The Umber River Strategem

Voyage of the Man-O-War

Meeting my great destiny

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The first leg of our journey was to Veltalar, the capital city of Aglarond, where the Simbarch Council had an offer to make us. Money is not of much interest to me, but fighting undead is, and I had my suspicions, after the events in Waterdeep, that Aglarond, being long-standing enemies of the Red Wizards of Thay, might be offering a chance to really kick some undead ass, while offering not just compensation but all expenses paid. Our journey started off uneventful, with only a weak attempt at taking the ship by some raiders.

But then we were attacked by an airship that sent, through a portal, a mage and a slaughter wight to come kill us. We defeated them, but not before the slaughter wight created another wight and the mage summoned a water elemental. Luckily, my new companions, a dragon born who seems honorable (if a bit worrisome in his methods) and a gnome who is the least gnomelike gnome I’ve ever met, were able to hold their own and we won the battle with only the loss of the one sailor.

Still, I was so worried for the life of our captain that I turned into a saber tooth tiger in hopes of scaring off the water elemental that hurt her so badly.

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I flew after the airship but saw almost nothing of any interest in it. I assume that it was sent by the Thay, but the leaders of Aglarond are just sketchy enough that I can’t rule out the possibility that they are involved.

Once we arrived at Veltalar, our movements were closely controlled, apparently because this mission is too secret for any leaks. We were told that the Aglarond had a tentative peace with Thay, but they feel this is threatened because Thay’s civil war had resolved in favor of the undead, led by the infamous litch Szass Tam. (No surprise there. Undead are cheating nature, so it’s not surprising that they cheat when it comes to war and politics.) Aglarond has become an unsettling security state after they lost their leader, known as The Symbol. The police state vibe of the place added to my already strong dislike of such an organized, urban area. If I’m being honest, the politics of it ended up interesting me less than finding out that I would be soon returned to where I belong, the wild with its open river.

Still, there is something off about what is asked of us. While even the high level officials seem unaware of it, apparently Aglarond is building military bases in Thesk, a gnome-heavy country that is constantly besieged by illegal Thayian slave traders who want to extract new quarry. They sent a Lord Enias Mythrahal into Thesk in order to work on this mission, but he is disappeared, or, as we found out, actually not. No, he’s flipped and is working for the Thay now.

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Of course, we only find all this out after some spy enters our supposedly secret location and hits poor Vance with some drau poison, causing me to sic some spiders on him. The whole thing unnerved me so much I didn’t even ask the questions I normally would of the Aglarond officials who showed up to share this secret that their beloved Lord Enias is a treacherous cock-sucker for a lord of the undead.

I don’t trust those guys. They claim to want peace but are taking measures they know for a fact will be read as aggressive. But you know what? I also don’t care. Politics aren’t my thing, even in a place where half-elves rule, like Aglarond. They can play their reindeer games. All I’m interested in is the spread of the undead and making it stop. Or, if that’s not possible, at least learning as much as I can about as many undead as possible, so the undead fighting Circle of the Moon—-as well as any fellow travelers—-can get leaner and meaner about fighting this threat to the natural order. If Aglarond is willing to pay for me to fight undead and undermine their center of power, so be it. If they have corrupt politics, that is their business and not mine.

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Our mission is simple: Go up the Umber and find Enias. His foster daughter Groa will help us, though we are not to tell her that we think he’s a mind-controlled possible zombie, or she might not be as helpful as she possibly should be. We will be meeting two more people to help us on our mission. Straightforward, simple.

And yet, I keep wondering, and hope this isn’t just Garos getting into my head, if this isn’t something more. I always thought I was destined for the life of an ordinary soldier: Fight, die if necessary, for the eradication of the undead, sure. A life of honor, but not necessarily of glory. But this mission, which promises levels of undead activity that no one living, not even the oldest elf, has ever seen? And while toting around an unmistakeable Scion of Oberon while I do it? I can’t help but wonder if I’m on a path to greater things. If this might actually be more than a scuttle in the long war against undeath, but a great battle. I will try to keep my expectations in check, but part of me hopes so.

But either way, I look forward to the opportunity to chronicle the various undead things we meet, many of which I suspect have never been properly observed and cataloged since the Circle of the Moon committed to the art of undead taxonomy. Doubly so, now that I have Garos on hand. The boy isn’t a half-bad artist, especially when I cast Guidance on him. (Plus, giving him something to do shuts him up for awhile.) We will, if nothing else, return home with some excellent drawings and descriptions of the undead.

If we return home, that is.

I keep thinking of Gunther. What would he think of this crazy mission? Would he think it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take undead fighting—-and taxonomy—-to the next level? Or would the iffy motivations of my employers make him think twice? Probably the latter, but he was always an overcautious man in many ways, overly concerned with praying and less with taking the big chances. I miss him, but I’m the one in charge now. So I think it’s time to go for it.

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AmandaMarcotte

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