Hi, I’m working on a story with 2 conflicting kingdoms, but one of my readers said it was too easy to travel between the kingdoms. I’ve considered seperation through rivers, seas etc, but they don’t work for my story. Do you have any border ideas?
I don’t think that geographical obstacles are necessarily important. There are lots of borders you can cross without crossing rivers, oceans, or mountain ranges. Instead, you may just want to look at distance as an option. Two kingdoms can share a border, but most of the time their seats of government won’t be right along the border. Most of the time, monarchs rule from castles that are many miles (and sometimes hundreds of miles) from the nearest border. Even if there are villages and lords living along the border, anyone coming from the monarch’s court (including messengers, diplomats, and armies) will still have a long way to travel.
Most of the time, people traveled via horseback or carriage, and generally only covered 20-30 miles a day, depending on the weather and terrain. In good weather and easy terrain, they might go 50. And, keep in mind that the enemy monarch won’t live on the border, either, so a traveler from one kingdom to the next may have to cover several hundred miles to get from point A to point B, meaning that it could take someone a week or two to get from one monarch’s castle to the other. If the person doing the traveling is a diplomat or noble, they will likely be put up by lords in castles along the way, but once they get over the border, who knows? If they were invited by the enemy monarch and have safe passage, they may continue being put up at various castles along the way. If not, they may have to lay low and either camp in the wilderness or sleep in roadside inns.
Not only will they have to stop to rest at night, but they’ll have to stop periodically throughout the day to rest themselves and their horses. They may also have to stop in villages to get fresh horses or have their horses attended to, or just to get a decent meal and maybe even a bath. These are all things to keep in mind when writing about travel between kingdoms.
Even in their own kingdom, travel can be dangerous and unpredictable. There can be all sorts of road hazards, like rough terrain, fallen trees, flooding, washed out roads (or no roads at all), bad weather, and brigands. These can force a traveler to delay or even re-route their travel on a particular day, which can make what should be a three day trip take twice as long. Once they reach the enemy kingdom, it all depends on who they are and whether or not they were invited. If they were invited, they may have escorts waiting for them at the border, or at least someone waiting with some sort of letter or token of safe passage. Otherwise, they may have to disguise themselves or even stay hidden if they want to be safe. Not only will they have to contend with the usual road hazards, but if they are identified as citizens of a rival kingdom, anyone they encounter could theoretically pose a danger to them.
So, there are lots of things you can do to make travel take longer without altering the terrain in a significant way. :)