Bertrand du Guesclin-16 June 1355
The contrast between the main church and the sacristy at St Volusieu could hardly have been greater. The sacristy was painted white. Architraves for both doors and windows were detailed in cream marble.
The whole room flickered with reflected light from the candlesticks which were aligned on the centre of the oak table which dominated the room. Bertrand de Guesclin sat on one side of the table, John Stuart on the other.
Du Guesclin could see the doubt in Stuart’s eyes.
Eventually, Stuart spoke. ‘So Bertrand, why are we here? Your target is in the chateau. We have managed to get your man inside. What can we possibly do from here.’
Du Guesclin was totally unconcerned. He felt no need to explain himself. He had decided, however, he needed additional help from the Inquisition. Stuart was his contact.
‘We are here to keep in touch. There is something going on. I used the Inquisition to get my man in there, so they insisted on a quid pro quo. I have agreed that Bewsley will give information to Dominic, who brings it back to the church. However, in turn, it has been agreed that I will be given access to any information he provides.’
‘Several issues. Bewsley took a preliminary copy of the marriage contract to the Prince He was not allowed direct access to the Prince, which does not surprise me, but he saw that within the camp they are building a very large structure. He was told it was an even larger flagpole than the one they already have, but in his opinion, it is more likely to be a siege tower. Why? What are they going to do with it? Siege towers can be used to break into battlements or to get someone out. In this case, probably get someone out
‘Oh! So why don’t you warn the Comte ?’
Du Guesclin glared at Stuart. ‘No!No!No! Our current plan is to kill her and leave before anyone realises what has happened, but if she were to escape… and we were to capture her… all the other options again present themselves… Now! There is something else.’
Du Guesclin leaned across the table. ‘I have discovered that the Cathar who was supposed to be assisting the Trencavel girl to escape, was captured by the Cardinals agents in Port Vendres; on the Mediterranean coast. If she now is to make another attempt to escape she may head to the same destination, not Bordeaux as we had previously supposed.
Also the girl who is working alongside Bewsley is working on the Comte’s book about hunting. She lives in the lower level of the castle close to our target and in the last few days she has been borrowing books on Monsegur.’
‘Where. It is a place. No, I didn’t know either. Apparently, it is a fortress close to the border with Aragon. I need more information. Ah! here is His Holiness now.’
Augustus Domecq, Chief Inquisitor for Pamiers stalked into the room and removed his cloak with a single swirl. Du Guesclin was impressed. It was meant to attract attention, and emphasis inquisitors lean, agile body. Underneath the cloak, he wore not clerical attire, but the clothes of a soldier, a grey-green uniform.
The inquisitor wasted no time. He straddled the bench where Stuart was seated so that he faced both of them. In a single move, he had turned them into an audience. ‘I am honoured by the sudden promotion, but that title is reserved for the Pope. Monsignor will be adequate.
He smiled, but quickly straightened his face. ‘I was told you wanted to see me, and that you wanted to know more about Monsegur. Monsegur! Yes indeed.’ He sighed. ‘A thorn in our flesh, even today. It came to prominence because of its position at the crossroads of a network of secret Cathar trails. These trails run in several directions; to the Aragonese border, to the Atlantic and to the Mediterranean just above Perpignan.
He winced. ‘These trails are still used by heretics when they want to communicate with each other. The trails traverse the sides of mountains and through high level passes. We have tried to plot their courses and seal them off but it has been a total failure. All our attempts to explore them, have resulted in us finding ourselves at the bottom of unscaleable cliffs, on the banks of raging rivers or on the edge of precipitous drops. The most famous of these trails is the one between Monsegur and Montaillou. We know it is there, but we cannot find it.
Du Guesclin interrupted. ‘And the chateau itself?’
Domecq cleared his throat. ‘Chateau Monsegur was the site of the most protracted siege of the wars against the Cathars. It was protracted because it was continually resupplied from external supporters, through the trails. The Seige has gained a certain notoriety because over 200 Cathars were burned to death after finally surrendering.
He frowned so fiercely that his eyes partially closed. ‘Because of that, it has become a Cathar holy place. There is a village at Montsegur which was originally built to house those engaged in the siege. I suspect that today it houses some Cathar sympathisers. Quite large Cathar services are held on the meadow at the base of the chateau, but when we try to apprehend them they simply fade away. The villagers cannot be totally unaware of such gatherings.’
He paused. ‘So what can I do for you Monsieur?’
Du Gueslin took nearly a minute to compose his thoughts. ‘Is it possible that someone escaping from the chateau here in Foix who was heading for the Mediterranean coast would pass through Monsegur?’
‘Hmmm. You are obviously talking about Ximene Trencavel. But I thought that was taken care of. Do you not believe your assassin will do his job?’
He shook his head. ‘ However, to answer your question, if she were to travel on the main roads, no, she would not pass through Monsegur but if she chose to use the Cathar trails, yes she would.
Du Guesclin scowled ‘I believe our man inside the chateau can do his job, but if as a precaution I asked you to block off the whole area around the village of Monsegur, could you? Would you? Do so.’
‘Well I have been thinking for some time about raiding Monsegur village and it is always better if we do actually find something. It then gives us leverage to conduct further interrogations and it is often surprising what comes to light. How soon would you want me to carry out the raid?’
‘The soon the better. A week from now, the 23rd?’
‘I can probably do it quicker than that. Midsummer’s day? the 21st?’
‘And if in the meantime my man manages to kill the girl?’
‘I will still go ahead with the raid but you will not need to accompany me. Presumably, there are other things you might then rather do.’