The Let's Play Archive

Al Andalus Paradox Mega-LP

by Hashim

Part 29: End of an Era

Chapter 29 – The End of an Era – 1422 to 1444

Sultan Sayf’s coronation was a long time coming. Al Andalus had spent the past twenty years under the leadership of Ali Ghizvanni, and though the regent had proven to be an able statesman, the past two decades had also been spent suffering through damaging civil wars and invasions. The coronation of Sayf – a young, softspoken man – meant that the sultanate might finally have a few years of peace.

With the accession of Sayf to the sultanate, Grand Vizier Ali resigned from his esteemed post, retiring to his vast estates to live out the rest of his days in comfort. He had left Al Andalus in victorious peace, but another crisis was quickly thrust into the lap of young Sultan Sayf, with disease spreading like wildfire in the aftermath of recent wars, and thousands upon thousands of soldiers and peasants alike afflicted with the typhus scourge.

Sultan Sayf immediately began doing all he could to help his beleaguered populace. Using money from his personal treasury, Sayf initiated the construction of several new hospitals throughout Cádiz, even funding research into new cures and treatments.

At behest of the Majlis, however, Sultan Sayf also channeled funds into the construction of new castles. Fearing another invasion from the Christian principalities, the ruined defenses of Tulaytullah were rebuilt and strengthened, transforming the strategic city into a powerful fortress.

The early months of Sultan Sayf’s reign passed as such, in relative peace and prosperity, with the sultanate slowly recovering from two chaotic decades. Late in 1422, news regarding the crusade arrived from Sicily…

Not only had the small but rich Emirate of Palermo managed to snatch a decisive battlefield victory, but they’d captured the Pope as they did so. And for the second time in less than fifty years, the Bishop of Rome was executed in a gruesome public ceremony, bringing another crusade to an abrupt end.

Back in Qadis, meanwhile, Sayf was beginning to grow restless. Studying old texts and investing into new businesses was all well and good, but he began nurturing greater ambitions than being a simple administrator…

After all, he was named for his famous father - Ma'n, Sayfullah - so surely enjoying the comforts and plenty of Qadis whilst Muslim faithful were suffering would be an insult to his holy memory.

So Sayf turned his eyes northward, towards France. The island of Sardinia was an essential stepping stone to Italy, and France had conquered it with almost no opposition, when the sultanate was at its weakest. Now that Al Andalus had recovered, however, it was to reclaim its rightful territories.

Sultan Sayf raised his levies and called on his vassals to do the same. A vast Andalusi gathered at Tulaytullah, numbering a grand total of 20,000 green soldiers, before beginning the march northwards.

Unlike previous sultans, however, Sayf didn’t join his army on the march. Instead, he decided to stay at Tulaytullah and direct his forces from afar, relying on a small mounted force to relay his orders to his hand-picked generals - which included Ahmad Ghizvanni, Dawud Aftasid and Umar Hammudid, all rich and highly-regarded members of the Majlis.

Riches and reputation don't make good generals, however.

It wasn’t very longer before the two powers clashed. A French general led a 30,000-strong army to engage the Andalusi at Navarre, which Dawud Aftasid decided to offer them in battle, only for another 30,000 Frenchmen poured onto the field once the fighting had begun...

As one might expect, the battle was long, gruelling and bloody. The Andalusi commanders bickered endlessly whilst tens of thousands were cut down, and after five hours of thick fighting, they were finally forced to abandon their positions and fall back.

Despite both sides losing roughly the same number of men, the Andalusi had been forced to retreat, surrendering the vital mountain pass to the French. Sultan Sayf - always so calm and austere - descended into a silent fury upon hearing the news, immediately stripping his generals of their command. That wouldn't change the outcome of the battle, however, and since Sayf couldn't raise another army large enough to threaten the French, he eventually formulated a completely different strategy instead…

The Sultan sent the remains of his army – still a formidable 20,000 levies – to directly assault and capture Sardinia. The Andalusi quickly overwhelmed the sparse defenders and, over the next few months, captured the fortresses lining the coast.

Once the island was firmly under his control, Sultan Sayf prepared for another invasion into Aquitaine. Just as the army was making its landing at Balansiyyah, however, an envoy arrived at his camps from Paris…

Apparently, another war had erupted between France and the Holy Roman Empire, and the Germans were quickly rolling over large tracts of the Low Countries. The French King, desperate to reroute his forces and repel the invasion, offered to cede half of Sardinia to Al Andalus in return for a guarantee of peace.

Sultan Sayf, of course, accepted without hesitation.

With the war at an end, Sayf was able to return to his capital with his head held high, where news of another Jizrunid victory arrived shortly afterwards. This time coming from the Near East, Sayf's twin brother had managed to conquer the Sinai peninsula after a short war with Crusader Egypt, though he vowed to push on and reconquer all of Egypt.

In northern Iberia, meanwhile, the civil wars plaguing Castille had finally come to an end. The united kingdoms of Christian Iberia had well and truly been fractured, with stable borders established between the successor states of the once-mighty union, each ruled by petty kings and princes who would never again challenge the might of Al Andalus.

With that, the peninsula descends into a rare era of peace. Sultan Sayf spends his days fathering a swarm of bawling children (no less than 5 sons and 6 daughters), investing into the expansion of his capital, and commissioning the construction of several new trade posts and marketplaces.

He even made a short visit to the recently-conquered city of Cagliari, hoping to develop it into his principal Mediterranean port.

Whilst Sayf was busy visiting cities and constructing buildings, however, malcontents in the Majlis were plotting against him. The power held by the Majlis had been repeatedly slashed during the regency of Grand Vizier Ali, turning many of the powerful nobles staunchly against him…

And Sultan Sayf would suffer the consequences. Early in 1430, the Sultan imposed another restriction on the nobility, further curbing their rights by requiring them to attend the Sultan in Qadis every other year.

For many, this proved to be the final straw. In the summer of 1430, a faction of powerful nobles demanded that Sultan Sayf surrender some of his authority to the Majlis, claiming that he was becoming too powerful.

Sayf was softspoken, he was kind, he enjoyed studying old scrolls and reciting the Quran. None of that meant he was a pushover, however, and he executed the rebel envoys where they stood.

Emir Abdallah Yahaffid – the rebel leader – was powerful and influential, with his family ruling vast domains in Balansiyyah and Mursiya, but Sultan Sayf had powerful supporters of his own. After putting together an army numbering 25,000 levies, Sayf sent them to engage the nearest rebels, a 20,000-strong force besieging Qalatrava.

The loyalists were forced to make a difficult crossing, but they had superior numbers and better weaponry, so the battle quickly turned against the rebels, who were forced to retreat with heavy losses.

That night, the Jizrunid camps were full of jubilation, but the following morning brought any celebrations to a sudden end.

King Ponce of Aragon, the great-grandson of Cyneric the Bastard, declared a holy war for Valencia. And he was not alone, with the Portuguese King Ealdmund marching into Al Andalus mere days later in support of his claims.

Ealdmund led his forces straight to Tulaytullah, and despite the city’s powerful fortifications, it capitulated to the Christians after a bloody assault.

This sudden turn of events wasn’t great for Sayf, obviously, and the sultan suffered a panic attack whilst addressing his vassals and retainers in an emergency session of the Majlis. Once he'd recovered, his viziers advised him to return to Qadis for rest, but the sultan refused, determined to see the wars through to their end.

After a few weeks of rest, the Andalusi levies marched northward and engaged the numerically-inferior Portuguese outside the walls of Tulaytullah.

The Portuguese army had taken great losses when it captured Tulaytullah, so the army that the Andalusi engaged was under-strength and tired. The battle proved to be short and decisive, and after breaking the enemy formation, the Mubazirun stormed the royal pavilion and captured King Ealdmund himself.

With one fell swoop, the Portuguese were knocked out of the war and Tulaytullah was recaptured. Mere hours later, however, Sultan Sayf received word that Qurtubah was under siege, this time by rebels.

So he sent the army south next, taking the smaller rebel army by surprise and, in a short battle, destroying it.

That victory essentially destroyed any rebel resistance, but Emir Abdallah himself managed to escape the battlefield, fleeing back to Balansiyyah.

The loyalists pursued the small force north, before coming upon the Aragonese levies, which had been bled dry on the walls of Almansa. Sayf sent his host to engage the Aragonese, which was shattered after a couple hours of thick fighting.

The Aragonese fled back to friendly territory, but the Andalusi marched to Balansiyya instead, capturing the small fortress after a short siege. Emir Abdallah – the rebel leader – was captured during the sack of the city, before being sent to Qadis, where he would await the Sultan’s justice.

With the civil war at an end, Sultan Sayf could finally focus on the Christians, marching his forces into Aragon a few weeks later.

The Andalusi engaged the weakened Aragonese army in January of 1436, and despite putting up a fight, the battle quickly turned against the numerically-inferior Christians.

The day ended with a decisive Andalusi victory, and King Ponce finally agreed to meet for peace negotiations, eventually submitting to Sultan Sayf’s demands for tribute.

Sultan Sayf returned to Qadis draped in glory. He was less than thirty years old, but over the course of the past decade, he had managed to defeat the powerful Kingdom of France in a war, he had curbed the rights of the nobility and further strengthened the crown, he had crushed the ensuing rebellion and simultaneously repelled two Christian invasions…

Celebrations were held throughout Qadis, but unbeknownst to many, a tragedy would quickly follow…

Sultan Sayf had begun coughing blood whilst the civil war was at its height, with the fever and sweats following soon after. His physicians confirmed that it was consumption, but wanting to appear strong whilst at war, the Sultan kept his illness secret.

Unfortunately, the wars had dragged on for years, and arduous journeys don't exactly cure diseases. By the time Al Andalus was at peace and he was back in Qadis, it was already far too late.

The royal physicians conducted an operation to try and treat the rampant disease, but it only made matters worse, with severe infection quickly setting in over the next few days. Old wounds refused to heal, oozing blood and pus, and the sultan drew closer to death with every passing day.

Sayf wasn’t weak, however, and he managed to fight off his inevitable death for another year. No man can outlast death, however, and Sultan Sayf was found dead in his sleep late in 1443.

Sultan Sayf’s firstborn son and heir – Utman – is quickly secured by the Majlis, who see an opportunity to recapture their former power and influence. Even as Sayf’s death is announced and the masses begin mourning, however, a new age is beginning to dawn…