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The Great BonFire | Saturday 17th, tenish


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The Upper Ward is a spacious quadrangle, formed on the west side by the Keep or Round Tower; on the north by the Royal Apartments, St. George's Hall, and the Chapel Royal; and on the East and South sides by the apartments of the King and Queen, and the Great Officers of State.

Nearly in the centre of this square, is an equestrian statue in bronze of King Charles II in a Roman habit, and placed on a marble pedestal, on the south side of which are represented, in basso relievo, a variety of figures expressive of navigation. On the west side is the royal cypher, surrounded with the garter, and crowned with other ornaments. 

'Neath the statue of King Charles II a great pile of wood had been heaped through the day, not only wood but things discarded. Passers by might spot items such as; a wagon wheel, a broken form, an old sail, a tea chest, a coat sand missing one leg, and various cardboard boxes holding unknowns.    In fact the pile grew far faster than the initiator of it had imagined.  (It seemed that numerous other persons working around Windsor were taking advantage of the chance to clean up.)

As the pile grew in girth and height, Nicolette excitement grew along with it.  Messages were sent to all of her friends; Buckingham and Francis, Caroline, Anne Elizabeth, Sophia. Lord Ranelagh and Denbigh. Cart blanche attendance requested all of the Merry gang-sters.  James and Beverley. And of course Louis. All those that received her personal invitations were encouraged to being along their own offerings to the flames that night.  Old Rowley also was sure to arrive at some point. 

(While anyone who did not receive a personal invite, might later be lured by the flames and welcomed moths to candlelight.)

Through the day the pile grew, dill dusk slipped over Windsor inviting persons indoors to the comforts of suppers in private rooms and cosy comforts.  Meanwhile outdoors, Nicci arranged groups of servants to bring out various chairs, cushions and blankets, along with tables that were laid with punch bowls and jugs of mulled wine.  There was the usual scattering of torches around the area at that point… but of yet the fire was not yet lit.  

Nicci was waiting for a cue that she would recognise when she saw it… but meanwhile she was definitely first to arrive. She was dressed in a gossamer gown of silver, with her hair tied up and decorated with stars that might later catch the light of the flames.  Around her petite waist, attatched to a rough length of rope, hung a pair of wooden clogs. 

Moving to the table she thought to sample the punch. 

 

 

* Windsor guards were naturally stationed with watchful eyes, and buckets of water were also conveniently about. 

Bon fire.jpg

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James O’Neill did not like to discard correspondence, and the same principle applied to the journals he had kept since the beginning of his literate life. Words on paper had ever been his way to confronting, compartmentalizing, and altogether making sense of a cruel reality, and those old notes, entries, and letters even had the power to do so further by becoming fodder for poesy and prose alike. Of late, however, he had resolved to exorcise particular demons from his life, lingering memories of the past that sat poorly with the man he was becoming.

My wit will rival Rochester’s, and my work will surpass Dryden, James had promised himself on many occasions. And the grandest feat of all will be when an Irishman becomes the poet laureate of the English court.

And so his contribution to this bonfire of the inimitable Mademoiselle Vauquelin, a woman he had known better as Flora, was to be kindling. Letters from Lucas Cole, Bianca, and chiding notes from his lord father that recounted his transgressions and on two occasions recalled him where he felt he belonged joined journal entries ripped from their binding and scraps of poems that had either been abandoned or improved. The dimpled smile on his face was resolute, confident, and without sarcasm.

“Extraordinary,” the Irishman called out in his usual Ulster brogue as he caught sight of Nicolette, tipping his hat. “Ordinarily, I’m late for these things, I am.” He had a cloak on over his velvet justacorps, the same shade as his eyes, paired with tan breeches and white stockings. A highly-decorated (for James was mediocre at best with its use) claíomh beag* hung at his side, being one of two accessories with poet wore alongside a carnelian-studded cravat pin, and his feathered hat was cocked at a jaunty angle.

Under his arm, the Irishman carried a bag with a sheath of paper to be burned and three volumes of a book whose cover read simply “THE RISING OF THE BRITONS”, the borders decorative and at the center a small portrait of a Celtic woman brandishing a spear in triumph. “I come bearing both kindling and some shameless self-promotion, my lady,” he declared as he neared her, shuffling the paper out of the leather sheath and handing it to a servant. Evidently, when they had spoken the other day, Lady Worcester's words on the matter had stuck with him.

Given that the dedication of the book was a planned Christening gift, he would likely need to send for more copies from Mrs. Mercer.

Bowing deeply, James displayed the volumes of his epic, expecting Nicci to hand them to a servant, and greeted, “As promised, with the most un-humble author’s signature on the inside. I beg you to keep these from the flames, at least until you read them and find them lacking.”

*An Irish small sword

Edited by James O`Neill
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Henry had spent a large part of his day on the Castle’s battlements. Thus, he had been aware of the growing pile of wood almost from the start, when the fog had lifted and he had been able to see what was happening on the ground. Curious, he had sent his servants to inquire what it was all about and learned that there would be a bonfire at night.

Lord Grey had received no invitation, so it had not been organized by anyone he knew, or so he hoped. Yet, knowing so few people at court, it was only logical. So, he ordered his coach driver to go into town, purchase wood, and have it delivered. If anyone asked who was sending the wood, the answer should be Lord Moon, nothing else. Perhaps that would be considered enough of a good form when he attended uninvited once the bonfire was lit.

OOC: placeholder for a later arrival.

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So it was that Louis arrived.  A fur-lined dark cape covered his torso and legs.  He had brought a stack of broadsheets tied in several pieces of twine.  It had taken all day for Thomas Bromhill, his man, to scour the town for the libelous broadsheets against their allies Kingston and Buckingham.  He had managed to beg, borrow or steal a healthy stack of them.  These would be the Basildon offering to the bonfire.  He had planned, originally, to find a book entitled famous Scots and Irishmen and burn it, but the pamphlets and broadsheets would receive more cheers as they went up in flames.

In the dark he recognized neither James or Henry, but he recognized his cousin.  Stepping lively to her side, he waited for someone with an Irish accent to finish his speech.  It sounded like the man's book would be just right for the fire.  He fought a sigh as he looked about for more guests arriving.

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Having spent the day meandering through the castle seeking one government official or another, as Saturday was a day when visitors to government offices tended to be fewer, Pyotr had noticed the small wood pile that through the day grew and grew far beyond its humble beginnings into something that could easily be seen, not only from inside the square, but also from the many windows in the rooms and corridors around it. After inquiring, he learned there would be a bonfire that night, and that no one had stated that it would be a private event.

The Ambassador’s initial thoughts about the event were to attend with his daughter. But then a father’s protective instincts, and plain common sense, kicked in and decided against it. The English court was famous for its libertine ways, and the dark of night plus the fire of alcohol could have a man behave in a manner unbecoming. That would be most unfortunate, as Pyotr would then either have to kill the man himself if it would not produce a diplomatic incident, or have the Mongol assassinate him in some creative way if it would.

So as castle servants started positioning chairs, cushions, and blankets plus assorted tables and beverages, and the torches were lit, the Russian diplomat was informed by a servant he had left in the castle with the task to let him know at his town house when the event were about to begin. Not much later, a man over six feet tall, his head crowned by a black, cylindrical hat about a foot and a half tall arrived at the Upper Ward. He wore black, loose, wool trousers, and an unusual long outer garment, open in front, with very wide short sleeves and a fitted back. It was made of navy-blue silk embroidered in silver thread, with curious-looking half-lion and half-dog creatures, silver-thread bobbin lace decorated with blue pearls on the sleeves, and a sapphire-studded collar. The garment was wrapped over left-to-right and held in place by silver buttons. Over it all he wore a thick coat of silver fox pelts, open and thus letting the sabre at his right side be seen.

As he walked in, he saw Nicolette and Louis, who by how they stood close to each other seemed to be hosting the event, and James, who seemed to be carrying a heavy bag full of papers. Approaching the group, he waited until the Irishman finished to speak, and then introduced himself with a foreign accent that had a Scots component to it paired with another not so easily recognizable. “Please, forgive my intrusion. I am Pyotr Fedorovich Sheremetev, Okolnichy, ambassador of the Tsardom of Russia to the Kingdom of England, and I request the boon of your hospitality tonight”, he said as he bowed deeply from the waist, without turn of leg, holding his bow for a moment. “Who do I have the honour of addressing?” He asked as he straightened.

Behind the ambassador several servants could be seen. One carried three bottles of some sort of amber-coloured liquid, a second carried a case that hinted at some sort of musical instrument, and another three that carried as much firewood as their arms allowed.

Edited by Pyotr Fedorovich
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Quote

"Extraordinary!"

There was a call that turned her head with a great smile, a smile that only grew as the voice became fully recognised with sight of his face; The Poet. And a rather handsome face at that, with a dimple that punctuated that point.   

"Praise the Celtic saints that you are not," Nicolette greeted warmly, the low grade nerves she had felt but a moment ago vanishing with cheer.  James had arrived with his flammables!  But also, as he was swift to point out, items that were not to be burnt.  

"Oh this is Your book." she returned appreciatively, "I'd not realised it was already printed, oh how exciting in fact. And beautifully bound."  Though in this light the latter was speculation rather than a visually identified fact.  Passing the briefly held copy to her servant she moved to place air kisses at James cheeks.  "Accept my thanks, for the gifts, and for your arrival." 

Nicolette swiftly gave instructions to her maid to take the copies of The Britons to her room, where they would be well and truly safe from tonight’s playful flames and any reclessness that might ensue.  And it was then that her Cousin arrived, and in a rare gesture, said naught.  

"Fill your cups gentlemen." Nicci laughed, "and tell me how we should decide who, how and when to light this magnificent bonfire!" 

The frivolity of mood was further tempted as a terribly tall man with comically taller hat arrived, and had trouble in the bowing.   "Welcome indeed Milord Ambassador," she grinned with her guess at what he'd be tossing into the flames, "Might I introduced my Cousin Louis Killington, Lord Basildon, a man of great political sway. My Irish friend Master James O'Neill wordsmith whom is favoured by the English King, and lastly myself, Mademoiselle Nicolette Vauquelin, past Lady Mischief with intent to compete again for the title should anyone dare try to usurp it." 

More discreetly Nicci gave her cousin a nudge, for he'd been saying just the other night how he intended to take all the Ambassadors under his influence.  

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The charming French lass had a greeting full of enthusiasm and a vivacious spirit matching her looks, meaning that it was no small wonder that James’s own grandiosity and penchant for entertaining were brought out in her company. “Only but a few copies have made it off the press,” James confided sotta voce, as if he were revealing a grand secret. “Some for those whose opinion matters greatly, some for those who matter greatly themselves.”

“Some for both,” he concluded with a laugh and a wink. “And one…when you get to the dedication, you will understand.” There were two sonnets that preceded the customary proem: one was to the publisher whose bed he had warmed, the other on the birth of an heir. The entire epic, therefore, was to be his christening gift; The Rising was fundamentally a patriotic piece, celebrating the fierce and free spirit of His Majesty’s three kingdoms.

Others soon arrived: a handsome cousin of Mademoiselle Vauquelin who practically exuded arrogance; after him was a veritable talking bear, furs and all, with a small army of servants armed with gifts. “The Tsardom of Russia, you say? Fascinating,” James said, his scant knowledge of the region nonetheless provoking visions of saber-wielding Tatars and snow-drenched climes – fodder for narrative poetry if e’er there was. Remembering his manners, the poet gave a florid, proper bow in the direction of the ambassador, intoning, “T’is an honor, Your Excellency. Mademoiselle Vauquelin’s little impromptu fête is an appropriate introduction to His Majesty’s court, I should think.”

To Basildon, James gave the same bow, saying, “A great pleasure to make your acquaintance, my lord. Ordinarily, the services I do for my master, His Grace the Duke of Ormonde, provide the introductions to men of…great political sway, was it? So to meet one in the wild, so to speak, is a rare treat.” With that, James grinned, and gestured for a glass of mulled wine - being particular partial to sweet or spiced wines - while calling out, “As to the lighting, my lady, I believe that honor should go to the hostess.”

Edited by James O`Neill
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Having enjoyed several brandies before braving the cold winds of the battlements, Louis was already in the mood to entertain or be entertained.  Nicci introduced O'Neill as an Irish friend.  His cousin was developing an unfortunate habit of collecting Irish friends.  The poet then offered a florid greeting, to which Basildon offered his practiced smile and a nod.  "A pleasure."  Poets were the enemy of brevity.

Of greater note was the arrival of the Russian Ambassador.  Louis offered a small bow.  "Your Excellency, an honor to make your acquaintance.  I received your message but hours ago and I am at your disposal."  It was a great opportunity for him to add an exotic guest to his planned gathering of diplomats.  This was a man worth knowing, the Irishman less so.

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Once the dinner that was given in Cumberland's honor ended in His Majesty's apartments, Francis accompanied the King and Buckingham down to Nicci's bonfire. The King had eschewed any great entourage beyond his attending Gentleman, and instead had made certain that a few Life Guards were stationed for on the outskirts to be on-hand in case of any great  problems, but he wished for an evening as Rowley otherwise. Most all of his friends would have their rapier and guard him with their lives which he trusted almost more than the young members of his Life Guard.

 

Francis finally felt as if he might take a breath, for dinners with princes and princesses made him feel incredibly self-conscious in his position. He had not been in his position long enough for such things to become hum drum, and he was aware that there was more scrutiny on him with the gossip and broadsheets.

 

Though it was chilly outside, Francis had left his opulent justacorps in the royal apartments in favor of a thick cloak over his waistcoat and shirt. With the size of the bonfire, he imagined he would not be cold at all and did not wish to ruin the garment. The King had made a similar judgement. 

 

"I'faith!" Francis exclaimed as they got nearer and to no one in particular. "We are going to provide light for all of Windsor Town with this bonfire!" He laughed. "It seems everyone in sight has brought things to dump on the blaze."

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Lord Beverley was somewhat surprised to receive an invitation to the bonfire from the mademoiselle personally himself some time after Kingston had given a verbal invitation - which was as much of a requirement as anything - to his master the Duke of Cumberland and Mrs. Hughes. Cumberland had already told him he was expected to go to make sure they did not set fire to Windsor, which Beverley took as meaning that if his Prince needed to go, he was expected to go in solidarity! 

 

Not wishing to make his best grey justacorps smokey, Beverley had donned a fur-lined cloak over his shirt and waistcoat and was wearing his older black hat, plumed with blue feather, that he oft rode riding. 

 

He located Mademoiselle Vauquelin and walked that direction, greeting her with a smile and a dip of his head, "Thank you for the invitation, Mademoiselle Vauquelin. This is of a, erm, grand size for a bonfire." 

 

He did not recognize the others save for Lord Basildon, who was a brother-in-law of his lady wife, but it was not very easy to see with the fire not yet lit. 

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Having successfully bowed without his hat falling off and being well-received by those already at the event, Pyotr smiled toothily. “Mademoiselle Nicolette Vauquelin, a pleasure to make your acquaintance”. Pyotr would kiss her hand if offered. Although from faraway lands, he had learned that it was polite to do so. “Lord Basildon, Master James O’Neill, a pleasure”. He nodded amicably. The Ambassador memorized the names and what Nicci had said about each. He would go over the information with his secretary later and make some notes for his correspondence with the Privy Prikaz.

“Master O’Neill? Are you Irish perhaps? I have had the honour of bleeding besides brave Irish warriors”. The word had been chosen on purpose. Any conscript could be a soldier, but not everyone was a warrior. Pyotr had learned to respect soldiers of fortune from the Emerald Isle. “As for this…” the ambassador moved his hand to encompass the veritable wood pile plus everything setup around it, “if this is what you call a spur-of-the-moment event, I am looking at more prepared events with much anticipation”. It was true, but not for the reasons others might think.

“Lord Basildon, I am glad you are amenable. I hope you will find our talks interesting”. The bonfire was neither the time nor the place to discuss business, so the Russian nobleman left it at that, but Louis had to be properly recognized, though.

With a hand signal and instructions that were barely audible, the Ambassador sent his three wood-carrying servants to add to the pile. The bottle carrying servant went to the nearest table where he placed the bottles, opened one, and remained there, ready to open the others when the first one was emptied. “The vodka is weaker than brandy but stronger than ale. It has been flavoured with red honey and black peppers, so it might be of interest to those with more adventurous palates”.

The final servant approached Pyotr, opened the case, and turned it towards the Ambassador, who removed a stringed instrument with a triangular wooden, hollow body, fretted neck and three strings. He plucked the strings to ascertain tune, adjusted the pegs and, satisfied, turned to Nicci. “Perhaps I could play a festive tune as you light the fire? I can play softly too if you would like to speak as you do”.

It was then that Lord Beverley arrived. “Pyotr Fedorovich Sheremetev, ambassador of the Tsardom of Russia to the Kingdom of England”, the Russian said to the newcomer with a slight bow. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance”. He would wait for Beverley to introduce himself, or another person to introduce him.

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“And some just for a friend?” Nicci suggested to James, feeling that she did not fall into either of the other categories. 

“Ah but you tease my interest yet again, I might call my servant back again just so I can read the dedication.”  Though she did not, but instead grinned at that anticipation. 

With high spirits she laughed at the conversation around the ‘Impromptu’ bonfire. The Ambassador made a witty remark on it’s size, then Francis and then Beverly arrived doubling down on that same fact.  “But Gentlemen… I cannot need to remind you that size does indeed matter.” Nicci cheekily returned.

They had reached some critical mass where the onus was now off her for introductions, or at least Nicolette abandoned that task for the chaps to settle such out for themselves. 

“Have you a spliff Master O’Neill?” she thought to ask, upon account of no better ideas being launched she opted to be the fire starter herself. 

“Or perhaps… Lord Beverly, you are just the man to help.  Might you take command of these guards about and instruct them to tip one of the garden touches into the pile? I would not other wise presume to instruct English armed forces.” She grinned finding the notion amusing.  For now she moved with Beverly, and in a quieter voice asked, if they had received the babys gift.  For Nicolette counted Beverly as a cousin upon account of his relation via Louis’ wife.

Turning then to call to Pyotrs offer, "Can your machine produce a march?" a march might be a fun way to take teh torch to the fire.

 

 

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Buckingham and Rowley arrive with Francis

 

Buckingham loudly announced to the assembly to make sure all knew this was NOT the King, even if all knew it was the King, "You all know my bosom friend, Master Rowley?" Of course, everyone knew the Duke of Buckingham. 

 

Rowley was separated as the King's alter ego by a blond periwig rather than His Majesty's usual dark one. He and Buckingham made a very tall pairing in comparison to most men, with Rowley being a few inches taller than the Duke even.

 

Rowley saw his mademoiselle speaking to Ru's lad, Beverley, Brooke's heir. He had never seen Beverley at such a gathering and having heard the tale from the Duke of York about the time Beverley had fucked Heather and Brooke had gone to his brother to apologize, he found Beverley's presence hilarious. It had not seemed Brooke would allow such things, but from what he heard from his Queen, Beverley had a child of his own now, so might be out from under the strictest of Brooke's propriety. That, or Ru made him come, which seemed equally likely. 

 

Either way, he heard Nicci's quest for the boy and said, "If they give you trouble, Beverley. You tell them their King said to listen, though I've no idea where His Majesty is..." He winked to the boy who barely came up to his chest.

 

Then he took Nicci's hand and leaned down to give it a long kiss. "My dear Envy, you do quick work! Very pleasing. We are going to sweat without even exerting ourselves," he joked. While near his ear he whispered, "I am staying at George's tonight so that we can have some time together."

 

Following the arrival of Rowley others began to trickle in.

 

(OOC - Other NPCs are here, but unless someone wants to talk to them, I'm not writing a bunch for them. You can observe them being there at their antics or bold their name and come up to them. THere will be the quad of Ranelagh, Etherege, Denbigh, and Shannon. There will also be Lord Camberwell arriving with a Lord Paston who is too old to be the real Lord Paston. Blackguard will also be throwing some in too.)

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The invitation had been well timed. Charles had been at something of a loose end, feeling listless and caught up in his thoughts. He had spent most of the day in his room after his clandestine meeting with Darlene, pondering Mary's death – murder – for the first time since the reception and feeling his mood slide inexorably back towards the black frustration of recess. The bonfire and a night of merriment would hopefully prove a most effective intervention, and avert the relapse. Certainly the fact that he was receiving royal invitations cheered him no end. (It had been helped, admittedly, by a mild dose of laudanum, just enough to have the world seem particularly agreeable.)

He had, at the insistence of Wodehouse's expressively arched eyebrow, left his hat and traded his justacorps for one of the cloaks he wore shooting. Charles was not sure what his manservant would have done had he exposed either to smoke, but he had no intentions of finding out! His rapier hung on his left hip, for last season had revived the habit in him of never stirring forth without it, and was balanced on the right by a sabretache. (He needed something to hold his hipflask and other accoutrements in the absence of his justacorps and its pockets.) His own contribution to the bonfire was tucked under his arm: a sheaf of papers, a choice selection of letters from his father. He had kept them to read whenever he needed to stoke the fires of his anger, but Charles felt he had grown past that petty, spiteful need now, and it seemed appropriate to feed them to a flame far less metaphorical.

The bonfire promised to be a most magnificent blaze, judging from the size of the accumulated detritus that would presumably fuel it, and he could not help but grin. 

"Has anyone notified the town? 'Twould put something of a crimp in our merry-making if they thought the castle afire and stormed in to extinguish it!"

He wanted to pay his regards to Nicolette but she had quite a throng gathering around her already and it would not do to crowd her. Instead he made his way to the punch and poured himself a glass while he waited for an opportunity to approach.

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“There are three great aspects to the Irish character, Your Excellency,” James explained to Pyotr. “Battle, poetry, and a deep connection with the spiritual. Some might argue whiskey’s a fourth, but I contend that it is merely a conduit for the other three.”

Curious, that a Russian fought alongside Irishmen, but he’d keep his interaction with the man brief – people were starting to crowd around Nicolette, and as much as James cherished an audience, this was not his crowd to entertain. It would have been ungallant to steal the show from the Chloris of his poem, and besides, he had already gone unnoticed by several of the guests speaking to their hostess, such as Beverley and Master Rowley.

The latter, of course, could be forgiven. There was no mistaking who that was. And besides, his spirits were too high to feel snubbed.

“Well, dearest Flora,” his green eyes turned towards “Rowley” upon making that particular reference, lips quirked up in a dimpled smirk. “As it happens, for reasons that would be impolitic to elaborate upon, I’ve a small taper in my possession…” He’d taken it from his quarters when meeting Lily at the Winchester Tower and forgot to return it, leaving Fergal to scrounge up another. “…but I do think Lord Beverley marching in with a troop of soldiers would be a more theatrical move, is that not so?” Assuming that mention of his name would get Brooke’s boy’s attention, James offered a small little bow and greeted him politely, “How do you do, my lord?”

Back to Mlle Vauquelin, James asked, “Would you care for it, just in case?” Reaching into the interior pocket of his cloak, he offered the taper handle first. “I’m certain you and old Rowley have much to catch up on, and as I recall, I’ve poor luck with soldiers in your company.” His gaze fell first on Beverley and then returned to the man who was definitely not the King, recalling how Langdon had attempted to arrest him. “And besides, I believe I see that, hm, approximately half the Irish Parliament has kidnapped poor Etherege. Somebody really ought to intervene.”

Bowing at Nicolette et al, he waved at that aforementioned group, but instead made the spur-of-the-moment decision to join Buckingham, if only because it was ordinarily much easier to access the “Irish” (ha!) lords than it was the duke. “Your friend Rowley has a great deal of panache, Your Grace,” James jested as he drew near, bowing deeply with a flourish. “I was nigh-muscled out of the mademoiselle’s company. Small wonder, it is, that you chose to linger here instead.”

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Basildon acknowledged the Ambassador's words, also realizing this was not a place for business to be discussed.  He would join the Ambassador later.

While the Irishman became distracted with the Ambassador, Louis handed Nicolette the family contribution to the bonfire.  "This is every piece of libel Thomas could find in the castle and Windsor Town.  Make a show of it for our friend the Duke and Kingston and let the fire purify the vileness that the broadsheets have wrought.  Save it for the right moment and make it the highlight dear cousin."  This was to be her show and he was to play but one of the supporting cast.  With that, he gave her an encouraging smile and stepped back.

Beverley arrived with the fanfare of the King, or Rowley, Buckingham, and a lady or two in disguise of his prior acquaintance.  He needed to speak with Beverley about his planned event, but that could wait.  In the interim he smiled and laughed with Buckingham's pronouncements.  This evening had a chance to be entertaining and it had all been his cousin's idea.

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Rochester Arrives

The Earl arrived just in time to hear Buckingham play his role as Johnny watched the King approach Nicolette with interest.  He was sure the French lady had cheated before he could to win the title of Lady of Misrule.  Buckingham was suspected as an accomplice but Rochester was certain he would win the next contest.  He shouted "who are we burning in effigy tonight?"

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Anne-Elisabeth arriving, approaching Chatham, and answering Rochester

 

Anne-Elisabeth had been tempted to attend Nicci’s bonfire as a gentleman. After all, she would be dressed as one in a couple of hours when she met Dorset at the baths. Unfortunately, she did not possess a gentleman’s cloak, and she knew that it was going to be extremely cold outside for a lady who had grown up in the Caribbean. The heat from the fire would warm her, but she might get soot on her suit and she didn’t have a spare one. She also didn’t want to wear a periwig. Those things were so itchy, she might pull it off and fling it to the flames.

 

The gown she selected was an older one she had planned on donating to charity. It was made of heavy red, blue, and gold brocade with an underskirt of gold velvet. Under it she wore a velvet chemise, woolen stockings, and sturdy boots. A bordeaux red cloak, lined and trimmed with black fur and fastened with a diamond and ruby brooch, and a matching hat completed her ensemble.

 

She had chosen to sacrifice her half-finished play to the god (or goddess?) of fire. After Anne-Elisabeth began reading epics, she realized that she was on the wrong track with her play and that it needed an entire rewrite. She had wrapped the thick sheaf of parchment in brown paper that had originally covered one of the purchases she had made in a shop this afternoon. It seemed like serendipity that she had been invited to a bonfire on the same day she had decided to get rid of her play.

 

There were quite a few people there when she arrived, carrying a bag that included her offering and three bottles of coconut rum. Most of them gathered around the impromptu event’s hostess. She wanted to greet her friend, but perhaps she should wait until the crowd thinned out. Some of the courters she recognized, and some of them she didn’t. Master O’Neill was here, and she couldn’t miss the King in disguise. There was one tall gentleman who seemed to be wearing some sort of costume which included a towering hat. Why would somebody so tall wish to look even taller? To each his own, she supposed.

 

Dorset was nowhere to be seen. As she would be joining him later tonight, she planned on flirting with him from afar and not speaking to him until they met at the bath house. She hoped that he would play along … a game of visual foreplay that would set the stage for a night of pleasure.

 

Anne-Elisabeth shivered in the cold night air, wishing the fire had already been lit. Heading to the drinks table to get rid of the heavy bottles of rum, she noticed Lord Chatham sampling the punch. Pulling out the bottles, she set them by the punch bowl. 

 

Before she could greet the intriguing one-eyed Earl,  Rochester’s voice rang out, asking whose effigy they were going to burn. “You!” she shouted back.

 

Turning back to Charles, she favored him with a saucy grin.  "Sorry, my lord.  Rochester and I traded insults at the reception, and I couldn't resist.   I hope I didn't burst your eardrums."

 

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Chatham and Anne-Elisabeth

Who the devil is the big man in the ridiculous hat?

Charles could recognise most of the gathering crowd, despite the lighting, but not the apparent musician. He couldn't place the other man's garments, either. They weren't Turkish, but closer to that than to the western fashions of the English court. Ridiculous hats were something of a Turkish affectation, too, but this man was no Turk. 

He was distracted from his pondering by a sudden shout from close at hand, in his blind spot. Long practice kept him from reacting, and he recognised the voice besides. Lady Cambray might occasionally lack refinement, but that was part of her delightfully earthy charm.

"Not at all my lady. I am quite inured to sudden bursts of sound, and I can quite understand the impulse to shout at Rochester," he said, turning to face her fully and inclining his head in greeting. "Punch?"

He moved slightly to one side, offering Anne-Elisabeth room to tuck herself closer into the table.

"But what has brought you and Rochester to blows?"

 

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Beverley looked up at the tall man with the tall hat and then his eyebrows went up and he nodded politely, offering a bow. Nobody seemed ready to introduce him so he said, "Viscount Beverley, Aide to His Highness the Duke of Cumberland, erm, and Steward of Windsor. A pleasure, Your Excellency." 

 

"And Master O'Neill. Good to see you again."

 

Nicci was then encouraging him to manage lighting the fire. His hazel eyes went toward where the Lifeguard were on the outskirts. Then he looked back at her.

 

"Oh, yes, thank you. Well-received and my lady wife and I were so very pleased. You are most gracious and generous, mademoiselle." He smiled. "And I would be happy to get them to torch it."

 

There was then a large gentleman who the intimidating Duke of Buckingham announced as Rowley who joined them and for a moment, Beverley did not realize who it was, but his brain quickly caught up. Especially as the man leaned down toward him and said to tell the Life Guard that the King said to listen to him. 

 

His mouth moved but he did not immediately say anything as his brain wanted to address the King but he knew that he was not supposed to do that. "Oh, erm, yes, very good idea."

 

Beverley moved to get a Life Guard to bring one of the torches to speed things along.

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Buckingham and James

 

Buckingham recognized the lad next to him, but for a moment the name escaped him. Damned darkness made it difficult to place newer faces with names, or at least he told himself that rather than age made his memory a bit sketchier. 

 

"O'Neill," he said finally, with a nod. "What have you been up to, other than taking with Dorset and friends at the reception, I have not had the pleasure of your company in some time."

 

He chuckled, "And Rowley is known for muscling out all and having abundant panache." That was most definitively a joke about the King's cock. 

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Nicci with James who moves away and Beverley who does lighting fire things – then with Rowley, with Louis also.

James did indeed have taper, which he offered in a wine stewards fashion.  "How did I know I could rely upon you." she laughed moving into a pose of acceptance of offered taper.  This shall do very nicely..." Although a taper was only really good if it was burning.  So to Lord Beverly she had turned, intent upon a swifter remedy. 

"I am relieved, sending silver via post might be the most reckless thing I've ever done." Nicci smiled warmly at soulful Beverly, he really was adorable, was there anyone else at court so Ernest.  Taper in her hand, was then deftly tucked down cleavage and some moved with Beverley for a moment...

The barest moment though, for here arrived her flames. Rowley, Kingston and Buckingham, the first of whom moved to her directly, sparking a light to her eyes.  "That was certainly Not my intention." she grinned moving closer as he kissed her hand, and in a moment of closeness leaned in to deliver wonderful news.  In a hush she breathed, "Fie, you quicken my heartbeat, how am I now to act suave and composed? I am very tempted to abandon these all to their darkness and run with you to those rooms!" 

But the night was yet young, they would surely have time.

Yonder arrived Rochester calling for a effigy, to which a familiar female voice volunteered he be that offering! Nicci laughed, sending a smile in the direction of Anne Elizabeth. 

"Have you not brought your own sacrifice to offer up into the flames?" she called towards Rochester (rarely a team player) while hopefully Beverly managed his guards to put the torch to the primed fire.  "I certainly have mine." she swung her hips to evoke the clunk-clunk of clogs on rope which there hung. 

Louis was warming into the mood, he was, as far as Nicci could divine, out of his comfort zone. In fact he tried to give her his offering for the flames.  "But these are yours to spectacle to the flames, to the cheers they deservedly shall provoke."   For the oddest moment Nicci wondered if he was shy to do it himself.  It seemed unlikely, but, she’d learnt the unexpected was still possible.

Pytor in his odd cone, with odd shaped instrument meanwhile picked out a stately march.

 

 

 

* Pytor pmed saying he is background for now, but is/was, musically available for us. 

Edited by Nicolette Vauquelin
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James, departing the central group…

“In this case, mademoiselle, it must be my incendiary personality,” James answered with another wink towards Nicolette. As the rest of that group, sans Rowley, set about getting the bonfire lit, he excused himself, tipping his hat at the not-King as he did so. Hopefully, he would not become privy to the book’s dedication until the christening – he scarcely had the coin to purchase a gift, nor would Iveagh be able to send enough in time given that his heir would have to assure him of his honest intentions.

Hearing Rochester arrive and Lady Cambray immediately retort to his quip brought a throaty laugh out, and the Irish poet called out in response, “Fie, if I have to listen to another night of you two quarreling, I swear I’ll petition His Majesty to lift the ban on dueling so the pair of you can end this once and for all, I will!” He grinned in Anne-Elizabeth’s direction, seeing Chatham with her – they were, by now, partners-in-crime.

...and bantering with Bucky

“A grievous mistake on my part, Your Grace,” a smiling James apologized to Buckingham, joking but also sincere. Not only was His Grace powerful, but he genuinely respected the man as a wit – indeed, a notion had begun to form in his mind of earning the support of both him and Rochester. “In my defense, it is for the greatest cause imaginable: I have been suffering for my art, you understand, and the tale is amusing.”

“In truth, I’d missed most of the season prior courtesy of scandalizing my lord father. I’ll not claim to rival our friend Rowley, but in addition to her being impressed with the work itself, I’ve panache enough to have charmed the mistress behind the publishing house I sought for my greatest piece to date,” the poet explained, grinning. He hadn’t told this story to anyone just yet. “Lord Iveagh was not exactly impressed to learn his heir was caught in flagrante with a common woman twice his age, but I could not resist the allure of experience.”

“I’ve since redoubled my efforts in service to Ormonde, to demonstrate my seriousness about remaining at court. The perils of being patron-less.” Rolling his eyes, James feigned a yawn to illustrate how he felt about the work itself (if not Ormonde), shrugging. “But Your Grace will see that it has all been worth it – there have been no attempts to sing the story of His Majesty’s realms in the manner The Rising of the Britons does.”

He paused a moment, letting the story sink in as he sipped on the mulled wine, savoring the spice. “As far as the encounter with Dorset goes, I could not help myself. With much respect to those three members of your Merry Gang, they had earned a reminder that a new generation of poetic greatness are on the march.”

Edited by James O`Neill
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Caroline Arriving Rather Late

By the time Caroline approached the bonfire, there was already quite a crowd present. Even in the evening she recognized most of them though definitely not one fellow with a most decidedly non-run of the mill garb of large hat and copious furs. Definitely a foreigner that one!  She herself had decided to dress quite conservatively at least for her with a light blue gown even that covered over by an oversized cape with fur lining about the neck. She did not wish to be shivering should things get cold. Plus perhaps she needed to lighten up on both her sometimes over the top wardrobe and libertine behavior now that she was going to be George's wife.  Speaking of George, she had hoped he would show but apparently not. Oh well, this was Nicci's enterprise and she would not miss it for the world.

Only because it was seemingly expected to bring something flammable did she have with her a modest leather bag with a trio of books stuffed inside. These were volumes from her London residence that had remained behind when the previous owner had sold the place. Caroline had of course never read them, she was not one for books.  They could be consigned to the flames with no real loss.

Nicci was, to no surprise, surrounded by guests and all seemed to be having a great time. Caroline would not barge in but decided to bide her time when she might engage her dearest friend in the world in some heartfelt conversation. Naturally she did not turn down a chance at some alcoholic libation though and could soon be seen glass in hand. 

There were others she would love to chat with too - Francis, who had been so kind to her when she had first arrived at the London court. And then there was Charles Lord Chatham, a dear friend possessed of the same dark sense of wit she so liked to exercise, her Minister of Evil. Actually quite a few faces present she had not talked to in quite some time. She could only hope to talk to half of them before the night was over and even then count that as a sterling success.

 

 

Edited by Caroline Despanay
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