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Afternoon Duties & Diversions | Early Afternoon 25/12- Xmas 1677

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The Kings Presence Room was the first room of the Kings Apartments, and open to all those of the gentry and even well respected merchants. Built in Tudor style the room had a vaulted ceiling and lovely Gothic windows. More modern paintings by Lely among others graced the wall. The room easily held over 50 gathering courtiers and seating, lovely plum coloured chairs and couches provided for their ease. Here one waited, hopeful to catch a glimpse of the King. To guard what little was left of his privacy, Charles Rex had ordered that none may enter past the Presence room without his personal permission, save for those he considered family.


Francis was a very early riser, so at some point, he was rather surprised he heard no stirrings from the Duke's side of the house. Generally, by the time Buckingham arose, Francis had already sparred with Tommy, written some letters, and was then well into his day before he made sure the elder blond had enough coffee with cognac in it to start the day right and without any aches.


Buckingham either teased him or pontificated at him about politics or court, or some conglomeration of both. Unless Francis was out early or attending the King, that had been a typical morning thing. So when he heard that the Duke had left very early, Francis had a fairly good idea that the only reason Buckingham ever was out of bed before the sun was if he never was in it or if he was with the King.


Already dressed himself in a silvery minty green justacorp, he just threw on a fur-lined cloak and made the short trip to Whitehall.


Having no idea that the Duke had, thankfully, spared him from any feigned attendance of 'praying', which they all did enough of on Sunday's, he headed for Whitehall.


The anonymous Mistress Envy had, after all, given him a new letter for their King which provided a convenient, and true, reason for being there if he needed one. If not, or if they were out, a few hours in the Presence Chamber was never wasted.


Whether anyone paid him any attention, Francis did not really notice, he scanned the room for the Duke, and not seeing him, asked the usher at the door to the inner rooms of the King, "Is His Majesty in or with His Grace?"


If not, he would be content to do some talkling and eavesdropping, so long as there was no sign of Lord Arlington heading to pester him, that was.

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It was the first day of Christmas, so there was to be no official business and much merrymaking to be expected. That of course did not mean there weren't people gathered in the Presence chamber intend on politics and gleaning the latest gossip, but the King had felt it an adequate excuse to indulge himself and had not admitted anybody but his closest friends, leaving the rest of them out here in the outer ring. Arlington was nowhere to be seen, knowing better than to expect anything today, and involving himself with arrangements for later that day.


"His Majesty," the young usher explained to Francis "is attended by His Grace the Duke of Buckingham in the King's Drawing Room."


He dropped his voice a little, and added to Francis as a fellow member of the Royal Household in a knowing tone "They are engaging in some fencing exercise after attending Church this morning. His Majesty was said to have spend over an hour in contemplation with His Grace." Which likely had left them both restless.

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An hour! And not on Sunday either! Well, I am glad to have been spared that...


"How very pious," he whispered back.


Fencing practice was far more enjoyable, though, so before anyone could try to solicit anything from him, he slipped through the door with a quip about "pressing matters" and went to see if he could be of some use to the active diversions that suited him far better.


While not feeling himself quite of Buckingham's caliber, although perhaps it was just that he had more modesty than the Duke, Francis would not overlook the possibilities of partaking in some sparring with either. That was far too good to potentially pass up.


Being one of the King's gentlemen did have its benefits in more liberal access, so he made his way to the Drawing Room, pausing only to ask one of the others if there were any particular orders not to be disturbed before heading in.

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Without much ado Francis was admitted with a quiet nod, the large ornate door opening and closing behind him. He saw Herbert and Asburnham, faithful royal attendants and cousins to the duke, standing to the side, watching what was going on in the middle of the floor.


The King and Buckingham, or more rightly called in such deshabille Charles and George, had stripped down to just their breeches and shirtsleeves, sans cravat, sans periwig. They stood on naked feet for better agility. The musky scent of male sweat was swirling in the room, presperation on the foreheads of both the Duke and the King.


The movements between them were swift, with Charles triumphantly pressing his point with George, while the Duke gave his best. Both were nearing fifty in rapid pace but were fit enough to hold their own in battle. Physical fitness was a point of pride for both of them, stemming from their youth.

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There was a nod for Herbert & Ashburnham as he entered the room. The faux combatants were not paying attention to him, so he did not yet bother to give any obeisance.


He watched the two elder men move back and forth. A piece of him was rather envious of the exertion.


This was far preferable to praying (or waiting for a Duke who had already left to wake up)!


"How long have they been at it?" he whispered quietly to the soft-featured pair beside him.

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"At least half an hour," Asburnham replied while his eyes kept focused on the swordsmen "His Majesty is in good spirits and displaying quite the youthful vigor. He has been rather bouyant all day. It must be the Christmas spirit."


Indeed, fond memories of youth cracked in the air as Charles pressed his point and hit George on his chest, thankfully with the cork safely in place "Ha!" he exclaimed triumphantly for the game was not easily won. With a sigh George admitted defeat with a short almost irreverant bow. Oh, how he hated to loose, but unlike other occassions, when he would have loved to rile Charles with some nasty wit, this time he kept his tongue. He was playing a long game and it suited him to have his boyhood friend in such high spirits at the cost of his own dignity.


The elder men were heaving their breath, the exercise now taking its tool as they uncermoniously sank down on the ground. Asburnham rushed forward with towels, while Herbert brought refreshments.


"Francis," Buckingham called, relieved to see his nephew with hopefully a distraction from is defeat. He gestured the young man closer 'You must defend the Villiers name in a little bit, yes? My lord and master is so convinced of his prowess that surely he needs to stretch his muscles further." There was a smirk at that. Okay, so he couldn't resist that little dig. Charles was impossible to live with today.


The King laughed carelessly, waving off "In a bit, in a bit." He took a deep swill of the cool ale that Herbert had provided. HIs brown eyes observed the blond young lord over the rim of his mug, a question in the arch of his eyebrow "Come now, Kingston, any word from Mistress Envy? I think the Duke is feeling her spirit."

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Francis held in his smile as the King got the point on the Duke, wondering if Buckingham had, indeed, given it his everything or not. Buckingham was known as a rather incomparable swordsman. Superior height, even by a few inches, likely helped HIs Majesty as well, either way.


Everyone seemed in rather good spirits which boded well, indeed.


Finally acknowledged and noticed he gave his pretty bow. He moved forward and feeling very silly looming over the pair, took a knee himself.


"Happily, Your Grace; although I doubt I shall fare any better against His Majesty." Did a gentleman like him dare to actually score a point on his King and Master? Buckingham was like the King's brother, but Francis felt he was simply just Francis, with no special claim to any special license or privileges.


"Ha! Yes, perhaps the spirits of Mistress Envy have touched the Duke," Francis chuckled, sending a knowing glance at his uncle. After all, Buckingham had been quite up close with N.V. just yesterday! There were many meanings in that sentence!


"As to the words of Mistress Envy for Your Majesty..." Francis trailed off, taking a teasing approach instead of directly giving the information. "I wonder what gifts she might bear for her King for Christmas, perhaps the season will see more than simply a missive?" His smile likely betrayed that he had some news. "How does Your Majesty know she attends for the Christmas season?"

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Any other day George might have claimed he gave the victory away to please Charles' ego, if only to drive the message home his friend should trust none at court, but him of course. Today, however, that message didn't suit him. This was no time for surliness.


Buckingham grinned into his beer at Francis bon mot, with Charles none the wiser. Oh yes, between them they would give the little lady quite the education. For sure there was the role of Heather and her little book in N.V's enlightment, but as he credited himself entirely for that lady's education that amounted to the same thing. If the Duke was aware of any part Basildon played in the education of either lady he gave no indication of it.


"Why, of course she attends," exclaimed Charles with a laugh,as if anything else was inconceivable "Is this not the merriest of courts at the merriest of times? She likes to tease, little mistress Envy. I think she might be among us here in London already, observing, learning, teasing wihtout revealing herself. Hopefully she will make this a Merry Christmas indeed."


It was nice to be chased, instead of doing the chasing, without the threat of matrimony or other state matters hanging above one's head. Just shared pleasure. Not that Charles wouldn't be doing any chasing of his own. He just waited for the opportune moment. For now, drawing it out held its own interest.

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"I daresay no court could ever be merrier than Your Majesty's, and in that way is the envy of all," Francis quipped, thoroughly enjoying what they had turned Nicolette's initials into within this game. It added to the entire staging of things! "And none more worthy to be touched by all the envious." His lopsided smirk was soft and rather guileless, far more suited to the fun sort of intrigue than the more serious sort as of yet. He clearly had the Villiers gift for double entendre.


"Has Your Majesty sniffed out the identity of your reluctantly virtuous temptress yet?" Francis continued to tease.


That was hardly the fun of the game and the game yet so new, that he rather doubted it, and that was the point of asking, to draw the King in even further with curiosity.


"Do you think such a gifted tease would be as cliché as to give herself as a present?" He paused for effect. "Although perhaps there is yet another missive..."

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Charles grinned into his ale at Francis' light remarks. Yes, he liked being the Merry King. The contrast with the traitorous Puritans could not be bigger. Plus, it had a nice way of hiding all of his more shrewd actions, this veil of mindless pleasure and pretending to be aimable to all. There was a core of iron to the King that few in the public arena suspected, unless they were exposed to it in some way or other. More often than not Charles was able to put the blame for any ruthless dealings on his underlings.


"What fun is there in knowing the true identity of mistress Envy untill the game has run itself to the fullest? " The King asked rethorically. He had a good inkling the lady was being prepped, that a delicious entertainment was being dished up for him, and cynically knew that in the end the puppet masters would wish something in return for his enjoyment. He hadn't yet fully sniffed what game was afoot, but he was sure there was one. This was his court after all, and the merriness nearly always hid something dark.


"Tally ho," George agreed, knowing only too well what hunting instincts swirled in the King right now "The chase is almost as good as the catch, eh what?"


"Though to be sporting, I do believe a hint or two might be in order. I have some more chasing to do, methinks," Charles mused. The royal we was nearly never present in private. For too long Charles had been just an ordinary citizen, in considerable poverty, to most of his country and sometimes commoner ways felt more comfortable.


Thinking of mistress Envy wrapped up as a gift, naked beneath delicate wrapping, caused a seriously delicious twitch in his breeches which were thankfully rather wide, giving a comforting knowledge that despite age and injury the royal jewels were in full working order. "I would never describe any lady as ordinary or cliche," Charles drawled "but for heavens sake man, if you have another letter.. out with it! Do not keep us in suspense!"

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Francis had known from his first meeting with Buckingham that their King was not all what he showed on the outside, but he had yet to truly witness it. Aside from seeing the contemplations after audiences and hearing the private sentiments about them, that had yet been kept from him. The young Villiers had noted the King liked to play benevolent uncle to many of his young gentlemen and favourites, but Francis was still so awed by the King in general to think it was anything more than wishing to feel in good spirits and less pressured, even if that was hardly ever the case for any King.


They made the King and Duke feel young and that was capital, he understood that from his uncle, but Francis was not yet enough of a court creature to the deep intrigue. He did wish simply to make them both happy. It was something of a peacemaker trait he was rather unaware he inherited from his father.


With a little smile and dip of his head from his spot on the floor with them, he said, "As you command." He then put a dramatic finger to his lips and said, "Your Majesty has commented on her before." Which was true of oh so very many women, as any page or household member could attest. Francis' sly grin belied that he knew it was hardly a good hint at all.


"And she has sent another missive," he added, pulling it out of his coat. He held it out to his King and master, although he'd also be quite happy to read it aloud, with appropriate additions of wit and expression.

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Buckingham snorted at the hint-that-was-no-hint. Few women escaped the King's warm appreciative looks (even if for most it never led to anything further). Charles laughed shortly, appreciating the wit but wagging his finger "You will not be cheating me, young lord Kingston."


Charles' correspondance with mistress Envy was not exactly a private matter. Plus he was still fighting his breath after that bout of fencing. He took another swill of beer and gestured to Francis to do the honours. It would add to the amusement and perhaps one or two clues would slip.

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"What an accusation, Sir!" the blond chirped playfully. "So I must clarify, I cannot both obey Your Majesty's past wishes of your gentlemen being gallant and gentlemanly to the ladies, and also obey Your Majesty's present wishes of betraying a lady's secrets and confidence. Which Majesty shall I obey? Past, Present, or Future?" he asked with a chuckle.


Rather than attempt to read the note n a feminine voice, which might be rather bizarre for as delicate a looking man as Francis, he instead spoke in his typical gentle tenor, placing amusing inflections here and there.


So he began,


Your Royal Majesty!

You must surely know the excitement that throbs though my veins


And here the blond pitter pattered his hand over his breast.


with the knowledge that your very person moves about the Palace barely a mile away! At last I am able to admire you, not from afar, at last I may hope to glimpse your eyes,(a pause) hear your laughter, (a pause) or breath the scent of your passage.
Said paused were met with a little feminine sigh of longing or his best impression of it.


You must know too, that my ardor is not content be discreet resident of my imagination. I would have you, in a most real sense. Such a predatory declaration is hardly ladilike at all, but then nor is the means that I plan to achieve this, most laudable goal. Here now, oh worthy Principal, accept my application to the college of Carnal delight, of which an inner fever, a latent passion, incites me to become London's most earnest student! An accounting of my lessons I shall supply, perchance to wet your lips, ("and Envy's," he supplied) perchance one day you shall judge me worthy of graduation. La! Then I might discard the diaphanous robes of academia, you may find me worthy of salacious secular employment to your royal person. The meritorious scepter. And repeatedly!

My first account towards my education, is the procurement of The Book, a book of feminine arts, of which I devoured with pink cheeks and wandering fingers! I cannot look at any gentleman the same now! He is an instrument, with a major chord, and together with woman might work a symphony both terrible and thrilling. It is said that your Highness's is the greatest of England, now wonder the preference for an exercised playmate, my own resists trespass of a second digit. Pray that shall swiftly progress! For you are whom all things worthy are done.


La, I blush so to write such honesty, yet discover some strange thrill to the embarrassment, though suspect the greatest of these is yet to come.



I remain always, yours


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"The Future King of course," Charles declared without hesitation, recalling Arthurian legend but now featuring himself in that role "For he is all three combined and hopefully well satisfied by then." He could not yet imagine when the future King would be some one other than him, dared not dream that finally his heir would arrive to follow in his footsteps.


"Remember you owe your loyalty to me, not to some dame," he mock lectured his gentleman "though I beg you be courteous, always to any lady in my court. It is up to you to be clever enough to combine such sentiments."


There were snickers and chuckles as Francis play acted the lady, George punched his friend in the shoulder as the wicked words filled the room. Charles grew more quiet as Francis continued though, and hid his feelings in his cup, is dark eyes slightly aroused perhaps. The King mastered withdrawing into the privacy of his own minds amidst a crowd and even among friends, hiding his feelings.


"A book," Charles queried at last, one eyebrow raised in interest "What is this? Heaven forbid all the ladies learn to use their feminine wiles, and the gentlemen reduced to dancing their attendance. There shall not be a moment's peace. "

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"Well, at least I am singularly qualified for such delicate negotiations, Your Majesty," Francis replied before they were on to the letter, which the others seemed to fully enjoy.


"The very fabric of society would implode, Sir!" the blond joked in mock seriousness, about the idea of all ladies learning all of the sensual pleasures of life, from a book of instructions, no less.


None would know who were their actual children. Wives would flee their husbands. Women would be able to heave more temptation down on men with such instruction. Indeed, it was a frightening proposition.


"No man shall be able to keep hold of his wife but by pleasing her!"


As to his clue which he still owed. Francis tried to think of that which would provide a clue but not betray the lady.


"Mistress Envy is indeed a mistress and not a lady," he divulged. "And she has not been long at Your Majesty's court."

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"No college relies on books alone," George scoffed good naturedly, not willing to share what he had learned of this book, a secret he would like to delve into all by himself "A kind master to teach this apprentice, that is what is needed. Soon enough mistress Envy will learn what a real man feels like, not one existing purely on paper."


"If she is indeed a virgin, it stands to reason she's not been long at my court," Charles nodded pleasantly, allowing his thoughts to linger, thinking of her comment on the digit of her fingers. His mind perused the newcomers. The English used in the letter was rather fluent, though that didn't exclude foreigners. At the very least the King knew this could not possibly be one of the prudish Germans at his court. Italian perhaps, or French.


"Argh," the King exclaimed in mock dramatics, leaning back on the floor in playful despair, an arm thrown over his face "Wicked Francis, too many candidates remain. Now I shall have to await further updates on the schooling of Mistress Envy."


The pose, not very serious to begin with, took but a moment, Soon enough Charles rose "Enough, I shall have to subliminate my frustration into action. Are you ready Lord Kingston, to fight your King?"

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"But, Your Majesty, I think she enjoys it very much herself, the suspense," Francis replied, with a suggestive raise of his brows. "The consummate chase."


"So it is all the better for later. Her passions for you shall be ready to burst." He could return the mock despair by a dramatic optimism of his own. He cast his eyes briefly to the duke, having that slight self-consciousness of trying to sense how he was doing.


When the King rose once more, Francis did as well, giving a pleased little bow at the challenge, a soft grin forming on his lips.


As yet he was still unsure if he should actually even try to best his royal master. After he had beaten Orleans with the baton, he was hesitant of repeating such a thing! And this was no Frenchman.


Nevertheless, he shed his justacorp and waistcoat fairly quickly, followed by his cravat and the untying of the top of his shirt. His boot and stockings took a few hops on one foot here and there, but he was shortly ready for the bout, gloves and all. Leaving his things in a pile, he moved toward the middle of the floor, awaiting the King's pleasure with a salute of the corked rapier.

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As Charles rose and grabbed once again for his rapier, George gave Francis a wink and a clasp on his shoulder. The boy was always second guessing himself, but he was doing well, pleasing his lord and master. He could tell his boyhood friend was enjoying having the youth around, as if something how youth would rub off on him and restore his vigor. There were no words of advice but a whispered "Be true."


Charles greeted his opponent briefly with an uplift of his rapier, before taking the en garde position. HIs Majesty was neither shy nor a novice in the art of fencing. Rather than circling Francis to observe his moves, Charles pressed his advantage, testing the young lord with a few quick dabs. The elder man was sure footed though slightly favoured his left leg due to the old Windsor wound.

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"Be True."


Well, then it would be quite interesting to see if he could hold his own against the King.


A victory would only be bittersweet, for these elder gentlemen have already been at it some time, Francis could not help but think. He was the sort that if he won something, he wished there to be no excuse for his success; cheap wins were cheap.


Francis eyes quickly rolled over the King's size and stance, it was his only quick judge of how far His Majesty would be able to reach and lunge with the rapier. The King was taller than Buckingham, and Buckingham was yet a bit taller than Francis, so he knew he would have to be quite agile...and daring...because he would have to get much closer to the King, and thus to an easy counterattack, to hit the gargantuan royal, while the King could much more easily stay out of Francis' reach and still be close enough to hit him.


Which indeed seemed the be the point the older man wished to make first as the King wasted little time in advancing on him.


Over his nearly thirty years, Francis had spent much time sword in hand, and he practiced nearly every morning with Tom, so while he was not very graceful at dancing, he was far moreso with a blade. A hearty advance did not scare him, but as he worked to parry the jabs and move backward, he inched a bit to his left with a smarmy but happy sort of grin on his face. He hoped to find a line to attack on the King's right and force him to have to move left.

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There was a grin on Charles' face as he approached Francis, then replaced by intense concentration as their battle continued.


Like Francis, the King was well trained and didn't let up. As the young pup forced him to the left, Charles bent a little, but quickly countered, correcting his stance. His brown eyes flared up with intensity. While sweat flowed, smiles disappeared. Intense concentration. Everything else left Charles' mind.


After the King countered, he moved forward to the left of Francis in an instinctive strike, giving no quarter. Buckingham watched along avidly, holding his breath. He had not prepared Francis for this, but trusted the boy would do well due to his Villiers blood. Be True.

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Francis was probably a little cheeky in making the King move left, taking some advantage of knowing it was not his master's good side. Be true was be true, and Francis would be going lightly if he ignored it; after all, the King had the advantage of height and thus reach, so if anything it evened the odds some.


It was something he continued to try to press, as they continued, even as he tried to parry the King's thrust by pivoting to the right, and intending upon a quite thrust of his own.


Francis was simply not the sort of man who would go easy or be timid. Though he could hardly know it, he could easily have matched his father's grace for swordsmanship if he clearly had not for dancing!


The King being very skilled, he very much doubted it would be a bout easily won by either. Unfortunately for Francis, although he hardly considered it in the moment himself, the King was probably more familiar with Italian rapier tricks than most Englishmen, being the Duke had spent even more time in Italy than Francis. There would be no advantage there, which the blond energetically seemed to prefer as they continued. A challenge and a chance to show that there were some things at which he required no tutelage to prove himself, win or lose.


In the now, blade in hand, he could be sure and certainly be true.

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Charles matched Francis parries, aware of his Italian style and having the advantage of experience. However his leg injury, height and age made him less graceful than the young blond Villiers that stood before him in such an achingly familiar way. It seemed they were nearly equally matched.


In the end it was the King's exhaustion that did him in. He mis stepped, allowing Francis an opening to his right. George sucked in his breath, rivited by the intense bout.


OOC: Francis has very lucky dice!

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Being smaller and agile, it was all Francis could do to take advantage of any openings provided, so he pressed in. A good sweat had worked it's way up for him as well, especially down his back where his untied hair was like wearing a fur across his shoulders and neck.


His shirt was untucked in front and sticking to his skin in back. What little light blond hair he had on his legs was also rather glistening.


And with a well-placed lunge, he hoped to take advantage of the misstep.

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With a grunt Charles attempted to block Francis at the last moment, but he was too late and the young sweaty god touched true no small accomplishment, but then the King was not perfect by any means, and well he knew, and admitted, that himself.


George laughed and clapped for his nephew. "Point!" Shaking his head Charles rose his hands in defeat "Fairly won, Kingston, fairly won. It is a good thing you are on my side, eh? Was it your grandfather who tutored you so well?"


Pages rushed forward again with towels and new cold ale, offering it to both men.

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Francis was quite winded by the time he pushed the cork tip into the King. It felt somewhat distinctly wrong, but Buckingham had told him to be true, and he did not question his uncle's judgement of the King; none really knew him better.


"Ah, well, Your Majesty was simply a bit worn from besting his grace so thoroughly, a task hard enough for one day, even for a king," Francis joked, with a jaunty bow and then a smile for Buckingham.


He pulled the bottom of his shirt up and wiped at his face before the towel was offered. He ran it up his chest and the down his lower back.


"And, no, he was but an average swordsman aside from a hangar* in the saddle, but he gave us a book and wooden swords in exile, and we had little else to do," he said, with a reminiscent grin. "We had many tutors once we came home, and I spent my time in Italy quite wisely." His sly grin spoke as much to the culture of courtesans, serenades, gondolas, and fighting over women.


"And many hours on deck from boredom," he added. "If you can move your feet and keep balance on a ground that moves, you shall be both safe when in a drunken brawl and at advantage on solid ground." He took a long swill of the drink. "Perhaps a measure of inborn gift with it as well, which Sir George** shares to some degree."


(OOC - * a hangar was the cavalry sword of the time, precursor to a sabre, but a little shorter. ** Legge, not Bucky)

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"Villiers blood simply breeds true," Buckinghamd declared proudly Charles laughed and accepted fresh goblet of ale, nice and frothy.


"Well but idleness seems to have rendered you in a quite competent swordsman," the monarch complimented "Though I will accept your excuse that I was a trifly indisposed." He shook his head and grinned ruefully. The joke was on him. He was getting old.


"Yes, a sailor, I like that in you Kingston, " the King approved, while Francis and the Duke were also served ale. He waited till they might possibly choke on their first swill of frothy white foam to casually ask "Yet, your ship has come into her home port. Time to anchor you properly. We have been thinking about heirs a lot, my lord, and perhaps so should you." He hid his grin behind his drink, liking his little Royal joke. Francis was just lucky this was not a public ball room. For a moment Charles let the silence draw on.


"For instance my sweet Daisy has come into a little of her own darlings just today."

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Francis found he felt a sense of comfortable validation whenever the Duke made such comments about his blood. A light blush might have even crossed his face, although likely harder to see after such exertion. He even had a certain contentment of being so claimed by an elder male relation; it somehow made things at court seem more familiar. The blond did not realize how much he missed his grandfather in such a way, although Buckingham was hardly a one for one replacement.


"Even at seven years of age one wouldn't wish to answer for months of unproductivity at one time," Francis replied with a chuckle, thinking of the rolling lists of misdeeds that his grandfather had come back to when returning to the them after streaks of being gone for months at a time.


He accepted the ale and finally took a large gulp in perfect time for the King's words to send a burn of ale up his nose and a stout coughing fit as well.


It took him several moments to recover, and even a few more moments to think of an appropriate response. Thankfully one presented itself when the King spoke of Daisy, one of his favoured dogs, who was quite pregnant...or had been, it seemed!


"If Your Majesty commands, I shall have to have Scotty bred then!" He would make like the entire commented had been a joke about dogs. His giant black poodle could be his way of deflecting the insinuation that he should have his own heir. After all, the King and Buckingham already knew his feelings on that, he would give neither a wife or child the Kirke surname.


As an attempt to distract from that all, whether it would work or not, he said, "Does Your Grace wish for an attempt at redemption or shall I solely carry the Villiers prowess for the day?" It was only politic to see if the Duke wished another chance to best someone for the afternoon.

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Buckingham let loose a full belly laugh at his friends joke, slapping poor Francis on his back as the poor blond tried to recovering from inhaling his ale. "Come now Kingston, see you are not to be wed yet. It is but talk of dogs. You know how His Majesty dotes on his girls."


"No Scottishman touching my girls," Charles protested with a laugh "I shall have to scrap you from the list of potential receivers of a pup in a couple of weeks time if you threaten such a dire fate."


George looked at the King briefly when Francis offered another bout. Charles gave the briefest of nods. "Very well, Let's test your mettle Kingston."

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"Whilst that would be an interest coitus with so large a poodle and so little a spaniel, Sir, I think it is safe to say I shan't try my hand at puppy breeding!" Kingston assured his royal master with a cheeky little dip of his head and shoulders.


"And I would be appropriately honoured to take care of one of His Majesty's girls and keep them from the Scots," he added to Buckingham and also to the King. Which girls he was speaking of, well, Francis was quite the user of double and triple meanings.


He noticed the glance shared between the duke and king and vaguely wondered if it was improper for him to even offer before consulting His Majesty, but Francis was not wholly reformed into a perfect courtier, rather a work in progress.


With a final swig of his ale, Francis nodded as Buckingham agreed to another bout for redemption on the King's nod.


Kingston took up his position and offered the requisite salute with his rapier, putting himself in his typical guard.


He and Buckingham were much closer in size and height so he did not use the initial higher guard he had with the King.


"Age and rank first, Your Grace," he quipped, waiting for the Duke to make the first move.

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George grinned, feeling like he had the advantage. He had some rest after all, while Francis had been worn out by the King.


"You insolent pup," he accused with a laugh, and made a fast tripe move that showed that despite his age, his body was lean and hale. He was still one of the foremost duellers in the country. Luckily for Francis the move was straight from Italy and something he would recognize immediately.


Charles meanwhile grinned into his ale as he rested on the ground, lazying about. This was a good diversion, one of his more pleasant Christmas days in the past decades.

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