80 — Holy Orders

Ximene Trencavel  24 October 1355

Ximene was shocked at the way this perfect stranger accosted her.

Rape was rare in the world in she lived. This man, however, did not expect any real resistance. He was holding Ximene at arm’s length attempting to rip away her clothes.

Ximene slipped her wristlet down over her knuckles and hit him hard with a full-blooded swing. The blow landed on his temple. He turned in slow motion, surprise showing clearly on face. Ximene landed a second blow, a perfect uppercut which in his stunned state snapped his head back on his shoulders. He collapsed to the ground. Ximene assumed that the security of the Château had been breached so she ran towards the only other refuge she could think of, Estevan’s house and clinic in St Feriole. 

Travelling as far as possible under the cover of shrubs and trees, she had almost reached St Feriole. However, as she broke cover she became immediately aware that the streets of the village were filled with horsemen .

Ximene jumped over the edge of the ridge she had just climbed and slid down the slope. She knew the horses would find it difficult to follow. it seemed that she had succeeded as there was no attempt to follow her.

She sought out the best hiding point she could. and watched as the horsemen rode down the road to Mazerou and then turned east forming a cordon along the valley.  Several of them rode in a vast arc to get ahead of her and despite a number of twists and turns, Ximene eventually found herself surrounded. Gerade warned them about what she could do and they, therefore, treated her with extreme caution.

A tall corpulent man separated himself from the group and moved towards her. He demanded that Ximene explain why she had dealt so severely with their companion. She could hardly believe her ears.
‘He attacked me, what did you expect me to do?’
The tall man sighed. ‘You provoked him. In fact, you provoked us all.’

Ximene glanced around desperately trying to see a way of escape.
‘I provoked you?’ incredulity echoed in her voice.
‘Why yes, bare shoulders and a short skirt, the lightweight material your dress is made of. You have obviously chosen your clothes to tempt and ensnare men.’

Ximene laughed mirthlessly. ‘I have chosen my clothes to be suitable for a long country walk on a hot day’ She lost her patience.
‘I had never met that man before. He had never paid court to me. He had never declared his love for me. I had no opportunity to consider whether to accept his suit.’

The tall man rose in his stirrups and looked around at his companions. ‘Ah! Now we have it! These words give the girl away. She is a Cathar. Those are Cathar sentiments she utters. Capture her. We must take her back to Limoux, where. with God’s help we may save her soul.’

The men dismounted and closed in on Ximene. Responding to some hidden consensus they all dashed at her at the same time. She only managed to land one blow before she was carried to the ground. She thought that they intended to hold her down and rape her but the tall man intervened.

‘No, tie her across a horse; we must take her to be examined by the Inquisition’

There then followed the most agonising journey. Ximene could not believe the pain inflicted by the continuing jolting of a horse walking slowly when tied face down across its back. She continually slipped forward so that she was hanging from her ankles, with her face close to the ground. When in this position, she was totally exposed to the gaze of the whole party. Occasionally they lifted her back so that she was lying across the horse and every time they did this they made sure that their hands explored every part of her body.

The journey seemed to last forever but eventually, semi-conscious; she was pulled down from the horse and dragged into a large house in the centre of a large town. She felt tired, sore and abused. She was left alone in a bare room. Away from the gaze of her abusers, she was unable to prevent herself from vomiting.

The most dangerous woman in the world

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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.’