The Let's Play Archive

Al Andalus Paradox Mega-LP

by Hashim

Part 15: The Bull of Caceres

Chapter 15 – The Bull of Caceres – 1252 to 1256

Utman’s assassination left his living only son, Abdul-Hasan, as the Sultan of Al Andalus. Abdul-Hasan was only thirteen years of age upon his father’s death, however, so the Advisory Council seized this opportunity to sweep into power and establish themselves as a Regency Council.

Interestingly, this Regency Council was headed by none other than the famous Musa. It had been almost thirty years since he won his acclaim and prestige on the battlefield, but there were still those who called him the Bull of Caceres, honouring the victory that shattered the combined forces of Portugal, Castille, León, Navarre and France. And for that he had been rewarded with the small holdfast of Safra, but in the years since, Musa had transformed it into a formidable fortress, surrounded by a thriving city. From this stronghold, he gradually expanded his frontiers to absorb rich lands around Batalyaws and Ishbiliya, and by the new year of 1250, the once-lowly Musa ranked amongst the most powerful lords in Al Andalus.

So it isn't much a surprise that he was summoned to serve amongst the Regency Council, and through a series of astute political machinations, Musa managed to name himself the Grand Vizier and Lord Protector of Al Andalus.

Musa was also appointed as the young Abdul-Hasan’s mentor and guardian. This was an opportunity unlike any other, and Musa was determined to groom the young sultan into an obedient lapdog, subservient to his advice and guidance.

That would have to wait, however, there was still a war on. Despite Sultan Utman’s death, his plans were green-lit and the Andalusi levies pushed into Castilian territory, engaging a weaker Christian force near the city of Évora. The Castilians had already been broken in an earlier battle, so it didn’t take much to rout them again, chased off the field after just two hours of heavy fighting.

Emir Musa - or, as he preferred to be called, Grand Vizier Musa - then placed the army under the command of his eldest son, returning to begin his regency in Qadis, whilst the Andalusi army pressed westward, capturing sparsely defended fortresses along the route.

After weeks of sweeping through Castille without opposition, the Andalusi finally brought the former capital of Lisboa under siege, scaling the walls within days. The city was brutally sacked for a second time, with thousands of men, women and children ravaged without mercy.

By then, however, King Morcaer had managed to re-group and raise another large army. Upon hearing of the massacre at Lisboa, his dukes forced him to retaliate by pushing into Al-Andalus and giving as good as they got, and Morcaer did just that.

The Andalusi embarked on a forced march back the way they came, and managed to engage the Castilians before they could penetrate the defenses of Alqantara.

The battle was short and bloody, but with smaller numbers and lower morale, the Christians didn't stand half a chance of actually winning. Once their formation was broken and they’d begun fleeing, the Andalusi cavalry wing stormed the enemy pavilion and captured several high-ranking commanders, including King Morcaer himself.

This essentially brought the war to an end, and Morcaer was carted to Qadis in chains, with the King forced to concede defeat and promise a yearly tribute to Qadis.

To the east, large-scale holy war had exploded across the eastern caliphates. Apparently, the Popes of Catholicism had given up on ‘saving’ Andalusia, having already been handily repelled. Instead, the focus had shifted eastward, towards the Holy City of Jerusalem. After conducting meetings with several kings in Europe, Pope Leo X had managed to string together a powerful alliance, and declared the beginning of the First Crusade for Jerusalem early in 1254.

Many believed the venture to be a foolish and stupid one, as the Fatimid Caliphate was amongst the most powerful empires in the world, but the criticism didn't break Pope Leo's resolve.

For the Caliphate’s neighbors, this was the best thing that could have possibly happened. Basileus Serapion had expansionistic dreams of his own, obsessed with the notion of restoring the two halves of the Roman Empire, and whilst he had already expanded his empire into South Italy and North Africa, he wanted to carve a piece of the rich Levant for himself.

In fact, the rapid expansion of the East Roman Empire over the past two decades worried many, both within Europe and without. Their ambitions of restoring Rome had been dismissed, of course, but as the Orthodox Greeks stormed across Italy and Africa, the Pope and his neighbours began to fret.

And it wasn't just the Christians would had a wary eye on the east. The Almoravid Sultanate had spent the past decade in almost-constant civil war, so Grand Vizier Musa saw Al Andalus as the rightful protector of all Western Muslims, and he took steps to ensure it stayed that way. To fend off any potential Roman aggression, he arranged a marriage pact and forged an alliance with the Sultan of Tunis, who agreed to recognise Andalusi superiority in return for protection.

Back in Cádiz, however, conflict was quickly brewing. King Morcaer had been forced to give up a huge sum of gold in return for peace, but none of that gold had found its way to Jizrunid coffers, as it turns out.

Instead, it would seem that Grand Vizier Musa and his Regency Council had been siphoning income for years now. Musa had been investing the gold into his lands and estates around Safra, but other sheikhs and emirs squandered it on frivolous parties and feasts, only further stoking the flames when the scandal was finally exposed.

This understandably angered many Andalusi lords, who had demanded a portion of the war reparations, but been denied on the basis that it all belonged to the Jizrunid Sultan. Now, the anger morphed into fury, and a host of emirs and sheikhs banded together and rose up in revolt.

Commanded by one Ismail Balashkid, this League of Emirs swore to overthrow the corrupt Regency Council and restore Sultan Abdul-Hasan to his rightful authority.

Unfortunately, Abdul-Hasan was not the… brightest of kings, to put it lightly. Musa had raised him in ignorance, forcing the young sultan to rely on him in all things, and it left Abdul-Hasan a dull, unimaginative man.

His one saving grace was that, like previous sultans, he had a love for blood and war. He wasn’t half bad at it either, Abdul-Hasan had an affinity for battlefield tactics, though he certainly wasn't a genius.

The revolt quickly grew as dozens of sheikhs joined the League of Emirs, raising their armies and dedicating them to Emir Ismail. Musa, who was desperate to organise a solid defence, agreed to let Abdul-Hasan lead the loyalist army. He wouldn’t take part in any decision-making or strategy-planning, of course, but his presence would serve as a unifying factor, or so Musa hoped.

And it would be needed. Emir Ismail managed to put together a huge army, and he led it on a march straight to Qadis. He was forced to a halt by a numerically-inferior army not far from the capital, where a short skirmish quickly escalated into a bloody battle.

Musa was a clever, cunning man, and he didn’t get where he was through sheer luck. As he had predicted, Abdul-Hasan’s presence on the battlefield inspired his troops to fight harder and longer, whilst Musa's pyrrhic tactics quickly led to the battle devolving into a stalemate. Not a decisive victory, but it did force the rebels to fall back and re-organise, which was more than enough.

Ismail led his army eastward and back into rebel territory, but this left a 5000-strong rebel force without aid in the west, which the Andalusi pounced on. Overwhelmed within an hour of fighting, they were quickly routed and beaten, earning the loyalists another victory.

With that, the odds were starting shifting against the rebels, and Grand Vizier Musa wanted to capitalise on it. He ordered his levies to pursue the rebels and crush them in a final battle, before marching on Shlib and capturing the enemy capital. If this last offensive was successful, the rebellion would be crushed and Musa's grip on the Sultanate would only be strengthened, and who knew what he could accomplish from there?

This time, however, the rebels were able to put up stiff opposition. Carefully micromanaged by Emir Ismail, every counter-attack and mounted incursion landed stinging blows on the loyalist army, which was eventually forced retreat.

In the disarray that comes with any retreat, however, tragedy struck deep.

Emir Ismail had personally led his retinue on a daring charge into enemy ranks, before coming up against a frightened Sultan Abdul-Hasan and, in the fury of the moment, cutting him down like a common man.

That’s all it takes to thrust Al Andalus into chaos once again, as the last of three sultans dies in quick succession, long before his due. The assassination or murder of Sultans is quickly becoming a tradition in Al Andalus, and unless a strong hand guides it out of this mess, there is a significant possibility of returning to the chaotic, warring Taifa period.

edit: We’re coming up on another hundred years, here’s a world map:

There are a couple interesting things going on, which I haven’t been able to include in the chapter:

- France was under the rule of a Karling for quite some time, because they’ve been an Elective Monarchy since the fall of the Capets.
- Those ugly blobs in the HRE are actually independent, they broke free after a revolt. Also, there’s been a really long succession of Italian emperors, which is odd.
- The Mongol Empire went Buddhist for a short while, before settling on Orthodox.
- All of India is now under the control of Hindu kings, and they’re beginning to push into Baluchistan.