With the massacre of the Emir’s party, no force at all stood between Zavie and the capture of Navarre. Signs of the brief Toledoan occupation were quickly apparent to the Aquitanian King as his army slowly made its way up through the passes. Burned out shells of villages stuck out of the ground like the blackened ribs of a behemoth and the steady stream of refugees crossing paths with the advancing army gave evidence that the rest of the province had fared no better. It would be a lean winter for the inhabitants.
Arriving before the walls of the stronghold, King Zavie could see that the siege would not last long. The normally imposing citadel had not been repaired in the period of time between its fall to the Toledoans and Zavie’s arrival. Genoese forces had made a brave stand and forced the Muslims to undermine one of the corner towers which now leaned ominously and exposed a section of toppled wall wide enough for five men. A strong assault through the gap would carry the fortress.
To the south, Rainers’ army (green) occupying Soria was restive with inaction. Breton armies (black) had overrun the southern part of the Emir’s domains in a series of battles. They now controlled one province fully and were in the process of confronting the last organized Toledoan resistance outside the Emir’s capital. Only one Muslim field army remained in the peninsula (red) and it was making a desperate attempt to flow to the aid of the hard pressed south. It would soon be entering the province of Molina (gold star).
Rainers Trencavel weighed his options. Staying in Soria would keep his army safe, but confronting the Toledoan army and defeating it would seal Victory in the campaign beyond any doubt. By all accounts, it was a smaller force than his and he was confident in his chances of winning through. Acting on initiative, Rainers advanced into the fief of Molina and engaged the Toledoan army.
On the open plain, the Aquitanian’s advantage in numbers came into full play. Threatening to entirely engulf the smaller Toledoan army, the Muslim commander was hard pressed to direct an encompassing defense. Eventually worn down by the constant outflanking and Aquitanian manpower, the Toledoan army folded in on itself. Faced with an impossible situation, hundreds of the Muslim soldiers surrendered. Fewer than five hundred managed to escape the envelopment.
News of the victory reached Zavie as the final preparations of the assault were being formulated. Impressed by his vassal’s enterprise, Aquitania’s King sent a reply detailing Rainers to hold off any further expeditions into Toledoan territory and return to Soria. The Breton armies would soon finish of any straggling armies.
More important now would be Navarre’s capture, allowing for it to be annexed at war’s end. Zavie had already communicated his intention to incorporate the land to Genoa, promising special tax privileges to any of their ships calling at the Kingdom’s Mediterranean ports in return for their support. The Governor had agreed to the terms, seemingly willing to let the territory devolve to Zavie’s control.
Like the Genoan diehards before them, the skeleton garrison left by Toledo in Navarre’s citadel was resistant to any diplomatic settlement. Arrows had even been fired at the last messenger sent to present terms for surrender. The castle would need to be taken by storm. In the war councils, a recently arrived minor noble named Girad de Montesquiou, fleeing from the consequences of killing a former friend in a duel, pleaded for the chance to plan the assault and lead the first company through the breach created in the last siege. Impressed by the young man’s enthusiasm and earnestness, Zavie delivered him the command.
Girad’s assault delivered the castle mere minutes after it was launched. The Saracen defenders had focused their strategy on defending the gap, as it was clearly the most reasonable point for the attackers to attempt their break in. It came as a terrible surprise when a small company of infiltrators that had managed to sneak close to the walls during the night sprung up and quickly lined up several ladders against the far wall from the breach. Other soldiers hidden in the growth nearby charged up the steps and soon threatened the interior of the fortress.
Alerted by the noise and their sentries to the danger, most of the Muslim host abandoned their positions to repel the new menace only to leave themselves too weak and divided to defend from the force led directly by Girad through the break. Forcing aside resistance, Girad fought from the front rank as his company spilled into the castle. No quarter was asked for or given and casualties for the attackers quickly rose. Nonetheless, victory was in hand before long.
Impressed by Girad’s leadership and abilities in resolving the siege, King Zavie offered him a direct place within the court acting as marshal. Knowing that he would likely never have a similar chance to be one of the most powerful men in the Kingdom, the outcast nobleman accepted without hesitation.
With Navarre under his control and the Toledoan Emir powerless to respond in force, Zavie could finally draft a peace treaty claiming sole rulership over that land. His envoy to Yugerten’s exiled court, the Toledoan capital had fallen to Breton armies, returned quickly with the signed document sealing King Zavie’s conditions. Marc of Brittany made a separate peace soon after, gaining the inland territory of La Mancha. The process of demobilization and thousands of soldiers returning to their homes was set in motion yet again.
The happy news of peace returning was tempered with a letter from Brittany. Zavie’s eldest daughter Dolca had succumbed to an infection after delivering her second child. Always a favorite of her father, he mourned deeply on his ride back toward Bordeaux, weeping bitter tears in the privacy of his chambers whenever his party stopped for the night. Even after not seeing her for years, he suddenly felt emptiness inside himself with the knowledge that she was gone forever.
Passing through the fief of Albret, Zavie was brought slightly out of his melancholy by the Bishop of that province guiding him on a boar hunt. Zavie had never had much contact with Mario da Carrara, the man had never made much of impression at any of the functions Zavie attended. Hunting was the Bishop’s favorite hobby and the joy was infectious, Zavie found himself deep in enjoyable conversation many times during the day. At the end of his stay, Zavie could say that he considered the vassal his personal friend and insisted that the man come to Bordeaux in the future to allow his King to return his hospitality.
Returning to his home in Bordeaux relieved Zavie further. Seeing his son, Guitard was now eight, and wife cleared the last bits of sadness from his mind. He would always remember and love Dolca, but his life still needed to be lived. He soon settled into the comfortable routine of ruling his expanded domain.
Reports from Rosa, acting as his chancellor in council meetings, soon had him shaken from the comfort of normality. Many of the minor nobles and barons, hopeful for land in light of the recent conquests, had been quietly speaking against the King’s choice to keep them as part of his personal demesne. Indeed, the King exercised dominion over scattered plots across the width and breadth of even those provinces he had settled on local rulers years before.
Rosa suggested ceding some of these claims in order to improve his reputation in the eyes of his vassals. Zavie agreed with the logic, devolving titles for many of the minor plots and recognizing fully the Duke of Gascony’s claim to a sizeable piece of land in the province of Foix.
Additionally, he set in motion plans to create an expansive bishopric in the provinces of Lleida and Zaragoza. Zaragoza in particular had a majority Muslim population and instituting church rule over the lands would only speed the conversion and incorporation process. The principal bishop of Bordeaux and personal confessor to the King, Agostino da Romano, was chosen for the immense honor. This move would easily make the Bishop one of the most powerful vassals in Spain and hopefully quiet some of the complaints directed against the King’s perceived miserliness.
Finally, Zavie created two new peerages based on the conquests of the previous campaign. The title of Duke of Navarre was conferred on Emmanuel Count of Viscaya and Urraca Countess of Burgos was granted the title Duchess of Castille. Each proclaimed their undying loyalty to the Aquitanian throne and continued support of its King in all matters great and small.
As 1116 drew to a close, Aquitania was once again at peace.