8 — Through the Barrier

Ximene Trencavel – 30 June 1355

Over the days which followed, Ximene became aware that John would survive. He spent more time awake and when awake showed interest in his surroundings.

Despite this knowledge, which meant that her primary objective of saving John’s life had been achieved, Ximene continued to sleep with John. It was no longer to provide warmth, it was because it gave her pleasure. Perhaps, more accurately, it was a proprietary form of love. She justified her actions by the fact that she believed he was in too much pain to be aware of, or concerned with her presence.

She talked to Estevan regularly about John’s condition. Soon he was sharing with Ximene much of his knowledge.

‘I think we both now know that John will survive, the task now is to make it possible for him to walk and, if we handle it well, to walk without a limp. You will play an important part in that process.’

As soon as John was able to sit up, Estavan asked that he leave the bed and walk around the room with the aid of crutches. To Ximene it seemed so cruel. Estevan insisted that John put some weight on the damaged leg even though it clearly caused him much pain. Initially, Ximene was pleased when Estevan departed and John got a chance to rest.

During Estavan’s absence, she concentrated on keeping John comfortable and clean. She took almost obsessive delight in changing his dressings and washing his body. She talked to him mainly about his health and his progress to full recovery.


John showed more signs of recovery. Suddenly he was far more conscious of her presence in his bed. One night he stretched out his arms to pull her into him.

Ximene was both surprised and disturbed. She believed she really should stop sleeping with John now. Even her Grandmother and Guillam normally slept in separate beds. Her Grandmother had told her that it reinforced the concept that sexual activity should always be at the female’s invitation. For Ximene this was now a problem. She really enjoyed the intimacy of sleeping together, consoling herself that John was never demanding. She believed she was always in control but knew that all too often she encouraged his advances by snuggling close to his body.

She felt it compromised her teaching. It could possibly lead John into bad habits. If she allowed it to continue John would soon expect her presence. She vowed she would stop sleeping with him soon. She really would!


By the end of the second week, the Estevan was encouraging John to walk all the way down the tunnel. Suddenly Ximene realized that the physician’s apparently brutal regime was producing results. She changed her attitude and she then also started to bully John to do more and more every day. She became hardened to the pain he was obviously suffering. In her mind that became irrelevant compared with the progress, he was making. By the end of the third week, John could take all of his weight on his damaged leg and also move it as part of a normal walking motion, though still supported by crutches.

Estevan did not hesitate to initiate a more demanding regime. He got John to stand by a table and steady himself with his left hand. He then demanded that he took his weight on his good left leg and swing his injured right leg in all four directions as far as he was able. Initially, John was limited in what he was able to achieve.

Slowly, under pressure, he was able to swing the injured leg in every direction. It was then and only then that Estevan declared that he should be able to walk and probably run without impediment.

‘Push him hard’ he told Ximene. ‘The harder he works the more complete will be his recovery.’

Ximene winced. ‘ My concern is that he does all this because we tell him to do it. Not because he wants to do it. There are times when he does not seem to know where he is or what has happened to him. ‘

Estevan grasped Ximene’s hand. ‘ Have courage, he will eventually pull out of that, it is a side effect of the potion I am giving him, but the potion is necessary to deaden the pain. Even so, there will be times when it becomes too much for him, push him hard.’

Ximene complied!

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel