Chapter 89 Hero

Ximene Trencavel-21 June 1355

In the village, Ximene stamped her foot in anger and frustration. It was now mid-afternoon. Guillam pleaded with her for the third time. She heard him but did not really listen.

Guillam insisted. ‘All we have to do is go three-hundred feet down the Cathar trail, which starts behind those bushes and we will vanish. We will be safe. Every minute we wait here exposes you to danger.’

‘I will not leave without him. I know he should have been back by now. Something must have happened.’ She stared at Guillam, trying hard to gain the supremacy she knew, deep down, she possessed. ‘I am going to look for him.’ She could sense Guillam’s despair and this time listened as he spoke.

‘Ximene, you have responsibilities for the state of Occitan and for the future of the Cathar religion. These are grave responsibilities that must have a higher priority than the fate of this one soldier, no matter how admirable he might be.’

‘No, Guillam. I also have my standards and my sense of duty. Call it my code of chivalry if you must. If my duty to Occitan and the Cathar religion mean that I must abandon a man who has already risked his life three times for me, they are worth nothing. If I must risk my life to do this then so be it. You can come with me or you can stay here.’

She mounted Selene, loaded her crossbow and moved off up the hill. She looked over her shoulder and saw that Guilliam, slowly, apparently reluctantly, was following her. Suddenly she knew that from now on she would live life as she wanted to live it. She felt no fear, only an overwhelming sense of freedom. Freedom, if necessary, to risk her life for a just cause and freedom to give her love without consideration of cause and effect. And suddenly she realised, this was the freedom she had always sought.

She smiled, rose in her saddle and surveyed her surroundings. For the first time in her life, she was proud, intensely proud, to be Ximene Trencavel.

The most dangerous woman in the world