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.’

The most dangerous woman in the world

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Extract from The Prisoner of Foix--Chapter 43 -The EntranceNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley-26th April 1355

 

'Looks like we are going to see a bit of excitement, John. The Captain tried to get an agreement from the Prince that if there is surf running across the channel to Arcachon we will turn back to Bordeaux, but the Prince would hear none of it. Instead, he has offered to provide insurance for all three ships. If they are damaged or sunk, the owners will be compensated and every sailor who makes the passage will be given a bounty payment. What none of this seems to take into account is that if we sink in rough, fast-flowing waters we might all drown.'

John raised his eyebrows. 'But that is what we are going to do?'

'Yes, despite the fact that surf running accross the entrance is not uncommon and the deep water channel moves continually. In the end, the Prince attacked their captains on their weakest point, their professional pride! He threw down the gauntlet. He offered to take the Sally first through the channel, and to take control during the passage.' He raised his brow. 'We are going into the Bay of Arcachon, come what may! '

Extract from The Eagle of Carcassone -- Chapter 24-- A Real GoddessNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley - 22 July 1355

An hour later John 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 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 tempted 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 unconscious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so  I have decided that from now on, for you, I will be the goddess.’