23 –23July — Developments

Ximene Trencavel – 23 July 1355

It was mid morning before they descended from the tower room. Ximene decided the time had come to bring Selene and Helios into the fitness programme.

The horses were now returning to their true colour but patches of the dye still remained. They carefully led them up the banks of the river until they were sure they could not be seen from the Château or St Feriole. Ximene then led Helios to stand alongside a large rock from which John could mount him. The process difficult and painful. It made Ximene aware of how much progress he still had to make.

Nevertheless, with Ximene’s help he found himself in the saddle. They rode up 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. In an hour looked 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 was impressed that he exceeded the previous day’s performance in every area. She realised this is how fitness and body tone are 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 a women would subject herself to a rigorous training programme.  Why would you want to do this?’

Ximene thought for a while. She didn’t want to tell him that she just wanted to be a part of something he obviously enjoyed; that she wanted to be as close to him as possible.

Ximene carefully chose the words to make her reasons simple and appealing. ‘Can I join you John, so that as you work to regain your fitness I can develop my own? You may not always be alongside me. I want to improve my capability to look after myself.’

John gazed at her carefully. ‘I would have thought thay 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 men to look after me. I want to develop increased strength, power and even 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 and then riding back.

Up until this point Ximene had been training in the cut down chemise, but on the guelling 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 slightly 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.

However Ximene was aware that their relationship was still lacking something.

She thought they were more like colleagues in some complex long-term plan than lovers. We share sexual pleasures but there is no romance and indeed no emotion in our relationship.

She searched for something else she might do. She remembered that her Grandmother was always insistent that there was nothing special about the actual act of penetration and it should only be used for the procreation of children, butcould not help wondering. Does that ultimate intimacy trigger a different relationship?

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 did Joan tell her about the role of clothes in seduction?

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

John was aware that she was making herself some new clothes and that she did not want him to know too much about what she was doing. She swept away her handywork when he approached.

He stood with his hands on his hips. ‘What surprises me is that you know how to make clothes.’

‘All Cathars have 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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