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The Winter Tilt | Morning 29th- Xmas 1677

Guest John Bramston

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St. James Park



The Park was once a marshy water meadow, but now is a thriving attraction with all of London's elite. Charles' grandfather, James I, improved the drainage and controlled the water supply. Other royalty had made improvement to the park over their reigns, but it was Charles II who made dramatic changes. The Park was redesigned, with avenues of trees planted and lawns laid. The King opened the park to the public and is a frequent visitor, feeding the ducks and mingling with his subjects.


In summer, it was fashionable to drink warm milk, freshly drawn from herds of cows placidly grazing in the London parks, at a kind of milk bar provided for the purpose. The milk sellers would advertise their wares by calling: "A can of milk, ladies, a can of red cow's milk, sir!"


John stood between two hills, the valley (actually just where two relatively smooth hills met) between them his battlefield. Set astride a mighty sled (might more in his imagination than fact), he had an old style wooden lance in hand. He was ready for the ice tilt, a mock joust where both sides charged each other on sled trying to knock each other off.


Unfortunately, there were limits to what his servants would do. And the older man stood there, arms crossed. “What? It’s safe.” John insisted. The lance was long but dull and padded at the end. While it might knock a man off, there was no danger of piercing.


“It’s safe.” The servant confirmed. He was, regardless, standing by in case it wasn’t. But he felt no desire to engage John in this childish delight. His arms remained crossed, his head shaking. He refused to mount the second sled on the other hill.


“Oh, come.” John said, obviously frustrated at the lack of partners for his games. He stood on the hilltop, lance in the air, sour faced.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Edmund had braced himself against the wind and chill of the morning. He had had a most enjoyable evening the night before at Gresham and, all night, he had found his mind restless with an aching. A sort of dull longing to know more about...well...everything. Almost a self-loathing at his degree of ignorance in the face of a world of wonder. Such mental turmoil was not good for one's well-being so, as the sounds of St Mark's servants starting their day broke out, he had swung himself out of bed, swathed himself in appropriately warm attire and turned his legs to the outside world, determined to take some air to blow the cobwebs out of his Mind.


All being well there was the evening's party to look forward too, an invitation kindly having been extended by the generous Lord Kingston. As his feet crunched on the ice and snow of St James' Park (one of his new favorite haunts for a morning constitutional) he decided on an action plan for the day. He'd need something suitably fine to arrive in, these provincial suits were not appropriate. He would pay a call to the Company's banker in the City and make a long overdue draw-down on his funds then put those to good use. A gust of icy wind struck and stung him, making his fur-edged cloak snap, crack and billow behind him like a sail. He clapped a hand on his hat to prevent it being blown off. Its white feather lashed about and struck his cheek. The cold reminded him that, if he was to go, he couldnt turn up empty handed and should instead visit a local wine-merchants first in order to arrive bearing appropriate gifts.


As he rounded a corner on the path he caught sight of something distinctly different in the distance. Stopping in his stride, he looked across the park at the strange tableaux in front of him. A young man, surrounded by servants, stood discoursing with them, stood in a strange contraption...a sledge, perhaps? In his hand was...what? A lance? Really? Like some winter Don Quixote! Well, he had not expected that! Judging from the looks on the man's reticent servants, he was clearly lacking a Sancho Pansa. Perhaps it was the cold air making him a bit giddy but he could not refrain from chuckling to himself at this unexpected sight. Wrapping his cloak about him he decided fortune favored the cold and set off in their direction.


"How now, good sir! A mighty fine morning to you all, gallants!"

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John jumped slightly at the salute. He almost instinctively turned as if to repel Edmund. Edmund might have imagined himself a French hoard for John’s brief panic. But upon seeing it was just some fellow John calmed down. He laughed at the title bestowed. “I am a gallant. This fellow is a spoilsport.” Johns said of the servant.


The servant just rolled his eyes. He knew well enough John was not really angry with him. Not in a way that mattered anyway.


John stood tall and looking, as Edmund rightly supposed, fairly ridiculous. Although the lance was still a modern weapon, his was strange looking, almost like he was going to stab his victim with a pillow. (Though its safety was much the point. Its only point.)


He puffed up, “Who approaches our d-d-domain?” John actually did have a large snowcastle in the park. It was preparation for the thirty first. But the silliness of all this was intentional. Mostly.

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"Ahh well, the people of the world are made up to two sorts, so I hear. Those who thirst for adventure and those who are quite happy without it!"


Edmund took off his feathered hat and swept it behind him as he gave the sledge-bound Winter warrior a deep bow, his breath curling in whisps in the chill. "Sir Edmund Torrington at your service, Sir! A denizen of the frozen North myself, freshly come to London. I confess I was trespassing in your domain unknowingly when I came across this sight and my curiosity got the better of me, being as I am one with a penchant for the novel."


He clapped his hat back upon his head and straightened up, looking up at the lance. "And who do I have the pleasure of addressing? The Lord of this Winter-scape, I surmise! Tell me, like some grail knight of old, do you charge trespassers in your land one tilt for safe passage?"

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“Ah, so you’re a writer. How d-d-disreputable.” John clucked, nothing serious in his tone. “Welcome to London. You’ll find… good company here. And p-p-plenty of snow to make you feel at home. No p-p-polar bears though.”


“Who am I?” John summoned what bombast he could. “The Sultan,” John replied, “of the Ottoman Empire.” John’s servant pressed his face into his hand in frustrated embarrassment. John thwacked him in the shin. “The Sultan,” John said more insistently, “of the Ottoman. Empire.


“Yes,” John said of Edmund’s idea (in a ‘Glad I thought of it’ sort of way). “The tilt tax.” He smiled. “It’s like a poll tax but with lances.” In fact, it was nothing like the poll tax. But there were lances.


“If you win, you shall be… free to t-t-travel all through our vast domain. But if you lose,” John turned to stage menace, “You have to…” He faltered. In his hesitation Edmund might surmise John this was being made up on the spot. “Err. You have to be my janissary. Yes.”


John drew himself up, lance aloft in salute on top of the hill. He was attempting to look faux-menacing and succeeding in looking ridiculous.

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"Well, Most Sublime Sultan, I fear I have no choice! For surely it is every good Christian's duty to fight the Turk, or some I am told. That and, alas, I fear that the Sultan and his host stand between this traveller and a warm glass of mulled wine. Sinner that I am, the latter is perhaps my best incentive."


Looking around and taking one of the proffered lances, he inspected it up and down, in an exaggerated way as he thought a Lancelot or Galahad would have done.


"I accept you challenge, Grand Signor! And your terms. Passage if I win and, should my arms fail me, then, upon my honour, I shall bind myself as your faithfully Janissary!"


Edmund conjured in his mind visions of himself in exotic Turkish garb, including the large turban of a Janissary, as he had seen on broadsheets and woodcuts. A fine recipe for causing mischief and havoc! Young Turks in the City! He flashed the Sultan and roguish smile and gave him another bow.


"My Lord, I am at your disposal. Let the tilt commence!"

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John let out a laugh. He laughed harder as Edmund inspected the lance. It was something of a silly looking thing. It was less a lance than an extended piece of wood with a very soft and wide end. It had no point and was obviously designed with safety in mind. But it looked ridiculous, like they were about to have the world’s most chivalrous pillow fight.


“Upon your honor? Upon your humor! You need that to sustain you in this enterprise!” John laughed and smiled at the bow. John was collected a panoply for his little display. Edmund the Janissary would be his next addition. He was sure of it.


But soon it was time to assay Edmund. John had some experience with the weapon. He preferred the lance since it was more forgiving of shaking hands. So he fancied himself to have a fair shot.


He shoved off down the hill, lance couching and ready to strike. He readied to make an old battle cry and let a gleeful, childish smile paint his face. The wind in his face, the familiar weight of a lance... and his future janissary he was about to vanquish. (In this, for whatever reason, John was confident).


OOC: Do you want to summon the mods to call who wins?

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The good cheer of the self-styled Sultan of St James' Park was infectious. The whole silliness of the scene, so unexpectedly stumbled upon that very morning, was like a reviving elixir of good humour. Now, facing his adversary bearing down on him, braced on his sledge, 'lance' couched and hollaring a battle-cry (something most decidedly Saracen), Edmund found himself wooping along too.


As a young man he had, in the passing fashion of most of the gentry, been given a rudimentary schooling in arms. The bare basics. Hold this end of the sword, stab, slash and thrust with the other. The sort of basics which might ward off a brigand or footpad (providing they weren't too tenacious) but hardly enough to make one a Musketeer. In any event, even if his martial education had been more inclined towards professionalism, the young Edmund had made a poor student. His younger brother had excelled, but Edmund consoled himself in other strength. Regardless, very little - in fact, nothing - had prepared, or would have prepared him, for this test of arms. The Poles may still ride with lances, or so he read in the newssheets, but was jousting still amongst the syllabus of the knightly classes in England. For yet another occasion within the past few days he was left considering whether his education really had been lacking in the real practical necessities of life.


His reverie was caught short by the approaching, hollaring Sultan. Suddenly it occurred to Edmund that, despite all his jocularity, there was a very good chance that he was about to go flying. The lances may be adapted for safety but he did not doubt for a second that a whallop from one would surely hurt like the Devil. The image flashed into his mind of himself sporting the Janissary's costume he had thought of earlier, only this time sporting it with a large, swollen black eye.


Oh well, little to do now save brace oneself. Continuing his own cry, sending a few errant crows circling out of the nearby barren trees, he braced himself for impact.



I'm perfectly happy for the Mods to come in to judge, although I think we both know who we'd be happy to see win, Your Serene Highness!

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John had been proclaimed Sultan by Caroline and Sophia. This had been Maldon Castle before this had been the fortress of the Sultan. But now they had fully embraced the fantasy.


The lance was still a respectable military weapon. It was good for the hunt too, if the target was to be pinned or might wheel and charge. England still had cavalry companies of lancers and there were even still pikemen fighting on foot. Jousting in knightly style was gone but that hardly bothered John. He’d never shied away from history. Or from things that lacked the practical necessity of life.


So there was a look of joy as he made his barrel down the hill, lance couched, smile on his face. Unfortunately, the winds were not with him and neither was the hill. He went wide and as he targeted his lance he went high and ended up swiping past Edmund, hitting nothing. He came to a stop just at the foot of the other hill. “Oh fie.” He said, sour faced.


He looked over at Edmund and stood. “I’ll get you next time!” He said. He went for as over the top a villain as he could. But the effect was ruined in a moment. He took the sled and began to climb the other hill (the one Edmund had started on) to set up for another round. Going up the hill, with a slight limp, he looked a harmless sort of fellow. And a genial one at the top. A wide smile brightened his face and he looked over to wait for Edmund to be ready before starting.

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The first pass had happened very quickly. One moment he had been hollaring down one slope, trying to couch the lance as best he could, the next he found himself slowing down noticeably as he move upwards on the other slope. Frankly, he was quite surprised (in a pleasant fashion) to find that he hadn't been on the receiving end and gone flying through the air into the snow. This small relief was tempered by the realisation that he had managed to hit nothing at all and therefore the first pass had resulted in a mutually disappointing draw.


As the sledge slowed, he stepped off and carried it up to the top of the slope, turning it round to face the opposite direction where his adversary, the Sultan, stood waiting with eager anticipation. Well, he supposed that his own honour had been served by not losing at the first attempt, so he could rest confident in that.


He stepped back aboard the sledge and waved a salute at his opponent, calling across "By your leave, Sir!", a signal that he was ready for the second pass. Or, at least, as ready as he would ever be. Knowing his opponent had been ready before him, he allowed himself to push off and commenced the second pass.

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John rushed down the hill, the chill in his face and fixed his lance… and went right by Edmund without making contact. His stomach dropped out. His gleeful smile curled into a frown. "Again!" John spat, frustrated more with himself than his opponent.


John slowed with a look of frustration. He stood up and stomped his foot somewhat like a petulant child. “You know,” John seethed, “If we miss three times, we both lose.” That was how jousts worked. It was how dueling often worked too.


Rather than heading up the hill again he turned to his opponent, “So how can we make sure that doesn’t happen.” While losing would not be as fun as winning, missing each other three times would spoil the sport altogether. Nevertheless, John tugged at his sled. If they couldn’t come to an answer, he would head up to try again.

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