85 — Place de l’Aigle d’Or

John sprinted to the stables.

The fortified cart emerged. Piers was at the reins and behind the cart, ran Helios and Selene—saddled—but tethered on a long rein. John found it difficult to climb into the cart, even though it was moving very slowly. This pleased him. If he found it difficult, so would anyone else.

Piers drove down along backstreets to the east of the square and then turned west at the road which crossed the northern edge of the square and was now obstructed by the scaffold. They stopped just short of entering the square. From this position, John was able to see the whole square and most importantly, the scaffold and the pyre on top of it.

No one paid ant attention to this strange vehicle which might have been mistaken for an undertaker’s cart. The crowds were all intent on Ximene as she was forced onto the scaffold.

She was met by a priest and the questioning process began. Even at a distance it could be seen that Ximene was disinclined to take part. She was struggling against her executioners who were trying to force her to face the priest.

Don Fernandino proved to be correct—the Crowds became increasingly restive.

John winced. There were half a dozen well-armed soldiers standing around the periphery of the scaffold. Where had they come from, he wondered?

He believed that as a result of training and Morgan’s instruction, under ideal conditions he could release a well-aimed arrow every ten seconds, one minute to deal with all the guards—but from a moving carton an uneven surface? He frowned and removed his belt containing his throwing knives. He rebuckled it so that it hung over his left shoulder and tucked underneath his right arm.

Suddenly clouds of smoke blew across the square. John was amazed how realistic the illusion Don Fernandino had created turned out to be. It started with the plume of smoke from the fire John himself had started. The coarse woodchips, now alight, were lifted by the updraught and fell like burning rain over the square.

The crowd ran forward, away from the fire, crushing up against the scaffold and at the same time sweeping the militia aside. Burning chips of wood now rained down on the pyre which suddenly burst into flame. John knew it was caused by an incendiary arrow fired by Don Fernandino but even he did not see the flight of the arrow. After a short delay the two corner apartments behind the scaffold burst into flames. John knew this was because Don Fernandino had lit first one and then the other stairwell. Nevertheless the illusion was perfect. It looked as though the pyre, now burning fiercely fanned by the southern wind, had jumped into the nearby buildings.

The crowd screamed in alarm, as they were faced with a second blaze much closer to them than the original fire. Those nearest the scaffold tried to retreat the militia ran with them, leaving an open space in front of the scaffold In their flight they ran into those still trying to flee from the southern fire. Burning chips of wood still rained down on the square. The crowd, faced with fire on two sides then tried to flee the square. They fell over one another in their haste; all semblance of order was gone.

John released Helios and Selene from their tethers and prodded Piers in the back. ‘Now’ he said.

Their charge across the northern edge of the square went initially unnoticed as it was full of people running in every direction. Helios and Selene, trained to follow John, charged after the cart, Both horses moved forward to run at the side of the cart, and their progress took on some aspects of a cavalry charge.

People scattered frantically to get out of their way. John belted himself to the side of the cart to give himself some stability and he now took aim.

His first shot hit the nearest of the armed guards in the middle of the chest. The bodkin did its job, penetrating whatever chain mail he was wearing. With a look of intense surprise he clutched at the arrow before his knees buckled and he collapsed.

John was again taking aim before he hit the floor. Ximene struggled with the guards holding her arms. She broke away from one of them. As he reached out to regain his grip, the second arrow took him in the shoulder, once again he collapsed in a heap. Ximene stamped on the second guard’s foot and swung round. With all the force she could muster she kneed him between the legs. He reeled away from her presenting John with another target, but the cart lurched beween his feet and He missed.

It became obvious that the guards were now aware of the approach of the cart. Instincts of self-preservation prevailed and they ducked for cover. With the pyre now a conflagration there was little cover to be had. Three of them jumped from the scaffold and ran across the square. However the one who had survived John’s third arrow hesitated, turned around and headed for Ximene. By now the cart was pulling alongside the scaffold. By design the sides were the same hight as the scaffold floor. ‘Jump Ximene, Jump’ shouted John. Her hands were still tied behind her back but she obeyed him. In the seconds before she jumped John had released himself from his belt and was, therefore, able to catch her. John knew there would still be danger and he scrambled back to his feet. The remaining guard was still running towards them. He showed every intention of jumping aboard.

John pulled one of his throwing knives from his belt. He did not see a man, he saw a wolf. Suddenly he was back on the Wirral Peninsula. A wolf had been circling his campfire and was now intent on attacking him. He saw the wolf’s yellow eyes getting ever closer. He threw the knife.

The guard screamed in agony as the knife buried itself in his eye socket. He tumbled from the scaffold and was dead before he hit the floor.

The cart now completed the charge across the square and Piers chose to exit by the street directly in front of them. Suddenly they were lost amongst the thousands fleeing the fire. Piers turned north at the next intersection. By now John had cut through the rope binding Ximene’s wrists. They snatched a brief embrace. Piers pulled hard on the reins. Using the steps on either side, Ximene and John were able to mount Selene and Helios. Piers jumped on behind John and they raced to the butcher’s​ shop and the apartment above where Don Fernandino and Pipa were waiting for them.

Ximene and Pipa embraced and danced around in exhilaration.

Don Fernandino however still had a stern countenance. He pulled Piers and John to the window. ‘We were supposed to wait here until the fuss died down.’ he said, and pointed out of the window. ‘However, we have done our job too well.’ The streets were full of people running to the northerly gate, which was closed, presumably as another security measure against the proximity of the Black Prince’s army. As they looked to the south a wall of flame was advancing towards them fanned by the fierce southerly wind. Looking out of the window John could already feel the heat. They had rescued Ximene but now faced the possibility of being burned alive, trapped against the northerly wall of the Bastide.

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.