33 — 20 September — Challenges

John Stanley – 20th September 1355

John spent the next few days finding reasons not to fight her again. In the end he settled on one that seemed most acceptable… That it would crazy to fight again until her wounds were completely healed.

However, they continued the training program. John decided, as he had been advised so long ago by Lord James, that training every second day was adequate for retaining the fitness they had developed.

He spent the rest of his time developing his reading and writing skills. The day after the fight he was seaching for everything he could find about Diana, the Goddess whom Estevan had compared to Ximene.

He had half memories of what Piers had told him, which we more or less confirmed by these books. Diana was a Roman goddess of hunting and was normally depicted with a bow and hunting dogs. She was synonymous with Artemis, an earlier Greek god. John read on and became more and more intrigued with what he read.

Ximene was still busy with her dressmaking. She came to John from time to time encouraging him to read aloud and helping him with difficult passages. She asked him to read aloud a segment from Homer at which the book was open. She listened carefully, attentively. She was impressed with the noticeable improvement.

‘Very good, but you are still not picking up the metre and rhythm of what you are reading. Let me show you.’

Homer’s subject was Artemis.

‘I sing of Artemis, and shafts of gold,
who cheers on the hounds,
pure maiden, hunter of deer, delights in archery,
sister to Apollo with the golden sword.
When satisfied this huntress who delights in arrows
slackens her supple bow and goes to the rich land of Delphi,
in the great house of her dear brother, Phoebus Apollo,
she orders the lovely dance of the Muses and Graces.
There hangs up her curved bow and her arrows,
And leads the dances, gracefully arrayed’

John was visibly impressed.

‘Ah! the way you read, it sounds like poetry or even a song in plain chant. But it doesn’t rhyme!’

His face fell almost instantly.‘Why do you think this is important to me, Ximene. I struggle with politics and ethics. It is only when you explain them that it makes sense. My ambition is to become a knight and even that is almost impossible. Even if I do become a knight, for most of the time I will be just a soldier, a junior officer in the king’s army. As long as I can read and write reasonably competently that is all that will be expected of me.’

Ximene showed little sympathy.

‘You must strive for something more John, you can be better than others, you have great potential.

She smiled internally. Exactly the phrase he grandmotherhad used for encouragement.’If you want to influence people, realise that they will inevitably be impressed by elequence and the tenor of your voice. It is not just the words you use but the way you use them.’

John looked at her pityingly. ‘To be a person of influence I would have to become an Earl or an officer of the court, and that will never happen.’

Ximene smiled, struggling to think of an intermediate target, which would make sense to him. ‘Try John, it will improve even your efforts as a jongleuse. You don’t have to have rhyming couplets to make a poem or song you know.’

‘I thought you liked my poetry’

‘I do, trust me, I do, no one has ever praised me as eloquently as you do, but it does not mean that you cannot improve. Also it would be good to introduce more variety.’

John said nothing, but his head dropped.

The most dangerous woman in the world

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