There was a pause in proceedings whilst the performers left the room. Joan sought out John. She smiled broadly.
“Did you learn anything?”
He could do nothing but return the smile.
“Yes I did”
Joan could see from the look in his eyes that they were not thinking along the same lines!
She laughed again.
“Much of what they showed you was as a result of my own tuition, not Lady Eleanors. Just think of it as the completion of what I was teaching you when you visited me here six weeks ago and what I thought inappropriate to demonstrate to you personally!
The eyelashes again.
John could hardly believe what he was hearing but now he thought about it he had made eye contact on several occasions throughout the performance.
‘ So much so that I now believe that my plans to bring her closer to William are at least in the short term unlikely to succeed.
The performers returned. They had not dressed again but were enveloped in thick gowns. There was a buzz of conversation as they were welcomed back and congratulated on their performances. After a few minutes Joan cut off the conversation.
“Thus we can see how a woman’s charms can be used to change history. Of course those who know the Cathar version of this story realise that this was not the first time Caesar and Cleopatra had met. Caesar had made a suit much earlier, which Cleopatra had accepted but events had separated them. What we have just witnessed is their happy reunion.’
The main reason we are gathered here this evening is to celebrate another reunion between Selene, Comptess de Langdon and her long time admirer John de Stanley. Tonight in front of you all John wishes formally to present his suit to the Countess.
Ximene rose to her feet and made slight adjustments to her costume. As she did so the “feathers” underneath her cloak shone brilliantly. The illusion of the eagle was reinforced. John rose nervously. He must assure the Comptess of his love. Lady Eleanor had taught him to pick a feature he admired and to express that admiration in carefully chosen words. He could now see no womanly features. He would be praising an Eagle!
At Joan’s gentle suggestion he moved to the area where the performance had been staged. He tried hard to get the tone of his voice correct from the very first line. He did not entirely succeed, but the words were clear enough.
Selene, my love, I have been taught,
How to express my deepest thought.
To find in you the features I admire,
To praise those features, in words of fire.
It is, I think, well understood,
That by doing this, I may stir your blood.
But between us now there is deeper feeling,
It started when you helped my healing.
You have shared with me adventure and love,
I have learned that we fit like a hand in a glove.
I love your body and love your beauty
To be close to you is much more than duty
It is your inner soul that I love most,
And life we have shared makes me want to boast.
I love you Comptess, yes it is true,
It now affects everything I do.
For tonight you appear regaled as an eagle
You stand before me, oh so regal,
I am humbled so I hardly dare,
To reveal to you how much I care
But I am determined to make my play,
I beg you accept me without delay.
Your devoted servant I wish to be,
I seek no return, save your love for me.
John noticed that juan Perez was scribbling away. John had put effort into getting the right words but surely it had not been good enough to interest a professional jongleuse!
Because of the mask it was impossible to see the Comptess’ reaction. There was a moment of tension, which could be felt in the whole room before she moved. She advanced to meet John and gave him a passionate kiss on the mouth. The feeling was electric. John put his hands to the back of her neck and returned the kiss . Their lips were pressed together for a long time. Then the Comptess spoke
“In front of these witnesses I give you my favour. I place no conditions on its use.”
She reached down and lifted up his right hand. She produced a gold ring from a small pocket in her bodice and pushed it gently onto the third finger of his right hand. The ring had a small pentacle crafted into the band. She kissed him again.
Joan looked on with great delight. She paused long enough to savour the moment before gently and quietly ushering everyone out of the room.
When John and the Comptess next looked around, the room was empty save for themselves. Curtains had been pulled back on the far side of the room from the tables revealing a large bedroom alcove in which a large low bed was totally surrounded by candles. John was again struck that the overall feel was of a temple with the bed now taking the place of the high altar.
The Comptess sat John on the end of the bed and started pulling off one of her gloves.
“ I did not get much sleep last night. Joan wanted to teach me everything she knows! I think you will find that I can now play Cleopatra much better than”