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Davina Wellsley

A Royal Summons, Privy Garden Monday 7 am

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Davina had arrived early.

Wrapped up in her furs which hid a gown of dove grey velvet trimmed with black jet beads in a random swirl patter some two inches deep that ran round the top of her bodice she was quietly elegant in her choice of dress as well as ornamentations. Beneath her closed skirt she wore two of her quilted wollen petticoats and her stockings were her usual silk but she wore her soft black leather boots as one of her servants had scouted out the garden and reported it to be muddy. The wide black velvet band that ran all the way around the bottom of her skirt would act as a foil and collect dirt thus saving the hem and making Poppy's life easier as mud was easier to brush off then to have to clean the entire skirt.

Hidden in the pocket of her skirs was the required ribbon - a soft pale blue velvet that complemented both her dress color and herself. She had not slept much the night previous as she turned over in her mind what really lay behind this Invitation/Command. Christmas was long over so it was not some trick of Misrule and Easter was now done as well. She knew it was useless to try to predict what His Majesty was up to so she had resolved to be patient and wait it out.

She continued her pacing along the walkway her ears attuned for any one else arriving  .....

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Charles hummed softly to himself as he strolled towards the garden. It was by no means a pleasant morning, the ground damp underfoot and the sky oppressively grey overhead, but despite that, his temper of the day before, and the early hour, his mood was good. His blood was singing and his eye laughing as he moved, step light and quick. Distantly, he was aware that this was one of his unnatural moods, and that he should not trust it, but he could not bring himself to care overmuch.

He had opted for a justacorps of burgundy today, cuffed in gold lace, over waistcoat and breeches of umber and boots of black Italian leather. (More accurately, Wodehouse had opted for the ensemble, arranging matters with customary understated efficiency when Charles realised that the sun was up and he was still in Sunday's clothes.) The requested length of ribbon, deep crimson in colour, was wrapped around his waist, serving almost as a thin sash.

Arriving, he paused and tilted his head back, eye closing as he savoured the crisp morning air.

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Sophia was accustomed to mud. There had been lots of it on her father’s estate after a good rain. She remembered being chastised by her governess several times when she was caught playing in it. Sometimes she was still tempted to play in it, mainly to see Esteban’s face when she came inside covered in dirt.

 

The young Countess always woke up before dawn and she had plenty of time to prepare. She had dressed in a pretty yellow gown decorated with pearls and accented with pink rosettes and mint green ribbons. To keep her skirts out of the mud, she had pulled them up a few inches and tucked the excess fabric into a wide mint green ribbon wrapped around her stomacher. Her sturdy brown leather boots and a bit of her multicolored stockings were exposed, but couldn’t be seen beneath the brown velvet cloak she wore. The cloak was trimmed with matching fur and fastened with a brooch of opals and pearls. Upon her platinum curls sat a brown fur hat with a matching brooch on one side.

 

Anna walked behind her, carrying a braided rope made out of yellow, pink, and mint green ribbons. It seemed delicate but was a lot stronger than it looked. Nearing the meeting place, Sophia’s heart skipped several beats when beheld her dear Charles, magnificent and oh-so-appealing in burgundy, umber, and gold. Desire stirred within her, as it always did when he was near. He had a ribbon too, wrapped around his waist.

 

Davina was there as well. As the Countess had suspected, she was not the only courtier that had been summoned by the King. She could hardly wait to find out why and what the ribbons were for.   “Good morning,” she said, smiling at both of them and briefly placing a long musician’s finger against her flushed cheek.

 

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She knew another had arrived her ears took that in. Turning she took in who it was  .... Lord Chatham? .... well this was getting interesting. Moving closer she noted his attire and the ribbon about his waist and so it was her greeting held a touch of amusement.

"Good Morrow My Lord. Are you, thus attired, ready to be offered up as "the Prize" to whatever His Majesty has planned?

She followed her words with a nice curtsey her eyes roamiong about his person. She had not really had much to do with this Gentleman so thought to add an introduction in case he was the same.

"Mistress Wellsley. Davina. Maid of Honor to the Queen and so it seems part of a scheme of some kind. Have you any idea?"

And then another joined and this too proved a surprise. 

"Well. His Majesty is ever enterprising in His ideas."

"Lady Toledo. Have a care for the ground Madam. Walk slowly."

Her warning was genuine and she had said it aloud without thinking. That this Lady was with child may as yet be unknown to those about Court so hopefully it will be seen just as something said in passing as one lady to another.

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"Entirely ready, if that is why I was summoned. Have you any enlightenment to offer on that score?" Charles said cheerily, opening his eye and turning slowly to face his interlocutor. The voice was vaguely familiar.

Ah.

"Mistress Wellsley." He inclined his head. "I remember. We met briefly at the Spanish ambassador's dinner party last season."

He had deemed her elegant then, he recalled, elegant and well worth looking at, and time had altered neither opinion. Davina had something.

"I take it you have no better idea as to our purpose here than I?"

His Majesty was known to enjoy matchmaking, his mind whispered to him, and Charles had gotten drunk with him the night before the summons had been sent out...

And I was in a very good mood that night...

Well, if that was what the King had in mind, Charles could do considerably worse, he accepted. It would just be bitterly amusing for that to happen so soon after he had decided to court Henrietta.

His rapidly forming suspicions were equally rapidly proven wrong, though, by the arrival of Sophia.

Unless his Majesty has decided to be very unconventional...

Charles had to swallow a laugh at the thought as he bowed in greeting.

"Good morning Lady Toledo," he said, returning Sophia's smile and adjusting his cravat as he straightened, "and yes, do be careful. Mud can be surprisingly treacherous underfoot."

His eye shone with delight at their secret exchange.

Edited by Charles Audley

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She shook her head.

"I am afraid I am as much in the dark as you Lord Chatham. To speculate serves no purpose either for who can know HIs Majesty's thoughts."

"Do you suppose there is anyone else left to arrive? I can not imagine where this is leading  ...."

Oh good. Her warnings had indeed been viewed as 'nothings'.

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Charles bowed, adjusting his cravat as he rose. Sophia saw the gleam in that beautiful blue eye and suddenly it wasn’t so cold in the garden anymore. “Thank you for your consideration, Lord Chatham.” Her lyrical voice was courteous but there was a warmth to it that only somebody who knew her well would be able to recognize. Oh, how she wished she could pretend to stumble so that he would catch her and hold her close! No, she couldn’t risk it. Davina was smart and might realize that she and Charles were more than just acquaintances.

 

Apparently, they had been discussing why they had been summoned before she arrived. “I have no idea either,” she said. “Or if we were the only ones.  It’s all rather mysterious and exciting, isn’t it?”

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"Hmm. Well, we can safely conclude that the purpose is not matchmaking," Charles mused, smiling, "but beyond that I agree with Mistress Wellsley — there is precious little point in speculating."

Despite his words he flicked his gaze over the garden, looking for any hint of what they had been summoned for.

"I trust you have both passed a pleasant Easter?" he asked idly as he scanned.

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For once, Francis was blissfully unaware of what had transpired barely an hour earlier as he had not been attending at the time. He had risen at his typical pre-dawn naval hour and sparred with Tommy before cleaning up and dressing. Being in the company of the King often enough, the young blond had not gone to any extra embellishments for the summons and wore a mint green and navy blue brocade ensemble with an amply plumed hat, sword at his side. 

 

Though he knew what this was about (as preparation for this had been being made in the household for a few days), he arrived with a length of blue ribbon wrapped around his wrist just like the others.

 

"Good morning," he greeted them, ground squishing some under his boots as he walked up, offering the assembly a bow.

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Sophia’s blue eyes widened when Charles mentioned matchmaking. His Majesty was known for arranging marriages between his subjects. Had she not already been wed, she would have been thrilled at the possibility of marrying her delightful Eros. But then why would they need ribbons? She silently agreed that there was no point in speculating, but she couldn’t help doing it anyway.

 

Charles asked how she and Davina had enjoyed Easter. The young Countess was tempted to roll her eyes and say ‘booorrriiinnng,’ but she didn’t think Davina would appreciate that assessment, no matter how true it was. Nor would be amenable  to giving her advice on her dilemma if she responded with blasphemy.

 

This was my first Easter at court,” she said instead. “It was enlightening.” To say the least.

 

Francis was the next arrival. He greeted them politely and bowed. Sophia beamed at him. She was always happy to see the former guardian who had become like an older brother to her. “And the plot thickens,” she remarked. “Have you any idea why His Majesty summoned us this morning?” she asked. He was one of the King’s attendants. Perhaps he knew what the monarch was planning. Or maybe he was as much in the dark as the rest of them.

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The arrival of Lord Kingston made her smile.

"Well Easter was as it always is. I'm sure twas the same for you. And now a 'clue' has appeared."

"You are privy to what ere His Majesty has planned Lord Kingston I am sure of it. Have you come to offer up a hint then?"

She then added for extra affect

"Tis too cold to simply stand about and all this mud will sook soak my boots so until HE arrives will you not enlighten?"

She gave him a bit of a pitiful look and added a small shiver althought she was warm enough inside her furs.

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Charles smiled ruefully at the pro forma responses to his question. To be expected, he supposed.

"I had not been at home for Easter for many years," he offered, purely to fill the perceived conversational gap. "The change was... pleasant."

That was a lie, of course. Not the blackest he had ever told, but quite a dark grey nonetheless. Even leaving aside the onerous imposition of so many mandatory chapel appearances in so short a time, his quarrel with Mary (and it was a proper quarrel now, he had to concede) was a burr in his saddle.

He was taken from his musings by the arrival of Francis.

"Kingston," he greeted, offering a quick smile and an inclination of the head. He saw no need to add to the ladies' entreaties.

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"Oh, well, but I am not here in any official capacity but the same as you all, an invitee of my master, the King," the blond revealed cheerily to the group.

 

"Ah Mistress Wellesley, a younger gentleman might fall for your ample charms and reveal all! Alas they are not sufficient to draw me away from my duties to His Majesty," he replied, teasingly shaking a finger at her. He might look just of age, but he was nearly thirty. "Any who spoils His Majesty's surprises or fun does not a long career in his service...or at court. For shame that you should tempt me to such ruinous behavior, and one of the Queen's ladies at that!" he continued his faux dramatics with a grin. 

 

"I can say to take patience, His Majesty is of the generous nature of arriving after expected so that none might accidentally arrive after him when expected before." Which was quite true. The King did not prefer awkward moments. It also sufficed as a nice, tidy explanation for whatever might be. Serving the King closely, one had to always be prepared with a few good lines in such situations. The lady could also thank his service for the fact that he carried a massive amount of handkerchiefs up his sleeves (and everywhere else he could stash them), for these very such occasions. Knowing the purpose of today...he had brought even more. After his first day attending he had vowed never to be short of handkerchiefs. 

 

So he pulled a few out, unfolded them, placed them one atop the other and dropped them tidily on the ground at her feet. "That should keep the mud at bay until His Majesty arrives."

 

Teasingly he said to his former ward in brotherly fashion, "Are your toes muddy enough too? You could stand on my boot!" 

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Sophia didn’t miss the way her Eros hesitated before he said the word ‘pleasant.’ Was he talking about her? Had she made his visit to court pleasant? No, he wouldn’t use that term to define their relationship. He would have described it as ‘exquisite’ or ‘exciting’ or perhaps ‘breathtaking.’ The handsome one-eyed Earl had certainly taken her breath away.

 

Davina’s attempt to charm information from Francis brought a smile to her face. She could have told her friend that such ploys didn’t work on him. When she was his ward, she had tried to beguile him into forgiving her when she got into trouble, but she had failed every time. The way he spoke, he did know why they had been called here, yet wasn’t at liberty to tell the rest of them.

 

Sophia took her ribbon from Anna and sent her back to the carriage while Francis lay handkerchiefs on the mud so Davina’s boots wouldn’t get soaked in mud. He had so many of them. Where had he gotten them all? Probably from ladies who had dropped them at his feet, hoping to enchant him. They would be horrified if they knew how he had used them.

 

Her bright lyrical laughter echoed through the morning air when he suggested that she stand on his boot. “Thank you for the offer, but I came prepared.” She stretched one of her legs out so that he could see the foot of her sturdy brown leather boot, stirring up a bit of mud as she did so. “They’re the right color too. So is my cloak. See?” Sophia twirled around so that he could view it from all angles. The pastel-colored ribbon made a graceful arc through the air.

 

“Oh! Maybe His Majesty is going to teach us a new kind of dance with the ribbons so we can perform it at the next ball!” There were two ladies and two gentlemen, after all. If that was the plan, she hoped that she was paired with Charles. “Am I close?”

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"So you say that my 'charms' are not sufficent then? What, I wonder, must I then do if a Gentleman such as yourself can not be swayed?"

She teased but her blue eyes took on a glint as she looked back at him.

"And I do not expect you to reveal anything that would cause a loss of Position - you Sir know me better than that! And as for patience well I have that in abundance as well."

She watched his theactricts as he deposited those pristine white handkerchiefs and then gave a small shake of her dark head.

"Really Kingston do have a care! Tis unnecessary and now I shall have to make poor Poppy make then clean again  ..."

She gave a glance to Lord Chatham to see if he'd play the Gallent and pick them up but would not tarry but a few moments before she did it herself.

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Unfortunately for Davina's maid, Chatham did not quite have time to pick Kingston's pretty handkerchiefs as another arrival came upon them with far more purpose.

 

"Good morning, my lords, ladies," came the bright voice of young John Ashburnham, sans Royal Majesty, though his opulent clothes were as majestic as a young man's might be. "Apologies for the delay. Due to the mud, His Majesty has made alternate arrangements of venue, and there was not time to send runners to everyone. There are some pages to help wipe off shoes and boots and take anything which might require cleaning just inside." With an army of white kerchiefs, much to Davina's chagrin! 

 

Though the company would not know, said pages were also having a look for anything strange about their persons in taking their cloaks and the like. 

 

"His Majesty prefers no blades in his private company," the young man also informed Chatham*.

 

Such instructions were quite typical to receive from someone in the King's household before any small private audiences, but any seasoned courtier might notice something a bit more to it. 

 

There was little time to ask, because Ashburnham next turned his attention to Kingston and said, "A word, my lord? His Majesty may wish you to stay afterward. If you require a note sent anywhere in your absence?" He drew Francis aside whilst the others were getting an efficient cleaning of footwear and divesting of outerwear.** 

 

(OOC ** - in case anyone is wondering, the King will want Francis to sit with Nicci after this as a result of the earlier thread since Francis is responsible for her, and until they know more will want her protected at the palace since it's possible someone might think her a witness.)

 

(OOC * - I didn't check to see if you said Chatham was wearing a sword belt or anything, but in case he is ;) )

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Well. Things were indeed becoming quite interesting.

She stepped delicately around the handerchiefs and went to stand next to Sophia where she whispered

"Lean on my arm for support if you wish mud removed as instructed and I shall do the same."

She herself would no more think to lean on a page no matter in who's Employ but is was mainly because she knew the other was with child.

Her gaze rested on Ashburnham as he made mention of 'swords' and her instinct knew there was more at play here than some Game His Majesty was playing at. But as to what that too was a Mystery.

"How thoughtful His Majesty is John to make such provisions for us - you must pass on my appreciation for it."

She flashed him a charming smile as she waited for a page to scurry over.

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Charles hummed absently to himself, following Ashburnham. He did not think the conditions so poor himself, but he would accept that his perspective on such things was skewed and that the ladies might find the mud and morning chill a trial even if it was not. Making alternate arrangements was the gallant thing to do.

Odd that there was no servant awaiting to redirect us, though. The conditions have been obvious for some time.

Perhaps it was that oddity that had him arching an internal eyebrow at the gentle reminder to disarm. That was perfectly normal, too, but something had the hair on the back of his neck pricking, and Tangiers and everything since had taught him to trust those hairs.

"I have no sword, as you see, but..." he reached down with his left hand, movements smooth and carefully unhurried, and plucked out his parrying dagger, sheath and all, and offered it hilt first to Ashburnham. Charles had fallen out of the habit of wearing a sword to court, but he had learned (painfully) to never stir out entirely unarmed.

Blade surrendered, he settled in to wait, more warily than before.

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Davina did not seem impressed with Francis’ gallantry, more concerned about the handkerchiefs than with the muddy ground. There was no time for further conversation as a gentleman whom Sophia had met last year but whose name she couldn’t remember approached them with a message from the King instructing them to go inside.

 

Though she believed that she would be perfectly fine on her own, she understood Davina’s concern. After wrapping her multicolored ribbon around her waist, she took her friend’s arm as the four of them followed the gentleman toward the palace. There was a chance she might slip, and Juan’s first child was far too important to risk. She made it through the door safely and dropped her hand. “Thank you, Mistress Wellsley,” she said with a genuine smile.

 

After handing her cloak, hat, and gloves to a page, she asked for a chair. She was more confident traipsing around in mud than standing on one leg to have her boots cleaned. Sophia held out one dainty but sturdy boot while she watched Charles surrender his knife. Davina bid the gentleman tell the King how thoughtful he was, and she nodded in agreement.

 

There was nothing to do now but wait and point out all the spots the page missed. There was only a slight difference in the hue of her boots and the mud.

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"Oh I assure you, they are quite expectedly disposable. Your maid needn't clean them, unless, of course, you wish to keep a token. In which case, I have other prettier ones for that," Francis teased, with a grin.

 

It was then that Ashburnham arrived, typical bon vivant! Whether the ladies took notice or not, Francis noted the difference in the favoured Jack's speech and tone. His curiosity was further roused as Ashburnham asked him for a word after reminding them to disarm. 

 

"Oh," he replied, unable to contain a bit of surprise. But then he figured that His Majesty may wish to go for his walk late, and Francis was a long-legged companion, one of few who could keep pace. "Of course. Just send to the duke's, my valet can send anything urgent here. I am expecting something Her Majesty wished me to see to but have no engagements." As he was replying he started to take his own sword belt off.

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"You needn't disarm, Kingston. His Majesty's Gentlemen are exempted. And if memory serves the sword was a gift from the King, and you wear such a gift," Ashburnham said to him with an air of amused joviality.

 

The young man then smiled and nodded as Mistress Wellesley expressed her appreciation for His Majesty's care, though he had to wonder when they had become acquainted by Christian name! "I shall do so," he replied simply.

 

He waited patiently for the cadre of pages to do their work before leading the way in the direction of the Presence Chamber.

 

Though it was yet very early in the morning when few traversed the palace, the doors were not yet open. The Presence Chamber was generally opened to all, for it was little more than an opulent gathering room where one might see who officially came in and out of seeing the King...and to perhaps see the King as well. The Yeomen of the Guard stood with their large staffs in their usual positions along with two Lifeguards. 

 

The doors were opened as they approached, the Presence Chamber was empty aside from a pair of ushers, another pair of Guardsmen and Lifeguard. A telltale yapping indicating the presence of the King and his typical following of spaniels was not far. 

 

The first pair of doors after the Presence were then opened to them, into a large parlour, and the full yapping of spaniel contingent was abnormally loud.

 

Once inside that room, the scene was unexpected for a multitude of reasons.

 

Firstly, anyone who had been beyond the Presence Chamber knew that the King only ever allowed two Lifeguard to guard the inside of the doors from the Presence Chamber, but he generally suffered the presence of no more soldiers or guards within his inner space, but there was a guard at each door in that parlour. Not to mention Colonel Tom Howard was a most strange accompaniment to see with His Majesty, he ran the operations of the Yeomen of the Guard (along with Lord Grandison), and was the secret husband of Mall Stuart. 

 

And Lord Arlington was already awake and attending, with bags under his eyes and haphazard plaster on his nose, barely holding in a scowl that this dog business was going forward. The guest list was generally not lofty enough to merit his attendance usually.

 

Lastly, there were tiny puddles of pee all over the parquet floor, pages with handkerchiefs valiantly trying to clean them up, as yapping puppies and adult spaniels bounded all over. 

 

The guests were immediately assaulted by jumping dogs, sniffing at everything unrepentantly. One pup bayed with quite the volume. Another could not decide who to run to and excitedly sprinkled here and there on the floor (clearly the culprit of the tiny sprinkles of pee all over). One female pup grabbed the flap of leather at the top of Chatham's boot. Then tried Francis'. 

 

Anyone attempting bows or curtsies would be met with more difficulty than expected. 

 

"Good morning!" the King said jovially, not much bothered by the chaos. Perhaps the need for an outdoor venue was now better explained!

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Davina nodded and then stood patiently one hand resting on the back of Lady Toledo's chair for balance. Her eyes glimmered with amusement as a page attended to her his eyes trying to stay focused only on said boot and not inch any higher. Not that there was much to see for this Lady's calf was well covered and he thought he might have caught a quick glimpse of blue that had to be a stocking ....

Quickly finished she settled herself and watched the by play between Ashburnum and Kingston now sure that there was something going on somewhere close by. There was no time for contemplation as they were all led along corridors and evidentually to the Kings Presence a place Davina had been many times over the years whenever the Maids of Honor had been required to attend some Function in which they would be decorous and provide distractions if needed.

Her eyes widened and she glanced quickly around as they then were ushered past the double doors and into another room that was off limits to many and certanily to her! 

And here chaos reigned! She noted the presence of Arlington and the guards this confirming there was indeed more at play.

Her reverance was automatic at the King's greeting and took her to all the way to the floor as was proper.

But then a wet nose edged into her lowered view followed by a small body with tail wagging. The puppy then attempted to jump landing on her lap which caused her to sit on the floor her skirts pooling out and her laugh ringing out prettily as her face was kissed.

Sitting there holding the wiggling animal she looked to the King clearly in no way bother by it.

Later however in private she would give voice and use a few choice words at the patches of stain on her skirts and the small tears in the fabric from sharp puppy milk teeth.

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There was something wrong, Charles concluded. He was no veteran observer of the Royal whims, but the overt presence of so many guards struck him as... uncharacteristic. Of course, even if his suspicions were correct (which they were, he knew it in his bones, but Charles had learned that refusing to admit the possibility that you were wrong was an excellent way to turn that possibility to a certainty) he had no way to confirm them, or find out what had happened even if he had.

He would quite happily have speculated anyway, but there were other matters requiring his attention.

"Your Majesty," he greeted the King, making his best leg. The process was complicated by the small swarm of curious dogs that swamped them, but Charles was sober, free of migraine, and unperforated, which meant that this was far from the most arduous circumstance in which he had had to make a bow.

Not far off, though, he allowed as he straightened, swallowing a laugh as one of the dogs made at his boot. He reached back down to scratch behind the puppy's ears. He was wholly indifferent to animals, as a rule, but he had a fancy he had met these dogs before, and he would cheerfully admit that he harboured something of a soft spot for them.

"Hello, my dear," he murmured, and then laughed aloud as he was promptly abandoned for Francis. "Ha! I am spurned."

He straightened again, still chuckling, and ran an appraising eye over the assembled Life Guards. He did not think much of the Life Guard in general, but it would be interesting to see how they fared under (assumed, admittedly) pressure.

But, truly, what can be expected of them when their commanding officers are that vapid non-entity Ablemarle and that pompous arse Langdon?

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Sophia was surprised when the little group was taken to the King’s presence chamber. At least now she knew why their boots had been cleaned.  The cacophony of muted yapping indicated that the King was nearby, probably waiting for them to arrive before coming out to tell them why he had summoned them so early in the morning. However another set of doors was opened and they moved through them into a large parlor where they were assaulted by what seemed like a multitude of cute little spaniel puppies.


A bright smile lit up her pretty features as a couple of them bounded over to her and started sniffing at her skirts. They smell my cats, she realized, or perhaps Aurora. She leaned down to pet them, so delighted that she didn’t even notice the King until he greeted them. The guards and other attendants might as well have been invisible as far as she was concerned. 

 

She turned her smile toward the monarch and bent her knees a bit lower in an attempt at a curtsy that was interrupted when one of the puppies flung itself into her arms, its fluffy tail wagging enthusiastically. Sophia’s lyrical laughter spun through the air as she stood up, cradling its wriggling form. It’s little tongue darted out and licked her chin and then her cheeks. “Oh, you darling thing!” she exclaimed.

 

The other one stood on its hind legs with its front paws on her skirt, howling mournfully for attention. She set the first puppy back on its feet and petted the second one. When she sang the exact note that it was howling, it jumped back and sat down, tilting its head as if confused. Sophia laughed again, swung it into her arms, and kissed its cute little face before setting it back down.  The two puppies began wrestling  with each other at her feet.  They were absolutely adorable.

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Francis was somewhat used to interrupting spaniels and the consequences of them, but the puppies made things considerably more difficult. No sooner had he bowed than a puppy interrupted his pretty leg by grabbing the top of his boot and pulling. It was timed so perfectly to be nearly enough for him to join Davina on the ground; instead he barely caught himself by putting a hand on the floor. He was not attempting a new trend for how low one could go! The puppy fled, fearing being squished under him.

 

He blew some hair out of his face before he slowly straightened himself up. That smarted some! 

 

He chuckled at the antics of the others before holding a hand out to Davina in offer to help her off the floor. Thankfully it had not been him. Ladies were far prettier at such things. He would have fallen over in a twist of limbs, likely with a few cracks and grunts. 

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His Majesty found extreme enjoyment in the antics of the puppies on his unsuspecting courtiers. He was also quite glad to not be the target for once. Those puppy teeth had done havoc on his favourite shoes! With his feet still in them too.

 

He was quite certain one had eaten a glove. 

 

"We would tell them to behave, but they do not obey royal commands in the least," the King teased. 

 

The puppies did not stay in one place for long. It was quite a lot of stimulation for them and each wanted to smell all the smells. The mother dog did try here and them to reprimand them, but she looked about as exasperated as His Majesty. 

 

"Help get a hold of these rascals," he said to Ashburnham and two pages. "If you have not guessed, each of you is to be gifted a puppy from the litter that Chatham here rescued. I've selected them personally." As the  pages and Ashburnham grabbed the nearest puppy to them, the King gave the one kissing Ashburnham's neck and wiggling a good look. 

 

"Ah, yes, the singer of the group," he said, taking the pup and holding it out to Sophia. "For all your lyrical efforts, Lady Toledo. You shall find she has a considerable set of lungs herself. If you might place your ribbon around her neck."

 

Next, he took one from one of the pages. The one that had tried to drag Chatham by the boot and had nearly made Kingston fall on his arse had the prettiest of colors. She was a persistent little thing!

 

"And Mistress Wellesley, this fashionable little lady is for you, though I cannot betray how it is you come by the honour, only that it was a request." He gave her a wink. 

 

There were more than two puppies left, so it took a few looks before the King selected the next culprit and held it out for Chatham. Close inspection yielded a pup who looked most like the mama spaniel, with a dark patch over one eye.  

 

"Gentlemen, I selected your pups on resemblance!" he shameless chuckled. He had selected them all based on resemblance for a variety of reasons, not all of them necessarily flattering (but those he would never tell, privilege of being King). 

 

When he held up Francis', instead of holding it to the boy, he held it up to his face. "Ha! I'Faith, he looks just like you!" The pup was white with golden ears, forehead, and mane. The pup eagerly wagged its tail and excitedly sprinkled a bit of pee. His Majesty had gloried that the pup who looked most like Francis was also the pup most likely to piss all over the Duke of Buckingham's house! 

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Before she could respond back up to Kingston His Majesty then addressed them all  .....

Ah. Now it made sense all this chaos.

a puppy. of how dandy. well I can hardly refuse now can I

She remained where she was and as the King approached her she would make a attempt to rise but then gave that thought up and simply remained on her knees to smile up at Him.

"Well Sir! This is a surprise and here I imagined that my ribbion was for something else ..."

She fished it out of her pocket and then took the puppy into her arms looking back up at the King her gaze full of questions.

"A request? Indeed that could be many or just one person. Even Yourself Sir."

Her eyes danced and for a moment she liked the idea that He himself might be offering it but couched the giving of it as he had.

"Does she have a name? Am I free to chose or must I adhere to whoever the sender wishes?" 

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Oh! They had been summoned because the King was going to give them each a puppy! That’s why they had been asked to bring a sturdy ribbon.

 

Sophia remembered Charles telling her at the Christmas ball that he would have a say in how the latest litter of spaniels would be distributed. He had not mentioned exactly what he had done to be given that honor, though he had promised to suggest that she receive one. She glanced over at him, beaming, as the spaniels were gathered up by the nobleman and the pages. I will thank him properly the next time we’re alone.

 

She laughed when the monarch called one of the puppies a singer. As it was the same one who had howled on key for her attention, she knew he was right. He took the squirming puppy and walked over to her. So this was his gift to her for her performance in the opera. Many ladies might have been disappointed, but to the young Countess, a puppy was far more valuable than jewels.

 

“Thank you, Your Majesty.” Sophia unwrapped the multicolored ribbon from around her waist and tied one end into a pretty bow around the puppy’s neck. “This one has already proved that she can sing in tune and now I will never have to practice alone again. I shall treasure her always.”

 

After curtsying, she took the puppy from the King and cradled her in her arms. He moved on to Davina and then to Charles and Francis. Charles’ puppy had a dark patch over one eye. Maybe we can take them on a walk in the gardens and decide on names for them together. Now that they had something in common, it wouldn’t be odd for the two of them to spend time in each other’s company.

 

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Charles laughed softly as the King lamented his inability to control the pups.

"They take after their mother, then, your Majesty," he said, "and I see that Daisy has come to understand the curse that befalls all such free-living rascals as herself — their children grow to be just like them."

He laughed again as he was presented with his pup, bowing his thanks as he gathered the dog in.

"I cannot deny that we match," he conceded, "though I must admit that I think he wears it better."

He unwound the ribbon from himself and began to wind it around the dog, idly considering the logistics of dog ownership as he worked. He kept hounds, of course, but he had a kennel master for them, and that was quite a different thing.

"My sisters are going to adore you," he told the puppy, "so we shall have to take especial care to ensure that you do not become fat and lazy."

He was almost surprised at how pleased he was with the gift.

Edited by Charles Audley

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Francis could not help but blink stupidly as Mistress Wellesley preferred to stay on the floor; that was the last response he expected. He was not sure whether to be affronted or just think the lady a bit strange. Or perhaps she wished His Majesty to look down her dress? He did not think it a great notion to flirt with the King if one was close to the Queen, let alone in her household...

 

He finally came back to himself after an odd moment of inner surprise and put his offered hand behind his back. Thankfully, he felt quite comfortable giving the King an quirky half-smile in case he had inspected that interaction. If so...there was likely to be joke of it later, that was certain.

 

The presentation of puppies was quite apt, for it seemed they all fit their new masters. 

 

His little minion was last. "And Your Majesty remembered not to gift me a girl!" It was an inside joke, for when Francis had learned long ago he was receiving a puppy, he had said if said puppy bred with his giant poodle, Scotty...At any rate, it had become a joke about pillaging Scots. "I see he has kept the pages busy!" he added of the sprinkling. "His Grace shall enjoy him chasing the errant monkey about the house immensely, and I promise to make frequent reports of it." He tittered with amusement. Lady Gwendolyn had commissioned him to bring back a monkey for her to gift the duke many seasons prior, and Buckingham had promptly lost it in the house or rather the monkey just ran loose about the place. The King loved needling the Duke. In fact, the King loved needling a good number of courtiers!

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