Githa Selle thought she had seen an unfamiliar horseman turn into her gate, so she lay Brinstan down in his cradle and stepped into the yard, which was dusted with an early snow. 

Githa cried out when the rider dismounted and approached her – it was Theobald’s father! 

Githa cried out when the rider dismounted and approached her.

The Baron had never yet visited them at their home in Lothere, so Githa was immediately apprehensive. Had something happened to Theobald’s mother or one of his brothers?

“Father! How wonderful that you have come to visit us at last. I hope our family is well?”

'I hope our family is well?'

“Very well, dear,” the Baron said, kissing her. “Mother sends her love, as do your parents.”

“Won’t you come in and see the children? You won’t know Brinstan when you see him! Or – no, you will!” she laughed. “He looks just like Theobald. Oh, here’s Theobald! Theobald!” she called to her husband, who had come in from the barn when he had seen the rider.

'Father, you're here!'

“Father, you here! How’s Mother?” Theobald asked, embracing his father.

“Very well, as I was just telling Githa,” the old Baron laughed. “Next you will tell me that I should come see the children?”

“Of course! Come inside.”

The Baron showered his squealing granddaughter with kisses and marveled over Brinstan’s growing resemblence to his father. “But I have come to speak of serious matters, Theobald,” he said meaningfully.

Theobald glanced at Githa, who said, “Oh! I was just going to take the children to visit the Countess before dinner. Won’t you excuse us?”

'Won't you excuse us?'

After Githa had bundled up the children and they had received a parting kiss from their grandfather, Theobald and his father pulled up their chairs to the fire.

“Have you had news from your friends, Theobald?” the Baron asked gravely.

“From my King?”

The Baron frowned. “From your friend Sigefrith.”

The Baron frowned.

“No, I haven’t. I don’t know whether there has been any news that I haven’t been told. Have you heard something, Father?”

“Sad news, Theobald. The army at Ely has been routed by the Normans. I know that Morcar was captured, but I have heard nothing about your friends in particular, and I dared not ask. However, I have heard that some of the leaders were executed on the spot, and they cut off the right hands of the men so that they could not rise again. If your friends did not reveal themselves to be lords, they may have survived.”

“Sigefrith would not deny his name, Father.”

“Then he is dead or imprisoned, my son. I am sorry I have no better news for you.”

Theobald stared a while into the fire. “Will you tell the Earl what you have learned?” he finally asked.

'Will you tell the Earl what you have learned?'

“I will not speak to your so-​​called Earl, Theobald. Now listen – I did not come here merely to give you news of your friends. You know that I allowed you to come here, and that I have not told the King’s men of your presence here, out of love for you and for your mother. But this cannot go on. If they have captured your friends, then they may have told of this valley – ”

“Never! Their own families are here!”

“Theobald, you know that there are… you know that men can be made to talk.”

“Torture, Father?” Theobald spat. “Why don’t you just say it? It’s not as if anyone is accusing us of that – this time!”

“You will not speak of such things!” the Baron commanded.

'You will not speak of such things!'

The men glared at one another.

“Theobald, your friends are dead, and it is only a matter of time before this place is discovered. You, for now, have done nothing wrong. You have not taken up arms against your King. If you leave now and – ”

“I shall not leave.”

“Theobald – allow me to speak.”

“I have lived here for four years. I brought my bride here, and my children were born here, and I shall not leave.”

“Theobald! These men are outlaws! If you remain here you will be considered one of them.”

“Sigefrith is my king, and the Earl of Bernwald is my lord.”

'Sigefrith is my king.'

“Theobald…” the Baron began, distressed. “You don’t know what you’re saying. This is treason! I am your father – am I not your lord?”

“The Baron of Thorhold holds no authority in this valley. You know it very well!”

Again the men glared at each other.

“What have you told them?” the Baron asked warily.

“Nothing. And I shall say nothing. But you must not ask me to leave.”

The Baron tried a new tack. “What about your mother, Theobald? She cries for you. And what about your wife, and your children? Will you expose them to this danger? Bring them home, Theobald. Your mother is offering you her own lands, if you will only come away from here before it’s too late.”

“What does Ethelmer say about this?” Theobald asked, hestitating. “Those lands were to go to him.”

'We will find something else for your brother.'

“Oh, Ethelmer… we will find something else for your brother once this… once this is over.”

“You’re thinking of this valley.” Theobald said quietly. “You know that cannot be, Father.”

The Baron turned his gaze to the fire. “Perhaps it can,” he said, not looking up. “Perhaps it can – you have had good harvests here, and – ”

“We have also seen elves.”

The Baron thought for a moment. “Have they done harm?”

“They stole a man’s son. But the man’s wife had taken an elf child. Otherwise we have not harmed them and they have not harmed us – I believe. But you mustn’t send Ethelmer here.”

'Very well!'

“Very well!” the Baron said, throwing up his hands. “I shall not send Ethelmer. Never mind about Ethelmer. Never mind about what will become of this valley. Tell me what will become of you and your family when the King’s men arrive here. I cannot hide you forever. I have done all I can, but I shall not put my family and my lands at risk to protect you and your friends.”

Theobald rose and stared gravely into the fire. 

His father watched him for a moment and then stood as well. “Theobald, think of Githa and the babies. Think of how you would feel if any harm came to Athelis or Brinstan.” 

'This is how I feel about you.'

He paused to allow Theobald to consider this, and then said, “Now, my son, tell yourself that this is how I feel about you.”

Theobald looked intently into his father’s eyes for a moment. “Very well, Father. I shall talk to Githa. You must allow me to consult my wife.”

The Baron smiled. “Githa would follow you anywhere, Theobald. She trusts you to decide. A family is a great responsibility, is it not? But speak to her, by all means.”

The Baron smiled.