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Background : In a certain medieval world with magic, people are always in danger of being attacked by non-human races, like orcs, trolls or giant spiders, etc. Villagers keep the village safe by using swords or magic. However the frequency of the attacks on humans is increasing. Therefore the King wants to choose children who are talented in magic, and give them training to repel the non-human invaders. Magicians are always more powerful than swordsmen, so it makes sense to train a group of magicians rather than a army of soldiers. (An average magician can take on 15-20 soldiers.)

The problem is, how should he convince the parents, that he needs to take their children away, in order to train them to become monster-slayers? It's widely known, that becoming a magician is extremely difficult, especially those who specialise in killing.

Note : The children would be taken from their parents at the age of 8-10 years old, and they would undergo training until he/she is 20. Then they would wander to different villages, protecting them from attacks. Children with a talent in magic are very rare, in average 1 out of 500 (which is very rare in the medieval ages). The children can be taken by force, but that might cause a revolt (the king does not want to be known as a tyrant, and even one child taken would cause the entire village to know which might spread to other villages). All people in this world worship one main god, the Sun God. Also, humanity is quite weak, so building a large army is almost pointless, since they don't know where the monsters live, attacking the non-human races is not a possibility.

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    $\begingroup$ It strikes me that his immediate problem is that his rule is extremely weak if abducting a single child will result in his being publicly deposed. $\endgroup$ – Richard Jul 2 '16 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ Close-voters: Please do not vote to close without leaving commentary. The problem cannot be fixed if the OP is not made aware of it. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 2 '16 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Richard : No, but what if he keeps repeating this? Even kidnapping one child will result in the entire village knowing. $\endgroup$ – King of Snakes Jul 3 '16 at 3:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Kingofsnakes - His first action should be to raise a real army so that pissy villagers can't just rise up against him whenever he annoys them. $\endgroup$ – Richard Jul 3 '16 at 9:03
  • $\begingroup$ @KingofSnakes How will they know the king was responsible? If he's a smart king the children will be taken in the dead of night by his men in disguise or lead astray by someone they are taught to trust (e.g. the King's royal guard). $\endgroup$ – Pharap Jul 4 '16 at 4:57

12 Answers 12

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Make the position prestigious, and/or make sure money gets sent back to the parents. Since they are so effective, you can afford to spend several times as much money per magician as you would on a soldier and still save money compared to having a regular army.

If the mages are called something like "royal high magicians", and they are given good pay and status then the children will want to go, and might very well convince their parents.

If the children want to go, then the biggest obstacle is the parents needing them around to work at the farm. If some compensation is sent to the parents for a few years, either money or labor, they are less likely to protest. Land grants can also be very popular.

Also, consider doing some recruiting from orphans, beggars and other low-class children. If being a royal mage is a good-paying, well-respected job where you excel by talent and not by background that will be vastly preferable to the lives these children live and they will flock to join. Hell, some might come just for the free room and board.

This might even work too well, and you'll have more applicants than you need. If so, make sure to have an objective (or seemingly objective) entrance exam. That way, you are seen as fair as well as generous - no revolts likely.

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    $\begingroup$ Add in "recruit from slaves and religious minorities", and this is a pretty good description of the Ottoman Jannissary system -- which lasted over two hundred years! $\endgroup$ – Gaurav Jul 3 '16 at 8:30
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It won't be difficult at all.

In an age before readily available contraception it was hard to control the number of children you had. So in medieval times most people had the problem of having too many children.

You only need one son to inherit your property. Further sons only fragment the inheritance, thus making their life much more difficult, and further daughters just cost you without any benefit in return.

It's no miracle that sending children to a monastery was very popular back then. So popular in fact that getting in was rather difficult. Monasteries could choose from applicants, so in most regions they could afford to be picky and only recruit novices from nobility.

So when the king promises to give the magically gifted children free lodging, free food, an education and a guaranteed employment as a magician, that's a really great deal for the parents. The only situation where it might be a problem is when the king wants the only son of someone. In that case he might either have to offer some incentive or use force.

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    $\begingroup$ Agreed. Many people forget that "traditional family values" are actually a recent innovation made possible by international commerce during colonial period and popular by industrialization spreading the wealth to wider population. While most fantasy unrealistically uses them anyway, there isn't really any actual reason to assume that families would not consider this a very good deal. "Can't be bothered to explain how families would realistically not match the model considered traditional" is valid consideration, though. People get emotional about this stuff. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Jul 3 '16 at 1:56
  • $\begingroup$ This is very good, I forgot about this $\endgroup$ – King of Snakes Jul 3 '16 at 3:24
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Just tell the parents that their children are gifted and that the king would like to invite the children to a special school where they can learn to master their abilities. Welcome to xaviers school for gifted children...

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The problem is, how should he convince the parents that he needs to take their child away in order to train him to become a monster-slayer?

The same way in the real world kings convinced the people to fight for another king they never heard about, because the king promised that other king to send a certain number of soldiers: He's the king, he got his power from god, he decided that this shall happen, and therefore it will happen.

If that's not enough, then the next stage of convincing is to punish the non-obedient parents.

You know, things were not very democratic back then.

Of course it also helps if the position of a magician is of high prestige, or gets paid very well. That will reduce resistance considerably.

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Call it a full time elite school free of charge for specially gifted children. After finishing they will have a high position in society and well paid like a councilor. Give them the possibilty to visit their parents every few months. If these are poor famalies who need every helping hand, you might want to give their parents compensation for the time of schooling like some free food. Parents (or even the village) will be proud to have children going to this school.

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If the people are committed enough to the religion the king may pretend that magically gifted children are chosed by the sun god or something like that, relaying the responsibility on a higher authority which the people cannot dispute.

It might help to fake the process as optional like this: all magically gifted children and their families are relocated to the capital to ensure their safety and that of the nation (so that the gifted children do not grow up to become a threat) on expense of the nation, this should not be a problem for the families, as it is quite reasonable. Once there, the children are pressured into "trying out" the training process, but the families are allowed to assist and it is possible to step out at any moment. Only when a family does try to step out will a never-ending line of obstacles be thrown into their path (could be bureaucratic, as with insane waiting times, or the parents could be judged insane/found criminal and the child brainwashed/peer pressured into accepting to continue the training).

The fake criminal/sociopath route could also be taken more directly, accusing all parents of gifted children as being dangerous but "graciously" offering the orphaned children housing/education on expense of the nation, but that is more easily discovered.

A good tactic to prevent families from resisting the training as magicians is to make them (over-) aware of the danger that stems from the monsters, exaggerating the numbers where possible, perhaps even staging attacks on villages where a gifted child was born.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why was this downvoted? Have I done something wrong? If so, what? $\endgroup$ – Annonymus Jul 2 '16 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ Orphaned?!? What does the King do to the dangerous parents? $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Jul 3 '16 at 7:43
  • $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4 By orphaned I meant "without mother/father", this must not mean that they are dead, simply that they cannot execute that role, because they are in jail or were removed from the child "for its own security" etc. $\endgroup$ – Annonymus Jul 3 '16 at 8:13
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    $\begingroup$ Your answer might have been downvoted because the question mentioned the king would not like to be seen as a tyrant. To be fair, it didn't mention that he would not like to act as one if he had reasonable deniability (which your answer offers), and your answer is manipulative, but would work, so I think it's a fair answer (I myself did not downvote)... just, that mismatch might be why. $\endgroup$ – Megha Jul 3 '16 at 8:13
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Make the training programme an official school-like construct and simply move all gifted children (with their families) into the capital city. The parents will be given new work in the city (probably less harsh or better paying than their previous jobs) whilst their gifted children go to the special school. If they have multiple children, the non-gifted ones can be educated in a regular school, put to work like their parents or trained to be soldiers/knights, or a mixture of all three. If you are low on room in the capital city, merely eject other workers as necessary (which is a bit tyrantish, but it's for the greater good).

The gain of a single wizard and some extra workers should roughly offset the cost of the housing. If there are disputes, you could change the arrangement to having only one parent stay with the child or let them offer up just the child to be cared for by appointed caregivers in a dormatory-like situation.

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You could have a policy of conscription. Simply pass a law saying "We need magicians, and if nobody volunteers you will be drafted by force". It's not entirely pleasant, but if the villagers are aware of the problems and just how useful magicians are, the policy will be accepted until such time that it is no longer needed. Also such a thing wouldn't be uncommon in medieval times. Medieval levies were commonplace.

(It's somewhat ironic to be giving this answer on the centenary year of World War I. Conscription was brought into action on 27th January 1916 in Britain)

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  • $\begingroup$ If you liked the question, please upvote it :) $\endgroup$ – King of Snakes Jul 4 '16 at 6:02
  • $\begingroup$ @KingofSnakes It was the first thing I upvoted when I got here. I was number 13 (or possibly number 12). $\endgroup$ – Pharap Jul 4 '16 at 6:25
  • $\begingroup$ Then thank you ^_^, can't upvote you because I used all my votes ... but when I can I'll upvote both your answers. $\endgroup$ – King of Snakes Jul 4 '16 at 6:36
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Have the wizards in the field tasked with finding recruits and instruct them to kill the parents, peasants wont be able to stop them and by the time the apprentice becomes a wizard they'll have been indoctrinated enough that their elder peers can pressure them into continuing the cycle.

Thus stained with blood the new wizard will zealously believe that sacrifices have to be made for the good of the kingdom, it's either that or face the guilt of having become the very monster that took their parents and with every new recruit found this conviction will only grow stronger and stronger.

Pressuring young wizards into killing a recruit's family will seem perfectly natural to them, by this point they're totally aware of how the cycle works and wilfully protect it.

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Disinherit gifted children.

Regardless of whether or not they are sent for training, they are legally made unable to inherit the family possessions. This provides a stick to match the carrot of compensation money when a child is taken for training.

There also needs to be a guarantee that a magic child taken for training is employed for life, even if not graduating to become a killer.

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Check out Magician by Raymond E. Feist, this sounds strikingly similar to a scenario which exists in that universe.

In summary, on a different world there exists an "Academy" run by Magicians known as "Great Ones" who - thanks to their historic service in saving the world from a catastrophic threat - have been given the privilege of operating outside the law.

Anyone who is detected to have aptitude is immediately seen as almost the property of the Assembly, and a Great One, being above the law, is fully able to take the child there and then for training.

I won't go into any more detail, but as I said, it would probably be worth your while to take a look at it and how it is dealt with there to provide some sort of comparison for the worldbuilding you're attempting to do.

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The king should kill the special children's parents through the magicians he currently possess.

Bring a seasoned magician of the country and make him tell the orphaned children that the trolls murdered raided the village and killed everyone.

To avoid suspicion, he should order the killing of some parents whose children aren't special.

A grotesque plan, I know. But the children would be motivated to kill the enemy in order to save the empire.

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    $\begingroup$ If the trolls killed everyone, why is he killing only the parents of the special children, and some parents of non-special children - instead of everyone ? And you can't keep doing this anyways. $\endgroup$ – King of Snakes Jul 3 '16 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ It can just be a routine raid. You can have an all empire gathering of children to alleviate doubts as to why only parents were targeted. Simultaneously burn one or two villages to leave trademarks of the barbarity of trolls. $\endgroup$ – user22412 Jul 3 '16 at 13:30

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