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A Memorable Memorial Thursday 9 pm


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Thursday Evening, Merriweather Residence in Windsor Town

The Gang was arriving at the home of their deceased comrade.  His death was a grand excuse to enjoy merriment at the deceased's expense.  The servants had readied the house for the party, opening the larder and stores of liquor.  In the days leading up to the event, the servants had performed other tasks, the things that might have interested Captain FitzJames of the King's Life Guard.  Fortunately, that nosey soldier had left Windsor for a destination in the north.  Letters were written and letters were destroyed.  Food was not the only thing that had been moved.

A lively fire burned in the fireplace and a long table with a dozen chairs was placed before it.  Kegs of ale, beer, brandy and wine were tapped and ready to dispense libations. Trays of meat and cheese graced silver platters on a nearby serving table.

Rochester, Dorset and Sedley were already there, having arrived early to launch the festivities.  They had questioned the servants about their master, his body having been returned to London for burial in a crypt of Alexander's own design.  Like the Pharaohs of old, the man wanted a hand in the construction of his final resting place.  There had been questions about Merriweather's niece. Was it true that Alexander had imprisoned her in a nunnery as he had boasted at times?  The servants had assured the gentlemen that the niece had been sent for by Merriweather's solicitor.  She was expected to be the beneficiary of his will. 

"You should marry her," Johnny suggested to Dorset.  "I would marry her myself but the girl has suffered enough," he laughed.  "She has to be more wealthy than the Cavendish chit."

The idea was met with a loud belch by Charles Sedley, having just finished a tankard of ale.  "That was my attempt to wake the dead," he announced with a smirk.  Dorset was smiling at the merriment.  "I should need to examine the financial statements of the Merriweather estate."

"To see if the girl has sufficient assets for you?" Sedley asked.

"No, to try and determine how Merriweather came by his fortune," Dorset replied.


OOC~  The thread is open to the players that received an invitation.

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  • 1 month later...

Francis was the next to arrive after the core group, entering the house and divesting himself of his hat. Before he went toward the voices in the adjoining room off the entryway, he pulled some black lace out of his pocket and draped it haphazardly over his head and face before pulling the hood of his cloak up and the cloak more closely around his body.


He had a naturally more tenor voice, so it was not difficult to raise it an octave as he swanned into the room and said. "You brutes! You Heathens! Are you celebrating the death of my dear departed uncle?!?" Francis of course had no idea that Merriweather had a niece, but one did always talk of inheriting from old uncles, so it was the role that he had envisioned to be the most common.


Of course, Francis was far too tall for most men and towering to pass for a woman, and it was impossible to hide every abundant curl in his hood, no matter how tightly he held the fabric to himself.

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Kingston arrived, obvious alert to the conversation at hand.  The three laughed at his arrival.

"We were told Alex was Irish and this is how the Irish celebrate a death," Sedley played along, lifting a mug.

"Your uncle, I fear, was the King of heathenism, and we are but courtiers at his court," Dorset added.

Rochester stood with a mug.  "These louts do not even know you should stand when a lady enters," Rochester chided.  "We were just discussing your marriage prospects," he added.  "You need a closer shave and a bigger bosom if you want to attract a man here, otherwise, I fear you will only be alluring to that Kingston fellow.  I think he would have an immediate affinity with you." 

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Francis tried hard not to laugh at himself or at the others. First Sedley and then Dorset.


However, Rochester made it exceedingly hard, and his chest bobbled with mirth as he tried not to let it out. He took in a shaky breath to steady his tone, and then tried to put on a bit of an Irishy accent.


"My marriage prospects! For shame. One cannot marry in mourning," he said raising his tenor to sound a bit shrill and shrewish. "You insult me, sir. I cannot show my bosom for all in sundry, and you have heard tales - wrongly - of Irish ladies have mustaches." Kingston had covered his face with the black lace as if it were a mourning shroud, and he didn't have as abundant of facial hair as he did head hair even if it were visible!


"Who is this Kingston fellow?" his she-self asked. Then a gasp, "Do you tease me about the eunuch in the broadsheets who served the Muslims? You are so cruel, you could not have been such friends with my uncle!" Francis snickered...or should he rightly be called Frances in the moment?

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"Who says we are in mourning lass?" Sedley reminded the latest guest.  "We are in celebration of your uncle's passing, just as he would have wanted it, and the rest of court would insist."

"Irish ladies do not have moustaches then?" Dorset acted surprised.

"Kingston does not like being called a eunuch," Rochester exclaimed.  "His member may have been shot off with a cannonball, but he has a hand-carved replacement, which he calls the Sultan.  It is fully detachable from the chastity belt he wears and it can be used to pleasure women when he cannot."

"Yes, we do not traffic in rumors here," Dorset added sarcastically.  "These are all well-known truths about Lord Kingston.  He is too shy to admit such things, being a Muslim and all."

All three men were laughing as the charade continued.

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"But, gentlemen, I am in mourning, do you not see the black veil? No talks of marriage!"


Rochester really was hilarious, and Francis sputtered with amusement as he tried in vain to hold it in to continue the charade.


"My virgin ears!" he cried, turning partially to the side in a dramatic pose he had seen the women on the stage attempt. "No talk of the Sultan's pleasuring please. I wish you lot were more shy!"


With a sigh of both relief and surrender, Kingston then dropped the act and said in his usual voice as he pulled the lace away, "You all like to speak of other men's cocks far too much to be shy, and I think one of you has had far too many fantasies about being fucked with a dildo called 'The Sultan.'"

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"If you prefer to not discuss marriage, we could discuss swiving," Sedley offered with a laugh.

Dorset offered a limerick of his own making:

"There once came a lady donned in black veil,

With virgin ears affronted would wail,

She begged others to be shy

But it was all a big lie,

A charade that was destined to fail."

As the thin disguise was cast aside by Francis, Rochester beamed at the idea of such a dildo.  "I knew a whore who called hers the Anointed One.  You being a Muslim and in service to the Ottomans, I thought a more appropriate name was necessary," he explained.  "I bet Merriweather has a large one hidden around here." His eyes swiveled to look up the stairs, but he soon lost interest in the scavenger hunt.  "I think I now know what to give you as a wedding present Kingston," he laughed, though he was serious.  "When are you getting married? I might not be alive to see this ... blessed event?  You know, Alexander's niece is likely to have a dowry loaded with ... baggage."  

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Pfft, well of course the charade was destined to fail, as such a charade would be destined to fail for anyone with a cock!" Francis retorted, chuckling. "That's a bit of a show-stopper for most looking to get under a woman's skirts."


He had to admit, though, that The Sultan was a considerably auspicious name for a dildo (or one's cock), so he could only appreciate Rochester's disclosure.


"That's simply because you haven't seen the real thing, for I would surely have no use of a dildo in the marriage bed. Perhaps there is a market for such an item with my various female admirers. One could say it was cast from my actual equipage."


As for his actual marriage arrangements, he rolled his eyes. "Arranging a marriage is best done when one is not being accused of being a Muslim. Or an Atheist. Or any of the number of colorful things being printed. If things continue as they are, you might be dead before I am married. We should set our sights on Dorset for such amusements. He is far more likely to manage it before I do."

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"Yes, well," Johnny began, "the word in the salons is that given the size of your own cock Kingston, that your wife might appreciate the Sultan on her bedside table."  Rochester's insult was in keeping with the Merry Gang's tradition of insulting each other incessantly.  "Frankly, I should think being an Anglican-Moslem-Athiest might be an attractive combination for a prospective of having a wider menu of options to choose from.  You could be quite in demand, especially if it was know that you would bring a Sultan into the marriage!"

Sedley started laughing at Rochester's wit.  "Do you know," he observed," that none of us are happily married, nor was Merriweather.  What does that say?"  Sedley was in a morganic relationship while his wife was permanently in an asylum, and both Rochester and Dorset had been married before.  "Roos is married, and wants a divorce.  Audley is missing, but single in matrimony as well as in the occular department."

"It says we are despicable libertines that are beyond redemption," Rochester was first to answer.

"Speak for yourself," Dorset replied.

"I would marry Merriweather's niece, wanting to indirectly swive Merriweather," Johnny tittered, "but the girl deserves better.  Given her relationship to her uncle, none would marry her, sort of like Kingston.  He is unsuitable because of mostly lies, though I am believing this Atheist part, and maybe that he was an associate of Guy Fawkes," Rochester laughed.

Kingston suggested that they focus on Dorset, to which the double earl replied "I am holding out for the richest lady in the three realms."

"Ogle nabbed the Percy heiress," Sedley acknowledged.  "I do not know who is the next most wealthy heiress.  I'm sure there is some old bird on the Continent sitting on a wealth of land and jewels.

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"I thought Dr. Bendo* was an expert in cunts, not cocks," Francis shot back with a cheeky grin. "Your derisive wit should be focused on other details given no lady would choose your cock over mine without a ruse to accomplish it. I may not be in demand for the marriage bed, tripartite faith aside, but I am in demand for bedding."


He did not need to be ruthless in his conquests and found willing and eager bed-fellows to be superior. Ruining innocents had been Merriweather's modus operandi, and libertines thought they were, none of them had particularly condoned that.


"I agree with Dorset," Francis said, predictably, as he more frequently agreed with his cousin. They both had more success traversing both worlds of court, or at least Francis had been before the broadsheets, and the newer blond had taken a sheet out of Dorset's book in achieving that feat. "The more despicable was the dearly departed. Rest in Peace."


Honestly, Kingston had no love for the man in the very least. He had heard Gwen's story. He had also dressed in disguise and set about a bunch of drunkards to piss and shit on the man's lawn with said lady. He had gone in Buckingham's stead when Gwen had confronted Merriweather about Arthur, her son, to make sure she was safe. 


"And what if the richest heiress is ugly and stupid?" Francis asked. "Does the coin and property still then speak? What help would such a woman be in advancing one's line or position at court? Perhaps methodology is why few are happily married amongst not simply us, but everyone."


(OOC - Dr Bendo was Rochester's trade name when he was exiled from court and went about solving women's ailments by fucking and dildos)

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"Doctor Bendo is an expert in all things body and bawdy," Rochester replied with self-satisfaction.  He was silent as to which cock ladies would prefer.  His had been dipped in mercury and was no longer the pride and joy that it had been.

Dorset was undeterred from Kingston's quip.  "If she is ugly and stupid, so much the better.  We are talking about a wife after all.  She needs to produce children quickly and then I can send her away."  It was an unkind treatment, but who knew if he was serious.

Sedley poured drinks for everyone and proposed a toast.  "I am tired of waiting on Audley, and Roos is not at Windsor this season. Dorset's prurient poetess is either shagging someone on the way, or is late, which would be more worrisome to our friend."  He was, of course, speaking of her courses being late.  "So, I propose a toast to the departed.

"He was the most despicable of the despicable.  He was a man known to everyone, and grieved by no one.  His passing is celebrated tonight by those that knew him well enough, and even more celebrated by those that knew him better.  A curious man was he.  He was a man that reveled in wit, perhaps because he had so little of it himself.  His purse was deeper than his personality. He evaded the hangman's noose for his many crimes; yet, ironically, it was the noose that did him in.  He was the consummate toady and, since we are drinking his spirits, we are bound to raise our glasses in salute."

All raised their glasses as they mulled over further words.  "I was planning a limerick, but your words were so true Charles, I find that I should not take from them.  Never was a life so well summarized," Dorset praised.

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"Ahhh, so it shall be an ugly, stupid child to carry on the Dorset title? Seems a sound plan to me. Perhaps even an improvement," he teased. 


"I could not do with an ugly, stupid wife. Couldn't dilute my superior intellect and good looks. I'd think you'd take your family bequests more seriously," he added. Considering he and Dorset had a family resemblance both being blonds with blue eyes, he felt it was a good dig.


After Sedley's toast, he nodded in appreciation, he added, "Mayhap we should give a toast that he is departed with that rounding out of his character. He never seemed bothered by his own doings, but one never knows. Perhaps it finally all caught up."

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It was Johnny that first responded, was he defending Dorset? "Worry not Kingston, your intellect and looks could never be negatively diluted, no matter what woman you marry."

Dorset laughed.  "Having a homely daughter would protect her from the likes of you all, and keep her pure for the man that cared more than anything about what she brought to the marriage, money and me," he chuckled.  "As for a homely wife, who could naysay my taking a mistress or two.  The court would feel pity for me and forgive my every transgression."

"You already have the luck of the Irish," Sedley laughed.  "Dorset, you have in common every affront of the Merry Gang but have yet to be punished for it."

"Let me remind you about the Irish luck," Rochester added.  "They have lost every war with England, have lost their lands to the English, and hope for salvation from the corruption of a Roman faith.   The Irish have luck aplenty.  Sadly it is all bad." 

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"I will enjoy watching you test those theorems, cousin," Francis allowed, holding in most of a chuckle. "I hope the notion doesn't backfire on you...or fail to fire at all. Then you'll be stuck with your homely wife."


Francis nodded along with Sedley. "I'm being punished for things I've not even done. I'm waiting to see what the next round of broadsheets will come up with. Seems wholly unfair the luck you command after so long cavorting with this lot!" he teased. In honestly, he thought Dorset was the intelligent one of the bunch, navigating court superbly well and still having his fun.







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"Perhaps the girl will take after me, and be brilliant," Dorset objected to Kingston.  "She might be a blond beauty too."

"More likely a bland haughty like her father," Rochester insulted.

As Francis bemoaned the slander, Sedley noted "we could lie about you too if you would like. what would you like us to say about you that is a lie?" he offered.

"That he is intelligent?" Rochester drawled.

"He is the Dean of Cambridge," Dorset defended.

"That is how sad the institution has sunk," Rochester continued.

"What about Kingston being a pirate and has hidden treasures buried in islands," Sedley offered.  "Ladies would love it.  Maybe he is a mysterious gentleman highwayman too.  Ladies would flock to him."

"So he could rob their virtue," Rochester commented.

"You sound jealous Johnny," Dorset replied.  "Francis, tell us what falsehood you would most enjoy and we will make Johnny spread it, much like he spreads the pox."

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Francis shrugged off Rochester's comments and said, "By the rate at which you pick on me endlessly with such predictable jabs, I begin to wonder if Dorset is right! Did I annoy you by not wishing to take your solicitor's letters as evidence of your superior fucking, along with the rest of us, even though I wasn't the victor of that wager either? It becomes tedious and not as witty when it's sour and simple one offs over and over. It's not up to your usual par."


As to the rest, he tilted his head to the side for a moment and contemplated. "Lord Magnanimous here doesn't like being put out, so leave him out of it. To be honest, who cares about some slander. Anyone who hopes to be anyone at court gets slandered at one time or another. It's an annoyance."


"And I don't need any pirate rumors to get the ladies," he added, with a laugh.

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With a sardonic smile, Rochester noted aloud, "is it not odd that wit is always judged as lacking by the target of it?"  He let that sink in before  responding further "I am annoyed at everyone Kingston, myself included.  I am annoyed at the growing false propriety of court.  I find court boring and insufferable.  The masks that courtiers wear these days show no art, no nuance, no effort.  The daring in young men is but a squeak of what it once was.  We libertines have relegated ourselves to little more than degeneracy.  Look at us tonight celebrating a degenerate prick that was our toady.   And where is that promising Irish writer O'Neil?  Probably too drunk to recall there is a meeting," he lamented.

"But other than that, everything else is splendid," Sedley mocked with a laugh."

"Johnny, is a funeral really the time to be serious and dark?" Dorset continued to mock him sarcastically.  "I think Johnny is more upset that he is not the court fool for the season."

"There are fools aplenty at court," Rochester responded darkly.  "No, we need to do something daring this season."

"No more pissing on the King's sundial," Dorset warned.  Rochester had been banned from court for that.  "It is too juvenile.  We scored against Arlington last Christmas.  Do we need a new target?"  He turned to Francis.    "What do you think cousin.  What mischief should we cause this season?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

"On the contrary. I do not mind being your target if there's a bit more finesse in the style, on par with your best repartee. I object to the boring one-liners, predictable and without your usual noblesse of verbiage," Francis said. 


He had, after all, never objected about taking his fair share of the torment. He merely thought the earl could do better and usually did so. 


"Although I do not disagree with your critique of court life, or that degenerate and crass need not be our claim to fame these days. There should be art and artistry, pushing the edge of oration, plays, literature, sport, and fun." He paused and teased, "You lot are lazy. I, at least, planned a yacht race for amusement, and you can be sure there will be some party afterward."


"And now you need me for ideas?!" he snorted. "Fine, then, I challenge you all to go to the masked ball and completely impersonate another English courtier, getting as many people to suppose you are some other gentleman, or lady, cause some mischief and do it without being degenerate or crass. Extra points if you choose someone wholly proper who annoys the King, so that he can be regaled with tales afterward and mimicry of the best of the successes. I have my own laugh already planned, impersonating who the slanderers believe me to be."

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Rochester smirked as he was belittled by Kingston.  "There is an art to one-liner repartee."

The topic changed from Merriweather to lighter fare, gaining approving nods.  "A masque is always a chance to cause merriment," Sedley noted with a smile.  "Maybe I will come in a Life Guard uniform.  Everyone will assume it is Langdon of course, and then I will insult every lady."  The thought had appeal.    "I am not as tall, but I could pass as him with a wig and full mask."

"After the crowd is half drunk," Dorset noted.  "I am thinking I need a wig of your blond curls, or maybe have my hair redone, come as a pirate and steal some hearts."  He knew Francis would not appreciate that of course.

Johnny perked up.  "The yacht race.  Of course, let us rent a barge of whores and float down the Thames and distract the sailors like the sirens of myth."

"Kingston did that already with the King," Dorset replied.  "It was a swiving cruise."

"Maybe we get actresses in bright costumes to cajole the sailors, or sing to them."  Rochester was giving it more thought.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Francis laughed at the idea of Sedley impersonating Lord Langdon. The poor young gentleman was an easy target. "Just threaten to arrest someone and all would believe you." 


Anyone who had been at court very long knew that Lord Langdon loved making arrests and taking his duties very seriously. Francis had always liked him far more than FitzJames, though. Langdon at least knew how to traverse the world between court and Life Guard, acting as a gentleman. Mostly. 


"I should think a servant could so something to get your blond locks into curls." Dorset would have formerly made a thicker pirate than Francis, but the affair with Pembroke had cost the other earl a few pounds, not of gold but of weight.


With a nod and a dip of his shoulders in appreciation for Dorset's memory of the swiving cruise, Francis then chuckled. He put a hand to his chest and chuckled even more as Rochester suggested sirens in the water to serenade the sailors.


"I am most flattered that you would think of such an idea, for it makes me quite proud that I thought of such a thing and enacted it first. We had actresses in the water on a smaller vessel lying in wait for us, mermaids in the water to perform an act for our wayward sailors on our cruise."

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Rochester cursed as Kingston claimed credit.  "Well, I would have done something more memorable to court."  He had not totally abandoned the idea.

"Excellent idea," Sedley replied.  "I'll arrest someone and debauch some maiden in his guise."

Dorset was the first to reply.  "Charlie, let the lad go before you give him a reason to arrest you.  Face it, your daughter is a whore.  We love whores but we do not wed them."

"Worse, she chose York instead of Rawley.  Did you not teach her taste Sedley?" Johnny asked.

"She is her mother's daughter," the Baronet replied glumly.  Her mother was in the madhouse.  "Before you go defending the prick, Langdon was seen at the carnival in the company of Lady Pembroke and her daughter Susan.  You know what is up.  He wants to be Pembroke's brother-in-law and he will join Philip in ruining you."  Sedley felt a momentary cruel streak towards perhaps his best friend after Dorset had been so honest about Catherine. 

Dorset's jovial smile disappeared instantly.  "That cannot happen.  That rat's ass already has a mother and a step-brother with the King's ear.  To have a Life Guard officer and Lord Lieutenant of London in bed with him is too much.  I wish no ill to Susan.  We are kin after all, but she needs to marry someone of no use to that excrement of a brother.  A foreigner perhaps?"  He turned to look towards Francis.

"I think I will go have a frank talk with Langdon," Dorset announced as he set his teeth.

"I can go speak with Susan Herbert," Sedley offered, "and tell her the truth about the cad that is Langdon.  Fathering a baby on a lady and not marrying her. She could be dissuaded."

"How do we know he is the father?" Rochester offered in an unhelpful manner.  He was about to suggest that a stablehand might be the father, but even Rochester had a boundary with a friend.  "You don't think Lady Pembroke knows everything about Langdon?  She has approved him nonetheless Sedley.  Your breath would be wasted."

Dorset looked again at Kingston.  It was evident that he sought advice.  "Do you know Langdon well?"


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Anne-Elisabeth had looking forward to Merriweather’s wake and matching wits with the Merry Gang again. She missed Dorset, whom she had not seen since their frolic in the baths. He had promised to have a gantleman’s outfit made for her, but perhaps he had been too busy. She had envisioned the two of them going to a tailor together. Maybe he planned to surprise her instead.


Dressed in a gown of bright multicolored and beaded brocade over a red silk underskirt, she heard voices as she entered the house. Following the sound to the room where the memorial was being held, she stood in the doorway for a moment, observing the gentlemen in conversation, her gaze lingering the longest on the handsome double Earl. It looked as if she was the second guest to arrive after Lord Kingston.


Stepping inside, she announced:


“There might be an unexpected drawback

in commemorating Merriweather’s lack.

For though he might dwell

In the hot depths of hell,

Satan might just send him back.”


Walking over to the table, she opened the bag she carried and set the two bottles of coconut rum she had brought upon it.

Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux
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There was fashionably late, and then there was James O’Neill’s variation on that theme.

He had not known Alexander Merriweather, although he knew of him both by reputation and through the words of Sedley and Dorset, who had alerted him to the man’s passing. James had argued upon learning of Merriweather’s departure from the mortal coil that perhaps his life had been a mosaic of mistakes – wondrous, at times, to look upon, but warped and flawed, in the manner that stained glass was.

The metaphor was not perfect, but in that sense, James thought he understood something of the man, unsavory tales aside. On the other hand, this kind of kinship (juxtaposed with the lack thereof, again considering certain rumors) was something to be contemplated on a different day, one where the young poet’s heart raced less, when the laughter poured out like water from a Roman aqueduct. Tonight, he was simply looking for enjoyment, particularly in the presence of his new friends (acquaintances? An overeager James had not yet considered this).

James was late on account of his own self; after gracing the Duke of Buckingham and the terrace garden with his presence, he had quite the fierce inner debate, monologuing in his rooms about whether to gift the members of the Merry Gang who had not seen his book with a copy. This, he ruled, would be inappropriate, and the young Irishman settled instead on a few pulls of County Antrim’s best acque vitae and bringing his unfinished lampoon of Pembroke.

By the time he had arrived, the drinking and conversation were well underway, but this made no matter. Around were the usual suspects, including Lady Cambray, who he had just seen earlier and whose sight prompted an observation. Seems as if we’ve both stepped closer to the circle, it does. Good on her.

“A grand assembly, this,” James observed after trading whiskey for wine, deliberately speaking in the thickest brogue he could muster. He took a few steps closer to the group, chuckling at Lady Cambray’s rhyme. “An’ a truly, uniquely English one at that. Saints preserve us, ye Saxons drink on the land of me departed countryman. Blasphemers all!”

Flush with the warmth of earlier casually drinking, he made to stand at the side of Rochester or Sedley, or at least near them. “Pray forgive the intrusion, gentlemen,” the poet beseeched in a more Anglified tongue. “Did I hear mention of Lightning Langdon?” The epithet was pronounced with great derision - James sincerely hoped a game was afoot with the Life Guard a target, insufferable boor that he was.

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"Nobody agrees with Pembroke's behavior, not even his own family, so I would not worry about any advancing the demon cherub's causes. They are more concerned with controlling his damage. Perhaps Langdon would murder the man for you? I doubt even His Majesty would complain, the man is such a thorn these days. If he just...disappeared...during his exile from court, who would miss him?"


Surely not Captain Herbert. Surely not the King. Surely not Buckingham. Pembroke might also be the Duke's relation, and he might be close with the Dowager Countess, but Dorset was also a cousin he was close to and the duke's godson.


"And do not look at my like that. I am not marrying any cousins. Nor do I know any foreigners."


The arrival of a lady did something to change the timber of conversation, though. No matter how witty she might be, or even how crass she could be, or if she was fucking Dorset, gentlemen could not quite behave the same around them.


"Well said," he complimented. "Court does so like a good vampire or demonic story. Just think how much the ladies fans would wave in time to their tongues wagging with the exotic, supernatural morbidity of it."


Then as if Rochester had summoned him by mentioning his very name, O'Neill arrived.


"Well, Rochester can add prophesy to his list of skills along with writer, orator, wit, kidnapper, and doctor!" Francis exclaimed as James arrived.

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Kingston's words were soothing to Dorset.  "Perhaps the King will let me kill him," he mumbled under his breath.  Maybe Langdon would be an ally in opposing Pembroke.

Anne's arrival caused the disturbed man to smile. Her limerick was clever and he nodded to it.

When James joined, Rochester suppressed a grin, not wanting to show any eagerness to the man's arrival. It would make the Irishman insufferable.  "Ah, the company has grown for the better.."  He was inclined to insult the lady, but he showed forbearance.  "Annie," Rochester called her familiarly "Dorset was about to cry until you arrived.  It is best if you embrace him.  In fact, if you want to take him upstairs now, you two can have a quick swive," he tormented.

As to James, Rochester replied, "Lightning Langdon earned his moniker in setting speed records with ladies, in seconds to climax," he insulted.  Then, he basked in the praise of Kingston.  "Yes, the gift of prophecy is mine/  If I utter an empire shall fall, so shall it be," he tittered at the historical satire as he took to his feet with almost a dance move.   "More likely a lord shall fall, if not in scandal this season, then surely tonight from too much drink." 

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Dorset’s nod to her limerick meant that he approved. It was not one of Anne-Elisabeth’s finest, but it was the best she could come up with on the spur of the moment. His smile delighted her, for he had looked rather troubled when she arrived. Was he still reliving Pembroke’s beating? Perhaps when the party was over, she could help him forget his worries.


Though she grinned at Lord Kingston’s remark, she shivered inside as she recalled her first (and hopefully last) foray into the supernatural last night. The sight of those cold empty eyes staring into hers refused to leave her. Dorset was not the only one who needed to forget a disturbing incident.


Luckily, Anne-Elisabeth hid her distress well. “Maybe I’m on the wrong track with my writing. Perhaps I should write a novel about demonic monsters terrorizing London.” She glanced at each gentleman in turn. “Who should I choose as my hero?”


It did not surprise her that Master O’Neill arrived shortly after she did, announcing his presence in a thick Irish brogue. She had not known that Merriweather was Irish. Then again, she knew very little about him at all, only what she had been told. She could only recall meeting him once. He had propositioned her at her first ball. So had Rochester.


The latter complimented the Irishman but teased Anne-Elisabeth, as she had expected. She would never tell him, but she enjoyed their verbal sparring. “Oh quit being so jealous, Johnny-poo.” He had given her a nickname; it was only fair that she did the same. “You just want to get rid of us so you can drink all the wine while we’re gone.”


After pouring herself some coconut rum, she joined the gentlemen and moved next to Dorset. Unsure if he was in the mood for displays of affection, she smiled playfully up at him. If he leaned toward her, she would kiss him lightly on the lips or cheek, depending on which one he offered her. If not, she would attempt to reach for his hand and squeeze it behind her voluminous skirts.


Apparently they were talking about Lord Langdon. She laughed at Rochester’s explanation as to how the Life Guard had earned his own nickname. “For once, I think you’re right. He has no respect at all for ladies. He was really rude to me the one time I spoke to him.”


The Caribbean Countess laughed again at Rochester’s antics. “I believe you just prophesied your own fate,” she remarked.

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As Rochester and Kingston greeted him, referencing vaguely a notion of prophecy, James doffed his hat, twirling it slightly to set its plume a-swaying. “I’ve arrogance enough to think myself a prodigy, but I had not thought to be the prodigal son,” the younger poet offered by way of further greeting, trying to parse out the conversation’s turn. “Unless you mean, of course, our friend the countess. I will not be too wounded if a witty tongue cannot quite match the wiles of a pretty one.”

He smirked at Lady Cambray, assuming she’d know it was all in healthy fun. “Although, my lords,” he paused, his forest green eyes darting over to Rochester. “This would indeed be a very Irish gathering if Lord Rochester is to become a prophet. In the heathen days of Hibernia past, when the word of poets was the law of the land, the very best of us were known to possess that very gift.”

James barked a laugh as he explained the ancient custom, amusing himself. “Customarily, the poet would be sewn up for days in the hide of a bull, and emerge with the word of the gods on his tongue. Lacking any such steers, perhaps we might adjourn his lordship to a wine cellar for three days and nights? Or perhaps with a woman of a certain…heft?”

Cruel, perhaps, to allude to a woman as a bovine creature, but the whiskey of earlier and wine of present decreed that his first thoughts were always the best thoughts. In other times, he might have followed Kingston’s lead in steering the timber of the conversation.

Might have.

Circling back for a moment, James – who had nodded as Anne-Elisabeth declared Langdon rude, offered his own two cents. “Alacrity in bed, slowness in the head…” He mused, finding the rhyme rough, but sufficient to state his feelings. “My one time crossing paths with him,” he considered further, looking over at Kingston as he recalled the little bit of entertainment they put on for His Majesty. “He attempted to arrest me for being so bold as to bring laughter to the court.”

“Saints alive, ‘twas not even for anything interesting.” He rolled his eyes – James had self-awareness enough to picture himself in the custody of a Life Guard, but hopefully, for a cause greater than hedgerow antics.

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Francis chuckled at James saying that in the old times those who wrote were known for prophecy. "Write your words with enough flowery crypticism and they eventually will hold true in some situation in the future, and there i practiced the Shakespearean art." Which was to say that he had utterly made up that word crypticism. He rather liked it, though.


"Or, apparently, put a poet through enough torture and deprivation and he comes out spurting enough nonsense and doom that it is easily mistaken for prophecy."


Francis laughed at the recapture of the event where Langdon wished to arrest O'Neill. How such a small thing had such large consequences.


"Langdon is predictable that way. In the end, the King did not wish the man messing with his fun by arresting poor O'Neill. Langdon does not seem to know how to properly relax. I swear he spent the entire swiving tour watching the fucking but not participating, even after HIs Majesty told him that no Life Guarding would be allowed for the duration and to enjoy himself."

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Sedley laughed at the history relayed by James.  "Frankly, I think that is how Parliament should be made to pass laws.  Sew them in bovine skin and give them nothing to eat or drink for two days.  If that was the cost of proposing legislation, then we would have damn less of it, which would serve the public good better."

As Anne drew close and smiled at him, Dorset took her nearest hand and lifted it to his mouth to kiss in response.  "The Gang is in need of feminine wit.  We have missed Nell these past few years."  Nell Gwynn had been a regular for some time with the Merry Gang, less so of late.

Rochester had taken a deep drink of Irish whiskey he had found.  "Dorset, I'll give you something to kiss after you are done with Annie's hand."  To Ann he added "it is not the wine that draws me tonight.  This is no fine social event.  It is one that calls for blind inebriation."

Kingston added more to the Langdon mystique, as did James, causing Rochester to stand upon the chair that he had previously used.  "Gentlemen ... and Annie, no bovine skin is needed tonight.  The whiskey answers mysteries new and old.  Think of Langdon anew I say.  He always wears a uniform.  He enjoys mounting pulsating beasts.  He ignores sex behind the charade of duty.  He wishes to arrest those that perversely interest him methinks.  He hangs about Sedley's daughter, a known lightskirt."  A mocking smile at Sedley. "Yet, he would not marry her, though a gentleman.  That is because he is not the father.  He uses Catherine to hide his true essence.  A fastidious man no doubt, in the company of whores. but never in bed with them.  Gentlemen of the jury, I say the man is a homosexual.  It is plain as the tastes of Arlington.  Now, there is nothing wrong with a gentleman that ... prefers the company of men."  He tittered because the Gang knew he was a man that swung both ways.  "The military gentlemen .. what better draw for such a man, and the greater thrill for what it would mean to his career if he is discovered.  No wonder the humor is lacking, as he fears discovery."  He waggled his eyebrows in amusement.  He was not convinced that Langdon was a sodomite, but in his growing inebriation and need for attention, it seemed to be an amusing assessment.  

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“Ahh, but I’m both pretty and witty.” Anne-Elisabeth answered Master O’Neill’s smirk with a mischievous wink. “And so charming, it’s alarming.”


Her hand tingled when Dorset kissed it. “I’m glad to be of service,” she replied. In a lower voice she added: “And you should know that I never disappoint.”


She managed not to wrinkle her nose when he explained the ancient custom of sewing up poets in bull skins so that they would spout prophecies when they were freed. Showing any feminine weakness whatsoever would certainly be noticed … and commented on … by Rochester.


So Lord Langdon had nearly arrested Master O’Neill, but the King had prevented it. Anne-Elisabeth wondered what he had done. She was also curious about the swiving tour, but didn’t ask about it. Maybe Dorset would tell her about it later. He must have been there.


Rochester took center stage again, claiming that Lord Langdon … did anybody actually like the infuriating Life Guard? … enjoyed the company of men instead of women. “Oh, no,” Anne-Elisabeth exclaimed when he had finished. She placed one hand dramatically over her heart. “I feel a limerick coming on. Plug your ears, Master O’Neill.”  Were the others aware how much he hated that form of poetry?


She lifted her glass, as if in a toast.


“Lord Langdon cannot be forthcoming

About a preference that some find mind-numbing.

Known as nothing else than

A suave ladies’ man,

In truth, ladies have the wrong plumbing.”


She tilted her head thoughtfully. “However,  I did see him at the carnival yesterday with two ladies.”

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