Monthly Archives: November 2017

Letters to Armorica, 27 Août 33 AF

Dear journal—

Silly as that sounds to my ears, it is a blessed thing to write it down at last. I have been walking all day, and such sights I have seen and such thoughts I have had! They buzz in my brain, and I have been longing for nightfall and the chance to record them.

The road from Petit-Monde to Honfleur is well-maintained—I am still close to Mont-Havre, after all—but runs through the most picturesque forests and rocky crags. There are few grand-blaireaux remaining this close to Mont-Havre, and I am told that they have learned to avoid the road; I have also been told that I would be foolish to leave it, and I have no intention of doing so.

The road is lonely, though not quite empty; I was passed by any number of carts and wagons traveling in either direction, but never more than one at a time. I also passed two small villages during the day, and purchased food at one of them. I was careful to speak little and only in Provençese. I have little fear of being marked as a Cumbrian along the way; the people of Armorica have come from all over Provençe, and so speak with a variety of accents. Madame Truc tells me that my accent is not good, but will pass as being from somewhere in Provençe if I keep my mouth closed.

I do not think to hide my passage, precisely, for I do not really expect anyone to look for me on this road; I left unseen, and even Madame Truc can honestly say she does not know where I am headed, for I wrote it down and sealed it in an envelope for her to open "in case of need". Still, I do not wish to be remembered, either. In Bois-de-Bas I will need to be myself; until then I will rest easier if I am unremarked.

From one valley, wider than the rest, I spied a floating island on the horizon, such as dot the skies of Armorica here and there. It is hard to judge the sizes of such things, but I judged it to be small, not much more than a barren ball of rock. Some, I am told, are much larger and topped with the green of trees, and I found myself pondering these as I walked.

No one visits them, of course; there is land aplenty down below, and they are quite high up and inaccessible without a sky-boat of some kind. Sky-boats are far and few between on Armorica: I daresay the only ones one would ever normally see are lashed down on the decks of the sky-ships in the port at Mont-Havre. A normal boat is easily built from local lumber by any capable woodcrafter, but a sky-boat requires a formed keel, along with other parts I am uncertain of that also require the services of the Former's Guild to fabricate; and those services do not come cheap as I have good reason to know. Sky-boats would be a luxury in a young colony such as Armorica, and an unnecessary one.

Still, it occurs to me that a medium-sized floating island in a place like Armorica might serve very well as a base for sky-pirates. It could serve as home and port; if fertile, it might perhaps provide a little food; and the pirates could purchase supplies and engage in other trade without giving away their profession or place of residence by landing well outside some small town and trekking in. Such a place could never be self-sufficient, but it would never need to be—at least, not long as piracy continued profitable.

I do not say that our pirates are doing this—indeed, at the moment I am far from thinking that our pirates are pirates at all, but rather privateers. But I spent many an hour as I walked pondering the economy of such a pirate haven. I do not intend to ever turn pirate, of course, having no taste for cutting throats and taking plunder at sword-point, but if I should happen to do so I think I should know how to go on—how to survive it in the long-term, if not the short.

Tonight I sleep in a hayloft in the grandly named village of Honfleur, a place even smaller than Petit-Monde; I should reach Bois-de-Bas in two or possibly three days.

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Letters from Armorica, 26 Août 33AF

Dear journal—

How foolish that sounds to my ears! As though I were my young cousin Cynthia writing about her beaux. And yet, I must record these things, for my own safety, and I must not communicate them to others, for their safety and mine.

I had word from my cousin yesterday—a courier boat came yesterday, one that was expected a month ago. The boat had been fired upon by an unknown ship and much knocked about, and was forced to flee and take refuge in an unknown land until repairs could be effected. True to the motto of the Courier's Guild, they then proceeded on to Mont-Havre, faithful in all circumstances.

I could wish he had not written, for it was foolish in the extreme, though well meant. It has caused me much trouble; I pray it will not cause him even more.

His words were as follows. (I shall burn the copy momentarily.)

I write in haste. There have long been rumblings in the Corps now that Provençe is climbing back to its feet after the Troubles, and the word is that my regiment is being sent to Sarnia—the which is both the arse-end of nowhere and the closest Cumbrian possession to Provençe. I know nothing officially, but I fear that war is coming.

I dare write no more; my captain has just emerged from the colonel's tent. Watch yourself.

And now I fear the pirates are no such thing, but Cumbrian privateers; and that the attacks on our shipping are in fact attacks on Provençese shipping in general, for most of our traffic is with Provençe and its other colonies. Armorica is independent now, or the next best thing, but it is nominally still a colony of Provençe—and I doubt the King's navy is all that concerned with nuances.

Armorica is my home now; I do not wish to fight my former countrymen, but neither do I wish my new countrymen to fight each other. There are many Cumbrians here now, and I fear for what might happen if word gets out. And yet, I have felt that I must warn the powers that be—my new nation must not be taken unawares.

After long deliberation—for this past night in my crow's nest, watching for pirates, was good for little else—I sought Madame Truc this morning, privately, and asked whom I must speak to in the government.

"You shall do no such thing, mon fils!" she told me. "It would be an act of the most rash and the most fatal! You are but new here, you would not be trusted. Non, you must go to M. Suprenant, for he is a man of both honor and discretion, and well known to M. le Gouverneur. He will advise you; and he will carry the word for you, I think."

And so I copied my cousin's letter—the copy I have just now burnt—and went to work and sought an audience with M. Suppressant when he arrived.

"Thank you for seeing me, monsieur," I said, and handed him the original letter. He read it in a moment, and his lips pursed. Then he tilted the paper against the light of his lamp to examine the watermark.

"Why have you brought this to me?" he said.

"To learn what I must do with it," I said. "The governor must know that war is coming—he must take stops to prevent it coming here. But you know what they say about the bearer of bad tidings, and he may think I am not to be trusted. And if he were to mistreat me, and then war were to break out, well; there are many Cumbrians here now. For Cumbrians to fight Provençese can only be bad for Armorica, but I don't know the best thing to do to prevent it."

"You are wise for your years," he said. "Do you know any more than what is written here?"

"Only that my cousin is in the 29th Foot."

He gave me a sharp look. "No more than that? Nothing else?"

"Nothing else, monsieur."

"Very well," he said. "You may leave the matter with me; I will attend to it. And I shall burn this letter—it would ill repay your cousin's loyalty to you if his name were to escape."

"Thank you, monsieur."

"M. le Gouverneur is a hater of bad news, and inclined to seek easy solutions. He may decide that you are a rabble-rouser, seeking to cause him trouble. I think that we—the guild and I—can bring him round…but that will be no help to you if he moves swiftly. And if he takes against you, I have no means to protect you. Have you somewhere to go?"

"I believe I do. I have a friend—"

"No more! It is better that I know as little as possible. I shall speak to Madame Truc when I judge it is safe for you to return. Go now, and make haste. I shall take counsel with myself today and tonight, and take the actions that seem best to me tomorrow."

"But if I run—won't that set him against me?"

"It is I who have advised you to do so, and I will tell him so myself. Now, go!"

I bowed and left. I made haste to Madame Truc's and spoke briefly with her; and then gathering my things in a sac à dos of her husbands I hurried away on foot, completely unremarked so far as I can tell. At present I am at the inn in the village of Petit-Monde, as far as I could go ere dark. Tomorrow I shall continue on my way to Bois-de-Bas.

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photo credit: daveynin Iceline Trail, Yoho Nat’l Park, Canada via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica, 14 Août 33AF

Dear Marc,

Things are unsettled here in Mont-Havre, and the future looks bleak. I presume that the news has come to Bois-de-Bas of the troubles we have had from pirates: the Cannondale taken, and other ships missing altogether. M. Suprenant no longer whistles when he comes in in the morning, and my work here is nearly at a stand-still. Indeed, I am nearly at a stand-still, myself, and I hope I may presume on your hospitality if I find I must leave Mont-Havre.

Even my esteemed Madame Truc wears a face of the most long these days. Many of her boarders, her jeune hommes as she calls us (never minding that some are as old as she is) are involved in the shipping trade one way or another. It is as though Mont-Havre has been blockaded, and if it goes on many of us will need to seek other employment. How can she find positions for all of us at once? The burden of this riddle is wearing her down, and the evening meal has become a sad and depressing affair.

It is the worse for her in that most of her jeune hommes are tolerably recent immigrants to Armorica. What happens when a town such as Mont-Havre experiences hard times? The long-time residents pull in their horns and bar their doors, so to speak, and take care of their own; and the newcomers are left to their own devices. It is sad, and most unfortunate for me, but one can't really blame them. But it is a great trial to Madame Truc, who has devoted her life to helping other mother's sons since she has none of her own.

And yet I do not think I shall rush away from Mont-Havre. I am still employed—just—and I wish to hold on to my job as long as I can.

In the mean-time, Governor Francois is organizing what he calls les Observateurs: not a militia, as such, though I suspect that he has some such thing in mind as well, but volunteers to watch the skies. There is much fear that the pirates might stage a raid on Mont-Havre, and with the small boats we are told they used against the Cannondale they could attack anywhere, not just at the port. Sentinel posts are being raised all over town—quite literally posts, bronze wood logs thirty or forty feet in length, set vertically with a ladder and a kind of box at the top. They are high enough that an observer can see to the horizon on all sides, and have an alarm bell in case the pirates are seen.

I have signed up for this service, as you will have guessed, though I do not expect the pirates to do the kind of raiding the governor is worried about; why should they come to Mont-Havre and raid house-to-house when they can take entire ships already full of valuable cargo? But Armorica is my home now, and I want to show willing; and to the side, I think M. Suprenant will be more inclined to keep me on if he sees me working for the security of his family.

Madame Truc is pleased with me, at any rate. My first shift is this evening—fortunately it is not cold this time of year—and she has promised to send me off with a jug of coffee and other provisions to keep me awake and well fed during the long night.

Please do let me know if I may come to you. Be assured, I know that for your part the answer must always be yes; but I am well aware that you are not yet master of your own house. My best regards to Elise!

Your friend,

Armand

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Letters from Armorica, 13 Août 33 AF

Dear Aunt Maggie,

I am writing to you as I usually would, though I have no idea when I will be able to send you this letter: the expected Courier's Guild packet has not arrived, and shipping through the port of Mont-Havre has decreased alarmingly.

Two weeks ago a sky freighter approaching Mont-Havre was attacked and captured by pirates, of all absurd and alarming things. The crew were put off in small boats, all but two whom the pirates killed in their initial attack. Since then, a number of ships have not arrived as expected; we do not know whether they have been taken, or whether their owners held them at their previous ports of call.

The effect on the colony as a whole is not too bad, so far. Armorica is largely self-sufficient, except in the area of luxuries and some manufactured goods, and so long as the pirates do not begin attacking towns as well as ships we shall certainly not starve. However, it will go hard for those of my new countrymen whose livelihood depends on shipping. My friend M. Fournier says he has stock for a few months before he will need to close up shop, and of course my employer, Suprenant et Fils, is directly involved in the shipping trade and has already been hard hit.

M. Suprenant himself called me into his office this morning. He was most apologetic, but he felt he must warn me that it might be necessary to let me go: I am the newest member of the staff, and while I am not least, outranking as I do the flurry of office boys and messengers, those same office boys and messengers are all members of M. Suprenant's extended family.

I might well find it prudent to move away from Mont-Havre into the countryside; I am still considering. In the past I have had you write to me care of the Guilde du Courriers here in Mont-Havre; I was trying to make it harder for an agent of my father's to find me. That seems less of a worry, now, so I think it will be best if in future you write to me at Truc's boarding house on the Rue de Montpelier. If I move away, Madame Truc will know how to send your letters on to me.

Best love to my mother!

Your nephew,

Armand

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