This is take two of posting this up – hopefully it will work this time and not have rotten formatting…
Here is Aiofe’s Character Sheet and Background as I originally wrote it. Many of you will end up knowing some of this, as the gossips of New Babbage discover things about their new resident…
Because as Oscar Wilde said:
There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
Pictures and the like will follow.
Lady Aiofe Drummond
Kindred Powers X
Natural Sciences Average
Social Graces Great
My Dear Diary. Since I am exiled to the south coast with Aunt Augusta, she suggested I keep a journal while I am here. But who are you, who is Aunt Augusta, and why are you exiled? Patience my dear Diary, I will answer you all of these questions, but I must start at the beginning.
I am Aoife Drummond. Papa is John Drummond, His Grace the Duke of Ormonde, so technically that makes me a Lady, although there are many who would claim that I am far from being ladylike, Papa included, but again, dear Diary, I am getting ahead of myself. Please excuse me, for I am not used to keeping a journal, and I can only hope my style will improve.
They tell me I am a typical Irish colleen, whatever that means. If it should mean that you have masses of flaming red hair, green eyes and pale skin with an abundance of freckles, then I fear I am as they describe me to be. They, (Who is this they? Why do they have the right to make such sweeping judgements about a person?) tell me that I am a beauty as well. Apparently I am the talk of the season, and not simply because of The Event. It would appear that my looks have prompted a move to a more naturalistic style, whatever that means.
I was born in Ormonde House, the one in Kilkenny, Ireland, rather than the one in Mayfair, London. Mama named me Aiofe as soon as I was born (it is pronounced Ee-fa dear Diary, but you will not be speaking to me, so why I told you that I am not certain), but she died two days later form the strain of having brought me into the world. I fear Papa has never forgiven me for that, nor has he forgiven me for not being a boy to carry on the title. Instead it will pass to his cousin, Lionel, who he has described as ‘a wastrel of the worst streak’.
I was raised at the Kilkenny house by a series of nurses and governesses. I fear I was something of a trial to them, as more often than not, I would spend my days out on the moors overlooking the town riding one of the horses or ponies from the stables. Papa was away so often, I fear it was the memory of poor Mama that drove him from the house, along with my presence as a constant reminder. My real learning about riding, shooting and the like came from Old Pat, his son Pat, and his son Young Pat. They would come with me up onto the hills and we would just ride. At first, they would lead me, but after a while, I was keeping apace with them, then leading them. When I started to outdistance and lose them, they decided that I was good enough to go out on my own. That was when I was about twelve.
Similarly I was a natural shot, and it was nothing for me to bring home some birds for the table. And if some made their way to the kitchens of the village before ours, I didn’t see the need to tell Papa too much.
If I am blessed in the area of physical activities, then I suffer when it comes to modern technology and things magical. They simply will not stay in my brain. It is so frustrating, as I just cannot even make nor mend, nor drive a simple automotive. Pat says that it is just as well given the things I do when I am out riding. I fear he may have a point. It may be just as well I have the sorcerous ability of a house brick also, as the havoc I might wreak would be impressive.
When he turned fourteen, Young Pat enlisted in the Lancers. The fourth squadron of the Twelfth Irish Lancers were permanently based in Kilkenny, and they acted as a recruiting and training squadron. With my best friend gone, there was only one thing left to do – I would join the lancers as well.
I dressed in an old shirt and some trews, used some make up to create a false impression of stubble, I braided my hair and hid it under a cap and headed for the recruiting post. Signing myself as Sean Burke, I enlisted. I managed to get changed into the black fatigues of a new recruit without anyone noticing my sex, and taken through
some introductory tests. Naturally I outshone the boys in the riding, and the fencing instructor said I had natural talent.
It all went terribly wrong that night. Boys smell. It is true. And after the work we had been doing, I was perhaps a little ripe myself. So we were to shower. Communally!!! I hung back and hung back, till Michael O’Rourke accused me of being a catamite. There was quite a commotion as we started to fight, and the officers came running. By then, my shirt was ripped and my hair was loose, and the game was up. I had a couple of bruises, but he had a broken nose and a bleeding lip.
Even worse was to come though. Papa was in the commander’s office when I was taken there!!! Apparently my deception had been ‘as transparent as window glass’. They were only waiting for my nerve to break – which it had not. His being Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment had just served to complicate the issue. They decided that if I was so determined, then I would go through basic training with the recruits, but that I would sleep in lodgings with Major Watkins and his wife. I’m sure Papa meant this to be a punishment, but I loved it.
I was excused lot of the riding training, as I was already far better than the required standard, so I was able to spend time learning to fence properly. O’Grady was able to bring me on so much that by the time that training had finished; I had won the squadron cup for fencing. Equally, by the end of the period of training I had made two less pleasant discoveries. The first was that I have no talent at gambling. If there is a wrong thing to do, I would do it. The second unpleasant discovery is that I have no ability to cope with alcohol. Sadly, it seems to go straight to my head, and there were a number of times when I would get fighting drunk on a single pint of ale, only to pass out on the floor as I stood up. Then I would be returned to my lodgings draped over the back of a donkey, like a sack of potatoes. This was when I discovered that my Gaelic was not all it could be, and my accent was ghastly.
It was during basic training that I came by my most prized friend. Papa had always bred horses in Kilkenny, and there was a particular bloodline that he was trying to preserve, but while the issue was all that he could want in horseflesh, their temperament was such as to make them unrideable. I had known Lightning since he was foaled, as black as the darkest night, but with four white socks, and a jagged blaze on his forehead, giving him his name. Now that he was older, he was undergoing schooling, and totally unmanageable. After Pat had his arm broken, Papa was talking about just shooting him for dog meat.
I could not allow that to happen, so before everyone was stirring, I went to his stall, saddled him, as quietly as he would allow, and led him out of the yard, just as the rays of the sun were appearing over the horizon. That day, I left the back of a horse more often than the entire rest of my riding career, but by the end of it, Lightning and I had reached an accommodation and all would be well. It was full twilight when we returned, footsore and hungry, to the concerned faces of the household. I bedded him down, as docile as a lamb, before I fell into bed.
The next morning, I was awakened by a maid looking terribly nervous, saying that I was needed in the stables. I quickly dressed, and ran down. Lightning was making a scene, but when he spied me, he settled down almost instantly. Inside his stall was a scene of total carnage. His bedding was in disarray, his food was scattered, and he had the gall to look pleased with himself. I dismissed the grooms and started to work, having a conversation with him as I tidied his mess. That morning he had his breakfast mixed with his dirty straw, but it was the last time as well. Our discussion had started to bear fruit.
I missed training that day, and was put on a charge for being absent, but I insisted that Papa not ask for special treatment. I ended up mangling the potatoes for lunch and dinner the next day, instead of training with the sword. It was worth it, for once Lightning had devoured his breakfast, Papa insisted that I show him that the horse was worth keeping. So I did. I took him through dressage and jumps, and he never put a hoof wrong.
As the training came to a close, I fretted, and was worried what would come next. I was blessed with two wonderful events, both of which came as complete surprises to me. The first was that the fourth squadron petitioned the Major for permission to adopt a squadron badge. He agreed, and I was so astonished that it was a black horse’s head, with a red mane, over crossed lightning bolts. My astonishment was doubled when I saw what it was attached to that first time – a uniform of the Twelfth Irish, but with the silver elements replaced with bright burnished copper. Finally they gave me an enamelled pendant of the badge as a token for the whole affair of the training. At the passing out parade, riding Lightning in front of Papa and the others, with them not being aware that I was a girl, was the proudest day of my life.
I rode Lightning in a number of point-to-points and steeplechases, and I know that Pat and the other stable boys made good money from betting on me. I kept well clear, as with my atrocious gambling luck, I would just be consigning us to a nasty fall.
After that, I overheard Papa describing me to the new governess (Miss Preem, about two or three governesses ago). He said that in truth I belonged to an earlier age, when riding and fighting were all that mattered, but that now it was her task to turn me into a Lady for these modern times. He supposed it was his own fault for naming me for the greatest woman warrior in the world according to the old tales. She was not entirely a waste (unlike others), as even now, I remember many of her lessons.
As the winter of my seventeenth year approached, I knew that conversations were being had about me, for they would cease as soon as I was in earshot, and the participants would shuffle uncomfortably, and study their shoes until I was out of earshot. To me, it wasn’t a secret at all. I still remembered the lessons of Miss Preem; they were talking about my debut into polite society, which would normally happen at about this time, and they were also anticipating me making a terrible scene about it.
I have to admit that for a week or so, I was able to play them along, deliberately coming back, moments after leaving a room, as I had ‘forgotten something’. In the end though, I had a fit of the giggles when Papa was especially jumpy about it, and confessed to him that I had worked it out. I suspect he was simply relieved that I wasn’t making a scene about it.
In truth, I became an enthusiastic participant, which may have caused them even more problems than they would have liked, as now the dresses and other arrangements had to pass my approval as well. Papa became an unwilling referee in some of these disagreements, but I noticed he would try his best to find a compromise which kept most of us mostly happy.
Which brings us to The Event, my exile and Aunt Augusta. I had been presented at court, and all was going well. There were a number of sweet young men, and my dance card was always full (Thank you Miss Preen for ensuring that I could hold my own on the dance floor). All in all, I was having a thoroughly splendid time, and had avoided embarrassing myself by abstaining from alcohol and partaking only of fruit juices; although I had allowed my physical regimen to lapse somewhat, as there was simply no time to ride or to train properly.
It was the May Ball at the Abercorns’, and Papa had secured an invitation for us to attend. I was in a particularly splendid green and gold creation, decorated with shamrocks scattered over both my skirts and bodice.
When we arrived, my heart sank, as I espied the Hon. Horace Ware-Armitage, fourth son of the Earl of Feversham. As his father had just been created Earl, Horrible Horace did not understand at all how to behave in polite society. Slightly less-than-polite talk suggested that the title had been bought and paid for.
Papa had had to go to talk business or some such with an acquaintance, leaving me by the fruit punch. As it was fruit juice I gave it no thought, partaking of a glass or two till Papa’s return. That was when Horrible approached. He made some passing reference to his cronies about the smell of peat and dampness, but I was good. He said that the only good thing to come out of Ireland were the ships leaving it, my fingernails dug into my palms. He pulled me close, saying I was his little leprechaun, and as his hands were roaming over my body, he asked me if my pot of treasure was gold or copper. I was close to snapping, but I stayed calm. Finally, he declared that no Irish bred horse was fit to win a single race at Royal Ascot; well that was it.
I was able to deliver a well-placed knee to his nether regions before up-ending the tureen of punch over his head and laying about him with the serving ladle (for some reason, I noticed that it was only plated silver). I remember Papa turning a strange shade of purple before he dragged me off Horrible and manhandled me out of the Abercorns’. Then the fresh air hit me, and I fainted dead away.
The next day was not pleasant. Of course I sent a grovelling letter of apology to the Duke and Duchess of Abercorn; and to be fair, the responded very nicely, saying that they understood entirely, and that they would be deciding whether Horace was a fit person to attend this sort of society ball in future.
That left Papa, and he was far from happy. How was it to know that this fruit punch had alcohol in it. I had been so good leading up to this, I wasn’t to know. Apparently I had totally disgraced him, and it would be a wonder if he would be able to hold his head up in society ever again.
And so my exile began. I was packed off to the south coast, to stay with Aunt Augusta, the Dowager Marchioness of Drogheda.
Letter from Augusta, Dowager Marchioness of Drogheda to her brother, James, Duke of Ormonde
My Dear Brother,
I trust you are well, and that the rigours of the season have not left you confined to your club after the affair that led you to deposit young Aiofe with me. I have to say, that reports that have reached me indicate that the young man thoroughly deserved what he received, and that if anything, she was restrained in her behaviour.
I have to say, that in the scant weeks that she has been here at Mountgarrett, she has managed to turn the normal routine of the house upside down. Not through any malice or design, but simply by being herself. The staff seem to like her, a quite unusual state for them, in and of itself, and I fear that at least half of the male staff are totally smitten by her.
She has managed to finally tame your Christmas gift of two years ago. It would appear that Thunder is a half-brother to her own horse Lightning, and she used similar methods apparently. This was enough to bring my entire stable staff to her corner, and I find that she is now effectively running my stables in spite of me. I must add that I do not approve of her riding habit; it is far too military for my liking and is prone to encourage improper thoughts in the young men of the parish, and they have enough improper thoughts to keep themselves warm for many a year given our proximity to France.
It would also appear that she fancies herself skilled with sword as well as being a horsewoman of no little skill. One of the Desmond’s sabres has been removed from its place in the Gun Room, and Aiofe is returning from the barn with a positive glow about her – and I am certain that it isn’t a stable boy that has caused it!
I wish you would confide in her as you have myself. The child only craves your approval, and this continued banishment from your side is just making her situation worse. We both know that if one half of what Aiofe reports of the conversation is true, that her blessed mother, God rest her soul, would have snapped much sooner in the exchange. From your letter, it would appear you are being lionised because of the event, and yet the poor child is tearing herself up every time she thinks of it.
The fact that she reminds me so much of her mother, must remind you every time you see her, but that is not her fault. The doctors did all that they could to save her, and they were the best that money could buy. This is not the child’s fault!
Yes, she can be rebellious, headstrong, occasionally thoughtless and obstinate, but that reminds me of two young people who eloped twenty years ago to marry for love, rather than marry the choices of their families; I have observed that she has inherited that attitude from both of you. Equally, she is kind, loyal, loving and more than prepared to stand up for what she believes is right.
You have a perfectly lovely daughter, who is capable of bringing huge credit to the Family, and I urge you not to drive her away, for some bridges can never be rebuilt, as you well know.
I remain your loving sister,