Rene Bonfils – 21 June 1355
Less that two miles away as dusk fell, Sir Bertrand du Guesclin made no attempt to hide his fury.
I find this difficult but it must be done if I am to decide what to do next.
‘Only three months ago I was selected by King John for this task. He picked me, knighted me in Paris specifically to perform this task. All I had to do was capture or kill a teenage girl.
Initially I wanted to capture her as I thought there was potential of obtaining a ransom. then I sent Thomas Bewsley to kill her.
I think the problem has been that I have been seduced into co-operating with a whole succession of incompetants, and that includes you Robert.’
‘I think that is a little unfair, until Thomas disappeared into the Chateau de Foix , I had no involvement in what was done, I simply did what I was told.’
‘Hmmm, disappeared is the right word, god knows what happened to him. The bishop got a whisper that an escape attempt and the bishops force came to Foix to guard against such an attempt. We were watching the chateaux, hoping to get a signal from Thomas, when all hell broke loose. It was difficult to tell what was going on.’
Guesclin paused and swivelled his head. ‘ But then you did get involved?
Yes you asked me to mingle with the riders at Monguillard. The larger group went west towards *** the smaller group went east and came here to montsegur. What was never clear to me was why you thought the girl was here?’
‘ I personally interviewed the guards on the barrier on the road to Monsegur, somewhere around fifty riders passed through the barrier. Where would they be going? What were they doing? They were not behaving rationally… unless they had a specific task.
‘But from that point onwards.?’
The plan was good, the execution dreadful. By morning we had the road to the east blocked. We had more men on that narrow road than we really needed. The bishops force was supposed to surround the village and drive them out. We had twenty men hidden in the woods to intercept any who tried to flee’
Robert nodded. ‘I was one of those, We were to keep hidden and await those fleeing to the west.’
‘ It went dreadfully wrong, why do you think that was? I ask you because I want your opinion, becauseI cannot make any sense of it.
He was furious at his own lack of judgement in allowing the inquisitor to provoke a confrontation when there was virtually no chance of success.
‘The girl was obviously in the village, there were only five mounted men preventing us reaching the village, why on earth did we try to attack an army?’
He swung his sword at Thomas only just missing him. ‘If they don’t come back I will disembowel every one of them. And if you can’t get them to come back I will disembowel you and hold your guts in front of your eyes before you die.’
Thomas winced, He knew that Du Gesclin was probably serious; he was capable of doing anything.
‘The men just did not want to chase this girl any more. And do you know why? They are terrified. You explained to me the value of terror as a weapon. Well it is being used on us. It’s the boy with axes instead of hands’
‘ Utter rubbish, he swings axes with great skill, but axes instead of hands?’
‘Well every time I have seen him he whirls his arms and there are axes at the end of them. ‘
Du Guesclin snorted.
Thomas pursued his theme.
‘The axe boy does something which we don’t believe an ordinary human being can do, so we, they, the men are terrified. And it’s not just the axe boy either.
He adopted a conspiratorial tone.
‘Do you know why their leader is called the Black Prince?’
‘Is it just possible it is because he has very dark skin?’ Du Guesclin replied sarcastically.
‘No it’s because he dabbles in black magic. He casts spells. He can kill people just by thinking them dead. Those arrows could not have carried the distance they did without the intervention of the devil’
‘Arrrgh! Is that what the inquisitor told you? Get away from me, find those men and bring them back here. I will sleep here at the side of the track’
‘Wouldn’t you like to find a room in an inn somewhere’
‘No! I don’t want to waste any time, they are probably still in the village but I can’t surround a village on my own!