time I did so was in... 2013? I'm not as involved with this as I used to be, but I still have a few tucked away from over the past seven years. As a reminder, these are all works of fiction!
Mansa Abubakari II of Mali (known as Manden in this world) manages to put his nautical interests to better use by sending expeditions up the coast of Africa instead of sailing off the edge of the world and never coming back. Under his successors, Manden merchants establish further trade links with North Africa, both by sea and across the Sahara. This strengthens the Genoese trading empire relative to OTL, as they happen to be the next link in that chain, but an analogue to the War of Chioggia leaves Genoa as the lesser partner in a Manden-Genoese alliance against the Ottomans and the Castilians. Meanwhile, Manden consolidates its hold over the western Sahel and the small states to its south. As the year 1500 dawns, a certain Genoese explorer has arrived in Niani to petition the Mansa for funds for an expedition to the west, hoping to find a new route to the Orient beyond Ottoman control...
From North American Military History Gazette, vol. 32, December 2008
"The rise of the Susquehannocks as a regional power was linked to their acquisition of European firearms, first from the Swedes in their short-lived colony in present-day New Jersey, and later from the Dutch. By taking advantage of this new technology, they were able to subdue their Delaware neighbors and fend off the colonial powers—when Maryland declared war on the Susquehannocks in the 1640’s, they were defeated by the natives and their Swedish allies…
"As the century progressed, the Susquehannocks were pushed into conflict with the Five Nations Confederacy, then the preeminent native power. The Five Nations were likewise equipped with European firearms, acquired through the fur trade. These had allowed them to subdue many of the neighboring tribes and thus expand their hunting grounds—the furs from which could then be traded to fuel further conquests. But crashing beaver populations forced them to venture ever further afield, and brought the Five Nations into conflict with tribes as far away as the Ohio Valley. In 1660, they turned their attention to the Susquehannock.
"The colony of Maryland had watched the Five Nations expansion with alarm, and in 1661 they made an alliance with their former foes the Susquehannocks, hoping that they would provide a buffer against the fierce northern tribes. This policy was a success—a northern invasion was beaten off in 1663, and two of the Five Nations, the Seneca and the Cayuga, were dealt major defeats in 1666. The war dragged on for several years more, as artillery supplied by their Maryland gave the Susquehannocks and edge over the Five Nations. By 1674, the tide had turned, and the Five Nations were clearly on the defensive. Some among the Maryland government suggested negotiating a peace, but others were in favor of continuing the war and ending the Five Nations threat permanently.*
"In the end, after negotiation with the Susquehannock chiefs, the war faction won out—in exchange for exclusive trading rights, the Marylanders would continue their support. In 1680, a peace was finally signed, stripping the Five Nations of their conquests over the previous decades. Indeed, they would be five nations no more—the remnants of the Seneca, Cayuga, and many of the Onondaga would be incorporated into a new Susquehannock Confederacy. The remaining nations would become clients of the French, who called them the Iroquois…
"Many of of the Five Nations’ former tributaries transferred their loyalty to the Susquehannocks as well, and so by 1680, the Susquehannock Confederacy stretched from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay to the Great Lakes…"
*This is the POD: in our timeline, Maryland made peace, and in fact turned on their former allies, massacring their leadership…
Three and a half billion years in the future, a matrioshka brain is running a simulation of the rise of one of its creator species, when a minor error causes a hyperspherical cross-section of the simulated world to be temporally transposed by 2^10 cycles...
2017. At first they thought it was a summer thunderstorm. The first thing everyone noticed was a great booming sound, like a clap of thunder but larger, as two masses of air at different temperatures and pressures were suddenly brought in contact with each other. Those who were outdoors could see a strange roiling in the sky, as clouds formed, joined, or dissipated. One or two people near the boundaries of the sphere saw features seem to vanish in an instant - trees, roads, telephone wires. Later, they were able to trace the boundaries of "The Zone" by finding objects which had been bisected by the transposition. Staff and campers at Box Canyon Ranch noticed as the power went out. But it was several days before anyone grasped the truth - that their little circle of northern New Mexico had been thrown back in time.
Once this hypothesis had been reached, a party from Box Canyon Ranch set out within a few days, following the Chama River down to the Rio Grande, then heading up into the hills where Santa Fe should be, to determine if it might be possible to make contact with American or even Spanish colonial authorities. They found nothing. A second party set out a few days later, headed west...
993. The strangers had come down from the high country to the east, Qoyanomtiwa's scouts had reported, though they did not dress like easterners. They were oddly pale, and most curious of all, some were being carried by elk without horns. No one seemed to have guided them, but somehow they had found their way to the Great House. Qoyanomtiwa pondered this, and at last he shrugged. "Let us go and meet these strangers," he said. "Maybe they are Pahana, maybe not. We shall put them to the test, and if they fail, we shall treat with them as with any other men or women."
2017. "It's not much like how I remember it," Rick said. "It's bigger, but smaller at the same time." It didn't even look much like the reconstruction in the National Geographic they'd found in the library--most of Chaco Canyon didn't seem to have been built yet. But there was Pueblo Bonito, sure enough, and not just the ruins Rick had visited last fall - the stone walls stood several stories high, and right now they seemed to be bustling with people.
"Look," said Carla. "Someone's coming out." Indeed, a group of several people was emerging from a doorway, though only one seemed to be carrying a weapon.
"Alright, let's not get any closer. Wait here for them."
993. Qoyanomtiwa surveyed the strangers. There were five of them, but the scouts were correct - each of them seemed to be seated on an elk of some sort. As he watched, the strangers climbed down off these elk, and stood. They did not seem to be carrying spears or other weapons that he could see, though who knew what powers they might have if they could command these beasts?
"Lomankwa, tell them to come no closer," he said to the shaman.
2017. Rick watched as one of the delegation drew out a small pouch of white powder, and sprinkled it in a line on the ground. "Let's leave the gifts here and back off a bit," he said, watching the shaman's gestures. Carla nodded, deposited the "gift package" they'd assembled at the Ranch, and stepped back a few paces.
993. "I think they might be offering a trade," said Macatoiniwa. "Remember the men from the south, five years ago, who brought the green birds and the shells?"
"Yes, I remember," Qoyanomtiwa replied. "In that case, let's see what they have to offer." They advanced to where the strangers had laid their bundle. A square of fine red cloth, wide as his arm, lay on the ground. On it were knives that glinted like the sun on water, plates and dishes with strange intricate designs, several garments of white cloth, jewelry of silver and turquoise, and a pile of shining disks the size of his hand. "These seem like fine goods," he said to Macatoiniwa. "Let's see if we can come to an arrangement..."
By the time the error was noticed, milliseconds later, several dozen processing cycles had passed. A new hybrid culture was blossoming across the affected area, as the ancestral Puebloans adopted and assimilated these strange newcomers. The area had already been headed for an era of rapid growth and development due to favorable climate conditions, but the new crops and livestock seemed likely to extend it further and faster. Already, trade networks were forming, east to the Mississippi Valley and south into Mexico.
A quorum was called to determine whether to end the counterfactual scenario or to let it continue...
Snipped from a copy of The Economist in a nearby timeline:
Paratemporal Institute Report
Despite Dr. Saunders' initial reaction, we do not believe that Artifact QM-176002a indicates an alternate geography on timeline Aleph-8644. Further evidence suggests that this timeline featured an Anglo-Saxon kingdom or state surviving into the 17th century or beyond, and taking part in an equivalent to the Age of Exploration. It is probable that the cartographer attempted to collate reports from multiple expeditions, suggested by the variety of dates given at points around the map. The inaccuracies most likely result from imperfect or incomplete information.
The Ann Arbor Anomaly is best described a portal leading to central North America during the early Cenomanian Age of the Cretaceous, approximately 100 million years ago. The portal is perfectly circular, usually around four feet in diameter, and is only visible and accessible from one side. The size of the portal fluctuates; when first observed it was only a few inches across, then expanded to approximately its present size over the course of three days. Since then it has varied between three and six feet in diameter, with no discernable pattern to the changes.
As the name suggests, the Anomaly is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where it seems to have appeared in a park on the night of November 12, 2019. It was discovered the next morning by Aidan McKinney, who was walking his dog in the park when he noticed a plume of vapor condensing out of what seemed to be a small hole in the air. Mr. McKinney notified some friends of his, who briefly ventured through to the other side. There they found a humid jungle environment with unfamiliar fauna, including some unmistakable dinosaurs. The group attempted to notify the authorities, but were initially disregarded until photographic and video evidence was provided and independent confirmation from other sources was received. A variety of experts from the nearby University of Michigan then took over the scene until federal authorities arrived to secure the anomaly.
In the two years since the appearance of the Anomaly, a number of expeditions have gone through to the far side, and a substantial facility has grown up on both sides of the portal. The main bottleneck has been the limited size of the portal, making it difficult to transport large equipment. Outside the facility on the far side, there are four zones:
Zone 1 is the immediate area around the anomaly, which has been thoroughly explored and mapped. Most of this zone is a humid rainforest, part of the drainage basin of the Cope River, which runs west to the Mowry Sea.
Zone 2 stretches about as far as the shores of the Atlantic and the Mowry. Most of this has been mapped by solar-powered drones, so major land features are known. Some manned expeditions have taken place, mostly cataloging the flora and fauna.
Zone 3 has been cursorily explored by the newest long-range drones, mostly mapping the shorelines as part of the effort to date the far side by comparing landmasses to geologic data.
Zone 4 is anything not yet surveyed; landforms in this region are based on geological conjecture only.
The cause of the anomaly is unknown. A popular theory is that the anomaly was somehow caused by the GLC particle accelerator in Japan, which had gone into operation only a few days previously. However, so far there is no evidence to support this, and activity at the GLC does not seem to correlate with observable behavior of the portal. The portal emits a unique radiation signature when contracting or expanding; based on this signature, physicists have detected two other possible anomalies (one in New Mexico and one in California), but both have been microscopic in scale and lasted only a few seconds.
There is also an ongoing debate over whether the far side is our direct past, or some type of alternate timeline. Efforts to plant an object on the far side that could be retrieved in the present have so far been unsuccessful.
The exact date on the far side is still being narrowed down based on astronomical and geological data. The current estimate, based on some new bathymetric survey data from the Mowry Sea, is 99.7 ± 0.3 million years before present.
In the late sixth century, invading Angles had carved out two kingdoms along the coast of northern Britain - Bernicia in the north and Deira in the south. Around 593, a man named Æthelfrith became king of Bernicia, and began pushing inland more vigorously, particularly against the Brythonic kingdoms of Rheged and Gododdin. In 599, he married a daughter of king Ælla of Deira, sealing an alliance between the two Anglian kingdoms. In response, Mynyddog of Gododdin began building an alliance among the fractious Brythonic kingdoms, gathering warriors from among them and eventually launching a preemptive strike against Æthelfrith at Catraeth in 600. In our world, this effort failed, and Æthelfrith would go on to smash the Britons and take direct control of Deira. The combined kingdom would eventually come to be known as Northumbria.
In this world, things go a little differently - Æthelfrith is killed at Catraeth, and the Anglian alliance falls apart. There is infighting among the Bernicians, and the Britons are able to regain much of the lost territory, while Deira takes over some of the south. The prestige of the victory allows Gododdin to become the paramount kingdom among the northern Britons under Mynyddog and his successors. Now, twenty years after Æthelfrith's death, the Britons face two threats - Edwin of Deira, who has ties to the southern kingdom of Mercia, and wily old Áedán mac Gabráin, of the Gaelic kingdom of Dalriada, who has lately made common cause with the Pictish tribes of the north.