The Westerlands

Session 60: The Wingriders
"Yoiks! and Awaaaay!"
Main nav Adventures nav

Where we left off…

The storm has passed and our heroes find themselves drifting across a landscape that is drastically different from the comparably lush green that they are used to. The Red Wind Wastes sprawl beneath, a vast expanse of rocky desert and tablelands distinguished by the rusty red color of its soil. Winds whipping down canyons and across unbroken flats stir up a haze of red dust which partially obscures the ground below. The G.A.V. Zephyr limps along through the sky as its Gnomish crew do what they can to make repairs in flight.


Inflight Repairs

With the assistance of our heroes, the crew of the Zephyr manage to repair the damaged airship as best they can within a day. That evening, the Seven gather on deck with the crew to celebrate a job well done. Xandre entertains the Gnomes with tales of daring-do and ballads of old. Santiago, however is troubled once again by the demon inside him. A nagging feeling, which began as the storm subsided has grown inside the half-orc, compelling him to go to the northeast. The demon attempts once again to take direct control of Santiago, but the monk manages to control the urges within him.

The Ragewings

Several days later, our heroes are taking refuge from the desert heat, when they spot a squadron of wyvern riders heading in their direction and closing quickly. The orc wingriders bank into an intercept course. They will hit the vessel broadside. Rayne fires off a fireball which blasts one rider from his mount and causes the rest of the flight to scatter. Kresimir then hits the lead wyvern with a glitterdust spell, blinding pilot and mount alike. A followup shot from Lanna’s bow causes the blinded wyvern to veer away.

As they approach, the remaining wyvern riders stand in their saddles and begin whirling grappling hooks over their heads. As they get in range of the rail, they fling the hooks ahead of their mounts. No sooner have the hooks grabbed hold, then the riders leap from the backs of the onrushing mounts, disappearing beneath the hull of the ship. The wyverns land on the near side of the deck, their jaws snapping at the end of their serpentine necks. Just then, a roar and a thump from behind. Our heroes whirl to see the wingriders in flanking position… brandishing their battle axes in one hand and the end of their grappling ropes in the other…

The fighting on deck is swift and fierce as the wyverns snap their jaws at anyone who approaches, the gnomish crew scramble for cover. Kresimir conjures a dense ball of whirling air, which he sends hurling about the deck, knocking several wingriders to the floor before hurling them violently overboard. Up on the forecastle, things are not going as well for our heroes. Govan Birk, the Gnomish pilot struggles to control the helm while simultaneously fending off attacks from wyvern and orc alike.

Then, a still circling wyvern swoops across the deck, snatching Govan from his perch and carrying him the length of the ship. Thinking quickly, Kresimir directs a grease spell onto the struggling pilot who manages to wriggle free of the wyvern’s clutches, crashing hard to the deck at Xandre’s feet. Santiago then bellows the command to activate his magic earring. As the 1/2 orc’s body swells to twice it’s size, he charges across the deck, vaults off of the Zephyr’s cargo hoist and pounces on the back of the fleeing wyvern, driving both his fists into the beast’s shoulder joints and sending it crashing to the deck.

The tide of battle turned against them, the remaining orcish raiders attempt to flee. Most are cut down as they struggle to reach their mounts, but one Orc manages to grab a soarwood life ring and leap from the ship to float slowly back to earth.

With the immediate threat past, our heroes look to the wounded, aiding their allies and finishing off any of the raiders who still breathe.

Button divider
Main nav Adventures nav
Session 59: The Keep at Thunder Vale
A place to hang your helm
Main nav Adventures nav

Where we left off…

It is dawn on the 5th day since setting out from Thunder Vale. Lord Dekelor is dead and Sturmholt is once again in the hands of Steponas’s men. Our heroes have recovered the Yautso and now prepare to return to the Vale.


The Courtyard at Sturmholt

As the sun rises over the eastern plateau, Holdout troops continue to pour into Sturmholt through the teleportation circle activated by our heroes. The first soldiers establish a defensive perimeter along the walls while later arrivals begin to form up in the courtyard.

Soon, the Holdout leadership, including Steponas arrive on the scene. Dekelor’s shroud-covered body is borne to the chapel as soldiers look on, a mix of sadness and resentment playing across their faces that such a man was bested by outsiders.

As Yuri’s Blackhats escort bruised Oathsworn prisoners out of the manor house, the Prince turns to the party.

“Seeing as these men were defeated at your hands, I think it is appropriate that you have a say in their fate. What shall we do with them?”

The party elects to have the prisoners re-earn their right to bear arms by serving in the reconstruction and refortification of Sturmholt. Steponas commends their formidable, yet merciful deeds as the party gathers to teleport back to Thunder Vale.

Bestowing the Keep

Back at Thunder Vale, Steponas informs the group of the details of their reward:
  • Fr. Yarov has agreed to act as interim castellan until the group appoints a permanent assistant
  • They will receive 1 squad of heavy infantry to serve as guards
  • They will receive 15,000g to be put towards restoration of the keep and hiring its initial staff.
  • The keep will be presented to the group as an adventuring company, rather than to any one individual. The party chooses to call their company, “The Seven” in honor of its lucky connotations and the seven founding members.
  • To make the transition official, the party members must take the Cydonic Oath of Knighthood. Once the details are squared away, Steponas gathers the people of the vale at the base of the cliff beneath the keep and anoints the party as Knights of Cydon and Wardens of the Vale.

First Orders of the Seven

Before leaving for Panthium, the party meets with Father Yarov to establish their first orders for the keep. They decide to hire a second squad of guards and a smith. They repair the keep’s curtain wall, barracks, barbican, smithy, armory and living quarters.

The meeting is then interrupted by a pair of earthy individuals respectively representing the herding and farming interests in the valley. They express their concern that they will likely need to make the Vale their new permanent home, and that in order to have enough food by next winter, they will need to work the land to generate food. They differ, however, on whether this is best done through herding or agriculture.

The Seven send the two away to properly compose their proposals, and so that they may discuss the options in peace. After some deliberation, the group decides to establish a combined agricultural guild to look after the Vale’s food production. To help foster the good will of their people and to boost the outlook of the new guild leaders about their compromise, they then throw an impromptu feast in celebration of the Vale’s revival.

Return to Panthium & Departure

One week after beginning their mission to recover the Yautso, the Seven return, once again to Panthium. It appears that their raid on the Ashenwood gang has become local news as Baron Ashenwood has posted wanted posters around the city offering a reward for information about those who robbed him and murdered his niece. The party makes their way towards the Fharlanghnish Parish to rendezvous with Gatwick, but first, Kit, Vester and Xandre stop off at a couple of taverns to sow disinformation about the Ashenwood raid -blaming the activity on orcish thugs. Their efforts drew the attention of a pair of agents for the Eye of Vecna who tailed the trio for a short time before thinking better about the dangers of confronting the group directly.

Rough Crossing

The party arrived at the Traveler’s Spire to find an impatient Govan Birk looking to get underway. After securing a reluctant Ceffyl in the vessel’s hold, and stowing their gear, the air ship pulled back from the spire and turned its nose to the East.

A week into the journey, the Zephyr runs into a summer storm over the Cloud Peaks. Our heroes are awoken in the middle of the night by a panicked gnomish crew member. He pleads with them to get on deck. When the party steps out into the driving rain, they notice three unconscious gnomes dangling by a safety rope over the side of the ship. They had been struggling to reinforce the wing struts with an extra rope line when they were blown overboard. The party quickly sets about hauling the injured crew back on board. Once they are safe on deck, Vester rushes them downstairs to tend to their wounds while Kit secures the wing rope. Then, a flash of lightning strikes the deck, setting it ablaze and causing the ship to lurch violently. Thrown to the ground, Rayne thinks quickly and uses her rod of frost to extinguish the blaze.

Meanwhile, a sharp, panicked sensation from Ceffyl draws Rua’Lanna downstairs to the hold. Rigs, the Warforged cargomaster is struggling to hold back a stack of cargo that broke loose when the vessel lurched. Lanna throws her back to the pile of crates and calls for Vester to locate the security spike which broke loose their net covering. After retreiving the spike from across the hold, the three manage to resecure the cargo net.

However, there is more trouble on deck. The gnomish pilot struggles to steer the Zephyr against the buffeting winds, Santiago rushes to the helm to lend his strength while Kit and Rayne dash to the forward observation room. Kit spots a looming mountainside directly in the airship’s path and shouts to Santiago to take evasive action. The half orc wrestles with the unresponsive controls as the mountain rushes ever closer. Just as the Zephyr’s fate appears to be sealed, the Warforged, Weller drops Govan Birk and dives on the controls, adding his weight to Santiago’s muscle. The ship rolls violently to the right, scraping against the mountainside, but avoiding a direct collision. The left wing snaps and dangles precariously and the elemental binding ring is knocked askew, but the Zephyr survives to ride out the rest of the storm.

Button divider
Main nav Adventures nav
Session 50: Santiago's Possession Problem
Have you tried NOT being possessed?
Main nav Adventures nav

Where we left off…

Our heroes have put up for the night in a Pelorian house of healing after escaping from their rented cottage which was set ablaze with them in it in the middle of the night.


Having spent the rest of the night without further incident, the group decides to spend the rest of the day preparing for their raid on the Ashenwood Gang’s hideout. They head to the market to purchase non-metal weapons and armor for dealing with the vampires’ rust monster pets, and then head back to the Great Library of Boccob in search of a sage who can tell them about the Plane of Shadow.

Session 49: Truth & Consequences
Ow! You hit me in the EAR!

Where we left off…

After determining that the Cydonic Prince, Steponas has likely been abducted by the same gang of vampires who have been warring with Carboni’s 3 Rings Guild, the party captures one of a pair of mysterious individuals they discovered tailing them from Steponas’s last known residence.


Setting: A cluttered alleyway just off of Panthium’s crowded central market.

Fearing the inevitable approach of the city watch after their pursuit of the individuals who were following them, our heroes decide to take their captive to Carboni’s for interrogation. Before leaving the alley, Santiago knocks him unconscious, not trusting him to remain quiet due to a rather flippant attitude initially exhibited towards his captors.

The party exits out the far side of the alley with the unconscious skulk stuffed unceremoniously into the bag of holding. They make sure to let him out for air every few minutes, and generally proceed with caution to avoid the notice of the city watch.

Upon arrival at Carboni’s Guildhall, the party takes their prisoner down to a holding cell in the lower levels. When he is removed from the bag, the group discovers that their pursuer was actually a changeling. When he slipped into unconciousness, his features slipped back to their natural undefined state.

After sending for the thief master, Xandre & Santiago launch into a good-cop bad-cop routine hoping to loosen their prisoner’s tongue. After coaxing some basic information out of the changeling – his name is Leo, and he does, in fact, work for Samara, Xandre offers him a role in Carboni’s ranks in exchange for more in-depth cooperation. Meanwhile, Santiago engages in visible and aggressive martial arts exercises punctuated by brief intimidating charges to scream in the cowering changeling’s face.

Not wishing to be on the receiving end of the 1/2 orc’s fists, Leo agrees to cooperate and reveals the following information:

  • Samara and her gang did, in fact kidnap someone matching Steponas’ description a couple nights previous.
  • He was brought to the safe house where Leo was based before being transported to Baron Ashenwood’s Estate.
  • The gang operates a number of safe houses and business fronts around the city. Non-vampire gang members are kept largely insulated from other cells on a need to know basis, but the vamps utilize a series of portals linked to the Plane of Shadow to travel unseen between Baron Ashenwood’s holdings.
  • The Ashenwood estate contains no entrance on the material plane, but is said to be accessible from the Plane of Shadow.
  • Leo’s base of operations is the closest access point to the Plane of Shadow in relation to the Baron’s estate. It is located in a section of abandoned sewer accessed from the commons just outside the Vecnan Parish.
  • The trip across the Plane of Shadow is rumored to be very dangerous, and gang members refer to it as “The Run.” No non-vampire is known to have completed the Run alive.

Leo agrees to provide the group with directions to his base of operations and a map of the sewer leading to the safe house. After securing Leo’s conditional promise of protection from Carboni, the party retires to their rented cottage in the Pelorian Parish.

Later that night:

During the night, while Lanna and Santiago are standing watch, smoke suddenly begins to pour in through the windows and under the door of their cottage. Lanna and Santiago raise the alarm and proceed to battle the spreading flames as they shatter windows and pour into the house. Upon looking outside of the house, Lanna sees what appears to be someone in Pelorian robes watching the blaze from afar.

Roused by Lanna’s continued cries of alarm, the rest of the party wakes and gathers their belongings. When it becomes apparent that the fire is beyond their control, they decide to flee the burning building. Santiago smashes his way through the front door, surrounded by a ring of flame. Vester & Lanna climb through one window while Rayne and Piruk head out another. Xandre and Kit elect to take a more direct route from the upper level, leaping to safety with only mild injury suffered on the part of the bard.

As our heroes gather to assess their status, Lanna notices the mysterious figure has disappeared. The smoke from the fire, however, has roused the Parish and Pelorians are now converging on the site to battle the blaze. Santiago also notices a mysterious symbol painted on the chimney, which is determined to be an ash leaf.

Safe from the inferno, the party is put up for the night in a Pelorian house of healing. The plan for the following day consists of research and preparation for their strike against the Ashenwood gang.

Session 48: CSI Panthium
If it weren't for those meddling kids!

Where we left off…

Eleanor and Daethin have bid farewell to their travelling companions. The cleric, having been accepted into training as a Shadow Guard, and the ranger having grown homesick for the forests of Elionde. The departees have been replaced by two newcomers sent by Carboni to assist the group. The new arrivals are an Aasimar bard, named Xandre Snow and a cleric of Olidammara known as Vester.

The party has just arrived at Kilner’s Plaza in an attempt to deliver a shipment of books to the last known residence of a man they believe to be the missing Cydonic prince, Steponas. Upon arrival, they find the building they seek cordoned off by the Parish watch, and mutters of “murder” percolating through the crowd.


One of many hotshops located in Kilner’s Plaza
Kit, Rayne & Xandre visit with Madame Encarnya, proprietor of a nearby bead shop whom Vester had seen peeking through her upstairs curtain at the commotion in the street. When the group enters the shop, the eccentric old woman sends her Gnomish shop girl to invite the trio up to her sitting room for a cup of tea and a chat.

Encarnya introduces herself and explains that she is but a lonely old woman who longs for the storied life of an adventurer. She offers to tell the party what she knows if they will tell her about themselves and their adventures. Kit senses that there is more to her than an innocent old lady. She suspects Encarnya deals in information.

The group shares some basic information with the woman. Kit tells her that they are adventurers traveling across the Westerlands righting wrongs, committing good deeds and exploring strange places. Rayne backs up Kits explanation with a fantastic account of their adventure rescuing the children of Fenwatch from the hag and her gray jester companion.

In exchange, the old woman informs the party that Old Shelby, the owner of the building next door was killed a couple nights past. She had seen him return home late at night with a beautiful woman on his arm. They had entered his apartment. A little while later, she heard shouting and the sounds of a struggle. Afterwards, she saw three or four individuals leave the downstairs apartment and head upstairs where there was a flash of light, followed by the sounds of another struggle. Then two figures left the upstairs apartment supporting a third slumped between them.

After bidding Encarnya farewell, and purchasing a couple trinkets from her shop as a gesture of goodwill, the group rendezvous with Santiago outside. The monk has been speaking with another 1/2 orc, Baako Leathergut, who owns a small cafe across the street. It seems that he is cleaning up after an unexpected rat infestation, which must have occurred around the time of the murder. He is grateful for Santiago’s assistance and commiserates with the monk about the prejudicial attitudes of humans who frequently assume 1/2 orcs are unclean savages.

The party decides that they must enter the apartment to view the scene of the crime first hand. Unfortunately, a pair of Boccobian guards stationed outside is preventing access and shooing any bystanders along their way. In order to bypass the guards, the party implements an elaborate diversion. Xandre, Rayne and Lanna take up position in the center of the plaza and launch into a song and dance routine led by the Aasimar on his fiddle. Meanwhile, Santiago bribes a group of children, who had been playing with the security perimeter stanchions to redirect their play so as to draw the guards’ attention away from the alley next to the house.

Kit and Santiago then make their way down the block before scaling up to the rooftops. Once they wind their way back to the cordoned off apartment, Kit first sends in her spider-thief to investigate the scene. After scrambling down the chimney, the construct returns with a bloody kitchen knife and snapshot recordings of a grisly scene. Kit and Santiago then drop into the alley and slip into the lower level apartment through the back entrance. Inside, they find the body of Shelby, sprawled in the main room, covered in muslin. Congealing bloodspray covers the walls and ceiling of the room. When Kit peeks under the cloth for a closer look, she sees that Shelby’s throat has been gruesomely torn out, as though by a wild animal. He also exhibits numerous smaller bite marks.

Kit gingerly returns the knife to the corner, where the spider-thief picked it up, and adjourns with Santiago to the alley. The infiltration team then scales up to the 2nd floor, where they enter through a bedroom window. The upstairs bedroom is undisturbed, but provides some tantalizing evidence for the pair. A suit of dragonhide armor sporting a large jewel in the breastplate is discovered in a locked chest at the end of the bed. A nearby wardrobe contains a heavy shield, covered in plain canvas. Beneath the cover, however, the shield is emblazoned with the dragon of Cydon and the purple fox that is Steponas’s personal sigil. Kit stuffs both the armor and shield into the main pocket of her haversack.

The main room of the upper apartment shows signs of a struggle similar to those downstairs… minus the bloodspray and the corpse. The front door has been forced off its hinges, and hangs at an unfortunate angle. Kit discovers a small pile of ash in the middle of the doorway strengthening her earlier suspicions that vampires were involved. The two infiltrators decide that they have what they need and return the way they came to rendezvous with the rest of the group.

Having discovered that the vampires who attacked Carboni’s guildhall have also likely kidnapped Steponas, the party decides to report to Carboni after a brief stop back at their rented cottage in the Pelorian Parish. On their way through Panthium’s central market from the cottage to the Olidammari district, Kit notices two figures behind them, which she suspects have been tailing the group since Kilner’s Plaza. The party ducks into a nearby produce shop where they concoct a plan to turn the tables on their mysterious tail.

Vester casts Alter Appearance upon himself and slips out of the shop headed back the way they came. Kit & Santiago then leave and continue in the original direction, suspecting that the tail may have spotted them sneaking into Steponas’s apartment. When the two leave, one of the tailing individuals follows, but the other remains watching the shop.

The rest of the party then follows, along with the other tail.

Further up the market, Kit and Santiago duck into an alleyway and turn to watch their pursuer. The tail heads to an alley entrance on the opposite side of the street, where he is joined by his companion. When the second pursuer arrives, he whispers urgently to the first. The two begin to flee down the far alley just as the rest of the group arrives.

Lanna immediately draws her sword, and the party gives chase down the narrow alley. Rayne pulls up short after stepping on a patch of caltrops laid to discourage just such a pursuit. However, Santiago’s speed aided by Kit’s decision to call forth the giant mantis from her enchanted amulet and a well placed hold spell from Vester allows the group to quickly apprehend one of their nosy pursuers. Unfortunately, the other manages to vanish out the far side of the alley, lost in a crowded market beyond.

Session 42: The Eye of the Beholder
Beauty is in the eye of... aww, forget it!

Where we left off…

Our heroes stand before the altar deep in the kobold temple. Cries from the denizens of the complex can be heard echoing from outside as the kobolds flee in terror. Their leader is dead, their god has forsaken them.

But where is Rayne?...

Beauty is in the eye of… aw, forget it!

The dark-haired sorceress is missing. Last anyone noticed, she had just ported up onto a ledge back in the great hall. Meanwhile, kobold stragglers are dashing towards the exit of the room. Suspecting Rayne may have taken an alternate route towards the temple chamber, the rest of the party chooses to pursue the small reptilians fleeing through the most likely exit to cross Rayne’s path.

Piruk leads the way, laying out a straggling kobold sorcerer, unluckily stuck at the back of the fleeing mob. Frantic chatter can be heard through the exit. It appears that the rest of the kobolds are tangled up in the hallway beyond. Piruk pushes through the door, swatting at the heels of the panicked kobolds.

As he rounds the corner, he squints in the sudden glare of a beam of light. The hopping silhouettes of the fleeing, pass around a corner beyond the beam’s source, still barking in the strange draconic dialect. Once the crowd has passed, the dwarf can see a kobold standing calmly at the far end of the hall. It appears to be wearing Rayne’s watchlamp.

“It’s me, Rayne!” yaps the dog-faced reptile in the Common tongue.

Piruk considers this for a moment. He supposes that since the critter knows Rayne’s name, it must actually be her.

Daethin, who has pushed into the hall behind the dwarf, through a combination of caution and flippancy quips, “Oh yeah!? What’s the secret code?”

“Bunk beds.” yaps Rayne. “Now don’t move any further! those little buggers kept hopping over a spot in the middle of this passage… I think it may be trapped. I’ll go back around the other way and meet you in the temple.”

After the party regroups before the altar, they decide that the best course of action would be to pursue Juglanth Daar and the floating offering platform. Likely, the kobolds would have made an offering of the crystal, not realizing its true function.

Santiago leads the way, clambering easily up a secured grapple and through the hole in the back wall of the temple. The cylindrical passage through the hole continues for about 20 feet before opening into a massive, high ceilinged chamber. The room is lit by an eerie, blue glow, which appears to emanate up through irregularly spaced holes in the floor. Directly opposite the tunnel where the party stands, is a massive vertical split in the chamber wall. The gap runs from the floor, until lost in the darkness above.

Kit moves tentatively forward, wary of potential traps. Closer inspection of the gaps in the floor reveals that the blue glow actually emanates from the underside of the floor, which hovers above a void with no visible bottom. Stepping out towards the center of the room, Kit is suddenly surprised, when the floor beneath her feet begins to slide forward. The platform continues until it thuds into another section, at which point, Kit hops off. She makes her way over to the far edge of the room and peers through the gap in the wall at the seemingly endless abyss beyond.

Kit returns to the group and stands to the side with Daethin, letting the more inquisitive members of the party work out the solution to the shifting platforms. Santiago hops about the room, largely at the direction of Rayne and Eleanor as the blocks shift back and forth.

After shifting, and re-shifting the various platforms, at last they appear to clear a path for a block that is lined up properly to drift through the gap in the chasm wall. The whole party piles onto the close confines of the moving platform, and holds still as it drifts silently across the room and through the sheer divide. As they clear the narrow channel, the darkness opens out into a massive gulf of black. A great, subterranean canyon hollowed out beneath the mountainside.

The platform drifts silently on. The arcane glow from its underside is far too weak to illuminate the canyon walls or bottom as is the everburning torch held in the rogue’s hand. Soon, a pair of faint, blue lights begin to grow up ahead. The pinpoints become blotches, and then discernible blue flames burning in braziers beside a great stone arch. The platform drifts slowly into a slot carved in a stone ledge before the arch, slowing to a halt with a dull thud that echoes faintly in the blackness.

Our heroes step gingerly off the platform and peer through the archway. Beyond its span, they see numerous other points of the same blue fire, burning from numerous torches. The torches are held in the hands and claws of stone figures, standing silently in a broad gallery.

The group moves hesitantly into the gallery, Kit in the fore. Through the archway, they see that the stone figures are of various creatures, mostly denizens of the Underdark; drow, duergar, umber hulks and grimlocks but occasional surface species pepper the grim gallery. The statues are frozen in active poses, many with a look of surprise or horror permanently carved on their face.

“Basilisk victims… mutters Daethin. The kobolds have made them offerings to their god.”

Each statue has been decorated in a bizarre fashion. Draped with bits of clothing and baubles, but always in a way that would seem incongruous to the statue’s nature; Drow dressed in dwarven helmets and pink gowns, A gnome in kobold array, his face painted with draconic slurs. a great, flightless subterranean bird wearing nothing but a loin-cloth and a large novelty phallus, strapped to its forehead.

The dread of the beholder’s physical threat begins to be matched by a fear of it’s mental inclinations in the minds of our heroes.

As the group nears the center of the room, they stop at sudden movement from among the statues. Two swirling masses of wearerless clothing unwrap themselves from the statues and make for the party. The raggamoffyns swirl towards the nearest targets attempting to wrap their cloth tendrils around them.

The group beats back the assault, successfully breaking up and dispersing one of the constructs, only to see the other grab ahold of Rayne. Piruk, Lanna and Kit rush to help dislodge Rayne from the constricting grasp of the living clothes. The sorceress manages to hold the wrappings at bay, preventing the odd entity from gaining control, but soon the struggle devolves into a stalemate. Everytime a scrap is removed, another seems to grab on. After what seems like an eternity, the remaining raggamoffyn lets out a burst of sparkling gem dust, temporarily dazzling those around it. It then swirls away, carrying one of Rayne’s belt pouches in its clutches.

After blinking the spots from their eyes, the party continues to the end of the gallery and through the corridor beyond to a great, round chamber. The walls of the chamber are lined with alcoves, each holding a ridiculously-dressed statue. In the room’s center, is a dais holding a closed chest among a pile of various and sundry offerings, all presided over by the stone form of an illithid. Above the dais floats the horrible orb of Juglanth Daar.

The lesser beholder opens its great central eye as Kit peers into the room. The rogue goes rigid, stunned by the eye’s power. The rest of the party does not waste time trying to diplomacize with the horror. Leaping a shallow gap at the edge of the room, Lanna, Eleanor, Piruk and Daethin all rush in, firing up at the circling orb. Rayne moves into the doorway and unleashes a massive fireball. She does not think she can draw on such a large amount of arcana to cast another spell of its power. The ball of flame bursts, scorching the beholder as it dodges out of the way. Juglanth Daar responds by casting a ray of flame from one of his lesser eyes, setting the ditch at the edge of the room ablaze, separating the party with a burning barrier.

Several of Daethin’s arrows strike home, as does a blast of divine energy from Eleanor. Then the beholder makes a fatal mistake. In order to bring his central eye to bear on everyone in its chamber, the orb drops to hover just above the ground. Unfortunately for the aberration, the eye has little power over our heroes who immediately rush to engage the beast in melee. Piruk’s hammer opens several great contusions on the orbs rubbery hide as Daethin continues to fill it with arrows. Rayne lets loose several acid arrow spells, but each time they hit home, Juglanth Daar immediately dispels the acid’s effect to save it further damage.

The battle begins to lean our heroes way. The injury caused by Juglanth’s eye rays is outpaced by the battle prowess of the party. Soon, sensing that it cannot win the fight, the great orb lets out a snarl of frustration and withdraws straight upward in an attempt to flee its grounded companions. Lanna switches from her sword to her longbow, and a final volley from the Paladin, Daethin, and the javelins of Santiago at last pierces the life from the beholder. The great orb lets out a sickening gurgle before dropping heavily to the ground with a sickening squish.

At last, the party stands alone surrounded by the treasure horde of Juglanth Daar.

Session 41: Temple of the Eye
Let's Play.

Where we left off…

Our heroes have just broken through the far side of the barbican in the mysterious kobold-infested complex. They stand within the shelter of the far passage, panting from the exertion of the fight. Eleanor tends to the wounded as best she can, while Daethin and Piruk stare down the dark, featureless stone hallway.


The party continues along the passage in the lower level of the kobold complex. The distant yapping of kobolds raising the alarm can be heard behind them. The passage winds along, unbroken by side paths or doorways, and the party is forced to stop only once, when Kit throws a cautioning arm up at the discovery of a pressure plate in the floor. Further observation by the rogue, and by Piruk reveals a hatch in the ceiling above the plate. Most likely forming some sort of deadfall trap. The group carefully marks the danger zone with a ring of white chalk before proceeding.

Soon, a bend in the passage reveals a ramp leading up to a large room. From the bottom, the group can only see tall pillars lit by the ruddy glow of torches. Kit and Daethin proceed forward cautiously to investigate.

Stopping just far enough up the ramp to be able to see over the upper edge, the two scouts spot a curious site in the room beyond. In the center of a great, pillared hall an unidentified animal roasts on a spit over a bed of coals. The spit is unattended, and the meat has begun to char. The acrid odor of overdone food drifts into the tunnel. Beyond the cook fire, a quartet of kobolds stands staring into the passageway. Each is dressed in a low, wide-brimmed hat and an unusual black half-coat. They stand poised with instruments in hand. A fiddle, mandolin, drum and horn.

“I really don’t like the idea that they appear to have prepared a concert for us.” mutters Daethin.

Further observation reveals that the musicians are not the only ones in the room beyond. The two scouts notice over half a dozen other kobold snouts peering out from behind the chamber’s stone columns. None of the ambushers appear to be aware of the scouts’ presence.

Daethin and Kit return to the group to discuss their plan of attack. After some deliberation, our heroes decide to strike hard and fast. Rayne leads the way, creeping cautiously up the passage until she has a clear line of sight for casting. As she begins her spell, however, things spring into action.

A barked order in draconic is immediately followed by the four musicians striking a dramatic chord which turns into a stirring, staccato rhythm. The music is blended with the thrum of several bowstrings, as a hail of arrows flies into the passageway, several striking Rayne as she weaves her spell. The sorceress manages to complete the delicate gestures despite the stinging distractions, and returns fire with a massive fireball.

As suddenly as the music began, the quartet becomes a solo.

Following on the heels of Rayne’s opening barrage, the rest of the party charges forward, sensing the tactical advantage. As Santiago clears the passageway in the lead of the group, he suddenly comes under attack by a hail of stones hurled from a ledge above the passage opening. Simultaneously, two kobold rogues who had been hiding on either side of the opening rush the monk to take up flanking positions.

The rest of the party joins the fray shortly thereafter, pouring out of the tunnel entrance into the great columned hall. The room is massive, lined with pillars of stone, which stretch up to the high ceiling lost in the gloom above. The wall to the party’s right is dominated by a massive stone facade, carved from the rock wall. A pair of great double doors are mounted in the facade at floor-level, while twin stairways unwind from either side, climbing to a similar set of doors on a balcony above. Over the two entrances, a massive depiction of the symbol that has been marked throughout the complex so far, has been carved in relief. Our heroes will gawk at the sight later. There is a fight at hand!

A flight of arrows from Daethin’s bow lays out the last of the charred kobold bards. As he falls, however, a pair of sorcerers come into view at the far end of the room. One unleashes a magic bolt of acid, which sizzles into Lanna as she closes with one of the kobold rogues. The other spreads a sheen of magic grease across the center of the room in an effort to block any attempts to charge.

Soon, the tide of battle begins to turn against the would-be ambushers. As the whole party clears the end of the passageway, they begin to gain the upper hand. Piruk’s Maul, along with Lanna’s blazing sword and the flying fists of Santiago, make quick work of any kobold within striking distance. Daethin holds the spellcasters at bay with suppressing fire, while Kit picks her way along the edge of the room, in an effort to close with the unarmed magic users.

Then, Rayne uses Baleful Transposition to port herself onto the ledge where the rock-throwing kobolds have continued to pelt the party as Wigston fires off a Sleep spell, which drops most of the rock-throwers into a deep slumber.

Suddenly outnumbered, panic begins to set in among the kobolds. The two sorcerers turn to flee as do the remaining rock throwers. One of the casters manages to avoid Kit, fleeing through a small door at the far end of the chamber. The other runs for the lower entrance in the massive facade, Santiago hot on its tail. Rayne drops one of the fleeing rock-throwers with a volley of magic missiles from her magic gloves, but the other manages to flee into a room at the far end of the ledge.

Justt as the last kobold sorcerer throws open the great double doors, Santiago lays him out with a killing strike to the base of his spine. The sound of chanting can now be heard through the doors.

The chamber beyond is a massive, semicircular auditorium. A kobold dressed in shaman’s robes stands before a great, stone altar piled with offerings. Two more sorcerers stand to either side of the shaman, while a gathering of other kobolds look on from a balcony above.

The shaman faces a massive image of a staring eye, carved in relief on the far wall above the altar. The pupil of the eye is a hole set in the wall 15 feet above the temple floor. As the shaman’s chant grows in intensity, the offerings on the altar are born up towards the hole on a platform of arcane force.

“Juglanth Daar!” cries the shaman, “Juglanth daar! Confn jihai hesi regipre!”

Hoping to disrupt the ritual, Santiago charges into the chamber and delivers a viscous trip attack to the shaman, sending him sprawling on the floor.

The sorcerers react to the invaders by filling the entryway with a magic grease slick, and then unleash a volley of acid arrows at anyone who appears. The Shaman manages to regain his feet and strikes out at Santiago, his hand bathed in an entropic glow. The monk feels the shaman attempting to sap his strength, but manages to resist the withering effect. He retaliates and once again sweeps the shaman off his feet, before springing away from his fatiguing touch.

The rest of the party begins to make their way gingerly through the area affected by the grease spell. The shaman, battered and bloody from Santiago’s repeated attacks, regains his feet and defiantly completes his ritual, his voice rising to a crescendo. “Juglanth Daar! Juglanth Daar! Svent hesi irlym! Juglanth Daar!” As he completes his chant, he lashes out with one hand and sends an Unholy Blight spell hurtling into the clustered heroes standing in the doorway. Most of the group takes withering damage, but Piruk catches the blast with his mouth open and is left sickened.

As the shaman unleashes his spell, the object of his summons comes floating through the hole above the altar. A horrible floating orb, dominated by a single eye set above a gaping maw crowned by half a dozen wriggling tentacles, each tipped with a smaller, glaring eye.

“Juglanth Daar!” cries the shaman, triumphantly.

“Moradin’s Dross!” mutters Piruk. “Beholder!”

Santiago and Lanna are undaunted by the fearsome orb, they charge forward and cut down the shaman. Juglanth Daar glares down at the humanoids who have just destroyed his prime servant. His gaze holds the fearful and weak willed temporarily helpless.

Our heroes are neither fearful, nor weak willed, and by and large resist his eye’s effect. Juglanth Daar, then directs his forward tentacles down towards the party, rays of flame and dark magic lance out from the eyes at their tips, but once again, the group is largely unfazed. Sensing the power of his opponents, the great eye snarls, before turning to follow his last offering back through the hole from whence it appeared.

The kobolds panic! Their leader is dead! Their God has forsaken them! They begin to wail and flee for their lives. One of the sorcerers is cut down by Kit before he can escape, but the rest of the diminutive reptilians make the exits.

Standing in the aftermath of their assault, the group takes stock of their situation… Kit looks around, puzzled “Hey… Where’s Rayne?”

Session 40: Kobold, the Barbican
Smells like... victory...

Where we left off

The echoes of Wigston’s gun blast echo throughout the subterranean complex. As they fade away, the reverberating boom is replaced by the agitated yapping of kobolds in their peculiar Draconic dialect.

Our heroes stand before a secret doorway pried open from the side of the basilisk pit. A long, dark corridor stretches beyond…

Come out'n fight fair ye mangy cobalts!
Known regions of the kobold complex


The party, faced with the choice of proceeding through the newly discovered secret door or climbing the far ledge of the basilisk pit to brave the main hallway, elects to take the former, less obvious route.

With Kit and Piruk leading the way in standard delving formation, they make their way cautiously into the gloom beyond the door. The corridor proceeds for some ways before turning sharply to the left. Around the bend, flickering torchlight drifts through the bars of a closed portcullis. Beyond the gate blocking their path, the torchlight reveals a tall chamber distinguished by a rope bridge crossing 20 feet over the party’s current level, and a series of windows running parallel to and 10 feet above the bridge.

As Kit approaches the closed portcullis to search for traps, there is a sudden “twang” and she is struck a glancing blow by a small arrow fired from an unknown assailant. The rogue grits her teeth as her arm begins to feel heavy with some unknown toxin.

In an effort to identify the as-yet unseen assailant, Rayne sends Belfry through the bars of the portcullis to investigate the chamber beyond. After squeezing past the gate, the bat is beginning his circuit of the room, when another arrow strikes him suddenly and the diminutive familiar drops to the ground, unmoving.

Piruk and Santiago rush forward and attempt to lift the portcullis, Meanwhile, Wigston casts Mage Hand and slides the limp form towards the bars. When the unconscious bat reaches the barrier, Rayne casts Baleful Transpostion extracting her injured familiar to safety while simultaneously transporting the heavily armored Lanna through the gate.

The yapping begins again, and the arrows begin to fly.

Under assault from kobolds perched high in the windows that line the chamber, the party struggles to lift the massive portcullis. After several attempts, the monk, paladin and warblade manage to throw up the gate, jamming it into the chamber above.

Eleanor steps into the middle of the chamber with her holy symbol blazing in the light of Celestial Brilliance The light-sensitive reptilians continue their assault, partially blinded by the blazing light. The rest of the party follows. Daethin and Kit move to the side of the door and begin returning fire at kobold faces, which appear in the windows. Wigston steps out with his kiitar, playing a stirring and triumphant anthem that puts courage and steel into the hearts of his allies.

As Rayne enters the room, she catches the familiar pungent whiff of combustible chemicals that so often sets her pyromaniac heart aflutter. She cautions the others to be wary. Kit glances up at a clattering sound and sees a large, smoking clay pot teetering in a window far above.

“Heads up!”

Kit begins to dodge back and forth. The reptillian hands holding the pot attempt to follow… but then… CRASH! Screaming… but not from our heroes. The kobolds fumble their cauldron of oil and wind up dropping it inside their barbican leading to a bit of barbecue. Draconic curses and wails of pain drift down with the smell of charred lizard.

Piruk, Lanna and Santiago rush to the portcullis on the far side of the chamber and begin struggling to lift it. Meanwhile the rest of the party returns fire at their hidden assailants, picking at them whenever a kobold shows its face to attack. Rayne sends a well-placed fireball into one of the galleries, and once again kobold screaming can be heard.

But then, a second pot of oil comes crashing down, successfully this time, striking Piruk and setting his beard ablaze along with Santiago’s robes. While the dwarf and half-orc struggle to put out the flames, Wigston is struck by several flaming arrows. His song takes on a melancholy, soaring tone as he is jolted by each strike. His clothing bursts into flames and soon he falls unconscious under the barrage.

The efforts of the party are at last beginning to thin the kobold numbers. Those in the gallery of windows before them have mostly retreated to lick their wounds, but a withering hail of arrows continues to rain down from behind. Flames extinguished, Piruk and Santiago switch their tactics against the portcullis. The dwarf hefts his maul and delivers a mighty overhand strike cracking several of the timbers and knocking the gate askew in its track. Several swift kicks from Santiago are all that is needed to clear the opening.

“Exit’s this way!”

Daethin rushes through the newly cleared exit and takes up a position at the corner of the hall beyond. The rest of his battered companions follow, Wigston leaning on Lanna while he regains his bearings. Free from the line of fire at last, the group finds themselves in a hallway similar to the one leading up to the barbican, once again stretching into the darkness of the strange kobold complex.

Session 39: Down the Kobold Hole
Go for the eyes Boo!

Where we left off

The back wall of the teleportation chamber stands partially in ruins. A black hole, ringed with crumbled masonry and guarded by a pair of Holdout soldiers, gapes before the party. They have taken a day to rest and equip themselves for the coming hunt. A crude sigil has been carved into the stone above the doorway. Signs of their quarry can be easily seen in the thin layer of dust at the tunnel’s entrance.

Wigston steps forward, his kiitar slung over his shoulder and a blunt-nosed gnomish blunderbuss tucked into his belt.

“Filthy kobolds… let’s get this over with…”


Every breath you take... Every move you make...
The Mysterious Sigil

Our heroes set off in search of the missing crystal key that will activate the teleportation circle in the ruined keep. Sofya, the mage suspects it was stolen by the kobolds that were occupying the ruin when the Holdouts arrived in Thunder Vale.

The tunnel leading through the back wall of the teleportation tunnel is dark and cramped, forcing all but Wigston, Piruk and the diminutive Rayne to stoop as they move along. The party proceeds cautiously into the gloom with Kit leading the way, everburning torch held high, constantly scanning for traps left by devious kobold hands.

Soon after the faint glow of torchlight emanating from the keep’s basement disappears behind them, the group stumbles upon their first trap, already sprung. The tunnel is mostly blocked by a rockfall. A search of the area reveals the tripwire that triggered the collapse and the shaft cut into the ceiling, which held the rocks.

The group is forced to squeeze through a narrow opening left by the collapse, wriggling over the pile of boulders one at a time. On the far side of the blockage, they find the poor Holdout conscript who triggered the collapse, his body and armor crushed beneath the rocks.

The tunnels beyond begin to widen and the sound of running water echoes through the caverns. The hillside beneath the falls that give Thunder Vale its name is riddled with caverns carved out by the slow seep of water from the river above.

Further down the trail, the party gets their first glimpse of a kobold. At a fork in the trail crossed by an underground stream, Daethin spots a kobold scout peering out from behind a stalagmite in the left passage. The reptilian creature lets out a yelp when it realizes it has been spotted and dashes up the passage behind it, out of sight.

A search of the area reveals a number of caltrops submerged in the shallow stream waiting for unsuspecting travelers. Kit gathers all that she can find, netting an additional two bags worth of the spiky objects and clearing the trail for crossing.

The party weighs the wisdom of following the fleeing kobold down the left trail. Is it luring them into a trap? Will it warn its tribe if they don’t catch it? After some hasty debate, they decide it is worth the risk to follow. After all, how much trouble can one kobold be?

The group proceeds cautiously after the fleeing kobold. The tunnel gradually rises. Soon, it opens into a sort of grotto, lit from above by several narrow fissures which run all the way to the surface. A dozen limestone pillars surround a mossy pool, which sparkles in a shaft of sunlight.

As the party approaches the pool, they hear a rapid clicking sound, which increases in intensity as they get closer. The clicks grow more intense the closer they get, but the source of the sound eludes them. Piruk notices that as he enters the chamber, the whiskers in his beard grow stiff and begin to stand on end.

Suspecting a trap, but unable to find any specific danger, Eleanor elects to try a blind guess approach. She begins lobbing bits of metallic junk out into the center of the chamber, hoping to make something happen. As each item splashes into the pool, the mysterious clicking grows more frantic before subsiding.

Then she sees him. The kobold they have been pursuing stands veiled in shadow in the exit on the far side of the room. He fires a shot with his bow, but not towards Eleanor. Movement on the pillar beside where the arrow struck reveals the target. A curious gray lizard with bright blue markings flinches away from the arrow and clicks furiously. Eleanor looks around and spots several other lizards on other pillars. Then another shot…

This one connects and suddenly there is a crackling hiss, a bright blue flash and Eleanor is jolted with a searing current of electricity. Piruk manages to dive back as he feels his beard stiffen, catching a less intense shock.

The party backs away down the hall to ponder the obstacle and allow Eleanor to heal herself. Rayne’s suggestion that a well-placed fireball could solve the problem is vetoed by Lanna, who wants no part in attacking animals that were likely just defending their home. After some deliberation, the group elects to return to the fork and try the other passageway.

The other path proves less hazardous. They only need to stop once to bypass more caltrops laid out in a stream. Continuing on, the tunnels wind downward, deeper into the mountainside, until they open at last into a massive cavern. Soaring pillars of natural rock frame the entrance to a subterranean structure. Broad steps lead up to a doorway, above which is displayed the same symbol seen in the teleportation room… only much larger and more carefully carved.

The group passes cautiously through the portal and along a broad, straight hallway. The hall eventually ends at a ledge perched above a broad, square pit. A similar ledge can be seen across the chamber, with a similar halway leading away from it. A rope ladder dangles down the far ledge. The only other feature of note in the room is a large, metal plate set into the wall of the far ledge at the same level as the pit floor.

Kit is the first to investigate. Climbing down a secured rope, she creeps across to investigate the metal plate. As she is searching for traps, she hears shuffling and grunting coming from the other side of the barrier. Dashing back to the party, she reports her findings.

Fearing that something might trigger the plate in the far ledge to reveal its contents, the group moves forward, wary of danger. Daethin, Wigston and Rayne remain on the ledge, ready to attack anything that should show itself on the far side of the pit. The rest of the party creep back down the rope and pick their way gingerly across to the rope ladder on the far side of the room.

About halfway across, Piruk suddenly pauses, contemplating the wall to their right. He summons Santiago over to assist him. The two begin prodding and prying at the wall, eventually causing a section to shift. They begin tugging on a massive stone door, behind which they find a hallway.

save me a drumstick!

Just as Piruk and the monk are getting the door open, Kit decides to climb the rope ladder to investigate the upper hallway. About 3/4 of the way up, however, one of the rungs gives way and triggers an audible click. Looking around frantically, the rogue notices acidic looking smoke beginning to rise from the top of the ladder. Thinking quickly, she leaps back, allowing her ring of featherfall to carry her safely back to the floor.

“Shoonk!” The rope ladder falls, and the metal plate drops into the floor. Behind the plate, in a shadowy cave, a massive reptile with eight legs and glowing red eyes begins to shuffle forward.

“Basilisk!” shouts Daethin.

The three standing on the ledge unleash their readied attacks in quick succession. A fireball from Rayne is immediately followed by two swift arrows from Daethin and a blast from Wigston’s blunderbuss. As quickly as the danger appeared… it is gone, sinking charred and pierced to the floor before it even had a chance to glare.

Session 38: The Cydonic Rebels
You are part of a rebel alliance an a traitor!...

Where we left off

Our heroes stand in the woods near the south bank of the Ossir’narrh River in Cydon. The sound of armored horsemen can be heard behind them on the far side. Two Catfolk monks, who Virago appears to know have just dropped from the trees in front of the group…


The party continues their journey south, now escorted by the two catfolk monks (known as judo cats) Diamond and Sapphire. The catfolk explain that they were sent by Brahm, leader of the Cydonic Resistance, to intercept Virago as he returned from his mission and to bring him to the Resistance’s new base of operations.

The party learns that Lance Commander, Brahm Vispakal is one of Prince Steponas’s most trusted officers. He was tasked with watching over Steponas’s lands and estate when the king was murdered. They also learn that a special investigative branch of the Cydonic military, known as the Redemption, was formed shortly after the King’s death and tasked with rooting out the murderer and the cause of the Blight.

The Redemption began targeting those who refused to swear an oath of sole allegiance to Tornas, believing that their loyalty was suspect and that Steponas was responsible for the Blight cursing the land. They began raiding the lands of the holdouts. When they came to Steponas’s estate, Brahm resisted and was eventually forced to flee.

Brahm and the holdouts are now regrouping in a secluded valley known as Thunder Vale in the mountains on Cydon’s southern border. After two days journey, our heroes reach the camp and arrange to meet with Brahm and the other resistance leaders.

On the morning after their arrival in the Holdouts’ camp, the group is summoned to a ruined castle that sits at the southern end of the vale. This ruin is in the process of being refortified, but has already been set up as the headquarters for the Holdout leaders.

Upon entering the castle, the party witnesses an event of swift justice born of the deep divisions within the country. The body of a man is born past them out through the gates along with various bits of rubbish being cleared from the ruin. Brahm stands in full plate in the middle of the courtyard, flecked with blood and wiping down his recently used blade. He is flanked by a rotund priest of Heironeous and a willowy mage woman looking somber. When asked about the body, the Holdout leader states that the man was a spy for the Redemption who was tried and found guilty of his crimes.

The subject is then dropped abruptly when our heroes are invited into the castle’s great hall. There, they meet with Brahm, the priest and the mage who are respectively introduced as Father Yarov and Sofya. During the meeting, Virago reveals the purpose and results of his mission. He had been sent by Brahm to locate Ilyari, one of Steponas’s other trusted officers who was leading his personal guard in Dragonfall on the night he disappeared. Virago reveals that he caught up with the man deep in the Blighted lands of the Eastern plateau. Ilyari was wandering in rags, delerious with the Blight.

During moments of apparent lucidity, Virago managed to uncover that King Lytanias had learned of the rising Blight and had sent Steponas away in search of something, which could defeat the growing evil. The objective of the quest was most likely the lost Jewel of Ilysias, which is said to hold the spirit of the great hero of Cydon. Steponas did not want to leave, fearing that the King’s life was likely in danger with such evil in the realm. He fought with the King to be allowed to stay, but eventually relented and left Cydon under the King’s orders. Sofya and Father Yarov suspect the Prince traveled to Panthium to consult the vast libraries and numerous sages found in the city.

Virago reveals that Ilyari died of his symptoms shortly after and that he then began his return journey via a circuitous route to avoid the worst of the Blight. He retells the story of his incarceration and escape with the assistance of our heroes.

Brahm then asks if the party will aid the Holdouts and presents a number of specific ways in which they can help:
  1. Bring news of Ilyari’s death to his wife, who is of barbarian descent, in hopes that she will be persuaded to contribute Ilyari’s personal forces to their cause out of a sense of loyalty to her husband and a thirst for revenge.
  2. Make contact with officers of the Royal Guard in Westgate, who were disbanded when the army took control of the border city after the King’s murder. The ultimate goal of this mission would be to retake the city for the holdouts in order to establish a functioning supply chain for their military buildup.
  3. Search for a crystalline key that was removed from a permanent teleportation circle in the basement of the castle. Sofya suspects the key was stolen by a tribe of kobolds who were inhabiting the castle when the Holdouts arrived in the Vale. Recovering the key would reactivate the circle and allow the party to more quickly go in search of Steponas.

Our heroes are naturally hesitant to take sides in a conflict they don’t see as directly relevant to their mission. Eleanor and Lanna particularly do not wish to be drawn into the human bloodshed that is likely to accompany the retaking of Westgate. After much discussion, they agree that their best course of action is to go in search of the missing crystal in hopes of eventually rendezvousing with Steponas and joining his quest to cure the Blight.

Their decision made, the party is invited to take the day to rest and restock. Brahm provides access to the military stores, allowing each member of the group to requisition 1000g worth of equipment for their coming mission.