47 The Dungeon

Ximene Trencavel – 23rd September 1355

‘Well where shoud we start?’

John glanced at the three-dimensional map. ‘Here right at the center of the pentacle. Le Pic. According to this map, we should be able to see all the five points of the pentacle from le Pic. We can get to it fairly easily through the far end of our training ground. In fact, we may well have climbed some parts of the ridge leading towards it, whilst we have been exercising.

In practice, it turned out to be not quite as easy as John depicted it. It was easy enough to find; as it rose vertically from the plain surrounding it and with a limestone ridge pointing the way.

Initially, however, they rode to the base of the Pic and were faced with an impossible climb. They then retraced their steps along the base of the ridge, back towards Maserou, searching for an easier climb.

They had traveled three miles before they found a track leading upwards across the face of the ridge, back towards le Pic.

They found a clump of trees, dismounted and tethered the horses, in the shade and hidden from view.

They then climbed for nearly an hour. It was not an easy climb. They occasionally were faced with a dead-end and a vertical drop. each time this happened they had to retrace their steps and find an alternative route.

However, they eventually fond their way to the crest of the ridge. but were then faced with the need to walk along the crest of the ridge with every increasing drop on either side.

What had been a gentle breeze on the plain below now became a whistling wind threatening to blow them from their precarious position.

When they finally reached the end of the ridge there was only room for the two of them, bracing themselves against each other to resist the force of the wind.

John glanced over his shoulder at the drop. ‘We should sit dowm. We are in danger of being blown off, but I dont want to leave until we have established the direction of Blanchfort and Bezu, the two points which will guide us to the target points.

John looked carefully around shifting his gaze incrementally, searching to identify the direction of the two targets. ‘Well it was well worth the climb’  He waved his hand towards the surrounding mountains. ‘ A vast and impressive panorama of row upon row of mountains but as for identifying which is Blanchfortfort and Bezu?… Ximene you have looked at the model what do you think?

After a couple of minutes, she shook his head. she then pointed to the ridge immediately to the south of Le Pic.  Just working from memory, that is obviously Bezu but where along the ridge is the high point we are looking for?  I have no idea… Blanchfort? It is to the north of Cardhu. and much smaller than Cardhu.’ She pointed to a small high point. Again from memory, I think that must be Blanchfort.  If so then the target must be on that huge bulk of a mountain barely visible on the horizon.  Perhaps the next stage should be to ride to Blanchefort? or perhaps to go to another point? perhaps the point of the triangle at Brenac, but right now, John I want to go back to the Château. I am cold and tired.

As they approached the Château, Ximene broke a long silence. It is not going to be easy , is it John,  perhaps we should just forget about it.

John narrowed his eyes. ‘Not just yet , Ximene, there might be some trick to this, we have not yet discovered.

Ximene smiled. I am just cold, You know bathing in streams is delicious when the weather is good,  but right now I need a warm bath. When we first arrived, when you were still unconscious, Maurice apologised that there were no hot baths. He told us that there were baths down in the cellars but we should not use them as they drew from the same hot water storage as those used by the bishops, who would be aggrieved if they could not bathe. I have never seen them but can we ask again? Can we use them if the bishops have left?’

John optimistically put a request in the blue jar. It took only thirty minutes for Maurice to visit them.

‘I was waiting for this request’ he said. ‘It is getting colder by the day’

In the stables at the beginning of the tunnel, hidden behind bales of a hay was a second tunnel which ended in a large domed room which was close to being a perfect hemisphere.

This room was obviously used as an overflow store from the stable as there were all manner of harnesses saddles and straps hanging on the walls.

The room also containing two large wooden tubs.

On the two sides of the room at right angles to the entrance were two low arches also close to being perfect semi circles. Directly opposite the entrance was a third arch which had however been roughly walled up.

Maurice told them that the water came from a head tank heated by a boiler upstairs. ‘Feel free to use these tubs whenever you like. You can adjust the temperature of the bath by using this second tap which comes from a cold water head tank. When you are finished just pull the plug.’

He then acted as the host. He indicated the walled up arch.

“The chamber at the other side of that wall is identical to this but has direct access from the main house. It serves as the bathing room for the bishops and their guests. All these chambers pre date the Château, in fact the Château was built over them, using them as foundations.”

He pointed to the open arches.

“The two side chambers can be used for accommodation. If you are using the bathhouse you may wish to use these rooms afterwards, it will save a lengthy cold return trip to the tower.” The other two rooms were identical. Behind the arch heavy wooden screens had been erected. In the middle of the screen was a heavy door, lockable from the outside by a large swinging beam. Once inside it could be seen that the annexes were also hemispherical, but much smaller that the main room.

John lit additional torches. The walls were lined with iron rings at the eight foot and ground levels. There were also central wooden frames stretching from floor to roof surrounding a central enclosure, fifteen feet square. A low fence about two feet high surrounded the whole of the central area.

Ximene winced. ‘These are dungeons, or interrogation chambers, whichever term you prefer. The rings on the walls were so that prisoners could be restrained throughout their ordeal. The central framed enclosure was somewhere prisoners could sleep in between interrogations, assuming that you did not want them to die chained to the wall.

The structure was intended to provide facilities for restraint even when the prisoners were asleep. Also the posts around the central enclosure permitted the prisoner to be chained from post to post. It meant that when a whip was used the whip could wrap around the victim’s body causing far more pain!

She realised that John was looking at her quizzically

‘How do I know this? There were similar facilities in Château Foix. As a small child I was threatened with incarceration in one of these chambers if I did not behave. These rooms have obviously not been used for a long time.’

She looked around. It is warm down here. Lets bring our mattress from the tower room and  Put it inside the central enclosure! We can spread clean straw over the entire floor.  We will sleep down here tonight!

Much later, after the hot water had filled the baths and they had soaked in the tubs, they helped each other wash and dry. Ximene retired to the central enclosure. It was necessary to step over the railings to get to the mattress. John joined her. They then held each other in a lingering embrace.

John looked around and shivered . ‘ I find it a bit creepy going to sleep in a place of torture.’

Ximene smiled. ‘ Don’t worry John no-one is going to torture us.’  She streached. And it is warm, so warm, the first time i have been warm all day.  I am exhausted. Hold me tight. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?’

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

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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.’