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Parry, Riposte, Remise! 24th Early Morning- Xmas 1677

Ambrose Turnbull

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Fencing Hall


The enclosed area had windows in three of the four sides, which let ample light in. It seemed to be divided into two sections of roughly the same size by a number of black walnut bookcases containing titles by authors like Jerónimo Sánchez de Carranza and Don Luis Pacheco de Narváez from the “Verdadera Destreza” (True Skill) Spanish school of swordsmanship, as well as books by Achille Marozzo, Giacomo di Grassi, Salvator Fabris, Rodolfo Capo Ferro, and Francesco Antonio Marcelli from the Italian School.


In the first section, three circles of different sizes had been drawn in the floor, with all kinds of straight lines, and small circles drawn inside and around them. They were used for teaching what was known as the Spanish style, a system of combat tied to intellectual, philosophical, and moral ideals, a conservative system of swordplay using both thrusts and cuts.


In the second section, the elements of the Italian style were taught and practiced: the preference for certain guards, the preoccupation with tempo, the emphasis on thrusts, and many of the defensive actions particular to this style of swordsmanship which, besides rapier, also taught attacks and defenses with daggers, pikes, halberds, and bucklers, as well as the use of two of those at the same time.


Several artful displays of armor and weapons called attention to the walls. Six dummies were set up in each section for those who wanted to practice their stabbing and cutting techniques. Yet, more often than not the men gathered here to train with each other, or to observe others.


Here not just the courtiers practiced, but the troops of the Lifeguard and the rest of the Household Cavalry as well, since most of them were born into the gentry, those younger sons and brothers of the lords that vied for attention at the palace.


Turnbull discarded his scarlet coat, tossing it over the back of a chair, then moved his arms up and over his head, bending also as he performed a swift succession of stretches.


While banal of expression, there was a certain sort of pleasure that came with the warm up exercise, feeling the tug of tension in his muscles and anticipating their loosening up, there was something entirely satisfying in working up a good sweat.


The steel of his blade made a pleasant ping as he was loosed from it's sheath, and he gave into the temptation to work a fancy flurry of it's tip in the air. Take that! A muted smile had formed upon his face.


Now to find a sparring partner.


Sheathing his sword once again, his eyebrows rose as he looked about, "Anyone want to show this Seadog how a Courtier fences?" While calling himself a sea dog, the tone and accent of his voice was plainly well bred and polished; the glint to his eyes betrayed his was a teasing goad. He was in fact out to make, perhaps, some new friends.

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They were a small contingent - merely four - yet easily recognizable by the decoration each wore pined to a sleeve or bodice. It identified them as belonging in the Household of the Duchess of York but under the protection of the Duke. Dressed in shades of blue to bronze they had arranged to meet at this place the day before.


A Christmas Court had been convened and so those usually absent from London changed plans and so there was much Merriment and High Spirits. Although many were only just arriving they themselves had arrived some five days previous eager to see and be seen, to charm and flirt and the Duchess had been generous in her allowances and sent them away calm in the knowledge that no real harm could befall any.


Twas early they knew but that was half the excitement and so they sat eyes intent upon the masculine forms before them. He had caught her eye from the first and she had followed his progress with interest. How well his red uniform suited his tall frame.


"You are interested then Sarah?" This from Alice, cool Alice, mocking Alice, grown up over the summer.


"Who is he - the one newly come?' She asked her eyes watching as he flexed.


"I have no idea but easily found out. But what of 'Your John' then - has he been tossed aside at last and so you hunt for a replacem ..... Ouch!"


A quick pinch to her arm by another Maid who sought to silence might have been heard by any of the Gentlemen that were grouped for the sound echoed somewhat and so drew the eye to where they sat.


"It seems that the kitten has grown claws but there is little that hurts me Alice. John Churchill comes and goes as the Tide. It has ever been so. I chase after no man and I am free to do as I please."


She rose of a sudden and began to weave her way among the seats her furred cloak forgot and she made a pretty picture in her dark navy brocade which complemented her honey blonde hair. Now eighteen Sarah Jennings had also matured over the past summer and fall and whilst she would never be a Beauty she had an attractive air about her and her brown eyes were lively and intelligent.


She could hold own and was bold enough to find his name without anyones aid.

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From the exact opposite of the gallery, a vision in a royal blue day frock appeared, her skirt wide, her neckline low, her step bouncy. Golden red curls were gathered up loosely, allowing curls to fall down on her shoulders.


Heather paused a fraction as she saw the group of giggling maids, her hand flying unbidden to her expensive brooch, depecting York's arms in the most expensive gems imaginable, a ward against any who questioned her position. With a sigh she repressed her misgivings, forcing out the mere thought she might not belong and instead turned her attention to a familiar distraciton.. a distraction she had been seeking by coming here.


A red and gold uniform, a man's muscles, the display of skill. Perhaps she had hoped to see another officer, but right now any distraction would do and her green eyes widened appreciatively.


"A seadog?" the redhead cried out merrily to the officer, who might not even knew his fellows which she had come to search for "Why, what pity my brother is not here, member of the 2nd. I wish I could challenge you myself.. but alas.. this dress.." Heather gave a mock curtsy, spreading out her skirts on blatant display, and her still will filled bosom even more so.

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It was fortunate that Ambrose had not seen the giggling gerties, he'd have not have performed his stretches with such ease if he knew there were women watching on. It was only as he made his call for a sparring partner that he realized how very unisex the fencing hall was, and his eyes flared slightly, his tip of head stiffening.


The Lieutenant had rather limited dealings with the fairer sex, and felt far more comfortable in their presence with a buffer of jolly comrades around him, and perhaps a few drinks past his lips. Spotting a group of men in the Spanish-style circle he was intent to make his way towards them, but a woman with the bearing of a great lady (probably a Duchess he lamented to himself) called out cheerily.


Had he been with a group of fellows, he'd have easily snickered the bawdy remedy that she discard her dress and he'd get his sword out. But having to talk to the woman directly stifled his mind.


"Ha." Her ample breasts stole his attention. "A member of the 2nd - what is your brothers name Your Grace? I am newly to the 2nd myself, Lieutenant Turnbull at your service." and he made a rigid-backed bow, licked his lips and dragged his eyes from her cleavage. Just now the witty riposte was coming to him, but it was a quip for the lads, not a fine bred lady. "Ahh... a very fine dress it is too."

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Another person stilted her progression towards the newest male arrival.


Her small exclamation was not heard but any watching might be able to tell from the way she now stood - one hand resting on her waist, head tilted a bit to one side - might hazard a good guess that she was not please.


And so SHE has returned and without any Shame


To Sarah, one of the Duchess of York's Ladies, the sudden arrival of the woman who had but two months past been brought to bed of a son - who's father was her own lady's Husband the Duke of York - made her angry.


Eyes raked over the Countesses appearance which was on full display with distaste. The news of the babe's birth had been brought to the Duchess's attention with an almost malicious delight by several yet Sarah knew how much it had cost her Mistress to keep an uninterested face amongst it all. Only in Private did she vent and many an object suffered a doomed fate.


There were many that feared the Duke's Mistress but Sarah was not one of them. Cautious was perhaps a better word.


Knowing that she could not simply interrupt she chose to edge her way a bit lower until she came to rest against a bench seat. Able to hear the greeting she smirked at his assumption that she was a Duchess and then his observation of her dress.


Fool she thinks to be so easily swayed by that! Perhaps he was not then good enough for her to seek out? Twas Possible.


But she would remain where she was the better to tell it if needed to her Mistress.

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Heather noticed his glance. Many men could not resist at least a glance, sometimes even more. It did not bother her. That was after all why she was proudly wearing such low necklines, putting herself on display. Yet, she had hoped for something witty, a clever return, a compliment or better yet a teasing insult. Instead, he could only remark on her dress. He looked uncomfortable.


"Oh no, " she laughed as she realized he had somehow come to the conclusion she was the Duchess of York. It was probably her brooch. "That is the other woman." Carefull Heather Abigail. James won't like it if you talk too much about her. Instead the redhead decided to save this officer from further misery "Heather O'Roarke, Countess O"Roarke, enchanted." She offered him her white hand, wondering if he knew what to do with that.


"Ah, my brother is lieutenant Edmund Hamilton. He used to be in the Foot Guards but recently gained a commission in the Duke's own. That is the 2nd right? Or is it the 3rd? I can never get those straight. Why do troops even have numbers?"

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The little hairs on the back of his neck tickled, he had the sense of more eyes upon him. Though perhaps that was only his paranoia - being surrounded by a sea of expectant Ladies of Court was his nightmare. Oh, not that women did not have their uses, and not that he'd applied himself any number of times to that. But you did not need to make fancy small talk with a whore. You did not need to butter up their finer sensibilities, or worry about who their families, lovers & enemies were.


Somehow the Lieutenant had found himself neck deep - but at least for now he was somewhat unaware. For now he was focused just upon Heather. Mistress to the Duke - His eyebrows pitched aloft, so this was the woman the Duke was rogering. "An unexpected honor." he bowed and reached to kiss her hand (the first achieved with deft polish, the second feat a bit more wet than required), "I am a great admirer of His Highness's military prowess and strategy." Ah, now there was a more comfortable subject, "While the stuff of the finest ballads in the Kingdom, I do not know that any but those who were actually there, who might truly appreciate his genius."


Which was not to say that he thought even more highly of Rupert, but Ambrose knew not to stint of praise to someone with a vested interest in the Duke.


"I would wonder then, if perhaps your brother is in the 3rd? The Duke of York's own. " her question was yet another lifesaver, a sensible topic to talk of, that kept his concern of how to talk to a lady at bay, "the numbering being of order of creation." he clicked his tongue, "I dare say milady is already aware that we military men are less creative, and numbers are clear, if not eloquent."

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  • 3 weeks later...

Sarah was just far enough away so as not to draw any undo notice to herself and yet be able to 'see' just what was going on between the man in uniform and the Dukes "Mistress".


A quiet movement at her side was the only indicator that another had joined and she quickly gave the others' hand a grateful squeeze in thanks.


"You understand then what I watch for?"


She whispered to the other who gave a small nod of her own head. Indeed all of the Duchesses women know about the Countess and the babe that had recently been born and some thought it amusing and so gossiped. But a few, like Sarah and Bess, held fast to their Duty and even if it might cause their Mistress pain belt bound to be her 'eyes'.


"She had not changed her style even after her delivery - as brazen as ever." This from Bess.


"Indeed. Well let us simply wait and watch - we each shall observe the better to compare later - and no suspicion can fall on us as we but gather to watch the Gentlemen! Tis Truth and so let us make ourselves all aflutter so that we might take his eye from Her to Us!"


The two heads together in a shared conversation with looks out to where the Assembly was and comments behind hands would be a universal sign to any of the men there and so some outward show of 'Masculine Display" might be forthcoming.


It was also hoped that the Solider who was with the Countess would also be interested.

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Drawn by the gentle tink of blade on blade, Charles abandoned his aimless wandering through the palace and entered the Fencing Hall. With the vestiges of last night's laudanum winding through his blood he felt almost invincible and eager to prove it.


Given the earliness of the hour, the hall seemed busy to Charles. He carefully removed and folded his navy frock coat, leaving him in breeches and waistcoat of cornflower blue, before beginning his stretches. He cared not for any prospective audience. Whatever about his face, Charles thought his figure a match for that of any man in the realm (especially now, with his mind aloft on wings of opium). As he stretched, he cast his gaze across the room, wondering who to join once done.


A group of gentlemen by the Spanish circle- Perhaps. Surely we can do better, though.

Four young ladies, from their livery members of the Duchess of York's household, at least one of whom was well worth a second look.


No, we promised ourselves we'd behave and surely we can at least make it to luncheon before breaking our word.

A tall, solid-looking fellow, in a Life Guard uniform minus the tunic, conversing with a woman in blue, who, if the other had been worth a second glance, was worth at least a third.


Finishing his stretches with a quick lunge, Charles straightened up, thumbing his eye patch, today navy like his frock coat.


Look at him. Big, stolid military man. Probably has all the wit and refinement of a German. Probably about as comfortable in her company as you'd be in your stepmother's, albeit for presumably different reasons. From a certain point of view, you'd be doing them both a favour.


Charles permitted himself a snort of quiet laughter and made up his mind.


So much for behaving myself.


Pausing only to flick an errant black curl into place, Charles strode towards Ambrose and Heather and coughed gently to draw their attention.


"I fear that I must beg your pardon for both interruption and imposition, my lady. I find myself in want of an opponent and was wondering if I might borrow your conversational partner for a swift spar? I do promise to return him in one piece."


Charles gave a quick smile, before bowing and clicking his red court heels.


In retrospect, these are terrible shoes to fence in.


"Charles Audley, Earl of Chatham, at your service."


He straightened and readied himself for the pleasantries.



OOC: Hope no one minds my butting in...

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OOC: welcome, welcome!


Heather had spend a good many years ignoring the gosip mongers at Court, and those from the Duchess household she could afford even more ignoring. She pointedly did not look in their direction. Whatever they were up to, on their heads it would be.


"Ah yes, the third," Heather nodded, in truth not the lest interested, except to hold his attention a little longer, magnificent looking in that uniform 'That must be it, Silly me."


They were interrupted and Heather offered her hand to the new comer without thinking, giving a slight curtsy, as they equalled in rank "Lady Ath.. O'Roarke," she introduced herself, barely stoping herself from using her old title. She gave a sultry smile "Do not apologize. I've always wanted two men to fight over me. To the victor the spoils. Shall we say... a kiss?"

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Ambrose stood a little taller as the Dukes lady marveled over uniform, although the man was jacket less at the moment, he felt pride in his own wearing of it. "I should hardly call it silly Marm." he gave her a smile, her modesty was bolstering, "and if any man here was to say so I would..."


The cluster of woman yonder drew his note then, they seemed to have a lot to say considering there was not much going on right now. He frowned, and looked back to the redhead, who seemed oblivious to the other groups existence. It occurred to him that her threat was not gentlemen. His dark brows furrowed, but before any more could be said a sportsman arrived in full cheer and improbable shoes - aforementioned eyebrows pitched aloft with relief.


"And I"m Lieutenant Turnbull," he tagged on his own introduction, inwardly delighted at both suggestions. "pleased to meet you Chatam, a more worthy prize I could not imagine my Lady." he grinned, with absolute confidence that he'd give this nobleman a good thrashing, to be rewarded by a snog after. "And as a consolation prize..." he rose a single eyebrow then and tipped his head slightly towards the whispering ladies.

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Charles flowed through the motions of kissing the lady's hand and favoured the lieutenant with a nod, the courtly rituals as natural as breathing. Equally as natural was running his eye over Heather's figure as he straightened. All present and correct. Then he caught sight of her brooch. York's arms.


Hmm. She's certainly not the duchess and I'll wager she's no maid. A mistress, perhaps? His taste has gotten a damn sight better then. Perhaps his confessor lifted the penance...

Still, it was best not to take liberties then. Charles had hopes of York, and he had yet to improve a man's opinion of him by seducing the fellow's paramour. Of course, then she smiled and Charles broke yet another resolution as soon as it was made.


After all, would it not be rude to treat such a magnificent creature with nought but remote courtesy?

Charles grinned wider as she waved aside his apologies, while her suggestion for the spoils of victory drew forth a delighted bark of laughter.


"Capital idea, my lady, capital." He turned to Turnbull. "I would have suggested wagering a guinea or two to add spice but 'twould seem we are to fight for far higher stakes, hmm?" His lips caressed the words.


Charles felt his grin sharpen as he began to assess the lieutenant. Taller and bigger than him, with far more practical footwear. About the earl's own age, which meant he might well have served in Flanders. Charles did not remember him but, with how scattered English forces had been, that proved nothing. Therefore, assume he had.


On the other hand, he looks at you and sees a foppish courtier with inappropriate shoes, when what you are is a foppish courtier with inappropriate shoes who has warred, brawled, dueled and otherwise fought on most of the continents of the earth. Make use of that.


Charles nodded to himself and spoke.


"I shall leave choice of terms to you Turnbull. Best of five, three or one touches? Or shall we dispense with the corks and fence to first blood?" The earl frowned in feigned distaste. "I'd rather you didn't opt for that last. This is a new waistcoat, and I'd rather not stain it with blood."

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"You are welcome to try, Lieutenant," Heather whispered sotto voice as Ambrose attended dwindled to the handmaidens of the Dutchess "but you'll find that pretty Sarah has a mind of her own. She's quite flirtatious though, so Godspeed." The Countess all but suggested Sarah was part of her own libertine set, a disasterous rumour for one who was supposed to be a virgin. Heather doubted she was.


"No blood?" the redhead sighed with some disappointment, before smiling again with that innocent flutter of ginger eyelashes "Oh, no, I wouldn't want your waistcoat spoiled, at all, my lord. God forbid." Heather always loved a bit of blasphemy in the morning. "You better take that off right this minute."


She waved merrily at Sarah and her companion.. who was she again? A forgetable face. With mischief in her eyes, the mistress moved towards the handmaidens, throwing a look over her shoulders "I will just make room for you gentlemen. Do not be long in deciding the particulars. This is going to be so exciting. My goodness. Do you think one of the servants could serve us some sack? Why, I should have brought my fan."

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For all of the ridiculous shoes the man wore, the plucked eye was a dead giveaway that the man had been in battle of some sort, even if on the loosing end. But however much the lady wanted to see blood, the Lieutenant knew it a foolishness to gamble with an Earls life. It was too easy to accidentally puncture a lung, or slice an artery, and even a nominal scratch could go septic and turn a healthy limb gangrenous. Ambose was only his first weeks of Whitehall service. No need to make an enemy yet.


"Fine, lets keep our wagers to kisses rather than risk your pretty waistcoat." Hmm, it was a pretty waistcoat too. Whatever service the man had seen, he certainly looked to have gone soft. Stepping back the lifeguard slashed his blade through the air, this way then that, setting his hand to him, entering the mental state. "Best of three, corks on, looser tries first blood on little Sarah over there." Gah, that had come out loud, and the Dukes lady stood right there. Shit.


"Er..." he looked at Heather and flushed. "My apologies milady."


He shifted his jaw, he was pissed that she'd taken the other mans waistcoat like it was some token. Ambrose, competitive? Well perhaps just a little bit. He was determined it would be him who won her kiss.


The Lads Fight over Heather


Moving into the performance area proper, now away from the ladies one and all, he moved to shake his opponents hand with 'show' of the gentlemanly protocol of wishing of luck. However it was not a good luck wish he uttered. "Keep your eye in chum, it nearly popped right on onto the floor while you were oggling the lady." the man grinned with the pre-game insult.

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Charles laughed in delight at Heather's playful little performance and flashed her a roguish grin, musing, not for the first time, that what he missed most about having two eyes was the ability to wink.

He set about the buttons of his waistcoat.


"Well, let it not be said that a lady ever had to bid me strip twice."


And to think, I awoke this morning with such good intentions...


He slipped the garment off and folded it neatly over his arm before offering it to the Countess with a chuckle.


"Traditionally, it is the lady who offers tokens of favour but I shan't have it said that I'm old-fashioned, either."


Charles suppressed his merriment and turned his attention to Turnbull as the lieutenant proposed terms, restraining himself to a single arched eyebrow at the other man's manner. More used to taverns and barracks than court, presumably.


He's going to have a devil of a time convincing this Sarah to give him the time of day after that. How unfortunate.


"Your concern for my wardrobe is much appreciated Lieutenant. Shall we?"


Man to Man


Charles sauntered after Turnbull, following him towards the piste.


I get the distinct impression he's somewhat annoyed.


The two shook hands and the lieutenant ventured a quip. It actually wasn't half bad and Charles grinned thinly in response.


"Oh my. One would think that I'd have learned my lesson: that is exactly what happened to the other one."


The Earl moved to his mark and saluted his opponent. He could feel the beginnings of the old, familiar thrill as he settled into his en guarde. He could feel tension flow from his muscles and an almost irrepressible urge to laugh aloud rose up within him. All thoughts of ridiculous shoes, of his courtly prospects, even of Heather's smile, fled. There was only the moment.


Oh, I've missed this.

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Sarah, unaware that she had become the topic of a wager, sat calmly watching the trio her eyes missing nothing. In all actuality there was simply not much to see and so she half heartily began to regret her rather impulsive gesture of taking her Duty Seriously.


The two other girls had now made them a quarter again and so when the Countess acknowledged with a wave she smelled a Rat. Proved correct for no sooner had the two men began their preparations she sauntered, yes, sauntered, to where they all sat her words trailing ahead as if announcing her arrival.


Giving a slight nudge to her companion and a quelling look to the other two they all rose as one pretty in their shared reverence to the Countess. They would all remain standing until She has found her place - Sarah thinking that she might be the recipient of some converse - for many knew her as a fierce protector of York's Duchess.

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"Good morning ladies," Heather greeted the foursome cheerfully, the carefully wrapped waistcoat over one arm "Is this not a lovely entertainment, put on display especially for us? Nothing quite like a little violence in the morning to arouse the senses, eh?"


The Countess was sure that it wasn't altogether proper for handmaidens to watch half dressed gentlemen have at each other, but then she had not led them on to this path of debauchery. They had come of their own violition. She merely raised the stakes a little, urged them along a little further from where it was wise to continue. With a smug little smile Heather seated herself.


"Did you ladies brought your fans with you? How clever if you did. I forgot of course," she tittered to the girls in general "I am ever forgetful, my brains have yet to return after my confinement." Her sense of decorum was unlikely to ever return, lost irretrievably to her sense of mischief and independance.


The winner to get a kiss from the mistress, the loser a kiss from the Duchess' handmaiden. Yes, it was a powerful symbolism. Heather did not want to spoil the surprise by forewarning the girls. Heaven forbid they would depart.


"Have men ever fought a duel over you Mistress Sarah?" she idly asked, unable to resist at least some sally, engaging them as if it were mere Household gossip.

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Man to Man

Two very different men, one with polish of a politician, the other... not so much. Though both felt the surging of blood at that moment. "Har har!" he laughed to the other, he'd not expected such a good natured reply, could not help but like the other more for it.


After shaking his opponents hand, he turned and made a bow to the ladies, now en masse.


Sword tip was then raised heavenward, free arm moved crooked behind him with a certain grace that came with practice, and with good form of a mild mannered smile he gave a nod to Charles.


Ready to commence.


Ambrose moved in an arc opposite, measuring the stance of his opponent, gauging how the other placed his weight on his feet, the angle of his shoulders even the tension of his jaw; little clues to anticipating his opponents strategy, before closing the circle he begun with an elementary parry of swords. An in game warm-up of a sort. Measuring the weight of the others blows and countering in the like, while retaining the full energy for once he knew more of his opponent...

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Man to Man


Charles returned his opponent's nod, lips curling into a relaxed half-smile. The earl's stance showed some minor variations from Turnbull's: he kept his free hand couched at his side, his legs bent a trifle more and his head turned just slightly to offset his reduced field of vision. His cyclopean gaze assessed the other, noting the practiced grace of the movements. The other man had selected a conventional opening, entirely correct in the face of a complete unknown. Watch and wait, conserve your energy, learn... then strike. All conventional wisdom said that the lieutenant's course was the correct one.


Charles had never understood the appeal of conventional wisdom.


And so, when Turnbull closed the distance to begin probing, Charles moved to meet him, heels tapping out a rapid rhythm on the floor, point threatening first quarte, then sixte. He beat lightly at the other's blade once and extended his own in a deliberately short attack to quarte. He did not care whether Turnbull parried the attack or not: the entire purpose was to set up a counterparry-riposte. To attempt to score a touch from second intentions so early was bold, almost reckless, and Charles hoped to take the lieutenant by surprise.

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Man to Man

Chatam's stance was more bravazzo, the loose gait and indeed arms, was less military and more swagger. Ambrose smile remained even, rueful to realise it was barely a fair match. See how his opponent tipped his head to increase his field of vision, on account of his singular eye.


Lastly the swords introduced themselves with the usual clatter, 'how do you do's', and 'very well thankyous', scraped lively into the air. Ambrose measured the other tempo, quarte - sixte - quarte, the lifeguards own intent to attack at a quarter beat prior to the other mans next strike.


"Ho!" he gave a laugh as he countered the surprise lunge, for the other then betrayed some measure of skill and made a first touch. "You shall give me some competition! Thank god for that, I would hate to fall asleep!" he postured and he feinted a step, then crossed counter to it, then breaking his own tempo - corked tip darting to Charles shoulder, a lively player in this dance his teeth glinted as he enjoyed the sport.

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Smiles but no verbal responses to the first questions as eyes narrowed a fraction each gauging how best to respond or if at all.


Sarah knew her private thought was correct for she was indeed singled out. She could hardly offer congratulations on the child's birth after all given the circumstances!


"How well you look My Lady." She offered instead in all politeness, with a smile.


It would seem that there was something afoot for why else would the Countess address her alone? Perhaps she too fished for some news that might then be construed to suit her purpose and go against the Duchess?


"I suppose one must define 'duel'." She stated back calmly.


"If you mean by word then I must answer yes for I have been privy to numerous occasions of discourse where men fought to outdo the other to win a favor or prize. But if you mean has a man ever made to kill another to show his Desire of me then I must answer no. Tis not a thing worthy of a boast, or at least to me."


She paused as the two Gentlemen offered the Assembly their Salute.


"They will play against each other and leave the corks on will they not?"


Her eyes had stayed fixed on the two as a small frown furrowed her brow. It would be just like MEN to puff up and think to impress especially with the Countess watching yet Sarah knew the danger's of this Game well enough. And doubtless she had egged them both on in some fashion setting one against the other.


I wonder what has been wagered?


She silently thought.

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Man to Man


Charles bared his teeth in a pleased grimace as his counter riposte landed. There were times (and this was one) when he felt that the combination of physical and mental challenge and satisfaction made fencing his preeminent pleasure.


Well, preeminent amongst those I can discuss in polite company anyway.

He felt a wave of affection for Turnbull as the other acknowledged the hit. A sporting fellow, the lieutenant, and quicker with both wits and tongue than Charles had first assumed. Still, Charles could not let such ribbing pass and replied, tongue firmly in cheek.


"Is falling asleep in the midst of action a common problem for you Lieutenant? My late father suffered the same. There are powders you can take!"


He waggled his eyebrows and all but purred the words, leaving no chance of his meaning being mistaken. All in good fun, of course.


Still, there was physical as well as verbal fencing to be done and Charles moved to counter the lieutenant as he came on again. His opponent began a step to the earl's left and Charles felt almost disappointed. They were far too close for such maneuvering and the attempt would leave Turnbull's flank exposed. Charles extended his blade to take advantage... and saw too late that the step was a feint. Turnbull reversed direction with surprising adroitness for a big man and his point darted for the exposed shoulder of Charles's sword arm. An excellent hit, quite of a piece with that Charles had scored moments earlier.


"Well struck sir! Belle touche indeed!"


The earl broke distance, laughing, and took to the point to discourage any sudden rush from Turnbull. The lieutenant might notice that his guard had tightened, the almost languid stance of their first exchange now vanished.


"Now, shall we make an end? Can't keep the ladies waiting!"


And, so saying, Charles came on again.

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Lady to Lady


"A mere exchange of a bon motte a duel? "Heather considered it briefly, but shook her head, tutting, like an elder might instruct a younger girl even though there was but a few years between them "Oh no, such duelling of tongues is mere wit, a playful exercise for the nimble minded that has little to do with .. passion. It is so abundant at this court that if a girl should fancy herself to be the centre of a man's devotion based merely on rapertee, she can be quite deceived. Any suitor will say a great many pretty things effortlessly. It is empty, of no consequence."


"Have a care with your heart mistress Sarah," she counseled almost kindly "If you involve it after every well turned phrase you'll find it quite trampled. Men are cruel." Heather was not deceived. She knew Sarah was shrewd enough, her words but innocent protestation that she need not believe.


"No, a man's true intentions are in his actions.. when he shows his brawn, when he's willing to stir more than his.. ah.. tongue, though for sure, such a thing can be pleasant.. when things get rough, and men are reduced to their purest instincts.." the Countess murmurred wickledy, quite sure that Sarah understood her innuendo "Dark it maybe and completely illegal, but that is part of the appeal. If danger is not part of it, it is not worth doing."


Her green eyes followed the fight with rapt attention meanwhile. " Brava," Heather clapped at the excellent movements of the two men that were engaging right before their eyes. She even grew a touch breathless. Hard muscle working under shirts. Oh my. "Onwards, onwards, to the victor the spoils."


"There you see, they are keeping the corks on, you need not worry," the Countess managed in condescending manner to all handmaidens but Sarah in particular "We would not want anything to happen, not with the King's strict edict against true duelling, now would we?"


Despite the King's express wish, everybody knew that duelling was still common in England, though not as frequent as in France. Men were not puppies, and they needed this outlet, frequently.

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Man to Man


The Lifeguard laughed again, his opponent was the sort of merry scoundrel to be liked. The slight to his prowess in the sack was the sort of banter Ambrose had grown up with, dished out as often as taken, it was like being home. "I'll let Lady O'Roarke be the judge of that, when she's begging me for respite!" and, oblivious to the envy it might inspire in Charles, he gave a carefree wink for the sheer hell of it.


He could hear Heather egging them on, her cry was a reminder of what was on offer. (As if Ambrose had forgotten for one second!) The woman did not realise the men, in their excitement, fancied more than an innocent kiss.


Ambrose was serious as he set about his counter attack, and while Chatham's acknowledgment 'Belle touche' was some reward, it was thought of Heather breathless and giddy that was the real prize -- that, and the envy of the other.


Broke apart, they eyed each other again. It had come down to this... bent forward like an animal, Ambrose rolled his shoulders grinned. He'd not say that Chatam was a comely fellow, but he made a pleasant sight then; a taut barrier beyond which the was the precocious mistress. Ah, life was good!


"Ha!" With a hop forwards on left foot, then leading with right Ambrose launched a vigorous flurry then lunge sixte & tierce, intent to invite his opponents sword high and wide, that he could direct it with his own blade to slide through and past his side. A quick step then taken he then pivoted, orientation spun at his direction, and upon doing so he hoped for a moments advantage as Chatam re-positioned. A moment he intended to make the most of, with a final touch.





OOC: Would you perform the honors and ask a Mod to determine a result after your reply&counter to Ambrose's tactic:duel: Whoop, fun!

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Man to Man


This is better than opium.


The thought was distant, a vague acknowledgement of feelings too deep and primal for words. The sheer exultant joy of movement and competition went beyond any ability Charles had to express it. The audience and even the spoils of victory were both long forgotten. Victory itself was all that mattered.


And so Charles met Turnbull's flurry with his own. There was an intensity to these exchanges that had been entirely lacking in the first, an intensity that perhaps approached dangerous. And then Charles saw his opening. Without any particular haste he stepped back and let Turnbull's next lunge hit naught but air. His arm straightened in an automatic counter. Victory was his!


But no. Turnbull's blade somehow diverted the earl's past his shoulder and the man squirmed past into Charles's blind spot.


A frozen fraction of a fraction of a moment, where Charles was still and defeat loomed. Then sudden violent motion. Before his conscious mind even realised what had occurred, the earl's limbs responded. His legs bent suddenly and deeply, dropping him towards the floor, and his arm struck out blindly, instinct guiding the blade to where the other man had to be...


Would he be fast enough?



OOC: Done. Oooh, the tension...

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Lady to Lady


She was not about to try and outwit the other - far too wise for that - but she could still try and attempt to make a jab of her own!


"I can assure you My lady that I have never been the least deceived by such wordplay and tis true that some may fall prey to it as you describe and thus suffer a fool's Fate."


"How kind you are to have such care for my heart Madam but do not trouble over much - and a Woman may be just as cruel with her owns words do you not think?"


"Actions do indeed make a Man as you say and so I needs must bow to your ... expertise ... in that area but shall retain my belief that other Qualities add to the over all package."


Her eyes had been on the two men as she spoke and the Countesses sudden exclamation caused Sarah to look at her fully observing from her profile that she was clearly excited by what was happening and even encouraging dangerous plays.


"This is Folly Madam even with tips covered as you say yet might they now have been removed? Tis very easy to slip and draw blood or worse and then the King would hear of it for tis not a thing to be hushed up so quickly and with so many eyes watching."


Indeed her words seemingly were being proved correct for the two men made a distinct change in their stances and the air was tangible with it as they continued their blades flashing. No expert in this Game Sarah knew enough to understand that the sudden shift hinted at only one thing - each was intent to claim Victory.


The Lifeguard was quick and executed his pivot was the point his? The Gentleman with the patch was sure to lose and she found her breath held as she stood one hand on the rail her eyes going from one to the other ....


But then a sudden twist and the second Gentleman dropped to the floor and she gave a small cry as she watched his blade strike out with no direction but clearly aiming for the Lifeguard.

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The flurry of strokes were exchanged and Turnbull pressed his advantage on the opium-addled one-eyed earl. It should have been over in that instant, yet Audley tried a move in desperation, one that no schooled fencer might employ. In doing so, Turnbull's blade missed the falling man by an inch and Audley's wild swing managed to crash against Turnbull's sword arm as he retracted. The touch was made.

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Man to Man


The tactic was working like clockwork - how often had he deployed to a less merciful result, the battle seasoned soldier moved with exacting confidence, victory was only a matter of time away. But then his opponent, knowing his doom was night, took a movement of desperation. Text book - no, graceful - not that either, honorable - well that could be debated too, but definitely effective.


The wild eyes-closed and untempered jab to the air made an impact to his arm. The lifeguard gave a grunt of dismay as he moved with the impact to lessen the damage, this was not a calculated cork tip 'touched', but the side of the others sword flaying. Was there damage done as he suspected? That was the risk boys took when they played. But inspecting just how bad the injury was would have to wait, he was not about to alarm the ladies by a display of any pain. (Someone had shrieked already, as it was.)


So instead he drew his own sword into a neutral position upright before him and bowed to the other mans victory, "An exhilarating fight Chatham, you must tell me one day where you learnt that tactic." before tucking his weapon under the damaged arm and reaching out to assist the other with a hands hitch to his feet, "Not one of the traditional schools, for sure, something more akin to a street fight perhaps? Ha, well done, though you shall understand that I must now cuss your soul for your winning the redheads lips. A certain thing. While the consolation prize... not so much." his eyes swung towards the ladies. The one Heather had identified as Sarah looked flush of face and anxious. Was that a good sign? God knew.


"Shall we sir?' he gave a nod towards the ladies, it seeming only right that the winner of the match make first approach.

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Lady to Lady


"Naturally women deceive just as much as men," the Countess conceded "The sexes are strangely equal in that regard." She arched an eyebrow at Sarah, wondering at the irony of that little schemer mentioning that. Sarah Churchill might pretend to be saintly, but Heather knew better.


The redhead laughed merrily as Sarah seemed to imply something dangerous or untoward was happening. "Not so missish!" she tutted as the girl nearly gasped at the ensuing violence. Really, for one that was known to mess around a little with men, she hardly seemed aware of their nature. Not even the King would mark this as something illegal "It is just a little push and shove. Honestly mistress Sarah, have you no brothers? I have 5 and I can assure this is all very normal behaviour.They shan't kill each other."

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Man to Man


Charles had always been an athletic, tricky swordsman rather than a scientific one,with a gambler's instincts and a willingness to ride his luck. Thus far it had cost him nothing but several pints of his own blood and it had once again paid off here, if only by a hair.


Still, victory was victory, and Charles allowed himself a moment to bask in the warm sensation of triumph, lessened somewhat by the irritating realisation that the last strike had been clumsily delivered. Turnbull did not seem put out, though, and Charles accepted the offered hand as he came to his feet.


"A damn close-run thing, Lieutenant, a damn close-run thing. I'd have sworn you had me for a second. Your guess as to the origin of that last... maneuver is a good one- I first saw it in the backstreets of Venice, if rather more gracefully done." Charles lowered his voice. "That last stroke was wild." Not much of an apology on the face of it but he imagined Turnbull could read the intent behind it. In any case, the man would likely have scorned any flowery protestation of remorse. Charles would have.


The earl perked up as the conversation turned to prizes.


"Oh, I understand entirely, as I'm sure you will when I say that I think I can bear your curses."


He followed the other man's gaze towards their audience.


"Hmm. Play up that last hit. Let her catch you suppressing a pained wince, perhaps. Women do love to play nurse. A roundabout path, yes, but I fancy you know as well as I that a long chase has a thrill of its own." Charles waggled his eyebrows in lieu of a conspiratorial wink and laughed as the other man bade him lead the way.


"Ha! Typical cavalryman, sending the infantry in first!"


Approaching the Ladies.

Charles took a moment to make safe his sword, reorder his hair and brush imaginary specks of dust from his breeches. He considered finding a towel but discarded the idea. Lady O'Roarke struck him as the kind of woman who enjoyed seeing that a man had sweated for her. Appearance mended, Charles strolled towards their audience with roguish grin and languid swagger fully in place. He swept an extravagant bow and spoke.


"I do hope the spectacle provided sufficient... sport, ladies, for if we needs must perform again, I fear I must first find more practical shoes. These heels are rather pretty, but I think their appeal lost on the lieutenant."

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