11 In Pursuit

Bertrand du Guesclin – 30 June 1355

Du Guesclin found it difficult to believe how fast time was passing. He was irritable and impatient. He was tempted to ride away and forget about Ximene Trencavel. In fact, he might have done just that but Sebastien would not let him go.

It was taking far longer to get a response from the inquisition than he had expected. Du Guesclin spent the time forming ideas on how he might operate as the captain of a large group of Routiers. The Franks would not stop him, indeed they had already supported him.

There was, he thought, one major obstacle to his plans.  The Franks would not be impressed if he failed to complete this one specific task they had given him.

Du Guesclin questioned Gerade again about what he had seen on the road leading east from Monsegur.

Gerade did not answer immediately. ‘The only thing of note was that one cart was pulled by two magnificent horses.’

‘Were they grey’

‘No they were brown, but now you mention it,  there may have been touches of grey around their ears. They said they came from a farm known as the Val d’Or.’

Du Guesclin glared at Gerade. ‘It was them! It was them! I know it!  She is out there somewhere on that road. I am more convinced than ever that the way we will make the most money is by kidnapping the girl and then offering her to the highest bidder. She now has few companions and no military support.  He stopped, holding his head at an ungainly angle. ‘But why were they using a cart?’

He then questioned all the routiers about what they had seen on the day of the battle. Eventually, he got something which gave him hope. One of them claimed that they had seen the bodyguard who used axes take a blow from a pike.

Then a second one confirmed the story. ‘He rode on but he must have been injured. I went with Pierre to look for him but Pierre was killed with what looked like a bolt from a crossbow.  I am not absolutely sure, I did not wait to find out.’

Du Guesclin did a little jump in the air. ‘That’s it, that’s why they were using the cart. The bodyguard is injured. She is virtually defenceless.’

‘Try telling Pierre that.’

It was over a week before a certificate arrived from Pamiers carried by an agent of the bishop. The certificate included a password which Du Guesclin proved he knew. Sebastien was still reluctant to release du Guesclin, but having spent over an hour examining the document finally acquiesced.

 Du Guesclin then moved down the track towards Quillan. They spent nearly a week following the valley leading east from Montsegur. First of all, they searched for Val d’Or. It took a couple of days for Du Guesclin to convince himself it did not exist.

The inhabitants of this quiet, sparsely populated area were subjected to a new, extremely unpleasant experience. The Routiers visited every house and farm on the way. as they moved relentlessly towards Quillian.

They questioned every person, even children, routinely torturing one of each family in the hope of making the others talk. Houses and barns were searched from top to bottom. Wives and daughters were violated in front of husbands in an attempt to get information.

When they left they took everything of value.

‘Not a word’ grumbled Du Guesclin. ‘If they came here they must have made themselves invisible’.

Eventually they reached the top of the mountain road into Quillian.

‘So, they are somewhere between here and the Aragonese border, it is possible they are beyond our reach.’ Du Guesclin and Gerade looked down at Quillan, isolated by precipitous cliffs on every side, with the one way in, down the narrow road with hairpin bend after hairpin bend clinging to the cliff face and one way out, leading to Carcassonne.

He addressed a young man who was walking behind his horse. The young man had been badly beaten; his face was bruised and streaked with blood. His hands were bound behind his back.

‘How do we get to Aragon from here?’

The young man replied quickly. He had no desire to be beaten yet again. ‘There are only three ways. Turn right here and cross the ‘Pays du Salt’.  Alternatively, descend into Quillian and follow the mountain pass over the ‘Col de St Louis’ or go further north to Couisa and go through either ‘Arques’ or ‘Rennes Les Bains ‘and then through the ‘Gorges d’Algy’

‘And these are the only ways across the Pyrenees?’

‘There are the Cathar trails, secret paths, which wend their way over the mountains, avoiding steep climbs, but demanding good knowledge of the route. I have no knowledge of them whatsoever.’

He hesitated. ‘Also there is a legend that the Cathars used to travel both ways through the Gorge du St Pierre Lyse, just upstream from Quillian, if true it would give rapid access to Aragon, but I don’t believe it. At most times of the year, the river Aude floods through the gorge and I think it would be impossible to walk, ride or swim against the flow!’

Du Guesclin turned to Gerade.

‘Pierre du Lyse, that’s probably the way they intended to go. but in a cart, it would not be possible.’

He turned to the boy again.

‘If you were badly injured and money was not a problem where would you go?’

The boy hesitated ‘Over the Pays du Salt to the leper colony at Ax Les Thermes or alternatively to the thermal baths at Rennes Les Bains. There are very skilled doctors at both places helping the people who are hoping the hot springs will cure their ailments.’

Du Guesclin looked surprised. ‘You would go to a leper colony?’

‘If I was badly injured, yes, I would. The doctors there have an excellent reputation and it is all subsidised by the King. But to be truthful the doctors at Rennes Les Bains are just as good but probably more expensive.’

‘Good’ said Du Guesclin, who had no intention of visiting a leper colony. ‘We will go to Rennes Les Bains. He kicked his heels to urge his horse forward. The young man who was tied to du Guesclin’s saddle lost his footing and was dragged, at speed, face down over a rough gravel road, before du Guesclin eventually cut him free.

Du Guesclin roared with laughter.

‘Damn’ he said ‘I knew something was slowing me down’. He rode on without a backward glance, leaving the young man as a crumpled, bloody heap in the middle of the road.

In Quillan, Du Guesclin asked the best way to get to Rennes Les Bains. He was told that the most accessible route was on the main route via Couisa from where Rennes Les Bains was only a short distance off the road to Arques. There was however another route, A short cut, little more than a track, came off the road to St Feriole, which led past Château Mazerou, the summer residence of the Bishops of Albi and on to the villages Of St Just and Le Bezu, through the Bishops’ country estates.

Du Guesclin was warned that the estates were now private hunting ground and even to enter the estate invoked instant excommunication.

Du Guesclin snorted. ‘We will take the track.’ he informed Gerade ‘It is probably the route they would have chosen if they were trying to avoid notice, who knows what we might find.’

As they turned off the road from Quillian to Couisa towards St Feriole, they found themselves travelling behind a party consisting of guards, servants and at the head of the party a large elaborate gold cross, followed by three portly men dressed in the unmistakable garb of the Roman Church. Before long the small procession turned off the track through a set of stone gateposts without a gate. Du Guesclin found himself staring a large notice on the other side of the track they were following.

Château Mazerou


     Palace d’Ete des Eviques d’Albi,

Defense d’entrer,

Campestre de Diu.

Du Guesclin studied the note for a long time, “What does it say Gerade?’

Gerade wrinkled his nose. ‘The number is very strange. perhaps the Church  has all of its properties registered and numbered, but I have neither heard of nor seen it anywhere else.’

He now scratched the back of his neck.

‘Summer Palace of the bishops of Albi. Do not enter, but it is strange’, ‘I think the last line, which I take to mean ‘God’s country’ is in Langue d’Oc the language of the south, the language of heretics, not in Langue d’Oil, the language of the north, or Latin,  the language of the Roman Church.

Du Guesclin frowned. ‘Yes, that does seem strange. Nevertheless, we do not want to disturb God’s hard-working servants during their well-earned rest without good reason. At the moment we are agents of the holy church so we must do nothing to antagonise them.’

Du Guesclin shook his head, his instincts told him differently, but he pulled his horse around and lead the way down the track towards Rennes Les Bains.

Several times he turned to look at the Château until finally it was hidden by a fold in the landscape.

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

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List of Places

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Pseudo History


Extract from The Prisoner of Foix--Chapter 43 -The EntranceNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley-26th April 1355


'Looks like we are going to see a bit of excitement, John. The Captain tried to get an agreement from the Prince that if there is surf running across the channel to Arcachon we will turn back to Bordeaux, but the Prince would hear none of it. Instead, he has offered to provide insurance for all three ships. If they are damaged or sunk, the owners will be compensated and every sailor who makes the passage will be given a bounty payment. What none of this seems to take into account is that if we sink in rough, fast-flowing waters we might all drown.'

John raised his eyebrows. 'But that is what we are going to do?'

'Yes, despite the fact that surf running accross the entrance is not uncommon and the deep water channel moves continually. In the end, the Prince attacked their captains on their weakest point, their professional pride! He threw down the gauntlet. He offered to take the Sally first through the channel, and to take control during the passage.' He raised his brow. 'We are going into the Bay of Arcachon, come what may! '

Extract from The Eagle of Carcassone -- Chapter 24-- A Real GoddessNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley - 22 July 1355

An hour later John walked with Ximene close to the river along the valley below St Feriole. It was the very essence of a summer’s day. The sun was fierce but in the shadow of the trees, it was cool and fragrant. The trees and shrubs along the riverbank hid their progress, from the Château, from St Feriole.

Eventually they reached a point where John thought it was safe to emerge from cover. To his satisfaction the stream extended into a pool with a sandy beach, shaded by trees. Where the stream entered the pool there was a flat grassy area, almost circular. Behind this, the bulk of two mountain ridges provided a splendid backdrop. He looked around once more ‘Not just a good training ground but a great training ground. If the Greek heroes knew about this they might be tempted to join me, to train with me’

Ximene laughed out loud. He turned to look at her. She had removed her outer clothes and was wearing a white chemise, cut short so that it barely reached her knees. Around her waist, she wore a plaited leather belt, obviously fashioned from the multitude of leather straps to be found in the tackle room.

She ran her hands down over her breasts. ‘When you were unconscious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so  I have decided that from now on, for you, I will be the goddess.’

The Prisoner of FoixVol 1 of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

Aquitaine, an English possession, is in crisis. It is under threat from neighbouring nations and internal dissension.

The Black Prince, King Edward III’s eldest son has been given the task of taking command in Aquitaine.

Suddenly there is an opportunity. Ximene Trencavel is the heiress to the lands of Occitan, to the east of Aquitaine: lands controlled by the Franks. Ximene wants independence, both for herself and for Occitan.

A union between Aquitaine and Occitan would be mutually beneficial. The Black Prince undertakes a secret journey to meet Ximene to negotiate a marriage contract. It is, however, a marriage neither of them really wants.

Meanwhile, the  Franks plot to murder Ximene to prevent ,not just the marriage, but any kind of union between England and Occitan.

The Eagle Of CarcassonneVol II of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

The loose alliance between Ximene Trencavel and the Black Prince is under threat.

The Prince invades Occitan, to show his support for Ximene but it becomes an invasion which creates more problems than it solves.

The Prince has fallen hopelessly in love with Joan of Kent and Joan is now determined to marry him and become the next Queen of England.

Joan is therefore  determined to convince Ximene that she should not marry the Prince.

Part of her strategy is to encourage Ximene’s relationship with John Stanley—one of the Princes bodyguards—not an easy task as both John and Ximene have doubts about their compatibility.

However, John is grievously injured in a battle and Ximene commits herself to nurse him back to health.