‘I am a physician but I did not know that a woman could develop her body in this way. I thought it was something only men can do, obviously not.’
Ximene Trencavel – 10th September 1355
The next day they went up to the training field.
John frowned ‘We will fight here alongside the pond. If we have cuts and bruises after the fight, the pond will be useful. Ice cold water always made a good start to any recovery or healing process.’
They walked to the centre of the grassed area and Ximene bound a piece of wet leather over her knuckles as John had agreed she could do. He helped her tie off the binding and then kissed her on the cheek.
John then removed his clothes.
Ximene looked at him quizzically…seeing him naked was not unusual but to her, it seemed a strange thing to do at this juncture.
She cocked her head to one side. ‘Why on earth have you done that?’ she asked. ‘We are here to make war not love.
John had raised his fists , ready for combat but dropped them to his sides. ‘ In competitive close combat, to prevent an opponent getting any leverage from pulling on clothing it is usual to fight naked.’
Ximene shrugged her shoulders and removed her own clothes. .
John gasped. ‘I am sorry, I did not intend to treat you as just another opponent. ‘
Ximene swung her fists, left and then right. “But you must… this fight has no meaning unless you do regard me as… just another opponent’
John held his head in his hands. ‘I cannot fight you in these circumstances, how can I possibly fight a naked woman, ?’
Ximene’s answer was to take a fighting stance, clench her fists and bulk up the muscles of her upper body.
Nevertheless she smiled ‘Now you have told me that clothes can be used to advantage by one’s opponent, this is how we will fight, I do not want you to have any advantage.’
She bounded from side to side and skipped towards him. She feinted with her left hand and scored the first hit, a right handed blow to John’s stomach.
The fight lasted less than five minutes. John found himself leaving her opportunities because he did not want to hit her directly on her breasts. She had learned well and took advantage of every opening. She sensed John’s hesitancy and he suddenly found himself taking blows to every part of his body. He regretted having given her permission to bind her hands. She was now taking advantage of this to hit him hard.
He responded by throwing his own punches more determinedly. She was very quick and was able to move inside his punches to use her elbows to advantage. He attempted to control this by grappling with her but discovered that somewhere in the preparation process she had managed to apply oil to her skin. He could not get a grip on her and again she used her elbows. He found himself sore and bleeding from a dozen places.
He decided to finish it quickly but could not lay a killer punch on her as she swayed and counter punched. He was beginning to feel slow and clumsy. Suddenly he had a stroke of luck. Ximene slipped as she swung a punch and he landed a clean swing just above her right eye. Her eye brow exploded.
To his surprise she did not go down but countered with two other punches. John felt his nose flatten from the first punch and the second one hit him on the temple. He felt himself losing consciousness and in a reflex reaction swung his last punch. He knew he made contact but he did not know where. As he fell, he felt Ximene fall across him, so he knew he must have hit her hard.
When he came round Ximene had managed to drag him to the edge of the lake. Her body was covered in blood, but she was attempting to wash his face.
He dragged himself into the water pulling Ximene after him. Her eyebrow was split from one end to the other. The cut was so bad that it ran up onto her forehead. There were deepening bruises on both her cheekbones and her lower lip gaped open.
‘Push your face under the water, you are badly cut’ Despite the immersion in cold water the bleeding would not stop.
John sobbed. ‘I am sorry, so sorry’
Ximene was defiant.
‘ I won, You went down first and you were unconcious longer.’
All John could do was stare at her in disbelief.
He pulled on his own clothes, helped Ximene with hers and helped her mount Selene. He rode behind her on the return to Mazerou, concerned that she might loose conciousness and fall from the horse. He need not have concerned himself. Indeed once Mazerou was in sight she urged Selene into a canter.
Nevertheless the bleeding just would not stop and to make things worse the eye below the cut had now filled with blood and nearly closed; the eyelid a purple ball.
John expressed his concern once more and then left to find Estavan. Estevan listened to what John had to say and declared himself immediately available. He examined Ximene carefully and glanced sideways at John. ‘How could you do this? Why would you do this?’ he asked. ‘I did not believe you when you told me what had happened but now I do. I am a physician but I did not know that a woman could develop her body in this way. I thought it was something only men can do, obviously not. However, training is one thing, fighting is another. You could have killed her.’
Estavan glared at John. In return John smiled weakly. ‘You underestimate her, she fights very well, I just swung a lucky punch.’
Estevan declared that both Ximenes eyebrow and her lip needed stitches.
‘Within a week the lip will heal and be hardly noticeable but no matter how careful I am, I connot conceal the damage to her eyebrow. The cut is deep and it extends beyond the hairline. She will be visibly scarred for the rest of her life.
He set about the stitching process. It took a relatively long time but other than deep breathing Ximene accepted the process without complaint. Once he had finished he piled pillows under her head and gave her a portion.
Estevan once again looked at Ximene with admiration as he packed his bag. He pulled John out of the room .
‘She will sleep soon but it will take two to three weeks for the eye to recover. Remarkable, I never expected to meet a goddess.’ He paused looking back towards the room. ‘She is the physical embodiment of the goddess Diana but please remind her that she is in fact mortal, that eyebrow will be vulnerable for a long time. It would be preferable if she did not fight again unless she was in great danger.’
They walked down the tunnel. John shut the stable door as Estevan left and retraced his steps to the tower room. He suddenly realised that he was so concerned about Ximene that he had forgotton to ask Estevan about his own nose, which certainly hurt and might well be broken.
As he re-entered the room Ximene was still awake. ‘ I am very concerned about you John’ He fingered his nose, which did not wobble and seemed to be straight.
‘ Does it look bad’
‘No it is not your nose I am worried about. It is your fighting. You should have beaten me much more easily than you did. How would you have gone if I had been a powerful enemy? Not well I think. We need to fight again to give you more practice’
With that she fell asleep.