The Marble Chamber

Alyse de Perez- 11 November 1363

Alyse stood on tip toe, hands over her face, gazing through her fingers.  A chamber made of black marble. It was warm, very warm, both in feel and in temperature She was stood on the balcony overlooking the main chamber. the whole space was surrounded by  twenty three arches. Above each arch the marble was carved into an intricate pattern.

The corridor which lay  behind the arches at both levels was bathed in light, making the pattern shine and refect the light providing  intricate light and shade  through the whole of the chamber. Opposite the balcony where the twenty fourth arch might have been was a white marble alcove, accessed by three steps.  in the floor of the chamber were four  indentations.

As she watched the white alcove was deulged with water which continued as a waterfall until the whole of the floor including the indentations were flooded. Suddenly additional shafts of light illuminated earch of the indentations. “They are baths.’ she muttered aloud.

Alyse snatched a quick glance at Joan.’ Amazing! it is a combinationof the courtyard at Landon house and the cavern underneath the Château de Foix… and therefore it was inspired by…’

Joan finished the sentence for her. ‘Diana. All executed by Moorish archietects she brought from Seville.  The marble is Nero Marqina  brought in from Spain on her own ships, unloaded on the waterfront here in front of the Palace. The palace’s name has been changed to Palais de l’Ombriere-the Palace of the Shadow, named after Diana’s trading company l’Ombre Sans Nom.

Joan’s voice aquired a regretful tone. ‘ I never visited the cavern at Foix. I only heard about it from other people.’

Alyse threw her arms in the air. ‘This is smaller but in it’s own way more impressive.’

Good, I am glad you like it, tomorrow night it will be your stage. After the first course of the dinner we are giving  for Lancaster and Blanche on this balcony, you will present an entertainment.

It will take the form of an erotic performance, which the Prince will enjoy, but which will have message that women are in charge of sexual relations and that a man must make a suit and then wait for the award of a favor before he should  proceed. It will then take the form of a demonstration of the different ways a man and a woman can pleasure each other. can you do that?’

Alyse smiled. ‘Yes I have already spoken to the  the redoubtable Thierry d’Arques and one of his captains, Joseph de Bayonne . I have given my favour to both of them. Would you like to see penetration?’

Joan smiled. ‘ No  I think not. We are trying to show Lancaster and for that matter Blanche that sexual pleasure can be obtained in many different ways. I would however like to see you come to a climax, preferrably real not simulated.’

‘Oh!  In what? Five minutes? We will have to see what we can do. We have already agreed that Joseph  will be relatively rough with me and Theirry will be gentle. We do know what is required.’

‘ We have installed spotlights similar to the ones used so effectively at Landon House they will be able to ad drama by focussing on you, at  critical points in your performance. They will be operated by servants, you have no objections.’

Alyse laughed. ‘No. no, servants always find a way, It is not a problem.’

Joan cocked her head. ‘You have chosen a name Apollonia.’

Yes just on impulse. I spent so much of my life dancing to the tune of Gaston Phoebus, Comte de Foix There is no doubt he sees himself as an incarnation of the god Apollo. It is just my way of finally claiming equality with him, the female version of Appollo the sun god.’ Her voice aquired addition emphasis.  ‘The Lady of the Sun.’

Joan smiled sympathetically. ‘Symbolic equality.   I like that but it raises another thought in my head.  How is you relationship with my Father-in-Law progressing?

Alyse shrugged her shoulders.  ‘ Well. I spend most of my time with the Queen but the King has discovered I have an interest in the law and encourages me. He has bought me some jewellery and clothes.  Come to think of it, it is not very different from my relationship with Gaston Phoebus.’

Joan raised her eyebrows and fluttered her eyelashes. ‘I heard as much. I was slightly surprised you were able to escape… I mean get away.. I mean join me here.’

The Queen saw it as an oppotunity for me, to re-visit Bordeaux.  She  insisted I come.’

Joan ran her hand down the side of her face. ‘I bet she did’ she said drily

Alyse looked around and raised her eyebrows ‘It is so warm down here.’

‘Not too warm for what you have in mind I trust. The floor is warmed  by flues from a concealed boiler and the flues also run under the baths.   The waterfall can be switched on and off because the boiler has a limited capacity. Nevertheless it is a wonderful experience.’

Joan decourously removed her clothes and descended fom the balcony, immersing herself in the nearest bath.

Come join me, Alyse and we will discuss further tomorrow nights performance.

The following evening in the late afternoon Joan met Pipa in the Palace Garden.   She gave Pipi a discreet kiss. ‘The discussions are going surprisingly well. It turns out that Blanche  does know about you. She knows that their own relationship does not satisfy him.’

She took Pipa’s hand and together they walked along the central path. ‘At this moment I have not attempted to discuss how they might improve their relationship, but later on this evening we might give them some ideas.

She stopped, turned to face Pipa and narrowed her eyes. ‘ I am not overly confident. I have tried a light heated, teasing approach, which usually works for me, but with these two it didn’t. I have switched  to a matronly mode, really, me, matronly? Oh well I suppose it comes to us all! Are you sure you want to go through with this?

Pipa grinned. ‘Cast your mind back to the time before you were “virginal”. Lancaster is good looking, tall, athletic and very rich. He has become a challenge to me. I want him, but I want him on my …our terms, where I am in control.’

‘Good, I have succeeded in explaining to him …them, that you are a Cathar  and the implication of that for any relationship. Lancaster understands, he knows about the Cathar faith from his brother, the Prince, but has never paid any attention to what it really means.

The best I can say about Blanche is that she did not disapprove.’

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

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Pseudo History