Setting it all up.

Carlotta heard the mild coughing wheeze of her opposite number a few moments before he reached the top. My Lord Colonel (ret.) Davies McDermott, Count Skye, 5th Alban Mounted Regiment (Queen’s Own): sixty-eight years old and the very picture of a fat, fatuous, condescending fathead, with all the strategic and tactical sensibilities of a garden slug. Fortunately, he was actually none of those things, save fat — and even that was melting away under the sudden regimen of deadly danger and discipline. Carlotta was too well-bred to say, but she strongly suspected that Lord Davies was secretly having the time of his life.

Well, whatever got results.

“Good morning, your Grace! How are our would-be party guests this fine evening? Still upset that they arrived too late for the soup course, what-what?” After three weeks, Lady Carlotta was still uncertain whether the supposedly Alban Lord Count Skye deliberately heavily laid on the Britonic affectation out of mischief or social-climbing habit, but it didn’t do to push too heavily. At least he wasn’t being useless — and Carlotta suspected that Lord Davies thought much the same of her. So, if simpering is what the fellow wanted…

Carlotta pitched her voice louder, the better to amuse the other sentries on the castle wall. “They do persist in hanging about, and far past their welcome, do they not? One would think that they were our Columbian cousins. Or Frankish ones; they certainly have gall enough. I still say a whiff of grapeshot would work its usual magic.”