Jardet was nice enough for a Human city, Astarte supposed. Work was plentiful and easy, as there were valuable goods to guard and few willing to steal it. Astarte's rather plump coin purse was proof of his momentary prosperity. Though it irked him to have to rub elbows with such lowly creatures as Humans, these days he didn't have much of a choice. Elves were to be avoided. Any of them could be a royal agent sent to sniff out and kill him. Though he had been on the run for a year, the heat had barely died down. The last agent to make an attempt on Astarte's life was encountered almost a month ago. Astarte burned her body in three separate fires.
Still, he couldn't hang around in this town for too long. He was moving on, and that meant an end to easy work. However, Astarte decided to kill two birds with one stone by moving out with a caravan, which he was assigned to guard. The merchant that had hired him was rather excited by the prospect of hiring an "exotic" Elven mercenary to protect his goods. Astarte had the feeling that he was more excited by the low wages that he was willing to agree to. The goods in question he had learned to be silver ore to be smelted into ingots by the blacksmiths of Rolandis, their destination. A very tempting target for any would-be raiders, as the ore would be easy to sell and nearly impossible to trace.
Thus the tight security on the caravan, which Astarte now stood among as the drivers prepared to move out. He was a lone Elf among the Dwarven and Human mercenaries hired to protect the train of cattle and carts. All armed and armored roughnecks who would spit on the ground and wrestle and joke of cutting off heads and maidenheads and engaged in similar crude and jocular behavior. Astarte was disgusted by them. Not because they were lowly beasts no better than the cattle they walked beside (well, that was part of it), but because of their complete lack of professionalism. Astarte had standards that he maintained regardless of the job. Whether he was a short-term enforcer for the local organized crime syndicate or a bodyguard for whatever petty human nobles were around, Astarte completed his tasks with the same level of professionalism. The task would be completed cleanly, efficiently and expediently. It would be completed to the letter of his employer's demands, and exactly that. No more, no less. He would not socialize or partake in recreation until his task was complete. Not that Astarte did those things often under normal circumstances.
Oh, they were moving out. Astarte was broken from his condescending and narcissistic internal monologue by the sound of bullwhips being cracked and wagon wheels creaking. He tightened the straps on his minimal armor (mostly concealed by his billowing robes), placed his hand on his sword hilt, and joined the moving formation.
The sun had set, and the caravan was well along its journey, but had stopped for the night. The roads in Honara were very easy to navigate, and they had made fantastic time. If the same pace was maintained, they would reach Rolandis by mid-afternoon the day after tomorrow. Camp had been established, and most drivers were already asleep as the guards gathered around a fire and were generally obnoxious. Astarte stayed just within reach of the firelight, eating his rations of dried beef and bread, but was generally away from the rest of the guards as they drank and sang.
Unfortunately, one spotted him. "Oi, knife-ears! Get over 'ere!" The human mercenary shouted, waving him over with his tankard.
Astarte sighed deeply before rising to his feet and walking over to the circle of men who had grown quiet at his approach.
"Got some fancy swords there. Mind if I 'ave a look-see?"
"I would mind. Do not touch me." Astarte's tone was mostly stoic, though was still firm.
"Oh yeah," Another man, of the Dwarves, rose unsteadily and took steps toward Astarte. "The hoity-toity Elf wouldn't want us to harm his wee precious knives, there. What if I decided to take 'em off ye?"
Astarte took a step away from the drunken Dwarf, still calm. "You are drunk. I would prefer that you be sober enough to cry and beg for mercy before I killed you."
Laughs resounded around the fire, the men apparently amused by Astarte's boast. The stuttering, embarrassed Dwarf was pulled back into the circle and handed a full tankard to shut him up.
Another Human man stood, looking a bit more sober, and in cleaner armor than the majority. "Well, it is late. I do think that we should best bed down at this time, gen'lemen." Groans and various slurred objections sounded, but no one sounded vehemently against the order. "Good, I'm glad we're in agreement." The man walked over and placed his large hand on Astarte's more delicate shoulder, supporting his tipsy weight on him slightly. "I'm afraid we've had a bit too much to drink this evening, my fey friend, and you look th' most sober among us." Indeed, Astarte was completely sober; he did not care for the drink for a great number of reasons, professionalism chief among them. "If you'd be so kind as t' handle th' watch for th' night, we'd greatly appreciate it. I don't think any of us are good for waking up t' change th' firewatch, so you're free to sleep on a cart tomorrah, an' we'll let yous sleep all through tomorrah night in exchange, yeah?"
Astarte sighed, carefully sliding out of the man's grasp and brushing off where they had made contact. "Very well. You drunkards may sleep off your soporifics as I assume the duties you are being paid for."
The men laughed and thanked him and shook his hand (to Astarte's disgust) as they passed to enter their tents. The sole Elf took up his position at the subsiding fire, which he fed more kindling to liven a bit more. The moon was but a silver sliver in the sky, but the stars were bright and full over the man Sworn to them, alone in many ways that night.