William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury- 11th August 1355
Guillam, before you leave for Clermont… when you arrived in Bordeaux three weeks ago you told me John had suffered quite a serious injury but has recovered and that Cimene is safe. It is clear to me that Ximene is not in Sicily, nor on a boat on the way to Sicily. If John was badly injured at Monsegur then he and Ximene must be in hiding somewhere near Monsegur. Oh! of course…’ William hesitated. ‘If John has been injured, it must be the safe house where Don Fernandino himself was recovering. There will be a physician available. Is my guess correct? Could you tell me exactly where Ximene is?
Guillam smiled. ‘Don Fernandino told me you might ask. His actual words were that you would want to know.’
‘It isn’t just that I want to know. I need to know. I feel a responsibility for both Ximene and John and if I don’t know where they are I can’t do anything to help them.’
Guillam raised one eyebrow. “Here in Bordeaux, you are at least four days ride away… or possibly five or six . What meaningful help could you possibly provide. I do not feel free to tell you about the actual location. Don Fernandino intends to keep the location secret. You will have to ask him.
The Earl frowned. he had expected a little more cooperation.
It took a couple of days for William to make arrangements to speak to Don Fernandino. ‘I would like to know where Ximene is.’
Don Fernandino scratched his ear. ‘ Pipa de Roet asked me the same question. With respect my Lord, I intend to keep the location a close secret. It is not only a matter of Ximene’s security but the security of a number of others. It is in the centre of an area where the inquisition is active. In the near future, I may need to facilitate the disappearance of other people. I will make the same offer I made to her. If you can accompany me I will allow you to meet Ximene and satisfy yourself she is safe and well. but there would be a condition that you should not leave until Ximene is moved to a more comfortable location.’
The Earl could not prevent a sigh. He was frustrated. ‘ I cannot do that. I have too many commitments here in Bordeaux.’ He sighed again. ‘Don Fernandino may I point out that my occupation as commander of the Prince’s rearguard is concerned with security. You can trust me.’
Don Fernandino smiled ‘I have heard of your reputation. May I point out that I am also very much concerned with security. May I tell you that Ximene’s location is something you do not need to know.’
‘Hmmm! All I want to do is protect her. It is something I do need to know.’ He sighed. ‘Let me tell you my concern. The Prince will invade Armagnac and it is an open secret that he intends to go much further, perhaps as far as Beziers or Montpellier. Depending on where Ximene is and how long she stays there she could be in an area subject to fighting and therefore be at risk. If I know where she is, then I can either divert the path of the Prince’s army or alternatively provide her with protection.’
Don Fernandino narrowed his eyes. ‘ Sounds a reasonable objective. I acknowledge it is possible you can help protect Ximene so I will give you some assistance, Another place I use is la Moulin Blanche at Rouffiac d ‘Aude. It is not a secret location. It is an inn I use in my role as The Shadow. It is only three miles south of Carcassonne on the road to Limoux. If you go there and leave a message for me. I will respond within 24 hours.’
William was reluctant, again frustrated. ‘Suppose I offer a substitute for me. One of the Prince’s guards who has always worked for me on tasks requiring extreme discretion. He is known to both to John Stanley and Ximene. He will be acceptable. The army will be moving quite fast, and he could help in the task of making contact with you. Depending on circumstances he could be at La Moulin Blanche slightly ahead of the army. By then he will know exactly which route the army is going to take and you can help decide whether they might present a risk to Ximene.’
Piers de Windsor had never intended taking part in the chevauchee, considering that he had more important work to do, and more important contacts to make in Bordeaux. He found himself dragged away without notice, to be sent on an unexpected trip to an unknown destination.