40 A Lesson in Seduction

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Ximene could not reject the idea that she was being prepared for sacrifice; but what kind of sacrifice?



Ximene Trencavel – 17th April 1355

Later in the evening, when Alyse laid the dresses out on the bed and as they started to disrobe, Ximene was far from sure she should have accepted so readily. It was not as if nudity was unusual to her, but to be as good as naked in front of Gaston, who had always behaved like a cross between a schoolteacher and a jailor?


She glanced at Alyse, who had already slipped the dress on and was now adjusting candles to give her the best light to comb her hair and apply some makeup. Alyse’s dress was totally transparent, she might as well be naked, and Ximene’s own dress was no different.


Ximene decided to ask Alyse sympathetically about her relationship with Gaston but found it impossible to avoid a critical tone creeping into her voice.’What is there between you and Gaston?’

‘Nothing untoward. He likes my singing, I read his book on hunting techniques and help him with grammar and structure and I have started some engravings to illustrate it. To be honest, some of the sentences he uses are quite clumsy. In return, he buys the books I need and has paid for my language tuition.’

Alyse smiled. ‘But, look, I am concentrating. I know exactly how he likes me to wear my makeup and I have explained it to Agnes. She wants us to look virtually identical. As soon as I have finished, I will apply yours.’

Ximene gazed in amazement. Alyse the bookworm was transforming before her eyes.’Alyse?’

Alyse smiled again. Ximene saw a gleam in Alyse’s eyes and realised that she was being teased.


‘Just a bit of fun, I quite enjoy it. I like having such a powerful man finding me attractive. But he is a perfect gentleman. He has never laid a hand on me.’

‘So what does go on?’

‘He is always finding new songs for me to sing, and because the Hall is always a mess he allows me to practice in his bedroom. I bet you didn’t know that he plays the flute very well.’

‘No, I didn’t… so you practice singing in his bedroom and…’

‘We are always preparing for a formal dinner; initially, it was when he had visitors but now, sometimes, he is the only diner.’

‘Alyse, the bedroom?’

She giggled. ‘The rehearsals are a full dress or should I say… full undress. He tells me how he likes me to wear my make up and brings in costumes for me to try. Some of the costumes are very revealing. He watches me as I change.’


‘More recently he has persuaded me that it might help my breathing and voice production if I practise naked.’

‘Alyse, why do you submit to this?’

‘I don’t submit to it. I quite enjoy it. For the first time, I have made a conquest, a powerful man and a gentleman. Me, dowdy Alyse the bookworm, has made a conquest. I tell you, if he made a suit for my hand, I would give him my favour.’


‘And tonight I will help him find fulfilment with his wife. It is my little gift to him.’

‘Good God! And why am I involved in this?’

‘I have no idea. You will have to ask Agnes. Now, let me do your make up.’

Ximene could not reject the idea that she was being prepared for sacrifice; but what kind of sacrifice?

They donned heavy furs over the lightweight dresses and ascended to the main Hall. Gaston greeted them with great formality and respect and offered Ximene a glass of wine. She accepted and as a huge roaring fire had been lit in the Hall, reluctantly slipped off her furs. Gaston’s eyes went straight to her nipples, which pushed against the nearly transparent fabric.

Ximene turned away and walked across the room, using the pretext of helping Alyse remove her fur. As she did so, she whispered in Alyse’s ear.

‘How strange, he has never looked at me like that before. Having seen the way he looked at me just then I realise that before tonight he has never seen me as a woman, just as a child to be controlled and disciplined. Oh, my… I am enjoying this! I am excited. All the stimulation and no risk. Please tell me there is no risk!’

Just then, Agnes entered the room. She was indeed dressed and made up in exactly the same manner, but there were subtle differences. She had applied gold dust above her eyes and over her temples and her dress was cut lower above her breasts.

Gaston turned to greet Agnes and Ximene was able to continue to chatter into Alyse’s ear.

‘All three dresses are the same, virtually transparent, so the cut should make no difference, but it does. She looks absolutely magnificent. Ah! So that is what it is all about, she knows about you, but instead of objecting she is replacing you and stealing your persona. She is reclaiming her man, she obviously wants him very much, and yet this is an arranged marriage. But why am I here?’

Gaston personally assisted Agnes and Ximene to sit, served wine and joined them at the table. Alyse then sang the first of several songs.

Ximene looked around the room and realised that there were no servants present. This was so unusual that her concerns were once again aroused. She found it difficult to separate her underlying concerns from her rising excitement.

Alyse joined them at the table in between each song and when she was at the table her brother Juan sang and played the harp. To Ximene’s surprise, the first song in Juan’s repertoire was in her honour and dedicated to her by Gaston. Not to Agnes, not to Alyse, but specifically to Ximene. Once again she found this both disturbing and exciting.

Gaston again personally served throughout the meal, which was excellent; mushrooms in cream poured over roasted bread, duck in an orange sauce so thick it was almost like jam. Carefully chosen, satisfying but light enough not to interfere with the activities she knew Agnes had planned for later.

Agnes asked Ximene and Alyse to remove the plates from the table and bring the dessert, which was waiting in the new servery.

Again,  Ximene took the opportunity to whisper to Alyse.’I didn’t come to dinner to act as a servant.’

‘Ximene, don’t be silly. Agnes is just creating an opportunity for us to parade around in front of Gaston, My singing was distributed throughout the meal with the same intent.’

‘You may have let yourself become used to that. Well, I am not.’

‘It is not so different from the festivals we have. There are usually a few naked bodies to be seen at any festival.’

‘Yes, but this is different; intimate. I still don’t know why I am here. Gaston or Agnes or perhaps both are going to considerable lengths to keep this very private. Are you sure that they have no surprises planned?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘It seems to me that Agnes is taking every opportunity to draw Gaston’s attention to me and away from you.’

‘Do you think Agnes is jealous?’

‘Possibly, but why attract his attention to me, especially when she has gone to so much trouble to make us look the same.’

‘I think you were right in the first place, she is reclaiming her man, and as she has made no secret, she is using us to excite him.’

‘We are the entrée and she is to be the main course?’

Alyse giggled. ‘If you want to think of it like that.’

‘But Gaston is treating me as an honoured guest and what’s more dedicating a troubadour’s song is often the first step for a man wanting to make a suit for a lady’s hand. And yet I know he wants me to marry the Prince.’

‘Agnes is so clever. In effect, she is telling Gaston that there are lots of young women who look very similar to me, but there is only one Agnes.’

They cut short their whispered conversation and returned with the dessert, forest berries absolutely smothered in cream. Agnes now focused her attention on Gaston, telling him how pleased she was to see him again. She made a point of personally serving the mead which accompanied the desert and she took a long time to do it.

When she again took her place at the table she managed to spill cream down the top of her dress and took a long minute extracting it with her fingers. By the time this process was complete she had cream all around her mouth and the top of her dress was not only totally transparent but plastered to her body. A short time later, she led Gaston away to the bedroom.

‘And that’s how it’s done,’ chuckled Juan, striking up a haunting love song as an accompaniment.


Table of Contents

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

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List of Places

Table of Contents

Pseudo History