A Greater Alodia

Part 12 Ascalon, Damietta and Belbeis

The week Christmas it became clear to King Fulk that the fortress of Ascalon was indeed weakly held. On 7 January, 1132 he ordered a full scale assault which succeeded in forcing entrance into the city. For more than a day there was desperate fighting. The fortress commander then realized he was hopelessly outnumbered and requested a brief truce. When Fulk assured him that the citizens would be allowed to return to Egypt he surrendered.

Ships were showing at Aqaba fairly regularly by then. King Falk wrote a letter to Prince Epimachos informing him of the capture of Ascalon. He also said that he was going to send a modest force west to Pelusium. From there it would be readily available to assist the Alodians if needed. This force ended up being 400 knights and 2,000 foot soldiers under the command of William of Bures. When he composed this letter Fulk hoped that Prince Epimachos did not ask for anything more because Fulk was already having problems with the other Crusader states and anticipated having to march north with his army before long.

On 16 January Alodian cavalry reached the key Egyptian port of Damietta where there was a small garrison. The next four days the leader of the cavalry unit and the garrison commander negotiated. Even though the garrison was small the Alodians were too weak to try to make an assault. After that additional Alodian cavalry arrived and they were then able to bribe the wavering commander into surrendering his garrison.

The Egyptian navy had suffered heavy losses fighting the Venetians in 1123. Since then they were slowly rebuilding their fleet and most of it was currently anchored at Damietta. In the confusion of the last year most of the ships were less than fully manned. The garrison commander had threatened to use sailors to bolster his defenses but even he was dubious that most of the vessels’ captains would acquiesce. In the following weeks the Alodians and Axumites tried to make the port function using Egyptian labor directed by officials who had begun to arrive in December. On 22 February a cargo ship managed to leave for Taranto. That was considered an achievement.

In the predawn hours of 24 February a sizable Venetian fleet arrived at Damietta. When John II became Emperor in 1087 he refused to confirm the 1082 treaty with the Most Serene Republic of Venice. This was because he felt it gave the Venetians too many trade related privileges in exchange for military support they never delivered. His antipathy towards the Venetians deepened when some prominent Venetians abused a member of the Imperial family. This escalated into a costly war with Venice that went badly and forced him to confirm the detested treaty in 1126.

So when Barachiel made him want to help the Alodians subjugate Egypt he was forced to acknowledge that he needed the help of the Venetian navy to do so. He swallowed his bile and contacted Pietro Polani, who had become Doge the year before. He informed the Doge that Alodia and Makuria were making a serious attempt to subjugate Egypt. He said that he wanted to assist those efforts but needed the help of the Venetian navy to do so. He would be grateful if they did but expected that King Paul of Alodia would be even more grateful. There was no need to remind the Doge of the importance of Venice’s trade with Egypt.

The noble families of Venice held a great deal of animosity towards the Byzantine Empire at this time. Polani was well aware of this. He often felt the same way. However the importance of the trade with Egypt was too big for him to ignore. He soon decided to be bold and reached a deal with John II and quickly assembled a suitably sized fleet. The Byzantine military expedition consisted of 200 horse archers and 2,000 infantry including 150 of the elite Varangian Guard pulled from their garrison on Cyprus. There were also 4 disassembled state of the art trebuchets along with 200 artillerists well trained in their use. The Venetian contribution was 900 mercenary foot soldiers led by Venetian noblemen.

One of the first things the Venetians when they arrived at Damietta did was to capture as many of the anchored Egyptian ships as possible. The Egyptians were ill prepared for an attack. Four warships did try to engage the Venetians but this quickly proved to be a brave but futile gesture. Some Egyptian ships tried to escape but only three succeeded. The rest were captured by noon. Around this time the Venetian mercenaries began to land. Once they identified themselves they were warmly greeted by the Alodians. The Venetian commander insisted on taking over control of the entire port. The Alodian commander did see anything wrong with that. Indeed he was glad as it freed up his men to perform other more suitable missions.

Before long the Byzantine expedition began to land as well. The Venetian commander decided to keep two thirds of his soldiers at Damietta. The remainder accompanied the Byzantines as they proceeded to Belbeis. The city’s fortifications had proven more formidable than General Ouggamaet had anticipated. As a result the siege was proving very difficult. Under John II the Byzantine army had become very skilled at wall breaking. By 11 March all of the trebuchets were ready and opened fire at noon supplementing the Axumite siege engines.

Four days later the walls were finally breached. The Varangian Guard were at the forefront of the soldiers entering the city. Their ferocity and determination stymied the Egyptian efforts to repel the intrusion. The heavy fighting continued with Axumite soldiers joining the Byzantines inside the walls before very long. By the afternoon of the 13th it became obvious that the city was going to fall. One of Kutayfat’s senior officers slit his throat. He then assumed command and negotiated a surrender in a few hours. Ouggamaet acted honorably and so there was no wholesale slaughter. Indeed he encouraged the defeated Egyptian soldiers to serve the Regent. Some of them did.
Part 13

There is a huge celebration at Belbeis after the end of the siege. As far as Prince Epimachos is concerned the conquest of Lower Egypt is complete. The one big exception is Alexandria which is controlled by the Assassins (Nizari Ismailis). Epimachos travels to Belbeis to personally thank the commander of the Byzantine expedition. He does not believe that they are needed any longer and can therefore return home. However talking with General Ouggamaet he learns of the efficacy of the trebuchet. He therefore requests the 10 of the Byzantine artillerists remain behind to teach the Axumites how to properly build and use such weapons. The Byzantine commander complies with that request and begins marching back to Damietta. From there Venetian ships bring them back to Smyrna in time to participate in the annual campaign against the Danishmends.

Nearly all of the Axumite soldiers in Egypt were involved in the siege of Belbeis. When the celebration was over Epimachos ordered 4,000 of them to proceed to Cairo to relieve the Makurians, who then headed upriver. When they arrived Epimachos started ferrying half of them to Giza and the west bank. From Giza along with some Alodian cavalry that have already arrived they assert control over the west bank. Epimachos orders Ouggamaet to leave 600 Axumite soldiers behind to garrison Belbeis and take the rest along with 3,000 Alodian horsemen to subjugate Alexandria.

Ouggamaet took his time marching to Alexandria. After a few brief skirmishes the Assassins withdrew into the fortified city. Ouggamaet hoped they would realize that they were hopelessly outnumbered and surrender but they were very stubborn. He lets the Byzantine artillerists teach some of the Axumites how to construct a trebuchet. He withholds his attack on the city until 26 April when it is ready for action even though he already has other siege engines ready and waiting. In some ways he is treating this siege as little more than a training exercise.

Despite being hopelessly outnumbered the Assassins show more determination than he expected. He was finally able to gain entrance to the city on 8 May. It takes 3 more days of very heavy fighting to capture Alexandria. In the harbor there are a few Egyptian ships sitting idle. The Assassin Uprising has scared away merchants from other countries who previously had done business there.

While this is going on Prince Epimachos has his hands full dealing with the Venetian diplomats. They are pressuring him to negotiate a trade treaty similar to the one they had with the Byzantine Empire. He verbally acknowledges their control of Damietta but would put nothing in writing. He makes known his disapproval of the Venetians attack on Egyptian shipping in Damietta harbor. The Venetian diplomats bristled at this and demanded to speak with the regent Abd al-Majid which Epimachos categorically refused.

Epimachos soon sends a letter about the Venetian delegation to King Paul requesting guidance. Paul has given Epimachos considerable latitude in the administration of Lower Egypt but also has some long term plans that he wants implemented. Meanwhile the prince is very evasive whenever the Venetians inquire about the relationship between Alodia and Egypt except to make it clear that he has no authority whatsoever over Upper Egypt.

King David of Axum had created a fair working relationship with Jewish communities that lived within his realm protecting them from persecution. Nevertheless there were some vocal Jews that were discontent and wanted their own independent polity but that they were a small minority. The majority proved to be loyal subjects. Over the years there was some occasional friction between Jews and Christians but the situation remained largely unchanged up until the point that Prince Sergios assumed the throne at Aksum.

Sergios disliked Muslims but hated Jews still more. In less than a year his antipathy began to manifest itself in his policies. His favorite adviser was a bishop who further inflamed his biases. King Petros of Alodia soon warned him against going too far when it came to Muslims but said nothing about the Jews. When Paul became king of Alodia he had a similar attitude. He made it abundantly clear that he did not want Sergios doing anything to upset either Queen Arwa or Sultan Geedi of Showa. Sergios’ enmity towards Muslims was appeased when Paul finally let him send a sizable army to assist the Crusaders. Meanwhile he treated Beta Israel worse and worse. As result the malcontents became the majority in the Jewish communities.

Last October the Jews in the Simien Mountains were in open revolt lead by a man named Gideon. When Sergios learned of this he was furious. His first instinct was to crush the insurrection as quickly as possible. The problem was that most of his infantry had been committed to the invasion of Egypt. Unlike Alodia the mainstay of the Axumite army was its archers and heavy infantry. The cavalry they had were limited in both quantity and quality. The horsemen had their hands full patrolling the borders and maintaining order.

In late December Sergios had another 5,000 foot soldiers assembled at Adulis waiting for a fleet to take them to Egypt. King Paul had insisted that the Axumite soldiers sent to Palestine and the first wave of the Egyptian invasion be of the highest quality. While not worthless this bunch was definitely of a lower caliber. When the fleet arrived it was somewhat smaller than expected. The commanding admiral informed them he his orders from King Paul was to pick up only 3,000 soldiers plus supplies. These soldiers ended up participating in the Siege of Belbeis. The admiral knew of the Battle of Helwan and was under the impression that the war would soon be over.

When Sergios learned of this he soon concluded that he would not be sending the remaining 2,000 infantry. In the middle of January he sent them along with 600 cavalry to attack Gideon’s strongholds in the Simien Mountains. The rugged terrain there was ill suited for cavalry but ideal for guerilla warfare which Gideon skillfully executed. The Axumite losses steadily mounted. On 29 March they suffered heavy losses in an unsuccessful assault on a Jewish redoubt on Ras Dashen. After that the commander felt it necessary to withdraw from the mountains. Gideon’s forces harassed him during his retreat.

Then on 11 April Gideon followed up on his victory by raiding the areas north of Lake Tana which stirred up the Jewish communities. Many of them soon joined his revolt. Sergios reacted to this by dispatching some cavalry to this area which only proved partially effective. In Damot the Sidama people learned that of this and the fact that most of the Axumite army was absent. They had not forgotten how they had suffered at the hands of King Zacharias. At the beginning of May they revolted as well. The weak local Axumite garrisons were unable to handle this.
Part 14 Welayta

The Welayta Kingdom lay south of what had been the Kingdom of Damot. While well over half of its population was the Welayta people it had a substantial minority of Sidama. Some of the Sidama had ancestors who had fled the brutal oppression of King Zacharias. The country remained steadfastly pagan. The current king of Welayta was Matolomi who detested both Christianity and Islam. He was very ambitious. He has several spies busy in the Kingdom of Axum. It takes time for their intelligence to reach him. By the spring he was getting reports that most of the Axumite army had concentrated near the port of Adulis and was being dispatched from there in ships. Where they were going and why didn’t interest him very much.

The problems that King Sergios was having with the Jews in the Simien Mountains did interest him though he had only a hazy idea of what Jews were. What interested him the most though was the revolt of the Sidama inside Damot just over the border. It is becoming clear that the local Axumite garrisons there were very weak. Many of them were being overwhelmed along with the cavalry patrols. Learning of this Matolomi decided to launch a large scale attack on 7 June.

By this time 2,500 more Axumite horsemen had arrived from the north to bolster the local units. With these reinforcements they were starting to have some success suppressing the Sidama revolt. They were totally inadequate to deal with the cavalry in the van of the Welayta army much less the infantry behind them. The minimal garrisons of the weak Axumite forts are either abandoned in panic or surrender. The one exception is a moderately strong fort at Maldarede which falls after an 8 day siege.

In a fortnight Welayta horsemen reach the historical northern border of Damot. There they rest while waiting for the infantry to catch up. The Welayta burn churches wherever they can. They also burn the lone mosque that Sergios has permitted in Damot. They are welcomed by the Sidama but terrorize the Christian Axumites who have migrated into Damot since King Zacharias conquered it.

King Matolomi is pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to capture Damot. He orders some of his army to pivot to the east into the land of the Gafat, another pagan people subjugated by Axum. In early July he finally lets some of his cavalry cross the border to conduct raids deep into Axum. These raids terrify the Axumites. Still more churches are destroyed.

It was at this dire time that a fleet of ships arrived at Adulis bringing unexpected help. As he was trying to reshape Lower Egypt he found himself encountering several problematic leaders. One of them was an Armenian named Abu’l-Fath Yanis who had been had been chamberlain of Caliph al-Amir bi-Akham Allah. He was one of those opposed to Kutayfat. He was serving Prince Epimachos but was starting to arouse suspicion as to his ultimate motives. For one thing Yanis had formed a private regiment of military slaves called the Yanisiyya.

Another problematic leader was one of the regent Abd al-Majid’s sons, Haydara. He was backed by a Nubian regiment called the Rayhaniyya. Haydara had fought against Kutayfat but Epimachos feared that he was plotting to liberate his father and seize power. Though Epimachos didn’t know about Sergios’ problems he was well aware that most of Axum’s infantry was currently in Lower Egypt. With Kutayfat dead he knew that it was only a matter of time before King Paul would want to start bringing both the Alodian cavalry and Axumite infantry back home. He then had the idea of sending Yanis and Haydara along with their regiments to Adulis where they shouldn’t be able to cause any trouble. Hopefully this stopgap reinforcement would delay having to send the Axumites home.

Yanis and Haydara were both Ismailis which did not please King Sergios but at this time things were deteriorating and he was becoming desperate. He overcomes his innate distrust and ordered them to proceed south to counter the Welayta. On 11 August Yanis was able to inflict a stinging defeat on a large raiding party. This impresses King Sergios.

Meanwhile King Paul at Suakin has learned of Axum’s woes. Just as he has sent most of Axum’s infantry to Egypt so too has he dispatched most of Alodia’s cavalry. Nevertheless there are 1,400 near Soba that he can spare so he orders them to ride rapidly to Lake Tana. He also sends word by sea to Prince Epimachos to start sending Axumite infantry back to Adulis as quickly as possible.

When these orders reach Epimachos at Cairo on 7 September he still has most of the Axumite infantry stationed at Alexandria. That is because he has learned that al-Husayn, a son of Nizar, has assembled an army of Berbers at al-Baretun (Mersa Matruh) with which he intends to capture Alexandria. He is also worried that the Venetians might try to capture Alexandria by sea. Compounding matters Queen Arwa withdrew her soldiers at the end of August. He cobbles together 2,100 Axumite foot soldiers which he supplements with 600 Turkish Mamluks and sends them to Adulis.

On 19 September the Showa Sultanate attacks the Welayta in Damot. Sultan Geedi does not like King Sergios but he does feel indebted to his brother, King Bazen II. Though he also worried that if King Matolimi was successful he might be emboldened to invade Showa next. This attack takes Matolimi by surprise. His army is not deployed to deal with an attack from the east and has only a few weak forts. Nearly half of the Welayta cavalry are involved in raiding. He soon orders all raiding to stop immediately and regroups his army to counter the Showans.
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It's rare that we have timelines covering (any) part of Africa especially Alodia. I don't know much about the topic but I like it!
Author's Comments: In OTL al-Husayn also tried to take Alexandria with an army of Berbers in 1132. Most of what happened with Fulk, Melisende, Alice, Pons, Joscelin et al. at this time OTL happens ITTL with only minor divergences
Part 15 Sultan Geedi of Showa

The morning of 24 September the main Welayta army attacks the Showan army as it approaches Maldarede, which had been the capital of the old Damot Kingdom. Sultan Geedi is commanding his army which numbers 6,000 cavalry and 9,000 infantry. King Matolimi personally commands his army consists of 4,000 cavalry, 12,000 infantry plus another 2,500 Sidama auxiliaries. Both sides have their cavalry deployed on the flanks with the infantry in the center.

The Welayta attack begins with their archers firing on the Showan infantry. This is soon followed with a charge. They are attacking uphill though the gradient is relatively gentle. The quality of the cavalry is roughly equal but the Showan horsemen eventually prevail due to their numerical superiority. Thinned by Showan arrows during their charge, the Welayta heavy infantry crashes against the Showan shield wall. There is some very intense fighting but the Showan shield wall holds its ground.

Meanwhile the Showan cavalry has finally defeated the Welayta cavalry and begins to attack the flanks of the Weleyta infantry. Matolimi sees that he is in trouble. He had been keeping the highly enthusiastic but poorly trained Sidama auxiliaries in reserve. He orders them to charge the Showan cavalry while ordering his infantry to retreat. The Sidama auxiliaries are armed with spears, clubs and knives. Less than half have a small shield. They are quick and exhibit great bravery. They distracted the enemy horsemen sufficiently that the Welayta were able to retreat in good order but suffered severe losses in the process.

Matolimi considers but rejects the idea of retreating into the fortress at Maldarede. He knows from experience that it is only moderately strong. Even more troubling is that his army would exhaust its provisions in barely a month. He is worried that Axum will seize the opportunity to go on the offensive. Lastly there was the very disturbing possibility that Geedi might turn south and invade Wetayla which was poorly defended. If that happens Matolimi definitely did want to be penned up inside the fortress. So he orders his small garrison inside the fort to abandon it and join his army as it retreats to the west. The Showan cavalry harasses the Welaytan withdrawal but the arrival of 600 more Wetayla horsemen midafternoon helps to counteract that.

Sultan Geedi occupies Maldarede with his infantry, who proceed to loot it but they find that the Welayta have already taken nearly everything worth taking. He lets his cavalry continue harassing until dusk when they are ordered to pull back to the city. After dark he discusses his options with his advisers and subordinates. He has no interest in invading the territory of Wetayla. He doesn’t want to annex Damot. He doesn’t even want to pursue the Welayta. The following morning he decides that the best course of action is to send a proposal to King Matolimi. In exchange for a modest amount of gold and a written promise to leave both Damot and the Gafat lands and not return, Geedi would then in turn return to his sultanate.

At this time Matolimi had pivoted his army and it was heading SSE. He did this in order to be able to interpose his army between Welayta and the Showan Army. When the sultan’s messenger reaches him with the proposal Matolimi becomes enraged and has the messenger beheaded. He instructs his cavalry, which has just received reinforcements to aggressively engage the Showan cavalry whenever they find them. In a few days this became obvious to Geedi who is irritated that Matolimi has rejected his proposal. On 1 October he sets a trap involving a feigned retreat that kills nearly 300 Wetayla horsemen.

Despite this setback Matolimi stubbornly continues with his strategy. On 6 October Geedi was again able to spring a similar trap which proves to be almost as effective. After that Matolimi finally begins to be more cautious. He soon concentrates on trying to disrupt Geedi’s line of communications with Showa. In this he has some limited success but his cavalry still suffers significant losses he can ill afford.

Meanwhile in Cairo a Genoese delegation that had recently landed in Alexandria visits Prince Epimachos. They advise him against signing any treaty with the Venetians. Instead they want him to sign a trade treaty with the Republic of Genoa. Like the Venetians they want to speak with the Regent but Epimachos of course forbids them as well. He does warn them against trying to seize the handful of Egyptian ships anchored in Alexandria harbor. The Genoese delegation eventually runs into their Venetian counterparts resulting in a noisy confrontation that Epimachos finds amusing.

Epimachos continues to have suspicions about the commanders of certain Egyptian units that claim loyalty. He especially distrusts Turkish Mamluk units. So on 5 October he shipped off another 500 of them along with 1,700 Axumite foot soldiers to Adulis. Meanwhile he was forming new infantry units from the Copts. He was making sure that the Egyptian heavy infantry received adequate training which was usually not the case under the Fatimids. He had no problem with the Crusaders occupying Pelusium but saw no reason to invite them any further into Egypt.

By the end of September King Sergios of Axum had suppressed the Jewish revolt north of Lake Tana with the help of Alodian cavalry. He was persuaded by his advisers to hold off on restarting a campaign against the Jews in the Simien Mountains. There was no direct communication with Sultan Geedi but Sergios very belatedly learned that Showa had attacked Welayta’s forces in Damot. The news he received about how the fighting between Welayta and the Showans was very sketchy and often inconsistent. What was clear was that the dreaded raids by the Welayta horsemen had not resumed. Panic is ebbing in Axum.

On 27 November the Berber army of 3,000 light cavalry (nearly half mounted on camels) and 8,500 infantry led by al-Husayn fought an army led by Ouggamaet that consisted of 4,000 Alodian cavalry together with a total of 12,000 Axumite, Coptic and Nubian infantry just west of El-Hamam. The sea protects the left flank of the Berbers so Ouggamaet initially tries to attack the right flank using the Alodian cavalry but the Berber cavalry are able to counter this. Ouggamaet then attacks the Berber left wing with Axumite heavy infantry after weakening it with repeated volleys of arrows.

There is very heavy fighting for a while but the Axumites eventually prevail and start rolling up the Berber line. The Berber archers and slingers flee in panic. At this point al-Husayn quickly decides that he must retreat. Alodian horsemen harass the withdrawal but the Berber cavalry are able to provide adequate protection. As a result al-Husayn only loses half of army as he retreats back to al-Baretun. Ouggamaet would like to have continued pursuing but he is under increasingly strong pressure from Epimachos to release both Alodians and Axumites in large numbers to be sent by sea to Adulis. So he does not pursue past El-Alamein.

On 4 December Sultan Geedi received a message from Walale, his capital that a rebellion had erupted in the province of Harar. This does not come as a complete surprise. Harar was the easternmost province of his sultanate and was predominantly Sunni Muslim. Some of the Sunni see his incursion into Damot as proof that he is doing the bidding of King Sergios. One of the reasons Geedi was hoping that King Matolimi would accept his offer was so he could get back to his palace where he would be better positioned to deal with problems like this. He is not happy but has faith that his vizier back in Walale can keep a lid on the situation with forces he has available.

Alas that faith proves unfounded. On 19 December he learns that the rebellion has spread to Walale. The next morning he rides out at first light with all of his cavalry and heads for Walale. He leaves his infantry behind at Maldarede. He finally sends a messenger to Aksum with a letter for Sergios. In it he states that he has no intention of annexing Damot and that his men at Maldarede will gladly turnover the city to Axum. In the afternoon he runs into another messenger from Walale who informs him that a Sunni named Shermake has seized the place, beheaded the vizier and is being proclaimed as the new sultan.

Geedi orders his troopers to ride harder.
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Part 16

By late November King Sergios of Axum has received enough reinforcements from Egypt that he is able to form an army of 6,000 cavalry (which supplements Axumites with Alodians and Mamluks) and 8,000 infantry which he sends to a position a few miles north of Damot’s border. The mission he assigns its commander Pentewudem is defensive. So at first the general merely defends the border while building up a decent sized supply dump. After a while he starts probing the northern parts of Damot with his cavalry. These cautious probes do not find any Welayta. Neither did they find any Showans who are not patrolling the northern border. Interrogating the locals they do eventually learn that the Showans are occupying Maldarede.

On 21 December the Showan messenger that was carrying Sultan Geedi’s letter to King Sergios runs into Axumite horsemen. General Pentewundem resisted the temptation to open the sealed letter but the messenger was willing to share some useful information. This causes Pentewundem to take his entire army to Maldarede, which his mounted vanguard reaches on 24 December. They contact the Showan commander who then turns the fortress over to them in accord with the instructions Geedi gave him.

That same day Sultan Geedi encounters 700 rebel horsemen west of Walale. There is a very brief skirmish before the rebels realize that they are hopelessly outnumbered and retreat inside the city’s walls. With their mounts tired from their hard ride Geedi’s troopers could not keep up so the rebels make it back inside then bar the gates. Believing the rebels to have only a very weak grip on the city Geedi orders an immediate assault. Unfortunately there are 2,000 rebel foot soldiers plus an equal number of weakly armed civilians with no training acting as auxiliaries. These are sufficient to repel the attack by Geedi’s tired dismounted troopers without much trouble.

The sultan’s next tactic is to bluster and threaten. The following morning he informs the rebels that he is willing to spare their lives including that of their leader if they surrender the palace before nightfall and do not harm his wife and children. If they fail to comply he will treat them harshly. This doesn’t work. At sundown Shermake remains defiant. Geedi had already sent a messenger to Maldarede with orders for the infantry there to abandon the fortress and join him at Walale.

What he doesn’t know is that they are already on the way having been relieved by the Axumites. However they are not marching with any urgency. They are also being slowed down by the more than 3,000 enslaved Sidama they are taking with them. Furthermore Wetayla cavalry have continued to make patrols near Maldarede. One of these spots the Showan infantry. Before nightfall the Wetayla cavalry begin harassing the Showan foot soldiers. The following morning the Wetayla horsemen attack in much greater strength. These attacks are repelled but they effectively pin down the Showans. During the night the Wetayla cavalry raid the Showan camp and free nearly 500 Sidama slaves.

The Wetayla attacks continue the next day and the Showans make minimal progress in the morning. Just before noon Alodian and Axumite cavalry arrive in large numbers. These take the Wetayla by surprise and quickly route them. The rest of the day the Showans are able to march towards Walale unimpeded. The following morning the Wetayla cavalry again try to harass the Showans but before long Mamluks and Axumite cavalry engage them which lets the Showans resume their march. The next day the Wetayla cavalry are more cautious. As they prepare to attack the Showans again their scouts spot Axumite cavalry. Their leader calls off the attack on the Showans in order to concentrate on fighting the Axumites.

Geedi has decided to wait until his infantry arrive before attempting another assault. In the meantime he is prepared to starve out the capital if necessary while beginning to prepare siege engines. He hopes that the city’s residents come to their senses and depose Shermake. He was very disappointed to learn on 29 December that the large town of Ifat which is to the northeast had joined the rebellion. Dealing with Ifat as well as the rebels in Harar will have to wait until after he regains the palace.

There are some reports that the rebels are getting aid from the Adal Kingdom which has its capital at Zeila. Geedi is well aware that its monarch is a Sunni who does not approve of Ismailism. Furthermore Zeila competes with Alodian and Axumite traders and resents their dominance of the Red Sea. They view Geedi as being a puppet of King Paul.

With many Sidama living at Maldarede King Matolomi of Wetayla has a ready source of information about what is going on there though it takes some time for it to reach his camp. He also receives reports from his cavalry about the Showan infantry. At first he is not completely convinced that they are heading home. He worries that they might be working in concert with the Axumites to draw him into a trap. It wasn’t until 31 December that he was convinced that they were truly gone.

The next morning he started marching his own infantry towards Maldarende It was his hope that the Axumite infantry would leave the fortress to fight him in the open. When he started this march most of his cavalry were busy scouting and skirmishing with the enemy cavalry. He sends orders for most but not all of them to rejoin his infantry.

In the afternoon of 3 January, 1133 his army positions itself on some high ground south of Maldarede. During the day Pentewundem’s cavalry had repeatedly skirmished with Matolomi’s. More than half of his cavalry was Axumite which as usual were mediocre. The Mamluks were better but the Alodian troopers were better still. Despite outnumbering the Wetayla cavalry 2 to 1 they were frustrated in their attempts to attack the infantry and slowed their march only a little. Matolomi let his men rest and waited to see if the enemy would accept his invitation to the dance.

Pentewundem declined. Instead he sent the Alodian cavalry to swing around Matolomi’s army and raid his kingdom to the south. This was a quick hit and run raid. No attempt was made to attack the walled capital city. Nevertheless it was enough to enrage Matolomi when he learned about it on 9 January. He ordered all of his cavalry to ride hard to the south to destroy the raiders. By the time they got there the Alodians were already riding hard back to Maldarede.

Meanwhile Pentwewundem noticed on 10 January that the Wetayla cavalry were gone. In the afternoon he ordered all his available cavalry to attack the Wetayla infantry. His own infantry was standing by at the gates eager to exploit the anticipated success of the cavalry. However Matolomi had anticipated this and formed his infantry into a square with spearmen on the outside and the archers plus the baggage train inside. There were no flanks for Pentewendum’s horsemen to attack. Some of the Mamluks came close to cracking the defenses at one point but the Axumite cavalry proved utterly impotent. Before long Pentewundem realized he was squandering his one big advantage—his quantitative edge in cavalry--and called off the attack.

The Armenian Abu’l-Fath Yanis was one of his lieutenants and tried to argue that a closely coordinated simultaneous attack by both the infantry and cavalry had a good chance of breaking the Wetayla formation. However Petewendum was well aware that if his army was destroyed here all of Axum would be open to a Wetaylan invasion. Furthermore he overestimates the number of Wetaylata foot soldiers as being 18,000 when in fact they are 10,000 plus 4,000 Sidama auxiliaries. He therefore rejects Yani’s recommendation.

Meanwhile the Showan infantry arrive at Walale the afternoon of 5 January. The following day Sultan Geedi begins to lay siege to his own capital.
Author's Comments: The Adal Kingdom mentioned is a small but wealthy polity of that era, not the powerful Adal Sultanate started in the early 15th century. As best I can tell the Adal Kingdom controlled Zeila and Adal, but the Showan Sultanate controlled Harar and Ifat.
Part 17

SSW of the Kingdom of Wetayla was Ennarea, which was a pagan vassal polity. In October King Matolomi had ordered the Ennarean monarch to send him 2,000 horsemen. Ennarea dragged its feet. By the end of the year less than 600 of their cavalry had arrived in Wetayla. This enrages Matolomi who demands in the strongest terms that they send the rest of the cavalry within a month. They just barely meet this deadline.

At the end of 1131 Makurian forces had proceeded down the Wadi Hamammat Trail and occupied the port of El Qoseir on the Red Sea. This was the first time that Makuria had a presence on the Red Sea. King Georgios IV was well aware of the prosperity that Alodia and Axum were enjoying from maritime commerce. He hoped that going forward that Makuria would participate in it as well. As he set about administering Upper Egypt Georgios discovered as had Prince Epimachos that some of the Turkish Mamluks that claimed to be loyal were not trustworthy. Upon learning that Axum was experiencing trouble he decided that he would do King Sergios a big favor and sent him 600 of the most troublesome Mamluks. However he is sending them without their mounts. King Paul provides the ships.

They arrive at the port of Adulis on 8 January. Two days later more ships arrive there with 1,700 Alodian horseman ferried from Egypt. These too have been dispatched without their horses. When they came ashore the Axumites provided the Mamluks and Alodians with new mounts though the process of breaking them in takes some time. A week later more ships arrive at Adulis carrying 3,700 Axumite foot soldiers extracted from Egypt. Nearly all of these forces are sent south as soon as possible to reinforce General Pentewundem.

That same day most of King Matolomi’s cavalry returned and reported that they had failed to engage the raiders. The following day they begin skirmishing with Axumite cavalry near Maldarede again. Matolomi then considers his options. He is very tempted to besiege the fortress holding the enemy infantry but his advisers make a strong argument that it would be very risky. Matolomi is still hoping that Pentewundem will leave the fortress and fight him in the open.

The next two days there is no sign of that but there has been more brief cavalry skirmishes with neither side having a clear edge. Matolomi fears that it is only a matter of time before the Alodians try to raid his kingdom again. Just before dawn he moves his army 9 miles south. While it is still well north of the border this new location should make it easier for his cavalry to intercept another raid. It also shortens his supply line a bit.

Pentewundem had indeed been planning to make another raid very soon into Wetayla but when he learned that the enemy army had moved south he postponed those plans until he had a better idea of what Matolomi was up to. The cavalry skirmishes became less frequent. The inaction soon makes Matolomi irritable. His thoughts turn to getting revenge on Sultan Geedi for his intervention.

In the western section of the Showan Sultanate near the border more than half of the population is pagan. Some of those happen to be Sidama. Matolomi decides to send 800 of his horsemen into this area in order to foment a revolt. These enter Showan territory on 26 January. They soon destroy 2 mosques and a church while raping and killing both Muslims and Christians.

Geedi has been relatively tolerant in his treatment of the pagans inside his realm but his Sunni predecessor wasn’t and that spawned some lingering hostility. Encouraged by the Wetayla a revolt does erupt in a few days but it was not anywhere as large or enthusiastic as Matolomi had envisioned. Meanwhile Pentewundem had finally decided to raid Wetayla again with the speedy Alodian troopers. They are again able to cross into Weytala territory and are only engaged by the Weytala when they are preparing to leave. The Weytayla fail to cutoff the Alodians’ line of retreat so the engagement ends up being little more than a brief skirmish.

Meanwhile Sultan Geedi’s forces finally break into the city of Walale on 24 January. There was 2 hours of intense fighting then rebel resistance collapsed. The slaughter continued for another hour. It would’ve gone on longer but Geedi thought enough was enough. The main complication at that point was the usurper Shermake is using Geedi’s family as hostages and has threatened to kill them. This situation produced some tense negotiating. In the end Shermake accepted exile with his family to the neighboring Sultanate of Dewaro in exchange for releasing Geedi’s wife and children.

After that Geedi turned his attention to the rebellion in Harar and Ifat. As he did he learned of the Wetayla intrusion and soon thereafter of the pagan revolt it spawned. Finding himself beleaguered on multiple fronts Geedi realizes that he cannot eliminate all threats simultaneously. He initially concentrates on quelling the rebellion in Ifat which isn’t completed until 9 February. In the meantime he has been using his cavalry to keep an eye on the Wetayla in the west resulting in an occasional skirmish. On 13 February he sends 1,800 cavalry west to attack the Wetayla and suppress the rebellion there.

In early February Pentewendum becomes more aggressive in using his cavalry to attack the enemy cavalry. Sometimes these attacks involve the Ennarean cavalry which prove to be desultory. On 13 February some of the Alodian reinforcements brought from Egypt begin to reach Pentewendum who then becomes even more aggressive. Two days later he launches his largest raid into Wetayla territory. Unlike the prior raids this is conducted with two groups of Alodian horsemen. The smaller group strikes deep while the larger one tries to remain inconspicuous near the border. When the Wetayla cavalry try to trap the smaller group the larger force swoops down to trap the trappers, eliminating most of them.

When Matolomi learns of this he orders the return of the cavalry he sent into Showa. However by the time that these orders reach him they already have been routed by Geedi’s horsemen which outnumber them 2 to 1. Matolomi also orders Ennarea to send him another 1,000 cavalry within a month.

What he does not know is that Ennarea’s ruler has secretly entered into negotiations with General Pentewundem. At first Pentewendum felt that he lacked the authority to negotiate on the behalf of King Sergios but Yanis persuaded him that the negotiations would take too long if messages had to go all the way to the palace at Aksum. Ennarea is willing to change sides if it is guaranteed unfettered independence afterwards. Pentewundem does not have a problem with that but he does have a problem with the compensation that Ennarea wants as well.
Part 18

On 25 February King Paul finally returns to his capital, Soba in triumph. He was under heavy escort as Beja raids on the roads connecting Suakin and Atbara have increased in recent months. There are three days of celebration. Paul is not interested in partaking in that. He has serious issues to consider. One of them is the Beja but until his hold on Lower Egypt is firmly consolidated and the Wetayla threat eliminated that is a low priority.

The policy that he is having Prince Epimachos implement in Egypt is for the time being to continue the fiction of the Regency while creating an Egyptian army with Copts as its backbones. Mamluks are to be phased out over a few years. The de facto Venetian occupation of Damietta is to be unofficially tolerated for a while longer but not indefinitely. Neither the Venetians nor the Genoese are to be allowed any control over Alexandria. He does not want to try to control the Mediterranean coast beyond El-Hamam where he wants a castle constructed. He has no problem with the Crusaders occupying Pelusium indefinitely but does not want them to advance any further into the Nile Delta.

After the success of his third raid into Wetayla General Pentewundem decides that he can afford to use his reinforced cavalry more aggressively to suppress the Sidama in the northern half of Damot. On 4 March the Axumite infantry recalled from Egypt start to reach Maldarede. They are tired from their march. With them comes a letter from King Sergios that is less cautionary that the prior ones. He gives Pentewundem discretion to seek a decisive battle when he believes it to be propitious.

Pentewundem concentrates on the negotiations with Ennarea. The ruler of Ennarea has been asking for gold, cattle and slaves as his condition to change sides. Pentewundem was willing to give him the number of slaves he was asking but only half of the quantity of gold and cattle. The ruler of Ennarea soon agreed but insisted on receiving the gold before his soldiers changed sides. He realizes that trying to transfer cattle and/or slaves beforehand would likely arouse King Malotomi’s suspicion. Pentewundem agrees to pay the gold. This is carried out when the Ennarean cavalry show up at Maldarende under a flag of truce.

This happens the evening of 23 March. When he is given the gold the Ennarean commander pledges that he will obey Pentewendum’s orders for the next three days. The following morning at dusk Pentewendum marches his infantry out of the fortress leaving only 300 behind to guard it. They march south in columns. His cavalry which now includes the Ennareans ride forward and soon engage the Wetayla cavalry which they outnumber more than 5 to 1. Believing at first that he is only being attacked by cavalry Malotomi orders his infantry to again form into a square. When his cavalry is thoroughly defeated the enemy cavalry hold off on trying to attack the square. Instead Pentewundem forms his infantry into a line. His archers open fire on the front end of the square.

At this point Malotomi orders his infantry to execute a maneuver that they’ve practiced twice. The left and right sides of the square simultaneously pivot forming an extended line with the forward side. The archers unleash a volley of arrows as the heavy infantry charge downhill towards the Axumite infantry. By this time the center of the Wetayla line which had been badly weakened by concentrated archery. It is unable to budge the Axumite infantry, most of whom where hardened by the campaign in Egypt. The left and wings are stronger though and exert enough pressure to push the Axumites back.

The Weytala infantry that had been on the rear side didn’t pivot but began to slowly backpedal. Meanwhile the Sidama auxiliaries which had been inside the square were ordered to move to either side of them. However the poorly trained auxiliaries carry this out clumsily. While this is going on Pentewundem’s cavalry is overpowering the Wetayla cavalry. Half of the Wetayla riders were put to flight. The rest were dead, dying or unhorsed.

Pentewundem’s orders were for the cavalry to hold off on attacking a square until the Axumite infantry defeated it. Malotomi’s maneuver took them by surprise and for a while they were nonplussed. The one exception was Yanis who been given command of all the Mamluks as well as the Yannisiyya. Mounted on horseback Yanis led the Mamluks in an attack on some of the Sidama auxiliaries. Some of the Sidama quickly panicked but most fought bravely just not very well. The Mamluks soon broke their ragged formation and penetrated into Wetayla archers behind them. The morale of the Wetayla was much better than that of the Egyptians. While the attack of the Mamluks was succeeding it did not precipitate a general panic.

Despite the success of the Mamluks Malotomi continued to have some hope that his infantry would soon prevail esp. his right wing which had pushed back the Axumites significantly. However the Alodian cavalry soon turn their attention to the Wetayla infantry. Furthermore the Axumite line is longer than the Weytala and it starts curling around the Wetayla flanks.

Malotomi begins to see the battle turning against him. He reluctantly orders a retreat starting with the archers and slingers behind the front line. Soon after that he orders the heavy infantry in the front line to march backwards. At this time Pentewundem is still overestimating the number of Wetayla infantry and so has ordered his infantry to merely hold their ground. As a result they do not immediately pursue the retreating Wetayla heavy infantry. However the retreat of the Wetayla left wing is blocked by the Mamluks. As a result when the Axumite heavy infantry does belatedly advance it is able to crush the left wing against the Mamluks. The allowed them to eliminate nearly all of the left wing's heavy infantry and half of its archers.

As the rest of the Wetayla infantry retreat they find themselves attacked by Alodian, Axumite and Ennarean cavalry. However these attacks were not well coordinated. As a result the Wetaylta and the Sidama auxiliaries suffered additional heavy losses but avoided annihilation. The remaining 800 Wetayla cavalry rally and return to help their infantry as best they can, suffering still more losses in the process. At dusk Pentewundem calls off the pursuit and makes camp for the night. The Wetayla continue retreating after dark until they reach some densely wooded hills. There are only 6,500 Wetayla foot soldiers, 600 cavalry and 2,500 Sidama auxiliaries left. In the following days Matolomi uses the terrain as much as possible to reduce the effectiveness of Pentewundem’s cavalry but nonetheless continues to be whittled down.

On 27 March the extremely tired Wetayla infantry cross the border into their kingdom. At dusk they make camp in some very rough hills. The following day they fend off repeated attacks by Pentewundem’s cavalry though as the day progresses these attacks become more cautious. As a result Matolomi’s hopes of inflicting devastating losses on the enemy cavalry fades. He has only a weak garrison in his capital and is worried that it would not be able to resist a determined assault. He therefore orders his army to resume moving towards the capital at last light.

The following morning Pentewundem is confused as to where to the Wetayla are but by midafternoon his cavalry has reestablished contact. Before nightfall the harassing raids restart and they intensify the next day. The harassment continues. On 1 April they reach a crescendo as when Matolomi’s army approaches his capital. At considerable cost he fights his way through them and manages to enter his capital just before last light. Two days later Pentewundem begins a siege.

Meanwhile Sultan Geedi of Showa sent 1,200 cavalry on 19 March to quell the rebellion in Harar. However when they arrive they quickly lose nearly half of their number when they are ambushed by 3,000 horsemen. These are from the Adal Kingdom whose monarch has decided to take advantage of the rebellion to annex Harar. Geedi is unaware of Matolomi’s defeat. He therefore feels that he is in no position to take on the Adal Kingdom as well.
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Part 19

On 14 March a Pisan diplomatic delegation which had landed in Alexandria visited Prince Epimachos in Cairo. Like the Venetians and the Genoese they tried to negotiate a trade treaty that would grant them special privileges like freedom from taxation. They are disappointed but not completely surprised to learn that Venice and Genoa also have diplomats in Cairo doing the same thing. They too unsuccessfully demand to see the regent when Epimachos refuses to acquiesce.

However the Pisans did something that Venice and Genoa neglected to do and that was to bring a legate from Pope Anacletus II with them. The legate was an Italian archbishop who could speak Greek only moderately well. Epimachos was willing to go so far as to ensure the prelate that despite the Regency Egypt was once again a Christian nation. He also promised that the government would not interfere with the Catholic Church despite the theological differences between it and the Coptic Church. The only religion that Epimachos is suppressing is Nizari Ismaili because of their troublesome nature.

On 9 April an additional 600 cavalry from Ennarea arrive at the capital of Wetayla. The following morning 4,500 Ennarean foot soldiers arrive there as well. General Pentewundem starts using them in the siege during the afternoon. The Ennareans in turn are pressuring Pentewundem to deliver the slaves and cattle that the general promised.

He starts with the slaves. King Sergios had ordered Pentewundem to implement a massive program to enslave many of the rebellious Sidama. This program has been underway since the middle of March. More than half of those enslaved are being sent north. The rest were being kept at Maldarede. Already there are more than enough at Maldarede to compensate Ennarea’s ruler as agreed. Pentewundem has been rounding up cattle as well but most of them have been going into the bellies of his soldiers so he unapologetically warns the Ennareans to expect some delays.

While the siege is underway Alodian and Axumite cavalry run wild throughout the Kingdom of Wetayla pillaging at will. Any and all resistance is crushed. Before long the horsemen start enslaving as well. It is King Sergios’ intent to annex all of the Wetayla Kingdom.

The Axumite soldiers who had been returned from Egypt included some artillerists who had learned how to construct and use trebuchets. Under their guidance a pair of those formidable weapons are fabricated. They are ready for action on 29 April. The following morning they begin firing. The Wetayla capital has only a few medium sized ballistae which the Axumites have already neutralized.

On 2 May the trebuchets create a gap in the city’s walls that lets Axumite infantry penetrate inside. There is brutal fighting that lasts for two days. The city does not have a true citadel. King Matolomi is killed on the afternoon of 4 May. The resistance of the remaining defenders which had been fierce quickly evaporates. The city is sacked. Though Pentewundem does not want the inhabitants exterminated he is unable to prevent a great deal of slaughter that continues past midnight.

The following morning Pentewundem orders a celebration but for only one day. After that he sets about consolidating his grip on the rest of kingdom. One thing he soon discovers is that the Ennareans have adjusted their border with the Wetayla Kingdom after the fact. He decides that as long as they give him ample time to deliver the promised cattle he was willing to let them have a slice of Wetayla. He foresees that incorporating Wetayla into the Kingdom of Axum is not going to be easy.

When news of that the Wetayla capital has been captured reaches Aksum there is great relief followed by 3 days of celebration. At first King Sergios is ecstatic but when he learns of the terms that Pentewundem negotiated with Ennarea he becomes upset. He accuses Pentewundem of exercising authority reserved to the crown. Sergios believes that Ennarea should be made a tributary and it should be forced to build churches. Still later Sergios’ ire waxed when learned that Pentewundem had allowed Ennarea to adjust its northern border.

King Jethro of Alodia had created a walled settlement he named Midian roughly midway between Soba and Aksum on the main route. It steadily grew as the trade between Alodia and her vassal Axum grew. The border with the Beja kingdom of Bazin was dangerously so Midian’s fortification was strengthened. Alodia relied heavily on its nimble light cavalry. What infantry it had was intended mostly for manning garrisons. Even in that limited role most of it wasn’t very good but those assigned to defending Midian were second only to the palace guard at Soba in quality.

King Paul summoned King Sergios to meet with him at Midian on 17 July. Meetings between the monarchs of Alodia and Axum were not an uncommon occurrence. There was a very luxurious suite in Midian set aside for these meetings. The relationship between Axum and Alodia had been established by King Malachi. Axum was to pay tribute and render assistance to Alodia when required. However the king of Axum was to have great leeway in setting policy within his realm. This arrangement had worked well but it wasn’t flawless.

King Paul had gotten along quite well with King Sergios. This was because Sergios enthusiastically supported his ambitious plan to conquer Egypt. On that score Paul was very pleased. It caused him to overlook Sergios’ shortcomings. For one thing, King Sergios had needlessly undone the relatively good relationship with Axum’s Jews that King David had worked very hard to establish. This spawned the malcontent that was making Gideon dangerous. When he brings this up Sergios indignantly defends his policies and says that he will quickly solve the Jewish problem once General Pentewundem starts sending elements of his army back north. Now that Matolomi is dead and the Wetayla capital has fallen Sergios cannot understand why the general still needs so many troops.

Paul explains that pacifying a conquered land is not an easy process as Prince Epimachos has been discovering in Egypt. He also warns Sergios that he will soon be withdrawing the Alodian cavalry he provided Axum during this crisis. Sergios grumbles then brings up how Pentewundem has handled the Ennareans. Paul says that it is premature to try to make Ennarea a tributary. It is enough for Axum to have a friendly stable ally to its south. As for the modest border adjustment Paul opines that the Ennareans are probably doing Sergios a favor by reducing the number of Wetayla he must control. Paul senses that Sergios wants to sack Pentewundem but sternly warns him against doing that. The general is very popular in Axum at this time and he could lead a revolt that would topple Sergios if removed from command.

Paul also brings up Sultan Geedi of Showa. Paul has cultivated gratitude as a virtue he feels that most people only pay lip service to. He feels indebted to Sultan Geedi for his timely intervention. Sergios on the other hand distrusts Geedi and Muslims in general. He believes the sultan intervened only to annex Damot. Sergios sees Geedi’s current weakness as presenting an opportunity to replace him with a Christian ruler that would turn Showa into a tributary state.

Paul had been struggling to keep his anger in check during this meeting but at this point he loses it and starts yelling. It finally dawns on Sergios that he is on dangerous ground. Instead of yelling back he sulks. Paul makes it clear that he intends to repay Sultan Geedi. He then outlines his unusual idea as how best to do that.
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Paul makes it clear that he intends to repay Sultan Geedi. He then outlines his unusual idea as how best to do that.
So, would seem that the king Paul might be thinking either to hand back Maldarede to the Showans and/or in sent to the Sultan Geedi some of the most potentially troublesome and not trustworthy Turkish Mamluks units to reinforce the Sultanate army...
So, would seem that the king Paul might be thinking either to hand back Maldarede to the Showans and/or in sent to the Sultan Geedi some of the most potentially troublesome and not trustworthy Turkish Mamluks units to reinforce the Sultanate army...
There is something Geedi wants more than Maldarede. There is something I've already decided but also something else I am merely considering.
Part 20A

King Petros II of Alodia in the last year of his life became very interested in India. He decided that it was in Alodia’s best interest to develop a strong relationship with the Chola Dynasty which was the most powerful naval power in the Indian Ocean. He went to great lengths to become friends with its ruler Vikrama Chola. In the summer of the 1126 he began sending an expeditionary force that would consist of 1,500 Alodian cavalry, 2,500 Alodian infantry and 1,000 Axumite infantry to assist Vikrama in recovering the Kerala. The Chola Navy rendered some assistance in the transport of the expedition but it was still a lengthy process.

In their very first battle the Alodian infantry performed poorly. The expedition’s commander was killed and it was only some very adroit leadership by his deputy Lazaros that prevented annihilation. The individual responsible for running the Kerala campaign was Jatavarman Parakrama. He permitted Lazaros to withdraw from the fighting for 3 months. During that respite he had the Axumite infantry intensely train the Alodian foot soldiers. General Lazoros was also able to get some Chola officers to impart a few important lessons including how to deal with war elephants. When the expeditionary force returned to combat it was much improved. Furthermore Lazoros proved to be a very capable leader. The expeditionary force would go on to play a significant role in the success of the Kerala campaign.

Lazoros became very charismatic. One of the key ports in Kerala is Kollam. It has a large Christian population, mostly Nestorians. In the November of 1132 they began to agitate for Lazoros to become their ruler. Lazoros was sorely tempted to take advantage of that and try to seize power there but waited to see if Vikrama would acquiesce.

That proved to be a wise decision. For a long time Vikrama thought that Alodia was only another minor power with an exaggerated sense of its own importance. However when he learned that King Paul had managed to subjugate Egypt he realized that there was a real tiger on the prowl. The Chola Empire was not as mighty as it once was. It could use a powerful ally esp. a distant one unlikely to pose a threat. So in January he decided to make Lazoros the governor of Kollam.

King Paul only learned of this on 4 June. Like his uncle he was deeply impressed by the naval power of Chola. Where he parted with his uncle is that he wanted Alodia to be a naval power as well. So he was very glad when Vikrama sent some of his experts all the way to Suakin to share what they knew about designing effective warships. They even gave away one large warship. This was very useful and contributed to the Alodian/Axumite navy dominating the Red Sea. In Paul’s eyes this alone was enough to justify his uncle’s expeditionary force. However when he was busy conquering Egypt and dealing with the crisis in Axum he didn’t think very much about the Indian Ocean. That would soon change.

On 30 July Prince Epimachos had another distinguished visitor. It was John of Palermo, an amiratus of King Roger II of Sicily. While he was definitely interested in negotiating a favorable trade agreement like the Venetians, Pisans and Genoese, he was even more interested in forging a military alliance with Egypt. There was at this time an informal alliance between Egypt and the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. However both King Paul and Prince Epimachos were finding themselves baffled by the squabbles going in within the Crusader States. Both of them thought that the Crusaders should be showing more respect towards the Byzantine Empire.

On top of that they were starting to develop an active dislike of Queen Melisende. So Epimachos was definitely open to considering alternatives. However the situation in Italy struck Epimachos as being overly complicated with Roger II being a ruthless adventurer. He sent a detailed report to King Paul about this development which ended with a negative conclusion. In the meantime he remained cordially noncommittal. This soon precipitated the inevitable request to speak with the Regent which Epimachos once again declined (he was getting good at doing that). This caused John to depart a week later, unlike the other diplomats who were showing no sign of leaving anytime soon.

In the summer of 1133 King Paul of Alodia had what some would regard as a high quality problem. Even after returning the merchants’ ships back to their owners he still had more ships than he knew what to do with now that he had conquered Lower Egypt. The ships with their crews were expensive to operate. Now he was looking forward to having an Egyptian fleet of some size operating in the Mediterranean Sea but he felt that his Red Sea fleet could use some pruning. Learning that King Georgios IV was interested in developing a Makurian merchant fleet he has offered to sell him a tenth of his cargo ships. He had considered offering to sell Makuria a tenth of his warships as well but held off on that. With Egyptian warships in the Red Sea no longer a problem he didn’t see a need for as many warships.

Then he had an inspiration. In August he began a naval blockade of the port of Zeila then sent an envoy to the court of the Adal Kingdom. The envoy told the king that the blockade would continue until Harar was returned to the Sultan of Showa. During the invasion of Egypt the activities of Alodian and Axumite warships had been coordinated to some degree. To implement the blockade even more coordination was needed so that effectively they were combined into a composite navy.

King Paul contacted Queen Arwa al-Sulyahi of Yemen, He explained his strategy and the objective it served. He politely requested that his warships be allowed to use Yemeni ports including Aden as bases. At this time Queen Arwa was increasingly suspicious of what Paul was up to in Egypt. However this was outweighed by the fact that Paul had rescued the precious infant imam and entrusted him to her loving care. Furthermore there was great mutual respect between Sultan Geedi and Queen Arwa so she was happy to aid him in this manner.

There was one more base that Paul wanted. On 26 October some of his ships landed 300 Alodian marines on Cape Hafun. These attack and overcome weak resistance to capture the port of Hafun. In antiquity it had been known as Opone and was very prosperous. This continued well into the Christian era but in recent centuries its importance steadily diminished and is currently a shell of its former self, more of a decent sized fishing village than a true port of trade.

Its ruler was a Sunni Moslem but the local population was a roughly equal split between pagans, Moslems and Nestorian Christians. After the marines have secured the village 200 Wetyla slaves are landed. They are assigned the task of restoring the town’s decrepit fortifications. Finally 40 elite Alodian horsemen land. They have not brought their mounts with them. When they obtain suitable replacements locally and break them in they will start patrolling the countryside.

The two war galleys that had escorted the transports remain behind at Hafun when the transports head back to Suakin. Because it lies a short distance south of the Cape Guardafui headland Hafun provides an excellent base from which to intercept sea traffic emerging from the Guardafui Channel heading south towards Mogadishu and the Kilwa Sultanate. The war galleys will let Alodian, Axumite, Egyptian, Makurian, Yemeni or Chola vessels pass unmolested. All other large ships will be seized. Three trawlers are captured early on to be used as auxiliaries. After that fishing vessels are usually ignored. At first the residents of Hafun are understandably hostile towards their new overlords but within a month a handful are willing to become well compensated pirates.

Shipwrecks are not an uncommon occurrence off Cape Guardafui. One of the tasks assigned to the impounded trawlers is to cautiously scout off the cape. If they find a shipwreck and it happens to be Alodian, Axumite, Egyptian, Makurian, Yemeni or Chola they rescue the survivors and retrieve any worthwhile cargo. Otherwise they enslave the survivors and salvage worthwhile cargo.

After dealing with some relatively minor initial difficulties the Hafun naval base proved very successful garnering considerable loot for Alodia. As a result it received substantial reinforcements on 28 December. It was already using another trawler and received an additional war galley. The Adal Kingdom’s sea trade was being strangled but its monarch remained defiant.

By early November General Pentewundem had sent enough Axumite infantry north for a renewed campaign against Gideon’s forces in the Simien Mountains. This operation would not involve any Alodian cavalry as the last of them had returned to Alodia by then. As with the previous campaign there this one struggled with the terrain. The Axumite commander that Pentewundem selected for this mission was familiar with the mistakes made in the prior campaign and tried his best to avoid repeating them. Slow progress was made but a fairly heavy cost---both of which made King Sergios grumble.

Meanwhile Sultan Geedi continued to have more than his share problems. In October he foiled a plot to assassinate him. He also learned that his nemesis Shermake was trying to foment a coup in the Sultanate of Dewaro. If Shermake seized power there he was certain to go to war with Showa before long.

Geedi was also having trouble finding a vizier who was both competent and trustworthy. He learned one of the sons of Abd al-Majid, the Fatimid Regent was in Wetayla. As a devout Ismaili Geedi could not help but be impressed. In early November he contacted Haydara and offered him the position of vizier. Not only did Haydara accept the offer but he brought the Rayhaniyya, his personal regiment of Nubian bowmen with him to serve the sultan.
Part 20B

At the end of July the Abassid Caliph al-Mustarshid besieged Mosul for three months but the siege failed and the Caliph was forced to retreat because Imad al-Din Zengi was marching towards Baghdad. While Zengi was tied up with this, the governor of Aleppo, Sawar had been preparing in the spring to attack Antioch, Tripoli and Turbessel using Turcomans recently brought into his service. Pons led a small army to intercept the Turcomans on Tripoli’s eastern frontier in the Nosairi Mountains near Raffaniyya only to have most of his army destroyed. The few survivors including Pons seek refuge in his new fortress at Montferrand on the edge of the Orontes Valley. They quickly find themselves besieged by the Turcoman raiders.

Meanwhile the frightened Antiochenes summoned King Fulk. As he journeyed north with his army he encountered Cecilia the Countess of Tripoli at Sidon. She informs him of her husband’s plight. Fulk then marched straightaway to Montferrand. At his approach the Turcomans retreated to Raffaniyya. This episode restored cordial relations between Fulk and Pons.

After that Fulk continued on to Antioch where he learned that Sawar had successfully raided Turbessel and is assembling an army with which to attack Antioch. Fulk then cautiously advanced towards the Moslem camp at Qinnasrin which he surprises with a night attack. Sawar is forced to hurriedly retreat, hurriedly abandoning his tents. Afterwards there is a series of skirmishes with mixed results. Fulk makes a triumphant entry into Antioch returning to Palestine before the summer is over. As soon as he leaves Sawar’s raids on Christian territory recommence.

Author's Comments: Everything that happens here also happened OTL with only minor divergences not worth noting. There will be some bigger butterflies in coming episodes
Part 21 1134

By year’s end King Paul’s blockade had the wealthy merchants of the Adal Kingdom kicking and screaming. The Sultan of Mogadishu was a cousin of their king. He already had some antipathy towards Alodia and Axum. This more than doubled when he learned of the blockade. He decided to send a convoy of merchant ships escorted by 17 war galleys to Zeila.

On 11 January, 1134 they are spotted by one of the Alodian war galleys operating out of Hafun as they pass through the Guardafui Channel. The ship’s captain decides against attacking. Instead he tails the convoy from a safe distance. The Mogadishu admiral decides against trying to chase the enemy warship which he regards as a feeble distraction.

A week later as the convoy is north of the town of Maydh it spots 4 enemy war galleys that are spread out. These soon retreat heading west. This time the Mogadishu warships pursue as fast as they can despite the fact they are already tired from their long journey. Over time this causes their formation to become increasingly ragged while their enemy has coalesced. Furthermore the merchant ships lag behind.

In the late afternoon 20 more Alodian/Axumite warships arrive, including a pair of large warships based on the Chola thirisadai. The Alodian admiral then forms all 24 warships into a crescent with a thirisafai at each point. These then engage the Mogadishu war galleys, which fight hard but they are crushed from the flanks.

While this battle is underway the Alodian war galley that has been trailing the convoy is able to attack and capture one trailing merchant ship then another. When it is clear that the battle is lost two Mogadishu war galley that lagged the most turn around and try to escape. They signal to the cargo ships that they should immediately do likewise. The Alodian war galley attacking the cargo ships is too preoccupied to cut off the retreat of this pair. However when another Mogadishu war galley manages to disengage from the main fight and tries to slip away, he is able to interdict and after a hard fight capture it. However doing so lets the other cargo ships escape.

The battle ends at dusk. Two of the Mogadishu war galleys have been sunk. The other dozen have been captured though one of them will sink during the night as will one severely damaged Axumite warship. Three Axumite/Alodian warships are very badly damaged. They are sent to Yemen for urgent repairs. On the way back home the two surviving Mogadihu war galleys escort the remaining cargo ships. These encounter another Axumite war galley based out of Hafun in the Guardafui Channel. She avoids the escorts. She finds a way to sneak up on one of the trailing cargo ships which she quickly captures just before last light.

The Adal king did not know in advance that the Mogadishu convoy was coming but he learned about a crushing Mogadishu naval defeat within a few days. This drives home the Alodian naval supremacy in the Red Sea. The Adal Kingdom had had begun constructing more war galleys a month ago. Now the merchants and their king began to doubt that they could break the blockade even with those new warships.

With some justification the king began to worry that the distraught merchants were conspiring to depose him. Therefore he very reluctantly decided to send a letter to King Paul on 1 February capitulating to his demands. King Paul is very pleased but waits until he hears from Sultan Geedi that Adal’s forces have indeed withdrawn from Harar before ordering the blockade to be lifted. This doesn’t happen until 21 March and it is early April before his orders cancelling the blockade reach the fleet.

With the blockade over King Paul withdraws the war galleys stationed at Hafun. However he does not abandon the seaport. Instead he intends to try to make it an important port of trade once more.

When the Sultan of Mogadishu learns of the Battle of Maydh his hostility towards Alodia intensifies into abject rage. He immediately orders the rapid construction of additional war galleys. On 13 March his forces raid the Alodian settlement on Lamu Island which has steadily grown into a decent sized trading post. The attackers totally destroy the settlement. They torture and kill all the men and enslave the women and children.

When he determined that the cavalry of the Adal Kingdom had departed Harar Sultan Geedi set about suppressing the rebellion. He soon discovered that while the Adal Kingdom had pulled its soldiers out of Harar it had left behind an arsenal of weapons. The rebels were well armed putting up a stiff resistance that went on for more than two months. One bit of good news for Geedi is that the sultan of neighboring Dewaro foils a coup attempt led by Shermake in early April. Shermake is captured and beheaded. The sultan sends his head to Geedi.

In the city of Kollam General Lazaros was proving to be a capable governor. Because he was so popular with the Christians several powerful Brahmins were deeply suspicious of him. He did his best to avoid antagonizing them. There was also a sizable Moslem population that he did not want to antagonize either.

As for his loyalty Lazaros accepted that Vikrama Chola was now his superior not the king of Alodia. However he believed that a good relationship between Alodia and Chola would serve them both well. He had learned that Paul was now the king of Alodia. After considerable thought he composed a letter to King Paul informing that he was now the governor of Kollam and that he hoped that the city’s already sizable trade with Alodia and Axum would increase. He is also aware that Alodia is still very friendly with Queen Arwa so he contacts her as well and encourages increased trade with Yemen.

During the year King Fulk of Jerusalem accused Hugh II of Le Puiset, the Count of Jaffa, of infidelity with Queen Melisende. Hugh rebelled and secured himself in Jaffa. Unlike OTL he is unable to form an alliance with Ascalon. As a result his rebellion is put down quicker than OTL. He still ends up being exiled for three years but the Breton knight assassination attempt does not transpire. The public outrage that incident caused is avoided so Melisende does not become the dominant figure in the realm. Since he was not badly wounded Hugh does not die soon after arriving in Sicily. Meanwhile Sawar continues raiding the Crusader lands while his boss Zengi is preoccupied with Iraq.

News of the Lamu Massacre reached Vikrama Chola. On 20 September a Chola fleet appeared off Mogadishu. It trapped any Mogadishu ships it found against the shore. A few were sunk and the rest captured. The Chola also attacked Mogadishu ships under construction which were poorly protected. The city’s defenses were too strong to be assaulted but the Chola were able to raid its outskirts. After that an envoy of Vikrama Chola landed under a flag of truce. He informed the sultan that Alodia and Chola were allies and this was Vikrama’s retaliation for the Lamu Massacre. Going forward the Chola were claiming the entire Lamu Archipelago as well as small seaside village of Kismayu. If Mogadishu dared to attack either of them Vikrama Chola would destroy the sultanate.

After that the Chola fleet proceed to Kismayu which they quickly secured then established a trading post and a small garrison of marines. They then sailed to the Lamu Archipelago where they easily subjugated Lamu Island, Pate Island and Manda Island, establishing a small trading post on each and a modest garrison on Pate Island. While they were busy with those activities, part of the fleet continued on to Kilwa where the envoy informed Sultan Dawud ibn Suleiman that the Chola were prepared to continue and expand their lucrative trade with the sultanate if the sultan acknowledged their control of Kismayu and the Lamu Archipelago.

Furthermore the envoy explained that Mogadishu had incurred Vikrama’s wrath and should no longer be considered a power in the region. Sultan Dawud had long disliked being intimidated by the Sultan of Mogadishu he readily complied. In late December he wrested control of Sofala from Mogadishu. Sofala was very wealthy because it was the principal entrepot for the gold and ivory trade with Great Zimbabwe.

Before sending this fleet Vikrama had contacted King Paul and informed him of his plans. Alodia and Axum would be able to establish new settlements in the Lamu Archipelago provided that they acknowledge Chola dominion and if required pay taxes. King Paul is very grateful that Vikrama is avenging the Lamu Massacre. The bond between the two empires is growing stronger.