Meet Gifford!

One of my favorite characters from The First Empire is Gifford. You’ll meet him in the first book, Rhune, but I really enjoy when we are reacquainted with him in the opening of the second book, Dherg. I thought you might enjoy it, so here goes:


Gifford would never win a footrace. He was late coming to this realization; everyone else knew it the day of his birth. It took years for him to accept that his dead leg wouldn’t revive and his twisted back wouldn’t straighten. He had hoped for a miracle, to be healed, to be normal. It didn’t happen.

His leg and back weren’t the worst of it. Even the dead half of his face, which made it hard to see and a struggle to talk, wasn’t the worst of it. When he was young, he thought ridicule held that distinction. Everyone had called him something, none of them good. Gavin Killian had dubbed him The Goblin, and Myrtis, the brewmaster’s daughter, proclaimed him broken. Of the two, he preferred The Goblin—he’d been infatuated with Myrtis back then. For Gifford, it wasn’t hard to understand why “crush” was used for both a humiliating defeat and adolescent love.

Gifford would never win a footrace. He was late coming to this realization; everyone else knew it the day of his birth. It took years for him to accept that his dead leg wouldn’t revive and his twisted back wouldn’t straighten. He had hoped for a miracle, to be healed, to be normal. It didn’t happen.

His leg and back weren’t the worst of it. Even the dead half of his face, which made it hard to see and a struggle to talk, wasn’t the worst of it. When he was young, he thought ridicule held that distinction. Everyone had called him something, none of them good. Gavin Killian had dubbed him The Goblin, and Myrtis, the brewmaster’s daughter, proclaimed him broken. Of the two, he preferred The Goblin—he’d been infatuated with Myrtis back then. For Gifford, it wasn’t hard to understand why “crush” was used for both a humiliating defeat and adolescent love.

Over the years the names faded. No one called him The Goblin anymore, and if people still thought of him as broken, they didn’t say so—at least not to his face.

After the name calling ended, his nighttime degradations became the worst part of being him. Gifford had as much trouble governing his bladder while asleep as he did controlling his legs and mouth when awake. He woke most mornings smelling rancid in a wet bed. He’d dealt with his bed wetting as he’d learned to live with everything else, by finding a way to adjust. He never drank at night and slept naked on a thin layer of straw. He woke early and replaced old bedding for new before anyone else stirred. There was always a way, always a path forward, even though his roads seemed narrower, rockier, and strewn with more thorns than others.

Gifford didn’t see himself as a victim; he preferred to focus on the positive. While nothing came easy, he found ways to manage. Things that were impossible he concluded as unnecessary. He had everything he truly needed…everything he wanted. Almost. Despite his optimism, it wasn’t possible to ignore there was a worst part of being him, and every time he was with Roan he knew without question what that was.

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