Oct 072021
 
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None of this technology exists in a medieval-like setting, so what did people do on Earth? Notices were sometimes posted on the door of important buildings like a church or town hall, but we can choose any location, like a castle or tower wall. For the townspeople, this requires reading skills, so if education is lax, it may not work or the settlement may have someone, like a priest or guard, assigned to stand there and read it off to anyone who can’t. With or without this, a town crier may announce the news in one of several ways, such as wandering through town as needed and repeating it as he goes, or at dawn, noon, and dusk at the town water supply. Especially important announcements might be preceded by a distinctive horn blast, guards even being used to round up everyone and ensure they attend. There may be regular days when less time-sensitive addresses are made, and our ruling class may add levels of pomp and circumstance to conveying information.

We should also consider the role of messengers. Some will travel on foot, others by horse or similar, and some may fly. One that travels by land must gain entrance to the destination, with guards trained on how to deal with them. To prevent gossip, they may instruct a messenger to remain silent about news until escorted to the right person, in private. People will be watching, of course, and may relate that a messenger from a given place has arrived and their state of mind (excited, afraid, calm). Flying messengers can bypass city walls and potentially circumvent all attempts at stopping the intended recipient from getting the message. These couriers may be animals like carrier pigeons or sentient, winged species that have far more discretion in how they go about their work.

All messengers may travel through potentially dangerous lands, so are there protections afforded them, and which wearing a distinctive clothing item, like a sash, promotes? There may be penalties for detaining or interfering with one, especially a king’s messenger. They might have the right to accommodations or food, free or reduced. Maybe we get kicked out of our room at a roadside inn because a king’s messenger needs it. How are messengers treated where they arrive? Unless someone openly courts war, they will be treated at least decently; only a foolish ruler does otherwise because if messengers are harmed, the flow of information may stop (if from a rival). However, a king killing messengers from cities within his kingdom may not stop them from coming if he can command it, but it’s the sort of abuse that leads absolute monarchs into trouble.

There may be mail systems like the Pony Express in the United States. Do ships or stagecoaches carry cargo and mail for ordinary people? They may do so for royalty, which can make them a target of pirates and thieves. As a result, many might be guarded, which could be a sign of a valuable shipment, leading to the guards pretending they aren’t guards but other travelers.

Magic also provides a means of spreading information. The crystal ball or magic mirror are two physical examples, but regardless of the manifestation we choose, these can be like either phone or video calls on Earth. We don’t need to restrict ourselves to one-on-one communication this way. Perhaps a shimmering image has taken the place of the town crier. Or a spell or clairaudience allows someone to communicate directly with a recipient’s mind, and is this one-way or mutual? For this to be a system and not a “one off,” we may want items that can be used for this.

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