After the battle of Ancona, there was little resistance in capturing the city itself. Barbus Selvo was killed in the battle, but his body was sent back to the Venetians to be properly buried. The Anconans, who had been conquered many times over the course of history, again submitted to a new ruler. As conqueror of the city I was again invested as the Duke of Ancona. I was ready to continue up the coast with my army, to press my advantage on Venice, when horrible news came from Palermo. An Islamic Imam, from the North of Africa, a Moor I think, had declared a Jihad on our city of Palermo. I was recalled as quickly as possible, and ordered to bring the bulk of my forces. The defence of the castle, our capital, was of the upmost importance. Reports came trickling in over the course of my march from Ancona to Neapolis of the different factions which had taken up arms against Sicily.
I also sent diplomats out to the Venetians, asking for peace. They accepted, all too happy, as it seems the Genoese were making great gains at their expense, taking Milan according to the Sicilian merchants who were active in that area. It seems that the Moors and the distant Kwarezmian Empire had answered the call of this imbecilic Imam and were apparently marching on Palermo. We decided to strike first, however, at the Moors. My son, Alessandro 'Corrado' de Taormina, who had just turned 14 to capture the badly defended city of Beleb el Anab. When he approached the city with his small force, consisting of a few archers, some spear-men and a regiment of knights, the gates swung open. The Moors had apparently abandoned the city, and the town council had decided to submit to Sicilian rule rather than face the prospect of siege without any guarantee that the Moorish Sultan, or whatever their leader is called, would send help. I, as ruler of all African counties, was proud to bestow the title of Duke onto my son. As well as this, a force was sent by sea to capture the coastal city of Al-Mahdiya, which though sparsely defended put up more of a resistance than Beleb el Anab. It, however, was captured with the help of some Numidian calvary, Negroes from the interior who ride horses and throw javelins, and very skilled they are at it too. The commander, a captain of small repute so you forgive me if I forget his name, was so impressed by the skill of these mercenaries, he sent a band of them to me at Palermo. I was patrolling the hinterland of Palermo, scouring the coast, hoping to see off any potential landing before it happened, when news was sent by Ferrant d'Altaville, the brother of Simone, son of Roger, who was governor of Palermo, that the Moors had landed and were approaching the city.
The Battle of Palermo
I at once took my force around the mountains, we were patrolling the southern shore, and there was a small mountain range in between the city and my position. Due to this, we managed to come up behind the Moors, led by Najih ibn Ulaym I later learnt, and the Crown Prince Qarim.
Ferrante sallied out of the city with his garrison, and we approached from both sides, in front and behind of, the Moors. Together our forces numbered around 850 men, while the Moors had brought 720 for their invasion force.
They retreated into a near by forest, and this allowed my force and Farrante's to meet up. I sent up my archers, ironically the best from Sicily, who were Muslim, and had no qualms about fighting against their own on this day, for Sicily was as much their homeland as it was mine, our only difference being our differing beliefs, and their superior skill with a bow. The skies were black, and this dark omen was blackened still by the arrows of our skilled archers.
The Numidians also performed well, and the whole Moorish force was bloodied before I sent my infantry in. I line my spear-men up for a frontal assault on the forest, a long line, hoping to catch all the Moors, and surround them. The Moors, however, decided not to fight in the forest, but instead came out and engaged my spear-men on the lip of the forest. Their force consisted mainly of desert tribesman, who were not well armoured or armed, and unsuited to anything but the mot basic of warfare, let alone the Western type they were subjected to that day.
The Moorish heavy calvary of the two generals, including the Crown Prince let us not forget, however proved a considerably bigger obstacle to our victory. At both flanks there was fierce fighting between the calvary corps, I was fighting at the right with Najih ibn Ulaym, while Ferrante was facing off against Qarim. I had the better of it at my end, when some spear-men broke off from engaging the main line and came to my aid. Najih also gained some infantry some support when a unit of his militia joined him. However, my troops were superior to him, and he retreated to the rear of his army, while I dealt with the militia. The infantry were doing a fine job, and were beating back the desert tribesmen. Ferrante was not having an easy day of it, the Crown Prince's bodyguard being considerable. I, once the militia routed, came over to help, but too late.
My brother-in-law had fallen to the sword of Qarim. He took several of his guard with him, though, and had exhausted the rest. I charged into their still ranks, and one of my knight's lances unhorsed and killed the Crown Prince. When the army saw that their leader was dead, the battle was over. Whatever resistance they had left, evaporated and they fled as quickly as their feet could carry them. I could not let any escape into the countryside, and menace the population of my homeland, and so all were chased down and slaughtered.
Najih was not captured that day, but was captured some time afterward by some local, very brave, farmers. He was turned in to the local constable, and was swiftly executed. This was the first time since Roger's conquest that Sicily had been invaded, but the matter was quickly dealt with.
The price was dear, with the death of Ferrante, but he would have, and did, gladly died in the protection of his homeland, and his sacrifice did not go uncelebrated.
After this victory, I returned to Palermo to give my troops a rest. Some had been with me since Caligari and Tunis, and seeing their greying hair brought to me the realisation that I too was getting older. I was already forty, but had gained the fame which I had sought as a small lad. Sicily had expanded since my first battle at Bari. Ancona had been conquered from the Venetians, and Cagliari and Tunis I had personally captured. Two provinces after Tunis were also added to our holdings in Africa. Sicily was becoming a large and powerful kingdom, but Simone still wanted further expansion, and an excuse for another push northward was soon to present itself.
I received a letter from my son in Beleb el Anab. He had in turn received a letter from the constable in charge of Cagliari. The Genoese had landed, and had opened hositilites again with the Sicilian Kingdom. The constable did not have enough troops to hold off the Genoese by himself, and had asked for assistance from Corrado. He left a skeleton garrison in Beleb, just enough to allow time for reinforcements to reach it if the Moors tried to attack and claim the city back for themselves. He defeated the forces of the Genoese easily enough, but this was not what was important, for Simone anyway. It gave him the justification, and blessing of the Pope, to invade the North again. There was a new generation of generals, sons of the knights and leaders of my generation, and many of them were looking for glory on the battlefield. I did not expect to lead the expedition, or play a leading role in it. There was, however, another important mission I was sent on.