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


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.