Thrones, Chapter V
@Rakhasa: I've got a plan for that.
Setting a strong guard to rebuild Valencia, the king reached Toledo well before the start of the summer. There he received the reports of his agents. From the Taifas came a variety of messages: Silves, Algarve, Malaga, Cartagena and Granada all sent word agreeing to his proposal of a joint operation against the Abbasid threat. None of them wanted to be ruled from Baghdad any more than they desired to be ruled by him and now that both were before them, it chanced the Caliph was mightier than he was. From Alcegiras came an answer begging off, but that was expected as Karim al-Misri was landing troops on his shores.
Karim wanted to accomplish his mission. Instead of moving straight toward the king, he had learned from crushing the Shi’ite rebellion in the Mahgreb that to have even a chance of permanently stabilizing al-Andalus he had to pacify the countryside first and to gain more adherents. Without uniting all the Muslims to create an enduring al-Andalus his mission would fail and in a generation a new general and a new army would be sent to pacify a rebellious region again. Alcegiras itself was quickly pacified but the countryside took longer and he received emissaries from several of the Taifas. Most of the Taifas sided with the Asturian but Badajoz responded favorably and after some more correspondence a force was sent to strengthen them The Zaragozan's too wanted to talk after Badajoz used them to invade Silves and Algarve.
The response came quickly. The King immediately sent word to the Taifa of Lisbon and with Asturian soldiers to back them up they invaded Badajoz in an act of self-preservation. While Karim al-Misri moved north west, soldiers from Malaga, Granada and Cartagena moved to block him and were reinforced by more Asturians. He also opened more urgent talks with the Franks.
During the late summer, some thrusts were made towards Cordoba but were repulsed with some loss forcing Karim to slow his expected advancement while he waited for more of his men to cross to the peninsula. In addition to having to hold North Africa he needed to regroup his scattered armies before going north. While Asturias did not have the force to confront him, neither did he have the strength necessary for a concerted push that would not leave him over-extended if he advanced past Cordoba, and the ambitious Karim al-Misri would like nothing more than to do just that. However the autumn rains are heavier than usual and he cannot advance that year while consolidating his position as more men flock to his banners.
Early in 766, the Emirate of Zaragoza which has offered only a tepid response to King Avidus, invades the Balearic Islands of Denia. After securing Ibiza they begin to launch sea-borne raids against mainland Denia and Cartagena forcing the latter to shift forces to the east an defend its towns.
Meanwhile news has come from the Franks in the form of Pepin’s son Charles and, a massive force that arrived at Santander by boat late that spring straining the port town, now enlarged in the years since Avidus Arman’s ascension, to capacity. Joining the Frankish prince is his closest friend and distant relative, Roland. Marching south along the border between Zaragoza and Asturias, they are joined by a force of Zaragozans who have publicly declared for Asturias. Their attacks on Cartagena and Denia continue with Asturian acquiescence the price of their help. The Zaragozans treat the Franks well as they take some time to enjoy the emirate’s eponymous capital city before continuing south.
Charles arrived to help battle Muslims and preserve the Christian realm in the peninsula on orders of his father Pepin, but he also has a much different objective. Because Frankish designs lay towards the east, he was to scout the terrain around the Emirate of Zaragoza for a forth coming Frankish invasion to safeguard the conquests of Septimania securing the western border and providing more outlets into the Mediterranean.
They join with the main Asturian force with a very large contingent of infantry trained in warfare on broken terrain each equipped with a reinforced quiver on their backs for a large number of heavy javelins much like the ancient Romans. However these javelins are so heavy that they cannot afford much armor. Avidus meets the 25 year old Frankish prince south at Cuenca, hosting him in the Conca Alcazaba built a generation before as they meet to plan strategy.
Shortly after their arrival word comes that Karim al-Misri has laid siege to Carmona and King Avidus Araman, Charles, Roland, and Yahya ibn Musa, the commander of the Zaragozan contingent and one of the Emir’s sons, ride south. When the Asturians and their allies reach Cordoba, they are met by several thousand men from the Taifas under their various commanders.
For Karim, the fortress at Carmona would be an excellent base for advances north or west if the Taifas prove recalcitrant. However the siege has not been a simple matter. After the conquest of Cordoba, the king had fortified the citadel and spared no expense to provision it. The garrison there is sizable, and has been increased due to the Abbasid invasion. When Karim received word that King Avidus was moving on his position he left a guard of some 3000 men to guard the fortress while he led the rest some 3 miles to the east and took up a position at the crossing of the Corbones river. Avidus could attack or take a detour through mountainous terrain and into the unfriendly lands of Badajoz-conquered Seville. Worried about the fortress falling to Karim, the allies decide they have no choice and prepare to attack Karim across the river.
Abd ar-Rahman (for he still though of himself as that) stood looking at the Abbasid banner, a black square of emptiness in the day and beneath it somewhere, Karim al-Misri, their chosen pawn. He looked back at his men, from Muslim light swordsmen to javelin armed Asturians, to Frankish heavy spearmen and light archers from around the kingdom.
“Those men over there are not cowards!” the king shouted to his men. “They are strong and determined--I know their mettle…. But I also know yours. I know the struggles you have fought through, and the triumphs you’ve gained and I would not leave your side now! Don’t concern yourself with plunder today, victory here and all the south will be in our hands with enough for all. Follow my orders, throw your javelins and stand firm with our allies, and we will win the day!”
Riding to the front with the heavy cavalry of the army, both the few mounted Frankish knights and his own, he drew his sword watching for a second the sun glancing off the serviceable, but simple blade.
“Horsemen! Forward!” he shouted.
The battle of Rio Carbones had begun.