96 — Settlement

John felt personally responsible for Selene’s death. Initially he tried to avoid close contact with Ximene but in the end sought her out. ‘I am sorry, so sorry.’

He tried to take her in his arms, but she pulled away. ‘My grandmother was wrong, marrying the Prince will not make me safe. I was here, surrounded by several thousand of the Prince’s troops and was attacked. I survived but Danielle, was slain.’

‘Yes I know’

Ximene glowered.’We think there were a dozen attackers. We killed four of them and of that number, two were killed by me. We do not know how many were injured, but then despite being surrounded the remainder escaped and still managed to kill my beloved Selene.’

John chewed his lip. ‘You must know it was the Earl who put me in a position where I could be aware of what was happening and could come to your aid.’

‘Yes but look outside the tent now.’

She pulled Johnby the arm to the door of the tent. She turned to face him. ‘The whole perimeter is bristling with guards, almost shoulder to shoulder around the tent. It should have been like that last night’

‘The same number of guards were here.’

‘Yes but they were one hundred feet or more away; eating and singing, making enough noise to cover the sound of the attackers approaching. In the meantime thousands of soldiers guarding the baggage train, the treasure, totally ignored us and our attackers.’

John watched her carefully. This was a different Ximene. but not a Ximene he had ever seen before. She looked defiant, angry even, but she was totally in control, ice cool, almost frightening in her resolve.

‘When I decided to take part in your training programme I was right, I must be responsible for my own safety.’

‘But you will always need assistance.’

‘Yes indeed, I will, but from now on I will be in control of plans for my own safety. I will decide what assistance I need and how that assistance should be deployed. We will start with the rest of this trip to Bordeaux. Bring the Earl to me, I want to go over the arrangements in detail.’

John left to find the Earl, still feeling responsible for what had occurrred, still feeling he had exposed Ximene to danger.

Later on in the evening the Earl sought out John. He looked no happier than John felt.’What has she said to you?’

John shrugged. ‘Just that from now on decisions affecting her personal security will be made by her, not by anyone else.’

‘It goes much further than that. She will no longer rely on the Prince, or me to protect her. Negotiations for the disposal of the treasure should continue, but I get the impression she will now drive a harder bargain.’ She has told me point blank that considerations of her marriage to the Prince should be delayed indefinitely, until a time when she is totally satisfied with her own security arrangements.’

‘And what does the Prince say?’

‘He does not know about the attack…yet. He left for the Château Termes before the attack.’

‘Why would he have done that. Wasn’t it incredibly risky to travel alone?’

‘Joan is at the Château.’

‘Oh!’John found no further explanation necessary.

‘In the meantime John, all I can do is make you totally responsible for Ximene’s saftey. Piers will respond to you, choose six other lions and make sure she knows they have been assigned to her. Hmm, make sure they know they have been assigned to her and that they respond to you. ‘

Of course sitting comfortably in Bordeaux are  those who consider themselves to be her own personal guards, Henri de Vivar and his men. I will demand that they join us at Chateau termes. Talk it through with Ximene. I believe they should also respond to you. John I can only hope I have trained you well as from this point onwards you are commander of Ximene’s rearguard. she is a head of state so your position is equivalent to mine. I  believe we can wirk well together,

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

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