Anek: Tauren, Paladin, Tank. Has built a repore with Chander, often the two can simply exchange a look, and know what the other is thinking. Exceptionally powerful, and a natural leader.
Schwarzen: Orc, Warrior, DPS. Older veteran, very fast to irritate, but also very wise. For some reason, seems to have taken a liking to Dendril.
Ar'rmond: Blood Elf, Warlock, DPS. Fairly quiet, but utterly fearless. Only speaks when necessary, but is often right when he does.
Dendril: Forsaken, Hunter, DPS. Pet name Cat. A huge joker. Will do anything to cheer up the group after a tough fight. Seems to be good friends with Schwarzen.
Chander felt the familiar surge of energy which tingled unpleasantly under the skin, and heard the voice in his mind. "All volunteers for clearing out Blackrock Depths, prepare yourselves for translocation." He took a deep breath and turned to Hanabii, who was watching him with a small smile. He gripped her hand, smiling at her lovingly. "It's time ta get ta work. I'll see ya soon beautiful." Before she could say anything in response, her image began to shimmer, and the mountains behind her grew dark. Suddenly he was pulled through the twisting nether, and a split second later he found himself standing in a cavernous room, with the soft glow of lava illuminating the area around him. Beads of sweat instantly began popping out on his forehead from the blistering heat of the mountain, but he ignored them and looked around.
To his left stood an elf in dark robes, his long black hair already becoming damp from the heat of the place. He spoke in quiet tones to a large felguard, which turned to stare at Chander, fixing him with a glare. Though his stomach churned with fear at the sight of the demon, he puffed out his chest and growled at it as though the creature was beneath him. The demon looked away at last, and the young Shaman continued to survey his surroundings.
Not far from the Elf was another Orc, this one looking old enough to be Chander's grandfather. This Orc leaned against a large axe, his muscular form encased in durable plate armour, and his expression bitter. He growled softly at a Forsaken who stood in front of him, one boney hand resting on the head of a large cat. "I thought you bone bags didn't like the living? How come you've got a living, breathing animal following you around? I thought you types preferred monstrosities like fairy boy over there's got?"
Chander stifled a laugh at the old veteran's choice of words, and was immediately glad he did. The Elf turned sharply toward the old warrior, and lifted his staff off his back. "Did you just call me fairy boy, old man?" The Elf walked toward the pair, his eyes fixed on the Orc, who stepped forward as well, and pressed his face toward the warlock, snarling furiously.
"Alright settle down now. Save that energy for the Dwarves that live here." A deep, calm voice said. Chander turned around and spotted a large Tauren clad in shining plate armour, with a sword and shield fastened to his back. His stance radiated a sense of confidence, and without having to ask, Chander knew that this would be the soldier who was going to lead them into the depths of the mountain.
"Back off pup, you too bright eyes. I was killing Alliance when your father was still shitting in a diaper!" The old warrior growled. Chander and the Tauren looked at one another, and a moment of silent communication passed between them. With a small nod they leaped toward the Elf and the other Orc. Chander grabbed hold of the warrior, trying to drag him back, while the Tauren held on to both the elf, and his demon. The old veteran began swinging wildly, catching Chander a couple of times, while the Elf and his demon struggled against the Tauren. It seemed as though the four soldiers would kill each other before they even killed a single foe.
"I have a stiffy." Everyone froze, and turned slowly to look at the Forsaken. He regarded them all with a wide grin, his hand still resting on the head of his feline companion. "Rigor mortis. It's a dead joke, dead subject too!" He threw back his head and began laughing wildly.
Chander let go of the Orc and moved toward the Forsaken. "Erm... what the... why'd ya even bring that up?"
"Can't get it down, that's the point. Get it? Point? Rigor mortis?" The Forsaken laughed again, and this time everyone else joined in, goaded on mostly by the exuberance with which the undead laughed, rather than the joke itself. After a few minutes he smiled at those around him. "It got you thinking about something other than killing each other, didn't it?"
They all turned and looked at one another, nodding quietly. The Elf walked up to the old warrior, and offered his hand. "I suppose I can forgive your comment, after all next to an Orc, my people do appear lithe and weak like fairies."
The Orc grunted and shook the Elf's hand. "At least I don't have some pussy that won't stand up for himself fighting with me. I guess I can work with a pup like you."
The Forsaken moved between the two, and draped an arm across each of their shoulders. "Great, now we're all friends! My name's Dendril, what about you?"
Surprisingly, the old Orc laughed heartily, and turned to address Dendril. "I'm Schwarzen, an old soldier that can't use his body as a shield to protect you pups anymore, but who still has some fight left in him."
"And I am Ar'rmond," said the elf. "A practitioner of the fel arts, and master demonologist. At your service Schwarzen, Dendril."
"The name's Chander. Once dead, once risen by the grace of the spirits. I'm a Shaman in trainin, an' I'll be makin sure ya's don't fall down dead out here." He turned to smirk at the Tauren standing across from him.
The Tauren met his gaze and nodded softly. "I place my fate in your hands Chander. I am Anek the Sunwalker, a paladin if you will. By the Light of the sun, and the strength of my arm, I will keep you all safe." Chander stepped forward, and the two clasped arms. Here was a kinsman of spirit, one just as determined and honourable as Chander. As they let go of each other, Anek turned to face the rest. "We are now brothers in arms. Let us get to work clearing out any vermin we see."
The others all nodded, and made their way past the blockade of Horde who guarded that small, annex. As they neared a group of Dwarves, Chander reached into a pouch at his side, fingering the carved totems that formed a link to each of the four elements. He sent a silent prayer to them as Anek let out a deep bellow, and charged at their quarry. Pulling out his totems, he called upon the spirit of air to plant them firmly in the ground on four sides of himself, and reached out with his mind to sense the condition of his comrades as they fought. Though he was still little more than an apprentice, Chander could easily distinguish between the pain from blocking a blow with one's shield, and from a heavy blow that dazed the one who received it. As he focused his attention on Anek, he was both surprised and impressed with the Sunwalker's skills. He was agile, and resilient, taking blows that would make any other fall to one knee with little more than a snort.
As the final Dwarf in the area they were clearing fell, Chander moved toward each of the others, examining them carefully. Other than a torn ear on Dendril's companion, and a bloody nose on Schwarzen, everyone else seemed alright. He made his way over to Anek, and calling upon the elements he formed a globe of water in his hand. "Yer one skilled soldier. I ain't protected many that could take blows like that," he said as he handed the globe of water to Anek.
The Paladin smiled gratefully at Chander and brought the globe to his mouth, drinking it as though it were in a cup. "Well I've rarely been warded by a healer as attuned as you Chander. You didn't waste your time on the small aches that come with close quarter combat, and quickly mended any wounds that would have slowed me down. We are a good team."
Chander smiled and squatted down next to Anek, forming another globe of water, and sipping from it slowly. Both of them turned to look at the other three who accompanied them. "I call her Cat," Dendril said, crouching down next to the feline, who rolled over onto her back.
Ar'rmond regarded Dendril evenly, his arms folded across his chest. "Why in the nether did you name her Cat? There are many names you could have chosen that sound more ferocious."
"Because she is a cat! Isn't she? Yes she is, and she's a good cat, she likes to maul and destroy, oh doesn't she?" Dendril crooned, scratching Cat's stomach.
"Bah, who needs some fancy name that's hard to yell in the heat of battle?" Schwarzen asked. "When you're pinned to the ground with your enemy lifting his axe to make the killing blow, do you want to waste your breath yelling some long name, that you might not even have the chance to finish saying? No! I think Cat is a good, functional name for that beast."
Chander and Anek turned to look at each other, both of them chuckling softly at the sight of the unusual quartet. With a sigh Anek stood up, and Chander followed. "Alright, we've had enough of a breather. Now that we're all loosened up a little, we should make good time in here. Lets get back to work."
The others nodded, and they made their way deeper into the mountain. Each group they saw was dispatched quickly, and even though watching others fight often got boring for Chander, for once he was completely enjoying himself. Anek's swordsmanship kept their enemies busy, Schwarzen's axe continued to bite deeply into those that tried to get behind Anek, both the demon and Cat covered Anek's sides, and it was common to see a few of their quarry falling over with arrows sticking out of their heads, or expressions of pure agony on their faces from one of Ar'rmond's curses. They were a seamless team, and as they made their way deeper into the mountain their spirits were high.
"Two hundred arrows spent on pink skinned little brats. With Schwarzen's axe their heads he rent and left them for the rats!" Everyone turned to look at Dendril as he burst into song shortly after they had finished dispatching an exceptionally determined group. He looked around at everyone, and waved his hands in the air, humming the tune loudly, as though he were waiting for someone to come up with another line.
"Ar'rmond and his demon they were quite a sight. They cleave and curse their foes to bits so Cat can have a bite." Schwarzen chimed in, causing everyone to laugh. The party's steps quickened to match the beat of the song as they marched down a passage.
"And let us not forget to speak of Anek brave and true. With him fighting at the front nothing will get through." Ar'rmond sang in a melodious voice. At his words Anek bowed his head with a smile, and Chander clapped him on the shoulder.
"Though we fight and shed much blood t'would all be for nought, without Chander here to mend us we would all soon rot," Anek sang as he returned the gesture to the Shaman.
Chander was truly touched by Anek's words, and smiled warmly at those around him. "Orcs Tauren Elf Forsaken all make a good team, we beat the rest an' we're the best the Horde has ever seen!"
They continued through the mountain, making up more verses as they went, only pausing to kill those that got in their way. They were enjoying themselves so much that at first they didn't notice the sudden lull in resistance. Suddenly Ar'rmond gripped Dendril's shoulder, shaking it briefly to get his attention as he began another verse. "Wait, it's quiet." Everyone froze, and looked around.
They had entered a long hall, with tall pillars on either side. The room they had just left had been completely empty, and it seemed this area was as well. Despite the silence, Chander felt hairs rising on the back of his neck. He moved next to Anek, and they looked at each other, each coming to the same conclusion. "Ready your weapons. We have allowed ourselves to be careless, and could be attacked at any moment," Anek said as he unslung his shield from his back. Chander reached into his pouch, and gripped his totems, his mind clear, his senses sharp.
The walked slowly into the hall, Anek in front with Chander a step behind him. Ar'rmond and his demon walked sideways just behind him, watching the pillars as they passed them, looking for any sign of movement. Dendril had drawn his bow, and walking backwards between Schwarzen and Cat, he aimed it back the way they had come. The group was alert, ready for an ambush from four directions. Suddenly Chander felt a small breeze, accompanied by a sensation he had come to recognize as communication from a nearby spirit. Following the almost instinctive feeling he looked up... too late. Five Dwarves leaped down from a ledge near the ceiling. Chander shoved Anek forward, and the two that had been aiming for them hit the ground with a sickening thud, unable to rise again.
"Anek!" Dendril cried, and both the Paladin and the Shaman turned in horror. Schwarzen was battling Dwarves that were pouring in from the room they had just left, Ar'rmond lay unconcious just behind him, and Dendril's body was sprawled next to him, his head a few feet away, calling out to Anek and Chander. "Behind you!"
They looked over their shoulders as more Dwarves poured in from the room ahead of them. Chander looked around frantically, and spotted a small alcove between the wall, and one of the pillars. He looked at Anek and jerked his head toward it. The Sunwalker nodded and ran toward Schwarzen. "Grab Ar'rmond and Cat, get them into that alcove. I will cover you." He yelled. Chander rushed forward too, tucking Dendril's head under one arm, and dragging his body to safety.
Schwarzen seemed reluctant to leave the battle, but he nodded and scooped up Ar'rmond in one arm, Cat in the other. He reached the alcove first, and was just pushing Cat into it when a Dwarf charged at him with an axe. The little man's blow was well aimed, hitting Schwarzen right where the gap between his leggings, and back plate where. He let out a howl of pain and fell over.
Chander saw the horrific blow, and tried to speed up, still holding Dendril. To his amazement the decapitated Forsaken pulled an arrow out of his quiver, knocked it into his crossbow, and fired at the Dwarf, hitting it right between the eyes. The Dwarf fell over dead, and Chander skidded to a halt next to Schwarzen. "Old timer, jus' hold on, I can mend ya," Chander said in a panicked tone.
Schwarzen reached for Chander, and gripped his arm. "Don't be stupid! Go help Anek, I'll protect Dendril and Ar'rmond. GO!" He yelled, pulling Dendril's body out of Chander's arms, and tucking it into the alcove. Chander nodded and set down Dendril's head. The old warrior pushed himself painfully into the alcove, placing a protective arm around the Forsaken's head, and they watched helplessly as Chander rushed toward Anek, who was now battling a good twenty Dwarves on his own.
With a roar, Chander pulled out his totems, and opened his mind to sense Anek's condition. He was weakening, blood pouring down his muzzle in rivulets. Calling upon the spirits, Chander prayed harder than he ever had in his life to mend Anek's wounds, and keep him strong. The Tauren spared a glance at Chander, nodding gratefully, then they slowly allowed the Dwarves to push them back toward the alcove, blocking their comrades from any harm, though it meant being completely cornered. As they stood shoulder to shoulder, Chander found himself having to push back the tide of Dwarves that lunged at the two with his staff. Between uttering prayers to mend Anek, and fighting off those who ignored the Tauren, Chander was weakening.
Suddenly his mind cleared, and the pain from various wounds began to melt away. He looked at Anek in surprise, then nodded gratefully and kept fighting. Schwarzen and Dendril cheered at them as they battled ferociously, but Chander couldn't hear it. He was too busy fighting for his life. An axe would find its way past his defences, and bury itself in his side, then Anek would utter a prayer of his own, mending Chander's flesh. A hammer would be thrown at Anek's head, hard enough to bring the Sunwalker to his knees, but Chander would quickly beseech the spirits, and Anek's mind would clear. After ten full minutes the last Dwarf fell, and the two defenders finally collapsed on the ground, beyond exhausted. Chander growled softly as the hall began to spin, and shut his eyes, letting the darkness take him.
As his senses returned he felt a bitter taste in his mouth, and heard a familiar voice say "Just swallow it, you'll be fine." He did as he was instructed, and felt his strength returning. He opened his eyes slowly, and Ar'rmond's worried face came into focus just above him. "He's awake, I think he'll be alright."
Chander sat up with a growl, his entire body aching from the various wounds that were only partially healed. He looked around at his companions. Schwarzen was lying on his stomach with Anek holding his hands over his back, a soft golden light pouring from them. "The Light favours you my friend, you will be able to walk again, though for a while you might be in pain."
"Pain keeps the senses sharp. Just get me back on my feet, and I'll be fine," Schwarzen growled. He turned to look at Chander and grunted. "That was impressive pup. Foolish, but impressive. Whatever gave you the idea to run in there, and fight right next to him?"
Anek turned to look at Chander, fixing him with a concerned look. He smiled reassuringly at the Sunwalker before looking back down at Schwarzen. "A friend did." Schwarzen snorted, but a small smile curled around his tusks. Chander pushed himself to his feet unsteadily, nearly falling over. Ar'rmond caught him, and steadied him until he was able to hold himself up. He gave the warlock a grateful look. "Ya alright? Ya were out cold durin the fight."
"I have a headache where that Dwarf dropped down on me, and I'm feeling a little ill, but I will recover." Chander put his hand on Ar'rmond's head, and sent a plea to the spirits. He felt the swollen lump under his hand begin to recede, and finally let go. Ar'rmond squeezed Chander's shoulder gratefully. "Thank you Chander."
"Good thing none of us lost our heads when they attacked, right?" Chander turned around and laughed. Dendril was propped up against a pillar, holding his head in his lap. Cat lay next to him, purring quietly and licking some blood off one of her paws.
"Speak fer yerself there pal. Lemme put ya back together," Chander said as he knelt down in front of the Forsaken. He lifted his head out of his arms, and carefully set it down on his neck. It wobbled precariously, so he gripped it carefully and reached out to the elements to heal Dendril. A few moments later he removed his hand, satisfied with his work. "There ya go, good as new."
"Not quite..." Dendril stood up and tilted his head to one side. He put a hand under his ear, and began smacking the side of his head. A couple of cockroaches fell into his hand, and he counted them. "Billy, Bobby, Benny, and Britney. Alright, they're all here." He tilted his head the other way, and dropped the bugs back into his ear, giving his head a little shake as he did.
Chander couldn't help but laugh. "So lemme get this straight, ya named four roaches that live in yer ear with human names, but ya named yer cat Cat?"
Dendril just smiled wider. "Of course. Cat suits Cat, just like those names suit my cockroaches. What would you name them?"
Anek began laughing, and Chander turned to him with a grin. "I don't think any of us would have named them Dendril, but that is what makes you so unique I suppose," the Paladin said. He helped Schwarzen climb to his feet, and moved over to Chander, speaking in a quieter tone. "I was proud to have you at my side. You saved my life Chander."
"Well, ya did the same fer me Anek, fer all of us." The two embraced as brothers, then straightened up and faced the group. "We've come far, an' we're almost through this place. I say we press on, an' finish this assignment."
The others nodded, and Anek picked up his shield, securing it on his arm. "According to the map I was shown before taking on this assignment, the chamber that lies ahead will be the most dangerous of all. It is filled with the majority of the Dwarves left here, and it is rumoured that a few fire elementals guard the hall as well. We will have to move quickly, and fight our way through to where the last of our quarry are held out." Everyone nodded, and readied themselves, Ar'rmond calling forth his demon once more, the link having been shattered when he was knocked unconscious. When everyone was ready Anek nodded and stepped toward the end of the hallway. "Lets move out."
They made their way to the end of the hall, and peered into the next room, their hearts sinking. It was as Anek said, the room was filled with the small fierce creatures. It would be impossible to sneak past them. The Shaman and the Paladin exchanged a look then nodded, each drawing their weapons as they turned to the others. "I will draw their attention. Stay just behind me, and attack whenever I stop," Anek said. He lifted his sword and charged into the room. "Attack!"
As the five soldiers ran forward they instantly found themselves being swarmed from all sides. The Dwarves were like vicious animals backed into a corner, fighting the party tooth and nail, determined not to let any pass. Anek's sword, and Schwarzen's axe soon became slick with blood as Chander and his comrades pressed onward. Chander's mind was open, sensing his comrades conditions, but also remaining alert for any hostile elemental presence. He was able to feel the first of them before the group had reached it. As he struggled to keep Anek and the others on their feet, he reached out to the elemental, trying to contact it. Spirit of flame, we have entered yer domain to help clear it of those that would corrupt this mountain, an' pervert yer fires fer their own use. Please let us pass by without bringin harm upon any of us. For a while he didn't feel any response, so he repeated his request. Suddenly a searing pain shot through his head, and he fell to one knee, clutching it in agony. Anek finished killing the Dwarves that were attacking, and had turned to move the party forward. As his eyes fell on Chander he rushed over, placing a hand on his shoulder. "What's wrong?"
Chander gasped for air, struggling to fight back the sensations of pain and fury that were washing over him from the elemental. "Brace yerself... Here it comes!" he gasped, pointing behind Anek. The Tauren turned around, and everyone stared in shock. A giant fire elemental was pushing its way through the Dwarves, burning any who stayed in its path, and heading straight for them.
They all watched in horror as the searing elemental charged toward them, unable to move. Finally Anek seemed to come back to himself, and lifted his sword high. "Well are we just going to let it fry us, or are we going to destroy it? Attack!" Everyone roared, and braced themselves as Anek ran toward the manifestation of fire. Pushing himself to his feet, Chander began calling on water, constantly bathing Anek and Schwarzen in water as they moved in closer, healing every burn that marred their flesh. He moved in closer to the combatants, making it a little easier to reach them with water spells, and keep them refreshed.
He felt a small tingle on the back of his neck, making him want to look to the left, but he ignored the sensation, too focused on keeping his comrades safe. Finally, with a hearty blow from Schwarzen, the elemental flared up for a moment, before bursting into a shower of sparks. Chander stepped toward Anek, and the two gripped arms, grinning widely.
"NOOOOO!" The cry that rent the air caught the group by surprise, and was quickly followed by a blast of intense heat. Chander turned around and stared in horror. Schwarzen was sliding across the floor, stopping just past Chander and Anek, and another, more painful cry resounded through the chamber. Chander's chest suddenly felt tight, and he opened his senses to each of his comrades, quickly locating the source of the cry. Another elemental was standing just behind them, and next to it were two beings completely engulfed in flames.
He heard the others charge at the elemental, but his mind was focused on the two beings that had been set on fire, only one of which still carrying a spark of life. He doused the two in water, and knelt down next to the one that still moved. Strong green fingers curled around boney, charred ones as he looked down upon Dendril. "Hold on, jus' hold on pal. Yer gonna be alright."
The Forsaken looked up at Chander, his hand shaking as it gripped the Orc's. "Schwarzen... safe?" Chander nodded slowly, covering Dendril's hand with his other one. He let out a sigh, and the light in his eyes began to dim. "Good... it comes again... the blinding dark... at least... I'm not... alone..."
Chander began gasping with every breath, his hand trembling as he gripped the one of his friend. Dendril's eyes finally went blank, and his grip on Chander's hand faltered. "No... No it ain't dark here. Dendril ya hear me? It ain't dark!" He brought Dendril's hand to his chest as the truth began to sink in. "It ain't dark... not when yer makin this assignment so bright..." He spotted a bit of movement near Dendril's ear, and dropped his hand, leaning down to look. As he watched, four cockroaches crawled out of the Forsaken's ear. Chander let out a small sob of relief as he saw them, simply glad that something of Dendril still lived on, and carefully scooped the insects into his hand before dropping them in a pouch at his hip.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up. Anek was standing behind him, his fur badly singed, and a few patches burned black. He gave Chander a pleading look, to which the shaman simply shook his head. "Cat... Dendril..." They looked over at Schwarzen, who was standing over the two blackened bodies. "They saved me. Damn dead idiot and his pet saved my life. They saw that thing coming right for me, and pushed me out of the way." The old soldier gritted his teeth, then threw back his head and roared. Chander's voice joined his, as they let out the death cry, alerting the ancestors that a brave hero was coming to join them.
Ar'rmond knelt down next to Dendril, gently putting his hand on his chest. "You were funny. I'm sorry I was so cold to you. You were very funny." He looked between the others. "Would it be alright if my demon carried him? He deserves to be sent home, and I want to help." Chander looked at Anek who met his gaze, before turning to Ar'rmond and nodding silently. The Elf stood up brusquely at the motion, and called over his demon. The Felguard stooped to pick up both Dendril, and Cat with surprising gentleness, and the group moved forward sombrely toward the final chamber.
As they drew near Chander moved next to Anek, putting his hand on the Sunwalker's shoulder. "Some days ya save um all, some days ya lose the best of um. Ya never know what's gonna happen when the mages pull ya inta battle, only that ya gotta press forward, an' do all ya can ta make it through with as few casualties as possible."
Anek looked at Chander sadly, but slowly nodded his massive head. "We're all soldiers. We all know the risks." He looked back at the Felguard carrying Dendril and Cat's remains. "It doesn't make this any easier though." They stopped as they reached the final room, and looked ahead. They could see guards posted along the walls, and a well dressed Dwarf standing next to a throne. Anek looked back at the others, who had already raised their weapons. "For Dendril." He said softly.
"FOR DENDRIL!" the group cried as they ran into the room, confronting all who met them, and slaying them quickly. Wave after wave of Dwarves kept rushing at them, but with the shade of their beloved comrade urging them forward, the four soldiers fought mercilessly, killing all who stood before them. At last the only Dwarf remaining was the one next the the throne. He flared his nostrils at the group, and locked eyes with Anek. The Sunwalker tossed his head with an angry snort, and pawed the ground before charging at the Dwarf.
The two met in a clash of steel that resounded through the hall, sending them both bouncing back stunned for a moment before they began swinging their swords at one another. Chander stood and watched, his mind open as Anek parried and dodged all of the Dwarf's attacks, but seemed unable to land any of his own. He heard a loud roar, and saw Schwarzen run past him. The old Orc grabbed Anek's shoulders, and using the momentum he'd gained running, he leaped over the enormous Tauren, and landed behind the Dwarf, instantly bringing down his axe, attempting a swift killing blow. The Dwarf however was much faster than the veteran warrior, and ducked low, rolling under Anek's legs, getting behind the two combatants. As he stood up he was instantly pushed back, as three consecutive balls of dark energy hit him square in the chest. Chander looked over to Ar'rmond, his black hair flying out behind him as raw energy surged from the Elf. He grinned at the sight, and turned his attention back to the fight.
The Dwarf was beginning to weaken now, gasping for air as he fell to one knee. Schwarzen and Anek moved up on either side of the Dwarf, lifted their weapons, and brought them down on either side of his neck, while Ar'rmond let go one final bolt of dark energy, striking the Dwarf directly in the face. As the small man fell, killed thrice over, the companions all fell silent, looking down at their work with disbelief. It was over. Their mission was complete, and now they would be forced to part, and move on to other tasks. Anek took a deep, steadying breath, and pulled his sword from the Dwarf's body. "Never in all my years have I fought alongside such steadfast, and noble soldiers. Even if we never meet again, know that you always will be my brothers in arms." He moved toward Chander, and put a hand on his shoulder. "Especially you Chander. We made a good team."
Chander smiled and gripped Anek's shoulder in return. "Yeah, we did. This won't be the last time we fight together, I promise. Someday the spirits'll guide us back together again, an' we'll have another good adventure." Chander turned around to look at the others, a sudden inspiration hitting him. He reached into his pouch and withdrew four cockroaches.
The others looked at him in shock. "Are those what I think they are?" Schwarzen said with a note of hope in his voice.
Chander grinned. "Billy, Bobby, Benny, and Britney. I guess roaches really are resilient bugs. Listen, why don't each of us take one? That way no matter where we go, we'll always be together in some way, even Dendril'll be with us."
They all looked between one another, and the insects. Finally Ar'rmond stepped forward, picking one of the cockroaches out of Chander's hand. "They belonged to a good man. Now they will remain with four good men, who remember the one that kept them." One by one, the others each took a roach.
Chander looked down at the one left in his hand, and gently ran his thumb over its back. "I think I'll call him Benny. Dendril woulda liked that." The others laughed, then looked down at each of their own sadly. Chander looked about the group, and extended his free hand, palm down. "Brothers forever?"
Anek smiled and placed his hand over Chander's. "Brothers forever." Schwarzen moved forward next, and put his hand over Anek's, then Ar'rmond did the same. At last they each drew away, and giving each other a final salute they walked away, each awaiting the day they would all meet again, and fight at each others sides once more.