Monthly Archives: August 2017

Letters from Armorica, 30 Mai 33AF

Jack,

I had intended to leave Madame Truc's by now, but I think I'm stuck here for a while. She has decided to take me under her wing—metaphorically not literally, for which I am grateful—and has not only rallied her friends to find me a job as a clerk in a shipping firm, she has upgraded me to a nicer room. I no longer need to form a hand-glow in secret (always being sure to lock the door before I begin, lest anyone see) in order to read in my room in the evenings, for now I have a whirtle-oil lamp "of the very finest" and a chair "of the most comfortable" in which to sit. Madame even provides the whirtle-oil. It would seem ungrateful to leave now.

And I must say, Madame Truc's table is a fascinating place. Not so much because of the food, which is both adequate and plentiful, if not "of the very finest", but because of my fellow roomers.

Madame Truc sits at the head of the table, of course, if the head is the end nearest the kitchen; and we her loyal subjects can measure our degree of favor in terms of how close to the head we are allowed to sit. This is related to the size and amenities of our rooms, but only to a limited degree. Getting a better room is a definite sign of Madame's approval, but rooms only come open every so often while Madame's favor can change between breakfast and dinner.

Myself, I began at the foot of the table, "as is only right", for I was nothing more than a common day laborer and had the meanest room. I have been considerably elevated in her favor since then, and now get to sit three spots up on the left side, even though my room only entitles me to sit one spot up on the right side.

The place of greatest honor, the topmost spot on the right, is almost always occupied by our oldest resident, Jacques-la-Souris, which is to say "Jack the Mouse". Jack was a great hunter of the grand-blaireau in his younger days, and acquired his nickname from his skill at sneaking up to them and taking them unawares. I think he might have been a friend of the late Monsieur Truc. Jack is old, in his sixties at least, and fat, and very gallant to Madame Truc except when he forgets. She brandishes a ladle at him when he becomes too ardent, but he only gets banished to a spot lower down the table when he comes home drunk, which he does every week or so. When he goes out he wears a tall hat of ver-blaireau from an animal he caught himself, so he says; and he assures me that once Madame is satisfied that I won't begin to come home drunk now that I have a fine new job and can afford it, she will surely elevate me to the chair three spots up on the right side.

He seems to have appointed himself my personal trainer. He stops me in the hall and gives me sage advice as to how to rise in Madame's esteem. With luck and determination, he tells me, I shall most certainly ascend even as far as the topmost spot on the left, opposite Jack himself!

The catch is that to do so I must woo her as he does—and Madame Truc being in her late fifties, I shall most certainly not do that for fear of catching her, which would be a thing "of the most fearful". Instead I shall endeavor to have "manners of the most polite".

Hoping this finds you well,

Your cousin,

Armand

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Letters from Armorica, 23 Mai 33AF

Dear Mum,

As of yesterday morning, thanks to the machinations of Madame Truc, I am the newest clerk at the firm of Suprenant & Fils. S&F is one of the smaller merchant houses in Mont-Havre but it has a good reputation; it was one of the first to be founded and its headquarters are located on the Rue du Champs, the most prestigious business address. That wasn't the firm's first location, of course; that was a metal shack on a dirt road near the port. The Rue du Champs was surveyed less than ten years ago, and is where the more successful businesses have moved now that they can afford nicer buildings.

If you are picturing marble floors and spiral staircases with wrought iron railings, think again—no one has time for that here. Here in Mont-Havre, a nicer building is one designed by a local architect out of local materials. Most of the newer buildings here are timber-frame and plaster on stone foundations. The local bronzewood trees, of which there seem to be far too many, produce a very hard wood. It's too expensive in sawblades to shape it into planks, they tell me, but the bronzewoods have to be cleared for fields; and as they grow tall and straight with few branches they make good and durable timbers.

There are other sorts of trees about Mont-Havre, enough for building and general carpentry; many of the older buildings, including Madame Truc's rooming house, are built of a soft wood called crêpe de chêne. But timber-framed buildings are longer-lasting, and the merchants here are planning ahead.

There are townships in the provinces that have good stocks of other kinds of hardwood, very beautiful and not so difficult to work as bronzewood, but they too are growing and have need of it for their own homes and businesses. S&S imports coralwood, chêne-pierre, and beechpine from the provinces for the local furniture-makers, but only the wealthier residents can afford such things.

Most floors and roofs are of tile—there are good stocks of a fine green clay in the valleys near Mont-Havre.

So I am learning the duties of a clerk, making entries in ledgers using a metal-nibbed pen—the very latest thing here in Mont-Havre—and ink made from the galls of chêne-pierre trees. It is primitive, yes, but sustainable; it would be too costly to import modern fountain pens and ink from the manufacturies of Cumbria or Provençe.

Now that I am a clerk, Madame Truc has told me that my little room, for which I have been paying three francs a week, is of the most unsuitable. I, a young man of business, must have a finer room at five francs a week. She has just such a room newly available, and nothing will do but that I move into it as quickly as I can. I believe the major difference is that it is very slightly larger and comes with a lamp and an easy chair. But as I am grateful to her, and as my increase in pay is more than sufficient to cover it, I have chosen to go along. Madame Truc is something of a force of nature, though I believe Dad would use a stronger phrase than that.

Mum, I know that you must be bemused and disturbed by my present situation and employment, so different from in Yorke. But these are my people now, and this is my new home. I am glad to come to know them "up from the earth", as they say here.

Please write me and let me know how things are with you.

Your loving son,

Armand

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photo credit: wwarby Jim’s Wood Turning via photopin (license)

Letters From Armorica, 16 Mai 33AF

Dear Mum,

I thought you might like to hear what Mont-Havre is like, since it is very different than Yorke (or anywhere else I've been in Cambria).

Mont-Havre is built down the side of a flat-topped mountain, with the poor sections nearer the top. They didn't excavate the peak to make it flat; the first Provençese colonists found it that way and saw in it a natural harbor for sky-ships. Madame Truc tells me the explorers' vessel was losing buoyancy at the time, so the discovery was a blessed relief. They called the mountain Mont-Havre, which would be Mount Haven or Mount Harbor in Cumbrian, and the name naturally passed to the city that grew on the mountain side.

The climate here is pleasant. The land around the mountain is fertile and well-watered, and natural riches are abundant, from forests to wildlife to minerals of various kinds. It is a good land, and the people here seem to me to be happy and comfortable.

I have discovered that Madame Truc came here on the Pont Neuf, the first colony ship to follow after the explorers, she and her husband, for she was a young woman, newly married. Alas! Her husband died the first winter, though not from hunger or disease; he went hunting, exploring the land roundabout, and never came home. She believes that he was killed by a grand-blaireau, which I gather is a kind of enormous badger that once inhabited the region. They are both fierce and territorial, and claimed many lives until the colonists learned how to avoid them. There are none left near Mont-Havre, though they are still seen in the provinces.

She showed me a coat she has, made of the fur of a grand-blaireau her husband caught; it is quite luxurious. I do believe that Dad's guild regalia might be trimmed with it as well, for the hat he wears at guild festivals has just the same pattern of brown and white.

She is quite a font of stories, is Madame Truc! She never remarried, and since her husband's disappearance has lived in Mont-Havre keeping her boardinghouse. Many young men, and not a few older ones, have come through her boardinghouse on the way to better things—or, sometimes, to worse ones. She seems to approve of me, I guess because I live quietly and don't come home drunk and wake up her other boarders.

I took a job at the port for a few days after I arrived, just a temporary thing to earn a little money to live on while I seek a better position. I was thinking of hiring myself out as a day-laborer here in town, but Madame Truc has put her foot down.

"Such work is not for you!" she cried to me. "You are a young man of the most educated. I will speak to my friends, and we will find something for you." I am awaiting the result with both eagerness and trepidation.

Your loving son,

Armand

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photo credit: Marlis B Watercourse Killarney Nationalpark via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica, 10 Mai 33AF

Jack,

I did it! I have finally gotten out from under my father's thumb and all of the guild politics back in Yorke. You said I never would, but at last I have. It took over a year of saving my pocket money and bowing and scraping to the old tyrant, but I managed it in time.

I'll have you know that I'm writing to you from Mont-Havre in Armorica, the biggest city in the colony. I'm sitting in a tiny little room on a hard wooden chair, writing by the light of a handglow, and I hurt all over from working all day at the port— but I'm feeling fine. I'm on my own for the first time in my life, truly all by myself except for the fleas. Madame Truc insists there are no fleas, but I've got the bites to prove her wrong. It's still better than having the servants spying on me and reporting to my father.

Yes, I know, I opted for a Provençese colony rather than a Cumbrian one. Shocking, but I did it on purpose, and only after doing my research. I had over a year to plan, remember.

Armorica is young enough that there are still opportunities aplenty for an ambitious young man, but old enough to be livable. Better still, the guilds here aren't beholden to any of the guilds back home, not in practice. The present guild masters here in Mont-Havre all came here from Provençe as young men, so they are doubly separated from all of the guild politics back in Yorke. In fact, they are triply separated. Because of the Troubles, the Provençese colonies have always been more independent than the Cumbrian ones, and these guild masters have been too busy building up Armorica to have any attention left for Old World matters.

In short, my father will find no ready-made cat's paws here.

And it will not be as lowering as you might think. Armorica is becoming more Cumbrian with each ship-load of colonists; now that the Troubles have subsided in Provençe, they aren't sending as many colonists over-skies as they had been for many years. That's true in all of the Provençese colonies. Everyone here speaks Cumbrian perfectly well.

Yes, I've been doing hard manual labor at the port, carrying this and lifting that. Quite a come-down after my sheltered upbringing, I know, but it took all my funds to secure passage on the Lombard, and that was in steerage. I made a few friends onboard the ship, but by the way of things they had little more on arrival than I did.

Dock-worker was literally the first paying job I came across after I disembarked: there was a sign offering ten francs for workers to help unload the Lombard. I jumped at it, because I wasn't going to have anything to eat otherwise.

That was three days ago. The Lombard left for Cumbria this afternoon, and I must say it was a fine sight, rising up into the sky and vanishing into the West. I was sorry to see it go, though. Dock-working isn't a full-time job; it only pays when a ship is in port, and there won't be another ship in for several weeks. The ten francs would keep me fed and housed until then, barely, but I think I'll use the time to find something better. I can tell you, I thought quite a lot about that on my walk from the port down into the city.

You're no doubt off somewhere with your regiment. As I've no notion how long it will take this to find you, you had best write me care of the Courier's Guild here in Mont-Havre. I've no concern about giving you my permanent direction, of course, but I do not intend to stay with Madame Truc any longer than I must, and who knows where I shall end up.

Hoping this finds you well,

Your cousin,

Armand

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photo credit: publicdomainphotography Wooden Bridge over Fresh Water Limestone River Samal via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica, 9 Mai 33AF

Dear Mum,

I'm settled in Mont-Havre, at least for a little while, so you can safely send me letters. Send them to Armand Tuppenny, in care of the Courier's Guild, or as they mostly call it here, the Guilde du Courriers. A lot of the names are like that here, which is funny, because most of the people I've met speak Cumbrian. I guess the first settlers were Provençese, but there haven't been many colonists from there in the last ten years or so. A few; I spent a deal of time on shipboard with a Provençese couple, Marc and Elise Fronterac.

Mont-Havre is the big city here in Armorica. It's where the first colonists landed, and it still has the only harbor that can take big ships like the Lombard. The government is here, too.

Only a few of the folks I came with are staying in Mont-Havre, and they all have family members who are already settled here. The rest are moving out into the provinces to farm or to practice one trade or another. Most of them had some place to go all lined up before they left Yorke. Lucky them.

I hadn't time to arrange such things—you know why—and after paying for my passage I haven't the funds to set myself up with a farm or in trade somewhere. I don't even know what trade that would be, since— Well.

I could work on a farm, I guess, but if I'm going to do menial labor I've decided I'd rather do it here in Mont-Havre where I'm more likely to hear of better opportunities. So I'm living in a cheap boarding house, though Madame Truc assures me every day, and sometimes every meal, that "it is a place of the most elegant." But at three francs a week she can call it what she likes. I am managing to make ends meet, and even save a little. I'm starting here, but I don't mean to end here!

Write me, please, and tell me how things are at home. The Courier's Guild runs a pair of packets between Yorke and Mont-Havre, the Herbert and the Robert; anything you send me by the Guild should reach me in a couple of months.

Your loving son,

Armand

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photo credit: Giuseppe Milo (www.pixael.com) Vulcanii Noroiosi – Romania – Landscape photography via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica

Dear Mum,

The Lombard is supposed to make landfall tomorrow. I was going to wait and write you once I'm settled, but a man just came round and told us all to write our letters now if we want them to go back with the ship. He's right, I guess. It took us three months to get here, and there might not be any other ships heading home for another month.

I hope you'll have gotten over being angry with me by the time you get this. I'm sorry I couldn't tell you before I went, but, well, it was easier this way. I couldn't be what Dad wanted, and here I can make my own way. It's a new world out here, Mum.

The man is coming back, so I must close. I'll write again soon.

With all my love, your son,

Armand

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photo credit: Giuseppe Milo (www.pixael.com) Vulcanii Noroiosi – Romania – Landscape photography via photopin (license)