32 Nothing Less than a Duty

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Then as he rose from the floor and glared into Ewan’s eyes, he felt a surge of adrenaline pulse through his veins. He did not feel alone.



John Stanley – 18th March 1355

After spending the night in Shrewsbury, Lord James rode down the Welsh Borders at a leisurely pace. John Stanley trailed behind him, as he thought a good squire should. Lord James turned and smiled.‘Ride up alongside me, John. I have a need for conversation.’


It took a full two days to reach Hellens, one of the Audley homes situated at Much Marcle near Tewksbury, and as they travelled John learned of the perceived threat of uprisings and potential war with the Welsh, despite the Welsh as a nation having been defeated over fifty years earlier.

He also learned about the English systems for representation and law, which separated the governance from the setting of laws. Lord James strongly supported the English system which he felt was the civilising influence needed in Wales. However, Lord James told John that in his opinion there was a weakness in the system. Laws were framed by the King’s council, a small number of advisors to the King and some members of the council clearly framed laws which advanced their own interests.

John could only listen in silence. He could not even imagine how the system, utilised by people of great influence, could be changed, even if there were inequities in its operation.

In return, John told Lord James about his own upbringing and education and his expert subjects—deer and deer hunting.

Lord James laughed. ‘In some ways, it might have been better had you worked for the Prince as a huntsman. You know that system of yours could be introduced to every forest in England.’

‘No, no, Milord, I am very happy to be in your service.’

Lord James laughed again. He raised himself in his stirrups. ‘There is Hellens. Come on, John. I will race you to the gate.’

The manor house was built across one end of a walled courtyard, with steeply-angled roofs and a multitude of slender chimneys. An external staircase tower surmounted by a wind-vane was almost delicate in appearance, yet John could see that once the substantial courtyard door was closed, it would be easy to defend. Its origins as a fortified strong-point on the Welsh border showed clearly. John judged that much of the stone from the fortifications had been used in the present manor, leaving a small square tower as a remnant of the earlier building.

Lord James dismounted, gave John the reins to his horse and dashed into the house, shouting as he went for to John to remain in the courtyard.

As he waited, John spoke in undertones to the horses. ‘You weren’t very good to me during our journey. If I am to become a great knight, I will need a little more co-operation.’

Eventually, he was approached by a large man who could only be described as muscled, with a round bald head. He wore the livery of Lord James and wore it well. ‘How be you, John? Lord James asked me to help you feel at home. I be Olwain. I be a jack of all trades but I will be responsible for your training whilst you are here. First, let’s get these horses to the stables.’ He flicked a slight foamy sweat from Lord James’ horse. ‘They need rubbing down.’

As they worked to settle the horses, Olwain talked continuously. ‘You be lucky to have been chosen by Lord James. I be goin to learn you how to wash clothes, how to cook, how to look after armour, how to groom horses and how to fight.’

John’s eyes flickered. Fight! Not something he had thought about before, but on reflection that was probably what squires were trained to do.

Olwain continued. ‘A different member of the household will carry out each aspect of the training. For combat training, there will be two separate trainers. Alan Daylesford will train you in the use of a sword and I will take you for unarmed combat.’

John glanced at the bulk of the man working alongside him and thought that if anyone was likely to be suited to unarmed combat it would be Olwain.

Whilst they worked, John became aware that he had become an object of some interest. Three young men peered through the stable doorway. Eventually, Olwain also felt the presence, twisted around and looked up. ‘Ah! So there you are.’ He walked towards the door. ‘John, these are Lord James’ other squires, Ewan Fitzrobert, Henry Mortimer and Edward Anstruther. We are about finished here, so Ewan will see you to your quarters.’

Ewan was a little taller than John and much heavier built. Other than that, he was nondescript; hair, eyes, nose, jaw, mouth, all unremarkable. However what did stand out was his red fleshy face, which made him look as if he had lost his temper. He scowled at John, but made no attempt to help him carry his belongings and simply grunted, ‘Follow me.’

John was given accommodation in the remnant of the old tower.

Ewan wasted no time. ‘Who are you and why has Lord James selected you to be his squire?’

John decided against mentioning the hunting and the involvement of the Black Prince. ‘I am a distant relative of Lord James and he was asked by another relative to take me as a squire.’

Ewan pursed his lips. ‘Distant relative? Not a nephew, cousin or second cousin?’

‘More distant than that,’ said John, wondering where the conversation was going.

Ewan seemed to relax, if only for a second. ‘Good, now here are the rules. You will do all the laundry and keep this accommodation tidy; you will also muck out the stables.’

John instinctively knew that this was wrong. ‘And what will you be doing?’ he asked.

It was a mild enough comment but there was a quick response. ‘Grab ’im.’

Edward and Henry dived on John and though he struggled, in the end, he had to submit. The two squires pulled him to his feet, and Ewan approached. He hit John hard, just below the rib cage. John collapsed in a heap, only briefly constrained by the grip Edward and Henry had on his arms. As he lay on the floor, Ewan tapped him with his foot. ‘Ye’re new here, just do as ye’re told, or this could go further.’

John had no doubt what Ewan meant. He decided he must eventually beat this bully, but immediately felt a qualm of conscience. However justified it might be, he had never used violence against another human being.

Concealing his feelings, he set about performing the work Ewan had allocated to him, a difficult task as he was also expected to perform well in a daily programme designed to train him in the full range of duties expected of a squire.

Alan Daylesford, a slim whippet of a man who took charge of the training in swordsmanship, was fascinated with the Saxon battle-axes and John’s ability to use them.

John showed him how he could rotate both axes at the same time, one in either hand.

‘Wonderful, wonderful, John, you have acquired a forgotten skill. You must practice with the axes every day, to build up your strength and endurance. In combat no one will be able to get near you and more than that, anyone who sees you whirling these axes will become extremely apprehensive. You will put the fear of God into people.’

Ewan heard the praise and as soon as training was over disagreed with everything Alan had said. ‘It’s nonsense! The axe can never compare with the sword. It is not for nothing that the sword is used during the knighting ceremony. The sword is the weapon of choice of a knight. Using axes in the way that you use them shows your low breeding and as for being unassailable, all I would do is keep my distance and fell you with an arrow.’

Every time John received a compliment from one of the trainers, Ewan made a point of criticising John as soon as they were in private. John persuaded himself that what was happening to him was an elaborate initiation ceremony. One night his bed was soaked with water and another night he found a dead rat in it.

After nearly two weeks of this, a protest ended with Ewan enlisting the help of the other two to give John another beating. This time, Ewan’s feet were brought into play.

John was badly bruised and for the first time in his life felt despair. There seemed to be no honourable way out. He desperately wanted to leave, to get away from this horrible situation. And yet… he felt that to run away would bring dishonour to himself and to his family. Then as he rose from the floor and glared into Ewan’s eyes, he felt a surge of adrenaline pulse through his veins. He did not feel alone. The feeling was so strong that he peered around, half expecting someone to be there. He shivered uncontrollably. Someone, somewhere, shared his distress, but needed his assistance! Beating this bully was no longer an option, it was nothing less than a duty.

Obviously, Ewan felt it too. Despite his position of power, suddenly he found it difficult to look John in the eye. He turned away and lurched to the door.


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.