“Settling With Sea Serpents” takes place in a secondary world based on Korea at the time of the Mongol conquests. While the Mongol equivalent never appear as more than background events, I wanted to do some research to make sure I got details right. Here is some of what I learned.
While the Chinese didn’t have guns, they would put gunpowder inside cast iron shells to make thunder-crash bombs. As the name implies, they were quite loud and devastating – the shrapnel could pierce iron armor. The name was so awesome, I had to find a way to stick it in the story.
At first, the Mongols weren’t good at siege warfare. But as they captured Chinese and Arab engineers, they used the techniques of both to create devastating trebuchets. And when they couldn’t find stones to hurl into cities, they would hurl entire trees.
The Mongols were really good at sowing discord among their enemies, and then conquering them when they were divided. This is especially true in Europe. I borrowed from the history of China for my story though. It stands to reason that if the Jin Dynasty (north China) allied with the Song Dynasty (south China) both could probably have survived the Mongol conquerors. But the Song Dynasty decided instead to ally with the Mongols. After the Jin fell before Mongol and Song armies, the Song decided they were going to claim some of the Jin lands for themselves, without confirming that with the Mongols. The Mongols were not happy, and Kublai Khan spent the next several decades conquering them.
When the Mongols came to a city, they would give that city one chance to surrender. Some cities actually did, since it meant that only a few people (rulers/garrison) would be killed. If a city didn’t surrender, once the city fell, the Mongols would slaughter all civilians they could find, even coming back a few days later to find all those who hid during the first wave of destruction.
Even with all this slaughter, the Mongols did know how to find people who would be useful to them. They would take engineers, bureaucrats, even enemy generals into their empire and put them to work.
The Mongols break the two cardinal rules: 1 – Never get involved in a land war in Asia. 2 – Never attack Russia in winter. And they wildly succeeded.
The Mongols were horrible with water. They attempted to invade Japan and Indonesia. Both attempts failed.
The Mongol Empire fell apart mostly because there was no clear line of succession after Genghis Khan died. So his descendants took to infighting and political maneuvering.
Wrath of the Khans: a 5 part podcast on Hardcore History by Dan Carlin
Genghis Khan & the Mongol Conquests 1190-1400 by Stephen Turnbull