The Raptor of Spain: WI Abd ar-Rahman I became a Christian?
OOC: First timeline and story, be gentle but firm. The timeline is a mixture of story scenes and broad overview.
POD: Abd ar-Rahman I becomes a Christian.
Also, to be clear the POD is actually 731, Abd ar-Rahman's Christian mother has a greater influence on him to end result of his eventual conversion to Christianity.
RAPTOR OF SPAIN
"They call it Al-Andalus," Bedr said.
"Did we name it that? Well no matter. I have never seen it before," Abd ar-Rahman admitted. "But with luck, I will see more of it soon. I will await your return."
It was too long to wait standing there of course, but he did see Bedr leave in the Dhow, with a handful of Berber tribesmen to crew the vessel. He straightened his long frame silhouetted against the night and hoped Allah would see fit to grant him success. Returning to his tent through the Roman ruins of the city, he walked alone in the dark, all alone truly even among the other tribesmen. Closing his eyes he saw again the scenes of carnage, the rivers of blood as his family were massacred to the last. He'd run then, but here he was in the uttermost west and he was out of room--thus the risk.
The ruins he was surrounded by formed a building, with its dome open to the sky. He placed his hand on one of the walls and noted a cross made of stone and broken. It had been a church then, this green place. He could remember very well his mother telling him about the faith she practised. He'd been fascinated, listened to her stories as often as he could as a child and despite everything he'd never forgotten them just as he'd never forgotten her. His family had tried he knew, to get him to forget about the stories but he was never to have been Caliph, so there was no need.
It was as he stood quietly in the dark pondering his mother and her Christian stories that they found him.
"There he is," a voice said behind him.
He turned and in the darkness made out Tashfin the chieftan. A handful of armed men advanced toward him.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded though he knew, and even as he set his hand on his sword he let it go.
At start of the year, Abd ar-Rahman was captured by berber tribesmen while his servant laid the seeds for his arrival in Al-Andalus. A chance encounter with bandits had resulted in the loss of almost all the dinars he had managed to accumulate in his flight from Damascus and he could not afford to buy his way free. Angered, his captors sent messengers to the Abbasid authorities. They began to mistreat him, cursing him as being a fool, for being weak, for being impious as all his family were. And so the days passed. What the berbers wanted was money or favor from the ruling Abbasid authorities. What they got was neither as they were told to wait while officials were sent.
Ar-Rahman brooded. These berbers were terrible Muslims he knew. Following a debased form that they perhaps did not bother to practice as well as they might. But this was the fault of the Abbasids, not theirs. The true fault lay with al'Abbas. The young man hoped, waited, that Bedr would return and somehow set him free but as the days passed he sunk into depression but that hope was dashed too when Bedr was thrown into the cell with him. But the news was not all abd.
"Your arrival will be like a wild fire," Bedr explained. "Things there are in chaos with so few of them and so many Christians and if you bring them order they will be yours."
So how to escape?
In end, the Berbers provided the way. Word that the arrival of the Abbasid envoy was imminent put them into a distracted mood and they celebrated the good forture to have a captive. But this distracted them enough. Bedr and ar-Rahman slew the drunken guards and made their way down to the harbor. Their escape was noticed but it was too late. A few berbers tried to stop them but he and Bedr cut off some hands and the rest retreated.
"Like a hero in a story!" ar-Rahman had laughed.
And so, after over a year in captivity, in the early Spring of AD 752, Abd ar-Rahman reached Spain, one step ahead of the Abbasids.
Last edited by MNP; June 5th, 2009 at 12:03 AM..
PART I: CLEAN BREAK
It is well to be the prince, he thought indulging in a little conceit.
He was not fool enough to believe was Prince of anything but the ground he stood on, and maybe not even that as he staggered as one of the chieftains bumped into him. He turned around but managed to show a disarming smile and the other man laughed, slapped him on the back and moved on.
His arrival in Malaga the first town of note he’d seen was everything he’d hoped, Discontent with al-Fihri the governor was high and he’d managed to amass a sizable following of Syrian Arabs who had been oppressed since the new of the Zab had reached the land. So too the Berbers of al-Andalus who were oppressed on account of not being Arab. While ar-Rahman sympathized with the chieftans, after all he was very proud of his own heritage, he knew he had to cultivate the Berbers if he was going to have a chance. They’d done the leopard’s share of the work in conquering the land and had received little in return--the worst lands and the fewest.
After consulting with the chieftans, he and his still-small contingent decided his best move would be to head to Sevilla. That region was also badly discontented and had a strong population base. With al-Fihri reportedly in the north putting down revolt, he would have time to grow his following before the inevitable showdown. Strange though, he’d expected some kind of placatory offer but it had not come--he’d thought they would dither, maybe even offer to buy him off but they had not. He worried at it in his mind even after the feast, even after they’d set out west across the plain and his worried proved well founded when a force rather larger than his own appeared in front of them.
They were badly outnumbered, resistance would be suicide. He had no choice, his allies fickle as they were, were already surrendering. He was tempted to fight, to give up but something inside him refused. He could almost see his mother again, how sad she would be if he were to die here. That day.
And so he went into captivity but even as the irons were placed around his wrists, his and Bedr’s he heard the screams, the realized that al-Fihri was massacring his allies to the last. He had led them into nothing but disaster and he cast his face down in anguish.
In the summer of 752, Abd ar-Rahman was captured by the governor al-Fihri, of al-Andalus. The delay by ar-Rahman due to his capture by the berbers had meant that when Zaragoza rose against the governor, he had time to put down the revolt and turn south where he became aware of the rumors about the Umayyad prince. Perhaps because his blood was up due to the recent revolt he had acted swiftly and with brother in lay al-Sumayl, taken his force directly south from Zaragoza and intercepted ar-Rahman before he reached Seville.
Ar-Rahman was brought to Cordoba where al-Fihri delighted in humiliating him, accusing his family of being extremely bad Muslims, a poison to the Ummah, and he often brought ar-Rahman to him so he could denigrate his family from Muawiyah on down except for al-Aziz. He even, though Ar-Rahman did not know how, though he suspected a mixture of force and money, managed to bring out the population of Cordoba to ridicule him publicly setting him up in a square tied to a scaffold and ar-Rahman had insults hurled at him. Those he could usually bear though had no choice. Sometimes some of the people even pelted him with shoes. He began to lose hope again.
After capturing the almost-leader of the opposition, al-Fihri’s revenge was brutal. Towns all across the south east were massacred. Syrian Arabs slaughtered, berbers tortured and their families killed before their eyes. It grew so bad that the news reached the Abassid Caliph, Abu al’Abbas himself and his own rage was terrible to behold as he sent a new governor with a force toe al-Andalus to remove al-Fihri by any means necessary. However when he died in early 753 the expedition was halted for a time until the new Caliph al-Mansur could secure his power.
In the meantime Abd ar-Rahman’s hopes were at their nadir. Aside from the loyal Bedr, the only person who was kind to him at all (which al-Fihri had strictly forbidden) was a Christian slave girl named Lisina who sometimes brought him food. She encouraged him quietly and was the only person who ever smiled at him. As the months of torment passed he began to look forward to her visits.
Last edited by MNP; June 4th, 2009 at 07:36 PM..
OOC: It will get more traditional and less story based as I move ahead more quickly later on.
“Wake up! Wake up!” he opened his eyes to the sound of Lisina’s voice. She wasn’t alone, by her side was an old man, a berber. Any questions he wanted to ask died when they opened the gate. “Get Bedr up too,” Lisina said as she turned to exchange words with the older man.
Bedr woke quickly and with his characteristic of going fully awake almost immediately. He sat up and grasped the situation. “Thank you,” he said.
“Not for you sake,” she said but ar-Rahman noticed she did not look at him. “Follow us,” she said with a wave and he found himself amused momentarily that she was apparently in charge. But then the amusement vanished, was it funny that he was escaping? He concentrated on the headscarf she was wearing as he followed her, the cloth was a simple brown.
“I planned for this for some time,” Lisina whispered to him as they went down the empty hall. Suddenly they turned and slid behind a door partially obscured by a tapestry and he found himself in a store room. “Put these one,” she said handing him a bundle.
Robes of course, a fairly simple trick. They would all be Berber tribesmen from the country it looked like. But that was ridiculous, in the governor’s palace? She made a face when he said so, a cross between annoyance and excitement. Ah, she had an answer for him and she was full of what she knew of course.
“The disguise does not have to work well here, we’ve used other methods,” she said with a nod at the Berber.
“Money,” Bedr said quietly as he slipped into the robes. A rich old Berber man? This was beyond bizarre.
“But why would you help us?” Ar-Rahman asked the old man.
“I knew your mother.”
In the end it proved to a bit more complex than that. Lisina and the old man had managed to bribe their way out of governors palace and quickly merged into the streets of the capital. They had also ensured (or so they hoped) that the guards would not report him missing until the morning. The old man refused however to answer any questions staying quiet and saying only that would understand later. To his Abd ar-Rahman’s surprise, a pair of horses were waiting in a hidden place outside the city. A tense moment came when Lisina asked to come with them. It was known she often was selected to bring him his meals though no one had thought it suspicious before. This was only one of several rather good reasons for coming along. In the end, ar-Rahman led her ride behind him though it was not particularly proper. It was after all an emergency.
“Find a way,” the old man said as they left, “to bring us peace.”
“Where did you find him? ar-Rahman asked her.
But she only answered, “He found me.”
Preposterous as it made seem, Abd ar-Rahman made his escape with his servant and the slave with the help of a mysterious old man. But things were worse than he’d thought. The governor perhaps worried over his potential replacement had dealt very harshly with any potential troublemakers in the months ar-Rahman had been imprisoned. No one it seemed was willing to rally to his cause, and that was only partly because of the oppression; al-Fihri’s attempt to discredit him had worked--everyone had heard of or seen him mocked and embarrassed in the public squares of Cordoba and most of his aura as the last Prince of the Umayyad Dynasty was as dead as the rest of his family.
All across al-Andalus it was the same, made even more difficult by his need to keep silent. Most would not report him but a few did and two men and a woman traveling were not something to forget even if Lisina had dyed her blond hair black. He was forced to head north to Zaragoza, that endlessly rebellious region, surrounded by the Christians. If anyone would rebel it was the ruler of Zaragoza. But it was a slim hope, they had been crushed not 2 years before and it would take time for them to forget the retribution meted out. Despite himself, he was impressed, al-Fihri had managed to pacify Al-Andalus for the time being. Though of course, with this much repression when the revolts came they would be many times greater. Ar-Rahman even knew why he did it, to demonstrate to the Caliph that he deserved to keep this post far from the capital where he was a law largely onto himself and the presence of the frontier so close made everything an emergency.
But his attempt at support had not gone unnoticed.
And so it was that the three of them found themselves riding recklessly east and northwards along what Lisina called the Desert of Duero, named after the river. An utterly wild region, there was no where for them to hide as the governor’s men rode after them. He was not about to let ar-Rahman get away. He’d already tried to rebel and managed to escape captivity twice, this time ar-Rahman knew, he would not get a second chance.
But burdened as they were, they could not escape and so finally had to stop and contemplate a last stand. Even Lisina had a knife to die with at last, she said bleakly with a glance at ar-Rahman. And it was then that Bedr placed Lisina on his horse and urged ar-Rahman to go on. He refused of course but the other man insisted and they were forced to part. For the rest of his days he would think kindly on the Greeks of Bedr’s race. Loyal and faithful and courageous. Bedr was slain much as ar-Rahman’s brother had been years before when he had first fled, but they did not see because they were already riding north into lands Lisina vaguely remembered from her girlhood. And it was there, as the governor’s men were approaching them that they were surrounded by another armed group, but this one speaking a language he could hardly understand.
Behind them the governor’s men stopped considering their options. They were out numbered here, and far from the border with the Christians now. Looking back ar-Rahman could see them start to come after him but relent. When the stand off had passed the leader of the party of armed men approached him and said something, he caught a word here or there but could not understand.
He pointed at Lisina.
“Introduce yourself,” she said.
He gave his name.
“More,” Lisina said. “Tell them who you are, everything….” She looked excited. He noticed a hand clenching on reins of the horse. She shouldn’t know how to ride, not a slave girl, but she did. Odd. But he could delay no longer.
“Very well,” he sighed.
“You know my name, now know my ancestors. My grandfather was Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, of Damascus. Commander of the Faithful. 10 our line to be so.”
When Lisina translated that there was uproar. Even here they’d heard of the transfer of power from his family to that of al-’Abbas. One blurted out something. He looked to Lisina who seemed reluctant to translate but finally did.
“He said, he thought you were all dead.”
“I survive,” he said simply. The man nodded and waved to the others around him, who moved in and took his weapon but otherwise let him be. Then he said something else. Looking to Lisina again she translated it for him.
“He said: Welcome to Asturias.”
In September of 753, Abd ar-Rahman was taken into custody by the soldiers of Alfonso I, King of Asturias.
The capital of Asturias was nothing of the sort, being rather unimpressive to the cities he’d seen before, either from his own people or the Romans and it was also rather small. But he felt no superiority. In the course of the journey north his new captors had relaxed enough around him to exchange some conversation through Lisina, and through himself. A quick study with languages, he’d been able to pick up a little of theirs and every once in a while a term clearly borrowed from Arabic would be used. It happened often enough that he thought he could learn it well in a few years. He’d also learned their stories and how they saw the struggle. On the one level it was religious of course, and that couldn’t be denied. But after what had happened to his own family he was no stranger to the bitterness of their losses. And they had persevered remaining independent--that argued well for them he thought.
Instead of being immediately taken to see the king as he’d though he was instead taken to a small room where he was able to clean himself up a little and sponge off the dust of the road. It wasn’t a true bath but more than he’d expected and perhaps a small sign that they respected him. There were other things too in the way they addressed him that spoke subtly of respect--maybe from confidence in their own power.
Allowed to rest and refresh himself, when he was taken to see the king in his private rooms it was in relatively good condition and with his mind sharp and concentrated on the issue at hand. His hands however, were tied. Alfonso of Asturias was a tall man, though slim much like himself. He had sharp eyes in a weathered face a testament to the long war he’d fought in the south.
Before he could say anything Alfonso spoke.
“He said I should leave” Lisina translated. Tagging along behind him she had been unobtrusive enough to be ignored. Now he made it clear with a gesture and waived her away.
“No,” ar-Rahman said shaking his head. “She is my translator and I require her services. She will be trustworthy on my honor.” Lisina turned rather scarlet translating that which gave him a perverse sense of satisfaction to see the young woman blush. The king studied them both for a moment.
“I speak your language,” he said quietly. “She is not required.”
“It’s all right then Lisina, wait for me outside,” he said. A gift for a gift. The girl waited fractionally a second longer than she should have then bent her head to him, and spread her skirts low to the king slowly backing out of the room.
“The rumors were true,” his Arabic was accented and his pronunciation was sometimes difficult but ar-Rahman had no trouble understanding him. “The hair, the way you carry yourself and your chosen words. Tell me, what do you want?”
“Revenge,” he answered at once. The king nodded.
“Then I will do the same. I can kill you,” here he paused to see what effect it had on him, and ar-Rahman successfully waited expressionless. The king nodded again as if he‘d passed a test. “I could send you back to al-Fihri. He would make some very worthwhile concessions for you. I could send YOU back with help, to raise rebellion and have you owe me later…” this was what ar-Rahman had been waiting for.
“I have no opposition to your people,” he said. “I’ve been treated fairly by them and that would continue.”
He was about to launch into his prepared remarks but the King cut him off.
“This is not a discussion. That is not what I am going to do.“
Ar-Rahman’s hands twitched and Alfonso noted it with a minute shift in stance.
“No,“ he went on, “Killing you would be a waste and al-Fihri is a treacherous dog--his promises are written on sand. If I send you back all you will do is die, I know for a fact you’ve been trying to raise rebellion for a year and all you’ve done is discredit yourself and then I would be his target.”
“So I remain a prisoner,” not the outcome he’d wished but better than some. As the King had pointed out, raising rebellion had not worked out well for him so far.
“That may be up to you. I have spoken with the man who led the patrol who captured you, he presented a favorable opinion.”
“A guard’s opinion?” A surprise.
“No,” Alfonso answered. “From the moment you escaped Cordoba I knew you would arrive sooner or later. I chose my patrols accordingly.”
“The berber was yours,” ar-Rahman said finally realizing but the king shook his head. He could not confirm it of course. “So what will you do with me?”
“Use you,” the king answered at once. “You have some talents, not the least of which is your survival. But whether I use you as a prisoner or an agent is up to you.”
An agent. Ar-Rahman was surprised by that. He’d not expected this offer from the Catholic king. Seeing his distress the King motioned to a chair and he sat down in it, putting his head down and deep in thought.
“What would be required of me?”
“What would be required of any of my knights. Though you need not convert as long as you remain loyal.”
“A wise man to present my only choice as not my only choice,” ar-Rahman responded. “For that little nicety I thank you.”
“And your response?”
“I have a condition. It is not onerous,” he added when the king looked dubious. “Let me keep the woman Lisina as my servant. She is not one of yours and she has proven herself to me. I do not believe she has any where else to go. If she did, I would release her.”
The next morning ar-Rahman stood in the presence of King Alfonso of Asturias and the nobility of the palace. All were wearing weapons save for the Umayyad prince. Honoring the king’s promise, the clergy were there to witness but not officiate. His clothes were clean and his hands no longer bound and his head was bare as he pledged his loyalty to King Alfonso the Catholic as a Knight of Asturias.
OOC: Comments! Thanks for taking the time to do so, much appreciated. This is the last section that really needed heavy "scripting" for a while.