83 — The Bastide

Don Fernando asked hypothetical questions, which he then answered himself. ‘How long will it be before they move Ximene to Carcassonne?… Probably two days, they will have set up the stake and the bonfire surrounding it probably on an elevated platform so that a large crowd can get a good view. How many guards would there be in the party pulling Ximene to Carcassonne?… The whole of the Limoux Militia, would not be more than fifty men.?’

John cut in, ‘If they are not trained soldiers, We could just cut them down!’
‘No’ said Don Fernandino ‘ Even if we did cut them down there would be too much risk to Ximene. I think you may find that there are crowds lining the route to watch the spectacle. The road from Limoux to Carcassonne is relatively open; we would not have the element of surprise’

‘What we need is a location to give us some cover both before and after we attempt our rescue and the opportunity to create a diversionary measure. It will have to be a significant diversion to take their attention away from Ximene for perhaps as much as five minutes.’ He sighed. ‘It is getting late. We are very short of time but we should get some sleep. We must be on the road to Carcassonne at daybreak. I am beginning to think the location we are looking for is Carcassonne itself’

John gazed at Don Fernandino with new respect. Don Fernandino had always seemed languid, indecisive. He now realised that much of that indecisiveness had been because he found it necessary to defer to Ximene. Now he was free of that constraint he was a different man.
John slept fitfully but and as soon as it was light they rode towards Carcassonne examining every league of the road for a location which would suit their purposes. Don Fernandino was satisfied with none of them.

Eventually, they reached La Cité, the old fortress of Carcassonne, the home of Ximene’s ancestors, massive in its bulk, impressive because of the complexity of its architecture, towering over the Aude River. La Cite was in full battle mode, gates locked, drawbridges raised and battlements manned. They could see massive stone-throwing machines being dragged into position.

John gazed upward at the frenzied activity. ‘The Black Prince and his army had passed by only days before. They are preparing for his possible return.

Don Fernandino slowly nodded his head. ‘They will not compromise their security, the Ximene’s execution will, therefore, be carried out in the Bastide, the new town set up by the Franks, situated just across the river.’

They crossed the river Aude and entered the gates of the Bastide, which was impressive enough in its own right. Once inside the walls, after a brief exploration they discovered that the Bastide was a rough rectangle traversed by two main roads; the gate they entered by opened out into the Rue St Louis running north to south and in the middle of the Bastide it crossed the Rue Montfort,running east to west. Outside of the main roads, there was a labyrinth of narrow streets running at right angles to each other. At the junction of the main roads in the center of the Bastide was a very large square, ‘La place de l’Aigle d’Or’, ‘The Place of the Golden Eagle’. At the northern end of the square, a raised scaffold had already been built across the rue St Louis. The scaffold totally blocked access to the square from the north.

They went to sit at a table in front of a small restaurant but were quickly shooed inside by a waitress. ‘ The Sirocco is coming’ she explained. ‘We want to move the tables inside and in any case, you will be more comfortable in there.’ Her warning was emphasised by a sudden gust of wind which howled across the square.

They hurried inside warmed themselves by the fire and then ordered a light meal. While the meal was being prepared, Pipa talked to the waitress. She returned to the table with a grim face. ‘Whatever we do we do not have much time–†he execution is planned for midday tomorrow–just over twenty-four hours away. Pipa nodded at the waitress. She is actually pleased, she thinks it will bring some business. Apparently, the square is surrounded by apartments and houses with rooms to let, normally occupied by traders, farmers, and travelers, but the passage of the Prince’s army has driven them all away. They have all fled to the hills. As a result, the apartments are mostly empty and business has been very poor.’

Don Fernandino lifted his eyes to the ceiling. ‘Interesting, that might give us an opportunity.’

Piers narrowed his eyes.’Tell us more’

Don fernandino was not able to reply as the waitress arrived to serve their meals. She turned as if to move away but then hesitated. ‘May I ask? What is your business in Carcassonne?’

Don Fernandino answered instantly. “We are intending to start a buchering business. We have very good contacts with farmers around the Montagne Noir and intend to offer a wide range of products, perhaps we might be given the opportunity to supply you.’

‘I would be delighted to introduce you to the owner, but again may I ask, have you anywhere to stay whilst you are establishing your business, have you already got premises?’

‘The answer to both questions is no.’

‘Well, then I may be of immediate assistance. my family own some of the apartment facing onto the square, They are currently empty… I was telling the youg lady about our current predicament.

Pipa nodded and Don Fernandino smiled. ‘We would be delighted would it be possible to make an inspection this morning?’

‘Certainly I will make arrangements.’

When they emerged from the restaurant Don Fernando paused, hands on hips, surveying the square. There were shops lining the square on every side including either side of the scaffold.

After a cursory inspection, Don Fernandino agreed to lease two of the units, one either side of the north-south road. Whilst he completed the lease documents he chatted aimiably to the agent and the waitress

Half an hour later they crossed the square so that they could inspect the scaffold at closer quarters. In the company of other on-lookers they watched as the stake was lifted into position and secured into the floor of the scaffold. Wood, and rags were piled at the back of the scaffold.

Don Fernandino leaned against the scaffold, apparently to adjust his shoe. When he stood up John noted, as he had been asked to do, that the floor of the scaffold was almost exactly the same height as the top of Don Fernandino’s head.

They found a way round to access the isolated portion of the Rue St Louis immediately behind the scaffold. Rags covered in pitch and wood for the pyre were being extracted from a large gate no more than thirty feet away. The gate gave access to a courtyard. A horse and cart were taking up much of the space in the courtyard as fresh supplies of wood, rags and pitch were unloaded into a storeroom.

Don Fernandino pulled them away. ‘We don’t want to be noticed, Obviously, all executions of this type are carried out in the Place d’Aigle d’Or. They must be held frequently enough to make the storage of materials close-by worthwhile. That suits me. Fortune often favors the brave. I think here is our opportunity. We must lease additional apartments as close to the scaffold as we can get.’

A side street ran behind the houses and apartments facing the square There were several entrances to courtyards spaced along these blocks of buildings which gave access to stables, back entrances to shops and entrances to enclosed stairwells to apartments above the shops. They chose the first courtyard to the east of the north-south road immediately behind the scaffold.

They put their horses into the stables and Don Fernandino asked the stable hand where he could hire an apartment for several days possibly a week. The young man’s eyes gleamed.‘It is my aunt who owns the apartments sire. For a small consideration, I can arrange for you to get the best views overlooking the square.

It took him no more than five minutes to find his aunt who informed them that she owned the apartments​ either side of the Rue St Louis immediately behind the scaffold. ‘I will give you a special rate. They are going to burn a witch at the stake tomorrow morning. There will be a lot of smoke and the sirocco… ‘She held up her hand as the wind howled through​ a gap in the buildings, ‘will blow the smoke in your direction. Don’t complain. I won’t give you any further discounts.

The stablehand broke in hurriedly. ‘It will be a bargain, you will get a wonderful view of the witch burning’. He paused and screwed up one eye obviously trying to judge whether he was interesting his audience.‘You will be able to hear her scream as she dies and perhaps see the devils come out of her mouth.’

John shook his head and Pipa clung to his arm for support.

His Aunt grimaced.’ I haven’t got all day. tell me which one do you want. to the east or to the west.?

Don fernandino took a deep breath. ‘I will take both.’ He hurriedly finalised the necessary documentation and then they ascended the staircase to the apartment to the east of the rue de St Louis. The main room looked out over the square, behind but slightly to the east of the scaffold. The upper part of the enclosed staircase was for their exclusive use.

Don Fernandino carefully examined the roof of the stairwell.

‘Excellent! We now have what we needed, the means to make a diversion and a labyrinth of streets in which to vanish after we have rescued her.

Piers lingered by the window, gazing across the Square. He turned casually without any indication of urgency. ‘The time has come, Don Fernandino. You must tell us what you have in mind.’

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents



List of Places

Table of Contents

Pseudo History


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.’

The Prisoner of FoixVol 1 of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

Aquitaine, an English possession, is in crisis. It is under threat from neighbouring nations and internal dissension.

The Black Prince, King Edward III’s eldest son has been given the task of taking command in Aquitaine.

Suddenly there is an opportunity. Ximene Trencavel is the heiress to the lands of Occitan, to the east of Aquitaine: lands controlled by the Franks. Ximene wants independence, both for herself and for Occitan.

A union between Aquitaine and Occitan would be mutually beneficial. The Black Prince undertakes a secret journey to meet Ximene to negotiate a marriage contract. It is, however, a marriage neither of them really wants.

Meanwhile, the  Franks plot to murder Ximene to prevent ,not just the marriage, but any kind of union between England and Occitan.

The Eagle Of CarcassonneVol II of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

The loose alliance between Ximene Trencavel and the Black Prince is under threat.

The Prince invades Occitan, to show his support for Ximene but it becomes an invasion which creates more problems than it solves.

The Prince has fallen hopelessly in love with Joan of Kent and Joan is now determined to marry him and become the next Queen of England.

Joan is therefore  determined to convince Ximene that she should not marry the Prince.

Part of her strategy is to encourage Ximene’s relationship with John Stanley—one of the Princes bodyguards—not an easy task as both John and Ximene have doubts about their compatibility.

However, John is grievously injured in a battle and Ximene commits herself to nurse him back to health.