Alred whistled as he walked up the road towards the Earl’s castle. He had just seen the first boards being torn off the northwest room of his keep in preparation for a two-​​story tower that was to be built in its place. He never knew how Egelric Wodehead explained matters to his wife, but he had agreed eagerly to serve as the Duke’s overseer. He seemed excited by both the work and the opportunity to learn, and the Duke didn’t realize that he was also relieved to have an excellent excuse to stay away from his farm most of the day.

Alred was just passing the Selle farm when he felt the familiar pain clutch at his heart. He gasped – it had never struck him outside, and as it caught him in mid-​​stride he nearly stumbled. He stood doubled-​​over in the middle of the road, too wrapped in pain to wonder whether anyone could see him.

Githa Selle did see him, and after a moment wondering what His Grace was looking at on the road, she realized that he was in trouble. She ran to him and laid her hands lightly on his shoulders. “Your Grace?”

Dear, sweet Githa Selle! If there was ever a woman he could tell his problem to, it was Githa. After he had recovered and she had invited him in for a drink of water, Alred told her of his pains and his fears.

Alred told her of his pains and his fears

She listened closely, her little face radiating compassion and concern. Alred was relieved to have finally shared his troubles with someone. Githa didn’t seem to find it as tragic as he did. “I shall ask my mother,” she offered. “My father has a problem like that, too. She makes a kind of medicine that helps him breathe. I shall ask her for the recipe.”

“He still has the pains?”

“Yes,” she admitted, but she smiled. “But then again, he’s still alive, and he’s over sixty and thunderous as ever.”

“Thunderous?” he laughed.

“You would understand if you met my father.”

He smiled. “I would like to do that someday.”