The Nest of Vixens

Andrew Danbry, recently appointed Master of the King’s Horse, squeezed his way back into the room through the barely opened doorway. He then shut the door forcibly behind him. He was not quick enough to prevent a draught of air swirling through the room.

The fire blazed and a small tornado of smoke escaped from the fireplace adding to the dark stain which covered the central third of the mantlepiece.Two lithe hunting dogs hurriedly left the fireplace and sprinted twice round the central table, squabbling half-heartedly, before settling in the far corner of the room.Andrew shuddered, it was cold outside.  He too crossed the room and obsessively tightened the closure of the shutters of each window before pulling the heavy curtains together and carefully adjusted them so that the edges of the each pair of curtains were coiled together making a seal.  Finally he adjusted the embroidered bags of sand which pinned the bottom of the curtains to the floor. As he did so there was a flash of lightening.

‘One, two three four…’

The clap of thunder was deafening.

He turned to face the table.‘Four miles away at the moment, but getting closer. It’s going to be a foul night…now, have you all got a drink?’

Most of them nodded assent but some looked askance. Andrew smiled. It was a question of seniority. ‘Just help yourself, there is plenty in the jugs and there is far more where that came from.’

The table was littered with the debris of their meal and Andrew cleared a space in front of one of the empty chairs and poured himself a mug of beer before collapsing into the chair with a resounding thud.

‘I thought it better to take the ladies through to the retreat before continuing the conversation.’ Again most of his listeners nodded assent. ‘Henry you were speaking, I think’

‘Yes, I was.’ Henry groaned gently and combed his fingers through a shock of curly hair. ‘Look, if I must, I will apologise, I really didn’t think I was saying anything controversial.’

Andrew picked up the mug in front of him. He gulped several times before putting the jug down and wiping his lips.‘I was protecting you Henry, your wife Agnes is often seen in the company of the Countess and we must be careful not to upset her.’

Henry’s eyes narrowed.‘The Countess of Shaftesbury? You are scared of her? I was only asking who she really is. She is supposed to be the young widow of the Earl who died in the german crusades, but their are rumours…’

Andrew grimaced ‘No I am not scared, but I am cautious’

‘You think the Countess could, would, damage me, us? Because of a chance comment at a dinner? In any case someone would have to tell her.’ His eyes narrowed even further. He deliberately focussed on Andrew. ‘That’s ridiculous, you think my own wife might betray my inner thoughts?’

Andrew pursed his lips. ‘The countess has unbelievable power.’ he said quietly. ‘She controls the size of the army, and decides when and who they will fight.’

Another voice broke in from the far side of the room.‘Andrew are you talking about the Countess or Alice Perrers?’

Andrew snorted.’Well they are so alike it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart, but no, Alice Perrers is only the instrument. It’s is the Countess who decides policy.’

‘Good God, Andrew you make it sound like an alternative government’

‘It is an alternative government. Think about what is happening in Parliament.  Parliament is supposed to be giving us all a voice in government.’  He paused, breathing deeply, accessing what he could and could not say. “Now almost every week, we have Alice Perrers pleading for a judgement to favour one of her clients. Her choice of cases to plead is very interesting. She is creating new common law with every case she pleads before Parliament.’

Andrew’s passion raised him to his feet.’Don’t you see what is happening, she advances only those cases which set precedent on policy issues, which tie our hands. Lancaster is telling the Northerners, who are almost all in his pocket, how to vote.

‘Alice is only able to assume these rights because she is the Kings mistress, but what she does she does well, she understands the working of parliament and the law as it is implemented in parliament, better than any of us.’

‘So we are talking about Alice Perrers now?’

‘Yes or at least her duet with Lancaster, but who do you think is co-ordinating all this.’ He paused just long enough for effect, ‘I will tell you, it is the Countess’

Another voice, from outside of the pools of light created by the candles.

‘I was not aware what was happening, perhaps I do not attend Parliament as often as I should. Can you give us specific examples?’

‘Yes the extension of the treaty with the Franks was the Countess’ initiative, but it passed through parliament because of Alice’s advocacy. We should have ground them into the dust whilst they were on their knees, but she wanted peace.’

‘Alice or the Countess”

Andrew thought for several seconds casting his eyes up to the ceiling.

‘The Countess. They say that when King John of the Franks was imprisoned  at Clarendon palace, she became his lover.’

‘But I thought the Countess was supposed to prefer women.’

Andrew chuckled. ‘Who said King John was much of a man? Even the Franks tell stories about him. However I will give you another example.’

There was silence in the room. ‘Well?’

‘John Wycliffe. It is difficult to call Wycliffe a heretic, not least because he has the support of the ubiquitous Lancaster, but he was instrumental in the king refusing to pay the Pope a yearly tribute and if you listen to him talk as opposed to read what he writes, it is clear he does not regard the Pope as the true successor of Christ and he believes that the Church and its clerics should give away all its wealth.’

‘And what has that to do with the Countess or Alice.’

‘The Countess talks exactly the same as Wycliffe but is subject to far less scrutiny. The development of Wycliffe’s more extreme views coincided with him taking over the rectory of Ludgershall, where the Countess has property.’


“She wants to reform the church not just govern the state. In fact if you look at what is happening that may be her major objective.’

‘Well who is she then? Why does she want to do this?’

There was a bubble of conversation

‘Where did she come from?’

‘But it is not just the Countess and Alice. There is also the Roet sisters and the Perez sisters. Where did all these women come from?’

Andrew waved his hands in an attempt to get attention. He nodded around the room. ‘Yes Its incredible, there were or perhaps still are, five women in the countess’s household. Three of them are associated with Lancaster, one is his wife and the other two as his mistresses. After the death of the Black Prince he is third in line for the throne.

Another one is now married to Edmund who is fourth in line to the throne, and the fifth one, the Alice Perrers we have been talking about, is the Kings Mistress. It is in fact worse than that, Joan of Kent, the mother of the heir to the throne is also part of the Countess’s coven.’

‘So you believe the Countess has some hold over all of them, no wonder she is so influential, so powerful. Andrew tell us, other than Joan and we all know what she is or has been, does anybody know who these women really are?’

Andrew took a deep breath and waited for the hubbub to subside. He spoke slowly and carefully.

‘I do have some knowledge. I can tell you what Geoffrey Chaucer told me.  As you know he tells a good story and he is married to one of those women, Pipa de Roet. He says Pipa makes it her business to know everything and of course she was or still is Lancaster’s mistress. In addition Pipa is closer to the Countess than any of them, so the story probably has some validity.

‘Geoffrey was going to publish the story himself but someone got to him, possibly Lancaster… but we mustn’t forget that the King has granted Geoffrey a barrel of claret a day for life! For services rendered!’

Well anyway Geoffrey has told me the story, and I can pass it on, at least if I keep it within these four walls. But I can’t finish it tonight. If we meet once every month it might take three or four months to tell the whole tale.’ He laughed. “Longer if you interrupt al the time’

There was a mutter of agreement.

‘Good then let’s start. Imagine you are in the Northern Pyrenees in 1321.’

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The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents



List of Places

Table of Contents

Pseudo History


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.’

The Prisoner of FoixVol 1 of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

Aquitaine, an English possession, is in crisis. It is under threat from neighbouring nations and internal dissension.

The Black Prince, King Edward III’s eldest son has been given the task of taking command in Aquitaine.

Suddenly there is an opportunity. Ximene Trencavel is the heiress to the lands of Occitan, to the east of Aquitaine: lands controlled by the Franks. Ximene wants independence, both for herself and for Occitan.

A union between Aquitaine and Occitan would be mutually beneficial. The Black Prince undertakes a secret journey to meet Ximene to negotiate a marriage contract. It is, however, a marriage neither of them really wants.

Meanwhile, the  Franks plot to murder Ximene to prevent ,not just the marriage, but any kind of union between England and Occitan.

The Eagle Of CarcassonneVol II of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

The loose alliance between Ximene Trencavel and the Black Prince is under threat.

The Prince invades Occitan, to show his support for Ximene but it becomes an invasion which creates more problems than it solves.

The Prince has fallen hopelessly in love with Joan of Kent and Joan is now determined to marry him and become the next Queen of England.

Joan is therefore  determined to convince Ximene that she should not marry the Prince.

Part of her strategy is to encourage Ximene’s relationship with John Stanley—one of the Princes bodyguards—not an easy task as both John and Ximene have doubts about their compatibility.

However, John is grievously injured in a battle and Ximene commits herself to nurse him back to health.