A Shifting Perspective
Following the campfire discussion that ended with a clash of cultural backgrounds and differences, the group sat quietly around the crackling fire pit. The only sound that came from the group was the soft strumming of Stravo’s musical instrument, while the bard kept playing songs and stories in his head. And in darkness of the forest, Shivra sat quietly in the trees, keeping a vigilant watch in the moonlit night for any potential goblin patrols.
As time passed, the dark elf’s gaze caught a glimpse of a patrol of eight goblins slowly approaching the campsite, and her party members were unaware of the oncoming danger. She grasped a rock from the ground, hastily scribbled a note onto the rock’s surface and threw it into the group. Missing by a good distance, Stravo went to investigate and when he realized what it was, he said in a loud voice with a puzzled look “Hey guys, it’s a rock.”
Malroc recognized the rogue’s scribe marks on the surface, “On guard, we have company to the north east!” Just at that moment four of the eight goblins charged in, surrounding the fearless minotaur. The enemies’ blades slashed and thrust at Malroc, drawing blood. Unexpectedly from the darkness, lightning crackled through the air, further wounding Malroc. As the electricity wracked the warden, a smaller bolt leapt out towards Crono, damaging the eladrin as well.
Seeing his friend surrounded and deeply wounded, Luak courageously charged in, letting out a barbaric roar and giving his ally renewed strength. Crono surrounded the goblins while shielding the warden from further lightning attacks. As the combat unfolded, Stravo confidently played his instrument as he moved through the battlefield. In one smooth motion, he swung his instrument over his shoulder, while simultaneously pulling out his sword in a lunge.
Seeing everything unfold, Shivra, in an elegant motion, jumped down from the trees, dashing into the fray and striking fear into their enemies. When out of the darkness struck a blast of magical energy from a second spell caster, weakening Shivra. She cursed in an Underdark dialect towards the caster. Watching everything from the back, the fierce druid stepped forward, unleashing a bolt of lightning towards the caster nearest to Shivra with immense force, causing him to howl out in pain.
As the battle raged on, one by one the goblins begin to fear their death as the adventurers moved across the battlefield with such ferocity. But it was not without a price, as many of the party were sorely wounded. Two of the goblins tried to flank the group, but were quickly met by a fearsome trio; Stravo and Eth fighting side by side backed by a large minotaur.
Shivra and Crono had finally turned their attention to one of the casters, when all of a sudden, the young swordmage took a full blast of eldritch energy, flinging him to the ground. With the sudden thirst of vengeance, Shivra struck out at the goblin caster with such precision that her daggers slashed at the goblin’s arteries. The vicious wound sprayed blood across the ground and her enemy fell lifeless at her feet. As the bloodlust faded away, she called out for Eth to come and tend to Crono’s bleeding wounds.
The bard and druid both converged on the fallen swordmage, working together to stabilize the battered eladrin. “Get up,” Stravo grinned and smacked the swordmage on his shoulder. “We still have work to do.” As Crono rose unsteadily to his feet, the bard darted off after Eth, toward the last enemy.
The goblin sorcerer shrieked in anger and frustration as the last of his allies fell. He ducked as Luak ‘s greataxe narrowly missed decapitating him, and darted behind a nearby shrub, trying to find cover against Eth’s blasts of elemental fury. “They’re all dead!” He spoke in oddly accented Common, his high-pitched voice echoing through the campsite. “Why do you keep hunting us!? Why won’t you leave us in peace!?”
Stravo stopped his spellcasting as his concentration wavered momentarily. “What?! You’ve been attacking the people of our village, and you dare question why we hunt you?”
“No! It wasn’t us! I swear it!” The goblin shouted as he stuck his head out from around the bushes. “We’ve been chased from our home, and something is hunting us as well!”
“Your people’s tracks were all around the attacked cabins! We followed those tracks here to you! How do you explain that?!” Eth questioned, his eyes narrowed as he watched the sorcerer’s every movement, readying himself for any threat.
“Yes!” The goblin nodded. “Yes, we did come across the devastated cabins! We looked for signs of the attackers, or survivors, but found nothing! I forbade my people to take anything! And we killed no one!” The diminutive sorcerer reiterated emphatically.
“Then why are you here?” Crono spoke calmly as he limped toward the goblin, but his icy gaze was every bit as threatening as the longsword he leveled at the sorcerer. “Why venture this far into the vale, if not for pillaging and looting?”
“I told you,” the goblin practically hopped in frustration, “we were driven from our homes! We only were seeking a safe place which we could settle in peace! We desire no conflict!”
Stravo remained unconvinced as he slowly stepped forward, his longsword resting uneasily on his shoulder. “Your people attacked us as we investigated one of the cabins? If you come in peace, why attack?”
“Because of him!” Everyone’s eyes followed the path of the goblin’s pointed finger . . . to Malroc. The warden’s brow furrowed in confusion as the goblin continued. “His people drove us from our homes! The minotaurs! We thought it was they who tracked us still!”
“Lies?” Stravo whispered as he edged closer to the druid. The elf paused for a long moment as he considered the goblin before him. “I could be wrong,” Eth cautioned, “but . . . no. I think he speaks the truth.”
The goblin shrunk back as Luak stepped toward him, growling, but the muscled barbarian swung around to face his allies, hefting his greataxe threateningly. Not understanding the language of the elves, he thought he sensed malice in their tones, and his goliath honor could not allow underhanded dealings with even such a formidable foe as this sorcerer, wounded as he was.
“Stand down!” The bard reprimanded the goliath, misunderstanding his movement toward the goblin. Luak merely growled in reply and faced his friends defiantly.
Sensing no immediate danger from the hulking barbarian standing still two paces ahead of him, the goblin leaned forward, straining to hear the exchange between the two. He seemed to wrestle with a thought for a long moment, before he spoke out. “Please! I truly mean you no harm! If you will trust me . . . then I will trust you.” With that, the sorcerer threw his dagger to the ground, and raised his hands in surrender.
Everyone seemed to hesitate for a moment, unsure of what to do with the helpless goblin. Except Shivra. The rogue stalked in menacingly, her two daggers in hand. Her hood had fallen down, revealing her for the deadly drow she was, and the goblin winced in fearful anticipation.
“Tell us your tale now, and in full! Speak true, or you will soon beg for the swift death that we gave your companions!” She pointed her blade at the goblin, the tip mere inches from his eyes. The sorcerer gulped nervously, and nodded. As he began to talk, the rest of the party moved in closer to hear.
“My name is Vraag, once a member of the Redhand Goblin Tribe. My tribe lived in the ruins of a dwarven fortress, in the northern part of the Redstone Hills. The dwarves had abandoned the place long before we settled there, but their buildings still endured.”
“One day, a group of minotaurs, along with a few of their orc allies, came to us. They talked to our chieftain, offering an alliance. Our chieftain was wise and asked for time to consider the offer, for our people rarely benefit much from such partnerships. They agreed, and then seemingly left.”
“Instead of honoring our chieftain’s request, the minotaurs and orcs set a perimeter, and then attacked, slaughtering my people by the dozens. Rather than wait for our reply, they simply decimated us instead. We were nothing to them. They were clearly there for something else, we were just in the way. So they killed us without a second thought. A few of us escaped their ambush. I gathered as many as I could find and led then away, to find a new, safer place for us to rebuild our tribe.”
“But even as we travelled south, something followed us, haunting our every step. Those individuals who wandered off away from the main group were killed. Often, only small bloodstains marked where they were taken. We fled further south, and still we were hunted, our numbers ever shrinking. Whatever stalks us is stealthy, and more cunning than we.”
“As we made our way through this area, we avoided the human homes, for we wanted no misunderstanding between us. But not long after we passed a homestead, we would hear screams in the distance. Some of our hunters investigated, and found only recently abandoned cabins, with clear signs of bloodshed. As we moved on, this scene replayed itself over and over. I feared our pursuers did this to shift the blame onto my people, so the humans would move in force against us.”
Shivra stared intently at the sorcerer as he spoke, and Vraag met her gaze unflinchingly. “But we harmed no human, farmer or hunter! We only want a new, safe home to live in peace!” The goblin looked imploringly at the surrounding party.
“How do we trust the words of a goblin?” Eth wondered aloud. “The goblins we know have only ever been bloodthirsty raiders, scheming and conniving creatures intent on savagery.” The sorcerer growled and stamped his foot in frustration.
“Yes, most goblins are deserving of that reputation! Yes, most ARE evil! Most are bloodthirsty and savage! Most bring pain, and death, and destruction in their wake! But cannot you also say the same things about MOST dark elves?!” Vraag pointed a finger up at Shivra and the rogue could not deny his assessment.
“I only ask for the same chance you’ve shown the dark elf! The same opportunity to show I am different from the dark reputation of my other kin!” The sorcerer spoke with a determined conviction. There was a moment of silence as everyone paused to consider the impassioned goblin’s pleas. They looked at each other and nodded their agreement.
“Very well, ”/campaign/andrannar/wikis/vraag" class=“wiki-page-link”>Vraag. You have our trust, and our support. So now what do you do?" Stravo asked the strange goblin. Vraag bent to retrieve his discarded dagger and placed it in his belt sheath.
“Some of my people have found a series of caves near the Dragonwater River that may be a suitable new home. It is far enough from the humans that contact should be minimal, so we may fish and hunt without disturbing others. Some have already gone there. I was to lead the remainder of my tribe there in the next few days.” The goblin sorcerer glanced across the campsite, at the bodies of his fallen companions.
“I am sorry,” Luak knelt by Vraag and place a reassuring hand on the sorcerer’s shoulder. Even kneeling, the massive goliath towered over the small goblin. “You and your people have been wronged. Perhaps some still cling to life? Perhaps we can still save some?” The barbarian stood and moved to the bodies of the fallen goblins, checking to see if any still were able to be saved. Feeling remorseful, a few of the others joined him, and together they managed to rescue three of the fallen goblins before they succumbed to their wounds.
“You have been most unjustly treated. As it is my people who have robbed you and your tribe of your home, I feel it is my duty to help you find a new one. Please, allow me to escort you to these river caves.” Malroc sympathized with the goblin sorcerer. He knew what it was to be wrongly attacked and driven out by his people. Nearby, Shivra heard this and nodded.
The bard sighed and responded in Elvish. “Shivra. Here on the surface, if we’re trying to help someone, putting them at risk just to make things a little easier for us is NOT okay. Malroc has the right of it. We go with them, escort them, and if their stalkers are foolish enough to show themselves, then we take them out. No more will die, not if we can help it.”
Shivra nodded thoughtfully. The strange ways of the surface folk were still foreign to her, and she walked away, considering the half-elf’s words. Before they left camp, Vraag approached her and offered the dark elf a few things from his fallen comrades, in a show of goodwill and thankfulness. Shivra accepted without hesitation, and left to check the perimeter of the camp.
A short time later, the odd group left the encampment and began to make their way west, toward the caves and the goblins’ new home. Vraag and his kin cautiously led the way, and Luak walked protectively alongside his new goblin friends. The rest of the group followed along, watchful for enemies hiding among the trees. Shivra moved silently through the underbrush, away from the main body of the group, her keen senses alert for any signs of pursuit.
They had been traveling for nearly two hours, slowly making their way through the forest, before Shivra caught a glimpse of their pursuers. A hint of green and a flash of movement where there should be none was all she saw, but the alert rogue knew their trackers were at hand. She hastily scribbled a warning note on a small rock and threw it toward the other party members. Her thrown rock bounced against some trees nearby, but it was enough to alert the others.
The party quickly moved into defensive positions, their weapons flashing out in the sunlight. Out from the shadows of the forest leaped a large number of small, draconic humanoids. Slightly larger and more muscled than kobolds, these fierce dragonkin were covered in mottled green scales and brandished strange, wickedly edged blades.
Before anybody had time to react, an orc hunter, the leader of the attackers, fired two arrows, nearly immobilizing the drow that gave their position away. Fighting fiercly side by side with their new found allies, the battle proved to be long and hard. Working together to vanquish their foes, only a few goblin fell before wiping out all but the enemy leader. In fear of defeat, as the lead hunter now saw that his prey was now hunting him, he disappeared into the shadowed forest, not to be found again.
While Shivra searched for the tracks of the vanished hunter, Stravo was able to save the goblin friends that fell during battle. Luak collected the strange weapons that the dragonspawn used, for trophies and perhaps to resell. After a moment to rest and regroup, the party decided that they would press on and if the attacker wanted to try again they would be ready.
Reaching the caves that the goblins would now call home, they thanked their escorts and offered to help anytime the party passed by, for they are forever greatful.
Once the heroes were sure their new friends were settled, they decided to head north to look into the ruins of the dwarven fortress in the Redstone Hills and to stop in Hawksbridge on the way to rest and resupply.
When the moon was high in the sky the party entered the small town of Hawksbridge. Stopping for a moment to figure out which inn to stay at, a group of townsfolk exited a local tavern. The smell of ale was heavy on their breath as they noticed the group of outsiders trying to find a place to stay. With frustration and anger one of the intoxicated men shout out, “Hey! There’s one of those minotaurs right there. Let’s get him!” Before the angry mob had a chance to start their charge, Stravo managed to calm them down by telling them how Malroc was outcast by his own people and has working to help save these lands from evil.
As Stravo tried to reason with and calm the drunken mob of humans, Shivra drifted inconspicuously into a nearby alleyway, slipping into the shadows. A few clouds on an otherwise clear night partially obscured the moon, giving the dark elf more darkness than she needed to sneak about unnoticed. An ordinary, alert human could have walked down the darkened alleyway right past Shivra and never notice her.
Shivra noiselessly eased down the alley and moved further around the building, repositioning into a spot that offered easy flanking, in case the dialogue with the drunkards came to violence. As she crept to her new position, she softly pulled her bone-handled dagger from its sheath. The rogue knelt, and hiding in the shadows, listened to the bard at work.
" . . . literally hundreds of them! Goblins and kobolds alike fell before our fury! And who stood at the vanguard, hewing down all the foes that dared stand against us, with his mighty axe of righteousness? Our noble minotaur, Malroc, that’s who! Though he was trained to fight with all the fury of nature, and despite his fierce appearance, his heart is virtuous enough to rival that of any paladin’s! Countless times he risked his life to safeguard yours, and those of your loved ones!"
Shivra smirked humorlessly as she heard the drunken humans grumble their grudging agreement. In the cities of her homeland, no worthy drow would ever be swayed by the honeyed words the half-elf spoke. No drow that would live very long, anyway. Stravo’s voice echoed down the alleyway to her as the bard led the group of drunks away, toward a nearby inn and tavern.
“Come, my friends! Let’s hoist a round of ale at the Sleeping Wizard, and I’ll tell you the tales of our adventures! Did you ever hear of how we slayed a dragon? A great, monstrous beast! Scales of the deepest sapphire-blue, with razor-sharp teeth, and claws like great scythe-blades! If I hadn’t acted when I did . . .”
After her friends and the inebriated mob made their way into the inn, Shivra stood, and started to move to rejoin her comrades. Suddenly, an inner warning gave her pause. Years of living in the deadly Underdark had honed her instincts and so she turned, dropping into a ready stance, her daggers flashing out in the dim starlight.
She caught only a glimpse of a slim, hooded figure bursting from the shadows before he was upon her. He wore simple, worn clothes and a travel-stained cloak with a hood that partially concealed his features. But it was the massive greatsword he brandished, starlight glinting off the long, silvery blade, that worried the rogue.
“Your judgement is at hand,” the hooded newcomer whispered hoarsely to Shivra in Elvish. The drow elf nimbly darted to the side, but the hooded figure matched her step for step, equally agile.
He swung a powerful, arcing cut, his greatsword glittering as it whistled through the chill night air. Shivra desperately brought her daggers up to block, but his devastating attack blasted through the drow’s defense. She choked back a scream as she felt burning explosions of pure agony across her midsection.
Her daggers clattered to the rough cobblestone pavement as Shivra collapsed, her hands frantically pressing against her wound, desperately trying to slow the blood that spilled out to the ground. She rolled onto her back, looking up helplessly as her attacker slowly approached, looming over her.
“Do you remember me, drow?” Her attacker whispered in perfect Elvish. “I remember you.” His words dripped with hatred as he reached up, and pulled his hood back from his face.
He was a relatively young elf, with shoulder-length golden hair that seemed to gleam on its own, in the moonlight. He may have been handsome once, if not for the many scars that were etched across his face. Another, larger scar was carved across his throat, pink and silver against his light bronze skin. “Look. Look, and remember.”
Shivra closed her eyes and nodded, her memories coming back to her with sickening clarity. Back in her youth, it was she who had been chosen, as a newly anointed priestess of Lloth. She had been given the great honor of leading a raiding party to the surface. The drow elf opened her eyes and saw her attacker staring intently at her, his blue eyes seemingly alight with an inner flame.
“Over twenty years ago,” the male elf’s hoarse voice trembled with rage as he spoke. “The drow of House Zar’Haelirin mounted a surface raid. Against my village, they attacked. Without provocation. Without warning. They came in the night, arrayed for war. But my people were not warriors.” The elf’s unwavering expression was a mask of anger, even as tears streaked down his face.
“It was a massacre. You killed my friends. You killed my family.” Each damning sentence hit Shivra with the force of a hammer. “I was a mere child, but your warriors made a game of me, cutting me apart as slowly as possible. When they got bored of my screams and cries for mercy, they cut my throat and left me to die. Slowly.”
“But the gods decreed my time had not yet come. I was fevered and delirious, but still clinging to life when some kindly hunters came upon my village days later, and brought my broken body to the healers. When I recovered, I spent my days developing fighting techniques, and my nights dreaming of vengeance. I exhausted my time, energy, and coin to learn the identity of my attackers. And I sacrificed much to hunt you down. But now, the gods have seen fit to place you here, helpless at my feet.” The elf tightened his grasp on his sword, his very expression promising pain.
“You deserve to die.” The grim elf raised his greatsword, poised for a killing blow. “To die in the darkness. Alone.” His eyes narrowed as he watched for the drow’s reaction.
Struggling to maintain consciousness, Shivra watched in morbid fascination as her blood, glittering black in the starlight, ran down the sword blade. It dripped to the ground, into the widening pool that spread out from the fallen rogue’s body. She glanced up at the stars, wondering if the elves that died on that raid felt as she did now.
“Do it.” Shivra‘s words were punctuated by wracking pain and coughs of blood. The warm, coppery taste and smell of her own blood overwhelmed her senses and she struggled to draw a breath, gasping. Her petite frame trembled as she forced the words out. "I accept . . . your judgement. For my wrongs . . . atrocities committed . . . I’ll . . . face my sentence. Then, let that . . . damned Lloth . . . try to chase me . . . through the afterlife!" She slumped back to the ground, exhausted and barely conscious.
A low growl of pure anger escaped the male elf’s lips and he brutally thrust his blade downward. Shivra‘s body stiffened reflexively as the greatsword struck home. In the silence that followed, the elf knelt beside the fallen rogue’s body.
“Am I dead yet?” Shivra thought to herself. Tentatively, she opened her eyes, to see the elf kneeling next to her, a grim, yet thoughtful expression on his scarred face. Less than a hairsbreadth away, his greatsword had been driven, point down, into the earth beside her. She could feel the cold metal of the blade resting against her cheek. She was overwhelmed by the feelings of confusion, and she looked at the elf incredulously.
“You intrigue me, drow.” Shivra watched in disbelief as her attacker first applied an ointment and poultice to her wounds, and then began bandaging her. His movements were quick, deft, and surprisingly gentle.
“I finally find you, only to discover a drow different from the one I remember. Forsaking her people. Forsaking her goddess. Turning her back on the darkness. Defending a village. Protecting the innocent. It was too much for me to accept.” The elf finished binding Shivra’s wounds and propped the weakened drow into a sitting position against the wall of a nearby building. He pulled her waterskin from her pack and brought it to her lips, and the dark elf drank gratefully.
“I could not believe it. I would not believe it,” the elf continued, pausing to wipe away some water that had spilled down the rogue’s chin. He stared intently into the drow’s eyes. “But now, with you here before me, I can see into your heart. And I believe your conversion is true.” He gathered her weapons from where they fell, gazing down at the two daggers for a moment before sliding them back into their belt sheaths at Shivra’s waist.
“The goodly gods, in their infinite mercy, have granted you a rare chance at redemption.” The scarred elf stood, and yanked his greatsword free of the ground. “Take care, and do not squander that opportunity, drow. It will not be offered again.”
The elf placed a hand on Shivra‘s shoulder and whispered some arcane phrase. Shivra gasped and her eyes grew wide as she felt the smallest portion of her essence flow into the elf’s body. His intense gaze never left her for a moment.
“I can sense you now. Anywhere you go, I will know. You may travel a thousand miles, but I can find you. You may cloak yourself in the darkest shadows, but I can seek you out.” The grim elf shouldered his greatsword and turned to go.
“But know this, drow. If you ever embrace evil again. . . if you ever return to your wicked ways . . . if you ever harm the innocent . . . I will find you . . . and I will finish you!” The elf’s words carried a determined certainty. He started to walk away down the alley.
“Wait!” Shivra reached out to stop him, but pulled back as waves of pain wracked her body. “Tell me. How did you find me? Why did you spare me?”
The elf stopped and looked back at her, smiling sadly. “There are many gods in the worlds beyond, many more powerful and far worthier of praise than that thrice-damned Lloth. A word of advice, dark elf. When you seek something, do not ask for the darkness to help you find it. Instead, look to the light.”
A glittering object arced through the cool night air, landing square in Shivra’s lap. It was a silver necklace with a small, dual-sided medallion. On one side was the symbol of the Platinum Dragon, the god Bahamut, patron of honor and justice. She flipped it over, to reveal a golden starburst on the opposite side, the symbol of the god Pelor, patron of mercy and compassion.
“Justice. And mercy. Both have been served here tonight, drow. May the grace and light of all the goodly gods shine upon you and light your way,” the elf’s voice echoed from the end of the alleyway. Shivra looked up, but he was already gone, disappearing into the night. Thinking hard on what had just transpired, Shivra sat in the darkness and stared up at the stars, slowly turning the medallion over and over in her hand.
The stars had all but faded in the hour before dawn, when Eth and Crono finally came looking for her. Seeing Shivra’s body bloodied and slumped against the wall in an alleyway, the druid and swordmage rushed to her side.
“Are you okay? What happened?” Eth asked, his brow furrowed with concern. He looked to her bandaged wounds. The drow did not answer, but stared off into the horizon, rubbing the medallion idly between her thumb and forefinger.Crono looked down, to the pool of drying blood that stained the cobblestone, and then back to the wounded rogue.
“Damn! Looks like you got knocked the fuck out!” The young eladrin spoke before thinking, and as he realized what he had just said, he winced, anticipating the drow’s retort. Shivra leveled an icy glare at the swordmage, but surprisingly said nothing, gripping the holy symbols tightly in her fist. The elf and eladrin helped her to her feet and supported her as she limped back to the inn.
“So . . . you wanna tell us what happened to you?” Eth asked casually as they moved along. Shivra paused and looked to the horizon as the sun began to rise, the first rays of light streaking the sky. She closed her eyes and felt the warming light of day wash over her, then looked down, and shook her head. The elf and eladrin looked at each other and shrugged, both confused. Without another word spoken, the druid and swordmage sighed, and then helped their wounded friend into the inn.
The next morning, a few hours before highsun, the party gathered in the common room of the inn. Stravo nursed a slight hangover. Shivra was conspicuously absent, ostensibly sleeping in her room, recovering from the last night’s injuries.
Luak or Eth had made some inquiries, and Thoradin Ironstar was expected to arrive in town in the afternoon. In the meanwhile, the party took care of errands, such as selling gems, and buying healing potions. While they were selling some dragonsplitters to the weaponsmith, they discovered that he had a magical sword named Goldenclaw, that he was willing to sell to the party. After a bit of persuasion, they convinced him to sell it to them. Chrono was the happy owner of the enchanted blade, one that glowed yellow and radiated a faint light.
The sun was low in the sky, casting long, deepening shadows by the time some caravan wagons rolled in. They were not the usual merchant wagons, but instead filled with grim-looking soldiers and a great deal of steel weapons and armor. Accompanying them was Thoradin Ironstar, as well as a number of tough-looking dwarves.
Luak and Stravo met the dwarves at the Grinning Dragon Inn, and Thoradin introduced his companions: Karthain Steelheart, a cleric of Moradin, Balaim Bronzehammer, a fighter, and Nalthren Bronzehammer, an invoker.
It was with great sadness and regret that Stravo told Thoradin of his clansman’s fate. The dwarf paladin accepted the news with a grim expression. He thanked the party for their help and gave them as a reward, a magic belt and the thanks of all of Clan Ironstar. Thoradin and his companions would quickly resupply and immediately head out toward the fallen tower and the bodies of their fallen kinsmen. Luak sighed with a heavy heart as he watched the dwarves march off, then followed the bard as they moved to rejoin their companions at the Sleeping Wizard Inn and discuss their next move.