23 Common Knowledge 17th March

Ximene Trencavel – 17 March 1355

Later in the day, Ximene patted the bed. ‘Come Pipa, sit beside me, there is something I must tell you.’

Pipa obeyed instantly and swivelling as she did so, lifted a leg onto the bed, drew it in, cuddling her knee in her arms and resting her chin on it.

‘Well?’

‘I think you know that I have been proposed as the future wife of the Black Prince?’

Pipa chuckled. ‘I could hardly have missed it.’

‘And that I have insisted that certain conditions must be met before I would agree to such a marriage?’

Pipa chuckled again. ‘I could hardly have missed it. Alyse cannot stop talking about it.’

‘And that I will meet the Prince during the Count’s summer hunt?’

‘Common knowledge. Alyse cannot stop talking about it.’

At Muret?

‘Well, sort of, yes. Not directly but lots of people are helping to make preparations for the hunt and yes, I believe it will be at Muret, which incidentally is very close to my father’s castle at Beaufort.’

Pipa lifted her other leg onto the bed and fell back against the pillows, hands now behind her head. ‘What are you driving at Ximene? Suddenly I feel nervous. What have you not told me?’

Ximene paused. She rolled over to lie alongside Pipa.

‘When I leave for the hunt I will never return to Foix, I intend to use the hunt to escape from the Comte’s control.’

‘Where will you go?’

‘Sicily, but it will be as if I have vanished without a trace. Once I am free I will then conduct negotiations with the Black Prince.’

Ximene kissed Pipa’s cheek. ‘I am telling you this because I want you to know that I am not abandoning our relationship. That it is precious to me. I will find a way of letting you know where I am so that you may then join me.’

Pipa sat bolt upright, ‘But how are you going to do this? The Comte will not allow it, he will stop you.’

‘No he will not. I will have help, Guillam and Don Fernandino.’

‘Don Fernandino!’ Pipa shrieked. ‘People are not sure he is a real person. Whenever anyone escapes from the Inquisition, credit is given to Don Fernandino. People assign him the supernatural powers of being able to appear and disappear at will. Without such powers, many of his escapes seem impossible.’ She shook her head. ‘He is then a real person?’

‘Yes, he is a real person.’

The most dangerous woman in the world

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