Vol’jin paced around the fire. He was restless and angry, ready to kill something. He’d been pushed and pulled, torn and spun. His world was making less sense with each passing moment. Now his friendship with Zalazane—the only thing Vol’jin had ever really counted on besides the love of his tribe and father—was strained to breaking.
“No more,” he announced without looking at Zalazane. “I goin’ huntin’. We be needin’ food, and I be needin’ to kill.” He drew his glaive and slid off into the dark undergrowth. Moving alone into the most dangerous part of the island just felt right.
It was strength.
At the fire, Zalazane began a low voodoo chant. Ahead, in the gloom, Vol’jin heard a twig snap. A large creature trying to stay stealthy. Vol’jin grinned, lips pulling against his tusks, fingers pulsing on the glaive.
He moved forward, feeling the fine hairs on the large upka leaves brush his face. He heard the sound again, now off to his left side. He turned, circling to keep the creature on his right.
Again, he heard movement in the vegetation to his left. Realization struck. The creature was stalking him. There was only one thing to do: he charged.
Branches and roots grabbed at him as he hurtled forward with a guttural cry. Ahead, another troll stood up to his full height.
Vol’jin barreled into him, and they both fell. He brought his glaive around to the other’s neck in the darkness. Every troll on the island was a Darkspear and a friend, but Vol’jin had grown up with tales of the vicious Gurubashi, and anything was possible in this place.
The other troll looked up, his features caught in a ray of light from the distant fire. It was Sen’jin, Vol’jin’s own father.
“Papa?” Vol’jin asked in shock, taking his weight off the prone troll. Sen’jin smiled and shoved Vol’jin off. The younger troll landed in the mud, laughing.
Sen’jin leapt to his feet, twirled his staff, and aimed it at Vol’jin’s chest. Vol’jin read the murderous intent on his father’s face and squirmed away, narrowly avoiding a blow that would have crushed his ribs into his heart. Vol’jin came to his feet, wary and on guard, but not attacking.
“Papa?” he asked. “What’s wrong?” Sen’jin merely smiled and swung the staff in a deadly, low arc. Vol’jin leapt over it, but Sen’jin used the momentum of the swing to thrust his head forward into Vol’jin’s chest.
Vol’jin landed in a heap, the air rushing out of his lungs. He rolled onto his back, gasping. Sen’jin glided toward him, spinning the staff again.
“Papa, why you do this? Did I fail? I don’ understand!” Vol’jin pleaded.
Sen’jin paused. “You don’ fight because you think you know me? Weak.”
With that, he brought the staff down on Vol’jin’s outstretched hand. Every ounce of strength in the older troll’s body was behind the blow, and Vol’jin’s hand shattered. His thumb, trapped against his hand, caught the brunt of the force. Bones splintered, and the thumb curled in on itself like a talon.
Vol’jin’s mind could not make sense of it. He rolled onto his side, left hand grasping at his right; everything past the wrist was broken, and the thumb was a pulpy mess. He was in shock, and he could feel the reality of his surroundings slipping away. He saw Sen’jin’s big bare feet moving off into the jungle.
“Papa!” he called. Sen’jin did not pause, did not slow down, did not even glance back. The bushes moved, and he was gone. “Papa!” Vol’jin fell back, eyes squeezed shut, holding his arm.
After a moment, he reclaimed control of his mind and looked down at his hand. The thumb was destroyed. His glaive lay in the mud, the brushed metal splotched with dirt and blood.
The hand would heal. But the thumb would be misshapen. Vol’jin would never throw a knife with that hand, never hold a glaive. Never hunt, never signal an attack.
But there was a way to fix that. He knew there was a way.
Vol’jin took a deep breath, grasped the glaive in his left hand, brought it high over his head. He would do this with eyes open. He brought the glaive down in a long graceful arc. It whispered through the skin and bone of his right hand; the broken, misshapen thing that had been his thumb flew off into the darkness.
He wanted to scream to the stars above, but he bit his lips till they bled, rocking back and forth. He made no sound. The thumb would grow back cleanly. All trolls were blessed by the loa with some regeneration. They could regrow fingers and toes, even if more complex parts like limbs and organs were beyond their abilities. It would take some time, but he would be whole again.
He began to see a bright light at the edge of his vision, and he wondered if he was about to pass out. But the light grew brighter and brighter.
Vol’jin looked up.