The Let's Play Archive

Al Andalus Paradox Mega-LP

by Hashim

Part 14: The Utmani Edict

Chapter 14 – The Utmani Edict – 1245 to 1252

Sultan Fath had fathered a great many children before his premature death - to slaves and strangers, to maids and servants, to concubines and wives - but most had died in battle or their sickbeds. It was his fourth-born son who would succeed to the Sultanate - Utman. Some say he had a hand in his father's assassination, but the young prince faced no opposition as he rushed towards the capital, and since he was the first of Fath’s sons to reach Cádiz, it was to him that the courtiers and vassals present swore allegiance to.

And in a quick ceremony, Utman was consecrated and proclaimed the third Sultan of Al Andalus. Most of his brothers swore their allegiance, but his bastard half-brother Hakam refused, instead taking control of the county of Marbal-la. Hakam wasn't content with that, however. He was ambitious and ruthless, as bastards oft are, and an enmity between him and his brother quickly began to grow.

In fact, whilst on the topic, not many of Utman’s own vassals liked him all that much either. He had been a bit of a spoilt child, and the memories of his father’s cruelty and decadence were still all too fresh, so the new Sultan would have to work to repair his relations with the sheikhs and emirs of Al Andalus.

As if that weren't enough, Utman also managed to insult envoys arriving from Fes, thus directly insulting the Almoravid Sultan himself. The envoys left Cádiz within hours, furiously severing the centuries-long alliance between the Almoravid and Jizrunid kingdoms.

If there was one thing that his vassals and neighbours approved of, however, it was Utman’s zealotry. Sultan Fath had been something of a cynic, and his friendships with heathens and heretics had been dangerous, so many breathed a sigh of relief upon discovering that Utman was as religious as they came.

His hatred of any religion or sect but Sunni Islam quickly became famous throughout Iberia, and he made sure of it when he demanded the conversion of his Christian courtiers, as well as outlawing the use of any language but Arabic in the governance of Al Andalus. From that point onwards, all decrees and charters would refer to cities by their Arabic names only, so Cádiz would known as Qadis, Sevilla would be Ishbiliya, Granada would be Gharnatah, Córdoba would be Qurtubah, and so on.

A less-liked quality that Utman possessed was his love of all things expensive, from fist-sized gems to the rarest fabrics, the new Sultan bought without any thought for cost. Tales even spread that the Sultan had ordered the construction of a Quran made from a block of solid gold, with the words of Allah engraved onto the sheets with pricy jewels and gems.

Sultan Utman wasn’t only interested in religion and gold, however, he also possessed a love for knowledge. He had spent the long, lazy days of his youth reading whatever he could get his hands on, so upon taking the throne, he announced a large expansion of the House of Wisdom, which had gradually fallen into disuse since its founding.

All of this lavish spending wasn’t doing much good for the treasury, understandably. Through careful manoeuvring, Utman’s viziers gradually managed to contain his rampant habit and convince him to invest into his demense instead, and the Sultan began financing the development of CádizQadis.

In Aragon, the king had died in his old age, leaving a teenage Queen Dina to ascend the throne. After defeating the last remnants of the Aftasid Sultanate in the craggy mountains of the north, the young Queen moved her capital from Zaragoza to Léon, marking a surprising shift of power away from the Catalan heartland of her kingdom.

There was a new king crowned in Castille as well, but Morcaer’s hold on his kingdom was tenuous at best. Eager to take advantage of any unrest within Castille, Sultan Utman began funding adventurers and rebels to try and unseat the Christian kingdom, hoping for a weak target when the time for war finally arrived.

Before Utman could begin planning any campaigns, however, the consequences of his father’s mistakes finally came to a head. A few emirs had joined arms and formed a powerful league, dispatching envoys to Qadis with the express demand of greater autonomy, as well as relaxed taxes and manpower obligations. This rebel league was led by the Dhunnunnids, emirs of Almeria and Granada.

Sultan Utman had been waiting for an opportunity to assert his authority, however, and pounced without delay.

A full half of Al Andalus rose up in revolt, shocking the Sultan, who hadn’t expected rebels to be so widespread. The odds were unnerving, and this would have been around this time that Utman’s father, Fath, would have fled to Qadis and instructed the famous Sheikh Musa to command his armies instead.

Utman was not his father, however, and he decided that the time had come to taste war for himself.

He raised as large an army as he could and, just a month later, pushed east and into rebel territory. Utman had many seasoned generals with him, and they quickly managed to find and pin down a small rebel force, crushing them in pitched battle.

The battle had been short and unimportant, little more than a skirmish, but this was Utman’s first experience on the battlefield... and it hadn't been what he'd expected.

It was nothing short of joyful, Utman had never before felt such a rush, his heart had never pounded against his chest so hard, his mind had never been clearer and more astute than just then. As far as he was concerned, Sultan Utman had just found paradise.

Having discovered his love, and no small amount of skill, in cutting down dozens on the battlefield, a confident Sultan Utman continued the march east. His scouts quickly picked up on another rebel army, this one significantly larger than the last, and situated in defensible territory.

Utman’s generals advised him to take a defensive stance, maybe begin a campaign of pillaging and sacking, but the Sultan would have none of it. Desperate to feel the adrenaline pumping through his body again, he pressed onward and engaged the rebels just outside Almeria, the powerful fort that served as the rebel capital.

The loyalists were facing unfavourable odds, but his generals had managed to tease together a few clever tactics, and Utman’s berserker persona on the battlefield actually inspired many of his men, and these together were enough to snatch another decisive victory.

With that, opposition quickly melted away, and it became a matter of capturing enemy forts and executing rebels. A short assault quickly followed, and Emir Dhunnunnid - the leader of the rebellion - was cut down in the mayhem of the fighting.

Utman returned to Qadis, but he didn’t return to his libraries or his mosques. Instead, he took up martial lessons, which he'd always avoided when he was younger. He began learning the art of swordplay, quickly becoming a demon with steel in his hand, along with the basics of battlefield strategy, with long hours dedicated to studying the campaigns of his grandfather, Galind Kingkiller.

The thick, bloody fighting had also awakened something else in Utman, however, something that was not all that pleasant. He seemed to become desensitised to violence and gore, and much like his father, he began to enjoy watching his prisoners being tortured and mutilated.

Never on Muslims though, that would be going too far, Utman saved his pikes and nails for infidels and heretics.

Months became years, and the time to declare war on Aragon gradually approached, to Utman’s mounting excitement. Before he could begin the invasion, however, a string of several large and well-coordinated revolts sprung up across Al Andalus.

One was nothing more than a peasant rebellion, demanding more lenient taxes or something, but the other was a sizeable revolt of veteran Zikri soldiers, who had been disenfranchised and discriminated by the new Sultan.

Zikri fanatics were notoriously difficult to stamp out, because they had served as soldiers in his father's wars, so Utman was forced to raise a large army and march on them with haste - before they could consolidate their forces. They were disorganised and small in number, so it didn’t take much more to crush them. Rather than simply execute their leaders, however, Utman had many of them chained and escorted back to Qadis, where they would await punishment.

The Sultan then tasked the now-aged Musa with ending the peasant revolt. Musa had been rewarded the province of Safra, making him a Sheikh in his own right, but he knew he couldn't blatantly ignore a command from his liegelord. So he took command of Utman's levies, and after a short and bloody battle in the streets of Alcantara, the Bull of Caceres had suppressed the last of the rebels.

Utman then returned to Cádiz to pass judgement on the Zikri rebels, and since his hate for heretics was already common knowledge, he had already thought up countless excruciating punishments. Over the next few days, Sultan Utman had them all put through sickening pain, tortured and mutilated beyond recognition. He then had all those who'd survived strung up along the walls and streets of Qadis, under the sweltering summer sun, where they eventually died from thirst.

The Sultan didn’t stop there, however, he then led his small retinue force on a bloodthirsty spree in which he sacked and burned countless villages to the ground, many of which hadn’t even participated in the revolt, simply having the bad fortune to be in Utman’s way.

Utman didn’t care all that much, he was invincible for as long as he had his army around him. After growing bored with pillaging his own lands, the Sultan raised an even larger force and led them to the northeastern border of Al Andalus, preparing to finally declare war on Aragon. Queen Dima was bogged down in a large pretender revolt, so this was the perfect opportunity to strike and win an easy victory.

Once again, however, fate conspired against Sultan Utman. King Morcaer of Castille had put an end to his internal unrest, and with rebellions sprouting up across Al Andalus, he decided to try and score an easy war himself.

Sultan Utman, infuriated, pressed westward. King Morcaer poured into Muslim territory with 20,000 seasoned troops, more than Utman was able to muster, and the two armies clashed near the fortress of Caceras - the very same battlefield where Musa had won his fame and renown.

And once again, the enemy seemed to have underestimated the Andalusi. After fighting for almost five hours without halt, with the Christians taking huge losses, King Morcaer was forced to retreat in disarray. The Andalusi pursued them as far as Alcantara, where the army came to a stop whilst the generals began planning the next stage, with Utman himself taking up residence in the local fortress.

Sultan Utman was determined to teach the Castilians a lesson they would not soon forget, and he began planning a full-out invasion, ending only with the sack of Lisbon. His treasury was completely empty, however, and the Sultan was forced to borrow huge sums of gold from his vassals just to keep his army raised and marching.

With that, Utman felt confident enough to set his plans into motion, dreaming of all the fabulous wealth he would cart back to Qadis. Maybe one day they would speak of him as they do of Galind Kingkiller, maybe his achievements would even overshadow Galind's, who knows? The possibilities were endless, the opportunities boundless, the prospects limitless…

That is, unless you’re dead.

No one quite knows what exactly happened, to this very day. The only fact we have is that, the day before he was set to launch his counterattack, Sultan Utman was found dead and misshapen on the side of a stone pavement. Possible theories include falling off a balcony, though it's far more likely that he was pushed, Utman wasn't exactly popular with... anyone, really. Many believe that it was a Zikri fanatic who did the deed, in vengeance for the suffering his brothers in faith had been put through, whilst others place the blame in family politics.

Whatever the case, Utman dies after just seven years as Sultan, leaving all of Al Andalus in the hands of his only living son.