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A tiny subset of a medieval city's million-person population is aware of an imminent magical cataclysm via dreams or visions. They are unaware of each other.

Magic in the world is rare and limited. Some of these individuals might have magical power, but it's destructive in nature - no mind control, illusions, anything like that. It's tightly controlled and rare enough to the point of many not even believing it exists, making it even harder to convince people.

The city is the capital of an empire. Those ruling it will value stability and work against any 'unfounded' rumors that would cause panic.

What's the best way for them to convince the most people to evacuate in the span of one or two weeks?

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    $\begingroup$ Medieval city with a million people is almost a paradoxon. Otherwise they have to somehow convience the authorities about the danger. $\endgroup$ – b.Lorenz May 27 '18 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ 'Hear ye, hear ye, magical cataclysm imminent. Evacuate now.' $\endgroup$ – Sean Condon May 27 '18 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ Cue in Troy and Cassandra. Literally. $\endgroup$ – Oleg Lobachev May 27 '18 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ I'm afraid at least one of your "dreamers" will think of setting the city on fire to make people run out of it. Medieval cities burned really easily (see the Great Fire of London in 1666) and if there are 1,000,000 people living in it they much be packed as tuna in a can. $\endgroup$ – Alberto Yagos May 27 '18 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ There was only one (European) medieval city which comes close to that size, and, as it happens, it was indeed the capital of an empire. In that city, they key to organize the evacuation was to convince a priest to talk to his bishop to talk to the patriarch to preach a sermon from the altar of the Holy Wisdom to tell the people to flee. P.S. I hope the catastrophe is very localized; in medieval times people could not move to a very long distance in a few days. $\endgroup$ – AlexP May 27 '18 at 22:15
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There is no best way to make this happen. As a part of your story, the way you choose to make it happen will always be the best. There are too many small factors to take into account when getting a few individuals to move a million people and it is far more plausible that they are ignored, especially since magic exists but for some reason isn't widely believed in(If anything rumors would be way more exaggerated and wide spread... medieval people believed in a ton of crap even though there was no evidence).

Here are a few suggestions, but the implementation and details should be up to you.

  • Your rulers being the well informed people they should be, know of the existence of magic and take steps due to multiple independent people raising concerns
  • Your magic caster pretends to be a prophet and tells of the upcoming doom. Perform a few feats of magic to convince the people and avoid the religious groups and rulers before getting crucified.
  • Your magic caster starts a disaster like a fire or plague or similar to drive people out of the city, bringing on the foreseen catastrophe
  • You convince a member of the rulers or religious groups to heed your cause and start evacuating people.
  • Your magic casters happen to meet each other in their quest to convince the rulers or religious leaders. They band together to try convince more people/leaders of the danger
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Ok here are two solutions for your group of dreamers :

  1. Create a more plausible disaster : as suggest @Shadowzee or @Alberto Yagos, a fire is a good solution. You can also spread the rumor of an invasion from a close country, The problem is that a city as big as you said should be well prepared for that kind of problems :

    • People won't flee a war when they are in a big city since it should be fortified, got the army, and have some reserve of water and food.

    • Fire happen quite often : if there were no protection, I wonder how your city became that big.  And the other problem with fire is that it's too short : you can't predict when the population will stay outside the city or start build it again.

The solution is to combine those two : spread the rumor of an invasion or make it happen. When the population is at its speak of stress, start a fire from the inside to destroy the fortification and render the city unsafe. Now, the population should flee to safer city (in the opposite direction of the invasion)

  1. A bit similar: Create a false magical cataclysm: start spreading rumor among people in the city about the catastrophe, with specific event/detail (river turning red, unknown deseases, strange light in the night...). Then, with magic or some artifices, create those events, and start spreading the rumor of the destruction of the city. It won't be as effective, but it can scare some people, and make them evacuate.
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Maybe one particular outspoken visionary starts warning everyone in a pub or a local square about the coming disaster. Most people think he is mad, but one influential person has heard this same story just yesterday from another seemingly crazy person (or had the same vision themselves) and so begins to investigate. It might take several days to gather enough of the visionaries together to form a believable story.

Each of them has a clue to a different piece of real-life evidence that they could not otherwise have known about, and are able to recount the same story despite never haven spoken to each other before.

You could set up in the back-story that this person has had dealings with magic before although never before come out of the closet, so to speak. Maybe they have heard of a legend of a city that was destroyed by a similar disaster, making it all the more believable to this person.

It all may seem like a contrived coincidence, especially in such a massive city with just a tiny subset - though you don't say how tiny - of people having the visions (and a subset of them who would speak out loud in public), but stories are often built on coincidences. (Maybe even whoever's sending the visions chose these people on purpose, knowing this would happen.)

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I've got a good, but maybe unnecesarily violent idea. It basically consists of two parts: 1. you fake small signs of the apocalypse 2. you predict those signs, gaining reputation as an oracle.

You could for instance rob some people, attack some guards in front of an important building like a palace or even kill some people or maybe rather livestock. In the same time, you start to spread rumors about this all being a sign of an incoming apocalypse. You should predict some of those incidents, saving people, so that nobody suspects you behind them.

Then, as the final act, you should warn everyone, for instance by screaming it around on a pulic place, not to go to an often visited, important place or building (market place, church, townhall) and then burn it down at that day (or depending on the technology advancement blow it up).

If you then warn people again to leave the city, many will comply.

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