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Al Andalus Paradox Mega-LP

by Hashim

Part 10: Twilight of the Christian Alliance

Chapter 10 – The Twilight of the Christian Alliance – 1190 to 1200

As the last decade of the twelfth century began, the France-Aragon War took a turn for the worst when French forces stormed and captured Zaragoza, the Aragonese capital.

The desperate King of Aragon began throwing every last man he could raise at the advancing French armies, presenting Emir Galind of Cádiz with the opportunity of a lifetime. Being a man of instinct, it didn’t take long before Galind decided to go to war, eager to put an end to the humiliating memory of his loss to the Christian Alliance.

The Emir declared war against Aragon in an impassioned, heated religious sermon, in which he called on all Muslims to take up arms in Jihad against the Christians. Most of Galind’s vassals supported him, they’d seen how quickly the Aftasid Sultanate had collapsed to the Crusaders, and the Almoravids were quick to pledge their own troops to the cause as well.

Emir Galind didn’t wait for the Almoravids before embarking on the first campaign of the war, pushing north with approximately 8000 men.

Because the war hadn’t exactly been expected or planned for, however, it wasn’t long before Galind’s treasury was empty and his budget was in the red.

Desperate to avoid another bankruptcy and to keep his soldiers paid, Galind was forced to turn to the rudimentary financial institutions of Cádiz yet again, taking out several large loans.

With the gold needed for a war secured, Emir Galind turned his attention back to campaign, which had stalled at the Siege of Córdoba. The city was well-supplied and strongly fortified, so the siege dragged on for weeks before the Cádizians finally breached the walls, taking out their frustrations by sacking and looting the historic city.

Córdoba had once been the greatest city in Europe, the epicenter of cultural and intellectual advancement, the gem of Al-Andalus. Magnificence is only fleeting, however, and the decades of being sidelined and disregarded had not treated it well, with the great city reduced to a mere memory of a bygone era.

Galind had previously considered making it the capital of his emirate, but he didn’t stay at this city of ghosts and ruins for very long, pushing north within days of its capture to try and pin down a rogue Aragonese army.

And he managed to do just that, crushing the small force with ease in a pitched battle, slaughtering thousands as he did so.

The Almoravid army arrived a few weeks later, and began sieging the fortresses lining the Aragonese-Cádizian border. Emir Galind, meanwhile, scoured the countryside in an attempt to engage another Christian army, eager to decisively defeat them in battle.

The French were destroying the Aragonese in battle after battle, however, leaving the Muslims without much opposition. It was only two years into the war, late in 1192, that Galind finally chanced upon an enemy army, though this one was composed mostly of Castilians. He easily defeated them in a short skirmish, with the Almoravids pouring onto the battlefield and overwhelming the Christian army, bringing the battle to an end.

As the Christian army began collapsing and fleeing, Emir Galind led his cavalry retinue in pursuit, as was usual for him. He stormed the enemy’s general pavilion and, in a twist of fate, met face-to-face with Queen Adelinde of Castille, who was in the process of escaping.

Galind wasn't known for being particularly honourable, however, and an enemy was an enemy - a heartbeat, a flash of steel, and Adelinde's head went rolling into the dust. The King-killer didn’t limit his killing to kings, it would seem.

With almost half of Aragon occupied and the French on the verge of victory, the King was forced to negotiate a surrender, eventually agreeing to cede the Duchy of Córdoba to Emir Galind. Once the Muslims were out of the equation, the Aragonese could devote all of their resources to pushing back the French, and their efforts would bear fruit when they were finally defeated a few years later.

With both Portugal and Aragon defeated, Emir Galind returned to Cádiz a living legend, as the man who had halted the Crusader advance, who had defeat the northern powers on the open battlefield, and who had finally shattered the Christian Alliance of Aragon, Navarre and Castile. He now ruled over a good chunk of southern Iberia, but that wasn’t enough to make him the pre-eminent power on the peninsula, with both Christian and Muslim rivals threatening his position.

Galind would deal with each of these rivals one by one, he was determined to see his budding emirate rise to dominate Iberia, and perhaps even meddle in more distant affairs.

First on the agenda were his armies. Emir Galind’s retinue had proven to be a very useful force in the war, with its mounted majority enabling it to move at a rapid pace and deal devastating damage in both raids and pitched battles. Galind thus decided to make it his personal army, expanding it to 900 men and financing the construction of a new base, where recruits were to be trained.

All of his years on the march had hardened the Emir, and he quickly became known as a man quick to anger and violence. This became evident when an influential merchant family protested his involvement in local elections, with Emir Galind retaliating by confiscating and burning their possessions to the ground.

To fund his retinue’s expansion, Galind also raised taxes on the peasantry and nobility, using the threat of Aragon as an excuse. When a few minor lords refused to pay up, a furious Galind bullied them into submission, he was all too happy to burn down a few more buildings.

This led to the Emir’s popularity sharply declining, and within a few months of his victory, uprisings and rebellions began breaking out across the countryside.

Emir Galind dealt with them harshly, sending out his veteran cavalry to suppress the untrained peasants, with their leaders executed in public ceremonies shortly afterwards.

Galind’s recent conquests also meant that he had a large and unruly Catholic populace to deal with. The Emir wasn’t a particularly zealous man, but he was determined to pre-emptively strike at any rebels, and so he oversaw the conversion and expulsion of thousands of Christians over the next few years.

After spending a few years ruling from Cádiz, Emir Galind finally decided to go to war again, this time for completely different reasons. In the north, the Aftasid Sultanate had been defeated in several successive wars against Portugal, Aragon and Toledo, and it had been reduced to little more than a rump state.

Despite this, however, many still saw the Aftasids as leaders of Muslim Iberia. Emir Galind was determined to destroy that illusion, it was essential to his overarching plans, and he decided to do that by humiliating them in battle.

The war was meant to be short and easy, the Aftasids weren’t going to put up much resistance, after all.

Even before Emir Galind’s levies could gather, however, envoys arrived at Cádiz from King Morcaer of Portugal - carrying words of war.

Morcaer had been defeated in a previous war by Emir Galind, and he’d been forced to relinquish vast swathes of land surrounding Sevilla, a rich and strategic city. Now, however, the King felt ready to finally re-take his lost conquests.

Emir Galind had not expected a declaration of war, but it did have the benefit of rallying his subjects behind him, so that he was able to raise a large army to both fend off the Portuguese and defeat the Aftasids. Emir Galind seized the initiative by capturing several Aftasid castles, but the first battle of the war was met at Shlib, where a 13000-strong Portuguese army engaged Galind’s 10000-strong force.

Emir Galind had smaller numbers, but he hadn’t earned his reputation as a mastermind tactician by losing battles, and through careful manoeuvring he was able to throw back the Portuguese and rout their army.

They didn’t take long to recover, however, with King Morcaer leading his troops to re-engage the Cádizian army a scant few weeks later. This time, however, he was closely followed by the Aftasid army, which had been beefed up with mercenaries.

The whole ruse stunk of collusion, but Emir Galind couldn’t exactly back down, so he decided to stand his ground and meet with the combined enemy armies in battle.

The Portuguese arrived first, and defeating them quickly and decisively was paramount, so Emir Galind barraged them with wave after wave of attack. By the time the Aftasids arrived at the battlefield, the Christians had been all but defeated, allowing Galind to turn around and inflict a similar defeat on the Aftasids.

For the second time in just a month of fighting, Emir Galind had routed a superior force through sheer wit, yet another testament to his strategic brilliance.

With his army utterly defeated and his treasury completely empty, the Aftasid Sultan had taken all that he could bear, and sued for peace. Emir Galind wasn’t harsh, hoping to paint himself as merciful and gracious in victory, and settled for a small stretch of land and a concession of defeat.

There was still the Portuguese to deal with, however, and Galind would not be so merciful with them. After giving his troops a week’s rest, the Emir pushed east and engaged the Christians not far from Nuebla, where he routed the infidel forces yet again.

King Morcaer, finally realising that he wouldn’t be defeating Galind in battle, sued for a white peace. Emir Galind rebuffed these attempts, pursuing the King’s fleeing army deep into Portuguese territory, pinning them down and crushing them in a series of minor but decisive engagements.

Galind finally reached his destination a few weeks later, leading his army as they scaled the walls and stormed the ramparts of Lisboa, the capital of Portugal. The castle quickly fell and was subjected to a brutal sacking, with the Cádizians taking thousands of slaves and carrying off countless treasures, and Emir Galind’s seemingly unquenchable appetite for blood was finally sated.

With all of his options exhausted and his family rotting in Cádizian prisons, King Morcaer finally surrendered to Emir Galind, who demanded that Morcaer abandon all of his claims to Muslim holdings and pay hefty war indemnities in return for peace.

And with that, Emir Galind has single-handedly risen to become one of the dominant powers of the Iberian peninsula, able to challenge and defeat his rivals one-to-one. The Emir’s ambitions certainly do not end there, however, his eyes are set on the stars themselves. He is determined to revive ancient titles, to crown himself in elaborate ceremonies, to become the very stuff of legend.

He would do well to remember the sin that is pride, however, and just how quickly a great man can be unmade.