6 Without Trace

Guillam de Clermont-Dessou – 24 June 1355

On the the first night at Mazerou, John was only awake for a very short period of time but long enough for Ximene, supporting his head against her arm , to make sure he drank the portion.

As it approached midnight she turned to Guillam. ‘He survived that first dreadful night and without my body heat he might have died. my body heat might still be useful to him.’

Over the next two days John passed in and out of consciousness many times.  Guilliam thought back over previous occasions where he had watched a collegue recover from a grievious injury. He could not make up his mind whether the periods of unconsiousness were because of John’s  injuries or because of Estevan’s potion.

Ximene did not appear to worry about such things. She took to sleeping with him every night.

Guillam watched Ximene with unreserved admiration.

If she had been a nun, running a ward of a nursing hospital her demeanor would have been no different. She is totally dedicated to John’s welfare. Except perhaps… a nun would never have taken to sleeping with her patient.

For the first two nights Guillam had also slept in the cellar but soon he felt like an intruder. He excused himself by saying he felt a need occasionally to see some sunshine.

Chateau Mazerou was a square building with a central courtyard.

There was an arched gate, which gave access to the courtyard and it was from the here that access to the various wings was possible through narrow doors and up spiral staircases.

There was a tower at each corner of the palace to which the only entrance was on the third floor. The towers had arrow slits facing into the courtyard as well as outwards. Despite being a Palace this feature would have made it eminently defensible.

Each of the towers had, on the fourth floor a room with a large window looking out over the surrounding countryside.

One of the towers could only be accessed from the cellar but without prior knowledge this access  was hidden. This tower was also unique in that it had been fitted with a glass window facing east, so that the room had abundant light, wonderful views and early morning warmth provided by the glass enclosure. It was in this room that Don Fernandino had been convalescing and it was to this room that Guillam retired.

Time passed slowly as they waited for John’s recovery. The two men took the opportunity to talk.

Guillam admired the countryside, watchin a herd of deer walk slowly up the valley, pausing under a clum of trees before moving to steam to drink. He turned to face Don Fernandino. ‘Fernandino, do you think I was right to remove you from the care of Thierry d’Arques.’

Don Fernando was initially non-committal.‘ You were and you weren’t. I needed better medical attention.’

Then after a short delay, he was more forthright. ‘But you know I don’t believe he was involved in my kidnap’

Guilliam raised his eyebrows. ‘Oh!’

Don Fernandino continued determinedly. ‘However, I have real concerns about “Les Etoilles”  and I think you share those concerns.’

Guillam responded quickly. ‘And isn’t Theirry a member of that organisation’

Don Fernandino frowned. ‘Yes but don’t forget, so am I and until recently so were you.’

‘So the problem is ‘Les Etoilles” as an organization?’

‘Precisely’

Gilliam eyed Don Fernandino querulously. ‘Tell me again. How safe are we here? The rest of “Les Etoilles” have absolutely no knowledge of this facility?’

Don Fernandino smiled. ‘I understand your caution. However Maurice, the manager here, is my agent. I recruited him specifically for this purpose. He does not do it for money. He wants to do something to help his fellow Cathars. He has no knowledge  of my other contacts and he has no reason and no mechanism to contact “Les Etoilles”’ directly

‘And the Bishops?’ Don Fernandino shook his head.’

‘No Guillam, again I understand your concern, but some very high profile refugees have passed through and lay in hiding here for lengthy periods. Maurice has earned my trust. The bishops like him but he tells them nothing.’

Guillam was far from convinced but Don Fernandino continued. “In fact, the Bishops help the security here. They have established the whole of this valley as a hunting reserve and have declared that anyone who trespasses on it is automatically excommunicated. It is more effective than any law a king may pass. No one, I repeat, no one, enters the valley. Those who seek refuge here can move through the valley in perfect confidence. If they stay away from the road which runs up to St Feriole, there is absolutely no risk!

Somewhat reassured Guillam smiled. ‘I am only doing what my training taught me to do. Question everything!’

Don Fernandino leaned forward and touched his hand.

‘I know, I know’ he said gently. ‘But I assure you;  Ximene and John are safe. No one will ever know they are here. As far as anyone else is concerned , they have vanished without trace. ’

The most dangerous woman in the world

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