Way up North, in the Northiest Northernmost Northland (well, maybe not quite that North, but still pretty North as Northness goes) there lived a terrible Warrior King who traveled the land conquering every village and township he came across. He would just show up one day, announce he was in command, use up all the town’s resources, then move on, taking only the biggest and strongest with him to his next conquest. He was called Krieger Konig and this is the story of how he was defeated and how the world was changed not by force, violence or cruelty, but by love and courage and by the true strength of a clever girl called Gabria.
Gabria’s father, Kuzo, was Chieftain of the small village of Dorf, just on the outskirts of what was then known as the Fairying Forest, for reasons which we will go into in greater detail later in the story. He was the biggest, strongest and toughest man Dorf had ever seen so, naturally, he was chosen to be their leader. Under his rule, Dorf grew from a small collection of tents by a river to a…slightly larger collection of tents by a river.
Yes, the people of Dorf lived a very simple, earthy sort of existence. The river provided water and fish, the forest provided wood and small game and anything else they didn’t have, they simply did without. The children didn’t have much time to play, which was just as well as they didn’t have much to play with. Life was hard, and fun was very rare. Survival was the most important thing; it was a daily struggle for the people of Dorf and the number one responsibility of their leader, Kuzo.
Being the biggest and strongest (and therefore the best, according to the wisdom of the day), Kuzo demanded for his wife the most beautiful girl in the village, and he got her. Her name was Alainna and the first thing that attracted Kuzo to her was that she was so friggin’ gorgeous you actually felt a little woozy when you looked at her and had to sit down for a minute until the initial shock wore off and you were convinced that you weren’t hallucinating and that someone that beautiful could actually exist in real life and then you felt okay.
The second thing that attracted Kuzo to Alainna was that she didn’t immediately agree to marry him.
All the other girls in the village were throwing themselves at him (figuratively, not literally…actually sometimes it was literal, which was kind of weird), desperate to be the queen to someone so powerful and strong. But Alainna made him work for it. Made him go on dates with her and take an interest in her life and things like that. In this way, Alainna came to understand that Kuzo had a sensitive side which he kept hidden from the world. Likewise, Kuzo saw in Alainna a strength not that different from his own. So that when they finally were married, it was really for love rather than social standing.
Alas, their happiness was to be short-lived.
Soon after they were married, Alainna was heavy with child. Kuzo was overjoyed at the thought of having a son to carry on his legacy and rule the village when he was gone. Despite Alainna’s constant reminders that the child could just as easily be a girl as a boy, Kuzo got the idea in his head that he was going to have a son and nothing would dissuade him from that certainty. Even after the kid was born, he kept asking the midwife to check again.
But there was no mistaking it. The Chieftain had gained a daughter…and lost a wife. Poor Alainna died in the act of childbirth and would never know her little girl.
So, in one fell swoop, Kuzo had lost the woman he loved and had been saddled with a daughter, rather than the son he craved. And from that day on, life in the village of Dorf was forever changed. Their great, strong leader, locked himself away in his house coming out only when forced to by the duties of his office, which he executed with more anger and savagery than he ever had before. The smallest of infractions were met with the severest punishments possible. The grief and disappointment he had suffered snuffed out that tiny spark of kindness that Alainna had brought out and Kuzo had become a beast of a man, giving in completely to sorrow and despair.
And what of the child? The sweet, innocent baby girl who was now the only family Kuzo had? He simply turned away from her. Shut her out completely. The midwife tried to get him to at least hold the child after she was born, but he just growled, “Get that gabria out of my sight!”
“Gabria,” in the ancient language of this part of the world means, “Unwanted.” And it was the only name Kuzo ever gave his daughter.
She might have died had it not been for the kindness of the midwife, a slightly odd old woman known to the people of Dorf as Gramma Gamra. Though she was adamant that the girl should grow up in the home of her father, she came every day to look after the child and tend to her needs.
Understand, it was not that Kuzo treated her cruelly. It was not hatred that haunted Gabria’s existence, but indifference. He refused to acknowledge her, even when they ate supper at the same table. Even when she sat by him at official functions. Once, in a desperate attempt to get her father to notice her, she had found a porcupine and set it on her father’s favorite chair. To his credit, he maintained his charade that Gabria did not exist even while actively removing quills from his…well, the porcupine was sitting on his chair at the time and he wasn’t looking and…never mind, you get the idea.
If nothing else, one has to admire his commitment.
So, for the first nineteen years of her life, the only human being who ever showed Gabria any affection or even kindness was Gramma Gamra. Of course, there were other people in the village who liked Gabria and would have loved to be friends with her. But they were still frightened of their fierce and formidable Chieftain. If Kuzo insisted he had no daughter, the people of Dorf felt it was in their best interest to agree with him.
Which just left Gramma Gamra. That was the name by which she was known, though she didn’t seem to be biologically related to anyone in town. In fact, no one could remember a time when she wasn’t there. It was as if the village was built around her and she had just always been there and always would. It was also widely believed that she had never been any younger and would never get any older. She was just a constant fixture. Like the river or the trees or that unpleasant smell around her house, whatever that was.
Gabria adored her! She was one of the few people in the village who was even remotely interesting. Everyone else was boring and quiet and lived in fear and was just struggling to survive. Gramma Gamra was fun. Nobody else in Dorf was fun. Having grown up without a mother, the kind of attention she got from Gramma Gamra meant the world to Gabria.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Gramma Gamra,” said Gabria almost every time the old woman paid her a visit. A gentle pawing at her ankle would remind her of the presence of the porcupine. After the prank had failed to get a reaction out of Kuzo, Gabria had decided to keep the porcupine as a pet. She called him “Autsch” (actually, her father had unwittingly named the porcupine just as he had his own daughter) and after a few painful weeks, learned the proper way to pet and even cuddle him so as not to get hurt. “Or you, Autsch,” she added to the only non-human friend she had in the world.
“Do not judge your father too harshly, my child,” said Gamra.
“Why not? He’s gone out of his way to ignore me all my life. Sometimes I think I should just run away.”
“No, you can’t do that, dear! The woods are dangerous. And even if you get through the woods, there are the treacherous mountains. And even if you cross the mountains, what awaits you on the other side is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Besides, if you left Dorf…you might just break my heart.”
“Then I’ll stay. For you, Gramma Gamra.”
“Thank you, my child.” And they would talk about something else.
Gramma Gamra never did talk about what was on the other side of the mountains. But Gabria didn’t ask. What, she figured, could possibly be worse than this place?
Little does Gabria know that things are about to get much, much worse for her and her entire village very soon. Soon, she'll flee the only home she's ever known, make friends with the worst hunter in history, negotiate a peace treaty with some horrible monsters, meet a dragon and eventually...but I shouldn't give away too much. Order your copy of The Epic of Gabria today!