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Al Andalus Paradox Mega-LP

by Hashim

Part 91: The Iron Vizier

Sorry for another long update, but shit keeps going down

Chapter 11 - The Iron Vizier - 1876 to 1880

As the nineteenth century begins to wane, a wave of social unrest surges across Europe, with tens of thousands of frustrated workers taking up arms and marching on government offices.

And Al Andalus was no different, as tensions finally exploded into open rebellion in the dying days of 1875, when almost 200,000 workers and labourers rose up in Portugal and León-Castille, determined to overthrow their oppressors and establish a socialist “commune of the north”.

Sultan Utbah had been anticipating another insurrection, however, and retaliated quickly and decisively, dispatching the Andalusi Army to quell the uprisings. Socialism would not be allowed to grow in Al Andalus, not as long as a Sultan ruled in Qadis.

The Majlis al-Shura, meanwhile, had just met to appoint a new faction to power. Both the Royalists and Moderates campaigned relentlessly, but it was the Imperialists who retained their dominance in the assembly, with the liberals vowing to raise a navy that would finally challenge for dominance at the seas.

And with that, a new Grand Vizier also rose to power: Shukri al-Ghazzawi, a minor sheikh who’d served in the admiralty for several years before taking up his seat in the Majlis, quickly earning renown for his tactful diplomacy and decisive action.

Shukri’s tenure began with the opening of several naval bases in western Iberia. An important development, if Al Andalus was ever going to rival the Almoravid Navy on the high seas.

And these new harbours and shipyards were quickly put to good use, with Grand Vizier Shukri forcing an expansionary bill through the Majlis, allowing him to begin construction of six ironclads and monitors, along with thirty man-o’-wars and frigates, almost doubling the strength of the Andalusi Navy in one fell swoop.

To the east, meanwhile, war also broke out between Russia and Novgorod-Scandinavia. After succumbing to revolutionaries in 1860, the new liberal government had initiated an expensive rearmament policy, determinedly rebuilding their army and navy, expanding their officer corps and instituting new training regimes in an effort to match the armies of the west.

And now, at long last, they were prepared to go on the offensive. July of 1876 saw war declared on Novgorod-Scandinavia, now increasingly referred to as simply Scandinavia, with the loss of their once-vast Russian territories to the Smolenskian regime.

Pushing past the autumn storms of the Atlantic, war had been raging between Ibriz and Morocco for the past year, dominated by a struggle for the Caribbean. This war would bear witness to the first clash of ironclads, with dozens of wooden warships sunk in massive engagements as the Revolutionary Fleet battled with the Almoravid Navy.

And it was the Berbers who eventually emerged triumphant, sinking the two ironclads the Ibrizi had purchased from European powers, with this victory quickly followed by the brutal suppression of the Taghziri Uprising. The governments of Morocco and Ibriz agreed to begin peace talks within the month, eventually agreeing to a return to the status quo.

The Ibrizi didn’t wallow in their defeat for long, however. Just half a year later, war was declared on Neimni Sund, with tens of thousands of revolutionaries swarming across the Mississippi and into enemy territory. And on the Atlantic Coast, the Butler Queen didn’t sit idle whilst her rivals expanded with impunity - just two months later, the Kingdom of New England also declared war, with Neimni Sund now suffering invasions from two different directions.

Back in Iberia, on the other hand, Sultan Utbah had launched an ambitious, expensive endeavour in the Reconstruction of Qadis.

Hoping to quicken the city’s recovery after the sacking, and determined to transform his capital into the economic and cultural hegemon of the world, Utbah secured support for a series of enormous public projects over the course of several years, with millions of dinars to be invested into the expansion and renovation of Qadis.

Of course, Utbah would face growing opposition as his financiers floundered and his debts mounted, principally in the form of Grand Vizier Shukri. The exuberant costs spent on the overhaul of the capital’s sewers and sanitation were especially criticised, with the Grand Vizier insisting that the money would be better invested into the immediate needs of Al Andalus - including the expansion of the navy, the modernisation of the infrastructure, the construction of border fortresses and countless other necessities. Utbah retaliated by threatening to dismiss Shukri, despite it being in clear violation of his royal prerogative.

As the rivalry between the two men quickly began to grow, the Imperialists continued their relentless pursuit for colonies by raising a new army in 1877.

Numbering another 30,000 soldiers, these green troops were transported to Angola early in the year, where they reinforced the existing colonial army under Balanabus Min-al-Bita. Once his new forces were consolidated, Balanabus wasted no time in going on the offensive once again, declaring wars on Kongo and Kilwa.

March saw the attentions of the Majlis dart to the north, however, where Andalusi patriots in Urghul had rebelled. The ruling emir immediately crushed the uprising, claiming it had been instigated by spies from Qadis, who’d promised arms and supplies to the prospective rebels.

Shukri immediately denied these allegations, but they had already inflamed public opinion, with thousands of commoners taking to the streets in protest. This outrage quickly spread to the Majlis Assembly, where the Royalists began calling for war, denouncing the emir’s uncalled violence and unnecessary force.

The Grand Vizier was initially against an unplanned war, but he saw this as an opportunity, and declared war on Qattalun in the summer of 1877. Two armies quickly followed the declaration with an invasion, as 60,000 hardened Andalusi veterans poured across the border and marched on Barshaluna.

The great powers condemned the invasion, but did not intervene, effectively recognising Andalusia’s claims to Iberia. Leaving the war to his marshals and generals, the Grand Vizier turned his attentions back to internal matters. Now that he had the full backing of his party, Shukri began making overtures to the Moderates, hoping to draw them into a broad coalition in the Majlis.

And after promising increased funding for their cultural programs, the moderates agreed to support Shukri’s domestic policy. This new capital was quickly funnelled into the ongoing archaeological expeditions in Egypt, with the moderates loudly publicising the many discoveries and innovations made in recent years, captivating the Andalusi public with tales of cursed sarcophagi and mummified pharaohs.

In fact, a stunning breakthrough would be made late in 1877, when an obscure Andalusi explorer by the name of Murad al-Din navigated the Nile River to its impassable cataracts of Upper Sudan. From there, Murad made the perilous overland journey to the northern shore of a vast lake, where his circumnavigation confirmed it as the source of the surging White Nile.

The explorer would return to Al Andalus four months later, and there he found a hero’s welcome waiting for him, with his exploits having already been published in newspapers all across the country. Murad’s fame reached new heights when he met with Sultan Utbah himself, with the pioneer using the opportunity to reveal the name of his newly-discovered lake: Bahira al-Zulfiqari, Lake Zulfiqar.

Grand Vizier Shukri cared little for these discoveries, but they had finally allowed him to solidify an unprecedented coalition between the Imperialists, Royalists and Moderates - fragile and tenuous, without a doubt, but incredibly powerful. His domineering and politick reputation had been well-earned, with the Andalusi Times even branding him the “Iron Vizier”, a nickname that quickly stuck.

The only party Shukri wasn’t willing to work with, predictably, was the Socialists. Denouncing them as ‘red republicans’, he was worried by their dangerous ambitions and growing popularity, and became determined to weaken their hold on the poor strata.

The Grand Vizier also had the Sultan to contend with, however, as Utbah began acting against his interests. In August of 1878, the Sultan began efforts to expand the SGA in strength and scope, certain that radical movements had been gaining strength in recent years.

Instead, he retaliated by forging closer bonds with Utbah’s son and heir: Khuzaymah.

December of 1878 was dominated by one event: the gala of the heir, as Khuzaymah was formally presented to the court, government and populace of Al Andalus. In an extravagant fete that stretched across three days, the brash amir met with countless viziers and politicians, including several prominent emirs, the Supreme Field Marshal, the Grand Admiral, and - most importantly - the Grand Vizier himself, who took the opportunity to invite Khuzaymah to take up greater roles in the government.

And that he did, with Khuzaymah serving as a privileged ambassador to the other great powers, attending various royal presentations and coronation ceremonies in Palermo, Bavaria and Russia over the next few months.

Across the Mediterranean, meanwhile, news of Andalusi discoveries had quickly spread throughout Egypt. King Apanoub was old and failing, but he was as ambitious as ever, and finally set his sights on creating an "empire of the Nile" before his death.

His first goal was to secure the source of the Blue Nile, which flowed from Lake T’ana, the largest reservoir in the Ethiopian Empire. Wasting no time, King Apanoub promptly declared war on Ethiopia, dispatching hundreds of thousands of soldiers to seize to key waterway.

In West Africa, Benin was similarly eager to assert its dominance in the region, with Oba Eweka determined to live up to his new title - King of West Africa. War was thus declared on Kanem Bornu, and despite loud protestations and objections, the Almoravid Sultan didn’t intervene this time.

The war in North Gharbia came to a swift end, with Neimni Sund quickly capitulating to the invaders, surrendering vast stretches of land to Ibriz and New England. They were left with a stretch of territory around Lake Qust, quickly forgotten whilst Ibrizi and English armies were deployed along their border, staging demonstrations and military exercises.

Back in Europe, meanwhile, Russia stormed to victory in a short war against Scandinavia late in 1878.

Now that the Scandinavians had been expelled from Russia, the Smolenskian government was determined to end any other pretenders, quickly turning their attentions to the Siberian Tsardom. The ruling oligarchs were offered a simple choice: join the Russian Empire willingly, or join the Russian Empire through war.

And the Siberians, it would seem, weren’t up for a fight. They quickly surrendered to Smolensk, finally cementing it as the capital of the Empire of All-Russia, which now swept from Posen in the west to Tannu Tuva in the east.

In Iberia, meanwhile, Andalusi artillery had just breached the walls of Barshaluna. And with thousands of soldiers pouring into the city over the next few hours, the Emir was finally forced to abandon his sinking ship, fleeing south to exile in Marrakesh.

The emir refused to surrender his claims, but with that, Al Andalus had finally reunited the entirety of Iberia - with the exception of Narbuna and Qartayannat, which were quickly reinforced with French and Berber troops.

Just then, however, it didn’t matter. Sultan Utbah would give his last public speech in March of 1879, addressing the thronging crowds that had gathered beneath the pavilions of his royal palace, in which he congratulated his government, praised his army, and saluted all those who’d been martyred since the Great Collapse of 1765. A century had passed since then, with revolution and reaction clashing all across the world, with devastating battles fought across the width of the Mediterranean, with millions losing their lives and livelihoods to war and disease - a century had passed, and all that suffering was finally vindicated.

The very next morning, the Crowned Pomegranate flag was raised in every city in Al Andalus, fluttering proudly above the highest minarets and towers of Qadis, Qurtubah, Lishbuna, Tulaytullah, Balansiyyah, Burghus, Saraqusta and Barshaluna.

The reunification of Iberia was immensely popular with the masses, of course, and the Sultan acted quickly to capitalise on the surge of public support. With strong support from the royalists, he granted the Emirate of Qattalun to Idris Tirruni - the grandson and heir to Emperor Sahim Tirruni.

Idris and his immediate family had been invited to Qadis in 1854, after his father was captured and executed in the failed Tirruni Restoration. He grew very close to the royal family in the years that followed, quickly befriending the sons and nephews of Sultan Utbah, who even married one of his daughters to Idris that past year. Grand Vizier Shukri was thus opposed to his appointment to Qattalun, fearing that it would only strengthen the Sultan’s hand, but he quickly lost support after the outbreak of separatist revolts in Barshaluna and Saraqusta.

Qattalun had always been a volatile region, with a determinedly liberal, revolutionary population - but they were Tirrunists through and through. By Eid of 1879, to the cheering and celebration of thousands, Idris Tirruni was confirmed as the Emir of Qattalun.

And the youngster immediately leapt to work, determined to halt the steep decline of his inheritance. His first priority was to modernise the infrastructure and economy of Qattalun, with Idris securing funds for the construction of hundreds of miles worth of railway track, quickly followed by the establishment of new factories and mines throughout the emirate.

Another glorious day arrived in the waning hours of of 1879, Andalusia’s first ironclad was launched from the harbours of Qadis, steam-propelled and sheathed in iron. Grand Vizier Shukri was present at the ceremony, and in a clear jab at the Berbers, he christened the new warship “Tha’ar Qadis” - the Revenge of Qadis.

To the east, meanwhile, the Egyptian campaign along the Blue Nile culminated in the sacking of Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian emperor was captured in the midst of the carnage and chaos, quickly secreted out of his capital by Egyptian troops, before being transported to meet with King Apanoub at Khartoum.

There, he finally capitulated to his hated rival, ceding the environs of Lake T’ana to Crusader Egypt, along with Gibe and Awasa - thus surrendering the passageway to Lake Zulfiqar, along the White Nile.

The war in West Africa also came to an end, with the modernised armies of Benin storming across Kanem Bornu, brutally seizing Njimi for the second time in a decade.

In Central Africa, meanwhile, stunning developments were made with the advent of machine guns.

Legends surrounding the destructive firepower of the machine gun quickly spread across Africa, allowing the colonial army to subdue the Kongolese, Yaka and Kilwan armies in short, crushing battles.

Just as one war ends, however, another begins…

Despite the endless potential that lay in the heart of Africa, India remained the plumpest of prizes, and Grand Vizier Shukri was determined to launch colonial ventures into the subcontinent before Morocco claimed it all. So in the early days of 1880, he appointed Makki al-Isbiliya on an expedition to secure coastal ports and trade concessions from the Cedi Empire, an expedition that marched with the strength of 50,000 soldiers.

The Cedi Emperor refused the obscene demands, of course, and Makki retaliated by storming the beaches of Sittwe and seizing nearby fortresses.

Both the Andalusi and Orissans expected a long, difficult war to follow. The Cedi Empire massively outnumbered the tiny Andalusi expedition, after all, so little more than the seizure of Myanmar could be expected.

Unfortunately for the Cedi, however, these expectations would quickly prove worthless. Over the course of 1880, the expeditionary force clashed with Cedi armies in seven separate engagements, each of which ended in stunning triumphs for the Andalusi, who suffered light casualties whilst dealing devastating casualties to the enemy.

And by April, Makki had crossed the Ganges Delta and invaded Orissa, the royal heartland of the Cedi Empire.

With that, diplomats were finally dispatched to meet with Makki al-Isbiliya, with the commander demanding nothing less than the cessation of the Bengal.

News of the stunning victory thrust Qadis into celebrations and festivities, and this triumph was quickly followed by another, with the expansion of the navy finally completed in the summer of 1880.

Led by Tha’ar Qadis, the Andalusi Navy now numbered forty warships, ten of which were ironclads and monitors, with the remaining consisting largely of man-o’-wars and frigates. The Andalusi Navy, at long last, was a force to be reckoned with.

These victories were offset by growing troubles at home, however. Opposition to the Imperialists had gained strength in recent months, with critics denouncing the government for failing to implement their promised political reforms - the Majlis was as absolutist as ever.

Shukri, in an attempt to quell the growing unrest, promised to strip away hereditary privileges and empower the lower house of the Majlis by the end of the decade. Hr immediately met with hostility from the aristocrats of the assembly, who condemned and lambasted him as a closet revolutionary, but the Grand Vizier refused to back down …

Unfortunately, however, he wouldn’t get much further than that.

In April of 1880, whilst en route to meet with Sultan Utbah for his weekly briefings, Shukri al-Ghazzawi was shot squarely in the chest. Only once, but that would prove enough, with the Grand Vizier of Al Andalus collapsing to the decorative bricks beneath him, stained red as blood pooled around his broken body. Within minutes, the Iron Vizier was dead.

The streets had been very crowded that day, and his body was almost immediately surrounded by spectators and passers-by, but curiously enough, the assassin would never be apprehended. Only one witness made a statement, claiming that the perpetrator had been "clad entirely in black", and disappeared into the thronging crowds within seconds.

The Majlis was immediately thrown into chaos, with baseless accusations and furious insults being flung across the hall, but this mayhem would quickly be interrupted by a foreign envoy. Once order was restored in the assembly, the nervous emissary delivered an official communiqué, formally inviting the esteemed nobles to another gathering of great powers…

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