112 So Much to Learn

‘ I could be executed as a traitor and for what? A relationship in which I could be rejected at a moment’s notice, or disposed of to another woman… other women? What about my feelings? All I want is to spend more time with you.’

John Stanley-13th June 1355

Piers spent days positioning horses in stables close to the Château without raising suspicion. The Earl left to see Gaston de Foix to request that the Prince’s personal guards, the Lions of Aquitaine, should be present during the feast. The request was granted.The Earl then left to mobilise resources from the camp.

While all this was happening, John’s first role was to surreptitiously place a marker on the outside of the wall of the upper courtyard adjacent to the river.

Lady Eleanor made a big fuss about preparations for a fete, scheduled to start at midnight on the same evening as the feast. She declared that as it was now so warm in the evenings, she would hold the fete outside in the courtyard. However, work was needed to provide satisfactory lighting.


Ximene came to find John just after the positioning of the marker.

She smiled in encouragement. ‘I hope the other night gave you an insight into the way we live.’ She permitted herself a wan smile. ‘At least I made sure that you were not bored in my absence.’

‘Bored I was not. And I did enjoy the experience. But why did you do it that way? Could you not have been my partner?’

‘No, it was impossible. It is not permitted under the rules of the Transition.’

‘But it was not a real Transition,’ argued John.

‘Well, in a way, it was. It was the best we could do in the time available. So did you not enjoy your time with Pipa … and Alyse?’

‘Yes, I did. But it does leave me with problems.’

‘Problems?

‘Well, first of all, I now have affection for Pipa.’

Ximene narrowed her eyes. ‘Why is that a problem?’ she asked. ‘Pipa is my best friend. You court me but I have other suitors. Why should you not have affection for others? It need not affect our relationship.’ Then, urgently, ‘and Alyse?’

‘Look, this is all extremely difficult, but I feel I must tell you the truth. Alyse is an extraordinary woman. She did things to me, extraordinary things that I will never forget. But I hardly know her, so it is difficult to think of her in anything but the context of that experience. Also, she seems to prefer Piers.’

‘So you feel she has rejected you?’

‘Yes, I do, and yet, it is unimportant, as I am devoted to you.’

Ximene waited and John noticed she was waiting. He really did not want to discuss his jumbled emotions any further. ‘Sorry.’ He shrugged. ‘I have nothing else to add.’

‘Well, that will have to do … for now.’

‘No. No, I do have another problem which we must discuss, the experience has made me realise just how much I still have to learn about the way you live, about the way you think.’

Ximene reached out and cautiously took his hand, looking all around as she did so.

‘Later in the year, perhaps as part of the negotiations, you must find an excuse to visit Bordeaux. During your visit, you must visit Pipa. She arched an eyebrow, ‘ I know she would be keen to continue your education.’

‘My education?’ John took a step back. ‘I enjoyed the other evening but I am not sure I can accept this crazy way of life. What a mess this is turning out to be. I could be executed as a traitor and for what? A relationship in which I could be rejected at a moment’s notice, or disposed of to another woman… other women? What about my feelings? All I want is to spend more time with you.’

‘Just now it would not be wise to spend too much time together. The Earl hinted at suspicions about our relationship. He has doubts about your loyalty.’

John growled, ‘Don’t I know it. He threatened to kill me if was to betray the Prince.’

Ximene gently squeezed his hand. ‘He is watching us. We must be the only ones who know about our relationship and consequentially, we will have fewer difficulties. There will be other opportunities… eventually. Please have patience.’

John’s heart sank. He returned to the work of planning for the escape, thankful that it kept him fully occupied.


John made careful measurements of the spiral staircases, the tables and chairs on the terrace in the cavern and carefully examined some oversized shields which adorned the walls of Lady Eleanor’s dining room. More careful measurements followed.

Perhaps someone with an analytical eye and nothing else to do would have realised that something unusual was happening, but the events were spread out in such a way that they all seemed unconnected.

First of all, a party of artisans stopped on the riverbank, apparently to water their horses; the fact that they were directly below the marker left by John would only have been noticed by someone across the river. An astute observer would have noticed that one of the artisans was using a small sight to measure the height of the wall and that another was making sketches before they moved on.

Two further artisans arrived at the south-western gate to attend to Lady Eleanor’s needs for additional illumination. On a small cart, they carried sacks filled with rope, wire and chain, together with wall anchors and a large candelabra.

All went unnoticed, just part of the never-ending activity of an important and busy château. Guards and servants were far more concerned with the preparations for the feast, which their master had decreed would be the best ever held.

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents

References

characters

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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.’