16 — 15th July –Not what she wants

Ximene Trencavel- 15 July 1355

Guilliam had come down to the cellar to check on John’s progress. He was far from happy with what he saw. He pulled Ximene to one side. ‘Is he always like this?’

‘Like what?’

‘Listless, disinterested, difficult to talk to?’

‘No not always.’

Guillam poured himself a mug of wine from a small barrel and sat down, across a table from Don Fernandino.

‘What do you think, will he totally recover? How long will it take?’

‘Ximene and I spoke to Estevan this morning and he is very optimistic, but the decision on when to take him off the potion is difficult. If he takes him off it too quickly John could suffer significant pain, which could inhibit his physical progress, but what you have just described as listlessness is probably a side effect of the portion. You sound anxious. Have you some information we don’t know about.’

No not at all, I am just wondering how long we will be here. what are your plans?’

Don Fernandino leaned back in his chair, folding his arms behind his head. ‘My original plan was to become gypsies. I intended to hide the gypsy wagon in Toulouse. At that time of the year, there are gypsies on all the roads leading to Rennes les Bains. Both Ximene and myself are dark in complexion so it would have taken little effort to assume a gypsy identity. Whilst everone scoured the country side we would have been quite safe in a small house I had previously rented in Rennes.

Then, in early September when the gypsies move south into Aragon, we would have travelled with them. We would have then continued to Sicily on a commercial vessel out of Barcelona.’

Guillam stood back and stared at Don Fernandino ‘So even then, you had decided not to use Les Etoilles to take Ximene to Sicily?’

‘Emphatically as I told you there is a problem with Les Etoilles

Guillam rose and walked around the table before leaning forward, placing his hands on the table at the side of Don Fernandino. ‘So what do you intend now?’

Don Fernandino scratched his cheek ‘I don’t want to move her at all until I have found out who organized my kidnap and who was behind the attack on Ximene during the hunt. I am even more concerned about the attempt to murder her at Foix and the pursuit which led to the battle at Monsegur. Someone had access to more information than they should have had.’

Guillam frowned ‘Oh! so you think all four are related. I tend to agree. John talked several times about a really evil man called du Guesclin.’

Don Fernandino shrugged. ‘But if this du Guesclin was indeed responsible he must be getting his information from somewhere. I am virtually sure that Les Etoilles were involved but there do seem to have been other forces at work. Those forces may be gathering between here and the Mediterranean coast just waiting for us to reappear. I will do nothing until I am confident in John’s recovery.

‘Guillam paced the floor, stroking his chin, a frown on his face. He turned to face Don Fernandino. ‘You told me, very forcibly, that Ximene and John were at no risk whilst they stayed here. That it would be as if they had vanished without a trace?’

‘True and true.’

‘But now you are worrying that there may be people waiting, between here and the coast, waiting for us to emerge?’

‘Unfortunately also true.’

‘But right now there are only four, hmm maybe five of us, if we count Maurice, know were we are and only you know what the future plans are.’

Don Fernandino wrinkled his nose. ‘Does your mistress, Lady Eleanor, know where we are?’

‘Oh! I don’t know, certainly not exactly, but I may have mentioned Château Mazerou.’

‘The Black Prince, Earl of Salisbury, do they know?’

‘I don’t think so, I don’t think I told them where the safe house was, it was just a safe house.’

‘Well, if they don’t know, the Earl will be trying to find out. You have told me who he is. He is the Prince’s rearguard. It is his business to know.

‘I don’t think they know but in any case, surely they are beyond suspicion.’

‘No one is totally beyond suspicion. People talk to each other. All I am saying is I want to do a review. I may spread some false information, to put them and anyone they talk to off the scent, before finalising how we will get Ximene to Sicily. I have several alternative plans but I do not want to implement any of them before I have more information. It is not impossible that I might decide to take Ximene to Bordeaux and arrange a marriage to the Prince after all.’

Guillam grinned and then glanced at Ximene. ‘Is that a piece of false information?’

‘No, not at all.’

‘Then you may have some work to do convince Ximene.’

Ximene nodded vigorously.

‘Anyway, how will you get the information you are looking for?’

‘Not by staying here. Even as we speak a tour is being arranged for the Shadow. He will visit Foix, Palmiers, Muret, Armagnac and Bordeaux.’ He smiled grimly. ‘One of the secrets of my success is that I have managed to infiltrate the Inquisition at several locations including Pamiers.’

‘Armagnac?’

‘It is always possible that the Compte d’ Armagnac was involved, anything to spite the English.’

‘Bordeaux?’

‘People from Château Foix were taken there. They may know something, which however means nothing until it is compared with other pieces of information.’

Guillam paused and raised one finger. ‘The inquisition at Pamiers is almost certainly involved. The small army which followed us to Monsegur belonged to the Bishop of Pamiers.’

Don Fernandino frowned. ‘ You are Certain?”

‘Yes, Eleanor and myself were at Montaillou when it was raided in 1318. Same uniforms, Same tactics.’

Don Fernandino shook his head. He had been making notes. ‘Despite those who help me, the Inquisition have a device which is difficult to defend against; the confessional. Confessionals are specifically built to ensure the privacy of conversations between the priest and the confessor.’ He pursed his lips. ‘No one is surprised by that. However, confessionals can be used to seek information and to give instructions.’

However if the bishop of Pamiers or the inquisition there were involved I am sure I will discover how much they know.

He sighed. ‘Guillam, I have a different problem in what I am attempting to do. I have no contacts in Bordeaux, but you have. If this young man recovers enough to guard Ximene I would like you to meet me in Bordeaux to open some doors there.’

Ximene’s heart leapt, she totally objected to some of Don Fernandino’s ideas but she already knew Don Fernandino well enough to realize that if he made a statement, no matter how conditional, it meant he believed it to be possible. Therefore at least in Don Fernandino’s mind, John would recover sufficiently to again act as her bodyguard.

The most dangerous woman in the world

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