The story was located in a stereotypical fantasy world until now. The heroes had to save their land from an evil warlord/sorcerer that got his hands on a magical artifact that granted him the ability to make short trips through time at high cost. He mostly used it to let his ancestors' armies join his war campaign in the present, and to damage the defending forces in the past when they least expected.

In the end the heroes manage to scatter his armies and defeat him. They promised to a guild of elven mages to give them the magical time machine so they would keep it safe.

After the heroes (now kings) die of old age the mages start to tinker with the artifacts, grow possessive of its power and start to clash with each other. They damage the artifact in a fight, and it in turn provokes a time-space anomaly that changes the whole multiverse. Each universe got randomly merged in couples. The important change is that the initial fantasy universe was merged with our real universe in a weird mishmash. The planet of the fantasy world have been mixed randomly with Earth and other planets from our universe.

So now there's this planet (temporary name "Stitch") that is in general respects similar to earth but its continents are:

  1. The land where the heroes lived
  2. now attached to it there's 1000BC Scotland
  3. there's another fantasy themed land attached to it
  4. then there's a chunk of 500BC belgium and germany
  5. a bit down there's a valley that comes from an alien planet (and has alien flora and fauna)
  6. and so on

The new story starts a couple of decades after these events, so most of the civilized creatures that faced this situation have either brutally perished, like one of the fantasy regions, or adapted and flourished, like the Scottish humans. The humans of the world have stabilized and adapted their lives to the new reality. This new world now has old and new castles, roads, merchant routes and so on.

My question is this: I wanted to drop into this stitched together world Halifax, the Canadian city, from 1800 industrial era. BUT, I still want the world to retain his medieval-fantasy style. I want to make it so that the city is all but ruins now, totally unable to react to the almost cataclysmic change, and its remains are dangerously infested but filled with precious "future" technologies. One important plot item will be a newfound project for a game-changing technology, non other than a steam engine.

But I can't think of a good reason why medieval Scottish clans and Celtic tribes should have no problem survive a world-wide mind-boggling cataclysm while a technologically advanced and prosperous city should totally fall apart. Why would tribes and clans from ancient Europe survive this cataclysm, but the industrial city of Halifax would not?

  • $\begingroup$ 1000DC = 1000CE (Common Era)? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 10, 2017 at 0:40
  • $\begingroup$ I made a lot of edits for clarity and brevity. Please change back anything that I wrote incorrectly. Interesting setup for a story. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Mar 10, 2017 at 2:23
  • $\begingroup$ sorry and thank you for your work, english is not my native language and i tried my best $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2017 at 11:56

6 Answers 6


Things based off history.

(If you believe the internet)

The setting is august 1814. Halifax had recently become home to a base for the Royal Navy. The city was considered to be so secure during the war of 1812 that they actually sent an estimated 1000 of the royal navy marines to help raze the city of washington. They succeeded. However then their world was literally torn apart when their lands and city were thrown through time and space to end up in a eerily similar yet foreign world. Those brave soldiers who had been sent off never returned. Much of the royal navy was out at sea acting as a deterrent so that the city could continue to remain safe. Winter is fast approaching and this land of 81,351 is in for some hard times.

Divergence from our timeline.

The city of halifax is hit hard by this new world. Their end of year harvest was not far off and much of their military might was forever lost when they changed worlds. They were hit hard by the fastforwarding of the seasons. It was middle of winter when they were dropped off. Despite efforts to save as much of the crops as they could the first frost came fast and hard. Many people starved that first winter. As the numbers of dead increased disease took its grip on the city. Medicine ran out and more people were lost. By the time spring came around it was a less a question of burying the dead as burning their bodies to prevent further spread. The city was there but most of its inhabitants were not. To support an entire city that has been hit by any sort of cataclysmic event is no easy task even for our modern times. Without the help of outside forces it was no surprise that Halifax turned into a giant monument to the dead. Many of the remaining citizens of nova scotia lived in the outlying farms. The ones who were not as exposed to disease and were used to getting by on their own. A few attempts were made to resettle the city but it never gained much traction. The population rarely going above a few dozen. Mainly scavengers and other opportunists who were not the type that you wanted to settle near.

  • $\begingroup$ This sounds like a perfect explanation, thanks $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2017 at 12:42

Did any farmers get transported with Halifax?

If just the city of Halifax got transported, and none of the surrounding countryside, there is no guarantee that there is a large supply of food in that city. If it got transported into a hostile environment, like surrounded by your alien flora, then the people might quickly run out of food.

If the city was then placed in an area distant enough from a usable food source, it wouldn't be unexpected for there to only be a few dozen survivors after a year or so. Explaining how a few dozen survivors got killed off is alot easier (killed by alien fauna, fantasy orcs, whatever)

  • $\begingroup$ This also. I was thinking about placing it near a large and dangerous swamp $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2017 at 12:43

There is small (next to none) change in lifestyle in the span of 1000 BC to 500 BC. People generally knew how to tend crops, hunt, make weapons. Their cities and villages was crudely "placed" on a plain.

Now, a city from XIX century had taken a chunk of land below it. It had railroads, bridges, sewage system, factories. Some of the citizens were not aware how to live outside the city so they would rely on food delivered by others. On the other hand if you take Halifax from 1800 it would be just 50 years after it's establishment so many prime settlers could still be there. They would also have old fortification to their disposal.
But all their work force would need to be shifted from industrialization to defence. So they would abandon all steam machines as useless. Even if they could rework them to weapon manufacturing after few years they would run out of material to make them.
So they could try to shift more to being a merchant city selling the technology and it usage to others.

Their demise could be that one of the clans tried to seize the city to put their hand on the technology but didn't had the knowledge to operate it or read manuals.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My answer would be basically this. But to add: Halifax was part of the global trade, where as the old villages are local. They can adapt. The people may leave the city. Why would you stick with a city without access to resources. Building infrastructure to utilize the city would take years and during calamity there is more important things to do than effective manufacturing for cosmetics and whatever consumer goods. For villages interest/threat is much smaller than to Halifax. I would think to see a situation where people of Halifax leave the city starved while the robbers attack for the loot. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2017 at 9:09

Cities do not survive in vacuum. A city transported out of its context would have no sources of food, would have no sources of materials for its industries, and have no markets for goods produced by its industries. It would typically also lack the ability to manufacture some resources needed to maintain its technology as some specialized machines and materials would be imported.

As such people of Halifax would have to leave the city to get food and have no reason to stay as the economy of the city would collapse. As such the city would rapidly and naturally get depopulated as the population scattered to the surrounding countryside for food.

You would also have a total collapse of social order as the inevitable famine would result in riots and looting. If you assume authorities failed to stop the looting people would also flee the city for safety. For some reason long term looting also seems to cause fires, so large areas of the city would probably suffer extensive damage from the fighting or fires.

After the people had left the city, the following generations would strip what remains of the city for materials and usable tools. Anything made from metal and small enough to transport would be scattered to the surrounding countryside and possibly then traded with neighbouring tribes. The bricks used in the cities would be carted of to build houses and storage sheds. I doubt the area would support large enough population initially to entirely destroy the city, but if you assume that area later had cities with substantial construction Halifax would essentially be used as a mine for construction materials.

Add that industrial construction is not really that durable without maintenance and the city would be in ruins fairly fast.

Loss of social order would leave the fraction of population that survived famine and fighting vulnerable to attacks or assimilation by surrounding tribes. This is because the people would be scattered as small family groups struggling to survive while the tribes would have tribal level organization and presumably solid survival skills. You can assume that people of Halifax would cease to exist as a separate entity within a generation. Although there would be lots of people with Halifax blood in the surrounding tribes.

So city of Halifax would end up a depopulated ruin as a natural consequence of being displaced from its economic network. No disaster or catalysm is needed. All you need to assume is lack of unusual ability to maintain order and rebuild new economy to support the city by the city authorities. Since your story is apparently set at a later time when nobody even remembers the exact events making this assumption is trivial.


Until around the end of the 19th century, with the completion of modern sanitation projects and the development of modern medicine, more people died in cities than were born in them. This was the case in Ancient Rome, in 16th century Paris, in industrial London, etc. It is still the case in third-world countries today. The only reason cities were populated was because of the massive number of people who immigrated into those cities at rates far higher than replacement.

Depopulation from disease

Halifax in the early 19th century isn't going to be an exception to this. It is still an Industrial Age city. It doesn't have modern hospitals. It doesn't have the infrastructure to fight cholera, typhoid, typhus, plague, etc. It probably doesn't have the public health system to adequately inoculate its population from smallpox. These diseases depopulate empires.

Hill tribes don't have this problem though (well, to a much lesser extent). Plagues spread when there are many people which it can infect. That requires density. Hill tribes don't live densely.

Food issues

Cities also require massive amounts of food. This is the case today. If you live in the developed world, look into a supermarket. Every single gramme of food was shipped from someplace else. Cities are buildings, they are not farms.

This was the case in every Industrial Age city as well. Food has to be imported. There is a maximum to the size of any city, simply from to the fact that (1) food rots and (2) every kilo must be transported from a farm to the city market. London was fed by southern England. Rome was fed by importing massive amounts of grain from the Italian countryside and having the efforts of an empire manage its import from Sicily and Egypt.

Moving a city from 1800 into mediaeval times is going to run into this food problem. The productive capacity of land was lower in mediaeval times. Similarly, there was less transportation technology as well. There must be a lower limit on the size of any city. Any chance of survival is going to require Halifax to develop extremely strong trade ties with food producers within the season.

Scottish and Gaelic hill tribes, however, don't suffer from this problem. They grow their own food.

its remains are dangerously infested but filled with precious "future" technologies

Infested with what? Your city will be depopulated, but that simply means (from the perspective of the city) shedding off excess population. Places like Rome were never entirely abandoned. While the Eternal City's population fell to the tens of thousands in the early mediaeval era, it never became uninhabited.

You'll have to also create a reason for why people won't use the technologies they find in this city and why its inhabitants won't use those technologies. The best explanation would probably have to do with those technologies requiring something not present in the new environment — coal for steam engines, brass to manufacture them, or an adequate market demanding automation.

For military technology, it would probably have to do with the complex supply chains which underpin manufacturing. Where do you get the iron? Of what quality is that iron? How about the lead for musket balls? In what quantity? The paper for cartridges? Saltpetre for gunpowder?

Of course, to create a narrative where those technologies are then employed requires you to establish a change of the situation that allows those technologies to be used. A Renaissance caused by the sudden appearance of the books and knowledge held in the city's libraries might consume this world, allowing for the development of the environment in which these technologies might be applied.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the detailed answer, what I had in mind is that the technologies left in the city would be unaccessible because after the fall of the city it would get infested/inhabited by all kinds of dangerous fantasy or alien creatures, so that only extremely well prepared eroes would have a chance of trying a quick raid and making it out alive $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2017 at 12:55
  • $\begingroup$ @ClaudioBonifazi Not trying to be mean, but 'heroes' has an 'h' in front of it. You keep spelling it as 'eroes.' $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Mar 10, 2017 at 13:38

Maybe a disease that they had no resistance to hit the 1800s city.

Maybe Ghosts attacked the residents. They would have no real defense against supernatural creatures.

If they did not emerge in a region with extensive forests, when their coal supplies ran out, they would not have wood to burn into charcoal. The city folk would have a lower chance to survive than woodsmen or farm folk.


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