Bertrand du Guesclin-10 June 1355
‘I have a competitor.’
Bertrand Du Guesclin had returned to Pamiers.
As usual, Stuart looked surprised. ‘What do you mean?’
‘I spent several days watching the hunt. Every day, the bitch found a way to ride ahead of the pack or to ride in a different direction from the pack. She was easy pickings.’
Stuart blinked an eye. ‘So what went wrong?’
‘The Cardinal gave me ten men. I had ten of my own. Twenty men. All they had to do was snatch one teenage girl.’
‘So what went wrong?’
‘It started well enough. The Cardinal’s informer, what’s his name… Dominic, gave us good information on the location of the hunt on that particular day. We were spread a little thin, because of the relatively large area where the deer were running. Also we tried to use what cover was available. All we had to do snatch a teenage girl.‘
John stuart scratched his head. ‘And I repeat, what went wrong?’
‘Everything. That day she chose a place to hunt different from what we had been led to expect. The girl herself, shot the first of our men to approach her. She didn’t hesitate, hit him in the middle of the chest. He will be lucky to survive. Doesn’t deserve to survive. If he had held back a bit she might have been faced with three or four of us.’
‘“Oh! But you still had nineteen men against this one girl.’
‘It gets worse. She rode round in a circle before heading back towards Muret. Our lot tried to chase her but none of them were able to cut her off. She is a good horsewoman, she was riding a good, no outstanding, grey horse. They didn’t stand a chance of catching her.
‘So she just rode away?’
“Not quite.’ One of them did eventually try to cut the corner and then suddenly out of nowhere came this rider wielding axes, also on a magnificent grey horse.’
‘Axes on a horse?’
‘Yes and he can use them. One man dead and another two who will probably never walk again. The others simply ran away.
The stupid men think he had axes instead of hands. He managed to strike terror in their souls. It is supposed to be me that does that. I have a competitor. I will have to find out who he is and hunt him down.’
‘So what can I do to help?’
‘I have given up on the girl. We now know, again through Dominic, that she is being taken back to chateau Foix. I will settle for the bounty on the her head. It looks to me as though she will marry the Black Prince and be whisked off to England. We will get no chance to deliver her to the Inquisition, so I will provide an assassin and need him to be able to access the chateau.’
‘What can I do about that?’ John Stuart asked.
Du Guesclin glared at him. ‘Don’t be stupid. Dominic has been supplying us with information. Now I want to use him to get somebody into the Chateau. The Chateau might need additional cooks for a big feast … anything! Once we have our person inside, Ximene is as good as dead!’
John Stuart went away to consider his options.