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The maid re-entered the room , walked immediately to john and made a series of minor adjustments to his toga before expressing her satisfaction.

‘Now the ladies.I think the only way to assist in your decision making is to give you a demonstration ‘Their are really many alternatives.’

She held up the red dress and poked her head between the two ties which now held it together. she wiggled an pulled at the front of the dress until it was in the correct position,

Now it is possible to lace up each side . She showed how this could be done.
it soon became obvious that even when laced tightly there was a significant amout of bare flesh which could be seen on both sides.

She removed the dress and lifted a much more substantial garment from the bed. This is really a toga, but it has the folds stitched into place and it is secured down one side with button loops or more usually clips.

She demonstrated how it was worn.

The third option is again very different. She slipped off the toga and held a series of squares of brightly coloured silk. ‘These gowns are quite different.You will see that the are in eight parts. Each part is joined to the other parts with golden clasps. They are intended for flexibility. Can you help me, Sir? I wish to show the ladies the effect.’

She assembled two rectangles, each consisting of four panels, connecting them with gold clips. Then with John’s help she clipped the two pieces together over her shoulders and completed the gown by clipping together the sides.

She pirouetted on the spot. ‘When all eight pieces are fastened together they are demure almost matronly.’ She indicated the line of clasps across the shoulders, down both sides, the front and back and around the waist. ‘Some clasps may be removed however. As clasps are removed the dresses can become revealing in a variety of interesting ways.’

She demonstrated how if clips were removed; a slit skirt effect could be provided, by removing other clips the neckline could be lowered or the sides left open.

“These dresses are worn in every day life in Rome but they do indicate a willingness to partake in a popular game played at parties.

‘The clasps are numbered from one to forty each clasp has a unique number.’

In a game of chance a number is selected. The clasp corresponding to the number selected must be removed.

There are several ways in which the number is selected.

One is a variant of the children’s game called ‘nuts’. Square cups are placed on a table. A small bead, which could of course be a nut, is thrown by each square competitor in turn. In the bottom of the cups there is a number. The number in the cup in which the bead settles is the number of the clasp which must be removed. The competitor is then allowed to shuffle four of the cups and the next competitor takes a turn.

The looser is the first person totally naked. There is avery wide range of sequences of numbers which may occur and as each competitor must stand to make a throw and shuffle the cups the results are always entertaining to spectators, the men at the party.

The game played this way can last a very long time and often lasts throughout a meal. When the last food is served the game is over – if no one is naked, there is no looser.

The game can be speeded up,and with the guarantee of a conclusion. A pack of cards is used, numbered 1 to 40 but with five blanks. When a card has been used by every competitor it is withdrawn. This leads to a much faster game and a certain conclusion.

The maid smiled. ‘the game can also be plaid with forfeits. The forfeits can be anything you like. Each competitor could write out a forfeit that they would like to impose on the other competitors and a draw is made from all the suggestions before the game commences. This is a good variant as the forfeits, of course, may have to be performed by the competitor who devised the forfeit. It means that that the forfeits are usually a good match for what the group as a whole would find enjoyable. Oh! I did not mention that the forfeits are supposed to be enjoyable, such as having your body coated with honey or cream and having everyone else lick it off. ’

‘Some groups who know each other well have a draw which includes the name of everyone in the male audience. The looser has to make love to him in front of everybody else. That is why the two large bedrooms are set up the way they are.

‘Then again we have some equipment.’ the maid paused’ it is kept in the compartments on either side of the bedroom. It consists of various different types of bondage, again by lottery it can be decided which style of bondage will be used.’

John stared intently. ’It is almost have if you have a rule book. Who wrote the rules?’

‘We do have a rule book for this and other games. This game was often played in Ancient Rome and we are trying to promote a Roman experience. I do know who wrote the rules we use, but I am not allowed to say’

‘Well at least give us some idea of what the “equipment” does.’

‘For example. We have a large St Andrews cross which has padded arms. Where the arms meet and at the outer ends of the arms there are five straps. The cross starts off vertical and the loosing competitor is strapped to it by the waist and then by both ankles and both wrists. The cross can then be pivoted to a different angle. One alternative is to make it horizontal. It can then be spun around on its axis. The competitor is then very exposed and vulnerable. It is not a position to be in if you were with people you did not know or could not trust.’

‘And there is other “equipment”’

‘Yes there is.’

‘So if we were going to use the equipment it would be necessary to know exactly what the options are?’

‘You can go and inspect it if you like.’

Ximene raised her eyebrows. ‘Sounds fascinating and I think we would like to see it but not now. Perhaps later, perhaps tomorrow.’

She waited until she received nodded assent. ‘Perhaps we could play the longer game. Spread over the evening it could prove entertaining even if there is no looser.’

Ximene turned to the maid. “We do want to play the game. Help us to put on the gowns. The ladies would I think, like to apply some make up and perhaps some jewellery.

Sir John is already prepared so perhaps you could escort him to the terrace.

The terrace had been arranged so that there were four couches two each side of a central area.

‘Some wine Sir John?’

John nodded assent. The maid clapped her hands and other female servants emerged carrying plates of food and wine.

The maid poured John a glass of wine. The deep ruby colour sparkled in the glass. The maid smiled ‘A slight anachronism, only the very richest of romans could afford to drink from containers made of glass. Now if you will excuse me, Sir John I must attend to the ladies.’

Ximene arrived on the terrace fifteen minutes later. “ For someone who is concerned about revealing much of her body Yvette is spending a lot of time making sure she is doing just that, are you all prepared?
‘Well I am in a way.’
John bowed and shook his head. ‘Ximene, I am far from prepared. I know enough about the progression as a ceremony to know that what we are doing tonight is not a progression.’
“What makes you say that.’
‘I heard about your own progression. It was a great social occasion, dozens of participants, nearly a hundred guests’
Ximene raised her eyebrow. ‘You know, I don’t think I have ever talked to you about my progression. From where did you get your information, Pipa?’
‘No, I got it from Joan, she made it into a romantic story.’
Ximene stared at John intently. “John exactly how much time did you spend with Joan?’
I told you one or two nights, no more than that.’
‘You seem to have crammed an awful lot into two nights, but anyway what is the point you are making.’
‘I have been on the fringe of Cathar society for seven years. In all that time I have never been invited to a progression, I have never been aware of one occurring. I never attended one myself.’
the presentation when I eventually made my suit and you formally gave me your favour, was again a big occasion. Again I have never seen anything else like it. because i have no experience, how can I be expected to get the nuance right. And the occasion tonight… only three of us present. No other participants, no friends, no relatives, and why because cathar society has virtually ceased to exist. It has become an underground movement. No liturgy, and no longer any ceremonial. just a sort of secret society with only one common objective; to break the power of the church of Rome and the papacy, and in particular to ignore the Churches dogma of monogamy and chastity within marriage. i share that objective, but that does not make me a Cathar.’

‘Oh, I thought you had accepted the Cathar Faith’

Ximene other than issues of sexual behaviour, I have no knowledge or liturgy or dogma of the Cathars and neither you or lady Eleanor ever attempted to give me instruction.

‘You are twisting your own life an now mine for a faith which no longer exists.’

‘That is honestly how you feel.

Yes, You and your grandmother created great expectations for me, and I will always be grateful for that, our reunion has been wonderful, but I do not know why you are so obsessed with me making love to another woman.
‘It is necessary . It will enable us to be accepted in Grenada.’
“I think not Ximene, You could have been my token wife.
‘No John I have not enough experience of the Islamic system, and beliefs, Yvette does.’
John took a deep breath.
‘Very well Ximene, I have sworn fealty to you as princess of Occitan. I will do my best. Just try to remember I am doing it for you.’
John rose and gently carefully kissed her hand.
Yvette appeared. She had chosen a blue dress, clipped together at the shoulders and held in by a broad gold belt at the waist. It was significantly shorter at the front than at the back. It was open down both sides and as she walked, her legs protruded up to her upper thigh. She stopped and performed a pirouette. “ You see Sir John I am quite prepared to show you what I have on offer. I like this dress and I will never again wear ordinary shoes. These high heels force me to walk differently. She lifted one foot from the floor and tucked one foot behind her other knee. I cannot believe how these shoes make me feel better about myself, give me so much confidence.
‘Just Shoes! Well whatever it is Yvette you look sensational, Please sit down, I believe we are ready to eat.’

the maid made a brief intoduction to the meal. please choose the wine of your choice. we offer red white and rose. in truth we have no longer vintages from the roman era and of course even if we had found some hidden in a cave they would be undrinkable. Also the romans normally drank their wine watered down’ she smiled ‘ A tradition we do not necessarily want to follow. So we offer you the best of today undiluted.

However,with the ambition in all other aspects of giving you a true roman experiece our menu has been chosen from the earliest days of the imperium. We will however confine ourselves To night the introduction which was called gustation, will consist of eggs, anchovies, sardines and oysters, the main course, called the Prima Mensa will consist of prawns, duck and venison. All food will be served with a variety of spicy sauces including the famous Garum and will be served as morsels suitable for eating with your fingers and dipping in the sauces. We will finish with a sweet course called the second mensa, which will consist of honey covered cakes and fruit. At the end of the meal we will serve passum, fortified wine made from raisins.

she then spent some time explaind that they should all lie on individul couches with their heads pointing towards the central table where the food was being laid out.

The maid was now joined by other servants all carrying plates of food.

At the end of the primera mensa, Ximene rose to her feet.

‘Sir John, Yvette may not be aware that you are not only a knight of the Plantagenet empire but also a grand knight of the independent state of Occitan, destroyed by the Albigensian Crusade. Sir John would you please lead the singing of the occitan national anthem.’

John rose to his feet and bowed deeply to Ximene. He took a deep breath, and started to sing in a clear steady voice.

Outside my window,
There is a little bird
Singing all night,
Singing its song.
Xime joined i
If it sings, let it sing,
It’s not singing for me,
It sings for my love
Who’s far away from me.
Occitan, Occitan.
Land of mountains lakes and sea.
The land where we want to be.

Those mountains
That are so high
Keep me from seeing
Where my love has gone.

If it sings, let it sing,
It’s not singing for me,
It sings for my love
Who’s far away from me.
Occitan, Occitan.
Land of mountains lakes and sea.
Land where we want to be.

Lay down, o mountains,
And rise up, o plains,
So I may see
Where my love has gone.

If it sings, let it sing,
It’s not singing for me,
It sings for my love
Who’s far away from me.
Occitan, Occitan.
Land of mountains lakes and sea.
The land where we want to be.

Those mountains
Will lay down so low
That my dear love
Will come closer.

If it sings, let it sing,
It’s not singing for me,
It sings for my love
Who’s far away from me.
Occitan, Occitan.
Land of mountains lakes and sea.
The land where we want to be.

Dear lady from the east,

Inferno in venice and storm at sea,

Is this what you thought life would be?

From a harem you emerged

The walls of which held you submerged

That you are modest is without dispute

And yet I sense you will accept my suit

If you do there will be no constraint

You need not plan to be a saint.

You may choose lovers without regret.

From any you meet or may have already met

But tonight make me your choice

Dear lady from the east I will rejoice.

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

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