Tales from Froissart
edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University
Two captains harass the French party in Auvergne
Under the English banner, daring and ruthless captains take castles and booty in Auvergne and Limousin.
Book II, ch. 33. There happened daily in Auvergne and Limousin feats of arms, and wonderful enterprises; more especially in the neighbourhood of the castle of Ventadour, in Auvergne, which is one of the strongest places in all that country. It was sold or betrayed to the most cruel of all Bretons, called Geoffry Tête-noire. I will relate how this happened.
The count de Ventadour de Montpensier was an ancient knight and honourable man, who no longer took part in the wars, but remained peaceably in his castle: this knight had a squire or varlet, called Ponce du Bois, who had served him for a length of time without having profited much by his service: seeing that henceforward he should have no opportunities of gaining riches, he determined, by bad advice, to enrich himself, and in consequence entered into a secret treaty with Geoffry Tête-noire, who resided in Limousin, to deliver up the castle of Ventadour to him for the sum of six thousand francs.
This was agreed to; but he had inserted among the conditions that no harm should be done to his master, the count de Ventadour, and that he should be restored to him. This was complied with, for the Bretons and the English who entered the castle did not in the smallest degree hurt the count nor his people, and only retianed the stores and artillery, of which there were great plenty.
The count de Ventadour went to reside at Montpensier, with his wife and children, beyond Aigueperse in Auvergne. Geoffry Tête-noire and his troops kept possession of Ventadour; from whence they ravaged the country, and took many strong castles...
With this Geoffry Tête-noire, there were other captains, who performed many excellent deeds of arms, as Aimerigot Marcel, a Limousin squire attached to the English party...
Aimerigot made one day an excursion, with only twelve companions, to seek adventures: they took the road towards Aloise, near St. Flour, which has a handsome castle, in the bishopric of Clermont: they knew the castle was only guarded by the porter. As they were riding towards Aloise, Aimerigot spies the porter sitting on the trunk of a tree withoutside of the castle: a Breton, who shot extraordinarily well with a cross-bow, says to him, "Would you like to have that porter killed at a shot?"
"Yes," replied Aimerigot; "and I beg you will do so."
The cross-bowman shoots a bolt, which he drives into the porter's head, and knocks him down: the porter, feeling himself mortally wounded, regains the gate, which he attempts to shut, but cannot, and falls down dead. Aimerigot and his companions hasten to the castle, which they enter by the wicket, and see the poerter lying dead and his wife distracted beside him: they do her no harm, but enquire where the constable of the castle is: she replies that he is at Clermont. They promise to spare her life, if she will give them the keys of the castle and of the dungeon; which when she had done, for she could not in any way defend herself, they shut her out, having given her what belonged to her, and indeed as much as she could carry away. She went to St. Flour, which is but a league off: the inhabitants were much frightened, as well as all the adjoining country, when they heard that Aloise was become English.
Soon after this, Aimerigot Marcel re-captured the strong castle of Balon by surprise; the governor was asleep in the great tower, when he scaled the walls, for the place was not easy to be taken by force; but, by means of this tower, the castle might be gained. Aimerigot, therefore, thought of a subtle trick: having possession of the father and mother of the governor, he ordered them to be led in sight of the tower, making every preparation to behead them, if the son did not surrender himself. These good people thought they were instantly to be murdered, and cried out to their son to take compassion on them, bewailing most lamentably their unfortunate lot.
The governor was much affected: he could not suffer his parents to be put to death: he therefore surrendered the tower, when the whole family were thrust out of the castle.
Thus did Balon belong to the English, a circumstance which, in its consequences, much harassed the country; for all sorts of people woh wished to do evil retired thither, or to Cassuriel, two leagues from Limoges, to Carlat, to Aloise, to Ventadour, or to some other such castles. When these garrisons were all collected in a body, they might amount to five or six hundred lances: they overran the whole country, and the territories of the count dauphin d'Auvergne, situated at no great distance from their garrison; for none ventured to oppose them when thus collected together.
It is true, the lord de Chupier was a great enemy to them; as were the lord de Forterel and the bastard de Forterel, his brother, and a squire form the Bourbonnois called Gordomes. This Gordomes, one day meeting Aimerigot Marcel, by a gallant exploit took him prisoner, and ransomed him for five thousand francs: so much did he gain for him. Thus was the war carried on in Auvergne, Limousin, and the adjoining countries.