85 Twelve Hours

 

‘Use me as a distraction. I could form a relationship with John, then bring him into our confidence and persuade him to let me escape.’

Ximene Trencavel-5th June 1355

Ximene waited until John and Piers had left the tent. She turned and eyed her grandmother. ‘Well?’ She raised an eyebrow.

‘I am sorry Ximene. Something has gone wrong, badly wrong. We arranged for your escape to take place sometime over the next week. It did, of course, depend on the arrival of the Prince, but Don Fernandino was supposed to meet the cavalry Guillam has recruited at Beaufort nearly a week ago. He has not arrived.’

‘So what do we do now?’

‘Guillam has stayed behind, but as soon as Don Fernandino does arrive and arrangements have been finalised, he will join me here.’

‘And if Don Fernandino does not arrive?’

‘After you have met the Prince, and decided what you want to do, hopefully, our plans can still go ahead. You must hunt every day. Before the hunt, you or me, occasionally both of us will ride just far enough to be able to see the tower at Beaufort. I have arranged with Guillam that he will fly a large white flag when Don Fernandino arrives. It will give us perhaps an extra day’s warning to be ready to leave. If Don Fernandino does not arrive in the next two weeks, Guillam will take charge himself. Now, how long does Gaston plan to stay here?’

Ximene frowned. ‘I am not hunting tomorrow, as they intend to go after a bear that has already been attracted by bait. Gaston proposes to kill it using a spear. It is considered thrilling and very dangerous. And it is. I was with him when he did the same thing in some caves he took me to on the way here… it really is dangerous.’

‘Caves?’

‘Hmm, he was in the process of seducing me and the bears nearly put an end to that. ‘

‘What?’

‘Don’t worry. It is over now.’

‘But you must tell me.’


Ximene rolled her eyes. ‘Anyway, aside from all that, He would not mind if we hunted for another month, by which time boar will be in season.’

‘Good. We need to remain here for at least two weeks.’

‘I don’t think that will be a problem. I will just keep talking to the Prince.’

Lady Eleanor walked over to the tent opening to look out, then returned to sit beside Ximene. ‘There is another complication. Those two boys… have been appointed as your guards. They will see themselves literally as your bodyguards. They have been selected by the Prince in recognition of their past bravery and loyalty.’

A crackle of branches and some passing voices startled both ladies, before Lady Eleanor continued. ‘They will stay with you and will not shirk any conflict to protect you. John Stanley, in particular, is skilled at armed combat. I saw him win an archery contest at Clermont…’

‘Clermont?’

‘There is a lot I need to tell you, Ximene…Anyway, John Stanley most unusually carries two battle axes. He certainly can use the bow, and my guess is that if he carries the axes he will be able to use them. Our difficulty is that we do not wish harm to come to Don Fernandino or Guillam’s cavalry, who are helping you escape. Nor do we want harm to come to these young guards who will try to prevent it happening.’

Ximene frowned. ‘So, what are you suggesting?’

‘Obviously, we need to find a way to distract them, but having watched them over the last few minutes, I can tell you that they are both infatuated with you, they will not leave your side.’

‘Oh! Well, we might turn that to our advantage. Use me as a distraction. I could form a relationship with John, then bring him into our confidence and persuade him to let me escape. If we found an excuse to keep Piers as your guard and then if John as my guard did not interfere, then the difficulty could be overcome!’


Lady Eleanor raised her eyebrows. ‘Ximene… what has been happening whilst I have been away? I am more used to you asking for solutions rather than offering them! Also I noticed that you made yourself more available than you would usually with someone you have only just met. ‘I do not like to drink alone? Hmmm.’

Ximene studied the roof of the tent out of the corner of her eyes. ‘You are right. I can’t really explain it. Some sort of premonition. You have talked mainly about John. Well yes. I found him attractive and that there could be an advantage in him being attracted to me.’

So, would you be prepared to encourage John? Develop some form of relationship with him?’

‘You think I couldn’t?’

‘No, not at all, but are you sure you want to. Careful, Ximene. He has almost certainly been brought up in the Roman Church. If you encourage him too much, he might feel ownership. Their experience leads them to believe that women must subjugate themselves to men.’

‘I will make sure he understands our differences. I will be able to keep him under control. It is not as if I intend to marry him.’

‘Be careful Ximene, If we’re talking about John, there are other issues. His sudden rise to prominence makes me believe he must have a sponsor. That may mean his allegiances will always lie elsewhere. Well, you have less than twelve hours to judge whether he would accept such a proposition and then cement some agreement with him. Don’t forget that if you vanish without a trace he will carry the blame. This will not be an easy thing for him to do.’

Ximene adopted a conspiratorial tone. ‘John could disappear with me and then reappear after I have made independent contact with the Prince. Once that happened any blame attached to John would surely be absolved.’

Lady Eleanor glanced sideways at Ximene. ‘I started this conversation, but you are still grossly underestimating these guards. I judge John Stanley to be a person who is the very embodiment of the spirit of chivalry. I do not believe he will do anything against the Prince’s interests, as long as he continues to be one of the Prince’s bodyguards.’

Ximene’s eyes danced. ‘There you have it,’ she said. ‘We must involve the Prince in all this.’


Lady Eleanor posed, with a finger to her lips and a sparkle in her eye. ‘First, pray tell me, why John Stanley? Not Piers? I only ask because the last time I mentioned John Stanley’s name, Pipa felt a sudden need to take off her clothes.’

Ximene’s eyes opened wide. ‘What, Pipa, my best friend Pipa? How on earth did she meet John Stanley?’

‘I will tell you, but first, tell me about the bears.’

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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.