Her uncle and guardian, Gaston, Comte de Foix expects to become rich and powerful by controlling negotiations for her marriage. There is a lot of interest, in what is essentially an auction. as Gaston declares Ximene to be the rightful heir to the extensive lands of Occitan.
One of the bidders for Ximene’s hand is the Black Prince, son of King Edward III of England. The Prince, however has made the avoidance of marriage an art form because of his long-standing affair with his cousin, Joan, fair maid of Kent.
King John of the Franks believes that the Black Prince is the favourite to win Ximene’s hand and gives the evil Bertrand Du Guesclin the task of murdering Ximene before the marriage can take place.
Ximene’s personal objective is to negotiate for the creation of a safe haven for those who share her belief in the Cathar religion, a radically different form of Christianity. She believes that she must escape from Gaston’s control to make this possible. She wants freedom to make her own decisions, above all she wants freedom!
She makes plans to escape from her uncle’s control during his summer hunt during which it is intended she will meet the Prince. She hopes this will leave her free to negotiate a satisfactory marriage contract.
Meanwhile in England, John Stanley, a forester’s son, joins a small expeditionary force formed to protect the Prince during the journey to Muret, where the hunt will be held. John learns about the purpose of the journey. He fantasises about Ximene, who he learns has been deemed by the Pope to be “the most dangerous woman in the world”.
As a result of his good performance he is appointed as a member of the Prince’s personal bodyguard. This appointment makes it virtually certain he will meet Ximene.
After their first meeting, John rescues Ximene from an attempted abduction by Du Guesclin, during the hunt.
Her uncle promptly abandons the hunt and withdraws Ximene back to his castle at Foix.
The Prince and John accompany her.
Ximene is impressed by John and sets out to seduce him and win him over to her cause, but she quickly decides that he is totally lacking in any sexual knowledge or technique. At the castle she arranges for John to participate in a Cathar Transition, the process by which all young Cathars are given practical experience of sexual activity.
The Prince is persuaded to help Ximene escape. During their flight from Foix they visit Monségur, a Cathar Holy Place. Inspired by the visit Ximene decides she must consummate her relationship with John. They are however interrupted by an attack from a substantial army, led by Du Guesclin.
In the subsequent battle, the Prince’s superior tactics win the day. However at the completion of hostilities, John fails to return to where Ximene is waiting.
Ximene insists that she must find John. She decides that if her duty to Occitan and the Cathar religion mean that she must abandon a man who has already risked his life three times on her behalf, then they are worth nothing. As she rides back towards the battlefield she feels no fear, only the exhilaration of freedom; freedom to live her life as she wants to live it, freedom, if necessary, to risk her life for a just cause, freedom to give her love without consideration of cause and effect.