In the valley to the east of Carcassonne, the Prince and his Army were returning. They had pursued the opposing forces past Narbonne and as far as Beziers. The Prince realised that his opponent would continue their hit and run campaign as far as Provence if necessary. He had attacked and damaged both Narbonne and Beziers in the anticipation that attacking their home bases would draw them into a pitched battle but it did not. Reluctantly he turned back to Carcassonne. He had received messages that the Compte d’ Armagnac had renewed his discussions with the French King and therefore had to be dealt with yet again. He also had the treasure to think about. As they moved west they saw a huge plume of smoke rising far into the air.
As they got closer to Carcassonne smoke was rising and joinig with the clouds over the Montagne Noir to the north. Then from the crest of the hill overlooking Carcassonne they could see the extent of the fire in the Bastide. Now the flames could be seen below the smoke. There were people running from the southern and eastern gates seeking safety in the surrounding countryside. The Bastide was firmly alight. As they watched, the vicious southerly wind dropped and the smoke began to fill the whole of the river valley. The details of the scene were suddenly hidden from view. Their approach triggered the first tentative shots from trebuchet on the ramparts of La Cite. The Prince decided to camp where he was, away from the smoke and out of range of the trebuchet.
As the camp was pitched the Prince watched, fascinated by the spectacle. The wind had now become changeable. Occasionally streams of smoke drifted towards him. On other occasions the smoke momentarily cleared giving him glimpses of the continuing fire. Then, suddenly, the most amazing apparition, two purple cones moving steadily towards him emerged from the smoke. At first he could not understand how these cones could move. It was seconds before he realised that it was two horses and two riders both covered with some kind of cape. The riders hurriedly pulled off their coverings. Despite their dishevelled appearance, the Prince readily recognised John Stanley and Ximene .
The Prince expressed concern at the extent of Ximene’s injuries and summoned the camp physician. John gave him a quick summary and asked for the loan of two horses from the pool so that he could find Piers, Phillipa and Don Fernandino. The Prince readily gave his permission but before John left he pulled him to one side. He looked down at the Bastide once more.
‘So three men and one young girl did that?’
John nodded modestly.
‘Yes sire, Don Fernandino is a clever man and both Piers and I have been trained by The Earl of Salisbury.’
‘Ah! Yes, the Earl. It is always the Earl’
The Prince was in a wonderful mood, today everyone was his friend As they were socialising , John noticed a telling look between Joanne and the Prince. She walked over to him and he put a consoling arm around her shoulder. He could not hear what was said it was a contact he could not fathom. The closest John could get to understanding this cameo contact was that the Prince was checking to see if was Joanne well and Joanne letting him know that she was. Why this depth of concern for Phillipa? When he next saw Phillipa, she had placed herself alongside the Earl who was paying her an equal amount of attention. He grasped both her hands and bent down to kiss them! She looked delighted by the gesture.
Ximene looked tired, sad and almost defeated. The Prince came over to ask after her welfare, but immediately he started a conversation, his ebuliance vanished. He became formal, courteous considerate but formal to the point of awkwardness. Of course she was a stranger to him, he had spent virtually no time with her alone. Nevertheless John could not help but compare the difference between the two couples within his line of sight. The Earl and Pipa relaxed; not showing any need for space between them. The Prince and Ximene, stiff not wanting to look into each others eyes; at arms length.
I am her ambassador! I don’t have to find an excuse to talk to her!
He approached respectfully. The Prince was almost glad to see him.
‘Ah! John, I have no doubt there are many things you will need to discuss with the Ximene.’
He bowed deeply and left. It was as if a load had been lifted from his shoulders, within seconds his good mood reappeared and he was laughing and joking with everyone he met.