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Charity Begins at Church (Dec. 26 Morn)- Xmas 1677


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The chapel at Whitehall was spacious but not the size of a cathedral. As such, it would likely be overflowing with courtiers this morning. It was the day after Christmas and any Anglican worth their salt would be in attendance this morning. The next Sunday service might be at Westminster Abbey, but the Christmas service would be at Whitehall so that only the gentry might attend.


It was an hour before service and already the courtiers were gathering. They were in search of seats but also in search of holiday cheer and banter. It was a Sunday to see and be seen. Everyone would be donning their most proper finery. It would not be a time of drunken merriment, but of sober remembrance. At least that was what Queen Karoline was expecting as she put her plan into action.


Too long the Queen kept in the shadows. Now she carried the royal heir in her womb and could assert herself at court. A queen was best known for mothering heirs and charity. She was already at work on the first, and now set about to achieve the second.


Ursula Blount, the Queen's Mistress of the Stole, had instructed each of the Queen's ladies as to the plan. They would approach the pious churchgoers and gain a pledge of 500 pounds in return for the right to light one of the 12 candles at the altar and stand before court as a patron of charity. It was the perfect time to make the wealthy open their purse for the Queen's charity, and she would use her beautiful ladies to ask it. Who could refuse?


Ursula was present to supervise the ladies and to report on the success of the venture before the Queen entered. Lucy Seymour, Susan Herbert, and Davina Wellsley, among others, was instructed to greet the right gentlemen and seek their pledge. The more powerful and wealthy were inclined to arrive later for the service. Would the candles be gone by then?

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Was it positively Brazen of Nicci to wear the same dress to Church as she'd worn to the ball the night before? She certainly hoped so. She prayed in fact, that people would notice and draw conclusions. That quite everyone would believe she'd not been near her own wardrobe when sunrise had come back around, and from that deduce she'd been waylaid in ways that were both scandalous and thrilling! She wanted the King to noticed most of all, perhaps he'd understand that his earnest student de l'amour was attending to her homework.


With head held high, she sauntered into the Chapel, satisfied smile upon her face. Brown eyes smudged with kohl gazed around the chapel. The queen's ladies were staking the place out, which made the location as appealing as an etiquette lesson...


Nicolette would rather forfeit candles for the rest of her life, than talk to any of Davina's coterie - and so in an overture of bolstering her own forces she turned and addressed the nearest gentleman, "Is it too early for communion wine?" followed by bubbling laughter -- though she was hardly joking.



Tag: anyone

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John walked up in good cheer, still whistling Tempus Adest Floridum. He was in a good mood. He enjoyed church, and last time he’d been to the royal chapel had been lovely. Besides, it was St. Stephen’s Day. Like most Anglicans, John felt the Feast of the Circumcision was the most important. Christmas day, yesterday, was next. But St. Stephen’s Day, today, was important too.


John was a bit surprised to see the Queen’s ladies in waiting hovering around. Normally Servants had St. Stephen’s day off and were given gifts by their mistress. It seemed the Queen had decided her ladies-in-waiting would work instead, and on a Sunday. He wondered if it was a German thing. Or perhaps this was some scheme which they had volunteered for.


Regardless, John loitered outside the church. He tried to be properly attentive and reverential inside a church… so he loitered outside, where he could greet anyone he knew, or wanted to know, and chat a bit. Perhaps he could find out what task the ladies had been set to. He looked around to see who had arrived.


John's fashion, which could often be a very uneven thing, was consistently higher on Sundays. He wore a suit of cream white with red and green threading depicting flowers and trees. He was using a walking cane again, which evened his gait but meant the cane wasn't wholly fashionable. It had images of the Christmas story on it. The astute might notice it had twelve segments, one for each day, and scenes appropriate for that day, with the head being the star of Bethlehem. His hair, as it had been since he returned to court, was an abundance of blond curls, though these were more modest and didn't shake as much when his head twitched.


OOC: Also open.

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Turnbull & Maldon


His hangover had eased off a little, thank you to a few swigs of rum from his hip flask. It was either the tipple, or his raising success with the ladies, that had Ambrose in a positivly ebulent mood.


Sauntering into the Church ridiculously early, he scanned the crowd for the sort of ladies that might have plenty to confess. Gah. He did see someone he recognised, one of his earlier failures, one Sarah Jennings, the girl who had gaped slack jawed at him.


"Ahem." well perhaps he best begin his morning with a gesture of friendship to some gentleman instead. Were Rochester and Sedley here, he'd have approached them. Instead his eyes fell on a chap who'd walked in just before him, limped that was, possibly an old war-wound, the Lieutenant knew plenty of men thus afflicted.


"Goodmorning fine sir." he spoke to Maldon, not knowing who he actually was, "I could not help but notice your limp, gained in the service to the crown no doubt, please accept my commendations and condolences. An honor, but a bitch none the less. Lieutenant Turnbull, at your service." he tipped slightly at the waist in restrained bow with his introduction.

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Maldon and Turnbull


John stopped whistling as the Lieutenant cleared his throat. John felt a mixture of shock and confusion at the man’s introduction. Confusion because of the references to John's military service and shock because his language was a bit foul. The man was obviously a soldier, whether or not he was in uniform. “The Lord Maldon.” John replied easily enough, though it was a bit casual, perhaps even a bit flippant.


“Nothing so glorious I’m afraid.” Or so new. John regretted he’d not even gotten the chance to run as a child. It was one of the reasons he so liked horses. It didn’t quite give the satisfaction of flexing sinew, but he could close his eyes and pretend the wind came from his own legs…


But his mood remained unspoiled. He smiled, “But thank you. Are you one of Lord Ogle’s f-f-friends then?” John asked. They were both lieutenants and something about the man’s manner struck him as similar. “What regiment are you… with?”

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Maldon and Turnbull


Turnbull unconsciously struck a military pose, with relaxed expression that rose and fell as Maldon explained. "Then something marvelously inglorious I hope?" he commiserated kindly, "or at least if not in fact, then in the fictionalization." a wink, "the ladies all love a hero, and I've the notches in my belt to prove it."


While actually this was a brand new belt he wore, as he was dressed in his Sunday finery, which today comprised a brand new suit of ocean blue, with frothy white lace at the throat and cuffs. He felt like an overstuffed toy bursting kapok from it's seams.


"Lord Ogle? Yes I dare say we shall be friends." he chimed in, "though as yet we've not actually met, how is it that you can recommend him?" for Ambrose assumed that Maldon drew his conclusion based upon some insight. "I am in the 2nd."

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The Duchess of Somerset approaching Maldon and Turnbull


Lucy Seymour was determined to solicit more donations than any of the Queen's other ladies, not because she was particularly competitive but because she wanted to impress her mistress. She was one of the youngest ladies-in-waiting, and even though she was a Duchess, she sometimes felt a bit inferior to the older and more experienced girls. Lucy did not like that feeling at all. She wanted to be one of the Queen's favorites, and this might be one way to do it.


She felt sure she could count on her brother and husband. That was two already. Now she just needed to find more contributors who were wealthy enough to purchase the right to light a candle. A finely-dressed gentleman with a cane caught her eye. He looked quite well off. If both he and the man he was talking to decided to donate, she would be responsible for recruiting two more.


Lucy approached them confidently, her raven curls bouncing around her shoulders. “Good morning, my lords. I am collecting donations to charity at Her Majesty's behest. If you pledge five hundred pounds, you will get to light one of the candles at the alter. And, of course, you will please the Queen.”

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Sophia went straight from the volary garden to the chapel, and there were not many people there when she arrived. She saw Mademoiselle Vauquelin, who was wearing the same gown she had worn to the ball, and wondered why she had not changed. Perhaps she only owned a few gowns suitable for Church. She knew her friend was not very wealthy and maybe she was too proud to let her cousin pay for a new wardrobe.


Lord Maldon and the gentleman she had met in the aviary were conversing a short distance away, and the Queen's ladies-in-waiting were milling about, although she did not see the Queen herself. Perhaps she had not yet arrived.


Slowly, the young Baroness strolled toward the chapel, the skirts of her gold-embroidered violet gown peeking out beneath her white fur cloak. It was one of the outfits she'd had made in Madrid to replace the ones that had been stolen. It was a bolder color than she usually wore, for she had been entranced by the bright Spanish fabrics and had dared to step out of her fashion comfort zone.


Not ready to enter the chapel quite yet, Sophia continued her casual stroll, listening to the conversations flowing around her.

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While Cat was a morning person, her sisters were mostly not. So it was that she opted to ride to church this morning, leaving the carriage behind for her siblings. It was cold, to be sure, but nothing like a Highlands winter. Her riding habit was warm, but fashionable, cut to both flatter and keep warm. Her cheeks showed the cold though, her color high and her eyes dancing. Yes, she felt so much better after a ride. For once, she had brought a groom along, whom she handed her reins to, after securing her that and patting down her hair. For the most part, it was a braid with ribbons threaded through.


With her mount in the groom's hands, she moved towards the chapel, looking about for familiar faces.

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Somerset, Maldon, and Turnbull


John frowned for a moment but he seemed to release whatever negative emotions had been stirred. The man was obviously not well bred but he seemed kindly enough, “Mmm. Since you've g-g-got more notches, you should help me with the story."


As for Ogle, “He’s a c-c-cousin.” John said of Ogle. At first blush Turnbull seemed to be what Ogle wished to be. Soldierly, promiscuous, and not socially inept. “You should m-m-meet him.” If nothing else, perhaps Turnbull could teach him subtlety and charm.


John smiled and nodded in what he thought was an approving manner as Turnbull said he was from the second. He didn’t understand the answer, not being wholly familiar with military terms, but everyone was proud of their unit.


Then a lady joined them. John smiled genially at Lucy’s approach. John’s expression turned a bit sour when she asked for money without even introducing herself. How vulgar.


He looked at Turnbull for a moment, as if unsure what to make of the woman. “The Lord Maldon,” John said in reply, “And Lieutenant Turnbull.” John’s tone was perfectly pleasant but he looked at her a bit expectantly, his expression telling her to introduce herself.


Aren't candles forbidden from the table? John thought. He called it the communion table rather than the altar. Sounds a bit Popish. But for the moment John said nothing.


Instead John gestured to Ambrose, "The Lieutenant here was just about to tell how I g-g-got my limp," John looked over at Turnbull, giving him a chance to spin a tale.

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Davina waiting for Her Relatives or Any Other Eligible


Dressed in dove grey velvet with pale blue ribbon accents Davina had a 'Plan'. Charged by the Queen she fully intended to beat out any of her fellow Ladies.


Five Hundred Pounds to lite a candle - not that much for such a Public Event she thinks - and there were some deep pockets within her extended Family!


She quietly greeted those arriving but did not make any attempts with them. Her eyes noted the arrival of Nicolette as well as Sophia but she made no move in either direction. Watched as Lucy went to two Gentlemen curious if she would have any success.


Others' should be arriving. She wondered if her Great Aunt Isabel (Paulet) would be amongst them for she intended to use that lady's 'influence' if it was needed to prod the men folk into compliance.

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Somerset, Maldon, and Turnbull


"Now there's an idea, perhaps join me for lunch at the Red Lion after, and we can hammer out your grand story over a few pints." Ambrosre cheerfully declared. He was a well pedigreed gent, though might have benefited with a bit more oversight from his late mother. But sent off to sea at an early age, he'd learnt most of life through his fellow sea mates. And while he knew how to reign in his tongue when absolutely neccessary, found life more agreeable when he spoke freely. Yes perhaps this handsome Lieutenant enjoyed the surprised looks and nervous looks he received from others, perhaps the Lieutenant favored any attention more than being a humdrum ignored fellow. If nothing else, he was certainly making an impression upon those he met.


"And is Ogle here, perhaps we invite him along to lunch then also? I am always up for broadening my circle, and growing a 'band of merry men'... that very phrase is forbode of fun and sport."


Yet as was so often the way, a woman happened upon the contentedly conversing gentlemen. She must have been a bit nervous, Ambrose supposed, as she barreled into solicitation of money without by or leave.


Turnbull looked back to the Earl, and by the look upon his newly made friends face, John was of the same reaction as himself.


"Enchantee..." Ambrose gave a wry smile as Maldon did the fine thing and provided the mens introductions - and upon a whim the Lieutenant hammed up an elaborate bow, reaching for the woman's hand, her fingers to kiss. "Might I say, that Her Majesty's own skill at wick lighting are to be commended, if the rumors of a future heir prove to be true." he winked at the pretty, and upon a pause made a thorough assessment of the size of her mammaries. Some men said more than a handful is a waste, but Ambrose did not align with that school of thought. The larger the better, he particularly liked it when they fairly bulged out of a tightly strained bodice.


But Maldon pulled him back into the conversation, by throwing out the tale of his limp into the mix. The nervy young lady surely needed something to take the edge off, and while Ambrose did have a half full hipflask in his pocket, she looked a little too uptight to take that suggestion well. No, they needed to make her smile.


"Ah yes, a heroic tale of misadventure, virtue and vice, of happenings quite beyond belief, of royal commands, and faithful servants, of villains that might divert justice, and of the lion hearted soul that persevered. And, as it so happens..." Ambrose claimed, "it all started with a candle and an altar. It's an uncanny coincidence really, don't you think." he waggled eyebrows to the nervy miss, then turned to Maldon for him to provide the nest installment of 'the story'.

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Somerset, Maldon, and Turnbull


Sometimes Lucy forgot that not everyone knew who she was, for she was occasionally approached by strangers who already knew her name, mostly people who thought she might ask a favor of the Queen on their behalf, which she always refused to do. These two gentlemen must be new to court if they had never heard of her.


“Please forgive my manners … or lack thereof.” Her smile was both winsome and apologetic. “I guess I'm a bit too excited about this wonderful opportunity to contribute to charity. I am Lady Lucille Seymour, the Duchess of Somerset. It is a pleasure to meet you both.”


She didn't pull her hand away when Lieutenant Turnbull lifted it to his lips and kissed it. Most gentlemen did. However, his comment made her vaguely uncomfortable. It was rather uncouth to refer to the Queen in that fashion. And she didn't like the way he assessed her bosom, as if he actually had a chance with her. It was fortunate for him that her husband and brother had not yet arrived.


Lucy almost turned around and stalked away, but Lord Maldon's comment piqued her curiosity. Why would one gentleman tell how another gentleman got his limp. Maybe they had been some kind of battle together. Her eyes spun to Ambrose as he began to weave his tale. He did know how to grab a person's attention, and she forgot all about his earlier impropriety. “Maybe it's not a coincidence at all,” she suggested, her big blue eyes turning to Lord Maldon. “How did you get your limp, my lord?” She hoped he had not tripped over an altar, knocked over the candles, and set a church on fire.

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The Wentwoods


If one did not know them, one might have thought they were siblings. Both petite of stature with gentle, youthful features, the lady with honey-blonde curls and the man with ash-blonde waves. Blue eyes and grey, and both dressed in pastel tones that suited their pale colouring, in this case she in powder blue and he in lavender, each accented by copious fine lace and embroidery in silver thread.


However, any such lack of recognition would require ignorance of the events of nearly two years ago now, when Mignonette de la Rovere, neice of the Duchess of Savoy and previously a contender for the Royal hand, had instead married Doctor Winchester, Baronet and scion of a minor branch of that family, against the will of many and not least her aunt. It had, at the time, been quite the scandal.


Despite - or perhaps because of - it's origins, the match had suited them well. In April Noni had birthed a daughter, Marie Rachelle Migonette, the apple of her parents' eyes. Unfortunately the little girl had fallen ill at just a few weeks old, and knowing the delicacy of infant health, James had evacuated the family to Wentwood, their estate in Wales which had been something of a subtle wedding gift from the King.


The change had done them all good. Rachelle was now healthy and thriving, Noni was much recovered from the birth and James had enjoyed spending time with his family and managing their estate. One could only be away for so long however, and the little family had returned to their house in Chelsea, eager to rejoin court once more.


James particularly had duties to attend to, and as the pair arrived he noticed the Queen's three young Ladies lingering together near the entrance to the church, then even as he watched one broke away and approached two Lords whom he did not recognise, (Maldon, Turnbull). Ah, so many new faces. Time enough to meet them.


For the moment however he chose to renew old aquaintances. "Why, Lady Alyth, how terribly good to see you again." James beamed as the pair diverted to approach the tall Scottish woman, creating quite the contrast. Noni was limping slightly as they walked, but James gave her a strong arm to lean upon. He'd lost the weight he'd put on towards the end of the Spring season, and indeed an unfashionable flurry of freckles decorated his nose; perhaps he had been outdoors more?


"I trust that you are well? All is good in the Alyth household?" Which seemed to vary daily as to how many it contained, but still. Family were important; he understood that now more than ever, for he would do anything for his wife and daughter.

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Douglas had ridden in with Catriona, leaving their sisters to follow in the coach, but the two had separated once they'd arrived, intending to mingle. Handing the reins of his black Arab off to the groom, he ignored the man's frown; all of the Alyth stablehands knew of the beast's mercurial temper. Gentle one minute and angry teeth the next; a lot like his owner really.


Glancing from group to group, Douglas spied a man he didn't know but wanted to meet. He'd seen him wearing a Life Guard's uniform at the Ball the previous night, one indicative of an officer's rank, though he wasn't now. Douglas was wearing his this morning, his best one in the red velvet with the copious white lace and gold thread. The man was in a little group, none of whom he knew personally though he vaguely recognised the young Duchess of Somerset.


Rather than interrupt them, Douglas decided to wait until the little group broke up naturally. He didn't have an obvious introduction and was trying not to step on as many toes, though the opportunity to make three new acquaintances was a tempting one.


Indeed he looked in the direction from which the Duchess of Somerset had come, spying Davina Wellsley and another young lady standing close to the chapel. There was an opportunity.


Approaching Davina and Susan


Unaware that he was perhaps walking straight into a trap, Douglas approached the two ladies and bowed politely to them with a flourish of his cavalier's hat, fluffy feathers waving in the breeze.


"Mistress Wellsley, a pleasure tae see ye agin." He greeted her warmly. "I trus' the season is treatin' ye weel?"* He asked warmly. She was a poised young lady and Douglas could see why George had admired her. That she had admired him also - as he had learned at Brighton - begged a whole slew of questions that might never be answered.


He flashed a silent smile at Susan, waiting for Davina to introduce them. Both he knew there Ladies of the Queen, not his usual circle and this was perhaps a good opportunity to meet more of them.



* "Mistress Wellsley, a pleasure to see you again. I trust the season is treating you well?"

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But the person simply passed by not saying anything...


Nicolette held her smile. It was hard sometimes, feeling ignored, shunned even, like people went out of their way to speak to just anyone other than her. They'd regret it one day. If, no when, she came into her own.


Well, at least she'd not needed to worry about Davina doing something nasty again. The queens ladies enmass paid Nicci no heed, but targeted gentlemen. It made sense really, likely everyone at court knew Nicolette had nothing of her own, let alone 500 pounds to spend lighting a candle!


Taking a seat near the front, she picked up the hymn book, and turned it to the number selected, and familiarised herself with the lyrics.

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Somerset, Maldon, and Turnbull


“Of c-c-course,” John said to joining him afterward, “Though you’ll understand if family or… duty calls.” Despite the man’s saltiness John liked Turnbull so far. It was noted but not held against him. As for Ogle, “I d-d-don’t see him yet.”


It was then that Lucy approached. John smiled indulgently at her reply, “Your grace.” He bowed. It was less a matter of fame and more one of respect and propriety. But she apologized and John didn’t hold her lack of manners against her either.


She professed she was overly excited at charity and John remembered an earlier comment with a small smile, “That’ m-m-most admirable. I’m sure many ladies are only seeking to… gain favor with the Queen by outdoing each other and will forget… all about charity once her attention is off it.”


John would give, but he was not well disposed to the Killingtons at the moment. Basildon and his wife had been among those who’d failed to keep their word. Whether they had done it purposefully or forgotten about him, it put them in bad standing with John. There were other ladies in waiting. Unless Lucy recommended herself better than she had, John would go through another.


Perhaps he would try and get his family together. If all the Cavendish men did it, plus him and Ablemarle, that was six donations. Though he still didn’t see any.


Wick lighting? It took a moment for John to think out the meaning, “Lieutenant.” John said, his tone of gentle rebuke turning to Ambrose. He noted the man staring at Lucy’s bosoms and rolled his eyes. Ablemarle needs to start giving lessons. There was a pause at the thought, Maybe they could call it the bird watching club.


But it seemed all was forgotten as Ambrose spun a rather good, if ambitious, introduction, “Yes, well, to start at the beginning… it all started with the stolen altar candles of the Bishop of Buda.” John said, “Stolen by the Turks, you see. I had hoped, originally, to ask for them b-b-back as a matter of piety, and if not that, in ransom. It went awry quickly.”


There was a pause here which John did his best to make it sound ominous. It was really him thinking up the next bit of the story, “For you see, when I arrived at the camp of the armies of the Turkish Sultan, I found him being mourned. He was dead in mysterious circumstance. And worse, when a Sultan dies… his suh-sons all fight to kill each other, for the survivor will t-t-take his place.” Or so Caroline had told him.


“And while no f-f-fighting had started yet, they were all eying each other as they p-p-prepared to head back to Constantinople, throwing accusations over which of them had killed their father. Worse, I was forbidden to l-l-leave, as everyone was so that none who’d been complicit could escape.”


John looked over to Ambrose, passing the story on to him for the moment. If he was going to lie, he was going to make it as grand and unbelievable (but hopefully entertaining) as he could.

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Davina with Susan Herbert joined by Douglas


She knew that voice and so her smile as she turned to him was warm


"Why here is a face I've not seen in a while. Welome back to Court!"


She offered a curtsey to his own reverence then looked to her fellow Companion and made introductions as was proper


"Lady Susan Herbert, Baron Dundarg, his sister is Lady Alyth - she is just there in conversation with Dr. Winchester and his Lady Wife."


"Indeed Sir I am and trust that you are as well? I must also thank you for the thoughtfullness of your gift." She would not expand upon it further so made a change of topic.


"I wonder if I might prevay upon you .... I, that is We, (indicating Susan) have been charged by The Queen to impart a request - Her Grace has taken kindly to many Charitable Works as many know and so as this is the Season of Giving has said that inside the Church will be twelve candles at the Alter."


"To any Gentleman that pledges five hundred pound will go the Honor of lighting one Pubically this very morn. Might You be of some assistance?"


"Could you perhaps provide a name or two that you think should be approached? What do you think Lady Susan?"


She paused to let her words sink in. She was not going to ask him to step up - her sights were set on bigger Fish yet to arrive - but Susan might try to offer her own persuasions. She would allow the other girl try. She just hoped that Douglas would take her meaning and extradite himself whilst still putting out a name or two by way of "Help".


Of course it could go wrong if he were to think she had placed him in a bad position of his own and therefore felt Duty Bound to offer himself up!


'please Dear Lord let that not happen!'


She glanced up in silent appeal

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Somerset, Maldon, and Turnbull


“Of course,” Ambrose replied. He might have said the same himself, but as a Lifeguard it would be stating the obvious. "Well if you come Ogle, do invite him along."


He was mid kiss of Lucy's hand when he discovered her rank. Holy broadsides! Caught by surprise at the ranks that popped out of the woodwork here at Whitehall, Ambrose floundered a little, and pulled back his blatant interest in the Duchesses' tits. Pleased that John took up sensible conversation, saying something that sounded important about charity. A Duchess, and she cant be more than 16?!


Yet the Lieutenant managed to recover himself in time to spin an introduction for the 'how I got this limp' story. The teenage Duchess seem to relax a little... or so it seemed.


Maldon for his part picked up the tale with barely a blink - impressing Ambrose to boot. The tale proved positively interesting, so that by the time turkish heirs were slaying each other, Ambrose found himself very interested in finding out what happened next?


But just as suddenly, the story was back into Ambrose hands.


"So there our noble Lord Maldon was detained in a tower along with the Sultan's sons, daughters and wives, so many sleepless hours spent. But it was not fear that kept our hero awake, but the noise of the Turks themselves. All day arguments raged, while all night women wept and wailed, it would be enough to threaten a lesser mans sanity, but our 'pilgrim for justice', our 'holy rolling retriever' was not to be worn down.


"Through his enquiries, he learnt that the Candles of Buda were contained in a sandalwood box next to the Sultan's corpse, who was laid out naked in-state facing Mecca and surrounded by his most valuable possessions. The problem was to get access, for none but relatives were allowed to visit, or so it would seem.


"... But as Lord Maldon watched the hallway, a Hodja in ceremonial robes approached. Thinking fast on his feet Lord Maldon knocked him out, tied him up, and donned his costume, intent to take his place in the heathen funeral rite in order to complete his christian challenge.


"So it was that Lord Maldon, disguised as a corpse washer, entered the chamber of the dead Sultan... but contain your surprise My Lady Duchess, for it is what happened next that shall take your breath away." and Ambrose gaze swung back to John, a grin upon his face.

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Cat joined by the Wentworths


Turning at the call of her title, Cat found a familiar face and his wife. "Dr. Winchester, Lady Wentworth, how lovely to see you both. It has been too long," she replied, though the too long comment was for the good doctor and not his bride. The Scot had never had much to do with the princess that James had married. She always came across rather fluff brained to Cat. She chuckled at the question of the health of her household. "As well as can be expected of a household of 5 females, with my brother thrown in when he's hungry. Though that seems to be all the time!" It would be obvious by her expression that she didn't mind having a full house as much as she complained. "And how about you and yours? How's your little one?"

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Cat, James and Noni


James chuckled appreciatively at Cat's words, he could only imagine the exercise in controlled chaos that would be the MacBain household. He could envy Cat her extensive family duties from a safe distance, and from the sound of things her brother wasn't much of a help or role model when it came to running the family. He was a bastard though, so perhaps that was to be expected.


"We are all well, thank you for asking." He replied. "The country air suits us," he smiled at Noni and gave her hand a squeeze, "and Rachelle is growing every day. It's hard to believe she's eight months old now." The little girl was the apple of her parents' eyes.


They weren't the only ones with a youngster, of course. "How old is young Nessia now?" James asked, trying to recall exactly but knowing that Cat would have far better recall. "I trust she's as hale and hearty as the rest of your Clan?" Given the strong Scottish resiliance of the MacBains, he didn't doubt it.


"Forgive me for speaking business for a moment," he smiled apologetically, "but if you still have a market for them I can prepare another batch of medicinal teas for your shop." He offered. Their partnership had been a tidy little investment. "I also have a new product you might be interested in." He added, recalling the Duchess of Cleveland's endorsement.

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Davina, Douglas, and Susan


Susan Herbert was not shy but she was a bit hesitant to walk up to courtiers she didn't know and ask them for money. Mistress Wellsley had helped her adjust when she was new to the Queen's service and she hoped that by watching her, she would learn the proper way to ask for donations. Failing that, she would only ask members of her family and those with whom she was well-acquainted.


The Duchess of Somerset had already pounced on a pair of gentlemen, but she had her status to back her up. She seemed to be quite interested in whatever they were telling her. Maybe they were working out the details of their donations. Susan doubted that many men carried five hundred pounds in their pockets.


A deep voice brought her out of her thoughts, and she turned toward a very tall gentleman whom she had noticed before. He seemed to be on good terms with Mistress Wellsley, and she introduced him to Susan as Baron Dundarg. “It is a pleasure to meet you, my lord,” she greeted him with a casual curtsy. She knew that Lady Alyth was one of the King's mistresses, but had not known she had such a handsome brother.


Apparently, he and Mistress Wellsley knew each other so well that he had sent her a gift. Maybe the two of them fancied each other? She hoped that they did. Susan had suspected that her fellow lady-in-waiting was smitten with Lord Langdon, but perhaps it was Lord Dundarg who had stolen her heart instead.


Davina broached the subject of charity and candles, and the young blonde admired the polite way in which she asked. She nodded when she was included in the request, and smiled up at Lord Dundarg as Davina asked her what she thought. “Any assistance you can give us will be appreciated,” she agreed. Susan wondered why Davina had not asked him to donate but perhaps she knew he could not afford it and didn't want to embarrass him.


Or maybe she wanted him to volunteer. Was that the best way to get pledges, by giving courtiers the chance to offer a donation instead of asking them outright?

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Somerset, Maldon, and Turnbull


Lucy didn't know quite what to think of Lord Maldon. Was he accusing her of insincerity and of only wanting to impress the Queen? “And some ladies truly care about helping the unfortunate as much as Her Majesty does. Her attention is always upon charitable work and her ladies share her dedication.” She tried to keep the anger out of her voice, but wasn't certain if she succeeded.


A few moments later, though, the teenage Duchess was completely engrossed in the Earl's story. She was astute enough to tell that he was making it up, but he did know how to spin a fascinating tale. When he looked over at Lieutenant Turnbull, who picked up where he left off, she felt as if they were playing some kind of game, not with her but with each other.


Her task would be to take their story and turn it into an opportunity to donate to charity.


The story passed back to Lord Maldon, and Lucy's gaze spun in his direction, her blue eyes wide. “What happened next? I assume you were not caught or the Sultan's sons would have killed you.”

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Sophia alone


Sophia saw a few more people she knew. Lord Dundarg, Mistress Wellsley, and another of the Queen's ladies were conversing together, and Lady Alyth was talking to a gentleman she had met when she had first come to court and a lady who was probably his wife. For the life of her, she could not remember his name. He had been quite kind to her at the wedding celebration, explaining unfamiliar English customs.


She was not certain whether any of her friends would want her to interrupt their discussions, and so she continued to walk about the lawn, feeling a bit lonely. If somebody looked her way, whether she was acquainted with them or not, she would not hesitate to join them.

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Maldon, Turnbull, and Somerset


John smiled, ignoring whatever anger he detected. There was no hint of her suspicions in his tone or manner. “Wonderful, your g-g-grace. Wonderful. We can use all the help we can get.” By which John meant the unfortunate. “I’ll be sure to c-c-call on you whenever I have opportunity to give to charity, science, or the… arts.” With that, though, John moved into the story.


Which, fortunately, was a fun game. Reading histories and novels had prepared him well enough. As had his writing. Besides, he’d been thinking up such stories in connection with his snowball fight. Turnbull was good too, very theatrical. And John laughed at a few of his comments. “Well no, it wasn’t one of his sons.” John said. “It was the d-d-dead Sultan himself.”


“We wuh-washed the c-c-corpse and put it in its ark. But I w-w-waited until there was an opportune moment… alone and I opened the box, but it was empty. Dismayed, I realized a g-g-great many of the treasures of the… room had been stolen by that family. But then,” And John paused again, “I heard a thumping from within the coffin.”


Another suitable pause, where he thought up what was happening next, “And with t-t-trembling hands I opened… the coffin only to see the dead Sultan erupt out of it, ‘I am killed,’ he said, ‘You, you’re English.” And I made ruh-ready to flee b-b-but he told me that… the poison was still wuh-within him, seeping through his body. He was about to die. He had held on hoping to p-p-pass on one… last message, and by my presence I had volunteered.”


“And he implored me that I save his favorite son, who he had tucked away in the deepest, most secure garden. That he had raised him to be good and j-j-just, away from the perils of court. And he cursed me with terrible Turkish magics, saying I would never know love nor peace till his son sat on the throne and I had collected the rare Winter Rose. A flower that changes c-c-colors and blooms in the depths of winter.” Which was a real enough flower, though its rareness was overstated.


“And so, much worse for wear and... white as a shuh-sheet, he sunk back into his coffin, d-d-dead for the last time. And I cluh-closed the coffin and made to depart. Yet when I c-c-came out, I had forgotten myself in my fear and sorrow at being cursed, and Janissary... guards eyed me with great suspicion. Fortunately, it was then an ally revealed themselves…” Back to Ambrose.

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Maldon, Turnbull, and Somerset


"Yes an ally. For My lady, if you were wondering why I know this story so well, it is because I too was there!"


Why not, it was too good a story not to see himself in amongst it, what harm could come of it?


"I'd been enjoying the hospitality of one of the finer houses in the city, when I looked out of the window and saw some turkish guards questioning a countryman. Naturally I stopped what I was doing, paid the young lady and hurried downstairs, where upon I asserted my credentials with the guards. Needless to say we were both promptly locked up in the cells!"


"Have you ever eaten Pide, YOur Grace? Pee-day, repeat the word after me. There, that's how you say it. Well I can tell you fresh it's rather good, but it was not fresh Pide they gave us prisoners.


"Hard to say how long we were in the cells eh what Maldon? Seemed like weeks, might have been days, but eventually we noticed one of the fellows was keeping himself to the shadows whenever the guards came in with the food. Raised my curiosity, and lets face it, there wasn't much else there to do. So with a hunch I nudged Maldon, and we approached the fellow.


"Can you guess who it was?" he looked at the teen, waggling his eyebrows, "although we were certainly in no garden."

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Bradley Whitehurst buys a candle


Bradley had decided to ride ahead of the family to church, although he might have 'forgotten' to tell his elder brother this fact. He was not prepared to perform babysitting duty of young Frances, it was time Charles realised that he was an independent man, stood 5'11 tall and he'd not even reached his full height yet!


Entering the chapel, the young gentleman of grand prospects was immediately charmed with the sight of any number of Queens ladies in waiting approaching this one and that. They were being right friendly by the looks of it. Sidling up nearby one, he was able to overhear something about the lighting of candles, and a price of 500 pounds.


Blazing cannons!


No he must have misheard, who would pay that much for a candle, must have been five pounds. Lucky for his older brother that he was here early enough to snatch up a bit of the action. There were not many candles available, the prestige of the public rite of lighting one would elevate the family in courts eyes!


Bradley raked his fingers back through his hair, then shifted to try catch the ladies eye. "Ahem..." then to give a bashful smile when she finally looked his way. "Err, I heard you talking about candles."

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Maldon, Turnbull, and Somerset


Lucy still wasn't certain whether or not Lord Maldon was making fun of her. “Please do,” she said, sweetly and sincerely. “Today would be an excellent time to start.”


The story continued, becoming more fantastical and elaborate, but the young Duchess loved a good tale and hung on every word. She gasped when Lord Maldon spoke of the dead Sultan rising from his coffin and cursing him if he failed to put his favorite son on the throne. She didn't think there was any such thing as a rose that changed color and bloomed in winter, but maybe she would ask Nicolette about it. Her cousin knew a lot about plants.


Again, the narrative passed back to Lieutenant Turnbull. His implied visit to a brothel went right over Lucy's head; she had been sheltered most of her life and never thought of such things. When he asked her if she had ever eaten Pide, she shook her head, her dark curls again bouncing around her shoulders. “What is it made of?” she asked. “And what does it taste like?”


So now they were in the dungeon of the Sultan's palace and one of the prisoners always hid in the shadows whenever the guards came in. Lucy had no idea how to answer the Lieutenant's question until he gave her a clue. “It was the Sultan's favorite son!” she exclaimed. “The one he wanted to take his place!”

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Approaching the Church


Nicolette had gone ahead while Louis lingered to speak to some gentlemen at their coaches. As such, he was now only arriving, unaware of the project that had been assigned to his sister and other ladies to the Queen.


He wore a suit of ivory with silver brocade. A fur lined cape was draped around his shoulders for comfort.


His eyes searched for the usual court notables. He was a man inclined to converse with those of the highest quality.

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Right behind Lord Basildon came Lord Langdon, adorned in his uniform. The early morning had been spent checking the royal wing and arranging lanterns and a small broom. The palace servants were usually quite resourceful when properly motivated. He had an afternoon appointment with Susan Herbert at the secret door.


As he approached, Charles spied Davina present. Why is she not at her Catholic service? He could only hope that she was considering converting to Anglican and this was the beginning of her indoctrination. If she did convert, however, it would mean that his primary impediment to marriage with her was removed. That caused a bit of soul searching as he paused his advance on the church.


His brother Bradley had gone ahead, along with Abigail Smith and Frances Smith, his two wards. He had promised Frances to take her to church so that she could see the King and Queen.

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