51 — Conflict

John Stanley – 26th  September1355

Without any specific agreement that he should do so, Thierry started to plan the treasure hunt.

He spent a whole day studying the map. Then he spent the next day studying it again. He said not a word about the purpose of his investigation or any conclusions he had reached.

John grew impatient. ‘He has not even spoken to me. Ximene I can’t leave him but can you visit Estevan and see if he would be prepared to join us? If nothing else it will provoke some conversation.

Whilst she was away, John took the opportunity to re apply dye to Selene and Helios. Obviously the horses were more readily recognizable than they were themselves!

When Ximene returned she confirmed that Estevan was more than keen to join them. ‘ Like most people he is pleased to be able to see the end of something he started. His only concern was Thierry’s attitude. He sensed a barrier. He will come but if he has difficulties with Thierry he will leave again.’

John smiled. ‘Leave that to me. I think I know how to change Theirry’s attitude!’

Eventually Thierry asked if he could test out his understanding of the map by viewing the surrounding countryside.  Thierry insisted on visiting Brenac, Campagne sur Aude and Rennes les Bains.John passed on the warnings about the dangers of visiting the towns, which Thierry brushed to one side. John frowned. ‘Why Rennes le Bains? It  is not a point on either of the pentacles or the triangle.

Theirry smiled. ‘Indulge me John it is the nearest human habitation to your Devil’s Line.  ‘I travel through these towns frequently, there is nothing mysterious about two young men travelling together. We will be at no risk’ He thought for a moment ‘ On the other hand if we do meet anyone, let me do the talking. I have a local accent and speak Occitan, you emphatically do not. ’

John had to admit that Thierry was thorough. He had made numerous sketches both of the shape of the hills and a summary map showing the viewing points from which the hills should be visible.

‘Remarkable!’ Thierry concluded by the time they had reached Brenac. ‘I can actually judge where we are on the map from the shape of the hills on my sketches.’

That evening he spent even more time on making sketches.  The next day insisted on riding to the most easterly point, La Soulaine, which involved riding through Le Bezu, and Valdieu. They crossed the river upstream of Rennes les Bains and after a couple of false starts found a relatively easy route to the top of La Soulaine. It was soon obvious that there was no clear view of either north or south target from this point. They were however able to identify other points of the pentacle . Thierry studied his map. ‘The line from the centre point passes directly over those two ridges which lie in front of us.’

Thierry then declared there was nothing else to learn. They stayed less than ten minutes, though John was reluctant to leave this magical place which provided an endless vista of mountains folding one into the other occasionally punctuated by purplish eruptions of much steeper dramatic peaks.

They had made the last part of the climb on foot and by the time they were again in the saddle John he raised no objection when Thierry suggested they called in at Rennes les Bains for refreshment They found themselves sitting in a Square, on the edge of the narrow ravine, which ran through the village in pleasant afternoon sunshine.

They were surrounded by Gypses.

Then and only then Thierry started to talk. “My family originally came from the countryside just to the north. It is known as the Corbiers. They were just another family dispossessed during the Albigensian Crusade. In my childhood I learned the hills and mountains to the north of here relatively well, but I am not so familiar with those to the south. We have an hour or so before we must return. Tell me everything you know John.’

John obliged, but was very selective in the information he gave to Thierry. Thierry chuckled. ‘Devil’s Line? The moor told you that? I suppose it gives it an aura of mystery and fantasy doesn’t it?

John felt indignant. ‘I have no reason to doubt what he said.’
Thierry rolled his eyes ‘If there is treasure at these target points it could be Visigothic, Cathar or just the accumulated wealth of the Trencavel family… Perhaps all three, moved into hiding places during the final days of the Albigensian Crusade. Certainly the use of this three dimensional map suggests to me it is relatively recent. These maps are easy to read but incredibly difficult to produce.  I think we should focus on the southern target.’

John blinked.’ Why? to me the northern target looks more accessible.’

‘Hmm but it lies on top of a high ridge. We would have go a long way north to get access to it and…The valley in which the Boulzane river rises, the Fenouillides,  the first valley of the  Pyrenees is Aragonese . If people were seeking to hide treasure,  they would be more likely to leave it out of reach of the French Crusadersin Aragonese territory.

Of course, it will still be difficult to find.  If the treasure is buried in the middle of mountainous countryside then after ten years or so re-growth of foliage would totally hide any excavations. After 100 years?  Who knows?  Without access to a map like the one you found it would be almost impossible even  for the person who buried the treasure to find it again!’

Theirry suddenly seemed to relax. He sipped his beer and turned his face to enjoy the sunshine. He smiled. ‘When I came looking for Don Fernandino, I certainly never expected to find myself involved in a Treasure hunt! But tell me…’ He hesitated. ‘Do you mind if I ask a personal question?’

John bristled .  ‘Ask me and then I can decide’

Thierry blinked.  ‘When I was in Murat, I was told by someone… I cannot remember who… that you were some sort of personal bodyguard who had been assigned to look after Ximene.

John sighed with exasperation.  I think you know exactly what my role is.’ He could not control his growing anger. ‘Listen to me Thierry, it is relevant to our current situation. Despite my current role, which is to guard Ximene with my life, I was a member of the Royal Guard of Aquitaine, the Black Prince’s personal guard, not only that but I have been squire to the Earl of Salisbury who is commander of the Prince’s rearguard and ultimate commander of the Royal Guard. Think of him as my uncle, it explains the relationship well.’

Theirry turned and leaned accross the table. ‘Yes,Yes, I think I knew that you were some sort of a favourite but I don’t understand’

John exploded ‘Don’t understand what?’

‘What I want to know is…are you and Ximene lovers, as far as I can see you sleep together and both your faces show signs of bruising? Did you have a lovers fight?’

John glared at him. “ I am Ximene’s bodyguard, I never let her out of my sight, She expressed a desire to train with me and there was an… accident in training. However being as you are asking the question I do love Ximene, as one would love one’s Queen, and she may well one day become my Queen! I would willingly die to protect her!’

Thierry smiled. ‘Sorry Sorry, just thought I would ask, it will help me understand how to behave when we are together.’ He paused ‘but if you were lovers I would not be surprised. Ximene is very beautiful and now you mention training… I have noticed her superb body. Very unusual but so attractive. If she was not the future bride of the Black Prince and if you were not guarding her so closely, I would be trying hard to get her into my bed!’

John stared at him in disbelief. ‘That is not the first time you have told me that, and the first time you told me that she would be unable to resist you.’

Theirry frowned and took a deep drink. He half closed his eyes. ‘I think I am doing you a favour John. Look, it does not matter whether you are your Queen’s bodguard or her lover. She is a Cathar and she will always life in a Cathar society. She is beautiful so there will always be a man making a suit for her affection. There will be times when she is lonly and craving affection, when she will give one of them her favour.

In fact you are lucky. She is so beautiful that there will always be the best of men searching for her affection. She will never have to settle for anything but the best, and do you know something, she has good taste and it looks very much to me as if she has chosen you as a long term companion. That means that you are one of the best.’

He leaned forward and put his hand on John’s knee. ‘And do you know, I agree with her I agree with her. You are one of the best, there is something special about you and I hope that we too can have a long term relationship.’

John jumped and moved his knee. He winced and narrowed his eyes. ‘Well thank you, but does this mean I must always be looking over my shoulder… for you? for others?’

Thierry closed his eyes and shook his head. ‘There will be no need to look over your shoulder. Whatever your relationship is right now, it is a Cathar relationship. You won’t have to look over your shoulder, it will always be there staring you in the face. And…and I will tell you now, at the first opportunity I will make my suit. If you can’t accept that then you really ought to go somewhere else and do something else. Don’t forget you are free to make your suit to other women. In fact it works very well.’

He stood up ‘ Come, I have said too much. I think we should be moving.’

John took a deep breath. ‘Yes you are right we should’.

‘Now we have selected the southern target I would like to visit the centre of the easterly pentacle on the way back.’

They left Rennes Les Bains, climbed back onto the plain and from the route to Mazerou diverted and climed Le Pic. Thierry was pleased He pointed to the much larger ridge of Bezu. ‘The line to the southern target lies directly over that ridge and we know from the three-dimensional map there is another ridge behind it. Once again the direction is clearly identifiable from the map and the drawings I made based on the map.’

He carefully folded his drawings back into their waterproof tube.
‘We could climb all three ridges and put markers on them but I honestly don’t think we need to. Using my sketches I can easily find my way around. Tomorrow we should go directly to the southern target. To the Fenouillides valley, There is a way to the valley through a gorge cut by the Aude river— The Gorges de la Pierre-Lys.

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

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List of Places

Table of Contents

Pseudo History