Chapter 18 (Edit) The Secret Journey 17/4/55

17 April 1355

‘Tell me everything that happened.’

Henry de Vere, Earl of Oxford, had lost a throw of the dice determining who should attend the tournament at Woodstock, and he was jealous and starved of news. Instead, he had been forced to travel to Plymouth to start the process of preparing the army for the Armagnac campaign.

The Earl of Salisbury looked around Henry’s tent in wonderment.

‘Well, I would if there was somewhere to sit. What is going on here?’

‘An unmitigated disaster.’


‘I have received not a sou from the King. What you see now has come from my own pocket and my pocket is now depressingly shallow!’

‘Is that why your tent looks like the kitchen storeroom? Where do you sleep? And more to the point, where will I sleep?’

‘We can squeeze another bed over there.’

William studied Henry in momentary thought. ‘Come on, the Prince has an account at The Cherry Tree. We will stay there until we get funds.’



Later, after a bath and a mug of ale, they both felt much better and descended the withered and twisted set of stairs to The Cherry Tree’s justly famous dining room.

The Cherry Tree, on the quay overlooking Sutton Harbour, was where seafarers and ship-owners rubbed shoulders with royalty and the aristocracy. That they were able to conduct their business so far from London was a sound measure of the importance of shipping to a nation that had two territories separated by three hundred leagues of usually hostile Frankish territory and whose normal way of travelling between the two was by sea.

William struggled to understand the situation. ‘Have you sent a message to the King letting him know how short of funds you are?’

‘Three, all with no reply,’ Henry scowled.

‘Have you sent a message to the Prince?’

‘I have no idea where the Prince is.’

‘Then you will be happy to know that he is due here any time now.’

It was the most incredible of coincidences. The door to the dining room burst open at and through the door walked the Prince.

‘William, Henry, I thought I might find you here.’

The Prince put his arms round the shoulders of his two comrades and the three of them were soon immersed in copious greetings, congratulations and condolences, the latter directed mainly at Henry de Vere, as he had missed the tourney.

A gaggle of servants could be heard carrying luggage down the hallway outside the dining room. There was much banging and bustling and the voice of the landlord asking them to be careful. William nodded towards the hall.

‘How did you manage to bring the entire palace on horseback?’

‘I didn’t, I sent it on ahead in a wagon. There is more outside that should be stored in the mobilisation camp as it is intended for Bordeaux.’

Henry groaned.

After a meal which consisted mainly of roast meat and vegetables washed down with many mugs of beer, the Prince eventually got down to business.

‘So, how is the mobilising going?’

Henry groaned again.

‘Not well. I have my own men, and some of Lord James’ welshmen, and there are confirmed promises of men from virtually every lord we have contacted. It is the supplies; cooking utensils, tents, bows, arrows, swords, pikes, grappling irons, tunics, and a thousand other things, which are causing my biggest headache. I fear that without proper funding I cannot continue.’

The Prince greatly enjoyed the bearing of good news and his face split into a cheery grin.

‘Then you will be happy to know that your problems are now over. All you have to do is visit Samuel Harman at the Dolphin further along the quay and give him this warrant and you’ll find and there are virtually limitless funds waiting for us!’ Samuel is De la Pole’s agent and he is making an advance to fund our war against the Armagnacs. He urges us to spend carefully but to make sure the army is short of nothing it needs to be successful.’

The Prince’s voice acquired a conspiratorial tone. ‘If we can deal with the Armagnacs expeditiously, I am in fact planning to do slightly more than originally intended.’

He pulled the warrant from his inside pocket and handed it to Henry.

‘Now, excuse me, Henry. I need to talk to William about a private matter.’


William found Henry at breakfast the following morning. His downturned mouth said everything. His good spirits had obviously evaporated.

‘Well, did you talk about Joan?’

William put his arm round Henry’s neck and shook him gently. ‘Curiosity killed the cat, Henry, but, in a curious way we did. But there were other things to discuss.’

He hesitated. ‘Henry, the Prince wants to steal twenty five of your best men so we can take them up to Dartmoor for special training.’


‘The Prince and myself.’

‘Surely it is my turn to do something interesting. I could go and you could stay here to mobilise the army.’

William struggled to suppress a wave of irritability. It was not unreasonable for Henry to wish to escape his dreary task, but it was the task which had been assigned to him. Before he had a chance to reply, the Prince rescued him, arriving at their table with genuine joviality shining on his face.

Obviously he had overheard the last snippet of conversation.

‘No, Henry, William has the talents I need for a rather special mission. In any case, I want you to make the army your own. You will be military commander in Aquitaine later in the year. It is important the army identifies with you as its leader.’

‘I only have fifty men in total. How am I going to receive and store the supplies?’ Henry protested.

‘Start the process of mobilising the army and in the meantime hire in people from the town to help. I must have twenty five men, experienced soldiers, or the nearest you can get to that. I want archers. Archers are disinclined to do any physical work anyway.’

‘Mobilisation immediately? No one will leave home without pay in advance. And how will I influence any lords who may be wavering in their support of this war?’

The Prince smiled. ‘You now have access to ample funds. I will give you twenty blank pages that I have signed and sealed. Use these to do whatever you need to do to mobilise the army. Date them as you use them. It shouldn’t be a problem to get compliance with my seal on the documents.’

A thoughtful expression claimed Henry’s face as he took the documents from the Prince. ‘Training on Dartmoor? You are going to make an expedition to Scotland?’

William grinned. ‘Sorry, Henry, but that is all you need to know.’

He and the Prince spent a whole day sifting through the lists of men who were assisting with the mobilisation. They chose mainly archers but there were also engineers and siege specialists and everyone they chose was able to ride a horse.


Several days later, the Prince had taken over the small lookout tower and blockhouse on Pendennis Point. It gave the small group shelter from the wind and when fires were lit, warmth in chilly evenings. Just as important, during the day the location gave a clear view down the coast and across the Carrick Roads.

Back in Plymouth, the Prince had brought William up to date on his visit to London and had told him about the explicit instructions; marry Ximene and never see Joan of Kent again.

They now started to make detailed plans for the journey to Muret.

‘Have they any inkling of where we are going, William?’ the Prince asked, nodding towards the soldiers.

‘They don’t care. I have told them they were specially selected and that they will be receiving double payment whilst they are with us. They are in good spirits.’

William pointed to the archers clustered down near the beach.

‘Look, they have organised that themselves.’

The archers had pinned down a sheet to the ground at the top of the cliff to act as a target and were shooting up from the beach. The target wasn’t visible from the archers’s position. Arrow after arrow soared high into the air and then plunged back to earth into or exceedingly close to the target.

‘Each man gets only two sighting shots and then they must get seven out of ten arrows into the target or donate a day’s pay into a common fund.’

‘And what will the common fund be used for?’ the Prince asked.

William grinned. ‘That, I didn’t dare ask.’

They walked to a position where they could see the target more clearly. Each archer took his ten shots in quick succession and then climbed the hill to observe his result. There were few payments made to the fund!

Suddenly on the western horizon the mast of a ship came into view, followed by two more. Soon three ships under full sail and in tight formation could be clearly seen. Then, as if instantly, they were reducing sail and preparing to enter Carrick Roads.

The Prince jumped to his feet, elation ringing in his voice, ‘Our ships! Quick! Gather everyone together. I want to be on board as quickly as possible.’


On the beach behind Pendennis Point a fishing smack was waiting for them. To fulfil the need for secrecy, the smack had been purchased discreetly on the other side of the Carrick Roads at Saint Mawes. The embarkation was carried out from the beach to avoid attention and the smack was sailed by Jack Evans, one of the few in the force who possessed skill in sailing.

William accompanied the Prince on the first trip the smack made out to the ships. He followed the Prince up the ladder onto the deck of the Sally, which immediately broke out the commander’s pennant. The smack then visited the Mendip and the Clevedon to pick up the other two captains and Lord James. It was a pleasant morning, as the wind had dropped, so the Prince held a meeting on the foredeck. He glanced upwards at the tell-tales streaming from the masts. The smack continued to ferry people from the beach as the meeting progressed.

The Prince allowed for introductions and socialising, but cut them short after only for a few minutes.

‘Good, that is all the formalities out of the way. The wind continues to ease so I don’t want to take too long.’

The Prince arranged for six copies of the second stage of the orders to be passed around.

‘Before you open these, I must tell you that once they are opened no one will be allowed ashore until we reach our destination.’

The orders were duly opened, accompanied by various degrees of surprise or indignation passing over the faces of the readers.

The captain of the Sally was the first to speak. ‘An order is an order, but whilst I am captain of this boat I have a responsibility for the safety of all of you.’

The Prince eyed him calmly. ‘So.’

‘The orders ask us to do something that is obviously and inherently dangerous. Why do you want to go to Arcachon? What is wrong with Bordeaux?’

‘Simple, I do not want anyone, even my most loyal subjects, to known I am in Aquitaine. The sole exception is the Capital de Buch, who will help us organise our journey. The Bay of Arcachon is on his land. No one else will know of our arrival.’

‘Sire, do you know the entrance to the bay of Archachon and how dangerous it is?’ asked the captain of the Sally. ‘Just a tiny crack in miles and miles of sand dunes. There is a channel but it shifts year by year, season by season even. If you don’t sail it regularly you may never find the channel.’ He sighed in exasperation. ‘And most of the time there is heavy surf running across the entrance. It is a fool’s errand.’

The other captains muttered their support.

The Prince nodded his head slowly and gave each man a cursory look. ‘Gentlemen, do you believe in maritime law?’

‘Yes, of course we do, and that is why we will go to Bordeaux and not Arcachon,’ replied the captain of the Sally. Having spoken up once, he was clearly determined to see this through.

‘Then you had best read over your initial orders. I have been appointed captain of the Sally and Commander of the fleet, giving me effective control of all three ships. That is why we are going to Arcachon and not to Bordeaux. We will find that channel and we will sail through it. I have in fact done it several times before.’

‘How long did you have to wait to get the right day?’ scrambled the original captain of the Sally, clearly exasperated.

‘Sorry, gentlemen. You have your orders. All you have to do is carry them out. I suggest we set sail before the wind drops altogether.’

3 thoughts on “Chapter 18 (Edit) The Secret Journey 17/4/55”

  1. Note that this is the first chapter you have introduced asterix for scene breaks: ********

    You’ll need to make whatever you decide here consistent throughout the manuscript.

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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.