With great anguish he dragged his leg forward and prepared to bow. Mandrean rushed forward and physically stopped the general. “That is not necessary, Old Friend,” Mandrean assured. Gramlick displayed irritation at the comment. “I need not be patronized, My Lord. If the others must greet you then I must do so as well. Do you not remember anything I taught you about the value of maintaining discipline?” The general did not wait for a response. He bent his head as low as he could without losing his balance. Upon rising he firmly called “Pawns.” Eight paws numbering eleven through eighteen clustered nearly on top of one another at the eastern edge of the Silver River. They huddled at the very frontier of the Empire. Mandrean showed intense concern for the health of Gramlick and discreetly allowed the general to lean against him for support. “The leg seems to be much worse since our last meeting. You should let my physicians tend to you.” “Your offer is most kind My Lord. I took the liberty of consulting them earlier in the day on the matter of my leg. They were of one opinion about its condition and I was of another. At this point opinions will not change facts. My time is short. What I still have, as always, belongs to you my Pupil and Master.” Mandrean appeared heartbroken by the revelation. “Perhaps if they were to remove the leg it would give you time?” “Regardless of the measures taken,” Gramlick explained, “The result will be the same. What time I have left will be lived with the dignity I have strived to display my entire life. I shall leave on my own terms. Before I do, we have the matter of this latest invasion you have planned for Romadon.” “Are the preparations complete?” Mandrean asked with excitement. “In my mind,” Gramlick retorted, “They will never be complete. This plan is a logistical nightmare. It will not work.” Mandrean’s temper began to rise but he restrained its wrath out of respect for his mentor. “Were you not the one who told me our previous invasions through the Romadon Gap were likely annihilated after being encircled and cut off from supplies? This is the only way to prevent that from happening again.” “My Lord,” Gramlick argued as he pointed at the map. “Even with eight full divisions you are talking about a very thin front stretching from the Endless Mountains to the Great Western Forest. If I were defending against such an assault I would cluster my forces in areas where I could bring all my men to bear against weak links in the front. Then I would penetrate your lines and sweep around from behind. End game.” “This time,” Mandrean corrected with excitement. “We have been storing provisions for this attack for over a year. Previously we had to stop our advance because the Gap was so vast supplies could not keep pace. This time the supplies will flow from the depots right behind the army. Those fools in Romadon will not have a chance to regroup. We will drive them before us straight through the Gap and into their heartland.” “They are expecting an attack,” Gramlick noted. “It’s not like we could hide the buildup. Come spring they will be lying in wait for us.” “All the more reason I have decided not to wait for spring,” said Mandrean. “I want the assault launched within a fortnight.” Gramlick was stunned by the disclosure. “You can’t be serious.” Mandrean released his hold of the general and began to dance around in amusement at his perceived genius. “They will never expect an attack in the fall.” “With good reason,” snorted Gramlick. “Fall will soon be a distant memory and the winds blowing out of the mountains can cut a man down as surely as a blade. We will lose half our goblins to the cold alone.” “They are Goblins,” noted Mandrean. “They are used to harsh winters. Remember our enemy will be fighting in the same conditions. They too will lose men.”
“They are defending their home soil,” said Gramlick. “They will have shelter from the cold while we color the snow with our blood.” Then he thought for a moment. He tried another approach. “Alright. Let’s say for the moment we do take them by surprise and we drive them back. Let us further assume our supplies can keep up with the advance and our forces aren’t lured into a trap or delayed by snow. If we rout all opposition quickly it will still take nearly three months to advance across the Gap. That would mean in the dead of winter we would be at the end of the longest supply chain in history. Our soldiers will be frozen, starving and exhausted. Do you plan to dig in and resume the attack in the spring?” “That’s what they want us to do but we will continue to drive into the core of their nation.” “We will not be able to supply the army at that distance,” argued Gramlick. “The territory is too vast and conditions will make it impossible.” “We won’t need supplies,” Mandrean smirked. “We will simply live off the land and what we confiscate from the Romadonians.” Gramlick laughed and ran his hand down his face. “You really think we will be able to forage midwinter for enough food to feed eight divisions? I think My Lord has had too much wine. I will concede the point for the moment.