24 A Death Warrant

‘Just so there is no doubt, you still want me to kill this young girl?’
‘Well, dispose of her, yes… but we would prefer it if she was betrayed as a heretic, interrogated by the Inquisition and burned at the stake.’

Jacques de Bourbon -13th March 1355

Later in the afternoon, in the chapel attached to the Palais de la Cité, Jacques de Bourbon watched as the Dauphin touched both shoulders of Bertrand du Guesclin with his sword and slapped him across the face.


‘Take this as an example of how you should treat my enemies. Arise, Sir Bertrand. We are pleased to give you the honour of a knighthood in recognition of your services to us during the prosecution of the war in Brittany; specifically your heroic defence of the Château Montmuran.’

The Dauphin left immediately.

Jacques de Bourbon managed a smile. Du Guesclin was undoubtedly the Dauphin’s man, so he would have to work with him. He shook his head. realising that inevitably that made himself the Dauphin’s man. Be that as it may, Jacques certainly did not want to be personally responsible for the tasks he was about to allocate to du Guesclin. He was pleased to have someone to do his dirty work.


‘Now, Sir Bertrand, as you know, we want you to leave Brittany for a while. There are bands of mercenaries plundering the countryside in the area north of the Garonne. They are nearly as much of a problem to us as they are to the English, but we think they could be persuaded to concentrate exclusively on the English. It will just require a little leadership; there will be no need to change the way they work, only the targets they choose. Any profit you gain from this activity will be yours to keep.’

Du Guesclin’s eyes gleamed. A few drops of saliva dribbled from his lips. ‘You are hinting to me where I might find a private army, which you would approve of me using?’

‘Well, yes.’

‘And use them in any way I wish… to make money?’

‘By attacking the English, yes. We have information that the English will try to invade Armagnac later in the year and there is a possibility they will go east, much further east.

Jacques turned away for a few seconds and temporarily focused his attention on the high altar; glittering gold and white marble and dominated by the blues and reds of a series of stained glass windows commemorating the lives of saints. An anomaly, totally to his taste, was that such unsavoury business should be carried out on consecrated ground!

When he reverted his gaze, Guesclin rolled his eyes to an impossible angle. ‘Just so there is no doubt, you still want me to kill this young girl?’


‘Well, dispose of her, yes… but we would prefer it if she was betrayed as a heretic, interrogated by the Inquisition and burned at the stake. We have an informant inside the Pope’s palace at Avignon. As you have been told, we are concerned she may marry Edward, the Black Prince, heir to the throne of England. Apparently, the Pope would approve of such a marriage. We certainly would not. We believe the Inquisition will only become involved if she refuses to marry the Prince. However, if she commits herself to a marriage with the Black Prince, then you must dispose of her any way you can before she is taken into safe keeping in England or Aquitaine.’

A cunning look came over Guesclin’s face. ‘So as long as the girl marries the Prince, the church will turn a blind eye to the fact that she is a heretic, but if she refuses to marry the Prince they will hunt down, interrogate and execute her. In that case, I will have wasted my time.’

Jacques frowned. ‘Not quite, in those circumstances, you may be of assistance to the Inquisition in their task.’ He hesitated. ‘However, there is a complication. The King would still prefer the girl to marry his son Prince Louis, in which case you may find yourself faced with members of the King’s guard trying to protect the girl from the Inquisition.’

It was Du Guesclin’s turn to frown. ‘But that means I could spend considerable time watching her with no guarantee of reward.’

‘You should be aware that this difference of opinion is just a symptom of a growing rift between the King and the Dauphin. Think about who knighted you just now. We are working for the Dauphin, not the King. The Dauphin does not favour a marriage to Louis. He believes such a marriage could undermine his own position. I believe you have already been well rewarded. However, I can now give you the Dauphin’s assurance that when Ximene Trencavel is dead, whichever way that is achieved, that reward will be doubled.’

‘And if I find a way of profiting from all this in some other way?’

‘That, Sir Bertrand is what I would expect you to do.’

‘Then you have just issued her death warrant.’


‘Good. One of the King’s Garde Ecosse will be your contact, John Stuart is his name. You will find him at the Dominican Office of the Holy Inquisition in Pamiers.’

‘A King’s guard? Won’t he want to impose the King’s orders?

‘No. It will not be a problem. I have arranged that for the immediate future all communication between Stuart and the King will come through me.

Pamiers? Why Pamiers?

Pamiers is under the control of the Inquisition but is close to Foix, where we believe Ximene Trencavel is currently living with her uncle. Stuart may be useful to you.’

‘Foix? I have heard the Château has never been captured. How will I get to her if she’s there?’

‘Someone with your skills will find a way. However, another piece of information for you. Last year it seemed probable that the Trencavel girl would marry Louis. She insisted on meeting Louis personally on what she called neutral ground, Navarre. She is likely to impose the same condition on the Prince, which means she will leave Foix.’

‘For Navarre?’

‘Probably not. There are hints of a rift between Foix and Navarre.’

‘For where, then?’

‘That is one reason we have come to you, Sir Bertrand. It seems to be a guarded secret. We thought you might be able to persuade someone to talk.’

‘Tell me more about Stuart.’

He will be sympathetic to your mission. Nominally he is preventing the local lords from obstructing the activities of the Inquisition. In practice, he is preventing the Inquisition interfering in our affairs. He will almost certainly be helpful.’

‘Does he know what I am supposed to do?’

‘He will do by the time you get there.’

‘And what makes you think he will be helpful?’

‘He thinks he has a claim to be Seigneur of the Isle called Mann in the middle of the Irish Sea. But he has been deposed by the English King. The English King has made William Montacute, the Earl of Salisbury, ‘King of Mann’. Most unusual, as it required the Pope’s approval. We think it was something to do with Salisbury giving up his marriage to Joan of Kent. ‘Jacques paused and then provided an aside, ‘John Stuart hates Salisbury with a passion.’

Du Guesclin’s eyes glittered. ‘Stuart and I will get on well together. I also have good reason to hate Salisbury.’

‘Stuart will do anything which damages Salisbury or the English royal family.’

Du Guesclin nodded and made as if to leave, but stopped in mid-stride, his head hanging at an ungainly angle. He looked over his shoulder. ‘Initially, I will concentrate on the Black Prince. If I follow him he will lead me to the rendezvous. Do we know where he is now?’ He answered his own question. ‘No, don’t worry, I think I know how to find him.’

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Extract from The Prisoner of Foix--Chapter 43 -The EntranceNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley-26th April 1355

 

'Looks like we are going to see a bit of excitement, John. The Captain tried to get an agreement from the Prince that if there is surf running across the channel to Arcachon we will turn back to Bordeaux, but the Prince would hear none of it. Instead, he has offered to provide insurance for all three ships. If they are damaged or sunk, the owners will be compensated and every sailor who makes the passage will be given a bounty payment. What none of this seems to take into account is that if we sink in rough, fast-flowing waters we might all drown.'

John raised his eyebrows. 'But that is what we are going to do?'

'Yes, despite the fact that surf running accross the entrance is not uncommon and the deep water channel moves continually. In the end, the Prince attacked their captains on their weakest point, their professional pride! He threw down the gauntlet. He offered to take the Sally first through the channel, and to take control during the passage.' He raised his brow. 'We are going into the Bay of Arcachon, come what may! '

Extract from The Eagle of Carcassone -- Chapter 24-- A Real GoddessNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley - 22 July 1355

An hour later John walked with Ximene close to the river along the valley below St Feriole. It was the very essence of a summer’s day. The sun was fierce but in the shadow of the trees, it was cool and fragrant. The trees and shrubs along the riverbank hid their progress, from the Château, from St Feriole.

Eventually they reached a point where John thought it was safe to emerge from cover. To his satisfaction the stream extended into a pool with a sandy beach, shaded by trees. Where the stream entered the pool there was a flat grassy area, almost circular. Behind this, the bulk of two mountain ridges provided a splendid backdrop. He looked around once more ‘Not just a good training ground but a great training ground. If the Greek heroes knew about this they might be tempted to join me, to train with me’

Ximene laughed out loud. He turned to look at her. She had removed her outer clothes and was wearing a white chemise, cut short so that it barely reached her knees. Around her waist, she wore a plaited leather belt, obviously fashioned from the multitude of leather straps to be found in the tackle room.

She ran her hands down over her breasts. ‘When you were unconscious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so  I have decided that from now on, for you, I will be the goddess.’

The Prisoner of FoixVol 1 of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

Aquitaine, an English possession, is in crisis. It is under threat from neighbouring nations and internal dissension.

The Black Prince, King Edward III’s eldest son has been given the task of taking command in Aquitaine.

Suddenly there is an opportunity. Ximene Trencavel is the heiress to the lands of Occitan, to the east of Aquitaine: lands controlled by the Franks. Ximene wants independence, both for herself and for Occitan.

A union between Aquitaine and Occitan would be mutually beneficial. The Black Prince undertakes a secret journey to meet Ximene to negotiate a marriage contract. It is, however, a marriage neither of them really wants.

Meanwhile, the  Franks plot to murder Ximene to prevent ,not just the marriage, but any kind of union between England and Occitan.

The Eagle Of CarcassonneVol II of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

The loose alliance between Ximene Trencavel and the Black Prince is under threat.

The Prince invades Occitan, to show his support for Ximene but it becomes an invasion which creates more problems than it solves.

The Prince has fallen hopelessly in love with Joan of Kent and Joan is now determined to marry him and become the next Queen of England.

Joan is therefore  determined to convince Ximene that she should not marry the Prince.

Part of her strategy is to encourage Ximene’s relationship with John Stanley—one of the Princes bodyguards—not an easy task as both John and Ximene have doubts about their compatibility.

However, John is grievously injured in a battle and Ximene commits herself to nurse him back to health.