10 Orders

The Shadow Without a Name

John Stanley, 6th September 1367

Just before midnight, John disentangled himself from Ximene’s embrace and took time to study her.

He had taken her body for granted. After all, it was he who had initiated her training program. However he now could see that her physical development had not ended when they had parted on the dock at Bordeaux.

As he watched, she stirred. He judged that she was awake but her eyes were closed, that she was just just revelling in the semi conscious state.

‘So Ximene what was that about ? Who were you trying to impress and why? The Emir? I don’t think so, I gained the impression he had seen it all before.’

‘What? Oh! the trick with the swords.’

‘Trick? A little more than a trick. I don’t think I could do that. Those weapons you used were of eastern origin, the balance and feel must be totally different than the ones you learned to use with me?’

She rolled on her back and stretched her arms above her head. ‘I just wanted to show off, perhaps surprise you with my skills’

She jerked herself into a sitting position. ‘John, it is a trick but it does need practice. The sword is special, it is curved across the blade to push air in front of it. Even if it passes an inch above the flame it will extinguish it out exactly as it is possible to extinguish a candle by blowing on it.’

She frowned. ‘Trivia… John we must speak of other matters. When I first made plans to meet you here, my intention was to seek re-establish our relationship… on a more permanent basis.

I also hoped you could help me with two specific tasks, to provide an assessment of the effectiveness of the Emirs army which he uses to protect his, my, our trade routes in the east. I thought you could identify weaknesses and provide training. The second task was to evaluate the situation in Aragon, Granada and Castile. perhaps do there, what I have done in the Garonne Valley, form  a Federation of Seigneurs, hopefully to obtain the same benefits.  The Emir advises me that to enter Granada via one of the southern ports, say, Malaga would be his preffered solution but I am not sure. However… ’

Ximene rose from the bed allowing the sheets to slip away. She lit several candles and pulled a leather pouch from a chest of drawers. She extracted a folded piece of parchment and handed it to John. ‘You had better read it for yourself.’
John glanced down. The Prince’s seal of the three feathers was unmistakeable.
He pulled it open.

John, my very best wishes.

In August King Pedro of Castile joined his daughters here in Bordeaux. He has been driven out by his illigitimate half brother Henry Tramastara, who is apparently claiming the throne. he has asked me to help him reclaim his throne  and I am inclined to give him assistance.  Just before his daughters were brought here, i entered into what was essentially a non agression pact with him so this is really just an extension of that pact.

However, South of the Pyrenees there is a situation developing  which could be either a problem or an opportunity. I have an urgent need for better intelligence.

Aragon has been involved in the challenge to Pedro’s rule and have now entered a treaty with the French, which gives me some concern.

Almost on the same day Pedro arrived.  I recieved a request from Diana to let her know where  you could be found. I take a continued interest in your career so I knew about the tournament in Venice.

It is at times like this I wish I had kept you on a leash in Bordeaux so that I could have found you more easily.

Therefore I am asking you, as a matter of urgency to visit both  Grenada and Castile and discover what their military capabilities and long term intentions might be.

My younger brother, the Duke of Lancaster will leave for Seville in November . He will apparently be seeking an alliance with Trastamara .

You must report to the Earl in Sevilla no later than January.

Ich Bien

John frowned as he looked up from the parchment.

‘This changes everything, it is a very specific order. I am a serving member of the Prince’s guard, I have no alternative but to obey.
He started staring intently at Ximene. ‘Ximene you knew what was in this letter didn’t you’

‘I believe so’

‘How did you know’

‘It is about Castille and Grenada?’


‘The Prince told me, he sent me a separate message . Not only that but he has involved me in it. He sent me a separate message asking me to make a report to  him on how any disruption the will affect our trading activities.  He remembered that Pedro’s mistress, Maria de Pedalla, is Lady Eleanor’s cousin . also… were you ever aware of Alyse’s heritage.

‘She is your cousin.’

‘ Put those two pieces of information together’

‘Is it obvious?’

‘Quite, Alyse is Maria de Pedilla’s  daughter born when Maria was very young but her father was…’

‘Oh! King Pedro!’

‘The Prince wants to use Alyse to obtain information. She has contacts in Seville.  He knows that shifts in the balance of power in Al Andaluz would also disrupt my trade routes. He has told me that in return for my help in the future he will give trading rights between Seville and Bordeaux, something I would very much like.

Initially Alyse was supposed to travel to Bordeaux and then to travel to Seville with the Duke of Lancasterbut it was decided it might be diificult to explain her presence. She is therefore coming here to travel with us. At least I hope she is… she is due to arrive either today or tomorrow‘

“And you are now giving this priority?’

‘The Prince has convinced me.’

‘And the Emir?’

‘The Emir already knows. John  for me this is not only about the Prince’s politics and treaties it is about our trade routes. The Emir gets a share of our overall profit and agrees that the situation in Grenada is important, more important  than anything in his own country.’

She paused, pursed her lips and rolled her eyes.

‘Now I must ask you, did I look masculine when I carried out the trick with the swords? ’

‘For a few seconds, yes until I realised it was you’

‘And if you had not known it was me?’

John thought carefully about his reply. He decided the only solution was to be honest. ‘Well, yes, if I had not known it was you I would have thought it was a man, not only that but a man with some military experience.’ He hesitated as his mind rejected that answer. No,no, that is not right, the costume was almost military but at the same time feminine, very feminine.’

‘That’s fine. So, if I dispensed with the feathers and claws, I could get away with it?

‘Yes I think so, but why, why is this so important?’

‘Because Grenada is a Muslim Country and as a woman I could only go out in your company and swathed in those abominable robes. I have worn them on enough occasions to know that it is very difficult to do anything whilst wearing them.

But if I was not a woman but a prince of Islam… perhaps acting as your brother, I could do anything.’

‘Oh! would you do away with the mask altogether?’‘Of course.’

‘Then I think it could be made to work.It is strange. There is something about you hair which is particularly feminine, and your neck and your eyes, but yes I think it could be made to work.’

He pursed his lips and ran his hand across his forehead. ‘So if we are going to Seville and Grenada tell me, why did we meet here in Venice.’

‘It was too late to change arrangements, You had already committed  to appear at the tournament, all I had to do was get your contract amended, but in any case I have more anonymity here than anywhere.’

She hesitated ‘I have become over the years something of a romantic. I thought It would be a good backdrop to rekindle our relationship. Then again to get to Al-Andaluz from here will take two weeks or more. I want you to learn as much as possible about sailing.

At some time in the future it might be useful.’

‘Oh!’ John wondered which of the four alternatives was closest to the truth.

He shook his head to remove all such thoughts from his head.
‘How long would you expect us to be in Seville and Grenada?’

‘I do not know. I do not know how much work needs to be done. We will have a better idea when we get there. Some of it will be unravelling the long term objectives but some of it will be an assessment of the armed forces, to decide if any of the parties has the capability to deliver those objectives.

The usurper must be overthrown… at least I think so. You masterminded the training of the Prince’s army before the battle of Poitiers. It is the same job… but in reverse, determine the strategy and tactics being utilised and then the level of expertise of the soldiers. It will all be useful experience for you.’

John eyed Ximene carefully.

‘Experience to fit me for what? his voice echoed with concern.

‘You have made a profession from being a military strategist. I talked to the Earl  before I left England. We were really talking about you helping the Emir. He believes that working with the Emir’s Army will teach you about different battle techniques, different ways of using cavalry and in particular, knowledge of the use of Chinese powder.’

John sighed ‘Did you contact the Earl or did the Earl contact you’
Ximene reached out to touch his hand. ‘I contacted him, in February’
John wondered how much he should tell Ximene.

‘I am surprised he was so open with you, over the last two years I have seen him many times and recently, he has expressed concern about your activities. I think it worries him that he cannot get close to what you are doing. He has asked me quite specifically wether if there was conflict between you and the Prince, who would I now support?

‘John, why would there be a conflict? The Prince, Joan and myself are very close. If there were to be a difficulty it would more likely to be with other members of the royal family, who have ambitions for the throne if the Prince should die without having any legitimate children. It is the Earl’s job to “take an interest” in people. I am not surprised that he would be questioning what I am doing. I happen to know that he has the Prince’s two younger brothers, Lionel of Antwerp, and John of Gaunt are also under a surveillance of sorts.’

‘Of sorts?’

‘ Pipa, John, Pipa. She still works for the Earl. She was and is his eyes and ears in Paris and now being asked to get close, apparently very close, to both Clarence and Lancaster.’

John smiled ‘Well, Pipa always liked to know exactly what was happening’

Ximene turned away, before turning to face him again.

John was painfully aware of her eyes searching his face, making sure she had strong eye contact. ‘However unlikely it may be that there would be conflict, I need to know, If there were to be a difficulty would you support me, or would you support the Prince?’

John sighed. ‘I would have thought the last few days would have settled that beyond all doubt, but if you wish I will renew my vow of fealty’
‘ Yes I think I would enjoy that’. She reached behind the bed and pulled out the sword she had used the previous evening. She walked to the centre of the room. The fact that she now held a sword simply emphasised her nakedness,’

“Kneel Sir John.” John obeyed.

He gazed up at her. “I, John Stanley, swear fealty to you, Ximene, Princess of Occitan and I swear that I will uphold your word as law.

Ximene addressed him.

‘As Princess of Occitan, I welcome your oath of fealty, John Stanley. It is now my great pleasure, using the powers I have inherited from my ancestors to re-invest you as a Knight of the Realm of Occitan.’
She held the sword above her head and swung it gently down in a simulation of a cutting action and touched his right shoulder gently with the blade. She then repeated the movement to touch his left shoulder. She then held the sword at her side and slapped him across the face.

‘Take this as an example of how you should treat my enemies. Arise Sir John, I know that everything you do from this moment on will bring glory to my name and to the realm of Occitan.’

Ximene hesitated holding both arms to her sides. “You may now kiss me, Sir John”

John complied and then gently removed the sword from her grasp. He could not resist momentarily examining the curvature of the blade which apparently extinguished flame.

There was a candle on a table in the centre of the room. He swung the blade almost carelessly above the candle and to his amazement the flame was extinguished.

He threw the sword into the corner of the room.

‘ I enjoyed that much more than the last time we did it.’

Ximene smiled graciously ‘Yes this time we avoided most of the formality.’ They both laughed out loud.

He lifted Ximene into his arms, placing her on the bed .

He straightened up and made a point of gazing at every part of her body. ‘There, the die is cast, What do you want me to do now’
Ximene pulled him on top of her, still smiling. ‘You mean right now? I would have thought that was supremely obvious.’

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.