Knights of the Longbox
The Orc Wars 152-156
Following The War of the Gem, many of the city-states in Ulthar had relaxed long-spoken, tight knit trading relations, fearing being drawn into a doomed military action against the crown. There was an increasing sense of isolationism, starting in 148 and by early 150, travelers on the road and regular patrols supported by the city-states had dramatically dropped off.
With fewer adventurers and military members in the wildlands of Ulthar, an orc leader named Grumpth, a warrior of the Red Banner tribe, took command of a large contingent of orc tribes near Bahnd. Wielding his influence, Grumpth began aggressive recruitment, annexing goblin tribes and making entreaties to isolationist hobgoblin warbands and giant kingdoms. While his move was initially a push for respect and strengthening of the tribes, Grumpth faced little resistance and ultimately built up a fighting force Ulthar could not ignore.
The Red Banner became a sign of terror throughout Rural Ulthar, with legions of orcs, giants, goblins and more laying waste to unprotected villages, farms and isolated redoubts. A shrewd strategist, Grumpth rarely put his forces into a position where they would be forced to hold a siege, rather striking rapidly and in wide open plains, where his overwhelming numbers could not be stopped.
By winter 152, King Leo Arthas called for cooperation with the city-states to raise an army to face Grumpth. What followed was a long, complex war of attrition. Grumpth’s forces, using hit and run, in-born abilities to fight in the dark, and cunning usage of the mountain environment in Northern Ulthar, rejected straight-forward engagements, in favor of slash and burn tactics and denying opportunities for Arthas to wield his greatest strengths.
Arthas ultimately pushed for a magical solution to the problem, conscripting sorcerers, wizards and priests to join the fight. In a shadowy campaign focused on sowing dissent, warparties infiltrated Grumpth’s forces and began to attempt to cause as much infighting between the tribes as possible. By summer, the differences between all of the forces Grumpth has brought together, as well as his recent inability to satisfy them with slaughter and pillaging, began to splinter his orc force. By early 154, most of Grumpth’s army had disbanded, fleeing into the mountains or being crushed in increasingly coordinated attacks by the crown.
Grumpth made one final push in spring of 155, rallying his orc forces and leading a charge against the Royal Army. Casualties were massive on both sides, with many questioning what had brought such a blood lust to the orc forces. By the end, however, Arthas was victorious although the crown was never able to identify Grumpth’s body in the carnage.
The Orc Wars ultimately brought the city-states tighter under the Arthas’ control although it was a costly war, leaving tens of thousands of young men and women dead. It also split the alliance between the humanoid tribes, leaving them leaderless and apprehensive about allying again. The city-states as well as the crown have much more aggressively patrolled the trails and paths, wary of an alliance forming again and still worried whether Grumpth may ever return.