She poured herself a mug of claret. ‘But now Ximene a couple of questions. Your body is wonderful but very, very different. The last two hours have made it obvious that you are a woman, very much a woman, so how did you develop your body to be the way it is…powerful, athletic, muscular? ‘
‘John Stanley, again?’
‘Yes, John Stanley. As he recovered from his appalling injuries he used a system using progressively heavier weights to regain his strength. I joined in his program and voila, my body just changed.’
‘And it made stronger, have more stamina?’
‘Emphatically it did, but sc the way I have been, I have not been exercising. I must return to it. It will flush my lethargy away. John has thoughts of developing his approach into a science ‘
‘And this could be applied to anyone, an entire army.’
‘I know it could, somebody would just have to organise it.’
‘Oh! You know, you might just have found John Stanley a job. a very important job. But first tomorrow night you have your orders. I Joan Countess of Kent have given you your orders, you must obey.
‘Yes m’lady I will do everything you ask’
Ximene sat bolt upright. even as Joan watched her eyes brightened. She turned to look directly into Joan’s eyes ”How much do you know about the Prince’s plans fo Aquitaine and perhaps later for England itself.’
Joan’s eyes narrowed. ‘Possibly not as much as you do yourself. One thing you should realise is that for all his strengths the Prince sees the implementation of his ideas as less interesting than creating new ideas. I am finding that I have to take responsibility for the implementation into my own hands. Had you got omething specific in mind.’
Ximene frowned ‘When I met him at Muret and I think again at Foix he expressed his forward plans in terms of a naval, trading empire. What he described was domination of the Atlantic coast from Scotland and Ireland to Granada and all the ports inbetween.
However, he obviously had plans even wider than that, as he was talking about the importance of Occitan as a trade route through to the Mediterranean coast and further east. What he did not mention was who would set up the ships and trading routes. I got the impression that it would be by third parties with the Prince awarding trading contracts for specific areas or goods. I am thinking that I should use my wealth to create such a trading empire operating under a royal warrant.
Joan pursed her lips. ‘ I think he would welcome that but remember what I just said. Next year he might want to do something different.’
‘Along the trading routes, I could establish Cathar havens where they could practice their faith without persecution.’ Ximene could not hold back her enthusiasm. ‘And freedom of worship will eventually be obtained!’
Joan frowned. ‘Quite, but do not assume that even then it will be an instant change, it will have to done subtly. However, you can prepare in advance by establishing communities under your patronage where there is freedom, even if the worship is in secret.’
‘And I will use the wealth from the treasure to do that.’
‘Hmm! if you take my advice you will use the income from that wealth to create the trading empire, thereby ensuring the wealth itself remains intact. This may take some time. So you have given up the idea of an independant Occitan?’
‘Not entirely, perhaps the location could be along the northern Pyrenees, Foix, Comminges, Bigorre, Bearn. It is all still Occitan but not the Occitan which I am the heiress.
It would be much easier to defend, particulary if it was possible to fund a standing army.’
‘A standing army?’
‘Precisely. instead of grants of land being associated services in return it would be associated with the payment of taxes, which could be used to fund an army specifically intended to protect the state.’
‘Oh! and where did that concept come from?’
‘Gaston de Foix had permanent guards paid for by taxation, but also John Stanley…’
‘Oh! back to John Stanley. Selene, it needs some work. if you chose that geographical area wouldn’t it throw you back into the hands of Gaston. Seems like only ten minutes ago you were desperate to get away from him.’
‘You are right it needs some work.’