Ximene Trencavel – 29th September 1355
Next morning Ximene woke early, leaving Thierry under lock and John still asleep she went for a long walk.
John must have heard he leave as before she had lost sight of the Château she saw him dart from the Château to the cover of the trees and then start running up the river bank towards her.
‘Ximene,Ximene, stop we must talk.’
She smiled a humourless smile. ‘I tried not to disturb you because you had been tossing and turning all nignt and wanted you to get some rest…but also because I want some time to think. I really do not want to talk right now.’
John narrowed his eyes. ‘The tresasure? Or something else?
‘Just the treasure, nothing else.’
They walked for more than an hour. it was a beautiful day, bue skys, chattering birds, tinkling water, warm sun and a cooling breeze. the montains surrounding them seemed almost magnified, every contour, every fissure visible in the clear air. However Ximenne walked with her eyes on the ground, desperately trying to inject some pattern of logic into her thoughts. From time to time she glanced at John, but he too seemed to be lost in his own thoughts.
She took his hand and squeezed it. ‘I am sure there is something else?’
John took a deep breath. ‘Well…Yes there is. Theirry gave me a lecture a week ago on Cathar society and the way I will inevitably be faced by a succession of men making their suit for your favour. The inevitability that sooner or later you will give one or more of them your favour. and the inevitability that one of them will be him’
Ximene closed one eye, looking at John sideways through the other. ‘And did he also mention that you could make your suit to other women?’
John shrugged. ‘Yes he did’
‘Well all of that could well be true. I have encouraged you to see relationships with other women.’
‘Not quite. To be precise another woman. Pipa.’
‘Yes, but that was symbolic, other women. John you have no idea how pleasant the cathar way can be. You are allowed to find other women attractive. You make your suite for another woman, and she is flattered. The women who have already given you their favour are stimulated, They know another woman finds you attractive. What actually then happens is up to the women. Often all it does is reinforce a relationship. What it never does is destroy a relationship.’
John frowned ‘You have never talked about other men.’
Ximene smiled. “It was never necessary, there was always the small matter of my marriage to the Prince.’
John hestitated but then spoke quickly. ‘I think Thierry is different. He may say that he complies with these Cathar relationships, this Cathar society, but I have no doubt he wants to separate us, to take you away from me. I have no doubt that he thinks himself irresistable…to you.
They returned to Château and Ximene sighed. She had not resolve a single issue.
It was after lunch when Thierry was released from his chamber. He seemed content to sit and think reviewing all his drawings one by one. In the early evening, Ximene left her dressmaking and sat down alongside John who was so intent on his reading that he did not seem to notice her approach.
John then left to attend to the horses.
Thierry spoke for the first time in the day. ‘You are just like an old married couple. I don’t understand it, you have just discovered the most unimaginable treasure and you sit around here reading books and sewing. And you m’lady one of the most beautiful ladies I have ever seen should not be working like a common person’
Ximene eyed him with disdain.
She paused. He voice changed to an icy tone. ‘John has told me about the conversation you had in Rennes les Bains a week ago. I am offended by the way you raised our relationship and your assumption that you could win my favour.
‘It was a week ago but my memory of it was that I was helping John understand the realities of a Cathar relationship.
No, what you were doing was attempting to destroy our relationship. If John requires any instructionon the realities of Cathar relationships then it will come from me, not from you is that clear.’
She then paused breathing deeply. ‘Thank you for helping us, I will see eventually that you are properly rewarded. I am considering all the options and need some time to discuss them with John. We therefore need some privacy. Even though it is early we will retire to our room.’
Thiery replied without a moments hesitation. ‘ I am not looking for reward m’lady, all I want is to be of service to you. If you were only to say the word I could have you in Aragon tomorrow, and in Sicily within the week, if that is what you really want’ Ximene nodded graciously,‘ Thank you but I await Don Fernandino, As we are retiring we must you back in your chamber.’
Thierry nodded aquiescantly.
John returned from the stables and locked him away. He turned to Ximene. ‘What on earth were you talking about, he is up to something, there was a look of grim determination on his face.
Hmm, we were talking about you. She took his hand and led him across the bath house and through the arched doorway to their own bed. John wrapped his arms around Ximene. ‘Thank you, I can’t stand him just sitting there watching us. Even now we are not alone, he is over there separated from us only by two doors and the bath house.
Ximene smiled a rather tired smile.
‘I have no idea what to do, about him, about the treasure, about the Prince, about anything, for a little while, can we just continue as though nothing had happened?’
‘Of course ‘Anyway I wanted to ask you about all of this.’
‘All of what?’
He pointed to the some of the books he had brought to their dungeon bedroom.
‘In Rome Artemis was allowed to have lovers and was renamed Diana, but her brother Apollo retained both his identity and his name? In Greece however, Artemis was a virgin.’
Ximene smiled. He had anticipated exactly what she wanted, a return to the normality of their life before the treasure.
She knew however that It was not normality. Far from it butshe wanted to delay the inevitable for just a few more days. To enjoy what they had built together.
She breathed deeply, took his hand in hers, and abandoned herself, with great relief to an irrelevant, intellectual discussion.
‘Not quite, I think Artemis had lovers. I don’t think ‘virgin’ in Greek meant quite the same as it does today. I think it meant she was perpetually young. Certainly Artemis had affection for others and it is difficult to believe that they were not lovers.’
‘I don’t think I’ve found that in the texts’
‘ I am absolutely sure. The classic example is Orion. She was so much in love with him that it made her brother Apollo jealous. Orion was a very strong swimmer and Apollo asked him to prove his strength by swimming across the mouth of a very wide bay. Apollo then asked Artemis to demonstrate her skill at archery by hitting a seal swimming on the far horizon. She was only too pleased to show off her skill and of course hit the seal, which was in fact Orion. For the story to have had any meaning she must have loved Orion.’
‘ Oh, Oh! well I have not yet found that story, but what I have found is that Diana and Artemis were also identified with another goddess, Selene, goddesss of the moon, who has a brother, Helios, god of the sun, and your… our horses are therefore named after them.’
‘ Well, yes’
John paused for several seconds. What he then said took Ximene by surprise.
‘ Helios was therefore in two ways associated with Apollo, the god of light, who was the brother of Artemis’
‘ Well done, you have read extensively’
John continued relentlessly, he still had a point to make.
‘Apollo was also known as Phoebus ‘the shining one’ and that is the title your guardian has chosen! You have just told me that it was Apollo, who consumed with jealousy, provoked Artemis to kill her lover, Orion. I saw Gaston Phoebus during the feast after the hunt. He was miserable and there was no reason for him to be so. That night the Prince was offering you the whole world. Is there any chance that you have not been told the truth, Gaston is a very young man, much younger than I expected him to be.’
John took a deep breath. ‘Is it possible that Gaston Phoebus is your brother not your uncle. That Phoebus is jealous of anyone who might win your affection and would rather see them dead than winning your hand?’
Ximene manged to laugh despite her surprise.
‘ Ah! You cast yourself in the role of Orion! No John. I admit it is a question I have never considered. However, if your query was valid wouldn’t I be known as Diana, Artemis or Selene not Ximene? I think you are drawing a long bow. Ooh!’ She laughed delightedly at her own joke. Nevertheless she changed the subject.
‘Look, this is an exquisite book, look at this picture of Diana with bow and arrow and hunting dogs, doesn’t she look, well… divine.’ again she chuckled ‘as of course she would.’
She wrapped her arms round John’s head.
‘ No I do not think I am Gaston’s sister! But you have now inspired me, There is something I must purge from nmy mind. She told him about the temple built in her honour by Gaston. Tonight I will be Diana, as both Gaston…’ She tipped her head to one side. ‘And more recently Estevan, thought I should be! But tonight, tonight I will become Diana for you.
An hour later, John spent some time getting the tub to exactly the right temperature and they spent nearly half an hour wallowing in the warm water. Later, Ximene made sure that the dungeon was lit by many candles. Dressed in a lightweight skirt and peasant blouse she once again sat down by the table and pulled out the leather bag. This time she tipped all the contents on the table. John could see that it contained the mirror. four bottles and a round box.
‘There is still some paint left’ she announced in a voice, which was tinged with a note of triumph. She kneeled in front of the table.
First she selected the fourth bottle which contained gold paint, which she applied to her eyelids. She extended the painted area beyond the line of her eyebrows in a lace like effect which extended above her eyebrow and onto her temples. She examined her the finished effect in the mirror and pronounced herself satisfied. John recognized the style from the illustrations in the book.
She glanced over her shoulder so that John could see the total effect.
‘I think it is entirely appropriate that Diana would have a scar above her eyebrow’
She then applied her make up and painted her nails. Again using the gold paint she spent a long time decorating her wrists with a simulation of decorative archery arm guards. She then painted a similar pattern on her lower legs. By the time she had finished it seemed that she was wearing lightweight roman sandals.
John felt just as exited as the first time he had seen her make up. The fact that it was so different meant that she must have carefully planned this
‘Now it gets more interesting’ she said.
She stood up and removed her blouse and skirt.
Using a combination of the turquoise and flesh coloured paint she painted a simulation of a strip of fabric, which took the form of a sash. It flowed from her left shoulder, over her left breast, across her stomach and down her right thigh almost to he knee. She posed one leg in front of the other her arms held high in the air a pose John was by now quite familiar with. ‘Voila, Diana’
She exuded exitement and mischief.
‘I am now going to share with you something, which really should have been saved until I have formally accepted your suit. However time passes and the life we lead has prevented that happening. The concept is that you will wrap me in chains to symbolize that I have yielded to you. I am allowing you to do this secure in my knowledge that if the opportunity had presented itself I would, by now have accepted your suit. These chains were given to me by my grandmother for my fourteenth birthday, I have never worn them but I know how to put them on ’
She beckoned to him.
‘This only has any meaning if you apply the chains.’
She then opened the box and tipped the contents onto the top of the low table. John could see delicate gold chains and five small cylinders, two silver, three gold. Ximene laid out the chains. It took her some time to work out how they assembled John watched, intrigued with the concept; in great admiration for the craftmanship embodied in the fabrication.
Ximene talked as she worked out what to do. ‘They were made specifically for me. The goldsmith measured me very accurately to make sure they are a good fit’
‘The clue lies in the rings at the end of the chains, see they all have all have rings attached to their ends, but only these five chains have silver rings and only at one end.’
She gathered the five silver rings together and pushed a silver cylinder through the assembly and secured them by twisting the cylinder. Two of the chains were much longer than the other three. Each of these longer chains had a two gold rings only inches apart about a quarter of the way along. All five of the chains ended in a golden ring.
John watched in fascination as Ximene carefully grasped one short and one long chain in each of her hands and lifted the assembly over her head so that the central ring was positioned behind her neck and one of the shorter chains hung down her back. She arranged the longer chains to pass outside of her breasts. She pulled both ends to a position centrally. She held the lower of the two gold rings in the middle of the longer chains together and pushed the first gold cylinder through. Again she twisted the top of the cylinder, which locked it in. As she did this, her breasts were compressed and lifted by the upper of the rings upper of the rings in the middle of the chain.
She smiled ‘You see the fit is perfect, but now you must do it from now on’
Following Ximene’s instructions John carefully pulled the first of the shorter chains hanging from her shoulders across to the opposite side. The shorter chain was exactly the correct length to enable the ring at the end of it to come together with the ring now sitting to the side of her breast. He locked it into position with the second gold cylinder. This shorter chain now passed immediately above her nipple. John could now see that the shorter chains were fitted with a much smaller ring, which was just big enough to pass over her nipple.He then repeated this procedure with the second shorter chain so that the other nipple was similarly encased.
The free ends of the longer chains chains now hung down almost to her waist. John found Ximene’s twisting and turning to adjust the chains exiting but clearly she had not yet finished. Still following Ximene’s instuctions , John pulled the sixth chain around Ximene’s waist. There were rings at both ends and a two more rings splitting the chain into three. The chain hanging down her back was exactly the correct length to meet up with the rings on both ends and John picked up another cylinder intending to lock it into position.
‘Not yet John, where do you think the final chain goes?’ she giggled delightedly. John could see that this final chain was quite different. There was a ring in the middle and rings at both ends but every third link there were small golden balls forming part of the chain.
‘ Fasten the middle into the other three in the middle of my back’ Ximene told him still giggling. John obeyed. The ends of the final chain now hung down to the back of her thighs .
‘Now, gently, one at a time, pull the two ends of that chain through my legs and fasten them and one of the chains hanging below my breasts into one of the two rings at the sides of the waist chain.’
The first ring did not quite reach its intended target.
‘ Oh of course the training! My body will be slightly larger. Never mind, pull it tighter’. As John did so, Ximene writhed provocatively. ‘Ooh! Gently John, gently.’
‘Now the second one. ’ As the final join was made John could see the whole assembly tighten around her body. No wonder carefully measurements had to be made!
Ximene was still giggling ‘Just one last adjustment’ she said pushing her hand between her legs and bending forward slightly as she did so. She straightened up and held both hands in the air thrusting out one leg in front of her.
Suddenly as the chains moulded into position around her body it created a wonderful illusion. The effect was that she was wearing an elaborate golden dress which was nearly transparent. It was difficult to believe she was totally naked. She smiled at John and posed briefly.
‘There could not be many dresses as attractive as this which would fit in this box bag’ she said, holding the box aloft.
She then combed out her hair. Her hair fell in looping loose curls, which were obviously totally natural. If anything continual washing in mountain streams had made it even more beautiful than when John had first seen her. As she combed her hair she wriggled continually letting out little squeaks of pleasure.
‘The chains have a very special function. Once they are wound about my body they give gentle sexual pleasure at every movement.’ She rose and strode towards him. It was the same long stride, the same swing of the hips, the same careful placement of the feet, which John had first seen at Muret.
‘Even when I walk across the room the feel of the chains gives me excitement.’
She stood in front of him. ‘If you were to pull gently on any part of any chain the feeling would be intensified, all the more so because you were doing it! It means that you could be caressing my upper back but by putting pressure on the chain with the back of your hand you could also be caressing every other part of my body!
‘Come let’s go to bed and I will show you!
It was a wonderful night. John knew that she had not spent so much time in preparation to spend to greater a proportion of it in sleep!