Part 54: Year of Three SultansChapter 22 - The Year of Three Sultans - 1720 to 1728
Tariq was a simple man. Thats what he wouldve told you, thats what he told himself. All he wanted was that which all monarchs wanted: to see their kingdom cast its shadow across the rest of the world.
The preceding century had not done much to achieve that ambition, but with Tariq finally at the helm, he was determined to see it happen. The Mubazirun had been destroyed and disbanded after the ruinous conflicts of the past century, so Sultan Tariq spent the early years of his reign rebuilding the Andalusi army from the ground-up, arming them with the latest muskets and drilling them in the latest tactics, marching from Jabal Tariq to the Pyrenees with massive artillery towed behind them.
Tariq was a simple man, and to him, the sword was the most important weapon in his arsenal.
Of course, all of these men and horses and guns didnt appear from thin air. Conscription barracks had to be constructed all across Iberia to widen the manpower pool, steeds had to be bought and cavalrymen trained in screening and supporting roles, already-pricey cannons were constantly evolving into more mobile and accurate artillery.
To put it plainly, all of this cost money, and a lot of it.
And the peasantry wouldnt be able to supply it, they were already being taxed half to death. So Sultan Tariq (with the consent of the Majlis) decided to finally strip the clergy of their age-old tax-free status, massively angering the Sunni masses, who saw it as a Shia attack on their faith.
All of this paid off, however, so that by 1720, the Andalusi army was amongst the largest and most-professional standing forces in Europe. And they proved it over the course of the Andalusi-Portuguese War, where they were thrust against the Celts in countless battles, coming out on top near every time.
The battle of Lenca is a perfect example of this, fought in the hot fertile plains of Central Gharbia in the early months of 1721. The numbers were roughly equal, but the Andalusi scored a huge victory over four hours of fighting, killing and capturing almost 20,000 Celts whilst sustaining much smaller losses of their own.
Battlefield tactics wasnt the only area of warfare in which the Andalusi excelled, however. Sultan Tariq also sent a platoon of experienced military engineers, all of them tried and tested in the many continental wars, to support the expeditionary force in sieges.
And under the command of the Supreme Commander of all Andalusi forces, Mundir Aliyah, the Andalusi swept across northern Gharbia and recaptured large tracts of undefended land before laying siege to a fortress in Apalachee.
The forts in Gharbia were much smaller than those in Europe, obviously, with inferior defenses and fortifications to boot. The one in Apalachee could scarcely be called a castle, so it didnt take much to blast its walls apart, with thousands of Muslims pouring through the breach and hoisting a golden Jizrunid flag above its parapets mere hours later.
Once local fortresses were under his firm control, Aliyah led his men westward again, pushing through field and marsh with impressive speed. A small Celtic army had landed not far from Cacaxtes, but the Andalusi managed to reach them before too much damage was done, utterly annihilating their forces in a short battle.
Whilst the Andalusi were scoring victory after victory on the Gharbian mainland, however, the Celts were torching and burning valuable possessions in Juzur Qarbiya. And nothing could be done about it, not whilst the Celts dominated the seas.
So after meeting in an impromptu assembly, the Majlis-al-Shura agreed to finally bow out the war, meeting with Portuguese diplomats just days later. As expected, the negotiations were short and one-sided, with the self-proclaimed King of Portugal forced to cede almost the entirety of his nation to the sultanate.
And this war, moreso than any theyd previously fought, stood as a testament to Andalusi strength-in-arms. Facing the full weight of the Celtic Empire, the Sultanate of Al Andalus had emerged from the war as the uncontested victor, with only the sea standing between them and the unconditional surrender of the Christians.
A clause in the peace treaty included the payment of massive war reparations, which Sultan Tariq immediately funnelled into the construction of new Fortresses in Navarra and Girona, important sites of defensive terrain along the Andalusi-French border.
Speaking of the French, they were still embroiled in a devastating war against a huge European coalition, facing the likes of Bavaria and Provence without any allies of their own. With Provencal forces already wracking up the victories, it was beginning to look like this was to be a century of humiliation for the French.
Of course, that didnt stop King Dávi from pouring his much-needed money into Iberia, sowing discontent and planting the seeds of turmoil. Supplying Castilian separatists with guns and generals seemed to be a priority for him, even as the Germans were knocking down the walls of Paris.
Just across the Mediterranean, meanwhile, the Sunni (and far more zealous) Jizrunid Emirate of Palermo embarked on a war of their own. With their northern rivals in Provence distracted, the emir decided that the time had come to tear down the Papal State once and for all, and perhaps conquer the city of Rome itself.
The war was short and successful, but the emir eventually decided against taking Rome, perhaps fearful of drawing the ire of the Bavarians. Still, the holy city was plundered and looted, with much of its surrounding environs captured by the Muslims.
Back in Qadis, meanwhile, the League of Merchants were facing endless problems as they lost backing for rebuilding the navy (for what mustve been the hundredth time). Many believed that even trying to compete with the Celts was a wasted endeavour - much better to focus on the army, where the Andalusi truly shone.
A navy was an important part of being a modern nation-state, however, and it was necessary if Al Andalus was to maintain any illusion of a colonial empire. Even worse, Iberian shores were being constantly raided by pirates (undoubtedly funded by Andalusi rivals), making the presence of a defense squadron even more important.
So after successfully reaching a deal with the aristocratic Taifas in the Majlis, the Merchants managed to scrounge a few coins to invest into a reborn fleet. The new ships were constructed in the fashion of the Celtic threedecker, though it took almost five years to build just half-a-dozen.
The Andalusi would not be challenging the Celts on the seas for quite some time, that much was apparent.
All of this progress was brought to a screeching standstill in 1725, however. Despite being relatively young at 45 years of age, the Sultan fell under a near-fatal illness in the midst of a disease outbreak in the capital, forcing him to relinquish most of his responsibilities to high-ranking sheikhs and imams.
And his condition wouldnt improve, not quickly at least. The next three years would prove to be very rough on the royal family.
Sultan Tariq was quickly whisked out of the capital, transported to his summer palace in Granada for recovery instead, where he was surrounded by clean air and seas of brightly-coloured flowers.
The Sultan had never fathered any children, seeing it as a waste of his valuable time, but it meant that there was nobody he could fully trust now. Thus, whilst he was being treated by his physicians, Tariq began to develop an affinity for reading - something that, as a warrior-sultan, hed always scorned. Why read when there were thousands who could read for you, after all?
This affinity developed into a passion, and the passion into an obsession. The Sultan began inviting all manner of celebrated writers, artists, scientists and inventors to his lonely court in Granada, filling the silence around him with heart-wrenching poetry, gasps of awe and reverential applause.
Before long, this court in Granada became famous for its colourful prodigies and deep-pocketed patrons, and Tariq himself became renowned for his generous patronage of the arts. Not something anyone would have predicted, back when he was first crowned Sultan.
Whilst culture and art thrived in Andalusia, the ruinous decade-long war between France and the eastern coalition finally came to an end, and in surprising victory for the former.
Apparently, despite a number of early defeats, the French had developed novel tactics that managed to turn the tide of the war in their favour. The last two years had seen a series of crushing French victories stretching from Paris to Ulm, before they too were defeated and thrown back into France proper.
The war thus closed with only minor concessions, bringing an inconclusive end to a conflict that had claimed hundreds of thousands.
But the French would have no rest. Less than a month of peace passed before Irish diplomats arrived in Paris, quickly followed by the sinking of the French fleet and an assault on Normandy. And with that, another Celtic-French War begins.
As turmoil erupted into war to the north of Iberia, conflict also brew towards the south. Early in 1726, word reached Qadis of another Moroccan war, with the Almoravid Sultan determined to expand his already-considerable Indian empire through blood and conquest.
The Berbers had invested considerable resources into building a huge colonial empire, one on which the sun never set, but that didnt mean they ignored regional politics.
Whilst the Andalusi had been busy fighting the Celts, the Almoravids had carried out a series of raids on Cagliari, raids which quickly escalated into full-blown war. This war could only end in one way, however, and the prince of Sardinia was forced to kneel and swear vassalage to the Almoravid Sultan.
War was seemingly flaring up all across the world, because this was immediately followed by a Provencal declaration against the Papal States - now limited to the city of Rome. The fall of the kingdom of God on Earth had been steep and sudden, and with this, its end was surely in sight.
And that was exactly what happened. The Pope was guaranteed his safety and position in Rome so long as he surrendered peacefully, but for all intents and purposes, the Papal States were at an end. The Italians at large had suffered defeat after defeat over the past three centuries, and with the Pope himself now humbled, it didnt look like it would change anytime soon.
Once upon a time, Sultan Tariq would have pounced upon such a wide array of opportunities. With everyone from the Celts to France to Morocco distracted, he would have demanded that the Majlis declare war, whatever the consequences.
Now standing at deaths door, however, he wasnt the man he once was. His illness (some claimed it was a cancer) was slowly eating him from the inside out, and Tariq could only find joy in reading the works of philosophers and scholars.
Unsurprisingly, intellectuals of every trade and craft now flocked to Granada, which had earned a reputation for being a haven for free thinkers. Scientists and statesmen, mathematicians and reformers, innovators and architects, writers and painters, they all swarmed towards the court of Sultan Tariq II from every corner of the world.
And it was this, though few could have guessed it at the time, that laid the foundation for something of a scientific revolution in Al Andalus. Thousands of thinkers working and competing against one another for the Sultans favour led to rapid developments in everything from physics to astronomy, biology to chemistry, philosophy to industry.
This was surely the beginnings of the Enlightenment, and where best for it to be spearheaded than Al Andalus, a nation only just recovering from a century of hardship.
In the midst of all this, however, tragedy struck. Sultan Tariq - just the second monarch of the Tariqi Jizrunids - died in his sleep early in 1727, claimed by disease. With no sons to carry his name, he was succeeded by his brother, and immediate preparations were made to crown Sultan Ibrahim I.
Fortunately, Ibrahim had several sons of his own, with his eldest Galind officially proclaimed his heir shortly afterwards.
Intellectuals and scholars all hoped that the new sultan would continue the advancements Tariq had made in his last years, but Ibrahims reign would be short and sorrowful, to the misfortune of all. Mere weeks after the death of Sultan Tariq, the young heir to the sultanate was swept with a terrifying illness.
Constantly sweating and yet cold to the touch, Galind was surrounded by the very best physicians Al Andalus had to offer over the next few hours, all clamouring to try and save the child. When night ended and the sun rose, however, it heralded the death of the heir.
This broke Ibrahim, in both spirit and mind. The new Sultan was said to have been struck by madness, immediately ordering the execution of the physicians, whod all failed to save his brother and son between them. The sorrow didnt end there, however, because Ibrahim himself was found dead a few days afterward - with the cause of death conspicuously unannounced, though rumours were abound within minutes.
With that, three of the most important figures in Al Andalus were all dead within a year of each other. This cast doubt over the future of Al Andalus - would the scientific revolution be allowed to grow? Would the tensions between Sunni and Shia finally bubble into violence? Would these deaths plunge the Jizrunids into another civil war?
And with a mere babe sitting on the throne, these questions fall to the Majlis al-Shura for answers.
Morocco and Gondwana have very similar colours, so I used my artistic skills to drawn a line where the border is (I think). Ill change their colour before the next update.