57 A Shadow on the World

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‘It is created in your own image Milady; the Comte used the sketches produced for Monsieur Froissart to take back to England, to commission this statue. It is cleverly done. It is a perfect likeness.’



Ximene Trencavel- 17th May 1355

Ximene and Juan worked hard to obtain more and more freedom as they rode through the hills surrounding Foix. One day they took it in turns to ride off at full speed while the other remained with the guards. The next day they rode off simultaneously in different directions, leaving the guards wondering who to follow.

Eventually, Henri approached Ximene before they left the Château. ‘Milady, our task is to protect you, but we cannot compete with your horses. I would like to propose an alternative. Each day we guards should agree on a route to follow and then you can ride off in accordance with whatever training programme you have determined and we need not follow you. All I ask is that you indicate to us the direction you will take and never leave us for longer than half an hour.’

Ximene smiled graciously. ‘That seems like a good idea.’

‘However Milady, the Comte tells me that you are skilled with the crossbow. I would like you to carry it on all future rides so that there is an immediate means of defence if you are in any way threatened.’

‘I agree.’ She gave Henri what she hoped was an affable smile. ‘I will also carry a sheaf of arrows. We have seen many rabbits and I will be able to use them for target practice.’

‘And the gentleman? We would prefer him also to carry a crossbow and wear a sword.’

Juan responded immediately. ‘I have no skill with either crossbow or sword and have no interest in acquiring such skills.’

The commander took a deep breath. ‘That may be so, Don, but any potential enemy would assume that a man wearing a sword could use it. It could be a significant deterrent.’

Ximene glared at Juan and he quickly changed his reply. ‘Yes it would obviously be a deterrent, I will attend to it but I will have to borrow one.’ He shrugged his shoulders ‘alas it cannot be today.’

The commander smiled. ‘In that case, M’lady can I suggest that I ride with you today.’ His eyes gleamed. ‘I have of course an ulterior motive.’ He smiled self consciously. ‘I have been looking for an opportunity to ride one of these magnificent animals.’

Ximene nodded her acquiescence.

Juan and Henri switched horses. Helios immediately objected to the unaccustomed rider. Ximene rode alongside Helios stroking his neck and forehead and allowed Selene to nuzzle him. ‘There is nothing to worry about, my darling Helios, Henri is my friend.’

Henri leaned forward and repeated the caresses gently singing a nursery rhyme. Helios settled quickly, though as they moved down the ramp he was still in a skittish mood, wanting to show his independence, jumping around to the consternation of all the other horses.

As soon as they reached the riverbank, Ximene urged Selene into a gallop. ‘Come on, commander give him his head, he likes to work hard.’

Henri shouted some instructions to his men, slapped Helios’ rump and took off after Ximene. She held Selene back until Henri was alongside. Then they travelled at near a full gallop.

Henri had to shout at the top of his voice to be heard. ‘I have told them to pitch a camp further up the river so we will know where to find them.’

‘Good, see that hill ahead,’she pointed, ‘race you to the top.’

She found Henri a good companion and let him see that her training regime aimed to copy the format of the hunt. She explained the rationale. ‘The hunt takes place early May, so we’ll be limited to deer and bear. The Comte wishes to experiment, comparing the art of stalking with the chase and the drive. I am preparing for the chase which is far more demanding on the horses. They also need to be accustomed to running with the hounds, which is something we must do more of, perhaps next week. At the moment, the horses are in good condition but I want to improve their endurance. I want them to be able to cover at least two leagues at a full gallop.’

Henri nodded sagely. ‘I will make arrangements to run with the hounds, but I will have to lay a trail for them to follow.’

Ximene returned the nod. She led Henri to where the rabbits were most numerous and they agreed to a competition to see how many rabbits they could claim in half an hour. They both did well, Henri was impressed.

‘You are an excellent shot Milady, I can hardly believe it, you are a better shot than me, and yet I am a professional soldier.’

‘This is the only weapon I use, Commander, whereas you have to master a whole range of weapons.’

‘Even so.’

They rode back to the appointed camping spot and found the rest of the guards resting comfortably on the riverbank in the shade of two enormous trees. There were shouts of approval and laughter. Juan entertained them with a ballad.

The subject was more suggestive and the choice of words more bawdy that anything Ximene had heard him sing before.

Juan glanced anxiously at Ximene as she dismounted. She nodded her approval, realising it could do nothing but help to win the support of the guards.

Even as Juan sang, the guards examined the rabbits, prepared them for roasting, dug a pit and gathered wood for a fire. Ximene looked around the glade, extremely satisfied with what she saw. She was more than a little taken aback however when one of the guards unexpectedly slipped his hands around her waist and gave her a big hug. ‘Thank you, Milady for giving us such a wonderful time.’

Ximene stiffened and blushed, but managed to give the young man a beaming smile. Henri gave him a cuff around his ear.

He pulled Ximene to one side. ‘He just forgot himself, Milady, he meant no harm.’

Ximene kept a straight face, struggling to regain her composure.

‘I mean it. He meant no harm. He adores you. They all do. They think you are an angel, or perhaps a goddess… and they are not the only ones. Will you eat with us, M’lady?’

‘I will indeed, I have noticed how much trouble is being taken.’

‘Good they will like that… ‘ Henri was suddenly thoughtful. ‘Don Juan, I was surprised that he knows the barrack room songs.’

‘I did not know either but he tells me that he socialises with the guards.’

‘Never mind. I have some concerns about such fraternisation, but I will do nothing about it. Also, I don’t want to spoil such a wonderful day. Now Milady, as I said they are not the only ones who think of you as a goddess. We have about half an hour before the rabbit will be cooked, will you ride with me, I have something to show you.’

‘Of course, as you say it is a wonderful day.’

They rode out of the camp, crossed several rivulets and headed for high ground close to the west of the Château. The crest of the hill was indented and surrounded by a copse of trees. A grassy clearing was hidden in the centre of the copse. It seemed to Ximene that Selene stopped dead of her own volition, as surprised as her rider.

A circular pavement finished in colourful mosaic lay at the far side of the clearing. The grass in the clearing had been cropped short into another larger circle. The grass circle and the paved circle were not concentric but had a single common point where the periphery of both circles merged. This single, common, point was emphasised by a statue. The statue was of a female huntress. The distant side of the smaller paved circle was further defined by a structure in the style of ancient Greece, The nearer side was open and there was no roof to the structure.

In the centre of the paved circle, there was a perfect cube, about waist high with a second smaller statue on top of it.

Ximene slowly dismounted and walked towards the central cube.

Henri stayed back allowing Ximene solitude. ‘The Compte also thinks you are an angel, perhaps a goddess, he has built this temple as a tribute to you.’

Ximene stopped dead. ‘A tribute to me?’

Yes M’Lady, look carefully at the statues.’

Ximene eyes roamed the classical structure before she approached the statue on top of the cube and let her hands run over its surface. It was smooth, cold and yet so carefully crafted it could have been alive. A female deer crouching, as if to hide from the Huntress, the subject of the other statue.

She forced herself to study the second statue and approached it nervously. A classical representation of Diana, she thought, drawing her bow, her hunting dogs at her feet. A scarf clung to her naked body. Ximene’s eyes locked onto the face of the statue, and slowly, they widened.

‘It is created in your own image Milady, the Comte used the sketches produced for Monsieur Froissart to take back to England, to commission this statue. It is cleverly done. It is a perfect likeness. Also, the arrow points directly at the deer and is aligned so that on midsummer’s day the sun will shine along the arrow and onto the deer. At that moment your shadow will be cast… over the entire world.’

Ximene glanced down and for the first time realised that the mosaic beneath her feet simulated a map of the world.

‘The statue can actually be seen from the upper courtyard at the Château.’ Henri pointed at Château Foix, which could be seen behind the huntress. ‘But you would have to know it was here to have any chance of seeing it.’

Ximene’s first instinct was to run away, as far and as fast as she could but she knew it would be the wrong thing to do. ‘Henri, thank you for showing me this temple, it is undoubtedly beautiful, but I have reason to believe that the Compte wanted to bring me here himself, as a surprise. It might be better if you did not mention to him that I have already seen it.’ She smiled at Henri in encouragement; she didn’t want him to feel he’d done something wrong. She remounted and left hesitantly, looking back over her shoulder as if she did not want to leave. Her mind was in turmoil.

Back at the camp, all became a blur, lunch, talking to Henri and the guards; the ride back to the Château. She could not get the picture of Diana as herself out of her mind. To do such a thing she believed Gaston must be obsessed by her and she now had the gravest misgivings as to what his future plans might be. Her escape was not now to avoid marriage, it was to avoid an obsession. Any chance of her accepting a role as Comtesse of Foix was now extinguished. Her sole objective became to get as far from Gaston as she possibly could.

Table of Contents

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents



List of Places

Table of Contents

Pseudo History


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.