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Sleigh Race -- Afternoon of New Year's Day- Xmas 1677


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The rules were simple. To enter the race, each sled must pay 100 pound entry to rent the sled and funds would go towards the Queen's charities. Ten sleds mean 1000 pounds raised. Each sled may have two passengers, one male and one female, designating one driver and one gunner. The gunner fills the sled with as much snow as possible in five minutes and then may throw snowballs at other drivers in an attempt to distract them. The race is to be held in St. James Park and will go for half a mile -- one quarter mile out, a turn and then a race back.


The prize is a pair of pearl earrings, chosen because the pearls resemble snowballs.


A crowd was gathering already as couples debated entering or enjoying the show as spectators. Thomas Killigrew was signing up each entrant, seated at a wooden table and chair underneath an oak tree. It was a sunny but cold afternoon.

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Nicolette's dark hair gleamed in contrast to the white of her furs, furs that had been a gift from one of her many admirers, furs that she imagined might attract even more attention. Nicci did enjoy an audience. And todays audience, if they were attentive enough to notice, would witness the hijacking of this royal event.


The French beauty sashayed past the growing line, around the oak tree to come upon Mister Killigrew and there stand alongside. "Good afternoon Master of Revels, you have not started without me I hope! Merry Mayhem would not be complete without the Mistress of Mischeif ..." looking towards the noble amidst signing up for the race she gave a pretty smile as she settled in.


"Thomas dear, did you remember to bring a spare hat for pairing the entries?" It might seem that she had her own thoughts about how the teams were selected.

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"Milady, Happy 1678," Killigrew greeted the French beauty. When Nicolette mentioned the hat, the older man's mouth opened as if to say something but nothing came forth but "ah."


"Couples are ... signing up as couples," he finally clarified. "Are you saying that, as Misrule you wish pairings to be random? What if a married couple or other couple request a certain pairing? Did you mean that unattached persons could sign up and be matched at random? That would be more ... less vexing to some perhaps." He certainly hoped for the latter.

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"Indeed!" He was a clever one, and picked up the gist of her intent immediately. To reward his well attuned mind she placed a kiss on his cheek, "Happy New Year Mr Killigrew." No doubt he was clever enough to know he was being brought off!


In a quieter voice shall added, "If there is one thing I have noticed, and that it that married people savour an opportunity to 'take a break' from their obligation, oh, I mean spouse - lets delight the gentlemen of Whitehall by placing a random pretty in his sleigh," she gave a wink, "their wives can watch on with hot chocolate in the stand. Of objections I think you shall have none. More likely spontaneous words of thanks!"


"Now." It was as good as settled, so she throught with a broad smile. "I want to be in charge of the Hat with ladies names."

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"It is obvious that you have never been married," Killigrew replied with a chuckle. "The husbands might thank you but their wives will spit venom at you, the lady you place with their husband, and the husband will be reminded of this insult periodically for the rest of her life." It sounded like the voice of experience talking.


"And what of the man that wants to woo his sweetheart? If you replace the apple of his eye with some female stranger, woe be to all. I shall be happy to give you the hat," he agreed "and I shall make clear to all involved that I had nothing to do with the pairings. A man can only bear so many curses placed on his soul," he laughed. "You would be wise to exercise your discretion ... carefully," he advised.

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"Your lack of playful spirit disappoints me Thomas. You might be better placed as a minister of finance or foreign relations when you utter such tedious cautions as that!" she chirped with bright defiance of his advice. "You would not believe how many people have urged me, as Mistress of Misrules, to declare the dullest and most boring misrules - why it was enough to have me chose simply none of it. Well unless you count the one that Lady Kendishall promoted."


For the most part though it had been a huge anti-climax, and listening to advice like Thomas now gave was at the root of it. She had done nothing, managing thereby to offend no one - but her Misrule would be unremembered because of it.


"This is my rule, and that is that." Nicci declared with the full of her power, "If you are not with me then you are against me. As your wish then, I accept your resignation, remove yourself now and everyone shall see it’s not your doing at all."


She was peeved at him, he of anyone should know that an undermining voice when arranging something was - disquieting. "I’ve got this."


Returning to the desk she claimed his solitary seat and smile to the gentleman who wished to sign himself and his partner up.


"Certainly sir, now if you could write your lady's name down and place it in my basket, once all the sleighs have been rented I shall randomly select your partner. Unless..." she leaned forwards a little and whispered, "... you want to increase your odds?"


Yes she'd happily take bribes to allow people to sleigh ride together, if that was that they truly desired. Just as she'd happily accept bribes from ladies that wanted to be paired with some other.

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Caroline was well bundled up as she arrived at the scheduled sled race. It certainly sounded like good fun though in truth she did not know how exactly it all worked, having never been to something like this before. But the merry widow was always on the lookout for a possible good time, it was why she left her dreary rural country house for the excitement and luster of London and especially the court. So far she had no regrets.


She at least had brought her entry fee along, a bit on the extravagant side to be sure but supposedly it was for some charitable cause. Like as not the Queen or some of her entourage would pocket it she thought, rather uncharitably.


What she lacked though was a partner it seemed. Well, if nothing else she would watch for a bit but no way was she going to fork over her money if she was not guaranteed a place in this race. That much she had definitely made up her mind on.

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Rather than relent to good sense, Nicolette attacked, catching the older man by surprise. She was shaming him.


"Now now," he cautioned. "Let us not be hasty. I was giving sound advice. If you are determined to proceed then I shall support you in it." He was shrewd enough to know the French lady was rising in stature of the court and it would not do to earn her ire when his job was not so firmly held.

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The MacBain Clan arrives


Douglas arrived alone to the races with his three sisters in tow, thinking it a harmless bit of fun that they might watch and enjoy. With Cat sick, if he didn't take them out they didn't get to go out much, and Fiona was likely to find her own trouble. Plus apparently the race was for teams, and Fiona was an easy option for shotgun and likely to have no hesitation with a snowball. He tried to pretend that they weren't cramping his style a bit, as he would otherwise be trying to attract another lady to be his co-pilot. And he'd even had to explain to the younger two why they couldn't all go in the sled, which had resulted in whinging until he'd threatened to go on his own. Really, how did Cat do it?


Modestly rugged up - no Scot needed heavy gear when the sun was out - the four left their coach and approached where the crowds were gathering. It was another expensive foray for the benefit of the Queen's charities by all accounts, and he had already put considerable funds in that direction, but court hated the miser. If he could win a little infamy along with the prize, that would be something.


"Lairdy Kendishall! A verra merry New Year tae ye." Douglas greeted the familiar figure nearby. "Hae ye met my sisters? Lairdy Fiona, Viscountess Lochend, Mistress Shona, an' Mistress Aileen?"* He asked, working through the girls in descending order of height. Each girl sported a new fur muff, no doubt a Christmas gift, whilst Douglas himself wore a large woolen cloak with a wolf fur across the shoulders.


Up ahead at the front of the queue he could see Nicolette and Killigrew kibitzing over something. Nicci looked radiant and confident, not to mention warm in the plush furs that she wore; furs that were white. He'd given her red fox fur; that must be someone else's gift. He felt his heart sink a little. Well, the world was certainly opening up for her, but it looked like far finer things were making their way into her life than one bastard Scotsman. Still, in her situation he would take whatever he could get and run with it, so he was pleased for her even if a little disappointed.


"Er ye racin' er watchin' todae m'Lairdy?" He asked Caroline.



* "Lady Kendishall! A very merry New Year to you. Have you met my sisters? Lady Fiona, Viscountess Lochend, Mistress Shona and Mistress Aileen?"

** "Are you racing or watching today, my Lady?"

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Caroline, Douglas, and the MacBain Sisters


Fiona was looking forward to the race and was determined to participate, either with Dougie or with somebody else. She had no doubts that she would be able to charm herself into a handsome gentleman's sled if her brother found another partner. Lord Langdon would be her partner of choice, but she was determined to ignore him completely today. Let him think she was no longer interested in him. He would only want her more. That was the way with men. They always wanted what they thought they couldn't have.


She scoffed at the way most of the courtiers were bundled up. It wasn't even that cold. She and her sisters wore only fur-trimmed cloaks over their gowns as well as muffs to warm their hands. Fiona thought they were better than gloves for she could toss hers aside when she got ready to make snowballs. It was easier to form them with her hands bare. She'd had a lot of practice tossing them at her sisters in Scotland.


She should have known that Douglas would make a beeline for a pretty lady the moment he arrived. Fiona sighed and followed behind them with Shona and Aileen. Glancing around her, she spied that Frenchwoman who had insinuated that she was too good for Doug at a party last season. She glared in her direction, rather hoping that she would have the chance to insult her again.


Her attention returned to Douglas when he introduced her to Lady Kendishall. She was pleased that he used her title and remembering what he had told her, she smiled at the lady as graciously as a Queen. “It's a pleasure to meet you,” she said.


Shona smiled shyly and curtsied while Aileen studied Caroline frankly, still a bit young to be concerned about courtly manners.

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"I am not ten Mr Killigrew, I am completely aware of what you were trying to do. But lets move on shall we, suffice to say I am pleased you have seen sense."


That said she did not really believe he'd support her at all, not after trying to stop her like that. While perhaps it was understandable given that she was taking over his planned event, but he did not need to be such an arse about it.


If she ever got a chance, she'd repay him in kind.


Court was all about looking after the people who looked after you. Speak of the devil - here was Nicci's best friend, Caroline. "Lady Kendishall!" the Frenchwoman crooned and welcomed Caroline with outstretched hands to squeeze, here smile then sweeping to include Lord Dundarg and his relation too.


Caroline seemed to think she would need pay some money, but Nicci pressed her purse away.


"The gentlemen pay for a pairs sled, and the ladies names go into my basket." needless to say Nicci would match Caroline with the second most premium match.


"Lord Dundarg." Nicci reached to squeeze his hands too. Oh goodness, he was still the most gorgeous man! "And I am so pleased to see you again Lady Fiona." The warmth in Nicolette's tone suggested she had forgotten any hiccup in their first meeting, "Who shall be joining in the race today ladies? We need be quick there are only 10 sleds available!" she urged.


Nicolette was at the ready to write down their names - how many sleds was Douglas to purchase?

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Caroline heard her name called and in an unmistakeable Scottish accent. Ahh, Lord Dundarg, she had liked the fellow since their afternoon horse race last season.


"Lord Dundarg, how wonderful to see you again. And same to you, have a great new year," Caroline returned the greetings, her hands were in thick gloves or she would have held one out for him but such extravagances could be dispensed with due to the wintry conditions. Her smile for the man was warm though and genuine.


He promptly introduced a foursome, all of them his sisters? Poor fellow was heartily outnumbered in that family. Imagine the dowry costs too before they were all married off. She greeted each one right down to the youngest with that same smile of hers and an acknowledging nod.


"Ladies, so pleased to make your acquaintance."


Dundarg then asked if she was participating or merely there to be a spectator. Well, he did not really know her or he wouldn't have asked. She answered immediately.


"I wanted to race but it sounds like one needs a partner and alas....I have shown up all by my self so I will be forced to the sidelines," she sighed.


Just then there was Nicci! The two close friends greeted each other enthusiastically, Nicci taking both her gloved hands but Caroline going one gesture further and kissing her on both cold cheeks in French fashion.


"Mistress Vauquelin! How is England's Mistress of Misrule today?" she grinned then heard how the sled race really worked. It was a relief she would not have to fork over the money. And that she still had hopes she might yet be in the event.


"Ohh, really? Interesting. Thank you for illuminating me on this. By all means then, put me down as a contestant," Caroline quickly took advantage.

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The crowd was beginning to gather, and Duncan arrived just in time, it seemed. Like the other Scots, he was not as bothered by the cold as the Sassenach, so his clothing was lighter than what the English wore. Besides, wearing too much hindered your movements when sledding, whether as a driver or as a snowball thrower.


Approaching the table where the small crowd had gathered, the Lowlander found himself in the middle of a group of people he was fond of. As courtesy required, he bowed and bid his greetings. “Lady Lochend, Lady Kendishall, Mistress Shona, Mistress Aileen…” he winked at the youngest one with a gesture one would use with a favored niece or granddaughter. “Mistress Vauquelin, Baron Dundarg, Master Killigrew…” he hoped he had greeted in the proper order. There had been lessons in his youth, of course, but his years as a soldier had almost made him forget them. “May God grant you all a great year!”


As he approached the table, the Lowlander had heard what Nicci had told the gentleman. So, it is to be random pairings, eh? Interesting… whose name should I place in the hat, though? Hmm…


Lady Kendishall would have been tons of fun, but he had already been seen with her the night before. To name her was certain to start all types of untrue rumours. Same with Mademoiselle Vauquelin. He had been seen with her at the palace grounds not too long before. The safe choice would be one of Douglas’ sisters, as everybody at court was probably aware of the two families being close. Decisions, decisions…


“Lady Lochend, would you grant me the boon of allowing me to write down your name and place it inside the basket?”


There… let’s give Fiona her moment of glory. Besides, as fiery as she is, she is bound to be a great gunner. I just hope I am paired with her on my sled.

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Killigrew bore the unhappiness of Nicolette in stride. It was the lot of people of his class to defer to the aristocracy. He had no remark. Instead, he allowed Nicci the seat and stood nearby observing those that sought to register. A servant was dispatched to find a basket.

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The Queen's Ladies


It was a small handful yet comprised, so they thought, of the best looking of the Queen's Household some six in number all faces that would hold familarity in some form to most of the Courties. Bundled in furs from black mink to red fox the contrast aganist the white of the snow was deliberate.


Davina was cold and rubbed her hand inside her black furred muff wondering yet again just why she had come. Leaving the warmth of her rooms and comfortable dress had been exchanged for a corset laced tight over which charchol grey velvet trimed with sliver metalic lace fitted her body like a glove and Polly had put two quilted petticoats first then the two linen ones over that so there was some warmth on her lower body and her feet were encased in her well worn black leather boots. A simple upsweep of her dark hair into a bun and pearls for ornamentation completed her toilét.


"Have a care Gracen and you too Alyce of that patch there I'll wager its ice beneath!"


She called out to her fellow Maids her gaze watching with interest the by-play between Killigrew and Nicolette where that Gentleman gave way and the Frenchwoman sat in his place making use of quill and paper ....


ah. so she means to make her mark as Misrule in some fashion and I bet twill be something she imagines will cause troubles. curious. I wonder why she still thinks so many are against her - yet her actions do not make it such that others' warm up - heigh ho. let us see then what she can do. The King, if he comes, will prevent her from doing anything that is truly harmfu ......


The sudden 'hit' and breaking of a snowball had her turning to see who had tossed it.

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Beverley arrives, just as Davina looks


It was happenstance that Beverley arrived just Davina turned sharply to look for the culprit. With his uniform on under a fur-lined cloak and loose brown waves swirling under his hat, Beverley did not look very guilty.


In fact, his gloved hands were behind his back. His eyes looked back and forth.


Was he trying to look innocent? Or was he looking for his wife?


Instead, he saw Davina and smiled, "Good afternoon, Mistress Wellesley. Keeping warm?"


In truth, he had no idea that snow had just flown her direction.

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Beverley and Davina


Her blue eyes were narrowed and she swung round intent to find who had played target upon her but she only say Lord Beverly and he looking not the least suspicious ...


"Lord Beverley a good afternoon." She gave him a small reverance then continued. "Might I inquire if you happened to see the person or the direction of that launched snowball?"


She looked to both sides of him trying to 'see' if anyone might be trying to look in their direction.


"I am getting warmer by the minue I should wager! Are you looking for someone as well then?"

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It was a small relief that Fiona chose to be on her best behaviour. She actually did gracious rather well, if a touch haughtily, but he wasn’t going to complain. If she could fool court into thinking she’d changed her ways with some consumnate acting, so much the better. He flashed his sister a quick smile, under no illusion that there was any actual change in her inclinations. Meanwhile Caroline lamented her lack of partner. Alas but on this occasion Douglas was unable to even provide enough partners for the ladies accompanying him. “Haps some fellow weel be in th’same boat? Er sled.”* He suggested with a grin. It was the very place to meet people.


There was little time for introductions as Nicolette greeted them enthusiatically, and he squeezed her smaller hands gently in his own, pleased to see her so obviously happy, and leaned forward to give her a kiss on the cheek. She was an amazing woman in his eyes, brave and daring beyond belief, which no doubt accounted for her meteoric rise in court. Perhaps he should take a page from her book.


“One sled today.” Douglas answered Nicolette’s enquiry. “Fiona an’ I weel be racin’.” He declared, indicating the eldest of his three sisters. “Thou’ I’m sure Shona an’ Aileen wuid be pleased tae race as well, shuid any lad be luikin’ fer a co-pilot.”** If the other two managed to swing a companion then well and good, but Shona was a quiet little mouse and Aileen just a child, so he doubted it.


And the crowd of favourite people grew! “Melville!” He greeted his fellow Scotsman with enthusiam, though his dark brows rose slightly as the man named his eldest sister as his nominee. No doubt her ego would be suitably inflated. “Tch, stealin’ a man’s companion noo!” He teased. “But if ye wuid name Fiona thain I weel name Shona.” He declared with a glance at Nicolette. Hopefully Shona would enjoy it.



* “Perhaps some fellow will be in the same boat? Or sled.”

** “One sled today. Fiona and I will be racing. Though I’m sure Shona and Aileen would be pleased to race as well, should any lad be looking for a co-pilot.”

*** “Melville! Tch, stealing a man’s companion now! But if you would name Fiona then I will name Shona.”

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Caroline, Nicolette, Douglas, Duncan, and the MacBain sisters


Fiona caught Douglas' smile, proud of herself for pleasing him. Yet then Mademoiselle Vauquelin arrived and she knew that she would need all of her willpower to resist an insulting comment. Although she didn't show it, she fumed inside at the way the French shrew and her brother greeted each other. How dare he kiss her, even on the cheek! At some point, she would need to tell him what that woman had said about him at the party. With any luck, that would end the obvious friendship between them.


“Yes, a pleasure, Mademoiselle Vauquelin,” Fiona replied, with a smile so sweet that one might expect sugar to drip from her lips. The Frenchwoman explained how the pairings were going to work and the young Scot shot her a triumphant look when Douglas said that he would be sharing his sled with her.


Lord Melville joined them and Shona's eyes lit up. She had not forgotten that he had offered to let her visit his library, though the summer season had ended before she'd had a chance to do so. Maybe she could visit this season instead. She would have to ask Dougie about it later.


All three girls greeted Duncan warmly, and Aileen grinned when he winked at her. He asked if he could put Fiona's name in the basket and Douglas accused him of trying to steal his companion. Fiona smirked in Nicolette's direction. See how popular I am! I'll bet no men ever fight over you!


Shona shook her head when Douglas suggested that her name be put in the basket. “If you don't mind, I think I would rather watch,” she said quietly.


“I want to race!” Aileen exclaimed, practically jumping up and down. “Can I, Dougie? Please please please?”

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Beverley and Davina


"Launched snow---. Erm, no. I mean, it was not me. I did not even see it," he said, a bit of anxiety at the thought she might believe him the culprit. He was not very good at reading social cues, even the reassuring ones.


"Did it strike you?" He looked around, as if a guilty face might present itself. Or perhaps he was looking for the nearest young boy.


He had been a young boy once, but he had only thrown snowballs at the servants, and he now knew that to be rather naughty. He was hardly going to own it.


"As to looking. I was keeping an eye for my lady wife. I had a meeting with His Highness just before this, so we were not together."

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Francis joining Nicolette


Francis had gone to visit his grandmother that morning which had necessitated going through some of London. He had picked up a few last minute gifts and had just enough time to warm himself before heading out for the sled race.


He was attending that evening, so he had sent the more formal wear ahead to change into. He was not relishing an evening of standing about in his most peacocky clothes. However, he was relishing the afterward.


The Mistress of Misrule, aka Mistress Envy, was planning an amusement with him for the king, and he was thus on the lookout for her. They had some details to finalize after all!


Wearing a fur-trimmed cloak over a plush velvet justacorps piped with silver, Francis headed toward the throngs of people.


Noting that it was not Killigrew mastering things when he saw a feminine form, he chuckled to himself when it was, in fact, Nicolette.


He slid behind by her and said, "Might I join you, my Mistress of Misrule?" He didn't pay much mind to the group bidding over partners.

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"Oh but I am 'just spiffy'" Nicolette grinned with her rather English sounding reply to Caroline - no doubt her dearest friend would understand her humour even if nobody else did. And quickly enough Caroline's name was settled into the mix, with the very best of intents for her racing match. In a whisper to Caroline she commented, "another day another whip." and with laughing eyes she turned to view the quickly growing crowd.


Douglas greeting was as warm as she knew it would be, they were in love after all, they'd just never admitted that to each other, but she dared think he knew it just as much as she. "We missed you at Lady Kendishalls party." Nicci said, as it was true, Caroline was sure to agree. Looking to Caroline then Nicolette hoped for her agreement.


But Douglas with his great cluster of women needed to settle upon who was entering. Duncan arrived in a timely manner, and wished to sponsor the eldest. Good-natured banter , all in thick Scottish brogue, went this way and that...


Nicolette's attention lapsed as she awaited their final verdicts.


There was the know it all Lady Wellesley arriving, who shall I match you with hmm? And behind her the adorable Beverly with his puppy dog eyes. He seemed to be on fine terms with the Queens lady, which made Nicolette a tad jealous. But before she could act upon that emotion a warm and familiar voice came up behind her and murmured in her ear.


Nicci & Francis


Heart fluttered and her eyes brightened as she turned to greet Francis (turning her back for a time upon the hubbub.) "Join me, but I am all undone at the sight of you." she greeted, clasping his hands and giving air kisses to his cheeks. Into his eyes she looked, and for a moment he was all that there was. Upon the softest whisper she crooned, "Francis."


Yet sense was sense, breaking her moments reverie she looked beyond Francis as often he arrived in the Duke's company. “You are here for the games, oh what a day it might be.” excitement of another sort tinged her voice.

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Caroline chuckled at Nicci's pointed attempt at trying to be oh so English, she got it alright. More and more people were arriving now and it appeared the sled race would be a great success. Now as far as Caroline was concerned though it would only be successful if she was paired with some appropriately handsome and amiable man. Still, she trusted Nicci would provide.


As for Nicci's quip about 'another day, another whip', Caroline rolled her eyes and stifled a giggle as her French friend turned her attention to some of the newcomers. It was good to see Douglas again, accompanied by a gaggle of female relatives it turned out. Nicci remarked to the tall Scotsman that they did not see him at Caroline's party. For her part Caroline added, "Indeed the celebration was poorer without you, my lord."


Duncan had arrived soon followed by Francis, all favorites of Caroline and apparently Nicci too. Well, afterall they did have good taste in men, Caroline reminded herself. And so far, that vile Langdon had not made an appearance, now that was a good thing. Since Nicci was speaking with Francis, Caroline contented herself with standing there listening to all the conversation, well as much as she could understand of the Scot's heavy accents.

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Davina with Beverely


It would appear that he was not the culprit and so she could hardly remain suspecious of him and the fact that he had asked after her added another favorable point.


"Yes, well. I am not 'harmed' and perhaps I am overeacting ..." She gave another look about the immediate area but by now whoever it was would be well hidden or even gone.


"And so you have 'lost her then? She is far to lovely to miss and you are wise to be in such an open place - far easier to see! I too am waiting .. Have you any idea what is being planned over there? I think our Lady of Misrule is up to something and she has already displaced Master killigrew in some position and now quite a crowd is forming."


"Shall we go and find out? That way when your Lady joins you will be able to provide her with knowledge and in doing so can determine if the two of you wish to join. Being forewarned Lord Beverely is always the smart thing especially when it has to do with those of my sex."


She smiled across at him her breath blowing white in the cold.

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Francis & Nicolette


Francis grinned and chuckled at her greeting, thinking it part teasing and part true. His hands were, as yet, ungloved and still warm from having just come from inside. He took her hands and leaned down obligingly for her air kisses. He raised both her hands to his lips and gave them each a kiss, perhaps lingering a bit longer than was proper.


"Undone? But you look so perfectly in control," he whispered in her ear as he rose up. "What mischief are you about? You know how I enjoy aiding in it, or mutual advantage."


When her eyes shifted behind him, he too looked. "Well I know you are not looking for one of my friends, for they would never take your attention away," he teased, in the same low voice, feigning a bit of offense. "The King or the Duke?" His lips pressed together as he tried not to titter his amusement. "Do not fret." He winked.


Done with his greetings of Nicci, he surveyed the Scots talking about partners and then spied Lady Kendishall standing there, who had proven to also be Nicci's friend.


"And how are you, Lady Kendishall?" He grinned, "With all these beautiful ladies, I think the best place shall be spectating, or judging." He chuckled. "If there are servants at the bottom to provide warm drinks to you all when you are pink-cheeked from racing, I am envious of the duty!"

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Wrapped in a amber velvet cloak lined with red fox fur, Anne Elisabeth glided confidently but not very gracefully into the park. Snow was more difficult to walk in than she had expected, even if she stayed upon the well-trodden paths that other courtiers had taken. She had spent most of her time indoors, either in her rooms or at the palace, since she had arrived in London, and this was the first event that she would be attending that took place outside.


To a lady who had lived most of her life in Barbados, the weather was quite frigid, and she had dressed as warmly as possible. Her gown was made of burgundy crushed velvet shot through with gold thread and trimmed with glittering golden braid above pleated hunter green ruffles. Beneath she wore a thick woolen under-dress, the usual myriad petticoats, and two pairs of wool stockings. Her feet and lower legs were encased in brown leather riding boots and her hands were gloved and stuffed into a muff made of red fox fur. She also wore a hat made of matching fur, adorned with golden feathers held in place with a gold filigree brooch with a glass emerald in its center.


She noticed the sleds immediately, as well as a rather large group gathered around a table. The lovely Lady of Misrule was there, as well as the tall dashing Life Guard she had met just this morning. Obviously, that was the place to sign up. Increasing her pace, she strolled toward them, eager as always to make new acquaintances.


Unfortunately, she didn't see the patch of ice in front of her, and suddenly her feet slipped from underneath her. Her startled shriek pierced the air and she found herself flat on her back in the snow. The breath momentarily knocked out of her, she stared up at the clear blue sky. Bugger, she thought. I hope this is my only slip-up of the day.

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Ahhh, there was yet another welcome face, Francis! In many ways, Francis was her mentor though that might be misusing the term. No matter, she smiled at his presence.


"I am wonderful, Lord Kingston, a bit cold but my blood rushes with all the handsome gentlemen arriving and that helps," Caroline replied but disagreed with part of his greeting, "Spectating or judging? I expected more of an adventuresome outlook from the my English admiral. I have no desire to stand on the standlines, I am hoping to race."


Just then there was the first, though unlikely it would be the last, pratfall of the day as some young lady fell with a cry, landing full on her back, fortunately in snow though to cushion the landing. Caroline couldn't suppress her laugh even if it was at the other woman's misfortune. Such was fate! But she was not heartless either. Without waiting to see if there would be a gallant fellow to the rescue (and honestly there was no lack of them about), Caroline stepped up to the unfortunate lying there and held out a hand.


"I trust you are not hurt? Take my hand and I shall help you to your feet then," she offered with a friendly smile.


"Oh wait....unless this is a ploy to draw a gentleman? Have I interrupted your clever scheme? I can still withdraw?"


The face was unfamiliar so mayhaps a new arrival to court? Well, she was certainly a pretty face, Caroline had to admit that with a twinge of jealousy. Please, lord, may she not be a Spaniard.

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To the side of the Scots: Francis, Nicolette & Caroline, with Anne-Eliabeth arriving


Nicolette beamed with his kisses to her hands, it seemed like he was making a public gesture of it! Why and who was he impressing? Was it she, or some other he thought had a predatory eye? It was all grand fun, the very best sort possible in fact! Courtly intrigue was their favourite delight!


"I have stolen the event." Whispered excitedly in return to his ear, "and shall pair groupings as I see fit. Do you wish to meddle too?" She would certainly allow it, Francis had as fine a notion of mischief as she did.


His quiz o King or Duke was answered with a single squeeze of his own hand, and a grateful smile to the reassurance intutively given.


Francis was then greeting Caroline, with the suggestion that spectating or judging might be the best position. It was a comment that Nicci took a moment to consider, even while Caroline was assuring that she was there to race. "And to win, we can guess." Nicci added to that.


"I might spectate." she turned to say to Francis - missing the slip, and turning back to see Caroline helping Lady Cambray to her feet.


"Ooh are you alright!" she too moved to help.

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Nicci, Caroline, Francis, & Anne-E...joining? Sliding on in?


"Ah, but Lady Kendishall, Admirals lead from outside the fray, generally," he teased her. Not that the wisdom was untrue, but he was no admiral, unless one counted being admiral of his little company of ships which he was not grand enough to think of himself. Grandiosity was more Buckingham's skill than Francis'.


"How can I say no to the game within the game?" Francis asked Nicci, arching a boyish brow of mischief.


"But you cannot for you need be matched w-------." He turned head to see what had his friend moving so quickly. He joined them, tall figure looming behind the ladies.


"And now you ladies make me look amiss! Are not those ladies closest to me supposed to make me look the best I can be? Not some ungentlemanly lout!" Francis joked, laughing as the ladies swarmed around the lady-in-need.


"Shall I wait to see if I need rescue all three of you or demand I be allowed my masculine precedence for rescuing the lady?"

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Caroline, Nicolette, Francis, and Anne-Elisabeth


A feminine hand moved into her line of vision, disrupting her view of the sky. Anne-Elisabeth raised her head so that she could see the lady who had offered her assistance. Her vision was a bit blurry and she blinked several times until it cleared. I suppose I should be lucky that I didn't break my frigging neck. She wasn't in pain so the snow must have cushioned her fall. Or she really was as tough as she thought she was.


“I think all that is hurt is my pride,” she answered, smiling up at her rescuer as she sat up, brushing the snow from her cloak. “I wish I had thought of that,” she chuckled when the woman speculated that she might have been trying to attract a gentleman. The Countess liked her already. She was both witty and clever. “But I just slipped on the ice accidentally. I'm grateful for your assistance, my lady.”


Taking the offered hand, she rose to her feet just as Mademoiselle Vauquelin came to her aid as well. “I'm fine,” she reassured her friend, noticing a tall blond gentleman stride toward them, chiding the ladies for not letting him do the rescuing.


“Oh, but I still need you, my lord,” Anne-Elisabeth said, flashing a saucy smile. “I could use a strong arm to hold onto while I navigate this treacherous terrain. I'm from Barbados and I have nearly no experience with snow.” She grinned at Nicolette and then turned her attention to the the lady and the gentleman to whom she had not yet been introduced. “I'm Lady Anne-Elizabeth Devereux, the Countess of Cambray.”

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