73 The Final Solution

Bertrand du Guesclin-10 June 1355

Bertrand Du Guesclin had returned to Pamiers.

‘It just didn’t work

As usual, Stuart looked surprised. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I spent several days watching the hunt. The first problem was just finding the Trencavel girl. It wasn’t as if she was in the forest on her own there were at least a hundred, perhaps more, involved in the hunt.

The Cardinal’s informer, what’s his name… Dominic gave us good information, she rides a grey horse. With that information, we were able to work out how to snatch her away.

Every day, she started off surrounded by guards but then she rode away from them, so there was certainly an opportunity.

Dominic then gave us a specific location for the hunt on a specific day.’

Stuart blinked an eye. ‘So what went wrong?’

‘The Cardinal gave me ten men. I had ten of my own. Twenty men. We concealed them all around the location we had been given.

‘So what went wrong?’

Du Guesclin glared at Stuart. ‘Stop it, I am trying to tell you.’

‘Sorry’

On the day we chose, just as on the other days she separated herself from the rest of the hunt. We were spread a little thin, because of the relatively large area where the deer were likely to run.

John Stuart scratched his head. ‘And?’

‘That day she chose a slightly different place to hunt from what we had been led to expect. Not much but it meant that there were only two of us in a position to get intercept her. The nearest dashed towards her. She didn’t hesitate, hit him in the middle of the chest with a single shot from her crossbow. If he had held back for a couple of minutes she might have been faced with three or four of us.’

Du Guesclin winced.

‘It gets worse. She rode round in a circle before heading back towards Muret. We tried to chase her but none of them was able to cut her off. She is a good horsewoman, The grey horse was outstanding. They didn’t stand a chance of catching her.’

‘So she just rode away?’

“Not quite.’ We did eventually try to cut the corner and then suddenly out of nowhere came another grey horse its rider wielding axes,

‘Axes on a horse?’

‘Yes, and he could use them. One man dead and another two who will probably never walk again. The others simply ran away. He managed to strike terror into their souls. It is supposed to be me that does that. I have a competitor. I will have to find out who he is and hunt him down.’

‘So what can I do to help?’

‘I have given up on the plan of kidnapping the girl. We now know, again through Dominic, that she is being taken back to Chateau Foix. I will settle for the bounty on her head. It looks to me as though she will marry the Black Prince and be whisked off to England. We will get no chance to deliver her to the Inquisition, so I will provide an assassin and need him to be able to access the chateau.’

‘What can I do about that?’ John Stuart asked.

Du Guesclin glared at him. ‘Don’t be stupid. Dominic has been supplying us with information. Now I want to use him to get somebody into the Chateau. The Chateau might need additional cooks for a big feast … anything! Once we have our person inside, Ximene is as good as dead!’

John Stuart went away to consider his options.

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The most dangerous woman in the world