Children in medieval times had to be fighters from the minute they were born. Their survival could have been decided by a simple flip of a coin – heads they made it, tails they didn’t. Unlike the peasants, royalty could afford much healthier living conditions and a proper supply of food. It allowed them to tip the odds of survival in their favor. However, neither food nor money could guarantee a child’s survival. King Bernard and Queen Lorelle lost their first and only son, to an infection, weeks after his birth. Losing their only daughter Princess Cristiana would have been unthinkable.
For royalty, raising children was most often someone else’s duty, not the parents. Nurses were hired to perform “motherly tasks” of feeding, bathing, and comforting the children, often times into early childhood. Around the age of 7, often times children were sent to live with another royal family.
Boys became pages and learned about religion, hunting, reading and writing, mathematics, and languages. Around the age of 14, they became squires or knights in training – just like Alcher’s squire Cavalon. Girls received a very different type of education, if any at all. If they were lucky, they were taught reading and writing. After all, a future royal wife was expected to run her own household, but also help her husband manage the other houses that he owned. Girls were also schooled in the fine art of music, poetry, storytelling, as well as manners and courtesy. Peasant children had little to no education. They were expected to work in the fields or help their parents so their family could survive.
As Alcher neared Princess Cristiana’s bedroom he could hear the hushed voices of the king and queen. Cristiana’s sickness must have been serious if both of them were there. Alcher took a deep breath and softly knocked on the door. He was told to enter.
The hinges squeaked as the door opened slowly. He stepped into a finely decorated room. Hanging on the stone walls were colorful, expertly crafted fabric panels known as tapestries. Several wooden chairs with detailed carvings allowed guests a comfortable place to sit. The cold stone floor was covered with thick rugs from the far-eastern lands of Asia. A large fireplace with decorative stone carvings added a glowing light, but also helped remove the chill and dampness. The centerpiece of the room was of course, the bed. Beds were some of the most expensive pieces of furniture in a castle; it was a sign of great wealth. Each of the four corners had posts that reached almost to the ceiling. On top of the posts was a tent-like canopy with floor length curtains. When the curtains were pulled closed, it created a private and peaceful space. The bed was placed on a stage-like platform to keep it off the cold floor. A fluffy, feather filled mattress was topped off with several pillows and an elaborately decorated quilt. Indeed, a room fit for a princess!
Cristiana lay on the bed as the king held her hand and the queen softly stroked her hair, hoping to provide some comfort. Alcher put down his saddle bags and moved toward them. He could see the worried looks on their faces. Cristiana was holding her stomach and looked very uncomfortable. Alcher’s heart ached, because he knew what it was like to feel that sick. He wanted to take her suffering upon himself in order to save the princess from the pain.
“Good day my lord and lady.” Alcher bowed to the king and queen. “I got here as quickly as I could. I am sorry the princess is feeling poorly. How can I be of service?”
“As you can see Cristiana is sick.” King Bernard glanced back towards his daughter with a pained look in his eyes. “Several doctors have looked at her but she is still sick. We are at our wits end. We cannot sit idle and watch her waste away.”
Queen Lorelle frowned and nodded her head in agreement. “We know that you were sick much like Cristiana and sought a wizard’s help. Was he able to help you?”
“Yes, he has. Since I have been following his advice, I have been getting better each day,” replied Alcher.
“What did he do? Did he put a magic spell on you?” King Bernard asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I wish it were that simple,” Alcher smirked, knowing the effort it takes. “It was not a magic spell. He realized specific foods were making me sick and showed me a new way to live.”
“Are you saying I serve poor quality and unacceptable food?” protested King Bernard.
“I don’t think I need to remind you that your own wife helps in the kitchen, surely she would not be happy about this,” added Queen Lorelle with a serious tone to her voice.
“I am not saying that at all your Highnesses,” apologized Alcher. “You have the best food and the finest kitchen staff, including Lady Pechal. Please allow me to explain.”
Knowing that it could be difficult for others to understand, Alcher patiently explained that it was not the quality of the food or the way it was prepared. To make it easier, Alcher used poison as an example. Royalty understood poisoning because it was a common way for someone to remove them from power – permanently. Taste testers were part of the royal staff. It was their duty to taste the food and drink first to make sure it was safe. Alcher told them gluten was like a poison. Gluten was so toxic that even a tiny, crumb-sized amount could make someone very sick. He continued to share some of his thoughts and experiences during his time with Roderick the Wizard.
Before, eating was something that could be done without thought or worry. Never a consideration just how much food affected every aspect of daily life. Food not only fuels the body, it also fuels the social activities that humans require to be happy and healthy. Since the beginning of time, food has been used to bring people together. Gathering, hunting, planting, harvesting, and preparing food was a group effort that required everyone’s help. Eating and food have strong emotional connections as well. Love, comfort, reward, and celebration could all be shown through food.
“Rubbish!” shouted the king at the top of his lungs, startling the sleeping princess. The bed creaked and cracked from his barrel-shaped body as he struggled to get up. King Bernard waddled over to Alcher and poked a sausage-like finger into his chest. “I asked you to help us, not to fill our ears and heads with such nonsense! We have been eating wheat forever, how can it be causing sickness? Even The Holy Bible tells us of bread made with wheat and barley,” protested the king.
The room bristled with tension. Queen Lorelle looked even more troubled as she glanced back and forth between her husband and Alcher, unsure as to what would happen next.
“King Bernard, I mean no disrespect to our God or you. I apologize for upsetting you, it was not my intention,” replied Alcher in a calm voice. “You asked for my help. You asked about the wizard. Queen Lorelle asked if the wizard helped me. I am helping you in the only way I can – by answering your questions honestly, and sharing my experiences. You know that I would risk my life to help Princess Cristiana. I have done it in the past, and will keeping doing it until I am no longer able.”
“I know, I know, Alcher,” said the king in a quiet voice as he hung his head in shame. The king looked directly into the steel blue eyes of the knight and placed both hands on Alcher’s shoulders. “Thank you. I let my emotions get the best of me, I am sorry. As you can tell, this is very worrisome and has me on edge. I will be forever grateful for any suggestions or advice you have to offer.”
“I was confused as well when Roderick first said those same things to me.” Alcher nodded with a reassuring smile. “It is hard to believe at first, but after spending time with him, I have come to trust him. He has detailed knowledge of the past, present, and future. He knows things that are impossible to know and has powers beyond all explanation. If he didn’t, he’d not be a very good wizard I suppose. All things aside, he is kind, caring, and very generous.” Alcher pointed toward the door and said, “My saddle bags are filled with items from him that will help us.”
Since the king talked about “eating wheat forever”, Alcher wanted to share Roderick’s thoughts on this subject. Our Stone Age ancestors that lived two and a half million years ago were gluten-free. Their diet was mainly small wild animals, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, berries, fruits, vegetables, leaves, and roots of plants. Ten thousand years ago they changed from hunter-gatherers to farmers. They discovered by planting crops like wheat, they could produce food in much larger quantities.
Humans have been gluten-free for over 99% of their existence. Roderick knew that the average person might have trouble understanding millions or thousands of years, so he created his own example. He shrunk the time frame down to a calendar year, where today’s date is December 31st 11:59 pm – the last minute of the last day of the current year.
Beginning in January of the current year, we celebrated New Years day with a huge gluten-free feast. We continued with our gluten-freedom until December 30th. As lunch time rolls around, we started eating gluten. In Roderick’s example, humans have been eating gluten for only 1½ days. Gluten is so new that human bodies have not yet adapted to digest it properly. How our body reacts is up to our immune system.
“Sir Alcher?” said Cristiana in weak, crackly voice. “I am glad you are here. I know you will be able to make me better.”
Alcher made his way over to Cristiana and placed his rugged hand on hers. “Honey, I am so sorry you are sick,” he said softly. “I promise to do my best,” he said as he bent down to kiss her forehead. “Now, try to get some more rest. I must go now, but I’ll be back later.” A comforted smile appeared as she closed her big brown eyes.
“She adores you so, Alcher,” whispered Queen Joelle. Alcher smiled as he quietly returned to the king.
As a young child, the princess connected with both Sir Alcher and Lady Pechal. They would spend time with her, even if only for a few minutes. This bond was further strengthened when Alcher saved her from the dragon a few years ago. Pechal and Cristiana would act out fairytales about other princesses in far-off kingdoms. As the princess grew a bit older, Alcher would give her horsey back rides, galloping around the room making horse sounds. Giggles and laughter from both of them filled the air. Cristiana never wanted to stop and always pleaded for “one more.” The nurses would step in and ask her to give Sir Alcher a break. This would usually bring a frown to both Cristiana and Alcher’s faces even though he knew he must carry on with his daily duties.
Sometimes the world works in mysterious and wonderful ways. Even though Pechal and Alcher were not blessed with children, they were able to open and share their hearts with Cristiana. Perhaps this was the universe’s way of keeping balance. Each getting exactly what they needed.
“I best get to my task. I need to find something in Roderick’s treasures that will help Cristiana,” said Alcher.
“Thank you. Good luck in your quest,” replied the appreciative king. “Let us know what you find.”
“I will,” said Alcher as he headed toward his saddle bags. Once again, he picked up the highly guarded cargo. He turned for one last look at the sleeping princess before he walked out the door.