Prologue old

Andrew Danbray-20 November 1370

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

The fire flared and a small tornado of smoke escaped from the fireplace adding to the dark stain which covered the central third of the mantelpiece. 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, then he too crossed the room and obsessively tightened the closure of the shutters of each window. He pulled the heavy curtains together and carefully adjusted them so that the edges of 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 lightning… which despite his efforts could be clearly seen around the periphery of the curtains.

‘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 by the minute. It’s going to be a foul night.’ He smiled, ‘however we don’t have to go out into it… now, have you all got a drink?’

Most of them nodded assent, but some looked askance. Andrew sensed that the younger members of the group needed encouragement.

‘Just help yourself, there is plenty in the jugs and there is far more where that came from.’

The table was littered with the remains of a meal.

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 d’Arcy  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. I merely asked if any of us had actually met the Countess and if so, what did they think of her.’

Andrew picked up his mug and took several gulps before putting the mug down again and wiping his lips. ‘I was protecting you Henry, and perhaps the rest of us. Your wife Persephone is often seen in the company of the Countess,’ he paused, ‘and we must be careful not to upset… the Countess.’

Henry’s eyes narrowed. ‘The Countess of Shaftesbury? You are scared of her?’

‘No not scared, but certainly 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. ‘That’s ridiculous; you think my own wife might betray my inner thoughts?’

Andrew pursed his lips. ‘The Countess has the most unbelievable power, unbelievable influence, unbelievable persuasiveness.’ he said quietly.

‘And has she more power, and influence than Alice Perrers,  the Kings mistress?’

‘Yes I believe she has.’

There was a babble of conversation.


‘Well, who is she then?’

‘Where did she come from?’

‘What is the source of her wealth?’

‘How does she exert her power.’

‘What is she trying to achieve?’

Andrew took a deep breath and waited for the hubbub to subside. He spoke slowly and carefully. ‘It might help if we understand the Countess’s story. That in turn might indicate what her mission might be…and how it might affect us.

The table was suddenly silent.

Finally, it was Henry who completed the cycle by breaking the silence. ‘And you know?’

Andrew held both his hands in the air. ‘I can only tell you what Geoffrey Chaucer has told me. As you know, he tells a good story and, he is now married to Philippa de Roet. He says Philippa makes it her business to know everything.

He thought for a moment. ‘In addition, Philippa is very close to the Countess, so the story probably has some validity.’

He paused again, carefully refilling his mug. ‘Geoffrey was going to publish the story himself but someone got to him, almost certainly the King. We mustn’t forget that the King has granted Geoffrey a barrel of claret a day for life! For services rendered! A rather generous reward! What services?’

Andrew glanced around the room. Every eye was riveted on him.

‘Well, anyway, I can tell the story as it was told to me, at least if we keep it within these four walls. There are surprises! But I can’t finish it tonight. If we meet once every month, it might take four or five months to tell the whole story. It will be our Winters Tale.

There was a mutter of agreement.

‘Good then let’s start. Imagine you are in the Northern Pyrenees, nearly sixteen years ago, in 1355’. He chortled with laughter. ‘No, No!  I will change that. I told you there would be surprises! Let us start fourteen years earlier, in Avignon at…  The palace of Pope Benedict XI.

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.