26 –23July — Developments

Ximene Trencavel – 23 July 1355

Next morning Xime and John  cautiously led the horses out of the stables. They led them up the banks of the river until they were sure they could not be seen from the Château or St Feriole.
The horses were now returning to their true colour but patches of the dye still remained.
 
Ximene then led Helios to stand alongside a large rock from which John could mount him. The process was difficult; obviously painful. It made Ximene aware of how much progress John still had to make.Nevertheless, with Ximene’s help, John steadied  himself in the saddle and located his feet in both stirrups.. They rode slowly at first along  the valley, past the training place and on towards the mountains. The horses enjoyed the exercise and so did their riders. As they progressed to higher ground clouds of turquoise butterflies rose in front of them. Within an hour they were able to look out at a vast panorama of mountains, hills and valleys. They lunched on bread, cheese and wine and then returned to the training ground. The horses drank deeply from the pool and John started his exercises.

Ximene watched carefully. John exceeded the previous day’s performance in every exercise. She realised that this is must be how fitness and body tone could be developed.

She waited until John was finished and then asked him a question, which had been forming in her mind since the previous day ‘If I was to do these exercises with you would it make me stronger, could I become as strong as you.’

John wrinkled his lip. ‘If your desire is to be fitter and stronger, I have absolutely no doubt it would help. I have to say Ximene, within my limited knowledge, I am surprised that any woman would subject herself to a rigorous training programme. Why would you want to do this?’

Ximene thought for a while. In part, she just wanted to be a part of something he obviously enjoyed; that she wanted to be as close to him as possible…but there were other reasons. ‘ You may not always be alongside me. I want to improve my capability to look after myself. Can I join you as you work to regain your fitness.  I want to develop my own fitness and increase my strength. I want to improve my capability to look after myself.

John rubbed his hand over his forehead. ‘I would have thought that you have proved that you can look after yourself very effectively.’

‘I am accurate with my crossbow, but there might be other circumstances in which the crossbow cannot be used. I can’t continually rely on you to look after me. I want to develop skill in martial arts so that in the majority of circumstances I could look after myself!’

And so it began.

Once Ximene had shown she intended to take it seriously so did John. At the start, he gave Ximene small weights and demanded high numbers of repetitions. As the days passed, she quickly gained fitness and strength.

As she worked harder and harder she found pleasure in joining John in the pool after exercise. She found that enjoying John’s caresses after exercise and immersion in cold water was a different, exciting experience.

Ximene was soon able to handle heavier weights and to undertake the full range of exercises. They trained the horses to follow them and this made it possible to ride to various high points in the immediate vicinity and then enjoy the exhilaration of running back down.

Soon they were doing it the other way round, running to the high points to maximise the effort and then riding back.

Up until this point, Ximene had been training in the cut-down chemise, but on the gruelling hill climbs she dispensed with even that and ran naked. By the end of two weeks, the horses had learned to follow their own riders so that if John took a different route from that taken by Ximene the horses also would separate and follow their own rider.

After three weeks of training together, John could now mount and dismount Helios without any difficulty. To her own astonishment, Ximene had progressed even faster and was now capable of anything he could do, admittedly with lighter weights.

She still had the soft curves of a young woman, but when she moved muscles rippled. She was proud of her new body and when they were together in the tower room she dispensed with the wearing of clothes. Often before the light had faded from the sky she would exercise again, taking care that John could watch her and admire her.

Despite this progression Ximene felt she had a problem. Her relationship with John was totally her initiative. Her decision to perform as John’s slave had been successful. He had responded wonderfully to her initiative. but he never took the initiative himself.

She wanted him to take the initiative but at the same time she worried about the way she felt. In the Cathar religion it was supposed to be the woman who was always in control and therefore it was always the woman who took the initiative, so why did she feel like this? She realised that just occasionally.she wanted him to force himself on her, She might then say no but it would be evidence that he wanted her as much as she wanted him.

She searched for something else she might do.

She wondered if she became a temptress instead of a warrior would that make a difference? Perhaps she should revisit the feminine within her. What had  Joan of Kent told her about the role of clothes in seduction?

She asked, via the blue jar, for cloth and needles and thread.

When she spent the third night in succession working with measurements and cutting cloth, John stood with his hands on his hips in front of her. ‘What surprises me is that you know how to make clothes.’

‘All Cathars have to do some physical work every day and I chose dressmaking’ she smiled at the memory. ‘I was inspired by Joan of Kent… of all people.’

John’s eye raised in surprise.’ I did not even know that you knew Joan of Kent.’

‘You do not know everything’ she told him with not another word of explanation. ‘Now go away, I am busy.’

The most dangerous woman in the world

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