Part 47: Across the PyreneesChapter 15 Across the Pyrenees 1615 to 1630
1615 began with a flurry of excitement in Qadis, the capital of Al Andalus. Word had just reached the city of the disastrous French defeats against a German-Celtic coalition, bringing with it unforeseen expansion opportunities for Muslim Iberia, and the Sultan of Al Andalus was anxious to take advantage of the chaos.
With the entirety of the Majlis flocking to the assembly for the first time in years, however, several of the smaller factions took the opportunity to pass policies of their own. The League of Merchants, for example, managed to secure funding for the construction of both a trade station in Ishbiliya and Naval Equipment Manufactory in Granada, in exchange for their support for the war.
The imams and muftis that make up the Ulema, meanwhile, continued with their usual proselytization efforts, which saw increasing success as the rich elites and nobles of Tarrakunah agreed to convert to Sunni Islam.
Their almost-exclusive focus on converting the northern Christians, however, also resulted in unexpected consequences in their own backyard, with the heresy of Shiism gradually spreading along the eastern coast of Iberia.
Sultan Hafid saw no reason to become agitated over the rise of heresy, however. In fact, his reign saw an unprecedented number of heretics and infidels both rising to important government positions.
Instead, the Sultan and the vast majority of the Majlis were occupied with France. Hafid opened the new assembly with a short speech, in which he urged the nobles to pounce on their northern rival whilst they were weak and distracted. It didn't take much to convince even the pacifist elements in the Majlis that it was a time for war, and by the time the day was out, the assembly had ratified the Sultan's request.
Before actually declaring war, however, Hafid began new modernisation programs in which the Mubazirun were re-fitted with the latest muskets and leather cannons, all tried and tested in the Aragonese War.
In fact, his previous experiences during the Aragonese War had also opened his eyes to the necessity of organisation amongst the ranks of the Mubazirun. Hafid thus spent the next few agonising over every detail regarding his military administration, from appointing more capable generals to ensuring that supply lines would remain intact whatever the season.
As a new year dawned, Sultan Hafid finally felt confident enough to set his plans in motion, and so the lords of the Majlis issued the highly-anticipated declaration of war.
Andalusias allies in Provence, Palermo and Tunis all answered the call without hesitation, though Italy flocked to the defense of France. Still, the odds seemed to weigh heavily against the French King, who was now surrounded by enemies in every direction.
Sultan Hafid accompanied his army in person as they pushed across the border and lay siege to Labourd, while smaller forces surrounded and besieged the Castilian castles south of the Pyrenees.
Even at the outbreak of the war, the French seemed to be stretched very thin, because Labourd fell to the Andalusi after just three months, surrendering its garrison and citadel as cannonfire blew apart its walls and towers.
Hafid then sent the army northward, laying siege to the strategically-important fortress at Cahors, though this one was significantly better-fortified and supplied. At the same time, the forces of the Provencal Republic pushed in from the east, capturing Languedoc and besieging Roussillon.
The Jizrunid Navy also saw action during the early months of the war. Neither the French or the Italians could match the sheer size and firepower of the Andalusi fleet, however, so it didnt take much to establish supremacy on the seas.
In the far west, meanwhile, word of the war finally reached the colonies. Sultan Hafid authorised the recruitment of a colonial army in the Muqta of Ibriz, one large enough to keep French forces at bay.
This didnt last much longer than a month, however, before news reached Qadis regarding the destruction of a number of small, nascent Andalusi colonies.
Apparently, the French had stationed a surprisingly large army in their colony of New France just as the war had broken out, an army that was now looting and pillaging Ibriz with impunity. The colonial forces were forced to fall back before the oncoming Frenchmen, their options now limited to opportunistic raids and ambushes.
Back in Europe, the fortress of Cahors finally capitulated to Sultan Hafid, though only after the lengthy siege had starved it of any supplies. After executing the French garrison, Hafid installed a small force of his own to hold the fort against any counter-attacks.
With the important fortress now under Andalusi occupation, the rest of southern France soon followed, with everything from Labourd to Narbonne falling to allied armies over the next few weeks. The Castilian fortresses also fell before the year was out, allowing Sultan Hafid to gather the entirety of his forces before pushing northward again.
Mere weeks after launching his second offensive, Andalusi scouts finally caught the scent of a French army. Quickly pushing towards Poitou, Sultan Hafid managed to pin down the evasive force before they could escape, forcing them into the first engagement of the war.
The following battle would not exactly be the stuff of legends, however. After scarcely surviving two engagements against the Germans, the French army was weakened and tired, with all the morale beaten out of them. Even the presence of their king could not inspire the troops, and as Andalusi cannons swiveled to begin blowing holes in their front line, any resistance dissolved and the battle turned into a rout.
To make matters for the French even worse, their king had been lost during the chaos of the battle. Sultan Hafid immediately sent out search teams upon hearing the news, hoping to capture the king and end the war. As groups of men began scouring the battlefield, Sultan Hafid delivered a fiery sermon congratulating his commanders and tacticians, but warning them against any complacency.
And his words would soon prove their merit, as the victory was quickly followed with more bad news from Gharbia.
Despite the utterly disastrous turn of events in Europe, the French were undoubtedly winning the war in the new world. With a large 20,000-strong colonial army, most of the Muqta of Ibriz had fallen to the enemy over the past few months, with the Muqti himself fleeing to Juzur Qarbiya with a small squadron of guardsmen.
To Sultan Hafid, however, these events were nothing more than a nuisance. Refusing to spare even a fraction of his continental army, the Sultan focused his efforts on wiping out any uprisings in his occupied territory, convinced that a complete victory in Europe would ensure the survival of Andalusi colonies.
A sound strategy, though it certainly risked his relationship with the colonial governors.
The French, meanwhile, had given their king up for dead, probably mangled beyond recognition somewhere on the battlefield. In his place, the French nobility (or what was left of it) elected a prince of German descent to succeed him, hoping he might help end the conflict with his countrymen.
Immediately upon being crowned, however, King Aton began instituting unexpectedly drastic reforms. With most of the nobility wiped out, the new king faced little opposition as he formally abolished the Elective Monarchy that had governed France since the days of the Capetian kings, centuries past.
He followed this up by declaring himself the absolute ruler of all France, and convinced that it was the only way to see France rise again, his vassals could only pledge their loyalty.
Aton then got down to business and invited the Celtic High King and German princes to negotiate an end to their war. He was forced to forfeit large stretches of land, but after a short few weeks as king, he managed to bring about the end of one of the wars.
King Aton then reached out to Sultan Hafid, hoping to reach a compromise that might end the second. Hafid was having none of it, however, demanding unconditional surrender or nothing at all. The Sultan did make peace with the King of Castille, however, who agreed to never again pledge vassalage to the French.
With the Celtic and German armies now withdrawing, Sultan Hafid finally lay siege to Paris, the capital of France. King Aton was long-fled, knowing full well that the citys defenses were utterly destroyed after being captured and sacked countless times over the past decade.
A wise move, as Paris did indeed fall before long, capitulating after just a hundred days. Finding the city nothing more than a pile of rubble and debris, however, Sultan Hafid refrained from sacking what was left of it.
Instead, he divided the Mubazirun into several smaller forces and sent them to occupy the rest of northern France, leaving behind a large garrison to hold Paris whilst he himself pushed south. And after two more years of siege and blockade, the many fortresses dotting Normandy and the Low Countries finally submitted, securing Andalusi control over the north.
In Gharbia, on the other hand, the Andalusi colonists and natives had coordinated the outbreak of a massive revolt, intending to throw the French back. They sent urgent requests for reinforcements to Hafid, but they'd find no such luck, as the revolt was crushed with relative ease within months.
Sultan Hafid had already given up Ibriz as a lost cause, it was too large and too distant to be of any priority. Instead, he focused his efforts on an invasion of Italy, which still stood firm against any Andalusi demands.
They did not stand so firm when the Mubazirun swept across the Po Valley in a massive offensive, however, capturing a string of towns and castles before besieging the Italian capital.
Verona, one of the richest and most populous cities in the Italian peninsula, held off the Andalusi army for almost an entire year. It was only when any hope of a relief force had been quashed that the garrison surrendered, only for Sultan Hafid to set his army loose on the city, leaving them to sack it as punishment for its lengthy resistance.
The neighbouring cities of Romagna and Ferrara surrendered soon after that, and were spared the same fate. Becoming increasingly desperate with every passing day, the Italian King attempted to undo his losses by launching a sudden counter-attack and besieging Verona with 35,000 men.
It didnt end so well, however, with the numerically and technologically-superior Mubazirun army throwing the Italians back after a heated battle, just below the walls of the capital.
Eager to take advantage of his weakened neighbour, the Grand Duke of Bavaria declared war on Italy, looking to reconquer the territories hed lost in the League War.
The Bavarian army crushed the Italians in a pitched battle just east of the Alps, wiping out what was left of their army. This encouraged both Lombardia and the Papal State, former allies of Italy, to march their own troops across the border, hoping to carve up the peninsula between them.
With enemies bearing down on him from every direction, the Italians finally surrendered to Sultan Hafid. In return for peace, they were forced to cede land to both Provence and Palermo, as well as pay a yearly war indemnity to Qadis.
With all his allies now separate-peaced from the war, a resigned King Aton also surrendered, meeting with Sultan Hafid in a small town not far from Brest. After just hours of negotiation, he too reached peace with Al Andalus, though only after making a number of humiliating concessions.
Apart form the usual war reparations, the French were forced to abandon any holdings south of the Pyrenees, establishing a new border between the two powers just north of the mountains. The fortresses of Labourd and Roussillon were also surrendered, giving the Andalusi a launching pad for potential incursions into French territory.
In addition to this, King Aton also relinquished the entirety of Sardinia, as well as ceding the strategic island of Corsica to Andalusia. Thus, in one fell swoop, Sultan Hafid managed to eliminate any French influence in the Mediterranean, essential to furthering his own eastern ambitions.
With the war finally at an end, Sultan Hafid began planning his return to Qadis. Before leaving, however, he appointed a local Christian count as Governor of Narbuna the Arabic name for southern France hoping it might ease any unrest in the region.
He didnt stop there, however, he also proclaimed that the peoples of southern France would henceforth be included as one of the Dhimmi, forced to pay the Jizya tax in return for protection. Though this pleased Andalusias Occitan allies in Provence, a good chunk of the Majlis were infuriated, claiming that Hafid had overstepped his boundaries by not seeking their approval first.
As the Sultan returned to his royal palaces in Qadis and prepared for long arguments with the Majlis, news from the rest of the world continued to make its way towards Al Andalus.
In the Levant, a new caliph had risen to rule over the Vakhtani Empire, inaugurating his reign by waging a successful war against Egypt. After forcing the Crusaders to cede southern Filastin and the Sinai peninsula, he turned westward and declared war on the Latin Empire, intent on capturing Constantinople for Islam.
Further east, Persia continued its steady decline as rebels consumed it from within whilst foreign powers harried at its borders. Its sudden fall left a gaping power vacuum in the region, with the Kurdish Vali Emirate and Khwarezmi Sultanate both determined to usurp its position.
In North Africa, meanwhile, worrying news arose from Marrakesh. After his decisive loss to Sultan Hafid, King Aton had apparently reached out to the Almoravid Sultan, renewing the old French-Moroccan alliance in opposition to Andalusia.
Indeed, the Almoravids had not been idle these past years. After waging a short colonial war against the Celtic Empire, the Moroccans had managed to conquer Havana and cement their position in the Caribbean.
The Celts, likely anxious after being thoroughly thrashed, began beefing up the size of their navy, which saw huge advancements over the next few years. In fact, a Celtic expedition had managed to complete the First Global Circumnavigation by 1628, with the voyage around the world starting and ending at Dublin.
With a large fleet turning it into a power on the seas, the Celtic Empire then moved to secured domination of the British Isles, conquering almost the entirety of England in a short war towards the end of 1629.
With no one backing his claims in Europe, the English King finally gave up his ancestral homeland and fled westward. Upon docking in the Thirteen Colonies, his governors proclaimed him the King of New England, turning the patchwork of former colonies into a power to be reckoned with.
Back in Iberia, meanwhile, Sultan Hafid delivered the traditional speech proclaiming his victory before the Majlis, heaping praise and rewards onto his commanders and troops for their conduct during the war.
As the capital settled back into its usual routines, Sultan Hafid began making good use of the war indemnities, authorising the construction of large crop plantations in Salmanika.
He also invested considerable amounts of money into reconstructing the fortresses along the French borders, especially those in Labourd and Roussillon. Hafid knew full well that the French would not take their defeat meekly, and would be pining for the return of their lost domains before long.
New tensions also erupted in the west, however, where the governor of Ibriz publicly criticised the Sultan for leaving his colonies to be torched and ransacked without aid during the war. Hafid tried to make amends by promising to fund several new settlements, but to no avail, as the rift between suzerain and colony grew wider by the day.
This in turn led to a rise of state-sponsored smuggling in the colonies, with the stream of gold from Gharbia to Andalusia quickly drying up, forcing the Majlis to expend even more money in capturing the rogue traders and smugglers.
Problems also began arising back home, as it was discovered that the Celtic Empire had funded the arming of several prominent rebel groups in northern Iberia, hoping to weaken its rival on the seas.
Back at home, however, some semblance of order began to settle in Al Andalus once again. Though the past fifteen years had seen the sultanate rocket in influence and power projection all across Europe, the threat of a revanchist France cannot be underestimated, especially as it begins to rebuild an alliance network.
This is not the end of the Andalusi-French conflict, not by a long shot.