15 A View to a Kill

‘Well done John. Thank you, thank you, That was the best experience of my life.’’

John Stanley -7th March 1355

Two days later, in the early hours of the morning, a party of hunters, led by the Black Prince and guided by John Stanley, splashed their way over the sand causeway at the mouth of the river Dee. At low tide, the causeway connected Middle Eye Island with the mainland.


The mixture of estuarial mud and sand leached a particular smell as their footsteps disturbed it; a pungent combination of shellfish and brine, not unpleasant but far stronger than the background smell of ozone.

An hour after dawn, John launched a small boat on the incoming tide. The boat made the return trip, drifting with the rising tide but capable of being guided by a tiny rudder and a tiny sail. In the boat, lying side by side was the forester’s son, John Stanley, and the eldest son of King Edward III of England, the Black Prince. To camouflage the smell of their bodies and avoid disturbing the deer, John had spread estuarial mud over woollen blankets and the pair lay underneath the blankets. A continual stream of icy drops fell onto both occupants of the boat. The Prince and John wriggled uncomfortably as the drops joined to form tormenting rivulets. It was extremely difficult to accept these conditions without making the slightest noise. By raising his head, John could see through a tiny peephole perhaps twenty deer, all stags, on the grassland behind the beach. Some were very close to the water.

Several deer raised their eyes as the boat drifted towards them but the boat, from a distance, had the appearance of driftwood and so the deer were unconcerned. The boat bumped along the shore until it finally lodged firmly against a spit of sand.

John pulled the blanket back. Instantly the Prince sprang to his feet bow in hand and a quiver of arrows over his shoulder. He took the first deer full in the chest and before it had sunk to its knees a second arrow buried itself into the shoulder of the deer immediately behind it. The rest of the deer now took flight, but there was still time for the Prince to fell another before they had dispersed. The Prince leapt from the boat and danced on the sand. John climbed out more carefully, intending to applaud, but was dragged into an embrace by the Prince.

‘Well done John. Thank you, thank you, That was the best experience of my life.’

John had no idea whether it was allowed to hug a prince, but quickly decided he had no alternative. In seconds he was dancing to the same rhythm as the Prince.


Much later in the day, back in their family home, John was summoned into his father’s study. Lord James hovered in the background.

William Stanley addressed his son. ‘You did well, John. Now Lord James would like to give you an opportunity as his squire.’

For the second time in the day, John found himself enveloped in a vigorous embrace. ‘Serve Lord James well, you can do nothing but prosper in his service.’

John had long reconciled himself to a future as a forester, with perhaps the option of buying some land and becoming a yeoman farmer.

‘I need time to think,’ he protested. They gave him none.

‘In spring there is much to do.’ His objections were brushed to one side.

Lord James offered John the use of one of his horses. John’s mother packed a saddle-bag with essential clothes and his father brought the Saxon axes, a family heirloom. His father made the gift of the axes a formal occasion.‘These have always become the property of the Housecarls in the family. You are now embarking on a military career so it is appropriate that they pass into your keeping. Remember, whilst you have been given a relatively humble position, your heritage is a proud one. I expect you to add to the honour of our name.’

William Stanley half turned away and then turned back again. John felt the strength from his father’s hands surge into his body as they gripped his shoulders.

‘ Father…’

‘I am proud of you, John, but a man must make his own way in life. Go now.’

John moved his lips to respond but his father gave him no chance to speak.

‘Every knight has to serve an apprenticeship as a squire. Therefore every knight has at some stage been a squire. It is a great opportunity John; please take it with both hands. Knighthood gives access to other opportunities. Who knows, John, because of this you might attend court, maybe meet the woman of your desire, or acquire riches beyond your wildest dreams.’

John flung his arms around his father, and his mother dashed to join their embrace.


Later the same evening, the Prince, Lord James and John were riding south. They planned to rest the night in Chester but when they arrived, an urgent message awaited, summoning the Prince to London.

The large moon, half exposed by drifting cloud, lit the night and they took advantage of it by riding on to Shrewsbury, where the Prince broke away. Lord James thankfully called a halt at a local inn.

The room was so small that after John had carried Lord James’ bags up the stairs and placed them on the floor, the room was overcrowded. John took in the surroundings before his eyes came to settle on Lord James, who seemed totally ignorant of his presence. He cleared his throat. ‘And where should I sleep, Milord?’

Lord James looked up slowly and gave a tolerant smile. ‘Where every squire sleeps when on the road; with the horses.’

John was so surprised, he could not keep from showing it on his face.

Lord James’ smile broadened. ‘Without horses, we can do nothing. There are many horse thieves so they must be guarded through the night. In any case, by sleeping with the horses they will become used to you. When you groom and saddle them in the morning you will find them more compliant if you are not a stranger. Horses are big, warm animals. They don’t always lie down but if one does, snuggle up to it. It will prevent you from feeling the chill of the night.’

John bore no resentment as he descended the stairs to the stable. He reviewed his father’s advice: from this humble beginning, you might acquire a knighthood. He decided that the idea pleased him but had no idea how the progression might occur. He laid out clean straw and gathered his blanket around him. He resolved to make a good start by serving Lord James as well as he could and to deliver his best in everything he was asked to do. He was, in fact, very content—almost happy.

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents

References

characters

List of Places

Table of Contents

Reference

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.