Letters from Armorica— 19 Octobre 33AF

Dear Journal,

Harvest is over; the weather is cooling; and I have at last had word from Mont-Havre!

The news is both good and bad. The pirate threat has diminished, or at least more ships are getting through, and so there is news from abroad. We hear that Cumbria and Provençe have been squabbling and running their guns in and out and making ultimatums but there have been no open hostilities as yet—not that either will admit to, at any rate, the nationality of the pirates still being an open question—and there has been no explicit declaration of war.

But the atmosphere in Mont-Havre is still tense. It seems a new power has arisen in Provençe, a man they call the Maréchal, and that he is the source of much of the bellicose talk. I have not discussed the Maréchal with the folks here in Bois-de-Bas, but I have listened to the men talk in the hot springs, and there is fear that he will try to involve Armorica in his disputes. The sentiment of the men of Bois-de-Bas seems to be unanimous: Armorica is its own place, and no province of Provençe. Onc' Herbert described the general mood in just two words: "upstart" and "rascal".

The merchants have had little relief. "More ships" is not "most ships", and M. Suprenant and his fellow guild-members don't know what to do. Ought they to send their goods with the ships that call, and hope they will get through? Or ought they to leave their goods in the warehouse, where they are safe? The latter may be smart in the short run but fatal in the long run; whereas the former is a nasty gamble no matter how you look at it.

In the dark of the night, after yet another day being abused by the goats morning and evening, I have pondered returning to Yorke—but there is no point to that. I want to leave Armorica only to get away from the goats; but I have the goats to deal with only because of the pirates and the threat of war; and because of the pirates it isn't safe to take ship. If the pirates and rumors of war were to vanish, I could return to Mont-Havre and never look at a goat again…and then I'd have no reason to leave Armorica.

No, it's no use. "The neighbor's flowers are always more beautiful," they say back home; but I grew up in Yorke, and I know better. And Cumbria is too small for me to live anywhere outside of Yorke and still avoid my father.

But despite the goats, and the growing cold, and the hard work, I find I like it here in Bois-de-Bas. I like the country-side. I like the hotsprings. I like the people.

Though I speak Provençese exclusively, it is now an open secret that I am from Cumbria. My assumed name, "Tuppenny", gives that away if nothing else does. Everyone here has their roots in Provençe, yet none of them have looked the least bit sideways at me—not like I'd expect in a small village in Provençe, or even simply as a man of Yorke in a remote village in Cumbria. Perhaps it is because they are all colonists, or the children of colonists. Like me, they chose to come here, instead of settling for what their forebears had done for centuries.

I have made several trips to the village with Marguerite and the cart—Onc' Herbert seems relieved to have found a task that I am good at—and twice Amelie was at the counter. She seems a clever girl, well-able to handle the day-to-day running of the shop, though ignorant of many things, for there is no school here in Bois-de-Bas, not yet. Her father has taught her her numbers and to read from the few books he brought with him, and she seems eager to learn. Her father, too, seems a competent soul, though worn by (so I assume) the loss of Amelie's mother.

Alas, I had no chance to do more than exchange glances with Amelie today after divine services. The meals on the green ended with the harvest; it is now too cold to take a meal in comfort out-of-doors. Everyone still gathers in the village after divine services, but as there is no place indoors large enough for everyone (excepting the church, of course) they scatter to different homes around the green, each family with their special friends. I do not know to whose house the Fabrés go, or, it may be that they host their own group their in the shop; but Onc' Herbert's family visits the Gagnons, a family whose farm is just outside the village. Onc' Herbert's father and the Gagnon patriarch came to Armorica on the same ship.

Which reminds me of something I have not yet recorded. Onc' Herbert's full name is Herbert de Néant, which means Herbert of Nothing: an odd name, and one that begs an explanation. Marc tells me that Onc' Herbert's grandfather was a younger son of the Provençese nobility; when the Troubles came in Provençe, he joined the rebels and styled himself de Néant, that is, "Lord of Nothing". His fellow rebels considered this a great joke, and the name a badge of honor…but a generation later it had become a dangerous name, no matter who was temporarily in power. The masses distrusted the noble "de", not appreciating the irony, and the king's men distrusted the name even more for its rebel antecedents. And so, on the old man's death Onc' Herbert's father quietly gathered his resources and left for Armorica. Marc's mother is Onc' Herbert's cousin.

The meals on the green may be over for the year, but the trips to the hot springs continue just the same, O blessed hot springs! Though I notice Jean-Paul did not get nearly so drunk as usual this week. Perhaps no one wanted to cart him home in the cold.

photo credit: MikeSpeaks Peaceful Path via photopin (license)