Part 12: Iberian CrusadeChapter 12 - The Second Iberian Crusade - 1212 to 1223
In the vast grasslands that make up the Great Steppes, a young warlord has united the warring tribes of his homeland and risen to terrifying heights over the period of a short few years, instilling fear and cowardice in even the staunchest of men. After bloodying the Great Song Empire in several battles, Khan Temujin has turned to the mountains and frozen wastelands of the west, intent on forging a legacy that will long outlive himself.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the world, a young kingdom is in mourning. The revered Sultan Galind had passed away in his old age, leaving the nascent Al-Andalus to his only living son, Fath:
Fath is a... strange specimen, even by contemporary standards. The death of his brothers by plague and steel had led to his father becoming more and more worried that he would die without an heir, so he had sent a young Fath to be raised and educated in the local mosque, where he would be far from any harm.
As it turned out, however, imprisoning a young child amongst senile clergymen wasn't the best idea. Fath grew to become a rebellious and devious young man, and he certainly wasn't pious, with the new sultan having already fathered two sons on servant wenches before even coming to his throne. Even worse, he was quite violent as a teenager and man, fond of beating slaves and rivals alike.
Some would say that Fath was a bit mad, but never in his hearing, the young prince had a short temper and a quick blow.
Once Fath was crowned as Sultan of Al-Andalus, he immediately began taking advantage of his powerful new position, abandoning the lies about his zealotry that he had fooled the imams into believing. He quickly earned a reputation for having a taste in strong wine and beautiful women, shocking many of his father's more conservative allies and friends.
This decadent behavior, as one might expect, came hand in hand with impulsive decisions. Sultan Fath insulted several of his vassals at his first meeting with them, and the distaste they had had for Fath hardened into hatred, which in turn led to enmity and the formation of factions.
Thus, in the space of a few short weeks, Sultan Fath had somehow managed to unite half of his kingdom against his rule. A few powerful lords rose in revolt, demanding that Fath step aside and let his cousin rule as Sultan instead, claiming that a mad drunkard was not fit to lead the fight against Christendom.
Sultan Fath, suddenly realising just how dire the situation was, tried to remedy the crisis via diplomacy. It was already far too late for apologies and sweet talking, however, and the furious sheikhs raised their levies and began marching towards Cádiz, bent on installing Abdul-Hasan as the new Sultan.
Fath managed to stop too many lords from joining the revolt by promising them large sums of gold and land in return from their loyalty, so the rebellion was largely limited to Almeria and Jaén. The loyal vassals agreed to contribute their soldiers to Fath's cause, and after spending his remaining gold to attract mercenaries, the Sultan managed to raise an army large enough to counter the rebels.
The two armies clashed just outside the fortified walls of Granada, with the numerically superior loyalist forces quickly overcoming and shattering the rebel army, chasing them off the battlefield after just two hours of fighting.
This one decisive battle was enough to dip the civil war in Fath's favour, so he returned to Cádiz, content that his position was now safe. He left the army under the command of his close friend Musa - a lowborn but gifted commander - who chased down the rebels and crushed their remnants near the town of Villa Real.
The loyalists then stormed the rebel stronghold at Jaén, capturing the city after a short siege and imprisoning several high-profile figures, including Abdul-Hasan himself.
After being carted back to Cádiz, the rebel leaders begged from clemency, but Fath wouldn't be known for his soft-heartedness. Utilising the laws instituted by his father, he revoked all significant titles held by the rebels, seizing large tracts of land and integrating it into his personal demesne.
Sultan Fath went beyond this, however. Hoping to dissuade any further rebels from rising up, but also keeping a close eye on his unruly vassals, Fath decided to throw his cousin into the oubliette - the reeking dungeons that had quickly earned a fearsome reputation. This was as good as a death sentence, with the added benefit of Fath not soiling his reputation by executing a member of his family.
Unfortunately for Sultan Fath, he would not have much time to recuperate his losses. Less than a year after he had crushed the revolt, envoys arrived from Rome carrying word of war, with the newly-inaugurated Pope Stephenus II calling on all Christendom to 'purge the stain of Iberia' and burn Cádiz to the ground.
The campaign, second of the Iberian crusades, was obviously well-planned. Whilst none of the major Christian players were willing to waste their resources in a long and grueling war, the Pope had managed to coordinate the forces of half a dozen Italian minors and Celtic kingdoms and have them land just off the coast of Cádiz, mere weeks after calling the Crusade.
Sultan Fath was stunned, but the crusade did have the benefit of rallying his vassals behind him, they all knew what they stood to lose if Al Andalus fell. After spending a few weeks planning the spring campaign, Fath gave the go-ahead to engage the Christians and drive them away from Cádiz, which they were foolishly attempting to capture.
With the two sides roughly equal in numbers, and the Christians having the better terrain to defend in, Fath and his generals all expected a long and bloody battle. Unbeknownst to them, however, the seeds of discord were already growing within crusader camps.
King Ruah of Ireland and Duke Concen of Brittany had been bitter enemies for many years before joining forces for the good of Christendom, and a disagreement between the two regarding the riches of Cádiz had quickly escalated into a heated argument, which then led to their combined armies dividing into two smaller forces.
This was the perfect opportunity and Sultan Fath pounced on it, rushing to engage the divided crusader force. The first battle was short and decisive, with the Andalusi barraging crusader ranks with their superior numbers, gradually encircling and tightening the noose around them. The day ended in undeniable victory for the muslims, as the blood of 7000 dead Christians watered the sands outside Cádiz.
Sultan Fath then pushed north and met the second crusader army, under the command of Duke Concen, who had quickly descended into a panic upon hearing news of their losses. The Andalusi army again crushed the infidels in a decisive engagement, slaughtering thousands of Christians whilst losing only a few hundred themselves.
Before his ego could become too bloated, however, Sultan Fath and his entourage came upon the enemies' prisoners of wars. Hundreds of muslims had been captured by the Crusaders during their raids and sieges, and they had not met pleasant ends, with many of the corpses gruesomely mutilated and crucified upon splintery wooden spikes.
Lost in the moment, spectators claim that Fath was captured by a fear he had never before experienced, and after suffering several panic attacks the Sultan was rushed back to Qadis.
Musa, a steadfast ally of the Sultan and the Jizrunids, was placed in command of the army after the sultan abandoned it. Under his leadership, the Andalusi were able to snatch another decisive victory near Algeciras, routing the Papal army and throwing them back into the Mediterranean.
Over the next few months, Musa led the Andalusi levies into victory after victory, brutally crushing countless invasions by crusader forces. The landings gradually became less and less frequent, but Musa's renown only grew throughout Al Andalus as he became a legend in his own time, with many placing the battlefield triumphs squarely on his shoulder.
Sultan Fath quickly became envious as his own victories became distant memories. Before long, one might have thought that Fath hadn't participated in the Crusade at all, with the adoration of the nobility and love of the masses directed at Musa instead.
In Rome, Pope Stephenus was very quickly becoming the laughing stock of Christian Europe, with his losses only becoming more and more costly as time crept on. Eventually, just before the harsh winter of 1220, the humiliated Pope was forced to call off his fool's crusade.
Not all was well back in Cádiz, however, with the proud Sultan Fath becoming angrier by the day. After lashing out at several courtiers and minor lords, the reckless Sultan decided that he had been mocked for too long. He summoned his vassals and delivered a sermon in which he announced his intention to lead a Jihad against the northern Christians and drive them out of Iberia proper, thus finally earning the fame and renown he surely deserved.
Of course, many of the Andalusi lords whispered and laughed behind closed curtains, but Allah seemed to smile down on Sultan Fath, because a large revolt broke out in the Kingdom of Aragon shortly afterwards. This was the perfect opportunity to win his first war, against a smaller and numerically inferior enemy, but it would be a victory nonetheless.
Unfortunately, Sultan Fath was not the most politically astute of men, and he didn't really consider just how far-reaching his sermon had been. His promises to defeat all of Christendom had angered many of the Catholic kings, who saw Fath as little more than a spoilt child in a man's body, one deserving of a good beating.
And that's just what they intended to do. After Sultan Fath declared war on the Aragonese rebels, both the Kingdom of Castille and the Kingdom of France intervened against Al Andalus, demanding that he back down and surrender.
Meanwhile, in the Far East, a different crisis altogether was occupying the attention of dukes and kings, emirs and sultans, satraps and shahs. The Great Khan himself, who had united the warring beasts of the Steppes and tamed the Great Dragon of the East, had somehow fallen in battle to the Cumans.
Genghis Khan was dead.
This was not the end of the young and powerful Mongol Empire he had forged, however, with his son Tolui picking up the reigns of his father's horse and crushing the Cumans in vengeance. He will not end there, however, the new Great Khan has vowed to see every woman on the face of the earth weep for her dead husband and sons, every daughter from sea to sea will feel the unrestrained anger of a Mongol, every man under the sun will bleed before the price for Temujin's life is repaid.