The Umber River Strategem

Orsik responds to Khulan

In a surprising moment of sobriety, some thoughts

Khulan, what you say has much truth in it for sure. It is hard to shake the feeling that we failed in everything we have tried to do since leaving the red keep. And for once, I was nearly sober for most of it, so I can’t even blame that.

That said, I still think we made the right decisions, given the information we had. I don’t regret trying to stop needless bloodshed, or the slaughter of innocents. Those Orcs are going to die, terribly, at the hands of our ostensible allies. Galushbar was completely overrun by a small team of weaklings that we dispatched in under an hour. The burgeoning Orc militia we saw is totally untrained. Some of its members appeared to be but whelps. And their commander said as much, while also saying they don’t have nearly enough arms to fight.

Yet they insist on doing so. I thought we had an opening to try to save them and, failing that, an opportunity to warn Thesk off from this disastrous course. Particularly as it helps Thay. But no one seems to care. The Orcs know this fight is doomed. They know they’re doing exactly what Thay wants them to do, yet they insist on doing it anyway.

And people wonder why I drink.

We now are faced with a situation: If we are to continue the mission, we are doing it with almost no leads to speak of. So the question is: what is our next move? I think I have an idea.

I have been rereading this letter you discovered while I was in Galashbur. The one between “Loris”and Zuur. I think there are some avenues that will help us that we have not explored that we need to pursue now, especially as Groa has left. Just to be clear, I think we all want the following things, although we might each prioritize them differently:

- To find Enais and discover the truth of what is going on (which may or may not necessitate killing him).
- To hurt Thay as much as possible
- To stop a war between Thesk and the Orcs

This letter, I think, contains two important leads to accomplishing these things. The first takes us to this self-appointed Chieftan of Chieftans, the Gul’Kirskuk of the Adopted Children of Eilistaree.

The letter makes it fairly clear that the Gul’Kirskuk and “Loris” (really, a Doppelgänger) had contact with one another. Which means Gul’Kirskuk may very well have information about Enais (or someone he thinks to be Enais) since Loris is/was Enais’s right hand man. Whether this is the real Enais or some sort of monster adopting his visage, finding this figure will get us closer to our mission. We must speak to the Gul’Kirskuk, as respectfully as possible, and find out what he knows. My hope is our recent altercation with the Theskan military, our bombing of the bridges, and our delivery of arms will buy us an audience and some good will. Perhaps our newfound Orcish monk friend can be our go-between and can help us with this.

We could also try to dissuade the Gil’Kiskuk from playing into Thay’s hands, but I think we should try to get the information we need from him before we disrespect him by telling him what to do. Every time we have tried to do that, we’ve failed. We are dealing with leaders, both civilian and military. They are proud people, after all.

Second, buried in “Loris”’s letter is a mention of the Orc Horde:

“Some of these orcs are very scared and even have been talking about calling for support from the orc hordes. Most resist, but the desperate may seek help from the followers of Grumsh. If the orc hordes enter the region, we may find ourselves with another enemy. They may have no love of Aglarond, but the brutes will not bow to us at all. I’ve killed some of those more eager to call in the orc tribes.”

Thay is clearly worried about the Horde coming to the aid of the Umber River Orcs. This would in turn mean that the Orc state will be too well fortified to easily knock over. “Leoris” even went so far as to assassinate some Orcs who were advocating for contacting the Horde (This must mean, as a side note, that “Leoris” spent a great deal of time with the Orcs). Perhaps, if we can help facilitate this contact, enough of a force will move into the Orc regions of the Umber river that Thesk will be dissuaded from continuing their assault and Thay will be sufficiently intimidated.

This could backfire, however, and simply escalate the conflict between Thesk and the Orcs radically. But it’s worth saying that the Orcs are currently doing exactly what Thay wants them to do. Perhaps we should point this out to them, and ask them (respectfully) to consider doing the thing that Thay specifically says it’s afraid of. Of course, as you mentioned Khulan, we are terrible at playing The Great Game of international politics and war thus far. So perhaps we shouldn’t even try. But we could at least tell the Chieftan of Chieftans about it and let him make up his own mind. Then at least we’d know we had done what we could to try to stop this needless bloodshed before moving on.

These are the other avenues available to me:

I am supposed to speak to Groa via a sending spell tomorrow at sundown. Hopefully she will respond. I think if we carefully craft a message to her—keeping in mind it must be 25 words or less—we might be able to convince her to tell us where she is so that we can resume finding Enais.

I can also Send a message back to our handlers at Aglarond asking them to try to stop this fight between Thesk and the Orcs. They believe—with ample justification—that Thesk is the weakest of the States surrounding Thay and that Thay will move first against it. Once they know that Thay is already doing this and that Thesk is playing right into Thay’s hands, they might do something about it.

But I think no matter what, we might have to accept that our ability to help people who do not want—and are, in fact, actively hostile to—the help we want to provide is limited.

So I say we make contact with the Gul’Kishkuk, with Groa and with the Synarchy and see where we are. If all of this fails, we can always venture into Thay, start causing some havoc, get Khulan a new red wizard skull to drink out of, and see if we can learn anything.


I agree with that last part!

Also, I forgot to mention that my cousin, Hubadai Khahan, is excellent at diplomacy. I have been thinking hard about why that is. Hubadai is very good at talking, but I think also maybe there is more to diplomacy than just talking. After all, the Lizard Knight and the Imp Child are both also very good at talking, but no one seems to ever listen to them.

I have been asking myself what is the difference between Hubadai and us. I have thought and thought and I think the answer is that everyone is terrified of Hubadai because he has slaughtered all of his enemies and mounted their heads on pikes. I think we could learn a lot from Hubadai’s approach to diplomacy, Squad Buddies!

Orsik responds to Khulan

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