“Gramlick,” Mandrean inquired. “If you were Grithinshield, tell me what your course of action would be? I trust only you to think like a great general with clear goals.”
Gramlick was disappointed by his master’s choice of action and found it to be a sad irony the Emperor suddenly valued his opinion on an issue he lobbied against. He felt spiteful for a moment but thought better of the move. The decision had been made. He would do his part to serve his Emperor. “If I were Linvin, my first goal would be to exit the borders of the Empire with all due haste in the direction of my homeland. I am told he was seen fleeing south. That supports the theory.” He stood and staggered to the Southern Province on the map. “He knows his biggest obstacle is the Sorrowful Sea. If he can find his way past it he stands an excellent chance of making his way through the Unclaimed Territory to Sartan.”
“So the question is how he plans to overcome the huge obstacle before him. Linvin sat here in this room and saw where every one of our Divisions was stationed. He even knows their strengths and weaknesses. That plays into his favor. There are three possible ways of overcoming the lake as I see it. He could try heading west to go around the shore and find a crossing of the Silver River. I highly doubt he would take that route as our absurdly high concentration of forces in the region makes a stealthy escape nearly impossible. While he has tremendous power at his command, if I were in his position I would not welcome a battle with substantial forces. He has his kin with him and the Princess. Combat would be a last resort. Therefore, I believe he will not head west.
“He could head east around the lake and cross the Mystic River. He knows that path as my colleague mentioned in his rants. If I were Linvin I would guess that we would expect him to take that path and overcome the garrison. I would therefore expect the garrison to be reinforced with urgency. The question would be whether he believed he could reach the river mouth before word of today’s events could transform into troop movements. He scattered our horses at the messenger stables to delay such deployments. Fortunately he is unaware or our carrier birds. Orders will move faster than he expects. Linvin is a superior general and wants to avoid any fight at all. Again, if I were in his shoes I might bypass the river mouth and try to find a crossing for the river further east. He knows our forces are stretched thin in the new province and all eyes will be on the ferry where he crossed before.
“The only problem with that logic is the little he knows of the area is a swamp where its vapors overcame his party leading to his capture. He has a wealth of experience fighting in swamps in Valia, but I would be leery of leading my party that way even with such experience. For all he knows the swamps could continue all the way to the Great Eastern Sea. Extending his time in the Empire increases his chance of detection and capture. That would be my last resort.
“The final way out is the one I would choose. I would head due south to the lake, commandeer a vessel and sail to the south shore of the Sorrowful Sea. It provides the quickest escape and will take him past green troops he could likely evade. He would have us waste time and resources covering the flanks while he escapes down the middle with ease. It would be as simple as it would be brilliant.”
Mandrean snapped his fingers and Fendri brought him a goblet of wine. He sipped slowly as he stared at the map and his general at its heart. “That was an insightful piece of deduction,,” Mandrean congratulated. “Do you think Grithinshield is intelligent enough to come to those conclusions?”
“I have always told you,” Gramlick began. “’Never underestimate your opponent’. He is more than capable. In fact, his varied styles over the years suggest he may have thought beyond my conclusions. You asked what I would do and I have answered.”
Mandrean addressed Tecious. “How easily could he procure a boat to cross the lake?”
“There are ports all along the northern coast of the lake. Each of them has barges, fishing boats and trade vessels easily capable of traversing the distance.”