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The Smell of Powder | Afternoon, Wed. Dec 29th (Open)- Xmas 1677

Charles Audley

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Shooting Range


Part of the Knightsbridge Barracks, spilling into St. James' Park, were the shooting ranges. These well-kept outdoor grass areas were used for target practice. The smallest, some fifty paces in length, was used for pistol practice, whereas the larger of the two, two hundred and fifty paces in length, was used for musket fire. Weapons could not hit a target at such ranges, but a safety area was left in the back, to minimize accidents.




Charles had been meaning to sight in his new pistols since he had arrived at court. Finding himself at something of a loose end after his now-customary fencing exercise in the morning, he had dressed himself in his uniform, tied his hair back and decided to take advantage of the free time and find out if Mayer of Lyons lived up to their reputation.


They certainly made very pretty pistols. The over-under double-barreled construction of rosewood and steel had the long, lean beauty Charles liked in his weapons, and he especially appreciated the elegance of the banana-shaped locks. He just wished the accuracy was as pleasing.


Though in truth that has little to do with the pistols themselves.


He sighed.


"They pull a little to the left sir," Wodehouse volunteered loyally.


Charles snorted. "I think you'll find it's my aim that's pulling left Wodehouse. Though in my defense the wind does not help matters."


He set the pistol at half-cock, depressed the trigger guard and rotated the barrels, bringing the loaded lower barrel into the firing position. His arm straightened and his breath left him in a low sigh as he sighted carefully down the barrel, aiming slightly to the right this time. Gently, he squeezed the trigger.




The acrid scent of gun smoke filled his nostrils as Charles waited for the cloud to clear so he could survey the damage to either the target or his ego.


A moment's pause, and then he snarled in annoyance.


"You have overcompensated sir," Wodehouse offered dryly.


Charles bared his teeth and thrust the pistol into his manservant's hands, accepting its twin in return.


"I noticed. Now do your job and reload the damn thing."

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After seeing to his usual morning duties for the Lord High Admiral, organizing the correspondence and giving any updates to his master, Beverley had some free time before he was going to go home. Home was a daunting task to one who was estranged from his lord father, who had not spoken to him since summer. He feared rejection or a replay of the original argument, resulting in continued strife (and pseudo-poverty in comparison to what he was used to).


To alleviate his anxiety, he had taken Dudley with him to the firing range. He did not have any fine weapons as those were still at Brooke House with his father, so all he had was the pair of pistols that he traveled with that had been on his saddle when he left.


It seemed he was not the only one to think of such a diversion early in the afternoon, and he found a man in uniform already there with a servant.


Not having the largest selection of clothing, Beverley was also wearing his uniform, which was usually a rarity from the viscount who hailed from a very wealthy family. Cumberland was General at Land and Sea, so whilst Beverley served as his aide as Lord High Admiral his rank and uniform was of a cavalry major. He had a pretty navy blue sash as homage to the fact that most his current doings were naval in nature.


The viscount walked over and as the man paused for his servant to reload, Beverley said, "Might I join you?"

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Charles started slightly in surprise at the sound of Beverley's voice, a mark of how out of sorts his irritation had made him. Ordinarily he was both more observant and much more controlled. Painting on the amiable smile he used for such encounters, Charles turned to answer, head nodding in a companionable gesture.


"Oh, by all means. Some company would be welcome."


Competition always brings out the best in me, after all.


Smile turning slightly rueful, he continued. "We haven't picked ideal weather for it, but the wind does at least give me some excuse for my ineptitude."


As he spoke, his cyclopean gaze assessed the newcomer. Charles could not place the other man's regiment, though he could mark him down as a cavalryman, as well as young in a way Charles could not ever remember being.


A second or third son of a relatively minor family, just off mother's apron strings and looking to prove his manhood and win glory in what he imagines will be a grand chivalric contest on the Continent Charles concluded. Either tragic or hilarious.


"But where are my manners? Charles Audley, Earl of Chatham, at your service."

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Beverley did not sense anything amiss with the other gentleman's response.


"That is true," Beverley agreed of the weather. "Then it shall, erm, give us both an excuse if we have need of it."


Beverley was not far beyond being of age, and he did look his youthful age. His unimpressive height did little to help.


"A pleasure, Lord Chatham," he said. "And a major of the foot?" It was his duty to be quite good at identifying uniforms. "Robert Saint-Leger, Viscount Beverley, Aide of the Duke of Cumberland and heir to the Earl of Brooke." Probably more impressive than the other peer had guessed by appearances alone. Were it not for his master, his father was also well-known.


"A very pretty pair, indeed. I fear I do not take my practice with anything the like." He gave a nod of appreciation to the other lord's pistols.

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So we managed, what, one out of four? Poor show. Even worse than your marksmanship.


Idly wondering whether it had been worthwhile getting up that morning, Charles nodded along with Beverley's introduction.


"I have that honour, yes," he confirmed for the other. "His Majesty's First Foot Guard."


That little list of titles was considerably more impressive than Charles had envisioned. He vaguely remembered that Brooke had something to do with Ireland, and everyone had heard of Rupert. And Beverley's own title tickled something in his memory.


Recently married, to... Worcester's daughter, wasn't it?


Even as he neatly filed Beverley away (under Nepotism, Beneficiary of), Charles smiled and whistled softly.


"Aide to his highness? That must keep you busy, especially these days." The potential of a war would create a mountain of paperwork for Cumberland's desk, even if he were not himself agitating in favour of it, which Charles strongly suspected he was.


He grinned thinly as Beverley complimented his firearms.


"I picked them up on the Continent. Very elegant things, and I am assured that Mayer of Lyons make excellent weapons, but alas I have not had the opportunity to sight them in, or practice at all, until now." He gestured airily towards the target with his free hand. "Hence the deplorable results there visible."


Charles shifted his grip on the pistol and offered it to Beverley.


"Would you care to try them out?"

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His long, brunette waves tickled against his neck in the wind, causing him to push them out of the way, cursing that he had not thought to have Dudley tie them back or put them into some sort of a queue at the base of his neck. HIs hat did little to keep the lot out of his face.


"Indeed, I have been with him for more than five years." He paused to push another errant lock behind his ear. "Very busy, especially with the addition of Christmastide well-wishers and such correspondence. I was thankfully with the Prince for the last war as well, so I, erm, have my duties down to some," he paused to think of the right term, "efficiency," he finished.


"There is much he must oversee and prepare whether there ends up being war or not. My master's legacy and reputation is in his service in such ways, so it is something he is most passionate about."


Of course, Cumberland was also the King's cousin so he was most passionate about protecting his family's reign.


"Lyons, eh?" He nodded appreciatively of them. "Well, pistols are more for closer quarters anyway. Not, erm, any reliable at distances no matter how good a shot you are." The longer barrels of muskets increased reliability of aim considerably; his master had designed one even longer at his forge, so Beverley was no stranger to speaking of firearms and ordnance. "I should like that very much." He accepted the weapon with a nod.


The viscount placed in the back of his head that the next time he had opportunity to shoot any of his master's things from the forge, he would return the kindness to the earl.


He took his aim and fired, surely producing no better results than Chatham, nor had he expected to. He had been more interested in the feel of the weapon.


"Very nice. A good purchase. Shall you bring them if we go to war or are they solely for, erm, pleasure and protection on the roads?" Dueling with pistols was not yet a fashion; swords were still the honorable and preferred weapon, so Beverley did not think about the potential for other things.


He handed the pistol wordlessly to the servant to be reloaded, waiting for Chatham to shoot the other.

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Charles raised an internal eyebrow as Beverley revealed the length of his service Cumberland and adjusted his estimate of the viscount's age up a notch or two.


"Well, that's to the good then. No substitute for practice, hmm?" He frowned thoughtfully. "But yes, even the question of war raises so many others for his Highness to consider. How many troops might we need to raise, wages, how to transport them, bread contracts, other supplies, who is to have command, whether to deploy them independently or in concert with the Dutch... the list grows longer the more I think about it, and that is entirely ignoring the Fleet." A smile. "I confess that I do not envy either of you."


He hummed in agreement with Beverley's assessment of the value of pistols.


"Oh, very true, but I still like to be good at what I do."


He handed over the weapon and watched the viscount take his shot.


"Not bad, for a pistol you've never handled before. I doubt your duties leave you much time to practice, either."


Charles shook his head in answer to Beverley.


"Wouldn't dream of taking these on campaign. They're all very well when you can be sure of time to maintain them and good powder to load them with and the luxury of treating them gently, but I'd want something more robust if at war. No, these are just nice things to own."


Wodehouse did not immediately take the pistol from Beverley, and Charles smiled at the viscount's minor misunderstanding.


"You have another shot," he explained, demonstrating the procedure for revolving the barrels. "An ingenious little mechanism, no?"


He had heard horror stories of how both barrels could accidentally be fired simultaneously if the pistol was poorly made, with unpredictable results, but it would be counterproductive to mention those now. In any case, these particular examples were very well made indeed.

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"More for the action than the strategy, Lord Chatham?" Beverley guessed. That was a long list of preparations coupled with a lack of envy, so in his mind it stood to reason that the major was a man of action. Perhaps the missing eye was a hint as well.


"His Highness does not see to such things personally, more oversees they are, erm, enacted to his satisfaction." But even managing that was a rather monumental task, even as Beverley stated the obvious. He was not always socially the best. Military strategy and history were more his thing than the personal elements of conversation. He could talk military things all day long but delve to far beyond that, and he could be awkward.


The pistol shot well. With his hair blowing about he had no noticed that it had a rotating barrel. One did not see such a thing every day.


"Ha, damn, erm, my mind must truly be elsewhere," Beverley said, watching.


Such were truly too fine to bring on a campaign, but lords in war could be strange in such ways, as much about their equipage as anything else. They went off to war as if they were going to be painted as such. That was to be expected to a degree, as a mark of wealth and station, but some took it to an extreme.


"If the French do not move to treaty before Spring, you will speak for it in Lords then?" Beverley asked, as he casually took aim for another shot. The second was little better than the first.


"The more moving parts, erm, the more potential for problems I would think. At least, well, on the field, as you say." Campaigns, especially in foot regiments, could be long things, no matter if the officers were mounted, he thought. "But very fine for pleasure," Beverley marveled slightly.


He could not afford such things unless he reconciled with his lord father, and then his lord father would have to approve. While he had any fine things, when he was not the estranged son, the entire process of that was tedious when he knew his father was very wealthy.

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Charles smiled easily.


"By inclination, yes, but I've had some experience with the latter as well, enough to know that the action is less important but considerably more fun."


He waved aside Beverley's claim of absent-mindedness.


"Ah, they're relatively uncommon trinkets, and the mechanism is not exactly intuitive, eh? I knew what they were and still had to ask the gunsmith to demonstrate." Twice, in fact, though in his defence he had been rather hungover.


Beverley's question prompted a thoughtful frown as Charles waited for the viscount to take his second shot.


"They won't come to treaty, not after Cassel," he declared confidently. "I'd lay guineas to farthings that le Roi will gamble on having one more campaign season before we're ready. He'll smash into the Dutch and Spanish as soon as the weather permits and try to force them to peace before we weigh in. He won't get everything he wants, but he'll get something and he'll be able to try again in a few years." Charles shrugged. "But yes, I'll speak in favour of the war in the House, when it comes to that. Keeping the Scheldt closed to navigation alone would be worth it, and we have a host of reasons besides."


Charles did not expect his voice, however eloquent it might be, to shift the outcome one way or the other. No, that would be decided in the innumerable small, personal meetings before hand. A speech would, however, be a fine way to signal his intentions.


And it is never too early to start developing one's reputation.


Charles waited a moment before lowering his voice and continuing.


"But tell me Lord Beverley, as one officer and gentleman to another, if and when it comes to war, how ready are we? You have a broader view of these things than I."


He smiled, pleased with Beverley's assessment of his weapons.


"They're rather pretty, yes, but I'd give that revolving mechanism six weeks of proper campaigning before it breaks or jams." Charles addressed the target and took his first shot. A slight improvement this time he fancied.


A thought struck him as he brought the charged barrel into the firing position.


"His Highness has something of an interest in devices like these, does he not?"


Surely there's a gunsmith in London that replicate them...

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It made him feel better that the earl had needed a demonstration as well. Sharing an interest in such thing with Cumberland, he should have noticed that there was something different about said pistols. His mind had been something laboured between the doings for the Lord High Admiral and the goings on with his lord father too.


Beverley nodded along with Chatham's thoughts on the war. He was truly more interested in what sort of support he might offer, because that was what was of interest to Cumberland. A good strategist never went straight to the heart of the matter, though, and it was easier not to do as much talking.


He was unsure what the French would do. He agreed that they would likely attempt to press as much as possible, but he was also fairly sure that the French knew they had been preparing since the earlier summer and were not simply set to begin now. That put matters a bit more up in the air. Le Roi being upset with Monsieur over his attempted attack on their King might impact things in the French army as well; it was unlikely Louis would wish any accolades for his younger brother.


"Either way it will give us good leverage for having power in the situation," Beverley speculated. "My master counts on the militarily-inclined lords to speak in support. We will require funding, which for once the mob seems amenable to provide considering the baying for, erm, French blood." France was a popular enemy for the English. The mob was less willing to make concessions to make war upon fellow Protestants.


"As to readiness, preparations were begun at the first mutterings of war. The matters which most concern His Highness are that he wishes our Navy outfit entirely with the superior cannon of his design and namesake." The Ruperinoes would be well-known within the military world. Only a handful of their ships had them, and they were a great advantage. "I have thought perhaps it, well, should be a fashion for the nobility to purchase one or more and have their name or the like engraved on it before it is placed in a warship." He grinned. The viscount thought it quite the patriotic concept, and the English did love the idea of killing the French; this way even those not involved in the war could have their involvement!


"His Highness has quite the interest in antique weapons and, erm, new designs as well. He even does some designs of his own," Beverley said, nodding. He did not know if Cumberland had anything like Chatham's pistols or not.

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Charles was (for once) being conservative in his estimations of how long it take for them to be ready to fight but he thought his pessimism justified. Whatever groundwork had been laid, there were limits on what could be achieved without actually assembling an army or getting money from parliament. It could easily be May or even June before they had a sufficiently large and drilled force on the Continent to affect matters. (He would agree with Beverley that Orléans was unlikely to campaign, which was a mercy, but the French had many fine commanders. Luxembourg sprang immediately to mind, along with Vauban, who was unequalled at the siege work the French would most likely have to deal with.)


"We'll need to have a great many boots ready to plant in Flanders before we have leverage over either side," he politely disagreed. "But for that we will indeed need funding, so might as well squeeze out what we can while the mob's sentiments accidentally agree with good sense."


As was probably obvious to Beverley, Charles had a properly patrician attitude to the mob, which meant he viewed them the same way he viewed bulls and other such domestic animals- dumb brutish things, requiring careful handling, occasionally dangerous when hungry or otherwise disturbed, but never something you took advice from. (These opinions had never stopped him from thinking quite highly of individual commoners. He merely thought that in groups their intelligence became inversely proportional to their numbers.)


Such thoughts were put aside as he listened carefully as Beverley laid what preparations had been made. Charles was not sure he was comforted by his new knowledge. Ordinarily, he would approve most heartily of strengthening the fleet and pursuing a naval strategy, but this war would be lost in Flanders long before it could be won in the Channel or the Carib.


Of course Cumberland almost certainly knows things I don't. But still...

"Are these new guns that much of an improvement then?" he asked quietly. "I'm told they are, but rumour exaggerates that which it does not merely invent."


He was rather fond of the viscount's fundraising idea, though, smiling broadly at the thought.


"That is clever," he said with satisfaction. "Let vanity lead them where honour and patriotism will not!" He hesitated for a moment before pressing on. "Might be worth trying the big merchant companies too. A strong navy is very much in their interest. Of course, you and his Highness have probably thought of that already."


Charles nodded as Beverley confirmed Rupert's interest in weaponry.


"Something of a fascination of my own as well, though my interests lie more in use and deployment, so to speak, rather than design."

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Beverley was also of the sentiment that the mob was best manipulated and used. Men of no sense had no business to try to make decisions for a nation. He did not say anything at Chatham discussed his thoughts, listening as if quite intrigued.


It was not for him to speak in too many specifics to a peer that he did not know very well, who he had not seen about court, so he was mostly content to hear what the other had to say than to betray much of their strategy or readiness.


"If the House votes of more funds, it shall surely create more of the whisperings which help fortify our own position." One could hide troops readying in militias in areas not likely to be filled with foreign spies, so there could always be doubt created about troops for the field.


"Very much so," he replied of the Rupertinoe in particular. "It is no mere rumour." His master was known for his mind as much as his might; the cannon was not his first invention but surely the most useful to military matters.


He chuckled about selling off naming for sponsored cannon. "Well, lords can always be trusted for their vanity and desire to outdo one another. Strategy can, erm, be applied to far more than battle. And I thank you for the compliment." His smile quirked on one side. He was too polite to say that they had, indeed, though about appealing to merchants in such ways as well. He figured that likely need not be said.


"My master certainly enjoys the use and deployment aspects as well, of course." Cumberland was a man of action, no matter his advancing age. "Weapons are surely for more than appreciative decoration for the Prince."

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"That will help matters," Charles agreed, "provided the Commons does not baulk when told how much even a small war costs." The lower House was unfortunately full, it seemed to him, of men who valued money purely for itself rather than for what it could be used be for. "Of course we can probably wring a nice trade treaty from the Dutch or even the Spanish if we play our cards right, which should encourage them."


(Charles would very much like to see the asciento laid to rest once and for all, and (relatively) free trade between England and the Spanish colonies. There would be unimaginable fortunes to be made.)


He nodded gravely as Beverley confirmed the efficacy of the Rupertinoe. There were other considerations, of course. As a landsman, if Charles could have five guns or three Rupertinoes he would choose the former for sheer weight of fire. Indeed, the Rupertinoe would have to be an immense improvement indeed for him to opt for three of them in place of four standard guns. But he knew just enough of sea warfare to know that one had a nigh-entirely different set of priorities. Besides, perhaps the Rupertinoe was easily and cheaply manufactured enough that his worries were groundless.


And perhaps the snow will melt away to reveal enough gold to fund the war and pay the King's debts.


"Well, we're bred for competitiveness," Charles said a laugh. Bred for competence, rather, but it amounted to the same thing. "Might as well exploit it. As for the compliment, I did no more than speak as I found. It is a good idea."


Charles laughed again as the talk turned to Rupert's interest in weaponry.


"So I've heard," he said, addressing the target for his second shot. High this time. "He would probably handle these things a damn sight better than I am."


Idly, he fished out his hip flask and offered it to Beverley.


"Draught of brandy against the chill?"

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"Perhaps you would like to be the first and set the fashion of having a cannon etched for yourself then?" Beverley asked. "The first is always much noted, and my master does favor the pioneers who throw in their support early. He is, erm, not likely to forget such a name."


Many had benefit from loyalty to his master. Other lords had offered things to Cumberland which were of some value.


Beverley watched the man's second shot with a nod and a smile.


"All pistols are temperamental, erm, but this a challenge a bit above. With a barrel that rotates in such a way, there is likely more room for, erm, mechanical error perhaps. Age and experience with many different types of weapon likely gives Cumberland an edge with any such things," he agreed.


"Thank you," Beverley replied, taking the flask and taking a good swig. "Perhaps I could organize some shooting with like-minded gentlemen using a variety of weapons. It is likely my master would come. It would be good to create a, erm, cohesive morale among those who would be expected to hold leadership if there is to be war. Perhaps a meal afterward to warm from the cold." He was already imagining putting some fires around the range to keep things warm. "Perhaps a donation to the war effort might be a suggested ticket to such a thing. Perhaps there would be some profligate competition among the more affluent peers."

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Charles laughed as Beverley asked the entirely expected question.


"I'm tempted," he admitted, "but I had been planning on perhaps raising a regiment for service in Flanders, so I shall have to see. How large would such a donation have to be, if you'll pardon the indelicacy of the question?"


The bulk of that was lies, but it was not as though there was evidence to the contrary.


He nodded along as his companion theorised as to the cause of their difficulty with the weapons. He handed his pistol to Wodehouse for reloading and snapped his fingers as he reached a revelation of his own.


"Ha! You've struck upon it, by God! Two barrels, each with their own individual vagaries, and I've been treating them as one!" In effect, Charles had been compensating for flaws that did not exist.


He laughed appreciatively as the other pondered a shooting party for the more militarily minded gentlemen of court. Charles considered himself something of a scholar of human nature, and it was becoming clear that Beverley was another such.


Perhaps not purely a beneficiary of nepotism, then.


"A fine idea," he opined. "It is good to know one's brother officers, and it would be a good opportunity to raise funds, as you say."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Beverley was not entirely sure how someone raised their own regiment while serving in another already existing regiment. Other than the Life Guard, whose purpose was to form into commanders of other troops during wartime, he was not completely certain how that would work. He kept silent on that, though. The sum of money would be very large and the King's blessing on the action would be necessary as well. He instantly figured that Chatham must be rather rich, not knowing any better about the man.


"To sponsor a cannon in such a way? Perhaps two-thousand? It would be my master who would decide such matters." he replied. It was a large but not outlandish sum to be immortalized on a weapon that could remain in use for a very long time. "The greater the generosity, the more favor accompanies it, though, which is worth far more than a cannon."


Appeasing royals was a way of court. If one wished involvement in military matters, Cumberland was something of a necessity. Perhaps it was the sort of favor that would help in the goal of raising a regiment. Who knew.


It seemed, though, that his comment about the pistol was taken quite well, although he hardly had thought it so far through to come to that conclusion. He had helped the other man to have an aha! moment.


"Ha! Yes, quite right! I am pleased to have helped you come upon it. Compensating would be, erm, quite hard then, for one could not easily keep track of which barrel." Remembering which one you were shooting and what accommodations needed to be made would be some mental task. "Could you mark them somehow?" They had just been speaking of engraving which had given him the idea, although it could have likely been done in an easier fashion with paint.


"If we had such an evening perhaps all manner of, erm, good ideas would be, well, loosed," the viscount speculated of an evening of military gentlemen.

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If Charles had actually been planning on raising a regiment of his own (as opposed to simply seizing upon the most convenient lie, as was his habit when the stakes were small), he would of course have sold his current commission. He could not imagine that there would be any great difficulty in offloading it. There never was when war hung in the air.


It was only long practice that kept him from reacting visibly at the figure Beverley named. You could have an entire battery of guns for that! Perhaps more, even, if you opted for iron rather than bronze. Even allowing for the (supposed) qualitative improvements and the mark-up for personally branding the gun and gaining royal favour thereby, it seemed... excessive. Cynically, Charles could not help but conclude that someone would be making a tidy profit from this.


Or perhaps he does not know, and merely invented a figure. Never attribute to malice what is explicable by incompetence, after all.


"I shall consider the matter," he told the viscount. "There is like to be a great many calls on my purse in the near future." Technically true, depending on how one defined 'the near future.'


He was considerably more honest in his pleasure at finally getting to the root of his pistol problem. He nodded along with Beverley, still chuckling.


"Hmm. That would work very well for target shooting like this, which is all I'm like to use them for, but I'll own that it would pain me to... mar them, I suppose, for lack of a better word." He took a moment to admire the pistol's sleek lines.


"It would be a useful gathering," Charles agreed. "There are several gentlemen at court who have served with the French, for one thing. Myself, John... Churchill," he added hastily, realising that Beverley could not be expected to know who he meant from first name alone, "Feversham, Dundarg, several others I am doubtless forgetting."

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(OOC - just to put perspective on the $ amounts. For purposes of our game, B has determined one normal cannon is 300, a Rupertinoe 3X that, so what Beverley quotes isn't asinine for how our game currency works.)


"Consider before too much time passes or the gesture, erm, might lose its novelty or, erm, utility. The cannon are not simple to manufacture." That was why they cost so much more than typical cannon. "There is not the, erm, same gratitude for one who does so early versus, erm, someone who jumps on the wagon late in the game." He smiled. The young viscount had a guileless look about him naturally with his large hazel eyes and barely average height, but his "erms" likely added to that illusion. Beverley was awkward but skilled with his duties.


"Indeed, I am familiar with them." Since he handled all of his master's official correspondence and was a direct pipeline to gaining audiences, he knew most of the military-minded gentlemen of court.


He did not admit to not knowing who Dundarg was because Beverley simply mentally knew him as FitzBastard and like many of the old nobility, he did not think it a fine thing to keep company with bastards, no matter their military acumen. Accepting them into noble company upset the natural order of things. There was only a bare exception for royal bastards.


"Well, Lord Chatham, whilst the pistols and conversation were much appreciated, I must take my leave. A chill would not do me well with how much is going on both at court and with military arrangements. I shall be in contact about such a meeting, and if you have more thoughts feel free to seek me out. I have rooms at the palace just down the corridor from Cumberland."

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Charles was beginning to doubt that these 'Rupertinoes' were actually worth the investment, given the context. Oh, in a perfect world, where they had more time and nigh-infinite money, the improved performance might be worth it, but in the one they currently occupied? In any contest with a three or four to one disparity in artillery, Charles knew full well which side he would rather be on.


Well, I would not say no to two or three dozen for counter-battery work, but beyond that...


The trick was keeping those thoughts to himself, and Charles attempted to match Beverley's open, guileless expression.


"Then I shall consider with haste," he promised.


He nodded as Beverley made his excuses and prepared to leave.


"I might take you up on that," he said in response to the viscount's offer of further conversation. "But do not let me keep you, if you have tasks to be about."


Charles waited for Beverley to take his leave before returning his attention to his pistols. He would put a few more balls through them, and then seek out lunch.

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