93 — Treasure

There was an increasing flow of landowners and local dignitaries wanting discussions with Ximene. She diligently considered everything they said and tried to fit it all into the framework she had discussed with John. John talked to estevan. there is no dobt that physically she is recovering but I cannot seem to get near to her.

Ican do nothing , avove all else she needs time. she needs to find a new motivation a new destiny John now switched his attention to leading the army to the treasure.

The Prince split his army into two. Four thousand men, now under the total command of the Earl of Salisbury were to return to Armagnac. They were expected eventually to provide security for the treasure party. Two thousand men were committed to the task of extracting, transporting and guarding the treasure. The Prince showed where his priorities lay by choosing to accompany the treasure party. John found the delay whilst all this was organised to be intolerable. He watched Estevan carefully. He was totally dedicated to Ximenes care. However the more confident he became in Estevan the more he imagined Thierry already at the cave with a different army.As the treasure party journeyed from Carcassonne they casually took possession of Limoux. Quite deliberately they destroyed the Bishop’s residence where Ximene had been incarcerated. They also specifically targeted half a dozen other properties. It was almost as if the Prince had additional information regarding those involved in Ximene’s suffering.Befone a dinner given at Couisa to welcome the Prince he requested a few minutes alone with Phillipa. Both John and Ximene were surprised. John turned to Ximene and whispered,‘There is something here I do not understand. Do you remember that the Prince and Phillipa exchanged a few words at the reunion at Carcassonne. What do you think is the relationship?’‘ I do not know, but I will ask her’All Phillipa would tell them was that the Prince had brought a message from her family who were safe and well in Bordeaux. This then left other unanswered questions.‘Under what circumstances would the Prince of Aquitaine offer to carry family messages?’Attention now shifted to the recovery of the treasure. John had been concered about venturing again into what he had been warned so strongly was hostile territory. He quickly learned what a difference two thousand men could make. There were no Routiers or Guards Ecosse to harass them here! He was impressed how easily the track up to the cave was cleared. Again a working force of over five hundred made all the difference. The trees on the path were ripped out, The boulder was removed equally quickly. All the boats inside the cave were commissioned and fitted with many torches. In John’s mind the overall impression with boats shuttling to and fro across the undergound lake all illuminated, was of the river Styx, the boundary of the Greek underworld.A succession of carts then moved the treasure down to the valley below. Each cart was loaded from the loading platform inside the entrance. What did take time were the inventory and more specifically the recording of the items. This occurred under canvas in a convenient clearing half way down the mountain. From the ruins of Carcassonne two dealers in antiquities and precious artefacts had been recruited. They had not been told anything about where they were going but one was appointed to John and one to the Prince. Their job was to give two independent valuations of each item in the treasure trove. Inevitably John found himself in close contact with the Prince on a day to day basis. He found he enjoyed the experience. The Prince proved to be approachable and fair minded in the negotiations, which took place on an hourly basis. Somewhere in the middle of all this the Prince learned that the original valuer of the samples John had brought to show him had been Joan of Kent. He roared with laughter.‘Well we had better make sure the treasure is carefully guarded. Joan will already have spent ten per cent of its value just in anticipation’Every box was numbered and its contents valued and recorded. Each cart was also numbered and the boxes on each recorded. As each cart was filled it was despatched to a store yard on the outskirts of Couisa under heavy guard.It took more than two weeks to clear the cave. The stone, which had covered the fissure was dispatched to the valley floor and a small avalanche was created to cover the entrance completely. The last cart was moved back to Couisa and the significant army presence along the road was dismantled.A feast was held at the hunting lodge on the night before the long trip to Bordeaux commenced. Compared with some of the feasts John had seen it was a modest affair.Nevertheless it was unforgettable. The Prince sat on Ximene’s right and John as Occitan Ambassador to Aquitaine sat on her left, at the top table! John had no idea who all the guests were because they were careful not to reveal their identity. He presumed that these were to be the new aristocracy of Occitan, if there ever was to be an uprising.All jockeying for position.The Prince made a pretty speech in which he praised Ximene’s beauty and courage and looked forward to an independent Occitan flourishing under her rule as duchess of Occitan. He made no reference however to a forthcoming marriage. John responded on behalf of Occitan. He praised the Prince but took care to refer to him as the Duke of Aquitaine. He then addressed balance slightly by referring to the Prince’s father as the illustrious King of England. He looked forward to continued friendship between Occitan, Aquitaine and England. Again John made no mention of marriage arrangements.Later the Prince expressed his pleasure at the way John had responded.The only sour note was that one of the guests, a grizzled old man who did not identify himself, but made a special point of telling John that as the Occitan Ambassador he should realise that historically Aquitaine was actually part of Occitan! It made John realise just what a complex issue this was

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

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