42 The Art of Deception

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‘If we ever have to go to bed with the same man… or woman, it is important that he or she will not be able to tell the difference.’



Alyse Perez de Padilla-20th April 1355

On the fourth day after her arrival, whilst Ximene and Juan were out riding, Agnes did come to see Alyse.


‘I thought I would see how you are doing. Have you not been out riding with Ximene?’

‘Oh no, I would probably kill myself trying to keep up with Ximene.’

‘Oh! So someone who knew Ximene’s reputation as a horsewoman would immediately see the difference between you?’

Alyse smiled. ‘Yes, they certainly would.’

‘Well, that is something we must pay attention to.’

Alyse wondered what she had missed. Why on earth would such a thing matter?

‘Gaston believes that your willingness to become his mistress shows a lot about your ambitions.’

Alyse rolled her eyes. ‘What does Gaston know of my ambitions?’

‘You are prepared to join him in his bedroom, to sing before him naked… Any woman who is prepared to become a mistress from a position of weakness has ambitions. It would be different if you were a lady of substance receiving the attention of suitors and being able to choose between them… perhaps that is your ultimate ambition.’

Alyse felt a surge of resentment rising within her, but dismissed it as irrational.

Agnes patted the bed. ‘Sit down, Alyse. I have a proposition to make. How would you like to be the Queen of England?’

Alyse stared at Agnes. What nonsense was this?

Agnes hurriedly continued. ‘Hear me out: Gaston has ambitions to become the Duke of Gascony, but he thinks that Ximene’s determination to re-establish the Occitan state as an independent state and the Cathar Religion as its official religion will compromise all that.’

Alyse blinked. ‘And?’

‘As was proved the other evening, when dressed and prepared in the same way you are almost indistinguishable from Ximene. Gaston thinks you could be substituted for Ximene, without anyone knowing; that you could be his agent in achieving exactly what he wants.’

‘Me? But that will require great diplomacy, something in which I have no experience, as well as…’ Alyse blushed, ‘other significant skills.’

‘You have not perhaps realised, but whilst encouraging your studies Gaston has been testing your ability to absorb and understand the principles expounded by the great Greek and Latin writers. You are a beautiful and very intelligent woman.’

‘Me! I have always been dismissed as being too dull and scholarly. But what about Ximene; what would happen to her?’

‘Gaston would do a separate deal with her. He would assign this part of his territory to Ximene as Comtess de Foix. She would have to change her name but here in these mountains she could set up a haven for Cathars, choose her own bishops and priests and eliminate persecution. Which is what I believe she wants.’

‘What makes you think Ximene would accept all this?’

Ximene’s eyes blazed with anger.

‘I always knew I couldn’t trust him, but you, Alyse; how could you let yourself get involved in this?’

‘Ximene, I am only the messenger.’

‘You must have decided you are willing to take my place.’

‘I only wanted to see how you felt about the idea. I am in no way committed.’

‘So you thought that Gaston was preparing to make a suit for your hand whilst all the time he was simply reviewing your suitability as a stand-in for me!’

‘Yes, but more than that he was testing the degree of my ambition.’

‘And how do you feel about that?’

‘It was I who assumed he had other objectives.’

‘You are very understanding.’

‘Well, I suppose deep down I am disappointed, but this other proposal is incredible.’

‘Quite. His major objection to me is that I would want to re-establish the Cathar religion in Occitan?’


‘And would you not want to do that if you were in a position of power?’

‘I would not need to do so, Ximene. If you became the Comtesse of Foix, a haven for Cathars would exist. I would not need to do anything.’

Ximene thought for nearly a minute.

‘So, in fact, we could do it the other way round. You could become the Comtesse of Foix and provide the haven. I could become Queen of England and ensure Gaston fulfils his promises. I think I would prefer the greater control that would give me.’

‘Yes, I suppose you would.’

‘You would have no shortage of suitors whereas as Queen of England the opportunities for courtly love would be greatly limited.’

‘Why would Gaston do that for me?’

‘Because it is his plan. He would not know we had switched places.’

‘Oh! you are right!’

‘Look, we don’t need to make up our minds now, but it gives me more options to consider.’

‘So where do we go from here?’

‘Tell Agnes that I want to talk to Gaston personally and that before I agree to anything I will want to see guarantees in writing under his personal seal.’

It was early evening when Alyse returned to the lower level. She found Ximene in her bedroom with a cosy fire roaring in the fireplace.

‘She has promised to discuss it with Gaston this evening.’

Ximene smiled broadly.

‘We could expect no more. Now we must talk. If we are to carry this off we must learn everything we can about each other. You will have to learn to ride better and I will have to learn to sing better.’

‘Oh! I see. We have to take this being alike very seriously.’

‘We must practice makeup and hair styling so that we instinctively do it exactly the same. You will have to lose the last traces of your Castilian accent. I will have to read a little more and you will have to read a little less. I will have to pluck my eyebrows and you will have to put on a little weight.’

‘In that case, we must learn to eat the same food and drink the same drink.’

‘Yes we must, but let’s start with the important stuff, like…’ Ximene grinned mischievously, ‘How would you go about seducing a man? Incidentally, you can exclude singing to him naked; I know about that and am not likely to attempt it, at least unless my singing improves beyond all expectations.’

Alyse narrowed her eyes ‘It will be difficult to describe it in words.’

Ximene pushed the theme.

‘Well, pretend I am a man. Don’t hold anything back. Show me what you like and then I will tell you about my preferences. If we are to take this substitution seriously and we ever have to go to bed with the same man… or woman, it is important that he or she will not be able to tell the difference.’


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.