113 Intruder

‘Alyse, tell no one of this conversation. If I do go to Bordeaux I will make sure you come with me. In the meantime, I will continue to look for ways to get to Sicily. I don’t want anyone to know that I might agree to go to Bordeaux.’

Alyse Perez-14th June 1355

Alyse had enjoyed playing her part in the ruse they had played on the Earl but now grew increasingly restive. ‘What on earth is going on?’ she asked Ximene. ‘To me, it feels that you’re going to spend the rest of your life planning and replanning with the Earl!’

Ximene put her finger to her lips and dragged Alyse to her own room.

‘I am still trying to convince the Earl on Sicily. I believe that if I was to leave with John Stanley, armed with money, promissory notes and a bank note to be drawn in Sicily, we could vanish into the night and travel by any one of a dozen different routes.’

‘And our Earl doesn’t agree?’

‘He thinks we will attract attention, be attacked and robbed… or worse. The truth is the Earl wants me to go to Bordeaux and won’t consider alternatives. I will just have to keep talking.’

‘Ximene, where does this leave me? I want to get away from here. I no longer want to see Gaston either, and that will be almost impossible if I stay.’

‘Sweet Alyse, I suppose that if I do agree to go to Bordeaux there will be no need for you to impersonate me.’

She brushed her lips against Alyse’s cheek. Alyse grabbed her head in both hands pulled her in and kissed her fiercely.

Ximene smiled. ‘Oh, you think you could teach me to be submissive?’

‘Yes, I think I could.’

‘The way things are going, perhaps it is something I should practice. Alyse, tell no one of this conversation. If I do go to Bordeaux I will make sure you come with me. In the meantime, I will continue to look for ways to get to Sicily. I don’t want anyone to know that I might agree to go to Bordeaux.’

‘Not even John Stanley?’

‘Especially not John Stanley.’

Alyse pulled away and narrowed her eyes. ‘There is something else… Is it possible Lady Eleanor knew of our deception during the transition?’

‘She has never mentioned it.’

‘Certainly, something has changed. We agreed that until we left the Château, we would now dress differently. Additionally, that I should revert to how I used to be; avoid using makeup and wear my hair up, but that I should smother myself in perfume so that I definitely do not smell like you.’

‘Yes, and I can see you have done that…so?’

‘Since the Transition, Lady Eleanor has treated me quite differently. She has always been kind but has always expected service. ‘Suddenly she has asked to be called Eleanor, told anecdotes about her past life, made a point of having lunch with me without expecting me to wait at table. It is as if she is now treating me as if I was you as if she is not quite sure which of us is which.’

‘Oh.’ I wonder, did she know all along and though she could not approve, did not object. I wonder.’


Ximene excused herself. Alyse, pondering on her future, looking for something to do, went to the library but found it locked. She remembered that John and Piers were now working on some secret project. She visited Lady Eleanor’s lounge, but it was empty and Alyse did not want to use it without invitation.

She retired to her bedroom, opened the shutters, breathed deeply the fresh warm air and lay on the bed, listening to the relentless twittering of swallows and swifts as she gazed at the clear blue sky. Her mind turned to thoughts of Bordeaux and the life which might await her there.

Her reverie was rudely disturbed by a loud banging on the door. Dominic stood outside, irritable as always. ‘Alyse, Alyse come with me…’

Alyse frowned. She had never liked Dominic. ‘Why, what do you want?’

‘The Comte is not happy with the progress you have made whilst we were away at the hunt.’

Alyse pursed her lips. ‘I will come as soon as I can. There are a few things I must do first.’

Dominic hovered by the door.

‘Dominic, I will come as soon as I can.’


On the terrace outside the great hall were scenes of chaos. In order to make the hall ready for the dinner, all the partitions were being moved to a wooden shed which had been built for this purpose. Alyse’s desk had already been moved and her work had been placed on shelves out in the shed. A quick check showed her that the move had been well executed. She was just sitting down to work when she saw the Comte threading his way towards her.

‘Thank you, Alyse. I am sorry, I don’t even know if you can work amidst all this.’ He waved his hand to indicate the mess behind him. ‘But I would very much like you to complete the centrepiece for the book this week. I intend to have it on display at the end of the hall during the dinner.’ He sighed. ‘We are behind with the text because Dominic was with me for the hunt and while we were away he started working on the marriage contract. The idea is that the first draft will already have the key concepts which will satisfy the Prince, Ximene and me.’

Alyse frowned. He spoke as though the conversation with Ximene about different marriage partners had never happened. Alyse supposed he would never guess she knew every detail of that conversation.

The Comte continued, ‘However, even that contract is falling behind, and I have decided we might need more that one version of it…’

Alyse raised an eyebrow.

‘But Domonic has saved the day. He has managed to pluck from nowhere a clerk experienced in the writing of contracts.

‘I have interviewed this candidate and tested his work and he is good, very good. Dominic will now return to working on the book and the new man, Thomas Bewsley, will work on the marriage contracts. I will get Dominic to bring him to meet you. He is English, by the way.’ The Comte rushed away.

Alyse gave up in disgust. Pushing her way through a queue of people, and the maze of furniture, she crossed the courtyard and poked her head into the doorway of the great hall. All the partitions had now been removed and scaffolding was being erected. Painters were already clambering over sections of completed scaffolding and the sound of cheery whistling echoed through the empty hall.She completed a circuit of the hall, enjoying the warm afternoon sunshine, and sat on a retaining wall to take in the view of the Prince’s camp.


Upon returning to her desk, she found a large man with black curly hair already sat at it. He was thumbing through her drawings. ‘These are very good. Yours?’ He smiled and stood up.

Alyse felt instinctively that his man knew something she didn’t.

‘Thomas Bewsley… here to work on the marriage contract.’

‘Alyse Perez de Padilla.’

‘I shall call you Alyse. Now, about these drawings.’

This man was not a clerk. Too tall, too straight, too muscled, too exposed to the weather. More than that, he had said very little, but he sounded dismissive. He did not care about other people.

He spoke again. ‘You are a good artist. You can help me. The structure of the Château is very unusual, especially in the lower buildings clinging to the side of the rock. Can you draw up some outline plans for me to help me find my way around?’

Alyse pressed her lips together. ‘I am sorry but I have my own tasks, which the Comte wants me to complete before the end of the week. I don’t expect you shall need to venture far from your desk, in any case.’

The stranger’s nostrils flared.

‘Very well. Get on with your own work but soon I will need to speak with the Comte’s niece, the one who is to be married. I need to find her. Your reluctance to help will only slow proceedings down.’

Alyse turned to her work, chastising her heart for beating far faster than the situation warranted.

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

Pseudo History

home

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.