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En Garde, Little Man (Open) | Thursday early afternoon


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EASTERN TERRACE GARDEN

Unlike the Northern Terrace, the enclosure known as the Eastern Terrace was not merely an expanse of stone. It was instead a more gentle garden, with the familiar geometric shapes in almost perfect symmetry that allowed for a protected stroll without getting lost. Its structure was reassuring and quite different from the wild park beyond the walls of the Castle proper. With its lush greens and neatly trimmed edges and hardly a flower in sight it was perhaps most suited for those in need of contemplation.

The terrace was enclosed by a half way wall, inviting people to lean across it while enjoying the farther view over the Little Park.

 

The Duke of Buckingham may have been...older in years...but he was renown as a premiere swordsman. Even at his age and with more girth to his lithe, tall figure, gentlemen were wary of insulting him for he was just as known for his history of (illegal) dueling. He had, in fact, never lost a duel. 

 

Today, however, he had not chosen an opponent to duel, nor even an opponent to provide much of a challenge for sparring. No, today, he had chosen entertainment value, exercise, and fresh air.

 

It was not the first time he had given Francis' little ginger ward the honour and privilege of crossing swords with him, but he generally did not find the entertainment overwhelmed the state of his patience (or lack thereof). That was to say, Tom did not frequently get the opportunity to be thoroughly pummeled by Buckingham. 

 

Not that Buckingham did not find the boy to have some skill for a youth of sixteen, but he was the Duke of Buckingham.

 

With a slick motion, the duke divest the lad of his practice rapier yet again, when the boy got brazenly too close, and gave him a nice elbow to the cheek for his trouble. 

 

The ginger went sailing onto his arse in the grass. "Dead again," he taunted. "You are going to be bruised from root to tip, darling little carrot, if you don't grow some regard and patience."

 

With a chuckle, he added, "My sister has more skill with a sword than you." True, but he also wished to keep said carrot annoyed enough to have to work through it with some intelligence and less foolish bravado. A good lesson for the young.

 

He encouraged the boy back up by the collar of his shirt and handed him back his rapier. "Again."

Edited by Duke of Buckingham
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  • 2 months later...

The ginger stumbled up, huffing and puffing, and took up his position again. 

 

There was some toying and some testing, and once again the ginger began an attack. Buckingham held back his chuckle and let the lad advance on him, parrying easily, and making the boy expend even more energy in the pursuit.

 

"Come now, are you even trying to land a hit?"

 

True, Buckingham was far taller, and so there was significant challenge, but Francis was also much taller so the ginger was no unused to a taller opponent.

 

The incensed youth, advanced twice in annoyance, and then lunged predictably. Buckingham made an easy move to the side and smacked the boy's other arm with his sword. "A one-handed future ship captain if you keep flailing this arm around...and a very bloody, messy stump in the interim."

 

Tom groaned and stopped, rubbing where the springy metal of the practice sword had welted his free forearm. 

 

Buckingham chuckled. "Breathe and ignore words. Your sword are your words in a duel, boy. That is all that matters. Let them taunt and waste breathe, keep your head and your silence. Talking betrays their timing, breath indicates motion for most unless they've learned to manipulate that as a tell."

 

"Yes, Your Grace," the lad replied, clearly biting his tongue.

 

Buckingham snorted. Carrot was very transparent. "More you wish to say? Be candid. You have my leave."

 

The ginger did not feel this was sufficient by the look on his face. That betrayed to Buckingham the boy did not want to say exactly what he was thinking.

 

"I don't wish to look foolish and badly in front of the Duke of Buckingham and that is making me perform worse..."

 

A bark of amusement escaped the duke. "How old are you, boy? Of course I think you are foolish, it's a given of your age. Concentrate and pretend I am Kingston if that helps. You are not a bad little swordsman. You are, in fact, very good. Kingston is a skilled teacher and clearly a taskmaster. I am baiting you. Do not take the bait. Mentality is just as important as your swordsmanship." He gave a nod and said. "Again."

 

(OOC - bumping this hoping someone joins ;) )

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  • Duke of Buckingham changed the title to En Garde, Little Man (Open) | Thursday early afternoon
  • 2 weeks later...

Clang!

 

“Oh, do shut up,” Anne-Elisabeth muttered to herself. “I’m having a hard enough time without any distractions.” Stuck again on the plot of her poem, she had thought that a change of scenery might inspire a way out of the plot hole she had dug herself into. It was rather dull writing in her dim little room, and since it wasn’t raining as usual, the gardens seemed like a good place to work on her epic. It also would be nice to get some fresh air. And so she had settled herself on a bench between two hedges with her folder of papers, a quill, and a pot of ink.

 

Thwack!

 

“Bloody hell! Go away already!” She had known that she wouldn’t be alone in such a popular location, but she had not expected that a couple of gentleman would decide to hold a fencing match a short distance away.  Though she couldn’t see them, she could hear the murmur of their voices. She could have tuned them out, but it was impossible to ignore the constant clashing of swords.

 

Crack!

 

“Fuck it! Maybe it will be quieter up on the ramparts.” Anne-Elisabeth packed her things into the bag she had brought to carry them in and slung the straps over one shoulder. To access the nearest tower, she would have to pass the two swordsman, and as she neared them, she recognized the tall form of the Duke of Buckingham, who was sparring with a teenage boy with red hair. The Countess smiled. Perhaps this disruption was a blessing in disguise. Impressing His Grace with her wit might bring her a step or two closer to becoming part of the King’s entourage.

 

She watched them from a distance while various rhymes twirled and danced in her mind. When she was ready, she waited until the Duke and his student had paused to converse and then sauntered toward them, grinning at the boy.

 

“Although you may feel a bit stressed,

You should consider yourself truly blessed

To learn from a lord

So skilled with his sword

That he’s undeniably the best.”

 

Anne-Elisabeth turned her grin to Buckingham and dropped a perfect curtsy.  She hoped he remembered her from Nicci's party in the wine cellars last season when he and the King had dared her to ask Lord Kingston about his feathered dildo with a straight face.  She had passed that challenge with flying colors and the blond lord had been quite startled at her inquiry.

Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux
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  • 2 weeks later...

Today, James O’Neill felt incantatory. And no, he wasn’t using that word incorrectly – when it came to verbiage, the Irish poet never chose his words without accuracy, trouble arising only when he didn’t think to choose to begin with.

But that was not the point, not today. What mattered is that his touch had become not unlike Midas, at least in his own mind. The printer had completed the task of putting his words to paper over the past few days, which he had overseen at the side of the widowed Mistress Constance, although “that side” had often meant “her bed, whilst envisioning the face of another”. A man he had loved, once, a girl he had recently meant…they were no matter either.

James’ Rising was now in print, and with it, he was bound to enchant the minds of court and commoner alike. Tomorrow, perhaps, the spell might end, as the leave granted by Ormonde would come to a close and he would be bound by duty to represent his master and (more obliquely) Ireland. But today was for celebration.

Having donned his forest green frock coat, navy breeches and waistcoat, as well as a slightly askew cravat, James had taken a flask with him on a stroll. The sound of swords clashing was a curiosity, being an art unto itself. First came the cries and accompanying conversation, with a voice that sounded more and more familiar as he neared, though he could not make out the words. Next, the sight of Lady Cambray, the poetess who he seemed to cross paths with frequently: recognizing her, James’ full lips perked up into a crooked grin.

An Ulster-tinged brogue called out in response to hearing the lady’s limericks (detestable things, those), once within comfortable earshot. “How brilliant, how valiant, is our Duke Bucks!” He made no effort to hide his grin, looking at the duke first, punctuating the middle of the couple with a deep bow and a jaunty twist to face Buckingham. Swordsmanship was an exciting thing, a talent he envied, bringing to mind as it did the great tales of the British Isles of yore. To be Fionn mac Cumhaill, Bedivere, or Tristan…

James turned his gaze briefly on the lady, a budding acquaintance and ally with similar goals and talents, and he concluded the couplet (done in iambic pentameter, of course) with a bit of naughty flattering. “Whose blade t’is fierce as the way he…” Rather than concluding with the obvious, vulgar rhyme, the poet substituted. “Moves.”

“Or so the ladies say, anyways,” he added with a laugh, green eyes alight, darting between His Grace, Anne-Elisabeth, and young Tom, who he recognized from knowing Kingston. “Present thrashings aside, I’ve made no inquiries into the subject, I’ve not.”

Edited by James O`Neill
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Buckingham did not object to pausing, so though he had said "again" to the boy, when they were interrupted by a pretty voice, he lowered his sword and gave a look to the boy to do the same. The carrot was catching on to court life, noticing the subtleties there that did not exist on a ship.

 

They were then interrupted by a male voice as well, and Buckingham could not help but bark out a laugh. "Shall I wonder whose ears you are saving by the unexpected finish? I do not think the lady has sensitive ears, and the boy spend most his life amongst the cruder elements of a ship." He smirked and added, "Many a gentleman has sought my secrets in bedding, O'Neill do not be shy." He had not been a successful mistress-maker for all of Charlie's life because he did not know how to train a woman up in fucking, and to do that one also had to be good at the deed.

 

As to the Bahamian, he nodded and said, "You flatter, Lady Cambray, or you have heard tell the many stories of my dueling," Buckingham replied with a laugh. "And yes, the boy is very blessed, blessed I don't give him an utter thrashing. Though if he is not diligent in all his learning, perhaps I shall. I cannot have mediocre performance in my household."

 

He gave the youth a look, a serious one, and then chuckled at the pink in his freckled cheeks. "He is very easy to bait, though in truth, that is only a slight tease and far more reality than a lad should be comfortable with."

 

With a long sigh, the grand duke said amusedly, "Rapier and fucking, quite a legacy to be known for!"

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It wasn’t the Duke who replied, but a familiar and welcome voice who added his own poetry to hers. Of course it wasn’t a limerick, for she knew how much Master O’Neill loathed them. Anne-Elisabeth supposed that he had also realized that this was a perfect opportunity to impress Buckingham. Both of them had much the same goals … to become court wits. She didn’t see the Irishman as competition, though. They both had different strengths and sharing them with each other would improve their writing. He had already given her some good advice about epics in the library a few days ago.

 

“No sensitive ears here,” she laughed. “It would take more than the word ‘fuck’ to shock a lady like me.” She said nothing when the Duke bragged about his sexual prowess and not only because his comment was aimed at Master O’Neill. Any remark from her would make her seem either interested or disinterested in finding out if his boasts were true. She liked being mysterious.  Had Dorset taken some lessons from him, she wondered?

 

“I haven’t heard any of those stories.” Anne-Elisabeth smiled enigmatically. “But I’m a good judge of character and you strike me as the kind of gentleman who is good at everything he does.”

 

She had no idea who the boy was. The Duke’s ward, perhaps?

 

Her smile broadened at Buckingham’s lament. “There are much worse things to be known for, Your Grace.  Is that not so, Master O’Neill?” Was he, like herself, thinking of the deplorable reputation of the subject of the epics the Merry Gang had tasked them with?

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James grinned as the Villiers patriarch hit him with a remark that such sensitivity was unnecessary, and then with a further crack about the duke’s reputed sexual prowess. “Your Grace wounds me deeply!” He mock-protested. “Perhaps I’ve turned over a new leaf, so that my lady mother might finally sleep a full night. No more cursing, nor swiving, and the only excess I know now is a surfeit of prayer.” The poet folded his hands together, in mock dramatics.

Belying the obvious joke was his facial expression, which could not sit still, nor lend enough gravitas for him to even pretend to be serious. “’struth, I have a marked preference for the unexpected – as do many of our generation.” He nodded at Lady Cambray – while he had no way of knowing her thoughts on the matter, they were of similar mind in that they made better literary allies than competition. “A pious man expects others to follow suit, no? And so he may be shocked with profanity, or tales of lurid conquests and vicious derring-do.”

“But the merry men of court are not so easily shocked, and to utter profanity is no great thing. Why do it, then?” He cocked his head to the side, emphasizing the rhetorical question. “’tis a finer thing, it is, to surpass expectations, than it is to meet them.”

“I cannot speak for our young friend, but I daresay that we three share a mind there.” The mercurial Buckingham was known for not being just a libertine, and of course, any young woman who palled around with the Merry Gang was not one for convention; similarly, James had no desire to just fit in with Buckingham, Rochester, et al. He would make his own mark.

“But my lady has the truth of it, to be sure.” He recalled, vaguely, that Ormonde and Buckingham had nearly come to blows in the distant past, and wondered briefly how his master would take the conversation at hand. “Or to not be known at all, which may be an even crueler fate.”

James’ green eyes darted back to Tom, and then to Buckingham again, who would surely never know the fate of the latter. “History is most unkind to the mediocre, and the Muses even more so. There is no greater circle of Hell for a bravo or wordsmith than to fail to make the coming age their own.*”

 

*A popular volume of Abraham Cowley’s works begins with the musing “What shall I do to be forever known, And make the coming age my own?”

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