48 The Dungeon — Copy

Ximene Trencavel – 23rd September 1355

Ximene reiterated her request.

‘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, the manager 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.

The manager 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.’

Ximene felt the sun shine again. She smiled happily. ‘I am exhausted. Hold me. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?’

The most dangerous woman in the world

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