31 Where is she?

As Ximene had been carried away from St Ferriole, Estevan had mounted his horse and raced to Mazeou. He knew there would have been no chance of a successful intervention. He found Phillipa reading . When he told her what had happened she ran to the stables and saddled Selene. He managed to persuade her that a discussion with Don Fernandino might be worthwhile.
They found Don Fernandino luxuriating in one of the bath tubs. Once he knew what had happened, he reacted quickly.
‘We need help! I think it is better if I ride to find John Stanley. We need him and as many of the Prince’s army as I can persuade to join us. We do not know exactly where he will be but by now he ought to be close to Carcassonne, if the Prince is following the schedule he outlined. The people in Carcassonne will know where the army is, they will be inundated by refugees. I think it is better that I undertake that task. A lone girl amongst frightened refugees and searching for one soldier amongst an army would be at great risk.’
He paused for breath.
‘What I want you to do Phillipa is find Ximene. You have proved that you have good skills in gathering information, now use it to our advantage. Fortunately this countryside is not overpopulated. They were a substantial hunting party and they left to the north.’
Don Fernandino led them to the tower room where the three dimensional map still lay on the table.
‘Granes, Rennes, Couisa, Limoux, Carcassonne. They will be heading for one of these places. Call at every one and use my contacts and your own skills to get any information which might be useful. Whatever you find, wait for me on the road between Limoux and Carcassonne. There is an inn at Rouffiac d ‘Aude where you can stay. He scribbled frantically the names of his contacts in the towns he had mentioned and the passwords which would be necessary to get them to talk.
They both then left in a cloud of dust, cutting every corner on the climb up the hill, Estevan was left as the sole point of contact at Mazerou. Sadly he walked up the slope to the main entrance and told Maurice what had occurred.

Joanne and Don Fernandino separated at Granes. Joanne applied herself to her task. She consulted Don Fernandino’s contacts but also talked to anyone she met. It did not take her long to discover that the hunting party had been organised for the Bishop of Limoux. A little later, by the bridge in Couisa, she found someone who told her that they had been seen returning with a young woman as a prisoner and that in Couisa they had there been joined by a large party of foot soldiers, and headed down the road to Limoux.
Phillipa rode furiously to Limoux. The town was alive with rumour and speculation. There was much conflicting information to be considered but in the end she concluded that Ximene had been taken to the residence of the Bishop of Limoux, in the centre of the Town.

In the meantime Don Fernandino was riding north as fast as he could. By one of those twists of fortune he was riding past the inn at Rouffiac d ‘Aude, when he saw the dappled grey horse. He stopped to check as there were not many grey horses around. To his delight when he entered the inn he saw John sitting by the fireplace talking earnestly to another young man. Don Fernandino greeted John with delight. John introduced Piers de Windsor, his companion, to Don Fernandino. They were full of the progress made by the chevauchee. They explained the resistance they had met and how it had been gradually overcome. John was telling Don Fernandino the formal forces who had been harrying them were in full retreat. The Prince was determined to pursue them strongly and hoped to provoke a set piece battle which would then break all resistance.

John suddenly realised that something must be wrong.
‘It is really good to see you’ he said
‘But why are you here?’
Don Fernandino told them all that he knew which he eventually decided was very little.

The most dangerous woman in the world

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