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by Hashim

Part 85: Masters of Europe

Chapter 5 - Masters of Europe - 1850 to 1855

For over fifteen years, the world had enjoyed relative peace and tranquility, with the Great Powers determinedly avoiding any large-scale conflicts after the destruction and devastation wrought by the Tirruni Wars. Fifteen years is a long time, however - long enough for those horrifying memories to fade, long enough for sincere vows to crack, long enough for the Congress to be forgotten. And now, as the first morning of 1850 dawns, Europe explodes into war once again.

The Great Powers were left devastated by the Tirruni Wars, but fifteen years was more than enough time to rebuild, with population numbers climbing again, new industries being constructed and vast armies being raised.

Even Morocco, who had been in almost-constant war for the past three decades, were able to ferry 100,000 soldiers across the Straits of Gibraltar and Gulf of Almeria, before storming the beaches of al-Andalus and besieging coastal cities and fortresses.

Al Andalus was in a difficult position, needless to say. The moderates had invested very little in modernising their army, were badly outnumbered by the Moroccans, and were left leaderless by the death of their best commanders and generals.

Something had to be done, however, and Grand Vizier Uthman quickly leapt into action. He appointed Ibn Bibil and Ka’baald al-Shujae as new field marshals of Al Andalus - both had been junior commanders during the Tirruni Wars, and that experience would serve them well now - and began to recruit several new artillery regiments to fill out empty ranks in the army.

The Almoravids were apparently looking to knock Al Andalus out of the war early, because they beelined straight for the capital, besieging Qadis with 30,000 Berbers. The offensive was well-planned and decisive, but Qadis had never fallen to an enemy invader before, and the Andalusi weren’t going to do nothing whilst the Berbers captured and sacked their capital.

Working in tandem with Ka’baald al-Shujae, Ibn Bibil hit the Berber army from two different directions, forcing them to divide their forces and deal with each army separately.

It quickly became obvious that the enemy was badly-armed and under-supplied, however. In fact, the Berber army consisted entirely of infantrymen, all 30,000 of them. Ibn Bibil quickly took advantage of this, manoeuvring his artillery into positions to bombard the enemy army, with devastating consequences.

And when the sun set on the city of Qadis, a crushing victory was proclaimed by Ibn Bibil, with the entirety of the enemy army killed or captured with negligible Andalusi losses.

This was a fantastic start to the war, obviously. Buoyed by his decisive victory, Ibn Bibil quickly marched his forces northward, attacking another Berber army below the walls of Jayyan.

This battle didn’t end nearly as well as the last, however, as the initial Andalusi attack was repelled with immense losses. Ibn Bibil was eventually able to overwhelm the enemy through pure numbers, but the Moroccans conducted an orderly retreat into friendly territory, leaving behind a battlefield that was littered with 20,000 Andalusi casualties.

Further north, meanwhile, the war was going well for the Dual Monarchy. A combined French-Provencal offensive into Qattalun had resulted in the capture of Narbuna, Barshaluna and Tarrakuna, all of which were major trade and population centres.

It was in the Rhineland, however, where the war would truly be won. Initial battles ended in favour of the French, and after winning a crushing victory just outside Brunswick, French armies were able to advance on Hanover itself, capturing the capital after a short siege.

And ordinarily, that would’ve been the end of the war, but the Germans had one last card up their sleeve - the Russians.

The Russian Empire, much like the Dual Monarchy, saw itself as the sole master of Europe, and they weren’t willing to sit back and do nothing as the French steamrolled the continent in six months. So they honoured their alliance with Hannover and dispatched tens of thousands of troops westward.

Back in Al Andalus, the Moderate government had quick switched their research focus to army technology with the outbreak of war, and were rewarded with rapid developments in rifle equipment. The Grand Vizier also authorised the creation of the ‘Engineer Corps’, consisting of infantrymen specially-trained in combat engineering, bridge construction, railroad maintenance and so on.

And with these developments, Field Marshal Ibn Bibil could begin to take a more offensive stance again, attacking and defeating smaller Berber army besieging the fortress at Jabal Tariq.

With another victory on his belt, Ibn Bibil pushed northward and pinned down another army at Ishbiliya, routing 16,000 Berber soldiers in another stunning success.

Four battles and four decisive victories had transformed Ibn Bibil into a national icon, with his name making the rounds in high society. The commander was recalled to the capital shortly afterwards, where he was presented with a medal for valour by Sultan Utbah, who was keeping a close eye on the war effort.

Whilst he was enjoying his newfound fame in Qadis, Ibn Bibil left his young deputy in command of his army, with Rahina al-Dakn marching northwards when Tulaytullah was besieged by another Berber army, forcing them to abandon their siege and retreat to the coast.

In Germany, meanwhile, the war situation had plummeted from bad to disastrous in the space of a year. French armies had seized vast swathes of territory in northern Hannover, and even with the arrival of Russian troops on the front, it had proven near-impossible to dislodge them from their captured fortresses and cities.

Hannover’s marshals thus switched their priorities, launching an offensive towards the French capital via Liege, though they were met with fierce resistance in the Archbishopric. The Russians, on the other hand, were massing their armies at Eastphalia in preparation for another determined offensive against French positions. The war was becoming increasingly untenable, however, as many began to wonder just how much the Russians were willing to sacrifice for their German allies.

And in Iberia, the forces of the Dual Monarchy and Provence were able to bring the entirety of Qattalun to heel, with their occupied territories treated very harshly by the invaders. The Emir holed himself up in Saraqusta, where he finally agreed to meet with French diplomats, and begin negotiating the terms for peace.

Provence clamoured for territorial concessions, but French diplomats weren’t eager to empower their neighbour, and decided to release the city of Narbuna as an independent entity instead. The city had been built and populated by Sahim Tirruni himself, and the French evidently hoped that the liberals within their own domains would be pacified by its release as a sovereign democracy.

In León-Castille, meanwhile, the terms were a bit more forgiving. The kingdom could offer little resistance as French armies captured Burghus, the historic capital of the region, before pushing on to León itself.

King Frederick - brother to King August-Wilhelm of Hannover - had little choice but to exit the war after that, agreeing to a white peace with the Dual Monarchy, Provence and Al Andalus.

The Andalusi weren’t very happy about these peace conferences, specifically because they had not been allowed to attend them, despite the fact that they had legitimate claims to both León-Castille and Qattalun.

They could do little but protest just then, however, with their attention still occupied by the Berbers. Another Moroccan offensive was brought to a standstill at Jayyan, where the two bitter enemies clashed in a heated battle, with the numerically-superior Andalusi emerging victorious once more.

The next six weeks were spent in siege, with Ibn Bibil marching on Marriya and Qartayannat, capturing the Berber exclaves after two short and bloody assaults.

With the Berbers now expelled from Iberia, Grand Vizier Uthman and his marshals began planning for an attack on African coasts. Before these plans could materialise, however, important news arrived from Qattalun...

A coup had been launched in Barshaluna, where the ruling emir was overthrown by a small contingent of officers and soldiers, masterminded by a man who’d been biding his time for decades: Hafid Tirruni. As the only living son of Sahim Tirruni, Hafid had been planning to seize power and restore the Tirruni dynasty since his father had committed suicide, and the disastrous defeat and occupation of the country by French forces had created the perfect environment to see it done.

Hafid was no fool, however, and he knew that the Berbers would retaliate before long. So he quickly dispatched emissaries to Qadis, requesting urgent military and monetary assistance from Al Andalus, and offering to discuss the possibility of unification in return. The moderate government (as always) were firmly against intervention, but the country was already at war with Morocco, so there was little sense in refusing Hafid - and who knew, maybe this would bear unexpected fruit, and Qattalun would be willingly absorbed into Al Andalus?

An alliance between Al Andalus and Qattalun was thus established, and once the details were hammered out, Hafid Tirruni delivered a historic speech to the amassed people of Barshaluna. Demonstrating a unique passion with his words, he denounced the Almoravids as slavers and murderers, he vowed to avenge his fallen father, and above all, he promised to restore Qattalun to the pinnacle of the world. And just like that, the Qattaluni were roused into a fury, uniting behind their fiery new leader.

The Almoravids reacted as one might expect - by declaring war on Qattalun, and vowing to see Tirunni’s head decorating a spike outside Marrakesh.

This declaration of war meant that Morocco was now at war with Al Andalus, Qattalun, Provence, Lorraine and the Dual Monarchy, without any allies to back them up. It didn’t matter how many Berbers or Indians they shipping into Europe now, their odds of somehow emerging victorious this time were non-existent, making it the perfect opportunity for Al Andalus to gain ground on their hated rivals.

And through the efforts of Ibn Bibil, the military had been restructured and reorganised over the past two years, with the marshal determined to (at least partially) modernise the army’s tactics and equipment. With strong support from the Royalists, he helped established a war ministry, he overhauled the curriculums at military academies, he opened up the officer corps to the middle class, he promoted closer communication between armies via railroad, and even authored several pamphlets for common tactics used in modern warfare.

And with that, it was time to take the fight to the enemy. The French and Berbers had already clashed several times on the high seas, and with the Almoravid Navy remarkably losing several decisive battles, the Straits of Gibraltar were left undefended.

Ibn Bibil was thus able to quickly make the crossing into Africa, with almost 70,000 Andalusi soldiers landing at Tangier and Ceuta late in the winter of 1851.

That, unfortunately, was as far as they ever got.

The Dual Monarchy had concluded a white peace with Morocco, without even consulting the Andalusi.

Unsurprisingly, the Majlis erupted into chaos upon hearing the news, with the feverish nobles hurling several choice insults at the French diplomats who’d brought the peace treaty to be signed. This white peace meant that Al Andalus was forced into a truce for five years, making it impossible for them to war with Morocco, and dooming any hopes of the Tirruni Restoration somehow surviving.

Sultan Utbah, bowing to public pressure, sent his brother as a diplomat to take up their qualms with the French. In a grievous insult to the royal family, however, the French-English parliament refused to even meet with the emissary, repeatedly snubbing him or having him meet with nobody’s.

In retrospect, it’s easy to see why the French were unwilling to continue their war with Morocco, despite Andalusia’s ambitions. The war in the east had taken an unpleasant twist, with French forces forced to hastily retreat before a stunning Russian offensive, suffering horrendous casualties as 40,000 Frenchmen were somehow surrounded in Hanover.

And their troubles were compounded when the Celtic Union declared war later that year, with the High King announcing that the time had come to "reunite all Celts" under a single flag.

As far as the Andalusi were concerned, however, their war had come to an end. Despite their lack of territorial concessions, the war had yielded plenty of benefits for the Andalusi, as it had galvanised the nation behind the government and Sultan in a way that hadn’t been possible since the Tirruni Wars. They had also gone toe-to-toe with the Moroccans, and emerged triumphant, instilling a sense of pride and patriotism in the general population.

Even better, very little of Andalusia had actually been captured by the Berbers, which meant that the moderates were able to continue their industrial and economic programs without break. New steam locomotives had finished construction early in 1853, quickly replacing the older trains along the Qadis-Ishbiliya and Tulaytullah-Majrit lines, whilst the railways themselves were upgraded to double-track.

And by the end of the moderate’s term, stretches of railway between all the most important cities of Al Andalus were well into development, culminating in the completion of the grand Qadis-Tulaytullah Railway in 1855 - also called the ‘Two Capitals Railroad’. Linking two of the largest, richest and most historic cities in Iberia, this 400-mile track allowed for the transport of passengers and freight at record times, not to mention the mobilisation and deployment of the general population during wartime.

Autumn of 1853 was hot and sweltering, but fireworks erupted above Qadis all the same, with the Zulfiqar family welcoming a new member into its ranks, and young Khuzaymah is declared the heir to the Sultanate of Al Andalus.

The public’s attention is quickly ripped away from dynastic intrigues, however, and across the Mediterranean. The Springtime of Nations hit Palermo especially hard, with Napoli declaring independence in the north, and liberal revolts devastating much of the south. The Jizrunid Emir adamantly refused to make any concessions, and what began as a small uprising quickly escalated into a revolution, with thousands of liberal demonstrators picking up guns and taking the fight to the royal palaces.

A long night of murder and butchery followed, with the surviving Jizrunids eventually forced to flee the violence, escaping their capital and fleeing south to Almoravid Morocco. A democracy was declared in their place, bringing almost 500 years of uncontested Jizrunid rule in the island to a bloody, undeserving end.

Of course, that didn’t have to be the case. Royalists in the Majlis immediately brought up the question of dispatching an expedition to Palermo, where they would install a puppet monarchy. They had no allies, after all, and its democratic government would make it an enemy of its neighbours. This, needless to say, was the perfect opportunity to gain a foothold in Italy…

The moderates weren’t interested in starting more wars, however, and shot down any suggestions of seizing Palermo.

Palermo wasn’t the only nation left devastated by the Springtime of Nations, either. All across Europe, kings were forced to adopt constitutions, liberal ideals were entered into law, and peoples revolted to form nation-states of their own.

The war in Britain, meanwhile, was going very well for the Celts. The Celtic-French border was left practically undefended by the Dual Monarchy, allowing the Irish to quickly seize Manchester and Liverpool, before pushing south and capturing vast tracts of land in Wales and England.

On the continental front, meanwhile, the war situation had undergone a complete reversal. French counterattacks all ended in dead ends, with the Russians able to gradually push them west and into France, liberating almost all of Germany whilst launching concurrent invasions into Liege and the Rhine Confederacy. If they kept this up, a Russian victory was all but certain.

Unfortunately for the Russians, however, they couldn’t sustain their offensives for much longer. The Russian Army had already spent over two years on campaign, and with the Springtime of Nations still sweeping across Europe, they combined to incite the outbreak of countless liberal and nationalist revolts in the western territories of the Empire.

French and Russian diplomats thus agreed to meet at a peace conference a few months into 1853, with terms were quickly agreed upon. Hannover would formally recognise the territorial sovereignty of the Dual Monarchy, with Russia as spectators, and in return the French would withdraw from the Rhine Confederacy.

Three years of war. 750,000 casualties. And those were the terms for peace.

For the French, at least, the resource-rich lands of England would make it an easy price to pay. Now that they’d won the war for their right to England, they had to actually retake it, with the Celts having brought the entirety of Britain under occupation.

Shifting their resources to the war in the north, the French ferried several large armies across the Channel, landing at Canterbury and taking the fight to the Celts.

Already hardened by years of warfare, the French army quickly proved to be the superior force on land, forcing the Celts to retreat northward after the victorious battle of Oxford. Not giving the enemy any time to rally or recuperate, the French was in quick pursuit, scoring two more victories at Birmingham and Manchester.

Back in Iberia, meanwhile, war was still raging in Qattalun. Using Andalusi funds, Hafid Tirruni was able to raise an impressive army of 20,000 well-drilled volunteers, who first tasted battle when Hafid attacked a 12,000-strong Berber expeditionary force at Balansiyyah.

Tirruni was victorious, but he scarcely had the time to celebrate before another army landed, this time at Garundah. He rushed north to engage them, only for another Berber force to arrive further downcoast, quickly marching west and besieging Barshaluna. The Almoravids were determined to crush this revolution quickly, it would seem, and avoid an escalation at any costs.

Hafid managed to win the battle of Garundah, but after pushing south and attacking the numerically-superior Berber force, his prospects of seizing a third victory were dubious.

Andalusi politicians in Qadis waited eagerly for news, desperate to help Tirruni in his struggle, but powerless to do anything thanks to French machinations. And when news finally arrived a few weeks later, it wasn’t very pleasant…

The Berbers won a crushing victory at the battle of Barshaluna, and in a striking parallel to the last days of his father, Hafid Tirruni retreated to the city for a last stand. His immediate family were quickly secreted away, but Hafid refused to abandon the city, and fought until he was shot off his feet and forced into chains.

And the Almoravids would not make the same mistake they’d made with Sahim. Acting on orders from Sultan Yahya himself, Berber officers executed Hafid Tirruni by firing squad then and there, quickly burying his body so that no one would ever know of his end.

With that, the brief and bloody Tirruni Restoration comes to an unfortunate end. If it had arisen at a better time, the Andalusi might’ve changed its outcome for the better, but that doesn’t mean there was nothing that could be done now.

Sultan Utbah, cutting a sympathetic figure, invited the exiled family of Hafid Tirruni to reside in Qadis. They would be safe from the far-reaching fingers of Sultan Yahya there, and the politicians of the Majlis were quick to agree, perhaps seeing the benefit in having Tirruni’s grandson and heir under their control.

In the north, meanwhile, the French had managed to gradually recapture their lost territories and domains with relative ease.

And once the remaining Celtic armies were surrounded and crushed, there was nothing stopping the French from pushing northward, seizing dozens of cities and towns as they marched on Edinburgh.

Before long, the entirety of Britain was under French control, and the Celtic Union were forced to the negotiating tables, with the Dual Monarchy demanding that all fortresses along the Celtic-French border be dismantled.

As the wars in Europe finally come to an end, however, conflicts have been raging and blood has been shed all across the world. In the Near East, an Ethiopian-Arabian alliance had declared war on Crusader Egypt, with the former intending to seize Eritrea and the latter Jerusalem.

The Egyptians managed to turn the tables on the invaders, however, crushing the Ethiopian armies and storming the Hejaz. The allied powers were firmly on the backfoot from that point onward, eventually forced to concede defeat and surrender key fortresses to the Egyptians (and their Outremer allies).

In the Far East, meanwhile, war had broken out between the Japanese Republic and Mongol Empire. The Mongols had already suffered a string of losses to the southern Chinese powers, making it no hard task for the Japanese to overwhelm them, quickly seizing the strategic territories of Inner Manchuria and Buryatia.

In Gharbia, wars had broken out in the north and south, with the fast-rising powers of New England and the Berber Union both keen to make their voices heard. New England launched another invasion of Neimni Sund, looking to make the Mississippi their new border, whilst the Berbers were eager to cement their place as the uncontested power of their continent.

Back in Europe, meanwhile, the war-weary powers now have a few years of peace to rebuild their countries and find new allies. The Dual Monarchy’s prospects are looking especially bright, as they enter a new era in their history, one where their vast population, unmatched industries and immense prestige can potentially transform them into the undisputed master of the continent.

And unless their primary rivals can recover, those ambitions may well become reality. The Russian Campaigns had been very successful, but whilst Russians were fighting and dying in the Rhineland, liberal revolutionaries had seized power in Smolensk. After a string of protests had turned increasingly violent, Tsarina Dobroslava was finally forced to make concessions to the liberals, breaking her alliance with Hannover and instructing her cabinet to draw up a constitution.

In Hannover, the disastrous defeat during the war had turned the burdened population against the monarchy, with mass uprisings becoming a common occurrence. Similar to Russia, King August-Wilhelm was forced to make liberal concessions, implementing several political and social reforms.

For Hannover, however, that would not be the worst of it.

Whilst northern Germany suffered under foreign occupation, Bavaria was able to rise into the ranks of the Great Powers once again, with the peace in southern Germany inspiring a flowering of the arts and culture in München. For these few years, Bavaria was the undisputed dominating power in Germany, enjoying a period of supremacy not seen since the days of the Bavarian Republic. The Archduke knew that it couldn’t last, however, with the ambitious Hanoverians always recovering and re-asserting their position.

So over the course of the past five years, the Archduke carefully and meticulously promoted the idea of friendship amongst the southern German states. New embassies were established, military alliances were forged, trade unions were set up and railroad companies were granted permits - slowly but surely, Swabia and Austria were brought into the Bavarian sphere of influence.

And once Bavarian influence had solidified, these ideas of friendship transformed into notions of unification, with the Archduke warning his neighbours that the King of Hannover was already planning for a forced unification of Germany. His proposal for a peaceful unification was the only way to avoid Hanoverian aggression, and after years of negotiation and debate, both Swabia and Austria finally agreed.

In March of 1855, the South German Union was proclaimed, the first step towards the unification of all Germans.

There can be no doubt about it anymore: this was a vastly different Europe from just fifteen years ago, with the great powers unshackled from the Congress of Cádiz and openly aspiring for continental domination. The road to becoming the Masters of Europe is long and paved with corpses, however, and we can only wonder what price will be paid by the eventual victors.

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