The Raptor of Spain (Revised)

The Raptor of Spain

Part I: The New King
During the Caliphate of Marwan ibn Muhammad ibn Marwan, known as Marwan al-Himaar the last Caliph of the House of Umayyah, Abu al-‘Abbas rose against him and was proclaimed in Kufa. At the Battle of the Zab the lancers of Caliph Marwan broke on the shield wall of al-Saffah (the Shedder of Blood) and were invariably defeated and Damascus the capital, fell. Marwan was put to death in the fifth month, Jumada al-awal, 132 AH (spring of AD 750). Everywhere the members of this proscribed family were seized and put to death without mercy. Few escaped the searchers of ‘Abbas. A youth named Abd ar-Rahman the son of Mu’awiyah the son of Caliph Hisham Abd al-Malik was almost the only prince of that house to escape and he never ceased running as he escaped to the west…
–Al-Makkari, from the The Breath of Perfume from the Branch of Green Andalusia
and Memorials of its last kings

The Flight to Al-Andalus

In 731, Abd ar-Rahman was born to Mu'awiyah, the son of Hisham, the son of Abd al-Malik, the son of Marwan I, the brother of Mu'awiyah I the nephew of Uthman the third Rightly Guided Caliph of the Faithful. His mother was a Christian slave girl from the Maghreb and from her his hair took on the reddish tints that would mark his line in its early days. Trained as a prince with a chance one day to become Caliph, he never-the-less became interested in his mother's heritage and as he grew there were questions about his orthodoxy.

After the defeat at the Zab, a bounty was placed on the head of any member of the Umayyad family by Al-Saffah so that chaos engulfed Damascus. He escaped Damascus with his sister Umniyah, and companions the Greek freedman Bedr, and Salim. With the rest of his family slain he abandoned the Middle East and the four companions made their way through Egypt

When he is born in 731, Abd ar-Rahman is influenced more by his Christian mother and while he is still trained as a prince there are a few doubts about whether or not he is really orthodox enough to become Caliph one day. When the Abbasids launch their revolution, a bounty is put out for any Umayyads. Abd ar-Rahman escapes a Damascus bent on capturing or killing him to preserve themselves with his sister, and two freedmen, Bedr and Salim. In the escape his brother and his son Sulameyn are killed. Dissuaded from a last stand, he took refuge in Palestine and Egypt among the few allies he had left. When Abd ar-Rahman learned the governor sought him to hand him over to Al-Saffah, he fled west to Ifriqiya and the Maghreb. In the Maghreb his blood proved a saving grace and he was taken in by his mother's people for a Jewish prophet[1] had predicted his rise.

It was there Abd ar-Rahman first gave thought to the land of Al-Andalus.

In the year 752, Bedr was sent north to see what support the young prince had while Salim and Umniyah waited with Abd ar-Rahman. While Bedr was across the Strait of Tariq[2] the money and promised of the governor of Egypt and Al-Saffah enticed one local leader Tashfin to attempt to sieze Abd ar-Rahman and hand him over. In the chase, Umniyah was slain by Tashfin and only the timely arrival of Bedr with allies prevented Abd ar-Rahman from being slain with his back to the sea at the edge of Sebta.[3]

In AD 753, Abd ar-Rahman set foot in Al-Andalus.

A Rebellion Crushed

After bearing Salim in Al-Andalus, Abd ar-Rahman was taken to Málaga where he was made much of and word began to spread of his arrival. Upon his arrival he was to be given a captured Christian slave girl, Lisina, but refused to do anything other than treat her well, saying "Only as a king will I indulge in the fruits of luxury."

With his allies, Abd ar-Rahman set out to Sevilla to join with the governor of that district.[4] But the Emir of Al-Andalus, Yusuf Al-Fihri had spent 6 long years bringing the fractious region under control and was not about to allow anything to threaten his goal. Abandoning the plans for an expedition to bring the rebellious Zaragoza under control, he turned south and caught Abd ar-Rahman unexpectedly and defeated and captured him, ignoring pleas from his father Ibn Habib who had sheltered Abd ar-Rahman in Ifriqiya. Instead, he imprisoned the prince in Córdoba and paraded him around in chains to ridicule and torture. The canny al-Fihri made Abd ar-Rahman a laughing stock for Al-Andalus so that no one would help him or Bedr. Abd ar-Rahman pleaded for al-Fihri to simply kill him but was refused.

As luck would have it, Abd ar-Rahman was tended to by the same Christian slavegirl he had treated well in Málaga who told him stories of her homeland in the north. Eventually falling in love with him, she helped him escape and the three of them attempted to raise a new revolt against al-Fihri. The mockery the Emir of Al-Andalus had subjected Abd ar-Rahman to was successful and none thought of aiding him. When al-Fihri successfully subdued Zaragoza the new year, Abd ar-Rahman's last hope was extinguished. Despairing the prince accepted a suggestion from Lisina to try to reach the tributary kingdom of Asturias where he was captured. Convincing his captors of his identity he was brought to the throne of Alfonso the Catholic who accepted his offer of service.

Knight to King

Because of his religion and his foreign origin Abd ar-Rahman, Lisina and Bedr depended on Alfonso's support. Setting his talents to serve the king Abd ar-Rahman was sent to secure the king's new hold on Galicia. Rejected by the entrenched nobility led by Alfonso's bastard son Mauregato, he sought allies among the population at large with one of the few noble exceptions being the young son of a minor noble, Gonsalus. Thanks to his education in administration in the east and his talent for command, Abd ar-Rahman strengthened the king's hold on Galicia and became popular in the province and became great friends with the king's brothers.

This disturbed the king's new adviser Elipando.[5] Elipando had been a candidate for the Bishopric of Toledo, but al-Fihri had instead removed from his post and barred him from the church at the advice of other clergy attempting to discredit his Adoptionist stance. Disdaining the Church, Elipando had fled to Asturias where he evidenced a talent for military organization and with his education as a former churchman, became the tutor of Alfonso's son Fruela. When Alfonso died, it was widely suspected that Fruela had assassinated his brother-in-law Silo and his brother Vimarano to smooth his path to the throne. Among those most opposed to Fruela were the brothers of Alfonso I, Aurelius and Bermudo and both now became more friendly with the increasingly popular Abd ar-Rahman.[6]

Hating and fearing Abd ar-Rahman building his own power-base in Galicia despite his faith, Fruela instead sent the knight east in 757 to deal with a Basque uprising in the mountains protesting his rule.[7] It was a task he was expected to fail, but Abd ar-Rahman succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of anyone in Asturais, recapturing Tuleda by defeating the Banu Qasi and slaying the sons of Cassius. As a result of these events, Abd ar-Rahman first met al-Rahman ben Uqba the disgruntled governor of Zaragoza and the young prince of the Franks, Charles.[8]

Meanwhile in the west, Fruela and his chief adviser Elipando proceeded to consolidate their rule. They brought Mauregato into their circle and Fruela turned on his uncles Aurelius and Bermudo. The former disappeared and the latter only narrowly escaped an assassination attempt that slew his family. These events were the catalyst, in 759 Bermudo rebelled and Asturias descended into civil war.


With a new son, Salamon, Abd ar-Rahman is wary of joining the rebellion though he has always been opposed to Fruela. However Bermudo himself seeks out the knight to join him. Bringing with him his ties to Galicia and his new allies in the Basque country, Abd ar-Rahman reluctantly joins Bermudo in the rebellion. Lisina is instrumental in bringing about his action as she reminds him that he has greater ambitions than to simply be a knight for the king.

With Abd ar-Rahman leading the armies of Bermudo, the rebels march west to wrest Oviedo from Fruela.[9] Along the way Bedr rescues Alfonso's widowed daughter the wife of Silo, Adosinda from Fruela's captivity. In the final battle, Bermudo is slain and Elipando turns on Fruela in an effort to save himself, seizing him and casting him the castle walls to his death. Aurelius emerges from Fruela's dungeons and Abd ar-Rahman prepares to bend his knew to Aurelius--only to hear Aurelius declare his desire for the priesthood and upon learning of Bermudo's death, proposes Abd ar-Rahman's elevation as king.

At first reluctant because his wife Lisina is dying, she reminds him of his purpose before her death. After mourning her, Abd ar-Rahman converts to Christianity weds Munina the daughter of the new Basque lord of Tudela, and was acclaimed king of Asturias in 761.[10]
[1]Al-Makkari's relates the legend of the Jewish soothsayer as one possible reason ibn Habib gave refuge to Abd ar-Rahman.
[2]Strait of Gibraltar. Named for Tariq ibn Zayad, the transliteration of the Arabic "Tariq's Mountain" is where the name Gibraltar comes from.
[4]At the time of al-Fihri's rule, Al-Andalus was divided into five districts, among them, Toledo and Zaragoza.
[5]Thus begins the inexplicable trend in RoS of OTL churchmen becoming effective military leaders.
[6]The Asturian royals need an explanation. Alfonso had two brothers Aurelius and Bermudo who later became kings. He had a daughter Adosinda and two sons Vimarano and Fruela. Fruela murdered Vimarano but ITTL, he also killed his brother-in-law Silo since they were friendly toward each other because of Abd ar-Rahman's presence. Thus the revolts against Fruela happen faster ITTL since he is more brutal thank to Elipando.
[7]In OTL Fruela put down a peasant revolt in Galicia. Here Galicia is happier because of Abd ar-Rahman and instead it's the Basques who are restless.
[8]Thanks to his meeting with Abd ar-Rahman, Charles becomes far more engaged in Al-Andalus, focusing on Septimania and ignoring Aquitaine. Also because of his travels south, the Frankish marriages are radically different.
[9]Historically the capital was Canagas de Onis, but Fruela moved it IOTL and does so again only earlier.
[10]The love story between Lisina and Abd ar-Rahman was also a key emotional motivator for RoS as he depended on her and found his motivation thanks to her. The relationship with Munina is strictly based on ambition and politics. In OTL, Munina probably married Fruela.

Author's Note:
Over at I have been posting a revised version of the Timeline. The main difference is to incorporate the improved techniques I implemented sometime around October of 2009 so that it has a similar "voice" to the current TL rather than somewhat haphazard early points. It also includes more historical personages and research. I know there is significant overlap with but I think it's good to have a definitive version here as well. The early bits are the most condensed because I am novelizing Abd ar-Rahman's life as a practice novel to show abilities (but without intention to sell). This initial post covers the period from about 731-791 in brief.

Finally, because the Live TL takes priority the re-writes are going to be irregular though I have reached 868 in the revisions. The Live Timeline will be unaffected.

Hopefully it'll be easier to follow here.

The Raptor of Spain

Part II: The Fate of Al-Andalus
Nothing strikes as the falcon descending
from empty blue sky to still gold land
in silence and victory
and so it was here....
--Sol Gonsalvin, for the court of León Araman, 1041

The New Way

For the Arab and Berber inhabitants of the peninsula, the news of Abd ar-Rahman’s coronation was like a flash of lightening. For the mass of Hispano-goths it was just one more event in the chaotic life of Iberia. For the aging Al-Fihri, the sudden re-emergence of Abd ar-Rahman came as an unwelcome surprise. Through his expulsion of Elipando he had reached an understanding with the Christians of Toledo and subdued the rebellious Abdul al-Rahman ben Uqba in Zaragoza--though at the regrettable cost of Septimania Gothica which fell to the Franks in 760. Yusuf al-Fihri was not about to let the upstart King of Asturias undo all his work now. Leaving his son-in-law al-Sumayl in the capital to administer the realm, he set out with his son Muhammad throughout the south to put down any rebellions before they began and assure commitments for the campaign to come against his enemy.

Approaching his 30th year, Abd ar-Rahman was a ruler at last and he wasted no time in securing that rule. He sanctioned Fruela’s movement of the capital farther west to Oviedo, a terminus of the great Roman road that crossed half the peninsula and summoned a council of the realm--one equally represented by lords from Galicia including Mauregato, and the new state to the east: the Marca Vasconia and it’s new Marquio Conde, his father in law in Enigo.[1] It also became clear that unless he wanted to spend the rest of his life holding down the country, he needed something that could bring the parts of his new realm together. With Mauregato, Enigo, Aurelius and Elipando standing with him, Abd ar-Rahman’s first decree was to proclaim the expedition to break the line of Duero and regain Toledo. For the locals it would be a miraculous feat, for him only the first step in the long road back that ended in Damascus.

While he prepared supplies and troops, he arranged the marriage of his companion Bedr to Alfonso’s widowed daughter Adosinda and sent him to Galicia as a trusty hand to keep the slippery Mauregato in line. At Abd ar-Rahman’s own wedding, Abdul al-Rahman ben Uqba the malcontented Wali of Zaragoza had attended. Defeated and battle and with the threat of being sent to the doomed position of Wali of Narbona he was ready to listen to anything that would undermine al-Fihri. When Abd ar-Rahman began to march it was with ben Uqba’s own son-in-law, Husayn.

Marching south the Asturians and Zaragozans experienced early success. For the past decade the chaos that reigned in Al-Andalus had been worsened by a persistent famine--productive land was at a premium. The Berbers who had done much of the fighting since the Muslim arrival had received some of the poorest land here in the north. Not that it was unsuited to them, but the border lands were a scene of constant strife and marginal wealth and they resented it as much as anyone. While their hardy lifestyle had contributed soldiers that had made the life of Alfonso a difficult one, their unorthodox faith and poor state made them a target for Abd ar-Rahman’s promises of triumph over the Arab over-class.

The first test was at Salamanca. Absent from the city in his efforts to pacify a country-side restive over the unprecedented Asturian advance the Wali of the city made the mistake of believing it a raid and arrogantly confronted the force descending on him. When the garrison at Salamanca saw their own governor in chains at their door and being Yemeni Arabs who were unwilling to fight to the end for al-Fihri who oppressed them, they threw open the gates and welcomed Abd ar-Rahman into the city. The treatment of the Muslims and Christians of Salamanca was instructive. Abd ar-Rahman left the city in charge of a joint council to run its own affairs as long as they were subordinate to his rule and Salamanca became a Free City. The Wali instead of being executed was sent north to Zaragoza where ben Uqba made use of him on the Frankish border.

The ordering of Salamanca had the desired effect. As news began to spread many who hated al-Fihri gave thought to Abd ar-Rahman. Most of the Arabs were set against him due to his conversion but there were few Arabs in Al-Andalus. The lack of massacres or dispossessed Muslims from the city and the orderly tithe taken by the Asturian king instead of a sack was of a piece with the king’s philosophy. His task as a king was to bring order, not oppression and fear.

His greatest success was to be shown at Toledo.


The Berbers and inhabitants of Toledo greeted the Asturian army by slaughtering their Arab overlords and inviting Abd ar-Rahman into the city much as had happened at Salamanca. For the rest of the season they joined forces to capture and evict those loyal to al-Fihri in the region. In the process Abd ar-Rahman worked hard to conciliate the population while rewarding his Asturian followers with new lands and territories in the south. Fortunately with the regions of Salamanca and Toledo there was enough to distribute. No churches or mosques were damaged, property was respected except for those who resisted. A number of Asturian nobles moved south with the king permanently settling the lands but Abd ar-Rahman tried to only choose those who would not oppress the Muslim or Christian population based on their reaction to his own rise. Mistakes would be made but he reminded himself to seek them out.

In 762 al-Fihri marched north with almost 8,000 men to force a decision.

Abd ar-Rahman did not wish a true fight in the face of such force and in the end he decided on a risky strategem. Taking advantage of the goodwill of its citizens he set several fires in the city and set his agents to spread the word that Toledo had risen against Abd ar-Rahman and captured him. Elipando and Enigo were placed in charge of the army and they took up positions around the city as if they were laying siege to it, attempting to regain him. A messenger to al-Fihri begged him to make all haste for Toledo with all the horsemen he could spare to relieve them and take possession of the king. When his own spies reported only a small Asturian force around the city, al-Fihri believed Abd ar-Rahman’s trick, assuming that with the capture of the king his forces his broken apart and only a few were trying to rescue him.

Hurrying north with 1,500 of his cavalry, al-Fihri was told by Berber scouts from the city that upon learning of his imminent arrival, the Asturians had fled back north. Again he was urged to come himself with all possible speed to seize Abd ar-Rahman. Entering Toledo with only his own household guard, he eagerly sprung the king’ strap. Surrounded, al-Fihri was bound and taken before Abd ar-Rahman. When a group of horsemen returned to al-Fihri’s camp under his banner the man in chains turned out to be al-Fihri. When the signal was given the “scattered” Asturian and Berber forces that had hidden themselves until this moment advanced and surrounded the horsemen who were stunned at this turn of events and it was only a short time before they surrendered. The Governor of Al-Andalus was executed by Abd ar-Rahman’s own sword in front of all his men.

Here Abd ar-Rahman faced a choice. These were some of the most powerful horsemen at al-Fihri’s command. Making a fateful decision, he truly broke with his past by having the Qaysite Arabs separated out from the survivors and he massacred them to a man. The rest were given a chance to swear to Abd ar-Rahman and join his forces. Once that choice was made, those who refused were taken and deprived of a hand so they would it hard to make war against him. Allowed to depart, they were mute reminders of the new choice before Al-Andalus: serve Abd ar-Rahman and be rewarded, opposed him and be destroyed. The tactic worked best on the army al-Fihri left behind in his hurry to reach Toledo. Deprived of al-Fihri’s leadership and learning of the wrath of the new king, many abandoned their allegiance and returned to their various homes across the south.

In the rest of the peninsula, the news of al-Fihri’s death had a different effect. Held down for 14 long years by the old and cunning governor, revolts exploded across Al-Andalus. The chief of these as expected was ben Uqba who upon learning the news from a returned Husayn, proclaimed himself Amir of Zaragoza, sealed the fate of Septimania Gothica by signing a treaty with the Franks, and marched his armies south to seize as much territory as he could manage.

With al-Fihri dead and the south in chaos, Abd ar-Rahman declared Toledo the new capital of his kingdom, restoring it to its old prominence. It was also a proclamation of his strength and that he had only just begun his long road of revenge.


The Battle of Córdoba

When Abd ar-Rahman met al-Sumayl and Muhammad al-Fihri in the Battle of Córdoba, it was not in any contest for the rule of Iberia. Two years and more after the death of al-Fihri the peninsula had well and truly broken apart. While al-Sumayl had managed to keep a hold on Córdoba, his effective reach barely reached Sevilla. Muhammad meanwhile managed to hold Mérida. But it was only these areas that arrived to resist Abd ar-Rahman’s advance south.

The King of Asturias had spent the time solidifying his hold on Toledo and extending his reach ever farther south, challenging al-Sumayl’s lieutenants until he reached the line of the Guadiana. In 764 raids across the river were severe enough to draw al-Sumayl back to the city from a campaign near Sevilla. To his surprise the raids were only a precursor because before he had been in Córdoba a fortnight, he learned that Abd ar-Rahman was already crossing the river in force having built a bridge of boats lashed together.

By the time Muhammad had arrived, al-Sumayl knew he had to defeat Abd ar-Rahman now or lose any chance of uniting the Muslims under his banner. By now as usual, half the local Berbers were willing to take a chance on a man who had already granted high positions to many of them without forcing them to invent Arab ancestors.[2] To keep more of Al-Andalus from slipping through his fingers he had no choice but to fight.

The army Abd ar-Rahman’s brought south had to be confronted in the field if there was any chance of success based on the reports of supplies prepared. A siege would have trapped him in the city without any realistic hope of relief. The losses already suffered by defections and his lack of allies meant al-Sumayl’s army was already depending more on Córdoban militia and even Christian conscripts from the country than the Berber horsemen that had been an early staple in the armies of Al-Andalus. The former at least were motivated to defend the city.

For the King Asturias, while concerns of supply were dealt with, worry about the cohesion and unity in his heterogeneous army was paramount. To avoid placing the burden on any one region and to prevent a monolithic over-class arising once again he had mixed in Berbers, southern Christians as well his own Asturians to form the core of a new army based on loyalty to him alone, or if he were being honest, to the wealth of his purse. While they could be supplemented by local lords and levies, he had enforced a distinct difference in the manner of reward. In fact he had already chosen Bedr as his most faithful follower to govern Córdoba if the attack was a success.

The battle began south of the city itself, al-Sumayl not able to prevent Abd ar-Rahman from making the crossing of the Guadalquivir. Still desperation and defense of their home gave strength to the men of Córdoba and they attacked so fiercely they overcame the initial Asturian advance and Abd ar-Rahman had to rally his men to prevent collapse. Now it was spear and sword against each other as the horsemen wheeled and struck on the flanks.

The battle continued through the afternoon and as the began to set al-Sumayl risked all on a final push as he charged forward. In the middle of rallying his men again, Abd ar-Rahman was struck by an arrow and fell from his horse. While the arrow was repelled by his armor, word began to spread throughout the army that he had fallen. Even standing up did nothing so he tore off his cloak, one the long dead Lisina had woven for him that was white for the Umayyads on one side and tan on the other and tied it to a fallen cavalry spear. Wielding it to show himself to his men, they were inspired by his seemingly miraculous recovery. Absorbing the Córdoban charge, Abd ar-Rahman led them forward on foot driving Muhammad from the field and leaving the body of al-Sumayl trampled into the dust.

Because it was the men of Córdoba who had resisted so strongly he made an example of them. Córdoba was sacked for two days as Abd ar-Rahman let his victorious army rampage through the city. While he prevented the destruction of mosques and churches, he also prevented the citizens from fleeing to them for safety and slaughtered them as they tried to get inside.

The wealth was used to reward his followers and entice a number of settlers from the north to come to the city. In particular, men from along the border with the Frankish realm and eager for new opportunities settled around city anticipating future campaigns and the city had a somewhat Frankish look for some time after it was rebuilt.



After the sack of Córdoba in 764, Abd ar-Rahman had bought himself what he most desperately needed, time. Time to determine the progress of his changes, start more and begin the process of truly unifying the peninsula. It had been years since he had discussed the matter with Bedr and Lisina in his days as a landless knight more as mental exercise than in earnest. Now it was a matter of his life and death: Vast stretches of Iberia looked to him and while Córdoba had provided wealth for now, he needed the general population from all his lands to support him. While Muhammad ibn al-Fihri escaped to Mérida, he took advantage of local control breaking down completely to seize the small castle at Carmona and hold it to guard the approaches to Córdoba from points farther west and it became the southernmost reach of his power for some time.

Leaving Bedr in the city with a strong garrison of Galicians who had sworn to the man, he returned to his new capital. Moving his seat of power effected the change he hoped in that a number of northerners settled south diffusing the original Asturians he had used to gain his revenge on Yusuf al-Fihri. The changes on the peninsula had enabled him to move groups and peoples around in his efforts to prevent a single group from becoming too densely settled in any area to cause trouble.

Moving peoples was a temporary tactic. It was useful in the short term but new bonds and alliances would be forged soon enough. The only true way to keep the order he had created with his sword was to sustain it with the pen; He began giving orders. Learned men of all faiths and peoples were placed in the burgeoning administration that he forged based on his studies and experiences in the Caliphate in his youth. The only thing he insisted on was that if a person entered his administration he had to abandon his previous allegiance--this was done to prevent Muslim religious scholars or Christian Bishops from obtaining power to advance their own religion. Andalusi Christians were on the same terms as Andalusi Muslims. He did keep religious officials on as advisers in dealing with their communities.

Aside from trying to accustom the people to administrators tied to him, he focused on making their lives better. He immediately tended to the old Roman roads in his lands, particularly the northern part of the Via de la Plata to ease travel from north to south. A plan was devised to build an extension through the pass at Arrebatacapas to Toledo utilizing Muslim engineers but was not implemented due to the expense involved. He also rebuilt old aqueducts and dams while giving orders for new ones. In the years to come this would do a great deal to mitigate the effects of famine on the peninsula and in fact their disrepair might well have contributed to the famines that had plagued Al-Andalus in the past.[3]

Not all men were satisfied with his arrangements. After seeing new peoples and even some Muslims moving north to become their new neighbors, a number of Asturian lords were led by Elipando and his son Vermudo in the conquest of the city of Porto and established the County of Portugal. Yet even they did not declare themselves independent and they allowed his administrators into the area and sent some taxes to Toledo each year to prevent a more intimate visit by the new king.

Meanwhile adventurers and settlers from the Frankish realm who found the demands of Charles or Carloman onerous decided to try their luck under Abd ar-Rahman who did not launch yearly campaigns. In fact, Charles encouraged many of the dissidents in Aquitaine to do so after his pacification of the region in 762. Several of these were chosen to join the small core of standing professionals Abd ar-Rahman continued to build his army around. To gain the money to pay for this army he forcibly extorted money from the smaller, weaker city-states around him.

While Abd ar-Rahman focused on unifying what he had won in Iberia, in Baghdad Al-Mansur was thinking about what he had lost. Having spent his early reign consolidating his rule after the death of Al-Saffah and seeking out knowledge by founding the House of Wisdom, he took thought to Al-Andalus separated from his rule by distance, heresy, chaos and finally by Abd ar-Rahman who was a traitor even among a family of traitors. At the suggestion of the Wali of Egypt, he chose a traitor to stop a traitor. Summoning Djafar ibn Abdallah who had surrendered and served the Egyptian faithfully, he instructed Djafar to bring order to the distant west and kill Abd ar-Rahman as the proof of his loyalty.[4]

When Djafar set out in 762 he had an army of his back and was supplied with some ships by his former minder the Wali of Egypt. Despite this force he was delayed in reaching Al-Andalus by a need to reclaim the lands west of Egypt. His first accomplishment was to drive the Ibadis from Tripolitania with the help of Al-Aghlab and his son as well as the powerful local lord Muhallah who was something of an expert on agricultural systems.

To impose his rule on the fractious Maghreb, Djafar had to be harsh and though Christian and Jewish communities were generally respected if they gave no trouble, a particular example was made upon the capture of Tahert with the execution of Shiat ‘Ali, Abd ar-Rahman ibn Rustam. After pushing west from Tahert, he had the good fortune of meeting the ruler of the most powerful tribe of the Miknasa Berbers--a man by the name of Tashfin who was eager to accompany Djafar to Al-Andalus when he learned of his mission to execute Abd ar-Rahman.

In 768 after pacifying Ifriqiya and the Maghreb, Djafar commenced the crossing to Al-Andalus.

The Iberian War

When he landed at Algeciras, Djafar intended to march on Córdoba and establish himself as the new governor. Instead he found a land in chaos and Abd ar-Rahman dominant. While his troops were made of experienced veterans from the Arab heartlands, some had fallen in the battles in the Maghreb and he could not afford to face Abd ar-Rahman before Tashfin’s arrival with reinforcements. To stabilize his position, he set about bringing the small fledgling states of Al-Andalus to heel.

Taking Gadita as his base of operations, Djafar used the ships at his disposal to force the allegiance of Málaga. He also made contact and common cause with Muhammad in Mérida. Muhammad urged the others to work with Djafar but suspecting an attempt to regain the post he might have held after his father, Muhammad al-Fihri received a lukewarm response at best. With Abd ar-Rahman alerted to their arrival and preparing to face them, Djafar finally made the decision to invade the territory controlled by Valva[5] and by the end of 769 he had suppressed all resistance in much of the southwest. When Tashfin finally made the crossing from the Maghreb with his army the next year, he ranged across the south plundering Al-isbona and even the southern reaches of Coimbra as a warning. In the meantime, Djafar felt himself ready and in 770 took Sevilla to prepare for the thrust against Abd ar-Rahman at last.

In Córdoba Bedr had been preparing for the assault since Djafar’s arrival in Iberia. Fortifications to both the city and the outlying fortresses like Carmona had been completed by the time the Abassid commander established himself in Sevilla. It was Bedr who was able to convince the rulers of the western districts to resist the pressure by Djafar until Abd ar-Rahman came south. While Al-isbona stood neutral, Coimbra declared itself subject to the King of Asturias when he managed to curb the raids originating from Porto on his way south.

In Toledo Abd ar-Rahman was preparing for a battle he had long anticipated. Though not yet set against the Caliph of Baghdad, for now the chosen Abassid governor of Al-Andalus would be enough. But when he learned of the army sent with Djafar and his success in gaining the allegiance of several other domains he called upon his old allies. From Valencia which he ruled for his father-in-law, Husayn came with an offer of alliance with Zaragoza. The final appeal Abd ar-Rahman made was to one of his oldest companions, a man he had known well in the days before his kingship. Charles, the King of the Franks.

Upon the death of their father in 768, Charles and his brother Carloman had divided the kingdom amicably after Charles’s second wife Gerberga convinced him to work with his brother to prevent potential uprisings. When none occurred immediately--even in restive Aquitaine owing to the migration of many dissidents to Abd ar-Rahman’s kingdom--Charles gave thought to the idea of campaigning with his friend in the south. The King of Asturias had kept his word after Charles supported the official division of the Basque country and restrained them from incursions north. More importantly he had removed one of the most persistent threats to the Frankish realm in the destruction of Al-Andalus. With war against the Saxons in his future along with a probable contest with his brother, securing his southern borders would remove a tremendous weight from his shoulders. So too interesting opportunities for plunder awaited in those regions which had not sworn to the king. Leaving the son by his first wife to rule in Aquitaine, Charles called upon his men in 770 for an extraordinary expedition. Escorted through the Pass of Orreaga[6] by Marquio Enigo, he joined with ben Uqba on his way to Toledo.

By now Djafar had recalled his forces and those of the lands he had over-run. Meeting at Sevilla they first ended the raids Bedr launched south that had caused so much disruption. But the capture of Carmona served well in this matter as it was too well fortified and garrisoned to be left behind in any attempt on Córdoba and the Abassid commander was forced to lay siege to it. To ensure that it would resist, Bedr himself took command of the defenses.

Throughout 770, Abd ar-Rahman’s main concern was to supply the armies he was gathering. Men from Galicia and Cantabrian mountains, the herders of the Duero and townsmen from Toledo. Soldiers from Valencia and Coimbra and Portugal. When he was joined by Charles and his northeastern allies, his methods had found success in that foraging was kept to a minimum as the great army wound its way south. As they did, it became clear to all involved that the moment of decision for all Iberia had come at last.

Abd ar-Rahman desired to help his friend Bedr and after consulting with Charles and ben Uqba, they decided to attempt to lift the Siege of Carmona. What they had not reckoned on was the sheer size of Djafar’s army, especially the number of Berbers Tashfin had summoned north. With prospects for relief dulled, Abd ar-Rahman began to march south. His goal was to surround Djafar at besiege the besiegers. This strategy failed because Tashfin convinced Djafar that the death of Abd ar-Rahman was their true goal: without the coalition would fragment and they could regain Al-Andalus at their leisure, perhaps even attempt something against the Frankish kingdom. Djafar left a significant force to pen in the garrison at Carmona and turned south to face Abd ar-Rahman at last.

By chance the two armies shadowed each other across a stream that fed the Guadalquivir known as the Rio Carbones that formed the eastern border of a relatively flat region south of Carmona. Realizing he would be unable to get around Djafar, Abd ar-Rahman halted southeast of Carmona. The river at the time was running broad and shallow, and in that place it was shallow enough for men to wade across it with little difficulty but enough to be a barrier and a hindrance.


As the two armies prepared for battle, Abd ar-Rahman looked at the place before him when suddenly he remembered.

I failed here so long ago. I failed and never recovered.

This was the field where al-Fihri had caught him on his way to Sevilla after he first arrived in Al-Andalus. For a moment he wondered what would have happened if he’d reached Sevilla as planned with his allies.[7]

I would never have been captured if Sevilla sided with me. ‘Sina would never have taken me north. I never would have loved her. A terrible thought and he was glad all over again that their son Salamon was safely under the care of Aurelius in Oviedo. He certainly cared for his heir Peio, but it was different with Salamon a son conceived and named in love, not political expediency.

As he watched the army across the stream, the black banners of the Abassids rose on tall standards, and next to them that of al-Fihri and...

“Tashfin,” he breathed. There were others he needed to visit vengeance on beside the Commander of the Faithful.

“There! There is your enemy!” he shouted. “Gathered beneath that banner I do not take them lightly, for I know their mettle. I was hunted by their spears and swords until I came here among you and they have come after me even when I defeated their dog here. But I know your mettle too--have we not fought and struggled from Oviedo to Córdoba? Take heart! All of Iberia is divided on this day but I am on your side. Know that I will not leave this field without success!

“Do not concern yourselves with plunder! This victory will be great enough for all our hands to hold it! Follow my orders, stay in your ranks. Press them and we will triumph!”

Raising his sword in the weak sunlight he felt all over again that it was right for him to be the King of Asturias. To have brought order to the lands he ruled. All of Al-Andalus is here this day he thought as he ordered his horsemen to advance.

Maybe I haven’t failed after all Lisina...

The Battle of Rio Carbones

The horsemen who led the charge across the stream were mounted on the largest Asturian and Frankish horses. They and their mounts were armored as best as could be contrived with mail or scale armor and thick cloth and leather for the horses. Riding abreast with their shields lowered and their spears raised, they were an imposing wall. As the arrows fell thick among them, few met their mark. Abd ar-Rahman followed behind them bearing a Frankish war helm Charles had given him as a token of their alliance. When the horsemen smashed into the Abbasid line waiting for them on the far bank, the battle was joined in earnest.

The battle plan had been quickly devised but it leveraged the strength of each unit and tried to cover their weaknesses. The riskiest part had been the initial horsemen, they were too heavy to be successful against the Abassid light horse but they were the most potent hammer Abd ar-Rahman had--and he was using them as cover. Behind the horses were the armored Frankish spearmen with their own leather armor, helmets and shields. Veterans, they were led by one of Charles most ablest subordinates and friends, the lord of the border with the Bretons, Arodland.[8] On their flanks came the melee infantry of Asturias--men with shields and lighter armor if any--wielding swords or axes to cover for the spearmen. The foot were shielded both by the heavy horsemen and the archers on their own side who launched flight after flight against the Abassids.

To the king’s delight, the heavier horsemen pushed the Abassid cavalry and infantry back beyond the river. In a close-fought battle the heavier armor and weapons of the Franks and chosen Asturians gave them the edge. The space they cleared was soon occupied by the heavier spearmen and the cavalry in a move they had only grudgingly accepted began to guard the flanks of the infantry. In these moments of potential confusion the danger was greatest and Djafar or one of the others recognized it to his credit. A renewed charge came from the Abassid lines hoping to take advantage of the confusion, but Abd ar-Rahman called for the javelins and the rain of darts broke up the enemy advance until the moment had passed.

Heartened he was about to order more of his reserves forward when Djafar proved he knew more than one trick. Next to the Abassid banner a smaller flag was flung open, one Abd ar-Rahman recognized. A pure white flag, the standard of the Umayyads.

It was a signal of betrayal.

The lighter Zaragozan cavalry had taken up positions on the flanks of the spearmen even before the heavier horsemen began to move. Upon seeing that flag every one of them turned and fled, foremost among them ben Uqba. Concerned about Abd ar-Rahman’s growing power and his closeness with the Franks combined with his conversion, ben Uqba had listened to the secret missives Djafar had sent him through the previous year. Zaragoza was promised autonomy under Djafar and the possibility of succeeding the other man had emerged. All that was required was to throw Abd ar-Rahman’s plans into confusion. Since the exact circumstances of the battle were unknown, the flag was the signal to ben Uqba to do as he saw fit to disrupt Abd ar-Rahman. It had been flown when it looked like the river crossing would succeed.

It took a moment for Abd ar-Rahman to realize that amid the retreating horsemen and panicking footmen, not all of ben Uqba’s men were retreating. Husayn had never been party to the plan and was not now. Placed with the reserves, he tried to stop the retreat and when that failed he lead his men into the fray to try and salvage something of the situation. In that hour he earned his name, the Faithful One. In the chaos that was swiftly engulfing the front line, Husayn’s action bought enough time for Arodland to reformed the Frankish line for the expected charge into an uneven shield wall, a set of three points and valleys rather like a Roman formation.

It was only as hope blossomed anew that Abd ar-Rahman heard the news that a force of unknown size and composition was raiding their camp.

Now it was time for Charles to act. Collecting as many horsemen as he could and disregarding their origins, he rode in wrath back to the camp. Luck was with Charles that day for rumor had exaggerated the strength of the enemy. It was in fact horsemen from the Abassid forces at Carmona who had gone south to raid and taken advantage of the battle to enrich themselves rather than try to gain victory. Dismounted and ransacking the camp, they were easy prey for Charles who also captured many horses from them.

Instead of returning to the battle, he sent a handful of messengers back to Abd ar-Rahman so that the rumors could quickly be quashed. He himself took the rest and those from the camp and rode as hard as he could to the northwest where the rest of the Carmona siege forces had grown complacent and took Charles for their own men returning. Charles had arranged his men in his traditional long column and as soon as they were in range, they spread out into a line of battle and fell upon the unsuspecting Abassids rushing out to gain their share of the booty.

When Bedr emerged from the fortress, Charles explained to him the situation. Bedr knowing that a battle was coming and he would either need to advance or try and fight his way out had prepared his men in case news came. Now he used the extra horses Charles brought to mount his own force and the two of them turned south to try and save the embattled king of Asturias.

At Rio Carbones the battle was coming to an end.

While panic had been averted by the quick actions of Charles, Abd ar-Rahman and his allies had been forced back from the bank thanks to the Abassid numbers. Sensing an opportunity, Djafar ordered a all out assault and under the black banners the Abassid host was driving slowly but inexorably across the stream. Such was their exuberance that caution had been thrown to the wind and men and horses were rushing across the water eager to finally pull down Abd ar-Rahman who had carved his way across Iberia for a decade. The Abassid numbers were such that once across the stream they would surround his men.

All day long the discipline of the Franks had been a bulwark for Abd ar-Rahman to rally his men around. When a despairing cry rose from their ranks he turned his attention to them immediately and saw no horsemen. A moment later the cries became clearer to him: Arodland had fallen in the battle and the Franks were wavering. It would be a short time before they would break and the only man who could have prevented it was absent.

Sending a prayer to God in Arabic, Abd ar-Rahman turned to his own guard. They had fought earlier but he had pulled them back to give them a chance to rest.

“To me! To me! Men of Spaña!” he shouted for his guard was made of up Asturians, Galicians, Basques, Berbers and a few Arabs. “You have sworn to me,” he said. “I swore to be faithful to you. I cannot flee this battle! Will you stand with me?” His heart was still for a moment as he waited for their answer but instead they roared his name and the beige and white banners he fought under were brought up. As they charged into the stream he knew it wouldn’t be enough. Even with his guard it would not be enough. But he had sworn not leave the field without victory and if that meant he had to die on it, he sworn to do that too, just to himself.

I wanted peace for them, he thought as the charge faltered. I hope I can see Lisina again. The Christians say it may yet be.

Then Charles and Bedr returned.

When they saw the great Abassid host on the verge of crossing the stream Charles forced them to take the time to organize themselves. They had only one chance at surprise and it must be used to the fullest. Abd ar-Rahman’s final charge had bought them the time they needed and just as it began to falter, the horsemen fell upon the Abassid army from the its rear and left flank. Such was the charge with their spears lifted above them, that the Abassids were taken by surprise and many were run down and slaughtered in the opening moments. Muhammad al-Fihri showed his honor by turning and trying to rally some men to meet the charge but such was the fury of the Franks that he was cut down even as he turned to give battle.

Rio Carbones might have been victory for the Abassids despite that if Tashfin had not fled.

Still a great army, not all the Abassid host was trapped in the stream and many of those were veterans not easily broken. But Tashfin feared Abd ar-Rahman’s revenge for the deaths of Salim and Umniyah his sister and for turning ibn Habib against him. When Muhammad al-Fihri was killed, Tashfin fled with his tribe leaving many of the Berbers behind. There was nothing Djafar could do. The victory was total. With the departure of Tashfin and the confusion of the Berbers the Abassid army was now trapped in the stream between two forces and beginning to panic. The day had been hard and long and full of unexpected turns and neither side was in a mood for quarter.

No quarter was given. Particular attention was given to the Arab units who would not have pledged to Abd ar-Rahman for his conversion and both sides knew it. None of those units bothered to ask for surrender and they were annihilated where they stood. Those Berbers not related to Tashfin were more eager to surrender. They had come for plunder or land but once north they all heard stories of the man who did grant Berbers wealth and power if they served him faithfully. In the aftermath of the battle he proved it for the Abassid camp contained a staggering array of riches scarcely to be imagined. Djafar had taken with him the slaves and valuables and precious objects he wished to place in Córdoba once he took the city and these were now parceled out by Abd ar-Rahman. The Andalusians both Muslima and Christian mercenaries, fled.

The Battle of Rio Carbones was over, and Abd ar-Rahman had won.


Al-Andalus to Hispania

While the great Abassid army was obliterated behind him, Tashfin and his kin first tried to take refuge with Muhammad’s terrified relatives at Mérida. But news of the battle outpaced even his panicked flight and much of what was left of Al-Andalus was hunting Tashfin in the hopes of delivering him to Abd ar-Rahman and throwing themselves on his mercy. In the end, Tashfin had return home disguised as a woman to avoid detection.

As for Djafar, Charles and Bedr brought him before Abd ar-Rahman who ordered that he be given water to refresh himself and dressed in clean clothing. Charles desired to slay Djafar for the death of his vassal Arodland but Abd ar-Rahman asked him to wait. Keeping Djafar imprisoned he exhibited him before the cities of the south and many handed over tribute to Abd ar-Rahman after the victory. To those lands who had been taken by Djafar he gave the choice of invasion or peaceful submission into his state. Sevilla and Málaga took the offer but Gadita refused and was subjected to a staggeringly brutal sack that reduced the importance of the city to almost nothing for generations.

It was Málaga where he brought Djafar.

Standing in the place where Salim was buried he spoke of the sacrifice his friend had made that had set his feet on the path. He also swore to avenge Salim by killing Tashfin in front of Djafar. Once he was finished, he took his sword and struck off Djafar’s head. Ordering it packed in a box with salt a tag was placed on the head to identify it and sent it east with a strong guard to ensure its arrival.

To show that he would not forget about his vow to slay Tashfin, Abd ar-Rahman crossed the Strait of Tariq in 772. Landing in the ruins where he had stood in the surf at the age of 22, Abd ar-Rahman founded the fortress that would become known as Fentiside. While building the fortress representatives of the Berber town to of Tanga to the west came to see him. They asked for his protection and pledged to follow him and he left a strong garrison with them led by a young half-Berber known by the name of Maura.

Then Abd ar-Rahman returned to Al-Andalus and once more setting foot on the shores of the continent he proclaimed the end of Asturias and the beginning of the Kingdom of All Hispania, or as it would come to be known in the coming years: Spaña.


When the box containing the head of Djafar was opened in the presence of Al-Mansur, the Caliph gasped and exclaimed “God be praised for placing a sea between us!”

Later he said to his advisers: “There is no man now living who could be called the Falcon of the Quraysh. The great Quraysh of the past Mu’awiya rose to power through the support of Umar and Uthman with whose backing he overcame his enemies. Abd al-Malik because of his position, and the Commander of the Faithful though the righteous struggle of my kin and the solidarity of our followers. Abd ar-Rahman did it alone, with the support of none other than his own mind and resolve. A man who escaped the lances and blades of the Commander of the Faithful, wandered through the deserts and sought his fortune in a distant land beyond the sea. He humbled his proudest foes, annihilated rebels, organized cities, summoned armies, and secured his frontiers against all his opponents. He would surely be the Falcon of Quraysh had he not turned from the true faith. It is beyond even the Commander of the Faithful why God has willed such an event but it must be recognized for all things must be as God wills.”

Since Al-Mansur no longer considered Abd ar-Rahman a true member of the Quraysh he gave him another name by which he was known in Baghdad for the rest of the life of Al-Mansur for the Caliph both feared and respected Abd ar-Rahman.

From that day forward Abd ar-Rahman was known as the Raptor of Spain.
[1]Basque March, and Enigo was made a March Count, or Marquess. To be clear, the price of Basque support was the creation of a independent vassal state south of the mountains.
[2]Berbers inventing Arab ancestors only ended when the Caliphate of Córdoba did. Even the Almoravid Yusuf ibn Tashfin felt compelled to adopt Arab customs when first arriving in Al-Andalus--and was mocked when he wore his Berber hat.
[3]In OTL famines did not trouble Al-Andalus after Abd ar-Rahman became Emir until much later.
[4]The rebellion Djafar abandoned was launched by partisans of Ali.
[5] Valva = Huelva, Gadita = Cadiz.
[7]In OTL, Abd ar-Rahman made this crossing in 755 when al-Fihri was at Zaragoza putting down a rebellion. In the Raptor of Spain, Abd ar-Rahman attempted to reach Sevilla in 753--before al-Fihri left. Thus he was defeated before the events of OTL could occur. If you want a hard and fast PoD instead of a social one, this is it.

A/N: 7,600 words! There is Part 2 and I think it works a lot better than in the original. It also gives a sense of A a-R's constant efforts at changing the character of Iberia itself. Plus a big fight and some hints at changes in the Frankish lands. Also it's important remember that the area of Morocco in these times was pretty chaotic. The south is ruled by the Barghawata Confederation but the rest is a mix of tribes which is why so many of them decided to take a chance on Al-Andalus.

The references to Salim are to what happened in a prologue not posted on any message board. In short, Bedr, Umniyah and Salim escaped being killed in Damascus. Out in the desert A a-R basically freaked out and wanted to fight a last stand revenge battle. The three of them talked him out of it and the great adventure began. Tashfin was an adviser to ibn Habib the Wali of Ifriqiya. When ibn Habib's wife hid A a-R, Tashfin killed Umniyah and was kicked out of ibn Habib's service. Chasing A a-R to Ceuta, Tashfin cornered them in the surf and one of his men shot an arrow that killed Salim as A a-R was escaping in the boat Bedr brought back. Landing in Al-Andalus, A a-R's first action was to bury Salim so it's very important to him.

The only character in all that who is a-historical is Tashfin. Every other event and person except Umniyah's death (in OTL he brought her to Al-Andalus after he became Emir) is all based on Al-Makkari and other sources. Amazing how you can fill in the gaps to make an adventure story!


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The Raptor of Spain

Part III: Duty
“What do you want?” Salim had asked...
“Then you do not want enough!”
--Abd ar-Rahman, the night he fled Damascus


Returning from Africa in late 772, Abd ar-Rahman took up residence in Sevilla to focus on solidifying the control of his new territories. As an example of the change in status between the Muslim and Christian populations, the areas where there were more Christians were referred to by their Romance names. As in the north, in the south Muslims were a minority in the Christian population most often concentrated around the cities. Because of this and their experience they were over-represented in the administrative class of the new state. Abd ar-Rahman knew that success would depend on give no major group a chance to rebel and he did his best to balance the disappointments inherent in any government and to watch for oppression or malfeasance.

It was in Sevilla when news of a revolt reached him--the populace of Porto had turned on their leaders. Abd ar-Rahman was surprised. In region of Portugal there were Berbers in the countryside along with native Iberians, but the province was mostly Christian. Never the less after Abd ar-Rahman returned to Toledo he set out in 773 with his army to bring the region to heel. What he found surprised him. Instead of anarchy there was order. When he arrived in the outlying villages people greeted him and this continued as he drew near the coast. It was only when he arrived in Porto itself that he learned the truth.

Elipando and his allies had taken Porto and the region so they could rule on the margins of Abd ar-Rahman’s control. Persecuting the Muslim populace and oppressing the Christians, they had done their best to enrich themselves and sparked a peasant revolt. When Abd ar-Rahman learned the truth he stripped control of the region from Elipando and as with Salamanca, made Porto a Free-City subject only to the crown. When Elipando’s son Vermudo returned from the mission he was sent on, Abd ar-Rahman fully intended to take him into his custody as well. It was only when the new ruling council of Porto asked for leniency the he learned Vermudo had not joined with his father. Instead, Vermudo and his son Eder were given the rule of Oviedo while his father was sought for imprisonment. Deprived of Abd ar-Rahman’s support, Elipando and his allies fled the Abd ar-Rahman’s state for those areas not yet under his rule and much of that year was spent searching for them. Several were captured and returned to Porto where they were hung for one of the greatest crimes Abd ar-Rahman proscribed was the exploitation of the populace for personal gain.

The execution of rebellious lords in a manner so criminal caused many to wonder about Abd ar-Rahman but he made a point of demonstrating restraint in future complaints where the integrity of his state was not threatened. As for Elipando himself, he disappeared.

The Kings of the Franks

After the episode with Portugal, Abd ar-Rahman returned to Toledo to find a number of rich gifts sent to him by his friend Charles. His son and heir, Martinus had been born to his wife Gerberga shortly after his return from Iberia. The gifts were a sign of his power and of the wealth he acquired in his expedition beyond the Pyrenees.[1]

Charles, Husayn and Abd ar-Rahman had met immediately after Rio Carbones before Abd ar-Rahman received the submission of the south. The three of them swore revenge on the Emir of Zaragoza for his betrayal at the moment of decision. While Abd ar-Rahman went south, Husayn and Vermudo escorted Charles to the border. Along the way they sacked the city of Denia on the coast and Husayn took it for his own to add to his growing domain around Valencia. After leaving Husayn to prepare his defenses against a Zaragozan advance, Charles and Vermudo skirted the western border of Zaragoza launching a few raids into the territory to remind ben Uqba that he was now alone thanks to his betrayal.

When Charles crossed the mountains without incident he was surprised to find his brother Carloman had successfully subdued revolts in eastern Aquitaine and in Septimania-Gothica. Carloman who was widely known to be less military capable than his brother, was encouraged in these efforts by his wife. Striving to keep the peace with his brother and to please his mother, Charles met with Carloman and they agreed that Carloman would focus on east and Charles the west since he had already established good relations with Abd ar-Rahman.[2] After establishing his authority in the new regions, Charles invaded Zaragoza while the Emir was busy in the south against his son-in-law, Husayn.

While Charles preparing to take revenge on Zaragoza and Carloman began to march east to deal with the Saxons, Pope Stephen was forced into an arrangement with the Lombard king Desiderius.[3] In fact, Carloman was delayed with the Saxons because of increasing pressure from the Avars in the southeast. Instead of the north, he campaigned with Desiderius and Tassilo III of Bavaria leaving the Saxons be for a time.

The Zaragozan War

When Charles and Husayn met with Abd ar-Rahman, he gave Husayn a guarantee of protection for his part in the great battle.

“Return to your home,” Abd ar-Rahman said. “Know that you have but to call upon me if your realm is threatened by Abdul al-Rahman ben Uqba.”

The Emir of Zaragoza was no fool. He knew very well that he was trapped and that it would not be long before the rulers of Hispania and the Frankish domains turned to him. Believing any negotiation to be fruitless, he settled on a course of action of an attempted alliance with the Muslims of Ifriqiya. As they were over the sea, his greatest need was ports. His greatest port was the city of Barcelona but that land was much closer to the Frankish ruled Septimania-Gothica. Instead he turned his attention to Valencia to remove his son-in-law who had sided with Abd ar-Rahman against him after Rio Carbones.

While he could not face Abd ar-Rahman and Charles both, Husayn was another matter. Even with possession of Denia, Husayn could not hope to hold off the Zaragozans for long. When he was invaded in 774, Husayn called on Abd ar-Rahman for help. Abd ar-Rahman sent him messages of support and promised to help him by the following year. It would take time to muster his armies for a campaign in the east while protecting the western border, and that border needed protecting.

When Mérida had thrown itself on Abd ar-Rahman’s mercy he had allowed the local elites to choose a new Muslim governor on the condition he would treat Muslims and Christians equally. This practice later paid dividends. Aware he was being watched by the king, the governor made special efforts to demonstrate his competence. It was thus Abd ar-Rahman learned the whereabouts of Elipando who had fled his justice.

In the year when Husayn called for help from Abd ar-Rahman, Elipando emerged as an advisor in the city of Al-isbona. Al-isbona had managed to remain neutral during the Abassid war, a feat matched only by the region centered around Ilibra in the east. After the success and increasing domination of the Kingdom of Hispania, these two regions became refugees for those unwilling to place themselves under the rule of Abd ar-Rahman and his agents and servants. A slow but significant migration of Muslims had thus occurred and this was primarily to Al-isbona. Ilibra had become a friendly state to Abd ar-Rahman, promising to assist him against threats from Africa in exchange for being left alone. Zaragoza was widely known to have betrayed an alliance with the king. While it attracted some of those opposed to the king, it was widely considered to marked for destruction between the Frankish Realm and that of Abd ar-Rahman.

The need to destroy Elipando was urgent. While he lived he was a focal point for rebellion among the old Christians who had never been under Muslims rule. At the same time he needed to support his ally Husayn who had proved so faithful in the great battle that won him the peninsula. That year he called his advisers and subjects together from the five districts of his realm: Galicia, Asturias, Toledo, Portugal and Andalucia. He put the question to the lords and rich merchants who he would implore to fund the conquests, to the Christian bishops who would not object to more souls under their jurisdiction and the Muslim scholars of religion who had condoned the rule of a nominally Christian monarch. It was during this council that the situation had become more urgent when it was known that Elipando had sent to Rome for an embassy to determine the veracity of Abd ar-Rahman’s conversion in 761.

In the end, Abd ar-Rahman divided his armies. A smaller force was sent east to support Husayn and to mark its importance, he sent his 17 year old son Salamon to the aid of Husayn with an adviser for it was the young man’s first true campaign. That adviser was the brother of Queen Munina Berenguer Eniguez. Salamon arrived in time to prevent the fall of Valencia defeating the two surviving sons of Qasi who were the Walis of Tarragona and Tortosa. After driving the Zaragozans out of Valencia, Husayn had to settle for defending the borders of the small state after Berenguer left to deal with the succession issues that arose following the death of his father. The full attack anticipated never came however, for Charles invaded Zaragoza the following summer. Destroying the border garrisons from his new bases in Septimania-Gothica, Charles captured Girona after a siege of two months. Raiding the outlying districts of Barcelona, he was prevented from seriously investing the city by the approach of the main Zaragozan army and settled his lieutenant and disinherited son, Pepin the Hunchback, in Girona to rule it for the winter.

When Abd ar-Rahman came east in 777, he had not yet finished with Al-isbona. Several of the border towns had been captured since the great council of 774-775, but even taking into account the combined forces in both operations it was far from the full strength of his realm. No longer could Abd ar-Rahman throw his entire army against an objective. As simply king of Asturias his realm had been small enough to gather the majority of those owing him service. Later the promise of plunder and rich lands had provided their own draw. But now he had a state to defend, control and pass on to his Heir and first son by Munina, Peio. For a man who had once had nothing to lose, it was a change that was a relief.

Arriving in Valencia with the young Peio, he ordered Salamon to administer Toledo and the realm according to his orders while he was absent. He had long worried over a potential rivalry emerging between his two older sons (his youngest Jon was barely 4 at the time) like the Frankish contest between Charles and Carloman. But Salamon was born before Abd ar-Rahman ever thought to become king of Asturias. The son of a concubine and legitimate under the law of the state[4] Salamon had known since the birth of his younger brother that he would not become king. Instead he set out to make himself as useful to his father as possible to secure his own position rather than plot against him. While this attitude was a relief to Abd ar-Rahman, it also led the creation of a great friendship between the two brothers. In fact, Salamon and Peio were closer than Peio was with his full brother, and as they grew older it was Jon who cried when his older brothers left him behind.

In Valencia, he and was able to coordinate his attack with Charles. While the latter came south again and attacked Barcelona, Abd ar-Rahman defeated Abu Taur at Tortosa and took his city. While he fought hard, Abu Taur fled the battle rather than be taken prisoner for as a knight of Asturias Abd ar-Rahman had slain his father Qasi and his two little brothers Yunus and Yahya who were merely boys in his conquest of Tudela. Abu Taur instead traveled to Zaragozan to try and rouse ben Uqba. There he found the Wali of Lleida, Aysun al-Arabi and ben Uqba very ill.

Husayn, after fighting with the king to take Tortosa, was forced to acknowledge to himself that the presence of administrators, advisors and civil servants throughout the winter was a sign that his days of true independence were gone. It was to his credit or perhaps his instinct for self-preservation that he contented himself with autonomous rule in Valencia rather than an attempt at reconciliation with ben Uqba or pledging himself to Charles. Charles for his part was having difficulties. Defeated by Sulayman al-Arabi, he forced into a partial siege of Barcelona not being able to block it from receiving help by sea. The stalemate lasted until the fall of Tarragona where Abd ar-Rahman was defeated by Abu Salama though the later was killed in the battle. Though Abd ar-Rahman’s army was put to flight, the city itself was damaged to such an extent and its populace reduced that it declined so rapidly as to pose no further threat to the conquest and the next season Abd ar-Rahman passed by it un-opposed.

Outside of Barcelona, Charles had been stopped again by Sulayman al-Arabi but it was a near thing. When Tarragona was destroyed, Sulayman went to Charles and spoke to him about changing his allegiance. When Charles and Abd ar-Rahman arrived at Barcelona however, they found its gates shut. A servant of Aysun al-Arabi, Amrus ibn Yusuf, had slain Sulayman upon discovering the change in allegiance. Rallying the people of the city, Amrus proved himself a capable and determined opponent. For most of a year he kept the allied armies from entering the city. When relief attempts led by ben Uqba and the others failed and slowly being worn down as more and more ships began to blockade the Barcelona port, he would be expected to surrender. Instead he called for volunteers and with an army largely consisting of refugees from the the other towns conquered, he led this army out to battle in a daring attempt to break the siege.


Abd ar-Rahman and Charles were taken completely by surprise and both men were almost captured in the opening hour as Amrus drove hard for the command tent, the only way for him to win the battle. In the end it was only by the deaths of a truly staggering number of their personal guards that Abd ar-Rahman and Charles held back the early charge made by Amrus. More than once both were nearly surrounded by the enemy and according to an apocryphal tale, once had to fight their way clear back to back. But the hard professionalism evidenced by elements in both armies, soldiers who had fought across Iberia and Africa, or from one end of Europe to the other, defeated Amrus. Though he ordered his men with no small skill, after almost 6 hours of combat Amrus was captured and brought before both kings. Charles suggested that they kill him but Abd ar-Rahman instead made him an offer.

“Why did you kill your master Sulayman al-Arabi?

“He was not my master. I serve Aysun al-Arabi and commanded the force he sent to help his father. I slew his father when he betrayed the city to the two of you kings.”

“Then you have sought to serve your master. Amrus, I can see you are a Muslim of Iberia. A man such as yourself need not die here. I have long accepted all men of worth and faith into my employ and will not turn on them as long as the continue to give good service.”

“I gave my word to the master of Lleida. How could I serve another?”

“But your master came and tried to help you and we drove him away. He could not fulfill his duty to you of protecting you. You kept your duty here and fought as well as could be imagined and better than any expected. Sulayman al-Arabi could not have done better. When you keep your oath and your master does not keep his, does that not mean your duty to him is fulfilled?”

“But he tried.”

“And failed. It is the failure of lords that reduces their power for if they cannot fulfill their oaths whether they wish to or not should not make a difference. Serve me, and I will not abandon you. Nor can anyone force me to.”

When Amrus accepted the offer made by Abd ar-Rahman, it was on the condition that he not take part in any of the fighting against the Zaragozans. Abd ar-Rahman agreed without delay and delivered him to his son at Toledo who immediately utilized him in the campaigns in the west against Al-isbona.

The Peace of the North

When Barcelona was re-created as a Frankish County, Zaragoza was cut off from the ocean. The isolation of the Emirate forced the aged and increasingly infirm ben Uqba to risk everything on a single battle to defeat either Abd ar-Rahman or the Franks.

Fought south of Lleida, the Battle of Rio Segre pitted ben Uqba, Abu Taur and Aysun al-Arabi against Abd ar-Rahman, and the new Frankish leader: Pepin the Hunchback. Pepin had been placed in charge when Charles received news of the death of his childless brother Carloman. and the king returned returning to take up the mantel ruling the vast kingdom alone. Pepin was the eldest son of Charles by his concubine. While Charles was willing to legitimize Pepin as Abd ar-Rahman had done with Salamon, it would have done little good. The deformity that he had been born with made it difficult for Pepin to command in battle and it was only because Abd ar-Rahman remained in the north that the Frankish armies agreed to continue the campaign. They had fought with the King of Hispania before, and had confidence in his power.


The irony of Rio Segre was that it was a Pyhrric victory for the Emirate of Zaragoza. While Abd ar-Rahman’s army had fled the field with the king himself leading the rear-guard that saved it from destruction, ben Uqba and Aysun al-Arabi lay dead on the field with the greater part of the armies of the Emirate. The only survivor of consequence in the Emirate with the power to hold it together was Abu Taur and he took up residence in Zaragoza and prepared to stand siege. Abd ar-Rahman and Pepin did not disappoint him and when they returned to do battle he was killed in a skirmish. Almost immediately, the gates were opened and his body flung outside while the city itself surrendered.

Zaragoza as a center of costly resistance was sacked, but total massacre was avoided on account of their surrender once Abu Taur was killed. Honoring the agreement made with Charles before his departure, Abd ar-Rahman made sure Pepin was installed as the lord of a Zaragoza specially arranged as an area of open trade between the Frankish Realm and his own kingdom. To show the importance of the agreement, he placed his young son Jon as his own representative (with Berenguer Eniguez as his adviser). Taking his share of the plunder of the city, Abd ar-Rahman rewarded his men and returned to Toledo during the winter of 781.

A Reward for Good Service

With the amount of time they spent together it was no surprise that Bedr became a mentor to young Salamon. Abd ar-Rahman had been absent most of his son’s life being engaged in the defeat of Al-Andalus and conquest of Iberia. Such was the importance of Bedr, that he was the one who orchestrated the betrothal of Salamon to Aliza the daughter of the newly baptized Sa’dun of Coimbra. Astounded when he learned of it on his return, it was only due to Bedr’s long service that he was convinced to support the betrothal. That Salamon’s marriage would not be one of state like Peio’s was a major reason for that concern. Yet even in regards to Peio, Bedr had influence as he suggested that the youngest daughter of Husayn be betrothed to Peio. Husayn had not converted from Islam yet in the climate of Iberia at the time, it was acceptable for him to do because of the great prestige that the marriage to Peio would bring.

That Bedr was in Toledo at all when Abd ar-Rahman returned was unexpected. When Abd ar-Rahman divided his armies in 775, Bedr had called together his own household and supporters[5] and traveled west recruiting able-bodied men to join his contingent of armored cavalry and infantry against Al-isbona. Bedr himself was known as Abd ar-Rahman’s faithful servant and with the support of Salamon there was no fear that the king would view his actions as disloyal. In fact he had earned the support of the residents of Galicia, Portugal and Andalucia which he had administered for Abd ar-Rahman in the early 770s. That he had gained the support of an area and town that Abd ar-Rahman had visited destruction on was a mark of his own considerable talents. Using the border towns captured during the search for Elipando as a starting point he left Mérida before the fall of Tarragona, taking control of all the land east of the Guadiana. Raids over the river itself had been quite productive for the land of Al-isbona was well-watered. The potential for such land was high once the water management practices Abd ar-Rahman had begun in the rest of his kingdom were extended to Al-isbona.

Elipando had by this time become the effective ruler of the Taifa, but because of his Christian heritage he had to struggle constantly to maintain his army. Slowly losing ground as Bedr and Salamon kept the pressure on, Silves was captured by Amrus ibn Yusuf. After Abd ar-Rahman agreed to the marriage with Aliza of Coimbra, her father and the men of Porto invaded along the northern coast while Amrus and Bedr closed in on Al-isbona itself.

The countryside, some of the most heavily Muslim on the peninsula, was understandably wary but the presence of the Muslim Amrus put them more at ease especially when they saw the respect that he was given by the Greek Bedr. By the time Bedr reached the city late in 782, it was for purposes on intimidation. Abd ar-Rahman had agree to support the invasion the next year and the siege was planned for 783. However Elipando’s increasingly harsh measures to combat the invasion of Al-isbona had turned the populace against both him and the Muslim ruler who tolerated him.

As soon as Bedr and Amrus appeared at the gates, they turned on both men and dragging them through the streets, offered them up to Bedr. Elipando was sent in chains back to Toledo where Abd ar-Rahman executed him in front of Vermudo and his young son, Eder. After the death of his enemy, Abd ar-Rahman conferred upon Bedr the position of what was recorded as the Marca Lisboa in an arrangement similar to that made with Berenguer. As the king said to Bedr, rewarding a faithful and trusted subordinate was some of the best fun a king could have.

“After all,” Abd ar-Rahman had said, “It is not just a reward for service but a way to ensure that you will remain faithful the next time I need you.”[6]

The Last Peace

In 52 years of life so far, Abd ar-Rahman spent most of it in combat and on the move. From the time he was 19 until he was 24 he had been a refugee. Until the age of 30 he had been a landless knight. Since then he had spent almost every year ordering his domains or expanding them in campaigns across the peninsula. While he had made an effort to spread out the areas he depended on for manpower, he made no such efforts in regards to himself. He spent the winter of 782 with Bedr in Lisboa to see him properly installed as the new Marquio of the region and establishing its official borders with his realm. Like Berenguer he had great autonomy subject only to the stricture of not making alliances against him with other powers.

While Bedr began creating his own administration in the southwest, Abd ar-Rahman completed the preparations for Salamon’s marriage to Aliza and Peio’s to Husayn’s daughter, Banucca. It was only after the wedding rituals had been completed that he called both of them to him and confided in them. He was beginning to feel old and wished both of them to take more of the burden from his shoulders. He implored them to work together and commended Salamon for his acknowledgment of his position under Peio. He also commended Peio for never abusing his place as heir to undermine his half-brother. He also spoke to them of his vow of revenge.

“But revenge has many ways of coming to fruition,” he said. “Salamon’s mother taught me that.”

Charging them to strengthen, nurture and grow the state until such time as it eclipsed the glory of the Caliphate, he retired to the capital while his sons took the up the burden of traveling throughout the peninsula keeping order, settling disputes, disposing of corruption and working to balance the power of the elites with that of the populace that they saw as their own to order.


When looking back on the history of the kings, it was clear to see this moment as one at which the unique traditions of the Iberian monarchy were emerging. Of these, the need to police the realm and the need to have an understanding of the lives of high and low alike were later carried out by other parts of the state than the king. As the administrative apparatus of the state grew, it became impossible for one person to do alone and would eventually be taken up by other agents of the king. As the power of the state grew, it became harder and harder to justify the king meeting with lower classes of people and distance grew between him and his subjects until the emergence of the first two great queens of the realm. More than anything else it also fostered an idea that the nobility were a necessary evil and one that the kings should look to dispense with whenever they could. This view of the crown as a third power separate from both the people and the elites would not be articulated for some time but it’s first stirrings can be seen during the period. Most importantly, the idea of the state as one inextricably bound with the Dynasty of Abd ar-Rahman first began it’s emergence here.


The calmness was cut short when his agent in Tanga, Maura, communicated to him the increasing incursions of the Berbers to the south. The description he gave of the banner he had seen reminded Abd ar-Rahman that he had made a promise some time ago and the old man felt the embers of his heart and will stir. Leaving Peio to rule in Toledo, he summoned the armies of the peninsula and crossed over into Africa in the Spring of 784.

A Murder Avenged

Africa in 784 was a very different place from the land Abd ar-Rahman visited in 782. Maura had not been idle and while he was only an average soldier, his sojourn in Tanga exposed him as a near brilliant governor. Thanks to his machinations, all the Rif from Tanga to Melilla submitted themselves eagerly to the power, fame and for some, distance from Abd ar-Rahman. Becoming part of the state as the province of Gran Rif, the coastal cities experienced an increase in trade as goods and resources from Africa and the east were funneled through them to the towns in Iberia and through Zaragoza into the rest of Europe. The silver that flowed back was extensive, enough for Pepin and Jon to enhance Zaragoza and to expand towns in the north such as Barcelona and Narbona ports. It also paid for improvements Abd ar-Rahman ordered through the peninsula and more importantly, enriched the cities of the Maghreb convincing them that their future lay with Abd ar-Rahman and his state. That Islam was mixed with Christianity and the local religions in the region of the west was all the more reason for these heterodox lords to make common cause with the religiously tolerant Abd ar-Rahman.

A case in point was the Barghawata Confederation. A union of Berber tribes under a syncretic form of Islam embodied very much in the claim of their founder to be the Mahdi, they sought alliance and friendship with Abd ar-Rahman to protect them from the more doctrinaire Muslims to the east.

When he arrived at Fentiside with his army he was met by both Maura, the Barghawata representative and the most prominent man in the region, the ruler of Melilla, Muhallah. An ally to Djafar ibn Abdullah, he had been left behind during the war with Abd ar-Rahman and so had never opposed the king. Exiled from Ifriqiya by the rising power of Djafar’s other subordinate Al-Aghlab, he acknowledged Abd ar-Rahman. It was Muhallah thanks to the auspices of his son Gayan in cooperation with the Barghawata, that had provided the news that brought Abd ar-Rahman back to the Maghreb.

In the years since his own return from Al-Andalus, Tashfin had become the undisputed leader of the Miknasa Berbers in the region. Ranging out from their central home lands south of the mountains, they were beginning to disrupt the trade routes that came from Sijilmasa in the south and Tashfin made it well that known that he would drive Abd ar-Rahman’s agents into the sea. It was also rumored that he often hinted at an invasion of Iberia as a way to keep his army under his control.

All through the year Abd ar-Rahman and his men prepared for the expedition to defeat the last of his enemies aside from the Caliphs. Abd ar-Rahman also at last told the story to his men and servants of the fate of his sister and how Tashfin had caused him to flee to Fentiside where only the arrival of Bedr saved him from death. To protect his lands in Africa, keep alive his dream of challenging the Caliphs and take revenge on the murderer of his sister, Abd ar-Rahman would triumph.

In 785 in alliance with the Barghawata, Abd ar-Rahman swept down along the southwestern coast to the borders with the Barghawata. Turning inland, they used the rivers as their guide and campsites as they ravaged the fledgling Miknasa confederation. While Abd ar-Rahman was not in the battles, preferring to let his generals do the fighting he was always there and he made it known that peace could only be obtained by handing over Tashfin.

Resistance was defeated by the combination of Iberian infantry and Berber light horsemen that would prove so powerful time and time again for two and a half centuries to come. Unable to stand against the Kingdom of Hispania and the Barghawata, the Miknasa fought well but were defeated. Tashfin however kept ahead of the king and continued to raise the countryside against him. The end finally came when the Barghawata and the Iberians cornered Tashfin at a certain spot near one of the few rivers in the land flowed year round. Tashfin at last trapped defied Abd ar-Rahman to the end and with those few men still loyal to him was destroyed. When Abd ar-Rahman came to the body of Tashfin, he cut it into pieces and burned it.

“I visit on him what he did on Umniyah so long ago.”

In that place, Abd ar-Rahman founded his last city on the right bank of the river. He named it Luz for he said “My line will bring light to the Maghreb as we have to Al-Andalus." He said Al-Andalus for though he had converted in public 25 years before, in his heart he had great sympathy and concern for Islam.

While Salamon had fought in the south, he installed Peio as the new ruler of Luz for he felt it was important for his Heir to know and understand the Berbers that were his grandmother’s people. When he returned to Toledo in 786, he was exhausted in body if not in mind. Considering the whole of his wide domains he was at peace. The state he had forged was surrounded by allies all around; His friend Bedr, the Barghawata, the Ilibrans, Berenguer Eniguez, and Pepin. It was fortunate that while Salamon administered the land in the north for his father and brother that Abd ar-Rahman was able to regain much of his strength as his worries about revolts internal and external slowly receded.[7] The only worrisome event in the entire kingdom was the frustrations of his youngest son Jon, eager to take more responsibility he was considered hot headed by his father and brothers and they kept him in Zaragoza hoping the more patient Pepin would influence him.

Abd ar-Rahman had hoped to live out his life peacefully. His second wife had died many years before but his sons were able men and he knew his kingdom would pass whole to Peio. He sent congratulations to both Husayn at Valencia and Peio in the Maghreb when he heard that Banucca was pregnant. Peio responded with a request that his wife and son join him south for he missed them and Abd ar-Rahman encouraged it. When a storm destroyed the ship and drowned his wife and her unborn child, the entire family was heart broken and Abd ar-Rahman recalled his son to the capital with the intention of replacing him with Salamon so that he could be with his grief stricken son.

When the first reports of trouble began to trickle north in 789, he dismissed them as unruly tribesmen for the lands to the east of his realm between it and the domain of Al-Aghlab was a wild land. Then the reports became more detailed, full of rape and massacre and slaughter until the King of Hispania learned the truth: Another refugee had arrived in the Maghreb.

Like Abd ar-Rahman himself he had fled the Caliph and sought a new life far from his power. Unlike his brother Djafar, he had no desire to reach an accommodation with the Caliph. His name was Idris ibn Abdallah and he would challenge Abd ar-Rahman in the twilight of his life for the mastery of the west.

The Caliph and the Rebel

When Al-Mansur died after naming Abd ar-Rahman the Raptor of Spain, he was succeeded by his son Al-Mahdi. Under Al-Mahdi the lenient polices of his father toward the Party of Ali and his descendents the Alids were continued and peace was maintained in the Caliphate after Al-Mahdi destroyed the last Umayyad remnant east of Iberia. It was under Al-Mahdi that to appease the Party of Ali and his own power, persecution of syncretist Muslims was intensified and Al-Mahdi declared the Caliph had a role in defining the beliefs of the umma. Now Al-Mahdi had two sons by Kaisuran whom are called Al-Hadi and Ar-Rashid. These sons were both accompanied by a powerful family that had helped Al-Saffah’s rebellion against Marwan II, the Barmakids. It was in part due to the Barmakids and their love of learning, that under Al-Mahdi the techniques of paper making become more widespread. When he died his son Al-Hadi rose the office of Caliph. There was strife between Al-Hadi and his mother who favored her other son, Harun more than he. She sought that Ar-Rashid succeed Al-Hadi and it was rumored he poisoned her to end the conflict.[8] It was under Al-Hadi that a great rising of the Alids occurred when he reversed the policies of his father.

In Medina, Husayn the great-great grandson of Ali declared himself Caliph and raised the standard of revolt. Since the Hejaz was poorly suited to maintaining a rebellion against the might of Baghdad, Al-Hadi crushed the revolt and slaughtered many of the Party of Ali that had fought under the banner of Husayn. However there was a man, a cousin of Husayn, who fought fiercely under the banner and instead of remaining to be destroyed by Al-Hadi he fled west in 787 and his name was Idris ibn Abdallah.

Idris as a prominent member of the Party of Ali was hunted across the Caliphate though the search was not nearly as intense as that conducted to find Abd ar-Rahman and all the Umayyads. As Idris journeyed west he fled his pursuers and encountered a hostile force in the person of the Al-Aghlab and his sons who were ruling Ifriqiya as agents of the Caliph. Idris was long an enemy of Al-Aghlab but the latter was too strong to oppose at the time having spent the years since the death of Idris’s brother securing his own power.[9]

Forced into the farthest west by Al-Aghlab, Idris had some hopes of establishing himself in the Maghreb. But his hopes were unfulfilled when he learned that Abd ar-Rahman who had destroyed Al-Andalus had extended his reach into Morocco. Unwilling to serve Abd ar-Rahman who had slain his brother in such a brutal manner he took refuge with the Ahraba Berber tribe. These Berbers who had originally lived much farther west had been expelled from their homes by the brutal Tashfin and were deliberating on whether to attempt to return now that the area was ruled by Abd ar-Rahman. Idris fell in love with the daughter of the chief who was known as Kenza.

Learning of the situation in the Maghreb and wishing revenge on Abd ar-Rahman he sought support from the Berbers of the region to remove Abd ar-Rahman. Aside from the tribe of his wife, he found support with those Muslims who despised Abd ar-Rahman on the account of his conversion or those who resented the imposition of his administrative policies upon them such as Said the ruler of the city the Spaniards knew as Nicora and the rulers of Sijilmasa who would later become the enemies of his line.

Idris saw the chaos behind him as Al-Aghlab attempted to impose his rule and the power of Abd ar-Rahman. He believed only the most aggressive attack would give him the success to cause the Miknasa to revolt and the Barghawata Confederation to abandon their allegiance with Abd ar-Rahman. So too he resented the growing fractures in the Islam of Morocco and vowed to bring the True Faith to west and purge the heretics. All those who desired a ruler that was a Muslim would flock to his banner and to support them he launched a series of raids, executing the Christians he found to build his reputation and keep his own fractious coalition in line.

In 789 Idris invaded the realm of Abd ar-Rahman.

The Idrisid War

As was told before, at the time that Idris invaded the Maghreb, Abd ar-Rahman had built the city of Luz as his chief city there and named the river that ran through it the same.[10] His son and heir, Peio, had recently asked his family to accompany him and his wife Banucca accordingly set sail from Valencia after knowing she had become pregnant. Instead of receiving her in Tanga, Peio learned the news of her death and was distraught. Refusing to return to Luz, he wrote his father revealing the terrible news and said he no longer wished to live in the Maghreb.

It was while Peio was in Tanga that Indris invaded the Maghreb.

The towns of the region were sacked and burned, and Idris continued to slaughter the Christians he found or the Muslims who fought for Abd ar-Rahman who had converted. He isolated the city of Mersa from the rest of Abd ar-Rahman’s domains and laid siege to it. While most of the populace escaped via ships, the city itself was sacked and pillaged for 2 days by Idris in the year 789. This event was of great importance to his cause and it prompted unrest in the whole of Miknasa lands as Idris had hoped.

But Idris was of the Party of Ali. While many had heeded his call, others who were more Orthodox (that is Sunni) fled from him seeing his brutal conquest as a precursor to their own deaths. It was some of these along with some escaped Christians that informed the grief-stricken Peio who waited in Tanga for a ship to take him north.

To his eternal credit, Peio turned from the sea with a heavy heart and returned to Luz where he prepared the city still incomplete, for battle. Behind him, Maura sent word to the Barghawata Confederation but was prevented from coming to the aid of Peio by the revolt of Said the ruler of Nicora. Instead Maura moved to come to the aid of Muhallah and save Melila from the fate visited on Mersa to the east. Peio was left to his own devises while their Berber allies only reluctantly began to gather their forces.

The Miknasa town of Taza was spared when the partisans of Idris rose up and seized control of it, eagerly joining Idris when he arrived. Many of the Miknasa of Taza and points farther south and east now came to his banner as Abd ar-Rahman reaped the whirlwind for the method of his defeat of Tashfin. Thus when Idris laid siege to Luz at the beginning of 790, he had a great army behind him and Peio had few defenders and was still mourning his family beside.

The Lord of the Maghreb

In 790 Abd ar-Rahman was old. His hair had lost the red and black of his youth and he was blinded in one eye and so wore a patch over it. But he had fought his entire life and he recognized the appeal and threat of Idris once he learned the magnitude of the assault. It was one he recognized in himself and when the reports of Idris’s massacres reached him, he knew it as a more virulent expression of the methods he sometimes had employed in his long career.

But though he was old and he would count on Peio and Salamon as well as others to do the fighting, he refused to surrender. Instead he called all of his vast kingdom to war. Galicians under a low-noble named Gonsalus, Asturians under Vermudo who had married a Jewish woman in defiance of custom, Berenguer Eniguez and his own sons, Husayn to come to the aid of his son-in-law, Salamon from Sevilla and his father-in-law commanding the armies of Coimbra and Porto. Bedr also marched with Abd ar-Rahman with his own son, Mutamidos, at his side. With Abd ar-Rahman was the general Amrus ibn Yusuf who had acquitted himself well in the previous campaigns that resulted in the Marca Lisboa and the Maghrebi conquests and his own picked men from all of the kingdom who formed his personal guard and whom he supported out of his own revenue. All those who he had supported and helped in his long life answered his call for the whole of Iberia was at peace and the riches of the Maghrebi trade was enticing to many. The only exception were the men of Ilibra, who in their mountainous region refused to come to the aid of Abd ar-Rahman since they did not see a threat to Iberia itself despite their promise. This he remarked on when he arrived in Sevilla. When he reached the city of Algeciras, Abd ar-Rahman was joined by a son of Muhallah, Gayan who had conspired with him in the defeat of Tashfin during the war with the Miknasa who informed him of the situation once again and promised that what men could be spared were waiting for him at Fentiside once he made the crossing to Africa.

Of those left behind, it was Jon who ruled while Abd ar-Rahman was in the south. Departing from Zaragoza, he traveled west and then south where he made the acquaintance of Eder Abarran named for a dream his mother had. Together they went to Toledo where Jon felt ill-used by Abd ar-Rahman’s advisers who constantly reminded him of the importance of supporting his father’s military forces in the south.

The passage of the Strait of Tariq was a difficult affair for Abd ar-Rahman had assembled a great army but it was made and he did indeed find Gayan’s men waiting for him. A decision had to be made whether or not to assist Maura as he attempted to subdue Nicora. While Abd ar-Rahman had intended to do so when he arrived in Africa, he learned of terrible news: Luz had been burned the ground and his son Peio was dead at the hands of Idris,

Abd ar-Rahman channeled his grief into action. At once he set his army moving west and south so they could reach the coast. There, ships from the north could supply them with food and tend to the sick so that they would not spread more disease in his army. In this way they made good time south where they were joined by the lord of the Barghawata Confederation, Ilyas ibn Salih in the first years of his reign.

As they marched east to Luz, it turned out that Idris was continuing west after claiming Luz for his own. Idris intended to conquer his way to the coast, turn north and cut off Maura by laying siege to Fentiside or Tanga crushing all resistance. They met in the area where Tashfin had built a small castle when he began the building of his own kingdom. Abd ar-Rahman had destroyed the castle when he defeated Tashfin but it was on this site where he met Idris ibn Abdallah in battle.

Dark Mirror

Abd ar-Rahman desired to meet Idris before the battle for he had hear the rumor that a cage went with Idris and now saw that it was true. The two rode out to parley before the battle.

“The True Religion,” Idris said, “Must be espoused. That you have turned away from it means you are unfit to rule this land.”

“Look to your own actions,” Abd ar-Rahman said. “Men and women who lived peacefully were slaughtered or fled losing their belongings to you. This is the True Religion you bring to this land . I have brought peace.”

“Peace cannot be obtained without God,” Idris replied.

“Al-Andalus was a land of famine and fear and confusion when I arrived. Now it rests easy under my rule.”

“The rule of a traitor,” Idris answered at once.

“Yet each Muslim can practice their religion peacefully without fear of strife or foreign conquest. Is this what you have brought?”

“You are the bringer of foreign conquest. I know you, of your quest for revenge. All you have done is seize the opportunities in front of you without a care as to whether you should. Your speak of my conquests, but what have you done to all who opposed you? What did you do to my brother!?”

“What only I could do,” Abd ar-Rahman said softly. “And it will not be forgotten when my tally is called to account.”

“That is no answer,” Idris said.

“It is all the answer there is.”

When Idris and Abd ar-Rahman rode back to their own armies, Idris went to the brilliantly colored cage that was carried with his army. Standing next to it, he raised a new banner--the body of Peio impaled on his spears since the destruction of Luz. At his side, Salamon vomited into the ground but Abd ar-Rahman only drew his sword.

“Idris will not be satisfied with this land,” he said. “If I abandon it, he will come to my kingdom with war. I put the choice to you, all of you. You have lived under my rule. You know of the rule of Idris ibn Abdallah whose brother I slew. If you wish to live under him instead of me, do so now.”

But his army remained firm under him and for the last time, Abd ar-Rahman raised his sword and gave the order for his horsemen to charge.



The Battle of Mequinez (as the town that grew up there was afterwards called by the Spaniards) was not one marked by clever maneuver or skillful positioning. All across the sloping, hilly ground the forces of Abd ar-Rahman and Idris ibn Abdallah came at each other with a great fury. Abd ar-Rahman’s initial charge with the cavalry he had patterned on the Franks over-ran the front line of Idris’s men but they rallied quickly and tried to surround his horsemen while Abd ar-Rahman’s footmen tried to deny them the chance. Across the field, the light cavalry on both sides skirmishes trying to position itself to strike at the flank or rear of the enemy army but it was evenly matched. Behind the armies, arches plied their trade and arrows and javelins fell like rain on both sides as horses and men screamed in their final moments.

It was said that in that battle Abd ar-Rahman recalled once more the strength of his youth for he rode forward into the battle and drove his men forward to slay Idris. In the battle both Gayan the Muhallabid and Amrus ibn Yusuf showed why they were remembered as the generals of Abd ar-Rahman though they both came late to his reign. While there was no finesse, both these men one on the left, and one on the right, made sure that each flank kept it’s order and made sure to pull back tired units and replace them with fresh forces without being taken by surprise.

The battle was not without its losses. Vermudo fell in the battle, and Berenguer Eniguez and the eldest son of Husayn. Though Salamon tried, he failed to reach his father-in-law in time to prevent his death and Coimbra was left without his leadership.

As the sun crawled across the sky, the Barghawata Berbers were able to slowly bend back the right flank of Idris’s army. When Idris sent more men to strengthen that side, Abd ar-Rahman gathered his household guard and chose that moment to charge. It was an event that coincided by chance but with the center of the Idrisid army temporarily weakened, the charge was more successful than expected and Abd ar-Rahman drove deep into the center of the Idrisid host. At last he reached the place where Idris was and by force, Abd ar-Rahman took the standards with the body of his son from Idris ibn Abdallah.

In that moment, though he was wounded by Idris and he faltered for he was old. He desperately began a slow grueling fight back to the safety of his army but Idris seeing his chance strove forward to win the battle. Abd ar-Rahman was rescued by his son Salamon who joined his men to that of Bedr and rushed to his aid. Surrounding Idris, he was seized and taken prisoner and after that the order in the Idrisid army collapsed and they fled the field for Abd ar-Rahman had won.

But the price had been high, for Bedr, older even than Abd ar-Rahman had been killed in the final push. Though he was wounded, Abd ar-Rahman bent to close the eyes of his friend who had been with him longer than anyone.

Now I am truly alone, he thought to himself and was reminded of a cold night in the desert where three men and a single woman set out on the paths to the west.

Clutching his side where it bled, Abd ar-Rahman had Idris ibn Abdallah brought to him. Idris in this moment was quiet and looked at him.

“You have won this day,” was all he said. But there would be other days for behind Idris, Kenza was pregnant with his son who would only be born after the New Year.

“You fought well, but I was not as old as you thought I was.”

“You are exactly as old as I thought you were,” Idris answered for he knew as Abd ar-Rahman did that the king had spent himself at last.

Suddenly a voice called out in the silence.

“If you are going to kill him, allow me to do it.”

The cage that Idris carried with his army was not empty. Inside it a prisoner was held. A prisoner it amused Idris and boosted the will of his army to take with them on campaign. It also explained his sources of largess for though Al-Hadi had hunted him, when Idris proved to the Caliph that he had seized the prisoner, Al-Hadi began to pay him to remain his jailer. The young man was then 27 years old, and though he was dressed in the garb of a prisoner, he had chains of gold, silver and silk around him to mock him along with more traditional chains of iron. Despite the filth attendant to prisoners, it was apparent he would be considered handsome.

“Who are you that you should speak to my father, Abd ar-Rahman, the King of All Hispania so?” Salamon demanded. “That you show him such disrespect when he is wounded and a victor is all the more shameful.”

“I was his prisoner,” the young man said with a gesture to Idris. “But as for who I am, my name is Harun,” said the man who became Harun ar-Rashid.

The Potency of Justice

In the end, Abd ar-Rahman allowed Harun to slay Idris ibn Abdallah.

After the battle he gathered all the men with him and standing before him and the prisoner Harun, they all every one of them, swore to Salamon to support him and obey him as the next king for few wished Jon to rule. Afterwards, he dismissed his Berber allies after rewarding them from Idris’s camp for some of the funds sent to him by Al-Hadi were kept there. He buried his son Peio in Luz where he had fallen defending the realm and honored him as best he could with his wound. Indeed, many were honored that day and others were sent home with their troops and leaders. The battle had been costly for Abd ar-Rahman and his forces but the Idrisids were dealt a tremendous blow and would not trouble his state again for a generation. Yet some of his army remained for he still had to help Maura.

As he traveled north carried on a litter because it pained him too much to ride, the prisoner Harun walked beside him and told him his story. The son of Al-Mahdi, Harun had achieved success battling the Greek Empire during the time Abd ar-Rahman was completing the conquests of Zaragoza. His brother the Caliph Al-Hadi had hated him for their mother favored him. When she died, Harun suspected that Al-Hadi had poisoned her to keep her form supporting his own position as the successor to his brother. Al-Hadi had a son, Jafar, that he wished to succeed him instead. Without his mother to protect and support him, Al-Hadi had tried to murder him and Harun had been forced to flee to the west like Idris and Abd ar-Rahman himself before him.[11]

Trying to raise support among the Aghlabids of Tunisia, he had been captured by Idris trying to rally support closer to his domains. When Al-Hadi learned of it, he had feared his enemy Idris would assist Harun. To preempt this and coopt Idris, he had offered to pay a stipend to Idris to keep Harun a prisoner and pay for his needs. Idris had accepted and it had amused him to take the son of Al-Mahdi with him as a trophy while he began his campaign of conquest. That a venerable man of the line of the Caliphs could be so imprisoned by Idris had increased his prestige and made it easier to gain adherents to his cause.

Harun was intelligent, amusing and as he showed when Abd ar-Rahman allowed him to lead military forces, a good captain of men. In fact it was Harun who did much of the work that led to the defeat of Nicora and the pacification of Miknasa in the rest of 790 and early 791. As he returned west following awarding Maura for his tasks and ensuring the peace of the country he slowly became aware that while it pained him less, he was simply too old to recover from the wound Idris ibn Abdallah had given him. Instead he stopped in Fentiside and in his last months ordered his realm as best he could to pass it on intact when Salamon in defiance of expectations would rise to the kingship. To pass the time he spoke with Harun about many things and Harun in turn asked him about a life which was famous among the Caliphs in the east.

“What I cannot understand is why,” he said to Abd ar-Rahman. They were discussing his early rise to kingship in Asturias.

“My life was lived for revenge and then for mere survival,” the dying king answered. “Survival was why I joined the rebellion against Fruela. There had to be something more. In the end, it was the woman who helped me see. Maybe you don’t understand but her smile was the only goodness I saw when I was imprisoned by al-Fihri. She knew I wanted revenge but she always asked me: What will you do when you get it? By that time I needed some to ask me that.”

“So you chose a path. But to do that...”

“It is the true way of kings,” he said. “We are the state, as you yourself well know. But so many struggle to maintain their own power. Charles is like that. But I cannot blame him, in many ways he has a more difficult path than I do. There is so much more chaos north of the mountains.”

“He does sound like quite an interesting man,” Harun said with a smile. “Perhaps I would meet him one day. But when you say the true way you mean the Duty given by God.”

“Yes. A king must be selfless, must sacrifice for the good of the state. He has the most power, the highest position and so his sacrifice is the greatest.”

“This world,” Harun said, “has many pleasures. They are vast and the more power you have the more you can sample them. But it will all pass away in the next life. All the power we have, all the things we did and do, of what good are they? If you sacrifice for the state how can you ensure the weight of your soul has been tended to?”

“That is the key. The world passes, power passes. It has been slipping through my fingers and into that of my sons for some years. But that is what I meant. If all my accomplishments fade of what point to do anything but pray? It took me time to realize it and it is why I rule as I do.”

“I understand I think,” Harun said. “Others...” he sounded surprised at where his thoughts took him.

“I can dedicate my life to meditating on God. But what of the chaos around us? The fear? Men spend their time worried for their families, and themselves. Will they have enough to eat? Will they stay safe? When will war come to them?” These were questions he had asked of himself once.

“The things of the world are distracting. But some scholars and learned men can focus on the truth.”

“But we are not all these men,” Abd ar-Rahman said. “Most men are distracted easily from contemplation of God’s Truth. You know it has been said that the religious stories are for those who cannot contemplate the Truth of God as much as a learned man. As a king it is my duty to help them and that means--”

“Means you need peace and justice,” Harun said sounding excited. “You need to keep them safe, keep them from worrying about food so they can contemplate God without distractions.”

“Wealth is a distraction too,” Abd ar-Rahman reminded Harun. “I cannot take them along the path but I can smooth it out. If it means my own soul must be neglected for theirs to be purified....”

“...Then that is your duty as a king.” Harun finished. “And since Islam is Peace, if there is order to practice religion it will triumph.’

“I am only doing my duty as a king,” Abd ar-Rahman said. “God must do the rest.”


When Abd ar-Rahman died in 791, Harun ar-Rashid and his own son Salamon were there. He was buried in Fentiside where he had first looked north. Salamon swore to refound Luz to honor his father. When he was finished burying Abd ar-Rahman, Harun stepped forward. Salamon at the time almost expected to take Harun into his service but the young man surprised him.

“I am leaving now.”

“You risk death and defeat in the east,” Salamon reminded him.

“My brother is not fit to rule but he still has much power. I may not be able to win but.... After speaking with your father I have to try if I dare stand before God.”

“He has that effect on people. I will be going north then,” Salamon said. “I never expected to be king. I hope I can make the land as prosperous as my father.”

“I have nothing now,” Harun said. “But I swear now to you an undying friendship. My kingdom will be like to your own, my armies yours and my wealth shared freely between us to improve both our lands.”


Salamon accepted the friendship of Harun ar-Rashid. To help speed his passage through the Idrisid and Aghlabid lands, he sent with Harun a number of soldiers, Muslims all and gave them the choice to stay with Harun or returned.

On the day Harun left for the east, Salamon walked out into the surf at Fentiside. He did not know the challenges that would face him or whether he could be the kind of king his father would have wanted. He wasn’t even sure that kind of king was needed. Abd ar-Rahman had pacified a land in chaos--Salamon had a land at peace. Yet no matter what the future held for him, Salamon ibn Abd ar-Rahman took comfort from his alliance with Harun and then men who had stood with his father. The next day he sailed from Fentiside, following unknowingly, the same route his father did when he was nearly alone and desperate and arrived in a strange land he knew only as...

[1]In OTL Gerberga was chosen for Carloman at the same time Himiltrude was chosen for Charles by Pepin. Here Gerberga married Charles after his concubine Himiltrude died giving birth to Pepin the Hunchback. Charles’s attitude to concubines and wives was affected by his interactions with Abd ar-Rahman and his own romantic issues in the late 750s. This means Pepin the Hunchback is the only OTL son Charles has but he is ineligible for the throne due to his deformity.
[2]Charles and Carloman exchanged more territories so he took Toulouse and Septimania-Gothica and Carloman ended up with more land in the east. Now Carloman has lands along the coasts of northern Europe which he did not have in OTL.
[3]Since his daughter never married Charles, he did not come into as much conflict with Pope Stephen and was able to come to a more comprehensive agreement. Since it will become important later, his daughter Marozia Desideria was born after his son Adelchis and not before--in the late 760s.
[4]In Muslim law, if a man’s concubine has a child that child is as legitimate as any other once acknowledged by the father. Since in OTL Mauregato ruled as king for a time, it seems that bastard children would also be accepted in Asturias to some extent.
[5]Relatives of Alfonso through his wife Adosinda and the soldiers he has led in various campaigns since. In the chaotic times of region it had become routine for Abd ar-Rahman and his generals to recruit among the general populace as auxiliary units and their record of success made it an attractive though risky proposition.
[6]In OTL Abd ar-Rahman became paranoid over the rebellions he faced and exiled an aging and innocent Bedr to the distant reaches of Al-Andalus where he died destitute.
[7]This is the year he died in OTL.
[8]In OTL she avoided the poison thanks to a gut feeling by a Barmakid friend.
[9]In OTL Muhallah and his family were ruling and later deposed by Al-Aghlab with the help of Harun, here Muhallah never got a chance to rule and joined with Abd ar-Rahman.
[10] Luz = Fez
[11]In OTL, his mother may have poisoned Al-Hadi to elevate Harun to the Caliphate. Obviously if she died it’s not going to happen.

A/N: So there is the detailed outline for the Raptor of Spain, around 20,000 words! Rereading the early bits of the TL I really wanted to go back and fix things with the use of hindsight. In particular the motivations and style Abd ar-Rahman adopted and the actual progression of the kingdom. In this installment there were several times where I had to rewrite a passage three or four times. One of the most interesting things when writing is that when something just doesn't work in the TL, it's because I haven't realized what "actually" happened. I also find that use of historical persons fascinating and the PoD is early enough to do it. Amrus was a general for Abd ar-Rahman in OTL--which is a totally different context and he ruled Zaragoza for Abd ar-Rahman's until 808 bringing some stability to the city which had been going through leaders very quickly since Abd ar-Rahman had deposed a rebel Husayn in 781.

Mapwise I am rather proud of this map, as I think I have refined my Iberia map making style to a high level. If I had more base maps like the one I have for the Iberian peninsula, I would probably never use any other style. As an FYI, these maps are actually 65% of the size I created them in photoshop. One of the handiest things I decided to do was organize the Iberia base map. There are folders for particular years so at the click of a mouse I can bring up the map of 753, 771, 793 and so on. The next map will appear at 812 (the end of the Consulate War) which is when Hispania becomes simply Spaña.

Finally, I remind people that any comments on any parts of the TL should be placed in the Before 1900 thread. This is a roundabout way of wondering what people think of the new version. I will be updating it today but I haven't written that update yet having been busy with this so it's probably not going live until sometime this evening.


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The Raptor of Spain

Part IV: Salamon the Roman
....Karolus Francorum et Salomon Hispanicus consulibus.
--Inscription found in Old St. Peter’s Basilica, AD 801
The Path to Ascension

When Salamon disembarked in Algeciras, he had with him several thousand men who had followed his father south under his general Amrus b. Yusuf. While Salamon had at times participated in the campaigns of his father it happened that most often he was left behind to administer the region as Peio had to be seen as the pre-eminent lord. Yet in the last years of his father’s life it had been Salamon who had fought together with the Raptor of Spain. All present knew his bravery in the battle fought west of Luz, and how he had saved his father from capture or death at the hands of Idris ibn Abdallah. Amrus in a private meeting with the king in Algeciras, swore to uphold him as long as he drew breath to fulfill the desire of his father, for Abd ar-Rahman had always protected him from those suspicious of his religion and granted him great authority and rewards. Salamon also swore to do the same and though Amrus was growing old himself, he asked him to remain in command of his personal armies for the time being--at least until he identified the best successors.

Thus it was that as each man who had joined Abd ar-Rahman returned to his home, he bade farewell to Salamon as king and each swore to return to Toledo for the ceremonial coronation. As Salamon made his way north, he already gained much of the support of the peninsula to forestall any challenge by Jon.

For his part, Jon had given thought to holding the capital against his half brother with the hope he could count on his mother’s people and possibly those of his brother’s father-in-law at Valencia for support. But when he learned the Husayn was coming to Toledo with Salamon to remain for a time before the ceremony, he abandoned his plans and rode with his friend Eder to greet his brother at the crossing of the Tagus. It was only there that Eder learned that his father Vermudo had fallen in the battle and received possession of it there, departing to see to his burial arrangements rather than remain for the coronation.

In public Jon supported his brother and Salamon never saw any show of disloyalty about him. In an effort to forestall any opposition, Salamon confirmed as his envoy to the Franks in Zaragoza and ignored any protests as simple public abnegation made for show. Jon however had wearied of the role and desired a more practical lordship elsewhere. Never-the-less, it was Jon who escorted the eldest Frankish Prince Martinus, only a year younger than himself, south of the mountains in 792 for the official ceremony for Salamon to ensure the continuation of the alliance with the Franks.

Upon Salamon’s arrival at Toledo, messages had been sent to Charles at Aaschen, the Dukes of Bavaria, Aldagis the King of the Lombards, Al-Aghlab, Adrian I in Rome who had declined to investigate Abd ar-Rahman’s conversion, and even Constantine VI the Greek Emperor. Conspicuously, no messengers were sent to Al-Hadi in Baghdad.

While most sent messages of congratulations and welcome, a Papal Envoy arrived from Adrian I. That envoy was something of a rustic. Salamon privately suspected Adrian had sent him to both remove him from Rome and to hope some exposure to the more cultured Umayyad Spaniards instead of the somewhat rough honesty of the Franks would make him better placed in Rome. Other envoys arrived in the person of Ibrahim ibn Al-Aghlab from Tunis and 13 year old Alboin Adalgia, a Lombard prince.

It was on the occasion of his coronation, a somewhat subdued Christian affair so as not to antagonize his Muslim subjects, that Salamon launched the first of his campaigns that would him to the gates of Rome: Decrying their faithlessness, he declared war on Ilibra the last truly independent polity in Iberia.

Granada of the Jews

When Abd ar-Rahman had summoned his armies from across the peninsula, only one had refused to come to his aid. These were the armies of the collection of lord-ships centered around Ilibra in the snow-capped mountains of the southwest. They had survived the tumultuous times of Abd ar-Rahman through remaining steadfastly neutral. Their mountain fortresses had proved too odious for Djafar to attempt before meeting Abd ar-Rahman and the Raptor of Spain had found himself too occupied to do more than accept their offer of friendship and support as he established his lordship.

Having a close view of the destruction of Mersa and the swiftly growing power of Idris ibn Abdallah, they had believed Abd ar-Rahman would be defeated in the Maghreb. When the opposite occurred they were left without recourse as Salamon mustered the armies of Hispania against them.

In this, the Papal Envoy played a role. Not to antagonize the Muslim populations by trying to cast the war as one of Christian domination, but the opposite. Indeed the presence of a Papal agent had a calming affect on the often frustrated Bishops of the northern mountains who had grown used to seeing the southern Muslims as an enemy. Abd ar-Rahman had mostly ignored these men and supported what came to be called the Mozarab bishops of the south (for as communication points between the early rulers of Al-Andalus and the Christian majority they needed to know Arabic) Salamon had hoped to incorporate them more lest they fall under too much Frankish influence.

With the Papal Envoy by his side and his armies commanded by Amrus ibn Yusuf once more, he launched his campaign in the mountains the same year as his coronation from the low farmlands of Jaen.

The campaign as expected, was a difficult one. While Husayn accomplished the capture of Cartagena after the Subversion of Tudmir[1] with naval aid sent by Maura and Gayan, progress was much more deliberate toward the city itself. In fact Salamon had assumed slow progress to begin with and had focused Amrus on preparing the way for a more extensive campaign in the coming year. This was done by means of seizing or erecting strong-holds in 792 and 793 surrounding Ilibra such as at Cala, Laza and after the conquest of the town of Lorca in late 793, Baza. While Amrus had charge of these campaigns under the king he began to rely on the field leadership of the young Count of Oviedo, Eder Abarran once he arrived to join the king, evidenced a talent for being able to react quickly to changes in a situation and perpetrate deception on the enemy forces.

It was not until 794 that Salamon surrounded the city with his armies. Salamon anticipated a long siege but in secret he was met with a delegation from the Jewish quarter just outside the city known as the Granada. Having witnesses the leniency of Abd ar-Rahman to the Jews of his kingdom and their lack of barrier to advancement, they conspired with Salamon to have their allies inside the city itself open the gates to his army and while certain areas of the city were sacked, the Jewish quarter was protected. In honor their reversal of Toledo, Salamon renamed the city as whole after the Jewish quarter and appointed the leader of the delegation, Al-Conin as his new Count of Granada.[2]

In ordering the province, much of the rural population remained but Salamon enticed men from the Maghreb and other parts of his kingdom to settle along the coast. Also, as news of the rule of Al-Conin spread, there were Jewish migrations to the city from other parts of the Maghreb and Iberia. It was due to the capture of Granada that an envoy from the Abassids was sent with offers of trade and friendship from the new Caliph, Salamon’s old ally Harun ar-Rashid.

The Bringer of Justice

Harun had left Salamon after the burial of Abd ar-Rahman with only a few Andalusi soldiers to guard his path across the Idrisid lands. He was assisted throughout his journey by the Sufri and Ibadi Muslims who had experienced persecution at the hands of the Shia Idrisids and other groups that had come to power throughout North Africa. Of particular difficulty was Al-Aghlab who while not adverse to cooperation with the Spaniards against the Idrisids, hunted Harun for his brother Al-Hadi. It was thanks to this assistance that Harun grew to regard with some favor the Khariji sects of the Maghreb and when he returned to the east.

Drawing significant support from the Ibadis of Arabia, when Harun induced Egypt to rise to his banner, they were instrumental in the capture of the Holy Cities of Islam which badly damaged the prestige of Al-Hadi and caused the powerful Barmakid family to side with Harun. After making the journey to Mecca, he made Damascus his base of operations in a series of campaigns that ranged across Syria and the Levant. Harun so confined his brother to the area around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that he weakened the hold of the Caliphate on the states in the Caucasus mountains, and in particular Armenia which began to experience internal political turmoil.

By the time he captured Baghdad early in 795, he was acknowledged by as the new Commander of the Faithful and it was his treatment of those who had opposed him that ensured the name he had first earned in his campaigns against the Greek Emperor, ar-Rashid, was forever attached to his name. Politically, it was only the escape of Al-Hadi’s young child Jafar that checked Harun’s victories. But though he searched from end of his empire to the other, he could not find Jafar.

In the meanwhile he presided over and directed a great increase in the culture and knowledge of his kingdom as it was under him that the House of Wisdom became so renowned that he was considered to essentially have founded it as a gathering place for more than purely religious knowledge. In fulfillment of the promises he had made to Salamon and Abd ar-Rahman in the west, his envoy congratulated Salamon on his conquests and he offered the king trade proposals for his goods from the east to compete with the goods sent to Europe by the Greek Empire. Those Andalusi Muslim traders who were ruled by Salamon began to travel much more freely in the lands that Harun ruled and a brisk trade occurred in many items, not least of all books on a variety of subjects including the great empire of Rome.[3] Harun even proposed several expeditions to Salamon for the ordering the lands around Tunis and Ifriqiya where he utilized his power as Caliph and deposed Al-Aghlab and his sons from power for their treatment of him. Instead he sent a Khariji Muslim named Abu Ahmar to take up the lordship of Ifriqiya and depose the line of Al-Aghlab. It was Harun who approved as a way for Abu Ahmar to succeed, the invitation to Salamon that launched the latter’s invasion of Serdenia.

Yet while Baghdad began to flourish and his power expanded, Harun spent much of his time in Aracca to the west as he concerned himself with the trade of his empire and it’s flourishing and most importantly to the relations with the Greek Emperor--or to his surprise, the Greek Empress. Already concerned with their growing power under the new general Kreanus, he was shocked to discover that Constantine VI was deposed by Kreanus and his own mother Irene.

At the time he was not prepared to attack the Greek Empire for Kreanus was said to have in his employ a fierce people from the north and he was winning new lands for the empire such that Irene ceased the tribute paid to the Caliphs upon Harun’s ascension. Kreanus was a man Harun had encountered in his campaigns for the Caliph before his flight west and he considered the man a canny and dangerous foe. Having no wish to strengthen Kreanus who was ruling with Irene, trade with the Spaniards began to increase in the time of Harun and his power was such that any criticisms over dealing with an apostate and an Umayyad one at that were brushed aside.

The Loyalty of the Maghreb

When Salamon crossed back to Iberia he already had already received the submission of the many lords and generals that had accompanied Abd ar-Rahman to Africa. Moreover, he had continued the understanding his father had reached with the Barghawata and placed Maura in charge of rebuilding Luz on the left bank of the River Luz. In the old position that Maura had held in Tanga, he placed old Muhallah who installed his son Gayan in Nicora as the military governor of the region to ensure Salamon’s authority in the Rif. His primary task was ensuring the continue land route open to Mersa, which had been sacked.

Old Muhallah and his son Gayan worked with Maura during the rebuilding of Luz and the extension of the power of the Spaniards to the west in the coming years. The two younger men established a partnership where Gayan took the lead in the military operations required, while Maura administered the regions. Both men could thus operate primarily in their areas of interest and talent, and their partnership was fruitful because each shared the benefits with the other. It was in this manner that the realm expanded so rapidly in the Maghreb in the years of Salamon’s reign. Each town was founded or expanded to better exercise control over the trade routes from the east and south such as Tlemcen which with its Christian population voluntarily joined the Spaniards.

While the chaos between the lands of the Spaniards and the rulers of Ifriqiya waxed as Idris II grew to manhood, to the south the Emirs of Sijilmasa seeing the friendship of Harun ar-Rashid with the Spaniards and his backing of Abu Ahmar, repudiated their old friendships with the Idrisids and instead made common cause with the Spaniards.

The very wealth generated by this trade also influenced the Barghawata and Ilyas ibn Salih ruled over a Confederation that looked to Luz and Tanga just as often as they looked to him. The growth was such that when Maura founded a town west of Taza and named it after himself, Salamon approved the act with congratulations on his success. His faith was later well founded when the Berber city of Sala chose to become a part of the Kingdom of Hispania in 800 as opposed to being under the lordship of Ilyas and Barghawata who was by this time, trying to counteract the influence of the Spaniards.

When Harun by way of Abu Ahmar extended an invitation for assistance in deposing the Aghlabids, it was Gayan who was named the commanding general of the invasion force that pillaged the Aghlabid ports and culminated in the invasion of Aghlabid Serdenía. It was also Maura who suggested an offer to the surviving Aghlabids of lordships in Serdenía and in Mersa and Tlemencen. At first unhappy with the arrangement, Abu Ahmar was gratified to learn that Salamon intended to keep a tight hold on them and focused their energies against the Idrisids instead of himself.

The Culture of the Spaniards

While the desire for books by Salamon was well known, particularly his interest in the Romans, the great mix of culture and custom that would characterize the Spaniards cannot be overlooked. The foremost effect however, was increased wealth as Carolingian silver flowed into the peninsula. This Salamon spent rather than hoarded, for he was familiar with the traditions of rule in the east. Besides becoming a conduit for the goods of the east to Europe in opposition to the Greek Empire, Salamon worked to embed his administration all the more deeply into the life of the Spaniards and the necessary steps were taken and implemented to impose a more regular taxation scheme on the populace and strict reduction in tax-exempt privileges, the most important of which was the denial of a hereditary status. In the years immediately before the tumultuous 9th Century, larger numbers of non-ecclesiastic Christians began to enter the service having now the requisite education and for the mass of the peninsula this eased a great deal of tensions.

Jews also began to enter the service of Salamon, primarily associated with the monetary trades due to their connections in the east, the area around Granada also came to be well known for the quality of its physicians.

It was Salamon who first established what would eventually become a regular judicial assembly of religious hierarchs to give advice on the appropriate wording and implementation of law codes. For Salamon had wanted to tie the land together even more tightly and while Abd ar-Rahman had made obedience to himself the most universal law, Salamon took the first steps to create a corpus of law that did away with the compartment religious communities of the region and that applied to everyone equally. Still this was a slow and laborious process and while its initial steps began now, it would be some time before it truly came to fruition.

The trade zone and exchanges built around Zaragoza however, worked out as well as Abd ar-Rahman and Charles had dreamed. Despite not wanting to be there, Jon worked well with Pepin on harmonizing the passage of goods and funds among which the Spaniards imported quantities of timber from the north to supplement their own lesser resources and greater demand for ships. On the Frankish side, Barcelona, Balyon, Toulouse and Narbona were the prime recipients of this wealth and all saw the power of their local lords expand while Charles was consumed with his wars with the Saxons in the distance fringes of the Frankish Realm. To have a firmer grip on the area, Charles named his son Martinus to rule in Toulouse, detaching the area from Aquitaine.To the surprise and gratitude of Salamon, in the late 790s, Jon began to undertake journeys to the Franks to further these links of trade and commerce.

Yet there were darker moments as well. Very few of the northern clergy were represented in the religious councils Salamon formed, those being staffed by Muslim scholars and Mozarab Christians. Appeals to Pope Leo III were ignored for Leo had developed a good relationship with the Spaniards during his sojourn in the peninsula as well as picking up a few manners and after his ascension and it was due to both this friendship and his pro-Frankish policies that when Adrian died in 795, Leo III was elevated to the papacy. The northern Christians of the mountains felt that the new society Salamon was helping to forge was simply a Muslim conquest with a softer hand. To appease them, Salamon allowed the building of churches in the Maghreb (which led to significant Berber conversions in the 9th Century) but even these were largely Mozarab churches.

The Fate of the Franks

After his departure from Iberia in 780, Charles had taken up the mantel of sole king. But by spending so much time in Iberia he had created a great deal of work to be done. Chief among these was the irritant and threat of the Saxons. A hardy people on his borders an attempt by Carloman to pacify them failed when he was forced to turn south and campaign against the Avars. With the Avar threat diminished by the defensive policies of Tassilo III and later by the Greek general and future Caesar Kreanus, Charles was able to remove the Saxons.

Removal was the operative word, as Charles adopted the successful methods he had used in Aquitaine at the advice of Abd ar-Rahman and that he had seen Abd ar-Rahman use in his own kingdom. That is, he singled out the single most opposed populace to his rule and with them he was absolutely merciless while allowing the rest more leniency. Year after year he attacked their lands and thanks to the quiet border to the southwest was able to range far and wide throughout Saxony. He paid particular attention to the Saxon leadership and religious castes and they began to resist ever more fiercely because they all knew what fate awaited them at the hands of Charles. Finally after years of uprisings and resistance Charles began to give the Saxons a different choice. As in Aquitaine, he helped provide for passage out of the realm and a number of Saxons took him up on his offer. Most of these sailed to Greater Albaney off the coast of Brittany where they became involved in the conflicts and disputes of the Saxon lords who had already established domains. Yet absent many of their traditional leaders, these migrants were Christianized more quickly than the original Saxon migrants.

Charles was also helped when he made common cause with of all things, a pagan. A Dane who was both related to and an opponent of the kings of the Danes by the name of Ongendus. A warlord of some skill, Ongendus established a lordship on the eastern half of the Elbe and raided the Saxons with impunity. Some Saxons who did not desire to live under Charles traveled to Ongendus’ realm where he would eventually make war on his relative King Gudfred and depose him in the early years of the 9th Century.

In the end, over the course of decades of new migrations, slaughter and conquests the Saxons of the continent would disappear as completely as the Angles and other peoples into the Franks and Danes and other tribes of the region.

With Charles thus occupied in the north and east, it was left for Pepin to conduct the contact with the Spaniards and keep Aquitaine quiet. Pepin however while a genial man was increasingly being resisted by the powerful lords of the southwest and the Lombard influenced lords near the Alps. It was only when Martinus became old enough in Toulouse that the situation was remedied somewhat at the cost of some resentment to the heir.

During 795 to assist the ascension of Leo III, Charles left off his annual campaigns and instead raided Lombardy across the mountains. Once Adalgis had fled the land, Charles relented content to impose a more friendly series of Dukes in the north. In fact the Lombard and Greek lands of the south continued to be independent and Alboin Adalgia returned to his patrimony of Benevento in 797 under the patronage of his little sister Marozia Desideria at that time a puppet of Irene and Kreanus to keep that part of Italy in the orbit of the Greek Empire.

This changed when Charles turned southeast again to Battle the Avars and in 799, he and Kreanus met on the field of battle with the Avars crushed between them. Respecting each other and taking a liking to each other for Kreanus was rougher for being so much in the field than other imperial generals, they were able to hammer out what became the buffer state of Nitra under Kreanus’s partisan, Pribina. Along with Bavaria, Nitra would be part of an agreement that would keep the eastern border of the Frankish realm relatively quiet in a time of great strife.

After defeating the Avars and achieving an understanding with the Greek Empire, Charles was once more called to Italy when Alboin Adalgia began to make inroads on Frankish dominion north of Rome. This time however, he called on aid for the son of his friend, Abd ar-Rahman. Salamon, the King of Hispania.

To Rome

By the time Charles invited Salamon to bring Italy to heel, the rivalry between the Greek Empire and the Spaniards was in earnest. Already the Spaniards had to put in along the coast of Africa to resupply or the Greek ships would seek them out in the Aegean. With his new bases on Serdenía, Salamon was becoming more concerned with the situation and after a consultation with his advisers and other lords, he agreed on the condition that he receive in advance the island of Corsega, north of Serdenía. At the time, Corsega was nominally in the domain of the Papacy but the uncertainties of the late 8th Century had caused it to become attached to the Lombard Duchies of North Italy, whom were generally unhappy vassals of Charles since his first incursions in 795. Yet even they exercised only limited dominion on the island and it was necessary for Salamon to bring his military forces to bear upon it.

The campaign of Corsega were nominally led by Salamon, but in reality it was Eder the Count of Oviedo who commanded the Spaniards. Taking possession of the coasts in 799, in 800 a larger military presence came to the island and subdued the interior mostly by threats with only a few raids. All in all it was a fairly easy campaign. The support of Charles new expedition to Italy required a little more effort and Eder was superseded by the aging Amrus ibn Yusuf once more, being sent back to the peninsula where he traveled to join Jon in Zaragoza and met with Pepin.

When Charles arrived once again in Italy, the Lombard duchies met him reluctantly opposing his presence but not daring to oppose it. Charles deposed several installing his own men in their place as he marched south. In the meanwhile, Salamon’s galleys raided the coast line capturing a few coastal towns in preparation for a more forceful landing in the future. Among those towns captured was Amalfi which was had achieved an early prominence via its maritime trade and was restive under the control of the Greek Emperor. Amalfi was one of the few towns eager to forge closer relations with the Spaniards to bolster trade connections with the Muslims they were beginning to develop. Naples also was more open to the possibility of foreign cooperation but few other cities were as between them, the Greek Empire and Alboin Adalgia had established a strong dominion.

But Alboin was on his own. It had come to the attention of Harun around 800 that Jafar, his nephew who fled his conquests and for whom he had searched was being sheltered by the Empress Irene and his old foe, Kreanus. Already smarting from the loss of the tribute owed to the Caliphs, this new information causes Harun to launch a massive invasion of the empire at the same time that Charles and Salamon began to menace Italy. He met with success early on but by 801 Kreanus had been named Caesar by his lover Irene and with his new Bulgar troops, was marching for Iconium.

Thus the Italians were on their own and Harun and Kreanus went to war. Alboin unable to get support from his sister went to Rome and threw himself on the mercy of Leo III. Perhaps surprisingly, Leo III did show mercy. The reason for this is unknown, it may have something to do with the generally decent relations with the Lombards or perhaps a desire neither to be subject to the whims of the Franks or the Spaniards.

Whatever the case, when Charles and Salamon met Pope Leo III in Rome in the year 801, Alboin was in the favor of the Pope and while rewarded and thanked for their assistance he was allowed to keep his position. Charles was especially angry as Saxon activity had flared up in his own regions again but Salamon was successfully bribed by official papal recognition of the council of religious scholars he had created in the peninsula. The document he received couched the situation in favorable terms of placing Muslims under Christian-derived laws in preparation for conversion, but also made note of the favorable results in the Maghreb.

Yet the Greek Empire was still a powerful force. Kreanus had revitalized it and had it not been for the war with Harun ar-Rashid, would have once more subjected Rome to Constantinople. But while Leo enjoyed good relations with both the Franks and Spaniards he did not desire either to dominate the other. Charles a powerful temporal monarch, but Salamon and his family had accomplished the incredible feet of turning back the Muslim tide. So to, the increasing numbers of African Christians counted for a great deal.

The answer for Pope Leo III came in the books and documents Salamon had received from the Caliphs and collected about Rome. In it he found an office of the old republic that had declined under the empire. In it, it described two men who for a time, and proper behavior were granted civil and military authority. In Rome their powers were circumscribed which suited Leo well as he would remain pre-eminent and their actions beyond would resonate powerfully to his prestige and power. That neither would eclipse the other was a key consideration.

On Christmas Day 801, Leo III presented Salamon and Charles with the office of Roman Consul.

Rising Fire

Imperial response was disapproving but limited. The Bulgarian Caesar was at present locked in combat with the Caliph and they were proving to be a match for each other. In fact, the overwhelming response in Constantinople amounted to relief that Leo had not crowned an emperor. For his part, Kreanus was always more interested in the substance of power rather than its trappings and had achieved his goal by being named Caesar.

In Rome, Charles and Salamon planned out the rough shape of the west between their two great kingdoms. The special region of Zaragoza which was ruled by Pepin but also administered by Jon was proving valuable to both. The exchanges were also proving to attract learned men which was leading to an intellectual expansion that both men desired to give their realms added prestige.

Charles was looking at the system that had grown up in Iberia to further centralize his own empire in a way that did not depend on the coterie of lords and advisers that surrounded him. Of greater importance was the division of the kingdom between his sons which Abd ar-Rahman had not done, instead giving his state whole to Salamon. After much discussion Charles planned on naming his sons Princes instead of kings with only choosing one to succeed him as king. Salamon according pledged to Charles that he would abide by the older man’s choice and support whichever son he chose as king in the contest that would almost certainly follow.

Salamon was concerned about the enemy of Abd ar-Rahman the Idrisids. Many of the lords Idris ibn Abdallah had gathered remained loyal to his wife and his ten year old son, Idris II. Order was beginning to return to their lands and Salamon suspected that it would not be much longer before they would begin incursions into the Maghreb. He was also worried about reports from the north and queried Charles extensively on the sea raiders that he had heard rumors of. Neither man knew much of the situation at present but they pledged to cooperate to deter the pirates.

Whatever their future plans however, they never came to fruition. It began when Charles and Salamon were preparing to return to their homes. Gathered in the courtyard together, an arrow flashed out and Charles was saved only by Salamon’s interference. Discovered to be poisoned it grazed Salamon and while he avoided death, he remained weak for some time. Pope Leo III was horrified and Charles outraged. A search turned up only a body with poison on it. Seemingly a Frank, the poison was one which was in use in the east--and could possibly have come via the Mediterranean trade of the Spaniards.

News of the attempt spread quickly and rumors inflated the news that the king or kings were dead or dying in Rome. By the time it eventually emerged that both monarchs were alive, the news dreaded by Kings, Caesars, Consuls and Caliphs had arrived at last: massive rebellion.

The Consulate War had begun.
[1]Tudmir is the Arab name for a Visigothic noble who resisted the Muslims for a time from the modern city of Orihuela. Historically a small vassal state, his kingdom eventually passed to the Emirs of Cordoba. In the RoS was already a restive nominal region of Ilibra’s domain but Husayn obtained it via a marriage alliance and used it as a springboard to surround Cartagena naming a descendant of Tudmir as its ruler.
[2]In initial conquest of Iberia, the Jews of Toledo opened the gates to the Muslims. Al-Conin means essentially “the Kohen.”
[3]Causing a more accurate and more comprehensive understanding of Rome centuries earlier in Europe.

A/N: What might have been! I am sure in the Alternate that exists in the RoSverse (for must exist in all possible universes) people sit around saying things like "What if Jon and Pepin don't rebel?" Or maybe just "Krum becoming Emperor is ASB!" To be honest, the fun part of the early bits is seeing all historical people running around doing sometimes potentially very different yet similar things. What happened to Krum/Kreanus in the alt is one of my favorites. He's peripheral to the Spanish stars, but it's an example of my own thoughts on how great men and socio-political trends interact. I'm not sure if there's a place to fit in the full details of Krum's story--we have bits of it here--but after BG made a comment about a dynasty coming from Irene and Krum I realized Irene had playfully seduced him and he had fallen totally in love with her at a very young age. That's why no matter how high he rose, he never wanted to depose her leaving the throne open enough for the Consulate creation.

Also a final word about how the Alt-Spaniards function: Co-opt if possible and by any means necessary but be prepared to destroy opposition utterly. This basically stems from Abd ar-Rahman having to humiliatingly become a landless knight to an infidel king hiding up in the mountains in the shadow of a superpower.
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Part V: The Consulate War

The maintenance of Order is a constant struggle, but in it I found the meaning of a throne.
--Ortiz Araman the Great, King of Spaña
The Rising

The name of the First Consulate War, sometimes known as the War of the Consulate is something of a distraction. It was at its root the product of the success of both Abd ar-Rahman and Charles the Frank in making their states powerful and stable. The wealth and power seemed naturally attractive to many though that wealth and power also kept them safe from foreign intervention. That the kings now held the prestigious title of Roman Consul only serves as a way to describe the power of the two states that had arisen during the 8th Century.

The seeds of rebellion had been sown in the time of Abd ar-Rahman when he legitimized his son, Salamon and when Charles delegitimized his son Pepin. While Salamon and his half-brother Peio had been close, their younger brother Jon was more distant due to his age. Jon resented that when Peio died it was Salamon who had become king and he also resented the attention Abd ar-Rahman lavished on his older sons giving them responsibilities and taking them to war while Jon remained in the capital and later at Zaragoza. Pepin meanwhile was a more genial man by nature, but he was also easily influenced. Angered at Charles growing power and his intention to further centralize the state, the Frankish nobility particularly of the southwest looked to him as a man that could manipulated. But Pepin resented his younger brothers. While he performed well in the responsibilities given him, his talents were neglected simply because of his physical stature.[1] Despite their success, the joint management of the area around the Ebro and Zaragoza had caused both disgruntled princes to feed off the grievances of the other. It was later suspected they began to plot as early as the capture of Granada.

Besides Jon and Pepin, the major architect of the great rebellion at the dawn of the Ninth Century can be laid at the feet of one man: Eder Abarran the Count of Oviedo.

The Count of Oviedo

The first clear memory Eder Abarran ever had was the execution of his grandfather Elipando. Dragged to Toledo by Abd ar-Rahman after his capture in Lisboa, his blood had fallen on the child. Raised in the lands of old Asturias, Eder had grown up in the middle of some of the most pointed criticisms of Abd ar-Rahman and after learning more about his grandfather had begun to fall under the influence of the more stringent Christians. They preferred to deal with the Muslims harshly now that they had the upper hand. Still he had given well enough service being an adequate administrator of Oviedo which had been the capital ever so briefly. When Salamon fostered increasing contacts with the east, he had been one of those who had spoken of a more subtle Muslim invasion. But for him, its personal aspect was even greater: his father Vermudo had fallen in battle for Abd ar-Rahman against the Idrisids. When he was required to serve under the Muslim generals Gayan and Amrus he displayed a great potential but became more resentful for he felt he could better them with only a little work. He cultivated his friend Prince Jon who was also disgruntled with Salamon. His own lordship of Oviedo was not an especially powerful one: not like Sevilla with its control of the south, or Valencia with its ports or Luz with its domination of the Maghreb.

In the opening weeks of the rebellion, the relationships Jon and Pepin had built were realized at last. In the peninsula, the ancient Mauregato who felt he was cheated out of a kingdom by Abd ar-Rahman joined Jon. North of the mountains, much of the south rose in revolt almost all the way to the border with Bavaria. Toulouse was a surprise for the Franks since it had bee ruled by Martinus but Martinus was far away in the north dealing with the Saxons while his father was in Rome.

More ominously for the kings, Alboin Adalgia immediately abandoned his previous promises and the Lombard Duchies did the same after learning of the chaos in the Frankish realm. Pope Leo III actually considered flight, but the question was to where. Constantinople was still the goal of Harun ar-Rashid, the Lombards and rebel Franks were no friends of his, and Salamon was still not sure just what condition his state was in. In the end, Charles and Salamon persuaded Leo to remain in Rome while the two of them swore to fight the rebels to their last breath.

When Salamon boarded his ship for the west, he offered Charles passage but was refused--the route through the Alps was most direct to lands where he could contest the rebels. In 802 the two kings parted ways into an uncertain future as a Europe which had seemed on the verge of new age two years before was about to tear itself to pieces.

Preparations for Fratricide

Unsure how widespread the revolt was to his throne, Salamon put in at Serdenía to assess his situation more closely and was informed of the true extent of the disaster from his Vali there, Abdallah ibn Ibrahim ibn Al-Aghlab.[2] Since just as much if not more of the Frankish realm was in revolt, Salamon consigned himself to no help from that quarter for the time being. Instead he thanked Abdallah for remaining faithful and at the local capital of Caliastra pronounced anathema on the rebels. Salamon new his position would be strong if he waited to do so at Toledo but there was no time. All the lands and titles and authority of the rebels was revoked and he would reward all those who sided with him to depose them.

At the time the population of Serdenía was a mixed one of which the largest plurality were Greek-speaking but with significant Muslim minorities. Still there were more than a few who were willing to take the chance to improve their lot and aside from the garrisons he already had there, a number of volunteers were joined to him. By the time he left, he also had some contingents from Corsega. While he gathered what troops he could in the islands, Abdallah’s brother Abu Iqal was sent on recruiting journey in the east while Abdallah contacted his father Ibrahim. Ibrahim ibn Al-Aghlab had replaced Maura at Tanga after the later took charge of Luz.

The Maghreb consisted of Islamic, Christian and Pagan Berbers, Christians and Islamic Arabs from all the various disciplines of that faith. While in the beginning the pressures he had built in the land toward Christianity worked against him, the most opposed had long ago sided with Idris and his heirs and Salamon was able to point towards other Berbers who had risen high. Like the Muhallabids these were not required to adopt Christianity or foreign personal customs. The clear divisions into ranks that had marked the Arab administrations prior to Abd ar-Rahman’s arrival were decaying and the cultural superiority that had been a feature of the groups toward each other had suffered its first setbacks under Abd ar-Rahman and more importantly, Salamon’s decade of rule.

So too one of the generals that appeared late in Abd ar-Rahman’s reign chose to side with Salamon. Gayan Al-Muhallahi the aging son of Muhallah still commanded authority and respect from his own governorship at Nicora. When Salamon arrived in Mersa he was met by easternmost of his governor there Abdel.[3] Salamon ordered him to fortify and provision Mersa from attack while he went on to Melila to await the gathering of the armies of the Maghreb. As he waited in Melila, his greatest concern was for his son, Ramiro, born the year of the death of Idris ibn Abdallah and whowith his mother Aliza, was still in Toledo.


For Charles the journey north from Rome had the trapping of a nightmare.

The rulers of north Italy had not long been under Frankish rule and as the news of the revolt spread, they rose up and drove their Frankish overlords out. Many of these garrisons and their new lords were destroyed, the rest were left largely leaderless until Charles arrived. As he traveled north he collected the garrisons that remained and by the time he reached the Po River he had a significant force behind him. Though he desired to exact a price for their treachery, his main concern remained reaching his capital and assembling his forces to secure the kingdom.

Almost immediately after the revolt, Pepin had sent messengers to the Lombards offering them an alliance against his father and half-brothers. When they learned that Charles was approaching the Alps, these cities hastily assembled in a league to try and capture the Frankish king. The Battle of Verona was a hard fought victory for the Frankish king. Largely outnumbered, he managed to escape Italy though most of his forces were destroyed in the battle. On his way north through the mountains however, he was injured and had to take refuge with his friend the abbot of St. Gallen. Yet with the abbey so close to Italy, the rebels and the questionable Duke Odilo II of Bavaria, Charles and the abbot endeavored to keep his presence as secret as possible.


The defense of the Frankish realm fell on Charles’s son and heir Martinus. Martinus who had been created as the “King of Oriental Aquitaine” by Charles when he came of age was absent. When Charles had returned to Italy and established Frankish dominion there, it fell to his heir to take charge of the campaigns against the Saxons which were finally bearing fruit. When the revolt came the news took some time to reach him and by the time he managed to extricate himself from old Saxony, Pepin had already seized Toulouse to made it his temporary capital dealing a blow to his prestige.

With Charles rumored dead, Martinus took all the army that remained to him over the winter and reached Aachen but did not claim the crown. As long as his father might still be alive, his name would inspire more confidence than his own. Keeping the fealty of his remaining vassals became his goal over the winter. Never the less as the year 803 began, it was Martinus who prepared and planned a southern campaign to execute his older brother.

The Iohannin Advance Begins

The greatest hope for Prince Jon was for a peaceful capture of Toledo. The best way to ensure that was to awe any dissent into submission on the way. While the capital itself was not the heart of the kingdom as it after became--under Abd ar-Rahman the capital had generally been wherever he was--Salamon had begun all his campaigns from Toledo, returning there after being in the field. The exception was in the colder months when he stayed at Sevilla. Toledo was the best way to secure the kingdom though Jon doubted he would retain the loyalty of the Maghreb.

Even that hope was destroyed by Husayn of Valencia. Being one of the closest lords to Zaragoza and rejecting Jon several times when he tried to claim a kinship because of Peio and Banucca, Husayn had begun to secret agents in Zaragoza. He noted the provisions and vast amount of arrows being imported from the north and stock piled quietly around the region. Very little of it was sailing east and with Salamon absent, and Pepin and Jon meeting with lords almost constantly he suspected rebellion. When Jon rose in revolt and announced his kingship at Zaragoza, Husayn had already mustered his men and was visiting his Vali at Tortosa. Officially to conduct military training and root out bandits, he also had prepared a small quantity of siege engines. Collecting the loyalists north of Tortosa, Husayn hurried to Zaragoza to arrest Jon before he had a chance to gain the support of the other lords.

When Husayn arrived at Zaragoza, Jon was already gone and meeting with Enigo II Berenguez, Arista of Pampleo and other lords of his mother’s people. Launching a surprise attack he quickly gained the walls and took control of the city, with only the citadel resisting him. While he kept the citadel under guard, he began to expel and repress any supporters of Jon that he could find along the southern Ebro, preparing an expedition to Lleida.

Caught by surprise, Jon was reported to have become extremely worried. That Zaragoza itself had been captured by a loyalist to Salamon in the opening months of the revolt was exactly the kind of event that could dissipate his own support. Husayn was famous throughout the peninsula. The story of his faithfulness to Abd ar-Rahman at Rio Carbones was well known--as were his original claims to Zaragoza. Jon was desperately trying to convince a reluctant Enigo not to abandon his cause when Eder Abarran arrived from Oviedo with the news of Mauregato's support. Seeing that the Prince was afraid, Eder strongly urged Jon to continue to Oviedo and the forces gathering there to acclaim.

“I will regain Zaragoza by the time you reach them. Have no fear, for it will be as if it had never been lost,” the Count of Oviedo said.

When Eder advanced south he carried Jon’s banner, white and red, with a blue stripe signifying his heritage from Abd ar-Rahman, Vasconia, and his association with the Franks. It was for this reason that he was known as Jon “Al-Vasco.” Believing Jon had returned to contest Zaragoza, Husayn left a small guard around the citadel to meet Eder Abarran in the field. Eder crushed Husayn’s army near Alagón and captured Husayn as he attempted to flee. Returning to Zaragoza with Husayn, he entered the city and executed Husayn as a traitor to the new King of All Hispania, Jon. As he had expected the soldiers left around the citadel surrendered and he gave them a chance to serve him, slaughtering those who did not. Regaining the loyalty of the surrounding region, after the campaign season of 802 he met with the Frankish counts of the region to plot an advance down the coast to take advantage of leaderless Valencia.

When Jon and Arista of Pampleo arrived at Oviedo it had been just as Eder had claimed. An army had assembled from Galicia and Asturias. There he was acclaimed as king under the successor of Bishop Aurelius who had been a moderating force. With Mauregato and Arista, he hurried down the Via de la Plata following the route Abd ar-Rahman had taken to Toledo 41 years before.

He did not achieve the same success.

Abd ar-Rahman made Salamanca a Free City subject only to the crown and allowed them great autonomy. With peace in the kingdom traffic had increased along the Via de la Plata enriching the city. When Jon arrived at its gates he found them shut tight and well defended. A parley availed nothing for the council of Salamanca said to him:

“You claim to be king but you have neither crown nor throne and were acclaimed in a mountain fastness like a robber. Return when you are not a thief.”

Frustrated at their recalcitrance but unwilling to besiege the city when Toledo beckoned he agreed to depart but swore that if he became king, he would remember their words. He avenged himself by pillaging the countryside along the river obtaining a large number of supplies and turned east to continue down the mountain passes to Toledo after some delay.

To the Capital

The Marquio of the Marca Lisboa was Mutamidos, the son of Bedr who had spirited Abd ar-Rahman from Damascus. When Salamon was left behind to administer the land for his father while the latter went on campaign, it was Bedr who had advised him. Reward by the dynasty, Mutamidos had grown up with Salamon for some years in Toledo and repaid that trust now. Upon learning of the uprising he bid his family good bye and with whatever troops he could gather in haste set out for the capital to safeguard it for Salamon and more importantly, to his children: the 10 year old heir, Ramiro and his 6 year old sister Uzmia.

As he approached the Tagus Mutamidos was surprised by an armed force going the same direction. But this was no ambush, for Salamon’s brother-in-law, Asmunidos of Coimbra had the same idea as Mutamidos. Hurrying east, they were able to impede Jon’s progress so he was forced to expend time and effort on the fortified compounds constructed in the central mountains. Initially built to provide a place to retreat to if the capital had fallen in the early days of Abd ar-Rahman, they now served to deter invasion from the north.

When they reached the capital they were met by Queen Aliza and Abd ar-Rahman’s general, Amrus b. Yusuf. As they discussed plans, Amrus made it clear that he considered attempting to meet Jon in the field north of the mountains was a mistake. A defeat now would almost certainly leave the capital undefended and open to capture before Salamon could return. Instead he suggested preparing for a siege. With his long experience his advice was heeded and that winter the capital was re-fortified and those who could fled south heading to Mérida, Sevilla or points beyond.

Queen Aliza was determined to remain in the capital for she was adamant that the patrimony of her husband be protected. She did however order her children away for their own safety after the news of Husayn’s execution at Zaragoza reached them. Mutamidos was given charge of the royal children and leaving his troops under the command of Amrus, he took them south to Sevilla. In the southern capital, he waited for more troops to arrive from his own Marca Lisboa and for Al-Conin to assemble the rest of the southern levies the next year.[4]

The year 803 was a year of campaigns.

Eder Abarran continued south from Zaragoza along the eastern coast, supplied by ships. Absent Husayn and many of its local troops there was only light resistance until he reached Valencia itself. After learning of his father’s demise, Said ibn Husayn gathered his own forces in Denia and rushed to Valencia to protect what had passed to him after his father’s death. When Eder reached the city, Said defied him and Eder was forced to lay siege to Valencia though he was unable to cut off supplies from the port for some time.

Jon Al-Vasco, king of however much of Hispania cared to acknowledge him was determined to take the capital. Capturing the forts in the mountains the previous year he descended on Toledo with his thousands but his initial assault after being refused entry was repulsed and as he had dreaded, he began to lay siege to the capital itself. As would be expected in any siege, he also pillaged the length of the Tagus to find supplies for his army as the Siege of Toledo began.

The Siege of Toledo

When Salamon landed at Algeciras, he was not alone. He had gathered several thousands of troops with the promise of the deposition of the northern rebels. With him were Gayan the Muhallabid once again in command, Abder ibn Abdel from Mersa and Abdallah charged with supplying the army. On his way north he was met by Al-Conin from Granada with troops from the cities of the south and they arrived at Sevilla where Salamon embraced his children. It was also at Sevilla where Mutamidos was able to outline just what the rebellion was about and that Valencia was also threatened. Determined to honor the memory of Husayn and equally determined to stop Jon and rescue his wife, he sent Gayan with Abdallah east to relieve Valencia while the rest of his forces marched north to face his half-brother. Mutamidos was left behind in Sevilla for he was the only man Salamon would trust to safeguard his family and Sevilla was guarded by troops from the Marca Lisboa.

By the time he arrived at Toledo, Jon had blocked any river traffic along the Tagus and was making progress on sapping the walls of the city. Salamon ordered an immediate attempt at relief but Jon had fortified the closest crossings to Toledo and the attack was turned back with heavy loss. Despite the numerical superiority of the king’s forces, neither army cared to risk disaster in attempting to cross the river and defeat the other. Both settled down to conduct raids and testing attacks while Jon continued his attempts to capture the city, now significantly slowed by Salamon’s arrival. The king was supplied by boats navigating the river or flat barges dragged along the landward side as the siege continued. To gain supplies and try and draw off some of Salamon’s forces, Mauregato’s men launched a series of raids into the land between Coimbra, Porto and Salamanca but they were unsuccessful thanks to the intervention of Gonsalus who having risen into prominence in the region of Portugal, organized the defense of the land. Thus was the countryside denuded of life as both armies stripped it bare and famine began to visit the center of the peninsula for the first time since Abd ar-Rahman’s capture of it.

When the siege of Valencia was broken, Gayan and his forces returned to the king. According to Gayan, his arrival coincided with that of Abu Iqal with more troops from, Seredenía and Corsega and a small group of mercenaries known to the Spaniards and Berbers as the Amasiga who roamed the northern most reaches of the great desert. A fierce people, under their leader Ayuba, they brought some of the first camels seen in the peninsula with them and joined the king for the hope of plunder and wealth. Together Gayan, Abu Iqal and Ayuba broke the siege of Valencia and saved Said ibn Husayn. While Abdallah and Said chased Eder north with the intention of retaking the coast, Ayuba had brought his mercenaries west and eagerly anticipated the wealth of a city as great as Toledo.[4] Reinforced, Salamon could now push Jon’s forces harder and the raids and attacks were increased substantially as Gayan took charge of the assault.

Gayan planned and executed a bloody crossing of the Tagus at two points west of the city while pretending to cross the bridge closest to Toledo. Securing a route of the river, Salamon turned east and rode to the rescue of his queen and his capital as fast as he could. But Jon finally succeeded. Even as Salamon crossed the river, his sappers brought down several small sections of the wall and his men were pressing the defenders hard. Once the king saw it he ordered an all out assault to save the city and a furious battle was joined in and around the walls of Toledo.

The siege had taken its toll on the defenders. The soldiers Asmunidos and Amrus led were weak, hungry and sick. There were fewer each day and though they gave a tremendous effort they fell back before Jon’s assault. Barely gaining the citadel in front of the prince, they regrouped enough to repel an attack on the central residence. It was during this attack that a stray bolt chanced to strike the queen and she hovered near death as the battle raged outside.

With the failure to take the citadel, even Jon had to admit he had lost the battle but not the war. To distract from their escape his men set the city aflame. As destruction and smoke rose around the battered defenders of the residence, Jon led his men out one of the gates and launched an attack to break out from around his half-brother’s army. Salamon contained it with some difficulty and forced his brother back into the city, trapping him against the citadel amid the flames he had set. Perhaps it was Salamon’s intent to be merciless to the rebels or Jon’s own hatred of his brother but a number of Jon's forces refused to surrender and many died as Salamon’s men and Jon’s hunted each other through the burning and ruined streets of the city. Mauregato did escape with a sizable contingent while Salamon was engaged in capturing Jon and trying to save what he could of the city. Jon was never captured. Cornered at last near the city’s main church, he took refuge in it and with a dwindling band of followers forced Salamon to burn of the few buildings that remained and died in the flames.

So passed Prince Jon Al-Vasco, the traitor.

The siege was over but by the time the king reached the citadel his wife was dead. Throwing caution to the wind he ordered Amrus to take whatever forces could be supplied and raze Oviedo to the ground to even the tally. The protests made by the general fell on deaf ears for once ordering the attack, Salamon sunk into grief over his dead wife in the midst of a city of ash.


A Question of Worth

Amrus ibn Yusuf had not wanted to go north. Anyone could see that even with a few days, the exhaustion of a great conflict like the Siege of Toledo would not be easily dispensed with. Worse was the manner it ended in a victory so bitter it would be remembered for generations. Still he had long served the house of Abd ar-Rahman and it was not long before Amrus was crossing the central mountains. He first rested at Salamanca which had been proven right over its response to Jon’s claims. He continued up the Via de la Plata into the Duero with his eyes on Oviedo and all Asturias.

While wary, Amrus expected the rebellion to founder without Jon but he had not counted on the skill of Eder Abarran. Hating the family of Abd ar-Rahman, he had sworn to triumph or to die on the grave of his father. While the Frankish counts had left him to go north, Eder was carefully enticing the forces of Abdallah and Said ibn Husayn north. Once in the mountains south the Ebro, he divided his forces confusing his pursuers into believing his army had dispersed in panic and they spread out to hunt him down. Instead Eder descended on them individually, defeating each smaller contingent so thoroughly that he was threatening Tortosa when the news came of Jon’s death. Fearing the rebellion south of the mountains was about to crumble, Eder took only his mounted men and rode west as hard as he could to save the revolt.

By the time he arrived in the west, Amrus was besieging Lejón.[5] Built on the site of an old roman military encampment it had seen its population dwindle until Abd ar-Rahman conquered Toledo. Now it was a small fortification on the way north to Oviedo and Amrus anticipated an easy capture. He was right, but it delayed him enough for Eder to get his own plans in place.

As has been said before, Eder had served under Amrus. During the campaigns on the islands Eder had been his agent directing matters in the field while Amrus remained in the tents. In this as in other matters Eder had hidden his displeasure at being subordinate to a man he felt was a mediocre talent and too committed to achieving his initial objective.

“Circumstance changes in any campaign. To make use of the chances Fate presents us we must be wedded toward advantage, not simple obedience.”

Now he made Amrus pay. When Amrus resumed his march toward Oviedo in 805, Eder used small units of light cavalry to strike at Amrus and retreat causing intense confusion. Allowing his men to vanish he made it seem as if Amrus had driven them away to urge the general on. In one of the passes before Oviedo when Amrus had relaxed his guard, Eder blocked the roads in the night. When the morning came, he launched his true assault. Trapped, Amrus ibn Yusuf was captured and his army destroyed so that few returned to Toledo. Amrus was brought before Eder where he took the chain of his office from him and threw it to the ground.

“You were never for it old man," he said before slicing the throat of the general. “But it is not fit for me."

He left it lying there as he returned to Oviedo.


The Kingdom of Tolosa

Toledo was in ruins. The eastern coast was festering in a low conflict. In the west raids from Galicia reached almost as far as the Guadalquivir spreading terror in Mérida and surrounding areas. Amrus b. Yusuf was dead and so was the queen. As the inhabitants of Toledo slowly began to rebuild, to avoid plague and provide a quick response to attacks from the rebel, a permanent military encampment was constructed on the ruins of a Visigothic village. Through it ran the Manzanares and it was there the king received the news about Amrus. Other bad news also came to the king such as when Corsega and Serdenía abandoned any allegiance to him. Those volunteers who had come from the islands or were mercenaries from farther east in Italy, Sicily or the Ahmarid domains, though not much more than 1000 all together either remained with the king having no where else to go, or turned to banditry in the region and had to be hunted down. In fact the king spent much of 805 engaged in restoring order in the areas he could after the disastrous events of the past few years.

In the north with the death of Jon any kind of greater unity broke down among the nobility though Eder and Mauregato were able to retain control of the west through the use of force and Eder’s defeat of one of the longest serving generals of the kingdom. Eder was reluctant to support Mauregato in any attempt as king and the rest of Alfonso’s family were dead. Indeed the closest link left to Jon was himself--as his friend and confidant for some time, Jon had betrothed his daughter to Eder when the girl was born. Both children were young and it would be over a decade before anyone could even think of marrying them. Surrender or negotiation remained out of the question for Eder personally and because the king had publicly vowed to destroy the rebels and take their lands. In looking for a solution Eder and the lords of the north looked beyond the mountains to another prince: Pepin the Hunchback.


The capital of the Frankish realm at the time was Aachen in the north. With the distance involved and his own deformity, Pepin knew he would never be able to take most of the Frankish lands with him. In fact it was only with Jon’s own revolt that he had taken the chance to rebel since Jon would prevent any help from their increasingly powerful southern neighbor. Pepin though less masterful than any of the other major personalities involved was also less volatile. With the nobles supporting him their first step was the capture of Toulouse, that is Tolosa. The seat of Martinus, it was also admirably situated for campaigns farther north. Pepin seized it in 802 and that alone was enough for the nobles in Septimania-Gothica, Arles, and Burgundia to rise in his support.

In 803 when his half-brother planned a southern campaign, Pepin planned a northern one. Departing from Arles, he marched north alone the Rhone then left the river for Aachen even as Martinus and his full brother Pepin the Younger left the capital. Pepin the Hunchback reached Metz before his brothers. This city which had almost been the capital of the Frankish Realm under Charles resisted him fiercely and Pepin was forced to lay siege to it. Known as the Battle of Metz, or the Battle of the Princes, the battle fought that day in 803 was one of the largest of the war. When the three sons of Charles fought each other, it was Pepin the Hunchback who emerged victorious. Capturing Metz and Pepin the Younger, he wintered in Metz preparing for the final capture of Aachen.


Martinus reeling from his defeat faced an increasingly difficult situation that was only saved by the return of Charles to Aachen. Escaping from the south at last and healthy once again, the king’s arrival brought tremendous relief to loyalists. Now at last clearly Pepin was unlawfully attempting to destroy his father’s kingdom. Still more of the great lords were trying to remain uncommitted to either side in the war and with Pepin’s forces in Metz, Charles needed a victory and he needed soldiers to achieve it. He got both by seeking out the most un-likeliest of alliances: the Bretons and the Saxons.

Upon his return, Charles sent Martinus to the Bretons where he met with several chieftans and gained the friendship of one of the most prominent who had established a fortified settlement at Prizaig. Nominally overlords of the Bretons, Charles was forced to acknowledge that with Pepin threatening the capital he would have to rely less on coercion. In return Charles and Matrinus agreed to name Morman the Prince of Brittany, elevating his domain and guaranteeing it more autonomous status. It was left to Bretons how to arrange a succession whether by election, hereditary authority or some other method. In this way Charles hoped that after defeating Pepin would once again be able to establish his dominance there as they fought amongst themselves.

Charles himself went to the Saxons. Pressured by Ongendus II and Charles and with many migrating to Greater Albaney, they people were in danger of disappearing and their lands were badly ravaged. Charles offered them the chance to take lands and titles from the rebels in the south. The richness of the southern lands and his own fierce reputation among the Saxons convinced many to join his forces and experience victory. It later became apparent that this departure combined with Danish control of the eastern bank of the Elbe are what finally set in motion the disappearance of the Saxons as a people in the early 9th Century. His armies reconstituted, Charles held off Pepin’s advances in 804 and 805 and retook Metz not long after Eder Abarran defeated Amrus b. Yusuf south of Oviedo. The victories of 805 solidified the rest of Charles’ vassals to his side but it also caused a weakening in Pepin’s support.



When Eder Abarran appeared in Tolosa in 805 both rebellions were in danger. The rebel Spaniards wanted to continue fighting but needed a king, the rebel Franks needed new support to strengthen their resolve. Eder Abarran and the rebel Spaniards swore to Pepin the Hunchback joining both rebellions. Thus the year 805 was regarded as the founding year of the Kingdom of Tolosa.

The Galician Campaign

Raids are a cost-effective way of war. Spreading fear, deriving supplies and loot from the enemy and bolstering your own side without undue expenses. It was in fact, a mainstay of war on the peninsula between Al-Andalus and the Christians of Asturias until the arrival of Abd ar-Rahman. In the western region of Portugal, it became a way of life once again. Beginning in 803 to help supply and support the Siege of Toledo, the land between the cities of Salamanca, Portugal, Coimbra and Mérida was subjected to endless attacks by the forces of Mauregato the Count of Iria and bastard son of Alfonso.

For all his great age, he was still physically hale enough to accompany Jon to Toledo and it was Mauregato alone who survived the breaking of the siege. Too old to lead more than one or two raids himself despite his own vigor, he never the less planned and executed a great many through his subordinates. Such was the damage these caused--not least because of the presence of the Coimbran troops at Toledo--that a great part of the population of these areas fled to the cities or to the safer regions of Andalucia and of course to the chief city there, Sevilla.

Sevilla was also where Salamon had ordered Mutamidos to safeguard his children. As he looked out over the city he was learning to administer and the growing slums outside it, Ramiro resented his father’s order while seeing the need for it. His death would make whoever his sister married the new king. By the year 806 he was fifteen years old and while a clever practical young man he was also as strong-willed as any person his age. Seeing the plight of his subjects in 806 he began to organize counter-raids to contest the region from the upstart Kingdom of Tolosa. On one of these expeditions Ramiro disguised himself so as to participate, a ruse that was only revealed when by chance the expedition encountered one of the rare raids Mauregato was accompanying. Captured by the commander of the raid, Ramiro revealed himself to take charge of the political situation.

Marquio Muatamidos was furious when they returned to Sevilla, but the capture of one of the rebel leaders was of too great importance for Ramiro to be disciplined or upbraided by anyone except the king. When Salamon arrived in Sevilla to see the execution of the traitor, the only possible legitimate pretender to the throne, he declined to exercise parental discipline though he reminded his son to think of the future of the monarchy in a private conversation. Ramiro immediately pointed out that for the monarchy to have a future at all more direct action had to be taken and Salamon agreed. With the most powerful man in Galicia dead without heirs, that land seemed the most likely place for an offensive to be made and one was planned for the next year.

To his frustration Ramiro would not be in combat. Salamon did make the concession of placing him in operational command. In practice he would be advised by Gayan Al-Muhallahi and the other lords and captains Salamon asked to accompany him such as mercenary Ayuba. This took advantage of his talents for while he was only an average soldier, he had shown growing skill at administration and organization and by the time the assault began he was in charge of those aspects of the campaign in truth as well as title.

The campaign coincided with diversionary attacks led by the Count of Valencia, Said ibn Husayn along the eastern coast. Advancing north the western army swept Portugal clear of bandits and raiders and arrived at the crossing of the River Miño.[6] The disorganized Galician nobility was in no mood to simply swear to Salamon again and a fierce battle commenced that resulted in no advantage gained by either side, but was a Tolosan victory by preventing a crossing the river.

Confronted by an impasse, Gayan and the others concocted a daring or perhaps foolhardy scheme that might have given even Eder Abarran pause. Boats would be gathered along the coast from Lisboa to Porto and an army would sail up the coast to launch an invasion into the heart of the region. Chief among the supporters of this plan was Gonsalus, who had held Abd ar-Rahman in high regard during his boyhood days in Galicia. It was Gonsalus who convinced the others that if given a chance, the people of Galicia would once again back the family of Abd ar-Rahman over a Frankish overlord and his rapacious Asturian vassals. It fell to the Amasiga Ayuba to wonder if Gonsalus still understood a region he had been absent from for so long. In the end, Gonsalus left his 14 year old son Pero behind in Porto and with the Marquio Mutamidos they sailed north.

The chief city at the time of rebellion in Galicia was as it has always been: the city of Iria where Mauregato had ruled. The people Iria disliked their ruler intensely for he had long opposed Abd ar-Rahman and his impotence in the wider affairs of the peninsula led him to become a harsh master in the lands he ruled. When the Spaniards sailed up the the bay and arrived at Iria, the populace rose up against their oppressors and dragged the officials of Mauregato through the streets of the city. Opening the gates they welcomed the Spaniards inside.

When Iria fell so quickly and potentially Galicia with it, Eder Abarran himself returned south of the mountains. There he had matched the Frankish armies stroke for stroke despite his lack of numbers. Arriving in Galicia in the year 808 with 2,000 men under his command, he also unveiled the new banner he had crafted after the birth of the Kingdom of Tolosa. On a bright blue field was the Latin word Invictus, Unconquered. When he returned it was said he was tempted to execute the Galician nobility for their own incompetence but by now Gayan Al-Muhallahi was across the Miño at last and heading north to join Matumidos and Gonsalus in Iria.

In fact, only Gonsalus was in Iria. After the capture of the city they had discovered that while there was no love for Mauregato, neither was their regard for the family of Abd ar-Rahman who had left them to the mercies of the former for 50 years. When Eder appeared in Galicia, Mutamidos was engaged in reducing the small castle of Negreira as a way to opening up the northern regions to royal control. When he learned of Eder Abbaran’s arrival, Mutamidos razed the castle to the ground and turned south to join with Gayan. The Battle of Compostela followed and once again, Eder Abarran was victorious in the field, breaking up the royal armies so that the way was opened to Iria.


The Siege of Iria occupies a unique place in the history of the peninsula. Eder’s victory at Compostela saw the king’s armies scattered or broken with some lords dead. As the major representative of King Salamon in Iria, Gonsalus refused to surrender the city. Eder launched several attacks and even constructed some siege equipment. But the attacks were beaten back and the siege engines fired. But help would not arrive any time soon and the Galician expedition seemed destined for failure.

Then God intervened.

At least, that was how it was interpreted. Owing to the terrain and size of the city, Eder found it difficult to fully surround it. As such there were weak spots and holes in his lines and it was through these that some citizens of Iria either escaped or foraged for food out in the countryside an extremely dangerous occupation. It was during one of these excursions that a young girl named Uxia discovered a mysterious grave site. Running back to the Bishop of Iria, she begged him to investigate the matter. When he returned to Toledo the Bishop announced the discovery of the bones of St. Iago who had made the journey to the peninsula in the distant past. Overcome, the girl prophesied God would deliver the city. The fervor was incredible and the morale of the city lifted immensely, so much so that they demanded Gonsalus followed the prophecy. The gates were opened and the men and women of Iria emerged, led by Uxia holding some of the bones before them.

By chance when the gates opened Eder Abarran had taken ill with one of the many diseases that are common in armies laying siege. By the time he realized what was going on, his army was taken by surprise and it was all he could do to avoid capture for himself and his banner. When news of the victory, the discovery of the bones and the humiliating defeat of the “Great Commander” reached the rest of the province the Galicians rose at last in favor of the king for clearly God had commanded them to resist.

Thus began the careers of St. Uxia and Iria as a Holy City.

The Bright Mirror and the Road to Albi

As he grew to manhood in Aachen, it was whispered that Aldric's birth was a miracle.[7] In fact, his mother had died moments before his birth, and he had been forcibly cut out of her belly to be saved--thus he was born in more blood than most. As a boy his initial desire was to be a man of the church and his facility with learning and study even at a young age seemed to mark him for a bright future serving God. But then had come the Consulate War and with it, his youthful desire ended.

His first battle was in attendance on his father at Rheims (806) where the forces of Tolosa had barely been turned back. Serving as an aid to his father because of his young age, he managed to avoid dying and after the fight repudiated his early inclinations to the church. In such times he said with uncommon solemnity, men must fight so God still has souls over which to triumph. But his actions betrayed an eagerness to fight for his father and his king. A loyal man eager to fight was welcomed by Charles into his forces no matter his age. Involved first in small skirmishes or raids his strength grew quickly and by the age of 16 he had been sent by Charles to replace the late Bishop of Beauvais as caretaker of the city since no other could be sent. Though the city was far from the border with the rebel Pepin, it was still a tremendous show of faith by Charles in one so young.

Thus began the career of Aldric of Beauvais.

In administration Aldric showed himself virtuous: his honestly and fairness quickly became a cause for both annoyance and pride for the people of Beauvais. He showed his civic spirit by repairing and restoring damaged Roman infrastructure such as aqueducts, and used his profits from raids against Tolosa to ransom back captives from the area he ruled over.

When the great summons of 810 came, Aldric had been sent east to the border with Bavaria where Sorb raids were menacing both lands. Though having no personal interest in the region, he had fought well enough to be remarked on by the Bavarians and it was with some real regret that they saw him leave for Aachen.

Arriving in the capital, the young man was amazed at the vast army that was assembling. In the years since the proclamation of the Kingdom of Tolosa, the war between Pepin and his father had surged back and forth. The creation of the kingdom and the arrival of Eder Abarran had brought about a tremendous surge in their success and while the Count of Oviedo could not capture Metz, under the Invictus banner he rampaged through the land almost the length of the Loire capturing several cities even though Rheims was denied him. Had he remained in the north he might have been able to break the Bretons from their alliance with Charles. From his own letters it was clear that Eder intended on launching a campaign that would bring the land west of the Seine under the control of Pepin followed by vague designs on Austrasia itself.

But then had come the invasion of Galicia. If Galicia was captured his own Oviedo would be threatened and both pride and the maintenance of his own reputation compelled him to return home and relieve the pressure on the south. It was one of Eder’s few mistakes. Even if the Galician campaign had succeed earlier, even had Oviedo itself fallen, it would have been impossible for Salamon and the Spaniards to capture Zaragoza until after Eder had reached the Seine. Even so, Pepin’s forces could have held the mountains for a long time. Instead he was humiliated by a priest and a girl, and the absence of a man whose reputation was becoming a useful as an army by itself allowed Charles to establish his control back to Poitiers. Thus did Charles come to the aid of the Bretons and ensure the allegiance of Prince Morman.

In the end, while Eder kept the invasion of Galicia from collapsing the rebels south of the mountains, his absence allowed Charles to launch his Great Campaign of 810 that culminated in the great battle of war, Albi.

Eder Abarran returned to Tolosa after an urgent summons from King Pepin in 809. Charles was gathering the greatest army he possibly could summoning allies and vassals from all of Europe to march on Tolosa and destroy his son. There was a palpable feeling of fear in the city and when Eder looked on the faces of the Tolosan nobility he saw only fear. He castigated them.

“You sons of Lupus of Gascony! What right have you to feel fear whose father destroyed Hunald and met Charles the Frank as an equal? And you Berenguer! Who saved Narbona after Raymond Raphinel died at Metz! You are said to be wise yet you council cowardice? How will any of us survive if we cower in fear? No we have set our course along a narrow mountain road and the only way out is to remain on the path. To stray is to fall. Have I not returned to lead you? I do not fear Charles the Frank, king of a wilderness that never knew the hand of Rome.”

But words could only save the situation for so long. Instead he thought back to the days of pain where he saw his father dead and remembered the tales of a holy man who was also a leader--and the conqueror he had fought against. In 809 ships were sent, both to the Lombards and to the Maghreb where Ilyas b. Salih resented the Spaniards and Idris ibn Idris contested the east with the Ahmarids serving ar-Rashid.

But it would never do to underestimate Charles. Charles felt himself growing old even as Abd ar-Rahman had done a generation previous. His son Matrinus was capable enough to rule a kingdom at peace but in this kind of war he was not the man to triumph and he had no other sons unless he wished to reconcile with the deformed Pepin. Instead he called on all his allies and vassals and after a moment of doubt went to the great fortress on the Elbe known as the Murenborg[8] and in return for support against his cousin Gudfred, brought Ongendus who the Franks called Ogier, the Dane to his side.

Charles marched in 810 with Aldric leading one company of his horsemen among hundreds. But Eder’s plan to prepare for the battle worked and when he and Pepin left Tolosa, it was with men from Oviedo and Zaragoza and Enigo II Berenguez as well as the lords of the north and a great Lombard force who saw in this their chance to remove the threat of Charles forever. When Eder saw the size of the army Charles had brought he is said to have laughed for he too had a great army and he relished the coming battle.

The two armies met at Albi north of Tolosa, the greatest battle Europe would see for over 150 years.


Despite the failure of the attempts on Zaragoza, King Salamon and his generals did extend their rule up the coast securing Tortosa and retaking the ruins of Tarragona where they built a fortress. In the west, Gonsalus was made the Count of Iria after his victory there and under him the region of Galicia was regained so that Lugo was their easternmost castle.

In the south, the death of Mutamidos at Compostela left his 12 year old son Iscandros as the new Marquio of Lisboa. To keep order in the region and assure the patrimony for the grandson of Bedr, Ramiro returned south to Lisboa leaving the defense of Galicia to Gonsalus and his uncle Asmundios. Once in Lisboa he secured the city and the region both for Iscandros, and to tie it more tightly to the royal crown for he disapproved of the freedom granted by Abd ar-Rahman to the Marcas as counter-productive. Thus he was not present for the expeditions in Zaragoza or the constant raids that raged around the Duero in an echo of the conflict between Al-Andalus and Asturias. He also made time to return to his own lands in Sevilla where he ensured the continued peace of the south which enabled the Spaniards to continue to supply their northern campaigns.

When Charles sent word south via ship that he was planning a mighty offensive in the north for 810, Salamon also planned one both to distract the rebel forces and take advantage of any defeats inflicted by Charles. Once again he forbid Ramiro from participating in the fighting which as a full grown man Ramiro resented. Thus he was in Sevilla when the fruits of Eder Abarran’s own machinations ripened.

Encouraged by Eder, his reputation and eager for advantage during the great conflict in the north, Ilyas of the Barghawata invaded the kingdom. At the same time Idris II came into possession of Tiaret by his marriage and began to menace the entirety of the border with the Spaniards. Positioned to react the most swiftly to the threat, Ramiro left Sevilla and with the men of Andalucia and Ayuba's Amasigans, crossing the Strait of Tariq as soon as he heard of the invasion. Thus was the Kingdom of Tolosa able to bring all its forces to bear against Charles at Albi.

The Companion and the Star

Idris II was a prodigy. Born the year after Idris was executed by Harun ar-Rashid for Abd ar-Rahman, Idris II grew up in a period of chaos. To the east were the Ahmarids supported by his his father’s enemy, Harun. To the west were the small states of Sijilmasa and Tiaret--and the Spaniards. Pressured from all sides, the best way the lords and chiefs of the region saw to avoid conquest was to remain faithful to Idris II. After all, he would be too young to challenge them for a generation. Yet he learned quickly and despite being a follower of Ali, would go on to secure the Maghreb for Islam. As the First Consulate War dragged on, Idris II asserted control of his vassals. After gaining Tiaret he launched his first true campaign against the Ahmarids of Tunis to put an end to their incursions on the border. Further conquests were postponed when Eder Abarran’s envoys arrived with his proposal of attacking the Spaniards. During the year 809 he set himself to raid and test the western border and found the defenses there only slightly diminished for they were of the first priority in the Maghreb for the kings.

Ramiro was more focused on the invasion of the south by Ilyas and the Barghawata. Nominally a friendly land defenses on their border weakened quickly due to the war and it was not long before half the south was over-run. Gayan’s nephew Imato ibn Luba having ascended to the lordship at Tanga, the Barghawata were unable to reduce the coastal city though they ravaged Saleh for its defection to the Spaniards.

When Ramiro sailed into the harbor at Melilla, his ships bore a flag that looked back on the distant past: the Star of Tartessos. Though still in its infancy, the writings of the Roman historian Velleius who spoke of Tartessos were known in the peninsula. To secure the Maghreb Ramiro reached back to the history of the region. Since almost nothing was known about the city save for its trade in tin, he was free to interpret the record to suit his needs. That their ancient symbol was also an increasingly popular decoration on Muslim buildings made his appropriation of it all the more worthwhile.

At Melilla he was met by Garcia Maurez with a small guard to escort him to pre-eminent city south of the Rif, the reborn Luz. Once there he greeted Garcia’s father, Maura who had remained loyal for decades bringing much profit and goodwill to the crown. Maura had unwelcome news that the raids in the east were the precursor to a true invasion--possibly in concert with Ilyas. Canny old man that he was, Maura had sought out what allies he could among the other Berber tribes and even now their lords and chiefs were arriving in Luz.

In the Maghreb before Islam, there were three great confederations of Berbers, the Masmuda, the Zenata and Sanhaja. It was among the Sanhaja Berbers that Idris had forged his kingdom and now with his Tairet kin he was promising to drive the rest into the sea, for the Sanhaja were the only ones who had fully converted. It was from the Masmuda that both the Miknasa and the Barghawata had emerged to forge their hegemony being the most settled among them and ready to practice agriculture. However many felt the yoke of Ilyas b. Salih and played a role in the joining of Saleh to the realm of the Spaniards. They were eager for revenge and to destroy the ruling Barghawata. The Zenata played a major rule with the Sufri and Ibadi Kharijites in founding the Emirate Sijilmasa. Many were already friendly to the Spaniards who supported the Kharijites against the Idrisids. Living in the marginal lands north Sijilmasa and east of the Moluya River, they sought an end to the persecution visited on them by the Idrisids and safer lands to the west.

As Ramiro and Maura met with the Berbers, Ramiro became friendly with one of their tribes: the Banu Ifran who had made their home in the mountain caves. By now the situation was becoming critical enough that Maura departed from Luz for the east to contest the Idrisid incursions on the border leaving Ramiro to conduct the negotiations. Spending his days meeting with the Berbers, Ramiro met the daughter of Corra of the Banu Ifran. Named Samira, she saw to their refreshment during meetings and possessed what he later described in a letter as a very challenging gaze.

With Maura securing the east, Ramiro left Garcia in Luz and with the Berber armies and his own Andalucians marched west to liberate Saleh. After re-taking the city to the immense relief of its inhabitants he departed south--into the lands of Barghawata. There instead of confronting Ilyas and his main army he demanded the allegiance from the countryside, putting down any resistance but showing mercy to any who surrendered. Land he had to cnoquer was redistributed to Ramiro’s allies, but those who surrendered were treated as his allies. As he had suspected, his actions forced Ilyas to turn from ravaging the north and Ramiro drew him further south ravaging the land all the way.

“With each step his army looks and sees the impotence of his power and the falsity of his claims to prophecy,” Ramiro said to Samira. She had come along with others who tended to the camp for the Berbers and abandoning his own logistical requirements, Ramiro had agreed to travel as they did through necessity. “All the while they wonder at his power.”

By the time Ramiro crossed the Tensipa his scouts told him that Ilyas was growing desperate. On the sparse fringes of Barghawata domains they faced each other across the Tensipa. While many in the army of Ilyas b. Salih had departed he still had enough to challenge battle--but not as many as Ramiro.

At light risk to himself the young Prince had weakened the religious power of Ilyas and his dispensation of the land had once again reinforced the policy of the Spaniards that held the authority and the elite open to those who proved both loyal and skilled--similar to the concepts the Barghawata had incorporated into their religion. Seeing his army the weaker and with some of his men openly questioning his leadership, to regain his preeminence Ilyas challenged Ramiro to a trial by combat. Corra and his allies urged him to consider for Ilyas was a man in his prime and he only a few years past his boyhood.

“The greatest victory my father ever won was at a river you could wade across,” Ramiro said to them. “Let God grant us the same outcome.”

Raising the Star of Tartessos above him, he drew his sword as Ilyas charged forward. The clash of the two men was muffled and taken away by the wind from the mountains but all could see the duel unfold. While Ilyas was experienced on a horse, Ramiro was able to lean far away from to the left and right to avoid and unleash blows with his sword. As the two struggled, Ilyas had to lean from the saddle to attack Ramiro which was the only thing that kept Ramiro alive. Suddenly, Ilyas fell from his horse and Ramiro acted quickly by trampling him to death. As the Barghawata armies stood stunned at the fall of Ilyas, Ramiro stood tall in his stirrups and ordered the destruction those who had remained faithful to Ilyas to the end.

With the death of Ilyas b. Salih and his most loyal followers, the west was pacified at last. The strategies Ramiro had used to defeat the Barghawata and his own personal courage in the duel with Ilyas had solidified his reputation among the Berbers as a many they were willing to follow. While the Masmuda tribes became occupied in rooting out the final Barghawata elements, Ramiro, Corra and the rest of the Zenata returned to Luz. There they found Idris II had defeated Maura on the east bank of the Muluya River and was preparing to avenge his father.

A platform had been constructed not far from Ramiro’s tent before his army.

Even now it wasn’t truly his, it was technically the army his father’s might had gathered. But Salamon had been ill for the last few years, the exertions of war and the after-effects of the poison making it increasingly difficult for him to rule. Gayan and the others did what they could but increasingly the burden was falling on him: as it should. Just shy of twenty-one he had spent the latter half of his life embroiled in an endless war--something far beyond raids and pillaging. Great invasions and counter-invasions, assaults, glorious victories and bitter defeats. The tent itself had its walls tied up so he could remain in view of his army at all times. Now he knelt on one knee with his hands on the hilt of a sword buried in the ground. Soon, very soon, he would address the great army assembled at Luz. He heard the light footsteps coming to him and a moment later Samira was laying the great white cloak around his shoulders. Pure white inside and out, except for the Star of Tartessos stitched on it in her careful, precise hand. Hers. Her hands lingered a moment longer on his shoulders and even in this moment of portent he felt his heart grow a little lighter. For a moment he thought she would whisper something but instead he felt only the lightest brush of the veil around her face. It was time.

Ascending the platform, Ramiro looked out over the army. In center were the men of his own domains, brought with him south. Battle-hardened now they formed the core of his army--if they hadn’t been his when he arrived in Sevilla, they were now. On the left were the men of the Rif. They had come from the cities and farms of the coast and while they were scared they had also come to defend their homes. On the right were the men of Granada and Al-Conin, sent by his father to reinforce his son with a message that contained his confirmation as the commander of the Maghreb army--and one other thing:

Win and come back to me.

Salamon hated putting Ramiro into danger but had sacrificed this for his state. Ramiro knew the risk but knew the need as well and respected his father for seeing it. On the wings were the Zenata, superb horsemen armed with swords and javelins. He hoped many would follow him north for he had a place in mind for them. He hoped she would follow him north.

“Beyond Taza, Idris ibn Idris waits. His father came from the distant east and he forged a kingdom out of the chaos. Many of you knew Maura. He had served faithfully and well on this side of the Strait for as long as some of you have lived. He passed fulfilling his oaths and now his son struggles on our behalf against Idris. Ours, not mine.

"Before the Arabs came, before the Visigoths came, before the Romans came, before even the Carthaginians came, Tartessos was here. It ruled both sides of the strait and when invaded from the east it stood for long against them. They are the birth of our people, the true birth. Some of us came later, but we are all descended from them: they fought so we could order our own lives, not have that rule imposed from afar. Seeking that for our homes and our kin mean we are all their descendants. I promise you we will not allow ourselves to be defeated.”[9]

The Second Idrisid War

Ramiro and his army marched east to Taza. If the mountains were a bottle, Taza was their stopper. Through the years invaders had come through it, the Romans, the Arabs. After the death of Idris ibn Abdallah, Maura had fortified it and enlarged it to protect Luz itself. When he retired to Luz its defense was undertaken by his son Garcia who proved himself to be nearly as capable as his father in the organizing of men. Inviting all who resisted Idris to him at Taza, he had attracted men who held syncretic beliefs or were otherwise dissatisfied with Idris. They resulted in one of the key defensive constructions of Taza: balistae towers. Improbably wooden and covered in watered skins to prevent fire, they had proven so difficult to overcome that Idris had been defeated before the walls of Taza two times and finally had to lay siege to it.

In Taza there rose to some prominence a man who left the peninsula during Abd ar-Rahman’s conquests. Disillusioned with Idris and with a pregnant Cordoban wife who desired a more settled life he had returned to Luz to provide for her. A hearty man by nature, Firnas had an education and a quick mind. It was Firnas who devised a method for delivering water to the city from some distance away by a kind of make-shift aqueduct and the use of special cisterns so that Idris had been unable to cut off the supply of Taza. Such things had intrigued Ramiro when he heard of them but he put that aside for a moment.

At their approach, Idris II fell back from the city to meet the Spaniards between the city and the River Muluya. The battle was fierce and the Idrisids fought with bravery and determination. With both armies at almost the same size the contest was brutally even and Idris ordered his men with no small skill. Ramiro was not himself very skilled as a general and so relied more on Corra the Zenata Berber and Ayuba of the Amasiga. Still, Ramiro had allowed the lightly armored Berbers to range across the battlefield and they were able to drive much of the Idrisid cavalry from the field. While kept from the destruction of the Idrisid army by the skill of Idris II, they caused much confusion and losses diverting his attention and reserves from the main battle.

As the sun set, the Idrisid army was battered but still intact due the leadership of Idris II. A second day of battle was averted when Idris II and his army retreated under the cover of darkness. Though the Spaniards did not follow, Idris II was attacked unawares by soldiers sent from the Emirate of Sijilmasa coming to the aid of their allies and kin. The battle went badly for Idris and he was forced to returned to his own country though he and his line never forgot that it was the Sijilmasans who forced this defeat.

The Emir of Sijilmasa was with Ramiro when Idris offered to set the border at the River Muluya with the exception of Mersa. He made the offer because while it still granted him additional authority in the west, Harun ar-Rashid and his vassals were growing strong once more. After concluding a peace with the Byzantine Caesar, Kreanus in exchange for the lordship of Cyprus, Harun began once more to renew his dominions in the west. That supporting his vassal against the son of his old jailer was reward enough, he also took thought to helping Salamon with whom he had sworn friendship.

In the Maghreb, Ramiro's men thought of it as a victory. It was with pride and the first sense of a greater unity that they began to display the Star of Tartessos on their standards and it made their relations with each other more genial in the years to come.

Beyond the Salians

In 811, Aldric of Beauvais scanned the landscape in front of him, keeping a tight hold on his reins. The only sound was of the mail mesh hanging from his helmet, itself a gift from Prince Morman. Advancing at barely more than a walk he saw the riders around him doing the same. Behind them came the footmen wielding spears and bows. He would stay with them while his fellow horsemen ranged out.

"Keep moving!" he said waving his cavalry spear.

The raids had gone well this year and it was about time something went well. Around Aldric were the small core of horsemen who had survived the battle at Albi. He felt a bond with each other them: they had stood firm at his side as the Frankish army behind him melted away in panic. Ahead of him had loomed both the sea-green and gold banner that Pepin’s forces fought on under. For the rest of his life Aldric would remember the relief he felt at Albi that the other banner, the one with Invictus on it was gone. Appearing at crucial moments in the battle the men under it fought hard and skillfully. Not that he was that experienced in war yet, but even the Frankish veterans respected and feared that banner.

The men around him that day, men he’d been with or those he’d picked up in scattered bands and reformed into a fighting force stayed with him. In the chaos that had followed the death of King Charles, Aldric had been separated from his own higher lords and had to fall back on his own leadership. Those hours had been some of the most trying of his life as he’d fought off advances from the rebels while keeping his own men retreating in good order. It was only when night fell that they were able to truly escape. Ariving in Arvernis with 400 hundred exhausted, bloodied and dirty men to find Martinus in conference with both Price Morman and Ogier. They were having some sort of argument but when Martinus saw him they had broken off their quarrel, amazed to meet the man who had kept the rearguard together. He’d received the lordship of the town of Paris not far from his own Beauvais in reward but he’d also been instructed to continue his efforts against the rebels.

"Terrorize them," the king had said. "Make yourself a thorn in their side."

He'd done just that, leaving dozens of burned out villages behind him in the year after Albi. As famine slowly began to grip the kingdom, his raids for food and plunder had been even more crucial than he’d believed. This one was against a small place with a score of houses if that. He wasn’t even sure if it had a name. At his order torches were passed around and fires began to blossom in the thatched roofs. As he'd expected, when the fire spread the villagers left the houses they'd hidden in for protection and tried to flee. His cavalry ran down the men while seizing the women and dragging them away to a more secure place in the camp. The last building in the village was a small church, a construction of stone looking only a little better than the rest around it. Ordering the doors forced open the priest was brought to him as his men ransacked the building. He let the old man harangue him for a time considering it his penance to listen to the tirade.

"You won't be harmed, nor your scriptures or your helpers. You will be taken north where your peers will sit in judgment upon you."

"By what right?" the priest demanded. "I am an agent of Rome, and of God! What are you to me?"

Aldric frowned then backhanded him across the face. There, he'd struck a man of God for his king.

"It is a sin to support rebellion. As Rome is between us and a sea of foes, it is the churchmen of the realm that will judge you. Besides, this village doesn't need you because it won't exist much longer."

He ordered the priest taken away and he himself set fire in the church. A small part of him felt a twinge at that and he wondered that he ever thought to be a priest. The security of the church was in the hands of others and God of course. Still took many of the valuables and manuscripts from the place for himself before he let the flames claim it and surviving villagers in the building. Returning to his camp, his men hailed him again. This village must have been a place to secret rebel supplies: not only food but some wine and weapons had been found. He'd have to keep a tight rein on his men to prevent accidents.


As Aldric showed his skill he began to receive more notice from the king. In 811 in addition to his responsibilities came his marriage to the very pretty sister of the new Duke of Alamannia, Gisella.[10] Aldric was relieved that they got along so well and preferred it when she helped him to arm when he went to battle--as he often did in those days. After Albi there had been no more appetite for a Grand Expedition to defeat the rebels once and for all. Raids and small actions became ever more important for securing the king’s position. Aldric could still faintly taste the kiss Gisella had given him as he joined his own men to the procession of lords for the new coronation at Aachen. As he rode forward he thought to himself that the true cause of this war was the equity of all the sons of Charles and the divisions of the kingdom the great king had once made... and he wondered if there was a way to change it. It was only when they were in sight of Aachen that the news reached them: Pepin the Hunchback was dead.

The Peace of the West

When Pepin died in 811, the last chance for uniting the shattered kingdoms did as well. After a decade of constant warfare and campaigning across a huge area of Western Europe, famine stalked the land and all the major combatants were exhausted and nearing collapse.

By far the greatest battle in the war was the Battle at Albi. Under his Invictus banner, Eder had marshalled his allies and slain Charles the Frank in his moment of triump. A complete disaster had been averted only by the heroic actions of Aldric of Beauvais that allowed much of the army to flree. With the Spaniards occupied against Idris II, for a brief moment it seemed Eder Abarran would be able to make Pepin king in Aachen. But the next year the Spaniards had secured the Maghreb and Pepin was dead. Now Eder had to focus all his efforts on keeping the fractious rebels together for the person of Pepin's young son, Raymond. Even at that early date he could see that he would have to remain vigilant against internal dissention.


Only one king remained: Salamon. With Pepin's death Salamon desired to launch a new campaign against Zaragoza. A dismal failure, the poor provisions and lack of manpower due to earlier losses showed just how weakened the Spaniards had become. But the son of Abd ar-Rahman was unwilling to acknowledge the reality of his failure to keep what has father had granted him. He inisisted on large scale largely fruitless raids against the rebels despite the stress it put on the state.

By the time Ramiro returned to the ruined Toledo, he could sense the mood in the state. Things were bad enough that he considered removing his father from the throne but in a way the situation solved itself.

During one of his raids into Eder's lands around Oviedo, Gonsalus and King Salamon were separated from the main body of their troops. Surrounded they fought hard but Gonsalus was badly wounded and in desparation the king fell on his sword rather than be captured. It was only because Gonsalus managed to escape with the body that Ramiro learned the truth. Gonsalus himself died of his wounds a few weeks later and Ramiro sadly raised his son Pero as the new Count of Iria.

His next action was to send word to Martinus in Aachen admitting the inevitable. Later that year, Aldric, Said ibn Husayn and Eder Abarran met on behalf of their sovereigns. It was the first and only time that Aldric and Eder met each other on something other than a battlefield. The treaty itself dilineated borders that would almost certainly be contested, but its first clause was its most prominent and most bitter: Ramiro and Martinus acknowledge the lawful existence of the Kingdom of Tolosa.
[1]In our history, Pepin rebelled in 792 for the reasons outlined above but Charlemagne crushed the rebellion and allowed Pepin to become a monk.
[2]Vali -- from the Arabic Wali and the Spanish Valia/Valya “worthy.” A civil governor. The similar sounding roots mistakenly conflated them as occasionally happens.
[3]A Rustamid displaced from Tiaret after the Idrisid conquest
[4]No more than 30,000 at this time, probably closer to 20,000.
[5]Lejón, Legion, León.
[6]At Ourense
[7]St. Aldric of LeMans
[9]Almost all politically expedient lies of course
[10]Daughter of Hildegard of Vinzgouw, Gisella is no longer related to Charlemagne in TTL.


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Part VI: Ramiro the Wise

Part VI: Ramiro the Wise

Because we are Spaniards!

--Alejandro III Araman, to a questioner in the Hall of Voices

The Concubine

After the First Consulate War, Ramiro had to decide what to do with the Consular title. Increasing his authority was desirable but Rome was under the influence of the Lombards or the eastern empire. To himself he admitted he had no ability to be Consul of Rome even if he wanted to. Besides, his father was named consul by Pope Leo and while Martinus had taken up the title alone, Martinus was a ruler in need of authority. He decided against claiming the title but did not return the emblems of the office to Rome. The decision was the first in what proved to be a new era for the kingdom, one where the Spaniards would forge ahead alone. Even the name of the kingdom changed; by the end of Ramiro's reign, it was known to its contemporaries as Spaña.

As later became custom, Ramiro was ceremonially crowned king alone to symbolize his ultimate authority, but his authority did not help him solve his second problem: he had fallen in love with Samira, a Muslim. At this time the western Berbers mixed Islam with some of their old beliefs and were just beginning to be influenced the Sufris of Sijilmasa and some strains of Shi'ism. There were no prominent or even middling religious authorities to turn to on the issue so it fell to the king to lead the discussion on the strictures in the Koran. In the end, Ramiro received Samira as a concubine and she remained in that position her whole life, his wife in all but name. [See Author’s Note]

Minimally literate at the time, Samira proved as curious as Ramiro encouraging him to create a tradition of scholarship that would fit comfortably with the sophisticated realms of the east. Refusing to participate openly in political debates not concerning the Zenata settlers, contemporary reports show that Ramiro consulted her on a variety of matters and by the end of her life she was a respected scholar.

The Royal Assembly

As Ramiro and Samira rebuilt Toledo, the king considered the future. It's shape was as unformed as the city. The Raptor of Spain had brought order but it was up to Ramiro to keep it. Spaña was safe from rebellion and invasion for now with Eder Abarran occupied in hold the Tolosans together and the noble Spaniards were weakened by the war when they were not his friends or relations. For two years he studied the records of the Greek sand Romans and the organization of the Caliphs. When his son Rolando was born in 814, Ramiro called his greater nobles to the infant's patrimony of Sevilla to celebrate the birth--and to discuss the matters of state. Known as a Royal Assembly, it laid the foundation for the rest of his reign.

The state depends on the army, and the army depends on money, he wrote. These things are only derived from the people. The Great Lords exist to extract these from all corners of the state. The King exists to rule the people and ruling the people he can prevent uprisings by the Great Lords unless the people turn against him.

The Assembly of 814 consisted of the 20 or so counts of the major cities, and the lesser lords and religious authorities of the kingdom. Ramiro opened with a speech reminding them of the war just ended and the hardships just endured. Thanking them for their loyalty he swore to protect them and declared this his prime duty--but he must have their help. The speech made the Assembly feel important and needed but it was just the beginning of a contentious meeting that would last for months.

“We took men from fields and trades to war. They fought as they could but there is a difference between able-bodied men and trained warriors. Even when we achieved victory the land suffered behind us. When the rebel Pein died, we were not strong enough to take the advantage given us. We cannot do so again!”

Ramiro called for a standing army. He reminded his listeners that all the great states had possessed them, that leading men in battle was difficult and risky and the risk should not be born by them because of their value to the state in ordering their domains. He reminded them of Mutamidos, or his own father, of the need above all else to prevent succession crisis in the middle of war.

"The cause of our present difficulties was my uncle--and his desire for a part of the kingdom!"

Ramiro spoke of the need for passing land down intact to sons as much as possible to forestall challenges and assure its continued enrichment. But in the same breath he also proposed that the standing army be led by those extra sons. Already educated more highly than the mass of the populace they would be trained and tutored in the ways of warfare with a ciriculum based on writings of Roman generals and tactics imported from the east where they were better preserved. To train and lead the first recruits, Gayan Al-Muhallahi was elevated to the position of Duke one without any lands or civil responsibilities. Opposition was muted after Ramiro mentioned that the family ties of these new soldiers and the age of Gayan would make it difficult for the king to use them on internal enemies. To the king's relief, he was "persuaded" to institute a basic educational requirement for the officer corps--for the nobles this was done to restrict the positions to their own families, Ramiro had something else in mind.

The next issue Ramiro put before the Assembly was taxation. The economy of the kingdom was in a better position that most others in Europe. The alliances with the Caliphs and the Sijilmasans provided a source of supply for the wealth of Asia and Africa. As the years would show, the Spaniards became a source of competition with the eastern empire to import goods from the Islamic lands and beyond. The Assembly of 814 improved trade by reducing internal duties but levied a tax on transport to maintain and expand the roads and ports. Imports were taxed by weight, and exports by profit. A military tax was imposed. The system was managed by the newly created Divan of Finance, largely staffed with Muslims and Jews to prevent the creation of independent power bases.

The last issue discussed in 814 was also the most contentious: Land Reform. Land taxation was the only possible way at the time to generate the income needed to fund the state expenditures Ramiro planned. A land survey was set to be completed by 820. Land would be assessed on potential output, population, terrain and positional risk--but only once it reached a certain level of profitability. Aside from the agreement to conduct a land reform itself, Ramiro's most important concession was the creation of a requirement that the owner reside on the land.

The Valis and the Provinces

As soon as the Royal Assembly ended in 814, Ramiro went into action. The king gathered a number of wealthy merchants and other land holders and in exchange for a state-supplied security fee, they provided a series of loans to the state. Instead of using the money, Ramiro made preparations to lend it through the Divan of Finance and waited.

As Ramiro expected, in the years before 820 survey, a massive consolidation of land began. Since the residency requirement applied to contiguous land, it created an incentive to consolidate among the landholders with far flung properties. Since land was surveyed on potential and the greater the plot the great the potential, even if the owners let it lie fallow the fees assessed on it quickly became ruinously expensive. This effectively forced the nobility to sell the land or rise against the king.

Some did rise, but Ramiro dealt quickly and mercilessly with those who did--but what kept down a more general revolt was the money the king borrowed. Lent out to lesser nobility and even some peasants, sellers found a number of buyers. It was a drastic process that continued through Ramiro's reign, created a new class of small free-holders beholden to the king who held their loans and allowed him to leverage them against the nobles. An example is the Zenata. Settling them on the dry plains the substandard irrigation of the region was better suited to their pastoralism. As Ramiro slowly extended the irrigation of the region, he used the loans to slowly entice more Berbers to farm the newly irrigated lands resettling much of La Mancha.

To keep records, administer the loans, and survey the land, towns like Alarcón and Chinchilla remained small but grew into administrative hubs. Generally run by means of a town council, settlements of a certain size, complexity or importance were administered by an official that became known as a Vali.[1]

In the beginning the Vali system was one of patronage. Individuals were chosen based on recommendations from established nobles, a recommendation becoming a reward for loyalty and service. Since the only requirement was literacy in Arabic or Latin and each Vali served in the region they were born, the system strengthened the loyalty of the locals to the central government and provided a living example of upward mobility creating incentives for both education and further state integration. To qualify for a Vali the town had to house and maintain them and they facilitated the collection of taxes from the countryside. When a Vali came to a town, they arrived with more tax collectors, assessors and other bureaucrats--each bringing opportunities for advancement. After 827 recommendations from other civil servants were also considered. In addition, towns with a Vali tended to receive more state funding for further public works projects.

The Vali system and increasing numbers of bureaucrats created something like a positive feedback loop for education. Literacy became seen as a way to gain a state position and a reliable source of income and demand for education increased. Even being passed over as a Vali was not a devastating occurrence. A failed applicant could still teach others and more educated men were needed to supervise the public works projects or staff other offices. Even the addition of a series of general questions pertaining to common issues of governance did not diminish the competition.

To manage the system Ramiro was creating, the kingdom was divided in the year 826. In addition to a number of military districts along the border with the Idrisids and the Tolosans, these were Andalucia, Barga, Centrajo[2], Galicia, Gran Rif, Granada, Portugal, Valencia. It was in the military districts that Ramiro's new army trained and patrolled. As the nobility began to accept and expect state defense to be handled by someone else, Ramiro was able to make the military tax permanent.

The Divan of Documents was founded the same year to record and organize the reports for each province, furthering increasing demand for educated men. With the bankruptcies and wars of the Caliphate after 830, the Spaniards became one possible destination for educated men of all religions owing to the toleration.

The Slave Tax

While the state was taking in large sums, it was also spending them. Keeping the state solvent was a major concern of Ramiro throughout the first half of his reign and in 833 a tax was unilaterally imposed on slaves, where they had been taxed as imports or exports. Revenue increased quickly and unrest was reduced by his use of those who had no slaves to enforce an edict benefiting them. Popular among the freeman farmers, the tax increased based on the slaves owned forcing the sale of manumission of slaves.

Characteristically the king seized the chance to purchase slaves, free them and employ them either as his functionaries or the army if they were physically robust. Most of the slaves were captured Tolosans or Idrisids, but toward the end of Ramiro's reign there also appeared Saqaliba. It was this former-slave army that responded to the great Viking invasion of 837 that terrorized the western coast and invaded Lisboa. After sacking Mérida, the Viking force was brought to battle by Duke Ayder and destroyed.

The success prompted Ramiro to call a Royal Assembly the next year. The assembly now attended by numerous Valis, approved a time-limited tax to construct a fortress at the crossing of the Mino to respond to the raiders. While the western cities remained on alert after the establishment of the Alcazar Mino, the Vikings sought easier targets like the Tolosans. In fact the Tolosans suffered constant pirate attacks from the vikings, the Spaniards and the Muslim kingdoms of the Maghreb.

The Birth of the University System

Scholarship and understanding the Divine Creation along with simple curiosity was a staple of several of the peninsula's religions. After the war he had worked again with Firnas who developed an ingenious method of powering a bellows by running water vastly improving the forging prospects of the state. Made well off by its invention, Firnas was able to educate his son, Fernando Abbas.[2]

Taking advantage of the new scholars of the kingdom, Abbas was well educated and fascinated by movement--the paths of water and wind. To support himself, Abbas developed intricate water clocks and a mastery of quartz miniatures that began to be imported by the Egyptians. It was Abbas who made important observations on light through the lenses he crafted to help readers with poor eyesight.
Everything that gives us light has source, but we see light reflect off metals and water and glass. We observe that images can be distorted by different constructions of each, even changed to create the same effect that we know as a rainbow. In addition when induced to reflect off materials in the air, we can clearly see that light takes the form of lances. The most efficient solution to problems is often the most likely: therefore I say that these properties are not inherent to all the objects, only the light itself.

Furthermore, we postulate that these sources create the lances by the ancient theory of emission...
--Fernando Abbas, Lances of Illumination, p. 92

His co-author for Lances of Illumination was an Arab refugee from Kufa by the name of Alkindus. Brilliant in his own right, the rivalry between the two men was the stuff of legend (such as when Abbas failed in his flight experiment) exceeded only by their friendship. Alkindus delved into agriculture and mathematics in particular interactions. Alkindus supplied complicated equations for the books written by Abbas and brought Al-Khwarizmi's book to the west.[3] It was Alkindus that introduced the 0 in a place-holding context to the Spaniards. One discovery they made together was when Abbas cut one of his quartz rocks incorrectly injuring himself due to a strange discharge. Replicating this process they compared the discharge to those generated by amber or certain fabrics and to what certain animals produced in Egypt. They called this strange property "rays."[4]

It was Abbas and Alkindus who petitioned the Royal Assembly of 838 to establish an organized center for learning. Patterned on the descriptions Alkindus gave of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, it became the School of Interactions at Luz. The very next year at the behest of his daughter Aiza, the Library of the Scriptures was founded in 839 in the Holy City of Iria on opposite the church holding the bones of St. Iago. What historians call the First University System as born.
The effects of the Scriptures Library is evident with hindsight. Something similar occurred with the Creative Properties Divan under Ramiro II. Practically, Galicia was an important region recently in rebellion. Marrying his daughter to Vimara Peres the Count of Iria and founding the Scriptures Library was a way to further his control of the region and honor St. Iago by religious scholarship. Considering the facility St. Aiza demonstrated there, it remains her achievement as much as his and served to remind the people of the city that the king was involved in all aspects of life.


The official sanction for the Scriptures by John VIII (834-851) came as a surprise. It served to legitimize the Iberian Rite in the peninsula and made it acceptable for church scholars to travel there. It owes its formative years to both monastic methods of learning and the madrassas of the Idrisids with whom it competed.


Even in the early years there was a desire to expand the universe of religious thought beyond the conventionalities of the period. The first theory that achieved acclaim from St. Aiza and others was the “Completionist” Doctrine. Their association of God with Order, the Deciever with Chaos and the king as God’s Chosen instrument was not new. The importance of the philosophy lies in its adoption by a visiting group of monks from Ireland, eager to study in safety from the viking raids. Among this group was St. Andrew the later Bishop of Armagh, posthumous first Primate of Ireland and closest friend and ally of Patrick the Great. While some label this moment as the first step toward the Irish Ecclesiarchy, authoritative hierarchies sanctioned by religion were often used as veneer for ambitious kings long before and after the formation that period of the H.E.I.N.
--Accedimeo Historia, Miguel C.S.D. Alatriste, A.M.R. of Iona, Jenna Connolly
Socio-Political Consequences of the Early University System Outside the Iberian Peninsula
selections, pp. 124-132.

First Published 1479, Viva River Press
First Mass Market Edition 1484, Orinoco Public Division

The Birth of the Bulgarian Dynasty

In the first half of the Ninth Century the Spaniards were an island of calm in a turbulent world.

When Harun ar-Rashid invaded the Greek Empire in pursuit of his nephew Jafar and at the cessation of tribute, eastern defense was in the hands of Bardanes Tourkos and his two subordinates, Michael and Leo. Their talented resistance was driven in part by the ingenuity of the protostrator, Thomas.[5] For refusing to take counsel with him at Amorion, Kreanus arrested Bardanes and sent him to Constantinople on the flagship of Admiral Theophylaktos. Despite this inauspicious start, the Caesar won the loyalty of Michael and Leo so that Michael was sent back to the capital to protect the Caesar's son.

In the capital, Bardanes made common cause with Marozia Desideria and Finance Logothete Nikephoros. Releasing Bardanes, they seized the palace and expelled the imperial officers loyal to Irene in the name of Eudokia Porphyrogenita now betrothed to Nikephoros. Irene was sent to a monastery where she died, but not before she sent the son of Kreanus to take refuge with the Buglars. Michael was imprisoned when he arrived.

Leaving Leo and Thomas to command the east, Kreanus and the Admiral's son Michael Rangabe launched a night attack on the royal palace with a crack naval force. As they cut their way through the imperial palace, Kreanus hewed Nikephoros down in red fury. After regaining the palace, Kreanus shared a celebratory drink with Michael Rangabe over the shattered skull of Nikephoros[7] but failed to find Marozia or Eudokia. When Michael was released from prison, he swore to wear the broken manacles until the wayward empress was returned.

After staying with Irene in her dying moments, Kreanus named Thomas Domesticos tes Dyseos the western commander for his ties to the Slavs. He returned east with both Michaels to find a grieving Leo driven back from the mountains. Finally able to devote attention to Harun ar-Rashid the war continued in a frustrating stalemate. When the peace treaty was signed in 808, the Caliph agree to forgo the tribute and instead received possession of Cyprus, a bitter pill for any emperor to swallow. To guard the border, Kreanus settled the austere Paulicians, promising them freedom from persecution in return for loyalty and defense.

Returning home after an urgent message from his son Alexander, he found Thomas in revolt and spent 4 years pacifying the Slavs, expanding imperial territoriality into the Serb lands and creating a number of buffer states in the west. Growing old, Kreanus focused on handing the empire over to Alexander. Instead of the absent Eudokia, Alexander wed the great-niece of Irene, Theophano. Visibly awkward upon first meeting, by the time of his death Kreanus saw the young couple very much in love and delivered of a son, Evan. When died, his tireless energy and loyalty--he had never once hinted at claiming the imperial title--were recognized by all his subjects quieting the Icon controversy for nearly a month.

By now Bulgarians were integrated into the imperial officers, adapting well and performing even better. While Michael scoured Italy in search of Marozia and a bitter Leo did the same in Anatolia, Alexander and Theophano completed the conversion of the Bulgars. It was with the Bulgars that Alexander forced the removal of many Greeks from Italy, resettling them in Anatolia to rebuild the land, dependent on the emperor and with no realistic option for revolt.

More of an administrator than a soldier, Alexander was menaced in the north by the Magyars. Despite their fearsome abilities, Alexander and his generals were able to repel the invasions and by the ascension of his son Evan, the Magyars had abandoned any migration south and instead looked for opportunities closer to home with the Khazars.

The Persian Flame

The Asian half of the Greek Empire was quite after the war with Harun. After his death in 830, his sons drove the Caliphate into civil war. Even before his death both sons were struggling for control of the state and they imported armies of slaves soldiers from the steppes to tip the balance in their favor. Intent on each other, they never noticed a brilliant general in faraway Urgench rebelling the day he learned Harun ar-Rashid was dead.

The origins of Reza Azad or Reza the Liar are unknown--even his name was fabricated for propaganda. Preaching a revival of Persian consciousness he used his own steppe slave-soldiers to conquer most of Persia by 835 and launched an invasion of Iraq. Taken by surprise, Harun's sons were unable to unite and Baghdad was captured in 838 and with it Harun's eldest son, executed "for being delinquent to the needs of the Umma."

When Reza invaded Syria he found an unlikely ally: the aging Eudokia. Unable to take refuge in an Italy racked by conflict during the First Consulate War and rejected by her nephew Alboin Adalgia, she took refuge in the Caucasus and married Eudokia to the most prominent Armenian family. Eudokia convinced her son to ally with Reza to mont a bid for the throne she should have had as the daughter of Constantine VI.

Eager to enlist the Greek Empire as an ally or at least secure their non-interference, Reza sent several contingents to join Eudokia and her son. There they discovered an old and bitter Leo who was eager to take revenge on a family that had been the death of his own. Standing in their way was the new Byzantine Emperor, Evan. Reminding people of his grandfather, he commanded the Imperial armies himself with no small skill and captured Eudokia and her son both of whom suffered an "accident" on the way back to the city. Evan now refortified the mountains against any Persian attack but he needn't have worried: Reza Azad's career was ending.

In Shiraz the Persian spirit had flowered in the person of Imad ibn Agassi. Incensed at the increasing power of the Turkish "barbarians" who barely accepted Islam, ibn Agassi launched a virulently anti-Turkish rebellion of his own. It was ibn Agassi who gave Reza the name "the Liar" accusing him of being a secret Zoroastrian. Securing Khorasan, he marched west and executed Reza in Baghdad in 849 on the spot where Harun's son died 11 years before. Patching up a peace with the Abbasids that left them in the possession of the Jazira but not Syria and claiming the title of Shah but not Caliph, ibn Agassi launched an invasion of the Caucasus and Byzantium.

He faced an Empire led by a very capable general, and one psychologically prepared to face an ancient enemy reborn with the power of Islam. Emperor Evan led his men into battle against the Agassids and called all men of worth to his service. Entire families like the Phocas of Cappodocia rose in this period. Other rising stars were individuals from lands as far away as Francia. The greatest of these was an Armenian speaking soldier whose family had only recently removed to Macedonia. An able soldier and eventually a mentor of the emperor's twin sons, it was Basil the Macedonian that Emperor Evan charged with turning back the Agassids in 860.

The Aldrians

By 849 the Franks were in a grim mood. Martinus was a weak king unable to provide patronage or wealth from conquest. It was all he could do to keep the Bavarians, Bretons and Ongendus as his allies. For conquests, he personally only completed the destruction of the Saxons. One reason for his poor prospects was the appearance of the Vikings. First pillaging Ireland and Albaney, by 817 they were threatening the Frankish lands. Fortunately for Matrinus there was Aldric.

The Count of Beauvais and Paris, Aldric worked with Prince Morman and his successors to establish a roving force of light cavalry in the north. Alerted by a series of signal towers placed along the waterways used by the Vikings, Aldric defeated several large raids. Of the Viking attacks the Spaniard Gallohid wrote: ...a summer storm of sound and fury and roiling wind that leave behind the stillness of death.

The visible presence of royal authority and power did much to keep the north loyal and increase Aldric's wealth and prestige. When a general was needed to help the Bavarians against the Czechs and Sorbs, Aldric was the obvious choice and by 832 he had incorporated the Sorb lands into the Frankish domains. It was a surprise when instead of taking it for himself he distributed it to his friends and supporters or exchanged it for lands between Paris and the domains of his wife's kin.

When Eder Abarran launched the final campaign of his life intending to end it in battle, it was Aldric who led the defense of the realm. Unable to prevent the death of his in-laws, he still defeated Eder outside Lyon, and the great commander fell on his sword rather than submit to capture. Deciding he needed the strongest possible deterrent on the southern border, Martinus re-organized the lordships there and created Aldric the Duke of Alsesta.

The only offensive foreign expedition of the Franks under Martinus was the support given to Ongendus in his bid for the Danish crown. When Ongendus claimed the crown, his cousin Gudfred departed for good, ending up in Ireland where he founded the city of Dublin in the early 820s. Once Olaf Ongendusson and Aldric defeated an enormous assault on Dorestad masterminded by Olaf's uncle Harald Klak, King Olaf extended his rule to most of the Danes. It was Olaf that allowed the construction of a small number of Christian churches.

Once in firm control of the Danes, Olaf directed their energy away from raids and toward the Baltic. A number of small coastal settlements were established or expanded to secure the eastern trade routes of the Baltic. It was in one of these trading towns that a local wheelwright, Piast, was killed after arguing with a drunken adventurer. Those who chose to avoid the growing royal Danish power left for the islands of the west or farther into the Baltic where some founded principalities in the interior.

Economically the silver shortage that began to plague the kingdom alleviated as a results of several events. One was orders for mass quantities of timber from Ramiro the Wise for his building projects and pirate navy. Another were the bankruptcies of the Caliphate that dried up the supply of eastern goods for a time slowing the outflows of silver, another was the capture and sale of slaves along the trade routes to the easterners. The last was the improvement of mining techniques and the Rammelsberg silver mines that began to generate vast quantities of silver--and lay just beyond the border of Aldric's duchy.

The Passing

The years 849-851 were a time of great change in Europe. Martinus's son had predeceased him and when he died in 849 the Franks were left without a ruler. The Frankish lords met to elect a new king and chose the Duke of Alsesta. Holding lands stretching from the coast to the border with Bavaria, the Hammer of the Sorbs and the Pillar of the Throne, Aldric was the obvious choice. Concerns he was too powerful were alleviated by his age and his son Lutis, despite marrying a daughter of Martinus was never trained for kingship. They thought after Aldric's timely death Lutis would never be able to keep them in line. Never the less, the Aldrian Dynasty became kings of France in 849.

Upon ascending the throne King Rolando's speech to the Royal Assembly of 850 emphasized a continuity with his father's policies, a measure of their impact. In fact, the construction of the Royal Mint in the new fortress of Badajoz was agreed to after Rolando revealed it was something planned by his father.

The next year John VIII died and was succeeded by Paul II (r. 851-862) an unremarkable man who exemplified how subservient the Papacy had become to the Lombards or the Byzantines depending on who had the local upper hand.


The reign of Ramiro the Wise set many precedents for the monarchy and established the foundations for the unified state that emerged in the 10th century. In fact, Ramiro the Wise did more to entrench royal power than any king until Ortiz the Great. Families across the kingdom benefited from his policies and the state was an island of peace in a chaotic world. Thanks to Alkindus and other early scientists, more advanced agricultural methods were developing that had already seen increases in food production by the 840s. Supplying the cities also became easier with better roads leading to faster urban growth and an increase in the number of skilled workers in the kingdom. More specifically it reduced by degrees and subtly the power of the nobility in favor of that the monarchy. The tendency of the Spaniards to look to the central government was an outgrowth of this system. Un-articulated until Alejandro III Araman, that philosophy would not have been possible without the actions of Ramiro and for these reasons and his patronage of religious and secular learning he has been remembered Ramiro the Wise.
[1]Vali from the Arabic Wali and the term Valya, Valia which means “worth” and was entrenched since the counts collected taxes from them.
[2]]TTL’s version of Abbas ibn Firnas
[3]Physics and Algebra
[4]Piezoelectricity, even today the appropriate rocks can be found in Morocco
[5]Michael II, Leo V and Thomas the Slav.
[6]In OTL, Krum/Kreanus drank from Nikephoros’s skull instead of over it.

Author’s Note: The marriage issue. Without a doubt the hardest issue I have ever faced in writing the Raptor of Spain. Based on the research I have done, the textual basis for the non-Muslim rule has been al-Baqarah 2:221. A literal reading prohibits giving Muslim women to mushrikun, which can be translated as stone worshipers and those who try to equate others with Allah. This is commonly translated as idolaters/polytheists. The reason for this is because if a Muslim woman is married to a non-Muslim man, even if she can practice Islam freely the kids will probably not be raised Muslim and doing that condemns them to hell if they don’t turn and abrogates a responsibility of the mother as a Muslim. A more practical reason is because this maximizes the growth of the number of Islamic believers without losing many. In the early 800s the only interpretation of importance I could find, is one by the Sahaba Qatada ibn al-Nu'man reported by Al-Zuhri indicating this applies also to Christians. It seems a contradiction but the counter is that Christians are Trinitarian, 3-in-1 believers. Obviously this could mean polytheism. However, an alternate interpretation of the Christian prohibition is that human attributes are given to Jesus (i.e. temptations, physical needs) and since Jesus is God, the human attributes are also given to God and equated some aspect of humans with God which is idolatry in Islam. Thus Christians are both al-Khitab and Mushrikun.

I couldn't find a way to loop-hole in the marriage issue (and neither could Ramiro) but concubinage is distinct from marriage, was not uncommon in the Islamic states of the period, and Ramiro doesn’t desire to be with other women. Combined with the somewhat syncretic Islam the Berbers have, Samira was then a concubine, technically given as a prize of war by her father to Ramiro. I felt this was a plausible outcome. The only other time it happens “on-stage” (Alfonso II and Amina) Amina converts.
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Part VII: The Alcadiz of Lejón
They think us exhausted, that we will break apart when they strike, that
we are barbarians. But we are their equals now--and they will never forget.

--Rolando the Timely Sword, Battle of Cannae (975)

Codices and Compendiums

The improvements in the three and later four field system of agricultural were resulting in increased food production as early as 844. Combined with the increase in farmland from irrigation projects both on the peninsula and the Maghreb, population growth was widespread. It was later theorized that the plague of 852 that struck the eastern coasts from Narbona to Cartagena and spread as far inland as Zaragoza was a result of the urban population increase. It carried off fourteen year old Prince Salamon[1] leaving his younger brother Alejandro as the new master of Sevilla. Heartbroken, King Rolando summoned a group of eminent physicians to the capital and asked their advice on preventing future disasters. The confused and occasionally contradictory messages infuriated the king and he put the question to the Muslim and Jewish physicians in his realm. He demanded a single comprehensive text of medical and medicinal practices based on the same successful process that had led to the agricultural improvements: experimentation and observation. Completed after nearly 5 years, the Physician’s Codex proved to be a remarkable source for medical thought of the period and was rivaled only by the Salerno in Europe and only a little inferior to the east.

As the bureaucracy of the state grew more entrenched and more demands were made for collections of information, it is notable that paper-making first entered the peninsula under the reign of Rolando. Established in Baghadad and Damascus after the Battle of Talas, the wars with the Persians pushed the techniques farther west in to Egypt where they migrated to the Kingdom of Spaña. At first made by hand, as early as 860 Fernando Abbas suggested the use of water-power though this innovation was not put in place until years after his death. The arrival of paper-making was of tremendous value to the state in its record keeping and as the process spread rapidly from Valencia it also became far more attractive to church.

When Ramiro the Wise ascended the throne, literacy was the only qualification required for state service. By the end, recommendations, literacy and a few basic questions on the tasks of the position began to weed out the incompetent. Still the literate population continued to climb and a brisk business was done in writing and reading messages for business or recreation. To standardize and improve these practices, Ramiro founded the last of the great universities in 855, the Grammarium of Sevilla. It’s first task was to develop a primitive code of ethics for the truthfulness of private scribes and it’s accreditation became a mark of quality within a decade.

Whispers of Italy

Militarily Rolando continued to quietly build the army, but was confronted in the the year 856 with a curious situation. His nephew Vieido Vimaranes, the future Count of Iria loved the military. Growing up under Rolando’s pious sister, St. Aiza, Vieido had rejected a life of scholarship and governance and instead devoured the military exploits of past commanders. Of age and a little more, he made known his desire to be involved in the military of the state. At the time there was only one Duke of the military, Ayder the half-Amasiga son of Ayuba, but he reported the young man’s qualities to be excellent. Rolando conferred with his advisers as well as his Aiza and her husband Vimara Peres. He also read through what records remained of his father’s plans and wished his mother had not passed on some years before--she had always been in Ramiro’s confidence. In the end it was his own wife that provided the answer.

“You’re the king,” she said with a smile and in her light Tuscan accent.

At the time, the increased numbers of professional troops in the army had led to some standardized military ranks. The capitan commanded a company of footmen designating a handful of subordinates under him, usually men who had distinguished themselves in some way. But Vieido was of course not meant for combat on foot. Thus intervened and created him as a leader of a unit of melee cavalry, with the official rank of Senor.[2]

The first test of the new military came when Rolando authorized the invasion of Serdenia--rather as Salamon had done over 60 years before. Having maintained a navy to deal with pirates and raid Tolosan ports, the Spaniards had few difficulties in assembling a fleet. With a force of 1500 men including Vieido, Duke Ayder landed on the island. At the time control of the island by the Greek Empire was collapsing due to the Ahmarid encroachment of Sicily, but neither did the Idrisids control more than the southern third of the island.

Landing at Porto Torres the Spaniards quickly secured the new local capital at Sassari. Duke Ayder sent Vieido to the region of Gallura where he met with the local ruler, a governor sent from Pisa. Their meeting was friendly as the Pisans had received much profit from the Spañan connections with the east after a marriage alliance with Rolando. Accordingly, a force of Pisan ships was sent to aid the Spaniards and together they defeated the Idrisid garrisons in the south regaining the port of Caliastra in 858. In the hilly terrain, the javelin wielding foot and horse of the Spaniards proved highly effective. Politically the Ahmarid rulers of Tunis and Kairouan were happy to see their titular allies keeping the Idrisids from attacking them in the back while they focused on Sicily. At this time the Idrisids were dealing with a Sufri revolt in their southern provinces and could not afford to recapture the island after a their reinforcement fleet was defeated in a naval battle. In 859, Rolando successfully negotiated with the Pisans for full control of the island in exchange for the establishment of a native paper-making manufactory near the city and a greater share of spoils from naval raids in the western sea. Almost immediately Rolando divided the island between four local Valis and subordinated the security of the island to another Senor (not Vieido).

Instead of curing him of his military adventurism, the action on Serdenia only made Vieido Vimaranes more certain of his martial career. Arriving back in the capital, he convinced Rolando of the necessity of maintaining some sort of militia to supplement the professional army. It had worked quiet well but was small due to expense. With more efficient forging techniques pioneered by the father of Fernando Abbas and being refined in the School of Interactions at Luz it became less expensive to properly equip soldiers. Thus in 860 the Valis of the kingdom now received the responsibility for training and arming a general spear militia. To begin the training each was assigned a single soldier and a number of weapons. Armor would be supplied as money became available.

The program had only just started when late in 860, King Rolando died at age 46.

Silver Storm

Prince Alejandro was 16 years old when he became king. A second son he had no expectation of ruling until the death of his brother. In 860, the state had experienced 38 years of strong rule under Ramiro the Wise and a further 10 of cautious improvement under his son. Almost immediately the partisans of the dynasty sought to support him: the Vimaranes family of course, Vieido’s younger brother Erculedo had arrived in the capital with days of hearing about Rolando’s passing, but also Mamuelo of Lisboa, the son of Iscandros II. Spectacularly Manzor Maurez had also made the trip from Luz, leaving his sons to administer Luz, Fentisde and Taza. The presence of so venerable a family unrelated by supporting the Dynasty did much to deter others from testing the young king’s authority. Finally Said II of Valencia had sent his younger brother Juasin[3] who had in his entourage his brother-in-law, a capable merchant from Valencia angling for promotion to state service: Fortunin who was afterwards known as El Halcona.

Almost immediately a Royal Assembly was called--in fact, Manzor had traveled to the capital for just that reason. After the Royal Assembly of 860 it became a tradition upon the ascension of a new king, an opportunity for the nobility of the realm to pledge their loyalty to the king and for the king to pledge himself to their protection. At the suggestion of Manzor, it was also where the king to confirmed in advance all the heirs present. The counts saw it as a chance to increase the legitimacy of their chosen heirs (and those who had not brought their heirs regretted it) against future revolt. It was technically not in the king’s authority to interfere with local successions without cause but by accepting the confirmation the nobles unwittingly conceded that it was in the king’s power to grant noble succession--or take it away. Something that would later prove invaluable to Ortiz the Great.

The Royal Assembly of 860 was also the year that title Alcadiz was created. The word itself comes from the Arab Al-Qadi, the Judge and was related to a similar word in Latin, it was also the root for the name of Gadita. It was used to denote a class of sub-noble to the counts. Not all extraneous sons chose to go into the military and went instead into the state service. Predictably they had always recommended their sons to take their places and the seeds of a kind of de facto hereditary Valiship had emerged. The creation of the Alcadiz was one that immensely pleased the nobility. Though far more limited in rights and privileges than a Count, an Alcadiz was a permanent governor rather than a Vali which could and was rotated--it was also a title that could only be granted at the king’s discretion.

The final announcement at the Royal Assembly was completion of the mint at Badajoz. Previously coins had been struck where large concentrations of silver were collected but with the increasing finances in the country it became prudent to establish a permanent base for the Divan of Finance. The very name of the mint itself was indicative of the number of Muslims involved in the Financial Divan. Now the heavily defended fortress rose near the heart of the rebuilt city of Merida and with the silver mines of Serdenia combined with the African gold and eastern trade, supplies of precious metals were finally beginning to accumulate.

The first silver dars[4] were struck with the legend "Alejandro, King of Spaña, 860" on the obverse and a simple star of Tartessos on the reverse along with the words "Badajoz, 860." In the years immediately following large numbers of silver dars were exchanged with the local silver coinage circulating by weight then melted down and re-struck. The issue of the gold was more complex and extensive studies were conducted of both the Byzantine Nomisma, and the Islamic gold Dinar so that the official standard adopted was that of Mediterranean Bimetallism, pegging the number of gold dars struck to the silver. It was the Badajoz mint which proved central to keeping a roughly uniform weight. In the years to come, the slightly weaker gold dars displaced the Muslim dinar in much of the Maghreb so that by the 10th Century even Egypt occasionally minted coins equivalent to Spañan gold dars.[5] As for Francia, King Lutis almost immediately copied the light standard of the Spaniards as they were more practicable with his supplies of silver even from Rammelsberg. Now able to pay some of his armies in silver[6] King Lutis was able to secure a firmer grip on the state than any of the nobles that elected his father had expected.


The increasing stability of Francia made Alejandro and his advisers look north one again. None of them had forgotten the First Consulate War and raids and pirates had crossed swords between them many times. Yet after Eder Abarran died on his sword there was no great military general to hold the kingdom together and the silver shortage that afflicted Francia did not spare the Tolosans. The descendants of Pepin had become almost a first among equals despite their royal title. With the richer farmlands north of the mountains, there was plenty of incentive for nobles their to fight each other for greater power and reward as royal power broke down even faster with Viking raids.

All through the first half of the 860s messages flew between the Spaniards and the Kingdom of Francia. King Lutis was eager to revenge himself and one again gain access to the riches of the Mediterranean. But this time the Spaniards also began to intrigue with their Pisan allies. Of all the northern Lombard realms, it was Pisa and its rival Lucca that predominated. Milan and Pavia could not yet compete with the increasing wealth of the cities near the coast. In the 860s the Greek Empire was engulfed in a massive war with the Agassids and a smaller struggle over Sicily with the Ahmarids--and that meant the Lombard duchies were on their own and increasingly threatened by the Prince of Benevento, the descendants of Alboin Adalgia who was the grandson of Desiderius.

So too had the militia training borne some fruit and while the professional army numbered something over 4,000 the militia troops would soon easily be several times that. Currently they were being exercised and further trained by Vieido who was appointed Duke at the age of 26 in 864 and was showing more than a little talent. When upon the death of he Count of Barcelona his heir declared his allegiance to Alejandro of Spaña, it was 1,000 professional troops but many more militia and auxiliaries that arrived to guard and secure the area around Barcelona. An attempt by the Tolosan king Lothair to gather his fractious nobility failed when he died in a skirmish with his own lords trying to force them together. The king was dead, and childless.

Intending to wait, Alejandro chose to seize the chance presented. Summoning the aging Duke Ayder from his residence near Cordoba, he began massive preparations all through the fall and winter and once more called a Royal Assembly in 865. At first reluctant, news reached the Royal Assembly that Salamanca was fallen to the Tolosans. The uproar was immediate and before the end of the week, Alejandro had gotten wholehearted agreement for a revenge-tax and across the state in the churches and outside the Mosques, a collection was taken up to support the king. When the king addressed his armies and the nobles helping to finance it he said: “I had a dream. In my dream I saw the world and all across it flags from each of the four corners, a mighty empire. I wondered who this flag might be, and then I saw that each was inclined in a direction--here. And I realized that flag was ours. Under this sign, go forth as liberators and men of God!”

In 865, Alejandro hurled his armies north under what became the flag of Spaña.

The Reclamación had begun.




On the road north from Salamanca, Imato lay on his stomach and listened to the wind rustling the grass and scattered bushes. It was the kind of day that called for training early so he could relax with his wife Tala and sip some flavored water or if none were available, diluted wine. Instead Imato was slowly cooking himself inside his light hauberk. Across the Via de la Plata behind a screen of tall grass and a fold in the ground were Capitan Butrice and the rest of the company. Hidden from the road, Imato could only hope that Escutero Aderras had dispensed the cavalry properly or the force coming south could fall upon them from the multiple sides. He had no doubts about his trained men but the militia levies sprinkled among them were unblooded. An unexpected attack and they might well take to their heals and leave his own men to die. Horses no longer scared him, scared none of his true men either. Properly approached they could easily be dealt with. We can do it, Imato thought. All the years fighting those dissidents in Barga and they were mounted.

Placed under Duke Ayder’s command, Imato and the rest of the company were the tip of the western spearhead, their fast task to regain Salamanca. At the edge of the contested region, the constant fighting led to a decline of the city but there were still several thousand people that needed to be rescued. At first fearing an invasion, Imato and the rest of the Spaniards learned that the capture of Salamanca was the product of opportunism and treachery, not a long term plan. Now 5,000 men were investing the city--though almost all were militia--and the invaders were trapped between the walls and the fortress in the heart of the town, a small thing but there had been no money to make it more formidable. Squeezed from both sides it was only a matter of time before they capitulated if they were not reinforced.

That is why they sent us north, he thought. Two hundred well trained and well armed men were nothing to throw away lightly, however many militia spears one could field.

A sound made him turn to see a lone rider with a green plume sticking out of his helmet approaching, one of the Zeneta brown Berbers.

“Where is your capitan?” he demanded.

“The other side of the road,” Imato answered. “I am in charge here.”

“Then you will have to do,” the Berber said. “Do you have a name?”

“Imato. Say your say,” Imato answered, wishing the man would crouch down a little more instead of trying to impart information and cut a dashing figure at the same time. God save him from horse soldiers. "I assume it is time?"

"They are coming," he replied simply. Well at least he could speak plainly when he had to. "They have a number of close horsemen with them, a score maybe a few more. But many men with spears several hundred, a few archers, none of us."

"Since they have no ranged horsemen, can we count on you?" he asked.

"Not soon but we will. Meddur gives you his word Imato."

If there were women here they would swoon, Imato thought. It was something that never went away with horsemen that pompous turn of phrase.

“It will be well Imato,” Meddur said and touching his helmet rode away, one with his horse.

It probably wouldn't be well, Imato thought. His capitan would think the same. He knew how it would unfold: the company would hold and hold and at the last moment the javelins would come flying and the enemy would shatter so the horsemen got the glory again. There was nothing to be done about it, but he did want to see Tala again and not be slain for desertion and so....

"Make sure," he said to the empty air.

Turning away, Imato set the militia commanders to prepare their men and soon they were in position across the road to the south. The man, from Cala if he read the insignia rightly, looked worried but did as he was told. He wanted assurance but Imato could give him none that were true and so only shrugged. After position his few archers to best advantage he ordered his own men and they settled down to wait once again--but this time Imato could feel the anticipation. Before long he heard or maybe felt the marching men and hoofbeats carried on the breeze past him.

Luck was with them that day, as soon as the horsemen saw the militia standing in the road all their attention focused on them. They were easily recognizable as lower quality soldiers by their lack of armor other than perhaps a helmet. The horsemen were all in a pretty row, none spread out as scouts. Not surprising as there were no light horsemen--either Meddur and the others had slain them or they had never been there to begin. He would never have believed that last but the men from the north were frustratingly uneven in their fighting quality--brave and more but some had no grasp of more than the basics. The horsemen did deploy nicely from a column into a line and advanced on the militia lowering their own spears. Imato could not believe that they would charge a foot formation.

They must be counting on the footmen to scatter, Imato realized. Not a bad assumption, but not good enough this time.

"Fire! Fire!" he shouted. The archers sprinkled among the company did so, aiming at the horses first as doctrine demanded. A moment later, Imato stood up. “Forward!” he shouted with a wave of his hand.

Across the road it took Capitan Butrice only a moment to do the same and in less than a minute dozens of men with javelins poured out seemingly nowhere. Imato led the charge, hurling his own javelin straight at one of the horses. Their formation scattered as they were hit by all the missiles and several tried to fall back closer to their own footmen. As fortune would have it, Imato’s javelin struck a horse in the leg and it collapsed screaming like a woman. Its rider struck the ground at such an angle Imato knew he would never rise again. The militia surged forward with a shout, capture of armaments or man to say nothing of horse would be a tremendous reward for any of them.

With the horsemen scattered, the Spaniards turned on the Tolosan footsoldiers who had a competent commander that kept them from running for their lives. Instead forming a rough half circle they clustered together to blunt the missiles and force a close combat fight. But competent or not they went down like a scythe as another storm of javelins took them from behind--Meddur and the others had returned. To the sounds of screams and Berber war cries, the Tolosans scattered. Easy prey.


Salamanca was regained in 865 after only a short time in the hands of the Tolosans. The Spaniards were able to prevent relief from ever reaching the city so that it surrendered peacefully and the inhabitants were rescued. By midsummer they were war on the march again right up the Via de la Plata to cross the Duero and reach Lejón and the mountains beyond.

The Capitan

Sparsely populated, the Duero was one again a no man’s land between the kingdoms with the Via de la Plata as the main connecting point between them. While the Tolosans were a fractious people, south of the mountains some solidarity had developed largely based on resisting the Frankish nobility of the kingdom. Banding together to avoid subjugation to the kind of central authority emerging in the rest of the peninsula, their resistance proved surprisingly able. Raids by opportunistic nobles and locals hampered the Spaniards forcing them to fall back to the Duero crossing itself where they were attacked by a coalition of Tolosan forces. Able to drive them off, by the time the land was secured the year was ending and a permanent camp was made on the northern side of the Duero. It was at the Battle of Duero Crossing that Imato’s own Capitan Butrice was killed and it fell to him to direct the company. His bravery and quick thinking caught the eye of Aderras who led the cavalry Imato’s company relied on and by 866, Imato wore the red plume as well as the blue.

Behind Duke Ayder and the rest of the army, the tax was still being collected and further reinforcements planned. The militia were doing well, but it was the professional soldiers who had to lead. In high demand but short supply the directive to Duke Ayder from the king was to be cautious about spending them this early in the campaign. Instead the Amasiga Duke looked to secure frontiers that the militia could hold so his soldiers could stay in reserve. As one part of the strategy in 866 he sent Imato and his company with Escutero Meddur to the tiny village of Vallalida.

Instead of heading right at the village, Imato had advanced by a more circuitous route and was approaching it from the north-east, the direction that reinforcements would come. While scouting the area he learned of a small troop of soldiers approaching the city, likely a relief force to man the outpost. He’d surprised them before they were well within range of the village and waited until he was sure the men busily fortifying the deserted village would be running short of supplies and replacements, wondering if their compatriots had forgotten about them.

Just as he planned.

Vallalida was sited against a river, with hills on another with an earthen rampart topped with a low stone wall meant to keep animals out but not men. There were two places into the fortification where wooden gates had been constructed to bottle neck any attackers. Just beyond the town Imato waited for those gates to open for him. The clothing and weapons of the ambushed soldiers had been taken by his own men and those who lived by the border were now impersonating Tolosans. A day later, the gates opened and fully half the garrison left happy to be on their way home. As soon as they were well clear of the town Imato launched his attack. With Meddur’s cavalry they struck the tired, hungry and unsuspecting soldiers on the open ground. As he’d hoped, a number fled back to the village and the refuge of the ramparts. As these were opened by his men in defiance of any orders that might be given inside, the response was everything he could have hoped for. Total confusion reigned as Imato’s men revealed themselves and soon enough his own men were pouring inside. By the afternoon Vallalida was now an outpost of the Spaniards and instead of threatening the camp on the Duero, it was the Tolosans who were threatened.

My dearest Tala,

The winter we spent in Vallalida was one of slowest of my life. Is it any wonder that you received so many more letters from me? It was fortunate that there were still some active farms in the area so we could stay supplied, but I had nothing entertaining to spend money on except paper. I miss you and hope you are well.


By the time this is read to you, I will be gone. Lejón, that castle I told you of, is proving a strong place. We have tried twice to take it and failed but this time we are prepared for a long siege. My company was ordered to Lugo to join with Duke Vieido. I cannot say for certain from where I stand, but I think it will not be long before I see action in truth as well as assignment as we hear he likes to attack. No matter, it will be a singular honor to serve under the king’s cousin.

I confess that I long for you more than for battles but the chance to make our fortune draws me on. Still, I remember that whatever lies ahead of me, it will never be as golden as the time we walked together under the eaves of the date trees, and you outshone the moon.

Until we do so again, your husband,

“He writes well,” the grammarian told her.

Tala nodded. “Thank you, escribon.[7] “I could not wait to learn what he had to say.”

The old man smiled tolerantly at her through his beard, but Tala was so pleased she did not notice. Making her excuses, she hurried from his home with the letter in her hands to return to work and anticipated his next letter.

Unfortunately for her, he did not write again.

Those Who Serve

Tala only started to breathe again after the screams of Tasfin faded. Steadying herself against the pack mule, she pulled her hood low over her face. In the distance she could see Merida, but with its imposing walls it was the Treasury at the Badajoz that loomed in her mind. A construction mixing Visigoth and Roman styles. Beyond she could see lines laid out for the paved streets to connect it to Merida and expand the city between them. It was whispered the king dreamed of paving over all Toledo. The stalls lining the future streets all held things unavailable in the caravansara on the other side of Merida.

After Imato stopped writing Tala grew increasingly distressed. Unable to concentrate on her weaving, people complained to her brother Fortunin and she felt the lash of his tongue.

“It is bad enough my sister must work outside her husband’s home, but now even in public she is bringing attention and shame to herself.”

Admitting her fear for her husband, Fortunin had revealed he was close to securing an agreement to join a caravan to supply various goods to Merida. Ships were most efficient, but they were expensive enough to make the land routes worthwihle--and safe from the raiders. To her own surprise, Tala begged to go along--but Fortunin refused to expend money on a woman for this journey. Despondent she wept in the small room her husband placed each book he bought, a tiny but esoteric collection. It was from the books that she discovered she had a talent for numbers. For his own amusement the old Finance Divan bureaucrat in Salequeno[8] taught her more about his trade. A simple distraction to begin, when several book keepers hired for the caravan took ill she cajoled her way into the trip after demonstrating her aptitude on the condition she remain secluded.

At night after they stopped she and Fortunin went over the accounts. To hide her function, Fortunin looked at the books and Tala had to recite the numbers from memory. It was exhausting especially when added on to the rest of her duties. That her brother was not being dragged away like Tashfin was testament to her skill. In fact he had done well enough on the journey that instead of returning home he contracted to transport supplies to Duke Vieido in Galicia.

That Lugo was somewhere in Galicia was all she knew of her husbands whereabouts. In Salamanca they delivered a cargo of slaves from Italy, pirates or Amasiga to improve the Via de la Plata north of the city and make it easier to supply the northern armies. It was in Salamanca she purchased a map of the region and heard that the little fort at Vallalida had proven tremendously useful. The entire right flank of the invasion was safeguarded by it and she swelled a little with pride at her husband’s capture of it. More interesting to her was the arrival in Porto of a ship bearing an extremely seasick princess, Ines of Alsesta the daughter of King Lutis. Even Tala realized a marriage to the king would be the most public declaration of purpose possible for the Francians. But Tala had little time for news before she left Salamanca on her way to the Siege of Lejón.




Lejón had been rebuilt on the remains of a Roman Military settlement. With the depopulation of Duero region, Lejón became the southernmost stronghold of the Tolosans and a gateway to the mountains and the green coasts beyond. Strongly built and strongly manned it held up easily against a dozen attacks and led King Alejandro and his advisers to send Duke Ayder to administer and safeguard the already captured areas. Relieved at the lessening of his duties, the aged Duke Ayader gracefully made way for Duke Vieido Vimaranes. Once at Lejón, Vieido secured his lines of supply and reinforcement to mitigate the tremendous drain of the siege. The increased demand and efficiency for supplies where what brought Tala and her brother north. Aware of the short time she had at the siege, she disregarded propriety and wandered among the tents asking for information on her husband--and succeeded.

Curious as to the woman wandering among the encampment who was not a camp follower, Tala was taken to a somewhat bored cavalry commander by the name of Meddur. When Tala saw he was a Berber, she relaxed a little feeling more confident dealing with him than some of the haughty northerners. Supervising the care and training of his horsemen, he was dismissive at first until he realized that the man she was looking for was the same one he had taken Vallalida with. She could see the change in his manner and his sharp blue eyes softened as he heard her story.

“Your husband commanded the foot when I was at Vallalida,” Meddur said. “The position should gone to me by custom when I attained my present rank. But he was an excellent soldier capable of using my men and his own well and proudly. We had a great deal of success there together and he was always fair about dividing the spoils of his conquests. Lady, you should be well proud of him. If you wish to learn more, please return to my camp. It wouldn’t do to keep such a devoted wife standing outside all day.”

At his camp, a small table had been set up and Meddur poured her a cup of citrus flavored purified water. Surprise at being offered something she drank at home she thanked him profusely. It was a mark of the duration of the siege that such amenities were available even to a commander of horses.

“Now, after far to long in that tiny place your husband was ordered to Lugo and replaced by a militia commander from one of the families volunteering to set up in the district. There were parted, for I was placed in over all command of the soldiers there. But that was not the last time I saw him,” he hurried to assure her, seeing her disappointment. “We spent time patrolling the Duero but when Duke Vieido began his attack east, we were assigned to him to assist in the conquest of the Ponteramia at the end of the great road. The bridge was of great importance and they knew it as well as they. Your husband’s company was in the van when we won our way across but he was badly wounded. I myself fought to him and delivered him to the tent of the physicians. But they were few and I have not heart o f him since.”

“Do you mean he was killed?” Tala asked. Hearing what she had so longer feared made her chest feel tight.

“Another man led the company when it left Ponteramia.”

“Oh,” she whispered. “Thank you, Meddur.”

“Dear woman,” Meddur said looking at her calmly. “In honor of his memory and talent, I would help you if I could.”

“I do not, won’t need it,” Tala began. But it still hurt and she closed her eyes. “I do not wish to return home,” she sighed. “My brother will leave but I need to find my husband’s grave. I have nothing else. I want nothing else.”

“Then stay, I can give you my word that as long as I live you will be protected by my horsemen,” Meddur said. “None will trouble you.


Her brother disowned her when he found out, calling her arrogant and wanton, but paid her almost a fair price for the services rendered. Feeling unhappy about merely remaining there, she impressed the cavalry commander with the proof of her skill with numbers and it was in this way that she was discovered by the supply masters in the army. While surprised, at the time dozens of female clerks were being employed in the capital[9] and her lesser eating requirements caused her to be employed in a similar manner even at the siege. Never the less, Tala was the first instance of a female state bureaucrat employed during a combat situation and the only one for generations to come.

When Duke Vieido returned at last from Galicia was his reinforcements Tala was one selected to catalog the arriving units for distribution. She was so intent on the task that she was almost trampled by one company of horseman especially quickly to catch up and she was forced to throw herself out of the way so violently that her hood fell exposing her face. A moment later one of the foot commanders had extended a hand to help her up. Embarrassed despite being a widow, Tala kep her head down until the hand holding her froze. She looked up and forgot to breathe.



Lejón negotiated a surrender at the end of the winter in 869. Encircled at last, a quarter of its wealth was seized by the invaders and a one-time administrative levy was imposed on the locals as well as bonuses sent from the capital. This was done to prevent the indiscriminate pillage of a newly conquered region. The first priority was to keep any lands conquered, this policy was reflected even in the name given to the military invasion, the Reclamación. When one luckless courtier called it a Reconquista, he was flogged brutally.

Imato and Tala were not involved in the fall of the fortress. Assigned to the reserves he was able to reconnect with his wife and explained that he owed his life to the increasing abilities of the average physician thanks to the publication of the medical compendium. As a young officer showing promise he had received better care and so healed though he was unable to send messages home due to the demands of the war and recovery.

Almost immediately after the capture of the fortress, Duke Vieido organized raiding parties to scout and scour the road to Oviedo. As the original holding of Eder Abarran both the king and his cousin desires to retake it. With most of the Duero now safely in their hands the militia were dispersed for a time and supplies stock piled for the campaign north of the mountains. Resistance to the crossing was far less than expected and hopes rose in the capital of a speedy capture. Parts for catapults and other siege engines reached the army only a short way south of the town and Duke Vieido began composing the ultimatum he would send the townspeople. When they reached Oviedo itself they found it undermanned and the countryside stripped of manpower. The reason: the Vikings had come in force, not to raid, but to conquer.


In the year 870 Patrick the Great was in the midst of his grand invasion of Munster checked only with his defeat in the Golden Valley two years later. He was also less than a decade from ending Norse power in Ireland. The increasing unity and hostility of the Irish also convinced many of the Norse to leave the island for Greater Albaney or in the case of Olaf Ironarm--named for the strength of his blows--the south.

Summoning his kin and ambitious mercenaries unwilling to serve on embattled Albaney, he and his brother Armod sailed down the Bay of Viscayza terrorizing the Bretons and pillaging the coastline from Bordeio to Balyón. In fact their incursion was so severe that the Frankish Prince Eudor turned his armies meant for the Tolosans west to repel the Viking invaders. It was only the arrival of the Franks in force that made Olaf turn his attention to the peninsula. Landing at Gijón with over 100 boats, his invasion force was only eclipsed by the armies King Eirik of Denmark would visit on Greater Albaney a generation later.

Hundreds of captives had already been sold and thousands more would be. Trapped between the invading Spaniards and the Norse, the Tolosans south of the Pyrenees had to decide which enemy they feared more. When the army from Oviedo and the surrounding area ell on the Vikings at Gijón, they were defeated with heavy loss. When the news reached the city, they took one look at Duke Vieido’s army and surrendered in hopes of protection.

The first encounters were skirmishes. The Viking strength lay in the speed and range of their conquests, not open battle--though they did not shy away from combat when put to it. Keeping himself informed of enemy movements was crucial but it was only when Meddur was ambushed and almost obliterated north of the city that Vieido realized the true magnitude of the threat. Expecting an easy victory of Oviedo, Olaf’s forces were stunned to find a large, trained and well-equipped army awaiting for them. Still their track record against the Tolosans was good and Olaf expected more of the same. Through means of a tremendous effort the Spaniards defended the city on the edge of their domains. Parts of the town burned, leaving empty shells and the populace fled to Lena and Lejón rather than subject themselves to northern swords. Now fully healed and with his company trained to his standards Imato once again proved himself in these battles earning himself a strong reputation and the notice of the Duke.

Seen as a major setback for the Reclamación, in reality it made little difference. The Vikings attacked all sides in the conflict slowing the Spaniards but preventing the Tolosans from organizing a more effective defense. Regardless this part of the conflict was named by the Spañan soldiers for their fear of the great axes a few of the north men wielded: the Hachacero, the axe-storm.

The House of Olavez

The difficulties the Kingdom of Francia had in attacking the Tolosans were only compounded by the arrival of the Vikings. As a token of their future support they agreed to the marriage alliance. While the Spaniards struck along the Duero, King Lutis and his son took several years to secure the necessary military commitments and supplies. That it occurred at all was a testament to both the silver they could pay their soldiers and the attempts of the early Aldrian kings at centralization. While Prince Eudor drove the Vikings out of the north and into Tolosan lands, not all the Frankish nobles were patient enough to wait. Several attempted opportunistic conquests of their neighbors but by this time the Tolosans north of the mountains had organized enough to resist them. The Spaniards would receive no help for the time being.

After the inconclusive campaigns in 870 and 871 that caused the rapid decline of Oviedo, Duke Vieido instead moved to make peace with the Vikings. At this time Olaf was far more interested in the land north of the mountains where his brother was having much success than in fighting his way through the the Spañan armies and into the Duero far from any rich sources of plunder. The Treaty of Oviedo was signed between Olaf Ironarm, Duke Vieido and Manzor Maurez as a representative of King Alejandro. In exchange for the peaceful surrender of Oviedo and clear borders in the west, Olaf would receive support in attacks against the Kingdom of Tolosa. To Alejandro it was preferable to have a small enclave on the coast that allow the Kingdom of Tolosa to gain another victory of survival over the Spaniards. So was born the House of Olavez.

Almost immediately the Christian Umayyads of Toledo launched what became their standard practice: to tie the newcomers to them and quietly bring them into their orbit. In 872 after the bith of his third son in four years, King Alejandro visited his aunt and uncle in Galicia and their newly widowed daughter Iohanna Morosa (so named for her exceedingly brown skin). What was said in the meeting will never be known but before the end of the year she was married off to Olaf himself who deigned to accept the Christian faith in return though he would make no pro-active efforts among his army to spread it. That it in no way prevented him from continuing to enslave and plunder the Tolosans also ensured his continued preeminence.

It was thanks to the initial conflict and alliance with the Olavez, that the Spaniards were at last able to learn the intricacies of the Viking longboat in the coming years. Impractical for the movement of goods in the peninsula, it was still a fascinating specimen in terms of its construction. The examination led to a burst of interest in ship building and construction. It was this increased interest and knowledge, combined with the lack of the more established harbor at Gijón that let the king to authorize the construction of a private port in northern Galicia. Financed and built over the years by Duke Vieido’s younger brother and named after him, the construction of Erculea is considered the foundation date for the modern Spañan navy.

A Higher Station

After settling accounts with the Vikings and seeing Olaf join his brother north of the mountains in the richer lands of Aquitania, the Spaniards made preparations to shift the campaign east. But to do so it was necessary to both guard against any betrayal by Olaf or Tolosan raids into Galicia. A trustworthy, competent person was needed to oversee a rebuilt Lejón. Because it was to be a border region, the king ordered his cousin to choose someone loyal with military experience. Vieido’s first choice was his brother but Erculedo was even then engaged in attempting to gain the necessary financing for the new port in Galicia and the duke had to look elsewhere. Finally he thought of Imato. Despite being born in the Maghreb, Imato had shown his ability to command men from different parts of the kingdom his company was administered efficiently and he had the support of several of the cavalry officers. After discussions with the king, it was decided the new title created in the Royal Assembly of 860 was perfect for elevating a successful military officer without unduly angering the nobility and in 873 Imato with his wife Tala, were created the Alcadiz (and Alcadiza) of Lejón.

[1]Making this name doubly unlucky and it disappeared from use shortly their after
[2]Capitan = Captain
Senor = Lord
Company = ~200
[3]Variant of Husayn, the family itself is the House of Juassanito (the Husaynids)
[4]The gold Dar is 4.21 grams. Compare the 4.23g dinar that was based on the 4.25g Byzantine nomisma. The reason for lightening is because of the weathering on the coins by the time they got to the destination and the Spaniards were successful because the weaker money drove out the stronger money as more plentiful in the west.
[5]IOTL Harun Bankrupted the caliphate by building Samara. He didn't build it here, but his sons wars combined with the loss of Persia to Reza Azad did it anyway.
[6]Making payment in land less common and weakening movement toward feudalism
[7]Slang word for scribe from the Latin scribere and OTL Spanish escribir.
[8]"Little Saleh” a satellite town around Saleh
[9]Al-Andalus employed female clerks in OTL and here it serves as a way to gain extra-manpower.

Author’s Note: The story of Imato and Tala is a good way to show the living breathing world they live in and the social mobility possible. Their descendants will also be followed throughout the timeline. It also breaks up the dense prose of the majority of the posts. For those who followed the original TL you can see that things have turned out somewhat differently while still keeping the same original shape. Finally in regards to "Escribon" .... when I was two that's how I said pencil. :D
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Part VIII: The Reclamación

Part VIII: The Reclamación

Trust to fulfill and Dominion to find.
Order to serve, and Duty to bind.

--Motto of the Christian Umayyads of Toledo,
inscription around the mosaic in the Grand Hall of Voices

The Italian Alliances

The fear of continued attack by the Vikings was never realized. Imato and Tala were able to take firm possession of the area around Lejón with a minimum of resistance. While the full apparatus of the state would not be extended to the region due to the war, there were immediate improvements in the administration of the region. As a military district, Lejón was exempt from the demands visited on core regions like the populous Andalucia but it was now protected against the Vikings and to a lesser extent retaliation by the Tolosans. In fact Imato led several expeditions against the Tolosans with the Vikings in the coming years. Due to the low population of Asturias after 875 Olaf resided in Balyón, creating a real town where there had been a small village

For King Alejandro, the Treaty of Oviedo signaled a chance to shift resources on the Reclamación in the east. Looked at objectively, the success in the west was remarkable for its speed and territorial gain. This was due to the strengths of the Spañan army: Its organization, logistics and professionalism allowed it to remain an effective and even potentially aggressive force regardless of the season as long as it was near its borders. Yet despite being far better equipped to support long sieges, the Siege of Lejón had ground other operations to a halt as money and manpower were channeled into one spot. In the north the terrain was dotted with a number of fortified settlements--testament to the fractious nature of the Kingdom of Tolosa but a tedious and difficult land to conquer.

South of the Pyrenees the most productive Tolosan lands were the Ebro valley and the coast of the Mediterranean. While the Siege of Lejón continued, the war in the east was reduced to punitive raiding that resulted in devastation but little else except the death of Said of Valencia in 872. To oversee Valencia until his nephew Artal came of age, Said’s brother chose Fortúnin El Halcóna. As Juasin expected Fortúnin performed well, leaving Juasin free to take up residence in Tortosa and earning the name his family took as its own for his speed and efficiency at supplying troops and attacking graft.

In his origins as a merchant, Fortunin had often traded with the Italian cities of Albenga and Pisa who had developed maritime trade in the western Mediterranean. Ignoring their historic ties with the Tolosans, the Italian cities allied themselves to the Spaniards. Suppressing pirates in Niza and Marselhio, they made landfall in Valencia for repairs. Along with a number of converted merchant ships, the combined supported the expedition to Barcelona launched in 875. Surprising the Tolosans, they burned a dozen or more ships and fired the harbor before Duke Vieido attacked the landward side of the city in the face of fierce resistance.

Help from beyond the mountains would not be arriving in Barcelona. The Tolosans had barely repelled a French invasion directed at Tolosa itself and Prince Eudor was already preparing to try again. The siege ended when a few of the inhabitants betrayed their city. With the Spaniards swarming into the city and the Italians descending from the ships, Barcelona was subjected to such a merciless sack that apologists for the dynasty omit the details. For six days the inhabitants were slain, raped and enslaved and everything that could be carried off was. Notably, the Albengans were enriched so that they were able to field an army that devastated Genoa during the 880s. The Pisans instead of looting the city set up a small trading colony there which was instrumental in reviving the port later on.

The Choices of Godosa

After the founding of the Emirate of Zaragoza, Septimania-Gothica succumbed rapidly to the Franks. After the division of the realm between Carloman and Charles, it was a launching place for his invasion of Zaragoza in the 770s. It was during the invasion that it was separated from the larger region of Tolosa which eventually came under direct control of Prince Martinus. When Pepin and his descendants made their capital at Tolosa, Berenger the Wise came into possession of the region for the new king, ruling from Narbona. With the upswing in Muslim piracy in the Mediterranean during the early 9th Century, Berenger and his descendants were occupied in the defending the coast. Proving adept at this task, they amassed more power from themselves as a key region of the new Kingdom of Tolosa with their only rivals being the Counts of Barcelona. By the time of the Reclamación the Counts of Narbona were supreme from Rossello to Nimez.

Learning of the sack of Barcelona, Count Bera of Narbona called a council of the lords of Gothica. Instead of attacking Tolosa directly, the Franks had taken Chalon on the Saona and were laying siege of Macon just north of the Rhone. During the council a raid by the Italians on the city itself was turned back and soon after a summons from the new king of the realm arrived.[1] After consulting with his vassals, Bera ignored it and instead declared his loyalty to King Alejandro of Spaña. The announcement was greeted with shock even in Toledo and Troyes though Alejandro later welcomed him and confirmed Bera as a count upon hearing the news. While there was a material loss to allowing Gothica to go to the Spaniards, King Lutis saw its tremendous political value for Narbona was the largest port in the region save only Marselhio. In Gothica the lords north of Besiers and Agde repudiated Bera and sword themselves to the service of Tolsoa.

Knowing the consequences of this announcement, Bera moved straightaway to conquer his way to a land border with the Spaniards. The greatest obstacle to that goal was the city of Girona. A mint for the Visigoths, it had been spared the worst of the decline of the period and by quick political maneuvering preserved itself until the Reclamación. As the fleet ravaged the coastline under control of Girona, Duke Vieido left Barcelona with his army, one that included a young soldier named Ordoño Najera.

The Apprentice and the Battle of Selva

Hailing from near the Basque country, Ordoño was suspected of having Arab blood by the family name attached to him. Born to a rural family, his quick mind led to Ordoño being the child his parents educated. When the Reclamación began, ten year old Ordoño immediately looked to the army. After a raid from Zaragoza devastated his family’s farm, they moved to take advantage of the new opportunities for land the Duero. After his physical stature and literacy caught the interest of a local officer, he entered the army just before the Treaty of Oviedo was signed. Unlike the Alcadiz of Lejón, his only interest was the military. Assigned first to his old homelands along the border, he gained great wealth from the sack of Barcelona and the rise of his family dates from this period. By the time the army marched for Girona, Ordoño was wealthy enough to afford some armor a relieve the misery of a siege somewhat.

Upon arrival instructions were given to keep looting to a minimum. Must of the country side was willing to go over, and so most supplies were shipped from the southern ports. The chief captain of the supply ships was one Arias Saavedra a trader and merchant from Portugal with ties to Lisboa. An enterprising man, he established his own links with Italian merchant families and ended up marrying his son to a woman from Amalfi.

Giron was besieged through a remarkably wet winter and while the Spaniards launched some assaults they were content to let hunger to their work for them, especially after Count Bera arrived at the siege. When word of reinforcements from Zaragoza reached the siege, a delegation of notables from Girona promised surrender if the Spaniards won the coming battle. Fought a dozen miles south and a little west of Girona, the Battle of Selva illustrated the differences between the Spañan and Tolosan ways of war. When Ramiro the Wise fought in the Maghreb during the First Consulate war, he developed an admiration for the Zenata Berbers encouraged by his concubine. Militarily, he expanded their traditional role as mounted javelin men and at Selva, the javelin cavalry led by Tajer of Alarcón proved itself the decisive element of the army.

The army facing them was a coalition of Ebro lords led by Enigo III Aristez of Tudela together with his sons and the Frankish Count, Ramon of Zaragoza. Notably absent was Jimeno the Count of Pampleo who was dealing with an invasion of Vasconia by Olaf and the Vikings. A collection of personal retainers, levies and mercenaries the Tolosan army was far more disorganized than the Spaniards but contained a powerful striking force of heavy cavalry.

Badly outnumbered, Duke Vieido first clashed with the Tolosans as they came out of hte mountains west of Girona. The battle began when the Tolosans attacked the Spañan front line to enable the cavalry to strike with maximum effect. The Spañan Duke countered by sending in Tajer. Riding right up to the enemy, Tajer’s troops launched a volley of darts and retreated only to circle around and repeat their tactic. Refusing to engage in a melee, the frustrated Tolosan knights surged after them only to be surrounded and cut to pieces. This went on for several days until the Tolosans realized their army was coming apart--but by then it was already too late. While Enigo escaped, most of his heavy cavalry was dead and the abandoned footmen were massacred. A number of prisoners were taken including Count Ramon, captured by Ordoño.

After seeing Ramon in chains, Girona surrendered peacefully to the Spaniards but were forced to execute Ramon to demonstrate their loyalty and prevent any thought of switching sides again.


With the victory at Selva, the coast was secured.

The Ebro Campaign

Ordoño was left in charge of a series of strong garrisons in Girona who proved himself by repelling a punitive expedition against Narbona in 878. It was during this time that the region became known in official records as Godosa and a number of Italian mercenaries from the allied cities settled there to take advantage of the newly-empty lands around Barcelona. Thanks to the low growth and sparse population due to warfare, Ramiro’s system of Land Reform was rapidly implemented so that the mercenaries did not cause trouble in the new province of Godosa.

Back in the capital, Duke Vieido conferred with the king and rested himself and the army. With the death of Duke Ayder in 877, a lack of administrative leadership had emerged. While Vieido was proving a good field commander and Tajer would soon do the same, they were needed on the border. With this in mind, King Alejandro sought his answer in the person of Manuel the Marquio of Lisboa.

Since its creation by Abd ar-Rahman, the Marca Lisboa had come to resemble the rest of the kingdom more and more. Had the state been weak, it would have become independent but the reverse happened. Already in terms of trade and land-use it was functionally identical to the rest of Spaña. A symbol of this was the betrothal of Prince Alfonso to Manuel’s sister Orecca. Leaving the care of the city in the hands of his venerable great aunt, Manuel took up the task of supporting the army in the field by organizing the lands they conquered.

That year and the next the frontier was quiet while the campaign against Zaragoza was planned and prepared for. The main reason this was attempted so quickly was the abandonment of the Tolosans by most of the Italian cities. The alliance with Albenga and Pisa had been the first trickles of a flood. While the Vikings under Armod were defeated at Auscita in 878, the death of Jimeno against Olaf and the fall of Lyon to Prince Eudor had resulted in the change in Lombard policy and a political vacuum along the Ebro.

The campaign was methodical. Significant settlements were neutralized so that no help could reach Zaragoza. Supported by Spañan money, Olaf launched a campaign that was a spectacular succession, capturing Pampleo itself in 881. Jimeno II had ruled there less than two years and of the family only his daughter Estefania survived to eventually be wed to Olaf’s son. Preparing for a campaign to regain the fortress, Enigo III of Tudela died of a stroke[2] and his son Arista instead prepared to aid Zaragoza.

The final chapter of the Reclamación south of the mountains began.

The Siege of Zaragoza

The Siege of Zaragoza lasted almost the entirety of 883. The difference was Duke Vieido’s policy of seizing the settlements around the city, which had caused the population to swell with refugees. While Arista attempted to break the siege several times, he was prevented by Duke Tajer and his Berber cavalry. Vieido ordered the bodies of Arista’s men flung over the walls of Zaragoza and disease began to visit the city. As the siege continued, other local rulers approached the Spaniards hoping to switch sides. Among them was Arista’s cousin, Peter Ochoa, who with Spañan help captured Tudela and slew his cousin in battle when he tried to retake the city.

Now only the Tolosans north of the mountains could save Zaragoza but that army was ambushed by Peter and Olaf in the Roncesvalles pass and never returned south. The city surrendered when its populace were reduced to boiling leather for soup. The sack lasted only two days until Juasin arrived with his own men to restore order. It was Juasin who fed the populace and read the letter signed by Duke Vieido and King Alejandro remitting taxation for two years and granting him the Countship of Zaragoza. All of this was theater calculated to make Juasin favorable to the populace and since Juasin was a capable man, it worked.

After Zaragoza fell serious resistance south of the mountains evaporated. The next year was spent by Duke Vieido traveling the length of and breadth of the new lands to receive their official submission, install garrisons and if necessary extract reparations. Of all the towns taken, only Herigastula was destroyed for causing such difficulties to the Duero campaign so that it remained a ruin for centuries after. Only the parts of Asturias under the control of Olaf remained out of the control of Abd ar-Rahman’s descendants.

In the north the war was also going well. While Eudor had to return to Troyes when his father died in 879, he soon returned to the Rhone and captured Marselhio in 885 then visited Narbona in 886 to confirm the change of allegiance of Count Bera to the Spaniards. It was there he received the news that King Alejandro the Reclaimer was dead.

The Boy King

Alejandro I the Reclaimer reigned for twenty-six years and for twenty-one of them his state was consumed in the Reclamación. Launching annual or bi-annual campaigns was testament to the strength of the state his grandfather built and his father entrenched. Despite leaving the military rule to his Dukes, he had their respect. Alejandro made no provision for his succession and so the oldest of his sons, Enrique, assumed the throne in 886. His first task was presiding over the marriage of his brother Alfonso to Orecca of Lisboa, Manuel’s daughter, a purely political union. He was less enthused of his brother’s betrothal to Marista Halcóna for all that both claimed to be in love but Enrique could never bring himself to care about much.

The most reckless of the brothers, by the age of sixteen he was already well known for his passions of women and wine. Enrique had little interest in the Reclamación and none at all in actually running the state. He was fortunate that he was surrounded by able men and an administrative apparatus more sophisticated than any west of Constantinople. In the brief speech he made to the Royal Assembly of 886 gathered to acclaim him, he simply confirmed Manuel and El Halcóna as his advisers.

By this time El Halcóna had extended his marriage and commercial contacts to a staggering degree including marriages to House Sotomayor in Galicia, a merchant family in Barcelona and the younger son of Duke Vieido. This was not counting the match between Ramiro and Marista, his youngest daughter which he opposed. While the family he founded seemed had a penchant for gaining influence, none of them, not Almas who would hurl the kingdom into Italy, Leitissima who midwifed the rise of the treacherous House Almagre, or even Ramon whose descendants became kings in their own right can quite match him.

While the business of state continued while Enrique indulged, corruption began to increase and the first documented evidence of bribery in respects to state appointments appear.[3] Criticism by Prince Alfonso was restrained at the urging of his wife who feared the removal of her brother from the head of the Divan of Administration.[4] Despite this, Alfonso succeeded in getting his brother to allow him to ride the new territories to oversee them more closely. To prepared he traveled to the Holy City of Iria in 887 where he visited both Gonsalus de Vimaranes and the religions scholars at the Library of the Scriptures. Shortly after his arrival, a document signed by the leading Imams and Bishops was promulgated decrying the excesses of the king and calling for an end to corruption. When he received the document, Enrique set out from Toledo with a small contingent of soldiers roused by the prospect of a challenge to his power. But during the journey to Galicia, he contracted a fever and died.

By this time Alfonso was meeting with Imato at Lejón to discuss the Viking enclave. At Alfonso’s request, Imato led his own soldiers south to escort Alfonso the capital. Enroute they were attacked by a relatively large group of bandits[5] but arrived safely only to be greeted with a more unwelcome piece of news: a bastard son.

The Seed of Salvation

Rolando was the only child King Enrique fathered in his short reign, but he still presented a difficult problem for Alfonso.


“What doubts?” Imato asked.

“None,” the Marquio said firmly. “There are several witnesses, both servants and of higher station that saw the king going to her chambers just as he did with .”

“He would have moved her into more comfortable quarters but we managed to prevent it,” El Halcóna said dryly. “The king was difficult to manage.”

Imato did not like “manage” when applied to the head of the state, but refrained from saying anything.

“There are witnesses,” Nazer said. For Imato it was a relief that the new Count of Luz and Alcadiz of Saleh was in the capital for the Royal Assembly. He could not deny that Nazer exuded confidence and competence that were a hallmark of the loyal family--one he could personally attest to having lived under their rule in his formative years. That both Manuel and El Halcóna found his presence disconcerting was a comfort. “I can also find no one else who will swear honestly that she had relations with anyone else during that time. I could find some who would do so for money,” he sighed.

“A lie now would simply complicate matters with it’s potential to get out,” El Halcóna resplied. “The less people know or have to keep silent the better and that includes Prince Ramiro.”

Then why am I here? Imato wondered.

“There was also the letter King Enrique wrote acknowledging the child as his and providing for him.”

The conversation was cut short when King Alfonso entered the room. It was in fact, one of the few rooms completed in the new palace Enrique had ordered built closer to the Tagus. The lack of grand building materials close by meant they had to be imported and looking closely you could see Roman architecture in some of the corners of the buildings from Maghrebi ruins.

“Have you decided what to do?” El Halcóna asked smoothly.

“I will not be party to murder,” Alfonso said. “But neither will I leave him here where dissidents can poison his mind of use him as a figure head. The Franks have demanded our aid, and Count Bera as well. When we go north I won’t leave even a baby serpent behind me. It must be the Maghreb.”

The Count of Luz explained. “Mequinez where the Raptor defeated Idris and saved the Maghreb has a rather talented Vali. Sited as it is between Luz and Saleh it has prospered so that it is a good site for the proposed School of Mixtures. If you are going to remove me from Luz,” another sigh, “as you said, then there should be trustworthy men near it.”

That had been a surprise. Sevilla had been the chief city of the south for over a century. During the Royal Assembly of 888 Alfonso proposed officially designating it a Royal City, subject to direct rule of the Dynasty. Agreed to easily, he had done the same for Luz. To his credit, Nazer Maurez had not objected and after long private discussions he agree in exchange for the Countship of Tanga and Saleh, ensuring both cities would remain his family absent calamity. By abandoning Luz, he would gain control over the western half of the Gran Rif and a tremendous amount of seaborne trade north to Lisboa, Porto and Iria. With the rise of the organized states south of the Shara, that trade was expanding rapidly.[6]

“He has been hinting at desiring to be an Alcadiz and as one he could provide a suitable position for this young woman and see that her son is educated--”

“--without every admitting that it is anything but a gesture of kindness,” El Halcóna finished.


While the letter by King Enrique was kept securely, Rolando and his mother arrived in Mequinez and we cared for by its new Alcadiz, Idiro Al-Mequino.

A Desparate Weapon

In 890 a fleet of ships appeared in the ports at Barcelona and Narbona. Two thousand soldiers descended from the boats with a number of engineers and vast amounts of supplies, far more than two thousand men would require. They were met at Narbona by Count Bera who had been stockpiling supplies himself for that entire year with Ordoño Najera holding back any raids. That his northern frontiers now marched with King Eudor had been a tremendous source of relief once Bera realized the king did not intend to depose him. After the arrival of the fleet, Prince Aimret of Francia arrived in the city with a further two thousand men and together they marched for Carcassona.

Meanwhile in the tiny village of Andorra a great army was passing. Led by Duke Tajer, it was the largest army the Spaniards had put into the field in some time: 12,000 men, nearly half professional troops not mercenary levies. When word of this army reached Carcassona already under siege, the city rose up against its rightful lord and delivered him to Count Bera. Since the middle 880s the lordships of Tolosa had come apart with its lords looking to deal with the Franks, the Vikings or the Spaniards. When Count Bera took possession of Carcassona he was so pleased he imposed a tax of conquest instead of allowing looting.

In the north an army departed Dijon led by King Eudor of Francia. At his temporary capital at Troyes, he called forth the entire might of his kingdom. Only a small army of Sorbians under his son Lutis remained in Paris to maintain the integrity of the north against the Vikings, a sign of the greater integration of that people into the Frankish kingdom. With Eudor went the troops from his new vassal, the Confederation of the South Aar.

During the march both armies ravaged the countryside to support themselves without relying heavily on their supplies. Behind them was a trail of privation and poverty but they faced no serious opposition. Tolosa was by now no more than a glorified duchy but it was a strongly fortified place and all who remained there were determined to resist to the end, the rest had already fled.

The flag that flew over Tolosa was one that had struck fear into the two great kingdoms of the west a lifetime before: the Invictus banner of Eder Abarran flown by his great-grandson, Hugo. Not the general his ancestor was, Hugo was not a fool only desperate. It was well known that the extermination of the bloodline that had caused so much strife in the west was a priority for the Franks and Spaniards. With two great armies approaching he had no choice but to try and defeat them before they could join forces in a siege. Since the Spaniards were closer he marched south with as many men as he could and leave Tolosa defended. About 30 miles southeast of Tolosa the two armies faced each other near the village of Basigera where Alfonso mocked Hugo.

“The last guttering candle of a dying fire. Even your name is Frankish,” Alfonso said which did not endear him to his northern allies.

The Battle of Basigera is notable for one thing: the crossbow. With the economic emergence of the Lombard duchies, the weapon had been rediscovered and revived in a primitive handheld form. Without great range or particular power, Hugo never the less had to use it as his supply of bowmen was minimal and the short time it took to master its use enable him to field larger numbers against overwhelming odds. It was a case simple desperation but it would have tremendous later effects. Regardless of the weapon, the Spaniards defeated Hugo and he retreated back to Tolosa.


The Fall of Tolosa

The Siege of Tolosa began in 890 and lasted until midsummer of 891 when the city’s supplies ran out. Unlike Zaragoza, it was well stocked with provisions and defenders but because there was no expectations of help, there were few refugees. Only external threats to both kingdoms could have given the Tolosans reprieve but east of Francia the arrival of the Pechengs had quieted any migrations and the Idrisids were quiet. When even a papal appeal was ignored, Hugo and the defenders were reduced to hoping disease would save them--a distinct possibility with the size of the army around them but one that the medical codices of the Spaniards helped mitigated. Not completely, but it was enough.

During the siege, bolts and missiles flew between the combatants and great numbers did indeed perish due to pestilence inside and outside the camp. When good news came it was from distant quarters: the emergence of Conan of Brittany to roll back the Viking tide in the north--ironically with the help of Enigo Olavez who fought several naval battles on behalf of the Bretons in exchange for the cavalry he used to capture Bordeio. In 891 Alfonso received the news of the birth of his daughter Sedia who centuries later became a matter of legal dispute regarding her status as a Princess of Luz, Sevilla or neither.

Later that year a miracle occurred for the Tolosans: inspecting the defenses an archer wounded King Alfonso badly. Taken away immediately the king’s recovery was cut short after he developed a fever and an ugly look to the wound. Leaving Duke Tajer to command the Spaniards, he started on the road home being rowed up the Garona. By the time he reached Andorra it was clear that Alfonso would not be arriving in the capital. When Ramiro arrived Alfonso laid his hands on his brother’s head and conferred on him the state and a duty as its king. He spent the remaining three days of his life preparing his soul for the afterlife.

Ramiro II had never expected the kingship but he had cared for his brother and was determined to end the Reclamación. He ordered Orecca and her daughter brought to Andorra to tend to the king, keeping his death from them until their arrival and placing them under close guard. Leaving them there, he continued on to Tolosa.

If the Tolosans expected the death of Alfonso to grant them reprieve they were mistaken. Ramiro was concerned about returning to the capital and stepped up efforts to break through the walls under the advice of Duke Tajer. It was at the siege that he became friendly with Prince Aimret and convinced him to arbitrarily abrogate his pledge of leniency in exchange for surrender. Instead when the gates opened the Spaniards and Franks betrayed the Tolosans and exterminated the remaining inhabitants, stealing everything that could be taken and destroying anything that was not stone. The heart of rebellion Ramiro later declared, would beat no more.


When he returned to Toledo, Ramiro made a triumphal entry displaying the wealth of Tolosa in objects and some slaves with his sister by marriage and his niece riding behind on a palanquin. Ramiro rode in a chariot in the Roman style, chased with silver. Proceeding down the center of the city to what would become the Directory Palace, he went directly from the procession into the Royal Assembly of 891 where he was formally acclaimed as king.

The Bretons

The 9th Century and in particular the period of the Reclamación saw the rise of the Breton tribes into a small but strong state. Wary of the Frankish kingdom, the ruling Mormani Dynasty always considered the policies and interests of their eastern neighbors while extending their power eastwards throughout the turbulent century.

The first ruler of a nominally united Princedom of Brittany was Prince Morman (c.775-829). With a power base centered in the south and west, he had only one major rival, one Wihomarc who had some dominion over the north and the east centered around Landreger. When the Franks sought allies to turn the tide of the First Consulate War, they went to Morman at his small strong hold at Prizeig. Over the course of the war he gained greater prestige and power at the expense of Wihomarc and the other chiefs so that by 815 he sited his capital at Kemper. For the rest of his reign he assisted Aldric defending Neustria from the Vikings and while Wihomarc’s lands were assailed, Morman’s domains were spared the worst of the ravages.

When Wihomarc rose upon the death of Morman, he was put down by Morman II (803-865) with the aid of his uncle, the Count of Gwennet. Taking as his wife a niece of Wihomarc, he was able to secure the authority over the region around Landreger. As the Frankish dominance decayed under Martinus and Aldric was busy with the Sorbs or defending the realm against the Tolosans, Morman II began securing the Breton-speaking areas once part of the March of Brittany. To do this he had the aid of the Count of Naoned, Lambert II who had become his son in law. While his grandfather was appointed to keep a watch on the Bretons, Lambert II ended presiding over an increasing Breton influence in his domains which he preferred to constant demands for men and supplies by Martinus. By the time Aldric could turn his attention back to the Viking raids in Neustria, Morman II was renowned as a great defender of the region. After a joint expedition to recover Roazhen from the Vikings, Aldric bowed to the inevitable and renewed his alliance by arranging the marriage of his daughter to Morman’s son, Warner.

While Warner fell in battle against the Vikings without ever ruling, his eldest son Prince Bodinan (846-889) strengthened his ties with the Frankish counts of Angéca so he was able to concentrate on the Viking threat. Bodinan’s reign coincided with the Reclamación and another period of Frankish preoccupation. Like his father, King Lutis of Francia placated the Breton annoyance to regain the lands of the Tolosans who was called Bodinan Martel in Francia, for his defense of western Neustria. After the construction of the castle at Pasquitan in memory of his brother, Bodinan was able to leverage his Breton allies in Angéca and Naoned with the local Frankish counts at Le Mans against the northmen. It was Bodinan who transferred the Breton capital to Roazhen.

Toward the middle of his reign this became more crucial than ever because of the invasion of Aquitania by what became the House of Olavez. The success in Aquitania had inspired those dissatisfied at their situation in increasingly organized Ireland or the constant warfare of Albaney to try their hand at conquests on the continent. While many if not most of the newcomers landed in Aquitania and swore themselves to the House of Olavez to gain the rich lands of the south, a number attempted to establish principalities along the Neustrian coast. Bodinan responded as well as he could, confining the lands of the northmen to an area north of Le Mans and east of Bayeaux. Never the less the Frankish counties of Blois and Aurleans suffered the depredations of the invaders until the fall of Tolosa ended significant resistance.

Prince Conan (875-916) only began his campaigns to evict the northmen in the late after the fall of Tolosa. Thanks to presence of the armies of Fancia under then-Prince Lutis, Conan was able to do more with less risk than his forefathers . Upon his own ascension, King Eudor granted him a number of domains between Le Mans and Bayeux, chief among them the walled town of Mayenne. Determined to protect what he had been given by the King of Francia and his own family, Conan built a series of fortifications across the region that solidified his control against raiders and opportunistic lords. While Prince Conan administered the Francian lands as his own, they remained in law a possession of Francia--something that would eventually cause a great deal of difficulty.

For the Mormani Dynasty, their longevity and diplomatic skills enabled them to take advantage of opportunities to expand their rule and influence. At the close of the 9th Century, the Princedom of Brittany had risen from a collection of tribes and clans to a polity that continental northwestern Europe looked toward. One that began to attract the attention of both the declining Saxon kingdoms on Greater Albaney--and the H.E.I.N.


Overview of the 9th Century

The dawn of the 9th Century began with the promise of partnership between Hispania and the Frankish Realm. It ended once in a similar partnership. In some ways nothing had changed and everything. Spaña had changed to be almost unrecognizable in terms of administration and centralization from the kind of personal power practiced by Abd ar-Rahman. By the end of the Reclamación, the Salic Law of the Franks was decaying as both of King Eudor’s sons saw themselves as arms of the state instead of individual princes. However their power still largely relied on their personal entourage and lacked the subtler administrative reach of the Spaniards.

The 9th Century was also the dawn of the Holy Empire of the Irish Nation (H.E.I.N.) that would eventually encompass the whole of the island and beyond. At the end of the Reclamación despite the defeat at Culloden against the Danes, it was the major polity of the Albaney Islands, welded together by iron discipline and zealous religion. Fueld by the H.E.I.N. the chaos on Greater Albaney also led to the discovery of an island to the northwest, named Greenland.

In the south, the Emirate of Sijilmasa and the Spaniards were becoming increasingly wealthy through the trade with the emergent states of Sub-Saharan Africa but toward the end of the Reclamación, Duke Vieido had been sent south to secure the border against the Idrisids once again. In this he had the help of the Amasiga tribes of the south.

In the Mediterranean, Italian unity had fractured while the Greek Emperors eyed southern Italy and plotted a reconquest of their own if they could hold back a resurgent Khazar Empire. In the Balkans and Pannonia a number of Bavarian and Greek influenced Slav princedoms were emerging, the chief among them were Czechia in the north and Reka in the south.

In the east, the Abbasid Caliphate had won back Baghdad from the Agassid Persians in alliance with the Kingdom of Armenia, led by the descendants of the Greek general Basil the Macedonian. The Persians themselves were beginning to be menaced by the Oghuz Turks in the north much as the Greek Empire was being threatened by the Khazars.

Beyond the Reclamación

Even before Tolosa fell to the Spaniards and Franks, Ramiro II knew the greatest task lay ahead of him. The deaths of his brothers had brought home how tenuous the existence of any family was. Content to hold Carcassona and leave the rest to the Franks and Vikings, after his triumphal entry into Toledo he closeted himself with Marista. His son Alfonso was born in 892.

Having more time and less responsibilities growing up, Ramiro spent years studying the ancient masters and had become something of a philosopher. Where Manuel and El Halcóna had expected to guide him much like his brothers, they were disabused of that notion. Even at twenty he asked perceptive questions, by the exercise of reason and their own words bringing others to agreement with him. By the time Alfonso was proclaimed Prince of Sevilla, he had removed both Marquio Manuel and El Halcóna from their positions. Instead Nazer Maurez became his chief advisor, beginning a tradition that would last for the next 60 years.

The Reclamación was over at last. Ramiro knew that it would be years yet before the north and south would truly be united. His task was to give the northerners as much a role in the state’s prosperity as the rest of the people. He rejected the suggestion to revive the name of Hispania, Spaña the state was, and Spaña it would remain.
[1]The Tolosans had multiple kings during the Reclamacion either by dint of distant relation to Pepin or raw power, but they could never secure enough legitimacy to mount a concerted defense. By 876 they have resorted to electing a king to try and save themselves.
[2]He was 53 and corpulent
[3]Certainly there was corruption before, but the earliest records survive from this period.
[4]Essentially the head of the bureaucracy at this point
[5]Possibly an assassination attempt
[6]Ghana/Wagadou, Abiya and Takrur

A/N: World Map coming in Part IX
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Part IX: Consolidation

Be forgiving of your friend when he offends
you, for perfection is seldom ever found.
In everything there is some flaw; even the
lamp, despite its brilliance, smokes.
--Jadarez, (Cartagena Roman Theater, c. 973)
We had not encountered the Spaniards before but they were recognizable both by the richness of their dress and the device worked into their clothing. A peculiar symbol that flew over all places we would visit. The Marquio Iscandros greeted us. He was attired more richly than the rest and apologized for the accommodations in the small town, which seemed of adequate size to us, and that it was due to the duties of the Prince of Vizcayza.

At Santander we were provided with horses which we were allowed to keep when we returned home. While we took some days crossing the mountains, after reaching the main road we made much better time. The highway was an excellent example of a Roman road, much better maintained than any we had seen in Albaney or Francia though the roads are marvelously resilient. It was explained to us that several codices regarding their construction were known and we would later receive a copy of a work by Vitruviso to take with us to our emperor should he care to learn the techniques. I noted that the milestones were spaced differently to what I saw elsewhere and learned that the Roman unit had been adjusted to better measure the distances on that ground.[1] The country we passed through was largely rocky and I marveled that the road had been repaired here. The Marquio Iscandros informed me that the state kept up four great roads, one on each coast and two in the interior all leading north to south. He noted that this road had been recently repaired to unite the capital with the Ebro valley.

When we crossed the central range before the capital there were a number of abandoned fortresses in the passes that had been used when the Kingdom of Tolosa existed. While we had seen guard posts before, especially along the great road, the greatest fortress we saw was what the locals called the Misufa. We were not permitted to examine it because it was the main location for the training and education of military officers.


I had never seen anything to compare with the seat of the Christian Umayyads. Sacked a century previous the Marquio admitted quite cheerfully that while it would not best Constantinople or Baghdad it held almost a hundred thousand souls. It sprawled along both banks of the Tagus for several miles with two walls below the mountains on the northern bank and none on the south. The wall we were told was less than half the length of the invincible walls of Constantinople, and about two Spaniard miles. Approaching from the north east, we saw on the southern side of the river there was significant farmland where building had been prohibited by the king. We entered the gate to the city which was high and narrow and passed through the New Walls being first laid down in the reign of Ramiro the Wise but had only been fully completed by Ramiro II owing to the uneven terrain that had required much excavation.

From the moment we entered the wall, the road changed, becoming smoother and blacker between the stones so that they were all of a uniform height in a manner we were told had first been devised in Baghdad but that was used in Africa.[2] We were also assaulted by a multitude of tongues that included the Tuscan tongue, that of the Arabs and one I later learned was a common Berber dialect. While a guard house was present at the gateway and some taverns or inns, we soon passed into the market district in the outer city. The road itself widened and split down the middle with a small avenue of trees and bushes in the center so that traffic moved along it in different directions. On each side were stalls selling a surprising variety of wares, each in front of their small dwellings. There was much noise.

The gate to the inner city was more obviously for defense and the noise was greatly reduced. In the inner city there were at first a number of long buildings of about three stories with a courtyard in the back. It was explained that these were the dwellings of the civil servants in the city. In the center of the city the road became a great square where we came upon the old royal palace. At the time there many workers for it was in the process of being modified to become the headquarters for the state civil service. We did not enter that building but proceeded left and south in the direction of the Tagus where the new palace first planned and laid out by the current king’s brother was being constructed...​
--Journal of Congal mac-Domnaill, c. 903
The Prosperous Philosopher

Ramiro II was 20 years old when he became king and he reigned in Toledo for 21 years. In that time the economy of the country expanded rapidly. Prosperity was shared between the regions around the Ebro and the coast of the Mediterranean, the land between the Atlas and the coast, all the coast of the Maghreb, and much of Lisboa and Andalucia. It was Ramiro who presided over the final union between the Marca Lisboa. There is also a philosophical work on government written by the king himself. The reasons for the wealth of the state were many, but chief among them was the existence of peace across much of the Mediterranean for the first time in generations. From Lisboa and Tanga in the east to the ports at Antioch and Alexandria the coasts were far more ordered than in previous decades.

The cities of Mermaza, Santander and Barcelona were founded or refounded during his reign. Each was based on the great foundations of Spañan power: trade and agriculture. In Mermaza where the oil shale was plentiful, the fertile areas expanded enormously through irrigation becoming a source of both staple foods, and a new crop brought east by Abbasid engineers brought in to supervise the road building: sugar. By end of Ramiro’s reign, sugar was grown not only in Barga, but also around Córdoba reviving that city, and Sevilla further increasing its status as the second city of the kingdom. Almost from the first, sugar became a state monopoly that was sub-contracted to powerful merchants who bore the expenses and a cut of the profits but also bid outrageous sums to gain it. That the monopoly was for a term of years only made it all the more lucrative. Other important crops grown were the bitter orange, lemons which had become a popular flavoring agent, grain (mainly from the Maghreb), olives and rice.

For the first time however, a new pillar emerged in manufacturing. With the foundation of the Metallurgy school, production of iron in the Ebro region expanded rapidly over the rest of Ramiro’s reign. The use of the water powered bellows was adapted to the use of air to develop water powered cold blast bloomeries whose main problem was that their temperatures could melt the iron used if unobserved.

Fueling all this was an intellectual boom and the second great expansion of the university system occurred under Ramiro II. In addition to the School of Mixtures in Mequinez founded by his brother in 892, Ramiro II endowed the School of Metallurgy in Zaragoza in 896, the School of Agriculture in Lisboa in 906 and the Sevilla School of Algebra in 909. The second of the early medical codices was also released under Ramiro II. The controversial idea that illness was caused by foreign bodies propounded by some of the Jewish doctors in Granada who had connections to the east, was not included. Ramiro made a conscious decision not base all his improvements in the capital A philosopher by temperament he wrote:
The duty of the ruler is to give peace and security to the people. It does not consist of illuminating the brilliance of ones ancestors or the prosperity of ones descendants. In this way the lord must have compassion for his people so the people will be mindful of their lord. The continued exercise of this duty will prevent rebellion and secure the descendants of the ruler naturally.
However he did continue the expansion and construction projects in the capital. Not only the roads and cities in the rest of the peninsula and the Maghreb, but the royal palace and the foundation of the Grand Hall of Voices was completed in 912. Ramiro also invited artisans of all fields to come to Toledo to show demonstrations of their talent and he would choose the best to work on the new palace and buildings. These contests were open to the public regardless of status so that the first popular artists native to the state emerge from this period. Indeed, the persistent need for artisans in the capital created a tradition of a gathering independent of the dynasty and it became prestigious for the wealthy elite in the capital to sponsor these artists in the coming years.

Some of the most skilled were selected to embellish what became known as the Water Oratory. As the only structure of the palace finished during the reign of Ramiro II it deserves mention for its chief property: it projected out over the Tagus itself. A certain section known as a “floor-window” was made of relatively clear crystal panes. Set in a delicate iron grill, a small stone platform was placed in the center so the Tagus itself could be seen flowing under the person in prayer.[3]

The Principality of Viscayza and the Marca Lisboa

Politically the state enjoyed a period of more limited but valuable peace. The Francians were concentrating on asserting firm control of their new lands just as Ramiro was of his. The only true political challenge Ramiro II faced for much of his reign was the confusion of the Vikings. A series of discreet communications with Peter of Ochoa and Juasin of Zaragoza before his death in 896 were passed along to the king. The same year that Juasin died, the Marquio Iscandros III of Lisboa traveled to Balyón to granted southern support to Enrigo Olavez during the celebration of the birth of his heir where he took the title Prince of Vizcayza.

As Ramiro II and his counselors had predicted, several revolts broke out across Aquitania as the northmen rebelled. The Spaniards however were ready. While Iscandros traveled to Balyón, Duke Tajer stationed himself in Tudela where he gathered the local militia to supplement his own veterans. Marching north with over 2000 men, Tajer and his sub-commander Ordoño Najera, assisted the new prince in putting down the worst of the revolts but made sure not to utterly pacify the region--though a significant amount of plunder in the form of slaves and horses was sent to the capital. The price Ramiro extracted from the new prince was quite high: The Spanan occupation and administration of Santander and that region south to the border. As his officials and military officers swarmed the region, both Ramiro and Enrigo knew that Enrigo would almost surely never be getting that land back no matter his nominal status. More humiliatingly, his son was sent to Toledo to grow up in the court of the king. It was in this way that more direct contacts were made with Ireland and visit of 902.

Four years later, Princess Sedia came of age. The only child of Alfonso, she had been well educated in the capital despite Ramiro II’s rough treatment of her and her mother and she did not resent him for it. The celebrations of her birthday were cut short however by the news that her other uncle Iscandros III was dead.

Ramiro II mourned the passing both politically and personally. Iscandros had been a trusted supporter of Ramiro and had continued to oversee both the expansion into Santander and the management of relations with the Prince of Vizcayza. His death resulting from an illness attributed to bitter mountain air also threw the fate of Lisboa into question for he had no children of his own. The closest male relative to Iscandros was Ferrando Saavedra who was in charge of the mint in Mérida. The Saavedras had long been in the good graces of the Counts of Iria and strong connections with the other important family of Galicia, House Sotomayor--but they remained civil servants. His management of the mint impressed the king, but not the other nobility. Ramiro solved the problem by reaching beyond the kingdom.

Since the Consulate War the papacy had become a political game piece for the Lombard rulers of Italy. The Spaniards and Francians often ignored his pronouncements and were not beyond addressing the pope as the Bishop of Rome in official letters. The only other choice for the popes was the eastern emperor. Now using his Pisan allies, Ramiro sent a flowery letter offering consultation in the matter of Spañan archbishops and asking in return a dispensation to allow Ferrando’s son Antonio to marry his third cousin Sedia. Proclaimed at their marriage uniting the lines of Bedr’s house, Antonio and Sedia arrived in the city accompanied by 400 men led by Eliseo the Grenadine, who bore the new rank of Captain-Commader. It was understood by all that the arrival of Sedia and the Spañan army signaled the incorporation of Lisboa and Antonio only received the title of Count.

To assuage the loss of prestige, Ramiro established the School of Agriculture in the city to experiment with the rich lands of the southwest and a naval base to protect the sea routes of the coast from northern Vikings or southern Idrisid pirates. The young fashionable princess would bring many customs to the city and did much to merge the culture that grown up in that domain with the rest of the state.

The King in Mide

The Viking attacks on Ireland were a blessing and a curse. Decades of warfare led to an era of growing power and influence. When Ongendus II seized the leadership of Denmark from Gudfred, the former king departed. Directing his attention at first to western France, he was repulsed by Morman I. Instead, Gudfred turned his attention to poorer but weaker Ireland where there was already a Viking presence. Landing around 815, he established his authority around Dublin. While he soon departed for Albaney to try his luck on the big island, he did conduct a raid into Laigin which probably resulted in the birth of a young man named Padraic, or Patrick born around c. 820.

It was while Patrick was growing to manhood that groups of monks traveled to Spaña to take part in the religious studies at the Library in Iria. Impressed by their stay and the religious the philosophical and religious basis being laid for the Iberian dynasty, one group returned to Ireland to preach a doctrine conveyed by the slogan: "God is Order, and the King is His instrument." Spreading rapidly among the churchmen who deplored Irish internal conflicts, it found a patron in Patrick.

Showing talent at a young age, Patrick was accepted in to the service of Clan Cholmáin the kings of Mide. Having grown up among Vikings, he was familiar with their tactics and social structure and used that against them. After many successes he rose in the king's favor because he was loyal. More even than loyalty, Patrick gained notoriety for the obedience he commanded and the order of his lands. In this he had the help of the church. They were the single greatest institution in Ireland so he became their pawn--at first. Using their lands as centers of administration and encouraging the preaching of the new doctrine marrying obedience to autonomy with hierarchical localized control.[4] By his marriage Patrick entered a familial relation to the ruling clan as the High King made an effort to secure the loyalty of this rising general.

Delayed by his new marriage and local conditions, Patrick was unable to come to the aid of his master when the largest Viking force in a generation attacked. The High King and most of his kin were slain and Turgesius advanced unopposed. Patrick’s summons to the survivors was unheeded so he stood against Turgesius alone--and won. Killing Turgesius he regained much of their plunder and burned parts of Dublin so that the northmen turned to Albaney for a generation.

Upon his return to Mide, Patrick was furious. He accused the delinquent noblemen of religious and political transgression, demanding they swear a binding oath and provide him hostages. Patrick had counted on them refusing his request. Defeating a coalition of lesser lords supported by the Cenél nEógain, Patrick was acclaimed King of Mide in 849 the same year that St. Andrew returned to Ireland from Spaña. This was the traditional date for the founding of the empire.

The Uí Néill of Cenél nEógain refused to accept Patrick. They made common cause with the Airgialla federation asking their kin the Uí Briúin of Mag Ai and Breifne to join them in an attack. Known as the "Sins of the North" it was the greatest threat to Patrick’s rule. Patrick allowed the men of Breifne to advance while he while he met the main threat northwest of the Fane and south of a group of hills.[5] The battle was noted for Patrick's use of the churchmen. Stories of them reciting scriptures are of dubious veracity but they kept his troops motivated. The key to the battle was Patrick’s use of a contingent of mercenary Saxons and Vikings drawn by Patrick's lineage and success who massacred a trapped enemy.

The northerners acknowledged Patrick sending him many hostages while the men of Mag Ai refused to aid the invading Breifne. Patrick destroyed the Breifne in a campaign not just of conquest but extermination. The men were slain, their women taken by his warriors so the region had strong Saxon influence later. The younger children were sold as slaves to the Vikings who sent them via the Baltic routes where many ended up in Persia where they were absorbed into the Nestorian communities.

Beyond High King

In 856 Patrick forged an alliance with the men of Mag Ai, the Airgialla and the Cenél nEógain who saw in Patrick a rising star. In 859 he visited Armagh where he met Andrew. Andrew had just returned from a visit to Rome where he had convinced the Pontiff to use him to unite the Irish church and place it at greater obedience to him, creating him officially as the Archbishop of Armagh. Both men took a liking to each other and it was Andrew who said to Patrick: “Men have grown used to disobeying a High King. We must find a way to take hold of their minds and hearts...”

Patrick’s ambitions grew. He invaded Coba and Dal Fiatch with the help of his Airgialla allies. His success was so rapid that Dal Riata sought his protection against its Pictish enemies. Partick was successful because he never let his enemies escape into the natural fastnesses of Ireland. His lasting accomplishment was due the mass movement of his subjects. He broke up ancestral populations merging them into his own people. His wars drew Saxon mercenaries to him so that he married Algiue the daughter of the most powerful Saxon chiefs as his second wife. When the Vikings along the coast once again began to stir, the locals promised Patrick their allegiance if he could defend them. Dublin was burned to the ground and he offered any northmen who surrendered a chance to take service in his armies which was after a cause for southern dissent.

At the summer solstice of 865, Patrick and his lords gathered at the Lia Fáil where the traditional ritual of the High King was begun--an abandoned. Andrew strode forward and carved a cross onto the stone itself. Slaughtering one of each kind of cattle in the realm, he painted Patrick in the blood, then cleansed him of it and gave him Communion. Stories say the skies began to storm and the ground to cry out and stone itself roared in protest. But Patrick placed his foot upon it, and ordered it to be silent in the name of Christ--and it was. There, Patrick was crowned not Ard Ri, but Emperor, using the Latin title, of the Holy Empire of the Irish Nation.[6]

Not all kings and rulers came at his call. Others took the preaching of the new order to heart. Setting aside their rivalries, the Eóghanachta and Dal gCais pledged to destroy Patrick. Their armies were ready to move weeks after the solstice and they invaded with one goal: the murder of the emperor. For the next seven years Patrick fought them and launched his own assault into Munster. Checked only in the Battle of the Golden Vale in 872 where he was taken by surprise, he still captured an enormous herd of cattle and burned the rest. Wounded, he would have difficulty walking for the rest of his days. Even in defeat Patrick divided his enemies. He recognized the Eóghanachta as Kings of Munster and instead fell upon the Dal gCais with the aid of the Norse in Limmerick. It was from the Norse that he first had contact with Olaf to the south, and with the Spaniards.

The advantages of using the churchmen were borne out: loyal to the church intertwined with the state, they saw the emperor as the State. The people were taught to give thanks for knowing their position in life and the order brought by the Empire. As more links were made to the Spaniards and the Olavez, Patrick established a steady commerce exporting copper and flax. In return he received southern horses, larger than any on the island, and his son, crossbows. It was with these and a burgeoning talent for shipbuilding that the Irish established so many footholds across the north in the years to come. In all things he was supported by Andrew who was posthumously remembered as the first Primate of All Ireland.

Shortly before his death in 891, Patrick summoned his lords to the stone. There, they swore to his eldest son Colm, who had proved himself in battle in Munster and incorporated the Airgialla federation into the empire. It was Colm who would begin the intervention in Greater Albaney that bound the Irish together as one people.



The War for Albaney

By 900, the Saxons were erased from the continent. Ravaged by Charles, submerged into the Francians and Danes there was only one place where the Saxons remained: Albion, or as it came to be known, Greater Albaney. In a pale echo of the great migrations, Charles allowed the Saxons to flee to Albaney where most were thoroughly Christianized. The newcomers were used as mercenaries in the internal wars of the time but eventually settled among the Wealas displacing the Britons in the south. The Britons migrated north where Rhodri established a unified lordship that resisted them or Brittany where a number were settled on the border of with the Franks. These last went on the develop the fearsome Breton shortbow.

When Patrick drove the Norse from Ireland, they settled in Greater Albaney where a number of kingdoms in the north and east vied with the Saxons. Despite their internal difficulties, the northmen were strengthened by the arrival of newcomers who had no wish to be under the Danish kings who subdued many Wendish tribes in alliance with the Franks, allowing Christian missionaries to gain greater influence on the peninsula. Their greatest fear was Frankish invasion. Even in the midst of the Reclamación such an attack would be doomed to failure. Instead King Eirik the Hungry set out to bring all the north under his rule and turned instead to Albaney.

Eirik landed at Jorvik in 876. At the time the Saxons had achieved a rough unity under a young king of western Mercia, Aelfwin. When Eirik landed, Alefwin was campaigning in Bernicia (region). Taken by surprise, Aelfwin’s army melted away to secure their homes individually and several groups were obliterated by the Danish armies. By the time Aelfwin was in a position to resist, Essex and East Anglia were already under Danish dominion. In 879 Eirik defeated the Saxon king in eastern Mercia where “a great number of Wessex men were put the sword in the rearguard.” While Aelfwin tried to regroup after the disaster, Eirik captured Sussex. In 882 Eirik attacked Merica while the snows were still on the ground. The Mercians were driven into the marshes of the southwest where many drowned. Aelfwin was forced to swear fealty to King Eirik and faced a rebellion led by his brother, but Eirik went north to receive the submission of the Picto-Norse and returned to Jorvik in 885.

Leaving his sons Haakon and Sweyn in Albaney, he returned to Denmark to boast of his success renew his rule of his homeland, and recruit more men. In his absence, Aelfwin secured the rule of the remaining Saxons and in his desperation, reached out to Patrick. Patrick was old, but his son was a man still in his prime and it was Colm who proposed gathering all the enemies of the Danish king.

In exchange for Cornwall, the Irish forces landed in Rhodri in 894. Though small, they were excellently equipped via their southern trade and Colm surprised a Danish force led by Haakon who was accidentally slain by an errant javelin. Aelfwin launched a great invasion of Anglia and the Picto-Norse proclaimed their rebellion to a king with so many pagans in his army. Sweyn took command but was slowly driven east.

Eirik spent several years gathering ships and men from far and wide eager for plunder and lands. These included Rus’ from the east and a contingent of Pechengs who migrated north after Kiev. Arriving with a force of nearly 12,000 men, he defeated an Irish-Saxon army laying siege to Jorvik and loosed the Pechengs who descended on Mercia and Wessex in an orgy of terror. A string of victories forced the Irish back into Rhodri and the Saxons into Wessex. Leaving Sweyn to hold his gains, he turned north to put paid to the rebellious Picto-Norse.

Declaring a campaign to ensure the primacy of God in the islands, Colm raised a new army and with the remaining Saxon and Briton forces north of Jorvik, joined himself to the Picto-Norse of Mormay and other regions. King Eirik was burning his way north killing all the Saxons he could find and filling the land with Danish overlords. The climactic battle was fought west of Mormay at the field of Culloden in 899.[7] At sunset the Danes were in possession of a field strewn with the corpses of the Irish, Saxon and Picto-Norse--and of King Eirik.

The Harrowing of the South

Sweyn vowed to avenge his family. The campaign that slew Aelfwin was brutal even for Sweyn. He received the submission of nearly the whole of Albaney save for Rhodri and one of the northern lords: a certain Harald Bloodface who established a lordship in the Hebrides and raided Danish targets whenever he dared. Sweyn established an accommodation with the Irish and Emperor Colm undertook to restrain the Britons of the coastal Rheged region.

Sweyn’s lords were a mixture of Norse, Danes, Saxons, Britons and Picts. Even in the years after Culloden he had to constantly punish recalcitrant or rebelling vassals even if no widespread rebellion occurred. Sweyn became frustrated with the situation keeping him from Denmark where his power was on the wane. When his family was killed in one particularly harsh Saxon uprising, Sweyn’s rage knew no bounds and it was said he tipped over into madness.

The years 904-908 are known as the “Harrowing of the South.” With an army of several thousand Sweyn carved a bloody path of destruction through the heart of the Saxon lands. Dozens of villages were burned including any he could find in Mercia and Wessex. None were spared, food and live stock were stolen, burned, or killed and left to rot. Even farming tools were destroyed. When he salted some of the richest fields in the south even his own men began to doubt him but Sweyn no longer cared. It was said he was inspired by ancient legends to devise agonizing methods of death. In his wake, plague broke out among the Saxons and there were rumors that the starving populace resorted to eating each other. Fully a third of the population of the south and west perished. Returning to Jorvik in 908, Sweyn re-organized those regions placing a number of his more trusted Danish lords in control of the region. The only concession he made to the Saxons was that most of those he elevated were Danish Christians.

Albaney lay prostrate before him.

The Slavs and the Steppes

While an enormous economic expansion was taking place in Spaña, the state was also spending enormous sums. Ramiro II was forever looking for money and a number of small measures were taken including an examination fee for Valis, scattered seizure of land owned by religious organizations, and much higher tariffs on imports. But the most significant change came in the year 894 when Ramiro altered the laws pertaining to slavery. That taxation had been a source of steady income for the state, but the Reclamación demanded far more manpower and there was a shortage in areas of labor such as farming and roadbuilding. Labor costs had been on the rise for some 20 years by the time Ramiro took the throne, and while Alfonso and Enrique had paid for it by the sale of certain offices, Ramiro refused to do the same. While he shared the view that anything that increased the power of the elites was a threat to his dynasty, Ramiro never the less reduced the levies on slaves. Almost immediately demand rose accordingly, yet even now Ramiro sought some control and he instituted a process to certify the health of each imported slave--a process that also made it easier to requirement manumission after a term of years. In the north the slave-trade was monopolized by the Princes of Vizcayza who imported slaves from the wars in Albaney and Ireland and shipped them from Balyón into the interior and through Barcelona and Tortosa. In the south while some came from the Idrisid domains or the nomads beyond Sijilmasa, most of those that arrived across the sea were the Saqaliba, the Slavs.

In the Balkans at this time a number a Slav states were emerging. While in the north the Franks supported Czechia and the Byzantines supported Nitra, in the south Radislav unified many of the Croats, founding the Duchy of Dalamatia after his capture of Spelatro. Its major rival was the Byzantine supported Serb princedom of Rashka. As these states expanded east and west, they supported themselves financially by selling their fellows as slaves. So too, Muslim pirates raided the coast for the same reason.

Another source of slaves in the east at this time was the conflict that raged in the later 9th Century between the steppe peoples and the Varangian Rus’ who migrated south and east.[8]

For many years the Magyars lived west of the Dnieper river and in the early 800s absorbed the Kabar dissidents from the east and later attacked the Greek Empire. Instead of facing a weakened Byzantium at war in the east and west, they faced Emperor Evan I who was one of the greatest soldier-emperors of the Bulgarian dynasty. In fact the Bulgarian cavalry units performed excellently against the Magyars under the emperor. Evan was able to face the Magyars with most of his armies largely because of the success of his best general and friend, Basil. It was Basil who resisted the Persians in the east with such skill as to pacify the border for some years. Recalled west, Basil and Evan led a small veteran army deep into the steppe sowing a trail of destruction and fear that only ended when they sailed for home from the Crimean coast. It was compared to Xenophon’s Anabasis by a few of Evan’s more fervent chroniclers. Basil then returned to the east during the Second Byzantine-Agassid war (863-869).

When Evan died in 873, Basil was on hand once more to repulse the Magyar invasion so thoroughly they signed a treaty of friendship with Emperor Petros and allowed free passage to Orthodox missionaries in their domains. If some wondered why Basil did not attempt to take the throne, it was because he was a mentor to Petros as a child. In any case, it was Petros who named Basil the King of Armenia both as a reward, to create a friendly buffer, and to channel his ambitions elsewhere. Petros was more of a politician than an emperor and with his brother Theodore the Patriarch, he masterminded the Eastern Concord of 883, forming an alliance between the Magyars, Khazars and the Byzantines to battle the Rus' who even now sailed the Dnieper and menaced the shipping on the Black Sea and the Pechengs who were menacing the eastern Khazars.

With the help of the Magyars the Pechengs were driven north to plague the Rus’ for some years. Then in 890, an alliance between the Pechengs and the Rus’ resulted in an arrogant latter sent to the Khazar Kaqan warning him of his imminent demise. The war raged for 3 years and it ended when a combined Khazar-Magyar army with a small contingent of imperial soldiers and siege engineers annihilated the Rus’-Pecheng army in the Battle of Kiev (894). The Rus’ princes fought to the bitter end and the Pechengs saw their wives and children wiped out.

That battle ended Rus’ unity and in the north a number of small states vied for power. As for the Pechengs, they drifted north hiring themselves out as mercenaries in the internal conflict of the Rus’ princes. There their martial skills came to the notice of the Danish traders in the Baltic and some were hired by King Eirik in time for Culloden (899). In the aftermath of Kiev, the Magyars took the city for their own and allowed the construction of the oldest surviving Orthodox church in the region for the imperial soldiers to worship. In the east, the Khazars experienced a revival and were able to direct their attention eastwards again.

A Passing Reign

Born in 892, Alfonso reached his majority two years after his cousin Sedia. Officially resident at Sevilla, the city was administered by Manzor II Maura, who officially handed over his rule of Luz to the king, and accepted the countship of Tanga and the ordering of Saleh, earning control of much of western Gran Rif province. Alfonso learned what a boy could of governance and sat in on meetings even taking part as he grew older. While he dutifully studied what Maura and his instructors put before him, Alfonso’s passion was the military.

The prince was uncommonly large and strong and he could out-wrestle boys two or even three years older by the age of 9. It was a source of consternation for his father who always left the military to the control of Duke Vieido and after the latter’s retirement in 902 at the age of 64, Duke Tajer. By 908 Tajer himself was 60, and he delegated most of his authority to a new generation of leaders. Men like Eliseo the Grenadine, or Ordoño Najera who had proteges of his own in Vieido’s great-nephew, Garza and Velasco Halcóna. Alfonso learned and trained with these young men along with talented newcomers like Almas Al-Mequino and Gonzalo Sotomayor. Ordoño said: “I could wish Prince Alfonso would get use for his talents but it will be peace and plenty for some time to come.”

Almost immediately on reaching age, King Ramiro began to delegate some of his responsibilities to his son. While an able man, Ramiro worked selflessly for the kingdom for 16 years and he sought out peace and quiet for himself. Now a few days of each month, he would retire to a small villa west of the capital where he could read, write and enjoy the outdoors. It chanced that one day while at his villa he was approached by an inventor who had developed a new method of wire-drawing much finer than previously. When he told the king the story of how his invention had been stolen by another man, Ramiro studied the manner and in 909 created the Divan of Inventions.

In exchange for an accurate and detailed accounting of a particular invention or process the inventor had created, the state would grant that person a monopoly on its development and use its resources to enforce that monopoly. This would occur for a term of years where upon the invention would be able to be used by anyone. The name given to this particular monopoly was the “Reino Pasaraja” which signifies a transient reign. This had unexpected benefits early on. If the state would prevent others from undercutting them for some time, merchants who were interested in the devices could fund them at reduced risk.[9]


Ordoño Najera was wrong about Alfonso’s skills. At the height of its power the Ahmarid emirate collapsed. Over-stetched by its conquest of Sicily, they were defeated in battle northwest of Kairouan by the Idrisid, Ali II. The emir was killed and many of his sons. In the chaos that followed much of the coast was seized by the Idrisids and the last Ahmarids reigned from Palermo in Sicily.

With the sudden Idrisid expansion, the emir of Sijilmasa called upon his long-time Spañan allies to help him defend his border. Many traveled to the city to further trade links and adventurous Spaniards crossed the desert to the mysterious empire of the Ghanas where they brought the Christian faith. The Sijilmasans also frequently traded in the Maghreb and in the provinces of Andalucia and Granada. In fact it was the Sijilmasans who established Sufri Islam as the dominant form of Islam in Spaña itself. After Abd ar-Rahman’s conquest, many of the previous learned inhabitants fled or joined themselves to the Idrisids and there were few learned Islamic scholars in the kingdom until the arrival of the Sijilmasans. It was the Sufri tendency to first examine the Koran that after led to the curious questioning practices of the various religions in Spana. The Sijilmasans were quite wealthy, one merchant recorded lending a traveler 50,000 silver dinars as a method of course and large numbers of silver dars are also attested.

To show how seriously he took the situation, Ramiro ordered his son to Supervise the expedition south. It was quite a task for the young man, but he was advised by Fernando of Taza who dealt extensively with the Sijilmasans. With the help of the Spaniards, Sijilmasa and its other main settlement the northern stronghold of Agadir Assif were refortified and Alfonso was able to obtain detailed notes of the land to determine the most likely invasion routes. All together he spent nearly a year in the south and as had happened with Ramiro the Wise, fell in love with the youngest daughter of the Amir, Amina.

Amina was willing to become Alfonso’s concubine following the practice of Samira and Ramiro the Wise, and Ramiro II indulged his son, demanding the girl as the price of his continued help. As Amina was the youngest of the emir’s children he acquiesced. The story follows that when she crossed the Strait of Tariq she knelt before a priest traveling with them and converted to Christianity on the spot. Other sources indicate it was more likely a tactic to ensure that Alfonso would not put her aside for another woman if she was his wife. While officially she took the baptismal name of Marista to gain favor with the queen, she was always called Amina.[10] While her father was angry by this time a major Spañan force was in place in Taza and he did nothing. When a Muslim scholar at Iria was asked about the turn of events he said:
Islam is the True Faith and it will inevitably triumph for all practice Islam in the beginning. But coercion is a most reluctant path to the True Faith. While Allah would not have even a single person stray, it is only in the willing reversion to Islam that the Glory of Allah is most easily seen. If you wish to show the error of her ways then demonstrate that free devotion, for it is the greatest message that can ever be sent by men.”
Regardless, affection between the new couple was shown when she delivered him fraternal twins. While that event would happen once again later that century, after 970 it never occurred in all the history of the Christian Umayyads. The boy was named Alejandro after his famous great grand-father and the girl was named Sara. She was notable for the red tint in her hair that had been thought vanished in the dynastic line. Ramiro II and Marista were overjoyed, Amina was a healthy young woman and her children seemed to share that health.


In the year 912 a confrontation began. Ever since Olaf and his brother arrived around 870, they had done extremely well for themselves. The great powers of the region recognized their domains but those powers were also becoming different from each other. In the south, the green northern coast and the mountains were relatively beautiful but difficult to make truly prosperous. In the north the wide farmlands and forests of Aquitania and greater disorganization of the Tolosans drew adventurers as honey drew flies. Consequently most of the northerners chose to stake their claims in Aquitania and retained many of their customs though by now over a third were Christian. South of the mountains the natives proved more numerous than the Vikings and following the example set by Olaf, his men began to marry the women of the area.

While Enrigo Olavez was known to his own people as Eirik Olafson, his children thought of themselves by their Spañan names. Prince Enrigo had married Estefania, the only surviving sister of the late Jimeno II and his eldest was engaged to Taressa Ochoa. But his cousin’s son Roldof rose against him on the charge that he was too friendly with the Spaniards and had scorned opportunities to enrich himself at their expense. When Enrigo went to war against his own people, most of the newcomers in Aquitania sided with Roldof. He had as his seat Bordeio on the Garona and with the aid of the local Franks, he defeated Enrigo south the city.

Normally even this urgent matter would not have worried King Ramiro overmuch, but he was concerned that many of the old Tolosan nobles had rebelled against Prince Enrigo to regain their autonomy. A Prince Roldof with Frankish aid would be a living beacon of unrest in the north, even in the Ebro which was showing promise of tremendous wealth.

Now Duke Tajer was old and spent his days in the Misufa northeast of the capital with paperwork rather than in the field. Instead, Ramiro granted the rank of Duke to Ordoño Najera and both of them went north. Against his own heartfelt desire Alfonso took up the rule in the capital, leaving Amina and their children in Sevilla. Alfonso argued heatedly with his father over his decision to go north, saying that it was his place as the heir to do so and not the king. In the end, they parted under unfriendly terms with Alfonso disparaging his father for not being a soldier and Ramiro coldly warning his son to use his mind for more than keeping his head from falling in on itself. With Ordoño and the King where several Captain-Commanders, his proteges and captains who had distinguished themselves enough to command several companies. Chief among these men were Almas Al-Mequino and Gonzalo Sotomayor who had both gone with Alfonso to Sijilmasa to keep Alfonso from making any mistakes typical of youth. In fact, Almas had married a northern girl and he hosted the army for a short time at his own home. Enroute, Gonzalo proposed a new way to subdivide the various commands along the lines he had discussed with Alfonso. While it intrigued Ordoño, Ramiro reminded him that the middle of a campaign was no time for reorganization and the army moved north as it always had.

Enrigo was in a bad state when the Spaniards arrived. While he successfully defended Auscita, he was been cut off from the city when Balyón fell in a daring flanking maneuver. With the main seat of Vizcayzan power now in the hands of Roldof, Enrigo barely held together his own retainers. They skirmished and fought their way back into the Basque country and reached Pampleo where he was joined by his wife. She observed that she had not thought to end her life at siege after beginning it in the same manner (she was at Tudela when it had fallen to Peter Ochoa). That she spoke openly at the prospect was a good measure of current sentiment and Enrigo’s chief worry was a rising in the city itself.

Duke Ordoño moved to reinforce Pampleo and guard Tudela while Ramiro closeted himself with the counts of Tudela and Zaragoza to head off a rising. Ordoño proposed an advance through the mountains to break out into the lands of Aquitania. The Spaniards would raid them to force Roldof’s forces to retreat and salvage something of Enrigo’s rule.

The main body of troops were making the crossing at Orreaga Pass when a force of Roldof’s men attacked the vanguard of the Spañan army. By chance Ramiro II was with the Vanguard and in the confusion of the initial attack he was slain before the identity of the soldier with the excellent armor and tall plume was realized. Ramiro was killed when his horse threw him after being wounded and he broke his neck on his helmet. When the ambush was driven off, Ordoño was horrified to find the body of his king on the field and wept over his sword that evening.

Ramiro reigned for 21 years, and at only 41 had been expected to reign for many more. Ordoño returned to the capital escorting the body, leaving Almas and Gonzalo to protect the border, the campaign abandoned. Even heavy with incense the faint smell of corruption surrounded the body. When the wooden wagon draped in mourning cloths traveled through the capital it required little prompting for space to open up beyond it. The city itself was packed with visitors for upon receipt of the news Alfonso had managed to order a Royal Assembly with exceptions for Tudela and Zaragoza. He then shut himself up in his room and bodily hurled out anyone who attempted to visit with the exception of Amina, who hurried from Sevilla with little Alejandro and Sara when she heard the news.

It was in the reception chamber of these rooms that Ordoño spoke with Alfonso when he arrived at the palace. The palace itself was set for mourning and next to the twin flags of the state which was the green cross-and-star and the dynasty flag which was a black stripe, both on a white field, hung standard after standard in the deep color of mourning and long bolts of silk that same shade had tumbled from the walls.

Ordoño would later write:
Prince Alfonso (for such he was until the assembly formally acclaimed him king) was pale with dark circles under his eyes and unlike his usual appearance. It seemed like he had been ill recently or had not been able to sleep or perhaps both. His wife Princess Marista[11] sat quietly but I cannot recall seeing her eyes larger or more worried than at that moment. Yet she was more composed than the prince and while her head-scarf was snowy white and conservatively cut for the occasion still a hint of her throat could be seen. She nodded to me in compassion when I reported the circumstances of the death of the prince’s father.


As I knelt before the prince I knew he was considering my proposal. I felt then as I still do that it was only as a common soldier at the tip of the spear that I could forgive myself for what occurred but strangely it was Marista that shook her head and leaning forward she placed her hand on her husband’s shoulder and spoke to him quietly.

It was then that Alfonso refused my request but demanded my total service...
At the Royal Assembly of 913 that acclaimed Alfonso II as King of Spaña, there was a declaration of war to the knife against Roldof--and revenge.

The Reign of the Conqueror had begun.
[1]To about 1500 meters
[2]Tar from oil shale, extracted by destructive distillation. There are significant deposits in Barga and Luz provinces.
[3]The floor-window is set in both the floor and at an angle in the wall. It was surrounded by a small barrier to keep people from falling through.
[4]Something like the later Doctrine of Subsidiary.
[5]Near Monaghan
[6]Fréamhú ó hÉireannaigh an Impireacht Naofa (FhEIN) which translates roughly: "Springing Forth of the Irish (people), the Empire Holy."
[7]I may have previously mentioned Culloden as occurring in 890. This is in error, in the original TL and in the Revised Version it still occurs in 899.
[8]Mostly Swedes who are fairing poorly against the more powerful Denmark.
[9]Essentially an early patent system.
[10]Indicating the loose nature of religion in the kingdom.
[11]As a sign of respect for a superior officer’s family, Ordono always referred to Amina by her Christian name of Marista though almost no one else did.



1. Harald's lordship (The Outermost)
2. Minor Irish clans and lordships
3. Princedom of Rhodri
4. Confederation of the South Aar
5. Albenga
6. Pisa
7. Grosseto
8. Amalfi
Part X: Lord of the West
If white is the color of mourning in Andalusia,
that is only just.
Don’t you see that I have put on the white of old age
out of mourning for my youth?
--al-Kafif al-Husri (Kairouan, 11th Century)

The Muster

Alfonso II was 21 years old when he became king. Most of his life was spent in the field, one of the few Christian Umayyads to lead his own armies as a true soldier. After the Royal Assembly he sent his nobles to their own domains to make ready to support the war. It was agreed that producing soldiers would be the responsibility of the southerners while the northerners provisioned them. With the Counts of Lisboa, Granda, Cordoba and the Alcadiz of Mequines, Alfonso traveled Sevilla where he promoted Eliseo the Grenadine to the the rank of Duke. Eliseo had first risen under the eye of the Count of Granda by inventing a better kind of spur and he was sent to Toledo to organized the muster.

While the Count of Lisboa departed for home, a second meeting was held at Sevilla with the local administrators of the provinces of Lisboa, Andalucia and Granda where instructions for supplying equipped and trained militia to supplement the standing armies and provide occupation troops were given to them. It took many months to organize the muster but a steady stream of soldiers gathered south of Toledo.

Alfonso spent the winter of 913-914 in the Maghreb visiting the Maurez at Tanga and appointed a Vali for Mermaza, for that city had grown rapidly and was approaching a population of 5,000. He pledged to send Duke Ordoño to safeguard the region then sailed from Melilla to Barcelona before going to Zaragoza to await the arrival of Duke Eliseo. In Zaragoza who also asked Almas Al-Mequino to take up residence in Luz and guard the southern border. It was at Zaragoza that he fawned over Almas’s two pretty daughters Teres and Selicia. In fact he gave Teresa a beautifully illustrated codex on the inventions of Fernando Abbas she found in the Zaragoza library and signed it: To my Cousin, keep it safe.

When Eliseo arrived in the north, the army was already organized into Alfonso II’s Banner System. Past armies had been made up of companies separated by unit type. The system was flexible but there were always too many spear and sword units and never enough specialists like the Almoghavar raiders or crossbowmen. Logistics were also more difficult. Alfonso cut the companies half but grouped them into large permanent formations termed “Banners” which were standardized in troop types and commanded by a Duke. Cavalry pennants consisting of 150 heavy and 150 light cavalry were attached to each banner. Militia would still be added on an ad-hoc basis, as would cavalry reserves. Each banner consisting of about 1700 men and was heavy with crossbows which had been enthusiastically adopted and improved by the Spaniards in the past 30 years.

It was with three banners commanded by Dukes Eliseo and Gonzalo that Alfonso II attacked.

The Perils of Paganism

By the time Alfonso marched, Prince Enrigo was prince in name only. Despite successfully defending Auscita, he was driven out of Pampleo and forced back into his only remaining territory, Oviedo in Asturias. Calling himself Prince, Roldof offered to renew the alliance with Alfonso but the king wanted war and never answered the request. Roldof looked for other allies but was refused by Francia and Brittany both of who refused. The only person who even bothered to listen was Sweyn of Denmark who had the blackest reputation in Europe for his actions in Greater Albaney. But that avenue closed in a different way. The tremendous expansion of Danish power between 870-910 created a sea-faring power that ranged from the Baltic of Ireland. To keep their support, Sweyn loosened the grip on the raiders his father had imposed.

But even while Roldof asked for aid, an embassy from King Aimret snaked its way through Alpine passes and arrived in Rome in 914. There with the Pope they concocted an audacious scheme: that the pontiff should travel to Francia and ordain a number of Prince-Bishops among the Francian nobility and that these be charged with the mission to rescue to Christians of Denmark from the depredations and pagan sympathies of Sweyn. Seeing his chance to escape Lombard threats, the Pope grasped the offer with both hands and by the time the Lombards and Byzantines realized he was gone, he was already in Augsberg. While this was after the cause of much disaster, by 915 King Aimret was already laying siege to Murenborg and Sweyn had denuded Albaney of his men to meet the threat. Predictably Harald Bloodface seized the advantage and sweeping down from his northern strongholds, he rallied the native populace in the name of True Christian monarchy and native rule and many of his fellow Picto-Norse compatriots sided with him.

Roldof received little more than a dozen boatloads of adventurers from Sweyn.

The Siege of Pampleo

While Eliseo and the king advanced into the Basque Country, Duke Gonzalo crossed the Tormalya pass without opposition and loosed a banner with several cavalry pennants into the low lands west of the Garona River. Amidst much raiding, Gonzalo destroyed a number of Roldof’s garrisons and was welcomed with open arms by the city of Auscita who hated the new prince.

The Spaniards of 915 were guided into the mountains by a number of sympathetic locals but the king and Duke Elisoe had worse luck than Gonzalo. Theirs was an army heavy with footmen for the rough terrain but they still suffered ambushes and hit-and-run raids from Roldof. The main cause for the slow progress was the siege equipment Alfonso brought. Yet once they reached Pampleo with about 5,000 men, these towers with mangonels atop them slung containers of white naphtha[1] into the city un-opposed. As the newest city to come under Roldof’s dominion, his garrison there was strong and resisted stoutly even as the city burned around them. So much naphtha was used that the country suffered a shortage of lamp oil for some years after.

Late in the year Roldof returned. In the west removing his cousin’s supporters all the way to Santander, he gave orders for the defense of Balyon before hurrying south to Pampleo. Arriving to find all but the citadel in Alfonso’s possession, he launched a surprise attack that gained the walls while a force of marines attacked from the river. It took a day of close fighting, but by the time it was over, Alfonso controlled the citadel and had driven Roldof beyond the walls. He then ordered a number of prisoners dressed in his own colors and sat them on the walls with their hands tied and mouths gagged. The ruse worked and Roldof believed he was severely outnumbered. In the meantime Alfonso had snuck out with a small force of cavalry and raided Roldof’s camp. Thinking he was in danger of being surrounded, the prince retreated through wood-lands west of the city with Alfonso nipping at his heels.

Alfonso made his headquarters during the winter of 915-916 in Pampleo and offered the prisoners a chance to serve in his army. Most having more attachment to a stable source of income and their lives than Roldof, agreed. Transported overland, they were awed by the cities and size of Spaña and dispersed throughout the south except for a contingent of several hundred that was placed under direct command of Ordoño. Alfonso himself led a series of daring raids throughout the winter that forced Roldof onto the defensive so that he was forced on the defensive.

The New Provinces

All the kings had to divide their attention between the north and south and Alfonso II was no different. Yet in 916 the border had been quiet for a century marked only by small scale raids as one side or another sought to give their troops a little experience. It was understood that such was the way of things between enemies and as the Spaniards had unified the Ahmarids and the Emirate of Sijilmasa against the Idrisids things were stable. Consequently Alfonso was able to remain in the north, though he had to deal with an endless stream of petitions by Enrigo made by his increasingly embarrassed heir, Alar. His mood was not improved when a significant raid he led in the spring was obliterated by Roldof in the pass at Orreaga. Alfonso himself barely escaped with his life and Roldof proclaimed it from the roof tops. When Enrigo again petitioned him he ordered the prince’s daughter Sigrissa taken to Toledo to serve as a hostage and that he either send him a son and some troops or be stripped of his remaining lands.

While Alar was more concerned with administration, his little brother Bersi was eager to show his mettle and in 917 Bersi and his men helped Alfonso slowly extend his power westwards. The inhabitants of the Basque Country saw Alfonso as less foreign than Roldof who ravaged the land to deny Alfonso supplies. Instead it was the Spañan king who supplied them in that year earning their support. During this time Alfonso retrained his men, instilling ever harsher discipline and prohibiting heroics on pain of dismissal or if it cost lives, death. The grumbling ceased during the campaign season 918 when Alfonso advanced north with 2,200 men and his Crown Captains Velasco Halcona, Garcia Najera, and Aguila of Lejon. Crossing the mountains in winter he destroyed a force attempting to recapture Auscita. Then with Duke Gonzalo, he marched west to join Duke Eliseo with the rest of the army and laid siege to Balyon.

Balyon had experienced tremendous growth in the 9th century. A fishing village in the time of Abd ar-Rahman, it appeared in history when it gave its name to the treaty ending the Consulate War. Slowly expanding it was under Olaf Ironarm that it became important. At the northern terminus of a route that enabled passage between the bay and the Mediterranean, a harbor had been built there and the town in 880 when the town was named the capital. With a population of several thousand in 918 it was guarded by an earthen dike topped with a stone rampart and wooden towers. While the seaside residence was built in a Roman style, the town itself was formidable.

The city surrendered 38 days after Alfonso burned its towers with white naphtha and Garza of Erculea sailed into the harbor un-opposed. Roldof surrendered and was exiled to a small island where he lived in some comfort. For the next few years Alfonso secured as much of the region as possible in cooperation with the new Frankish Princedom of Bordeio. When Alfonso offered to make them his vassals, they agreed rather than be totally absorbed by the much closer King of Francia. So was created the provinces of Aquitania and Vascoña.

The Destiny of the Desert

With 6,000 troops, 1,000 prisoners and a contingent from Bordeio in tow, Alfonso II paraded through the streets of Toledo in triumph. The centerpiece of the procession was Roldof, attired more richly that ever he was during his reign who walked on foot being led by a rope like a dog. Alfonso himself was dressed splendidly and the tack of his mount was inlaid with silver and gold. The route from a mile beyond the city was lined with cheering people celebrating a true conquest as opposed to the Reclamacion. Alfonso dismounted in the great plaza before the Eagle Gate and his troops lined up in ranks.[2] From the balcony above the gatehouse, he gave a short speech then dispersed the crowds and soldiers in relatively good order.

Together with his household guard and Duke Eliseo, Alfonso entered the quiet district home to the city’s rich and the high ranking officials. Known formally as the Government District it was universally called the Omeyata.[3] As the lamp-lighters went through the streets making sure vagrants were taken away, given a hot meal, then thrown out into the main city, Alfonso turned for his palace on the eastern end. There was greeted by the queen with two child attendants. The boy took his horse and the girl his fear but Amina herself took charge of the king. Alfonso did not protest but stopped long enough to promote Velasco to Duke and name him to command the north in place of Gonzalo who was ordered back to the capital. Rodolf was returned to his island.

Alfonso II was an able governor but he was best when at war. When a tattered messenger arrived from Amina’s brother Omer and accompanied by Ordono’s aid and Aguila’s brother, Izmel of Lena, he was eager to hear it even though the news proved troubling. When the Amir died, his sons were each supported by different merchant families on the council and a civil war dividing the city erupted. Her brother Isa had been defeated early but instead of surrendering he fled east and received the aid of the new Idrisid Amir, Ali Abdallah. He captured the city, massacred his brothers and under pressure from Ali began oppressing the Sufri population. Only Omer escaped, fleeing to Taza where he taken in by Alcadiz Yajan and sent to Ordoño in Luz.

Alfonso saw his chance. Encouraging missives were sent to Omer and the royal family moved to Sevilla where Alfonso officially endowed his son Alejandro with the Princely title to the city. Bidding them goodbye, Alfonso left his family and crossed the Strait of Tariq too impatient to wait for Eliseo and the muster. Just 7 weeks after learning of Omer’s plight, Alfonso was in Luz where he made common cause with his brother-in-law and promoted Almas to the rank of Duke.


In 923, Alfonso II invaded Sijilmasa or as the Spaniards knew it, Sigilmas. For desert combat Alfonso prepared an army with an emphasis on lighter armor and mobility. But there were several important innovations adopted: The professional spearmen now had kite shields, the javelineers had small metal plates tied around their vital areas like the heart, and the close-fighting heavy cavalry were dressed in a new kind of armor. This last was called “leathered mail” but we know of it as lamellar. Made of steel, it was riveted to a backing. The army was supplemented by the militia, equipped with a shield, a sword or axe, helmets and occasionally armor. The militia themselves were of far better quality having to endure some weeks of regular training throughout the year. When Omer saw the Spaniards arrive he was delighted then disturbed as the numbers grew with more skirmishers from Barga wearing a new kind of helmet that later became the state’s standard with a long cheek guards and a mail mesh around the neck with an overhanging brim.

As Alfonso advanced south, many of the Spaniards that made their homes in the mountain areas or the northern fringes of Sijilmasa itself, stopped to greet the king when he admired the terraces dotting the slopes wherever there was enough water. The Emirate was made up of a number of small towns and villages with only two, Sijilmasa itself and a fortress in the mountains, of any consequence. Named Agadir Assif a descriptive name, it was located at the source of the River Ziz. Despite its impressive name, it fell quickly to Alfonso’s mangonels and the king spent the summer of 923 in the hills waiting for winter. The advance continued in the middle of October and a number of skirmishes occurred along the Ziz. However a number of the cavalry units chose to switch their allegiance to Omer and provided valuable intelligence against their former comrades.

During the Siege of Sijilmasa, the chief point of contention were the great wheels that supplied the city with water from the Ziz. Located beyond the main city, they were defended by an dike instead of the mud brick wall of the city. Setting a strong guard to prevent flanking attacks from the city, Alfonso attacked with his javelineers and militia but was repulsed. Finally, he allowed Bersi to gather all the northerners who had taken service with him and a viking charge aided by Omer and his men with Aguila decided the battle. Omer however, was killed though his body was not recovered and stories abounded Alfonso had ordered the murder. With the waterwheels cut, the city surrendered and was subjected to an orderly sack as staggering quantities of dirhmas and dars were obtained. Isa was found murdered in the basement of one of the larger houses and with Omer also dead, Alfonso claimed Sijilmasa for Spaña on behalf of his son.


Almost immediately there were scattered riots but Alfonso put those down brutally and the rest of the population accepted the outcome when it was clear that things would continue largely as they always had. As for the Idrisid soldiers garrisoning the town, they were set apart and Alfonso attempted to arrange an exchange with Ali only to learn that the Amir was marching against him with a real army and the century of peace was over.


The first two Idrisid Wars had been fought to end invasions albeit at the loss of some territory. An alliance with Harun Ar-Rashid and the Ahmarids had kept their territorial ambitions in check but loosed a storm of piracy in the western Mediterranean and temporarily seized Crete in the late 9th Century. The Idrisids contested the Spaniards militarily and the Sijilmasans intellectually; Even to their enemies the Idrisids were an examplar of Islamic rule with their patronage of schools, charitable organizations and Islamic justice. While Christian minorities remained in Terita, Talimsen, Tahert and even Dzayer, beyond there were few Christians. Instead the majority were Sufri Muslims who were increasingly oppressed.

To celebrate his capture of Sigilmas, Ali Abdhallah an Alid, had proclaimed himself Amir al’Muminin in direct rivalry to the Abbasids in distant Aracca. Alfonso’s invasion was an immediate challenge and while Ali attempted to unite the Muslims against the Christian Umayyads, the Sufris under his rule saw Alfonso as a liberator from Idrisid oppression. The oppression of the Sufris however had only begun after the emergence of the Makanids Dynasty about whom more must now be told.

The province of Maka was an old Achaemind province that was known as Mazun under the Sassanids. Located on the Arabian side of the Gulf, the name “Al-Makani” was an artifact of history. Abu’l Qasim was originally an Ibadi Muslim who lost his home to a vigorous new sect known as the Qarmatians. Fleeing to Egypt in 870, he fell victim to Caliph al-Mu’ayyad’s campaign against heterodoxy. While abandoned by his successor the talented al-Mutakallim, Abu’l Qasim took refuge among the Khariji sects of the Maghreb[5] and began to preach. Imprisoned by the local governor after he stirred up the populace with his preaching, he was freed by a peasant riot in 874--the same year the Qarmatian seized Kufa. Calling himself Al-Makani, he remained in hiding as Idrisid power waxed then suddenly he emerged and rebuilt the village of Benghazi as his base of operations. Making a deal with Caliph al-Mutakallim to guard his western borders and coasts and he turned back the Greek pirates and raided the Maghreb coasts with impunity. Al-Makani died in 898 at the hands of Idrisid archers, but his son Al-Mahaz proved even more dangerous to the Idrisids. Striking up an alliance with the Banu Hilal, the Makanids swept across Libya and laid siege to Tripoli. In fact, Ali Abdallah was on the road to Tripoli when he heard about Alfonso’s expedition. Turning around, he marched south from Uskar and was joined in the Tell Atlas by the semi-nomads of the Chelif Valley.

Alfonso however was fooled. Believing the Idrisids would strike across the Molaya as they had in 791 and 810, he left Aguila of Lejon in command of Sigilmas and reinforcements north under Duke Almas. “Protect the city,” the king told him. “But have a care of yourself, serve me well and I’ll need you later.”

Marching up the Ziz with 4,000 men, he was stunned to to learn that Ali was only a few days away. Too far from either Sigilmas or Taza, Alfonso filled every container he had with water from the Ziz then turned east into the desert. The discipline he had instilled in his professional soldiers was reward and they kept the militia in line. The journey in 924 was known as the “Sand Dance.” With his crossbows and javelin cavalry, Alfonso harassed Ali Abdallah and drew the Amir farther from even the smallest water source. Approaching the Western Erg, a trackless waste of sand where even the Amasiga did not travel, Alfonso anchored his line against the sand sea and turned to face Ali Abdallah. The Amir was running lower on water than Alfonso for he had not resupplied in the Ziz and had to attack.

The field itself was rocky with a low rise to the northeast. Ali Abdallah drew himself up in a traditional formation: Spearmen in the center, covered by archers with cavalry on the flanks. On his left against the dunes were his light camelry, on this right the heavier lancers to take advantage of the better footing. Alfonso concentrated his crossbowmen on his own left to support his light cavalry against the Idrisid heavy horsemen. Some Almoghavars were also stationed there and these would join in the attack if the enemy approached. In this way they Spaniards screened their javelin cavalry and forced the Idrisid horsemen to rush back and forth across the terrain, tiring them still further.

On the right things were more difficult against the camelry but the spearmen were able to stand fast while the center advanced. Time and again the main battle lines clashed and while Idrisid infantry outnumbered the Spaniards, Alfonso’s men were better trained and it was the Idrisids who lost cohesion and had to fall back and regroup under scattered missile fire. Once again the Idrisid army was rapidly more exhausted than the Spañan.

The decision came when Alfonso ordered the crossbowmen on the left to hold back. Thinking they had run out of arrows, the Idrisid cavalry surged forward to attack the Spañan skirmishers. Suddenly, they were hit by a massive wave of bolts and javelins at close range as the javelin cavalry counter-attacked hard. Fully engaged, Alfonso ordered his Almoghavars to charge into the battle and these superbly trained professionals launched three volleys the last at near point-blank range before falling upon the remaining horsemen. In the confusion much of the Idrisid heavy cavalry was slain or trampled.

Ali launched a furious assault in the center to try and turn the tide but the king held the line together long for the skies to darken with a sandstorm off the Western Erg. Taking advantage of the storm, the Spaniards disengaged and fell back toward the Ziz where Duke Almas arrived with reinforcements and badly needed supplies. The Idrisids having lost their cavalry and being in even more need of water than the Spaniards had no choice but to abandon their possession of the field and retreat north leaving the initiative to Alfonso II.


The Uskar Campaign

Despite personal misgiving over the deaths of her brothers, Amina felt a duty to support her husband. In 924 she began construction in the Omeyata of a mosque that would later bear her name. Built with her own revenues she limited her involved because of her conversion so the Amina Mosque is constructed in a traditional hypostyle. Its only notable architecture are a number of domes surrounding a central roof. The construction won the Spaniards support in the Muslim lands of the south. When it was finished in 939 it became common for highly placed Muslim court officials to worship there and those desiring their attention often waited in the plaza beyond the mosque.

In the south the defeat of Ali Abdallah caused the populations of Talimsen and Terita to rise in revolt, the Sufri Muslims and Christians working together to depose the Idrisid governors. Tahert also rose but that revolt was put down violently. In Luz, Alfonso planned a campaign to take the war to the Idrisids and take advantage of the unrest. First came a raft of promotions. He created the rank of Grand Duke and bestowed it on Ordoño and the old man returned north to take up the defense of the rest of the kingdom. Alfonso promoted Garcia Najera, his nephew, to the rank of Duke and made permanent the rank of Crown-Captain to tie an executive officer to each. While the Dukes Eliseo and Gonzalo gathered the army in and around Sevilla, Alfonso took as his aid Izmel of Lena who had been serving in that capacity under Ordoño and Bersi Olavez accepted the post of Alfonso’s banner-captain.

While Alfonso led the army overland across the river, a second smaller force would be carried in ships to reinforce Mersa and push south to guard Talimsen. The two armies would converge from west and north on the great Idrisid fortress of Uskar. The ships for this plan would be captained by Antonio of Lisboa, whose cousin Nuno was now the Banner-captain of Duke Garcia. After delivering the army in Mersa, Antonio’s only directive would be to keep Mersa safe and ravage the enemy ports. The campaign began in 926 when Alfonso set out from Luz and crossed the Molaya with 10,000 men in 3 Banners and a host of militia. Terita eagerly went over to him and he pushed on to Uskar moving rapidly.

On his march north, Ali Abdallah was forced to devastate his own lands to supply his army and even at that many of the auxiliaries deserted him. Leaving his second son Ahmad to command Uskar, he rode back to his capital to raise a new army. Being attacked from two directions, he had to choose between Uskar and Mersa. If he tried to save his fortress he must defeat Alfonso in open battle, if he tried to defeat the attack from Mersa he might lose the fortress and his position in the west crumble. In the capital he received his son Idris who gave him the grave knews that Al-Mahaz had take Tripoli and was ravaging all the land south of Kairouan. Almost on his heels came the news that Al-Mahaz was dead and his forces in disarray while his son consolidated his position. With this unexpected respite, Ali Abdallah decided to let Uskar stand and headed north to crush the invasion from Mersa.

The Choices of Ali Abdallah

The fleet Antonio led into the Mediterranean was new. At its center were a score of ships laid down around the keel, a reversal of the previous practice.[6] Surprisingly ships were now bigger, stronger and a much larger fighting top had been added. In 926, the Spañan ships were larger than anything else they might face. The Spaniards were also joined by ships from Albenga, Pisa and Amalfi--the western Italian maritime powers eager to curb the Muslim pirates that had made their lives so miserable. After depositing Dukes Eliseo and Gonzalo at Mersa, Antonio joined them at Caliastra where they raided the coast of Ifriqiya before gathering again and pushing west.

“I regret that Lino fellow was lying about his Owl Eye. Something like that would prove useful,” the admiral said.

“At least the glass was very clear,” his aide Unás replied. “Certainly that’s worthwhile.”

Below them the crew rowed in good rhythm to the drumming, those with dark skin stood out. The slave taxes had been raised by the king to help finance the war and a number had sold their slaves or freed them. The strongest had been asked to take service in the military and the steady income and none of the rowers were chained. Morale was good because of past success despite the humid weather. The fleet itself numbered some 60 vessels of which the Spañan were outfitted with artillery in the form of ballistae and slings for the naphtha.

Suddenly a lookout spotted a ship.

Soon a battered dhow came into view with a broken mast and riding low in the water. The passengers, two men and a woman, were Christians from Dzayer. They had risked their lives to escape and reported the departure of Ali Abdallah along with a number of supply ships. Rowing through the night, the fleet rested for some hours and around mid-morning the next day the Spaniards sailed into the bay at Dzayer and attacked the unsuspecting Idrisid fleet.


In Mersa, the Idrisids took the battle to the plain beyond the city but were driven back into the hills by Duke Gonzalo. While the Spañan cavalry ruled the plain, they were defeated when they tried to advance into the hills and stalemate developed. While this allowed Ali Abdallah to recapture Talimsen, it also gave Alfonso the time he needed to take Uskar. The Siege of Uskar was a brutal one, and it was only when Alfonso was able bribe one of the guards to open the gate that the Spaniards were able to take the fortress. Ahmad ibn Ali Abdallah was captured.

Flush with confidence, the king made an error. Instead of marching north attack Ali Abdallah, he continued west, captured Zida and turned north to keep the Idrisid Amir from the capital. In the process he over-extended his troops and they were defeated by Idris ibn Ali Abdallah west of Talimsen. Retreating, the Idrisid Amir himself left off the attack and hurried south to try and catch the king. The true battle was fought northeast of Uskar and it was a disaster for the Spaniards. It was only because Duke Almas remained behind that Alfonso and the bulk of the army escaped annihilation. Ahmad escaped. Alfonso razed Uskar because of a lack of manpower and tasting the bitter dregs of defeat, retreated to Terita. To hold the city he left Aguila of Lena, who had come up from Sigilmas. The only bright spot of the campaign of 926-927 came when was when Duke Eliseo managed to rescue Talimsen from the Idrisids and Uskar itself was abandoned.


The Twins

A blur of movement caught Alejandro’s eye the prince kicked his horse into a gallop. Gripping the staff in his fist he was about to secure possession of the ball when another rider cut ahead of him. A sharp crack sounded and the brightly colored ball went flying. Alejandro made a noise of frustration only to run into bright red scarf as the other rider cut off the path to the ball. He swung around and managed to break free shouting for Almas Halcona. Ahead of him another rider in bright red came into view, her long black hair streaming behind her and Alejandro demanded more speed from his mount. He caught her as she seized the ball and they raced toward the goal posts battling for control. Suddenly she pulled up short and momentum and surprise conspired against him as he overshot her. His spirits rose when he realized he was blocking her path, but she flicked her staff and the ball shot sideways…. right in front of Amasia who promptly scored what had to be a perfect shot.

“That’s it! We win!” the Princess of Spaña whooped hefting her staff in the air. From around the field came squeals of triumph and her team mobbed her in a joyous celebration. Looking around at his own men he saw them looking tired and embarrassed, especially Amasia’s cousin Alfonso. He scrubbed a hand through his hair and scowled at his sister. Her team slowly walked their mounts back to where the groomsmen and her new northern maid were waiting. Amasia Najera looked back under her headscarf and even at this distance he saw her flash a white smile with a touch of mockery at Manuel who she had outmaneuvered for the final shot. He though looked at Sigrissa who rushed out to bring water to the victorious girls and nearly tripped, flailing her arms to keep her balance.

His sister rode up to him and they dismounted, leading their horses back together at a walk and annoyed at her interrupting his view said, “Not very graceful, Sara.”

“Leave off,” she giggled. “You’re just jealous because I command better than you do and I’m not even going to be king!” He could almost hear the giddy squeal after her last sentence and felt his ears heat.

“No, you’re going to be a wife and you’re no good at that, only polo.”

“You just have to bring that up,” she said sharply. “I will do just fine with Ronan and be an excellent princess.” For emphasis she turned up her nose making a haughty sound. He gave in and laughed.

“Oh all right! You rode very well,” he admitted. “That should go over well with the Bretons.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m sorry to bring that up, but you leave so soon…”

“I know,” she sighed. “It could be worse, I could be marrying a Francian. Then I would have to endure how great they are and how they are bringing God to the northmen and Order to the east and how they made Spaña possible and on and on.”

“I see you listened when the emissary arrived last week?”

“At the door on my stomach! Nizra were quite horrified,” Sara grinned speaking of the niece of the late hero Duke Almas.

“At the emissary or your posture?”

“Both of course. Honestly, Alejito, what is it about the desert that makes people so boringly formal all the time? Well I‘ll not be taking her north.”

“I’ll miss you,” he said.

She stopped walking and looked at him. “I know…. but we expected this. I must.”

“Listen to you, putting the affairs of state ahead of everything else.”

“I will always be a loyal daughter of Spaña!” she said, but her face sobered. “The decision is made and I have to make the most of it. Will you write?”

“Don't doubt it even for a moment.”

“Good! Besides I won’t be around to protect Sigrissa from you.”

He sputtered.

“I’ll make sure to write to her about you the instant we arrive in Naoned.”


In 923 Queen Amina gave birth to Prince Ludiz but after the Second Battle of Uskar, Alfonso was concerned for his daughter. He needed allies and she was now of marriageable age. He settled on the heir to Brittany. Since the Princedom had passed to Prince Anigan in 912, he had kept the state together through a series of internal campaigns and was looking to increase his legitimacy. A Princess of Spaña suited his plans perfectly, especially as it promised more favorable terms with their ally the H.E.I.N. That Alfonso did not even consider Francia was a sign of the changing relationship between the two powers. He sent Izmel of Lena to work out the details while he prepared for the campaign in the south.

The Fateful Alliance

It the years it took for Spaña to recover, Terita had been subjected to several attack by Ali Abdallah but Aguila of Lejon commanded the defense of the city well. His position also enabled him to prevent any attempt by the Idrisids rebuild Uskar into a useful fortress and a costly stalemate ensured. Another reason for Idrisid passivity was the rise of Al-Faris as the new Makanid ruler. He was a militarily minded man and after securing his rule he marched on Kairouan and laid siege to it.

In exchange for the the marriage of his daughter and the alliance with Brittany, Alfonso recieved the use of several hundred Bretton cavalry skirmishers. When Ordoño Najera died in 930, Eliseo the Grenadine was promoted to his position. When Alfonso returned to Luz that year he only brought a single banner with which he divided sending some to reinforce Duke Gonzalo who had kept Mersa under military administration since 927, and others to aid Aguila at Terita where they found he was dying. A wound suffered during one of the raids to prevent any camp being established at Uskar had become infected and Aguila and he died before Alfonso could arrive in the town. Izmel was given charge of his brother’s body and accompanied it back to Lejon and their family. Alfonso took Almas Halcona, the son of Duke Velasco, as his new aid.

Then he received a surprise visit from 68 year old Idiro Al-Mequino who came bearing a small box. They were closeted together for a long time and Manzor II of Tanga joined them. After, it was said Alfonso had a look surprise on his face and immediately sent for Teresa and Selicia Al-Mequina who accompanied their grandfather. “Your father was loyal and trustworthy,” he said to the two girls, now young women. “It pains me that I have forgotten you these past three years. You will want for nothing.” He meant it as well, and lavished money on them and though he was careful to always maintain a proprietary distance rumors sprang up he was having an illicit relationship with one or both despite Teresa’s marriage to Tomas, a renowned Metallurgist in Luz.[7]

Militarily Alfonso consolidated his hold over the west and made a new fortified camp in the ruins of Uskar while Ali Abdallah was in the east. The Idrisid Amir never made it to Kairouan which fell to Al-Faris, he died en-route after a reign of 30 years. The heir he chose was his son Idris IV but his other son Ahmad, the governor of restive Tunis opposed the succession and the two brothers fought over the succession. With the Idrisids thus occupied, Alfonso advanced on Tahert. Tahert itself was the western center of Mu’tazilism in the Maghreb and many of its scholars and thinkers had long visited Sijilmasa and the Spaniards so that city capitulated easily. It was the scholars of Tahert who precipitated the meeting between Alfonso and Al-Faris in 932 on the island of Cerdenia. The passage near Sicily had been easy thanks to the squabbling nature of the Greek polities that had other-thrown the moribund Ahmarids.

The fruits of the alliance came in 934. In that year Al-Faris struck a deal with Ahmad in Tunis who became his nominal-vassal in exchange for denying help to his brother. Tunis had always been a restive city and supported Ahmad against the power of the central government. At the same time Alfonso set out from Tahert with the greatest army the Spaniards had put in the field in generations. Composed of banners led by himself, and the Dukes Gonzalo, Garcia, Velasco and the newest addition, Duke Bersi. Thousands of militia were also called out nearly doubling the size of the army and were accompanied by an additional 2,000 Amasigan mercenaries. It was these mercenaries who would later spread the Christian faith among the western nomads and trade routes. All told Alfonso led 17,000 men into the desert.

The funding for this had been provided in part by the religious establishment out of the sale of religious objects or charitable bequests. The Christians saw a chance to expand their faith and the Muslims a chance to alleviate the oppression of the Sufris and a number of merchants voluntarily collected money--they saw the chance of safer and expanded trade routes as the Idrisids had been the main supporter of piracy in the west.

Idris IV faced a choice as to which army to attack and he chose to meet Al-Faris in battle instead of Alfonso. It was not a surprise, for while he was more than twice outnumbered by the Spaniards, he army was only a little smaller than that of Al-Faris. Also a defeat by Alfonso would end the Idrisid regime. If he was able to defeat Al-Faris, he would be able to reclaimed the Maghreb and hoped to whip up sentiment against Alfonso as a Christian invader. In the longterm a rival Sufri power would be more of a threat and in the short term he had a better chance of defeating Al-Faris. So too if he won he might be able to gain more support from his brother and any mercenaries employed by Al-Faris to use against the Spaniards.

The two Muslim leaders met about 100 miles west of Tunis in an otherwise undistinguished mountain valley that would help reduce the numerical advantage of the Makanid army. The battle was a confused melee but Al-Faris prevailed and Idris IV was killed trying to rally his troops. In the west Alfonso surrounded Dzayer by land and sea and stormed the Idrisid capital. Dzayer was subjected to such a merciless sack as had not been seen in the region in living memory. The adult males were put to the sword, the women taken by the victors or sold into slavery along with the children. Every building was ransacked save for the Churches and the three largest Mosques. All the Idrisid ships were captured by the Spaniards.

Alfonso did not keep the city. Remembering the Second Battle of Uskar, he was judged it too far to hold successfully. So too he desired to pay for the army expenses and it was estimated he obtained a value of 18,000,000 silver dars. Al-Faris who arrived later was angry and Alfonso tried to mollify him by handing over a third of his booty. This was sufficient to prevent Al-Faris from attacking his ally but he refused to cooperated with the Spaniards for the rest of his reign and it fell to Al-Hashim (941-953) to renew the friendship of the two peoples.


The Third Idrisid War lasted from 921-935. It led to the unification of the Islamic Maghreb for the first time in two centuries. For Al-Farsi there was little rest--the Banu Hilal who had served as mercenaries began oppressing the populce and he was forced to drive them back east where they plagued the Abbasids and Makurians for a time. His nephew Al-Hashim took a long view, extending central control throughout the land from Dzayer to Benghazi while ruling from Kairouan. Public works and agricultural improvements were made including a number of canals were built. Kairouan became a center for the intellectual development and Mu’tazilism which became intertwined with Sufri doctrines.

In 940 Queen Amina visited Tahert, now another center of free-thought and situated at a meeting point between friendly but somewhat philosophically divergent powers. She came to formally give support to the foundation of the School of Optics in that city and was greeted more warmly there than at Sigilmas. On the way home she took the land-route to travel the land of her youth but while crossing the Molaya, she fell in the water and the next day developed a fever. By the time she reached Luz it was obvious the end was approaching and she died holding the hand of the king as the priest pronounced the rites over her. She was 46.

Alfonso himself remained in the Maghreb almost continuously from 936-940 to stabilize and secure the lands he’d won. He built up the naval base Caliastra and it became a valuable port for trade from east to west while Sicily remained in chaos. In those years Alfonso extended his authority deep into the hinterland by way of a number of military expeditions and priests traveled into the Amasiga lands to convert that people.

In 935 Alfonso returned to Toledo on the news of the death of his second son Ludiz. His heir did not take it well already melancholy after the departure of his sister. Withdrawn and shy, it was known that Alejandro hoped that Ludiz would take the crown. Now his friends began to worry about him and his father grew angry with him. When he returned to Toledo in 940 after the death of Amina, they had numerous arguments over a potential marriage. Eventually it came out that Alejandro had entered into a secret union with Sigrissa Olavez who had been kept as a hostage in Toledo since she was 4 years old. When it was discovered that Sigrissa was with child, Alfonso’s rage was only restrained by Duke Bersi who had become a close friend of his. The king’s anger melted when a little girl named after her mother was born on Christmas Day 940. She was the apple of his eye and even as a baby he doted on her so that it was said that he lost interest in war when he saw her.


On morning in 943, Alfonso II woke up and could not move. Part of his face seemed slack and he had great difficulty speaking. No one could quite figure out what was wrong with him and for some time he had to subsist on liquids. The vigorous king lost a great deal of weight as he was tended by his daughter-in-law. He slowly improved but once again tried to do too much, and ignored advice as he went to try out a new horse. In his weakened state he was unable to control the animal properly and cracked his skull in a fall. He was remembered as the Conqueror because of the expansion of the kingdom and the defeat of the Idrisids. He spent the resources of his land to secure his conquests but in later years that trade would rebound to the wealth of the state. He was looked on favorably by both Christians and Sufri Muslims. Of his 32 years on the throne, 28 were spent in conflict.

The First Interregnum

Alejandro II was an unhappy man but he found comfort in his wife Sigrissa who was also quite shy. It is without a doubt that both loved each other deeply. In character he was said to resemble Harun Ar-Rashid in his youth but if so, his brief stay in Spaña had changed the king for he did not resemble the man who ruled the Caliphate. He was 31 years old when he became king but of his reign little was said though we know he promoted Salamon Al-Mequnio to Crown-Captain and Masa Juassanito to Duke. In 944 he spoke at the funeral of Grand duke Eliseo. In 945 when Alejandro and Sigrissa were crossing the Atlas mountains the Queen fell from her horse and when Alejandro tried to rescue his beloved, both fell down the mountainside and were killed.

There was no chaos at first--the administration kept discharging its functions for a time on inertia alone but the existence of the dynasty had been the lynch-pin of the system. The prominent among the kingdom were thus for their achievements in administration, business, or military acumen but none who lived could expect to rule. As panic slowly mounted it was Fajad AL-Maghrebi who suggested issuing orders in the name of Princess Sigrissa. A common soldier enriched by booty acquired in the Third Idrisid War, Fajad discovered a talent for business, making money and honeyed talk. He married Fara Al-Mequina the attendant to Sara and the nephew of the late Duke Almas and came to the attention of Duke Velasco the Halcona family patriarch. It was in a conversation with Velasco that Fajad suggested rule by committee in the name of the princess and orders where hence-force delivered by “Court of the Generals’ in the name of “Sigrissa of Toledo, Princess of Spaña.”

In the meanwhile an attempt was made to find a more permanent solution Duke Velasco opened discussion with Brittany about having Sara’s second son Morman take the throne. His father however was being courted by Ludiz III of Francia. Matters took on a sense of urgency when in 948 Sigrissa herself died of one of those fevers so common in children.

It was only now that chaos began to grip the state as the Christian Umayyads seemed no more and a number of factions emerged. Duke Bersi favored his second cousin, Rodrigo the Count of Iria who was descended from Ramiro the Wise and the grandson of Viedo Vimaranes. The aged Duke Gonzalo favored Pedro Saavedra of Lisboa, the son of Princess Sedia and he gained the support of Marquio Rodrigo Maurez. Duke Velasco, Duke Garcia and his brother Ludiz who administered the civil service continued to negotiate over Morman of Brittany. When Morman married Eleanor of Francia, that avenue was closed to them.

In the year 949, Velsaco, his son Almas and Fajad Al-Maghrebi met in Valencia. After the failure of the Morman policy, Velasco left the capital to avoiding having to choose between Count Rodrigo or Pedro of Lisboa. In Valencia they were met by Darras Al-Mequino the son of Idiro and the Alcadiz of Mequinez. They were joined later by Almedor of Zaragoza who was the second cousin of Count Fernan who was their host. At one point, king Alfonso’s old aid Alcadiz Izmel joined them with his friend Manuel of Erulea as an emissary from Duke Garcia. Nazer of Talimsen also arrived by ship and departed for the Maghreb with Almas Halcona and Fajad.

In the meantime things in the capital had worsened as the country finally began to collapse around them as taxes were no longer remitted, and orders were now being ignored as the authority of the “Court of the Generals” was empty without force. That force instead being expended in the rival claimants by Gonzalo and Bersi. Matters escalated when Gonzalo ordered his men to block the road to Iria and Bersi replied by saying that “No old man is going to keep me from traveling where I will.” Somehow or other a message was gotten by to Bersi’s Crown-Captain Sancho Najera at the Misufa and soon another army was on the march.

It was in this atmosphere that the real blow finally fell.

The Imperial Challenge

Naming Basil the King of Armenia was a stroke of genius for Byzantium. Basil governed with an eye to the imperial interests but his military successes delighted his subjects. Success defeats by Basil’s Armenians eventualyl resulted in the capture of Baku on the Caspian under his grandson Basil II. The humiliation of seeing Armenia stretch across the Caucasus set of a series of internal revolts in Persia that would eventually lead to the rise of the Moussavid Dynasty. In the empire itself, the Bulgarian emperors after Evan focused on internal improvements and managed to prevent revolts from occurring. Vast infrastructural improvements were made along the Danube and the coasts especially concerning the flooding of that river as the Bulgars were now integrated into the empire. More than a few Bulgarian customs were now common in the empire becoming seen as simply imperial customs. The Balkan population reached 8 million at the death of Romanus the Shipwright in 926.

Alexander III however was a lover of pleasure and a drunkard and the aristocracy so long held down ran wild during his reign. After his death from alcohol poisoning, numerous revolts broke out when his cousin Evan II took the throne. Evan II spent his entire reign putting them down until he died in battle in Anatolia in 937 and Michael, the last living member of the Bulgarians took the throne. Known as Michael the Archonite for his commanding style, he was an adept military strategist and thanks to the Slavic Guard he created from Belocravatian mercenaries, he pacified the state by 940. With the Abbasids in turmoil after the Zanj adopted the Qarmatian philosophy and the Black Stone was taken in the Sack of Mecca, Michael had a free hand in the west.

To train his men, Michael launched invasions Cyprus which surrendered peacefully and of Crete that repelled the Makanids from the island and humiliated Al-Hashim. In 944 Michael extended imperial power to Sicily unifying the squabbling Greek polities. The Spañan response was muted after Alejandro II died in 945. For the first time however the emperors took real notice of the Kings of Spaña and did not like what they saw. A rich dynasty superbly organized and incorporating elements of both the Islamic state and the Roman in a bureaucracy that had by and large prevented revolts. It was so powerful that even after that dynasty seemed to fail in 947 the state had not immediately collapsed.

Michael seized his change. While the Spaniards spiraled into chaos, Michael raised an army of 35,000 and sailed for Italy. In 950 he landed at Bari and the great struggle of the Roman Wars began.
[1]Kerosene, made from the same oil shale as the road asphalt.
[2]They are carved to resemble the Spanish Imperial Eagle--which is known as the Umayyad Eagle in RoS
[3]District Omeyata = Umayyad District
[4]Algiers, Tlemcen, Taourit
[5]Khariji is actually a bit of a derogatory term
[6]Keel-first ship-building disappeared across the Med. somewhere between 300-500 AD and was only rediscovered in the 1200s. In the north it never disappeared and the Viking association with the Spaniards and the Irish led those two peoples to construct their ships in that manner starting around 900.
[7]Tomas is King Enrique’s grandson. Thus Alfonso now is aware of what happened and gave his permission for Teresa to marry a member however secret (even to himself), of the Dynasty who also happens to be the son of his cousin.


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Part XI

Part XI: The Roman Wars and the Trobairitz
When we are come to the cold days
when the ice and the loneliness rise
and the world fears to breathe;
(to exhale breaks the silence)
--Azalais de Narbona, c. the Fourth Roman War
The Girl from Mequinez

In the year 911 Teresa was born in a small villa outside Zaragoza. Her father was a second son of the Alcadiz of Mequinez. Assigned a military post in the region, as a consequence of his absences she became something of a bibliophile. When she three, Alfonso II gave her a beautifully illustrated book detailing the work of Fernando Abbas, assuming she liked the pictures and it set the tone for her life. Determined, by the time she was ten she achieved a solid grasp of the principles in the book and had already begun working her way through Lances of Illumination. In Spana the education of women was not considered unusual, but her attendance of the School of Interactions was. Under the care of her grandfather Idiro and writing regularly to her father who responded with support and encouragement, her curiosity and quick mind won the respect of her instructors and even a few of her classmates including Tomas.

Tomas was a metallurgist who developed a vastly improved wire-drawing method and Teresa was fascinated by the mechanics of the process--and their inventor. When she admitted her feelings to her grandfather, she discovered Tomas had been fostered by grandfather Idiro at the time of his elevation to Alcadiz by the first Alfonso. Instead of smoothing the way forward, her grandfather became increasingly hostile to her. Supported by her father however, she threw herself into her studies and her relationship with Tomas in defiance of custom. It was during this time that Teresa made a study of the “ray flowing properties” of different metals provided by Tomas. She was delighted when her father came for a visit but after closeting himself with her grandfather, he emerged and forbid her to see Tomas and their interactions consisted almost entirely of arguments. She ceased writing him during the 926-927 campaign despite his pleas with the last dated two days before the Second Battle of Uskar where Almas died a hero.

Teresa was consumed in guilt. She left the school and Tomas to accompany her father’s body for burial in Mequinez. She withdrew from public life and concentrated only on her experiments in her own rooms eating little and refusing to see anyone. Idiro broke down and begged Tomas to visit her for she had been growing sickly. When he did by way of a present he gave her an odd device he obtained in the east which made her curious enough to see him.[1] Spending much time together they fell in love once again.

The Seed Sprouts

The year he died, Idiro went to see Alfonso II in Luz. There he surprised the king by asking for permission for Teresa to marry Tomas. Startled the king wondered why and Idiro admitted that it was because he was the king’s first cousin, once removed.[2] Disbelieving at first, it was only when Marquio Manzor was summoned and the letter Enrique wrote acknowledging Rolando as his son produced that the king began to believe--for Alfonso recognized the writing from decrees signed by Enrique in the palace records. Confirmation was sought from the Halcónas and the events of King Alfonso recounted to his nephew. Summoning the couple and studying Tomas intently the said: “There may be a resemblance.”

Alfonso II personally wrote, signed and sealed a document acknowledging the relationship and disinheriting Tomas from the throne which the young man also signed. Blood was also used and the archbishop of Luz, and the Imam Mohammed Sinan who later became the Second Qadi[3] were witnesses. They were married in 933 when Teresa was 22 years old and by all reports it was a joyous union though marred by sorrow as she consistently miscarried. Tomas neither cast her aside nor took a concubine and she sought comfort and meaning in her work--particularly lodestone. In late 939 she became pregnant with her first successful child and named him Ortiz which was an obscure name from her mother’s people. While numerous signs and portents were attested in later years, there was nothing remarkable about the birth save that it was remarkably easy for a woman who had experienced so many previous difficulties. Her second son, Ramon, was a much more difficult delivery and Teresa admitted she was relieved that she never became pregnant after 943.

Ortiz enjoyed his mother’s books and his father’s forges. He was smaller than his brother in the shoulders but later achieved above average height. When he was 8 years old, Princess Sigrissa died and the realm was plunged into chaos and acrimony. As the disorder spread, Tomas tried to organize the inhabitants to defend their region. He visited numerous farms and small towns but died in 949 beating back a raid on Mequinez itself. Shortly after his funeral while she still wore the white headscarf, she hosted Almas Halcóna and Fajad Al-Maghrebi. Escorted by Nazer of Talismen with a sizable force, she was shocked at their pleas to bring her son to the capital.

“There may be war,” Teresa said.

“Only a little one,” Fajad assured her and she did not like his smile.

The day Emperor Michael conquered Otranto, Teresa and her sons arrived at the port in Valencia. The letters by Enrique and Alfonso II were examined and sworn statements taken from Izmel the longtime aid of Alfonso II whom the king confided the truth. While Rodrigo Maurez was publicly supporting the Lisboans, he was secretly securing the area for Teresa’s son. Disguised as religious acolytes, Teresa and her sons were ferried over the Tagus at night and smuggled into the palace through the gardens though Ortiz fell in the water and had to be hauled out by Izmel who said: “My little grandson Rolando is just as clumsy sometimes.”

It was thought that this incident is why Ortiz later ordered a dock added to the small inlet adjoining the gardens.

Appearing in Rodrigo Maurez’s chambers in the middle of the night, they learned that Princess Sara had made landfall at Santander and was accompanied south by a Papal Legate from the refugee Pope.

The arrival of Ortiz in the palace went unnoticed that morning as the news raced through the city that Duke Gonzalo’s heart had stopped on the road. His troops confused and leaderless, Bersi was marching for Galicia sending his Captain Sancho Nájera to secure the capital for the arrival of the Count of Iria. Sancho however proved to have greater ties to his family than his commander and submitted his men to Duke Velasco upon learning of Ortiz’s arrival. Turning north, they caught Duke Bersi west of Salamanca. Sancho said: “I am loyal to my commander, and my commander is loyal to the state. If my commander is not loyal to the state, how can I be loyal to him?” Duke Bersi surrendered and Count Rodrigo of Iria sent his daughter Ortissa to the capital as a hostage, pleading that he had only agreed with the efforts to crown him for the good of the state. Later she was married to Duke Bersi’s nephew whose own wife had passed on and while no children were expected, she did deliver him a son in her thirty-sixth year who later came to rule Ponteramia.


It was above all else the quick acceptance by the General Court that secured the throne for Ortiz. None of the General Court wanted chaos, and because the king’s mother was above all a scholar the state would be run as before only this time with more legitimacy for the General Court. Those who thought to profit from the situation suddenly found themselves without patrons and their own power was reduced. Duke Velasco went south to Lisboa and Duke Garcia north to Galicia to escort the various nobility to the capital.

On September 27, 950 in front of the generals, his mother, brother, Princess Sara, Rodrigo Maurez and others, the crown was placed upon the head of Ortiz. He took the family name of Araman to remind people of his continuance with the Christian Umayyads, of who in fact, he was as honestly a part of as Alejandro II had been. The proofs were laid open and an aged servant was brought out of the pensioner’s villa to swear before God of the truth.

Riding on a snowy donkey from Cerdena, Ortiz entered the city through the gate that would later bear his name and slowly rode along the streets first on one side, then another, before the people flanked by a number of nobles including Count Rodrigo and Pedro Saavedra for himself and his dying mother, Sedia. The turnout was immense, and while estimates of a million people must be discounted, the population of the city was approximately 137,000 at the time and so the route was lined with people. Arriving at the Grand Hall which was still incomplete, Ortiz Araman was acclaimed King of Spaña and if there was relief on the faces of the nobility it was only appropriate. Speaking the words he had been instructed, Ortiz called Duke Bersi forward and asked for a renewed oath of loyalty to the state and got it.

“Forgive me, King Ortiz,” Bersi said. “I only wanted the good of the state.”

There was no way to ever know if that was true, but Ortiz accepted it and Bersi was restored to his old position. Immediately thereafter the Papal Legate handed Ortiz a letter which he read out in a clear voice.
.....the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Servant of the Servants of God reminds the King of Spaña who is also the Consul of Rome, of his duty to protect and succor the Holy City.

....Lately a number of Greek bandits have been arousing trouble and he asks for the assistance of the Consul so that he can freely visit the Scared City of Iria Flavia.....
-- Paulus PP. II
“Duke Bersi,” Ortiz said and this was not what he had been told to say. “I am too young to travel that far but I need someone to go in my place and fulfill those duties for me. Will you go?”

Even his mother looked surprised, but none was more shocked than Bersi Olavez himself. He knelt before the king with a smile and said, “You do take me at my word, my king. If it is your command I will go to Italy and serve you faithfully.”

“I command it,” Ortiz said. “Both of those things.”

Duke Bersi laughed as the Royal Assembly shouted for war against the Greek Empire.

The State of Italy

In the year 950 Italy consisted of a number of states each struggling for advantage. The Spaniards had allies in the west in the city-states of Pisa and Amalfi. An earlier alliance with Albenga had weakened but neither was there any conflict. It was these three cities that were the main beneficiary of the Spaniard-Arab trade: Sailing with Spañan representatives, they received favorable trade deals then return to Caliastra where goods were sent to the cities along the western Mediterranean. Albenga and Pisa in particular benefited, with the former recently extending its influence over Nizza, and the later the same for Florence and annexing its longtime rival Grossetto, in 939. Amalfi was wealthy enough to obtain a dominant position over Salerno. The other states in the peninsula consisted of the regained Sicily that belonged to the Greek Empire, the Principality of Benevento which was an imperial vassal, the Princedom of Spoleto which was associated with the Papacy, and the Kingdom of Italy. While in theory the king was first among the dukes, in practice each squabbled with the others and many now looked north to the Confederacy of the South Aar for trade and friendship.

The Confederacy of the South Aar, the Aarin, was an accident of history. In the Reclamación the region formed a league of cities pleding itself to Francia. The terrain made conquest difficult and the Kings of Francia saw them as a useful buffer and ally. Consequently their influence had predominated since before the turn of the century. With the attention of the Francs directed more often north and east than south, the Aarin had slowly extended their influence and that of their neighbor into Italy.[4]

Sicily had been overrun by the Ahmarids just before their destruction. The survivors struggled on in Sicily for another decade but a series of revolts left squabbling Greek city-states in control until its recapture by Michael in the 940s. Benevento had prospered through the 9th Century but the depredations of Adriatic and Muslim pirates had forced retreats from the coast and those regions became increasingly lawless. The reduction in sea trade undermined them and they were defeated by the Amalfitans while attempting to capture the city in 920. By 950 Benevento was coming apart.

In the south Greek culture had declined. An overwhelming majority in Sicily and Calabria, in Apulia and points farther north it was a plurality and in a some places nearing extinction. Blame can largely be ascribed to the Bulgarian Dynasty policy of taking Greeks from Italy and resettling them in Anatolia, north of Bulgaria to create dependent loyal populations. Begun by Caesar Kreanus, a century and a half had weakened Italy so even Taranto gave equal precedence to the Roman Rite and the Greek.

The Imperial Invasion and the Fall of Rome (950-951)

Only the port of Bari was held by an imperial governor at the start of 950. The imperial expedition landed peacefully but strained even that city’s harbor and it took some months to transport all the troops. To secure the region, the emperor marched south and captured Taranto on the same day Ortiz Araman was ascended to the throne.

When Benevento asked for aid, the emperor sent his youngest general Gabriel Bagratatzes who hailed from Sardis and descended from Armenians evicted by Basil’s successors. Now under his first independent command of 4,000 men, Gabriel waited for both the prince and the rebels to wear themselves out then crushed both in a surprise attack that saw him celebrate Christmas in Benevento.[5] In the south, Demetrios Tornikes a member of the great rivals to the Bagratatzes struck west and took Crotona by a daring attack made by land and sea. Demetrios celebrated the Theophany of Christ with the governor of Reggio, annoyed Gabriel had succeeded slightly before he did though he had the great challenge.

The campaign season of 951 began when the three commanders met at Potenza, having frightened into submission everyone in their paths. Marching to the coast then turning north, the emperor was accompanied by a large fleet and they laid siege to Amalfi with 20,000 men. The Amalfitan navy was experienced and loyal and they delayed the fall of the city long enough for Pope Paul III to forge a coalition with Spoleto and the Toscani to try and hold back the emperor. Leading 5,000 men from around Amalfi, the emperor took the field, shattering the relief force.


This defeat took the heart out of the Amalfitan defenders and the emperor entered the city by means of treachery. Amalfi was stormed and sacked over the course of 6 days until the inhabitants rose against the emperor and over 1,000 were killed in renewed fighting. The chaos was such however, that Mara, the youngest daughter of the Duke of Amalafi escaped by boat and arrived in Rome insensible with fear. The capture of the city caused the submission of much of Campania which was treated more compassionately though Emperor Michael took possession of the medical books and practitioners and sent them to Constantinople “where their talents will be used in a manner that befits them.”

All through the summer reinforcements had been arriving from the east and Gabriel and Demetrios were once again sent north--this time each commanded an army of 10,000. The emperor remained in Salerno believing their competition would work to his advantage as long as he kept them from undermining each other. At first his strategy proved successful.

The Lombard King of Italy was able to successfully unify the fractious northern duchies into sending an army to defend Rome where they met Bagratatzes in battle. They gave an excellent account of themselves and it was only when the king was killed that the army disintegrated. Bereft of defenders, Gabriel marched into Rome and upon finding the papal residence empty and after a fruitless search, read a proclamation from the emperor declaring Paul III deposed. Less than a week later Michael’s chosen successor, Georgios was installed in Rome and Demetrios Tornikes was on his way to Spoleto in search of the fugitive Paul III.


The war for Italy seemed over. Papal or Italian entreaties to the Francs went unanswered as Ludiz III was already ill with the disease that would leave him in agony for the next few years and his brother was fully occupied suppressing unrest in the Danish territories secretly fomented by Hugh of Thuringia who had trade ties to the region. Gabriel Bagratatzes was busy receiving the submission of the towns between Rome and Salerno and Demetrios confidently reported Spoletto would fall in weeks. It seemed appropriate when the emperor named Gabriel Catepan of Magna Graecia, leaving the northern frontiers to Demetrios while Michael himself returned to Constantinople from which he had been absent for over a year. The surviving Lombard duchies could not agree on a new king and Pisa, Albenga, and Ravenna founded what was known as the League of Forli (where it was forged) to resist. Even in these cities however there was little confidence and most recognized it as a gesture of resistance and a diplomatic bargaining chip rather than true military opposition.

It was into this situation that a Spañan fleet of 50 ships and 5500 men arrived in Italy. Led by Dukes Bersi Olavez and Almas Halcóna, the army disembarked at Lucca while the fleet departed south to contest imperial naval superiority. When he heard about the Spaniards, Demetrios lifted the siege of Spoleto and hurried north to meet them before they could unite the Toscana cities. He also sent a terse request to Gabriel Bagratatzes and owing to the rivalry between them Gabriel sent about 3,000 men by ship--and right into the Spañan fleet.

Fought in the Toscani Archipelago, the Battle of Elba began when the Spaniards launched a massive barrage of white naphtha and quicklime. The Byzantines responded with Greek fire but they had been caught unawares by the Spañan artillery and took heavy opening losses. As the fleets closed on each other, fires burned on the surface of the water and smoke blanketed the battle site. In the battle the tall fighting castles of the Spaniards reduced the effectiveness of Greek archery and many imperial ships ran out of arrows whereupon the Spaniards could pepper them with impunity. However the fighting castles provided large targets for the Greek fireships and it was not until nightfall that the Byzantine fleet limped back to its ports. Regardless the battle assured Spañan naval supremacy in the Tyrrhenian Sea for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime the army had assembled at Pisa and it was with a sizable contingent of Toscani forces. Because Duke Almas had been sent northeast to unite with the levies from Ravenna and Emilia, it fell to Sancho Nájera to remain in Lucca. Relations with his commander Bersi had been cool since the events surrounding Bersi’s capture in 950 and Sancho suspected he was being marginalized. When he received the news of the successful battle at Elba, he took advantage of Spañan naval control by arranged for a massive light cavalry force to be landed south of Grosetto to launch raids into enemy territory. Instead he was told Duke Bersi was in the middle of a major battle with Demetrios. Turning north, Sancho set fire to the Byzantine camp then fell on the imperial army from the rear so that it disintegrated utterly and Demetrios Tornikes was captured.


The victory at Grosetto was of inestimable value. It showed the Italians that the Byzantine armies could be resisted in open battle by the Spaniards. In the aftermath, Sancho raided the region around Rome while a military administration was set up in cooperation with Pisa and Florence in Toscana and with the League of Forli more generally.

In early 952 as he was continuing to raid throughout the winter, Sancho brought both Paul III and 14 year old Mara of Amalfi back to the Spañan headquarters at Lucca. Paul III solemnly excommunicated Georgios and Georgios returned the favor. In the confusion though, Mara became Sancho’s ward and she shadowed him on his duties as he slowly helped her recover from her ordeals.

The Struggle for the Center

In the spring of 952, Duke Massa arrived in Italy with another banner and new militia to replace the old. A number of the veteran militia who returned were used as instructors to train their local comrades in warfare. Supplies from Albenga and Nizza began to arrive as well as reports of more troops massing along the eastern ports. This time, Imato of Lejón the Banner-Captain of Duke Almas led raids south. While Pope Georgios resisted fiercely, he received no help from his eastern allies--Gabriel was busy elsewhere.

In 952 the Makanid Amir Al-Hashim landed an invasion force on Sicily. Conquering Trapani, they ravaged the coast on the way to Palermo where they defeated a small hastily assembled fleet with the aid of a few Spañan ships. It was the first cooperation between the two since the Third Idrisid War. Palermo was captured late in the year and Rome, despite a short siege that was little more than a show of force, remained subject to the emperor.

Gabriel was ordered to focus on the south and in 953 the northern campaign was placed under the control of the aristocratic Theodoros Phocas. Sancho and Imato were able to achieve significant success in the north while Theodoros was busy consolidating his grip--by the end of the year Rome was nearly surrounded. On Sicily, Gabriel had great success for Al-Hashim died that summer and the troops were recalled to assure the succession of his brother Al-Khaliq (953-961) who was more interested in building up his domains than expanding them.

In the 954 Theodoros led a major army up the eastern coast to relieve the pressure on Rome and force the Spaniards to widen their area of operations. It was also easier for the Byzantines to supply armies on the eastern coast. Once again Sancho Nájera proved invaluable: he led a mobile cavalry reserve that stung the imperial armies time and again. By the time they reached Ancona they were in a bad state and Duke Almas was able to route them at the Siege of Ancona where many were captured during the retreat.

Later that year Gabriel Bagratatzes was recalled from Italy--a major revolt had broken out in Anatolia due to the anti-aristocratic practices put in place by Michael to finance the war. There were concerns over the loyalty of Phocas and as such an envoy was sent to Lucca to discuss a partition. The First Treaty of Lucca (954) largely confirmed each side in possession of what it had. Demetrios was released and installed as the Catepan of Italy while Theodoros returned to the capital under the emperor’s watchful eye. Both sides would restrain their allies from raiding the other as much as possible, particular the growing conflict between Ravenna and Reka.

In the end, the Byzantines gained much of south Italy including Rome. But their influence over the north was fully checked and established the hostility between them and the northern powers. The emperor was greatly concerned at the speed and efficiency of the administration the Spaniards were setting up in Toscana. That the Spaniards alone had saved the northerners earned young Ortiz much prestige and respect across the region. In addition their allies in Kairouan had proved trustworthy. Their major loss was the Amalfitan domains but naval superiority had been achieved and efforts at improving the ships further continued apace including the arrival of several shipwrights from the H.E.I.N.

No one expected the settlement to last.

The First Roman War (950-954)


The Junta

One candidate to rule the Military District of Italy was Duke Bersi, but he was recalled soon after the treaty to take the position of Grand Duke. For the grandson of a Viking chieftain Bersi had done well for himself and his family: his son held Pamplona, his nephews Oviedo and Ponteramia. Instead, Imato II of Lejon was promoted to the dukeship with Sancho Nájera as his second. Imato was a good man, loyal and honest with had military and administrative talents--but he was undermined almost from the start by his colleagues. This was through no fault of his own, but with the immediate crisis passed, the group that had orchestrated the rise of Ortiz to the throne began to entrench their power throughout the state.

It began when Rodrigo Maurez died in 955. His son Manzor III was not requested to come north to advise the king breaking a century old tradition. Instead Count Almedor of Zaragoza was asked to advise the young king. In truth, Almedor was old and the true power rested elsewhere while his grateful son ruled Zaragoza in his stead. In the coming years Duke Almas extended the influence of his family betrothing his daughters to Fajad’s son and the Saavedras of Lisboa. Fajad did the same, but unlike the Halcónas, he proceeded more cautiously and united his family with the short-lived House Imadez (899-970) the junior branch of the Maurez that ruled the lands around Melilla and Nicora.

It was these actions which gave rise to what was known by historians as the Halcóna Junta as they dominated the politics of the kingdom. The web of alliance and interests encompassed important cities in the provinces of Lisboa, Asturias, Zaragoza, Valencia and parts of Gran Rif. It involved military generals and an admiral, the shipping interests of addenda provinces like Godosa and the newest Master of the Mint, Garza Saavedra. The consolidation was unprecedented for members not closely related to the Dynasty and it rendered Ortiz Araman a puppet. Yet while much was done to increase the power of this group, much was also done to strengthen the state so that they could continue to exercise power with near impunity.

The Second Roman war (959-962)

In Italy, the inhabitants of the military district were surprised. Locals continued to rule their cities with a great deal of freedom, certainly more than had been the case before, and while resources were re-purposed for the use of the Spaniards, their obvious defense against further imperial encroachment made it tolerable. Oppression was at a minimum and in fact, Ortiz earned himself plaudits when Sancho Nájera defeated an abortive attack on the League of Forli by the newly elected King of Italy in 957. It was upon his return that he announced his marriage to Mara of Amalfi, his ward of some years who was nearly twenty years old and quite infatuated with the successful general. For their part the increasing numbers of educated and competent officials that arrived were appreciated and the Councils of Pisa and Florence found their wealth increased.

Not all the cities were as happy. The position of Duke of Ravenna had emerged from the history of the place. Indeed for some time in the early 9th Century Ravenna’s governors were appointed by the Lombard kings of Italy but pledged loyalty to the emperor-- now they were functionally independent. In 958 a rising occurred against the duke and to avoid forcing the League of Forli to fight itself, he reached out to the Spaniards. Duke Massa and his second Juassan of Taza crossed the Apennine passes with a mixed force to quell the violence. The rebels found they had few allies as the Spaniards were focused on keeping the north quiet in the face of renewed imperial activity. In desperation they reached out to Andelko, the Prince of Reka. While nominally a vassal of the emperor, Andelko had spent his reign increasing Rekan independence. Few contested him save the merchant council of Zara which he had finally captured in 955. Intervening to display his power and independence, he turned the Ravenna uprising from local dissenters to a revolt that shook all of the Emilia and Romania region. The small police action anticipated by the Spaniards became a bloody campaign of repression. When Andelko captured the city of Trieste, the Spaniards responded with a series of raids against the Rekan ports. Emperor Michael demanded the Spaniards cease the attacks on Reka and allow the rebels to administer Ravenna. Rejected out of hand by the committee in Toledo, it was the perfect excuse for a second invasion of Italy.

This time with the south already secured, Emperor Michael was able to build and operate the large transports for his heavy cataphracts. These powerful horsemen had a devastating charge, powerful short range bows and heavy armor. For an army used to battling the lighter desert troops as the Spaniards, there were no desirable options to use against the imperial forces. Instead, they placed their hopes on the navy. Pedro Saavedra’s fleet by means of sailing around Sicily and southern Italy, was able to ambush a major fleet of imperial reinforcements in 960. While eventually beaten back into the Tyrrhenian Sea, much of southern Italy became subject to naval raids. On land, Duke Imato’s troops devastated the lands around Rome which became subject to a great illness in the years 961-962.[6] Ancona fell in 961 to the imperial forces and it seemed only a matter of time before the emperor would march on Ravenna itself.

The Second Roman War (959-962)


Instead he died.

Emperor Leo V was in no position to continue the conflict. As soon as the news of Michael’s death reached the empire, the resentful aristocracy began making trouble and the armies of the east acclaimed aristocratic general Theodoros Phocas emperor. Sparing a moment to curse his uncle for leaving him in such a predicament, Leo actually paid the Spaniards to transport the army back across the sea for his use.

There was no official agreement ending the Second Roman War, it sputtered to a close. Instead Leo V managed an agreement with the Spaniards to create a buffer zone between their lands and barred from Rome only Paul III. A number of garrisons and ships were withdrawn from this region and other parts of southern Italy as the secure territory in the west shrank as Leo prepared to meet the challenge of the Phocas. While resulting in the loss of Ancona to an independent commune, it also kept both sides from raiding the other. Even Sicily was somewhat denuded of manpower which the emperor would regret when Ahmad Al-Dzayeri came to power in Kairouan in 965 after four years of turmoil in the Makanid lands and invaded Sicily.

A Question of Greatness

Ortiz Araman was the King of Spaña, the lord of the west, the master of lands from the Garona river to the Sahara and from the Atlantic Ocean to the suburbs of Rome. He had been king for over decade. And he was useless.

In 963 he had just returned from creating Enrique Nájera as the Count of Palma, a city he knew in no way merited the bestowal of the comarca (countship). The ceremony had been brief, attended by the Halcóna and their allies. Duke Almas had been there, and Count Mustan. Sancho Nájera with his wife the renegade duchess of Amalfi had also attended and when Ortiz objected that such a crucial military commander not be absent from Italy he was quietly reminded that the empire was looking inward and then promptly ignored. He concealed his disgust for the casual way they talked of arranging the marriage of six year old Miren of Santander.

It had been this way too often the past few years. The only bright spot was finally being able to name Saloman Al-Mequino as the new Count of Iria after the death of old Count Rodrigo. His daughter Ortissa had long ago abandoned any claims to inheritance for her husband upon her marriage to Bersi’s nephew, Geraldo. That Saloman was a descendant of Vimara Peres only made it all the sweeter. He had long wished to reward the Al-Mequino family who was his family and had always treated him well even when it seemed he would end up as a metallurgist like his father. It had taken a great deal of effort on his part but it was worth it. Still he had too many disappointments these days and not enough successes. He had never expected to exercise royal power as a child but as his efforts were frustrated after his majority, the time spent studying public administration, trade and rhetoric only drove home his status as a prisoner. He would have gone to his mother but Teresa had retreated into her own work after only a few years, able to emerge for the good of the kingdom but unwilling to remain. When she died in 960, he, Ramon and their cousin Dimas had all gone through her notes and lab trying to make sense of the arrangement of jars, wires and metal discs. The vinegar and silk still had no explanation but Dimas had seemed to recognize the strange small windmill attached to wires and lodestone. The significance of one of her last entries: “Rays come from lodestone!” was interesting none of them were interested and Dimas’s brother Rodrigo was too excited to be ruling Mequinez.

With a sigh, he made it know that he would be riding to the Villa of Ramiro II outside the city that had become the personal retreat of the kings. Only a pair of guards escorted him which was a relief, but also spoke to his lack of importance in the running of the state. They needed him alive but nothing more. That he so rarely opposed them meant he had a lot of time to himself and while he had learned about many subjects the wars in Italy made him despair. He understood it necessary to prevent the Greek Empire from establishing total dominance of the peninsula, but he also wondered at the expenditure of blood and money. Paying for wars was amazingly expensive and even the funds from sacking a city disappeared so quickly.

It would not have been possible had it not been for the increasing agricultural output of the land. Since his coronation in 950, the land especially north of the Pyrenees had experienced a number of excellent harvests and mild winters.[7] Attributed by the populace to his own rule and the importance of having a member of the family on the throne, it ensured a greater degree of loyalty. As he rode west from the city, he passed the farms near the river where the crops were in full flower. It would be harvest time soon and the militia would doubtless be concerned over being away from their farms, eager to take up the cradles. Still, the stores established for the use of their families had proved adequate and few would return to find their livelihoods gone.

The Villa of Ramiro II was a relatively plain structure. The main building was two stories, rectangular and built completely of stone unlike most of the country residences of the elite. Smaller wings housing the functional aspects of the villa extended ahead of the main building to help enclose a small courtyard. The whole was surrounded by a low stone wall that was essentially a decoration useful for keeping animals out of the back garden and deterring thieves but militarily insignificant. The only notable feature was the small dome over the entry hall of the main building. While the land had been purchased and first story built by Alejandro the Reclaimer, Ramiro II had done much of the design himself during his free moments. With a good amount of light left after his arrival Ortiz went to the library on the first floor and selected the book of advice written by Ramiro II to his son Alfonso and future kings. Without bothering to change out of his riding clothes, Ortiz leaned against a palm in the garden and thought for a moment about the lines Abd ar-Rahman uttered when confronted with a palm not far from here, maybe even this one.

As he read he thought about whether he should rule the state or not. The committee that kept him powerless had also not run the state badly. Tax revenues were not constantly oppressive, the borders in the Maghreb were harassed by the desert tribes but that was nothing new. In the north the borders were quiet. Piracy was down in the western Mediterranean. In the bureaucracy while they placed their allies in charge, most of those allies were able to do the jobs assigned. Corruption was rampant but competency was also demonstrated. If his enforced idleness kept the state functioning was he not duty bound to it? Was it really so bad a thing? Then he read the preoccupation Ramiro had written about the duty of a ruler.

If there was anything the committee did not do, it was rule for others. If they turned the state to serve their own needs to the detriment of the rest, no one could stop them. Had they not started a great war in Italy? But it would be a long road back to power for they were entrenched. Perhaps the trade mission to the north would be the start. While he resolved to do it, there was still a bit of bitterness in him that day.

Ortiz would have to do it alone.


He had with him a minder. Mustan of Zaragoza had been sent as an adviser because his domain bordered the Francian districts north of the mountains--at least in theory. Iuceph, the envoy from the traders and merchants association at Barcelona was capable enough of doing the job and so Mustan must have gone to keep and eye on him. It had taken a great deal of convincing to allow him to do even this, but the stick of not raising Duke Almas Halcóna to the Grand Dukeship and carrot of getting him out of their way in the capital had done the trick. The trade mission was also extremely important in light of recent events in the north and the ascension of the child-king of Francia.

For the last decade of his life, Lutis III had become increasingly ill. So much that Francia could not respond to the entreaties of Paul III. His brother Charles had been fully occupied in the north only to be killed by a raiding party of Swedes in 954, a turn of events that left Lutis’s young grandson on the throne. It was a position Ortiz could sympathize with but also a cautionary tale. No regent had been named for Charles owing to the quick deaths of his farther and uncle and the great nobles of the realm could not agree on one until Hugh of Thuringia simply took the prince under armed guard in 957. While all factions claimed to be loyal to the Aldrian line, the Francian nobility began to sort itself into sides while the High Prince was little more than a bargaining chip. As the powerful nobles chosen sides, the nobility at the distant fringes of the kingdom began to exercise more independent power. While the eastern lands had the constant threat of slav--and for a brief period from 955-970 Khazar--attacks to keep them attached to the central government, the southwestern lords had the power state of Spaña. As the closest Spañan city of import, it was Narbona which was chosen for the negotiations.

Narbona at the time was a bustling city. Having truly become part of Spaña during the Reclamation it had quickly become the most important northern city and benefit greatly from southern engineering that had repaired and improved the ancient Roman canals and dam. An expansive stone highway had been built from the city to the coast, consisting of about 5 Spañan miles. It was long this highway that Ortiz traveled on to reach the city, which was notable for the great bridge that spanned the river over which a number of shops and houses were built to several stories.

There was a clear stir when Count Vero realized the royal banner accompanied the southern arrivals but Narbona was wealthy and the refreshment and initial welcoming celebration had already been grand enough for a person of Ortiz’s theoretical stature. Flags, and trumpets and shining armor blurred in his mind as he functioned on automatic reflexes in regards to the protocols. Already he wasn’t sure whether his arrival would do any good, Mustan and Iuceph clearly would take the lead in negotiations with the Francs lords. Ortiz concentrated on the oddly but tastily prepared meal of chicken which he was well known to favor, but it was only after the dinner itself when the musicians were preparing to play that he noticed Vero arguing with a tall, slim young woman of impressive passion. To his surprise she joined the musicians, playing a very large harp that forced her to sway delicately from side to side. Her movements were fascinating to him but so was her obvious talent and when she had completed her performance, she colored slightly when she noticed his direct gaze.

This was the first meeting of Ortiz and Azalais.

King's Eye

The day after the dinner dawned rainy and Ortiz spent much of the morning after mass in the trade talks with the Francs. They were more than a little frustrating as Mustan had been chosen for his skill with his tongue and he was able to smoothly take over from the king. Ortiz knew he could not risk riding over his own noble or the foreigners would see just how powerful he was in fact and any influence would be gone. The negotiations broke off for the midday meal and Ortiz returned to the rooms assigned to him where he received a small report on the musicians from the night before. It had cost him some silver dars, but when he read the information he considered it money well spent. The girl was Azalais of Narbona, Count Vero’s youngest daughter and even at fifteen, she was considered a talented player of stringed instruments and a promising lyricist.

There were female poets in the capital and cities like Sevilla, and he knew he employed a rather astonishing number of clerks (for their attention to detail and legibility of handwriting generally outstripped the males) but public performances were unheard of. The most that could be said were small private family gatherings in a home. Yet in the local language that was the native tongue of Narbona, the girl was affectionately known as a Trobairitz. After returning from inspecting the harbor, that evening Ortiz pleaded fatigue and took dinner in his rooms. He also sent a note to Count Vero asking if he could find it in his heart to entrust his daughter Azalais to his care for the evening for personal but chaperoned entertainment.

When she arrived that evening, she was dressed conservatively with only the colored sash at her waist indicating any particular sense of fashion. It did however please the king that she wore the scarf around her head in the Spañan style, winding it around her head and allowing to fall loosely around her shoulders. A thin veil of linen scraped exceedingly fine was held in place by a small chain of good copper work. With her came a pair of male servants to bring in her instruments and her personal made. Escorting the girl was her cousin the Alcadiz of Bezerra who had been introduced to him before. They were somewhat surprised that Ortiz remained largely alone but for a single young servant but settled down easily enough.

“Welcome Bezerra,” Ortiz said to her cousin who was in large part responsible for the border from the mountains to the coast. “And to you, lady Azalais.”

“Thank you, King Ortiz,” she said in a clear, darkly musical voice bending her knees before him.

There were no words of consequence exchanged between them that night--her performance was communication enough. While he discussed prospects for a hunt later on in the visit and the general state of the border with her cousin who was somewhat subdued as to be meeting the king, Azalais quietly tuned her harp, a small drum and five string Outa[8], a variant Ortiz had not seen before. To his relief, Azalais sounded as well by herself as with other musicians. To Ortiz, Azalais seemed the embodiment of youthful energy, and her demeanor reminder of what he had felt when first achieving his majority before the realizing of the power of the committee bounded his powers. As he listened, Ortiz did not realize that he began to smile, an expression he had not often used in anything except dark humor for some time. The most arresting thing about her, he decided was the passion evidenced in both the way she played and the subjects of her poetry. The southern style that dominated the court was starker even cynical perhaps contributing to Ortiz’s attitude and he approved of the way she mixed the music with recitation and metaphorically explored a wide range of emotions without shying away from any aspect. It was not until late in the evening that the gathering broke up and Ortiz apologized for keeping her so long. The next morning would see a report on the day’s conference and he would again have to sift through what Mustan told him to try and determine the truth. Idly he wondered if the girl could suggest someone to help keep an eye on the count and the next morning he sent a small note requesting a public meeting later in the morning.


Azalais breathed deeply but even so the laces cut into her side and she finally let loose with a tiny gasp of pain. Her maid nodded with perhaps a bit too much enjoyment but tied off the laces carefully. Even through the expensive cotton panel, she could feel the stays constricting her.

“Am I presentable?” she demanded of Richildis.

“Barely. The laces make your dress too tight and your braids are never tame. Your hair simply is not suited for them but anything else is too wanton.”

Hearing something other than what she wanted, Azalais speared the maid a withering glance and pushed her fists tight against her middle to keep the butterflies down. In the corner the water clock made a small chime as weight of the water activated the gear work that turned the mechanism. Ordinarily Azalais was fascinated at the object which had come from Lleida though she had long since accepted that she was simply not capable of following the equations that explained it. It was decorated in the heavy style of elaborate ostentation that she personally though too heavy for personal chambers.

“I am not my mother, Richildis,” she said loftily. “We are not talking about a dinner and I am not being immodest if I put up my hair differently. Please bring the pins.”

“As you say, my lady,” Richildis responded. Moving to the stool, Azalais watched her closely for an eye roll but Richildis simply opened the wooden box on top of the shelves and drew out a number of hair pins and the long pin of Azalais’ own devising as a child. What Azalais did not realize was that as haughty as she could be, she still retained a sense of obligation of respect for her maid and indeed, to others. Where she had obtained this sense she would not have been able to say even if she was made aware of it. “Naomi had a way with this. It was a shame she was sent away.”

“The nerve of her. She dismissed the strength of our personal protection when the mob strung up a single family. Those people can be so suspicious. Count Arista thinks they can be as ungrateful as they are selfish and I am implied to agree.”

While Azalais sat very still and fumed over the nature of Jews,[9] Richildis carefully smoothed and pinned her hair, carefully wrapping two light tresses around the long sticks and weaving the string between them into her hair to remain in place. After Richildis was done, Azalais got up and paced back and forth in the little worn spot on the rug where she always paced to calm herself. She could still not get over it: He was the King of Spaña! Her King and she had not been nervous! She had been quiet at first but soon she was speaking with him as easily as anyone. Thinking back she was terrified, she knew that once she relaxed the words would begin to flow and then she would say something incredibly obviously wrong as she eventually did. That was one reason why people were reluctant to marry her, her talent the other. She could not ever wed someone who would not allow her to exercise it as her father did.

Examining her light brown hair closely she nodded in satisfaction. Once again Richildis proved her worth and once again Azalais was happy the woman had migrated from Francia. If she moved too much, Azalais knew from experience it would start to come apart in a truly wild fashion but it would do as long as she could maintain decorum.

She was still nervous which was good. This was no peaceful meeting with the king making amusing observations on the world around them that delighted her. He had asked her to find someone to keep an eye on his own Mustan which puzzled her but she had agreed easily and managed to do it. Now her report was due and she felt like she had when learning to read as a child and the book was at the limit of her skill. She could do it, but there were so many places for her to falter.

“The king will not remember you when he leaves, no matter what happens,” Rchildis said trying to be kind. She had been with Azalais long enough to know that girl sometimes became fixated on a particular situation and sometimes was wrong. “A man will take advantage. Are you really going to do whatever he wants without question whenever he asks?” Where nothing else had, that gave Azalais pause.

“I don’t know,” she finally said. “I guess I will have to think on it some more.”

The Road Back: Zaragoza

The negotiations with the Francs went well enough with Mustan and Iuceph leading them, that Ortiz and Azalais were able to meet a number of times. It seemed their western compatriots were beginning to become nervous and it was only later that Ortiz learned the reason why: the Francian High Prince had been taken to the fortress of Duke Hugh for his own protection. With Charles III nearing his majority, the other high lords of the kingdom had become suspicious of the Regent’s intentions and the Duke of Aachen was putting out a call for mercenaries…

In any case, the situation allowed Ortiz to grow better acquainted with Azalais and keep a close watch on Mustan of Zaragoza. Several times Ortiz appeared unexpectedly to go over the negotiations or revise the document in minor points and the count’s diary records some frustration that he was not being sufficiently entertained by the “singer” to keep him away.[10] Ortiz discovered that Azalais had discovered an interesting way to communicate information she obtained from the servants secretly: she embedded it in her poetry.

When Ortiz left Narbona he found himself missing his meetings with the girl and he began writing to her as soon as he reached Barcelona and she responded. Even Ortiz was not quite sure whether Azalais was indulging in the romantic fantasy of a teenage girl but their letters were generally friendly in tone with occasional endearments. Late in 964 Ortiz returned to Zaragoza and invited Azalais to visit him in the city an entertain him, a small insult to Mustan who prided himself on his patronage of the arts. Accompanying him for the first time were Duke Imato and his nephew, Rolando who had evidenced significant military talent along with Iuceph of Barcelona. It was at Zaragoza that Ortiz and Azalais are supposed to have secretly become betrothed to each other by the division of a small ring that could be locked together to form a completed band.

Officially Duke Imato was there to discuss some security arrangements on the border with Mustan. Instead, one evening the Duke and his nephew arrested Mustan on charges of tax fraud and usury.[11] Popular folklore credits Azalais with uncovering definitive evidence for Mustan’s arrest but it is far more likely that Iuceph had become aware of his activities and quietly informed the king. A more pressing question is the presence of Duke Imato who had long served Grand Duke Almas. It was unknown what promises Ortiz induced him to turn on a member of the Halcona group, but it might also have something to do with his father Izmel who had just passed away and who helped Ortiz tot the throne. By custom, Imato would have to resign his command and rule Lejón which it was known he did not desire. It might have been the raising of Lejón to a County in 968 and the dispensation which allowed Imato to remain in the military but it may have been the legacy of the Imatez de Lejón family and his growing apprehension on the ambitions of his chief Banner Captain, Sancho Nájera. Whatever the case Duke Imato seized Mustan and thanks to the testimony of several priests and two imams, Mustan was placed in prison in Segovia and a letter signed by Ortiz would keep him there ahead of all orders to the contrary sent by the Grand Duke.

Predictably, Fajad Al-Maghrebi was angry at his son-in-law’s detention but while he was rich at this time he had no official position and required the intervention of his ally the Grand Duke or one of the other members of their junta--of which none were able to countermand the order without openly defying the king. Fajad however was loyal to himself and his own family above all else and in 965 he went to the king and concluded an agreement with him where his granddaughter Juassana was betrothed the son of the king’s cousin as the price for not disinheriting Mustan’s son. Traditionally credit for betrothal goes to Azalais but this too is disputed.

It was the king’s cousin, Dimas Al-Mequino, who would play a central role in what followed as the investigation into the Zaragozan Usury scandal was headed up officially by Dimas with the aid of Iuceph.

In many ways it was the greed of Mustan that enabled Ortiz to regain control of the kingdom. Mustan was one of the most powerful nobles in the kingdom who was a Muslim. His position was in many ways an exemplar to the rest of the Islamic population in the state that they too could succeed. It was only because of Mustan’s usury in regards to repayment of loans[12] that he found himself with few partisans. Indeed evidence found in the investigation allowed other corrupt activities to be uncovered and Iuceph was joined by Jacob Alconin de Granada who would later rise to become the first Magistrate of Finance. In this way a number of persons were arrested and detained or removed from their positions and much of their wealth confiscated.

“They will not love you,” Ortiz said to them. “But I will protect you. The more successful you are, the more able my protection.”

Only one man resisted, Grand Duke Almas Halcóna who was the head of the junta that had ruled since Ortiz became king. He had been away in Italy overseeing fortifications and the management of the allied lands around Toscana when Ortiz made his move. By the time he returned in 966, he found things rapidly escaping his grasp. Things were not made easier when he fell grievously ill in Italy with malaria and his return trip to Spana was a journey of purest misery. By now the Halcóna faction was reeling after a year of investigations and arrests of many of its members or allies. Grand Duke Almas remained, as did Sancho Najera and other financial ties in Italy as well as the Lisboans, but the bureaucracy was increasingly being weeded out. A number of female clerks were hired at this time because it was thought they would prove more trustworthy and less inclined to politics.

The King and the Queen

In the Spring of 966 Ortiz Araman married Azalais de Narbona. Marriage among the kings of Spaña had long been less politically motivated than in other lands. In part this was because of the power and wealth of the state, contracting an advantageous political marriage to foreign powers was not an overwhelming priority. Internal politics had equal importance. With his ties to the Maghreb, Ortiz could defend the choice on the grounds of needing allies in the north. So too Narbona was becoming increasingly important as chaos began to grow in the Frankish realm and it was already a major port.

Ortiz was twenty-six years old when he married Azalais and she was seventeen.

Spañan historian Briariz Almagre writing in the late twelfth century, furnishes this account written by Sol Gonsalvin who based it on the recollections of Isabel Araman, the youngest daughter of Azalais who heard it from her mother.[13]
A vast field outside the capital was cordoned off and filled with tents where celebrations would be held in the three days prior to the marriage. Part of the enclosure was delegated as an area for the common people and there the king financed a number of entertainments and merchants were able to display their wares to the visitors. Anyone could attend that part of the proceedings and a number of the nobility and state officials did so after taking off their tokens of office.

In the meanwhile in the royal area, the king and the future queen were separated for those days and the king spoke with the father of the future queen to confirm his acceptance of the match. In the meantime, Queen Azalais was attended by her female friends and relations as well as several wives or daughters or important officials in the kingdom not affiliated with the Halcónas who were largely ignored in the proceedings as the Grand Duke had recently been ill. There they placed the wedding veil over Azalais and applied the henna.[14] During these days there was a general atmosphere of celebration and food and flavored water or wine were provided.

On the day of the wedding itself, Azalais de Narbona was escorted by marriage women to where a platform had been set up in the field where both the common people and the elites could see them. Witnesses were provided in the form of an imam and a priest whose purpose were to sign the marriage contract. There Manzor Maurez and the king’s brother Ramon with Alessa de Iria and Amara Almagrebi placed the rope around the king and queen.

When the blessing had been spoken, King Ortiz took the circlet and placed it on the head of Azalais to crown her Queen of Spaña and make her his wife. It was then that he reached up and removed the veil from the queen…

…so began the marriage of story and song of which so many tales have come down to us real and imagined.
[1]Baghdad Battery
[2]Idiro thought Alfonso knew about Enrique’s secret son.
[3]As part of establishing organized Sufrism, the Makanids claimed a number of semi-famous jurists in pre-Makanid times.
[4]The political structure of the Aarin is made up of “rings” of councils. Each small region has a council that sends a representative to a larger region that has a council etc. until you reach the Confederation Council. Of course, only the elites can become councilors.
[5]Orthodox Christmas date
[6]Malaria epidemic most likely
[7]Beginning of the MWP
[8]Outa = Al-Oud that evolved into the lute and guitar.
[9]A very common attitude of the era
[10]The diary indicates he thinks Azalais is rather loose for a noblewoman because of her musical performances--but he never put together how Ortiz was informed.
[11]Officially a crime for a noble but never enforced--until now.
[12]Explicitly prohibited in the Koran. Commonly avoided by use of profit-sharing or other more… elaborate means.
[13]This is an example of the "historical" style which is copied from the Arab method of giving a chain of sources back to a first-hand account where possible.
[14]Berber custom eventually adopted by the Spaniards as one queen (Amina) and one concubine (Samira) were Berbers and Berbers have historically been a major component of the kingdom.
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Part XII: The Timely Sword

The workings of the mind are the foundation of victory.

--Rolando the Timely Sword


The first recorded instance of the phrase ‘Jewish Cabal’ in Spaña dates from 966. Trustworthy men were needed for the investigation into the finances of the junta but were in short supply. On the advice of Fajad the king brought in Jews from Granada and the Maghreb. As Jews they would need evidence beyond their word to accuse anyone and be unable to gain personal power without his approval. This made them both more acceptable to the populace in general and more useful to Ortiz. The Divan of Investigations, a general anti-corruption agency was created in 966. Trials were held through 966-969 and state coffers were replenished with the money and land confiscated. Through it all Imato of Lejón continued to serve the king faithfully.

As Ortiz imprisoned or executed members of the junta closer to home, the group’s military branches took measures for self preservation. Long after events had taken their course, it came to light that Duke Sancho Nájera through his claim to Amalfi, might have plotted to found his own realm in Italy beyond the king. Attempts to do so in Toscana would have resulted in local revolt, but by using his wife’s claim he would be backed by the power of Ortiz’s state. Never the less aware his position was deteriorating he looked for allies and found one in Hugh of Thuringia, himself making a bid for power in Francia.

Major Spañan Military Officers c. 970

  1. Duke Sancho Nájera
    • Juassan de Taza
    • Alvaro Sotomayor
    • Elias de Massinista
  2. Duke Imato de Lejón
    • Guillen de Balyón
    • Arista de Huesca
  3. Duke Gonzalo Nunez
    • Asmunido
    • Gonzalo II Saavedra
  4. Duke Agerza de Alarcon
    • Raniero Olavez
  5. Duke Mejed Nazerez
    • Jamad Imadez
    • Saloman de Uskar
With Byzantine Emperor Leo V distracted by his own internal difficulties, Sancho met in secret with the League of Forli which was eager to see the imperial tide in the south rolled back. He did not however meet with the other Spañan military commander in the theater, Duke Gonzalo Nunez a recent arrival and primarily responsible for making sure that allies stayed loyal and enemies quiet in the north. Fortunately for Sancho, one of Duke Gonzalo’s Banner-Captains happened to be a junta ally--Gonzalo Saavedra, the grandson of the late Grand Duke Velasco and a distant nephew of Admiral Pedro. While the king attempted to prevent these officers from gathering in one place, he was reluctant to test his authority by going against Duke Sancho in Italy. Before Sancho prepared his next thrust he was privately assured of assistance by Banner-Captain. Gonzalo.[1] Coupled with his own army being enlarged by the addition of yet another half-banner under Elias de Massinista[2] all Sancho needed was an excuse to invade.

When Pope Georgios died in 968, he got one.


Queen Azalais de Narbona was 17 years old when she became queen. At the time queens in the kingdom were much like queens elsewhere, largely limited to charitable works, overseeing and impressing onlookers with their care of home and children, and management of royal display. Important necessary tasks but not the type to fill history books. Some had been advisers to their husbands but few had sought open roles in public life, not even Queen Marista who had Halcóna blood in her veins. Azalais changed everything.

She did not set out with changing things in mind, in fact, all she wanted was to be able to continue to perform her poems and music. Such a thing was considered suspect in Spaña for a woman of her new status but the king was very much in love with her and was proud to show off her talents ignoring any cultural opprobrium directed his way. It began early on, at the wedding banquet to celebrate her marriage. Azalais stepped forward and charmed the attendees with the music of her stringed outa and the wit of her lyrics. After singing, she quietly went from table to table to thank the attendees for their well wishes personally and a number remarked that despite being a little too tall, she was poised, warm and polite. Even those who feared the king’s power acknowledged her positively. Because she was young and because she adopted a touch of the ingénue (not all together feigned) Ortiz’s opponents made what would later prove to be a fatal mistake--they forgot the new queen was an artist.

It was only later when she was able to provide reasonably accurate assessments of the dispositions of the guests to Ortiz, that she began to realize the true extent of her abilities. Sensitive to tone, emphasis, facial expression and word choice thanks to her talents, she was able to intuitively read those around her if she paid close enough attention. She herself did not understand quite how she did it but it was a skill she would hone her entire life.

Never one to waste an advantage, Ortiz made use of her. In the process the royal couple inaugurated what became one of the major duties of the queen. Allowing talented servants to run the household, Azalais traveled the kingdom. Ostensibly her visits were always social to visit the wife of a nobleman or important Alcadiz, to fund a new charitable institution, grant money for the construction of a new religious house, or patronize local musicians. Sometimes they were more overtly religious as when she visited Iria or when she funded the reconstruction of the Olavez chapel that bears her name in Oviedo when she prayed before the Sudarium.[3]

Because she was the queen however, she routinely met for some time with the counts and other provincial elites. Through it all she listened carefully to what was said and how it was said and communicated all these things to her husband. In practice it helped Ortiz know who was more loyal and who resented his growing power. While the king remained in and around the capital and launched a furious reorganization of the state service, Azalais was constantly traveling the kingdom. It was an exhausting task and it was unprecedented. It was also dangerous and so Azalais traveled with her own escort. They were led by a young man who would go on to make his mark on history.

Young Knight

Just two years older than Azalais, Rolando was the grandson of Izmel de Lejón wi Lena, the grandson himself of Imato, the first Alcadiz of Lejón.[4] He was also the second cousin of Ortiz, being related on his mother’s side though that was less of a factor in his choice. Rolando as many young educated men had gone into the military. Completing his officer training just before the royal marriage in 966, a problem presented itself: there were no captain positions open for him even in time of war. There is some evidence that this was due to the machinations of the Halcóna junta who did not want anyone related to Ortiz to ascend the military ranks but it may have simply been the reality of the time. Rolando accordingly jumped at the chance to lead the queen’s escort and it was reported that the young handsome soldier got on quite well with the queen. Aware of rumors that could be spread by her husband’s enemies, Azalais early on asked Rolando never to be alone with her and to his credit, while he was her escort he was not.

As the leader of the queen’s escort he kept Azalais safe and accompanied her. He commanded the small troop of horsemen with no little skill and even defeated an attempt by bandits to set upon the queen’s party. That they were actual bandits and not an assassination attempt was generally accepted even by Rolando and Queen Azalais. Thus for several years he rode the kingdom and became well known for his interest in military history, strategy and organization for whenever he had free time in a city he would always discuss those things with experienced soldiers he encountered or find accounts written by some ancient Roman or Islamic commander and took particular note of Al-Waqidi’s Conquest of Syria.

In the autumn of 968 when Azalais became too heavy with child to travel, Rolando found his former position abolished. Not only did Azalais curtail her travels while pregnant, even after her first son Armando was born she remained in Centrajo to care for him. Rolando remained in the capital and the king noticed his friendliness with the queen directly. What seemed innocuous on paper was suddenly less so in person. When combined with the prospect of less action, Rolando requested a transfer to a frontline post and the king immediately agreed. Thus when the year 969 opened for him, Rolando found himself in southern Maghreb under the ultimate command of Duke Mejed Nazerez, in-charge of securing the Maghreb.

First Step to Greatness

“I hate camels!” Rolando snarled. He repressed an urge to throw his cavalry saber to the ground and instead slammed it back in its sheath. The men around him shared smiles as he climbed onto his horse and coughed out what had to be an unhealthy amount of sand. Ambushing a raiding party, they'd captured several of the demons who disguised themselves as beasts and were returning home. It was while he was examining one that it managed to get a piece of him. Pulling a little glass flask from the reinforced pouch on his saddlebag and gritting his teeth, he upended the bottle over the wound. The camels didn't even flinch when he screamed.

“By God, how can this work when it burns like a fire?!” He reached into the reinforced pouch again he pulled a thin strip of white cloth he wound around the cut.[5]

“Fire purges, does it not, Rolando?” one of his Lanzaros said with a hint of amusement and somewhat more than a hint of an accent.

"Thank you Robert, as always you are the voice of common sense, whatever would we have done had you not come south with your wisdom?" he muttered through gritted teeth. That elicited another round of laughter. "Though I could do with a little less purging myself in this heat."

While they started back Rolando spared a little hate for Duke Sancho. He had not had strong feelings about the man despite being a kinsman[6] but the very day he arrived under Duke Mejed’s command was the day that Banner-Captain Guillen departed to strengthen Duke Najera’s forces in Italy. Duke Mejed, militarily adequate but politically impotent, was now shorthanded and the nomads from the desert had sensed an opportunity. The Spaniards now had the choice of paying a ridiculous rate to ensure the safe passage of goods or forcing a more reasonable solution. The nomads themselves were religiously mixed, but Christian or Muslim they were united in the effort to drain the state’s coffers. It would not have been so bad had he at least given responsibilities of his rank, but he had no doubt Sancho Nájera had intervened. The Grand Duke was old and marginalized, Duke Sancho was the most likely candidate to fill his role and no one wanted to antagonize him. Now he was doing a Senor’s job a rank too high. He could not ask for a transfer again, a soldier who had his bloodlines would soon find himself encouraged to leave the army all together if he complained too much.

It made Rolando grind his teeth when he thought of it though.

"Well this little battle has established the folly of trying to use a geared crossbow on horseback,” he said. There was a murmur of approval and several glances at Carlos and Ibrahim who had volunteered to test out the method. Thankfully suffering only minor wounds, they'd proven the crossbows were simply too unwieldy to be of use because the gears were simply too large and too heavy.

“The idea is a good one, Commander Rolando," Ibrahim said. "What we need is a way to make it smaller.”

“But the only way to do that and keep the power we need is to brace it against the horse and that makes it useless,” Carlos pointed out.

"Surely you don't mean one handed?" Robert asked.

“I hadn't thought of that," Rolando admitted. "I shall have to look into it later." With a wicked grin blooming his face, he shouted, "The last one back helps with the paperwork--I can’t write with an arm that hurts like this!

But when they returned to their camp a more important piece of paper was waiting for them: by some miracle his blood uncle had seen fit to call him to Italy.

The Third Roman War (969-971)

Rolando disembarked on the island of Elba. To Rolando the islands off the coast of Italy were not Italy. Serdena in particular had been under the control of the Spaniards for a century and a half and its populace had benefited greatly from the funds invested in Caliastra and even at Torres, the town on the northern half of the island that fed the port there. As for Corsega, it had been acquired recently but was not much of anything, not even its main city of Aleria which could barely be termed a city at all, more like a fortress with a civilian population. Despite stopping at Caliastra for Rolando, it was Elba that proved to be the first taste of Italy.

In Elba they said that with the owl-eye one could see the spot on the water where the great victory over the Greek Fleet had been won back in 951. It was that battle that had made Sancho Najera’s fortune as one of the most powerful men in Italy. Of course from the rusafa of Puerte Azul[7] the spot looked like water.

“It would look like water if I was sailing over it,” he said to himself with a chuckle.

Rolando was fortunate that most of the men he’d formed bonds with in the desert had accompanied him. They tended to treat him as primus inter pares as the Latin term went. What surprised Rolando were the number of ships arriving at the port and moving on to Italy. A great many men were gathering, more than King Ortiz had supplied Duke Sancho in the normal course of reinforcements. A few discreet inquiries on the part of Rolando and his friends revealed that a number of mercenaries were coming south from many points,.

One source was Ancona. That city, poised between the Spaniards and their allies and the imperial lands was recruiting by use of land-grants to replenish the populace denuded by the battles fought over it. These mercenaries had proven useful, been rewarded and word had gotten out. With the wars north of the Alps temporarily in eclipse after Duke Hugh’s joint-victory over the Khazars--and he remembered to look into reports of vikings among the mercenaries, they had played a key part it was said--the coming southern conflicts promised booty and land.

The lull had also given Sancho Nájera a chance to pull off with the help of Duke Hugh, what might have been the most momentous political coup of the century. In 969 a tremendous religious conclave was held at Metz from which bishops from all over Europe had arrived--a number had come from Spaña, a few from Italy, from Ireland, Brittany, Greater Albaney and even the northern reaches. Sitting in a great conclave, upon the death of Georgios they elected a bishop from Alsesta a distant relative of the Francian King who took the name Benedict IV. Benedict had immediately petitioned for help in regaining Rome from the man who had been chosen by the emperor and rumored to be hand picked by the Patriarch of Constantinople, known to history as the anti-pope Theo.

Theo had a number of advantages--notably that he was in Rome--but Sancho had pledged to restore Benedict IV to the papal throne. Sancho’s preparations alarmed the imperial governors and they sent word to Constantinople for help. The emperor however was simply too preoccupied with the eastern provinces at the time to supply direct military aid. Instead Byzantine subterfuge and money encouraged the Duchies of the Pavian League to take advantage of Spañan attention south. These attacks delayed the invasion of the peninsula and kept Pope Benedict from arriving in Italy that year but Duke Sancho was not about to give up.

Ghost of Latina

Seventeen days after leaving Caliastra, Rolando presented himself to Duke Sancho outside Pisa. The conversation they had is not recorded but it did nothing to bridge the gulf between the two men. Never the less Sancho placed Rolando in charge of a horse company assigned to raiding the area around Rome in preparation for a real invasion. While his company was a touch under strength at 122 men, Rolando set out for his first taste of combat in Italy.

Throughout the months May, June and July, Rolando led his men in and around Rome and began the meteoric rise that would see him as one of the greatest generals Spaña had ever known. Daring and intelligent he demanded mobility of his troops. At first they were surprised at the strict rules he imposed on them and many grumbled about a young hotheaded noble who struck them as full of himself. He surprised everyone.

He struck first at supply trains, ambushing and burning or stealing then retreating before organized resistance could form with the booty. When a Byzantine garrison from around Rome marched to escort the supply train he did the same with them, ultimately culminating in a fierce battle against the garrison commander. Thanks to his previous efforts however, he held the local advantage of numbers and defeated him. The disorganized garrison units were defeated in detail and the entire supply train captured. The local Byzantine officers were thus put on notice that a dangerous opponent had entered the field. As much as Rolando relied on mobility and local superiority, he relied on scouting. Thanks to the booty he had captured he was able to pay agents to permanently feed him information about enemy movements and commanders.

It was during these raids that he met a long-time friend and ally of his, a northerner named Harald Gormson.


Harald Gormson was technically a resident of Francia, but he never considered himself such. As a boy, Harald had converted to Christianity but resisted and resented the French invasion of Denmark. Attempting to reach the independent lordships in the far north centered on Nidaros, he was captured by Francian allies. A liability for his decent from old kings of Denmark, Harald escaped his captors and fled south becoming a mercenary in Duke Hugh’s forces. For even in those days Hugh had begun the quiet moves that would culminate in the end of the Aldrians.

In time, Harald became another adventure seeker and fortune hunter, rising in stature in the service of Ancona. Aside from his military skill, he was known as a fort builder and secured the land by building networks of ring forts to control strategic sections of territory. Ancona had become a city for those who wished a third choice between the Spaniards and the Byzantine Empire and thanks to Harald, it was able to leverage its exploding population to expand its influence. Almost alone of the cities of Italy it was considered an ally instead of a client. While Duke Sancho might order the League of Forli to assist him with varying degrees of success, anything he wanted from Ancona had to be negotiated from the start.

When Harald heard about Rolando’s successes in Latina, he sought a meeting at Spoleto with a young captain both brave and skilled. Though over a decade the young man’s senior they became friends almost at once. The top military commander of Acona’s army, Harald found Rolando a better ally than Duke Gonzalo excessive caution or Duke Sancho’s personal agenda that was likely to get him killed. At their meeting he alerted Rolando to the worrying building up of troops at Pescara.

Left in charge of Italy for the empire were the two sons of the late Demetrios Tornikes, Christophorus and Andronicus. To assuage their anger over being left to their own devices, the emperor had named them the Catapans of Italy and Sicily. Determined to act against the looming thread of the Spaniards, they mustered their forces and brought in significant contingents of Rekan troops from across the Adriatic. Their aim was to march along the eastern half of Italy, seize Ancona once again and threaten the flank of any Spañan force attempting to take Rome.

Choices of War

At the same time, Duke Sancho was plotting to take advantage of Rolando’s success. As the beleaguered garrisons of Latina retreated toward the Eternal City calling for reinforcements, Sancho prepared a surprise naval assault on Amalfi to claim it for his six year old son by Duchess Mara. To achieve success he ordered Rolando to cut off the reinforcements heading to Rome from the south.

Rolando was appalled. It was one thing to raid behind enemy lines, but to ask him to stall a vastly superior army deep in enemy territory was madness. Campania was far from any hope of supply or safety and to Rolando it seemed more likely Duke Sancho wanted to rid himself of a potential rival. Harald himself agreed, and as a favor to the young captain seized the messengers as suspected Byzantine spies kept them confined. Thus Rolando never officially received the order and marched with Harald along the eastern coast. Together they marched on Pescara and caught Christophorus Tornikes by surprise and shattered the Byzantine army. The Catapan himself escaped with a few troops but all of the supplies and weapons stockpiled at Pescara fell into the hands of Harald and Rolando.


Rolando stood before well over one hundred Rekan prisoners and made them an offer: They had already shown they would fight for money, now was the time to fight under him. Seeing little choice, they agreed and Rolando hurried west with nearly 500 men at his command--he’d been in Italy less than 6 months.

He was not however in time to save Duke Sancho.

An analysis of surviving documents indicates that even had Rolando followed orders of the attack would have failed. Whether imperial reinforcements could have made a difference was never known. Despite Duke Sancho’s attempt to blame Rolando, it was the Spañan navy who ultimately failed in their contest with the imperial fleets. This was attributed to the illness that struck Admiral Pedro and forced him to retire to Serdena for the winter. The Spañan navy was in such straits that year that the only thing that kept the imperial ships from raiding at will was a massive increase in local Makanid piracy under the new Emir Ahmad Al-Dzayeri (r.965-978) who was eager to join his western allies in securing new lands.

Upon his return to winter quarters in November of that year and despite his victory at Pescara, Duke Sancho seized Rolando and shipped him back to Spaña to face punishment.

The Artist the Duke and the Soldier

As the year 970 began, only Rolando’s resignation prevented his being imprisoned or executed for disobeying orders. After his resignation he was visiting by Queen Azalais who was once again with child in a pregnancy that would prove remarkable because of its result of twin sons. Now it chanced that one of the ladies attending Queen Azalais was Alessa de Iria who, being only a year younger than the queen, become a close friend--her first south of the mountains. The older daughter of Rodrigo de Iria who had been Duke Bersi’s candidate for the throne, Alessa had been one of the ladies who placed the bridal knot around the shoulders of the queen. Married to a ranking naval captain who died at Amalfi, the queen asked Rolando to escort Alessa home. Secretly she’d sent a letter long to Count Rodrigo asking him to take his measure.

The count took a liking to the proven soldier, perhaps because his son Ramiro had just been sent as an aide to Duke Sancho (a non-combat position). Since Rodrigo had contended for the throne however improbably he’d looked to ingratiate himself with the royal couple who he found much more accommodating than the schemers of the old junta. He kept Rolando around scouting the area and asking for advice on how to keep the sparsely populated countryside calm and peaceful in the difficult terrain. Rolando who was familiar with the rocky parts of Italy, had a number of ideas pleasing the count. In the process, Rolando learned more about administering large groups of people and the importance of commerce and supply from a different perspective. As Azalais had hoped, his time there also caused Alessa to become more positively disposed to him though her grief was still too new for her to become romantically attached. Still they were friendly and spent time together.

Now it happened King Ortiz was arming and training a force to go to Italy under Duke Imato to finally remove Sancho Nájera and bring him back by force if necessary. However a week after the Summer Solstice a message was received: Rome was burning and Sancho Nájera was dead.

The Roman Invasion

During the intervening year, Sancho Nájera had been busy. He’d sacked the talented Rolando but while personally satisfying he knew it was absurd to place blame on the man. For sometime he’d known the king desired to be rid of him and Amalfi was the perfect excuse. Rumors swirled of Duke Imato’s army . He did not intend to fight; Without the backing of the State even a victory would collapse his position and loss would finish him. He had to acknowledge that the king had won: the group that had controlled the kingdom since the death of Alejandro II was finished. It had been a good run, over two decades, but it was over. To save himself he needed a spectacular victory--and Rolando had already provided.

After Amalfi, and due to repeated Makanid attacks, the south-east coast had been reinforced. But the losses at Pescara meant Latina was lightly garrisoned. Duke Sancho had finally succeeded in convincing the Francian-backed Confederacy of the South Aar to attack the Pavian league taking the pressure off him in the north. Duke Hugh had played no small part in this, seeking closer ties with Francian allies himself.

With his flank secure, Sancho marched on Rome when the ground hardened after the Ides of March. With horsemen riding south and footmen ferried in ships commanded by Pedro’s son Juan, he surged through Latina sweeping all before him to lay siege to Rome before mid-May.

To his surprise Rome were starving. Rolando’s raids, the needs of the army gathered at Pescara, and the scorched-earth policies instituted by the Catapans had resulted in a great deal of food taken from Latina. It was more important for the imperial forces to keep southern Italy quiet than spend resources on northern areas actively being fought over. Sancho seized the moment and invited a delegation to his camp. They were treated to the sight of a mountain of supplies. These supplies were in fact not the best quality but that did not matter--hunger would spice them for the Romans. He was not disappointed.

The city itself had been scarce of food for months and now there was an army. They could see for themselves the lands Sancho held deep in spring planting--food they’d not see. Yet for all this, Rome fell to the Spaniards in a failure of nerve. Pope Theo fled the city in disguise and when this was discovered the Romans opened their gates to Duke Sancho who entered the city with pomp and food. At least he had secured his place.

The Sack of Rome

Sancho was wrong. Andronicus Tornikes having driven back the Makanid pirates had gathered all the forces he could. Sailing north he engaged Juan Saavedra in battle. Now while his father Pedro had been a clever and capable admiral, Juan was the opposite. He owed his position to his father and while his failure to secure victory at Amalfi the year before had been chalked up to suddenness of command, the battle at the mouth of the Tiber revealed his incompetence before the world. The Spañan fleet was driven north and Andronicus deployed a number of barges and sailed right up the Tiber like Belisarius four centuries previous. Duke Sancho, still reveling in his victory and reportedly sleeping off a morning wine-head, was taken completely by surprise. By the time he rallied his army the Byzantines had secured a foothold and were pouring into the city already pillaging and certain of victory. To the immense regret and sorrow of the citizens of Rome, Sancho was able to master his troops and launched a counter attack.

Thus occurred one of those rare instances in pre-modern history of prolonged urban combat. Across the city in both the homes and deserted grass strewn ruins the westerners and easterners hunted each other. Javelin fought bow and sword battled spear as the Byzantines struggled to capture the city and the Spaniards to retain it. In the process the citizenry was butchered by both armies. The true disaster only occurred late on the second day as a number of fires broke out in the evening. With no one bothering to put them out, they began to spread through the city as order broke down and every man attempted to escape. Many Byzantines were slain when the flames spread to their barges on the river and those who were not burned to death drowned as they attempted to swim away. Duke Sancho himself was caught in the flames and it was said he burned to death on the bridge of over the Tiber though that is likely legend. Indeed, he was found impaled on his own sword with Ramiro Rodriguez at his side, so it is likely he chose death by a blade rather than burning.


As a hot dry wind from inland blew west, the Byzantines were forces to flee in the few ships that remained to them. Andronicus himself was badly burned though he survived and escaped to his ships at the mouth of the Tiber. The only surviving high-ranking Spaniard was Alvaro Sotomayor and he kept some of his units together enough to keep control of the city. The Spaniards had Rome for the moment, but it was a city of ashes.

The Third Roman War until the Sack of Rome


The Timely Sword

When he heard of the disaster Duke Gonzalo Nunez abandoned his position in the north of Italy and rushed south to salvage the disaster. Much of Sancho’s command was dead but he was able to link up with Banner-Captain Alvaro and establish some kind of military presence in Latina proper. It was his absence in the north that would later result in the gains made by Reka against the League of Forli.

King Ortiz was determined to take advantage of the disaster as well he might. He already had a fresh army ready to depart under Duke Imato and these were set in motion. However they did not know Italy being mostly composed of his own troops and mercenaries from the lands around Tolosa and points north and west, they were fierce northmen but strangers. He turned (likely at the suggestion of Azalais) to Rolando.

Before he departed from Iria, Alessa consented to be betrothed to Rolando.[8] Disembarking at Grosetto he was taken to see Duke Gonzalo toward the end of August. Gonzalo and the remaining Spañan forces had already beaten back several attempts at retaking Rome by Christophorus who had taken over for his injured brother while the latter recuperated at Messina. Reunited with his some of his old company and commanders, Rolando received an emergency promotion to Great-Captain, was given 268 horsemen and told to keep the Byzantines from attacking Rome by any means necessary.

Given his head Rolando worked a miracle. Hearing he was back, Harald Gormson sent him a gift of 50 riders and supplies. Riding south he began recruiting once again and the reputation obtained in his brief stay before worked in his favor. Local mercenaries once again joined him and raided the southern lands with impunity to accomplish his mission. With Spañan territory now farther south and reinforcements scheduled to arrive, Rolando was willing to take the risk of raiding deep into enemy territory. Appearing out of nowhere he would pillage a town. Patrols disappeared (he hid the bodies, leaving only clothes behind to create greater psychological fear). Sometimes he would bargain with a town and pay a fair price (these were often close to the border with Ancona or Spañan territory to make the locals friendlier). In fact, he continued to raid right through the autumn of 970 and the locals became terrified of seeing him at harvest.

When he began to raid the lands between Salerno and Benevento, Christophorus Tornikes was forced to act and even though it was late October, he was able to gather an army of 4,000 men to stop Rolando--who for the first time, is referred to in Byzantine sources by the nickname he was to bear forever after: La Espada Oportuna--the Timely Sword. By this time Rolando’s force had grown to over 1,000 men all mounted (though half fought on foot). Learning of Christophorus’ advance, he called a meeting of his commanders.

“They are hunting us, hunting me,” he said. “We have done much, more than anyone could have believed and we have gained wealth besides. But now we come to the test. We Spaniards have a duty to our king. But you mercenaries fight for wealth not for duty. I would not have you turn on me now and I say you may go free and clear with the loot you have gained.” Rolando put it to a vote and all decided to stay.

Instead of waiting to meet Christophorus, Rolando attacked. He struck at troops moving to reinforce the Byzantine commander, appearing out nowhere his men disrupted supply lines and ambushed small parties. By now he could depend on his commanders to operate independently and they all knew how to manage several hundred men. They forced the Byzantine army to a crawl and drew them south. According to one legend, when Rolando fired the suburbs of Salerno he stole the Catapan’s favorite horse. Others said it was his favorite mistress. The Byzantine forces were demoralized.

And then he truly struck. With the imperial army spread out to try and find him, he regathered his troops and was joined by Harald Gormson after the harvest. Together they attacked the main force of over 2,000 men on the eastern side of the mountains in one of the freak snowstorms that can occur in January. Once again he achieved victory over the Byzantines and this time Christophorus himself was wounded. On the heels of this victory came news that braving the weather, the brother of the Makanid Emir, Walid, had taken Malta by surprise attack placing much of southern Sicily in danger.


The campaign season of 971 was an unmitigated success for the Spaniards. With Christophorus wounded and his brother imperfectly recovered and occupied in Sicily, Duke Imato arrived in Toscana with reinforcements. Returning to a meeting of the commanders, Rolando was praised, given rest, resupplied and given a new mission: protect the coastal advance.

The Spañan army that advanced under Duke Imato of Lejón was large--it consisted of three Spañan banners, mercenaries, and militia from Toscana and Latina. With Rolando’s men added in it amounted to a force of 11,000. Meanwhile ample troops were left in the north to keep order together with those of the League of Forli. Harald himself devastated the lands south of Pescara after securing his hold on the city. The Spaniards marched south unopposed from Rome and took Naples, Amalfi and Salerno. A scratch force under local imperial commanders was defeated at Benevento and several thousand men laid siege to that city.

Despite having their soldiers depleted, wounded, burned and suffering from renewed Muslim pirates, the brothers Tornikes were not willing to give up. They had received word that Emperor Leo V was finally able to reinforce his Italian possessions and was preparing a large army to send across the sea. It looked like the tide would turn again until, for the second time, fate intervened in favor of the Spaniards. In Anatolia on a short campaign meant to tie up loose ends in the east so he could return to Italy, Leo V took a wound in his thigh that became infected and he perished. His heir Romanus II was far away in Taurica so the empire was suddenly leaderless.

With their only hope defeated, Christophorus allowed Salerno to surrender and retreated to the eastern coast to prepare a defense. With the Spaniard digesting what they’d gained, the Third Roman War was essentially over.


Whenever Rolando looked at Rome, he sighed. Much of the city was ash or deserted and St. Peter’s was burned as well. The alter with the Consular Inscription remained but not much else, people or things. He wondered if Rome would die. At the present the young man found himself in charge of security in Rome. Duke Gonzalo was in the north as usual, and Duke Imato had taken up residence in Naples while little Ordono Nájera and his mother returned to Amalfi in triumph. With Duke Sancho dead, Rolando wished them no ill will. Pope Benedict IV was coming he knew, and he was trying his best to clean a route into the city for the occasion but he lacked money and his men were busy keeping order in the countryside. It was a new task for them, being more used to causing chaos than stopping it, and he had to keep a close on the mercenaries. His own camp was set up outside the broken walls.

There were few visitors to the city and so Rolando was surprised when a party of troops approached the open gates. He was even more surprised when he saw that they were guarding a figure on a white mule from Serdena until…“My queen,” he said going to one knee there in the road.

“Rise my good friend and former protector,” the queen said.

“I shall always be your protector,” Rolando replied gallantly and was rewarded with a musical chuckle.

Queen Azalais looked tired he thought, despite her laugh. But he remembered that she was the mother of twins and marveled that she still had so much energy after three sons. Her slim form was graceful now, having lost the slightly awkward movements of her early days as queen when his eyes were full of her and his task. Was it only 5 years ago? But the queen was gesturing and one of the two ladies she had with her came forward and he recognized her.

“Alessa,” he said to his betrothed. “I mean Lady Iria.”

“My husband,” Azalais said for she always referred to the king that way, “has assigned me the task of setting this city to rights. It is a task I cannot wait on but for today at least, you can. Spend time with your betrothed.”


Rolando was nervous that afternoon as he sat with Alessa in the country which was as beautiful as the city ruined. Women he had taken aplenty in Italy both willing and less willing as spoils of war and by the glow of victory. But Alessa was different--with blond hair, rosy skin and blue eyes that went green when she was angry. While the Queen of Spaña worked tirelessly to fix the city for the arrival of Pope Benedict, Rolando keep order and got to know the woman who was promised to him. He found he liked her very much for though she was quiet she could show spirit when she wished. Still they were subdued for she had come to pay her respects to her brother’s grave. So he held her as she wept and swore to make the city beautiful as a memoriam to him.

The city itself shone respectably when the Pope arrived, or at least, the part he traveled to his residence. Even Azalais could not move mountains. But Rolando was surprised for though she had often expressed her distrust of Jews, she sat with them now though of course they did not attend the Christian service. He learned later that the local Jewish leaders had sought out the queen and offered their help and money to rebuild the city. The queen herself was moved and Rolando did not hear her question the honesty of any Jews for the rest of her life though he was not with her at all times.

After discussing the matter with Alessa, Rolando was married to her in Rome around the time of the New Year and when she departed with the queen in the spring of 972 he regretted her absence and even reaching the rank of Banner-Captain did not fully reconcile him to the situation.


A pair of hazel eyes under hair made frizzy by the humidity squinted at the sun and peeked over the covers. “Is it morning already?” asked the Queen of Spana.

“Unfortunately,” her husband responded. He was sitting on the edge of the bed clad only in a dark red tunic with gold trim and the sleep rumpled queen smiled a bit as she recognized it was a night shirt she’d made for him with her own hands. “You came back late,” the king said for they eschewed custom and slept in the same bed most nights.

“An evening with a quartet of toddlers and a baby? That will not have been my idea or I just may order my own head cut off. Amara laughed at me chasing Armando but her son runs even faster than our oldest. Please remind me to provide a bonus to the boys’ nurses come next month.”

Leaving the bed clad in only a thin silk nightgown, she went to the table where a breakfast tray was cooling. Her husband had taken it at the door and then deposited it there. She automatically began making the final preparations before breakfast, adding the spices she knew he liked to the food and preparing the tea which she had recently mastered. She never told him how much tea she botched figuring it out--it was ruinously expensive even for them. The breakfast suitably finished, she took the tray over to him and sat down on the bed at crossways from him so she could place her shoulder against his back. She noted strands of gray hair and frowned. He was barely past 30, he was working too hard.

“If you strain yourself preparing breakfast, you will have trouble performing your other wifely duties,” he said pretending to complain.

“I have produced an heir and a spare, another spare, am paying for a new church in Rome and refurbishing a moskita in Tahert.[9] My wifely duties are being fulfilled rather nicely, thank you,” she said primly reaching for the salt while he reached for the sugar. Sugar. In his tea. He did not even blink at it, he had been king a long time. They finished their meal in companionable silence and she was glad that no one expected them to go to mass that morning because she gloried in the private time with him. Presently she became aware he was staring at her expectantly. She sighed. Personal time was over and it time to go under the crown again.

“Oh fine. Karima will never like us no matter what happened with her father. You did destroy her husband. Her sister being there relaxed her and I think I could have liked her--she is simply afraid for her son.”

“Manzor will be protected and loyal. It was a good idea to raise him at our household.”

“He will hate you when he finds out what happened.”

“I can live with that as long as he obeys.

“How depressing,” she sighed. “Even assuming it works that way, which I doubt.”

She went to the front of her wardrobe and gave him a glance as she slipped out of her night gown. A part of her wanted a bath but she had taken one yesterday and the thought of waiting for the servants to lug the water up here…. She pulled a fresh chemise out of the wardrobe. “I wrote down the rest in our code. I had to trick it out of her.” Disappointing, she felt like a failure for having to resort to subterfuge.

“Consider it a compliment my love, people fear your intelligence.”

She made a vexed sound. “Why would I want to be feared of all things?” she said hoping he heard the unspoken “men!“ after the statement. “Mar Cantabrasa is beautiful in the morning.” The king smiled. She knew he was amused by her occasional accent especially because of her facility with words. Still he said the right thing. “I missed you too you know.”

“I do,” she said and returning to the bed she give him a quick hug. “So…. Italy?”

“Very well,” he sighed. “Your friend Rolando will have his subsidies to hire new men and smiths.”

“Good, he really is very clever Ortiz. He won’t steer us wrong.”

“No?” he said looking so obviously skeptical it annoyed her.

“He is trustworthy and talented. How else can we end these wars? I know you want that above all else and I want it to,” she said faltering a bit. “The suffering I saw when I went there….”

“You talk of him so highly, I would think there is something more between you,” he said harshly. Her sadness over the wounded and sick turned to anger for though Rolando was far closer to her in age than Ortiz he had always been correct to her. Without realizing it she had reached out grabbed his beard in her fingers and given it a hard yank, causing him to yelp in pain. For a moment she felt a flash of fear. Had she done that in public it would have gone badly with her. He was starting into her eyes and she forged ahead blindly.

“That hurt, I know. What you said hurt me.”

“I’m sorry,” he answered at once, which proved him kingly material. She wilted a bit and leaned against him seeking his strength as she had challenged it a moment before.

“I believe you,” she said meaning it and she knew it was alright when his arms went around her.

Between the Wars

The unprecedented success of the Third Roman War had done much to strengthen the king. Duke Sancho was a martyr for the state, Rolando a royal ally and heir to Iria was a hero, money was pouring in from the Italian cities and their new connections to the eastern trade, and his wife was once again pregnant. This time the king was concerned about her for she had done a great deal of traveling even after her return from Italy (this time across the Strait of Tariq) when she conceived. Never the less he was busily setting up the beginnings of what would come to be called the Agency system. He had already managed to revamp the state service into the Secretariat, and with the aid of Jewish merchants and bankers from Italy did the same for Finance. These two along with the army command were considered the first branches of the Agency System. Revenues improved immediately and prospects brightened when it was discovered that sugar could be grown on some islands to the southwest of Barga that were nearly the edge of the world.

Ortiz however did not spend his money beautifying the capital or funding great works of art, he spent it on repairing the roads to the eastern ports and on military supplies. Armor, weapons, horses, trained men, transport ships. All these were purchased in quantity and for the most part, quality. From Italy came rumors that Romanus II was proving himself capable of putting down the revolts that popped up after the death of his father. Ortiz himself had been king for more than two decades and he remembered the expedition of 951 presented as a way to unite the state behind him. Its success had worked. He knew Romanus II would do the same for his state and he wanted to be ready.

The military hierarchy was revamped: Alvaro Sotomayor was promoted to junior most Duke for his actions in Rome and given charge of the north. Duke Gonzalo was recalled home under the king’s eye in the capital. Duke Agerza replaced Mejed in the Maghreb, who was given the easy task of the northern border. Rolando became Duke Imato’s top commander. Other commands were also rotated. As of 975 some 10,000 Spañan troops were now in Italy with more being recruited and trained. This was in addition to the levies from Toscana who had now become enthusiastic supporters as well as Harald Gormson the military strongman behind Ancona. For the first time Ortiz gave permission for troops to be recruited for the professional armies from parts of Italy as long as they had the understanding that they could be sent anywhere in the kingdom.

East of Italy, Reka collapsed in 973 under a Bavarian invasion and the last hope for the Pavian League was ended the following year when the towers of Verona fell in fire and battle to the Confederacy of the South Aar who replaced much of the native rulers with their own Lombard-Frankish partisans.

Ortiz had ordered that Rolando being given great leeway. Duke Imato did so, and the results were favorable. Between the great wars Rolando and Harald continually attacked and raided southeastern Italy--Rolando even opened negotiations with the Makanids and Al-Dzayeri used his base on Malta to harass the southern coasts and provided a few mercenary archers for Rolando’s growing forces. Now driving farther east, Rolando rebuilt a ruined Roman fortress and town at Matera and set up it up as the most advance Spañan military base. By now he was officially commanding half a banner, in reality he had at least three times that number relying on him to provide booty. Rolando however did little to enrich himself. Instead he funded a number of ironsmiths and clock workers. In 974, Rolando defeated and captured Andronicus at the First Battle of Matera. With the Byzantines in continuous disarray, Walid and Rolando laid siege by land and see at last, to Taranto.

Christophorus Tornikes had been away from Italy. While Rolando and Harald overran much of his domain, the Catapan had begged the emperor for troops. None had been given though the emperor’s aunt Irene (only a few years older) armed convicts to supply him. She believed it was important to help but was constrained to do so by her husband who was devoted to her nephew. When Christophorus returned empty handed he’d had enough. He met with Rolando, Harald, Al-Walid and his brother. Rolando agreed to abandon Matera in exchange for permitting the Makanid capture of Taranto as long as the city was spared a sack and those who wanted to leave were allowed to.

When these agreements were followed, the brothers Tornikes rose in revolt against the emperor and declared themselves co-rulers of Magna Graecia.
[1]Capitan de Bandere in Court Hespanica
[2]Massinista. A non-important small town south of Lisboa.
[3]Sudarium of Oviedo, first mentioned in the sixth century and present in Spain since the seventh, it is supposed to be the cloth that covered the face of Christ in the tomb. There is evidence it was once in the same area as the Shroud of Turin. The original chapel on the site was built in OTL by Alfonso II of Asturias around 840. In RoS it was constructed by Olaf Ironarm at the behest of his wife Iohanna the Dark and helped reconcile Oviedo to rule by the north men around 875.
[4]wi = y = and
[5]A bandage soaked in a 98% ethanol solution--also what was in the bottle.
[6]First cousin once removed.
[7]In RoS, a rusafa is a certain observational fortification on the edge a wall named by Abd ar-Rahman after the ancient town. It received its name because the architectural feature is often subject to refreshing breezes.
[8]In medieval times, consent became strongly valued. In fact, it was the pledging of consent which was considered the most important part of the marriage--even over consummation by a few church writers. Rings were actually exchanged at the time of betrothal and these were far more elaborate than the marriage ceremonies and were often negotiated heavily before 1100 AD. Thus by betrothing himself to Alessa, Rolando has actually completed the most important part of the customs. This is essentially analogous to a soldier getting married before he leaves for war. That it gives Alessa more time to get back to normal is a plus.
[9]Mosque (eng.) Mezquita (span.), Azalais is saying it with an accent.
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