Young Aeryn grows up on the island of Trivent in the archipelago called the Dragon’s Snout Islands. She is the thirteenth child, and seventh daughter, of a sheep farmer in the Lowlands on the island. A big-boned girl, she is teased and tormented by some of her siblings for her size and strength.
Not long after Aeryn learns to run, her mother dies never having recovered from bearing her youngest child, leaving the family without a matriarch. Her oldest sisters, Lysendra and Jessan, do their best to make sure their young sister reaches adulthood, but life is hard on the farm, and they can’t watch the girl all the time. Their younger siblings are jealous of the attention Aeryn receives, especially after their mother dies.
She is frequently told by her twin siblings, Chakin and Brunhild, that everyone is disappointed she wasn’t born a boy, for all that she’s built like one. They continuously remind her that she is a bad omen to the family, not the good omen a seventh son would have been. Little do the twins know, she is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and the thirteenth child of a thirteenth child. Their jealousy eventually brings the wrath of the gods down on the family.
While Aeryn is the apple of her father Ozwin’s eye (she looks strikingly like her mother), some of her older siblings resent the attention he heaps on his little daughter. When her father is in the fields with her older brothers, she spends her days learning to cook and clean, stitch and mend. Her next older siblings hate her for taking their mother from them. Most of her sisters feel the same. When she is growing up, her father jokes that he has a “baker’s dozen” whenever anyone asks about his children.
Without the supervision of a parent to guide them, her sisters and younger brothers make her life miserable during the day. Her older brothers make up for the rest of her siblings by showering her with love when they are with her. But her father mourns the loss of his wife after she dies. Turning to the tavern in the village to dull the ache in his breast, he loses interest in his farm, in his family, in his life. It takes him almost eleven years to die. When he does finally give up on life, the family turns on the girl and makes her life a living hell.
Less than a month after Aeryn turns thirteen years old, she shucks the house dress, steals a set of her brother Edger’s clothes, and begins walking to the village where she hopes to convince the local priest to teach her the common letters and numbers.
Before she reaches the village, she is ambushed by slavers and dragged away to a slave galley bound for Port Freehaven.
Now, no one should be surprised that a young girl traveling alone would be ambushed and captured. Especially an idealistic and sheltered youngster, because not all the jealousy on the part of Aeryn’s twelve (yes, twelve) older siblings is her fault. Her father dotes on her and holds her up as his favorite.
Why? Because she looks so much like her mother that her father is half besotted with her. And he refuses to blame her for his wife’s death, despite the opinion of his other children. He then drinks himself to death and leaves the girl at the mercy of siblings who wish she’d never been born.
Despite the abusive treatment from her siblings, Aeryn has more empathy than the lot of them put together, so she finds a way to survive until she can leave. She knows that life will get better, it certainly can’t get much worse—until it does. Then she finds a way to prevail. Aeryn learns early to trust her instincts but has problems controlling her anger.
That is one of her strengths, though, because the anger removes her paralysis. She just needs to learn to control it and not let it control her.
Read Aeryn’s story here.