John Stanley – 22 July 1355
The next morning John and Ximene both rose early. John was unsure how to treat Ximene. It was as though the night had been a pleasant dream. She also avoided contact. She gazed around the room and then pointed to the wall behind the bed. ‘What do you make of that John?’
Outlined on the wall was a pennant, the triangular shape was drawn in gold but there was also a gold five-pointed star close to the widest part of the pennant. What seemed to be the lance on which the pennant was mounted was drawn in black.
The pennant seemed to be drawn on an area of the wall where there were a multitude of cracks radiating out from and through the pennant. It was almost as though the paint had in some way affected the fabric of the stone. John scratched the stone with his fingernails.
‘Despite all these cracks it isn’t soft. Strange! Black and gold, the same colours as your tabard, is that a Trencavel pennant?’
‘Hmm, I think not… you are correct about the colours…I just don’t recognize it… thought I suppose it could be; given the history of this place. It is a bit military for a bedroom don’t you think?’
John knew that the disscussion about pennant was a distraction. a distraction which he welcomed. He thought through the events of the night. He was regretful that he had been hardly able to move but consoled himself that there had been no need. Ximene did everything, so much for treating her as if she was his sister. It was wonderful. So wonderful that he was tempted… just tempted to allow it to continue; but was immediately struck by pangs of conscience. He made a committment to push himself to full recovery.
Later in the morning, he 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 stood up and looked around.
He turned to Ximene. ‘I feel that we have been guided to this place. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the Elysian Fields I dreamed of when I was close to death.’
He told Ximene of the dream and how she had come to him in the dream. “ I was so close to death Ximene. If it had not been for you I might well have died. However I have survived and now we are living, together, in what feels like Paradise. I can’t remember, is Paradise beyond the Elysian Fields?’
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 temped 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 unconcious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so now I will be the goddess.’
John took a deep breath.
‘You are a Goddess.’ he paused making sure that Ximene knew he was gazing at her. ‘I have no real idea what a Greek Goddess should look like! Did they really wear so little clothing! Anyway They could not have been more beautiful than you are today!
John flung his arms around Ximene and kissed her full on the lips but then instantly broke away.
‘I have work to do’