8 The Smell of Money

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‘Recognise that imposing suffering on those holding heretical views is necessary if we are to save their souls.’



Amaud Littorale – 20th February 1355

In La Fabrique d’Argent, a restaurant in the main street of Pamiers on the northern edge of the Pyrenees, the most prestigious clients were accommodated in a private alcove. A circular candelabrum, blackened with age and smoke from the candles, hung from the beams above a large circular table.


On the table, only the purest white tablecloths were used, adorned with silver plates and immaculate silver cutlery. An enormous fireplace occupied the entire inner wall. In the fireplace a log fire roared and crackled, effortlessly heating the enclosed space.

An elaborately carved servery, glowing golden from frequent polishing held on its upper shelves a selection of Cognac, Armagnac, and red wine from Bordeaux. On the third side of the alcove, ancient copper troughs cooled a selection of locally produced white wine including the famous sparkling wine from Limoux.

A heavy velvet curtain insulated the fourth side, the mouth of the alcove, from the main dining area. To ensure privacy, a bell-pull was located within reach of the head of the table. Only when the bell was rung would one of the immaculately clad waiters venture into the alcove.

Spicy fragrances, unexpected, unusual but not unpleasant, enveloped those who occupied the alcove, always reserved for the most distinguished of guests. The owner claimed that he had named the restaurant after the aroma, which he said was the smell of money, derived from the alcove’s most frequent patrons, the officers of the mint, located almost next door.

On this day the smell of money was most appropriate; Cardinal Amaud Littorale, the Pope’s personal appointee for the suppression of the Cathar heresy, wore robes of the finest cloth. A heavy gold chain encircled his neck and an assortment of gold rings almost obscured his fingers. He paused, stretched out both his hands to admire the rings, and adjusted several of them to what he judged to be the correct orientation relative to each other.

The Cardinal turned his attention to Philippe de l’Isle, his young assistant, who sat opposite him. Philippe held his hands clenched in a neat pile in front of him, his back straight as an iron pole, and his wide eyes firmly fixed on the Cardinal’s face. His food remained untouched.

The Cardinal could see that Philippe wanted to speak but was waiting for permission. ‘Yes, Philippe?’

Philippe took a deep breath in preparation. ‘Am I supposed to enjoy this, Your Eminence?’

The Cardinal furrowed his brow. ‘Enjoy what, the chicken? I think it is excellent.’

‘No, Your Eminence. I mean the interrogations, the torture.’

The Cardinal dropped a forkful of chicken with olives into his lap and gazed across the table. Philippe had been hand-picked from the Dominican seminary in Toulouse to be one of the three deputies of the Holy Inquisition in Pamiers.

The Cardinal removed the chicken from his robes. Then he said,’My son, you are engaged in a great initiative. You are helping to save the souls of these poor unfortunates.’

‘How exactly does torture do that?’

The Cardinal’s eyebrows rose and his mouth dropped open. ‘I am surprised you have progressed so far without knowing the answer to your own question. If someone has fallen into the trap of reading heretical texts, we may save their soul by putting out their eyes. If we identify someone who preaches heresy, ripping out their tongue might prevent hundreds of others from being led into heresy.’

Philippe dropped his head. ‘If only it was a simple as that, your Eminence.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I have been here for six weeks, and I have seen no one capable of reading a heretical text, let alone preaching heresy.’


Philippe wriggled in his seat. ‘We torture them all and … some of my colleagues seem to enjoy it.’

‘What do you mean?’ The Cardinal hesitated. ‘Be specific.’

‘Well, the interrogations I have taken part in have been focussed on very ordinary people.’

The Cardinal narrowed his eyes. ‘Who may well be agents of the devil.’

‘Is a witch an agent of the devil?’ Philippe asked.

The Cardinal shook with indignation.

‘Of course, a witch is an agent of the devil. Why do you ask?’

‘Because four out of five of the poor unfortunates I have seen have been women.’

‘The Cathar heresy has long been supported, no, promoted, by women.’

Philippe raised his head and looked directly into the Cardinal’s eyes. ‘We begin by stripping them naked.’

The Cardinal nodded. ‘Philippe, that is standard procedure. Then we stick barbs into every part of the body, searching for the areas where no pain is felt. If we find such an area, the woman is proven to be a witch.’

‘Your Eminence, it is not easy to perform that task.’ He swallowed with great difficulty. ‘It inflicts great suffering. Those under suspicion must be tied down. In the case of women, they are always spread-eagled.’ Philippe hesitated. ‘My colleagues are visibly excited by this procedure.’

‘The devil strives to deflect our brethren from their true vocation.’

‘But if it is not possible to find an area where they have no pain, we still proceed with further interrogation.’

The Cardinal’s face reddened and his cheeks twitched with the clenching of his jaw. He found it impossible to conceal his annoyance. ‘Of course. It is not necessary to be a witch to be a heretic. Are the correct procedures then followed?’

‘Oh, yes, Your Eminence, religiously. We demonstrate the various instruments of torture and give the women every opportunity to recant.’

‘So what are you concerned about? Only committed heretics would face the pain we can inflict.’

‘Many of them do not have firm held beliefs. They do not know what to recant. Then there is the nature of the torture. For male suspects, the next stage is to tie their hands behind their back and hoist them into the air by a rope wrapped around their wrists. It results in the dislocation of their shoulders and the ripping of tendons. They will be cripples for the rest of their lives.’

‘For men?’ the Cardinal queried.

‘Yes, Your Eminence. For women, the next stage is an attack on their most sensitive parts, usually with red-hot tongs.’

‘So the women are more leniently treated than the men?’

Philippe’s eyes bulged, then narrowed. ‘I doubt if the women would see it that way, your Eminence.’

‘And what would you suggest as an alternative? We must use every means at our disposal to save these souls.’

‘We could put them in a school where they could be educated, where they could receive further instruction in the Roman faith.’

The Cardinal eyed Philippe carefully before coming to a decision.

‘Thank you, my son. I will consider carefully what you have said.’

Six days later, the Inquisition accused Philippe de l’Isle of sympathising with heretics and two days after that with heresy itself. The same Inquisition, for which he had been appointed a deputy, imprisoned and interrogated Philippe. He died eight weeks later.

The Cardinal did not eat chicken with olives in the whole of this period.

Phillipe’s successor, Augustus Domecq, was appointed only an hour after Phillipe’s arrest and immediately summoned to the Cardinal’s office.

The Cardinal wasted no time in issuing his instructions.’There is a nest of heretics in the Château de Foix,’ he said. ‘The parish priest at St Volusien belongs to our order and is an experienced member of the Inquisition. He is certain that the Comte, his family and his retainers are all heretics. They have acquired all the skills of deception. They attend the sacraments regularly to hide their true beliefs and their evil heretical practices. We must find a way of breaking this evil cell.’

He frowned and pursed his lips. ‘It is most difficult. The Inquisition; you, me, all of us, have effectively been excluded from the lands of the Comte de Foix by his adoption of English practices of law. The result is we have no power of arrest or imprisonment and without those powers, we cannot operate.’

The Cardinal leaned forward and glanced around before continuing. ‘There is a girl in the Château who it is claimed is heiress to much of, perhaps all, the lands of Occitan. Her family was dispossessed because of their heretic beliefs during the Albigensian crusade one hundred years ago, but they have never given up their claim. Now it comes down to this young girl.’

The Cardinal carefully scrutinised Augustus, before continuing.

‘The Pope is encouraging the Black Prince, the son of King Edward of England, to marry her.’

Another scrutiny. Still no reaction. ‘A deal has been done whereby the Pope will allow the Prince to take over his new wife’s inheritance and, in return, the English will change the way they implement their laws to allow the Inquisition into all their territories. The Comte de Foix would be forced to follow suit. We would then finally be able to eliminate the despicable heretics.’

Augustus winced. ‘ Then I don’t understand. It sounds like it is out of our hands. We can take action after the marriage takes place.’

‘No, it is not entirely out of our hands. It is possible that the girl might refuse to marry the Prince. She, the Comte de Foix or other Cathars may be plotting a renewed revolt against the Frankish King… ‘ he hesitated, ‘… and against the Church.’

Augustus stroked his chin. ‘And how can we know what is in her mind, if she is isolated within the Château and surrounded by supporters and sympathisers?’

The Cardinal smiled. ‘It is what I set out to explain. It will be your job to find out more. Go to Foix. Find someone who is prepared to give us more information. Sooner or later, someone will become unhappy with the way they have been treated within the Château. Once they talk to us, they, whoever they are, will become one of your creatures. You will threaten them with kidnap and torture if they do not give you everything you want. In the short-term, we need to know only one thing. Is this girl intending to marry the Black Prince or has she other plans?’

‘But even if she has other plans, we cannot arrest her.’

‘There will be a chance, there is always a chance… It will probably depend on the success of your information gathering. Make it known that there might be a reward. The smell of money can deliver some amazing results.’

He turned to rise but then sank back in his chair. ‘Oh! just one final point.’ He reached out and squeezed Augustus’ knee, pushing his finger and thumb deep into the fleshy area just above the kneecap. ‘Recognise that imposing suffering on those holding heretical views is necessary if we are to save their souls. If you don’t particularly like the work of interrogation and persuasion, find someone else to do it. You will find no shortage of volunteers.’

Table of Contents

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.