93 Need To Know

‘All we do know is that if you had not been there, Ximene may well have been dead or in captivity by now!’

John Stanley- 8th June 1355

Next morning, Ximene received a note written in the Prince’s own hand congratulating her on her escape.

John, however, was treated rather differently.

The Earl’s voice had an edge to it John had never heard before. ‘How did you end up so isolated from the rest of the hunt?’

John stared back. ‘It was the plan.’ He gazed around to make sure no one could hear. ‘It was the plan; we were supposed to distance ourselves from the rest of the hunt. That is how Ximene was to escape. We did not think it would be yesterday, but we were practising the best way to do it.’

The Earl sighed. ‘So you were. Well, it won’t happen now. I had to tell the Comte about the kidnap attempt. Incidentally, he missed the bear again and is not in a good mood. The Prince and I are going to a meeting with him now to try and calm him down.


The Earl was away for several hours and when he eventually returned to camp his demeanour had not improved.

‘The Comte de Foix is particularly annoyed. He has asked all the questions about how you came to be separated from the rest of the hunt which I asked you myself. I think he suspects us of planning to remove Ximene, which of course we will not admit.’ He winced. ‘We have had to work hard to stop him cancelling the dinner tonight and taking Ximene back to Foix immediately. However, he insists that he will be escorting Ximene back to Foix, leaving at first light tomorrow.’ He winced again. ‘It was the best we could do.’ He frowned and then raised his eyebrows. ‘Meanwhile, the Prince has redoubled his efforts to make the dinner a success.’ He sighed and said in a calmer voice, ‘In case I have to talk to Comte again, I must know the facts. I assume there must have been a password. Did the assailants know the password?’

‘I believe not. I heard Ximene asking for the password but I don’t know everything that was said.’

‘Find out. Next: what were they wearing?’

‘Chainmail vests but not leggings, grey-green hose and grey-green long sleeved tabards with no blazons, which made them almost invisible against a background of woodland.’

The Earl held his hands in the air and shook them above his head.

John eyed him cautiously. ‘There is one other thing I must tell you about. We were being guided to deer runs closer to Beaufort, but I advised Ximene to choose the most easterly run, nearest to the camp.’

The Earl’s eyes narrowed. ‘And why did you do that, was it a cautionary measure?’

‘No, no, I just thought it would give a better chance of a kill, but if we had taken the runs originally suggested to us, we would have been surrounded by attackers. It is unlikely we would have escaped so easily.’

The Earl started. ‘Oh…Oh! I will make some quiet enquiries about who actually chose the location for the hunt this afternoon. There may be a clue in that or there may not. All we do know is that if you had not been there, Ximene may well have been dead or in captivity by now!’

After a short pause in which he surveyed the surrounding woodland, the Earl continued, ‘Now. Back to Ximene. We must not slacken in our protection of her, the intention may have been to kidnap her, but there is a possibility the intention was to assassinate her. You and Piers must both come to the feast tonight. The Prince has made a decision to hold the feast in the open air. This will make it possible for far more people to attend.’ He frowned. ‘We will just have to hope there is no dense fog. The site he has chosen is a natural amphitheatre. As it slopes towards the river, the head table will be put at the bottom of the slope. The other tables will be on the higher levels of the slope running parallel to the head table rather than at right angles to it. In this way, everyone present will be able to see the head table where Ximene and her grandmother will be seated alongside the Prince and the Comte de Foix. Piers and yourself will be seated as near to the ladies as we can possibly get you. You can wear swords, as that is normal ceremonial wear, but John, I want you to conceal your axes and longbow underneath the table before anyone else arrives.’

He gazed around again. ‘Lord James is conducting a massive exercise right now to mount enough flares to illuminate the whole amphitheatre and the trees surrounding it. The tables will carry nearly a thousand candles. Do not get distracted or drawn into those preparations. Your job is to guard Ximene. Do you want me to tell Lord James specifically that you are not to be disturbed from your guard duties?’

‘Thank you, Milord, but that is not necessary.’

The Earl’s eyebrows rose. ‘Incidentally, did you find out what the password was?’

John looked at him curiously. Was this some form of test? ‘Yes, of course, but there are things which, at this point in time, you do not need to know, my Lord.’

The Earl laughed out loud and vanished into the darkness still chuckling loudly. John chuckled himself, thinking that the Earl had no idea that this reply referred to far more than a password!

 

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

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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.