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A Smoke after Service (after Church, Dec. 26th)- Xmas 1677

Charles Audley

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Wine Cellar

An expansive area underground, where the King and his companions are known to congregate for a bit of drinking. Women are not normally allowed down here, unless accompanied by a gentleman known by the Sommelier.


If one were given to flights of fancy, it would be easy to imagine some creature hiding in the ink black recesses of the Wine Cellar. Luckily most men who find their way down there are not given to such thoughts and have a merry time under the high arches and flickering torchlight. Among the wine bottles and casks, there is a table set up with comfortable chairs, one larger than the rest.


Charles whistled appreciatively as they entered.


"Cosy spot, this. Good idea that man." He nodded to Rochester. A thought occurred to him, and he could not help but laugh. "Should have asked if we could take some of those candles with us. Would have served some useful purpose here."


Charles doffed his jacket and placed it on the back of a chair, before settling himself down into the seat. A moment's rooting produced his tobacco pouch, striker and pipe, a pretty little thing of meerschaum and rosewood with the bowl carved in the shape of a lion's head. Finally, he removed a square of chamois leather, to protect his fingers and the decorative bowl. He busied himself filling and lighting the pipe, before looking up to see if anyone had neglected to bring their own tobacco.


Resting back in his chair, Charles took his first puff and let the smoke circulate through his lungs before exhaling with a sigh of pleasure.


"Ah. That's better." He amused himself with trying and failing to blow a smoke ring. "Drat. Never did get the hang of that."


Charles spent a few moments simply enjoying the simple pleasure of smoking before he spoke again.


"Well gentlemen, have you any interesting or amusing plans for the season? I'll confess that I don't, as I'm still just finding my bearings."

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Only Sedley had a pipe with him. Roos and Rochester sent their servants scampering. Each took a seat in the cold and dank cellar. Only two torches burned, offering feeble light. Perhaps it was the time of day, or the Sabbath, that encouraged economy of light.


Two servants were wheeling a cask away as the gentlemen entered. None others remained in the cellar.


Sedley lit his pipe to accompany Audley, but the other two were forced to wait. "This time of year is for excessive merrymaking," Rochester insisted as he sat beside the one-eyed earl. "This is not so drab as the spring season."


"Mostly, we place wagers on what is to happen this season," Roos explained as he joined the others in sitting. "Ladies chastity is a common theme, as is scandal. We predict falling angels mostly."

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"I would have thought that it was always the time of year for excessive merrymaking, no?" Charles grinned around his pipe stem. "But I suppose the depths of winter call out for it especially loudly. The nights are so long, and crying out for something to fill them."


Charles thought of how he'd filled parts of last night and felt his grin widen. He took note of the sadly pipeless state of Roos and Rochester and rooted in his coat pockets. He had not brought his cigars but he had brought his snuffbox, which he fished out and offered to the two.


"Pinch of snuff while you wait gentlemen?"


He settled back in his chair and turned his attention to Roos, puffing contentedly on his pipe.


"It almost sounds innocent when you put it like that. One might well have imagined that you were in the business of tripping angels, or at least of smoothing their descent." He laughed. "Well, what wagers do you have running currently? And how might a fellow get involved?"

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Meanwhile Turnbull was less fixated with pipe lighting, and more intent to examine the extremities of the cellar...


Slanting light and shadow moved around the walls - glow of his lantern beyond stacked kegs and wine racks betrayed his roving whereabouts.


"Cor blimey!" the mariner then called cheerfully. Clatter of boots on stone, shadows shifting about as he returned, "...you'd never believe what I found back there!" as he rounded the corner he held his find aloft, a broad grin on his face.





OOC: Item for mod to determine of course

*wonders what our BG shall designate the find to be?!*

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Roos and Rochester were only too happy to accept the snuff. Johnny was not used to it and sneezed loudly into the darkness.


"There are several wagers already between us," Sedley explained, being the oldest one present. "In addition, we are putting together a pool of 100 pounds each. Dorset, Merriweather, Roos, Rochester and I are in for 500 total. You two can join so we have 700. We would award the biggest prize to the most impressive list of conquests this season, and a smaller prize to the one who correctly guesses a proper debutante that is debauched. If you are the one doing it, you get double the money. The difficulty with debutantes is in the proof of course." Heads nodded. "Several years we have had to award no prize for one category or another."


Ambrose found himself a pewter flask hidden behind a barrel, no doubt a stash for someone preferring something other than wine. There were no identifying initials or emblems on it. If the soldier were to shake it, he would hear liquid swish.


"We have a meeting like this to set rules each season," Roos offered. "Obviously, a proper target is worth more than a libertine one. Also, a target with a nasty or powerful brother or father is worth more too, since there is greater risk."


"For example, Susan Herbert would be quite the prize," Sedley explained. "She is a maid to the Queen, a very proper thing, and she has Pembroke as a brother. He would cut your throat if you touched his sister," Sedley laughed.


"Fiona McBain is already scandalized," Sedley offered, "Her half brother is a Captain in the Guard and her older sister is the mother of one of the King's bastards, but we are thinking she is not worth many points this season," Sedley continued.


"What about the Spanish ambassador's wife," Roos asked eagerly. "I think she should be a high value prize. Her husband is an Ambassador. It could be quite the scandal and Spaniards are known to have no sense of humor." There was laughter at the idea. "She was all but naked at the opera," Sedley replied. "Her husband should have had her flogged for it, so maybe he has a sense of humor after all."


"Or no dick," Rochester offered merrily. "How many points do we get for fucking your daughter Sedley?" Johnny asked in a casual tone, knowing it would bother his friend.


There was a long moment of silence before Sedley replied. "Average." Rochester made matters worse by quipping "I'm not talking about her looks Charlie. I'm talking about the points."


"Johnny, I've a good mind to give you an ... average ... thrashing. You can forget her boys. She's doting on her new soldier boy these days. York doesn't seem to give a damn, but Langdon is the type to hold grudges I think. He once arrested something like fifty people for no reason other than he wanted to. Still, the girl is damaged goods. If one of you wants to get up her skirts, I'm happy to marry her to you. With her tongue, she could hold her own with any of you."

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"Smaller pinches, Rochester, and gentler inhalation," Charles advised with a chuckle, before returning his attention to attempting to blow smoke rings. His efforts were slightly more successful this time, producing a small, misshapen circle.


"Ha! Progress."


Rather pleased with this minor triumph, Charles listened attentively to Sedley's explanation of the rules.


"Seems simple enough. Do we lodge the money with a broker, or will note of hand suffice?" Charles gestured lazily with his pipe. "And what sort of proof would be acceptable? I assume we're not expected to let you all play voyeur."


Charles was reasonably confident that he would acquit himself well in this little challenge, provided that the Cadogan business did not take up too much of his time and energy. He had already made a fairly good beginning, after all. And it was not as though he would be going out of his way or altering his normal behaviour.


Turnbull returned from his excursion then, and announced his discovery, exuberantly brandishing the unearthed treasure. A pewter flask, virtually identical to several owned by Charles himself. (Indeed, the Earl felt the need to surreptitiously pat his frock coat to assure himself that his laudanum remained where he had left it.)


"Hmm. Where did you find that? Chalk one up for inquisitiveness and enterprise, I suppose."


Sedley and Roos further laid out the rules of the game, which were about as expected, before moving on to discuss potential targets. This Herbert girl sounded interesting. He might well take a run at her if the opportunity presented itself.


Could always preemptively kill Pembroke and claim it was in self-defence. They'd have to try me before the Lords and I can't see them convicting me for it. They've all met Pembroke.


The Toledos came up. Frankly, Charles was unsure what to make of them. He still had not made up his mind if they were trying to plant Sophia in the King's bed or not.


"Toledo's an odd fish. I spoke to him at the Ball. Queerly passionless, unless the topic is his country. He might well be a eunuch." Charles frowned. "Or he has tremendous reserves of sangfroid. The latter, I fancy. I have a nasty, suspicious mind, and it has occurred to me that a set of ears and lips close to his Majesty would be quite useful for a diplomat." A sharp smile. "Looking at it that way, it's almost a patriotic duty to seduce her."


(In truth, his regard for Sophia was no more than half lustful. She was, in her own right, at least as entertaining and engaging a conversational partner as any of these gentlemen. But to say so would have made him seem sentimental.)


He returned his focus to his surrounds just in time to catch the end of Sedley's declaration.


"Ha! Well, much as I love a woman who's good with her tongue, I shall have to decline your generous offer. I am blessedly free of the binds of matrimony and intend to remain so for as long as is humanly possible."


Truly, Charles knew he had to marry, and soon. But that was an uncomfortable thought, so he ignored it.

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"...just over there," Ambrose gestured vaguely, then holding his find to the light. The solider was disappointed. "Pewter by the looks of it." he could have hocked a silver one for a few pounds. He settled to lean against a rack as the men detailed a game of sport, meanwhile working at the stopper with intent to try whatever was sloshing around inside the flask.


"What about Doolittles daughter, any points for her?" Ambrose asked as he happened to have a foot in that door already. As far as games went, this one was grand. The downside being that it was a hell of a lot of money to come up with, a soldiers wage was not so much. He'd need to dip into his inheritance. But still, count it as ticket price of admission into this admirably deplorable group.


He didn't mention that he'd struck out with the McBain slut, as those around agreed that she was no challenge. "Who hasn't already had her." he fibbed in a cheerful manner.


"Count me in gentlmen." and if he happened to win, all the better.


"Hmm... but who else is there no points for?" the Lieutenant thought to discover of list of loose moraled women. A win win situation. "So as I don't waste any valuable time of course." he winked, and then laughed loudly. No doubt everyone here knew exactly what he was thinking.


Sedley's daughter went on that list for starters, though he kept quiet about it as threats of marriage flew about. It was possibly a little problem that Colonel Whitehurst was currently shagging her... but Langdon struck Turnbull as a generous sort of man.

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The flask contained what tasted like cognac. "I say you empty the flask Lieutenant, you piss in it and then put it back where you found it," Rochester offered with a merry laugh. Roos joined the laughing. "A grand idea Johnny," and looked towards Ambrose.


Merriweather chose this moment to appear, having delayed to watch some prospects leave the church. "Where is the wine?" he whined. "We are assigning points to the women are we?" He paused to be caught up on the conversation.


"How many points for O'Roarke?" Merriweather asked. Both he and Dorset had a bone to pick with her. Alexander had raped her and Dorset had married her. Heather had hired a brute to thrash him at the docks, breaking his poor nose.


Sedley replied first. "Low points for promiscuity but high points because it will peeve York and make ol' Dorset a happy man."


"We need other targets," Roos reminded them. "Danby's daughter would be a grand prize I think and daddy is not here to protect her. Hell, I think her brother would not mind if she were cast to the wolves. Newcastle's daughter Frances should gain double points. He guards her like a prize mare. The Queen has a Catholic maid ... Davina Wellsley. She danced with the King so you have to watch that one. Medium points I think. Her brother is a no one really, occupying himself with Monmouth's cast-off."


Audley asked about brokers holding the money. "A personal note is sufficient. We are gentlemen after all." He was glad to see Ambrose willing to join as well. "Our two newest members should propose some birds to consider, and the relative point value."


"Every woman has a point value except a whore," Sedley replied to Ambrose. "As for proof, a note or letter is the best, but we can see the looks and actions of the lady in question to confirm whether a tryst has been achieved."


Roos laughed about the patriotic duty of seducing Toledo's wife. "Here here. What about Basildon's cousin?"


"Doolittle's daughter being debauched would be worth a few points I think," Sedley added to Ambrose. "As for Mademoiselle Vauquellin, I think average to high points for her Lady of Misrule title, her obvious interest in charming the King and other men, and the fact that Basildon has been known to fight duels for less."

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"I thought as much, but didn't want to assume," Charles said to Roos with a nod of thanks. "I'll draw one up."


The invitation to name a woman to serve as a suitable target bore a moment's thought.


"Sarah Jennings," he decided. "A maid in the household of the Duchess of York. Pretty little thing, and sharp, in every sense of the word." He smiled wistfully.


Turnbull's interjection piqued his curiosity. He'd never heard of this McBain girl.


"Truly so notorious as that? Why, with such hoydens about, her Majesty shall be hard pressed to enforce morality at court. Such a pity." His tone was maliciously gleeful.


Mademoiselle Vauquelin came back into the conversation, giving Charles another opportunity to dangle his bait for Roos. He had not forgotten Nicolette's dare, even if he was progressing more slowly than she might have hoped.


Have to be subtle about this sort of thing. But when next will we have a suitably large audience? The New Year's Ball will serve.


As Sedley listed Nicolette's qualities, Charles snorted.


"Charm, yes, but I think for anything beyond that I think she keeps a rather exclusive guest list."


His eye flickered to Roos, seemingly involuntarily. The small gesture might well pass unnoticed, but the key to any great deception was verisimilitude. He would have done so had the narrative he was spinning been true, so he must do so now.


"It would be a grand undertaking, though, and a fitting challenge. She's French, and they like to be wooed. Grand public gestures and the like."

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Ambrose had briefly paused with flask to lips, before discarding caution and upending it. He was pleasantly surprised at it's quality, "by jove, it's a half decent cognac..." he was mid stream of telling everyone, when Rochester suggested a different mid stream. With a hoot of laughter the Lieutenant agreed.


He was thus admirably occupied as Merriweather entered the room. "Don't ask." Ambrose blithely threw the queer a wink.


And then the men were ragging on another woman who was apparently easy, but with whom the charming lieutenant had stuck out. "How would that make Dorset a happy man? he asked, thinking he was shifting attention away from Heather.


As to the McBain girl, he nodded sagely to Chatham's reply, "Though our sins may stain Whitehall's sheets, it is hardly our fault when faced with strumpets like these!"


In the call for targets, Charles nominated Sarah Jennings. "High points for her, to match her opinion of herself, and you are more than welcome to them." She was one he'd not put on his list.


"How about that wide eye'd widow, Lady... er, the one hosting a party. Wouldn't mind a shot at her, queue or no."


Monmouth's castoff also made it onto Ambrose list. "Aw shit." piss was going everywhere. "Here hold this will you." he passed the overflowed hip-flask to whoever was close, and reached for kerchief with intents to dry his hand and boots off.


Meanwhile the others were talking Basildon's cousin, who sounded like hard work if Chatham was believed. Yet another who did might weep herself to sleep at night if she knew she'd not made Turnbull's list.


"And so... a letter of evidence, perhaps something along the lines of 'to whom it may concern. I ra-di-ra, of recently departed chastity, do solely swear that so-and-so of the laudable party, did romp the good sense out of me so that I signed this.' ... or words to that effect hmm?" He tucked himself back in, restraining another laugh.

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Merriweather's surprise at Ambrose's urination into a hip flask was assuaged when he was informed of the motive behind it. He found himself giggling at the thought. When Ambrose thought to hand off the dripping flask, no one endeavored to assist. "Put it on that barrel," Alexander insisted, holding a handkerchief to his nose.


After an animated discussion, Rochester, Sedley, Roos and Merriweather had convinced each other that Fiona McBain, Catherine Sedley and Ellen Doolittle were worth two points each. Sarah Jennings, Sophia de la Cerda, Nicolette Vauquelin and Davina Wellsley would be worth three points each. Susan Herbert and Bridget Osbourne would be worth four. Frances Cavendish would be worth five.


Dorset arrived at last, as the points were still in flux. There was talk of adding Eleanor Needham for one point. Heather was still being debated. Dorset muttered that she should be only one point but Rochester convinced him that he would feel so much better if some of the Gang would just bed her.


Ambrose had proposed Lady Kendishall, but none really knew her. They looked to Charles and Ambrose to make a recommendation.


"Who else?" Rochester called gaily. "What about Le Belle Stuart, Shrewsbury, Hawthorne, Ablemarle and Anne Scott?" There was also talk of Catriona McGregor. Roos suggested three points. Merriweather piped up "what about that French doll princess Mignonette?" Giggling he stated "she might be easy to seduce but she is married and a relation to the King." After a pregnant pause, Roos suggested three points. "Lady Gowran is easy on the eyes and hot-blooded," Dorset offered. "They say she is a libertine at heart."


"We need more," Rochestor roared. "Arabella Churchill one point."


Ambrose had teased about the letter's contents. Sedley looked at Dorset in a knowing way. "Yes, that is the exact letter we would want from you." He was teasing of course. "A love letter and a certain look in the woman's eyes is all the proof we might need," Dorset volunteered. "Women are quite expressive creatures when they stand near a lover."


OOC~ Feel free to challenge the points discussed. This post was intended to summarize what might be dozens of future posts discussing ladies individually.

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"Good God man, you're a soldier! Don't tell me you've never pissed in a bottle before." Charles hooted at Turnbull's predicament, shaking his head. That sort of thing had been a common enough prank when Charles had last been on campaign, though personally he'd always preferred slipping grass snakes into beds or adding dog dirt or gunpowder to snuff.


He savoured his pipe and listened to the conversation, paying close attention to the ranking. It was useful knowledge for a newcomer to court. He restricted his own contributions to brief interjections.


On Sarah Jennings: "Oh, a high opinion of herself indeed, but deserved, and if that was a crime would we not be the first to mount the block? Besides, the arrogant ones are always fun."


On Ladies Osbourne and Herbert: "Now, as I understand it, Danby's daughter has no real protectors, while Lady Herbert's brother is the greatest madman one is likely to find outside Bedlam. Either the former is worth three or the latter five, as I see it."


On Lady O'Roarke: "Whatever her personal qualities- or lack thereof, if you insist Dorset- York's jealousy alone makes her worth more than one."


On Lady Kendishall: "Slender little thing. Very pretty, and a talented musician. Bit like Mistress Jennings, sharp and bold, but her disposition tends fiery rather than cold in my experience. Three points, I should say."


On other prospects: "Well, there's Juliana von Hesse-Eschwege. Calls herself a princess, but I'm not certain of that. Absolutely ravishing, though, and nigh as forward as I am. Two points, I should say, three if the title's genuine. And Elizabeth Dwight, too. Attractive enough, but quite the most gullible creature I've ever met. One point, perhaps."


Charles roared with laughter at Turnbull's suggested letter.


"Tell you what though, gentlemen, shall we say bonus points for any man who does get his paramour to write a letter like that?"

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"You find me something out of practise, still, give me some practise and I'll be a dab hand by season end." Ambrose laughed settling the flask down and making his repairs.


"It's not blocks we are talking of mounting." Ambrose remarked to Charles, eyebrow raising as he listened to Charles defense of her state. Meanwhile, the room seemed to swirl a little.


"Poor thing." he uttered of Bridgit, "put that way there is hardly any sport to it." Despite himself nobler sentiment made itself known, "what might be done to raise her stakes somewhat?" he blinked and then grinned, "not that it be a common thing for any ladies to fall under the Merry Gang's protection, why, that stance alone might decay her reputation more thoroughly than a poke might. "


He slinked off behind the racks once more, repositioning the hipflask from whence it came, "Hear hear," he called from beyond. Cheering on the increase of points for the girl Herbert, and then appearing from the darkness once more added, "and put me down for some tickets to watch the ensuing fisticuffs! Ought to make a fine show." he grinned toothily.


"York is Catholic and out of favor, "two points for O'Roarke at the most."


He nodded to Chathams opinion on the pretty Kendishall widow, having something of a fancy for her (though never met), "I would think her being an unknown to our all knowing company might make her the wild card of the season, and worth ten points!"


Snickering of the sport played, the lifeguard slid into a comfy spot - the warmth of the gulped down cognac was warming his mood marvelously. "Any Duchess ought to be four points at least, just how old is Shrewsberry, and had she a sticky centre as sweet as the cake named after?" he drawled more for sport than sense.


"Ay, my dear fellows, I might fug you all were there points for it. You are just the finest fellows I've ever met!" why in fact the Lieutenant was quite drunk, and was revealed to be one of those 'I love everyone' drunks, slinging his arm around one, and then attempting another.

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The arguments ensued back and forth as ladies at court were assigned seduction points. A general consensus was building as Ambrose became more inebriated.


Rochester insisted on an addendum to the game. "We do not have to do the seduction ourselves," he demanded. "If we sponsor someone to do it for us, it counts the same."


"Seems fair," Sedley admitted. "No woman in her right mind with swive with Johnny. You look and smell like Hell." Rochester flicked his wrist dismissively at Sedley "Fuck you." The older playwright laughed. "Let me amend my statement by saying that no man in his right mind would fuck you either. Besides, you'd get no points for me." With a dramatic sniff, the Earl retorted "I'd do you for nothing. That is what friends are for."


Dorset agreed in an effort to give both Sedley and Rochester a chance. "Very well. If you are the one instigating the corruption of a female, you get the credit, but gain a one point penalty." Roos and Merriweather nodded.


So, the almost final list was thus:


Eleanor Needham and Arabella Churchill one point


Fiona McBain, Ellen Doolittle, Shrewsbury, Heather, Barbara Palmer, Lucinda Hawthorne, Catriona McGregor and Kendishall two points each. Once they learned Caroline was a French young widow, the others insisted they could seduce her half asleep. Widows were notorious in that regard.


Sarah Jennings, Bridget Osborne, Sophia, Davina, Nicolette, Diana Gowran, Julia and Mignonette were worth three.


Any Duchess except Cleveland was worth four (as Ambrose had suggested), including Le Belle Stuart.


Frances Cavendish and Susan Herbert were elevated to five points each for the reasons given.


"Last call for other targets," Sedley declared.

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"I could sell tickets I suppose," Charles mused idly. "I might even raise enough to cover the inevitable fines, and I assume you gentlemen would accept a bout of fisticuffs as proof. Not a bad idea at all Turnbull. I shall keep it in mind if Pembroke catches me aboard his sister." He raised his pipe in salute.


He smiled and shook his head as the others proclaimed how easy it would be to seduce Caroline. He did not think they would find it such a simple task.


Ah well. I shall just have to rub it in later.

The smile sharpened as Turnbull's intoxication became increasingly obvious. It could at least be said for the Lieutenant that he was not an egregiously messy or aggressive drunk. Frankly, excessive affection did not even make the top ten most irritating drunken behaviours Charles had experienced, and he doubted the situation was any different for the others. Still, he had to fence Turnbull later and there would be no pleasure in beating him like this.


"I don't suppose any of you could tell me where I might find a water barrel? A swift dunking should cure what ails him."


Leaving aside (temporarily) the issue of inebriated Life Guard lieutenants, Charles turned his attention back to the rankings. He could not help but feel that he had stolen a march on the others. He already had points on the board after all.


Though I shall to seduce a duchess to be sure. Monmouth, I think. I'd enjoy giving Jemmy horns and she might be more receptive, given his habit of parading his mistresses. Sauce for the goose, et cetera, et cetera.


"All looks fine to me, and I can't think of anyone we've missed." He looked around the cellar at his companions. "So, good hunting gentlemen."

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"That's Bollocks." Ambrose drawled as Rochester thought to wriggle the rules about, "your reputation is your handicap, fair is fair. The rules of battle are simple, you cant claim a victory unless you fought the war, the only conquest counted is the one you swived yourself." Discovering himself happily thirsty again he looked about for his next drink.


Chathams was saying something about water, but Ambrose waved that thought aside with a genial smile.


Last call came.


"I say." Ambrose had an idea, "what say to make it 'easier' for Rochester and Dorset here, there be points for fucking inanimate objects. Worth points for the laugh. And there ought be a keyhole or two about their cocks might fit into." already snickering, he then snorted a laugh.

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Ambrose had been treated gently as all new members were. His affable intoxicated status encouraged the Gang to go easy on him.


When he sought to insult Sedley and Rochester, things changed rapidly. They looked at each other in disbelief as the upstart sought to insult them.


"I would like to stick a prick into an inanimate object," Sedley announced in response. "I say we dunk Turnbull into that barrel of water." Merriweather tittered in support.


Rochester weighed in as well. "Rather than a keyhole, I should think my prick better suited to something like an empty boot, so I can stick both up your ass."


"The boot is for your protection," Dorset added with a laugh.


"And," Rochester continued, "I would like to add Turnbull's mother to the list. How many points should we allot?"

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"Is there one to hand?" Charles inquired of the hypothetical water barrel. "I don't intend to lug him about any distance, and I very much doubt any of you do either." He shook his head sadly. "And I was just thinking that the Lieutenant was doing rather well for being drunk."


He was sorely tempted to descend into undignified cackling at the situation and clamped his teeth firmly about his pipe stem to stave it off. He blew a cloud of smoke through his nostrils to shroud his face while he regained his composure.


"They do play rather well off each other, don't they?" he observed to Roos in tones of grudging admiration. "Though of course the Lieutenant is in little state to defend himself."


Raising his voice slightly, Charles called to the room at large.


"If family members are on the table, I'll own that it would amuse me to see any of you take a run at my stepmother, if only because I think she'd eat you without salt."


It would be rather like watching a wasp land on a nettle. Something is getting stung, but you don't particularly care what.

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Ambrose barely noticed the sudden turn in the men's humor, thinking it still more of the cheerful sort of sport.


"Ah ha har!" he laughed at Dorsets comeback, slapping the fellow on the back, "it wouldnt be the first keg I've been stuck in, but it wont be the last! Pickle me in rum boys, that's a sailors preference!"


But even in his state, Rochester's quip was a bit on the rough end. "Bah, no need to be like that." the lifeguard pointed, waving digit around loosely, "it's not my fault you dont think yourself able to rut any women yourself. Where's the sport in collecting credits for someone else's legwork. Well. Prick work." he maintained that the previous suggestion was entirely out of kilter with the games premise.


"My mother?" Be it a failing, but Ambrose had never thought of his mother in that way. And frowned now, not entirely happy with the thought. Meanwhile Chatham was nominating his own. In time, when Ambrose thought back upon the outing, remembering what he would, he might appreciate Charles Audleys diffusion as an a kind thing at that moment. But for now Turnbull scratched his head, and mumbled something illegible.

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"Find a bell and summon a servant to fetch the water barrel," Merriweather tittered in response to Audley's query.


Roos looked at Chatham and answered with a stage whisper "should we help him?" meaning Turnbull. By his facial expression, such course seemed unlikely. Nothing was said about Audley's stepmother though Merriweather was inclined to ask if she was at court.


Rochester did not need Dorset to rise to his defense, but the earl did so. "It's like this Turnbull." He was trying to explain the carve out for Rochester. Johnny had a pox infected private, with no desire to spread the poor luck.


"There once was a merry point game,

Whose winner cost a woman shame.

Yet, when an earl's prick was so big,

T'would break a cunnie like a twig,

A surrogate was awarded the same."


Dorset was a known lover of limericks. Johnny smiled at his friend's defense. "Thank you Sackville," he declared. "I would unsheathe my sword for all to see here, but no tailor has ever been met that can make a fly large enough to bring it forth without lowering my breeches and it is far too cold down here to do that." There were snorts and catcalls at that.


"In truth," Sedley added, "the playwright that arranges the scene is just as critical as the actor that speaks the actual lines. Does not a military commander receive credit for the valor of the soldiers he commanded."


In all likelihood the words would be lost of Ambrose since he seemed deep in his cups.

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"Oh not yet. Perhaps if Rochester actually produces that boot." Charles grinned at Roos, repressed laughter bubbling in his voice. "But Turnbull's a big lad. He can look after himself. Probably."


Charles revised that opinion slightly as the Lieutenant became yet more animated in his drunkeness before finally lapsing into inaudible muttering. The flask had evidently been rather full. Not that Turnbull's advanced state of inebriation seemed to matter to the others, Dorset launching into a limerick and Rochester grandstanding. It was rather well done, like watching a well drilled battalion deploy from column to line.


"A pretty little limerick, Dorset. I might have a stab myself." Charles thought for a moment before beginning.


"There were two earls known for sin,

Wits known to oft cause a grin.

But their latest target was drunk,

From all the cognac he'd sunk,

Removing the shine from their win."


Charles rose to his feet.


"And on the note of the Lieutenant's intoxication, I'm going to enquire about that water barrel before he vomits all over my shoes. I shan't be a moment."


He turned to seek out a servant.

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"Good show," Dorset complimented. "Limericks are a lost art form."


"And should stay that way," Roos declared, never one to create a limerick on the spot. "Poetry and rhymes have melted hearts and caused wars," Sedley retorted. "One would be well-advised to not underestimate them."


As if by magic, two servants appeared, ready to carry another barrel upstairs. Audley could inquire of them. The others grew quiet, waiting to see if Ambrose would lose his breakfast on the cellar floor. Each seemed to be judging their distance from the soldier and speculating as to his range.

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Charles gave Dorset an exaggerated bow in thanks for the compliment.


"The brevity makes for an interesting challenge, doesn't it?" His smile widened. "Particularly for those like me, who never use one word when three will do."


He listened to Roos and Sedley's little disagreement and snorted with amusement.


"I wouldn't rely on that as a defense for the art form, Sedley. We all know how easily hearts are melted, and the Italians once fought a war over a bucket."


Any further commentary was forestalled by the timely arrival of two servants. Charles approached, skirting wide around Turnbull.


"Could you bring us a barrel of water?" He glanced back at the lieutenant. "The swifter the better."


He walked a coin across the back of his hand to illustrate the point.

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Francis had been heading back toward the Presence Chamber but his progress had been halted early on when he heard a bit of laughter when some servants opened the door and went down into the wine cellar.


No matter what sort of revelry was going on, it might present a unique opportunity. Perhaps he might overhear something or perhaps he would catch servants doing something they ought not and be owed in return. The young blond was starting to understand some things about court, albeit perhaps not yet to the devious standard of Buckingham, who probably thought the whole process should happen through osmosis.


That said, the nearly thirty-year-old Lord Kingston, who looked barely of age, wandered down to see what was going on.


At first all he smelled was smoke.

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Ambrose looked up at that, his eyebrows shifting into questioning peaks.


Their eyes looked towards him, while they backed away. He did not understand why. They could not be expecting him to cough up a limerick could they? They were treating him like he had the plague.


Whatever it was he felt uncomfortable, rued that he'd drunk the potent spirts so swiftly when everyone else seemed stone cold sober. Fish out of water was how he felt. They didn't look so friendly now, as what they had seemed earlier, as they closed ranks against him.


It had took a bit to sink into his thick head, but he finally understood he was no longer welcome here. Hefting himself to his feet Ambrose murmured summat and headed on after the keg going back upstairs.

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"A barrel of water milord?" the first servant asked Audley, finding the request peculiar. There were wells and he supposed they could fill a barrel in time. "We could fetch one on our return." They seemed intent on carrying the wine cask upstairs first.


Francis Kirke would arrive on the scene to see Audley negotiating with two servants holding a barrel. Ambrose would be walking towards him sullenly. The young officer had imbibed too much and thought to insult Rochester and Sedley, which was not always a wise thing to do. He had thought to dish it out but was less eager to eat it. The Lieutenant had undergone a hazing that all new members received, but did not seem up to the challenge. Perhaps it was the cognac.


Francis would see Roos, Rochester, Dorset, Sedley and Merriweather sitting on stools and chairs in the familiar place where the Gang liked to meet, sometimes with the King. A few were smoking pipes.


"There's Kingston," Dorset greeted amiably. "Come join us," he called. "You know everyone don't you?" The only question marks were whether Kingston knew Ambrose and Audley.


"Perhaps he would like a swig from the Lieutenant's cognac bottle," Merriweather tittered softly, imagining the surprise in his mind. His suggestion was met with a few chuckles but no one took action.

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The coin vanished.


"The need is somewhat urgent," he explained, turning to indicate Turnbull, only to find the lieutenant making his exit. "Very urgent."


Further dialogue was forestalled by the arrival of a newcomer, apparently known to the others. Charles gave him an assessing glance. Taller than Charles, which was noteworthy, young looking and almost offensively pretty.


Kingston. I've heard that somewhere, recently too.


No matter. It would come to him if it was important. Charles gave the other a friendly inclination of the head.


"I don't believe we've met actually. Charles Audley, Earl of Chatham."


He ignored Merriweather's suggestion. Whoever had giggled had quite given the game away. If Kingston fell for it now he was clearly too gullible to be worth tricking.

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Viewpoints & varying perspectives.


From where Ambrose stood it was that Rochester and the other had turned rather nasty at his objection to their cheating, and in response become bitchy of his jest. Though perhaps it was just that they only had a sense of humor when they were picking on someone else? Either way, this was no hazing but an expulsion.


What had begun well had turned bad. Yes Ambrose was morose as he left, he'd held hopes that the merry group might be his fit. If he was too bald faced, too rough, for the merry gang, it did not bode well.


Passing a figure, mumbled something like a greeting to Francis as he moved on past.



OOC: & fin for me

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Francis did not know the first gent he came across, but the others came into view and greeted him, so he figured they'd perhaps sent this chap to make sure he wasn't someone intent on ruining their fun.


"Good day," Francis greeted the man he did not realize was attempting to exit. "Just a wayward son returned to the throng," he added, giving the man a nod as if expecting him to head back toward the others with him.


Francis was, thus, rather surprised when he didn't.


He walked the rest of the way into the group. "Whose? Why? Did you lot put some hallucinogenics in it for some Christmas cheer?" He chuckled. "Besides, you lot know I do not go anywhere without libations!"


Smiling as the only one he didn't recognize introduced himself, "A pleasure. Francis, Lord Kingston. As in the one about 4 leagues that way." There were several 'Kingstons' within the King's realms. The blond was not the sort to innately wonder if people 'knew' him; that level of Villiers vanity was not quite Francis' style, no matter the level of vanity Buckingham touted. Audley might notice that he and Dorset bore a resemblance, though Francis younger.

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