99 Too Deep

 ‘Don’t you see John? The horse, John; Helios. It was her secret favour. I fear you are in over your head.’ However the truth is that she is not yet Queen. At this point in time, you have done nothing wrong.’

John Stanley – 10th June 1355

The town of Foix could only be reached by passing through a narrow gorge. The column of soldiers spread out into a long thin line, forced closer and closer to the Ariège River. John saw the twin towers of the Château slowly emerge above the trees until eventually, he could see the town itself and the pillar of rock supporting the Château.


John sat and watched the slow progress as, in order to enter the Château, the Comte’s party crossed a bridge over the River l’Arget, a tributary of the Ariège. He felt a great sense of loss. A loss of influence and worse, a loss of intimacy. He was supposed to be guarding her and now they were separated. He shook his head. It was more than guarding her, far more than that.

‘Come on, you can’t sit there all day.’ John’s head snapped around. It was Piers.

‘Don’t sneak up on me like that.’

Piers smirked ‘I didn’t sneak up. You were away in a world of your own. It is something you need to work on, it is relatively easy to read your feelings.

‘You are right about me being distracted, I feel responsible for her.’

‘Ooh! this is serious. For goodness sake, it will only be a couple of hours. We have been excused duty tonight. The Earl wants us to be presentable when we go to the Château this evening, Someone else will have to erect the tents.’

‘Oh!’

‘Say thank you.’

‘Thank you. But I didn’t think you knew about the visit to the Château.’

‘The Earl just told me, we are expected to provide additional security for Ximene.’

‘Yes, but it might be a bit more than that. Lady Eleanor has some ideas of her own. I think she wants to give us some sort of introduction to the Cathar faith.’

“Wow! that is what you have wanted all along. But why? I thought she had been doing that anyway?’

‘Obviously, there is more. Because we are close to Ximene, I think she wants us to have a better idea of how she… they all… think.’

‘Oh! So that is why you were so preoccupied.’

‘Well, no, as I said I feel responsible for her.’

He hesitated started to speak and hesitated again. ‘Piers, the Earl has warned us many times about sharing information we do not need to share. However, I do need to talk to someone. Can I trust you?’

‘Difficult situation. I cannot say you can trust me until I know what it is you have to say. I think it would be best if you say nothing but if it does not threaten either the Prince or the Earl, I will not pass it on.’

It was no more than John would have expected.

‘Very well then, I think I am in a bit too deep.’

‘Too deep? In what way?’

‘Two nights ago, before Thierry arrived, I formally, well as nearly formal as possible, made my suit for Ximene’s hand.’

‘Well, that’s alright. Have no concern. From what we have been told it happens all the time. Lady Eleanor has made us practice the art. You are better at it than I am. There aren’t many who get the chance to make a suit to their future Queen but… ‘

‘But she gave me her favour.’

‘What?’

‘She gave me her favour, and she knew what she was doing. I believe her grandmother also knew, possibly encouraged it.’

‘Have you agreed a time when you might… fulfil your relationship?’

‘No, we were interrupted.’

‘And do you want to go through with it?’

‘Wouldn’t you? She is magnificent.’

Piers’ eyes showed that a range of different thoughts was passing through his head. ‘You should not tell me any more, but I think she probably is serious. Do you remember what the girl in Marmande told us… It is not all one-sided, you know. It can be frustrating to be a girl waiting for the man of her dreams to make his suit. Some girls have been known to bestow their favour on a man they like without the man being aware she has done so. They believe some sort of magic then makes the man give them attention.’

He paused. ‘Don’t you see John? The horse, John; Helios. It was her secret favour. I fear you are in over your head.’ However the truth is that she is not yet Queen. At this point in time, you have done nothing wrong. There is no need for me to pass on any of this, you do have my word. Nevertheless, the next few days should be very interesting. Tread very carefully. Do not reject her. If you offended her she could tell this innocent story in a very different way.’

‘I think I know her well enough to know she would not do that.’

‘Hmm, tread very carefully.’

The most dangerous woman in the world

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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.