Is it possible to have one or multiple battles to continue for a decade or more in a fantasy medieval setting? The primary outcome required from the war is to have a constant stream of refugees.


The world:
The story takes place on a continent roughly the size of Europe with ocean on three sides and non-inhabited frozen mountainous regions to the north and north-east. Politically, most of the populated region is ruled by a single empire through methods of taxing and trade route control. There are many countries under the empire. The total population is around 70 million.

The magic system:
Almost all magic is internal to life, i.e. only a living being can perform and practice magic. All humans have the ability to perform magic. It is so common that many of the day-to-day activities involve using it, like making fire or fireless illumination, etc. Magic can be used to generate force fields (more like solidifying air into any shape for as long as mana is provided) which are used as weapons for both attack and defense). Magic in humans is very low in itself, and requires specific types of gemstones, which are specialized to enhance magical affinity. These gems are mined, and high quality gems are very valuable. With concentration and practice people can master their control over magic and with the right type of gem and excel at it.

While humans have the ability to use magic, they enslave a sub-human species who has no magic. These are fox people (no idea if there's a word for it): they are a head shorter than humans, have fox ears (and no human ears), and a fox tail. They are agile on their feet, and can hunt small animals by hand. They have to do most of the manual labor (farming, mining, transportation). Commonly this species is considered scum by humans, thus humans using magic in day-to-day work are seen as being blessed. Most of the refugees are to be their slaves.

The war is supposed to be between countries individually at first but, as time goes on, they form alliances and the fights get bigger. This needs to go on for at least a decade. Is this workable in the current setting?

The slaves do not provide any advantage in the war and are pretty useless as cannon fodder. The slaves of captured provinces are considered a liability and thus banished from the land. With nowhere to go and rejected by all, they move to the uninhibited north where without a master they start a new life of freedom.

Few point I missed

  • The slave trade is the largest trade before the war.
  • Most of the major capital cities have castle or citadel so majority of the war is sieges. And while doing so major part of the local workforce is striped.
  • As slave have value they are not harmed in any manner but given a choice to move to the North area where they can survive on their own (with whatever skill they have). This is so that after war they can be recaptured and sold. (The attacking countries are northern close to the uninhabited north)
  • The things they did not anticipate: The war last for 10 years and the rise fox people who fought back after the war.
  • $\begingroup$ Why wouldn't it be possible? There have been wars for much longer without magic (like the Eighty Years' War, which, given, didn't actually last that long, but with multiple periods of over a decade). $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    May 21 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ Not to mention the Hundred Years' War. The problem is that medieval wars did not produce masses of refugees. War was the profession of noblemen and of a small number of salaried men-at-arms; most people had nothing to do with war, and war most usually had nothing to do with them. (Even trade continued between the belligerents.) The rare occasions when war interfered with the lives of normal people are treated as notable exceptions and are written about with condemnation by the chroniclers, as wondrous examples of evilry or barbarity. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 21 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ Why are the fox serfs able to move north? All land should be near its carrying capacity ie already occupied by farmers. So if there was significant migration of population that migrant population is facing starvation. I $\endgroup$ May 24 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ @GaultDrakkor Well that's one of reason I need them to move is small batches over a very long period of time (many years). They can hunt small animals on the way for food to avoid stealing from farms. I mean its war time, no one wants to refuge the slaves when their fields is already at capacity. $\endgroup$ May 25 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ @SujitKumar I meant to say their destination will be at capacity. The question states the destination would be empty, which implies its carrying capacity is low/zero. And it the carrying capacity of the north is not low/zero why is it empty? How do the fox people know the region is good and nobody else does? $\endgroup$ May 27 at 22:18

1 Answer 1


Constant stream of refugees over 10 years?

A 10 year war is plausible. Dismissing the workforce of the conquered lands /They have to do most of the manual labor (farming, mining, transportation)/ seems a little less plausible if humans are used to them doing the work, but OK. You need freed fox people slaves for your story. Maybe the invaders are not fox slave keeping people.

The part I struggle with is the 10 year steady stream. Assuming as the battle moves, conquered lands discharge their slave population that is a lot of land involved with battle over 10 years.

A 10 year battle sounds to me like back and forth, long impasses etc. But if the front lines move back and forth that will not produce new refugees - those all left when the battle first showed up in their land.

You need front lines that slowly move over 10 years over a large populated area. You could model it on something like the Arab conquest of the Byzantine empire. which took more than 10 years. The Old Empire of people who had fox slaves are gradually pushed back to their strong city, and the invaders (as well as their later allies who saw that they could take some Empire lands for themselves) gradually take over the Empire lands. These industrious invaders do their own work and so evict the fox people.

I have to think some fox people (household slaves, concubines, artisans etc) would seek refuge in the strong city instead of leaving for the north. Some fox people might find places in the households of tolerant persons affiliated with the invaders who move in. I like the idea of a few fox people being kept with the mines but in a weird sort of supervisory role - they know how the Empire tech works and how to use the mine and so are needed despite being held in contempt.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your reply. I did anticipate the refugee would not be very constant. I did missed few point in my question. 1. Slaves are the biggest trade pre war, and the biggest workforce. 2. Most capital countries (where the King live) have castles (or citadels for bigger cities) which require many months of siege to capture. 3. There has been a lot of unrest which made most of the battling country target is to disrupt the economy (by reducing labor force) to the point they would not recover easily even when war ended. $\endgroup$ May 21 at 19:50

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