85 — The Inferno

Piers was the only one who seemed unconcerned at the sight of the wall of flame.
‘We are not at any risk at all. John has his array of weapons but I have my belt. With it is possible to descend the steepest of slopes. From the battlements we will be able to descend and escape the Bastide. We were taught how to do this in our training in Biscarrosse but it is easy, anyone can do it’
They ran down to the stables and Piers pulled the belt from his saddle bag. It was unusual in that there were a number of metal rings hanging from it. There was a multitude of ropes in the stables and he selected the longest one. He then climbed up to the hay loft and tied off the rope to a roof support and threaded it through two of the rings on the belt. He then backed over the top of the wooden wall, which enclosed the stables below. They saw that he hung backwards and walked slowly down the wall. The way the rope was threaded through the two rings on his belt made it easy to let it out the rope at a rate, which matched that at which he wanted to descend. He then piled some straw underneath the wall and invited the others to practise this unusual skill.
John declined.
‘I do not need to practice, I was taught how to do it at Biscarrosse. I am not as good as you but I can do it’
Don Fernandino volunteered.
He obviously found the act of walking backwards into space quite difficult but once he had his feet on the wall he descended with ease.
Both Phillipa and Ximene encountered the same problem, they both let out the rope without moving their feet, with the result that they were hanging head downwards. Piers taught them to kick outwards from the wall. The belt was positioned so that once away from the wall their feet dropped and they could then let out more rope. Both girls asked for a second practice so that they became confident in their ability to control this unusual manoeuvre.
‘Good’ said Piers ‘Now all we have to do is climb onto the ramparts, attach a rope to any suitable anchor point and descend to the ground outside. Before the fire front hits the wall, we can be half a league away.’
They ran out of the stables and found the nearest steps up to the battlements. There was no shortage of anchor points as the ramparts had been prepared to utilise the trebuchet stone throwing machines, which had to be anchored down firmly. In no time Piers had tied off the rope to a shackle and descended to the ground below. He showed off his skill, his feet only touched the wall three times during the descent. John pulled the rope back up to the top of the ramparts. Don Fernandino went next. The fact that the drop was much greater than in the stables caused him no concern. He realised that all he had to do was apply the same principles for a longer distance. Phillipa was concerned but it only took a brief look at the advancing fire front to convince her that the descent was an acceptable risk.
Now it was Ximene’s turn. To John’s amazement she refused point blank.
‘ No’ she said turning to face John ‘My…’ she immediately rephrased her statement.
‘Our horses are down there, we cannot leave them to a miserable death. We must save them’

 

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.’