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George Hardwick III

Wednesday Cards Night | 8ish in the Cards room, 6th April

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Cards Room

The room is decorated in blue and teal, the chairs and settees scattered around in small groupings matching the decor, located in the tower just two stories beneath the Scarlet Drawing room.
 
Clusters of chairs set around felt covered tables are frequently filled with merry courtiers enjoying banter and a glass of wine over sometimes heated games of cards.

 

George wanted to visit Beverly to talk on a private matter, but it would not be tonight, not on a Wednesday

Come a time ago, Wednesdays had been a very well attended night for card games, primarily because His Majesty had made it his habit at the time (these days, ever since the royal new wife, the King's attendance was anything but a certainty).  But the dapper Earl of Chichester was entirely happy to continue the practise anyhow, being a man who was partial to a wager, seeing it as yet another variant on a test of wits, and a gathering of likewise sporting sorts. 

And besides, tonight he'd suggested to a few other barely-met fellows to attend too.  While it was not likely the French Duc would attend, it was possible that the other gent would.

Decked out in fancy plum silks with blue ribbons flapping at the side of his knees and  jacket cuffs besides, Chichester walked an eager pace along the all to the Cards room. In his pocket a purse with generous quantities of coins.  Oh he could hope that whoever attended tonight would actually want to bet something.  There was a dreadful trend in recent years for people to bet with nonsensical party favours such as dares and kisses and such. 

Cross fingers none of that sort of silliness would come up again tonight! 

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Posted (edited)

Edmund has made enquiries shortly after his arrival earlier that day of where a gentleman might find pleasant engagement for those of a similar disposition. London was, after all, not just the political capital but the nation's more figurative capital of culture, pleasure and elegance. He had, of course, not directed such questions to his father. The miserable old badger would have reminded him that pleasure was something that came after work and when one had a full purse to pursue it with. He would then move on, in his sarcastic fashion, to asking him what work he had done to require distraction from and what money, other than what his father gave him, rested in his pockets? For a man thirty years of age such talk, and the truth of such dependency, was a humiliation. Fortunately Edmund's manservant, who had the knack of making friends almost instantly anywhere, had been able to direct him to the prospect of a regular cards meeting held in Whitehall.

Lord Banwell had many foibles. A propensity to gamble was one of them. In many ways the desire to gamble was itself a gamble for it was always risky to expose oneself to financial loss when one had no income other than glorified pocket-money. This had not stopped him before. Although no expert and certainly not one of those rakes who could cheat their way to success on the green cloth tables, Edmund still thought himself passing fair at several games. Perhaps Lady Fortune would favour him this evening? Still wearing his bright yellow jacket over his elaborate black and grey waistcoat, he had ensured that he brought with him his pipe and a purse full of the finest Virginian tobacco - one of the rare indulgences father and son shared. The Earl of Winscombe's colonial man of business regularly sent back shipments of the stuff which father and son fell upon with all the gusto of the ill-concealed addict. 

Even if he did not fare well at the tables, he told himself that it was necessary to "put himself out there" and make acquaintances and relationships with others at court. He could tell his father that such was cynical networking and that might placate the old bugger for a while. In reality he was going to seek out like minded souls, excitement and escapism. 

On arrival at the palace, a surly sentry pointed him in the direction of the soiree, taking place in one of the many towers of the rambling palace. Elegantly decorated in subtle blue tones there were already several persons present, not counting the number of servants moving to and fro several of whom, Edmund was pleased to note, were filling up wine glasses. Alcohol in the universal social solvent and so he made a rush to the nearest fellow and swiped a glass from his tray. Quaffing it in a single go he set it down and took another. He ignored the look of surly anger on the servant's face and pushed past, making a sweep of the room until he came to a table with a solitary occupant.

"Excuse me, old chap, do you mind if I take a seat? It has been a busy day." Hoping that would be sufficiently polite to allow him to join, he settled himself in one of the alarmingly comfy chairs (all the better to ease the passage of time and the parting of money when the true gambling started). "Lord Banwell, at your service, sir," he said, tilting his head and raising his glass in salute.

Edited by Edmund Dedlock

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Behind them strode the Duke of Ablemarle, the Earl of Dorset, Rochester, Lord Ogle and a foreign looking man.  If George had met the infamous Count Forensi, then he would recognize him.  

None would be surprised that it was Dorset and Rochester in the lead.  There was mischief in their eyes.  "Good evening Chilchester," Dorset greeted.  Did he know that he had taken Frances Cavendish away from the converted Earl?  Did he care?  What was clear is that Frances was nothing more than a business transaction to him, and one that he had no special eagerness for.  He paused to await an introduction to Edmund.

"Gentlemen, we have come for a bit fun tonight.  We have a foreign guest and we thought to play a foreign game.  Might you have an interest in joining?"  Rochester yawned intentionally just to annoy Dorset.

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Yet to take a seat at the table himself yet, George's brow rose a little as he turned to the speaker; any man choosing to wear a daring yellow justaucorps was out to make an impression. And that he did. 

"Why certainly, be my guest," he gestured with lace-cuffed hand, "such a busy day to require immediate seating suggests you have a tale of it that would be worth the time in telling."

George was mildly spoken in compare to Edmund, yet still presented a genial and friendly attitude as he moved to claim the next chair.   Yet before he sat further fellows arrived. Excellent. He was pleased it might be a full table! One of those men was Dorset however, but, 'you rolled the dice', and Dorset was in a fine mood tonight.  For the moment that eclipsed anything else.  

"A foreign game sound just the thing as long as it is not French." By a look George appreciated his role and moved to do the introductions, "Lords Ablemarle, Dorset and Rochester,  may I introduce newly met Lord Barnwell."  he provided.

Georges eyes fell upon the last of that group to appear, and eyes widened, "Forensi is that you?!"    Last time George had seen that man Lord Digby had gasp his last breath. Breaking his usual stuffiness George moved forwards and clasped then patted 'the foreigners' arm.  But tonight was not about dreadful intrigue, Dorset’s tone was light, and George thought to keep it that way.  “Good grief, it’s been years. Welcome back.”

And pulling a  chair offered it to the Count -- with an aside uttered to Edmund, "Yet another who must need to be swiftly sat." 

 

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Edmund half rose and have a demi-bow to the new arrivals, already somewhat taken aback. Whilst he had lived away from London for several years he had not been living under a rock. The names were familiar from several of the pamphlets and broadsheets that had osmosed out into the provinces – mainly tittle tattle tales of scandal. Rochester’s name was rarely far from these tales, designed to titillate and appal (in equal measure) the “respectable folks” of the country so, however respectable they may believe themselves to be, hungrily ate up such tales and almost lived vicariously through them.

 

“How do you do, my lords,” he said as he settled himself back down. Suddenly the extreme lack of much in his pocket took on a new dimension of alarm. Such bon vivieurs did not count pennies and surely spent like water bursting from a fountain. He imagined that they did not stoop to scribbling IOUs , referring creditors to a father.

 

“Yes, of course, a foreign game sounds rather good indeed.” He was oblivious to any deeper meaning or connection between the persons before him and assumed all must be friends and acquaintances.

 

“You’ll have to excuse me if this is uncouth or frowned upon in here as I am newly arrived. However,” he said as he fumbled in his jacket and pulled out his pipe and pouch of tobacco, “does anyone mind if I smoke? Can’t help it, I’m afraid. The lottery of vices, you know? If you’re minded, though, top stuff. Virginian. By all means help yourselves. So, if not French, where is our game from then? Something exotic I hope.”

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On closer inspection, Forensi seemed wounded, his face bruised from some encounter of more than a week.  He nodded to George and happily took the offered chair.  No one objected to Edmund's request.  "Smoking is good for you I am told," Rochester observed.

"I am Lord Ogle," declared a young man of perhaps 16.  "My father is the Duke of Newcastle," he boasted while perturbed that George had not introduced him.

They all took their seats.  Uncharacteristically, Chris Monck was the first to speak.  "Count Forensi is from Hungary," he explained.  "The man traffics in the occult gentlemen.  My wife insists on patronizing him because he is some sort of magician or oracle I suppose."  The Count was noticeably feeling awkward at this introduction.  "He has this ancient deck of cards which he studies, so I told him to bring it here and we'll make a game of it."

Dorset continued as Forensi pulled forth a deck of some 70 cards, each hand painted and embossed in gold leaf.   "This is a very old deck of cards.  The French use hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades.  This deck uses cups, pentacles, wands and swords.  Same thing, though different meanings.  There are a number of cards that do not belong to a particular suit.  They are your fortune cards," he attempted to explain.

Rochester piped up "Swords and wands you pay and cups and pentacles you take from the table."

Dorset continued.  "We each ante five pounds to create a treasury.  If you pull the five of swords, you owe five more pounds to the treasury.  If you get the ten of cups, you take ten pounds from the treasury.  The King counts 20, the Queen and Knight count 15.  If you pull a fortune card, that is your future and you withdraw from the game.  The last one in keeps the treasury remaining, or makes good on the shortfall.  Are we agreed?"

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"My apologies Lord Ogle." George uttered, embarrassed at his oversight, "the sight of The occultist plainly got the better of me." 

George thought to take a seat next to Frances brother then, as Fiorenzi gained an extended introduction for Banwells benefit.  

Raising an eyebrow as the game was explained, George mused, "and might I guess that gambling is not the only activity that these cards can be engaged in?"  He eyed the deck seeing them as properly taboo, but the lure of a game with decent stakes overrode any reservations. 

"Count me in gentlemen. And yes, a puff of that pipe will surely suit too - though I am usually more of a cigars man."  Boyle had put George onto cigars, though it was more of a now and then thing for an amusement, not a necessity. 

Putting in his 5 pound ante, he then turned to Albemarle and asked, "Did you ever get that letter I sent you?" 

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“Good grief, an occultist indeed! And from Hungary too!” Edmund exclaimed, as he set his tobacco pouch down on the table. He left it open and made a gesture to those gathered around to help themselves as he placed a pinch in the bowl of his long clay pipe and used a taper to light it. He took a few puffs to get it going and blew little clouds of smoke into the air but delicately out of the way of those nearby. “Yes, jolly good for the health, as you say. Since starting I cannot think of an illness I have had – save for the self-inflicted.”

 

As he became a little more comfortable, Edmund looked at the faces round the table. He was not the world’s most insightful man but even he could pick up and undercurrent of…something. A kind of cloud hovering over the group which made the bon-homie seem in part very real but equally in part very false. The Hungarian Count seemed like an interesting fellow but Edmund’s attention was instantly distracted by the ornate pack of cards, quite different from any he had used before. “How peculiar,” he muttered, to himself as much as anyone as he studied them.

 

Dorset had explained the rules of the game relatively quickly and with the easy confidence of someone who knew what they were doing. Edmund feared that much of it had passed him by. What was proposed was certainly not within the pantheon of tavern and club games he had been used to in Somerset. They also discussed the financial stakes with an enviable nonchalance. He had enough for the ante and a little more besides on him but the good husbandman inside him had been hoping to make that last, it being the last of the advance his father had given him to ease his passage to London. However, he could certainly not afford to look like a dastardly bore in front of these gentlemen and, even if he later had to resort to scribbling IOUs, he would do so with an equal nonchalance, he told himself.

 

He fished inside his jacket and drew out the necessary ante, sliding it across the table. “I can but hope that Lady Fortune is not a tease to me tonight.”

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Each cast in five pounds, though Ablemarle covered his brother-in-law Ogle.  "Then we are all agreed."  Rochester watched the circle of smoke from Edmund with envy.  "I shall draw first," the Earl quipped.

Rochester sifted through the deck and turned a card with the painting of a young man in armor holding a wand.  Forensi announced "it is the Unter of Wands, or knave or knight as you call him," he pronounced.  "It is a card that speaks of great opportunity if you but wait for your chance."

"More like an opportunity to lose money," Rochester complained.  "Costs me 15 pounds.  I know where I would like to ram that wand."

"You would ram your wand into most anything," Dorset laughed, happy to see his friend lose money to the pot.  "Let our newest arrival go next."

The deck was shifted to Edmund for him to draw a card.

 

OOC~  Pick a number between 1 and 74.

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Edmund laughed along with the others, feeling more and more comfortable in the joshing and jovial company of men, despite his natural initial hesitance at their high ranks, fame and high stakes. He finished his glass and gestured at a passing servant to bring him a refill. If he was to stand to lose money he would at least do so whilst pleasantly tipsy so as to take the edge off.

 

With his glass freshly refilled, he make a conscious effort to appear nonchalant as he watched the elaborate deck being pushed in his direction. He took another puff on his pipe and exhaled. “I feel your pain, my lord. It would not be the first time a knave has run off with my money.”

 

He stared at the deck for a moment before reaching across, feeling oddly nervous, and withdrew a card, slowly placing it down, face up on the table.

 

(OOC – 56. Also apologies for jumping in on the posting order. I will go back in again after Chich and you have had your further posts!)

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OOC: no that seemed perfectly logical! 

IC:

 

Ablemarle supplied Ogles ante. Belatedly George wondered if he should have sponsored the insulted youth into the game (but then he might have looked like a suck up.)

As was his wont Rochester placed a bawdy spin on his card, as a fortune card he was now out of the game.  "Ack rum luck old man!" George sympathised with a laugh of the odds increasing in the others favour right from the start! 

Joviality was all about; Edmund launched a sally too...

Quote

"'I feel for your pain my lord. It would not be the first time..."

Georges eyebrows rose and 

Quote

"a knave has run away with my money"

"Ha, I thought you were going to say something else then!" George laughed, and watched how Edmunds card played out... 

 

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The Knave of Wands was not a fortune card since it belonged to one of the four suits.  The fortune cards were those independent of suits, though every card in the deck signified something of a fortune.

Edmund turned over a card with a single cup.  "The ace of cups," Forensi remarked.  He was owed a pound out of the treasury.  "It is a card that suggests new relationships," the Hungarian explained.

"Well that is bloody obvious for a newcomer," Rochester declared.  "See," Dorset retorted, "it is magic after all."

Ogle was next to draw a card as the deck was spread out before him.  He turned a card depicting a skeleton with a scythe.  There was a long pause.  This was a fortune card, and not a good one.  After a long pause, the Count declared "death."  Even Rochester stopped snickering.  There was a moment of silence before Forensi tried to repair the situation.  "My lord, it does not mean you shall die.  It means there will be a great change in things to come.  It is your fortune.  Perhaps it will be a good one."

Ogle did not take it well.  His face flushed in anger.  "This is a stupid game!"  He took to his feet and stormed off, having been eliminated early.  "It is just a game," Ablemarle offered, hoping to minimize the angst of his brother-in-law.

The deck was pushed in front of George next.  "Pick a card my lord"

 

OOC~ pick a card between 1-70.

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Edmund could have given a sigh of relief but kept it to himself. "If this is magic then, by all means, play on! God willing the dear Count will prove both a seer and an alchemist for me."

He reached across and drew a pound's worth of coins out of the treasury and placed it in front of him. "Better," he chirped, "than a kick in the proverbial!"

Shortly thereafter Lord Ogle drew his card - the scythe carrying skeleton. Edmund didn't quite know where to look so intently examines the pile of coins in front of him as Lord Ogle stormed off. "Dear, dear," he said quietly, "well I do suppose his fortunes have changed now as he misses the chance to play on."

As the pack was passed across to the Earl of Chichester, Edmund looked on merrily and gave a "good luck" and a nod.

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The telling of a fortune for Rochester’s card had given George the wrong idea - quickly enough he discovered that every card drawn had some manner of prediction attatched. 

His eyebrow rose and he nodded agreement with the tables scepticism as Edmunds cards 'meaning' was a guaranteed thing, while he raised his glass and toasted "may your cup runneth over." which felt heretical to toast biblical to this, one of the devils arts. 

"May be it is death to an enemy?!"  George called after the storming-off Ogle, then giving a shrug added for the men, "apparently it is not death to childish ways."

Then it was his turn, and he selected a card somewhere in the middle [card 34]

 

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Whereas Rochester turned over the Knave of Wands, George had selected the Knave of Cups, a much better card.  It depicted a knight holding a chalice in his hand.  George was owed 15 pounds from the treasury.

"The dreamer," Forensi uttered, a rare hint of a smile on his face.  "It means you are compassionate to others and a romantic."  It was a grand card to turn and the Count gave his old acquaintance a nod.  "I am the anti-romantic," Rochester proclaimed.  Dorset agreed too readily with a laugh.

It was Dorset's turn and the cards were arrayed before him.  He selected a card in the middle.  It depicted a woman on a throne.  She wore a mask.  "The high priestess," came the pronouncement from the Hungarian lord.  It was a fortune card.  "She represents wisdom and serenity."  It also meant he was out of the game.  "Dorset? Wisdom?" guffawed Rochester.  "He cannot have any wisdom if he keeps my company," Rochester laughed in a self-deprecating way.  Dorset retorted "I am serene in knowing that you are correct."

It was time for Ablemarle next.  The Duke selected the top card, which turned out to be a card with three swords.  "The three of swords," Forensi.  The Duke was required to pay three pounds into the treasury.  The Count knew it to be a bad card, meaning loneliness, betrayal, and disappointment.  "Perhaps there was some disappointment in some small skirmish Your Grace?" Forensi offered charitably.  "Yes, likely," came Chris Monck's replied.  He was a man of few words. 

Take a card for yourself Forensi," Ablemarle insisted.  At length, the Count turned a card with crossed swords.  "The two of swords."  He added two pounds to the treasury.  "It signifies strife and a search for balance."  It was apropos for him.

"My turn," Rochester proclaimed.  "None of these petty cards if you please."  He turned a major arcana card, a depiction of a man hanging from his ankle rather than his neck.  "Pittura infamante," Forensi explained.  "The hanging man.  You are in a predicament, perhaps one of love or health.  You are holding out, sacrificing for a grander cause."

"Yes, I admit that I am sick," Rochester began.  Dorset arched an eyebrow wondering whether his friend would admit to the pox that was eating away his life.  "I am sick of these shitty cards," he announced.  "At least I owe no more money.  And, if our Hungarian friend would like to know, I do stand for the grandest of all causes … universal debauchery and depravity."  Dorset laughed.  "You are off to a good start Johnnie."  Rochester grinned back.  "Why thank you Charlie."

It was Edmund's turn again.

 

OOC~ Pick a card between 1 and 70

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It was either the warmth of the room or perhaps the warming effects of the alcohol he'd been knocking back but Edmund was feeling the world more relaxed, even amongst these bright light libertine fellows. After the earlier tense moment with the prompt exit matters seemed to have calmed down a little. Loses were met with better grace - at least slightly so - and with an element of good humor. The Earl of Chichester ought to be pleased with the luck of his draw. With mild envy Edmund watched as he won himself £15. Hardly a princely sum but every little helps and certainly better than the opposite. He gave a big smile of congratulation to the Earl before the cards were passed along and more drawn by the next players.

At Rochester's short speech after drawing his card Edmund joined in with the laughter and raised his glass in salute. "The noblest of all causes, to be sure, and a damn sight easier than many!" He knocked it back and signaled for another.

The gentle nerves were upon him again. Once more he braced himself to try and be a good sport if he were to have the misfortune to draw a bad card. If he had to go begging from his father to make good any debts incurred he could at least try and sugar the pill by saying that they had been run up in the company of court celebrities. 

With the pack now in front of him again, Edmund drummed his fingers on the table top in a quick tattoo. "We've had Death, Knaves and Hanging Men, all very masculine. Let's see if I can't bring a lady to the table, gentlemen!" He slid a card out of the deck [OOC: number 21]

 

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“Romantic?” George pulled a defensive face, it was like being outed when his company were all rough and ready bravado, “Well, it’s got that wrong.”  Though anyone who actually knew George might have already pined that tale on him.

“Though I certainly do feel compassion for you all, and your losses.” With bluff he scooped up his winnings.  The Earl had a rather canny luck at these games of chance, now if only that could be transferred to his personal life for there could not have been an unluckier chap!  

“On that Romance topic though – are you truly an anti-romantic Rochester?” George thought to ask, eyes avoiding Dorset’s at that point, “we’ve all heard the tale of your grand gesture, the kidnapping of your heiress bride.”

Georges comment might have rather more relevance than others could guess. He really did need to speak to Beverly, and soon!

Dorset drew a wisdom card, and with a laugh George (groundlessly) agreed with Rochester’s comment on that. Then eyes were upon Albemarle – one of the most fabled gamblers in the English realm.  It was a losing card, and George assisted it out of relevance with his own addition of a shrug. 

“Ah, like the scales.” Fiorenzi’s card, a pair of swords was for balance, with seemed a sort of logic with a visual reference.  “I think I am getting the hang of this now.”  George commented as he turned to see what card the newcomer would next draw - yes a lady was overdue!

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Chichester hardly seemed a romantic to Ablemarle, but had the Duke ever met one?  "There is nothing romantic about kidnapping the greatest heiress in the realm," Dorset retorted.  "An opportunist perhaps."  Rochester pulled a disappointed face at Dorset.  "An opportunity at romance.  The creature did love me, though no accounting for taste."

It was Edmand's turn.  He called for a lady, yet the 21st card was one with three pentacles.  Edmund was due three pounds.  "A sign of a good start to a plan," the Hungarian Count explained.  "Well, he met us did he not?" Rochester acknowledged.

With Ogle out of the game, George was next to pick.  "The romantic will draw the lady, just you see," Rochester predicted.  Only Dorset had drawn a lady and it had cost him dropping out.

 

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Before another card could be drawn, the musical tone of a woman’s voice washed over the men,  "You summoned a lady and romance?"  coquettishly said, but with a wink and grin.

Dressed in a soft green dress, needleworked with vines with pink and yellow flowers, Mlle Nicolette Vauquelin had arrived at the cards room just a few moments before.  She dicovered this curious game being played with cards that were irregular, and might have passed the game by, aside from the exceptional calibre of it's players.  Dorset was there, as was Rochester, and even Albemarle was dabbling in the game (he alone was reason enough for Nicci to want meddle!).

She moved around the table till her skirt brushed against Ablemarle's chair. 

"Gentlemen." the French beauty dipped a curtsy, while her eyes favoured each man with a warm appraisal.  Chichester was here too, and this other man she did not know, but by the company he kept was likely a earl or higher. 

"Might I join you, it looks such a rousing game.  La, but I haven’t any money..." her eyes finally came to rest upon Christopher Monck, in an entirely unsubtle request for his patronage - or was it?  For she then carried on her gaze to fasten upon Rochester.  They said the mans wit was upon a par with Ranelagh, her eyes sparkled as she plucked her fingers free of one glove,  "...which is not to say I am without resources."   

 

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The arrival of the young lady was welcome indeed. As accustomed from his strict upbringing, at the lady's arrival he stood and gave a demi-bow before resuming his seat. "Ah, my dear Count, it turns out that you may be a seer with the cards but perhaps I have discovered a gift of sorcery or premonition myself! To test it I shall have to go to Covenant Garden and start shouting out all my wishes...until the constables or the wardens of Bedlam drag me away, that is."

The further win was equally welcome. How long would the streak hold? The problem with gambling, as Edmund well knew, was that there was never a "right" time to stop. Even when on had a giant stack in front of them the impulse was always there to try and add to it rather than walk away in the green, as it were. Not that four pounds was a noble sum. A pittance really and hardly worth the ante but it was a damn sight better than the losses others had suffered.

Even in the provincial backwaters of Somerset Edmund had heard the scandalous tales of Lord Rochester and his...novel...attempts at wooing. The tale of the abduction had been the talk of the town for days. Face to face with the man now, Edmund wondered if this was really the fellow that had been the root cause of all these great, high and decidedly scandalous stories. He wondered whether Rochester would take the bait and offer any of his famous barbs. Rummaging inside his pocket he withdrew a few further coins, adding them to the small pile he had been building up.

"Mademoiselle, the ante is £5. I am sure any of the gentlemen here will be as gallant as as easy with their purse but do please take this if you would like to play, I insist. Let it not be said that the heir to old Earl Winscombe was not one to stand a man a drink and a lady whatever she may desire."

The wine was clearly making him freer with his tongue and senses if nothing else.

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Dorset’s reply was to be expected, while Rochester seemed almost reluctant to downplay the romance of it (though he pinned any emotion within the deed upon the woman).

"Opportunist, Romantic or neither, it was legendary." Said George with another sip of his drink.  

Meanwhile Edmund drew a small profit card, with a vague well wish.  "It appears your future is all mapped out Lord Banwell." he said cheerily reaching across the table to draw his own next card, a movement done to the overture of a woman’s voice. Looking, he saw it was Basildons french cousin, and with a nod of head to her he took card number 67.

The results of the draw was briefly waylaid by the addition of lady to their table, George gave a nod to Edmund as the man did the gentlemanly thing, and with a rather poetic offering to her also. While as she removed her glove George was left to wonder just what the fellow had just purchased, it was too early in the night for a scandal surely. 

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Speak of the Devil … .  A lady appeared, not in the cards, but in person.  If not a romantic herself, she inspired romance in others.  The gentlemen at the table stood at her arrival.  Each was introduced in turn.

Ablemarle offered a shy smile.  "I shall advance her the ante," he offered.  "And we others are happy to stand surety for any lady with resources," offered Dorset with a smile.

The rules were explained to Nicolette.  Rochester lamented that the cards were not kind.  Both he and Dorset were out, having drawn fortune cards.

George turned a card with a well-dressed man with coins in hand, a begger before him  -- six pentacles were depicted on the card.  George was owed six pounds.  "Generosity," breathed Forensi to his old acquaintance.  "Maybe he should have been the one to front the lady money then Chris," Rochester declared with a laugh.

It was the Duke's turn.  "I hope your arrival has brought me luck."  He turned a card with a depiction of wind and a single stave upright.  "The Ace of Wands," Forensi identified  "This year there will be a great change for you, for good or ill."  Monck pushed another coin into the pot.

It was Nicolette's turn.

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After an afternoon mostly spent making some last minute preparation for Thursday evening, Francis wandered in to the room, curious to see who had gathered to play cards that evening. It was not overly crowded, and Kingston noted a few of his acquaintance in attendance. Wandering over to the table where Nicci had just arrived and Dorset sat with Rochester, Chichester, and some others, Francis greeted the lot with a smile.

 

"This does not look like your general game of cards," he commented, raising a brow with curiosity, listening as the rules were explained to Nicci. 

 

Flask in hand, he took a long sip, giving a wink at Nicolette when it was her turn.

 

(OOC - cross-posted, so I had Francis overhear the rules if that's okay ;) )

 

 

 

 

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Spoilt for choice would be one way to describe her situation at that moment.

"Why Your Grace... how kind." Nicci feigned abash at Ablemarle’s ready offer, truth was he surprised her for he’d never been outward with her, ever!   Rounding her sunny smile to the others as they were introduced, she remark, "If only the Navy was a woman, her quest for funding would not require tedious House of Lords sessions, but rather this pretty game of cards might see her settled!" 

So saying she claimed the chair that seemed prepared for her, the chair that had been Oogles barely five minutes earlier, with a grateful smile for the good men at the table.  The rules were explained, and she learned two of them were out already. "Courts rascals could not out run fortune?" she tutted them with a grin, "ooh but do tell me the predictions that ejected you?"  She begged to know, it was surely to be fuel for gossip - since when was either of them on the loosing pile?!

Finally she got to see the how the game was properly played, with Chichester drawing his card... she was distracted from any comment however as her dear friend Lord Kingston arrived, and she with a little wave welcomed him over...   

Ablemarle’s card was then disclosed.  "That sounds ominous." she murmured to him, and pulled a face as she then took her own. [card #8] 

"It's anything but normal Lord Kingstone, quick, draw up a chair, join in!"  While her eyes settled on the new fellow, who was yet to know anything about her at all, nor she about him - though she would be certain to resolve that forthwith. 

 

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Nicolette asked after the fortune cards that caused Dorset and Rochester's exit as the others greeted Kingston's arrival.  "Yes, have a seat," Dorset invited.  He knew Francis well enough.  They were even related.

"It was the High Priestess that did me in," Dorset admitted.  "I seem to have an attraction to intelligent women, wisdom and serenity."

Rochester could not let that stand.  "Any lass interested in you Charlie cannot have any sense."  Ablemarle grunted at that.  Dorset was to marry his sister-in-law. "As for me," he turned to Nicci, "I was vexed by the Hanging Man. Or, better explained … the well hung man."  He grinned without any hint of apology.  It was Dorset's turn to snort.

The French lady turned the eighth card, which depicted a man on a throne with a crown and a sword held upright in his right hand.  "The King of Swords," Forensi identified.  "It is a card calling for decisive action."  Dorset knew that the French viewed the suit of swords to equate to nobility.  Nicci was French, so the card suggested to him that this card might very well mean Le Roi or King Charles himself.  It made the double earl ponder.  "You owe the treasury 15 pounds," Dorset observed aloud.  "I shall make good on it."

The deck was pushed in front of Francis.  "Will you turn a lady like I have done?" Dorset baited.

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The table was becoming ever more animated. In truth, Edmund was glad that his supposedly gallant gesture had been trumped by another's. If the good lady maintained a losing streak, her sponsor would be duty bound by propriety to foot the bill. He could barely cover his own debts at this stage let alone willingly take on those of another. 

As a liveried servant was passing, he caught the man's attention and beckoned him over. Slipping a pound out of the pile on his table he passed it to the servant and told him "bring as many bottles of wine as you can carry over to the table, if you will, please. Saves you having to come back and forth and whatnot. Claret or sack, I am sure there will be no strong preference either way. Quick as you can, chap." No surer way to win friends than by liberally dispensing alcohol to them. 

As more spaces were required at the table, the seating arrangements had become ever more close in proximity to one's neighbours and now Edmund found himself next to the Earl of Chichester, the kind looking fellow who had originally occupied the table. Taking another draw on his pipe and letting out a cloud over his shoulder, he lent in closer to the Earl as the deck was passed to a rakish looking new fellow with the debonair swagger of a military man and a courtier fully at ease with his surroundings. 

Banwell to Chichester

""I say, my lord, you seem to know plenty of those around here. What can you tell me of our new joiners? The lady moves comfortably and unescorted so I am assuming she is some great lady of the court? And what of our latest participant?"

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His card was a fine one, so yet again the Earl Chichester was abashed. 

"It is ones duty even." he uttered of his own charitable works - this being the last of places that he might have expected to have recognition for that!  Did it refer to his funding of the Saint Barts church roof,  or the work scheme he ran even now.    "Ha, ha..." yet his laugh was somewhat hollow as they said he should have been the one to sponsor the French miss, she appeared anything but needy to his eyes. 

But the womans arrival did take general focus away from His and Banwell’s quarter, and for a quiet man like George that was a good thing that he could feel pleased about. For that much he was pleased of Nicolette's arrival, but rather more so her friend (apparently).  "Lord Kingston, welcome." George also greeted.

Then as Edmund addressed in in a quieter voice he returned in soft, "The lady herself is less great than are her associates, her cousin is Earl Basildon and positioned in the Kings Household, while her just arrived companion is favourite of Buckingham, attendant upon His Majesty, and oft seen in service to Her Majesty also." he gave a smile and nod, accepting refill of his own glass, before turning to watch the fortunes of Kingston as it was drawn out.

 

Edited by George Hardwick III

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Francis pushed his hair back over his shoulder as he sat next to Dorset, giving the other man a quiet whisper of, "Is Newcastle's clan stalking you to make certain you shall be a model husband?" He raised a brow and grinned. 

 

Francis put in 10 pounds instead of the required five, "Extra since I've joined late, seems only fair."

 

When the deck was pushed toward him, Francis leaned forward, only to pause at Dorset's comment. "When I turn over a lady, it's surely done better than you," he replied with a smarmy smile and wag of his brows.

 

(#15)

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And so she discovered her answers from the fallen card players. There was something to be said for merry company, the banter was a lively blend of bragging and self depreciation.  Francis joined into it seamlessly…

“Too bad there was not a greater audience for your shame,” Nicci quipped, “but by the sounds of your demises, a little repentance might yet save the evening.  Count Forenzi, is there truly no redemption cards for our fallen?  Surely fate is not so unkind to not allow a saving throw? Come gentlemen, you might still get lucky!”

She was laughing as she called - for as far as she could make out only Francis had any chance of putting his end away that night. (Though he’d already told her that was no longer on the cards. Mores the pity.)

The card she drew must have been a plant; and one that made her grin.  “Oh dear, now just everyone knows.” She looked around the table at the group, most of whom would not know about her Kingly dallances, and she was certainly not going to be the one to tell.  With cheery laugher she declared, “…it’s talking about penis-es really isn’t it!  Oh dear gentlemen, what a naughty game this is!”

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"Oh, I do not know, I am pretty good at turning over women," Dorset retorted to Kingston.  He was about to observe that he had not seen his blond friend much in the company of women of late.  There would be an embarrassing point about that … but he withheld while in the presence of a lady..

Forensi replied to Nicolette, "tis the rules of this particular game designed by the English.  They play until the last man remaining."  There was to be no redemption for the fallen..

Rochester had not particularly felt warm about Nicci.  He had paid to cheat and become the Lord of Misrule for the Christmas season, but Nicolette cheated first and had deprived the Earl of the limelight he craved in that season.  Yet he found himself laughing aloud at Nicci's observation.  Maybe he could find it in his heart to like her after all.  He appreciated inappropriateness and brashness in a woman.  "Well my dear," Rochester replied in a knowing voice, "you must not have been at court long then to not know that everything at court is about penises."  Ablemarle gawked.  "Think about it," the Earl assured.  "Politics, war, merriness, and even diplomacy.  It is mostly about the size of a penis.  And it is not just gentlemen competing for the biggest, it is the ladies are competing for them too," he added with a wink.  "It is why I am so popular at court," he boasted.  "You are popular," Dorset retorted, "because you are no threat."

Francis turned the 15th card depicting a well dressed young man in medieval attire holding a pentacle in his hand.  "The Page of Pentacles," Forensi identified.  Kingston was owed 15 pounds.  "It is a card of opportunity or inspiration, usually for a financial enterprise."

"I'll give you an opportunity to loan me money," Rochester offered with a dramatic smile.

It was Edmund's turn again.

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