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Forged In Darkness

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((The year is 1121 AD, somewhere in the Balkan mountains, is a small village called Anka of one hundred people. It's a hard place to reach on foot, and travel is fairly trecherous for the people there, but they do have a partnership with the local trolls. In exchange for hard labor and creating a tunnel system to navigate the mountains to civilation, the trolls are given easy access to food, clothing and building materials to make life easier. It's been a peaceful coexistance for the last one hundred years, and everyone is happy with the arrangement. Anka is watched over by the Shard who formed the partnership so long ago. Her full name is Kosena Todora Radulova, and she is also the resident white witch who specializes in medicine and healing magic. She lives with her great-grandson Galin in a house near the troll's bridge, and listens to and heals anyone who comes to her for help.))

((Lately, however, there has been an influx of trolls from the flatlands using the tunnels to escape to Anka. Refugees, escaping from a warlord named Gunmar who has been ravaging and pillaging the caves and villages of other trolls. The troll village is accomidating and willing to take in those looking to hide and start life over, but soon realizes that this is a grave mistake. More and more trolls are seeking out the Balkan mountains as refuge and food soon starts to become scarce. The humans are doing what they can and trading with other willing villages off the mountain to try and keep up with the food demand, but the tensions are starting to mount.))

((Our story begins with yet another wave of refugees making their way to the village. Kosena and Galin are the first to greet them at the ground tunnel exit heading to the village, along with the troll elder Ordo. The refugees, three grown trolls with one holding a bundle of blankets like a baby, stop in their tracks. Their leader holds out his hands peacefully.))

Leader: Please, we've ran miles and walked much more. We have nowhere to go. Please, help us.

((Kosena is quiet, and she turns her head to Ordo for his words. It's his village and his decision. Ordo looks simpathetic, and starts to shake his head.))

Ordo: We cannot take any more perminant residents here. The hunting is bad, the soil is preparing for winter, and the caves are filled to the brim. You can stay a short while and rest your feet, but no longer.

((The three trolls look sad, then the leader turns his head and mentions to the many pitter patters of feet following them up the caves.))

Leader: If you can't take us, then please take them in.

((There are ten troll whelps that gather around the feet of the adults. Kosena and Galin look stunned. All of the whelps are very small and are of various troll species around Eurasia. Kosena takes a step foreword, which makes all the whelps run for cover behind the three adults.))

Kosena: Where did they come from?

Leader: We gathered them as we went, all were hiding or were sheltered by their fallen parents. They need a safe haven more than we do.

((The one holding the blanket bundle then comes foreword to Kosena.))

Female: And if you can't take them, then please take this one. He's injured and scared. He needs help most of all.

((Kosena is curious and also concerned, so she steps foreword and carefully accepts the bundle into her arms. She uses one hand to gently lift some of the bundle away and sees the face of a very small whelp asleep in the cocoon. It has no eyes in its sockets at all, which makes her gasp. She tenderly touches the young one's face, which stirs it and makes it yelp and squirm in fear. Instinct kicks in, and she tenderly holds the whelp to her shoulder.))

Kosena: ((soothing it best she can in trollish)) Shh, shh, it's alright. You're safe, small one. ((it doesn't calm down and starts to wail)) ((She looks up to the grown trolls)) Where did you find this one?

Female: At the foot of the mountain, huddled deep in another cave. He was afraid of us too. We found him just like that.

((Kosena immediately takes pity, turning to Ordo with a look that says so. Ordo draws in a long, tired sigh before giving a reluctant nod.))

Ordo: We'll find homes for the whelps. And we'll see what we can do for you as well.

((The female perks up hearing this. The leader of their group nods in acceptance.))

Leader: Once we're rested, we're willing to work.

Ordo: Of course, but for now, rest. Are the other whelps injured?

((Kosena looks over the other small trolls, and sees that they're hungry and chipped and blistered from their long trek. The whelp in her arms is still in a panic.))

Kosena: I'm a healer, and I can see to any injuries anyone has. Follow my grandson to my home, I need to tend to this one first. ((she turns back to Ordo)) We need to get him uncovered and fully looked at.

((Ordo nods in agreement.))

((The bridge to the troll village is built into an overarching tree root of a large tree near the top of the mountain. Stepping under the bridge is all it takes to enter, and Kosena follows Ordo to his dwellings in the back of the troll village. He is also a healer that uses crystals and much deeper magic for more serious injuries. Once inside his home, Ordo turns to Kosena and nods at the still whimpering and panicking bundle in her hands.))

Ordo: Set him down and unwrap him, so we can see how badly he's injured.

((Kosena does so on the nearby table, setting down the whelp and peeling the blankets away. Immediately, the young one starts screaming and flailing in fear, trying to move away from these strange hands and voices. Kosena covers her ears and squeases her eyes shut from the noise, while Ordo watches carefully.))

Ordo: ((in observation mode)) Hmm, completely blind. I've never seen that before. ((watches as the young one starts to get up and try moving away)) Well, I don't see any obvious injuries on him; he's moving just fine. ((the whelp then falls off the table, alarming Ordo)) Oh no! ((he goes to the little troll's side and tries to help him up, which results in more screaming and crying in fear)) Now, now, no one's going to hurt you.

((Nothing seems to calm the boy down, so Ordo takes him in his hands and gives him another once over best he can, since the little one is still squirming and trying to get away.))

Ordo: Interesting. ((Kosena can manage the noise a little better, lifting a hand away from one ear and opening one eye to listen)) There's no injury in his eye sockets at all. I think he was born this way.

Kosena: ((feeling more pity)) The poor thing. Is there anything you can do?

Ordo: ((to help calm the youngster down, he wraps the little one back in the blanket)) I have a couple of ideas, but I'm going to need his name. ((he tries setting the little one in a corner, which seems to work. The child just curls up and clutches the blanket around him, and starts crying.)) Let's give him time to calm down. He doesn't seem to understand us, or is too scared to listen.

Kosena: ((she nods)) Let me stay with him. I can try a few surface languages and see if he understands those.

((Ordo nods in agreement.))

((It takes a few hours, but the child calms down and actually falls asleep, having worn himself out. Kosena stays with him as Ordo tends to his people. Once she's satisfied the young one is alseep, she carefully picks the bundle up and sits in the corner herself to cradle him. He stirs very slightly, but goes back to sleep. She holds him this way for another hour, until he stirs himself awake again. Kosena watches as one of his hands pokes from the folds of the blanket and touches her arm.))

Child: Maika? ((mother?))

((Kosena gives a sad sigh and gently touches the whelp's fingers with her own, making him gasp. She recognizes he's speaking Bulgarian, so she uses that to speak to him.))

Kosena: ((answers softly)) No. We didn't find her.

((The child goes quiet, withdrawing his hand back into the blanket and giving a shiver.))

Kosena: What's your name, small one?

Child: ...where am I?

Kosena: Deep in the mountains, in a small village called Anka. There are many here like you. Lost. Scared. Alone. So we stay together so we can be safe.

((The child is quiet again. So Kosena keeps speaking.))

Kosena: You were completely alone when you were found. ((she can feel the child's head nod in the blanket)) What happened to your mother? ((the child starts to sob again, so Kosena softly puts her hand where the child had his earlier in comfort)) I understand. I'm sorry.

Child: What will happen to me?

((The question takes Kosena off guard, just how it was asked. She still tries to comfort him.))

Kosena: Well, you can stay here, if you like. There's other whelps your age you can be friends with. There are other trolls who lost their children, I'm sure someone can take you as your new parents. Everyone here is gentle and nice.

((After a moment, the child's hand pokes out of the blanket and feels for hers, before gingerly touching her fingers.))

Child: ...Paika.

Kosena: ...what?

Child: My name. Paika.

Kosena: ((smiles sadly, and gently holds his hand in hers)) Paika. It's nice to meet you. My name is Kosena. May I give you a hug?

((She can feel Paika nodding his head again, so she carefully takes the blanket off of him and wraps her arms around the very small troll. He clings to her, burying his face in her shoulder. They stay like that for a moment before Kosena losens her grip, but Paika's grip only tightens, making her chuckle a little.))

Kosena: ((teases)) Such a cute little pebble. Keep that up, and I might be the one to keep you.

((Her tone alarms him, and he drops from her shoulder and back into her lap, covering himself in the blanket again. This just makes Kosena chuckle again.))

Kosena: I noticed you don't have eyes. Has it always been that way? ((she feels him nod again, but now he adds a small “uh-huh”.)) I have a very good friend who can help you see. Would you like that?

((Paika pauses before nodding again, slowly.))

Kosena: Alright. When he comes back, we can start finding a way to help you see.

((A day passes, Kosena has tended to the other troll whelps and finds them tired and chipped in a few areas, but otherwise doing well. Paika has been clinging to her every since, gasping and turning his head to any new sound he hears. The trolls speak in a troll tongue he's never heard before, and as soon as he figures out they're talking about him, he hides his face to try and hide himself. He screams if something touches him that he doesn't expect, and is extremely skittish to anyone that approaches him and Kosena. But finally, it's time for Ordo to help Paika see again.))

Ordo: ((trying to look over Paika as the whelp is still very attached to Kosena's shoulder)) So, your birthname is Paika?

Paika: ((shivers and tries to hide his face))

Kosena: It's alright. Let him look.

((Paika hesitates before letting Ordo look over his empty eye sockets.))

Ordo: Hmmm... A pair of glass eyes should do the trick.

((It takes some time for Ordo to forge these eyes from glass. The noises coming from the grind wheel scare Paika badly.))

Paika: ((turns his head to Kosena)) Will it hurt?!

Kosena: It might. They need to be soulbound so they work properly.

((Paika doesn't like the sound of this, so he climbs around Kosena until he's clinging to the back of her clothes to hide.))

Kosena: ((tries to look over her shoulder at him and gives him a stern tone)) Paika.

Paika: ((flinches but clings tighter, his claws burrowing holes in the back of her dress))

Ordo: There we are, finished. ((he walks back to the pair with two orbs, near pitch black with only clear irises))

Kosena: ((looks at them, intrigued)) They look rather small. You won't have to replace those later, will you?

Ordo: Properly soulbound, they'll grow with him. ((he leans to look behind her to see Paika cowering and shivering in fear)) Come now, you'll wonder how you got along without sight.

((Paika stubbornly hangs on, so Kosena gives a little shake of her shoulders and back until the cloth rips and he falls off with a yelp. Ordo catches him before he hits the floor and plops the whelp in Kosena's lap.))

Kosena: It's alright, young one. I'm here. ((she takes one of his hands and holds it comfortingly)) It should only hurt for a little while. ((Paika fidgits nervously, so Kosena holds his chin steady with her other hand.)) Ready?

Paika: ((tries to nod his head, even though it's being held)) ...Uh-huh...

Ordo: Here we go then. ((he takes both glass eyes, and starts chanting a spell, holding them up to Paika's eye sockets))

((Paika's soul responds to the magic, making him squirm and yelp in pain. His soul circles around both eyes as Ordo carefully places them one by one into Paika's sockets. As he does, they glow a dull yellow. Ordo puts his hands over the eyes, and once he stops chanting and Paika's soul is returned to him, he carefully lifts his hands away.))

Ordo: There. Finished. How is that?

((Paika blinks for the first time as vision comes to him. He looks around in bewilderment, an entirely different world has opened up to him. He stares at Ordo as the old troll smiles gently.))

Paika: ((in a hushed, overwhelmed voice)) ...Kosena? ((he turns to look up at his surrogate, looking at her also gentle smile and sees that she's not a troll.))

((Paika is frozen in place, staring at her, jaw dropped, not sure if she's a horrifying or beautiful sight. Wordlessly, Kosena takes a finger and gently puts it under his jaw and pushes it closed. Paika sobs and clings to her again, burying his face in her shoulder.))

Kosena: What's wrong? You don't like being able to see?

((Paika can't bring himself to find the right words. He's too overwhelmed by his discoveries. She can see he's scared, so Kosena tries to coax him to look at her again. Her finger goes under his chin again to angle it up.))

Kosena: Paika? Look into my eyes.

Paika: ((turns his head up and makes direct eye contact for the first time))

Kosena: Hello.

((Paika is still overwhelmed, but calms enough where he isn't shaking. Just taking her in for a moment. Then he puts his hands on her face, which just makes her chuckle and put one hand on one of his. She lets him take his time coming to terms with his new fifth sense.))

Paika: ((after a lot of hesitation, he speaks, voice shaking)) ...hello.

((Ordo decides to give them some time, and silently leaves them in this moment. Both Kosena and Paika stay in the abode as Paika finally tears his eyes away and looks around the room some more to take in the new sights.))