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An offical letter from the King to Baron Worldbuilding

The kingdom is in turmoil. There has been an uprising among the knights and many of the nobles have been killed. Our country is in tatters!

I wish to send a messenger to Sir Andian, Lord of the Eastern Marshes, as he is our most powerful knight. He lives about 400 miles away, the last ~50 through marsh- and swampland.

I know not of any inventions known as "cars" or "planes". The only transportation available to me is a messenger on foot, or on a horse. Horses can make it through the swampland, but the roads there are long and winding. It would take roughly triple the time to get through a mile of swampland then it would take for a mile of flat, normal road.

However, I cannot send any messages to him. Is there any plausible reason to why this is the case?

Clarifications

  • There are simply too many roads in the kingdom for all to be guarded by bandits or rebels.

  • The message does not contain any oversensitive information, so everyone can be trusted with it.

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    $\begingroup$ And who are you - the king? If you can't send a messenger, then either lines of communications are cut by rebels and bandits, or there's no one you can trust with this message. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Oct 8 '18 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander just added a clarification to my question. Sorry for not making it clear before. $\endgroup$ – rappatic Oct 8 '18 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ "I know not of any inventions known as "cars" or "planes"." What about birds? $\endgroup$ – Suthek Oct 9 '18 at 8:28
  • $\begingroup$ If there is an emergency you may have already sent them all out, it takes a long time for a messenger to travel and return. $\endgroup$ – John Jul 22 at 14:46
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There's a Byzantine General problem here. This is a famous problem in computer science involving many generals who are grouping up to attack a city. If they all attack at the same time, they win. If a fraction attacks, it's a rout, far worse than simply not attacking at all. In the computer-science problem, they vote to attack or not. What makes the problem interesting is the question of treacherous generals who may not obey the protocol (such as telling one group of generals that they vote to attack, one group that they intend to stay put, and using that to fracture the greater army and cause a rout). This computer science problem is known to be very difficult to solve with an information-theoretic solution. Every solution is based on physical practicality (such as message timing) or unproven math(cryptographic hashes).

In your case, this message may not be too sensitive, but other messages might. Should someone seek to forge a message that appears to be by your hand, the damage might be excessive before you can sufficiently counter this forgery.

In such an environment, it would make sense to simply cut these methods of communication all together. Tell your knights that the situation is too dire, so all future communications via messenger should be cut off. Rely only on face-to-face meetings.

Such would be a true emergency indeed. Ideally emergencies are the time where you want everyone to work together to a common goal, but often in the worst of emergencies, we fracture and try to go it alone.

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Yes, pick one:

  • You fired all the messengers yourself when they started talking about worker rights, labor unions, class struggle and general communism;

  • The last messenger died delivering this question letter to us;

  • You are finally realizing what a d... Stupid move it was to cut public funding for literacy classes and dyslexia research;

  • The kingdom ran out of paper due to the epidemia of diarrhea. Listen to the wizard when he says that washing hands and properly cooking food will kill the little devils that live under your nails;

  • Messengers were made obsolete by mail pigeons, but those will only ever fly to places they know, and Sir Adian never built an aviary due to a childhood trauma involving emus.

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You've said it yourself. Your nobles are dead.

The rank of the messenger you send is relative to the rank of the person you're sending the message to, and your respect for them. If you're sending a message to another king you send a member of your high nobility, perhaps even a close family member, to act as ambassador, not some peasant with a scribbled note.

Since you're sending a message to a senior member of the nobility of your own country, the messenger is going to be a slightly more junior member of your court. Likely someone able to raise their own armed escort.

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  • $\begingroup$ That doesn't really apply if you are being overthrown. If anything your nobles are the people who can lead your army and are trained in tactics and such as as a result it should be lower level soldiers whose disappearance has no effect on your army. I'm thinking about the french fleet surrender now, but it really doesn't make much sense to send the head of an army when they are more desperately needed somewhere else. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Oct 9 '18 at 6:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Shadowzee, but also their sons and fathers, those too young and old to go to war. Various other family members of the crown, and senior administrators of the kingdom. Not all the nobility were military, though mostly they were. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 9 '18 at 6:57
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Your messengers have been killed by the uprising knights to prevent you from getting help; or they are on their side, or they have been threatened by them. The uprising knights are not stupid; they want to present Sir Andian with a fait accompli; a done deed. In fact, after they have consolidated their power, they may use some sort of subterfuge to send a benign message to him, then ambush him on the way...

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  • There can be a robber/rebel on every road, if your lordship is hated so much that regular villagers are more than happy to kill your messengers, steal their belongings, and take (or eat) their horse

    • The rebels can have your castle in a siege, killing everybody who comes out.

    • your recipient could be under siege as well. Or simply no trusting any outsiders, as there already were several attempts to trick him into leaving the safety of his stronghold.

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Alas you majesty, the chancellor was among the rebels and hath absconded with thy treasury, therefore thou canst neither pay nor succour the messenger. Even pawning thy royal crown would barely suffice to raise half the sum necessary for the journey.

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Given the difficulty of travel mustering troops in the marshlands will be impossible. As such the marshlands will be a haven for bandits and road-agents at the best of times, even more so with open revolt brewing. Why can't your messengers get through? They keep getting killed for their shoes that's why. It only takes one choke point where all the roads between point a and point b pass close together for this to be a problem.

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