The rooster loudly announced the dawn of a brand new day. Before heading to the king’s kitchen, Lady Pechal rose early to get a head start on breakfast for Alcher and Roderick. Unlike the main meal of the day, a medieval breakfast was usually light and simple. Classic breakfast foods were bread with butter or cheese along with a stew or porridge.
She began to prepare as she had done countless times before. After a lifetime of cooking, these actions were automatic; they happened without thinking – just like breathing. However this time, she froze in fear midway through a slice of bread. She scolded herself and realized this was unacceptable. Pechal had little time to really think about all the needed changes. Everything she knew must be forgotten and relearned. Her mind raced with questions. Each question created another question. How was she going to feed and take care of her husband? It didn’t take long for her emotions to come out as sobs and tears.
“My dear Lady Pechal, why are you crying?” Roderick asked. He paused a moment in the kitchen doorway before making his way towards her. “Is everything OK?”
“I suppose it is,” Pechal said, as she blushed with embarrassment quickly wiping the tears from her eyes. “I just realized how unprepared I am to help Alcher. I know nothing about being gluten-free.”
“You are feeling lost and confused right now,” Roderick said. “It’s okay, it’s all part of this journey. A Swordsmith uses heat and hammers to forge raw metals into a sword that is able to withstand the stress of many battles. This experience will make you a better and stronger person. You and Alcher have been chosen to do this. When destiny calls, you must be strong.” He patted her hand and offered a comforting smile. “You have a lot of knowledge already – more than most – it just needs a bit of fine tuning for this stage of your journey. Do not worry a minute longer. I will help you, and Alcher will help you too.”
“Thank you Roderick, your words have helped a lot,” Pechal said. “I accept this challenge, and will do my best.” Once again, she hugged the wizard to show her appreciation.
“Your best is all you can do,” Roderick said. “You will be required to share this new knowledge. Others will follow. We will be able to improve the lives of many.”
Their time was limited this morning but Roderick began teaching Pechal the basics of gluten. Since there were bread crumbs on the table, the first lesson was on cross contamination. Even a small crumb of gluten will make Alcher sick, it was important for her to know. How small? Less than a grain of rice, Roderick explained.
As Pechal cleaned, Roderick walked around the kitchen and pantry placing foods for breakfast in a bowl. In no time he collected a variety of fresh vegetables, herbs, eggs, and some fruit.
“Being gluten-free is not only about what you must remove, but what also about what you get to add to your diet,” Roderick said, while selecting three white onions. Tossing them high into the air, he started to juggle them like the king’s jester. “There are many naturally gluten-free foods to choose from. Expand your food vocabulary. Be creative. Experiment. Mix things up. Have fun!”
Without dropping a single one, he returned the onions to the bowl after his performance. With a big grin on his face, he presented Pechal the gathered items and asked her to surprise him with her creativity. Pechal heartily accepted the challenge. She happily went about making breakfast while listening to Roderick’s gluten-free teachings.
Alcher shuffled into the kitchen rubbing the sleep from his eyes while sporting the worst case of bedhead in the kingdom.
“Good morning Alcher,” Pechal and Roderick said at the same time, trying not to laugh at Alcher’s hair.
“Perfect timing, breakfast is ready,” Pechal said. She invited Roderick to sit at the head of the table, a place of honor most fitting for the wizard.
Pechal nervously described the ingredients and the preparation of her first gluten-free meal. Roderick and Alcher listened carefully, making note of the details. They cheered and clapped to show their approval. Their mouths watered as she dished out the Herb and Vegetable Egg Bake. Pechal also prepared small bowls of fresh fruit salad. It was simple, but still a feast for all of the senses.
King Bernard and Queen Lorelle were unaware of Roderick’s presence in the kingdom. It was kept secret because Alcher knew the king would feel threatened by a stranger. If King Bernard felt threatened, he’d never allow Roderick to help. They were in a difficult situation. The quickest way to help Princess Cristiana was to work with Roderick, but keep him hidden until the right time. This plan was very risky for everyone involved. It had to work, there was no room for failure. Even if they saved the Princess, there was no guarantee the king would accept the way they did it. Alcher’s plan was risking everyone’s life.
During breakfast they talked about testing Princess Cristiana. Roderick went to the Great Hall to get the black velvet bag containing the testing supplies. Upon returning, he removed each item from the bag and explained how it was to be used. Alcher asked questions and made mental notes. To practice, Alcher explained the process back to Roderick. They made a few small adjustments, but in the end Alcher knew what to do.
While they were talking, Pechal cleared the table of the breakfast dishes. Alcher and Roderick complemented her again on the tasty, gluten-free breakfast. She always loved getting compliments on her food, but this time, it was about Alcher’s health. Touching Roderick’s shoulder, she thanked him again for his knowledge. She quickly kissed Alcher’s cheek as she rushed off to the King’s kitchen. Time had slipped away, making Pechal late for work.
A gloomy, misty day greeted Alcher as he stepped outside his manor house. The narrow cobblestone walk leading to the castle was slick and shiny. He looked toward the crying sky and scowled; the weather matched how he was feeling inside. While he was thankful to be moving forward, he was nervous about what they would find with Cristiana. An answer – any answer – would be better than not knowing. Once they knew what was wrong, they could figure out how to make her better. He was relieved that Roderick was close by.
Wall torches dimly lit the castle’s staircase; their flames flickered and danced as Alcher whooshed past them. At the top of the stairs he turned left and continued down the hall to Cristiana’s room. He paused a moment to gather his thoughts as his heart pounded. In the silence of the hallway, he could hear the king and queen’s voices through the door. He took a deep breath and knocked. The king opened the door.
“Sir Alcher. Please, come in,” King Bernard said. Alcher greeted the king and entered the room. As Alcher turned to close the door, he noticed something moving in the shadows. A small mouse scurried through the open door. It hugged the wall, as it ran across the floor from shadow to shadow. It was common to have mice in the castle, particularly when the weather was less than favorable outside. The cats would make quick work of the unwanted guest.
The king carefully hobbled back toward Cristiana’s bed. Alcher could see the discomfort in King Bernard but would not allow himself to get distracted. His focus had to be on Cristiana. The king let out a slight groan as he slowly lowered himself into one of the chairs.
Cristiana and Queen Lorelle greeted Alcher; he bowed and returned the greeting with a smile. The princess was sitting up while she chatted with her mother and father. She appeared to be feeling better than she did yesterday during Alcher’s visit.
“Sir Alcher, I’m feeling better today, ” Cristiana said with a weak smile. “That awful tasting tea Lady Pechal brought last night helped. I’ve had less icky poos.”
“Cristiana Lea, proper ladies do not talk like that,” Queen Lorelle scolded.
“Not to worry,” Alcher said. “I think that’s a proper medical term. I’m certain I read it in the wizard’s parchments last night.” He gave Cristiana a quick wink when the queen looked toward King Bernard in frustration. The king took no interest in the queen’s silent request for back up. Cristiana’s eyes had a faint twinkle.
“We must allow Alcher to get on with this testing,” King Bernard said.
“But father, I’m feeling much better. I don’t need it anymore,” Cristiana said, as she pulled the covers up and around her.
Alcher explained how the test worked, that it was painless and nothing to be afraid of. The king and queen took turns trying to convince her. Try as they might, nothing worked. The king was yelling, the queen was pacing back and forth, and Cristiana was crying. It was clear to Alcher his years of battlefield experience was not enough to prepare him to go head-to-head with a pre-teen child. His training did prepare him to keep calm and think clearly under pressure. He had a plan in mind, but first he had to stop the king from yelling, the queen from pacing, and the princess from crying.
“Why don’t we make this a family thing? We can pretend you are on holiday and this is the latest beauty treatment used only by the most royal families.” Alcher said. He was certain the king and queen would agree if it meant an end to this stand off. They both agreed. Two down, one to go. Peeking out from under the bed covers, Cristiana agreed, but only if her parents went first.
Alcher, pretending to be a spa attendant, made his way to where the king was seated. Since Alcher had already explained how the test worked, the king rolled up his sleeves and cupped his hands together. Alcher removed the bottle of liquid from the bag and poured some into King Bernard’s large, meaty hands. The king rubbed his hands together before applying the oil like liquid to his oversized forearms. He made sure both arms were well covered. Alcher sprinkled first the light colored powder, then the darker powder over the king’s shiny arms. Cristiana watched very closely; looking for any signs of pain caused by the procedure.
“Beauty treatment – I feel more like a well-seasoned piece of meat, ready for the roasting fire.” King Bernard said. This gave everyone a much-needed laugh.
The same process was repeated on Queen Lorelle and finally Princess Cristiana. Alcher’s plan worked like a dream. Cristiana’s performance as “the most royal princess” was quite convincing, maybe too convincing.
When Alcher was finished, he flipped the sand clock upright to start the timing. It took time for the liquid, the powders, and the skin to react with one another. A sand clock is a glass tube that is pinched in the middle, making a narrow passageway between two halves. The tube is filled with sand and sealed. When the tube is turned so the sand is on top, it falls slowly through the passageway until it fills the bottom half.
After 10 turns of the sand clock, the tests were complete. The moment of truth was at hand – would they learn the cause of Cristiana’s illness? Alcher removed a magnifying glass and black cloth from the bag. The magnifying glass is used look at the powder particles. Biological and chemical reactions caused the particles to glow if the person was reacting to gluten. The black cloth was used to block any remaining room light. The arms had to be as dark as possible in order to see any glowing sand sized particles.
King Bernard was the first to be examined. Alcher placed the cloth over his head and the king’s arms. Once his eyes adjusted to the darkness he was able to continue. Starting at the fingers, he moved his way up the left hand. He wasn’t seeing anything that looked like glowing pieces of sand. As he neared the wrist, he saw a couple of scattered glowing specks. He blinked several times to make sure he wasn’t seeing things, the glowing specks were still there. Moving closer to the forearm, the glowing specks increased in number. Alcher was surprised; he was seeing exactly what Roderick described. He examined the right arm; it looked like the left arm. Unprepared for these results, he tried to remove any expression from his face before coming out from under the cloth.
“What did you find?” King Bernard asked.
“You have two arms, two hands, and eleven fingers,” Alcher said with a smile, doing his best to avoid giving him a direct answer. The king stared back at Alcher with a look of disgust. “Before I say, I’d like to check everyone else.”
Moving to Queen Lorelle, he checked her arms the same way. Just like the king, there were glowing specks on both arms. Alcher politely thanked the queen for her cooperation and moved on to the princess. Cristiana’s hands and arms were completely dark, not a single glowing speck – anywhere. He re-checked both arms, still nothing. The results confused Alcher. Removing the cloth, Alcher was ready to share the results of the test. They looked at Alcher impatiently, waiting for him to speak.
“I did not see a single glowing speck on Cristiana,” Alcher said. The royal family let out a sigh of relief,
“If gluten is not making her sick, what is?” Queen Lorelle asked.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know,” Alcher said. It hurt him to say those words, but he had no other option. “We cannot give up, we just have to keep looking.” Cristiana began to cry.
“Sir Alcher, you said you would help me and make me better,” Cristiana whimpered. Those words cut Alcher deeper than any sword during battle. Alcher turned and walked toward a darkened corner of the room so they wouldn’t see him break down.
“My dear Cristiana. I am trying, I am doing everything possibly I can,” Alcher said, as his voice cracked.
“What did you find about the queen and myself?” King Bernard asked. Alcher came out of the shadows and approached the king and queen face to face.
“I saw many glowing specks on each of you,” Alcher said. The king’s face started turning red and the veins in his forehead began to bulge.
“What is this garbage you are feeding us?” King Bernard yelled. “The test is useless! It says our daughter is not sick and we are? Any fool can see it’s wrong. How dare you use this…this…witchcraft on us. You…”
“The test is accurate and far from witchcraft,” said a strange voice from the darkest corner of the room, cutting off the king’s rant. Alcher immediately drew his sword and stood ready to defend the king and his family. Screams came from the queen and the princess.
“Who are you? Show yourself at once,” King Bernard demanded. Out of the shadows stepped a figure cloaked in a black hooded robe. A gloved hand pulled back the hood to reveal the face of Roderick. He slowly approached the group. Alcher looking rather confused, relaxed his stance and returned his sword to its sheath.
“I am Roderick the Wizard,” Roderick said. “King Bernard and Queen Lorelle, I apologize for this intrusion. I am here to help you just as I have helped your noble knight. I could not let this go any further.” The king grimaced in pain as he got out of the chair and hobbled over to Roderick.
“Tell me why I shouldn’t have you drawn and quartered?” King Bernard asked with fire in his eyes, their noses nearly touching. Roderick stared back and stood his ground.
“It is your kingdom, you may do as you wish,” Roderick said.“The life of your daughter seems like a good reason. Right now, her problem is not gluten, but I can save your daughter. She is feeling better now because of the tea she had last night. Without continued treatment, her condition will worsen. I do not want you to lose your second child – your only child. The test you called witchcraft, is pure science in action.”
“Bad science, I’d say. We are fine, we’re not sick,” King Bernard said.
“King, tell me about your worsening joint stiffness,” Roderick said as he circled around the king, looking him up and down. “You can hardly get out of the chair and walk. The painful headaches that keep you in bed. The burning in your chest after eating. Sound familiar? Queen, please tell me about that oozy, itchy rash that is always gnawing at your skin, and those unladylike bathroom experiences.” The king and queen were dumbstruck as the wizard described their health problems with perfect accuracy.
“But, they’re all normal things,” King Bernard said waving his hand as if he was dismissing one of his staff.
“It may feel normal to you because you’ve been sick for so long, but it’s not normal,” Roderick said. “You don’t have to be sick, tired and grumpy. Please allow Alcher, Lady Pechal, and me to help you.”
Deep inside, the king and queen knew Roderick was right and they could not deny it any longer. Poor health had them in a chokehold for far too long. Not only were they suffering individually, but their relationships with one another also suffered. The king and queen looked at one another, and then to Cristiana – all three nodded their heads in agreement.
“Wizard, you have ripped the blindfold from our eyes and made us see. It was painful, but we humbly accept your offer,” King Bernard said.
“Excellent!” Roderick shouted. “First order of business is to get Princess Cristiana well, then you two, then your entire kingdom. Together we will change the world! By the way, you need to get better cats.”
King Bernard and Queen Lorelle struggled with being gluten-free in the beginning, but Lady Pechal, Sir Alcher, and Roderick the Wizard gave them the help and support they needed to be successful.
Eventually, the King suggested that the entire kingdom try gluten-free and they became a model of health and wellbeing throughout the land.”
Princess Cristiana continued to drink Roderick’s awful tasting tea until she was fully recovered. Unsanitary water and living conditions were the usual causes of dysentery. Children, elderly, and the sick were often the hardest hit. Cristiana grew up to be an elegant and sophisticated woman. In time she became the queen of the Gluten-Free Kingdom and continued the tradition her parents started. Each generation after her kept the tradition alive.
Lady Pechal went on to become the head of the king’s kitchen; a feat very few women ever accomplished in any kingdom. Food quality and safety were her top priorities. Keeping her promise to Roderick, she volunteered to help other citizens of the kingdom master the art of gluten-free cooking and baking.
Sir Alcher continued his knightly duties until his body said “no more.” His travels allowed him to spread the gluten-free word to many different people both near and far. Like Lady Pechal, he shared his gluten-free knowledge with anyone willing to listen. They opened their home to others to give them better education. The spirit of Pechal and Alcher lives on in gluten-free advocates and support group leaders around the world.
Roderick returned home once he was confident the royal family was on the right path to gluten-freedom. He knew Alcher and Pechal would be there to carry on his teachings. Whenever possible, he would visit the kingdom where he was always welcomed with open arms. To this very day, Roderick follows his passion for helping others and his quest for a gluten-free world. Wizards never pass away. When their earthly bodies become too tired, they regenerate new ones. This process is repeated over and over to carry them on through the centuries. The twenty first century Roderick is a children’s doctor living in New Zealand, a small island in the South Pacific Ocean. He specializes in food allergies, celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
A note from the author:
I would like to extend a big thank you to the Gluten Intolerance Group of North American and their staff, particularly Nichol Creach (Publisher/Graphic Designer) and Lola O’Rourke, MS, RDN (Editor). They gave me an opportunity to explore uncharted territories of my creativity.
A loud shout out to my proof readers, also known as “Proof Team 6”: Peggy Klapperich, Kim Walsh, Tracy Ochs, Caroline DeRidder, LaVonne Young, Donna Webb, Rodney & Chris Ford, Shannon Jahsman, and Kim Pebley. They helped me improve my writing skills.
Special thank you to Alicia Romo for her Spanish translations.
Last but not least, my appreciation to you, the readers and subscribers of Generation GF.
Thank you, one and all!
Gluten Intolerance Group of East Central Wisconsin