Built by William the Conqueror as one of his earliest castles to defend his newly gained country Windsor Castle had been rebuilt and expanded time and time again since the middle ages. It rose high from the Thames, its white cliffs providing a good defensible position. In truth Windsor Castle even in these times was one of the royal residences that could house a complete garrison. It was not just a home but one of the safest places in the kingdom for the royal family to be.
Dominating the view was the motte and the keep, also known as the round tower, atop a manmade hill that was now mostly used as a delicate garden full of little fountains, waterfalls, grotto's and other areas of pleasure. The keep rose as the highest point of the castle. Strong walls with turrents sectioned off more than one courtyard. Various gates allowed access to the Upper Ward to the east which were the main locations where the Royals could be found, the King and Queen each with their own set of appartments in additions to the myriad of housing for the guests. To the west the Lower Ward, as well as St.George's chapel, the priestly college that formed a miniature cathedral, and the guards and servant quarters which opened up through the Castle Gate to the Town of Windsor which was plastered against the moat of the castle.
In the middle of winter the yellow stone of Windsor was set off by the white snow that covered its grounds, except where busy servants had cleaned a path, every morning again. Not even the Thames disturbed this picture, in winter often the scene of an eerie mist drifting from its waters. Due to the sever cold however, the Thames in all of SouthEast England had frozen over solid, stopping all traffic through its murky waters.
The Northern Terrace was located between the Thames and the white cliffs, providing ample room for courtiers to stroll under its strategically placed elms, but also provided space for parades and military exercises should they be needed. In recent days strategically placed cannons on platforms added to the defence of the castle. A set of large stairs connected the Terrace to the inner courtyards of the palace.
It was very, very early, though already the King was on his daily walk, in the opposite direction of where a group of gentlemen were waiting for this mornings entertainment. Shrewdly Wycherly had chosen this location to make sure there would be no unnecessary and embarrassing interruptions.
Wycherly was wearing a costume that was more fitted to the stage than of any practical concern. His breeches were spectacularly fashionable but a trifle wide, under which he wore black leather boots with high heels and of course the red heeled soles. His shirt was wide, white and adorned with lace. He wore a royal blue cloak offset with white furr which he considered rather majestetical. His hat had a white plumb feather to impress even the Life Guards, who, it must be said were conspicuously absent this morning.
Wycherly had brought his second of course and a few more of his cronies who stood to the side, drinking mulled wine and making lewd jokes to the challenger. They looked even more dandy than the playwright and were not carrying weapons. Was the man second guessing the wisdom of his challenge? Well, he had ordered that it was to be to first blood and he still hoped that Blackheath would send his apology for the injury, thus cancelling the duel.
Blackheath's second, Lord Alyth, would bring the weapons. The waiting had begun.