25 — Training

Ximene Trencavel- 22 July 1355

Ximene’s mouth dropped open as she watched John walk slowly towards the river. She could not believe what he had just done. She could not have made it more obvious that she wanted him, there and then. He had just walked away. She felt rejected.

In the shallows John selected several stones of varying sizes and then scooped up a large number of water washed pebbles. He ripped a pair of hose into two and rolled the pebbles into the material. He looked around again, drawing in huge lungs full of mountain air. Ximene ‘s resentment slowly evaporated.

She lay back on the bank of the stream and was about to surrender herself to a happy slumber in the sunshine, but as he started to use the tools he had assembled she gradually became more interested.

To begin he exercised his legs, lying flat on his back with the weighted hose on each foot. He lifted each leg in turn, a foot from the floor, perhaps twenty times. He was of course noticeably weaker in his injured leg. He then stood up, again struggling because of the lack of flexibility and worked on his arms, He held two of the smaller of the stones he had selected from the river in his hands and pumped away raising each hand in turn to his shoulder. Finally he lay down on the ground on his stomach and pushed his arms straight so that the whole of his weight was taken on his toes and fingers.

‘Now,’ he shouted to Ximene, ‘Put the largest rock on my back’.

Ximene could not lift the largest rock and John had to lie down again so that she could pull it onto his back without lifting it. John then pushed his arms straight three times before collapsing. He then repeated all of the exercises four more times.

By this stage he was sweating profusely. He went down to the pool and started to strip off his clothes. As he did so he glanced up several times at Ximene. She finally realized why he was hesitating.

‘Yes take it all off! I will see nothing that I have not seen one hundred times in the last four weeks.’

As she watched him bathe she reflected that this was by no means the same. For four weeks I have cared for a badly injured man who seemed unlikely to survive. Now I am watching a reborn Adonis bathe in a mountain steam.

She disliked the thought, as it was another reference to Greek legend. Just what was playing with our minds today?

She looked again at John with a more objective eye.

She had never before seen him naked, in an active mode and in full daylight.  

He had told her he considered himself totally unfit after his injury, yet to her eyes he looked wonderful.  Not an ounce of fat and extremely well muscled. Her mind was in a whirl. An Adonis. She shuddered with pleasure. The thought came from nowhere, totally unexpected… He is mine!

Just then John obviously felt he had spent enough time testing the water and he dived forward. For a brief second the whole of his body left the water and then he was gone. As he swam under water, the ripples on the pond persisted for a very long time, highlighted by the late afternoon sun.

 Ximene was consumed by guilt.

She reflected on her Cathar training and even on what she had told John.  That he should never think that he could own her.   Yet now she was  imagining that she could own him! She felt like a hypocrite. Worse! she saw him as Adonis, which would make her Venus, the goddess of love! How could she be so self obsessed, so arrogant?  She decided that in reparation, tonight she must be his slave!

Via the blue jar she asked for candles and she illuminated the tower room as if it was a shine. She had gathered rose leaves and immersed them in tepid water to intensify the aroma. She helped John into bed, as he was very stiff as a result of the day’s exertions and then just as she had done when he was desperately ill she brought warm water and carefully washed every inch of his body.

She undid the belt and removed the abbreviated chemise. Making sure he was watching she then washed every inch of her own body. Then, only then, feeling cleansed of what she saw as her sin, she straddled his body and encouraged him to repeat the caresses of the night before. 

Ximene teased him that he was unable to conceal his pleasure. ‘Only the gentlest touch and you quiver with delight. You must learn to conceal your pleasure from me. In that way I will be forced to find more inventive ways to caress you.’

John’s responded instantly. ‘What an interesting game. I wonder how long I can keep it up? What will you do to defeat me? Of course this game can be played the other way round. I wonder how long you will be able to conceal your own pleasure?

Ximene smiled. ‘I suppose it depends on just what you do to me.’

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