64 The Usual Criteria

 

‘ I am sorry, my dear. He is not for sale. I have made him my squire because he is strong, controlled, obedient, good at close combat and can be relied upon to keep a secret.’

Joan of Kent-20th May 1355

When Joan returned to the stand, she decided to be direct. She grasped both of the Earl’s hands so that he could not avoid looking at her. ‘I am very impressed with this young man. Will he be going to Muret with the Prince?’

The Earl smiled. ‘What are you up to now, Joan? He has not yet discharged a single arrow, so why are you so impressed?’


Joan turned and smiled at her former husband — commander of the rearguard! — tough soldier! — security expert! So easy to read, so easy to manipulate! ‘Well,’ she said, ‘surely you can see.’ She fluttered her lashes at the Earl. ‘He is tall, slim and yet extremely well built.’ She gave a cheeky grin. ‘Have you seen him naked? I bet he ripples with muscles.’ Joan held in a chuckle of delight. ‘Look! Now he is stringing his bow.’

Joan watched as the Earl looked fleetingly over John’s body, frowning as he did so.

‘Just look at the size of his biceps! And his thighs! Look how they bulge under his hose. His blonde hair,’ she waved a well-groomed hand above her head, ‘wave after wave of it… and the face.’ She closed her eyes for a moment to feign desire. ‘Square jaw, a prominent but even nose and huge brown eyes.’ She opened her eyes again. ‘Look! Now, in the sunlight! He has eyelashes that any girl would be proud of.’

The Earl laughed and nodded. He grasped Joan’s shoulders and spun her round to face him. ‘Oh! I see, the usual criteria! I am sorry, my dear. He is not for sale. I have made him my squire because he is strong, controlled, obedient, good at close combat and can be relied upon to keep a secret.’

Joan jumped up and down and squealed gently.‘It gets better and better,’ she said. ‘When you meet Ximene will you make sure that she is introduced to this young man?’

The Earl gave a slow, exaggerated nod and laughed aloud.

Joan continued. ‘Last night I told you that I wanted to help Ximene escape from her dreadful confinement and of my intention to introduce her to a string of potential lovers. I want her attention deflected from the Prince, well…’ She flicked an eyebrow.

‘Oh! John Stanley!’ The Earl gave a doubtful humph. ‘Do you think so?’

Joan heard the surprise ringing in his voice. He again grasped her gently by the shoulders. Joan wriggled slightly but not with any intention to break away. Myriad mischievous thoughts flashed through her mind. ‘Yes.’ She nodded. ‘I think so,’ she replied, a grin spreading across her face. ‘You don’t have to do much.’ She wriggled again. ‘Just make sure they meet.’ She cocked her head and eyed the Earl lovingly. He was probably the only man she could treat like this. ‘If it doesn’t work out, then bring him back to me.’ Her eyes twinkled with mischievous delight. ‘He would make a wonderful Christmas present!’

‘Hmmm!’ He shook his head. ‘Don’t count on it. I have high regard for that young man. He could be very useful in the future.’

Joan produced what she hoped was her most appealing look. ‘That is just what I have been saying.’ She shook with silent laughter. ‘Oh look, he is stepping up to the mark. I wonder if he can shoot an arrow as attractively as he strings a bow!’

The most dangerous woman in the world

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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.’