Name: Goda Brahm (GOH-dah BRAAHM)
Age: 24 or 25 (at the start of Goda’s Slave)
Native Tongue: Middlelander (Southern Dialect)
Goda Brahm is a porter who works for the Middleland government and first appears in Goda’s Slave (Chapter 1: Forty Paces of Freedom). In charge of transporting criminals from outside the Middleland and forcefully carrying them back to the capital, she meets Kanna Rava—a newly enslaved Upperlander—after she is assigned to be her temporary master. Kanna is tied to her by the Middlelander paired cuffing technology, as most slaves are to their masters during transport.
While at first annoyed with Kanna’s emotionally volatile personality, Goda eventually develops a deep bond with Kanna as their shared destiny takes shape. Much of the story of Goda’s Slave deals with their push-pull relationship and the creations that are forged from the fires of their opposing polarities.
Born into a prominent upper-middle class family, Goda’s higher mother was a respected botanist, while her lesser mother was a successful ornamental gardener. It was Goda’s lesser mother who gave birth to her and spent the most time raising her. Goda’s higher mother, bothered that her wife was the first to conceive and deeply disappointed to find that Goda was a robust female, failed to bond much with Goda.
Biologically, Goda was likely “fathered” (though Middlelanders don’t believe that men can be parents) by her higher mother’s fraternal twin brother, who was close friends with her lesser mother. In this way, Goda is probably blood-related to both of her mothers. A higher-than-average incidence of robust women run in the Brahm family, as they were tree farmers for centuries (prior to the Middlelander industrial revolution) and benefited from this adaptation because of the hard labor involved.
Due to her ancestral background and natural interest in medicinal plants, at the age of 13 Goda became an apprentice to the horticulturist at a monastery in the Middleland’s Western Samma Valley. She held this position for around three years.
Goda has a (much) younger sister whom she’s never met. This is in part because she was disowned by her mothers at age 16 and has not visited her childhood home since she first left.
Goda’s higher mother, who was highly educated, resented what she saw in Goda as brutishness and lack of intelligence. Having developed a lifelong prejudice against robust women due to her own early childhood experiences, she associated these traits with Goda’s obvious robustness.
Ironically, it is likely that Goda’s higher mother is herself a robust woman and simply hides this fact by reducing her intake of yaw (which can superficially mask some of the traits if done over the long-term). While not as “obvious” as Goda, she exhibits many key traits, such as reduced fertility and unusual stature, which she struggles to accept in herself. She was never able to conceive a child and relied on her wife to birth both of their children.
Early in Goda’s development, Goda’s higher mother realized that her daughter would grow up to be a robust woman and attempted to reduce Goda’s robust traits by engaging in the controversial practice of yaw starvation. This practice involves regularly depriving a person of yaw root (a necessary staple food), in the hopes that it will prevent their robustness.
Indeed, it is known to Middlelanders that the practice can have the superficial effect of delaying the development of robust traits in children or reducing the outward appearance of robustness for adults who may be on the borderline of the fertile-robust spectrum. However, it will not undo the person’s underlying sensitivity to yaw (which is what causes robustness). Once a child begins eating yaw again, the traits will develop. Further, if the person is “highly robust”–in other words, if they are on the extremely robust end of the spectrum–they will develop many of these traits (such as infertility) regardless of the low exposure to yaw. Even the exposure a Middlelander gets in the womb from their mother’s consumption of yaw can be enough to trigger early expressions of robustness.
More importantly, because all Middlelanders strongly crave yaw root and require many of its nutrients, such a diet is not sustainable over the long run. In young Goda’s case, the diet had little effect except for stoking anger and aggression in her–especially around food–which only served to reinforce her higher mother’s prejudiced belief that robust women were inherently animalistic and simple-minded.
During this time, Goda became habituated to stealing in order to obtain yaw. Being a child, however, she was unable to feed herself consistently and the lack of proper nutrition caused her to struggle in school. Goda assumed for much of her life that she was simply stupid.
When Goda finally left the family home to become an apprentice at the age of 13, she gorged on yaw and experienced a growth spurt, reaching an imposing height and unusual size by the time she was 16. In fact, robust women who are yaw-starved early in life tend to grow taller because their growth plates fuse later. (For Middlelanders, it is the accumulation of a byproduct of the chemicals in yaw that will signal their bodies to end growth.)
Goda was greatly traumatized by her higher mother’s abuse. Her anger continued to be triggered by hunger and she would frequently fight with other robust women over food until she was into her early 20’s.
Physical Appearance and Size
Goda’s appearance is striking to Kanna Rava, who is terrified of her from the first moment they meet and privately refers to her as “the giant” in narration. She is the tallest human being Kanna has ever met and, in body weight, Goda is more than twice as massive as Kanna, making any physical resistance from the latter futile.
Much of Goda’s “gigantism” is relative, however, and due in part to Kanna’s perception, since Goda’s Slave is mostly told from Kanna’s perspective. (Kanna is an Upperlander, which is an ethnicity of fairly small people.)
In truth, Goda is indeed taller than average for a Middlelander (she is over 2 meters in height, or about 6′ 7″; the average Middlelander woman is around 1.8 meters or 5’ 11”), but not by an amount that would be considered too freakish in her home country. Other Middlelanders do consider her to be huge, but more for her body mass and muscular frame, which is significantly larger than average.
She has medium brown, neck-length wavy hair, very dark brown eyes, and olive skin. She is a robust woman, something that Kanna does not discover until roughly the middle of Goda’s Slave.
By Middlelander standards, Goda is generally viewed as a handsome woman; by Upperlander standards, she would be considered quite ugly. Kanna’s view oscillates between these two extremes, though her physical attraction to Goda is persistent regardless.
After the Incident at Samma Valley that took place nine years prior to Goda’s Slave, many of Goda’s social connections deteriorated–friendships, romantic connections, and family ties alike–leaving her extremely isolated. Her mothers disowned her and closed off all contact, though she maintains a few relationships that survived the fallout.
Goda continues to be friends with her cousin and ex-fiancé through an arranged marriage, Jaya Hadd, though they may not be blood-related, as is often the case in Middlelander family structure. She is also close friends with Jaya’s Outerlander wife, much to Jaya’s annoyance. In addition, Goda shares a difficult history with the head priestess of the Desert Monastery, Rem Murau, and an ambiguous friendship with the temple scribe Parama Shakka.
Most of Goda’s Slave, however, explores her connection to Kanna Rava, especially as it transitions towards a romantic, sexual, and spiritual partnership.
Like most Middlelanders, Goda is essentially pansexual and polyamorous. Because this is the norm, she actually has no concept of sexual orientation at all and does not seek to pair bond with romantic partners, either. (Pair bonding is the domain of marriage, which is often sexless and dispassionate in Middlelander culture.) She is slightly more romantically attracted to women than to men, but is physically attracted to people of any and all genders—including other robust women.
Goda was a frequent patron of bath houses in her youth, where she often physically bonded with other porters and travelers, but she becomes celibate for spiritual purposes around two years prior to the events of Goda’s Slave. This celibacy is greatly tempted by the presence of Kanna Rava.
Other Random Facts
Goda is mostly vegetarian and dislikes the taste of meat. This is common for Middlelanders, who can thrive on just their staple food source (supplemented with the occasional sour fruit). In fact, she does not eat meat throughout the entire duration of Goda’s Slave, giving all the flesh and animal products to Kanna (including a snake they caught together), but never explaining why. (She’s attempting to avoid feeding Kanna too much yaw, since it is toxic to foreigners in large amounts, so she offers Kanna any alternative food source that she finds instead.)
When she does eat animals, they are usually reptiles or invertebrates that she has caught herself. Her favorite non-vegetarian dessert is roasted grasshopper dipped in honey.
Goda is lactose intolerant, like most Southern Middlelanders, and cannot handle bovine milk.