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Nicolette Vauquelin

Desperatis hic in Vinarium | Saturday after 10pm

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Nicolette was so bored.   Lisa, even Louis, seemed to be taking the long weekend of devoutness far too seriously (and she did not even consider Margaretha for company.) 

Absolutely desperate for some fun and diversion, she'd sent out notes to a few of her discreet friends, and a few to indiscreet ones also, hoping that they might dare heavenly condemnation and meet with her in the Kings vinarium.  (Yes that was how bored Nicci was; she'd even looked up the Latin word for a wine flask!)

Dressed in a midnight blue cloak, Nicci skulked down the eerily silent halls of the place... though she did not dare to pray others would join her, she 'hoped' it really hard. 

 

Quote

 

Wine Cellar

  • An expansive area underground, where the King and his companions are known to congregate for a bit of drinking. Women are not normally allowed down here, unless accompanied by a gentleman known by the Sommelier.
     
    If one were given to flights of fancy, it would be easy to imagine some creature hiding in the ink black recesses of the Wine Cellar. Luckily most men who find their way down there are not given to such thoughts and have a merry time under the high arches and flickering torchlight. Among the wine bottles and casks, there is a table set up with comfortable chairs, one larger than the rest.

 

 

In the Cellar

"Achoo!"  Nicci sneezed (and almost blew out her candle) - having selected one of the more dusty bottles down from the rack.  Hopefully it was a good one. 

At the table, a few feet away, there were a good half dozen bottles already opened, along with as many glasses with a just a sampled splash in each.   

 

 

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"God bless you," came a familiar voice out of the darkness followed by Caroline holding a flickering candle, her smile almost as bright as the waxen light.

In her other hand, Caroline held something wrapped in a dark cloth, a more careful look would make one guess it was some sort of bottle. Given it's bearer, was that any surprise.

"Am I early? When you are involved or drinking involved, I hate to be fashionably late," she grinned.

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Muffled voices could be heard behind the thick door of the wine cellar. Anne-Elisabeth had discovered its location earlier so that she would be able to find it without asking a servant for directions. At least I’m not the first one here. She wondered how many people Nicci had invited. The more the merrier, she supposed.

 

The young Countess had changed into a purple silk gown sprinkled with multicolored beads and bordered with them around the neckline and hem. Her stomacher was beaded so heavily that the fabric it was made of was completely covered. She wore a necklace and earrings of diamond and amethysts. Because this party was taking place late at night, she had daringly left her raven hair loose. It tumbled to her waist and even covered by a burgundy cloak, it bounced as she walked

 

As she stepped into the wine cellar, glass tinkled in rhythm with her footsteps. Nicolette and Caroline were already there and she smiled at them as she set her flickering candlestick on the table. “Please tell me there will be no sermons tonight, ladies” she joked, taking off her cloak and revealing the heavy bag slung over one shoulder. “The last two days have been boring enough to drive the most devout teetotaler to drink.”

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The wine cellar was very large. One could get quite lost in it. Plenty of people had, too, whether purposefully or accidentally, drunkenly or not. 

 

There was no impediment to their entry. In fact, it seemed to be quite purposefully unattended. Entirely unattended. There were more candles which could be lit.

 

The bottle Nicci selected was a fine vintage from the South of France, a fortuitous portend? The cork would take some doing to pull out.

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Nicci recognised the voice immediately, and turning with a smile she called, “I knew I could count on you!”  

Moving closer to greet her best friend, they could then exchange the fashionable French air kisses – and the both of them holding bottles in hand while doing so. It prompted Nicci to laugh!  “But you are not too early at all, I have already started without you – do you see!”  she gestured to the table.

“I am trying to find one I really like. And I getting fussier as I get older? I hope not, I liked indiscriminately loving everything!”

Setting her own most recently fetched bottle on the table near the corkscrew, she then asked, “But what have you brought?” Nicci hoped it was some spirits, shed not found any cognac here in the wine cellar; though logic dictated there must be some here somewhere!

Barely was the question out when her second most favourite girl friend arrived – oh look at you, you dressed for the event!” Nicci crooned, delighting at the pains Anne Elizabeth had taken. “You are sparkling!”

Nicci had not taken off her cloak, at least not yet.  “Come come, take a stool!” she was quick to claim one she’d already tested and was not wobbly.

 

 

OOC: thanks for that Defiance, Nicci is waiting to see if we have some spirits before attempting that cork!  lol 

Edited by Nicolette Vauquelin

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Secrets were never kept around court, especially ones that were believed to be fun ones.  Tonight that was truly a blessing because Diana needed a bit of fun.  After several weeks of traveling, a few more weeks in Ireland...in the winter months, and then several more weeks of traveling, it was safe to say that Diana was quite ready to be back among court society.  On a whole, she enjoyed the emerald island but by comparison it was a simple land.  It might not have been a far cry to say that her most stimulating conversation with the natives, outside of John of course, had been with a sheep that she'd aptly named, Matilda Woolard.

Wearing a silvery silk cloak, the hood pulled up to shield her perfectly arranged mass of blonde hair and her face, Diana quietly and quickly moved to the wine cellar.  Pausing at the door before she joined the mischief, she could hear the familiar voice of one, Nicolette Vauquelin. Possibly one of her favorite Frenchies.  Her lips curled at that revelation.  Not pausing any longer, she joined the others inside of the wine cellar.

“Huzzah! I suppose I should have known you’d be at the center of the fun here,” Diana smiled lazily, as she stepped forward, pulling the irritating hood from atop her head as she looked from Nicolette to the other two ladies already settling themselves.  They were familiar faces, but she wasn’t as well acquainted with them as she was of Mistress Nicolette. Having just arrived back to court a few days ago, she'd not had the opportunity to go through her correspondences let alone answer them.  It was by sheer luck that she'd heard about this secretive evening and decided to crash the party.  

Edited by Diana Butler

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Nicci and her exchanged the standard French greeting of near kisses.

"Of course I would come. And I did not come without my own contribution too," she announced as she held it out.

"Nothing wrong with being fussy about what we put down our throats, eh? I like to stick with quality over quantity. Well, leastwise til I'm so drunk I cannot tell what it is I'm downing," Caroline declared.

Just then they had a third, it was the delightful Countess Devereaux. While they had not spent enough time to be considered close, Caroline had liked the girl from their very first meeting. She was a kindred spirit to Nicci and herself.

"No worries there, we have all heard enough sermons this week I believe," Caroline grinned.

She also had to agree with Nicci about the other girl's wardrobe, "Indeed you look fabulous!"

As Caroline went to sit on one of the offered stools, they had a fourth then. Caroline was quite certain she had seen this newcomer at some point but sadly could not place her name. Hopefully Nicci would handle the introductions. So she settled for a nod and smile in the woman's direction, "You certainly have come to the right place."

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Though the ladies could not hear any of it, quiet voices were coming forth from further in behind a great shelving of barrels.

 

"It feels almost indecent!" There was a quiet chuckle after.

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Nicci and Caroline greeted Anne-Elisabeth with compliments on her gown. “This old thing?” she asked with a teasing chuckle. It was actually one of her newest ensembles. She twirled around so that they could see it from all angles. Her jewelry and the beads on her dress glittered merrily in the dim light of the candles. She noted that Nicci was still wearing her cloak. When she takes it off, she’ll probably outshine us all.

 

Glancing at the bottle in Caroline’s hand, she grinned. “I see we had the same idea.” Carefully placing her bag on the table, she opened it up and took out two bottle of her famous … or perhaps infamous … bottles of coconut rum. “Variety is the spice of life, so they say.”

 

At Nicolette’s bidding, she sat down after shaking the stool to make certain it didn’t wobble. There was no telling how long they had been down here. Another lady walked in. Anne-Elisabeth couldn’t remember seeing her before. “Most definitely,” she echoed Caroline’s statement, smiling warmly at the stranger. As the lady already knew Nicci, she assumed that their mutual friend would make the introductions.

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"Caroline!” Nicolette squealed, “You are changed now you are courting!”  Or at least Nicci thought Caroline meant cocks, until she carried on talking about drinks. Or was she?  Either way Nicci delighted, “You are such a naughty girl, how I love you!”   

“Though while on that subject, I must admit I’ve not sampled so many. Just three in fact.” Shared Nicci, emptying two of the partly full glasses ready for an upgrade of better liquor  

Anne Elizabeth arrived, joining their table and with more bottles to drink. “Speaking of the spice of life” (was EA also talking of cocks or liquor?), “Variety, yes that’s a way to describe it!” Grinned Nicci, “we were just sharing how many 'flavours' we’ve each had.”   

It was an uncommon topic, Nicci blamed/credited Caroline for starting it all off.

But then there was another arrival, a woman whose identity was revealed when she pushed back her hood. 

Jumping to her feet Nicci crooned, “Diana, darling Diana. Come join us, have you even met Caroline and Anne Elizabeth before. Oh what I fine gathering we are making, we four horsewomen of the ….” Apocalypse.  But before saying that, Nicci stopped herself with a laugh, “oh no, we cant call ourselves that!  What shall we call our group instead?” she drew Diana by the hand to join them at the table     

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One corner of her mouth lifted in a cheeky manner as she nodded a greeting to the other two ladies as Nicci got to her feet.  Giving the Frenchie an air kiss as she flicked a roguish glance over to the other ladies, “No, I don’t think that I have.” Stepping back, her hand moved up to unfasten the clasp of her cloak, “But they’ve fine taste if they enjoy your company.”  

Under the cloak was a teal silk dress with delicate embroidery of bright pink flowers, which weren’t nearly as impressive in the shadows of the wine cellar. Her eyebrows raised slightly at the sight of the rum, she’d been in the Indies the last time she’d had a glass of rum. Pulling her gloves off, she laid them on a barrel and found an empty glass to pour some of the delicious rum up for herself as Nicci tried to decide what the four of them were if they weren’t going to bring about the destruction of the world.  Personally, Diana thought it was quite a possible task for the four of them.  

“Four…,” She hummed in thought.  What were their four of?  There were three fates, so that wouldn’t work.  Seven sisters to the tale of Pleiades.  Seven deadly sins.  She bit her lip in thought, “Four seasons...Four elements.” Leaning her hip against a barrel, she crossed her arms and tilted her head as she thought of a book she’d been reading about astronomy in the east while in Ireland.   

“How about the four guardians?  In the East, they have named four of the constellations after mythological creatures: a dragon, a tiger, a tortoise, and a bird. They each represent something different, a different compass direction, element, a different color.” Diana offered even as her attention turned back to getting a glass of the rum.

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Caroline laughed, "Nicci, I was talking about drinks....but of course. Where are your thoughts wandering?"   She got it though, leave it to Nicci.

Once Anne-Elisabeth produced the bottles of coconut rum, Caroline lifted one eyebrow, "Hmmm, would you believe it? I have never tasted such rum. I shall change that tonight then."

Nicci introduced the newest arrival as simply Diana, but of course this whole affair was meant to be informal. Caroline nodded acknowledgement.

"It is a pleasure, Diana. Hope you brought your thirst....with this bunch," she grinned.

Nicci now wondered what might they call this foursome, her suggestion was a bit ...well, grim. Diana was full of ideas.

"What about cards? There are four suites of cards. I would volunteer to be the club," she offered. Not that any of the others would understand her choice but she was at least amusing herself. For she had clubbed her way to where she was right now, a merry widow. Although that would change soon enough it seemed.

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"Have you found it, yet?" 

 

"You ask that like it's easy. It's dark and..." there was a gesture to the vastness, lit only by their candle. "I'm usually far more drunk when looking."

 

There was a LAUGH here that was loud enough to travel in a muffled way to where the ladies had settled, far closer to the entrance. "It is frightening what tasks become easier for us when amazingly drunk!"

 

A chuckle of agreement was the answer but nothing else. Too much focus was expended looking at casks of cognac. 

 

"You should not have scared away the wine attendant and chased off the servants."

 

"Here it is. The Charantais, Eau de Vie."

 

There was a long pause as they looked at each other.

 

"So, you found it. And?"

 

"Well, carry it, obviously." 

 

"I've got the candlestick."

 

"......."

 

"......."

 

"Are you saying you're too old and infirm to carry a barrel of cognac for the ladies?" Up went a slightly drunk nearly black eyebrow. "I know I am younger and heartier---."

 

"God's Blood. Take the light, Your Majesty." He was sacrilegious enough to not use the King's use of Fish over Blood and not give a fig about it.

 

"I thought we agreed not to Majesty me any Majesties tonight!" came the return complaint. 

 

"That was before His Majesty wished his servant to carry...his...cognac! Urghh." It was said as he took up said barrel from the rack just above shoulder height, stumbled as it's full weight hit his chest, and then smacked his shoulder against the opposite rack.

 

RAUCOUS LAUGHTER drifted up toward the ladies.

 

"The light!" There was some strain to the voice. 

 

"What?" He had to curb the chuckling some.

 

"Go. Lead. I can't see where I'm going!" A grunt. "It's heavy!"

 

"Oh, right." More chuckling. "I don't normally do this..." More chuckling. It was quite odd not to have someone lead him as candleholder!

 

"Well, Charlie, I don't usually do this either!" The weight of the barrel was reflected in his voice as they walked, growing close enough to pick out words.

 

"You took your cub's place. He does carry my cognac and my candleholder." The King chuckled heartily, smacking George on the back, chuckling more as he grunted again. They were getting close enough that, if the ladies had been cued to the sounds of the laughs, the ladies could hear what they were saying. Nicci would recognize the voices easily, and likely also Caroline, who had been at a few parties with the pair.

 

"By the bloody bottle..." Buckingham replied as the light from where the ladies were congregated lighted the area better. "Perhaps put down the candlestick and help me set this down."

 

They emerged from behind the racks in full. Neither was dressed in their full glory but rather having shirked their jackets and settled for just their waistcoats above their shirts.

 

"Ladies," both happened to say at the same time. The King handed Diana the candleholder he had, presumably to put on the table, and helped the Duke lower the cask onto a rack nearest the table. 

 

Buckingham took a great breath and stretched his arms after setting the thing down with a slosh. He should have foreseen Charles having him do something asinine just for the sport of it if they were left without any other attendance. 

 

(OOC - though I posted the conversation for our amusement, the girls can only hear specifically what I've capitalized and bolded until I write in the post that they can hear/see everything 😄 )

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“Flavors?” Anne-Elisabeth grinned. “My tastes are extensive and varied. How long do we have? It’s a long, thick list.”

 

Her dark eyes turned to Caroline. “You haven’t tasted my famous rum yet? Well, you’re in for a treat. It’s a Barbadian specialty.”

 

Nicci introduced all three ladies by their first names, which Anne-Elisabeth thought was appropriate for an informal gathering. “Delighted to meet you, Diana,” she said, popping the cork on one of her bottles of rum.

 

Her French friend suggested that they call themselves the four horsewomen of the apocalypse, then changed her mind and asked the other ladies what else there were four of. The young Countess noticed how Diana went straight for the coconut rum, as if she already knew what it was. Rum was rare outside of the Caribbean. Perhaps she had traveled to the islands, or had grown up there like Anne-Elisabeth. She reminded herself to ask her about it later.

 

And she was also interested in astronomy? How else would she have known about the names of constellations in the East? Anne-Elisabeth was no expert in Eastern culture but one of her astronomy books explained how many countries in the known world viewed the stars. It was one of her favorites. Yes, I need to speak to her before the night ends, assuming neither of us are too drunk to carry on a coherent conversation. Which, in such good company, seemed quite likely. If that happened, perhaps Nicci would give her Diana’s full name so she could send her a letter.

 

Was that a laugh she heard deeper in the cellar? As she wasn’t certain, she didn’t say anything about it, instead concentrating on Caroline’s excellent idea for a name. “That’s perfect!” she exclaimed while pouring herself a glass of coconut rum. “I’ll be the spade.” Diamonds and hearts were the two most ladies would choose, but a spade suited the dark-haired Countess better. After all, she had wit, charm, and cleverness ... and other things ... in spades.

 

A spate of boisterous laughter echoed throughout the wine cellar. Anne-Elisabeth’s eyes widened and traveled to each of her companions. “Ladies,” she announced, “We are not alone.” Voices could be heard approaching them. Was that the King’s voice? She had just spoken to him yesterday and their conversation was still fresh on her mind. The other voice sounded familiar as well, but she couldn't put a face or a name to it.

 

They didn’t have to wait long before two gentleman emerged from behind the wine racks. One of the was indeed the King and the other was the Duke of Buckingham, who was carrying a large heavy cask. No wonder she had not recognized his voice. The only time she had heard it was when he was doing impressions at the libertine party last week.

 

A limerick popped into her mind but she didn’t think this was the time for showing off. Buckingham was supposedly good at limericks. If he recited one, only then would she offer a poem of her own. Anne-Elisabeth stood up and curtsied to both of them, watching as the Duke carried the barrel to a nearby rack. “Oh, Your Grace,” she quipped in her low sultry voice. “What a big … cask … you have.”

 

Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux

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Charles whistled merrily as he traipsed down the steps to the Wine Cellar. He was rather looking forward to this, a spot of uninhibited merriment after the enforced pious dreariness of the Easter weekend, a chance to remember what fun was, ere the weight of accumulated boredom crushed the life from him entirely.

Though in truth I cannot be doing too badly if I retain such capacity for melodrama.

That was worth a grin, self-mocking though it might be. 

He was perhaps a little late, to judge from the buzz of voices he could hear emanating up towards him.

And was that a gentle thud?

He quickened his pace and descended to the circle of light where his fellow revellers were to be found, sweeping a florid bow to the assembled company as he entered. There was only one he did not know (Diana), one of court's seemingly inexhaustible supply of beautiful blondes.

"Ladies," he greeted, straightening, and nodded his head to the King and Buckingham. "Gentlemen."

"We are informal, I take it?" he asked, moving to doff his justacorps.

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"Drink large, you are all far too sober!"  Nicolette encouraged as her friends failed to join her in an accounting of lovers. But she could hardly sulk of it, and was laughing again - and clapping hands with agreement to Anne Elizabeth - Clever Caroline, suits of cards the best thing!

"Clubs, because your father was a soldier?" Nicci guessed of Caroline’s first choice.  Meanwhile wondering which she’d choose for herself -- when Anne Elizabeth chose spades. Spades was traditionally another bad word, but Nicci put a new, and far more ladylike spin on it, "Because you are a gold digger!" and she laughed merrily at that. Golddigging was, in her eyes, a noble profession (shed been going to pick spades for herself)

Distant sounds - others were approaching, and sounding quite masculine - merveilleux! 

"What shall you choose Diana?  As your host, I hardly think I should choose next? Perhaps you shall be hearts, for Love? Diamonds hardly suits me, but I would not be adverse to it, for it must mean wealth!"  they might bicker these last two out, or, "Shall we arm wrestle?" Nicci grinned

As for a drink, she did not snap up the coconut rum so quick - having tasted it before (while it was fine as a novelty, it was not her favourite.)  "What have you brought Caroline?" she asked between the two of them...

Then men were arriving - the King and Bucks with a candle no less!  "You have come!"  Nicolette was elated to see CR, having hoped Buckingham would advise him, but there was nothing certain when it came to a married man with pregnant wife.  Jumping up from her stool she closed the gap - From the shadows was Chatham too, tossing off his coat. 

"Yes terribly informal." Nicci agreed with one Charles while approaching the other, "But still with the air kisses, yes?" she thought to try greet the English King thus. CR did not mind a certain amount of gushiness, she guessed, while seeking his hand to give a private squeeze.  Whispering: "that is not a cask of Coconut rum I hope?"

Meanwhile Elisabeth Anne threw a line to the group, which suited Nicci just fine, as like a moth she fluttered around her royal flame.

 

 

 

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Her eyebrows lifted as she gave Caroline a curious look at mentioning cards and then swiftly choosing clubs.  It wouldn’t have been Diana’s first choice but then Anne-Elisabeth spoke up in agreement quickly claiming spades.  Who were these women?  Nicci quickly jumped in with something about soldiers and gold-diggers and Diana glanced between the three.  It didn’t really matter why they’d chosen them, did it?

Noise traveled faintly up to the ladies, a laugh, and her mind drifted momentarily away from the discussion of choosing a card suit.  The more the Merrier… Her lips almost curved in a smile.

Looking to Nicci again as she was reminded to pick her suit, she knew which one suited her but it was whether or not Nicci wanted it.  

“Well, by all means give me Diamonds if they don’t suit you,” She interrupted with a chuckle, her eyes lighting up just a little. It had been the one that she preferred. "They suit me perfectly well." Hearts could break too easily.  At the mention of arm wrestling, she playfully sized up Nicci, “Never let it be said I wasn’t game...” 

More laughter through to them, and her head dipped to keep from laughing herself.  Whoever it was they sounded like they were having quite a lot of fun already!

From behind the racks, the King and Buckingham appeared with cask, reaching out, she took the candle holder from the King offering the two gentlemen a smirk as the clever Anne-Elizabeth remarked about the size of their… cask.  The sounds of footsteps caused her to glance over at their newest arrival already tossing off his justacorps. 

“You gentlemen are just in time, I always play better when there is an audience and Nicci has just suggested we arm wrestle.”  Dimples appeared in her cheeky little grin, “Perhaps you can decide among yourselves what the winner and loser gets.”
 

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"A fine choice, Anne-Elisabeth," she nodded then laughed when Nicci joked (hopefully) that the brunette was a golddigger. Some might take that as quite an insult though she realized Nicci did not say it to be mean.

Diana went to try out the coconut rum so Caroline moved to join her but did pause to answer Nicci's question, "It is a fine cognac, Nicci, I just grabbed a bottle on my way out  to be honest.

Caroline didn't believe any of them were drunk enough to do arm wrestling, such an undignified unladylike activity needed more alcohol in the blood. However, her attention turned to the arrival of none other than the KIng himself and Buckingham carrying a cask. Nicci obviously was delighted and Caroline was happy for her but her own interest was more directed at the entry of none other than her Minister of Evil, as she had jokingly named Audley when they were both in their cups in her bedroom awhile back. The one eyed soldier was always such great fun, one of her true favorites.

Having filled her glass with the rum she took a sip. Interesting flavor she instantly noted then approached  Charles.

"I have not seen you about for awhile, how have you been? You know of course, you never need be formal with me," she grinned.

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Buckingham chuckled and returned, "It is the King's cask, I merely help him to indulge whilst Her Majesty is safely abed."

 

The King rolled his eyes and sighed at Buckingham's inability to ever pass up a verbal sashay, for it was hardly a sally when it was the duke, but that was quickly replaced by a grin at Nicci's exuberant grin. 

 

"Air kisses! Pah. I prefer real ones," the king said, placing a kiss on her lips. Among a small crowd of libertines, he had no issues in laying his claims. They all had the sense to know to keep quiet around any who dealt with the Queen and  the proper sort, unless they wished their fun and games banished out of Whitehall again. And them along with it.

 

Let Rochester test him on that matter, and he would cut out his friend's tongue once and for all!

 

As to the whisper of the contents of the cask, he whispered back, "Egads, no, it is a cask of the finest cognac."

 

Buckingham, meanwhile, noted, "Two ladies in present who host quite desirable parties." In compliment to both Nicci and Caroline, whose party he had attended (also with the King). "My hopes for the evening are quite high." He wore a cheeky grin. 

 

"The ladies are to arm wrestle?" up went the relaxed royal brow. "I think we can come up with an appropriate reward, do you gentlemen not think?"

 

"Only if you promise to lean over the table quite liberally," Buckingham teased of the ladies.

 

The King nodded and looked to Chatham to chime in some encouragement.

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Nicci surmised that Anne-Elisabeth had picked spades because she was a golddigger. “Perhaps,” she answered mysteriously. She took her friend’s comment as a compliment rather than an insult, particularly as there was more than a modicum of truth to it. Anne-Elisabeth was not interested in marrying a wealthy gentleman, but she did like charming them into giving her gifts. And one of her goals was to become insanely rich. In truth, the label fit her like a glove.

 

Diana and Nicci discussed which ones they would choose. The tanned Countess laughed when the Frenchwoman suggested arm wrestling, but they decided on their suits without competition. Further conversation was halted when the King and the Duke arrived.

 

Anne-Elisabeth chuckled at Buckingham’s reply, a tilt of her head indicating the King as he kissed his newest mistress. “And I can see he indulges quite well.” Turning her gaze back to him, she smiled. “I must say I greatly enjoyed your party last week, Your Grace. Your impressions were spot on. Where did you get that magnificent feather dildo? I should like to have one of my own.”

 

She smiled when Lord Chatham enter the room. He immediately removed his justacorps, bring to mind the day when she had removed it for him after her horse had thrown them into a stream. Caroline went to greet him. If he looked her way, she would blow him a playful kiss.

 

Diana mentioned arm wrestling and the gentlemen, being hot-blooded men, were all for it, adding their own provocative suggestions and offering a reward. She sipped her coconut rum, wondering if the two ladies would really do it. Anne-Elisabeth had not yet had enough to drink to participate herself, but the night was just beginning. Who knew where it would lead?

 

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Charles had timed his arrival well, it seemed. He grinned merrily, folding his justacorps and draping it over a convenient stool. Informal evening of merriment or not, Wodehouse would give him hell if he returned with his justacorps creased or stained. Stretching just for the idle pleasure of it, he glanced at Anne-Elisabeth and waggled his eyebrows in response to her blown kiss. Like her, his mind had darted back to that afternoon at the gazebo.

But there was new sport in the offing, and the King wished the pot stirred a trifle, so Charles turned his attention to that, still grinning.

"Why, winner gets to win, my lady, which we all know is the most important thing," he answered Diana, "but if further inducement is required, well, I would not deem it beneath my dignity to play cupbearer for the victor, and nor I imagine would my fellows in fortune."

He nodded his head to the King and Buckingham.

That attended to, there was another matter that he needed to deal with — he was depressingly sober, and had been for a depressingly long time.

Easily rectified, at least.

He moved to pour himself a drink, and raised his new glass in greeting to Caroline as she approached.

"Hippolyta! Yes, it seems an age of the world since we have last spoken. I've been as well as can be expected, I suppose, given the nature of the season and its attendant impositions." He dropped his voice to a faux-whisper. "I've managed a little discreet sport, which has just about kept me sane."

He cocked his head and waved his free hand in an ambivalent gesture.

"Well, relatively sane. But how have you been keeping?"

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It was so good to see Charles again, her 'Minister of Evil' as she once jokingly (and drunkenly) referred him as when they shared her bed one evening.

"Indeed it has been too long, I missed you," she delighted at him calling her 'Hippolyta', he too recalled their banter of that time, "Discreet sport is it? Why am I not surprised?"

Caroline was curious  of course but would not press him on it, hopefully he might fill her in with details deeper into their conversation. He then asked about her. Well now, she had some big news to tell. She brightened.

"My life has been most.....how can I put it?  Eventful ...yes, that," she grinned.

"First off Rowland Alston is now the Baron Kendishall, it seems he has somehow inherited my deceased husband's title. I was rather stunned but then there is really nothing I can do about it and truthfully, I am grateful as it could have been someone so much worse. He is not a bad fellow," she shrugged.

"But now the important news. George Hardwick, Lord Chichester, has asked for my hand in marriage," she revealed rather gleefully.

She leaned in closer to him then to add, "Well, I told him he could have all of me. He is quite wealthy you know."

 

 

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It was a surprise to Nicci, that she came to have the Hearts role of the four suits, for it was plainly the best, and surely the other ladies knew that too. How remarkable.  But it did suit Nicci rather well, so perhaps her lovely friends were just taking pains to leave it available for her?   

Flashing a smile to one and all Nicci dipped a curtsy to thank her lady friends, “What is fine about Hearts is that it is so giving, so here I give my love to you all!”  she crooned happily.

But then there was the expanding company  - and ‘loving’ Nicci shone her colours upon one of them in particular. The King.  And it begun with kisses!  The French belle knew, and loved her part.  “Coincidentally…” she replied and gave CR a good snogging (wasn’t that what the English called it?”

Buckingham explained the kings liberty, but it came with a condition of sorts.  “Oh dear, expectations.” Nicci turned her cheerful grin upon Bucks, though perhaps the quest for fun could be fulfilled by the arm-wrestle already proposed. 

Nicci was pleased when Diana pushed that topic, better yet she included the men on the question.  Had Diana always been such fun, or had she become fun-ner after the absence from court?! “I DO like to win.” Nicolette agreed with Chatham, but his idea of being cupbearer also had it’s merits.

Speaking of cups. “To be fair, Your Majesty, Lady Cambray’s coconut rum is worth a sample.” Nicci offered as a kindness to her friend, though she was ready and willing to drink the cognac herself.

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“You never disappoint with appropriate rewards, tis’ why I asked,” Diana murmured with a sly smile towards the King at his answer.  And for Diana, he hadn’t… his last reward had in fact made her a Countess, hadn’t it? She poured herself some of the rum into a glass and lifted it to her lips as Buckingham teased.  It was good to be among good company again.  

Swallowing a sip, she winked at Buckingham, “Is there any other way to play?”  

It seemed the other ladies were quite a bit more familiar with the latest comer, a rascal if she’d ever seen one… even down to his eyepatch.  At his comment to her, an indignant snort came despite the unwavering smile on her lips, “But, I’m already a winner…”  Lifting her glass in a small, teasing salute to Nicci, Caroline, and Anne-Elisabeth, “And so are they.  We’ve got beautiful dresses, good spirits, and...” The arch of her eyebrow raised a faint fraction as she cocked her head slightly to glance back at the man with the eyepatch, “Hopefully, some bad men to keep us company... while we make our equally bad decisions.”

Taking another sip of the wine, she heard the mention of Lord Chichester and glanced momentarily to Caroline.  So Lord Chichester had asked for her hand in marriage... She bet her cousin was steaming under the collar over that bit. 

Nicci’s admittance to liking to win caused her to grin and wrinkle her nose a little, “Me too.”  She chuckled and prodded lightly,  “But you are far too sober for my liking.”
 

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Buckingham laughed and the King laughed even louder as the lady asked about the Duke's great dildo. Nicci could probably feel the King's amusement as his chest quaked with the hilarity of the dildo.

 

"I'Faith, my-" he chuckled a bit more. "Kingston gifted it to me. Are you acquainted?"

 

The bass rumble of the King's amusement came under control before he added, "Reminds me of my trident from the boy!"

 

Kingston had gifted him a phallic trident on the very tour where they had found out how close a relation the boy truly was to Buckingham.

 

"He claims it from the natives over the seas," Buckingham added. "He shall be here at some point, but the dashing cub is not just so for show, and escorted his lady mother home after today's services." 

 

"I daresay he would endeavor to help you acquire one," His Majesty piped in. It might not be entirely foreign, though. 

 

As to the rewards for the competition between the ladies, the King nodded to Diana and said, "You must trust that we gentlemen shall make it quite worth it." He took the opportunity to give Nicci a playful kiss on the neck. 

 

"The more spectacular the performance, the more we shall be obliged to part with," Buckingham confirmed. "Though I wonder what Chatham's drinking vessel might prove to be if he plays cupbearer!"

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The laughter of the King and the Duke was music to Anne-Elisabeth’s ears. Unlike most ladies, she loved to be laughed at (as long as it wasn't behind her back or meant as an insult). She was a humorous person by nature and enjoyed making people happy with her poetry and her wit. When her comments were met by laughter, the thrills that coursed through her body were much like carnal desire.

 

Lord Kingston had given Buckingham the dildo? She had planned on asking him about it at the card game. It was what she had wished to discuss with him later in the evening, but unfortunately, the opportunity had been lost. Now she was glad that things had turned out the way they had. Laughter wasn’t just music to her ears; it was food for her soul.

 

“Yes, I know him, though not well. I believe I first met him at the sleigh race last winter.” She hoped the King remembered asking her to compose a limerick that summed up the race. Not that it mattered, considering that she had impressed him with her wit only yesterday morning. His praise had been worth the irritation of rising so early.

 

“Over the seas? Well, it’s certainly not from the Caribbean or I would already have one. Perhaps it originated in the New World? I can’t imagine those savages using dildos.” Anne-Elisabeth grinned. “Perhaps they have a different significance there. Maybe they are sacred symbols of their gods.”

 

The King seemed certain that Lord Kingston would help her obtain one. “I shall ask him when he gets here, then.”

 

While the others discussed the arm-wrestling contest, she polished off her glass of rum and stepped toward the King's cask.  "May I try some, Your Majesty?"

 

Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux

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"Because you've met me," Charles answered brightly, grinning at Caroline, and leaned in to listen attentively as they caught up.

"Eventful indeed," he murmured, letting out a low whistle. "I do not know this Alston, I think, but it is good that he has not made an ass of himself. I would seek advice were I you, though. As a widow you have considerable entitlements, even and especially in the absence of a will, and it would not do to be unaware of them, or to be cheated out of them."

She had better news, too, though, and Charles grinned delightedly.

"I have met Chichester. He seems a pleasant fellow, and wealthy, as you say. Always well turned out, too. Congratulations Hippolyta!"

He raised his glass in toast.

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"Well if the phallic is a god, there is another I would prefer to pay my homage to." Nicolette chimed in, CR's kiss to her neck sent tingles radiating outwards, she tipped her head and grinned at him.  He was rather adorable, and this was all the more special that he was not hiding his affection for her tonight. 

(He'd not hid it so much at Buckingham’s party either, but they had all been extremely drunk at the time.) 

But to the arm wrestle, Diana made another excellent point, or was it?  "Or perhaps you think I shall forget about the challenge if you get me drunk hmm? I assure you that I am able to arm wrestle either while wholly sober, tipsy, or raving drunk."  Nicci added the raving drunk part for effect, truth be told she ware more lily to be sleep by that stage. 

Tossing her cloak aside (and revealing a dress every bit as exquisite as Anne Elizabeth had imagined) Nicci cried out, "Clear the table!"

She would have rolled up her sleeves, but her gown of deep green peppered with diamentes, was a short sleeved number. Instead, she pulled off her gloves and handed them to the English King. 

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Her 'Minister of Evil' seemed to be happy enough for her regarding her hopefully upcoming marriage. As for there being a new Baron Kendishall, he actually some possibly helpful advice for her.

"Well, I will look into it then. Perhaps George would know the best person to seek more information from? I will ask him," she nodded.

He gave a toast and she lifted her glass too.

"How have you been lately? I do think of you quite often - even if you don't believe me, it's true," she now inquired.

Also drawing her attention was Nicci doing... well what exactly was she doing? Oh damn! That crazy girl was going to arm wrestle?

"Come, we must go watch this. And I need to cheer Nicci on," Caroline grabbed Chatham by his free hand toward the scene of the about to begin event.

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