The light streaming from the small, barred window barely illuminated the entire cell. Catching the final rays of sunlight, the dust motes spun lazily through the air, seemingly without a care, ignoring the living creatures present within the confines of the stone walls.
Avoiding the light, four creatures huddled, each in their own corner. All were battered and bruised, clothed in rags and sandals. Intent on keeping to themselves, they left each other to their own thoughts. All was quiet until the largest of the four occupants began to hack and cough, spitting globules of mucus and blood into the sand around him.
Coughing up a large wad of blood, the fur covered beast slumped against the wall, his breathing becoming haggard and shallow. Blood was pooling at his feet as the sand beneath him began to form clumps, absorbing his leaking bodily fluids. An awful smell wafted from several deep cuts and wounds across the beast's chest and abdomen. As he slowly toppled over, a creature with green, warty skin, and two long ears poking from a mop of black hair, scampered over to the beast, gingerly placing a hand upon its chest.
Grabbing the beast's tunic, the goblin began to tear it into strips, placing each strip over a foul-smelling wound. Wincing slightly before roaring in pain, the fur covered beast bared his pointed teeth, several of them notably missing.
The smallest of the group, his skin covered in mottled red scales and his eyes swollen nearly shut from the beating he had taken, spoke in a high pitched, though clear form, of the common tongue.
"How fares Storgank?" it barked, slowly crawling over to the prone, fur-covered beast.
"No good. Wound smelly. Infection. Dead soon. Not long," said the goblin in a nasally voice, shaking its head.
"Why … you … say … it," coughed the fur covered beast, lifting his head from the sandy floor, "Me … not dead … yet …"
"Soon, friend Gank, soon," said the goblin, resting his hands on the shoulders of the fur covered beast and gently pushing him back to the sand, "Rest. Not long."
The beast's body shook as he was racked by several harsh coughs, spitting up phlegm and blood-filled mucus, "No die like this … die in battle … not … like this …"
Turning to face his red-scaled companion, the goblin shook his head, "Zahsi, it's time. His god will have him."
"The gods have no power here. They have forsaken us. Hruggek won't take him. His soul will be lost. He'll be forsaken. There will be no afterlife for him."
"Blasphemy!" spat the goblin.
"Truth," replied the kobold.
"You act human. You speak human. You think human. But you no human. Kobold know bugbear death rite. Speak bugbear death rite," said the goblin angrily.
The kobold sighed, turning to look at his dying friend.
Placing a hand on the beasts' forehead and one hand on his chest, the kobold breathed deeply, "Peace be with you, Storgank. May your sword strike true, may you bathe in the blood of your enemies and may Hruggek accept your sacrifice and welcome you home."
The fur-covered beast grinned slightly, "Zahsi … friend," he croaked. Turning to look at the goblin, he managed to groan, "Crichik … friend."
"Yes, you are with friends. Go in peace. Be with your god," the kobold said soothingly, patting his shoulder.
"Where … Hiro … friend?" asked the beast looking around.
The lone human, who still sat in his corner, grunted loudly causing all heads to turn in his direction. Realizing that he would say nothing more, the creature turned back to goblin.
"Hiro ... friend?"
Shushing him, the kobold gained the bugbear's attention, "Of course he is your friend. We are all friends here. Now go, be with your god."
"I … go … now …" the bugbear breathed one last time, the life slowly ebbing from his body.
For a few moments, all was quiet, as both the goblin and kobold bowed their heads in silence. The human remained quiet, not bothering to look in their direction.
Rubbing his hands together, the goblin got up, grabbed the sandals from the feet of the bugbear and scampered back to his corner.
"Mine. He no need them," he chattered.
Shaking his head, the kobold eased closer to the human.
"Why did you ignore Storgank like that?"
The human turned to look at the badly beaten kobold. The kobold returned his gaze, noting the tousled hair, the gashes across his face and the partially missing ear. And yet, his eyes were undamaged, a perfect shade of blue, fierce, and full of defiance. Grek the Ogre hadn't beaten it out of him, yet. And the arena hadn't broken him. Hiromoto was a fine warrior, a fan favorite. But fame is a fickle beast and can turn on you as fast as it embraces you. When your fame dies, so do you.
"He was dying," the human said, bringing Zahsi out of his reverie.
"Yes, yes he was. He asked for you. He wanted to be with his friends. You once called him friend."
"He was foolish when he charged the beast-cat. He should have listened to me."
"His fame was waning. He wanted to die in battle."
"There was no honor in his death."
"We are slaves to Grek," the kobold said tugging at the iron ring in his ear, "We don't have the luxury of honor."
"Honor is all I have, reptile," Hiro spat, "Without honor I have nothing."
"Without friends and allies, you have nothing," Zahsi said motioning to the dead beast, "He was our best shot, and now he's dead. Even you can't kill everything that Grek sends our way."
"If only I had my sword…"
"Always whining about your sword, your beloved ancestral sword. You need to wise up, Hiro. Virmaris has your sword and he's not going to give it back to you anytime soon. You will need the weapons that you have been given."
"The weapons I have are weak and useless. Until the Orc arrives, I have nothing."
"Until the Orc arrives. Always with the Orc. What is so special about this Orc?"
"He is Braak. He is our salvation," growled the human.
"You mean your salvation. This Orc means nothing to me."
"In time, you will see the error of your thoughts. He is as much my savior as he is yours. Leave me now."
Shaking his head, thinking his companion was as crazy as ever, the kobold slowly scampered away.