115 The Inquisition

‘Siege towers can be used to break into battlements or to get someone out. In this case, probably get someone out.’

Bertrand du Guesclin – 16th June 1355

The contrast between the main church and the sacristy at St Volusien 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 Château. We have managed to get your man inside. What can we possibly do from here?’

Du Guesclin had decided he needed additional help from the Inquisition. Stuart was his contact, but he did not particularly want to answer Sturt’s questions. However, he was quite prepared to exchange information for co-operation. ‘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.’


‘And?’

‘Maybe nothing. 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. However, 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.

‘The girl! 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 think it is more than likely you already know more about this than I do…’We were told 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 and that she intended to go to Sicily.’ His eyes narrowed. ‘If the Trencavel girl is to make another attempt to escape she may head to the same destination, not Bordeaux as we had previously supposed.

Stuart did his best not to smile. ‘His name is, or was, Don Fernandino. he was based in Mallorca. It would be difficult not to come through Port Vendres.’

‘Perhaps, but the girl who is working alongside Bewsley… She is working on the Comte’s book about hunting. She lives in the lower level of the castle close to the Trencavel girl and in the last few days she has been borrowing books from the Comte’s library dealing with Monségur.’

‘What?’

‘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 emphasise the Inquisitor’s 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. Monseigneur 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 Monségur. Monségur! 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 Monségur and Montaillou. We know it is there, but we cannot find it.

Du Guesclin interrupted. ‘And the Château itself?’

Domecq cleared his throat. ‘Château Monségur was the site of the most protracted siege of the wars against the Cathars. It was protracted because it was continually resupplied from Cathars outside the Château, through the trails. The siege has gained a certain notoriety because over two hundred 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 Monségur 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 Château, but when we try to apprehend them they simply fade away. The villagers cannot be totally unaware of such gatherings. ‘Unfortunately, Château of Monségur has been rebuilt and is one one the ‘Six Sons of Carcassonne’, considered to be an important part of the front line defences against a possible invasion from Aragon. The current constable of Monségur is Jean de Levis, Seigneur of Mirepoix. We suspect he has Cathar sympathies but he also has influence. I have been specifically ordered not to interfere with the Château and the adjacent village, which now supports its workings. He paused. ‘So what can I do for you Monsieur?’

Du Gueslin took nearly a half a minute to compose his thoughts. ‘Is it possible that someone escaping from the Château here in Foix who was heading for the Mediterranean coast would pass through Monségur?’

‘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 Monségur but if she chose to use the Cathar trails, yes she would.

Du Guesclin scowled. ‘I believe our man inside the Château can do his job, but if as a precaution I asked you to block off the whole area around the village of Monségur, could you? Would you do so?’

‘Well, it would give me an excuse to raid Monségur village, without disobeying my orders. It then gives us leverage to conduct further interrogations and it is often surprising what comes to light. It will not take long to raise a force to carry out such a raid, it is just a question of setting a date. How soon would you want me to carry out the raid?’

‘The soon the better. A week from now, the 23rd?’

‘I can do it slightly quicker than that. Midsummer’s day? the 21st?’

‘Good. I will accompany you. I would like to see how the Inquisition works. I might learn something… but in any case, it will enable us to work closer together.

Domecq stood up. ‘Thank you I welcome that offer. However, I would ask you to remain a mile or two behind us as we approach the village. I do not want you to enter the village until we have secured possession of it.’

‘I see no problem with that, but if in the meantime my man manages to kill the girl?’

‘I will still go ahead with the raid but you need not accompany me. Presumably, there are other things you might then rather do.

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents

References

characters

List of Places

Table of Contents

Reference

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.