John hesitantly climbed the curved staircase to the rooms Alyse had so recently vacated. The upper floor was a hive of activity. Rugs were being pulled down to the courtyard to be hung on lines and beaten. Walls and ceilings were being washed. Floors were being swept, furniture was being moved around and polished.
Pushing his way through double doors into what had been Alyse’s Lounge, John discovered a haven of quiet amidst all the activity, but more specifically he discovered Piers de Windsor.
Piers had pulled a chaise longue to the window so that its feet projected onto the Juliet balcony. He now lay with his head on a pile of pillows with his feet up on the top rail of the balcony.
He sensed John entering the room; dropping his legs and spinning around. ‘Oh! So there you are, you have finally arrived. I have been working hard to get all this ready for you, whilst you have been swanning around in the countryside inspecting Ximene’s new estate. Did you like it? Perhaps more to the point did she like it.?’
‘Yes, it is very impressive. Small but impressive. In the centre of beautiful countryside, Apparently, the Prince has used it as a hunting lodge.’
Piers chuckled. ‘The Earl used it as well. I have been there several times. They both have used it to hide away Joan of Kent when they don’t want anyone to know they are with her.’
John frowned. ‘I think you are a bit out of date, I think the Earl has stopped seeing Joan. Oh! and it is not Ximene I have been with, it is Selene, Comtesse of Lavison.’
‘Yes, yes, of course, sorry. I will be careful. But I have been so busy organising all this.’ He paused with a self-satisfied smile playing on his lips. ‘I have been pleased with a few things I have organised in the past but I think this is my best effort yet.’
‘Your best effort, not Joan? not the Earl?’ Not the new Governer, John de Chiverston?’
‘Don’t even know who John de Chiverston is.’
‘He was down at Chateau Lavison finalising the handover to Selene and introducing us to some local people who might manage the estate for Selene. It was he who told me I would be living here, at least in the short term.’
‘It will be a bit more than short term, I have arranged for this to continue to be the Occitan embassy.’
John groaned. ‘Piers, sometimes you have delusions of grandeur. You arranged?’
‘Yes, I arranged, I will prove it to you.’ he jumped up so that he could look John directly in the eye. ‘What have I told you is my underlying personal objective?’
Try as he might John could not drag forward in his memory anything specific. Piers was sometimes helpful but often so devious he was simply annoying. Then suddenly he remembered.
Oh! Yes, when the Prince was away seeking meetings with the lords of Occitan you claimed to have arranged for me to be a field commander. I asked you why you hadn’t arranged the position for yourself and you replied that it was a question of priorities. Your priority was to meet the Lords themselves as your ambition was…’
‘To meet and hopefully marry a lords daughter.’
‘Oh! yes.’ John shook his head. ‘But what has that to do with what is happening here?
‘The idea that we should set up an Ambassade d’Occitan in what had been Alyse’s apartments was Joan’s idea, and she has an apartment next door. I helped arrange a little remodelling to make that possible. When Alyse left for Castile I immediately saw an opportunity. It is entirely appropriate that as Ximene’s ambassador you should take possession whilst she is away. Say thank you, It is a very nice apartment.’
‘You make it sound like your idea. Thank you. And the opportunity?
Well, first of all, I arranged a temorary secondment for the stables and accomodation downstairs to be used as the Prince’s guards. that wasn’t too difficult they are short of accomodation. all detachments need A feid commander and I flatter myself that I was the obvious choice.
Once I had achieved that it was a minor adjustment to put my nane foreward as the Military attachee to the ambassador of occitan.
The guards to be accomodated downstairs will now have Sir Ralph Basset as their field commander, who is Lord James’ nephew and therefore some sort of relative of yours.” Piers took a deep breath. they were looking for some sort of a position for him . ‘Lord James helped.’
John, you will take over Alyse’s appartment. it is entirely appropriate that Ximene’s ambassador should take possession whilst she is away in castile visiting King Pedro. it islarge enough to provide accomodation for visiting dignatories, some of the Princes guards will be quartered on the ground floor.
The will be commanded bydistant.
Quite but blood is thicker than water