38 Sealed Orders

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‘Sorry, gentlemen. You have your orders. All you have to do is carry them out. I suggest we set sail before the wind drops altogether.’



William de Montacute -17th April 1355

The Prince had taken over the small lookout tower and blockhouse on Pendennis Point. It gave the small group shelter from the wind and when fires were lit, warmth in chilly evenings. Just as important, during the day the location gave a clear view down the coast and across the Carrick Roads. They now started to make detailed plans for the journey to Muret.


‘Have they any inkling of where we are going, William?’ the Prince asked, nodding towards the soldiers.

‘They don’t care. I have told them they were specially selected and that they will be receiving double payment whilst they are with us. They are in good spirits.’

William pointed to the archers clustered down near the beach. ‘Look, they have organised that themselves.’

The archers had pinned down a sheet to the ground at the top of the cliff to act as a target and were shooting up from the beach. The target wasn’t visible from the archers’ position. Arrow after arrow soared high into the air and then plunged back to earth into or exceedingly close to the target.

‘Each man gets only two sighting shots and then they must get seven out of ten arrows into the target or donate a day’s pay into a common fund.’

‘And what will the common fund be used for?’ the Prince asked.

William grinned. ‘That, I didn’t dare ask.’

They walked to a position where they could see the target more clearly. Each archer took his ten shots in quick succession and then climbed the hill to observe his result. There were few payments made to the fund!

Suddenly on the western horizon, the mast of a ship came into view, followed by two more. Soon three ships under full sail and in tight formation could be clearly seen. Then, as if instantly, they were reducing sail and preparing to enter Carrick Roads.

The Prince jumped to his feet, elation ringing in his voice, ‘Our ships! Quick! Gather everyone together. I want to be on board as quickly as possible.’

On the beach behind Pendennis Point, a fishing smack was waiting for them. To fulfil the need for secrecy, the smack had been purchased discreetly on the other side of the Carrick Roads at Saint Mawes. The embarkation was carried out from the beach to avoid attention and the smack was sailed by Jack Evans, one of the few in the force who possessed skill in sailing.

William accompanied the Prince on the first trip the smack made out to the ships. He followed the Prince up the ladder onto the deck of the Sally, which immediately broke out the commander’s pennant. The smack then visited the Mendip and the Clevedon to pick up the other two captains and Lord James. It was a pleasant morning, as the wind had dropped, so the Prince held a meeting on the foredeck. He glanced upwards at the tell-tales streaming from the masts. The smack continued to ferry people from the beach as the meeting progressed.

The Prince allowed for introductions and socialising, but cut them short after only a few minutes. ‘Good, that is all the formalities out of the way. The wind continues to ease so I don’t want to take too long.’

The Prince waited for six copies of the second stage of the orders to be passed around.’Before you open these, I must tell you that once they are opened no one will be allowed ashore until we reach our destination.’

The orders were duly opened, accompanied by various degrees of surprise or indignation passing over the faces of the readers.

The captain of the Sally was the first to speak. ‘An order is an order, but whilst I am captain of this boat I have a responsibility for the safety of all of you.’

The Prince eyed him calmly. ‘So.’

‘The orders ask us to do something that is obviously and inherently dangerous. Why do you want to go to Arcachon? What is wrong with Bordeaux?’

‘Simple, I do not want anyone, even my most loyal subjects, to know I am in Aquitaine. The sole exception is the Capital de Buch, who will help us organise our journey. The Bay of Arcachon is on his land. No one else will know of our arrival.’

‘Sire, do you know the entrance to the bay of Arcachon and how dangerous it is?’ asked the captain of the Sally. ‘Just a tiny crack in miles and miles of sand dunes. There is a channel but it shifts year by year, season by season even. If you don’t sail it regularly you may never find the channel.’ He sighed in exasperation. ‘And most of the time there is heavy surf running across the entrance. It is a fool’s errand.’

The other captains muttered their support.

The Prince nodded his head slowly and gave each man a cursory look. ‘Gentlemen, do you believe in maritime law?’

‘Yes, of course we do, and that is why we will go to Bordeaux and not Arcachon.’ replied the captain of the Sally. Having spoken up once, he was clearly determined to see this through.

‘Then you had best read over your initial orders. I have been appointed the Captain of the Sally and Commander of the fleet, giving me effective control of all three ships. That is why we are going to Arcachon and not to Bordeaux. We will find that channel and we will sail through it. I have in fact done it several times before.’

‘How long did you have to wait to get the right day?’ grumbled the captain of the Sally, clearly exasperated.

‘Sorry, gentlemen. You have your orders. All you have to do is carry them out. I suggest we set sail before the wind drops altogether.’


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