Well, it looks like we're going to finally dive into this chapter this weekend. We've got a new character entering the saga, and I've decided to add a layer of conflict on top of this to get him involved.
The player has created a verditius mage-thief. He's sneaky, nimble, and has lots of spells that would help in thievery.
So when the players arrive at the site of the covenant, the town around it is under Andalusian martial law. The local Emir, missing the payment of taxes that the covenant would have paid under normal circumstances, sent an envoy of guards to investigate. Finding the covenant tower destroyed, and the town in some disarray, he sent a larger force to lock down the area, investigate, and potentially take over control of the mine operations. Finding the entrances to some of the other covenant buildings magically sealed, he's arrested the former autocrat in order to gain entrance, and find out more information.
The autocrat knows that the Order is sending Magi, and is keeping his mouth shut, for now.
The mages will need to:
A) calm the soldiers, who are quite nervous over all the "wierdness" that's happening. (There are mutated animals about, attacking the peasantry)
B) find out what happened to the Autocrat, and free him (magically? or through diplomacy)
C) Steal the magical key from the Autocrat's domicile, currently under the control of the soldiers.
D) Strike a new deal with the Emir
I entreat your comments, and wonder if I am missing anything. None of the characters are hotheads, so I don't envision them attacking the soldiers.
I also invite any particular "scenes" that this encounter conjures up, or ways to add layers to the setup.
Of course, the danger of having a space in a covenant that sees regular religious activity is that it may give rise to a Dominion aura. Then again, maybe our Bonisagus was conducting some experimentation in interactions of Dominion and Magic auras...
The whole covenant might well be architecturally inspired by Moorish style. Given the location, two places worth looking at might be the Great Mosque of Cordoba and the Madinat al-Zahra palace complex:
The various architectural features could have magical powers: archways that lead to other parts of the covenant, or even elsewhere; domes that are enchanted to reveal the heavens, or scry on other locations; etc.
All kinds of social faux pas that can be made, and the sole skill to avoid them would be Muslim Theology - and you can't use that untrained.
Walking into the wrong place with your shoes on, seeing a woman's face uncovered, talking to a woman, touching someone with the left hand, showing the soles of your feet to another (while sitting down), referring to someone as "a sly old dog" - all serious insults if not outright crimes.
Much fun! An opportunity to point out cultural differences.
However, some of these would not apply. Much of "Islamic Law" is not actually in the Koran, and Spain is slightly different from the rest of the Islamic world. Berber women do not cover their faces for example, and though the ruling class of Andalusia is Islamic, the population is mostly Christian (at one point there are more bishoprics in Andalusia than in the norther "christian" kingdoms).
Remember, this is medieval Spain, not modern Iran. The sort of fundamentalism and politicization we associate with the modern moslem world was not as much of a factor in that place and time.
mmmm... Good idea! Regardless of the religious breakdown of the masses, I was thinking that the sergeant would have True (Muslim) Faith. These ideas could work with that scenario well.
Marko/Niall -- , If most of the regular population is Christian, is there any general breakdown between cities and villages? I would guess that the villages would generally be Christian, while the cities would have a majority of Muslims?
Would the call to prayer still sound if the entire village is Christian?
It is the ruling class that is Islamic, mostly. Many Visgothic nobles converted back and forth depending on who was in charge. Many of these members of the Christian majority are barely Christian as well. They pick up many cultural habbits from the Arabs and Moors. The modern term is Mozarab, though they did not use that term back then.
The cities were majority Christian. Every place in Andalusia was majority Christian. They learned to live together. In Castile, they had a mosque for the Moslem population, and while the king was away the new bishop from France tore it down. The king was upset because it went against what he had promised his people, but he backed down. In Andalusia, the surviving Umayyads joined forces with the Christians agains the wave of Berber invasions from the Almorovides and the latter Almohades. In 1223, the Muslim ruler of Valencia becomes the vassal of Castile and joins forces.
Religon was not the devisive factor everyone assumes it was. The struggle in Iberia was more of a political one than a religous one. Of corse, back then religion was part and parcel of politics. But still, it takes on a much different character than one may assume. The complex web of intrigue and intermarriage is something that would not exist in a modern fundamentalist Islamic nation, and people in the North and South practiced a variety of faiths and still formed a common society. In the 13th century, the game period, that begins to change. The influx of Frankish crusaders introduces a level of segragation and intolorance that was unheard of up until then, but it guides the course of Spanish history right into the Inquisition (a few hundred years after the game period).
Law and culture are two different things, and I do not know if the conservative wahabi (sp?) or liberal sufi mindset was stronger at this time - that pendulum keeps swinging back and forth.
But visitors from "the homeland" might have more severe customs, and not every noble will toe the same line, especially when religion is concerned. Not for the conservative side, not for the liberal side of things. As with christianity, especially in Spain, practice differs widely with the practitioner, even if the mullahs would rather it not.
I concur with Marko's comments. How far religion was a factor in relations between Muslims, Christians and Jews varied from place to place and period to period. This would be particularly true in 1220 given the politically/religiously fragmented state of Iberia, though I would tentitively suggest that for the most part things were fairly relaxed: Almohad Islam was strongly influenced by Sufi mysticism by now, and most of the other rulers of the region were not particularly radical.
One thing that might be a factor, of course, is whether the covenant is close to any frontiers where there have been recent conflicts with the Christians of the north.
Translation: make it as relevant or not as you wish, depending on what sort of environment you want your characters to deal with.
Muslims armies varied massively from time to time and place to place, often influenced by the tactics employed by the bordering cultures, and in Muslim Spain there were great similarities between the Muslim armies and those of their neighbours to the north.
I'm going to give you some (easy) reading to do :
David Nicolle, The Moors: The Islamic West 7th-15th Centuries AD (Men-At-Arms (Osprey))
That should give you all the information that you'll need.
In the meantime, some direct(ish) Arabic translations of the titles that you mentioned. Caveat: titles were used in various ways in the various Muslim armies; there wasn't really a standard army hierarchy in the middle ages. These are just options for you to throw in for flavor:
Soldier = 'Askari
Sergeant (officer) = Amir
Captain (superior officer) = Amir Kabir
Commander (of the army) = Amir al-Umara' (= chief emir)