41 — Challenges

John Stanley – 20th September 1355

John spent the next few days finding reasons not to fight her again. In the end he settled on one that seemed most acceptable… That it would crazy to fight again until her wounds were completely healed.

However, they continued the training program. John decided, that training every second day was adequate for retaining the fitness they had developed.

He spent the rest of his time developing his reading and writing skills. The day after the fight he was searching for everything he could find about Diana, the Goddess whom Estevan had compared to Ximene.

He had half-memories of what Piers had told him, which we more or less confirmed by these books. Diana was a Roman goddess of hunting and was normally depicted with a bow and hunting dogs. She was synonymous with Artemis, an earlier Greek god. John read on and became more and more intrigued by what he read.

Ximene was still busy with her dressmaking. She came to John from time to time encouraging him to read aloud and helping him with difficult passages. She asked him to read aloud a segment from Homer at which the book was open. She listened carefully, attentively. She was impressed with the noticeable improvement.

‘Very good, but you are still not picking up the metre and rhythm of what you are reading. Let me show you.’

Homer’s subject was Artemis.


‘I sing of Artemis, and shafts of gold,
Who cheers on the hounds,
Pure maiden, hunter of deer, delights in archery,
Sister to Apollo with the golden sword.
When satisfied this huntress who delights in arrows
Slackens her supple bow and goes to the rich land of Delphi,
In the great house of her dear brother, Phoebus Apollo,
She orders the lovely dance of the Muses and Graces.
There hangs up her curved bow and her arrows,
And leads the dances, gracefully arrayed’

John was  impressed, but his he suffered an immediate loss of confidence.

‘Ah! the way you read, it sounds like poetry or even a song in plain chant. But it doesn’t rhyme! What are the rules for construction such poetry?’

Ximene smiled. ‘Try John, it will improve even your efforts as a jongleuse. You don’t have to have rhyming couplets to make a poem or song you know.’

‘I thought you liked my poetry’

‘I do, trust me, I do, no one has ever praised me as eloquently as you do, but it does not mean that you cannot improve. Also, it would be good to introduce more variety.’

John shook his head. ‘Why do you think this is important to me, Ximene. I struggle with politics and ethics. It is only when you explain them to me, that it makes sense. My ambition is to become a knight.  Even if I do become a knight, for most of the time I will be just a soldier, a junior officer in the king’s army. As long as I can read and write reasonably competently that is all that will be expected of me.’

Ximene narrowed her eyes. ‘You must strive for something more John, you can be better than others, you have great potential. If you want to influence people, realise that they will always be impressed by eloquence and the tenor of your voice. It is not just the words you use but the way you use them.’

John looked at her pityingly. ‘To be a person of influence I would have to become an Earl or an officer of the court, and that will never happen.’

Ximene smiled.  ‘You are already a member of the Prince’s guard; you are well thought of by both the Earl and the Prince. It will be you who informs the Prince of my expectations for any relationship I might have with him.’

John felt himself retreating from the implications of what she said.  How he would handle the responsibility she had just outlined he could not imagine.


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.