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A Common Language - Mid-Afternoon 13 April 1678

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Central London

A brisk walk in the park had cleared the Count's mid after the stresses of the morning. Returning his favourite hunting dog to the dubious care of his man-servants, the Count decided to continue the stretching of his legs with a foray into the beating heart of the metropolis. One of the aspects of his anomalous position with regards to the Portuguese embassy which cut both ways was the lack of any clear parameters on what he was meant to do, or quite where his authority lay. Thus, unlike the formal ambassador, he did not keep "office hours". On the plus side, this allowed him a large degree of freedom in how he spent his time. On the downside, it gave him a great degree of freedom in which he had to decide what to allow himself to do. 

The passing of the years had changed many things about the Count and the City of London as individual entities. Indeed, when the Count had first arrived here in the early 1660s as a young man, the City had not yet been touched by the Great Fire which would alter its face forever. Yet, years on and after myriad changes and tragedies which had coloured and shaped both the Count and the City, one thing which had not changed was the strange sense of intoxication he found when he walked its streets. His early years had been spent on his family's estates at Alcobaca, near the Tagus, in the sun-washed and severe landscape of Portugal. Described as a town, Alcobaca was little more that the ornate palace of his ancestors, with a spattering of whitewashed houses, manufactories and churches clustered around its walls which served the small army of servants attached to the estate. It was no more an urban centre than a minnow can be compared to a whale when contrasted with London. Lisbon had, for many years, been the largest city he had experienced before he began his travels. Cosmopolitan, the city was a melting pot of cultures and an entrepot for the exotic from all the corners of the Portuguese Empire. Ships weighed heavily with goods from Brazil, India and the East Indies disgorged a rainbow of wares onto the teeming docks and, in its shops, he had thought there was nothing that could not be bought that rested under the Sun. 

Yet when he had first come to London, all those years ago, he realised that -when comparing the two - Lisbon was to London what Alcobaca had been to Lisbon - that was to say that it paled in comparison. Even now, over a decade on, the continuing works in the wake of the Great Fire had only served to reinforce the fact that London was like some sort of organic beast, made up of bricks and mortar. Burn it down and it would only come back, and all the harder. The streets positively pumped and pulsated with life. Ones ears were beset with such a cacophany of noise that one might have thought it quieter in the face of an artillery barrage in battle. Carts, carriages, bells, animals, music, sawing, hammering, the clash of metal on metal and, above all, a veritable babel of human sounds and cries. Songs, laughter, arguments, screams, groans, conversation and cries. Street preachers fulminated fire and brimstone to crowds in thunderous tones, competing against the sing song street strains of the pieman, the milk maids, the rag collector and the chimney sweep. One moment the Count leapt out of the way of a hastily passing hackney carriage, flinging up muck, with a well dressed woman's arm hanging louche out of the window; the next he was being shoved aside by a team of labourers barrelling through the street with scaffolding. 

The shop windows blasted the eye with colour. Exotic fabrics hung in drapers' shops, Chinese and Indian patterns. Grocers stocked all manner of worldwide items - subtleties of sugar and confectionery as well as staple commodities. Booksellers seemed weighed down by their vast stock. There were gunsmiths, instrument makers, tailors, herbalists, coffeehouses and eateries, clubs and churches. All of them hummed with life, as did the very streets. 

The whole cityscape's aural babble formed a kind of unique symphony of its own. The Count, however, was in search of another pleasure which London offered: music. Lisbon, which had a far more conservative society, was not as varied and open in its theatrical and musical offerings as London. Here you had more playhouses than days of the week. The competition between them to offer the best, most novel, and most sumptuous settings, plots and music led to a positively vibrant and innovative market for entertainment. Still a fraction too early to catch performances today, the Count intended to head to the large pillar outside the Theatre Royale on which the marketers pasted bills for current performances. If there was one thing which was a common language where-ever one went in the world it was music, a passion for which seemed to touch all human souls, whether they were cannibals from the Amazon, fat, contented merchants from Amsterdam or opium-smoking princes of Ahmedabad. 

Often clouded by a throng of heel-kickers, the advertising pillar was currently mostly free so there was no need to unceremoniously shoulder his way through to it. Pulling off his white gloves and thrusting them into his pocket, he stood with his hands on his hips as he scanned the printed bills, not realising that he was probably monopolising most of the space against the pavement.

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  • 2 weeks later...

(ooc: Impressive opener!)

Just then a carriage pulled up on the street by the pillar, it's coachman clambering down to open the side door. The fellow hardly resembled the usual sort of coachmen for he was very plainly garbed with shoes that could use replacing or at least some polish. He also had a sword resting on one hip. Underneath a dull grey floppy hat was unkempt salt and pepper hair, the leathery face indicating he was of middle age.

Emerging then from the vehicle, Caroline was dressed much more elegantly, granted the bar was low when compared to her Irish bodyguard/driver, with a light blue gown of Paris fashion. Her light brown hair was pinned up and she was sans headware of any sort. The young lady paused only to open the parasol in her hand then approached the the pillar with a a quick confident step, her pale face now shaded from the sun.

Caroline was well aware of the purpose of the pillar, it advertised all sorts of musical performances and events. When she had been more active or at least more interested in inserting herself into the London music scene she had stopped by to peruse the contents on a fairly regular basis. Sadly she was no longer so much engaged in that lifestyle though she still dearly loved playing her cello. Mostly it was now just practice. It suddenly reminded her that she should really get in touch with Sophia to see if her friend had any upcoming plans that might require a cello accompaniment. They worked well together.

However her path was now blocked by a taller gentleman (it wouldn't take much, she was short) who appeared to be scanning the bills himself. Well, she was not shy, one thing Caroline had never been was shy.

"Excuse me, good sir, but I am going to step aside of you so that I too my take a look at the announcements, thank you," she announced in a clear voice even as she did exactly what she had just stated so was now to his immediate right. Taking a quick glance at the fellow to see if she might recognize the face, no he was a stranger to her but then London was a huge place. The clothing indicated he was no commoner though, she figured. But then even the court was of a size one could never know everyone.

Behind her by a few feet was her Irish bodyguard, dour and alert, hand on sword hilt at all times. He took his job seriously, afterall it paid well and he actually liked the young lady who always treated him kindly. After all those years of hefting a pike on the continent as a mercenary, pay oft in arrears and commanded by sometimes harsh and cruel officers, this sort of life was heaven sent.

Edited by Caroline Despanay
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