The Adfunsid Apostasy
The vast Adfunsid Caliphate, and its periphery of assorted vassals and boot-lickers, sprawls from the Canaries to Dalmatia. It is, nominally, a Muslim realm; but in truth its various ayatollahs, badshahs, caliphs, deys, emirs, and other noble titles have never quite found a convenient time to turn aside from enjoying the fruits of their conquest and actually converting their subjects. Conversely, their vassals, for obvious reasons, are not too keen on loudly proclaiming their faithfulness to Christ. Taken as a whole, therefore, the Adfunsid realm is the least religious area in all of Europe; it is for this reason that it is mocked as the “Adfunsid Apostasy” – a place where the infidels and heretics don’t even have the courage of their convictions, and refuse to burn and slay for their misguided beliefs!
Son of Abu-Bakr “the Holy”, and grandson of Isma’il “the Great”, Amr is not the man his ancestors were, and well he knows it. What wars has he fought in, in what battles has he led glorious charge or desperate defense? His grandfather put down the Great Revolt, when half of Spain was aflame with rebellion, and his corps of a hundred executioners each wore out a hundred swords on stubborn rebel necks; for a generation thereafter, the vineyards of Catalonia used rebel bones to train their vines. His father pulled down the pyramids of skulls and pulverised them to make cement, and built mosques with towers even higher than the pyramids had been. What has Amr done, that men may admire? Granted, his capacity for wine and stamina with concubines are unusual if the tales are true; but these are not the qualities that Muslims look for in their rulers!
All the noble and royal houses of Europe claim descent from illustrious ancestors – in the case of the Ynglings, from actual gods, if pagan ones. Still, even in such company the lineage of Charlemagne stands out. But where Charles of the Hammer made peace only from the security of the Tours battlefield he had held against all attack, his modern descendant – after a few savage hammerings on his southern borders – is well known to open wide when his master absent-mindedly mentions missing the charms of his concubines. (Hence his nickname, for by so doing, he preserves the virginity of his female subjects, who would otherwise be sent in cartloads to the harems of Baeza!) Still, it cannot be said that he has no victories to his name; against his fellow Christians in Bohemia he has been quite successful, mainly by the skillful strategy of striking when they were already busy on their eastern border.
It is pleasant to be a Christian merchant under a Muslim ruler; for the Prophet’s injunction against usury is only binding on the faithful, and no tolerated Catholic bishop has the power within the Apostasy to enforce the True Faith’s similar prohibition. So Abelardo is free to lend at whatever rates he likes, and he likes them high. It is said that there isn’t a poor man in Venice who wouldn’t gladly pay both arm and leg to be rid of his impossible, hereditary debt. But if Abelardo desires a pound of flesh, he has only to snap his fingers, and servants will come running with the finest marbled ox-flesh of Sicily, veal and boar from the forests of Germany, gooseliver from France, or lamb from the purple Apennine. Mere cannibalism, from the man who owns a mortgage on the life’s-work of his tenants’ children and grandchildren, would be a mercy, if indeed it cancelled debts. And like all the merchants of Venice, Abelardo’s mercy is worth its weight in gold.
Although there are, in a purely zoological sense, no actual jackals in the Alps, their human inhabitants make up the deficiency. The house of Hentzau has never encountered an expediency it didn’t like; they are, if nothing else, admirably principled about their lack of principle. The current incumbent is, however, lacking even in this department. Since everyone knows the von Hentzaus are utterly without scruple, nobody believes there is any advantage to be gained by recruiting them to betray their current masters; obviously the Caliph has taken precautions against any such maneuver! Thus, Rudger has whiled away his life without any opportunity of demonstrating his undoubted lack of spine on the large scale of his ancestors.
The Hungarian Horror
In the past Hungary has been a vassal of both Rome and Russia; but, having managed to horrify even those unsqueamish overlords beyond endurance, it currently rejoices in a precarious independence of sorts. This is not due to the military strength of the horse lords, although the Magyar cavalry are, man for man, perhaps the most formidably unwashed soldiers anywhere – it is said that their stench alone can kill at a hundred paces. Rather, the Hungarians keep foreigners at bay by being so utterly savage that nobody wants to rule them; who could keep order in a land that routinely holds village football matches with the impalement of every adult male as the penalty for losing? (The rationale being that the surviving side will be tough indeed, to have overcome such desperate opposition!) Indeed, gambling for high stakes is, if anything, the least of the Hungarian vices; the hinterlands of Transylvania are rumoured to contain men and women who have progressed far beyond merely bathing in the blood of virgins. Such minor peccadilloes as breaking truces and attacking publicly-acknowledged allies are hardly worth mentioning in this context; this is just the Hungarian equivalent of saying hello, a reminder to the rest of Europe that the Asiatic menace is among them, and has brought along arts of betrayal that were old when Rome divided Gaul into three parts.
To be utterly fair and even-minded, it must perhaps be admitted that modern Rome does, actually, retain the military virtues of its Republican and Imperial ancestors. Although Marius’s foot Legions are long dust, the kataphrakts are their worthy successors; if there is any army outside of England that can stand against their charge, it is not clear where it is to be found.
In addition to their military prowess, the Nazaryan Caesars embody many of the other virtues of their illustrious predecessors: The chastity of Tiberius, faithfulness of Julian, musicality and decisiveness of Nero, sanity of Caligula, and the humility of Augustus himself!
Of course, everyone knows about the Greeks. There’s no need to even go there, since they definitely do. Apart from this, the Logos dynasty is among the least offensive in Europe – not, admittedly, a high bar to clear – at least partly because they have been very effectively kept under the thumbs of their Imperial masters. In fairness to them, this is expected to change in the new era now beginning. A fresh wind, only slightly flavoured with garlic, blows in Greece!