16 First Steps 1st April

Ximene de Trencavel

March 1367

‘I am madame, somewhat intrigued that you should have an interest in such things.’

Joan fluttered her eyelashes at Raoul  Estarves, the captain of The Lion of Aquitaine,  

To her amazement Ximene found herself fluttering her own eyelashes. Even more amazing was that it worked. The captain’s  attention shifted to Ximene .

‘Please ask any questions you may have, I will do my best to answer.’

Joan grinned and held her hands palm upwards in deference.

‘Go ahead Diana.’

It was Ximene’s turn to grin. How long would it take before she became accustomed to her new identity?

‘The first question, captain, is whether ocean going craft can go down the river beyond Bordeaux.’

The captain lifted one eyebrow. ‘And the purpose of the question?’

Ximene frowned. ‘ Is it not obvious? I may invest in a company trading with England and we would like to service Argen and possibly Toulouse.

‘ And who gave you the idea this may be possible?’

Ximene reflected that it was of course the Prince during the discussions at Muret, whence  he had revealed his own plans for  a trading empire.  That had then been backed up by the conversations she had heard between Don Fernandino and Guillam at Mazerou.

‘Perhaps someone who has an interest in making that happen.’

‘Well, whoever it is they are badly misinformed.  I would not recommend it. It would be much better to dock in Bordeaux and use river craft to go further down the river.’

He hesitated. ‘Excuse me madame the sun is setting, We need to anchor at the mouth of the estuary. It requires my attention. The Prince is having a lighthouse built on the Corduan reef but until it is completed I would not attempt to leave the estuary in the dark.’

He dashed away, shouting instructions as he went.

Ximene grimaced, it was not what she wanted to hear.

Joan took her hand and lead her to a seat on the private deck at the rear of the boat. ‘He was not the best person to ask. He probably has an interest in the harbour fees in Bordeaux. Not in his interest for anyone to bypass the port. He was actually embarrassed by the advice he gave’ She glanced over her shoulder. ‘Oh! look what a magnificent sunset.’

The next morning  amid the creaking and groaning of a ship weighing anchor and raising it’s sail, Joan rose Ximene at first light. ‘ There is much you should… no; must see.

They watched as they moved out of the Gironde estuary into the open sea.

Joan put her arm around Ximene’s shoulder. ‘There is an alternative opinion on the best way to navigate this estuary and navigate down the Garonne, what is possible and what is not possible; Thierry d’Arques.’

Ximene recoiled. ‘No!  He is implicated in all the problems I have had. I cannot trust him with anything. I could not trust him to do anything. I certainly would not trust his advice.’

‘Well you are wrong. The only thing he is guilty of is finding you attractive. That is not a good reason to reject his expertise. I will contact him and allow you to question him. If you want, we can arrange for John Stanley to be there.  Diana I know you are interested in extending your trading activities into the Mediterranean, Thierry knows about that as well.

Ximene stared hard at Joan. What was going on here? ‘So does Don Fernandino.’

‘Yes, but from what I have heard he knows nothing about the Atlantic, Thierry knows both, he would be the most likely person to devise an integrated trading route’

‘Oh! I really don’t know Joan, I really don’t know’

‘Trust me.’

‘I have go to ask this, are you still romantically involved with Thierry?

‘Well depends what you mean. He is the best looking man with the best body I have ever met. The Cathar Transition is meant to teach a man how to treat a woman well… I can tell you he knows it all. He does not want to seem to want anything for himself and so in the end one cannot help giving him anything he wants.’


Yes really, it is difficult to talk about him without wanting to be with him, but is that a romantic involvement? Though I joke about the rebirth of my virginity, I would not prejudice my chance to marry the Prince, not for anything.

And John Stanley?

“Interesting question. Similar answer, except that John really is generous. He seems to have  no personal requirements, he just wants to please. I probably enjoy flirting with him more than anyone else. I would love to be able to release his hidden potential… but, my love, that is a project for you… ‘ she paused, ‘Or for Phillipa de Roet.’


‘You do of course know who Phillipa, really is, don’t you.?’

‘Yes I do, at least i think I do, her mother is the sister of the Queen. John told me, apparently  the Earl told him.’

‘ That in itself is interesting. The Earl is intending to use her to gather information about a whole series of people, starting with the French King and his Son. Her parentage opens doors for her. Make no mistake Ximene, under the Earl’s influence, Pipa is becoming a soldier just has John has become a soldier…  just as you have become a soldier. All that training was because she knows she is about to put herself in danger.’

‘But John Stanley could be her project?’

‘I think that would only be only if you want her to be. She is in a way, very similar to John. Generous to a fault. She wants to please people. She wants to give people pleasure. I have watched carefully, she is in love with John and yourself as a couple. She is not a threat to your relationship with john, but yes he could become her project if you allow him to become so.’

Now to other things. Last night I attracted  your attention to the sunset.  Now I want you to look at the sunrise, but not really the sunrise, the coastline in the foreground.

Your plan to create a trading empire is totally in accordance with the Prince’s own ideas. A chain of trading ports under english control all the way down the atlantic coast and ultimately along the northern mediterranean costs.

But my ports would not be english. they would belong to Occitan or at least to it’s people.

Yes but they could be the framework of a english trading empire. in return they would be defended by english militia.

Look at the coast we are passing now, L’Isle de Oleron, La Rochelle the L’Isle de Re,  and a little further north, Les Sables d’Orlonne, L’ Isle de Yeu, L’isle de Noirmoutier and there are others all the way up the coast to Brittany. These are all potentially trading ports supplying the population of the whole of the western coasts of france, all eminently defensible.

To the south there are not as many islands but many ports in Castile and Portugal. The opportunities are limitless and we want to support you.

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