At eighteen years of age. Ximene is now firmly in control of her own destiny. She has not lost her underlying altruism but faced with political threats she comes to believe that the end justifies the means. She has learned to dominate not just her associates but entire nations. She trusts no-one, but she yearns for love and companionship. Her previous traumatic experiences have left her hard both physically and emotionally but she has never wavered in her determination to provide a haven for members of the Cathar Faith. When her fledgling trading empire comes under threat she calls for John Stanley, thereby renewing a relationship which has never made her feel particularly comfortable. She juggles her emotions with the politics and threats which grow on every front. There are an increasing number of unwanted side effects from her grab for power. Her closest associates copy her style and make her aware of just how manipulative and ruthless she has become.