46 Death of a Nightingale

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There and then, in a tiny cabin rocked by an increasingly restless sea, she made a firm resolution that she would find a way to marry the Prince. She would be the next Queen of England, perhaps Queen of Europe.



Joan of Kent-30th April 1355

The rider thundered over the plain towards the great bulk of the castle at Suscinio, strategically placed on the southern peninsula bordering the Gulf de Morbihan, which is in itself a dramatic indentation in the southern coast of Brittany. He dismounted almost before his horse had halted and sprinted down the vaulted corridors lined with silver-blue banners.


A group of ladies were laughing and talking in the seclusion of a rooftop garden. Even in Brittany, it was now spring and the courtyard was filled with the scent of the seasonal flowers and the music of the madrigal and harp. The courtyard offered magnificent views over the azure waters of the Gulf, the sandy-shored islets and the crowns of pines. One of the ladies, fair-haired, slim and dressed in silver tinged with blue, dominated the group. The rider handed her a small figurine, a knight holding a sword. The lady smiled almost triumphantly and immediately departed to her apartments at the rear of the terrace. None of the other ladies seemed the slightest bit surprised by her sudden departure.

Less than thirty minutes later, Joan of Kent, now dressed in hunting garb and accompanied by half a dozen guards, was riding around the Gulf at full gallop. Another twenty guards travelling in the opposite direction headed for Aquitaine by the coastal road through Frankish territory. Joan bypassed Vannes and rode west. She arrived at the port of Brest before dark and took her usual room at the Quayside Inn. She always travelled in one of two ships, Elle or Belle Fille. One or other of the ships left Brest for Bordeaux every second week. They carried wool, grain, cloth and herring to Bordeaux and returned with salt, wine, brandy and armour.

The winds and tides determined their actual time of arrival and departure and on this occasion, Joan did not get a full night’s sleep. Her escort, one of the hotel staff, gently woke her at two in the morning. After she dressed in a dark cloak with a hood, the escort led her through the murky streets to a quay. A large brazier lit at dusk and kept alight throughout the night, illuminated the steps down to the water.

She had no difficulty boarding a fishing boat, which then slipped away into silky darkness. The reflections from both the brazier and the moon highlighted the movement of the water. The indistinct collage of the buildings of the inner harbour glided past as the boat tacked into the wind and sailed past the quay they had just left. She glanced back at the illuminated steps and caught her breath. There at the top of the steps stood a short, overweight figure of a man. Was her imagination playing tricks on her? Maybe, but even at this distance, she thought she could see the untidy mop of red hair. Her mind reeled. Bertrand du Guesclin was here watching her at two o’clock in the morning. How on earth had he known she would be here?

The swell picked up as they traversed through the outer harbour until, as they turned past the outermost quay, she saw the silhouette of the boat which would carry her south. She recognised the Elle instantly.

She clambered aboard and was able to make her own way to the cabin she always used. Lined with dark wood and with massive shutters intended to keep out the waves as well as the light, the cabin was warmer than the majority of the castles she had lived in. The cabin smelt strongly of beeswax, a function of both the polishes used and the multiple candles lighting the interior. On the Elle, she slept in a cot, made so that it could also function as a double bed or into a seat for daytime use. In fact, although her cabin offered her little space, she loved it with a passion. To her, it was like a nest.

Joan heard the familiar sound of the sails being set and felt them catching the wind. She leaned against the cabin wall and listened as the gentle lapping of the waves against the hull, turned into the roar of a ship underway. For the next few days, she could relax completely and enjoy the rocking and swaying as the ship pushed its way through the waves.

As she reached into her travel bag to pull out her nightdress, her hand encountered an unexpected hard object. She pulled out a small wooden box fitted with a sliding lid. Opening it, she recoiled in horror. In the box was her pet nightingale which lived in an aviary at Château Suscinio. The small brown nightingale often came onto Joan’s hand to sing joyously. This evening it lay motionless. The bird was dead; its throat cut so that its head hung loosely from its body. Joan remembered the bird perched in the aviary when she had left the Château. How could it have reached her bag? Du Guesclin! It had to be Du Guesclin.

She found herself glancing nervously around the cabin. She summoned the captain and showed him what she had found. She described du Guesclin to the captain; ‘Short and grossly overweight, nose misshapen, one nostril badly out of line, no chin but jowls of hard fat hanging down from his cheeks to below his jawline, arms abnormally long, unkempt bright red hair, lines of grime on his unwashed face.

The captain grimaced. ‘Sounds a horror! No, I have never seen anyone of that description anywhere near my boat. Judging from that description I have never met or even seen the man. However, Madame, I can see how badly this has affected you. You are safe on my boat but to give you increased peace of mind I will personally guard your door.’

By the time the Elle had reached the open sea, Joan had removed her clothes, donned her nightdress, and snuggled under her wool-filled blanket. She consoled herself repeatedly that there was no way du Guesclin could reach her here! Loneliness overtook her. Thoughts of previous trips suddenly dominated her mind.

Thierry d’Arques, the previous captain of the Elle had always looked after her well. She had travelled with him so often that in the end, they both knew that they were attracted to each other. He had the best-developed body of any man she had ever met. Huge shoulders and a narrow waist, rippling stomach, bulging thighs… He had once asked matter-of-factly, whether she slept well on board.

It was a well-judged question. ‘I wake up lonely,’ she had replied, fluttering her lashes. ‘Also, I feel so afraid when the seas rise.’

The following night he had slipped into her cabin to see whether she was comfortable. She had leant into his arms. ‘Nothing that ever happens in this cabin must ever be made public and you must never make an attempt to meet or communicate with me outside of this cabin.’ He pulled her closer. ‘Is that clear?’ She spoke with a raised voice, but even she heard the breathless catch in her throat.

He put his mouth to her ear. ‘It’s clear,’ he whispered, taking her into his arms. Within seconds they were in bed together. After that, Joan had made love to Thierry on every trip. He was as good as his word and Joan became impressed with his discretion. Eventually, he had been promoted to be the coordinator of passenger transport for Les Étoiles in the western Mediterranean. It was a position of great trust. Many of his passengers would be political exiles or refugees. Now over a year later, Joan still kept in contact with him through his parent organisation’s courier system. She yawned, thrust the fear and loneliness from her and fell into a deep sleep.

Because the sea was relatively calm, the overhead hatch had been left open and Joan wakened with first light. She then drifted in and out of sleep for many hours. She dreamed of the important episodes in her life and in the dreams was given a chance to live her life differently. The latter part of her sleep was disturbed by dreams of her meeting with Queen Philippa.

The Queen repeated the key phrases over and over again.


This is so difficult. In a way, you and the Prince are both my children. The King has instructed the Prince to marry Ximene Trencavel. He has also instructed him to terminate his relationship with you…I will give you a tiny window of hope. I will intercede on your behalf, but only if you distance yourself from William.

Joan heard, then felt the rising sea. Fully awake, she pulled up the side of her cot and rearranged her mattress. If it was difficult for the Queen, it was doubly difficult for her..

The seas now became rough. From outside, the overhead hatch was pushed shut. She realised that she was at a watershed. There and then, in a tiny cabin rocked by an increasingly restless sea, she made a firm resolution that she would find a way to marry the Prince. She would be the next Queen of England, perhaps Queen of Europe. She was not prepared to continue forever as the Prince’s mistress. She wanted to found a dynasty of kings. To achieve this, she must prevent the Prince marrying anyone else. She must end her relationship with William and, in some way, persuade both the Pope and King Edward to look favourably on her union with the Prince.

She shivered with a mixture of hope and apprehension. She knew it was not going to be easy. She’d have to be gentle with William. He was, after all, the man who dominated her happiest memories and the man who had saved her from Du Guesclin. Her days as an amoureuse had come to an end. She would have to find a point of leverage, somebody with some influence, who would be prepared to argue her case with the King and inevitably, the Pope.

And then, of course, there was Ximene Trencavel, a bigger threat to her ambition than anyone else.


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.