reblogged your post and added:

The Asshole on the Horse was called Hordor, and he…

Ah, OK, got that slightly mixed up, then. And agreed on the general impression that the Duke can’t exactly have been a stellar human being.

Still, the ogres can’t have been that bad if they were, essentially, too lazy to win the war the obvious way.

My first thought was that he was using fear and scarcity to keep the population under control, but maybe that’s speculating too far on too little evidence

No, it’s not. The Duke could have ordered Zoso to kill all of the ogres or put a defensive magic shield around their kingdoms that the ogres couldn’t pass. He obviously didn’t want to end the war.

I read a fic once. I forget which one so I’m sorry I can’t credit properly the person whose idea it was (if it was yours please shout!) where the Duke was basically running an extortion racket.

He kept the ogres within his kingdom and charged neighbouring kingdoms for the protection. On the surface his people were suffering so their neighbours were sending aid. In reality they were paying him to keep the problem inside his borders and not theirs.

Given that Rumple was drafted against the ogres and then a generation later so was Bae, I suspect the Duke kept the war simmering. He had to let it flare and die down in turn so that people would have kids, and give him another generation of expendable soldiers. He probably used Zoso for that, to ensure the ogre war didn’t get out of control.