Ximene Trencavel – 21st July 1355
Ximene smiled. How long would Don Fernandino be gone? What had they said, two months? She decided that two months would be vital for her relationship with John. Who knew what could happen?
A day later Maurice visited. ‘The Bishops are now in residence,It is significantly cooler here than in Albi at this time of year. Although they have no knowledge about the cellar or its connection to the barn nevertheless we must be careful.’
He paused and signaled them to climb the stairs. ‘Come with me’
On the first landing of the stairwell, which functioned as an occasional lounge or library, Maurice pointed to a panel on the wall. He tucked his nails under one edge of the panel and it swung open revealing a set of shelves and the inside of a set of double doors at the far side. ‘It is similar to the arrangement in the stable tackle room,’ he explained. ‘Except that the shelves are not readily removable. At the other side of the doors lies the kitchen larder. There will always be an extensive provision of food and wine on these shelves.’
He shook his head. ‘To be honest, I am not sure Don Fernandino would approve, but in my eyes, when the bishops are in residence, it is far less risky than carrying food and wine through the barn. If you have any requirements leave a message in the blue jar on the top shelf. We will always do our best to oblige!’
The only time Ximene had previously ascended the stairs was to accompany John to make sure he did not fall. She had not paid too much attention to the architecture or fittings and fixtures. Now she looked around the landing, noting the bookshelves, containing very few books, the tall shuttered window and the seat underneath it which during the day provided light for reading. The space was dominated by a large central table, which in turn was almost filled with a substantial three-dimensional model. .’
She walked closer to the model . She turned and looked questioningly at Maurice. ‘ And this?’
Maurice smiled. ‘ It is a three dimensional map of the countryside immediately surrounding Château Mazerou and particularly the plain above it to the North East. He leaned forward and ran his hand over the smooth curves of the model before using his finger as a pointer. ‘North, South, East, West. The Château is here. The whole of this area used to be known as Razes and the most important city was Rhedae,’ He slid his finger across the model until it rested on a high point. ‘Here… Sadly the whole area has been gradually depopulated. Rhedae is today little more than a village.’
Ximene ran her own finger over the map.‘ It is incredible. And who do you think made this?’
Maurice shrugged. ‘ I have no idea. When I first came here it was in the entrance hall of the chateau. I presume that it came with the Château. When the modifications were made it was thrown out. I rescued it and brought it down here because, in my eyes it is, a work of art. Worth saving.’
Do you know how it was made?’
‘Not really. The contours of the hills were formed from multiple layers of carefully cut thin wood, glued together and then sanded to a smooth profile. If you look carefully you can see the different layers. All the high points are made of much thicker pieces of wood, carved to the correct shape. How they gathered the information to determine the shapes? Again I have no idea.’
Ximene waved her hand over the model. ‘Guillam said it is safe for us to explore the valley?’
Yes indeed, but not before ten o’clock. The bishops are creatures of habit and they do walk, ride and occassionally hunt in the early morning, but they come scurrying back before the heat of the day. Look at the tower nearest the stream, if there is a flag flying it will mean that some of the bishops are still in the valley.
As Maurice made his exit down the staircase, Ximene realised that she would be totally isolated from the world and free to explore this countryside with John. She turned her mind once more to thinking about her relationship with John. They were still sleeping together and he gave her affectionate kisses but other than that he seemed afraid to even touch her. She wondered if that was a result of his injury but he was now almost recovered.
She narrowed her eyes and decided it definitely was not what she wanted. Thought piled on thought. There was the whole question of separate beds. She decided that she did not care about her grandmother’s advice, if they were now to take to separate beds it could mean the end of their relationship. One night he had muttered something about her being his sister!
He has made his suit, I have given him my favour. It is definitely up to me now to let him know what I want. She smiled to herself. In any case, it would make life here far more interesting, far more exciting if she could stir some passion. But could she? How should she go about it? She ended her questioning. She definitely wanted him to see her as a sexual partner, not a sister!
Therefore at Ximene’s suggestion, they set up a bed, their bed, their only bed, in the upper room! They spent some time setting the bed up against the wall opposite the window.
On the first night, in the late evening, they left the stables and with great caution descended to the stream. There were purplish tones in the rapidly descending darkness and the air was fresh and clean but carried many pleasant scents. The stream burbled through ornamental gardens, full of many different varieties of cypress trees. The gardens were now overgrown and neglected; presumably ornamental gardens did not appeal to the bishops of Albi.
The mountain flowers that had invaded the formal beds bloomed profusely and smelled of lemon and cinnamon. At some time in the pas, t the bed of the stream had been widened and a paved bath had been installed. The bath had been dammed on the downstream side so that it was possible to lie comfortably completely immersed in the mountain stream. The water was too cold to enter easily. John removed his clothes but Ximene waded without removing her chemise.
John splashed her playfully and she responded, to the accompaniment of squeals of delight from both of them. John held his finger to his mouth to indicate the need for quiet but continued to splash Ximene until her white chemise was plastered to her brown body and almost transparent.
She then held him tight as they both sank into the icy water, which proved to be too cold to linger, but they were left feeling clean and invigorated.
As they dried themselves using the coarse towels they had been given, Ximene stroked the scar, which now disfigured John’s right leg. This simple action created a completely different reaction than any which had occurred over the last four weeks.
A pleasant surprise. He could still be aroused.
She buried her head in his chest and they slowly returned to their room, kissing each other every few steps. They had little sleep that night. Ximene made it very clear that she was not ready to allow him to enter her body but that she was keen to explore every other way of giving each other pleasure.
She spent the early part of the evening kneeling across his stomach. She alternated between lying forward so that he might caress her back and then kneeling upright so that her breasts were fully available to his hands. She then knelt alongside him and massaged his back gently.
John made a valiant attempt to kneel alongside her. He was still sore and did not have the required flexibility in his upper leg.
‘Don’t worry John, lie on your back. I will spend the rest of the night giving you pleasure. Don’t concern yourself with my needs…not for tonight anyway!’
She eventually went to sleep with a smile on her face reflecting that in the end, it had all been relatively easy.