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The Red Keep was built thousands of years ago to defend against the invading hordes. The Red Keep itself is a fortress, the main wall of which blocks off the main pass through the mountains.

Over the years the threats of the hordes have diminished and migrants from their homelands have begun trying to get into the valley permanently instead of as raiders like their ancestors. Initially the lords of the keep fought off these migrants, but one ambitious lord saw easy money through processing these migrant groups and "employing" them as mercenary bands to defend the keep from enemies within the valley.

The Red Keep has been transformed from a simple keep into a large city that's filled with thousands of permanent residents and thousands more going to and from the keep into the valley or the horde lands.

How could the lords of the Red Keep properly process such large numbers of people?

Note: they do not have access to the printing press.

Technology is the Medieval High period

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    $\begingroup$ "transformed from a simple keep into a large city" - traditionally, cities were built around the castles. Do you want the entire city fit inside the old castle walls? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 16 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ Any sensible ruler would instantly behead the "clever" lord for treason, right after the "peaceful" migrants took over the keep and opened it for the horde, as blood is thicker than water. Putting this aside, what kind of "processing" do you wish to do exactly? $\endgroup$ – Lupus Jul 16 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ Old castles usually have a small footprint, there is no room for a city. You may convert army barracks and stables into housing, but the conditions would be squalid, and neither the lord, nor his retainers would like to live in a castle like that. You may want to have only the "processing center" in the castle, with the real city outside. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 16 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander I doubt the lord would even allow the processing center to exist inside the walls. During this period peasants were barely seen as more than slaves. Plus, these are foreign peasants, who would be tired and hungry, and unhappy due to that fact. No lord in his right mind would let crowds of them enter the walls. See The People's Crusade for a good example of this $\endgroup$ – Cygnus X-1 Jul 16 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ @CygnusX-1 -- the Crusader attack on Blacharnae (part of Constantinople) is another example. A mostly peasant army showed up in Byzantine territory and, rather than cross to Asia Minor and going on to the Holy Land, took up raiding the locals. They tried to break down the gates of Constantinople, looted one of the palaces, and were eventually forced to cross the Bosporous and wait for the rest of the Crusading force. $\endgroup$ – Rob Crawford Jul 17 at 19:40
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The way it's always been done...

Multi-Level Marketing

Erm, I mean...

Appointment of Vassals

One man can't manage thousands upon thousands of mercenaries. The lords will delegate command over a smaller piece to subordinates in exchange for lawful operation inside the keep, possibly land, and permission to keep a small cut of all mercenary contracts (part of which they need to hand up the chain of command).

(modern) Rule of thumb dictates that a superior can effectively manage 7 +/- 2 subordinates. Let's push this up to 10, because 10 is close to the upper limit, and makes dealing with our organization easier.

(1) High Lord of the Red Keep
(10) Lower Lords of the Red Keep
(100) Knights of the Red Keep
(1000) Appointed Mercenary Captains of the Red Keep
(10000) Mercenaries

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    $\begingroup$ "because 10 is close to the upper limit" And the higher-ups might prefer keeping fewer vassals paid/happy over having them working at optimal efficiency anyway. $\endgroup$ – GrandOpener Jul 17 at 19:48
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Thousands? Thousand of people during medieval period going to very very very length distance? Not suspicious at all. Not at all. Not like a king would like to know about it. Make some laws. Forbid or invite those people and spread them through whole kingdom.

So to answer the question. No, a medieval fortress (or keep or castle or anything that is strictly military) could not process thousands of people. Either the city around the castle is so big it can sustain those thousands of people (which turn the city into one of the largest cities in the kingdom) or it lead to total overrun and fights.

To give some historical perspective, during XVI century prosecuted Jews fled from Europe and settled in Poland (with an invitation form King, laws to their settlement, and so on). It was estimated that around 80% of world Jews population lived in Poland. The amount of immigrants was 10-24 thousands (depending on counting method). And this was organised on Kingdom level. Not on some keep captain whim.

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Establish a march, or several of them, out beyond the Red Keep and put the migrants there. Unless the valley has recently had a plague or something, it probably has about as many people as are needed to run it properly. Adding more will just lead to lots of unemployed, homeless people wandering around causing trouble and undermining your social system. If the hordes from beyond the pass want to settle down, they're going to have to find somewhere else to do it. Then they'll have to defend it, although for the hordes that should be no problem.

As a bonus, the more land the lord of the Red Keep can bring under his (or his subordinate lords') control, the more powerful he will grow - especially if the king is weak or foolish or has weak or foolish or easily bribed emissaries that allow this sort of thing to go on. On the downside, if the king isn't weak or foolish he's going to put his foot down right quick about any unauthorized colonization for that exact reason. Larger empires in history like the Roman Empire or various incarnations of the Persian Empire tended to be rife with provincial governors and the like trying to build up personal power, sometimes becoming more powerful than the emperors they notionally served, with the attendant intrigues and civil wars one would expect.

A related idea you could steal from the Romans is auxiliary service. The hordes from beyond the pass aren't citizens now, but if they serve the marcher lord long enough, they and their families can become citizens and maybe even earn the right to move into the valley if that's still a worthwhile prize.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm thinking a almost Normandy kinda situation with one horde initially getting the march and now they feel obligated to protect it from other threats. $\endgroup$ – Celestial Dragon Emperor Jul 17 at 0:35
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An open immigration policy is quite workable as long as you respect certain principles

Ancient Rome is an excellent example of a civilisation that administered a very successful immigration program - in particular through its borders and processing (and also integrating) hundreds of thousands of immigrants over centuries.

They accomplished this by respecting certain principles:

  • An acknowledgement that military might, nor impassable walls, are not solely economically feasible to prevent inevitable migration. Rome was a desirable empire to live: there is economic, social and indeed military advantage to letting them come
  • They used natural terrain as much as possible to create 'borders' where possible, and only used walls (such as the Aurelian Walls) only where terrain is not adequate - this kept costs down.
  • They split immigrants into smaller 'tribes' upon entry. These smaller groups were free to travel the empire, but the separation prevented large similar groups from being too culturally diverse
  • They allocated underpopulated areas for the migrants to live, to ensure not too much load on their infrastructure
  • A condition of entry was that a certain proportion of the immigrant group would be required to serve in the military and administrative areas, to both increase their army but also to ensure their army was equally diverse, and to reduce costs.
  • All entrants must surrender their own weapons
  • All entrants must renounce any previous allegiance

Until the Goths, this was a standard policy the Romans employed and provided untold riches and cultural benefits. Furthermore, the administrative and military cost to the policy was mitigated by the requirement of the immigrants themselves to serve as military and administrative personnel.

Although Rome was renown for its militaristic attributes, we need to remember that in reality they were very economically astute: keeping costs down in immigration and border control is a key driving force that enables the republic and empire to last the centuries it did.

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  • $\begingroup$ Isn't that migration policy is part of the reason for their fall though? $\endgroup$ – Lupus Jul 17 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Lupus I'd put most of the blame for their fall on the instability and constant civil wars. $\endgroup$ – Celestial Dragon Emperor Jul 17 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ @CelestialDragonEmperor and what led to instability and civil wars? Their unprecedented unity and homogenity? Or the lack of? Naturally, it wasn't the sole reason for it, but still shouldn't be discarded as an important factor. $\endgroup$ – Lupus Jul 17 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Lupus that also lumped with the autonomy of the military from the rest of Rome. $\endgroup$ – Celestial Dragon Emperor Jul 17 at 16:36
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WALLS. Big beautiful walls.

With gates, written permits with wax seals.

What are they for? Restriction and control of certain areas. Restriction and monitoring of movements.

The Keep itself, surrounded by the highest, strongest walls will be a heavily restricted area. Only the officially recognized guards, officials will be allowed to enter. Otherwise, only those with written permits by the Lord himself. Customs may be employed that guests can't bring weapons, so on.

Town around the keep. It will have smaller walls, not so much for military defense but for better control of normal people and goods. It allows taxation, search for wanted criminals, ... A census can be kept of those with permanent residence and even visitors. A much simpler written permit allows entrance, written by numerous officials tasked to oversee it. Residence permits or privileged can avoid the visitor lanes and enter without undergoing search... or much lighter one.

Walls of the valley. A simple wood and mud wall, with patrolling guards are enough to curb movements. Those who must avoid official routes will find ways around it. For simple people, armed guards and fear of death are good enough deterrent.

Mini Frame Challenge:

Access points, the Gates of Valley, won't have traffic in the thousands every single day. Even if they have, they can wait to be processed. Few people were in that much of a rush, so they can't wait their turn... and those who truly couldn't, obtained special permits in advance (perishable traders, government officials, ...).

What they were most concerned in those times, were the movement of masses (they can be a threat), movement of goods or contraband (tax avoided: their money!!!) and a few high interest personage for various reasons (but simple portraits and descriptions of their likeness will be distributed in advance).

In case of above average number of travelers, additional guards and officials can be redirected to help with inspections. Otherwise, those without authority or power can wait their turn patiently. Their comfort and needs were rarely a priority or consideration.

The farming migrants will disperse into small villages around the valley. They have no reason to be crowded in one place (after their leader offered an oath of loyalty and servitude to the Lord and through him the Country and current Ruler). It is a logistic, hygene and many other nightmares at once. Chinese had big cities, western countries not so much until industrialization kicked in.

The merceneries will semi-integrated into the standing army, housed in barracks for better control and their leaders' family "gifted" with permament residence inside the Keep (maybe employed as special status semi servants) or in the Town, with much more restricted movement permits.

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From the lords perspective, you shouldn't bring them in. The best solution would be to allow them to build towns on the OUTSIDE of your walls. Then employ them to build a wall outside themselves. In this way you can extend your rings of protection. Invaders will now need to breach an additional wall and get through the living space of your mercenaries. Over time, trust and trade would be built on both sides of your original wall and the peoples would be come one. But the lords are left with more walled in territory, without unneeded risk.

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