50 — Arrogance

John Stanley – 24th September 1355

Thierry entered the room as if he owned it.  John immediate felt the same resentment he had experienced at Muret. He was instantly aware that even now only seconds after he had reappeared he was immediately seeking to impress Ximene and impose his ideas upon everyone else.

 He immediately saw the map and advanced towards it with a gleam in his eyes.

“This is remarkable” he said, as though no one else in the room had ever seen it.

“It looks as though all these lines represent some form of a guide and the lines which intersect at the right hand side, top and bottom seem to be what the observer is intended to notice.” 

John could not help but be impressed. Thierry seemed to have only looked at the map for an instant and yet he had summarized its purpose admirably. What was it about this man who was on the surface so powerful and incisive which caused him so much concern? He remembered that the Earl of Salisbury shared his concerns.

What was it the Earl had said?

“Learn to trust your feelings!”

Thierry launched into a series of questions.

“Which area does this map cover?” 

“Is it local to the chateau?”

“Where did you get this information from?”

John need not have worried about Ximene’s feelings

Ximene could hardly believe her ears.   The last time she had seen Thierry he had been granted a brief audience, during which he had presented his important message with respect. Now he was behaving as though they were subservient to him!

“I don’t think that is any of your business,” she told Thierry.

“In any case, this is our private room which you entered without invitation and I would now like you to leave”

John was surprised by how haughty she sounded, quite different from the Ximene he had been living with. Thierry was totally unimpressed. He returned Ximene’s fiery glances with a steady gaze

“I am only trying to help you. I will, in any case, play a leading part in enabling you to escape to Sicily. I have no idea what you have stumbled across here but it would not surprise me if what we are looking at is a treasure map. Of course what we don’t know is what kind of treasure we are talking about! 

 Estevan sensed the growing tension and excused himself.

“You must come and see me John, sometime in the next few days.  I would like to give your leg a final examination to make sure there are no long term complications.”

John agreed realizing that Estevan was opening the opportunity for further conversation in private away from Thierry. 

Once Estevan had left the room Thierry made a judgment

“Be careful not to mix with the likes of him. He looks like a Moor to me and you cannot trust them”

Ximene protested immediately.

“That man, whom you say we cannot trust, saved John’s life”

Thierry looked at her. The look said that he pitied her poor judgment.

In any case he ignored Ximene’s response and continued his examination of the map.

“I have seen one of these three dimensional maps before. One was used to train sailors in the correct selection of lanes from the Mediterranean through the Sea of Marmara and on to the Black Sea past Constantinople. If you bend down so that your eye is at the level of the board it is mounted on you can see the actual shape of the hills just as they would be in reality”

Again John was impressed that this man he found so threatening was also so knowledgeable.

Thierry continued to talk impervious to the effect he was having.

“When I came in you were discussing with that Moor that the targets both lay on the same north south line. I now intend to remain here until Don Fernandino arrives. If he does not arrive before the seventh of October my instructions are to take you to Port Vendres and then by ship to Majorca and Sicily.  That gives us over a week.

 We should go to those targets and see what we find!

John explained that he had tried to do that by tracing the line from Brenac church and the difficulties he had experienced.

Thierry looked at him as if he was an idiot.

“Look, someone has done all the work for us “   He produced a compass from his pocket. 

“A sailor’s tool”

He explained that the needle always pointed to the north. It was then possible to read off the directions of the other lines. He spun the map around until what they now knew to be the north south line actually lay north south. He then laid the compass on the northern target. 

“Look at this line which runs to Brenac from the northern target runs at an angle of 33 degrees south of west or if you prefer 33 degrees north of east if viewed from Brenac.” 

He then bent down. 

“Even though that target point lies in a hollow on top of this mountain; the ridge of the hollow has a distinctive shape. If we were to make a drawing of that profile and make a note of the angle of three notable features then when we visit the actual place, by lining up the features in real life we will be able to find the exact point of the target!

Again John was impressed. He tried to evaluate how co-operative or trustworthy Thierry might be in circumstances to his own advantage. Obviously Ximene was having similar thoughts. She asked Thierry if she could have a few minutes to talk privately with John. There was an extended silence which showed that Thierry wanted to object.  Eventually however he agreed and withdrew down the staircase. Ximene waited until she was sure Thierry was out of earshot and turned to face John.  She spoke urgently but almost in a whisper.

“He obviously has skill which could help us, especially in the use of that device capable of identifying north. I know we could do similar things using the fact that at noon each day the sun is directly to the south. To have that facility at any time of the day is exactly what we want”

John looked earnestly at Ximene.

“Is there any way we can test whether Thierry is a Cathar or a very believable impostor?”

Ximene thought for a moment.

“Well we could question him about Cathar beliefs but if he is a clever impostor, he could have learned all that.  The absolute test is a man’s approach to a woman.  Men who have been brought up by the Church of Rome tend to see women as inferior beings.  They believe they have the right to take advantage of any woman who they consider “available”   No one brought up in the Cathar faith would ever make any assumption.  As you have learned so well, it is necessary first to express your admiration for a woman and then await her acceptance of your suit.”

She saw the sudden glint in John’s eye.

“Absolutely not!  I would never offer myself as “available” as part of a test.!  

John shook his head 

“Sorry that is not what I was suggesting” 

“I was only thinking about how we might use him.  He might be useful to us but I could not bring myself to trust him. Have you noticed his air of superiority and his lack of concern for the feelings of others. The Earl of Salisbury who is very experienced believes that he knows far more than he should. Suppose we did find something valuable, would he betray us to keep it for himself?”

Ximene thought for a moment.

“Íf we use him we could then mount a watch and if he tries to slip away, arrest him”

She looked at John appealingly

“You could arrest him couldn’t you John?”

John nodded agreement but reflected that he had no knowledge of Thierry’s skills in martial arts.  

“Yes but if that is what you have in mind I had better make sure that my weapons are close to hand”

Thierry was waiting at the bottom of the staircase effectively blocking John’s exit into the cellar. John reasoned that as Thierry could have no advantage in trapping them in the upper room it was more likely to be just an unfortunate example of his aggressive tendancies. ‘Excuse me, Thierry.’John pushed past him. ‘We have a need to talk.’

John turned before he reached the centre of the cellar, Thierry had his back to the stairs. Ximene appeared on the stairs behind him. ‘When we last spoke Thierry, you were on your way back to Port Vendres. As I understand it you have permanent role with “Les Etoille”. Is your visit to us now part of that role?

Thierry answered slowly apparently reluctantly. ‘In a way yes, because I volunteered to rescue Don Fernandino, a deputy took over my role in Port Vendres. Then when I left you as we approached Foix, I was tracked by a Guillam, a supposed friend of Don Fernandino’

‘And’

‘Guillam left with Don Fernandino without letting me know where he was going. I have no means of knowing whether this person Guillam was actually a friend, although Don Fernandino greeted him well enough. It is possible that Don Fernandino is still in danger.’

John waited patiently, he knew that at least this part of Thierry’s story was true. From behind Thierry, Ximene nodded, which John took to mean some form of approval.

Thierry continued. ‘My superior in ‘Les Etoile’ gave me the task of finding Don Fernandino and perhaps rescuing him yet again… or reporting his unfortunate demise. I have been given an appointment in the security branch of ‘Les Etoilles’. In theory I now work for Don Fernandino…that is if he ever returns’

John’s eyes opened wide at the thought that both Thierry and himself were in the same business. However he thought this left more than one question unanswered. He chose to pursue the most obvious one. ‘How did you find us here?’

Thierry now responded willingly. ‘I was on the dockside when Don Fernandino was first attacked. Waiting for him was a gypsy wagon drawn by gypsy horses. When I first rescued him he was very keen to keep the wagon and a huge array of gypsy merchandise safe. From this I concluded that he intended to use a gypsy identity, as cover during his escape. I also knew that he would have been using back routes during his escape plans and concluded that either he or Guillam or perhaps both of them would have tried to position themselves somewhere on the escape route.

Guilliam had taken the wagon but I replaced it. I hired a gypsy, who knows the Romany language loaded the wagon with the merchandise and came north through the Gorge d’Algy.’

‘All this was just conjecture?’

‘Yes but I had to start somewhere. I had discovered that there are two gypsy festivals during the summer months. The really big one is at Les Trois Maries, near Marsailles but that is too far away to be relevant. The second one is, however, at Rennes les Bains, just down the track from here. That would have been where Don Fernandino would have joined the gypsies.

’‘Still conjecture’

‘ If you had worked in security, you would know that you have to back your own intuition.’

John bristled ‘You have, yourself, on your own admission, only worked in security for a matter of weeks.’

Ximene pushed past Thierry ‘Boys! Boys! Thierry please stick to the story.

Thierry responded with unbridled aggression. ‘But he keeps interrupting me.’

Ximene sighed. “ He is actually just checking his understanding of what you are telling him, but I agree he is doing it in an unnecessarily aggressive manner.’

John could hardly believe what he was hearing, was Ximene was siding with Thierry?

Ximene continued somewhat coldly. ‘I have personal knowledge, which John has never shared, which confirms the validity of your story so far. It was whilst you were unconcious John. I heard Guillam and Don Fernandino discussing the original plans for escape.

‘Oh. Oh!’John softened the tone of his voice but was determined to keep control. ‘Please continue Thierry’

Thierry glaced at Ximene.  She nodded, John fumed.

‘It was just after the festival at Rennes les Bains there were streams of gypsys going south. Many of them were heading for Perpignan, a big enough town for them to peddle their wares. We became like a roadside warehouse enabling them to replenish their supplies. We drove a hard bargain, they would have been suspicious otherwise.

All the time we were bargaining I made sure we talked about the festival and what they had done there. Eventually one family told me that they had camped on the plain above Rennes les Baines and that they had seen a most unusual sight. A young man and woman riding naked on two magnificent grey thoroughbred horses. They had followed them, part out of curiosity part to see if there was a chance of stealing the horses. However they lost track of them close the summer palace of the Bishops of Albi – Château Mazerou.

John was now horrified. ‘We were not careful enough! How many other people saw us? If you were told that, they could have told other people.’

Thierry waved his hand dismissively ‘Relax, it would have just have seemed like a fairy story to anyone else. I would have been the only one talking to the gypsies who would have known the significance of what I was told. I knew it must be you, as I saw the grey horses on the ride from Muret to Foix, but naked?’ He gazed at Ximene.’

Ximene blushed. ‘But how did you find your way in here.’
‘I circled round the Château and saw little of interest. There are another set of modern stables against the northern wall but there were no grey horses. Then I came down here. The need to thread my way through the pile of decrepit old waggons and various farm implements outside the doorway nearly put me off,  but once I was inside, and i opened the cupboards… It was a give away. Clean empty shelves. There was not a speck of dust on them!’

Suddenly John felt very vulnerable. ‘If you could find your way in then so could anyone else!

Thierry turned to face John his half smile transforming into a snarl. ‘You underestimate me John. Don’t forget that I am a member of “Les Etoilles’ with considerable experience. We have many secret rooms in which we can, if necessary, hide people. I knew exactly what I was looking for. Generally speaking this is an extremely good safe house.’

John jumped on this last piece of information. ‘If you have been in Les Etoilles for a “considerable’ time then you would know how to prove your identity to another member of Les Etoilles?’

‘Of course’

‘Ximene, we should ask Maurice to join us and find out if he knows how to identify a member of “Les Etoille.’

Ximene pulled him to one side and whispered urgently. ‘I don’t know John, another piece of information I gained when you were unconscious is that Maurice is not a member of les Etoilles. another

‘But he works with them he may know.’

After a tense hour Maurice emerged from the tunnel and confirmed he had the skills and knowledge to identify a member of ‘Les Etoille.’
He asked Ximene and John to leave whilst he performed the check. They retired to the upper room. He joined them within five minutes.
‘His credentials are first class’

John’s eyes narrowed. As far as he could remember that was the exact phrase Paine De Roet had used when he introduced Thierry at Muret. Did the phrase have some specific meaning?

Maurice continued speaking. ‘However that only confirms that Thierry is a relatively high ranking member of “les Etoilles”. It does not tell us anything about his current objectives or wether he has been “turned” by some external paymaster.’

Ximene started. ‘Oh. we may have achieved nothing. something else I overhear, whilst you were unconsious John. Don Fernandino no longer trusts the Etoilles organisation. He intends to break away, possibly has already broken away and all we have achieved is to prove Thierry is a member of that organisation.

Murice winced.  you are right. Don Fernandino has discussed this with me. however he believes it is the central organistion which cannot be trusted  not individual members. Nevertheless in the case of Thierry we really don’t know.

We may all be in danger, never let him out of your sight. Let him sleep in the second chamber off the bathouse down here. The screen can be locked from the outside’

Ximene thanked Maurice who departed. She turned to John.

‘We really could use him and what he told us had a ring of truth’

‘ I agree, but I want to ask one more question.’

They descended once more to the cellar. After informing Thierry that they were satisfied with his story, which John hoped would make Thierry relax, John suddenly asked the question.

‘How did you prove to Maurice that you were a member of “les Etoiles?’

Thierry gazed at John with an even, steady gaze.

“I don’t think you would really expect me to tell you that, would you?”

John was now totally satisfied. It was exactly the right answer from someone involved security!

“No, but with your experience in security, you will not be surprised to know that we will never let you out of our sight and you will sleep every night in a locked room!’

Once Thierry had been locked away, John threw his arms around Ximene. ‘I am sorry I don’t  mean to cause problems but there is just something about that man. I learned when I fist met him in Muret that he just assumes that all woman will throw themselves at him. That he is irresistable. I can see it now in the way he looks at you. I am jealous.’

‘He is very attractive, but jealousy does not become you John, you must learn to live with it.’

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel