77 The Young Commander

‘ The task you have been given is not necessarily an easy one, it will be an idle period and idleness can easily lead to mischief. ‘

John Stanley- 25th May 1355

Piers leaned against the tent pole, one leg crossed over the other, with a languid smile on his face.

‘That was much more difficult than the trick with the girl at Marmande.’

John broke off from his self-imposed task of tidying the tent. ‘What was?’ John scowled. As usual, Piers was watching on, but doing nothing himself.

‘Me going to meet the southern lords and you as Field Commander.’

‘Oh, it was all you, was it, nothing to do with the Earl?’

‘I have been working on it ever since the visits were agreed.’

‘So why didn’t you make yourself Commander?’

‘Just a question of priorities; lords, even southern lords, have daughters. This will mean that at some time in future I will have access to their households and their daughters. It has always been one of my objectives.’

‘But why give me command, why not leave Lord James or the Captal behind?’

‘Wouldn’t have worked. They are both disturbed by the way they have been outmanoeuvred by the Earl, perhaps jealous of him. If the Earl was going with the Prince then they would be determined to go too.’ Piers frowned. ‘The Captal is particularly upset. He no longer responds directly to the Prince and that disturbs him. He believes it has driven a wedge between them. He thinks the Prince has discriminated against him because he is a Gascon.

‘But that’s nonsense. The Prince would never do that. Where on earth did you glean that piece of information from?’

‘Listen more carefully, he makes no particular secret of it when talking to his own men.’ Piers glanced over his shoulder and picked up a bundle of straw. ‘Here comes the Earl, not a word!’


The Earl halted at the door of the tent. ‘Good to see you keeping yourselves tidy, but as of midday, you won’t have time for that. John, you will be in charge, Lord James has appointed Ewan Fitzrobert to assist you with domestic chores.

‘What?’

The Earl turned to Piers. ‘Piers, I need to talk to John privately.’

He turned back to John. ‘I know a bit of the background.’ He chuckled. ‘Lord James thinks the experience will be good for both of you.’ He put his arm around John’s shoulder. ‘The task you have been given is not necessarily an easy one, it will be an idle period and idleness can easily lead to mischief. You have, however, an excellent background to deal with this, here’s an idea, reinstitute the training programme from Biscarrosse, combine it with some form of competition. Given a lead, they will readily follow.’

The Earl frowned. ‘Oh! I intend to take a couple of archers with us to offer a little extra protection and would have naturally have chosen Morgan the Singer, but now I think not. I will leave Morgan with you.

He paused. ‘Make a special point of using Morgan as a mentor in archery.’

‘But why choose someone who has every reason to resent me? Isn’t there every chance he will try to undermine my authority?’

The Earl waved away John’s concern. ‘Your appointment as a Lion of Aquitaine will tell Morgan and Ewan if it comes to that, that you have the total support of the Prince. This morning you publicly made an oath of allegiance to the Prince. Neither of them will dare to transgress. It is particularly important to me that Morgan accepts that your action was correct, because he is by far and away the most accurate sharpshooter in our force. You must build bridges with him. He must be available to us unconditionally.’

‘Sharpshooter?’

‘During our training at Biscarrosse, we were trying to turn everyone into sharpshooters. However, most archers are more skilled in launching arrows into the air to fall almost vertically on our opposition. The arrows fall generally within a ten-foot area but no more accurate than that. Where the enemy is tightly grouped, this is very effective. In a battle situation, as for instance at Crecy, these archers are called ordinancers. At Crecy, the ordinancers won the battle. The Franks got bogged down in a muddy valley and the arrows rained down on them. It would be easy to say they were decimated, but in fact, for them, it was worse than that. They were annihilated. Sharpshooting, picking a single, often fast-moving target and hitting it the first time, is a totally different skill. It is essential where the enemy is not grouped together and when the enemy is attacking. Morgan is a sharpshooter without compare.’

‘But my own skills with the bow have improved. I managed to win the tournament at Clermont!’

‘John, you did very well that day, but you were competing against amateurs. Perhaps you should practice with Morgan. You may improve further. Certainly, you will learn how good he is!’

‘Well then, I will make him welcome.’

The Earl then summoned Piers to join them.


‘If my worst fears are realised, we could be entrapped. If so we will take refuge in whichever church or monastery we are visiting. Piers, at my command you will make a run for it come back to camp and get help from John. John, you must be ready to provide that help.’

John looked at the Earl quizzically. ‘If I am in command, can I ask a question, why don’t we all come with you then no one would be at risk.’

‘It’s a good question but no. The Prince does not want it to look like an invasion…not yet anyway.’

John nodded and glanced sideways at Piers, raising his eyebrows.

At midday, when the Prince left for his appointment at St Servin in Casteleingest, John immediately set about organising the training. He asked Ewan to perform the role he had himself performed at Biscarrosse. To his surprise, Ewan carried out his assignment without a murmur. It told John more about his change of status than anything else possibly could.

He then asked Morgan to take charge of the archery concentrating on his own speciality, sharpshooting.

Towards the end of the day, Morgan approached John. ‘Thank you for allowing me to be part of this. It is far better than sitting around waiting.’

‘You deserve some recognition, Morgan. The Earl believes you are the best sharpshooter.’ John looked at him sympathetically. ‘How do you feel?’

‘Sore, it’s not something you would want to go through twice, or once for that matter! My back is so stiff. But they apply salve and it is improving.’ He eyed John carefully. ‘Some of the others resent your intervention, but I don’t. We had been warned and I had taken too much drink.’

He left it at that. John knew that there would be no more difficulties between them.


‘Morgan, the Earl suggested that I train with you. I carry a bow and would like to be able to use it to maximum effect. I would like to become a sharpshooter.’

‘I will teach you everything I know.’

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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.