In the courtyard

Outside, the guards leave you to make your way home.  You find yourself in the
palace courtyard, which is partly filled with people engaged in numerous small
conversations.  Against the wall to your right, a couple of wooden tables have been
set up, and a servant girl is serving what appears to be rolls and hot cider to the
assembled group.

You spot some of your co-habitants from this morning, and (perhaps grabbing
some refreshment) move to join them, curious to hear how their morning was

Within fifteen minutes, you find yourself in one of many small circles of
travellers, discussing the past night's events.  Present are Kai, Quill, Kirion,
Manon, Beren, Mac, and Gwar.  No one has seen Aurel since he left the room several
hours past.

Gwar approaches the group he was with and asks "Did any of you find
anything out? I know they're
confident about their defences here; they are not looking for mercenaries." 
With this Gwar signals the servant girl over and orders some food.

Kirion spots Gwar after he avails himself of the service that was
made available.  Munching slowly, Kirion notes that he believes that
information could valuable to these people.  "We will get it.  Will
you join us"?

Gwar looks a bit confused. He hesitates, thinks a bit and asks: 
"Will get what?". He pauses. "Who is 'us' and what are your intentions?"
Gwar looks around where's that elf that was in our cell? Maybe he was the spy.

Quill, who is eating a bun at the time say
 " I am no spy. If I were a spy would you think that I would have been
 captured ? You are a fool to think that, anyway they set me free so they
 obviously don't think I am a spy, and they used magical ways to determine

Turning to Kirion Quill says
 "Perhaps you would want me to join your party, I would be willing
 to help to prevent a war. That could free me from the opinion of
 my people so I could return there."

Mac approaches those who are in the group from the previous night. 

"Mac, well I wish we would have met under better circumstances, but 
we cannot change that now. But it would seem that the majority of us are
here by a common calling. I would be interested in joining any group
looking to find out more about the seeming impending elven/human war."

Mac turns and looks again at the people in the group. 

Gwar steps past Quill to get some more food, then suddenly turns and tackles 
the smaller man, wrestling him to the ground with ease.  He whispers something
harshly at Quill, who quickly nods, then he helps Quill to his feet and turns to
the group, keeping Quill in his peripheral vision.

 "I will join you Kirion with one exception..."  He looks at Quill, then
 "Listen all of you, I am no knight nor mage, but I will not
tolerate any more insults from
any of you. This is all I will say of this. The next time we speak of this
we will spill each others blood."   

Quill, still lying on the ground, says "Then stop saying foolish things."
"Did you not say  'Where's that elf that was in our cell? Maybe he was the
 spy.'? "Had you thought a bit, all that I had said before makes sense."

Suddenly Quill seems to realise that Gwar is still quite close and says
"Of course I am also not thinking to straight either, especially since I
have been thrown into a cell, I am not used to that."

With that Quill get up, dusts his cloths off and keeps his distance from

Seeing the smelly barbarian tackling the innocent elf Quill to the 
ground Manon quickly rises to his feet. The count is trying to 
control himself, not showing his anger to much. 

Before seating himself again he utters "You better have a good
reason attacking this defenceless elf. Or else you better try someone
your own size the next time" 

Gwar responds "As you wish."
Gwar draws his sword.
Gwar seems to be waiting for Manon to prepare for battle.

Mac seeing that the two stubborn fighters are about to start
a fight in the courtyard, rushes to Gwar.

Mac to Gwar: Gwar, this is not worth the trouble. I have been in the
lands near your tribe and understand your ways, but Manon and these others
probably have never been there. They don't realise how their bantering 
and jests wound your pride. I do. But I tell you this, either one of you 
standing in a pool of their own blood, dying, will not help us. 

There is a war coming this way. If humans, as a race, cannot get along enough
to band together to prevent or fight this war, then we are lost, before 
we begin.

Now barbarian. I suggest you put your sword away before you draw the
attention of those guards over there. Listen not to these men, remember
that your actions in real battle will mean more than the words of another 

Alert and ready to act Manon is watching the barbarian. Without
saying anything he is waiting for Gwar to react to Mac's words.

Gwar still keeps on looking at Manon as Mac continues to speak to him.
When Mac is done Gwar (still keeping eye contact with Manon) says something, 
sheaths his sword and picks up his spear.

Not loosing eye contact with Gwar Manon nods to the barbarian when he
sheaths his sword. "I understand we all are a bit stingy coming out
from an involuntary night of imprisonment, but I am glad you decided
not to settle this with blood." 

Trying to be polite not to upset Gwar Manon continues "Seeing you
this upset I understand you did not tackle Quill to the ground
without a reason. Although I saw nothing and heard nothing something
obviously happened." almost as if Manon is thinking out loud he
continues "But what could have upset you that can't be heard or

"Anyway, I hope this matter is settled" Manon concludes.

Mac looks at the other characters, especially Kai. Looks around at the 
other groups, again. 

"To be totally honest with you, I am not all that eager to venture into 
the elven lands. If war is pending, we would not be welcome. So maybe
our best path is to determine the reason for the expansion of the desert.

It seems that it would be a tough thing to figure out. If it is a natural 
occurrence, we would be hard pressed to stop it, but if it is unnatural, 
we have a chance."

Looking around, you see most of the other travellers have dispersed back into
the city.  It's now about 1000, and the servants are cleaning up the remaining food
and drink.  You noticed that most of the travellers were human, with a large number
of Jade Clan reptilemen.  There were a few dwarves and goblins, and almost no
elves, although yesterday you all remember a fairly sizeable Elven population in
the streets and taverns.  Only a handful were in the courtyard this morning, among
them Quill.

Kai moved towards Manon on first sighting, and waved Kirion over as well
to form the nucleus of the group of ex prisoners.  Neither eating nor
drinking, he has watched impassively as the remainder wandered over and
joined in, arms out and bent in at the elbows, hands on belt just over
the hilts of his daggers, gaze sliding from speaker to speaker and out
at the rest of the yard full of other detainees.

"whether paid or not surely a war is in none of our best interests" Kai
opines, breaking his silence, "i received no hint of what would make the
tixians take this extraordinary move to roundup strangers  yet if we
want to stop the juggernaut we must seek its engine  have any of you a
proposal regarding this  i myself see a possible cause in the slow but
steady growth of the desert   which the long lived elves must see as an
inevitable cause for the humans to go to war so as to move south away
from this place  that the humans themselves do not yet recognise the
phenomenon would not prevent the elves from making preparations or even
perhaps a pre-emptive strike"

Kai pauses, looks around at each member of the little group; "if any of
you have another idea of the cause let us hear it here  else i propose
our ad hoc comitas do one of two things  perhaps both  either seek the
root of the desert's expansion  or try to find a way to insure that such
expansion will not cause the humans to move to war  an i am correct this
should defuse the elven nation  whereupon we would needs but shew the
tixians their fears allayed  a third course for the short term would be
a mission to confirm my theory if any here have means to approach the
elven high council"

Mac says: Kai, I believe you are on to something, But the Salanar desert 
is not small and we are but a few. 

The encroaching desert is a valid point. Do you have any idea where we 
would start? I do not know a lot about the Salanar Desert, deserts in 
general, yes, but not this one. 

I believe that a visit to the Elven council will make us understand the 
problems behind the elven side. Firstly we are not diplomats and secondly 
they will think us spies. So even if we do find out what is going on, and 
I have my suspicions, we may not make it back to tell anyone to make the 
information we gain of any use.

Mac sighs. Looks around to the other groups to see if anything else is 
happening he should be aware of. Looking back to Quill he asks,
"Quill, you recently came from the elven lands and I realise that this 
must be rough for you. But who is leading the elves? "

Looking back at Kai Mac continues, 
"Kai, unless you know where to look in the desert, or at least where
to begin our best bet is to go south. But maybe not to the elven council. 
We few should be stealthy enough to make it through the elven lands fairly
undetected. Maybe first we can find the elves training to gauge the 
strength of their army and perhaps glean some information that way." 

Mac looks back over his shoulder, like he half expected to see someone 

"Any other opinions?"

Gazing dully back at Mac, Kai drones "i have been making inquiries into
the subject for some time and it is my conclusion though far from proved
that there is more than the common defeat of natures bounty by
overzealous man at work in the encroachment of the sands" Throwing his
visage around to indicate the rapidly clearing courtyard, he continues
"perhaps some of these jade can be of more help here if the right
leverage or method can be found to persuade  then too if you have no
further need for repast perhaps we should be likewise away ere we join
the missing elven corps  if not to say corpse  as they may well have

Kai's head now continues its traverse to fix on Quill, still as
expressionless as his voice, which meanders onward with scant
interruption "in which regard we have a riddle here for how did our elven
friend escape his brethren's common fate  aurel did not and tis true
there are others who did  yet the overbearing gwar here may have some
point  come will you not tell us of your conversations with the
inquisitor which may yet shed some light"

"I am also very curious of what your inquisitor might have asked you
Quill" Manon adds when Kai finishes. 

"Furthermore I don't like what I see and even less what you are
suggesting Kai. Butchering elves have never been the way of humans. I
wonder if I should go and ask the governor of their fate?"

Looking at the other men around the table Manon rises and excuses 
himself "I will be right back"

Manon leaves the table and walks up to the entrance of the palace and 
the two guards standing on either side of the door. He approaches one 
of the guards and you can see that the count is discussing something 
with the guard.

Manon then returns to the group and places himself next to Kai and 

Returning to the group of former captives Manon explains "The guard
had not much to say as he was not a part of the sweep last night. He
guessed the elves had either escaped or been detained for further

"I think it is time for us to move on. North, towards the deserts, is 
where we should be going. I think we should find transportation and begin
our journey."

Mac turns and walks a few paces, turns toward the group,
"Who's coming?"
The story continues...
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