Ximene Trencavel-8 June 1355
‘My lady,’ called a voice. Then more insistent, ‘my lady, my lady, this is urgent.’
Ximene recognised the voice—the Earl.
As the Earl and Lady Eleanor entered the tent, John’s face reddened. Hurriedly, he stuffed Ximene’s mantilla under his tabard.
The Earl appeared not to notice. His eyes were fixed on Ximene. ‘Excuse me, John. Lady Eleanor told me that you were here discussing details of the move back to Foix, but this is urgent. Lady Ximene, we have a visitor. Someone who wishes to talk to you and no one else. His Name is Thierry D’Arques.’
John jumped and moved to position himself between Ximene and the entrance. ‘Could this be anything to do with Milady’s assailants this afternoon?’
‘No, John, I can assure you that he would not have got this far if he did not have excellent credentials. He has been brought here by Payne de Roet, constable of Beaufort, and Guillam de Clermont-Dessous. Aside from that, he has other credible references. I can say with confidence that he intends no harm.’
Ximene let her eyes explore the newcomer. She was particularly struck by the man’s broad shoulders, and he had the narrowest waist of any man she had ever seen. Thierry d’ Arques arms and thighs bulged with muscle and he was handsome, wickedly handsome.
The Earl gave deference to the newcomer. ‘John, Lady Eleanor, we should leave.’
John moved face-to-face with Thierry.
The Earl moved in between the men and took Thierry’s shoulder, easing him past John, deeper into the tent. John, Lady Eleanor, the Earl and Payne all moved outside to wait.
Thierry watched them leave and gave a small curt bow to Ximene.
‘Milady, Don Fernandino, the man who was supposed to supervise your rescue, was apprehended and incarcerated at Perpignan. Together with some of my associates, I managed to effect a rescue several days later. Don Fernandino has been injured and currently is unable to travel. He gave me a password and told me how to contact you. I believe him to be in a safe location but it will be weeks before he recovers.’
Thank you, Thierry, Ximene went to the entrance summoned everyone back into the tent.
She repeated Thierry’s message more or less verbatim.
Her shoulders slumped as she spoke, and she felt suddenly tired. She looked around the small group feeling an overwhelming sense of failure. She did not hide her feelings and Lady Eleanor rushed forward to comfort her.
Ximene peered over Lady Eleanor’s shoulder. ‘I think we should all get some sleep.’ She cast her eyes directly to John. ‘John, will you please find somewhere comfortable for Thierry and Payne?’
John nodded and held the flap of the tent open for Thierry and Payne to leave. The Earl hurried after them.
Ximene broke away from Lady Eleanor’s embrace and hugged Guillam.
He returned the embrace and whispered in her ear. ‘Lady Eleanor tells me there was an attempt to kidnap you yesterday?’
‘Yes and if it had not been for John Stanley, it may well have succeeded.’
Lady Eleanor hurriedly replied, ‘John Stanley, Guillam, who has just left, you have met him a couple of times before, he is one of the Prince’s Bodyguards. You met him at Beaufort and he won the archery contest…after the festival of the moon.’
‘Oh, yes, I recall. And he saved Ximene?’
‘Yes, he is something of a hero.’
Ximene smiled and then screwed up her face. ‘Anyway, the Comte is taking me back to Foix. Our plan has failed, but regardless of that shouldn’t we do something to help Don Fernandino?’
‘I am determined, my dear. However, first of all, we must find out where Don Fernandino actually is.’
‘We should just ask Thierry.’
‘Well perhaps not, we can’t be sure that Theirry is not one of Don Fernandino’s assailants. It is even possible that he is one of those who tried to kidnap Ximene and now is covering his tracks. For all, we know he may still have plans to kidnap or murder Ximene. It is unlikely because Payne de Roet vouches for him, but one never knows…’
‘So what do you suggest?’
‘Tell him his task is complete and he should return to Perpignan to help Don Fernandino. If he is telling the truth, he should accept that instruction and when he leaves I will trail him. He will lead me directly to Don Fernandino.’
‘And if he is not telling the truth?’
‘He might still head for Perpignan, but he might not, he might head for Foix anyway to fulfil his task in a different way.’
‘Who should tell him to leave?’
‘The Earl of Salisbury is responsible for the Prince’s security. He should do it. Eleanor, take me to see the Earl.