Snippet #2769120

located in Steampowered London - 1885, a part of Death Comes to London, one of the many universes on RPG.

Steampowered London - 1885

A metropolis of clockwork and steam.


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Character Portrait: Ephraim Ramsey Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster
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London - Kent Estate
June 28, 1885 - 12:00 p.m. - Sunny & Warm
Veronika Kent

Vera hummed to herself as she went amount piping the last of her little cakes, arranging slices of strawberry in a flower-petal pattern at a jaunty angle and licking the last few traces of icing off her fingers. Making sure the plating was properly squared, she hoisted the cake and balanced the tray on the fingertips of her left hand, taking up the loaded pistol on the kitchen island with the other and tucking it into the holster at her waist.

The cake went onto her dining table, along with an array of other desserts she'd prepared that morning. Amelia had been kind enough to inform her that Lord Lancaster had something of a sweet tooth; as it happened, Vera had a talent for sweets.

She thought they'd be a nice consolation when she utterly destroyed him on the range.

Straightening herself, Vera brushed down her pale blue skirts, straightening the line of her dove-grey corset and making sure the laces were still properly in place. Her hair was arranged into a tight braid in the French style, one that trailed all the way to her waist. It was easier to shoot without extra weight on her head, and as she expected to actually fire on challenging targets today, she'd planned accordingly.

The heels of her boots clicked along the wood of her foyer, and she paused before crossing the midpoint of the room. The drapes were hanging properly, the floor and banisters were polished, the carpet had been run over with the new steam cleaner... Teddy and Ephy were helping get the targets set up in the yard, including some of them in her rarely-used back lot, around the sniper's nest.

Now all she really had to do was... wait for him to appear. The little flip in the pit of her stomach almost made Vera laugh at herself. Had it really been so long since she'd enjoyed the thrill of a real competition?

As it happened, the sound of hooves hitting the pavement signaled the arrival of Lord Lancaster. From the sounds of it, though, it was only one horse. He must have ridden to her estate without the escort of a carriage. It made sense, considering it wasn't Amelia joining her, but rather Lord Lancaster. He didn't need an escort as Amelia did. He was led inside by a staff member, and his eyes glanced over her dwelling before landing on her.

“Lady Kent," he called to her, bowing slightly before straightening back up. “You've a lovely home," he stated, his eyes moving to the side as if he were still taking in the home.

Vera found herself smiling without having to force it, as small talk so often required her to do. "Lord Lancaster," she replied, answering the bow with a curtsy of her own. "Thank you very much. I would offer to show you a greater part of it, but if you're quite amenable I do believe that my boarders have been preparing the set for our challenge this afternoon. If perhaps you'd like to shoot first and have tea afterwards?"

Lord Lancaster's lips twitched slightly upward, though he looked like he was refraining from smiling completely. Perhaps from a sort of confidence in his own abilities without knowing her skills? “That would be considerate, but not necessary. I wouldn't want to impose on your generosity more than I already have," he spoke, his eyes falling back to her. His smile smoothed out at the end of the statement.

“If you'd be so kind as to lead the way," he stated, referring, perhaps, to the area where the challenge was to take place.

Vera only smiled a little, confident that she could persuade him to change his mind later. But still, first things were first, and she led him back out the front door and towards the yard.

It seemed that the others had finished setting the targets at the pistol range, fresh paper ones attached to bales of hay at the end of a long corridor. Presently, it was only Ephy and Teddy, who were seeing to the selection of pistols she'd chosen from her collection, in case Lord Lancaster had not brought his own.

"I do believe some introductions are in order," Vera said with a brighter smile. "Lord Lancaster, I do believe you've met Mr. Ramsey already?"

Ephraim nodded, both a form of confirmation to her and greeting to her guest. "Your Lordship." Titles always sounded so strange in his tone of voice, as though he didn't quite believe what he was saying despite saying it with apparent respect.

"This, on the other hand, is my son Teddy. Or I suppose Lord Theodore Kent, if we're being particularly fastidious."

Teddy scrunched his nose in the familiar fashion at the use of his nickname in front of company, but he did carefully set down the gun he was loading, flipping the safety first and then wiping his hands off on a linen cloth. He strode over as well as he could stride—though fourteen years old, he was already nearly her height, and only about three inches shorter than the gentleman he approached. That said, there was a certain teenage lankiness of limb to him that made his youth abundantly clear.

Still, he stuck out his hand in greeting as he was entitled to do, even if Lord Lancaster was of a much more prominent position than either of them were. "Lancaster," he said with a bit of a grin. "Nice to meet you in the flesh."

“Lady Kent mentioned you during her visit," he spoke, briefly glancing towards Vera before turning his attention back to Teddy. “A pleasure to meet you as well, Lord Kent," he spoke, taking Teddy's hand into his own in a firm handshake. He released it shortly after, and his hand fell back to his side.

“I see that your mother taught you well," he spoke, motioning towards the gun Teddy had set down earlier. “You must be as talented as she is," he continued.

Teddy grinned broadly. "I'm pretty good, but not nearly as much as—"

Vera's eyes widened; behind Lord Lancaster, she made a sharp gesture, bringing her finger to her lips in the universal signal for silence.

"—as my mom," Teddy finished, not entirely smoothly, but not too awkwardly either. "More of a fencer than a shooter, if I'm being totally honest." He had still, of course, learned how to fire and how to maintain a weapon, but Vera was happy to let him follow his inclinations in this respect.

"We've an assortment to choose from for this first bit if you've not brought your own, Lord Lancaster," Vera added. It was quite possible that he carried his own pistol, though he was obviously not currently in possession of a rifle, which would be the next part, so she'd made sure her full arsenal was available for that.

"I do believe the British infantry favored the Hansen rimfire models? I've a pair if you're inclined, but it is rather a disadvantage over my Stepanovs." She winked; as old as military rivalries were, there were plenty of dimensions to go with, and everyone tended to think their country made the superior equipment.

Lord Lancaster raised a brow to that. “Perhaps because the people who handled them were far too indelicate with them," he spoke, the smile on his face smoothing out to something more akin to a smirk. “I may not have favored a rifle in my time with the military," he spoke, pausing briefly to glance over the array of weapons Vera had collected for their challenge.

“But I did know how to handle a pistol and make the best of what I had. Different models require a different approach, as you may be aware, Lady Kent," he continued, a sort of challenge in his tone as he spoke.

Was that...? Vera found herself momentarily thrown, unsure if he'd intended his words to have the double meaning she could read into them. Whether intentional or not, the banter did amuse her, and she didn't think it would hurt to reply in kind.

Keeping her tone similarly ambiguous, she shrugged. "That's all very true, of course," she said, sliding her pistol from its holster and checking the ammunition, as though she hadn't already done so twice already. "But you must surely also concede that some models are just... outright superior." She smiled, just a touch coyly. Let him wonder if there was a bit of entendre to her words.

"And in this particular matter, I'm afraid the experts do agree: the Russian is far more faithful and lovely a companion than her ungainly English counterpart."

He hummed softly, but shook his head. “Faithful and lovely, I will concede, however," he spoke, reaching to his side holster and retreiving his own pistol. “The precision and power behind the English counterpart are all that are required when you have something to prove."

He mimicked her actions, checking the ammunition and the barrel before holding it to his side. “Shall we see which is truly the superior one?" he asked, not bothering to hide the small smile that was on his face. Whether it was intentional or not, he made no show of letting Vera know.

Vera returned the expression, clicking her ammo cartridge into place. "I know it's typically ladies first, but I would feel rather inhospitable if I did not allow my guest his choice of lane and the first shot. Please, milord, do go right ahead."

Lord Lancaster inclined his head and turned his attention towards range. After making a decision, he made his way towards a target. He stood still for a moment, as if he were trying to get a read on the distance from his target, and where he stood. He lifted his pistol to take aim, but did not fire it, immediately. He adjusted his wrist, as if he were going to aim slightly higher, and pulled the trigger. The mark wasn't too far off from the center; even from this distance it was easy to tell. With a satisfied smile, he turned to Vera.

“Lady Kent," he spoke, lowering the pistol to his side and stepping away from his position.

It was an impressive shot, to say the least. Even with the latest advancements, pistols were not typically accurate beyond fifty or so feet in the hands of anyone but an expert, and the target was fifty meters away from the two of them.

Vera nodded in acknowledgment when Lord Lancaster stepped back, slotting herself into the same position he'd occupied, setting the toe of her boot on his mark. Lifting the gun one-handed, she sighted down the elongated barrel with both eyes and squeezed the trigger.

The bullet flew exactly as she'd aimed it, striking her target dead-center. As was duly reasonable, she fired twice more, to ensure it was no mere stroke of luck. The next two rounds, the placed just above and just below the first, so as not to risk ricochet.

Tucking her pistol back into its holster, Vera turned over her shoulder and winked playfully. "Fair's fair, Lord Lancaster. Have two more, and then we'll total the score."

The look on Lord Lancaster's face spoke of mild surprise, but he managed to smooth it out. He returned to his original position, his eyes narrowing slightly as he raised his pistol once more. He didn't fire, immediately, and instead, kept his eyes on the target in front of him. He fiddled with the trigger for a moment before raising the pistol slightly higher. Once he was apparently comfortable, he pulled the trigger, the bullet missing the center by just a few inches.

He frowned slightly and aimed slightly higher. The bullet missed the center, again, by an inch, this time. He sighed softly, and turned to Vera. “I must concede that you, Lady Kent, are a far better shot than I am," he spoke with a sort of rough edge to his voice. It wasn't harsh, but it sounded upset about something.

If she didn't know any better, she might suppose that he was pouting a bit. "If I may say so, Lord Lancaster, I fear I'm a rather high bar." Her response was not unkind, not meant to rub it in, either. Just a fact—with a shot like that, he was leagues better than most. Amelia certainly wasn't that good yet, and she had a gift for it.

The showing with the rifles was much the same, and when that was done, Vera saw the opportunity to spring her trap. "If I may, Lord Lancaster... I fear I've made rather too much for tea, but both my son and my tenant seem to have disappeared." This was, of course, because she had not told them to stay, and no doubt Teddy was following Ephy around, asking him questions about everything he did.

"I would consider it a personal favor to myself if you'd stay just a little while more and take it with me?" She smiled, somewhere between apologetic and hopeful, though she wasn't sure if she'd entirely intended to look that way or if it had just... happened.

His lips were pursed together, as if he were going to refuse her offer, however; a small tilt of his lips suggested otherwise. “Tea sounds fine, Lady Kent," he spoke, his voice softer than it had been before. He shook his head as if to himself, and glanced up so that he was keeping Vera's gaze. “If you'd be so kind as to lead the way, I'm afraid I am not acquainted with your home," he paused abruptly, almost as if he were going to add to the sentence.

He followed Vera to the dining table where she'd set up before his arrival, and his eyes widened slightly at the assortment. They, however, were not the only ones in the immediate area. “Amelia?" he stated, catching her off guard as she held one of the strawberry petals in her hands. She blinked mildly at her father before a bright smile bloomed on her face.

“What are you doing here? I thought you didn't have a piano lesson today?" he asked, his eyes narrowing suspiciously at his daughter. Amelia merely grinned, and straightened herself back out.

“I came to see Lady Kent's collection of music sheets. She has a large selection to choose from and I thought I'd try practicing more of the advanced techniques," she stated, her eyes sliding to Vera.

Vera grinned, though she tried not to make it too obvious, as it was a tad incongruous with the circumstances. "And you're welcome to any of them, of course," she said mildly, giving Amelia a conspiratorial wink when Lord Lancaster wasn't looking. "My library is modest, but there are some interesting things to be found in it, if I do say so."

It was far more likely that Amelia was reading through her texts on anatomy or history or whatever other subject Ephy had her studying as part of her apprenticeship, and indeed she decided it was likely that the library's interests currently included the demon and her son both, but this of course she would never say aloud.

"Feel free to take a cake or two back with you, dear, in case you get a bit peaky later." Or rather, in case the three of them did.

“Thank you, Miss Vera," she stated, reaching for two slices of cake, and one apple tart. She immediately ducked back out of the room, though, before Lord Lancaster could say anything about her mode of address. She spoke a little quickly, and from the look on Lord Lancaster's face, it probably didn't register.

“She has taken quite a shine to you, Lady Kent," he spoke with a sort of melancholy to his voice, as if he were remembering another time. “Your tutoring has been beneficial for her," he continued, glancing back towards Vera.

Vera settled herself at the head of the table, serving herself a slice of the light, fluffy angel food cake next to the pear tarts and blackberry cobbler. She'd spent quite some time quizzing Amelia on her father's preferences, and while she figured the peppermint-chocolate ganache she'd layered over a small chocolate cake would be the biggest success, she did try to have a little of everything available.

She tilted her head slightly at the hint of sadness in his tone, but waited until Alice, her cook, had brought in the tea itself and left before she replied. "She's a joy to teach, Lord Lancaster," she replied quietly, for once not inflecting her voice with too much flair or humor. "Young women—young people, really—of Amelia's talents and drive are rare. I fear she hardly needs my instruction at all, only a place and time to apply herself to improvement."

“You would not be wrong in your deduction, Lady Kent," he spoke, his smile smoothing out a bit. “I would surmise that is mostly my fault," he continued, pouring himself a cup of tea before setting it down. “She was taught things a Lady ought not to know," he paused, his eyes flickering to Vera for a moment before they settled on one of the pear tarts. He reached for one, inspected it, but did not immediately eat it.

“Her mother passed when she was born. Any tutelage she would have received to be a proper Lady was lost to her, because of it," he spoke a little solemnly at that, though not for the loss of Amelia's mother. Perhaps more-so the loss of what Amelia would have learned if her mother was alive. “So I pushed her to learn other things; things that I could teach her."

It wasn't an unconventional way of thinking about such a situation, though Vera couldn't say she agreed. Not that traditional men were usually the best at changing their minds, but she thought perhaps she had an inroad, if she made delicate use of it.

Pausing to finish the bite she'd taken while he spoke, Vera hummed softly, dabbing at the corners of her mouth with her napkin. "Well, as someone who has taken multiple meals with her, I do not find her to be lacking in comportment," she said softly. "And I find that her keenness of mind and inclination towards learning is more admirable and necessary than any particular penchant for etiquette and embroidery. Those things can be learned at any stage, but there is no turning a dull person into a bright one. You've raised a very bright daughter, and if I may say so, you've a right to be proud. Both of her and yourself."

He chuckled softly at her statement. “James would beg to differ," he stated, some humor to his tone. “But you are right, I am very proud of her. I'm sure you must feel the same way with Lord Kent. He being without his father," he stated before taking a bite from one of the pear tarts he'd taken. His eyes widened slightly in mild surprise, though he looked pleased about the taste since he took another, quick bite.

Vera smiled, enough that her eyes crinkled at the corners. "I've got things to get through that boy's head yet," she said, letting a bit of levity return to the conversation. "But he's given me much to be proud of, yes." Gently, she set her cake fork down, watching with some amusement as he ate the tart. She was gratified by his enjoyment—few things were as satisfying to Vera as others taking pleasure in something she had done or made.

Well, there was the satisfaction of a precise bulls-eye, of course, but that wasn't much of a challenge anymore unless she went out of her way to make it one.

"We do what we can alone, I suppose," she mused. "Though I daresay between your Mr. Delaney and my Ms. Adams, there's help enough to make it work." Though she had few staff, Vera appreciated their work a great deal, and knew from experience that even having the three made running her household possible in a way it would not otherwise be.

She picked up her cup of tea and took a slow sip.

“In this, you are correct," he stated, having finished off the last of his tart before glancing back at Vera. “My compliments to your pâtissier," he stated, his eyes trailing back to the sweets, and reaching for one of the blackberry tarts. “They are quite appetizing," he added before taking a bite from the new tart. He seemed to enjoy that one as well, since he grabbed another, perhaps momentarily forgetting his manners.

Vera laughed—and she was sure it was a laugh, only somehow the sound that came out was a giggle of all things. She could not remember the last time she'd heard herself do it, and she momentarily stunned herself into silence, blinking and hiding as much of her face as possible behind the teacup. Dear One, was she fourteen again somehow?

Clearing her throat, she managed a more demure smile. "I accept them, in that case," she replied. It was sort of funny, that he should again say something to her about her without knowing. Though perhaps the pastries were a bit less surprising than the sniping.

Lord Lancaster nearly choked on the bite he'd been working on, and tapped his chest. He took a drink from his tea before he managed to calm down from the coughing. “You," he began, taking in a slow breath in order to catch it, it seemed. “You have many talents, it seems. Now I see why Amelia is so taken with you," he managed to clear his throat once more, though his face was slightly red. Whether that was from the near-choking experience or something else, was hard to tell.

“In any case, perhaps..." he paused once more, clearing his throat a third time before meeting Vera's gaze, “we could do this another time. A fencing lesson, perhaps?"

But goodness, his eyes were so very blue. Not a pale, sky-ice version of the shade like hers, either. No, this was ocean-water, azure blue, with a depth to it.

Vera caught herself staring, and it was her turn to clear her throat a bit and glance down, feeling the slightest of heat rising on her cheeks. She was being daft—if she weren't careful, the poor fellow was like as not to think she'd taken some kind of fancy to him!

"Mayhap a match first?" she asked, almost shyly. "I am perhaps due a touch of comeuppance for subjecting you to my own specialty today. I should delight in a lesson after my inevitable defeat, however." Her smile was likewise a little softer than she intended it, but she hadn't chased him away thus far, so she didn't think it would hurt.

If he were feeling shy, he didn't show it. His smile turned into a grin as he continued to hold her gaze. “Perhaps in the same amount of time? Two weeks?" he asked, his brow arching almost in an inquisitive manner.

"It's a plan, Lord Lancaster."