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The Christmas Fairy (Open) | Late morning, 1st Jan- Xmas 1677

Douglas FitzJames

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Many children, at least children with too much time on their hands and too much time spent on the streets, had played at knocking at doors and running away before they opened. Oddly, one such child appeared to have been let loose in St Marks the first morning of the new year, for there would be, periodically, a knock on one or other door, yet when the door opened, no one was standing before it. Indeed, the only person visible would be a tall Life Guard officer, performing a routine patrol of the wing.


What there was, set neatly before the door was a little parcel, tied up in a fine linen kerchief edged in a touch of lace. Once opened, the kerchief revealed a small, finely made wooden box, that in turn contained either a miniature Christmas pudding, or a small selection of fine chocolates. The puddings were meant to go outside the mens' doors, and the chocolates the ladies, but he'd forgotten to label which was which, so it was rather luck of the draw. He could only hope that either would be acceptable.


Douglas knew what it was to be alone, away from family, at this time of year. Such small comforts could make one feel a little less lonely, to know that someone else was thinking of them.

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“Ouch!” Anne-Elisabeth exclaimed as her maidservant's brush pulled a bit too roughly on a long raven curl. “Be more gentle, Bess.”


“Yes, milady,” the woman replied.


The young Countess had awakened scarcely an hour ago when her maidservant had brought her breakfast. It had been a late night, which wasn't unusual for the adventurous Lady Cambray. She often stayed up until the wee hours of the morning. The best kind of fun was generally found then. She had never needed much sleep, which was fortunate considering her hedonistic lifestyle.


Now she sat at the dressing table she had brought with her from her country estate, suffering under the ministrations of Bess' expert hairdressing. She didn't have any plans until the sled races that afternoon and she hoped that she would be able to participate, despite the fact that she didn't know many courtiers yet. Or maybe the new Queen of Limericks would be popular by reputation alone. Anything could happen, she supposed.


Having grown up in Barbados, Anne-Elisabeth had little experience with snow, but it didn't take a genius to steer a sled. She had first seen snow last winter, but as she had been in mourning for her husband, she had only observed it from her window. On the trip to London, however, she had stopped once so that she could practice walking in it and to see how it felt. Bess had shown her how to make a snowball, which she had thrown at the coach driver and missed. He had not been amused, but what could he say? She was a Countess and he was a commoner. She could do as she pleased.


A knock on the door disturbed her reverie. She certainly wasn't expecting any visitors. “I'll get it,” Bess said, but Anne-Elisabeth shook her head as she stood. “I'll answer it myself.” If some drunken courtier had mistaken her room for someone else's, she was going to give him a piece of her oh-so-clever mind.


At least she was already dressed. With her hair still loose and bouncing down her back, she pulled open the door and stepped out, nearly tripping over a neatly wrapped package that was sitting just beyond the threshold. There were packages in front of the other rooms as well. Nobody was in sight but an unusually tall gentleman dressed in the uniform of the King's Life Guard. “Excuse me, sir,” she called, picking up the little parcel and strolling toward him. “Did you happen to see who left these packages here?”

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  • 3 weeks later...

"Guid mornin' m'Lairdy." The tall Life Guard replied with neat leg and a tip of his cavalier's hat, the frothy white feathers waving back and forth. He spoke with a thick Scottish accent, and as he did so he tried to nonchalantly stuff something into the far pocket of his scarlet wool coat with it’s touch of gold lace. “I haena seen onybody else in the Hall this mornin’, savin’ yersel’.”* He replied, all of which was true.


His cornflower blue gaze took in the free-flowing dark hair, a little surprised that the lady in question had answered her door herself given that she had obviously not yet had it dressed. Few women at court would be seen so by strangers, but Douglas rather liked the more relaxed elegance, a symptom of his dubious birth no doubt.


“I dinnae believe I’ve haed the pleasure o’ an’ introduction.” He added with a smile, by means of distraction. “Cap’n Douglas FitzJames, Baron Dundarg.”** He informed her with a more fullsome bow, a broad smirk on his angular features.



* “Good morning my Lady. I haven’t seen anybody else in the Hall this morning, save yourself.”

** “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of an introduction. Captain Douglas FitzJames, Baron Dundarg.”

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Anne-Elisabeth smiled as he doffed his hat to her. So gallant as well as handsome, and she could listen to his voice all day. She had never heard a Scottish accent until she had come to England and, though she found Scots difficult to understand occasionally, she thought their way of speech quite appealing. And oh, his eyes! They were such a beautiful color. The young Countess was so entranced by his gaze that she didn't notice that he slipped something in his pocket.


However, she did find it odd that he didn't seem to find anything suspicious about the packages that had been placed in front of every door. Was he not here to make sure no trouble befell the Hall's residents? Her shrewd and devious mind deduced that he either knew who had put them there, or that he had done it himself.


“That's probably because I only arrived in London a few days ago.” His smile was as enchanting as his eyes and his bow was quite elegant for such a tall gentleman. Anne-Elisabeth was surprised that she had not seen him at the ball last night. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Lord Dundarg.” Her own smile was as sultry and playful as her voice. “I'm Lady Anne-Elisabeth Devereux, the Countess of Cambray.”


She glanced down at the small parcel in her hand. “Do you think this package is harmless then? Is it safe to open it?”

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