77 — An Unnecessary Risk

Ximene Trencavel 24 October 1355

Don Fernandino asked Ximene to join him in the stables.
‘I am going to send Theirry back to Port Vendres.’

‘To do what?’

‘Nothing really, present my apologies and cancel all arrangements. If we do go on to Sicily I don’t want to use ‘Les Étoiles’ and therefore he could present a difficulty’

‘Oh! but do you trust him? If he leaves here he could tell people where we are.’
‘I do trust him, but I agree there is a  potential risk so we are going to move.’
‘To where?’
‘I have hired a hunting lodge in Couisa. As far as the owners, the Comtes de Plaisance, are concerned a famous troubadour, the Shadow, is going to holiday there to write new material. He will be accompanied by two dancers. An older man and two women are not the profile anyone searching for you would expect.
‘But I don’t dance, at least not very well.’
Don Fernandino chuckled. ‘If we are there long enough we might give you some lessons, don’t worry you will not have to dance in public! They will probably think you are my mistresses.’
Ximene smiled and nodded.
‘How will John find us there?’
‘He already knows. I told him before he left.’
Ximene’s eyes danced. Yet another little adventure. She wondered if Don Fernandino could really teach her to dance?
‘And when do we move.’
‘The day after tomorrow. Oh! And just to be safe don’t tell Thierry where we are going’
Thus Ximene and Phillipa were left on their own with Don Fernandino preparing for the move. There wasn’t much to pack but it was amazing how long it took.
Ximene thought about John and the circumstances of his departure. ‘You know Phillipa, I really do miss John.’
Phillipa tilted her head and looked sideways at Ximene.
‘Do you think I don’t know that.’
Ximene became defensive.
‘ He had to go otherwise it might have been too late to get the Prince’s help with the treasure.’
She paused but failed to keep her sorrow out of her voice
‘I told him I thought I would have to marry the Prince, and he took it badly’
Pipa winced. ‘He was clearly upset when he saw us together’
Ximene sighed. ‘Yes, I was surprised by that, I thought he had told me that he was quite fond of you! She shook her head and then shook it again. ‘I think I will go for a walk, I need time to myself.’
Phillipa nodded.
Ximene had been at Château Mazerou so long now that she felt completely safe. Over the previous week, she had taken to walking in the hills, following the same paths and visiting the same places she had visited with John. Often she walked alone to avoid the distraction of a need to talk to either Phillipa or Don Fernandino. In this way, she felt closer to John.
On these walks, she never saw another human being. She was always circumspect about leaving and entering the stables and this day, as always, advanced cautiously through the trees on the river bank. Suddenly she heard a voice. ‘Lady Ximene Trencavel’?

The most dangerous woman in the world

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