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Thread: From the front line

  1. #1

    Default From the front line

    I plan to write a series of stories to illustrate the rise, and if necessary the fall, of the Almohad Kaliphate. The stories will be first person accounts from a variety of viewpoints. I suppose that would be obvious, since no one individual can last long enough to chronicle the lifespan of an empire.

    To start this tale I've chosen the memoir of Abu Malik al-Sahm, Overseer of the town of Compostella; a quiet town in the province of Leon that is far enough removed from the city to have been mostly sheltered from the havok of war. And so...

    I write this for my son. This is the story of your father, which I write now so that hopefully it will be more to you than the wandering of an old man's memories. I wish I had written it sooner, when the sights I've seen where more fresh in my mind. I could not, for then the stench of death was too fresh in my nostrils. There are many who speak of the death of Alphonso VI, last of the Spanish kings. There are as many stories as tellers, and someday you may wonder what to believe. That story is also my story, and I hope that if the day comes that you need to be armored in the truth this will be of help to you.

    I retired from active military life to be the second overseer of Compostella. I say 'active', though I was never really very active. I was never meant for the military, all I wanted was to be a hunter. Unfortunately, my skill with the bow was noted, and I became a servant of the Kalipha. I mean no disrespect. Kalipha Yusef is a great man, and himself a loyal servant of Islam and the people. It is just that I had honed my skill for prey other than men and did not get on well with the rougher views of my fellow soldiers.

    That difference of views did not keep me from a successful career. Besides being skilled with the bow, I developed a superb eye for judging the flight of an arrow, which eventually brought me to be the left hand man of Amir abu Badis, the governor of Morocco. You may wonder at the position of left hand man, as no doubt the term right hand man has become more familiar. Among the militias, where men are trained to sword or spear, the man on your right will carry a large shield on his left arm. That shield can be as important to you as your own, and perhaps more. But an archer carries only a small shield affixed to his wrist, used for catching arrows in flight during the distant exchanges that sometimes develop with the enemy. As the firing position is turned to the right, so the keen eye and dexterous shield of the man on your left takes on a vital interest. I stood for many years on the left of abu Badis, and can say with pride that I saved his life more than once.

    I did not have many opportunities to do so. He was also not by nature a military man, and our company saw little action. The western army in those days was commanded by General al-Mundhir of Granada. The general led his own company of archers, and when the army marched on bandits or rebels, which was not uncommon in those days, our company was frequently left to keep the peace in Morocco. I personally found our occasional forays into the field disturbing, as we almost always faced a rabble of barely armed peasants who withered under the hail of fire that a trained company of archers could deliver upon them. General al-Mundhir had a master's eye for position, and even when the opposition managed to raise some number of bowmen our superior training and a well chosen height to shoot from led to overwhelming victories.

    Command of the western army was a position of the highest trust. The eastern army was under the direct command of the Kalipha himself, and then passed to his eldest son. Certainly, al-Mundhir did not rise to such a position of trust without facing challenges. It was the ruthlessness of how he faced those challenges that made him a favorite among his company, but set him completely at odds with my Amir.

    My commander had a brother, Ismail. Ismail had more inclination to offer his life in service to the Kaliphate than his brother and I put together. We were very content to provide a garrison in Morocco. The Amir saw to the construction of the stone keep which overlooks the straights of Gibralter today, and brought Morocco to be one of the great cities of the empire. Ismail would curse us, for he was not blessed with a keen eye and could never master the bow. He would regale us endlessly with what he would do with an ounce of our abilities, which he considered wasted. His eagerness to serve did catch the favor of al-Mundhir though, and he was given command of what he glorified by calling a militia. They were no better trained or armed than the peasants we slaughtered in the desert, and the Amir tried desperately to convince his brother that the general's own company referred to this rabble as the 'arrow catchers', and for good reason, but pride is a deadly sin in the eyes of Allah as well as the Catholic's God.

    Ismail would return in glory to Morocco and recount his adventures. We knew from our own experiences how the battles went, and how his limited view saw what he saw. His company would deploy on the hillside below al-Mundhir's archers. When the arrows whistling over their heads had done their work the general's horn would blow, and Ismail would lead a mad charge down the slope into the routing rabble below. Each time the army marched out the Amir would live in sick dread, knowing that one day they would encounter a better equipped force, and his brother's illusions would be lost. He prayed his life would not be lost with them.

    Allah did not see fit to grant that prayer. In 1092 the army marched to defend some unknown from a band of bandits which had emerged from the Sahara. The general's company decimated the bandit archers from their lofty perch, while the bandit's arrows fell short, raining death on Ismail's company. Ismail lies somewhere in Algeria, with more than three fourths of his men. When he returned in triumph to Morocco the general had already picked a new commander, and refilled the ranks of the company with villagers who had lost their homes to the bandits.

    As it turned out that was the last major rebellion in north Africa. Kalipha Yusef's aggressive building programs had brought prosperity, and the armies had brought security. The people were content, and our duty as a garrison declined even further. With no rebellions to quell the western army lingered in Morocco, and the friction between the Amir and the general mounted. An awkward situation that could have been resolved by al-Mundhir taking his company back across the straights, but they enjoyed the 'hospitality' of Morocco far too much.

    No situation, bad or good, lasts forever. In 1094 al-Mundhir did cross the straights, but so did we, along with the Kalipha himself. The army of the west joined a force of Nubian spearmen that the Kalipha had raised on his journey from Tunis, and when we crossed the straight we were met by an army of hardened militia recruited from the sprawling slums of Cordoba. Though Granada produces harder men, it was only later that they had the facilities to train and equip such a force. The following year this combined army marched into Castile and took Toledo without resistance. You may hear that the Spanish King fled out of cowardice, but it was wisdom. He gathered his forces together in Leon, where they would have a chance. To have half his forces slaughtered at Toledo would have gained him nothing.

    For four long years we were again performing garrison duty, but the challenge was much greater. The Kalipha appointed a Nubian, ibn Idris, as Amir of Castile. Again, no disrespect, but this was perhaps a mistake. The new Amir's devout beliefs lead him into conflict with his subjects, and he was in no position to question General al-Mundhir. How the general ever governed Granada is probably best answered by the fact that he was never there. He and his company leaned far more to pillage and plunder, and Castile was ripe.

    Though he could not hope to match what we had accomplished in Morocco, Amir abu Badis gave every effort. He will probably never be more than a footnote in the military histories of our time, but he is a great governor for Morocco; and if peace is ever really brought to conquered Spain it will be through him and those like him. As overseer I try to live up to that.

    In 1100 the Kalipha returned to Castile, and marched on Leon with a thousand men. We joined Prince Ali in the border hills with an additional force of eight hundred. This combined force approached Leon, and was met at la Colina del Muerto by the Spanish King. Of course at the time it was not 'the hill of death', it was just another wooded slope in the hills of Leon, not much different from any other.

    The Spanish army was made up almost exclusively of jinetes, the mounted javelin men for which Leon is known. They were deployed in our path, along the ridge of the hill, in excellent defensive position. To our right the ridge rose to a crest, which was shrouded in woods. Our right flank would be vulnerable to troops infiltrated through the wood if we tried to climb the ridge in the clear. The Kalipha's reputation in the field had been built on his mastery of defensive positions, and many of us who stood and waited for the commanders to rejoin us expected them to bring word from him that we would withdraw. He did not give that word. Instead our commanders brought us orders for the battle, and that wooded hill became forever La Colina del Muerto.

    Amir ibn Idris lead four hundred spears up the hill, driving the inevitable rabble of peasants ahead of them. It is no wonder the peasant levies can never be counted on in battle. Even the dullest among them had to see that their ordered task, pulling the jinetes from their saddles as they tried to approach the spearmen to launch their javelins, would likely never happen. Their real task was to force the jinetes to pull up short so that even with the slope they could not harm the Nubians. Within minutes after the battle started the javelins began to tear through the peasantry with devastating results, but the Nubians marched on, with over four hundred archers under al-Mundhir's command tight on their heels.

    We could barely make out what was happening on the ridge. Companies of jinetes would appear against the sky and roar down the slope, launching their javelins. We would pepper them as best we could before they wheeled and raced back over the top, and the spearmen ground on. I think the peasants would have broken and ran, as their terror was a palpable thing, but turning and running downhill into the spears was probably more frightening than the unknown at the top of the hill.

    Our company was deployed at the far left of our line, and was not actually behind the spearmen. I may have been just as scared as the peasants. A company of jinetes pouring over the lip of the ridge directly above us would have been devastating. I drew some comfort when the hardened militia slid in behind us. The opposite end of the line also extended past the spearmen, and they had the woods on their right hand, and no militia to fall back behind. I am sorry for the men there, but I admit I breathed a sigh of relief when there were clear signs that the Spanish on the ridge were shifting that way.

    Like a stroke of lightning a company of armored knights burst over the ridge and charged between the flank of the spears and the wood. Our fellows were decimated, mowed down like grass. But apparently this was the plan. The horns sounded and the spearmen wheeled to the right, and our commanders wheeled us as well. The peasant's formation disintegrated as the spearmen drove it sideways into a second company of knights that was trying to follow the first. Suddenly, the knights found themselves in a litter of bodies, with spears closing from one side and the woods on the other. We archers had rallied behind the spearmen and launched volleys into the infantry that was trying to follow their knights into the breach. As the trap closed our own javelinmen swarmed in and destroyed the knights. Later I learned that those knights were the royal guards with the princes, Alphonso and Sancho. The battle was hardly begun and it was already a black day for the king of Spain.

    The hardened militia stormed the slope behind us, and off to my right I could see the Kalipha's own sons as they headed off a company of jinetes that had ridden hard around the wood. Most of the Spanish infantry had been forced into the woods, which instead of giving them our flank was now the objective of two companies of charging spearmen. Their orderly ranks get shattered in the wood, but they were sorely aware that their own flank was now completely exposed to the top of the ridge and whatever lay upon it, so I think they mostly wanted out of the open. Fortunately for them, and we archers who were sheltering behind them, our militia managed to break the top before the Spanish could take advantage. They ran along the ridgeline and plunged into the woods as well. Hundreds of men from both sides poured into the shadows beneath the trees, and only a fraction ever came out. The javelins and horses of the jinetes did not serve them in such close confines, and the battle became a slaughter.

    There were difficult moments. A company of jinetes plunged over the top of the ridge far behind us after the militia had passed, and only the Kalipha and his guards kept our company from being crushed under their hooves. Once our own javelinmen had them controlled we followed the Kalipha around the wood, a trail clearly marked in dead horses, to come to the aid of the princes, Ali and Idris, who had held the right flank against the swarming jinetes and were by then sorely pressed.

    It was then that King Alphonso himself, grim and terrible, entered the fray. When his infantry poured from the woods he and his knights charged, and began laying waste to our infantry as they emerged in pursuit. The spearmen's ranks were in disarray, the militia scattered and exhausted, and the knights lances sheared through men to great effect, leaving a bloody froth of trampled flesh behind their raging steeds. Had more of the fleeing Spanish army rallied to their king they may have carried the day, but it was not to be. Swarmed from every side his guards were brought down one by one. To their credit, none surrendered.

    The king swung a huge blade in wide arcs that kept him free of our grasp until Kalipha Yusef rode through the mass of struggling bodies to face his foe. You may hear that the Kalipha brought down the King, but it is not so. I cannot say with certainty that he would have eventually, though I believe it myself. Before that extremis though the King was pulled from his horse by the infantry swarming around him, and disarmed in the fall. He had no choice but to be taken.

    On that gory hillside the last king of Spain was pulled roughly to his feet. Many who were there jeered, and would have forced him to kneel. You may hear that he was tortured, and there were those present who would no doubt have accepted the task. It is a credit to our empire that that did not happen. The King and the Kalipha stood eye to eye. Alphonso did not ask for mercy. In fact he did not speak at all.

    The Kalipha sheathed the battered blade that he had used so heavily that day as he walked to his horse. From his saddle hung the scabbard of his jeweled scimitar, more symbol than weapon. In one flowing motion he brought the great curving blade out, up, and around through a glittering arc that severed Alphoso's head cleanly before he could even recognize that it was coming.

    There were people on that hill who wanted some barbaric price to be paid, and many of them saw what they saw and believe they got what they wanted, but I see it differently. The Kalipha lost a son that day. As he stood with the king the crowds parted, and Ali rode up with his brother's body wrapped in a linen cloth and slung over the back of his horse. Idris was not yet twenty when he fell. Alphonso had sent both of his sons into the jaws of the trap that claimed their lives. They were not much older. As a father, I believe the Kalipha granted the mercy that had not been asked for.

  2. #2

    Default Re: From the front line

    Impressive stuff. I will be looking forward to more.

  3. #3

    Default From the front line II

    An excerpt from the journals of Abu Hatim ibn Sharaf, 1111

    Kalipha Yusef I had a dream; a dream for all of Islam. A strong union that could stand against the storm of Christianity that gathers in Europe. He chose an architect for that dream. He chose me. Now the dream is dead, and so is he, but I linger on.

    When Yusef rose to the throne he raised me up as well. "You know many tongues my friend," he told me, "and speak smoothly in all of them. I have need of your services."

    I told him that what he wanted was beyond me, and that I served only Allah. Had I been as persuasive as he thought perhaps I would have convinced him. But had I possessed the skill to convince him, perhaps I would not have failed.

    My first failure was in Spain. The faithful feared their Spanish ruler and his vitriolic priests. My task was to smooth the waters between them and stop the strident cries for help that my Kalipha could not long ignore. But the persecutions only grew, and my pleas to Alphonso VI fell on deaf ears. "Let us sign a treaty," he said in his honeyed voice. "So that your Kalipha can conduct matters in the south without interference from me, or any other Christian nation that would have to march through my lands." As if the Italians could not cross the Mediterranean without leave of the King of Spain. What he wanted was to conduct matters in the north of Spain without interference; to continue to turn a blind eye to the growing threat hanging over the heads of his Muslim subjects.

    So my Kalipha, who would have chosen to be a man of peace, slew the king of Spain and all his line. For ten long years he has ruled the Christian lands of northern Spain, maintaining an uneasy peace within his own borders. He would say to me "we finally settled with the bandits and rebels of the Sahara, and now again my armies are wasted on policing my own people."

    I traveled the roads of Spain, seeking those who would listen. The few believers who had suffered persecution appealed to their new governors for retribution. Many more who had only feared persecution appealed as well. Some govern well, some govern poorly, but the revolts were inevitable. I tell myself they were at least, since it fell upon me to prevent them, and I could not.

    The Christians thought that our army without armor could not stand against good Christian men encased in metal with their God on their side. I tried, as a last resort, to tell them that our veteran soldiers had been hardened in the deserts; our generals trained by necessity to deal with rebellion harshly.

    Two thousand armored Christians marched on Leon. A thousand were slain, the remainder enslaved. Our armies lost less than a hundred men. The Kalipha cried out at the senselessness of it, for the losses on both sides, but what could be done? What could I have done?

    The Kalipha spoke kindly of a new assignment for me, in the distant court of the Ottoman Turks. Would that he had just had me killed for my failure. I fled in shame. I journeyed years across Europe and Asia, to the throne of the Sultan.

    When I arrived the Turks were already at war with the mighty empire of the Byzantines. Surely the path was clear before me. The Sultan should welcome the chance to have Islam unite against his foes. The path was clear, so I must have missed my steps. The Sultan spat back angrily "Words! You offer me words! Your Kaliph will speak harshly of my enemies while he sits safely in Africa counting his gold. What do I care?"

    I tried to explain that from the moment he had ascended the throne Yusef had driven the people of Tunis as hard as a ruler can drive his people. The harbor was complete and soon an Islamic fleet would begin to take form in the Mediteranean. Yusef could drive the Byzantines from their island strongholds; Crete, Cyprus, Rhodes, then threaten the mainland itself. This would ease the pressure on the mighty Turkish armies. When Yusef had told me this vision, in his plain spoken way, I could not help but see the obvious. Why could I not make it clear to the Sultan?

    I should have failed less spectacularly. I did not give offense, and I left with my head, but I'm afraid that I made a poor impression on the Sultan's courtiers. That may have encouraged the mad Pharoh. Had I procured an alliance against the Byzantines with the Sultan his Egyptian allies would have had little choice but to go along, uniting the Islamic nations. Instead, I returned to Morocco to find the Kalipha in harried council with his generals. The Egyptian army was on the march.

    My master still did not lose faith in me. Or perhaps he thought my next failure would cost me my head and he could be shed of me. I was dispatched to Egypt. The son and heir, Prince Yusef, had marched from Tunisia and driven the Egyptians back across the border. There had been no loss of life. The Kalipha did not seek any vengence. There was, and is, no reason for this war to continue.

    But Al-Mustali I no longer provided a dwelling for reason. The disease that was stealing his sanity seemed obvious, and it was no surprise to me that it took his life shortly after he refused to speak to me any further on the subject of peace, or a united Islam. I lingered in Antioch through the endless death rituals of the Egyptians, and saw Al-Mustali II ascend the throne. I wonder now if disease brought his father to madness, or if it is merely the sad lot of his family.

    The new Pharoh does not know why his father ordered the attack in the first place. His own generals tell him that he does not have the forces in Africa to challenge the Kaliphate, as they told his father. In spite of this, he will follow his father's path. He insists that there be war.

    It broke my heart to report this to my Kalipha, and I suspect broke his as well. He died soon after. It was left to me, when his son arrived from the desert front, to explain his father's vision. There may be some skirmishing required, but there is no real threat from Egypt. The invasion of the Byzantines can occur as long planned, and the Sultan of the Turks will bring sense to the Egyptians. Islam, once united against the Byzantines, can be united for decades.

    Yusef II is no follower of Islam, though he hides it well so as not to insult his people. His answer to me was clear. "If the Egyptians cannot see that we are united by common faith and common blood, they will see us united by blood spilled, and my faith in my sword."

    There will be war, far more than the mad Pharohs of Egypt had hoped for. Yusef II shares his father's vision of the Islamic nations united, but he will unite them under his own iron rule.

  4. #4

    Default From the front line III

    This is a history, written for the future generations of the township of Izmut. I am Abu Malik ibn Omar, and I am no historian. I am but a simple farmer, and I apologize that I am not a more learned man. We have agreed that it is important that those who come after us know their origins. I am more a man of letters than any of my fellows, so I have been chosen for this account.

    I will tell my own story. There are some small matters that may differ from others among us, but the substance will be the same.

    I grew up in the wild lands at the edge of what my people called the Sahara. It is a vast arid waste and a terrible place. My father, like his father before him, brought what crops he could from the harsh ground. We moved, sometimes to richer lands, sometimes driven further into the wastes by stronger bands who took the better lands, or bandits who took women and food and lives. This was as it had always been.

    When the Caliph, Yusef I, took the throne of the Almohad empire he began many great building projects. His Amirs sent riders through the wastelands. They drove off bandits, established order, and recruited workers with tales of city life that turned many young heads, including my own. My father could not understand how I could abandon the soil. Looking back, I cannot understand myself.

    I labored for many years in the city of Tunis. It did not take long for me to see the mistake I had made, for I missed the land and my family and the work was hard. I wanted to go home, but found that I was indebted to the overseer of the dredging operation who provided the meager hovel in which I lived and the scant food that I ate, and to flee this debt would make me a criminal. I began to study, and learned to read and write, in hopes of finding a way to escape this trap. I saw the city grow around me from a ragged stockade on the shore of a sand choked bay to a great stone keep standing over the most renowned harbor in the empire, but It seemed the longer I worked the more in debt I became.

    During those years Prince Yusef, who would become Caliph Yusef II, was the commanding general of the Caliph's army which had its headquarters in Tunis. We would see him riding his magnificent horse, leading his fearsome guards. They were called slaves, those guards, but they lived in a fine palace and ate well, and rode their horses, while I huddled in my blankets as wind blew through my hut after a day spent hauling backbreaking loads of sand out of the bay through the shallows. It was hard to accept, but later when I saw men like them lay down their lives for their master without hesitation I understood that they indeed had less freedom than I.

    In 1108 the harbor was complete, and my debt was sold to a foreign man of some skill, who had come to build ships. Again it was hard to see the distinction between having my debt sold from one master to another and being in fact a slave, but I found hope. The foreigner, Don Giovian of Sicily, bought my debt because I could read and write. He said that because I had educated myself he would pay me well enough that I could work off my debt. This led me to study mathematics, which eventually brought me to understand that I could indeed work off my debt, but it would take a great many years. However, the Don was a kind man, and provided well for his workers. Also, the work ran more to skill than brute labor.

    The great undertaking of building the harbor had been done to attract such a man as the Don, and there were plans for a great fleet meant to carry Islam and the empire across the sea. One great boon of my work was that I was allowed access to the library of the Don, to better myself.

    Many of the books the Don brought to Tunis were challenging for a man of faith such as myself. Since few could read, and fewer still had access to them no one else seemed to notice that they could have a deep impact on a questioning soul. I confined my studies to mathematics.

    The Prince also spent much of his time in the library of Don Giovian. He read endlessly.

    We had barely laid the first keel when the Pharoh's armies invaded Cyrenacia. A great sadness descended on the people as Prince Yusef led the army out against our brothers. Perhaps I had seen more of the Prince than others and let fancy take me, but it seemed to me that the Prince did not share our dismay at the thought of shedding the blood of fellow Muslims. The Egyptian army retreated across the border without combat, and the Prince seemed to share the sentiments as the people rejoiced upon his return with no Muslim blood on his hands, but I wondered.

    Three years later we launched the first ship of the Caliphate fleet. The armies had marched across the deserts without ever coming into contact or doing any harm. Tunis buzzed with the news that the Islamic Turks were sorely pressed by the Byzantine armies, and we hoped this ship would be the beginning of a march against the common foe and the end of war with the Pharoh. The ship was scarcely off the ways when our hearts filled with sorrow. Yusef I had died in Morocco.

    Work was stopped when the message spread through the city. The next day the people stood in the streets in silence as the prince and his guards rode out the gates. Of course he was no longer the prince. He was the Caliph, Yusef II. In time other histories will show whether the war with the Pharoh could have been ended had Yusef I lived, or if Yusef II had been more devout. I am but a simple man and can only wonder.

    Of course our own lives would have turned much differently if the war had ended. It is not for me to question the will of Allah. Perhaps I am the one who read too many of Don Giovian's books.

    Command of the army passed to the new Caliph's brother, Prince Ali, a most surprising man. Knowing that he was not in line for the throne may have given him a more open view I suppose, but in any case he was easily approached and would not hesitate to speak to the lowest among us. He was also battle tested from the Iberian wars, and carried an air of deadly competence that seemed to straighten the spine of even the most passive beggar in the street.

    Rumor spread that only two of his guards had survived the final battle with the King of Spain, and that the Prince himself had slain a hundred men on that day. Like his brother the new general spent much of his time in company with the Don, and one day I had the courage to ask one of his men, who was notably older than the rest, if this were true. He laughed, and said that it was probably only thirty, and certainly no more than forty.

    Only thirty! The army had held Yusef in high regard, but they fell into a state of near worship after a few skirmishes under Prince Ali.

    The years rolled on, and it became clear that the Pharoh and the Caliph would not come to terms. Then Prince Ali began recruiting men for the invasion of Egypt.

    I was warned by many that there was only one place for untrained men in an army, and that was dead on the field after the battle. But to march out of Tunis with the Prince would free me of my debt, and I ventured to speak to the Don, who was in truth a good man. He claimed that my leaving would be a great loss, but that he would sooner absolve my debt and send me home than have me die to escape it. I may have taken this offer had I not been personally summoned before the general. He was not getting as many men as he hoped, and had chosen me to explain why as the Don had told him that I was more learned than many of the workers.

    I told him that there was great fear among the workers that our only purpose in his army would be to be driven under the hooves of the bedouin's camels, to slow them down for his archers. The Prince promised me that this was not so, and I believed him, which is how I came to be commander of the militia when the army captured Cairo in 1115. I had raised over four hundred men, on Prince Ali's word that we would not have to face the regulars of the Pharoh's army, only hold the peace in lands that were taken. True to this word we were left here in the valley of the Nile while he pursued the fleeing Pharoh into the Sinai desert, only to retreat to a defensible position himself when he was met with overwhelming force from Arabia.

    In 1117 the Pharoh's troops marched to free the beleaguered garrison that stll held the fortress in Cairo. I and the rest of the militia got our only hint of battle. We watched from a distant hilltop at El Ambien while the final touch of despair was pressed upon the Pharoh. He led two thousand troops into battle, and fled with less than two hundred. General Ali's horn sounded in the distance and I had the chance to lead one great charge, but we never caught up with the enemy.

    The regular army pursued them into the Sinai the following year. Again the Pharoh's generals marched from Arabia, but when they saw the devastation that had been laid on his forces at El Ambien they turned their own troops back, abandoning the Pharoh to the desert. He continued his flight, and eventually signed an agreement with the Caliph abandoning his claims to Egypt and the Sinai. I returned to the soil; the glorious fertile soil of the Nile valley. So did most of those who were recruited in Tunis to hold the land.

    We hold this land of Izmut dearly, and we will hand it down to our future generations with pride, for even without tasting the heat of battle we won it fairly. That is also your heritage, so in this document it is handed down as well.

  5. #5
    Where's your head at? Member Galain_Ironhide's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    Kalgoorlie, Western Australia

    Default Re: From the front line

    Good work! You certainly have put a lot of effort into this. Looking forward to reading more.
    - 'Let's finish the game.' - Josiah Gordon "Doc" Scurlock

    Read my AAR - BC Kingdom of Jerusalem - For Faith or Greed

  6. #6
    Camel Lord Senior Member Capture The Flag Champion Martok's Avatar
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    In my own little world....but it's okay, they know me there.

    Default Re: From the front line

    Indeed. Very cool, Timsup2nothin; you're a good storyteller.
    "MTW is not a game, it's a way of life." -- drone

  7. #7
    Misanthropos Member I of the Storm's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    In a calm spot

    Default Re: From the front line

    Awesome! Great idea and excellent writing.

  8. #8

    Default From the front line IV

    Personal notes of Hisham al-Hajj, chief Alim, Mosque of 1000 Columns, Cordoba. 1135.

    It is a sad day. The second son of Yusef I never expected to be Kalipha. Now he has gone to paradise without ever knowing that he was, however briefly. The same messenger who brought the news of Yusef II's death in Morocco, who continued on to Portugal, has returned to say that he arrived there the day after Prince Ali also died quietly in his sleep. I do not question the will of Allah, but I mourn that Prince Ali never governed the Empire in name, as I believe that he did in fact.

    In his youth Ali stood with his father, and brought freedom to the faithful in the wretched kindom of the Spanish. The foundation of this mosque was laid in celebration of the great victory over Alphonso VI. Our teachers spread throughout Iberia. The dukes of Portugal and even the mighty general El Cid let them pass freely for fear of the Kalipha, but it was Ali who remained in Cordoba. It was Ali who destroyed the rebellion in Leon. It was Ali who established a foundation for Islam, not merely a building.

    When Yusef I died, Prince Ali was called to the east, and I wondered if I would ever see him again. He led the Kaliphate's armies throughout the war for Egypt while Yusef II led a dissolute life in Morocco. The Prince was the junior brother by only a single year, loved by his soldiers and solid in his devotion to Allah. Even if he escaped death on the battlefield there was no reason to think his brother would call him back. There were too many who might follow him, but his own loyalty to the empire never wavered. Such loyalty that Yusef did call him back to lead the conquest of Valencia and Portugal.

    When he did return I was led to speak to him. In a roundabout way that could not be branded as treason I suggested that he would serve well as Kalipha should his brother die before his sons reach maturity. "That is not my burden," was all he said in response, but he then asked, also in a roundabout way, what the faithful thought his brother should do that perhaps he was not.

    In general the problem with Yusef II was that he put his faith in foreign advisers and foreign ways, not in the servants of Allah. We forgave him for the war in Egypt. Perhaps he could have ended it sooner, but it was the Pharoh who first raised the sword against his brothers. This was proven when the treaty had no sooner been signed than Pharoh al-Mustali II led his armies against the Ottoman Turks, who were struggling to defend the holy lands against the Christians of Byzantium.

    Prince Ali suggested gently that it was he, not the Kalipha, that had spilled Muslim blood, and he prayed for the forgiveness of Allah, and ours as well. Strange that this devout man carried this so heavily, while his brother and the mad Pharoh seemed unburdened.

    What he wanted though was something more specific. I told him that the Qadi al Qada, the highest adviser to the Kalipha, Amir al-Mansur openly practices his perversions right here in Cordoba, the heart of Islam in Iberia, in a palace provided by the Kalipha. Many times I had sent word to the Kalipha suggesting his censure and removal with no result; 'He is an educated man', 'his knowledge brings great value to the treasury, which is stretched thin', 'his father was Qadi al-Qada to my own father'; excuses, but no result.

    "My brother knows that in some of the provinces there have been sons who succeeded our father's appointments who were...less worthy," he said. "As I returned across Africa I was entrusted to resolve such issues. In Tunisia the great builder, Amir al-Mu'tamid, passed the rule on to a son more interested in drinking the produce of the empire than expanding it. That son marched with me into Cordoba, and will march out with me as well. He commands a company, but does not govern, and the Ghulam's watch him closely. He is, shall we say, embittered by this lowered status."

    "But to relieve the Qadi al-Qada, that could tear the empire apart. Surely that would not be the will of Allah. I will speak to my brother of this when I return from Valencia, but I suspect it will fall to me to find a solution if there is one."

    That was obviously before he marched on Valencia. The great El Cid had recently died, and although his successor was able he was no match in the field for the Prince. Ali pacified Valencia and reported to the Kalipha in Morocco.

    When he returned he told me that no solution was at hand. Whatever the problems with Amir al-Mansur they would have to wait.

    I understood the dilemma. The young Duke of Portugal, Raimundo Mendoza, was not as complacent as his father had been about the teaching of Islam within his borders. At his invitation a Catholic Bishop from France was preaching in Lisbon. I was receiving reports that the faithful were swaying, as could only be expected under Christian rule. "Soon only one of the Kalipha's sons will remain," said Prince Ali, and I knew he meant the sons of Yusef I, "and we cannot leave this problem to Muhammad. He must be tasked only with living long enough for Yusef's sons to reach their majority." How correct he turned out to be.

    What I did not see was that Prince Ali would not leave the problem of Amir al-Mansur to his brother either. Soon after the Prince's return to Cordoba Ali Rahman led his company of militia into the city. Ali Rahman had been given this command by Prince Ali himself years ago, and had served as commander of the garrison of Leon for the entire duration of the Egyptian war. The Amir of Leon had accompanied the Prince all the way to Egypt and back, so Rahman had in fact governed the province.

    With this trusted and accomplished man available the Qadi al-Qada could be maneuvered into a more active role in the march on Portugal, where as Prince Ali said his 'local knowledge' would be invaluable. When word reached the city that our bold Amir had been taken to paradise leading the seige of Lisbon castle there was a great public mourning, but privately most doubt that paradise awaits him. The rest of Prince Ali's army were hardened veterans who had bested the Pharoh, marched across Africa, and conquered Valencia. How the Amir's company, who had mostly grown plump here in the city, came to be leading the final assault is a question best unasked, and with the Prince gone to paradise it can never be answered.

    Not surprisingly, the messenger returning to Morocco to inform Prince Muhammad that he is the Kalipha bears a last suggestion from Prince Ali as well, meant for Yusef. No doubt the learned Ali Rahman, who is also devout, will be our next Amir. Even from his grave Prince Ali governs well. If Muhhamad I is half the man the empire, and the faith, is in good hands.

  9. #9
    Research Shinobi Senior Member Tamur's Avatar
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    #2 Bagshot Row

    Default Re: From the front line

    You've got a great sense of historical depth in your writing, nicely done. I like the tone, wise sayings thrown in here and there but not overwhelming the story at all, and that addition helps humanise the narrator.

    Keep up the good work!
    "Die Wahrheit ruht in Gott / Uns bleibt das Forschen." Johann von Müller

  10. #10
    Camel Lord Senior Member Capture The Flag Champion Martok's Avatar
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    In my own little world....but it's okay, they know me there.

    Default Re: From the front line

    Long live Muhhamad I! May his reign be great!

    Also, here's hoping that Amir al-Mansur can be effectively....dealt with.
    "MTW is not a game, it's a way of life." -- drone

  11. #11

    Default From the front line V

    I am Abu Thabit ibn Hamud, and I will die this day, as those who will kill me say is proper. This is the just fate of a man who deserts his master on the field of battle, but not of a man who leaves his fallen master only to tell the tale of treachery that lead to his death. I go to my grave with my story untold, for none here in the shocking aftermath of defeat would believe, or even listen. Perhaps it is best this way, though I hope that someday this text will clear my name. I will start from the beginning, though it was years ago.

    I was chosen to guard Prince Abdullah by the Kalipha himself, in 1135. The prince was only a boy then, and Kalipha Muhammad still called regent, not Kalipha. Abdullah's brother, Umar, was called Kalipha, though he too was only a boy. Perhaps if Muhammad had sired no sons of his own, or if Umar had not been so badly affected in the court of his father, or if Abdullah had been the elder...but none of that matters.

    When our unit was formed Muhammad I spoke to us. "You guard my brother's younger son, a duty that may not seem as important to some as it is to me. Your duty is only here in the palace in Morocco now, for he is no warrior today, but he will be. When my father, Yusef I sat the throne, it was I who was the youngest son. We do not know what Allah wills, and it may be that your young charge will be Kalipha one day. Guard him as if you know that he will."

    The court of Muhammad has been a constant turmoil, simmering with intrigue. It should have been no business of a slave such as myself, but to protect Abdullah in such a hotbed called for keen edges on more than our swords. Muhammad intended to put his nephew on the throne as soon as he reached maturity, as his brother Yusef II would have passed it on had he survived long enough. When he came to Morocco the sycophants and foreigners who had surrounded Yusef II would have it no other way. There were many who saw opportunity in the possibility of their former patron's young son holding power, an opportunity for themselves to guide and in fact wield that power themselves.

    Prince Umar showed little promise to stand against such a calamity. Muhammad would have had a much simpler task if he could just remove advisers who may have been driven by self interest without concern for who would be left to give honorable advise to the young Kalipha. Unfortunately, every day showed in greater detail that such advisers would be needed.

    Another rift in the court formed as Prince Umar's odd behavior became a subject of rumor in the city. Those who wanted power over a young Kalipha divided against themselves, with some thinking they had even more of an opportunity, and others thinking that Umar could never rule, even in name, and quietly raising Abdullah's name. This made things even more difficult, since those who would be advisers for the good of the empire were similarly divided. The various factions formed and melted away with dizzying speed, and we who were tasked with guarding the princes were at the vortex. Threats on Abdullah's life were thwarted so often that no one could count them, and Umar's even more often.

    We could protect Abdullah from everything but his pride. Perhaps it was that common bond with his uncle, being the youngest son, that fed Abdullah's arrogance. I would not speak ill of my master, did I not consider it a critical part of the story. It was not long after our unit was formed that we learned to tread lightly. When the first of our number was executed on the order of our young charge we had no choice but to learn. In his view, to disagree was to disobey, and in our position to disobey was punished by death. When he demanded the execution of a court adviser over some small slight I suspect it sealed his doom, and his brother's.

    The court could hardly help but be united by such an event, and even the local citizenry were thrown into confusion. While there was no question about the adviser's guilt in the matter, there was also no question that executing him over it was folly. For Muhammad to step in as regent and countermand the execution would have empowered those who claimed he was no regent but intended to usurp the throne. If he could have brought Prince Umar, only six months from his majority, into the situation as the elder brother there was a chance, but exposing Prince Umar to the public would have confirmed that at that age he was as likely to seek advice from creatures that only he could see as any other. The execution occurred as planned The public was satisfied by the spectacle, and the court settled into what amounted to a one chamber civil war.

    In the compromise of 1141 Umar and Abdullah were formally adopted by their uncle, and he was named successor to Yusef II, becoming Kalipha Muhammad I. There were many in the court who hoped that a fatherly discipline would make Umar worthy to follow Muhammad to the throne when the time came, and many others who hoped that Umar would not live that long, but few who thought that having Umar take over as planned would mean anything but the destruction of the empire.

    The conquest of Navarre was ordered to further distract the populace, and while the compromise was more a delay than a solution it seemed to have worked. Umar was sent off from Morocco in the charge of General Muhsin and acquitted himself well in Navarre. Then Ismail was born.

    With a young son of his own it seemed completely reasonable when Muhammad I sent his second adopted nephew off to Iberia, and we who were his guards rejoiced at the change. While there were occasional uprisings to be put down, the Iberian provinces were hardly a war zone. On the other hand, with a new underaged heir available the court of Morocco seemed like the most dangerous place in the world for our Prince.

    We rode around Iberia with the general. Prince Umar, oddly enough, began to display some knack for command. Prince Abdullah tempered his pride in the august presence of General Muhsin. We of the Ghulam greatly enjoyed being assigned with the general. After all, he was one of us, born of us in fact.

    The son of a Ghulam is no sooner toddling than he begins to train, and to serve. Usually, at an early age they will be shield bearer for their father, giving them a chance to be close to battle. Bakr ibn Muhsin was the first born son of Hatim ibn Muhsin, who served many years as captain of guard for Prince Ali, the second son of Yusef I and the greatest general of his time. Prince Ali honored his captain by taking Bakr as his own shield bearer. Bakr became captain of the guard himself when his father retired, and when Prince Ali died he provided that the entire unit be given their freedom.

    Though freed, they knew no life but combat and service. It was quickly obvious that Bakr ibn Muhsin had learned a great deal from Prince Ali, about war and politics and what it means to sacrifice for the Kaliphate. The best use of such knowledge would be to put him in command, and he was given the army of Iberia. In Navarre he proved most worthy. I suppose today he proved it even more.

    For seven years I have tried to learn from the general, and I believe I have learned well. Too well. The French have been sending their Bishops into Navarre for years, and when the messenger arrived with the order to mass the army in Navarre we all knew that the invasion of Aquitain was inevitable. I saw that general Muhsin, who relished nothing more than combat, was pensive, and could not understand it.

    Last week, when he ordered the march on Aquitain, I was even more confused. He selected but a few companies from the great host of the Iberian army and marched with only eight hundred men, many of them green recruits. He told my master "the French have only a small garrison in the entire province of Aquitain, we don't want to scare them off without a fight," and Prince Abdullah, as could be expected, let his pride blind his eyes. Prince Umar began to question the general, but Abdullah headed him off with boasting of how even a small force could vanquish all of France with a great general and two princes in the van.

    Today we all saw that that was not true. It should have been no surprise that the French reinforced the garrison with many companies of troops, hardened in their wars with England. I do not believe the general was surprised at all, or that he had any plan for today's battle other than what transpired.

    We were marching north along a country road, which wound to the left past a typical hill. The path of the road went as little out of the way as possible to avoid a climb, so it lay close to the foot of a steep slope, almost a cliff, on the west side of the hill. The general called a halt and sent out scouts. He sensed the trap. Beyond the hill the French had set up ballistae and catapults overlooking the road. Hundreds of French archers stood at the ready to rush to the hilltop and fire down from the top of the cliff.

    Our own two hundred archers would be little match, but we did successfully storm to the hilltop to take that vantage ahead of the French. Their catapults turned ponderously and began firing, but the hilltop was fortunately too high for the ballistae. The enemy archers, their initial plan spoiled, formed up on the next hill, daring us to cross the shallow valley. In the distance a vast army of reenforcements could be seen gathering.

    Being the only available cavalry the princes and their guards rode down upon the placed artillery. Only a handful of our companions were lost, but I again wondered if all was as it seemed. The artillery did not pose that much of a threat. Our horses were beginning to tire as we rejoined the main body of the army.

    We were met by a battlefield messenger bearing new orders from the general, which we had barely received when the battle horn sounded. The French had dispatched a company of militia and two companies of archers to protect the artillery from our raid, and although they were clearly too late they had not turned quickly enough to rejoin the main body of their force. In turning, the militia had become somewhat separated from the archers. With only thirty-five horsemen the two princes plunged again down the hill into the midst of almost two hundred and fifty archers. Our own archers drew up in support and opened fire on the startled militia, but there was no doubt that if we got within range of their spears we would be massacred.

    We drove our sweating mounts to a lather, dodging and weaving through the scattering ranks of the archers, slashing to both sides with our swords. We avoided the militia, which was withering under the fire from the hilltop. We watched the main body of the French force maneuvering on their own hill. I suspect many of the panicking archers were killed by French arrows meant for us, fired from the relative safety above. We listened for the horn to sound the recall as two more companies of militia charged down the hill at us. It never sounded.

    Even in the midst of the battle we could see that the once distant French army had reached the fray, and that our force was hopelessly outnumbered. The tactical position on the hill would allow us to inflect terrible casualties as we withdrew, but there was no chance that our meager force could hold back hundreds of armored horsemen. We had decimated two companies of archers and destroyed the artillery, it was clearly time to pull back. The French militia were almost upon us. That is when the horn sounded the charge.

    It could have been considered a stroke of genius if the French had not been so heavily reinforced. In fact, history may paint it as a mighty blow struck by the Kaliphate. Our spearmen roared down the hill and crashed against the enemy formations, which were still intent on boxing us in. Our company of militia, the only veterans in our small force, came screaming at their heals and laid waste to the enemy.

    Five hundred men could break their front, but not hold back the swelling tide behind them. Again I expected the horn to sound the withdrawal. Half our infantry was lost, but they had slaughtered at least three times as many of the French militia. Had we left the field there is no doubt it could have been considered a victory. Instead of the horn the sound of a wailing war-cry rang over the field as the general himself led his guards down the hill at a charge.

    They crashed through a company of French infantry that was trying to close with us and avoid our militia at the same time. The princes and the few of us that remained had little choice but to turn our tired mounts into the general's wake and ride. The general's steed never broke stride, and raged up the opposite hill into the French archers, left unprotected when their militia had broken. He laid about himself with his sword in one hand and a spear that he had grabbed in the other, somehow staying on his horse as it reared to smash in the heads of any Frenchmen who got in its way.

    His guards swirled around him, but in the press of hundreds of bodies there was no way to protect him, or the princes. From the corner of my eye I saw our infantry swept under, and knew that the end was near. A company of armored knights rode in the van, maddened with bloodlust and revenge.

    The general left his spear thrust through a thinly armored chest, and seized a fleeing archer by the hair. Somehow he used the motion of the plunging horse to swing the screaming captive into the air, then slashed cleanly through the neck to send the body crashing into the melee. He raised the grisly trophy towards the oncoming enemy and shouted the only French words he knew, words that he had learned only that morning. With all but a handful of our forces slain or in flight he threw the Frenchman's head at their general and screamed 'no quarter'.

    At that moment I understood General Muhsin's plan, and his sacrifice. The Kalipha's own son will be his heir, and the flawed bloodline of Yusef II would bleed out on the field. This is no doubt the best for the Kaliphate. No doubt Muhammad himself could have put this plan to the General. If he did, I wonder if Kalipha Muhammad I knew that the only way Bakr ibn Muhsin could bring himself to lose a battle was to die in it.

  12. #12
    Camel Lord Senior Member Capture The Flag Champion Martok's Avatar
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    In my own little world....but it's okay, they know me there.

    Default Re: From the front line

    Timsup2nothin, I am once again impressed. The words of Abu Thabit ibn Hamud shall be remembered.

    Setting aside the narrative, though, I confess I'm curious as to why you had the Ghulam general Bakr ibn Muhsin accompany the Princes Umar and Abdullah on that suicide mission. Was he also a poor commander, or did you honestly sacrifice a decent general for roleplaying's sake?
    "MTW is not a game, it's a way of life." -- drone

  13. #13

    Default Re: From the front line

    Quote Originally Posted by Martok
    Timsup2nothin, I am once again impressed. The words of Abu Thabit ibn Hamud shall be remembered.

    Setting aside the narrative, though, I confess I'm curious as to why you had the Ghulam general Bakr ibn Muhsin accompany the Princes Umar and Abdullah on that suicide mission. Was he also a poor commander, or did you honestly sacrifice a decent general for roleplaying's sake?
    It was a sacrifice, but not a really big one. I didn't anticipate the French reinforcing as heavily as they did and expected to lose the princes but win a close battle. A win might have pushed Bakr into a trait that would have made him too valuable to lose, but a loss was just as likely to make him too weak to keep, especially since I didn't want to give the prisoners back.

  14. #14

    Default From the front line VI

    It pains me that history may well remember Amir abu Omar of Castille as the 'Lion of Iberia' who stood against the mighty crusaders of France and turned them away. Since my arrival in the west I have spoken to many. I spoke to many soldiers who served under the Amir at the decisive battle. I spoke to many French captives as I ministered to them in hopes that they could be returned to their homes, which, alas, they could not. I speak every day to the ever growing community of Islam here in Rouen. I have pieced together the truth of the fall of France, and while the Amir certainly played a part, this is a clear testament to the will of Allah being revealed to those who follow the teachings of Islam, and not understood by those who follow the misinterpreters of Rome.

    I was still in training in Egypt when the illustrious Caliph Muhammad I was taken to paradise. His eldest son became Caliph Ismail I, and is unfairly known as 'the boy Caliph'. His father sent him north at sixteen, knowing that he would be hard pressed to hold the respect of his generals if he never saw combat. How true that has turned out to be, though it is no fault of the Caliph that his enemies fled before his army, enemies bled white by the foolish King Henri II.

    In 1155, at the age of eighteen, Prince Ismail marshaled his forces and marched down into Aquataine from the mountains of Navarre. Though some troops attempted to hold the French fort, many fled. During the siege it was impossible to know that there had been so few. Only when the fort was taken the following spring was it revealed that the French had withdrawn most of their troops before the invasion; withdrawn them at the urging of pious fools among the French nobility to form a mighty crusade. This revelation did not come in time. The crusaders bypassed our forces and landed at Navarre, where they easily defeated the small force that had been left there.

    The following year the Prince returned to Navarre leading what would have been an army of liberation, only to find that the French had marched south to crushing defeat. The Prince rejoined the main body of his forces and marched on Toulouse, only to once again have the enemy flee before him. As his troops pacified the conquered territory word reached him of his father's death, and as his father had feared he returned to Morocco and ascended the throne without ever having tasted battle. History will no doubt record all this, either as a footnote of the humble beginnings of a successful reign, or as the prelude to a civil war.

    It is my belief that Amir abu Omar, flush with the pride of victory, will lead such a rebellion if he has opportunity. It is my fervent hope, and a hope shared by those who have contributed to my work, that this shall not happen. So here are recorded many truths about these events that are not as widely known.

    I shall begin with the Battle of Saria Pass, where the forces of Navarre where overrun and allowed the French invaders to gain access beyond the minor beachhead of their landfall. No one wants to speak ill of the dead, especially when they fell in battle. Because of this there has been no official contradiction of tales told by those who escaped the battle with their lives. These tales have put the size of the French army at four to five thousand heavily armed troops. Since the entire French force marched into Castille, Amir abu Omar is credited with defeating such a host, when in fact captains among his own forces estimate the French army at two thousand at most, with at least a quarter of them being lightly armed and ill trained peasants. Their crushing victory in Navarre is clearly due not to overwhelming numbers, but to an inexperienced and foolish general who led his company, the only available cavalry, on a mad charge that was intercepted by the enemy. When this paragon of leadership was stricken from his saddle his own company panicked; a panic that rapidly spread through the infantry and led to a complete rout.

    This smaller number is corroborated by French prisoners as well as dock workers in ports along the English Channel, from which the crusaders sailed. The French army being less than half the size casts a much different light upon its destruction. In this new light let us take a closer look at the 'Lion of Iberia'. The Amir of Castille arrived in Madrid as the Captain of a militia company raised up out of the gutters of Granada; tough men, fierce fighters. He maintained order among them by a combination of quick wits and harsh discipline that he was fully capable of administering himself, as he was well known to be the toughest of the lot. Nowhere is there any record that this company ever played a prominent part in any battle, and the Amir certainly never stood in command of any significant army, until the French came. On that day, with a hastily thrown together army of two thousand men, he stood against the French. Many of his troops were newly arrived, hastily gathered from all over the empire, and had no idea how inexperienced their general actually was.

    The Amir established an ambush at a point where the road wound between two hills. He split his forces across the two hills, explaining to his captains that the French would recognize the benefits of cutting their opposition in half, which would cause them to drive up the road and end up caught in a vice. It should come as no surprise that the French, seeing that their enemy had already split his forces, had no reason to walk into this trap and instead rushed the defenders on the eastern side of the road. The day was saved by the fact that the General had established himself on the west side of the road, where he could not countermand the eastern captains who immediately ordered their troops to flee westward and join their fellows.

    With all formations lost in chaos and the tactical plan gone completely awry credit must be given where it is due. The Amir led his entire army, in mass, into a wild melee with the French. As the French had not yet wheeled their formations this concerted rush caught them about quarter on their left flank, and the completely uncontrolled mob broke up the French formations as quickly as they had abandoned their own. While this can hardly be called a tactic, and it would surely have been a disaster had our forces actually faced the vast numbers they supposedly faced, it did in fact carry the day. The Amir's own company, half crazed with blood lust, pulled the French King from his saddle and tore him limb from limb.

    The presence of the King of mighty France on the battlefield has been used by those who refuted previous claims such as mine. Henri II, at that time, ruled a kingdom that stretched from the Atlantic to the Baltic Sea. His unruly vassals, calling themselves 'Kings of England', had been reduced to a small province in the north of Great Britain, caught between advancing French regulars and wild Scotsmen. For this King to be leading anything less than an immense host is unthinkable. For him to risk himself in any battle where the numbers were not hugely in his favor when he had no viable heir is more unthinkable. Unthinkable even for me, until I found myself in Rouen and learned the French side of the story.

    Rouen is a city in turmoil. There is no organized armed force in or near the city, and has not been since the failure of the crusade. No one actually knows what became of the Duke of Normandy. At the collapse of the empire he was believed to be somewhere in the east, and has not been heard from since. It could be said that the entire province is in rebellion, but with no one to rebel against there is no actual evidence to support the claim. How they came to be in such a state is no mystery here, and it clears the mystery of how a street urchin from Granada could turn into the general who defeated the King of France in the hills north of Madrid. It all falls to the bloody hands of former French generals, now petty tyrants ruling over bits and pieces of their former empire.

    In the eastern reaches of the French empire these nobles sat their duchal seats and poured forth their French pride. They were not satisfied when our first invasion of Aquitaine was so efficiently turned back, they called for reprisals. Their King believed there would be another invasion, as in fact there was, and defied them by holding a defensive posture in Aquitaine.

    They poured out their piety, rousing the peasants and the Pope. They demanded a crusade. The King knew full well that if any of these nobles, already commanders of powerful armies, led a successful crusade they would be such favorites of the public that they may well overthrow the King himself, probably with the blessing of their Pope. So he had no choice but to lead such a crusade himself.

    Then they gave him no troops. The eastern Dukes could spare no forces with the contentious Germans at their borders. The Earl of Wessex could spare no troops without fear of an English resurgence. Those who had called the loudest for a crusade when they thought they might lead it suddenly found that it was 'not a good time'. Only provinces west of the great rivers of France provided troops, and the crusade was doomed before it even set sail, long before it met the 'Lion of Iberia'.

    So, the French empire has completely collapsed. Civil war wracks the Egyptians. Some distant descendant of an even more distant cousin has appeared in the east, claiming to be the rightful heir to the throne of the Turks. The world is in chaos, and perhaps our own empire will also fall over the brink. But I choose to believe that the will of Allah calls for something greater from us.

    Khalid abu Hassan
    Alim of Allah
    Rouen, Normandy, 1162

  15. #15
    Misanthropos Member I of the Storm's Avatar
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    Default Re: From the front line

    Great! Again...

  16. #16

    Default From the front line VII

    The following is a letter from Jean-marc D'albret, a merchant in the city of Rouen, to his brother Henri in Paris, dated 1171.


    I am very sorry to hear about your captain. I always thought Baldwin was a little strange, and thought it very odd that the Duke chose him to head up the militia. I knew that you had to show him respect and courtesy, so I kept my opinions to myself. Do you think it was being captured by the Germans that unhinged him? I myself have to wonder if it is just the lot of the French to be commanded by madmen, or conquered.

    I know that the great nobles have all gathered there in Paris to make some sort of stand, and that you believe your loyalty demands that you serve. But I would ask, do they serve France? It was their petty plotting that sent the King on his mad crusade, and their continued squabbling for power that has led to the Caliph taking the entire western half of the country under his control without even having to fight a battle. And I must say that times are good here under their rule.

    The castle has finally been taken. The idiot Rene Couer held out for three years. He couldn't have had more than a dozen men, and it was obvious from the start that to relieve the siege our noble lords would have to abandon Paris. Small chance of that!

    At first the Africans held the keep surrounded and wouldn't allow any contact, hoping to starve them out. After a few months it was obvious that there were so few men inside that they could survive indefinitely eating rats, which were breeding in the abandoned chambers faster than Couer and his misfits could eat them. At that point we were allowed to deliver food.

    At the besiegers request we encouraged them to surrender. I was surprised that there were no threats of reprisals against the town, but they never tried that. They are certainly more civilized than the English, and I have to wonder if our own generals would have been as honorable. At first Couer refused what he called 'gifts from collaborators', but I think his men would have mutinied had he continued feeding them rats.

    I was very surprised last year when they didn't mutiny, as a matter of fact. A representative came from Morocco. The Caliph offered to buy the castle from them and give them safe passage to Paris, or a full pardon so they could return to their homes. Since the keep wasn't theirs in the first place it seemed like a great opportunity, but somehow Couer kept them convinced that a French army would appear on the horizon any day.

    All that appeared was a ship in the harbor flying the flag of Morocco. They unloaded three ballistae, rolled them up onto the hill overlooking the west wall of the keep, and knocked it down. General Muhammad gave them one more chance to surrender, and they fired a shot from their catapult in reply.

    The battle was over in a matter of minutes. The General immediately set his troops to rebuilding the wall. The whole thing seemed rather pointless.

    Also on the ship was our new Duke. They actually call him 'Amir'. He is a good administrator, and fair. The Imams are far more open in their teachings now, but there are no laws against the Catholics or any persecution that I have seen. A soldier who was shopping in the market today said that the Pope encourages war, so the Pope is his enemy, but the Pope is far away. He paid with a gold florin, and when I couldn't make change he bought extra bread and gave it to a beggar. I know our pious Lords say otherwise, but I am not sure these men are evil.

    I fear for you my brother. The keep at Rouen has just fallen, but already the people are adjusting to new rulers. The army here will not be needed to keep the peace in Normandy for long. Surely the other provinces are being similarly pacified. Like Spain before us, we are being digested into the Caliphate, and once things have settled down there will be a vast host available to march on Paris. Please, come home.


  17. #17
    Misanthropos Member I of the Storm's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    In a calm spot

    Default Re: From the front line

    It's been 2 weeks now.
    Will you continue this epic?

  18. #18

    Default Re: From the front line

    The world is thrice cursed by fools. The first curse is the fools who would call themselves kings. The second curse is those who would follow such a king to their deaths. The third curse is those who would criticize a king who is no fool. No time in history has seen such a plague of fools as these times.

    The Caliph, Ismail, came to power upon the death of his father, and was derided as 'the boy' by generals and courtiers. He never faced battle. That was said, and truly, as every enemy he ever faced fled before him. On the battlefield they fled. In the royal court of Morocco his enemies stood boldly with sneers on their faces. The Caliph nears fifty, and has fathered many fine princes, and still they sneer, and call him the boy behind his back, but not to his face.

    They question him, and he listens, though sometimes he must seethe at their lack of respect. "There is no man who has nothing to teach me," he says frequently. Over the years he has certainly taught them. Those who fear to speak out have been retired from the court. They have comfort, but when a man has had influence nothing can replace it.

    Others, who spoke their minds enough to keep their stations, but maneuvered to raise them at the Caliph's expense have found the iron in the Caliph, and his steel in their bellies. To conspire against him he does not treat as a crime. To lead that conspiracy is to forfeit your life. He gives no quarter.

    Beyond the court the iron shows with exactly the same tempering. Our Caliph is a single forging, pure in his consistency. To compare him to other kings should still the tongue of any critic.

    The Arab Sultan, al Mustali III, descended of the Pharohs of Egypt, is a fine illustration of a fool. For over a decade he has scattered his forces, desultorily chasing Turkish armies in and out of Syria. The Byzantines destroyed the Turkish empire, they hold the Islamic Turks in bondage, and their armies stand at the borders and laugh. Thus is the heart of Islam protected in the east.

    In the west, in Iberia, generations of peaceful management and prosperity have turned the lands of the Spanish king into an Islamic paradise. The good people of France, freed from their tyrannical Catholic nobles, flock to our teachers. Islam would be better served if united under the Caliph, but there are many in the mosques who know that he is not devout and they fear him. They don't see that if he displayed the pious nature they would have of him that the rich lands of France would be in turmoil rather than falling peacefully under his sway. The old Sultans of Turkey were devout, and their people now serve Constantinople.

    Selim II, who calls himself Sultan of the Turks today, has suggested a united Islam. Of course he suggests this while his motley band skirmishes across the deserts, bringing nothing but ruin to the holy lands. A fool for a sultan leading an army of fools.

    Fleeing Syria they captured Palestine. Had he chosen a path of stewardship the wealth of Palestine could possibly have allowed him to secure Jerusalem against the forces of al-Mustali III, but he and his generals were instead driven by their own rhetoric. Shouting for Islamic unity and apparently expecting a swell of support throughout north Africa the self proclaimed Sultan attacked our garrison in the Sinai and was crushed. Amir abu Salim and his general, ibn Mardanish, pursued and routed the Turks out of Palestine.

    Abu Salim is now King in Jerusalem, and ibn Mardanish is Amir of the Sanai. The surviving Turks overwhelmed the garrison at Tripoli. The fool al Mustali has still not seen the necessity to raise his troops in force and eradicate his rival. At least with Jerusalem held by the Caliph it will not fall to the Byzantines, as seems inevitable for the lands disputed by the posturing sultans. But the greatest fool among kings was not in the east, but the west.

    For generations the Catholic Kings of Aragon held sway in their mountainous little corner of the Pyrenees. All the way back to the reign of Yusef I the Arogonese have been our allies. When Yusef crushed the Spanish, Aragon stood wisely aside. When the French launched their crusade on Navarre and the Pope was howling for Muslim blood Aragon stood wisely aside. Felipe, last King of Aragon, apparently went mad.

    The emissary from Aragon stood before the Caliph as if he was about to negotiate a trade agreement, or report on a drunken brawl in a border town. With a straight face and calm voice he looked the Caliph in the eye and said "My King sends greetings and regrets. Due to hostilities between your nation and our ally, the Sultan of the Turks, we have been forced to cancel our alliance with you and will be suspending all terms of those agreements. It is the king's most fervent wish that you come to terms with the Sultan before any violence between our great nations is necessary."

    Silence fell in the royal hall. Had a beggar taken a gold coin in hand and promptly spit on his benefactor there could not have been greater shock. The Caliph actually tipped his head and shook it quickly, as if wondering if something lodged in his ear had perhaps distorted his hearing. Finally he said, in a quiet voice, "I understand. I'm sure you will be my guest while I assemble an appropriate response for your king."

    The following year, having assembled over three thousand troops, Prince Muhammad delivered the Caliph's response. The generals say that a smaller force could have had a glorious battle. Once again, the Caliph has proven that he has no interest in glory, and an instinct that leads him to strike straight to the heart.

  19. #19
    Camel Lord Senior Member Capture The Flag Champion Martok's Avatar
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    Mar 2002
    In my own little world....but it's okay, they know me there.

    Default Re: From the front line

    Another outstanding entry! I know I'm beginning to sound like a broken record saying that all the time, except that it really is true. You're a truly gifted storyteller.

    I loved your portrayal of the other faction rulers, particularly Felipe. The scene with his emissary in Ismail's court was little short of brilliant.
    "MTW is not a game, it's a way of life." -- drone

  20. #20
    Misanthropos Member I of the Storm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    In a calm spot

    Default Re: From the front line

    Indeed. Simply brilliant. Wish I had time to play a bit myself...

  21. #21
    Cardinal Member Ironsword's Avatar
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    Jan 2008

    Default Re: From the front line

    Great story Timsup2nothin! -You really capture the atmosphere, and wrap it up with great personal narratives.

    Looking forward to more!

  22. #22

    Default From the front line IX

    From the journal of Captain Ali ibn Tashufin, 1200 AD

    I ply the storm tossed waters of the North Sea. I may some day be wrecked by those storms, but I will never be sunk by an enemy of the Caliphate. We are like the tide, our enemies mere waves.

    At this turn of the century I look back over my decade of service and see the foundation of conquest has been laid. Our rise to glory is inevitable. Like many others I had doubts.

    Ten years ago Philippe III declared himself king of France, rising from the ranks of the Earl of Wessex with a claim of royal blood. His forces destroyed the rebellious Earl, and like a wave French nationalism swept across the continent. The rebel nobles who had caused the fall of France bent their knees to the new king, from afar. The wave broke against our borders. In our provinces there is no nostalgic love for the autocratic French nobility.

    I was tasked with preventing the passage of French ships. The new king has never built a navy. He remains trapped on Great Britain, sharing a meager meal with the King of England in an uneasy truce. Our transports deliver a thousand fighting men to the Flanders coast every year. Our army swells like the rising tide, preventing any crossing.

    The French gathered their forces, and in 1195 they marched on Paris. The Caliph's brothers met them in even strength, holding a hill overlooking the road. Like a wave the French army rolled against their formation of rock; crashing, scattering, ultimately retreating, broken.

    Our transports took away veteran units who had taken casualties. They formed the core of a recruiting effort that allowed our army to swell even faster in the following years. With Flanders secure and the French in disarray our armies marched inexorably from the south, liberating province after province. The Germans, who supported the resurgent French, were swept away as well.

    We have more troops in Flanders than the French and English combined can muster in the British Isles, and the Muslim majorities there cry for liberation from their Catholic masters. Now like the tide our teachers carry the word of Allah through central Europe.

    Our warships are a thin line, protecting our trade routes. Like the rising tide we have swept from the docks of Tunis to Cyprus in the east and the Baltic in the north. As a sailor I longed to see vast fleets and naval actions. Perhaps they may come someday. The Sicilians have some fleets that will have to be quashed, though they may be lost to stormy sea or broken budget before the day comes.

    I, who went to the sea seeking war, now only hope to rest easily on her beautiful surface, and live to see the day when there need be no more war. It is coming, surely as the rising tide.


    With these words from the Captain my work is complete. While the Caliphate has not conquered the entire world...yet...the situation has reached the point of no return. I have described the rise, and avoided the fall. There is little fuel for a narrative in the mop-up that remains.

    My deepest thanks go to my readers.

  23. #23
    Camel Lord Senior Member Capture The Flag Champion Martok's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    In my own little world....but it's okay, they know me there.

    Default Re: From the front line

    All's well that ends well, as the saying goes.

    I very much enjoyed reading your marvelous tale, Timsup2nothin. Thank you.
    "MTW is not a game, it's a way of life." -- drone

  24. #24

    Default Re: From the front line

    Though I have a preference for AARs with images, i can easily observe that a lot of work was put into this, thus I made an exception.
    Great work, TimSup2nothin

    Come & Play



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