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Old July 29th, 2009, 06:29 PM
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AD 866, A Small Town in the Maghreb

Elena gasped when a line of fire stitched itself across her finger. She narrowed her eyes at the needle as if it were at fault. The new ones were supposed to more finely made than ever, but she just stabbed herself more. Shaking her hand, she looked up at the figure in the doorway to the courtyard when she heard her name a second time. She looked around at the others but they were kept their heads down sewing--at least, that’s how it seemed. She knew they were all listening intently, every last one of them.

“I am Elena the seamstress, Mudarris Alfonso,” she answered feeling nervous for she had recognized the badge on his tunic, the Grammatico. Not that she’d ever met him but she had heard of him of course, his arrival a few years ago had caused a stir for he had not been married. He was an older man so that furor died down quickly as he settled down and began to teach, first the government officials and then those with the time and inclination for words and writing.

“Here is no good. If you would come with me, I have already spoken with your employer.”

Elena was confused all over again, but he’d answered her most important concern and she rose and carefully put away her sewing. He beckoned her with a hand and she felt her stomach begin to flutter, gripping some loose tresses of hair peaking out from under her scarf. Instead of talking to her outside the shop he led her a little ways away from it down the street and beyond the outskirts of the town before stopping. She could see the irrigated farms spread out beneath her to the north, their divisions marked by the stone lined canals that crossed the lowlands and the thatched covers over the larger ones to reduce evaporation.

“Mudarris,” she spat out at last, “Why did you want to speak with me?”

“Now Elena,” he said kindly, “I’m just a Maestro, nothing so grand as that.” The gentle correction went right over her head as she waited. He sighed and someone more at ease than Elena would probably have realized that he looked amused for an instant before his face became unreadable.

“I received a letter for you,” he said pulling a folded paper from a pouch at his side. There was a blob of wax on one face, and on the other was something else, dark squiggles. “At least I believe so.” He pointed the side with the squiggles at her. Writing she supposed, though it took her a moment to remember the unfamiliar term.

“A…. letter?” she asked confused. “Is it from my Diego?” It looked like there were two different colors of wax on the paper. She waited, but he did nothing. Was she doing something wrong?

“Ah of course,” he said. Sliding the seal off the letter he unfolded it carefully and began to speak: “This was sent to me in my official capacity and it was addressed to you. It says: For Elena the Seamstress, wife to Protegero Diego, Second Andalucia Company. Your husband in service to the Crown participated in the reclamation of Oviedo from the unlawful usurper. We regret to inform you that shortly there after he was struck by an arrow. On his death you will receive his payment in arrears until the time of his death. His service was an honor. Commandante Garza, Third Banner, First Battle.

Emptiness. Elena became aware there was someone else beside her because she was looking at his feet. The blackness around her receded a little and she wilted in on herself when he placed a supporting hand on her arm. “He was killed?” she couldn‘t believe it. If he was alive why would they have sent the letter? She put her hands over her face, embarrassed and ashamed for him to see her like that. She turned away from him but felt shame in not facing him too. “My h-h-husband…”

“I am sorry it came to me to tell you. I received it this morning, I thought it best to tell you as soon as I read it. Many women would never know, but your husband was an officer. I would hope you do not think of ill of me.”

Ill of you!? How could I have known without you, how could I have even made sense of it? She hated him at that moment for giving her the knowledge and it was only when her hand burned that she remembered the needle. Elena tried to steady herself but the Grammatico was going on.

“I do not claim to know your situation but surely you have a father, family.”

She did of course, her name was much longer than what he’d called her. But she did not think more could have fit on the letter. Odd thoughts to have now. She noticed a windmill in the distance turning. She felt disconnected and squeezed her hand again using pain to bring her back.

“My father is in Paradise. My brothers…. ,” she was still staring at the ground. But she knew, she would get up and wash her face in the fountain, and ignore the questions of the others. It was late, it wouldn’t be much longer before it was too dark to work. “We were married only weeks before he was called away,” she sounded lost even to herself. She was lost.

To that of course, he had no answer.
______________________________________

*Alfonso has been qualified to instruct in literature and grammar (Arabic and Spanian).
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  #102  
Old August 2nd, 2009, 10:05 AM
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Elena's Story Part II

AD 867, Badajoz Spaña

Elena looked up shading her eyes against the sun and pulled her hood lower over her eyes while steadying herself against the pack mule, but she did not look down for such was the power of Badajoz. Founded in the 740s as part of the governor of Al-Andalus’s attempted to establish his hold on the province, it became the heart of one of the short lived polities that arose during the unification of the peninsula under King Araman. Under the rule of the Spaña, it was a crossroads between trade in all the principal directions and it’s beauty was unbounded for while a fortress resided at its heart, it had no great city wall or fortification. While being far from any battle lines for over a century meant it was in no way a fortress, a huge stone construction did loom over the city of Badajoz--the Royal Mint.

After the shattering news, Elena had gone to her brother Fortun*, a minor trader, and found a purpose: she would find out what had happened to her husband. This he would not allow, that his sister would travel alone throughout the kingdom rather than act like a decent woman. She would have gone alone but she had no resources and a bitterness had begun to grow between them. In the end fate prevented worse feeling from emerging when Fortun had gotten an opportunity from one of the more powerful merchants in Sale, Petrus Albo and with it a rare chance for Fortun to improve his own small trading business.

The trip itself was for various trade goods to be sent north including citrus and dates picked up in the towns to the north of Sale and sent by ship north to Huelva and then to Badajoz. While that would not normally require hiring extra merchants, this particular shipment had something special, gold and slaves. Petrus and the other Jewish merchants in town were heavily involved in the southern Saharan route, and were beginning to compete with the Banu Ifran to the east. Since the routes had only recently come under Spaña's control due to continuing southern expansion once the Araman Province had been thoroughly established, it had taken some time for the routes to begin to function at full capacity. As the wealth of the country expanded, the demand for African products increased enough that it began to strain the capacities of their manpower
(especially when it came to slaves) so they began looking for minor merchants they could contract to but who would not be able to use the opportunity to establish themselves as rivals.

With a trip of this magnitude, it had required some planning. At first Elena had despaired. Fortun would leave and she’d either have to put herself under his control by remaining in his household or try and make her way alone which would have been impossible without turning to selling herself. It was in her attempt to find someway to survive as more than a supplicant that she discovered she did have a talent, for numbers. While letters themselves she continued to struggle with, over the months she was able to learn enough to present herself as the book-keeper to her brother without it being a laughable claim.

In this she had the help not only of the books, for that would have been impossible, but in a local book keeper who her brother (along with many other local merchants) used. He was an old man who could not travel even if he’d been willing to leave most of his clients behind to travel and he’d seen her situation when visiting her brother’s home. She had been serving refreshments and one way or other her story had been told and he’d taught her, often behind her brother’s back.

When Fortun discovered it he’d been angry to say the least but having resigned himself to doing it himself in the most complex operation he’d performed and having seen a demonstration of her abilities and been vouched for by his usual book-keeper, he’d taken her along on the condition that her task be kept hidden from the other merchants. But while she’d taken on more womanly tasks on the journey but it was as a book-keeper that Elena arrived at Badajoz.

_______________________________________

*They are Arabic Christians. Elena, an alternate spelling Alena (from Arabic Alina).
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  #103  
Old August 3rd, 2009, 09:27 AM
G.Bone G.Bone is offline
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Interesting story you have here. I really like the vigenettes you put in along with the regular time-line format.
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  #104  
Old August 3rd, 2009, 10:51 AM
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Elena’s Story Part III

The gold destined for the Royal Mint was accounted for very specifically with each merchant wholly responsible for it. One unlucky soul was somewhat short and after the guards had taken him away Elena had not seen him again. Fortun had no such trouble and received a hefty sum of which the greater part would go to their investors. The coins struck at the mint would be delivered to the Crown officials for distribution. This seemed like a recipe to corruption for her but punishment was exceedingly harsh and imposed without respect to wealth, power or class and so far it seemed that any opportunistic theft was small enough to pass unnoticed. Elena had seen the gold dars* herself, stamped with the Mozarabic Cross of the Kingdom on one side and Cloak and Spear of the royal family on the other. Fortun said the letters around it were the name of the king which she committed to memory to recognize later.

Because could not read and because counting stitches was important, Elena had a very sharp memory. While she’d been taught numbers using paper and ink (hard) or charcoal (easier but smudgey without the new Preserver) she’d also taken in other knowledge from the old man, various (honest) tricks of the trade and tips from his experience. When she asked him he would only say she reminded him of his daughter and looked sad. She’d been using these bits of knowledge while their trip had gone on, and when Fortun and the others arrived at Badajoz and completed their transactions he had done better than most of the others.

This proved important as several of the merchants were unable to continue on due to their expenses being too great or a miscalculation in profits. Rather than abandon the enterprise it was decided to pool resources and send a smaller group to finish the trading in exchange for a greater share. Fortun could afford to head north and he was eager to do so as he cared a bit more about the deal than his wife, at least for now. Petrus Albo had made a disproving remark about it when he’d found that out, she’d learned from one of Fortun’s household slaves but wisely kept it to herself.

To her surprise her brother had spoken to her about it privately that night when they’d met to go over his finances for the trip. At night, with the books facing Fortun and Elena reciting them from memory so that if anyone entered quickly (unlikely but possible) it would appear as if she was merely visiting him quietly while he worked. He had not come out and asked her opinion but he'd wanted to know expenses for various routes heading north with the smaller group and they'd ended up going over it for hours. She was exhausted when it was over and would have eagerly sought her bed but she had still to make sure breakfast would be ready as well as draw up an accounting of their supplies, a task she dreaded as Fortun tended to mock her penmanship when it came to letters.

When she was finally done she was too tried to sleep. Her mind came back to the lack of success in tracking down information on Diego that wasn't years old and she fought back despair. It was while she forced herself to remember the memories they'd had in their brief time together to try and find something others would remember, that she'd fallen asleep with tears trickling down her face.

_____________________________

*Spanish verb “to give.” ITTL from Dinar which wiki tells me is from Greek “denarion” which is “give.”

A/N: As Elena heads north more information on the Reclamation will be popping up.
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  #105  
Old August 5th, 2009, 05:25 AM
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Elena's Story Part IV

AD 868, Alcazar Miño, Spaña

When the Consulate War ended the River Miño became the new border. A fortress was to be built to protect the western lands from invasion named after the river. With money needed elsewhere, it was only completed a few years before Galicia was returned to the crown. It had proven far from useless. Aside from helping solidify contrl over Galicia, two large bloody Northmen assaults had been driven back by the army stationed there and provided a jumping off point for the expedition to Asturias.

Elena had arrived in Alcazar Miño by the Salamanca route, a road largely dirt though some slaves had been offloaded at Salamanca to remedy that. Roads were going up because of the mines near the city to transport the ores more easily. They'd not been used until the city was returned to Spanian control for that difficulty. Aside from producing wealth for the crown the investment would also hopefully keep the city loyal and the slaves were most useful in the back breaking and sticky job of road building.

In Salamanca Elena had finally had some luck, as it was from Salamanca that Diego and his company had left some years before northward as part of the opening wave of the Reclamation. Fortun had unbent enough (or perhaps he was starting to respect her a little) to assist her in searching the city’s records. There was a clear change when the more detailed Administrative Division’s records began and she was able to read the military assignments. It was also where she’d learned Oviedo was north of Salamanca. As Diego’s men had not returned to the town since leaving it and she was in a quandary she had no choice but continue northwest with Fortun to Alcazar Miño.

There was a road leading to Alcazar Miño and from there to Iria but almost nothing else and certainly nothing to Oviedo. In the Miño the slaves would be collected, payment given and sent to help build and extend Spanian institutions allowing for a more regular presence by the central government. Arriving just after the turn of the year Elena had spent her time organizing the books to present to the Administrators and then in searching for news. As the days passed Elena began to worry as she was unable to formulate a plan to proceed once the slaves were sold. There were military companies here but not her husband’s and she was ignored by them without fail.

So fighting back a kind of sick dread, that morning she stood discreetly behind Fortun while Doctor Levi examined each of the slaves to ensure their quality and to authorize the payments. He’d been thorough, taking time to speak with each of the slaves asking them questions and having them perform some basic movements before moving on. The soldiers who would take charge of the slaves and herd them east were taking the opportunity to take it easy not really looking at them and talking amongst themselves.

Finally the doctor was done and called over one of the men, marked with colored sleeve and a hat with a plume. While the officer organized his men the Doctor turned to them and wrote out the certificate for Fortun to take to the Administration. But Elena didn’t hear him or bother to notice the pleased look on his face, she failed to consider what her own share would be and took a few steps forward. She stopped and looked down to see her brother grip her arm tightly but the blood pounded in her ears and she shook off her brother‘s arm, pushed past the doctor and to the officer. She licked her lips and pulled down her hood revealing her face clearly for the first time.

“Diego?”
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  #106  
Old August 6th, 2009, 11:59 AM
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Elena's Story V

AD 868, Oviedo Spaña

Elena was pleased with herself after finishing the Creed perfectly but that feeling was put aside as she watched the priest break the Host up. With each breaking he spoke a solemn word for their purpose and laid them in the shape of the Cross of seven parts save for the 2 greatest.* Listening intently Elena felt herself focusing on each aspect as it was said aloud, feeling the wonder of the Lord Christ’s journey pass through her. Dabbling his hands in the water the priest moved on to the chalice and spoke the words of life. Carefully picking up Regnum he placed it in the chalice and spoke.

“Holy things for holy people; and may the union of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ both be unto pardon for us, receiving and drinking, and guarantee rest unto the faithful departed…”

_________________________________________

The feeling of peace after the mass stayed with her as she walked back to the barracks. The Church of the Holy Savior was becoming more beautiful each time, a part of the program to cement Oviedo’s loyalty and she could feel the warmth envelope her as she approached it to put her in proper frame of mind. On the way back to the barracks she stopped at the market and picked up some citrus fruits exchanging a silver dar for them and several eggs. Prices had risen since she’d been here on account of the war and she was relieved that they would be moving out soon to a new source of food.

She still felt a little thrill at that, she’d be going with them though camp follower was not an illustrious title. Diego had been more than astonished to see her but not ungrateful. He had sent only one letter due to expense to assure her he had recovered from his injuries but it had arrived after she’d left. While angry at first that she’d been put through so much for what had turned out to be nothing, she was delighted to be reunited with him. His own travels since being hurt in the city had been rather tame compared to hers--at least she’d thought so. He’d been an officer and had been injured saving a noble and so he’d rated a physician. The Crown had not so many trained men they could afford to lose one who had already demonstrated some acumen in battle and so he made the acquaintance of Doctor Levi. Recovering in Alcazar Miño, he’d healed over several months where those around him had not, and taken part in the pacification of the country side which was going well. In fact it seemed that the army was getting ready to move as a banner (a part of the army) once the slaves had been set up at Oviedo.

When the army marched out of Oviedo heading west a few days later, Elena went with them. But a messenger came within days and the army stopped. When it moved again it divided, with part of Diego's army going north it took Elena a morning to find out why.

The Norse had landed in force on the coast with their sights set on Oviedo.

______________________________________

*9 all together
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  #107  
Old August 7th, 2009, 12:47 AM
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Foreshadowing

The Hachacero

The incursion of Spaña by the Norse
(chiefly Norwegians) in the summer of 868 was one of those events that seem of intense local importance but minor in the grand scheme of things until a more comprehensive analysis of history emerges.

At the time of the Iberian Expedition as we know it, the Norse had subjugated much of modern Scotia and Ireland (Patrick Mar was only beginning his rise) and were intent on using the latter as a base to launch more attacks on the coasts of Vizcaya Gulf--their target the weak Pirenian kingdom under constant pressure from both Spaña and France. Before and during the early Reclamation, the norse had achieved great success as the rebels were attacked on all sides. Seeing that success the chieften Armod gathered all of his followers and many men who sought more advantage in richer country father south. A vast expedition of almost a hundred ships set out and made a landing along the northern coast. This was not the most ideal place for a landing but French forces were thick around the coats of Aquitaine at the time and a sea battle was not what the Norsemen were after even if they would surely have proved victorious. What they had not counted on was the Reclamation.

Their first encounters with the Spaniards (including Diego's company) were skirmishes but shortly thereafter it became apparent that this was no ordinary raid. Military forces were pulled from the west and the Spanian naval forces set out from Iria. Thereafter the year 868 became known in the northwest of the country as an "hachacero" Spanian slang that meant axe-storm. Casualties were high on both sides and it is clear that the Reclamation was dealt a setback largely due to the Northmen. When it was over a thousand of the norse were dead, and at least twice that many Spaniards had given their lives to drive back the attackers who had reached as far west as Iria and raided Oviedo several times. A few scattered bands were reported near Salamanca, but there is scant evidence of such a deep penetration.

When it was over there were three principle consequences to the Iberian Expedition. First the norse were driven from the land and as a result landed in Aquitaine and established minor lordships, driving out the French forces in the region. Second, the weakening of the norse peoples in Ireland (and Scotia) that was a factor in the Danish Invasion of Britain, and perhaps most importantly, the capture of several viking ships and prisoners to explain their workings by the Spanian army. To aid in the study of those ships a permanent settlement was established at the initial norse landing site that grew into the naval base at Gijon, and was later reknowned as the embarkation point for the Spanian maritime explorations that were such a famous part of the Revelación.
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  #108  
Old August 7th, 2009, 01:34 PM
Valdemar II Valdemar II is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MNPundit View Post
The Hachacero

The incursion of Spaña by the Norse
(chiefly Norwegians) in the summer of 868 was one of those events that seem of intense local importance but minor in the grand scheme of things until a more comprehensive analysis of history emerges.

At the time of the Iberian Expedition as we know it, the Norse had subjugated much of modern Scotia and Ireland (Patrick Mar was only beginning his rise) and were intent on using the latter as a base to launch more attacks on the coasts of Vizcaya Gulf--their target the weak Pirenian kingdom under constant pressure from both Spaña and France. Before and during the early Reclamation, the norse had achieved great success as the rebels were attacked on all sides. Seeing that success the chieften Armod gathered all of his followers and many men who sought more advantage in richer country father south. A vast expedition of almost a hundred ships set out and made a landing along the northern coast. This was not the most ideal place for a landing but French forces were thick around the coats of Aquitaine at the time and a sea battle was not what the Norsemen were after even if they would surely have proved victorious. What they had not counted on was the Reclamation.

Their first encounters with the Spaniards (including Diego's company) were skirmishes but shortly thereafter it became apparent that this was no ordinary raid. Military forces were pulled from the west and the Spanian naval forces set out from Iria. Thereafter the year 868 became known in the northwest of the country as an "hachacero" Spanian slang that meant axe-storm. Casualties were high on both sides and it is clear that the Reclamation was dealt a setback largely due to the Northmen. When it was over a thousand of the norse were dead, and at least twice that many Spaniards had given their lives to drive back the attackers who had reached as far west as Iria and raided Oviedo several times. A few scattered bands were reported near Salamanca, but there is scant evidence of such a deep penetration.

When it was over there were three principle consequences to the Iberian Expedition. First the norse were driven from the land and as a result landed in Aquitaine and established minor lordships, driving out the French forces in the region. Second, the weakening of the norse peoples in Ireland (and Scotia) that was a factor in the Danish Invasion of Britain, and perhaps most importantly, the capture of several viking ships and prisoners to explain their workings by the Spanian army. To aid in the study of those ships a permanent settlement was established at the initial norse landing site that grew into the naval base at Gijon, and was later reknowned as the embarkation point for the Spanian maritime explorations that were such a famous part of the Revelación.
Honestly even if they got a vikingship it would be of little use for them, the size is limited by the construction technic, this give a smaller cargo, beside Scandnavia was heavily forested while Spain was not, so it's much more expensive to build for the Spanish. Even in Scandinavia was replaced by the inferior cog for these reason, in Spain you need to to be a idiot to replace the more useful gally, which is much better in the Mediterranean Sea.
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Old August 7th, 2009, 11:38 PM
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I like the part where the Vikings accidently spur the Spanish "revolution" and naval build up. This is a great story you have here.
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  #110  
Old August 10th, 2009, 12:39 AM
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this TL is made of pure win MNPundit, and after what I heard in another thread about what you are going to do with Russia, I just gotta say YOU ROCK
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Old August 10th, 2009, 07:10 AM
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The End of the Reclamation

Weaponry can be a major force for changes in policy and the end of ninth century was an illustration. By the time Spaña and France were ready to reclaim their old lands, they were greeted by a new kind of warfare, or rather an old one come again, the crossbow.

The fractious vassals of Kingdom of the Pyrenees managed to pull together in their desire to avoid having to pledge fealty. Chief among them were the lords of Toulouse and Marseille, grown to a major port in the intervening years as the Dukes of northern Italy made common cause against the ambitions of the French Crown and it was from Italy that crossbows began to be imported in astonishing quantities.

When newly crowned King Louis went south he encountered the crossbow time and again. Led by the minor nobility of the region and largely due to desperation they had armed and trained peasants in the use of the crossbows and ambushed French forces where ever they found them so the French advance was ever short of horses. The chief targets were the knights, as French knights brought down by these peasant crossbowmen could be looted by them afterward.

This blatant disregard for the social structure enraged the French knights more with each passing day. Their anger betrayed them, as they became eager for battle to exact revenge (and fatten their purses) by the capture and ransom of these renegades. Manifested in premature, reckless charges a coalition of stronger lords led by one Charles the Duke of Toulouse and Count of Narbonne found success. Forcing the French to retreat due to causalities and expenses throughout the first part of the war.

Duke Charles' luck ran out when when the Spaniards conquered the great fortress of Pamplona. Forced to make a stand in the mountains and against a enemy who could afford to keep forces in the field for an extended period of time, their finances crumbled away for all the help from Italy. When the French invaded after the spring planting of 877 he had to offer battle at the Clermont. As might be expected peasants with crossbows on an open field would be butchered as soon as they were unprotected by other forces and the rebels no longer had the resources or armies to withstand a long siege, even in a place as strong as the fortress. When it was over most of his army was fled and several key vassals captured. Much of the French nobility, impatient to come to grips with their tormentors and the noble traitors, lay dead, wounded or captured with crossbow bolts littering the field in such numbers that Clermont was able to make a name for itself in supplying crossbow bolts for several years after.

Always more a collection of lordships than a true kingdom, nearly all organized resistance collapsed and several captured nobles swore to the French King switching sides to spare their own lands after granting enormous concessions to gain their freedom. Duke Charles fled to his ancestral home of Toulouse and Louis laid siege to him there.

With the collapse of most resistance, the Spanians poured into Gascony from the south, but found the region defended by a foe they had already encountered: the northmen. After being largely defeated in Spaña proper, the survivors landed along the western coasts from Brittany to Gascony. In fact, the French King was forced into more concessions to Brittany in return for their assistance against the Norse on his flank, such were his losses in the south. While their own style of lightly armed warfare was not ideal for the landscape of Gascony, the Spanian missile and lance cavalry were able to devastate the Norse army. The region was finally subdued in 885.

While leaving only a footnote in history, one part of Pirenus did survive. The survivors of Pirenus had fled to the eastern marches of the kingdom, a place of mountains and valleys so confusing and rugged on approach that King Louis instead recognized it as a political entity in perpetual alliance with France. In practice this consisted of allowing free passage through their territory of the French or their agents (all non military). At first having no official name, this eastern remnant became known as Confederacy of the Aare for the river that touched many of their settlements.
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Last edited by MNP; August 11th, 2009 at 08:02 AM.. Reason: Errors in wording
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  #112  
Old August 10th, 2009, 07:19 AM
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Author's Notes: Switzerland is born! (Kind of.)

@Valdemar II: Yes, the Spaniards are not suddenly going to go i-Viking in longboats! But they are getting academic and practical knowledge of what the Norse know about shipbuilding including on the knarr that helped lead to the development of cogs.

@ G.Bone: And it's actually "Revelation" not "Revolution" what TTL calls the Age of Discovery, it's used in a secular sense but with overtones of religion.

Thanks for the compliments to all.

Question..... because I'm undecided about something. The French king is pissed off royally because the Spaniards took Gascony so they are still shut out of the western ports, plus these lands were theirs for a long time. Should the new, untried Spanian King pledge fealty (i.e. become a vassal) to the French King for Gascony region only? Or is that too much like I'm re-creating OTL's Hundred Years War? Remember, feudalism never really took root in the Spanian lands, so the form is not very important in their minds. To the Spanians it would be more like re-newing their alliance and getting a protectorate over Gascony.

It could go either way.
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  #113  
Old August 10th, 2009, 07:35 AM
G.Bone G.Bone is offline
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Maybe go for the latter? The question is on if you want this new Spain to be more idyllic or more plunged in war than it already has been.
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  #114  
Old August 11th, 2009, 09:57 AM
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The Hero of Zero Patents

King Alejandro had seen the old territories of the Kingdom regained, taken more besides and had reigned for 37 years, but his sons Enrique and Alfonso were not so fortunate. It is difficult to say how they should have been judged as kings but some hints can be gleaned from what is known.

Enrique r. 884-886

Taking power right before the end of the Reclamación, King Enrique's main concern was (rightly) holding on to the new territories gained. A kingdom had been wiped off the map, and Spaña had taken in a large Catholic, barely literate and formerly hostile population. Extensive investment in Asturias had done much to acclimate the population to Spanian rule, and investment in Gijon as a military port had yielded some interesting information on the construction of the Norse ships. But even with the loot taken from rebel barons, the new provinces proved hideously expensive for the Spanians. Development would necessarily be slow, especially in Pamplona. Investment was also limited as the crown was forced to try to find money wherever it could.

It was rumored that King Enrique would have been willing to pledge himself as a vassal to King Louis in the matter of Vascoña (Gascony) in return for the return of the sum paid by Spaña for taking the region in the first place. Such a move would have been meaningless to Enrique but not to Louis and in the end, perhaps it was fortunate that he died before he could do so.

Alfonso r. 886-889


Alfonso's younger brother Enrique found his first task was to rescue the nation's economy and gain the loyalty of the new provinces to the north. To that end he spend much time in the town of Ballón (French: Bayonne), a key town on the rivers that linked the Vizcaya to the Mediterranean sea and built it up, beginning it's rise to a major port, eclipsing Santander after the first quarter of the 10th century. He also built several roads into the region through Pamplona, requiring more expenses and labor. To cut expenses Alfonso expanded the slave trade through Tortossa many times.

The end result of Alfonso's reign was that control of the regions on the borders of the Maghreb became more tenuous with no great change in the Spanian economy, profits were sucked up into public works projects and restlessness was in the air when Alfonso died. Fortunately for Spaña, Alfonso's son fresh from his marriage to a half-French heiress from Valencia was able to ascend the throne without any dynastic troubles.

Rodrigo r. 889-903

Queen Maritza was part of a family who had proven themselves in administration of the kingdom. In part due to their governorships, they had established contacts and were heavily engaged in trade with France and the Italians. Consequently the family was rich, cultured, powerful and played no small part in the founding of the University of Valencia in 880 that became famous for it's Law School. Popular accreditation ascribes to her some ideas that lead to major changes in the kingdom.

Primary among them were changes to the Invention System from the reign of Ramiro (r. 812-835). The state had to spend enormous sums in funding and aside from the agricultural developments the state was the primary purchaser of scale and the system tended to stagnate during difficult financial times. In 894 Rodrigo was convinced to overhaul the system: the power of exclusive ownership was conveyed to the inventor in exchange for the public dissemination of the invention that was eventually fixed (in later centuries) on a sliding scale between Revenue and Time. During the period of exclusive ownership the government would aid the inventor in enforcing their exclusive monopoly. This system came to be known as the Pasajera (el) Reino, that is, Non-Permanent Reign.

Another change was a massive tax on slaves assessed based on the health and potential of a slave. A short term boon to revenue (and bane to slave traders) the practical effect was the withering away of slavery in Spaña except for the very wealthy, and even those were most often personal servants purchased for their trustworthiness and not strong backs.

In the area of trade, Rodrigo once again began to send his merchant galleys across the quieter western Mediterranean and trade with the Caliphate picked up as Spanian merchants began to arrive in increasing numbers in the Levant. The friendship between the Caliph and King, though shaken was not yet broken and agreements were made on tariffs that satisfied both polities. The profits provided impetus to travel farther east and the riskier Spanian merchants began to spread out over Persia in small numbers though such that the Andalucia Caravansary was founded in 897 in Baghdad by the Caliph's authorities to provide for them as opposed to the competing Roman merchants.

During the struggle between the Greek and Spanian merchants, the Spanians found allies where they could and that included the Assyrian Christians*. Using their already established paths east they sometimes included them in trading ventures in exchange for official patronage, strengthening the church greatly in the Middle East through parts of Persia and a new wave of missionaries was sent out in the 10th Century. It was during this time that more information on India began to reach the west via Spanian merchants, including a seemingly small addition to the Hindu-Persian numerals that were being used from Spaña; the idea of a placeholder number.

_________________________________

*Forgot to note: The merchants are both Jewish and Christian, but all consider themselves Spaniards. The Christians use the Assyrians, the Jews use their Jewish contacts. There is some competition between them but more against the Greeks or Muslim merchants.
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  #115  
Old August 11th, 2009, 08:23 PM
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Part 1 of 2

Seeds of a Greater War

Ramiro II r. 903-909


The start of the 10th century went well for Spaña. It built up it's newly reclaimed lands and trade with the French, largely cut off before the war blossomed. Trade expanded in the Middle East and Persia. The slave trade declined with the taxation on slaves, but still exported to the rest of Europe. Combined with the reduction in northern raids that occurred after Culloden and the stabilization of Britain, the Spaniards now had greater incentives to trade north and the closeness of Spaña and the Irish emperors began.

While slow at first, once the building of the northern provinces commenced in earnest, the Spaña saw the emergence of the first general contractor in the nation's history that would later be known as Halcóna, a consortium of merchants both Jewish and non-Jewish, who through their individual contacts were able to obtain materials and workers at reduced prices. They offered their services to the state and were able to obtain contracts to build the roads and infrastructure often at a discount compared to the state.

The only true concern in this period was internal: the Dynasty people said, was beginning to falter. With the reduction in the power of landed nobility and their military usefulness, a different elite developed, one based on wealth and state service. Consequently, the Spanian royals tended to marry from and into this elite they had essentially constructed as a way to both legitimize it, and align their interests with that of the ruling dynasty and so the state. Several members of Halcóna had dynastic links to the Crown.

For the century after Ramiro I, lesser members of the Royal Family had been marrying into the elites of the Banu Ifran. Spaña was always more influential in the south than the Idrisids owing to their history of conflict and Spaña's greater wealth. The more heterodox styles of Christianity and Islam that prevailed in the Kingdom* had made the Spanian influence up to this point acceptable.

Where Ramiro had been forced to keep Samira as his mistress, when Prince Alfonso asked for the hand in marriage of Amina, the eldest daughter of the Emir, the wedding was if not accepted, at least tolerated in both Sijilmasa and Spaña. Helpfully the Emir had two strong sons and another daughter's husband from among which to choose a Muslim. But one son's entire family was lost in a shipwreck in the Mediterranean. The few survivors were captured by pirates but were unfortunately killed before their value could be discovered. The other was killed in battle against the fierce nomadic raiders that at this time began to attack north from their desolate lands in the Sahara as they began to move westwards.*

All would have been quiet had the husband of the Emir's other daughter not proved himself manifestly incapable of governance. But within two years of his ascension many of the Sijilmasan aristrocracy did the unthinkable: they offered the leadership of Sijilmasa to King Alfonso II and Amina's son and heir, Alejandro. Alfonso proclaimed himself regent for his baby son. But while the current ruler was largely hated, having lost all legitimacy save for force this decision was so unexpected that Alfonso had no illusions.

Thus in AD 910, King Alfonso II invaded the Emirate of Sijilmasa to claim it for the Kingdom of Spaña.

___________________________________________

*Religious Breakdown in AD 910: 41/45/6/8 split between Christianity, Islam, Paganism, Judaism)
**Tuaregs
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  #116  
Old August 13th, 2009, 12:06 PM
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Into the Desert: The Sijilmasa Campaign

When Spaña went to war in 910, their armies were changed from the Reclamación. With the difference in climate from Vascoña to Araman Province in the south, Spaña had developed light and heavy banners and pennons.*

The heart of the infantry were the Almoghavars. Highly motivated anti-cavalry specialists, they were armed for close combat with armor innovations used nowhere else at this time: plate armor and finished leather. Finished leather was boiled leather with a coating applied immediately after, increasing both durability and resistance. The armor was small plates of metal over vital areas, such as the heart and shoulders. Other professional troops were archers and cavalry. The officer corps was reformed so that it was a function of troop numbers and types, with the position of Protogero re-named Almocaten in the Almoghavar units. The army was filled out by semi-trained spear militia called up specifically for the task. Trained by professionals for a month over the course of year, they had a kite shield and were furnished by individual districts in numbers based on their economic output and population. Spaña could call upon some 50,000 of them but in practice use of more than a fraction at a time became prohibitively expensive.

Alfonso II went south with 3 banners with pennons or about 5,500 troops. Another 5,000 spearmen were called up to serve as garrison troops with additional pennons in reserve. The Emirate had two urban centers, Agadir Assif near the border, and Sijilmasa itself. Most of the support for Alfonso II’s annexation was in the north and west, particularly among the farming communities so often helped by Spanian agriculture expertise. Agadir Assif was taken after a short siege, but as Alfonso drew nearer the capital resistance to him grew more intense and raiders on horse and camel attacked his supply lines, all important in the dry country. More pennons were deployed as a counter and a special tax was levied on Christian Church properties, occasioning much grumbling.

During the siege of Sijilmasa, the major points of contention were the waterwheels in the Ziz that fed the city with water. Located outside the main walls they were defended by a lower and more hastily built earthen wall. Once making sure no flanking attacks could surprise him from the city, Alfonso settled down to focus on the waterwheels. Here the Almoghavars were a crucial component, being trained for close quarters combat but even so the Spanians could not gain the wall, despite repeated attempts. In desperation King Alfonso called on his heavy infantry, hitherto considered too heavily armored for desert warfare. Consisting almost entirely of captured Norse in high quality chain and armed with axes and swords with shields, they went south. Only able to use them for a short period before the unaccustomed climate incapacitated them, an assault was launched two days later. The Norse and Almoghavars finally broke through, seizing the waterwheels, cutting off the city in early 911.

For the Sijilmasans, time had run out at last. Just as the summer of 911 was beginning to afflict the Spanian army, the city was forced to surrender.

For Spaña it would have been a celebration, but a week later another army appeared from the northeast. The final contest between the houses of Araman and Idris had begun.

___________________________

*pennon: A unit of cavalry attached to a banner, divided into heavy and light varieties and composed of a mixture of jinetes and light and heavy lancers.
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  #117  
Old August 14th, 2009, 07:17 AM
G.Bone G.Bone is offline
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Looks interesting - several years of peace followed by a war of expansion/legitimacy. I do like the small bit about a reformation in the army since the Reclaimation.
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  #118  
Old August 14th, 2009, 09:27 PM
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To The Erg: The Sand Dance

The previous wars against the Idrisids were fought almost entirely on Spanian soil and never ended any better than a draw. In AD 911, the kingdom was at peace, rich and ably led--it seemed a risk to declare war on them now. But the dynasty that Idris founded and Idris II had breathed life into had changed in a hundred years. A state founded and built on the power of their swords was able to turn its attention to what would turn out to be its legacy: intellectual Islam in the Maghreb. It was the Idrisids that founded the schools, the charitable organizations, the trade networks and judiciary that established order in a fractious region. Its citizens could see the benefits of Islam in their lives and past Tlemencen there were few Christians.

With the fall of Agadir Assif, those who could not stomach Alfonso II or his son could see they had only one place to turn to. Faced with the choice of which overlord to serve they chose one who at least was conversant with the principles of justice. They found a willing ear in Ali Abdullah. Ali had ruled for over a decade and expanded on what he’d been given, forcing recognition by the Byzantines of his possessions in Sicily and firmly establishing himself in Tripolitania. He had only just begun to contest Cyrenaica against the weakening Caliph when the delegation arrived at his winter capital of Tiaret. Acting quickly he extracted a sum from the Caliph in return for peace, and gathered his army. Marching south from his great fortress at Uskar, he advanced south of the Tell Atlas, and was joined by the semi-nomadic warriors of Chelif Valley.

But Alfonso II was no fool. As soon as the city fell he had called down another banner and more militia men and had begun to repair and provision his own forces. When he learned of the approach of the Idrisid army, he left a strong guard in the city under one of the few men around who had shown himself an able administrator but still had experience in the Reclamacion, Ordoño Nájera. Marching north along the Ziz to meet his reinforcements he left scouting parties behind to keep him appraised of the situation.

When the two armies met, Alfonso II had still not linked up with his own reinforcements and conducted a series of maneuvers known as the “sand dance.” Ali had numerical advantage and more cavalry but through severe discipline exercised by the professional Spanian troops, Alfonso II was able to leverage his crossbowmen and Almoghavars in a way that prevented Ali from every fully engaging him. He led Ali farther east past even the small settlements, farms, the more reliable supplies of water and towards the Western Erg--the trackless sands where even the nomads hesitated to travel. Enticed by his army’s superiority and the knowledge that Alfonso was over extending his supply lines, Ali followed closing in.

After turning south once more, Alfonso finally turned and offered battle under ominous skies.



__________________________________________________

A/N: Map of Maghreb coming next post

@G. Bone: The 10th Century is when things really get hopping
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  #119  
Old August 16th, 2009, 04:36 AM
rcduggan rcduggan is offline
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A cliffhanger! How could you?
Very well-done prelude to the battle, and I can't wait to see how it turns out.
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  #120  
Old August 17th, 2009, 08:56 PM
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Battle of the Western Erg

Into the Fire

It was only when the battle began that Alfonso II first showed the skill for which he would be remembered as "El Conquistador." On his right was the true beginning of the sand sea that would prove difficult for even camels to move across at anything more than a walk, otherwise the land was realatively flat with rockier patches increasing to the northeast. The field itself was a mixture of rock and sand. Alfonso had led Ali Abdullah into the desert farther and farther from his supply lines. With so many animals in his army, Ali's forces were even more dependent on abundant water than Alfonso's and as Alfonso had hoped, Ali's horses were already short of water.

Ali drew his men up with archers and infantry in the center and cavalry on the wings. The light cavalry of small horses and camels was placed on the sandiest ground since they required less stable ground. Alfonso concentrated his crossbows almost entirely on the right dividing them into several lines. When Ali's cavalry advanced, he was able to sustain a rolling fire at the lighter units, their mobility advantage cut because of the sand dunes. Whenever the cavalry came close, the Almoghavars and the smattering of spearmen drove them back time and again. On the right a general cavalry melee ensured, though any charge made by the Muslim horse was blunted by the bowmen placed in his center. While most of Ali's cavalry were parched, they were more numerous and Alfonso's cavalry were forced back until a quick charge from the nearby spearmen drove the heavy cavalry off for a short time.

In the center, Alfonso's men advanced to close with the numerically inferior Idrisid infantry. The number of spearmen combined with their new armor meant few fell to Idrisid archers by the time both sides closed. By this time, larger holes had been made in Ali's light cavalry. While in charge of the battle in the center, Alfonso trusted his commanders to use their own judgments so the attack began at the right time. Much of the Idrisid light cavalry fled the field, trapping many against the dunes where they were cut down by the crossbowmen.

But the Idrisid cavalry was triumphing on the left. They were able to engage the Spanian cavalry and mount a flanking attack on the line. Now Ali went forward in the center to break through and shatter the Spanian line. Alfonso acted quickly and re-ordered the forces: he gathered spearmen and Almoghavars from his reserves and the right while leaving a screen on that side. Alfonso ordered all his reserves to fire on the mass, even though it would hit their own men. Then, he charged.

Ali's cavalry was hit by the missiles, then Alfonso's cavalry. The Spanian spearmen were wavering, even their greater discipline faltering in the face of the onslaught, but the King's skill and courage combined to hold the line long enough for the Almoghavars to mount a well-coordinated charge. They launched two volleys of javelins at the Idrisid cavalry, then rushed forward launching the last at near point blank range and moving into finish off the wounded. In the confusion many of the fallen Idrisid knights were trampled as the cavalry fell back in disarray. Unable to break the Spanian lines, Ali and his forces drew back while the Spanian arches inflicted even more losses. They began to regroup for another attack but what Alfonso had counted on finally happened: the ominous skies had developed into a sandstorm coming off the erg.

In the immediate aftermath of the battle, Alfonso was able to use the storm as cover to retreat back west where he finally joined his reinforcements. By the time Ali faced him again, Alfonso's strengthened forces, his own losses and continued lack of water resulted in a retreat back to his own lands.

A fortnight later a general advance into Idrisid territory began.

________________________________

@ rcduggan: Hope the conclusion in enjoyable!
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