Don Fernandino – 23rd September 1355
The barge left Bordeaux mid-morning. There was no accommodation as such but there were seats all around the main deck one for every one of the forty passengers carried by the barge. The departure had been timed to take advantage of the flood tide which meant they could move upstream using the minimum sail needed to achieve control.
Fernandino’s co-passengers were mostly traders, or at least he assumed that they were from their appearance and clothing. They initially relaxed in the morning sun but soon formed groups having intense, occasionally quite heated discussions. There were two very different young men. Although their dark cloaks were very similar to the traders their demeanor was quite different. They paid attention to the features on the riverbank their heads turning continually to observe both banks of the river. Fernandino decided that this was their first trip on this stretch of river. Fernandino judged them to be soldiers and briefly wondered what the reason for their trip might be. As the day warmed up they removed their cloaks, revealing that his judgement was correct. They were slim but muscled, wore the tabard of the lions of Aquitaine and were wearing swords.
He disembarked at Langon and went to collect his horse from the stables where he had left it on his way into Bordeaux. The two young men traced Fernandino’s steps to the stables, where they also had horses waiting for Them.
The taller of the two grinned at Fernandino . ‘ Where are you making for?’
‘St Julien. But not now. Tomorrow morning. Tonight I will stay at the inn in Sauternes.’
We also are heading for St Julien, perhaps we could travel together. My name is Leonard, this is Robert. We would welcome some company and if we travel together it would reduce the risk of being attacked by thieves.
Fernandino nodded. ‘I intended to stay in Sauternes until there is a group heading for St Julien.’ He held out his hand. ‘Fernandino’
The innkeeper at Sauternes organised the tables for dinner according to destination. Arcachon, Mont Marsan, St. Julien, Dax It made the task of forming a group, who could travel together for improved security, much easier.
The following morning a group of six riders set out for St Julien, making their farewells to groups heading in other directions. Robert announced that he would ride ahead of the group believing that his uniform would scare off most potential thieves and that Leonard would ride behind in a position where he could intercept any potential attack from the rear. ” it is what we have been trained to do.
It struck Fernandino as slightly odd, Leonard had initially said they were looking for company. He shrugged his shoulders and decided that if soldiers were trained to do things a certain way it would be difficult for them to ignore their training.
He was again surprised that evening in St. Julien, when Leonard and Robert declared their intention to continue to Auch, his own destination. The inkeeper ran the same system of seating as that which had been used in Sauternes. Those going to the same destination sat on the same table for dinner. Was it his imagination or did Leonard and Robert hesitate until they saw where Don Fernandino was sitting?
In the following days he became convinced that the two young men were determined to travel with him, but then came the realisation that it was all intended to allow him to be followed, but by whom?
For it to make any sense whoever was following him must be staying at the same inns he had used himself guided by either Robert or Leonard.
When they reached Castelnaudry. He nominated his next destination as Carcassonne. He never reached Carcassonne. He was now in country that he knew well and in late morning he quietly turned off into one of the Cathar trails which he knew so well.
He then went back to Castlenaudry to the same inn where he had stayed the previous night and quietly waited until he heard new arrivals. he sat quietly in a quiet corner of the central hall as the servantssetup the tables for dinner. he did not have to wait long
he was going. Fernandino replied Mont Marsan.