28 — Accord

Joan of Kent — 21 June 1355

Joan felt the boat shudder as it left the quay.

She gazed around the cabin, which was too new to be comfortable. She shuddered. there was no other word for it. It was sterile. She much preferred the cabins on Elle or Belle Fille , which she had often used in the past to travel between England and Aquitaine. Then again, when on board the Elle there had always been the comfort of falling into the arms of Thierry d’ Arques, captain courageous; always comforting, considerate and attentive. The only man she had ever met who gave everything and took nothing.

She had woken early, perturbed by these thoughts.

She had insisted on joining the Prince on this cruise because she did not want to leave him alone with Alyse. However, shortly after midnight, she had left the Prince’s cabin, telling him that she wanted to make sure that Alyse was comfortable. What she actually wanted to do was work out how best to work with Alyse. She sighed with pleasure; she had no regrets but it had gone much further than that.

Now fully awake, she ran her hand slowly, gently up and down Alyse’s spine until she awoke, initially spluttering protests but eventually swivelling round to thrust one leg between Joan’s legs and enveloping Joan in a determined embrace.

Joan used what was now her only free hand to continue stroking Alyse’s back. ‘Good, I am glad you still feel affection, It is what I wanted to achieve.’

‘Affection? Achieve? In the name of the Good God Joan, Not for the first time in my life, I hope it is a bit more than that.’

Joan bit her lip. ‘Yes it is, I think we have just established a relationship which will last a long time and be beneficial for both of us.’

‘There you go again, beneficial? I really don’t care about the benefits. I just want the relationship.’

Joan intensified her caresses and extended them to the back of Alyse’s thighs.

Alyse Perez? Beautiful imposter? Suddenly it became much clearer. Their relationship would not be entirely Joan’s terms. Despite what Alyse was saying, now after a night of lovemaking, she was searching for something more. She is a mirror image of myself. Well, I also want something more so we will have to work it out. I will start by emphasizing how much we enjoyed each other.

‘Alyse, you do not know this, but over twelve months ago I enjoyed a night with Ximene. I have enjoyed my night with you to the same extent, but there is a puzzle. I know that your appearance is almost identical to Ximene but when making love, you are almost indistinguishable, it is amazing. Amazing but wonderful.’

‘Hmmm, I am not sure I should tell you this but when we first decided there might be an advantage to me pretending to be Ximene, we spent many nights… And a few days, making love to each other with the objective of developing the same preferences, so that no man or woman would be able to tell us apart.’

‘Well you succeeded, and it tells me a lot about you, about both of you. Be assured that our relationship is totally independent of any benefits we might gain by working together. But let us gently explore those benefits. First is that I will be the next Queen of England and you will be my closest friend. You will never want for anything. Is that a good start?’

‘ You really mean that?’

‘Yes, I do. Remember I told you I will always regard you as a princess of Castille. Perhaps you might help me… on behalf of the Prince, of course, to gain some influence there.’

Joan’s eyes glittered. ‘You seem to enjoy the life you have found here but perhaps you might like to return to Castile, with a guaranteed marriage to a prominent member of their aristocracy?’

Alyse sniffed ‘No thanks. I don’t see myself as the junior member of a relationship which does not mean much anyway.’

‘So?’

‘I would like to go to England and be in a position to study the English legal system. It is supposed to be good, I would like to be able to study it first hand.’

Joan’s eyes widened. This was something she was not prepared for. Decorative and intellectual? ‘You are interested in the law?’

‘Yes and the politics which inevitably surrounds the law. It all started at Foix. Ximene and I studied and discussed Aristotle’s works, PolitikaAffairs of State and Ethika, Behavior of People. Taken together they provide a view of how a state should ideally be organised.’

Joan tried hard to keep a note of incredulity from her voice. ‘That’s what you want?’

‘Yes please, princess.’

‘Well, the truth is I am not a princess… just yet. However now I know about that ambition, I am suddenly quite excited. I would like to be close friends…’ Joan fluttered her eyelashes.’ With someone who understands the complexities of the law.

She sighed. ‘However, if that is what you want, it is no use me trying to convince the Prince to give you assistance. He is simply not interested in politics or the law. However, would you like to meet the King of England?. I think he would like you.’

‘ Like me? In what way?’

Joan fluttered her eyelashes.’ In every way.’

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel