Gretchen Millafried Holzapfel did not look like the person she was inside. I think she was made so large, because any smaller body could not have contained so generous a heart as hers or so pure a spirit. She was the biggest woman I have ever known–both inside and out. It wasn’t just height or girth that endowed her with such enormity. Nor was it all that muscle underneath that gave her the strength of a team of oxen. Oh, yes, she could pull a stump out of the ground, roots and all, with only her hands to pry it loose. Yes, I’ve seen her lift full-grown men above her head, one to the right of her and one to the left, and then crack their skulls together as easily as if she had flicked a finger. Yet, her physique was only part of her stature.
It was her presence that made her imposing. It was her soul that made her indomitable. She inspired confidence. She was honest to a fault. I doubt anyone could ever keep a secret better than she. Once you knew her, you knew there was no one you would ever trust more. Once she knew you, unless you were under her command, her gruffness disappeared. She could be so gentle–and so kind.
Gretchen would never be called a beauty. No lines ever formed to court her, although I think she had lovers whom she never talked about. She was plain-faced, neither pretty nor dull. Her complexion was pasty and freckled, and she had a small, insignificant nose set in a sea of rolling dough. She had pretty hair though, golden and shiny. And while her eyes may have been set a tad too close, they were as clean and blue as an unblemished sky.
Sargent Gretchen Millafried Holzapfel was the finest warrior I have ever known. Moreover, I have never come across any individual, man or woman, of finer character. She was noble of heart and noble of mind. To me, she was the ideal of honor.
She was the perfect soldier: reliable, capable, and she would not fail. She evinced a dogged determination, unswerving once set to her course. To her oath, to her family, and to her friends, she was forever loyal.
But there was also a terrible sadness about Gretchen. She radiated loneliness. I think that because she intimidated most everyone she had ever met, she had been isolated. That always struck me as such a loss, that so few would come to know how wonderful a person she was. I think that is part of why she was always so active in any community to which she belonged. And for so large a woman, she could be surprisingly shy. She kept her tragedies close to her heart and allowed very few to share in the details of her private life.
I don’t think there has ever been anyone who loved children more than she did, although they were usually wary of her at first. It was rather like being approached by a smiling bear. I’ve seen seasoned veterans unsettled by her grin.
But for those of us who knew her, we were all well aware of who Gretchen really was.
She was a hero.
– Götling Hans Velsing, Wizard of Ulm –
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