8 Gods and Mortals

Rene Bonfils – 21 June 1355

John was on his way to the Elysian Fields to join other warriors such as Achilles, Odysseus and Heracles. For a long time he had ridden on clouds but now he was riding Helios.
At the entrance to the sacred grounds the gods awaited him.
To John it seemed wrong, very wrong.
What right have I to join these great heroes? My deeds are insignificant, when compared to theirs.
One of the Gods moved forward. John recognized him. It was Amun. Or was it the Earl? His voice sounded like thunder in a narrow valley.
Extrance to this holy ground depends not on fame or the ability to shape world events. To enter the Elysian Fields, all that is necessary is to have shown bravery born of a love for others.
Amunet then came forward.
Her voice was totally different, it was like the running water of a mountain stream.
I agree with John, but for a different reason. It is just not time for John to enter the Elysian Fields, there is still much work for him to do on earth.
John could see the serpent wrapped round her body; he could still see the sliver blue scarves, the necklet and the curled hair simulating other snakes. Amunet mounted Helios behind John and guided him back to earth, but it was a dreadful, dangerous journey. Rocks fell from mountains, huge scaly bats with razor sharp claws dived at him from orange skies, and dragons breathed fire from their lairs. But for the attentions of Amunet, who used her magic powers to protect him, he would never have completed the journey.
Finally the horrors faded away and he dismounted Helios to rest. Amunet looked down on him, still protective . She was unimaginably beautiful but she no longer looked like Joan of Kent, she looked like Ximene. He called out her name.

As the dream merged into reality he became aware of the real Ximene, a somewhat disheveled Ximene, anxiously looking down at him. Nevertheless he was left with a lasting image of the Elysian Fields, where he had so nearly come to rest.
He was only awake for a very short period of time but long enough for Ximene make sure he drank the portion. Over the next two days he passed in and out of consciousness many times. Ximene took to sleeping with him every night.
He survived that first dreadful night and without my body heat he might have died. It might still be useful to him.
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. 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. It was not immediately obvious but one of the towers could only be accessed from the cellar. 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. However Guillam and Don Fernandino visited Ximene and John frequently.

Guillam looked at her in 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.
Time passed slowly as they waited for John’s recovery. The two men took the opportunity to talk.
Ximene was predominantly concerned with John’s welfare but as the two men became more and more used to her presence they talked openly about their mutual concerns. Ximene listened with interest
‘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 more forthright.
‘But you know I don’t believe he was involved in my kidnap’
He continued determinedly.
‘However, I have real concerns about “Les Etoilles” as an organization and I think you share those concerns.’
Guillam responded quickly.
‘And isn’t Theirry a member of that organisation’
‘ Yes but don’t forget, so am I and until recently so were you’
‘So the problem is ‘Les Etoilles” as an organization?’
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. Gerade, 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, no contacts and no reason to contact “Les Etoilles”’
‘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. Gerade has earned my trust, the bishops like him but he tells them nothing.’
Guillam looked far from convinced.
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. ‘Ximene is safe here.’

The most dangerous woman in the world