4 The Valley of Gold

Rene Bonfils – 21 June 1355

It was a particulary cold night and Guillam became increasingly concerned.

‘It must be close to freezing and he is in no condition to fight the cold.  Even with the straw on top of him, the blanket we have are insufficient to protect him’

Ximeme glared at Guillam and then her face lifted as she realized what must be done.

‘I will wrap myself around him, cover us with the blanket and my body warmth will protect him from the cold!’ They removed the sacks of grain, which had been piled across the back of the cart and Ximene scrambled in alongside John

Guillam shook his head. He did not want to approve, He was responsible for Ximene’s safety and yet he could only admire her commitment and devotion. Any way she cannot suffer any harm, at least for tonight.

He frowned. Tomorrow might be entirely different!

As dawn broke John remained unconscious. Ximene stroked his brow and put her ear to his chest.

Guillam was aware that every decision was a fine balance between security, John’s deteriorating condition and speed necessary to get him to a skilled physician.  He decided to leave half an hour after dawn to allow time for some light to reach the bottom of the deep valley through which they must travel.

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On the road to the east towering limestone flecked cliffs rose on either side of the road, over every discontinuity flowed precipitous streams and waterfalls, forming tributaries to a steadily more impressive river running down the centre of the valley.   The road crossed and re-crossed the central river, which was soon a torrent, topped up by black floods emerging from springs whose dark orifices were as large as tunnels.  Just to add a touch of drama, thunder echoed up and down the valley.

However as Guillam looked around him he was totally unaware of the rugged beauty.

He said nothing to Ximene but they were traveling too slowly and there was nowhere to hide even if they wanted to. Eventually, to his delight they emerged from the narrow gorge into a wider fertile valley. The sound of the river, now running over a much wider shallower bed turned from a roar to a gentler burbling sound.

It was now possible for Guillam to pull off the road, far enough to be hidden, So that he could check if anyone was following them.

As they progressed, farmers started moving stock and produce to markets, so they were by no means the only people on the road.   Soon they were traveling in a convoy, indistinguishable from a dozen other carts.  Guillam noticed however that there were no women on any of the other carts so he asked Ximene to join John under the hay.

Ximene hurriedly scrambled into the space and Guillam rearraged the produce, which hid the space from the rear. Ximene again checked to confirm John was still breathing.

She spoke to him softly.

‘John, you must not leave us there is still much for you to do’

He moved an arm. Ximene’s heart leaped! Possibly he had heard!

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The most dangerous woman in the world