Monthly Archives: February 2018

Letters from Armorica- M. Fabré Passes (15 Janvier 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Amelie's father has passed. He died in the night, in his bed, with Amelie by his side.

It was not a surprise, not for any of us. He had been growing weaker by the day, and for the past week I have had to carry him to his seat by the fire each morning. He wanted to be there, where he could see us. He did not speak during his last days, but I think….I think he was no longer worried about Amelie, or about me, for he smiled at me when I laid him in his bed yesternight.

I was making tea when Amelie called my name, and hurried into his room. She was holding his hand, but the light had gone from his eyes. We sat there until dawn; then I went to tell the Tremblay's, and fetch help.

He cannot be buried this time of year, of course; the snow lies deep over the graveyard behind the little church. But there is a grotto nearby where he may lie safe and dry in his coffin until spring comes, and then he shall be laid to rest. It is bittersweet to think that the same priest who blesses our marriage will also bless his grave, and likely on the same day.

We carried him to the grotto, I and five other men of the village, attended by Amelie and the rest of those living close by; and then we returned home and sat by the fire in our chairs.

I was staring at the little models of wood dotting the ceiling, staring but not seeing them for thoughts of my father-in-law, when Amelie said, "Tomorrow you must take down the sign."

I'm afraid I looked blankly at her, for she repeated, "The sign. Tomorrow you must take it down, for it is not right. Our name, it is Tuppenny. It would have been wrong to change it while mon pere was still with us, but now it must be changed. And with the snow to the eaves, zut alors! When shall it be so easy to get at? So you must bring it in, and I shall repaint it while you work on your models." And she nodded so decisively that it did not occur to me until much later to question whether the other villagers would see it as she did. But if I cannot trust my Amelie to know these things, I am lost. Tomorrow I shall bring in the sign; and then I shall continue to work on the control problem for my little models; and so it will be until the snows melt.

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photo credit: mikecogh Basic Coffin Type 1 via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Experiments (5 Janvier 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

It has been a busy and mostly delightful month, learning how to be a proper husband to Amelie, and how to prepare for an Armorican winter; and now the snows have come and stayed, and the deep cold has set in.

It is unlike anything I have ever seen. It snows in Yorke, certainly, and in the surrounding countryside, not that I have ever been in the country at this time of year before, for my father's tasks with the Guild have always kept us in the city.

But there is snow, and there is snow. Bois-de-Bas is buried to the rafters and (in some places) beyond, with only the rooftops and chimneys picking out through the drifts. In some ways this is a good thing; Amelie and I walked to the church this morning through a tunnel in the snow in the easiest possible way, although a blizzard was raging far above our heads. The congregation was tiny, only those of us who live right in the village, and we all of us dispersed to our homes immediately after the service. One wants to be at home, snug, in weather like this. In clear weather we would have gone to the hot springs despite the cold, but the snow tunnels do not extend so far as the hot springs, and the blizzard is too intense.

The shop is quiet, for every household has already acquired the supplies it needs for winter. We have begun to spend our days sitting in the kitchen, to conserve firewood. Only a few people come to our door each day, and those few come to visit rather than to buy. Their visits are welcome! In the larger farms there is no shortage of company through the winter, but households are smaller right here in the village.

For myself, I am enjoying the quiet. Rumors of war are far away; whatever might be happening elsewhere, no commander of sense would bring troops to Bois-de-Bas at this time of year. Amelie and I have continued with her reading lessons. And best of all—next to the delight I take in Amelie—I finally have the leisure to pursue my interest in sky-boats.

I had thought that a small boat, suitable for one or at most two persons, would be a simple thing to form: far simpler than the swarms and layers of forms that surround a great sky-freighter. And that is somewhat true, for a working freighter has aboard it a great many informed devices. But as to the work that makes a sky-ship a sky-ship, a thing that can be maneuvered from place to place through the sky and the Void, it turns out that the difference is mostly one of scale: informing a sky-ship takes great power, which must be provided by a team of formers working in concert. For the largest vessels, it requires a double or treble team, working in shifts. A smallish sky-boat is within the capacity of a skilled former working alone, but it remains a complicated bit of work.

Something the size of a rowboat might be within my capabilities, but I would be a fool to begin there. What if I bungled it, and could not undo what I'd done? A rowboat is a not inconsiderable expense to a shopkeeper in a tiny place like Bois-de-Bas. So I have begun by making a tiny model of a rowboat out of wood from a discarded packing crate. It is a crude little thing, a few scraps glued together and whittled roughly into shape, but sufficient to the purpose.

I handed it to Amelie when it was done, and she turned it over in her hands. "Alors!" she said. "You will have time to do better before the first baby comes."

"Oh, it isn't a toy," I said, taking it from her. "Watch this!" And holding it in my hands I focussed my attention, and imbued it with the first form called for in my grimoire, the form of buoyancy.

I guess I overdid it, for the little boat jerked out of my hands, leaving me with a nice splinter, and slammed into the ceiling of the kitchen.

Amelie watched it go with shining eyes. "Incroyable. Is it that which you wished it to do?"

"Well. Part of it, at least."

That was several days ago, and it is still up there. I brought in a step-ladder from the store room and tried to pull it down and could not: the force of buoyancy is too strong. I can see that I shall have to practice. More than that, I can see that I shall have to build some kind of frame that is anchored to the floor to hold my sky-boat while it is being informed. I shall have to seek help when the time comes.

But for now, models are good enough; and in the deep of winter I have no shortage of time, and surely no shortage of old wooden boxes.

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photo credit: Dave_S. Garage via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- The Wedding (9 Decembre 33AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

And so it has happened, though it has taken awhile for me to find time to write about it.

It began nine days ago, when the first great storm of the season came blowing through Bois-de-Bas. It came in the afternoon, just as I was finishing my reading lesson with Amelie, with quick flurries of snow flakes in the shop windows and howling winds that made the roof creak. It continued for three days, after which M. Fabré's designs had been well and truly accomplished.

M. Fabré cocked an ear the moment the winds started to blow, and soon took to his bed; and that night, when it was clear that it would not be safe for me to go to the next house, let alone to Onc' Herbert's farm, he called Amelie and I into his room. It wasn't precisely a blessing he gave us, but I think there was a certain satisfaction in it for him. Then he told me to treat his beloved daughter well, and then he lay back on his pillow and told us to leave him. We didn't, of course. Amelie was by his side all through the night, and I was with her at intervals, bringing tea and holding her hand and such-like.

I think that he had been waiting for this storm, and that he truly planned and expected to die in the night, but in the event he did not. In point of fact, he is sitting across the room from me right now, in a chair by the fire. He is wrapped in a warm robe and and he has a warm drink, and he is listening to Amelie read him one of the simpler of the books he was used to read to her. He is weak, and it is much better for him to spend his days by the fire rather than out in the cold storeroom, but he is still with us. And I think he is content.

I remained at the shop for the three days of the blizzard. The second day was Sonnedi; and as we could not leave the house, Amelie and I promised ourselves to each other standing before the fire in the presence of the Holy Things, and made as merry as we could.

And then I continued to remain at the shop. On the first fine day, Étienne rolled up just as I was preparing to walk to One' Herbert's farm for the rest of my things. (I do not think I have mentioned Étienne's name before, but he is the one who drives Onc' Herbert's wagon to and from Mont-Havre, and who has carried my letters for me.)

He was taking advantage of the fine weather to make his last trip to Mont-Havre for the season, and as he was coming he had my paltry collection of things tucked into a corner of the wagon bed. To my surprise, he also wanted to talk business. Once again it struck me that although my promises to Amelie were as private as private could be, made with only the Lord for witness, they were also wholly public. The whole village was expecting and relying on them, and so it seems that I am now considered fit to conduct business on Amelie's behalf. It was a weighty discovery, and I was much moved.

It so happens that I did in fact have some goods for him to carry to Mont-Havre, and some for him to fetch back if he had room (not least a few possessions I'd left with Madam Truc). And he congratulated me on my good fortune, and didn't tease me when I stepped inside for a moment to confer with Amelie, just to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything.

And then yesterday was Sonnedi come again, and as Amelie had foretold we stood up in front the altar in the church, before the entire population of Bois-de-Bas, and there we made our promises again. There was universal satisfaction, and Onc' Herbert kissed me on both cheeks. After that came Sonnedi dinner at the Tremblay's, for which Marc and Elise joined us. It was a great feast, with many folk I had not yet met by name; and then the hot springs, as usual, at which I am afraid I got far drunker than Drunken Jacques. Every man there wished to drink my health, and clearly expected me to drink it with them, and so I did my best. I do not remember anything of the journey back to the shop, nor anything else until I woke up beside Amelie this morning, aching from my head to my toes. Amelie took good care of me, smiling and speaking quietly, and seeming completely unsurprised about my state, as indeed I'm sure she was—but I think I shall not test her patience (or my head) by drinking like Drunken Jacques next Sonnedi.

And so here I am still, with a warm fire before me and Amelie by my side. And here, it seems, I shall stay. Huzzah!

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photo credit: Natalia Medd Avalanche via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Le Maréchal Declares War (24 Novembre 33AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I received a letter from Madame Truc today. She wrote me the most dreadful news from Mont-Havre, and enclosed a letter from M. Suprenant.

It seems that the new Maréchal of Provençe has gone beyond posturing and has invaded Andaluse; it is said that his sky-ships bombarded the capital of Malague for days before descending so that waves of Provençese troops could spread out and take over the rubble. If he has not yet formally declared war on Cumbria, it is understood to be only a matter of time and tactics.

Worse, he has called upon all Provençese colonies to send arms and men to Provençe to support his war machine. All Mont-Havre in an uproar, and there have been loud words spoken in the Petit Parlement. Some few, a very few, I gather, are in favor of the Maréchal's war aims, usually with some notion of restoring past glories; some others support him in fear of reprisals. But the colonists from Cumbria are uniformly opposed to supporting him, and many of the Provençese speakers agree.

M. Suprenant tells me that M. le Gouverneur has no further interest in me at this time, now that rumors of war are no longer rumors—the man has trouble enough of his own, being seen as a lackey to Toulouse, and will be lucky to keep his position. Good riddance, said everyone in the hot springs this afternoon. A man I later discovered was M. Tremblay said that Armorica should be done with governors, and that it was high time for the Petit Parlement, which was instituted as a way to manage local affairs during the Provençese troubles, to become the Grand Parlement. There was general agreement; Bois-de-Bas, at least, has no use for the Maréchal or his wars, and no great love of the homeland.

As I have discovered in my own case, the hot springs are where matters like this are always hammered out in Bois-de-Bas; and though I was asked above Cumbria's likely response, I was pleased that I was not otherwise singled out, but treated like any other man present. I found the springs doubly warming today.

M. Suprenant said that it would be safe enough for me to return to Mont-Havre at any time; but that he considers it the wiser course for me to remain here in the country, at least for the most part. He has no work for me at present, though he would be glad of my services should commerce regain its past height; and though Armand Tuppenny is of no great interest to the powers that be, recent immigrants from Cumbria might be should Provençese troops come to our shores. Madame Truc said the same: that I might come for a visit, if I were quick, but that I should be much safer where I was. I think he is right; and I think there is a way in which we might all be safer yet.

And now I must close; I must write letters to Madame Truc and M. Suprenant tonight, for I shall not have time tomorrow. Spending my days with Amelie is beyond comparison more delightful than spending them with the goats; but my days are no less long.

Tomorrow I shall visit the church, and light a candle that the Maréchal's war will be put down swiftly. I do not think it will be the only one.

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photo credit: public domain, Wikimedia Commons

Vikings at Dino’s!

My book Vikings at Dino's has a new, much more accurate cover, courtesy of Jason Bach. We've been working on this for some time, and I'm glad to say that Vikings is now in print and Kindle e-book with the new cover. If you already have a copy, the content is unchanged; and if you don't have a copy, what are you waiting for? You’re going to want to read it before the sequel, Very Truly Run After, comes out next month.