Trible (tamtrible) wrote in little_details,

Medieval(esque) land use and distances

Hi. First time poster, wonderful community, yada yada... [g]
I'm trying to figure out dimensions for a valley for an original fantasy story I'm working on (in addition to any other information anyone wants to throw in). Travel time by horse is a key factor.

The valley is shared by 2 feuding--clans isn't *quite* the right word, it's probably about halfway between a clan structure and a nobility/peasant type structure. At least 100 or so people (or families) in each group, most of whom are each other's second cousins and suchlike, though there's enough travel that the groups probably aren't *too* badly inbred. (Basically, as many people as I can reasonably fit in and still have the valley shape and travel times I need) The feud's been going on for 100 years or so, and has cooled to a more-or-less sustainable level, with a formal truce during the planting/harvest seasons, so everyone can, you know, eat. The story will involve a pair of Star Crossed Lovers (tm) (and also the demon that started the feud, I only want it to *look* like a Romeo-and-Juliet kinda piece)
Climate is--probably slightly on the warm side of temperate. The kind of place where it generally snows in the winter, but very rarely snows more than a few inches at one time. For my convenience, I will assume it's an area with reasonably rich soil (as I'm trying to cram maximum people in minimum space).
Tech level is more or less medieval (there is magic, but it's not relevant to farming particularly). Social model is more-or-less Europeanish, though it is Not Set In This World.
The physical valley I was imagining was a relatively narrow valley (at least compared to the width--something like () <--that shape, only maybe a little more drawn out on the ends--maybe like {} would be if the sides were closer together and the pointy bit were rounder...), with fairly steep sides--fertile bottom land, but the hills are only useful for grazing, if that. There's a little patch of forest between the two clans' lands, used as a buffer (and as a source of firewood/mushrooms/herbs/etc). There may also be a road running along the length of the valley, probably a generally-used thoroughfare. There may also be a river down the middle of the valley, but if so it is one that can be easily crossed on foot (at least at ford points). Each clan has a keep (large enough to house most of the population, if they crowd in), that is probably about as far back from the interclan border as the width of the valley--about as far back as you can go and still be in the (relatively) wide part of the valley.
I also need to have a cave, near the interclan border, that could plausibly have been left alone for hundreds of years. It doesn't have to be a *large* cave, mind, but it needs to be stable. (it's where the demon was bound, probably at least a thousand years ago)
Here's where we get specifics on distance. Our Heroine will be traveling to the border (clandestinely) to visit Our Hero on multiple occasions (and the travel time needs to be short enough that she could plausibly just be "going out for a picnic lunch" or "going out for some air/exercise"); and at some point Our Hero needs to make it from the border to the (opposing) keep and back in something like 15 or 20 minutes (and likewise for a border guard in his clan to *his* keep). Well-fed horses are available (Our Hero and Our Heroine are of the 2 ruling families), but for the clandestine visits she would *not* be pushing the horse (though, of course, the horse is being pushed as fast as it'll go for the Hero's trip--it's an emergency).

Er--I'm being overly wordy. I need the distance from each keep to the border to be such that a well-fed, well-treated horse (but not a racehorse) with a rider could travel it at a comfortable walk in half an hour or so, or at a dead run in 10 minutes. I also need some idea of how many *people* a valley that size and shape could probably support (assuming they grow all of their own food); and if anyone wants to throw in info or sources on medieval(esque) farming techniques, likely crops, warfare, valley geography, or anything else I might not have though of, feel free.
Please help? [looks sweet and charming]
Tags: ~agriculture, ~animals: horses, ~middle ages

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