Janyn executed a stiff bow and then with his right fist clenched banged it against his chest.
He immediately relaxed and smiled. ‘Your bit of theatre even gets to me. He moved quickly towards her, Put his arms around her and pulled her in close. ‘Cousin, but I hardly know how to greet you these days; Aquila? Altair? Selene? Ganymede?’
Ximene chuckled ‘Ganymede, where did that come from?’
Janyn smiled feigning shyness. ‘Ganymede the beautiful young man so loved by Zeus that he sent his eagle Aquila to carefully carry Ganymede to Mount Olympus to be Zeus’s lover. So I would ask you, Aquila, could you reprise your role and bring the most beatiful young man in the world to me?
But two of the most beautiful men in the world are here in this room.
Janyn pursed his lips and frowned.but then chuckled. ‘You are teasing me, you know they do not share my… preferences.’
‘Oh! so tell me, how is your love life?’
“Adequate, no more than Adequate.
I use a different alias wherever I go and as far as our current situation I prefer Aquila, But thank you for reminding me Aquila, Ganymede; Two names for the same constellation.
William broke in. ‘I prefer Altair; brightest star in the constellation of Aquila.
‘Well aliases are important, there are still people out there who want me dead.’
Jadyn chuckled. “Ximene Trencavel, the most dangerous woman in the world. The Pope was right.’
Ximene pulled Janyn into a warm embrace. ‘You sister sends you her love.’ Ximene then turned her attention to Henry and William giving them both affectionate hugs. “I am really fortunate to have such loyal friends and you all look so wonderful in your uniforms. Oh! and Alyse sends her love to both of you.
William smiled ’How is Alyse?’
‘She is well, but a little annoyed not to be able to come with me.’
William took a step back and lifted her arms.
‘You look magnificent, as always, but you know your costume will probably attract more attention than if you were dressed more conventionally.’
She turned back towards the fire. ‘ Do have a glass of mulled wine; Claret, Port, Cloves, nutmeg and Cinnamon’ She dipped three mugs, one at a time into the bucket and then as an afterthought refilled her own.
Once they had all had a preliminary sip of the mulled wine, Ximene cocked her head to one side. ‘The costume… No, you are wrong. I do have another life which I want to conceal but the reason I appear as Aquila, the Eagle is to make an impression on those who work for us. I know it does have an effect. I have deliberately made myself remote and mysterious. It is reinforced whenever they see you wearing similar uniforms. They see you, they remember me. The mystery I create is extended to you. Even the name The Shadow Without a Name matters.
When they have completed their first tour of duty they are given their black jacket, after three tours of duty, the get the full uniform including the cloak. As they gain experience they also get paid more but… do you know, I believe they value the uniform more than money. Here in the docks, it gives them prestige and position.
William agreed. ‘You are right, the fact that they have a uniform is seen as something special but why do you separate yourself from them by always appearing on this balcomy? You use a similar device down in Poole.’
‘And in Bordeax. Thierry d’Arques, my lieutenant in Bordeaux loves the presentation, the mystery, the costume, He always includes two captains in the ceremony. Ximene smiled. ‘It is part of the same phenomenon, by appearing on a balcony I intensify the mystery. It is for the same reason I never appear without others at my side. It creates the impression that we are inseparable. They will make of that what they will. A single woman always accompanied by three men. It works, they talk about it.’
Janyn nodded. ‘Yes it does work but it may attract too much attention. It was convenient to address our new recruits but I did ask you to come for a rather different reason.’
Ximene was silent waiting for an explanation.
Janyn continued. ‘I think that you, possibly all of us, are in danger.’
William broke in. ‘I have contacts. The new Frankish ambassador is asking questions. he asks the questions carefully as a part of other conversations. He wants to know who are the female members of the court, including even occasional visitors to the court and which of them are between nineteen and twenty-five. He is searching for someone, quite possibly you.’
‘That is of little concern. The king has an eye for the ladies, there must be dozens if not hundreds of women fall into that category’
‘He is also asking which of these ladies are unmarried or are widows. People imagine he is looking for a suitable wife.’
‘There would still be a very large number.’
‘Yes, but he is also asking which women entertained or were entertained by King John whilst he was in captivity.’
Ximene frowned. ‘Why would he be asking that?’
‘I do not know but the two sets of questions are being run concurrently. He is looking for women between nineteen and twenty-five, who are single or divorced who kept company with the Frankish king.
‘Oh, but why do you think that is a threat to me! As an example, he might just as easily conclude it was your sister Alyse he was seeking.’
‘Alyse met King John?
‘She certainly did.’
Janyn broke in. ‘But Alyse has links, strong links, to you. ’
‘Ximene listen to me. There must be a hundred sailors out there who know that the head of The Shadow is a woman. If it was me searching for Ximene Trencavel and I heard about Aquila, her costumes, her use of weapons, I would be interested. Take care, your alias may not be as watertight as you would like to believe. When I want to contact you I write to my sister at King’s Court, Gillingham, the Queen’s personal residence. The replies are often quite rapid. From this, I conclude that Alyse visits Kings Court quite frequently or alternatively there is a delivery from Kings Court to wherever you both live. My conclusion is that you live close to Kings Court.’
‘But you and only you has that address and knows the significance of it’
‘Once again Ximene quite true, but possibly someone other than the King or Queen will make those deliveries or pick up replies.’
‘But nominally they are communications between a brother and sister’
‘Which happen to be routed through Kings Court. How long will it be before someone sees that as strange? It would be best if Alyse herself picked up the mail or even better she should move to Kings Court. Then there would be no anomaly in the delivery of the mail.’
He paused challenging Ximene to answer. ‘Are you close enough to the King or Queen to make that possible, Ximene?