94 — The Retreat

Before during and after the feast a major activity was to transfer the treasure from wagons to horses for what was to be a cross-country journey back to Bordeaux.
The next morning provided experience in getting the whole baggage train moving.
They did not get far that day but a least obtained an understanding of what was necessary to coordinate all the necessary activities and to ensure at the same time that the baggage train was adequately guarded along its length. On the third day the whole train was split into twenty separate units each with it’s own commander and specific groups of soldiers were allocated to each commander.
In order to travel as fast as possible a decision was made that everyone but the ladies should sleep in the open or in the simplest of field tents when rain threatened. A small group stayed behind each day to break down the ladies tent from the night before and a second group rode ahead each day to pitch a second tent, which could be used by the ladies. This made a significant reduction in the time taken to pitch camp each night.
The weather now deteriorated. It rained almost continuously and it became increasingly difficult to cross ever the minor streams. It was necessary to go further and further north to use bridges over the rivers.
The Earl arrived to provide increased security, accompanied by Piers, came to ride alongside John.
‘We are exposed to greater and greater risk. Our enemies follow us at a respectful distance but they are waiting for something…’
‘Yes, perhaps for the Franks to cross the river Garonne at Toulouse. There is nothing to stop them doing that and then our northerly flank would be gravely exposed. Thanks to the baggage train it is an extremely long northern flank. An attack from our rear could then be difficult to repel.’
The Earl hesitated. John knew him well enough to know from the inflexion in his voice that he had even more serious concerns.
‘ I can and should deal with that. Alternatively they may be waiting for another completely form of attack. I am concerned about the way the ladies tent is been set up in advance of the rest of the army. It is like advertising that we have special guests travelling with us. Now, in the last day our pursuers have moved considerably closer. I am watching them and some of them are now ahead of us”
He forced a smile
‘It is only six months since we first met , but now, despite having all my established knights available I find that when I look for additional security I look to you two. It is perhaps because of your unusual introduction to my service that you have a much better feel for where the risks may lie than anyone else. John in your role as Occitan ambassador I have no right to give you orders but I am asking for your help.’
Both John and Piers muttered their appreciation. John told the Earl that he was and always would be only too prepared to put himself at the Earl’s service.
The Earl then raised the request, which was the purpose of the conversation.
‘My admiration for your judgement comes at a cost. From now on I want you to stand guard over the ladies tents from the time it is pitched to the time the ladies move on. But do not join the other guards. Position yourselves at a point of vantage from where you can oversee security. Keep under cover in a position where you can watch the ladies tent but from where you may be aware of any intruders approaching. I want you to then stay on guard all night and sleep after the ladies have left the following morning. I will personally sleep alongside the ladies tent and therefore will be ready to help if you or the other guards sound the alarm’

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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.’