‘We will pretend I am a man, but not a Cathar man. I will not make my suit, praising your beauty, your skills and your wisdom and await your favour and your assignation of a time and place. I will force myself on you… now.’
Ximene Trencavel -12th May 1355
‘I have a problem, Alyse. I am really beginning to enjoy this. I don’t think we should go any further without a man.’
Deep inside, Ximene did not feel it was a problem; Alyse had proved to be an attentive and responsive lover.
Even now, Alyse was clearly luxuriating in the warmth of the bed and as she spoke, Alyse pulled her closer.
Ximene laughed and pushed her away. She rose from the bed and started to pull a brush through her hair.
‘Whilst I am away you should ride with Henri every day. He is a good rider and I will ask him to give you tuition to improve your own riding skills. You will find he is a very nice man and if we are to succeed in what we are planning, your riding must improve. We will tell both Gaston and Henri that it is part of a deception to convince people that I am still here in the Château, whilst in fact, I am away meeting the Prince.’
‘And what about your Latin, Greek, singing and dancing?’
‘Oh, I am quite an accomplished dancer. You did not know that, but Gaston does.’
‘I’ll be he does,’ Ximene muttered and then immediately smiled, ‘but you are right, I’ve got a lot to do. Dance for me so that I can see what I must emulate.’
Alyse arose from the bed shaking her head and smoothing an imaginary dress. She danced a few steps and then stopped.
‘Now we do need a man; Juan. I can’t dance without music.’
Ximene laughed. ‘Well, at least that is something I should know. Come, let’s go down to the cavern. I need to freshen up.’
When they were lying in two adjacent baths, Alyse broke the silence.
‘You know, the last two weeks have been so good I have almost forgotten our objective.’
‘We want to be indistinguishable. Incidentally, that means when we are ever together we must wear different clothes, wear our hair differently, use different makeup so that no one knows how alike we are.’
‘And our target is?’
‘The Black Prince should always think he is marrying me and Gaston should always think you have been substituted for me so that he thinks I remain here in Foix. But what we actually do is dependant on how my negotiations with the Black Prince proceed. Who becomes Queen of England and who becomes Comtesse of Foix is by no means certain. In six to eight weeks we will know.’
Alyse nodded. ‘But in the meantime, I will pretend to be you whilst you are away at the hunt.’
‘Exactly and only two people, Henri de Vivar and Gaston, oh, and probably Agnes will know the truth.’
‘Why must Henri de Vivar know?’
‘Because, my love, for these first few weeks he will be teaching you to improve your riding. To him, it will be obvious that you are not me.’
‘When will you leave?’
‘At the end of the month.’
‘And after that when will I see you again?’
Ximene thought carefully about how she should phrase the answer. She knew that at some time in the future her relationship with Alyse would be useful, perhaps vital.
‘There are really two quite separate questions. If I do decide to marry the Prince, there will be no switch. I will find an excuse, however, to return to Foix so that Gaston can believe the switch has been made. The only time I will see you again after that is if you fail, as Comtesse of Foix, to deliver the Cathar haven we have agreed upon. If such a visit is necessary it will not be to share your bed, but to slit your throat.’
Alyse did not look too surprised. ‘You really mean that, don’t you?’
Ximene hesitated. ‘However, I may decide that I will not marry the Prince but I want to accept Gaston’s offer and become Comtesse of Foix myself. In that case, when I return to Foix the switch will be made. You will achieve your preferred option and eventually become Queen of England. You will be in a position of power and probably I will only see you again if you summons me.’
‘I would certainly make sure we could meet.’
‘Good, I would never refuse an invitation.’
Ximene grinned and reach out to touch Alyse’s hand. She helped Alyse rise from the bath, helped her slip into a robe and gently guided her back to the bedroom. There she removed the robe and showered her with kisses.
‘I said we needed a man and now I intend to provide that need. We will pretend we are not Cathars. ‘We will pretend I am a man, but not a Cathar man. I will not make my suit, praising your beauty, your skills and your wisdom and await your favour and your assignation of a time and place. I will force myself on you… now.’
Alyse raised her eyebrows. ‘And how will you do that, Ximene?’
‘Examine the bed. You will see it is already prepared.’
‘What do you mean? We have slept in it all night.’
‘A non-Cathar man might force you to submit by brute strength. I could not do that, we are very closely matched, so I made some preparations.’
‘Yes, I learnt something from my experience with Gaston.’
From the four corners of the bed, Ximene pulled silken ropes.
‘Lie back, stretch out your arms and legs and I will tie you to the bed. You will then be totally under my control and I will do to you anything I want. You may protest at some of the things I might do to you. There is a very fine line between pleasure and pain. However, I will only release you if you say precisely these words, Ximene, I am your lover, but I now want you to release me. Do you want to practise those words to make sure you have got them right?’
Alyse made no reply.
‘Are you sure you know the words?’
Alyse returned the profusion of kisses. She smiled.
‘Ximene, I am not concerned about the words. Do whatever you want, there will be learning in this for both of us.’
Alyse laid back on the bed and allowed Ximene to secure her arms and legs. As she was tied down she feigned resistance, pulling against the bonds until Ximene tightened them so that she could not move.
Ximene started by reaching out of the window where, on a small shelf, a jug of water was kept icily cold. She dipped a small sponge in the water and commenced to anoint Alyse’s body with the sponge. Alyse struggled against the bonds and when Ximene deliberately squeezed the sponge over Alyse’s nipples she screamed.
Ximene stopped and asked again, ‘Do you know the words?’
There was no reply so she dipped the sponge in the water once again.
‘Good. We will continue.’
Ximene suddenly realised she did not feel powerful but humbled by this experience. She was now totally responsible not only for her own pleasure but Alyse’s pleasure. Alyse could make no contribution. She wondered if this was how a dominant man would feel. She hoped it would be and immediately added it to her growing list of objectives, to find a man who would feel this way and perhaps without giving up his masculinity allow Ximene, on occasions, to take the dominant role.
In the meantime, there was one more week to complete the training; both of her horses and, of course, the guards.