The Road to Poitiers
After a few days Richard feared the worst. The wound would not heal and the pain ever increasing. He ordered a small cavalry unit formed from his most loyal knights, despatching them on a covert mission to search out the Duchess and alert her of the situation. Richard entrusted his commander, William de Roches, with a letter and his ring as a token of good faith to be presented to the Duchess. The road through southern Aquitaine was teeming with the disaffected, disinherited and disenfranchised seeking revenge or fortune. The way would be treacherous so they wound their way along unbeaten tracks to avoid ambush. To be captured before they had accomplished their mission would be disastrous. Under torture they may be forced to reveal intelligence about Richard’s imminent death. This information would be of utmost value to Richard’s archenemy, the King of France Philippe Augustus, who would revel in the news of his adversary’s calamity, releasing the French army to sever Richard’s realm in half. Riding cautiously throughout the night under the light of a gibbous moon the troop covered the sixty odd miles (100 km) as the crow flies from Chalus to Poitiers – the seat of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s court. Arriving the following day, the party rode straight to the Duchess’ palace only to discover it deserted except for a skeleton crew and steward who informed the embassy of Eleanor’s absence.