The Crusades against Araby, more commonly known as the Great Crusades or simply as the Crusades refers to a three-year long military campaign launched by the Knights of Bretonnia and the Knights of the Empire in order to free the distant Kingdom of Estalia from the enslavement of the Arabyan invaders of Sultan Jaffar. The King of Bretonnia, Louis the Righteous, raised a huge army of knights to free Estalia and punish Jaffar for the atrocities they had committed. Glory-hungry knights from all across Bretonnia joined the King's banners in what would become the first of a series of Crusades all across the known world. While this splendid army marched on Estalia, distant lands lent reinforcements to the brave Knights, such as the warships of Tilea.
The scale of the campaign resulted in the the largest congregation of Knights in known history, which would eventually lead to the creation of many of the Empire's Knightly Orders. Such was the zeal that the Knights brought upon the Arabyans, that the cities of their nation were torn down, their populations slaughtered, and their once great Sultan killed in the final battle that saw the true end of the war. Many Bretonnians consider this part of their history as one of the greatest victories of their time.
Originally the lord of a small city state, the Sorcerer Jaffar managed to unite the nomadic tribes of the desert using charisma and his ability to summon genies (daemons). Soon he had conquered the city-states of Al-Haikk, Copher, Martek and Lashiek and formed the Sultanate of Araby. The Skaven soon allied themselves with the new Sultan of All Araby and traded services of espionage and assassination for warpstone.
The Fall of Estalia
By the year 1448 IC, convinced by the nefarious Skaven that the Estalian Kingdoms were planning an invasion against his rule, Jaffar gathered a vast army and prepared his fleet for war. His armies made landfall within the southern shores of Estalia and quickly sacked the powerful port-city of Magritta before advancing on to the city of Bilbali. Sacking towns and cities as they head north, the Arabyans took thousands of slaves from the local populace and were sent back to Araby in chains, to be sold at the terrible slave markets of Lashiek. Having experienced no external threat to their lands since its foundation, the petty kingdoms of Estalia were far too weak and divided to put up a valiant effort against the superior numbers of the Arabyan invaders. As nearly half of Estalia falls into the hands of Sultan Jaffar, the perils of the Estalians reached a crisis point.
Moved by the plight of the Estalians, King Louis the Righteous called forth the first Errantry War upon the Arabyan invaders. Some say this was because the King feared the Arabyans might turn their attention to his own realm once Estalia had been conquered; others suggest it was the outrage felt by the noble ruler at the terrible deeds supposedly carried out by Jaffar's soldiers that moved his heart and forced his hand.
Whatever the case, the Kingdom of Bretonnia was at war. Looking to gain further military aid for his campaign, King Louis sent word to the Emperor Frederik III, but Frederik was reluctant to send his army south, for his Empire teetered on the brink of civil war and he felt he could not spare men to defend a foreign nation when the welfare of his own people hung in the balance. Nevertheless, Emperor Frederik did not ignore Louis entirely. No imperial army marched to war, but Frederik did appeal to the independent orders of knights who resided within the Empire to support the Bretonnians in their fight against Jaffar, and encouraged each of the Elector Counts to send a portion of their own forces to the aid of Estalia.
The Knightly Alliance
Unaware that to the north, the Empire and Bretonnia were preparing for war, the Sultan sent part of his forces east. A massive fleet sailed up the Tilean Sea to attack the city-state of Tobaro. Thinking such a small principality would be easy prey, the Arabyan commanders were surprised when it proved far harder to take than they had initially imagined. Despite being hugely outnumbered, the tenacious defenders managed to hold Tobaro's great sea walls, preventing the invaders from unloading their superior numbers even in the outer parts of their city. Ultimately, the Arabyans had to accept a humiliating defeat, and for the first time it was shown they could be beaten, even when gathered in force.
In time, the armies of both the Empire and Bretonnia have gathered and are ready to march south and face the invaders in open combat. The allied army consisted mostly of heavy cavalry, a thing the Arabyans lacked as their desert homeland isn't suited for large, powerful warhorses or thick plate armour. With this superiority, they crossed the mountains into Estalia and won victories against the lightly-armoured Arabyan army. As Jaffar realised he couldn't win in the open field against the shock-tactics of the Crusader Knights, he withdrew to his homeland while he left a token force in the city of Magritta, under the command of Emir Wazar, better known as Emir the Cruel and his elite Black Scimitar Guards.
As the inhabitants were enslaved and forced to fortify the city, the Arabyan army quickly withdrew south towards their ships and sailed back to Araby. Seeing how the vengeful Arabyans had put entire towns to the torch as they fled, the leaders of the Crusade vowed to take the battle all the way to Araby and topple the Sultan's Empire to the ground. As they assaulted Magritta they knew that the siege could go on for years, allowing Jaffar the time he needs to gather a fresh army in Araby and return back to Estalia if they didn't pursue now.
Thus they decided to split their army in two, one token force would stay to besiege Magritta and break the last Arabyan strong-point in Estalia before following the other army into the hot deserts of Araby, a task that would take eight years and the intervention of Mymidia to complete. As the main force arrived in the ports of southern Estalia, warships were brought in from all over the Old World to ship the army across the sea, a navy that stretch from horizon to horizon.
Sacking of Copher
As the Crusaders sailed, Jaffar and his men began preparations for the coming invasion. When they finally arrived in the major spice-trading city of Copher, it was heavily fortified and the defenders were well prepared for the coming battle. Yet they were not prepared for the zealous wrath Jaffar's foolish warmongering have brought upon their shores, and once the defenders started to falter against the Crusader assault, a breach was made and soon the high spires of the city were pulled to the ground and much of the population was put to the sword.
Although a resounding victory, the Crusaders were playing straight into Jaffar's schemes, as he had expected that once they had fought for months in the sweltering heat of Araby, they would lose their taste for vengeance and return home. They proceeded slowly and the forces of Jaffar, lightly equipped and highly mobile, could avoid pitched battles against the slow-moving Crusader army. The campaign soon dragged from one year to another, but the badly-mauled Crusaders were determined to fight on to the bitter end.
In time, the determination of the Crusaders began to take its toll on Jaffar's armies. Tired of both Jaffar's tyranny and his incompetence in defeating this foreign power, several tribes simply deserted and fled into the vast expanse of the Great Desert. Seeing a chance for independence, the inhabitants Araby, having been conquered by Jaffar some time earlier have begun to lend their aid towards the Crusaders. For months they marched through the hot deserts towards El Haikk, the capital of the Sultan's Empire where Jaffar had decided to make his final stand and where the outcome of the war would be decided, once and for all.
Battle of El Haikk
When the crusaders finally laid siege to the sultan's stronghold, hundreds of tribesmen that were forcefully conscripted by Jaffar revolted, plunging the city into disarray and throwing the careful plans of Jaffar into chaos. Seeing his city defenses lying in ruins, the Sultan knew that the only chance he had to defeat the Crusaders was upon the open plains, where the hot desert sun would deter the Old Worlders in their combat. Bolstering his army with elemental spirits of the deserts, the formidable armies of Sultan Jaffar sallied forth and met the Crusaders on the battlefield.
While Jaffar's army slightly outnumbered the crusaders, the lack of heavy cavalry in his army came into play once more. As the infantry of both armies fought a desperate battle, with the crusaders being pushed back in the sweltering heat, thousands of heavily armoured knights charged into the side of the Arabyan army, where tons upon tons of metal cutting straight through the lightly armoured footman like a scythe. This charge has been immortalised by many legendary stories and songs, colouring the ground red as the Arabyans were crushed beneath the thunder of a thousand armoured hooves. It is said that the sands remained a reddish hue to this very day.
Jaffar died that day, pierced through the back by a Bretonnian lance as he fled. Now seeing their honour satisfied, the knights of Bretonnia decided to return to Copher and sail home, for they found this land far to vast, hostile and inhospitable to conquer. Yet most of the Imperial knights stayed for years hunting down and defeating remnants of Jaffar's dark empire, where only after a 100 years had passed before the very last of the Empire troops had returned home. Temples were sacked, evil books were burned and the idols of Araby were flung to the dirt. It was in this century that many of the Imperial Knightly Orders were founded, as they discovered many things previously unknown in the Old World.
One particular event occurred when what remains of the Crusader Knights found an army of the Sultan in the southern mountainous region of El-Haikk, near the city of Martekk. Once they've begun to march towards their location, they were harried by a variety of huge vultures capable of carrying an armoured man and his horse in the air, as well as ferocious felines who were attacking knights who deviated from the main army. This last remaining Crusader army tracked the last of Jaffar soldiers into a massacre, ensuring that none of the Sultans old regime shall ever return. Today, mountain dwellers within the region spoke about silver warriors who clothed themselves with the skins of these large felines, becoming an instrument of justice and vengeance upon the battlefield. On returning home, the Knights Panther formed themselves into a brotherhood, ensuring the racial purity of the Empire and the persecution of all mutants.
After nearly an entire century, the last of the Crusader Knights returned home in ships laden with treasures. Before they left, they burned Jaffar's fleet of warships for good measure. With the foreign invaders gone, the nomad tribes of the southern desert quickly surged northward to divide Jaffar's realm amongst themselves. Though it took many years, the fragmented city-states of Araby soon rebuilt and grew powerful once more, but never again were they ever a truly unified power.