This was the last place, other than the icy wastes of Vaasa, that Desmond Ardelein had truly ever wanted to see. He looked over the endless pale sand dunes and into the sharp cloudless blue sky, and sighed. And yet, here he was, delivered like a prize hound into the reaches of treacherous cut-throat desert bands and the equally dangerous arms and confidences of the Pashas--the Rulers of the districts, working under the Syl-Pasha-- of Calimport.
It wasn't so much that he feared swordplay- verbal or otherwise- as he was a bard and well used to the many nuances of social protocol. It was rather that he feared a knife in the back and an end to his travel among all else.
The bard frowned and was reminded of how he ended up in this predicament, tied to many caravans and equally as many guards that was heading from Darromar in Tethyr to busy Calimport in Calimshan. He could understand the need for guards, as the caravan carted lavish carpets and silks and wines, which were prized by wealthy Pashas to adorn their palaces and many mistresses and wives, and loosen lips at parties.
With the increased bandit activity, Pasha Anum, who had called for the expensive goods, had hired out mercenaries to guard the shipment. Desmond had only come because he had heard of the Pashas wish for court bards to perform at some upcoming parties, and that Queen Zaranda had wished him out of the castle after she discovered his little dalliances with her personal handmaidens. They weren't things he regretted, and though the Queen had found it somewhat amusing, both Bard and Queen had decided it was high time for him to leave.
Desmond trudged along beside one of the slow moving covered wagons, kicking his feet in the sand as he stepped, slow and languid in the midday heat of the desert. It was rare that he visited a desert land, spending most of his time in the Northwest corner of Faerun, though he did occasionally stretch into Amn and Tethyr to the South and Cormyr and Sembia to the East.
Of all the cities he had visited and lived in for a time, Waterdeep remained his favorite. Considered the center of the civilised world, the variety of people and places and adventure there was endless. He had spent many a night performing in the fine taverns of the city and the mansions of the wealthy, earning his keep with the skills he had perfected over his century and a half of life. Many a night was spent among the ever-moving people of the city, and some spent among the ladies of the evening that plied their trades in the taverns that riddled the city, and all in a pleasant temperature. Nothing like this sweltering heat.
Desmond sighed, an action that was unbecoming of the otherwise lively bard. It was clear by his light gait and attire that he was of elven blood, and accustomed to adventuring.
He was well prepared for the desert with his light breeches, and a soft tunic in a lighter green, which made from a buoyant elven cloth. A thick leather belt held a scabbard with a sword of elvish steel within at his left hip, while a small hand drum adorned his right. He had forgone his cloak of dark green with a garish yellow dragon shaped pin for a vest of brown, which hung loosely over his thin elven form. Nothing adorned his thin wrists and hands, which he preferred to keep bare to make it easier to play his lyre. That rested on his back, attached to a small khaki travel pack he wore over one shoulder. With his long dark hair pulled back by a thin band, coupled with his loping gait and pulchritudinous facial features, the bard was a picture of handsome ease.
The caravan trudged on through the sand, only the garble of conversation and occasional snatch of bawdy song from the hired hands drifting slowly through the air. It had been many days Desmond had traveled with this caravan, spending his days trudging next to a wagon, and his nights playing songs and telling stories to the ale soaked mercenaries and wagon drivers, passing around his decent Tethyrian Red- a strong liquor distilled from raspberries and cinnamon to give it a kick and a red coloring- and sharing laughs and good company. Using his natural charm, he had happily wormed his way in as a casual friend to most of the mercenaries, whom had promised him their services should he need them in exchange for a good story and drinking companion, as well as a strong sword.
After spending nearly one hundred years adventuring and traveling across the face of Faerun, it was rare that a journey was completed without a few well-meaning ambushes or attacks. With the costly silk and carpets and wine the caravan held, it seemed odd for it not to be touched.
As if on cue, a deep warning horn sounded from somewhere behind him. As a unit, the mercs and Desmond twirled towards the horn. The sound of unsheated steel and twang of bows filled the air. A man standing not ten paces from Desmond cried out and fell victim to an arrow buried in his throat, his shout ending in a sickening gurgle. The bard lept back in suprise, drawing his sword with a fluid motion. Over the horizon, a group of heavily cloaked bandits rode in on dark horses, their weapons gleaming threateningly in the sunlight.
Desmond sighed, flexing his fingers to limber them up. He mumbled in a silky voice.
" So much for an easy journey."