At the hunting Lodge whilst waiting for Estevan John took Ximene down to the river to bathe. Ximene protested.
“Are you trying to kill me John? This river is icy at this time of year. He insisted that it would help the healing process. John stripped off and plunged into the icy water. Ximene waded in to join him and he slowly and carefully removed her clothes. He enveloped her in his arms .
“Slowly, John, Slowly.” Ximene said. ‘I will take some time to recover.”
John nodded but allowed his hands to caress her back as he had learned to do at Foix. She flinched and moved away from him.
“It has been traumatic for me too”
John waited until Ximene turned to face him
‘How do you feel’
‘Sore, very sore, I hurt everywhere’
‘I could hardly bear it when you were being dragged towards Carcassonne’
‘Neither could I!’ She laughed and John joined in. It was a nervous laugh but soon became infectious.
Ximene struggled to stop laughing. ‘I only kept going because I knew you would come!’
‘ You are safe now’
She now had stopped laughing. ‘ Perhaps, but we have a huge problem, John, I have survived but inside I am dead. It will take a long time for me to recover fron that ordeal. My life is a faiure. we are now returning to Bordeaux where I never wanted to go. probably to marry a man I never wanted to marry and who now doesent seem to want to talk to me. And my relationship with you is it also over? first knight and ambassador for the non existant state of Occitan.
I wish it wasnt so but I now think I am incapable of love.
Estevan arrived within two hours, weighed down with salves and potions to attend to Ximene’s injuries. One of the servants at the hunting lodge found clean clothes for Ximene and John changed into a completely new “Lions” uniform, which the Prince had sent for him.
Whilst Estevan was attending to Ximene, John took the opportunity to visit a local inn with the other Lions. They split several bottles of local wine. John enjoyed the socialising. They were all of equivalent rank and John found himself totally accepted. The jealousy he had felt earlier had not transferred itself to these young men. All they wanted to talk about was John’s great victory during the Chevauchee and the escape from Carcassonne. He was also asked many questions about who Ximene actually was. By the end of two hours they had built a great rapport. John was delighted.
He had not re-established his relationship with Ximene but amongst the Guards he no longer felt like an outsider .