Issala the Unseeing
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and not all are mentioned in the history books. Some start humbly and quickly rise to fame through magnificent feats and world-changing events. Some remain humble and are seen as heroes to just a handful of people, perhaps glorified as a local legend. Issala the Unseeing may not be a name recognised by all, but to some she is seen as one such humble hero.
The Blind BeggarIssala did not have the best of upbringings. Her mother died during childbirth leaving her father to raise Issala and her four siblings alone. Unfortunately, her father viewed Issala with such fierce contempt that he often claimed her blindness was a curse for killing his beloved wife. Her siblings did what they could to help her when their father's back was turned, but for the most part, Issala grew up in relative isolation. When Issala was seven years old, her father took her to Blackmere with him on one of his business trips. He returned home alone. According to him, he had been ambushed on the streets by a gang of beggars, and Issala “the blind fool she was” had not been able to follow him in his escape. This was only partly true. There had been no gang, but Issala had been left behind, unable to follow the brisk pace of her father. Her siblings quietly mourned for her, for what blind child could survive in such a large city? Yet, despite being abandoned and left to fend for herself, Blackmere proved to be the making of Issala. The streets were not an ideal home for any person, especially not during those tumultuous days of war. But Issala had not been left completely defenceless. Her days of isolation at home had been spent learning to wield a crude staff as more than just a walking stick as well as learning to make herself as small and as quiet as possible. She spoke very little, but learnt much simply by listening. All of these skills had unintentionally prepared her well for a life on the street. Every day was a fight for Issala. Not just physically, but mentally too. Those first few days she had stayed in the same area that she had been abandoned in, expecting her father to return. She patiently waited for the storm of anger he would surely bring down upon her, but he never came. He had left her, truly left her, and she realised that he had never loved her or wanted her. She had been left to die. Instead of breaking her, this thought set a fire in her heart, a fire fuelled by hate. Her father would not win, she would survive. Over the years her fighting and endurance gave her a reputation amongst the beggars of Blackmere. They whispered of the Blind Beggar, no-one knowing who she was or where she came from. Some spoke of her in awe, others in scorn. More than one gang leader sought after her, hoping to make her one of their own. But Issala never stayed in one place too long and never trusted anyone but herself.
The beggar's blindfold fell away, and Leylin found herself staring into milky white eyes. Unnervingly, those eyes seemed to look straight at her and for a terrifying moment she felt like her very soul had been seen. With a small gasp she jumped away as her paws felt the sting of the beggars staff that had swiftly struck her in that moment of hesitation. She had heard whispers of the Blind Beggar, but with word on the streets being that they were a fierce fighter, there suddenly became more than one blindfolded beggar on the streets of Blackmere. It was a good ruse to make others second-guess their attempts but none of those that Leylin had fought had proved too much of a challenge. But now she was face to face with the actual Blind Beggar. She hated running from a fight, but this one she knew was pointless to attempt. Not all was lost though, she'd finally found her. She smiled to herself as she ran, Dee would pay her well for this.One day Captain Wilthorn was walking through Blackmere on his way back from a meeting with a local lord. A disruption had broken out amongst the beggars, something not unheard of, but on glancing over had found himself watching one figure in awe. The rabble had surrounded a single female rabbit who stood wielding a simple staff. The rabbit was blindfolded but managed to strike every one of her opponents with a skill that could challenge any one of his petty soldiers. As the other beggars limped away, Wilthorn approached. In the last moment of the small battle the rabbits' blindfold had fallen and she was bent over with questing paws searching for the dirty bit of cloth. At his approach her head snapped up and Wilthorn had to defend himself from a swing of her staff. It didn't take him long to disarm her. Without her staff she was more vulnerable but no less ferocious. Issala had heard the chink of the Captain's armour as he approached, but not having much experience in fighting armoured opponents, her attacks were futile. She soon found herself slightly stunned and sitting on her tail in the dust of the street. This was the first lesson Captain Wilthorn taught her; Issala was good, but she still had much to learn.
From Beggar to BetterAfter that first encounter, Captain Wilthorn promised Issala that he would train her as one of his own. He had seen potential in her and was determined to not waste it. In the end his promise went much further than just training. He took her to his barracks and clothed and fed her. Issala had learnt long ago that trust was a fragile thing, and though she wasn't sure about this Captain or what his true intentions were, she had also learnt to not pass up on the opportunity of free food and clothing.
If she hadn't seen it for herself, Leylin would never have believed the stories that the Blind Beggar had become a soldier. Who in their right mind would recruit a beggar? Not to mention a blind one! Of course, she had experienced first-hand to not underestimate the abilities of this particular beggar. Leylin crouched on a rooftop, watching the figure below her gracefully dance and twirl her way around a group of soldiers. From a distance you would never know that the figure was blind. She moved with the fluid agility of a dancer, but Leylin smiled to see some street fight tactics still in use. You can take a beggar off the streets but you can't take the streets out of the beggar. Dee had confided in Leylin that they hoped the beggar would be broken, to the point that they would be able to pick up the pieces and make them anew. What Leylin saw below would disappoint them. The beggar showed no signs of breaking, but was stronger, faster and simply put, better.The soldiers hadn't been too impressed when Wilthorn first introduced them to their newest recruit. Issala didn't need to see to know they regarded her with disdain. Her large and sensitive ears heard clearly all their mocking remarks as they were ordered out into the yard that first day, mockery that was silenced after Issala sparred with them. Wilthorn perfected her skill with the staff, then replaced it with a spear and taught her to use daggers in closer combat. He even trained her to fight with eyes unbound, a tactic that would prove to unnerve her assailants and gain her the title of Issala the Unseeing. Years went by and her skill improved and surpassed them all. Issala still wasn’t sure if, or how much, she could trust Wilthorn or his men, but she was no longer alone. Bit by bit, she allowed herself to open up to them and dared to believe that she had found her place in the world. One day she realised that the hate that had sustained her so long had been subdued and replaced with something else. She fought for the love of living, for Wilthorn and the surrounding soldiers, her comrades and friends. Her hate for her father was still strong, but now she had something more to fight for.
Beyond BlackmereWhen the armies of Iceharbour marched upon Blackmere, Wilthorn's company was among those called to the defence. This was the first of many battles that Issala would fight in and where she was first noticed by other Captains. Word began to spread about a brave blind warrior, and Issala’s reputation grew. She flourished under the care of Captain Wilthorn and her new fame reflected on the Captain himself, leading to his gradual rise in the ranks to General. Soon after, Wilthorn and his company were called to the frontlines of the V'Lanthian war. During one particularly brutal battle, the General and many of his company were slain. Issala was one of the few to survive that slaughter but she did not do so unscathed. The loss was felt by all, but Issala felt it most keenly. She had grown enough in skill and confidence to not be so reliant upon Wilthorn's protection or guidance, but she had grown to admire and trust him like she had never trusted anyone before. War is an assault on all the senses, and while Issala was spared the visual horrors, the sounds, smells and feel of war had its effect on her. Without Wilthorn and those she had spent many years fighting alongside, the fire that had kept her fighting was considerably subdued. While she was recovering from her injuries at a House of Mercy that a new opportunity and purpose presented itself. Within the hospital was a ward of patients who had suffered from the attacks from the dragons known as the Radiants. Many of these had been permanently blinded. To prevent Issala from a dangerous downward spiral, a nurse tentatively suggested she visited those on the ward. With nothing else to occupy her time, she reluctantly agreed. Issala spent an entire day in that ward, visiting and chatting with a number of different soldiers. Each were facing similar feelings of despair that she herself had been battling, but oddly, talking with them helped drag her out of her own despair. One day became one week, then one month. The longer she spent with the soldiers, the more she came to care for them. She heard their stories and their fears; she sat with them in their darkest days and offered them quiet understanding. Having never experienced sight there were some aspects that she couldn't help with, but she could prepare them for a life of blindness. She realised could give them hope. To those soldiers, and even the nurses, Issala became something of a saviour. Many had been on the bitter edge of despair before she had visited and it is no exaggeration to say she had saved their lives. After her full recovery Issala remained on at the House of Mercy working alongside the doctors and nurses. Eventually she was able to set up a new and gentle sort of training to help teach the blind soldiers a new style of fighting as well as more practical aspects of living a blind life. Since they were all experienced soldiers, teaching them to fight was not an issue. Training them to rely on their other senses however, was more of a challenge. Issala refused to give up on them and with the supervision of the doctors they all made great progress. As the wars continued, and the Radiants still proved a great threat, there was a steady stream of new patients to tend to. With no desire to return to battles or be surrounded by the stench of blood and death, Issala settled in her role of giving hope to the living in the clean halls of Mercy. Here she remained to the end of her days.
In the halls of the House of Mercy there was commissioned a statue of Issala the Unseeing. It was erected in her memory to remind others that there was always hope no matter how dark things seemed. Issala never dreamed of being a hero and the idea of having a statue of herself was a concept she would have laughed at. In her opinion the title of hero was reserved for folks like General Wilthorn, not someone like her. But to others she was a bringer of light, a breath of fresh air, some may even go so far as to say she was a blessing from the gods. The training and recovery scheme that Issala established continued to the end of the wars, a scheme that was passed on to other Houses of Mercy as the attacks of the Radiants continued. Issala the Unseeing might not be found amongst the names of the grand heroes of those years, but there's no doubt that she exhibited elements of true heroism.