84 Perfect Symmetry

 

‘ Whatever you can obtain will be fine. I would rather eat within the next hour than after midnight. Oh, by the way, bring back a couple of mugs of claret for yourselves; I don’t like drinking alone! ‘

John Stanley-5th June 1355

Could this possibly be the most dangerous woman in the world?

She was relatively tall, maybe exactly the same height as himself. Her broad shoulders made her slim waist appear even smaller.

She wore no veil or head-covering of any sort.


Her unusually dark complexion was complemented by her long black hair which hung in extended curls. It was the perfect symmetry of her face which made her outstandingly beautiful. John’s eyes were drawn to hers and they shared a lingering gaze.

John was entranced by her eyes; they were dark green-blue orbs embedded in the most brilliant white. They seemed to burn into his very soul. A vibration ran through his body and he trembled. To his astonishment, at the same instant Ximene shivered. It was as though she had felt it too.


The moment was past all too soon. She strode past him into the tent. John was left standing outside, struggling to keep his composure. As she passed, she removed her cloak, confirming what John had observed moments earlier. She was dressed as a man. Above the boots and hose, she wore a sleeveless tabard, striped horizontally gold and white. On the white bars were rows of what looked like tiny stars.

The only concession she had made to feminine style was that the tabard was relatively tight fitting. There was no doubt that she was a woman.

To John’s surprise, Lady Eleanor immediately called both Piers and himself, by name, into the tent. Ximene’s magnetic eyes flicked from John to Piers and back again as Lady Eleanor introduced them.

‘These soldiers, dear, are part of Prince Edward’s personal bodyguard. They have been assigned to look after us for the next few days. This is John Stanley.’ She raised a hand in his direction then moved it towards Piers, ‘and this Piers de Windsor.’

John and Piers bowed. Ximene’s eyes took them both in, sparkling but giving nothing away. There followed a lengthy silence.

‘And how shall I address you Milady?’ Piers asked.

Ximene’s mouth broke into the most welcoming smile. ‘Oh! Ximene will do fine,’ she said, tossing her head back.

John was surprised. No one had got the pronunciation absolutely correct, but now he knew. Sheamaine. That was how it was pronounced.

Piers broke in with the next obvious question. ‘Can we get you ladies something to eat?’

Lady Eleanor answered for both of them. ‘Thank you, Piers. Bring us at least two goblets of claret, which I am sure like all good citizens of Aquitaine you are carrying with you. Then some pate de foie gras and fresh bread, followed by a ham knuckle with carrots or cabbage and finally some creme cheese.’ She thought for several seconds. ‘Oh! Yes and then perhaps another two mugs of your best claret.’

The two ladies looked at each other and laughed. Despite their difference in ages they obviously enjoyed a good relationship. Piers glanced briefly at Ximene, which she interpreted as a question as to whether this would indeed meet her requirements.

She stifled her outrageous grin.

‘Yes, my lady is right, that would be good. But I know what campsites can be like. Whatever you can obtain will be fine. I would rather eat within the next hour than after midnight.’ Eyes still sparkling. ‘Oh, by the way, bring back a couple of mugs of claret for yourselves; I don’t like drinking alone!’


When John and Piers arrived at the kitchen it was still open, specifically awaiting the ladies requirements. Pate de foie gras and fresh bread turned out to be easy, but the night’s cooking had been based around what the Prince had ordered for his dinner with the Comte de Foix; duck in cherry sauce, roast quail and venison pie. There was no shortage of fruit, creme cheese or claret. The cook frowned, volunteering the information that anything was possible but that if the ladies must have a ham knuckle, it could be an hour or more and it would come from the town and it would be cold.

They ordered a selection of what was readily available.

As they waited John turned to Piers, eyes wide open. ‘Well what do you think, isn’t she absolutely magnificent?’

Piers smiled. ‘Calm down John. Yes, she is magnificent, just the kind of lady I was hoping to find and take as my wife. But calm down. She is our future Queen. You have been obsessed with meeting her… well now you have done so and there it must end.’

John nodded but could not help himself. ‘Yes I know you are right, but she is magnificent.’

He then deliberately forced himself to think of other issues. ‘The Earl! He must have stayed no longer than ten minutes at Beaufort! I ask again what is going on?’

Piers smiled again. ‘You have got yourself just a bit overheated. I can do nothing else but repeat, he obviously thinks we don’t need to know, just forget about it.’

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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.’

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.