Monthly Archives: April 2018

Letters from Armorica- The Sky Chair (4 Juin 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

My sky-chair is a success! I completed it yesterday, just before writing to my father, and today I took it out for its first trial. It functions almost entirely as desired, and unlike my first effort it is not confined to the Nursery. I built it in my new workshop as my first major project, and it was with the greatest of ease that my neighbor Jacques Pôquerie and I carried out through the double doors into the open air.

I had originally intended to work on my sky boat in secret, given that I am unregistered with the local guild—but that cat is long out of its bag. And since I built it in my new workshop I couldn't hide it in any event, what with customers coming and going. What my father will say when he discovers what I am doing I fear to learn. I only hope he sends me my master's chain promptly, before any such word comes to him. Once I receive the chain I shall be forever out from his power, by the very rules of the Guild he so adores: I shall be my own master in all truth. And I shall need to be, for I am sure I shall be reviled as much in Toulouse as in Yorke. A former engaged in trade! A former selling to the common folk! Unheard of!

Trying to keep my work secret would have been foolish in any event. My Amelie is neither a gossip nor a prattler, but she is proud of me, and she will speak up on my behalf, as witness the affair of the pots. And then, had I built it in secret I should have had to do without Jacques' help.

Jacques is our village cabinet maker, and as a result the new sky-chair is both more sturdy and more beautiful than its predecessor. Instead of being made out of old packing crates it is solidly joined out of the wood of the Chêne-pierre tree, and it is most beautifully finished. It is larger than the original, with room for two to sit one behind the other, but is otherwise similar in design. It has the same controls, and the same lifting element hanging over one's head like the canopy of a four-poster bed. Or, actually, a three-poster bed: there are two posts at what I suppose I should call the bow, one to the right and one to the left; and then a stouter stern-post that rises up behind the operator. All three posts extend below the vessel by about a foot, and serve to the support the vehicle when it rests on the ground. Jacques assures me that three posts will be more stable than four. It even has comfortable seats for the occupants, shaped like the seats one of Jacques' fine chairs.

So first thing this morning Jacques and I guided it out of the workshop; and climbing in I took it for a spin around the village, being careful to rise no more than a foot or two from the ground. It steers over-large, and I can see a few modifications I shall want to make to the controls, but I was well pleased. There were many cries of delight from my neighbors, and I fear that all of the infants of the village will be wanting rides around the green ere long, once their mamas see that I have come to no harm.

The morning was still young, and so we went visiting. Jacques helped Amelie to climb into the bow of the craft; and once she took her seat, blushing and a bit anxious, I guided it down the road to Onc' Herbert's farm. We were able to travel faster than a cart, and with perfect smoothness, and indeed could have gone faster yet but for Amelie's qualms. Well, and my own: one step at a time! Our friends at the farm were most astonished—all except Onc' Herbert, who just laughed quietly to himself when we hove in view.

We stayed for the noon meal with Onc' Herbert and Marc and Elise. Marc is curious about building a kind of sky-sleigh, pulled by mules, or even a self-propelled sky-wagon, much like my sky-chair but larger. I assured him that a full-fledged sky-wagon should be almost as easy to form as a sleigh, but he's thinking that a sleigh would be easier to control with less training, and be a better working tool on the farm. He may well be right. The thought of a laden sky-wagon hurtling through the village at the speeds I believe my chair to be capable of—well, it is more than a little chilling.

I begin to view the future with a mixture of alarm, delight, and wild surmise.

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Letters from Armorica- Guild Business (3 Juin 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

In light of the surprising news I have just received from M. Suprenant, I have decided that I must write to my father. I do so with all due consideration and a great deal of apprehension. But Le Maréchal has declared a truce with Cumbria, a truce that may not hold for long; there is a moment of opportunity, and I must seize it for the sake of Amelie and our child. I copy the letter below, for reference.

Dear Father,

I doubt you wish to hear from me, but I have prevailed upon Aunt Maggie to ensure that you both receive this letter and read it through. I believe you will not be sorry. A bold man must strike when the iron is hot, and such an opportunity for the Guild will not come again soon.

But first, know that I am now well settled in a small town in Armorica. I do not expect that I shall ever return to Yorke, or if so only for a short time. I have married, and my Amelie is soon to give me a child. You and I have had many differences between us, but if it is a son I will certainly give him your name, as you gave me your father's name. My home is modest by the standards of Yorke, but comfortable by local standards, and will no doubt improve even more by and by.

I had not intended to work as a former here in Armorica, but it seemed the most prudent thing nevertheless to register with the Armorican branch of the Former's Guild; yet when I went to do so I discovered that I seem to be the only former of any skill and training anywhere in this land. There is indeed a small building in Mont-Havre that claims to be the home of the Former's Guild, but it is unoccupied, and has been so for over twenty years. It seems that two formers, a master and a journeyman, came to Armorica in 12 AF, that is twenty-two years ago now. The master was savaged by a fierce beast, a grand-blaireau, and nearly killed, and the journeyman (who did not escape injury himself) took him back to Toulouse where he died shortly after. That was in the summer of 13 AF. No guild member has returned to Armorica from Provençe in all the years since.

In short, Father, there are no Armorican masters; I am the Guild in Armorica. But I am only a journeyman. Were I a master I should be able to formally re-establish the Guild here, and by our laws of the Guild would be the grandmaster. Grandmaster of not much, you may say, but Armorica is growing; and is not the Guild in Yorke greater now than when you received it from your father, or he from his?

You know very well that I might have walked the tables at any time in my last year in Yorke, should it have suited your political ends. I beg that you and the other masters in Yorke might vote on it now, and send me my master's chain with all speed. Le Maréchal's truce may not be of long duration, and worse, a master may come from Provençe at any time. Strike now, and your son and grandson will be grandmasters in Armorica; delay and the opportunity will be lost.

Should you doubt my skills, I have included my notes on a kind of flying sedan chair. I have formed one such, though there is as yet no patronage for such a thing here; but perhaps the elite of Cumbria might find it useful.

Your son,

Armand

It pains me to so play upon my father's ambitions, and to feign that I share them; but a recognized position in the local Guild I must have for Amelie's sake, if I am to work publicly as a former, and that cat is well out of the bag.

My father will plume himself on having a son who has established a new branch of the Guild even in such a barbarous and uncultured place, and that it will be a Cumbrian plant in a Provençese colony will gratify his pride still further. And the good Lord forbid that he should take it into his head to send some other one to be master in this place! As grandmaster I will have a full measure of autonomy from him; as a journeyman under a master of his choosing I should still be under his thumb.

And then there is my mother to consider. This may do much to salve his overbearing pride, so that he may allow her to communicate directly with me once more.

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Letters from Armorica- The Workshop (14 Mai 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I am amazed and astonished. As a journeyman former, I am used to managing and applying forces beyond the knowledge of most men—and yet until to this day I have never appreciated the force available to the women of a village when properly moved.

Mme. Pôquerie came to the shop last Vendredi with another saucepan for me to harden, and finding me at the counter she naturally asked after Amelie; and after assuring her of Amelie's good health I happened to grumble a bit about the nursery she is planning. Mme. Pôquerie gave me quite the look and began to remonstrate with me in the most vigorous terms. (I have noticed that my neighbors are unstinting in both praise and censure when either is justly earned.) How could I deny her, the mother of my child, her joy in preparing for the coming arrival? It was only a few more months—did I not not wish to be ready? Fool of a man!

The flow continued for some moments until I explained that the nursery was my only workshop, as Amelie had forbidden me to work in the parlor after one of my experiments had smashed a pitcher that had belonged to her mother—not that I was complaining about that, I hastened to say, for she was quite right to do so—but that if I was to continue to harden pots and other such-like small chores, I needed a place in which to do it. Didn't she agree? For I could not do such work in the nursery. What if I were to smash the baby's cradle? Or worse yet, the baby?

And Mme. Pôquerie stopped, and blinked at me, and considered, and asked me several searching and intelligent questions about how much space I would need. I was able to state my requirements most precisely, for this has been much on my mind.

"Bon!" she said at last, and marched out of the shop, and I wiped the sweat from my forehead. I thought nothing of it until this morning, when a large team of men from all over the village, including Marc and Onc' Herbert, appeared at our door to begin construction.

The shop is at one end of our home, with the storeroom behind it; I had contemplated adding a workroom behind the main part of the house off of the storeroom, filling in the inner part of the "L", as it were. But my neighbors had other ideas. My work as a former was part of my business, and should be treated as such. A good workman works in the open, they said, where his customers can see, for he has nothing to hide; and in any event, and with the baby coming, my new workroom needed to be convenient to the shop counter.

I know what my father would say about a former working "in the open"; for he is most jealous of the secrets of his "art". But I have discovered that it is no good arguing with my neighbors about this kind of thing.

In short order, then, and with my help, for I was put to work tout de suite, the party cleared the space next to the left of the existing shop and began construction of a second shop, complete with counter, equal in size to the first and communicating with it by two doors, one in front of the counter and one behind it. No design work was needed; for they had the original shop right to hand, and anyway, I was assured, they all knew what was right and proper, having done this before. The main difference between the new shop and the old is that the space behind the counter will be my workspace, rather than being filled with shelves and cupboard.

The whole whirlwind has left me quite breathless. It is not at all how things would have been done in Yorke, as I know quite well. In Yorke there would be the summoning of the architect, and the choosing of the draperies, and all manner of visits to furniture makers and rug merchants, and delights of condescension to the artisans one determined to favor with one's patronage. The process would take weeks or even months before construction began. And yet here we are, less than a week after I first mentioned my needs in public!

The work is not quite complete, of course. The roof is not on yet, and I must order glazing for the windows, and a wood-burning stove; and M. Pôquerie, who is the village's cabinet-maker, has promised me a stout workbench and some storage bins and the like. But structurally the new shop will be completed by the end of the week, and my order for the items not available in Bois-de-Bas will be on its way to Mont-Havre. The painting they are leaving to me—for it would not do for me to have la gross tête, as Onc' Herbert slyly told me.

We shall have to pay for it all, of course—for the materials, I mean, and the skilled work. (The unskilled work I shall have to repay, clearly enough, the next time a work party is called.) It astonishes me that they have done the rest on credit. But my neighbors have a shrewd notion of how much I make per pot, and how many pots remain unhardened in Bois-de-Bas; and if they don't yet know what else I can do they are certain that a man who can harden saucepans must have other valuable capabilities.

For my part, I am much moved by their friendliness and their confidence in me. Amelie tells me I am being most foolish. Am I not her husband? Of course they have confidence in me, for she is no fool, you know, to have married a worthless layabout, and everyone knows it.

She said this to me just now, as she sits by me, knitting by the fire. Knitting by the fire! What a marvelous thing.

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Letters from Armorica- News from Mont-Havre (6 Mai 34AF)

First Letter

Mon cher M. Suprenant,

Many thanks for your speedy response!

So, M. le Gouverneur has received a visitor from le Maréchal, inviting Armorica to contribute to the Provençese war effort. I wish I was surprised, but I have been fearing this. Just for your eyes, and I suppose you may wish to burn this, I may say that there is little if any support for le Maréchal's ambitions here in Bois-de-Bas. My neighbors are almost all of Provençese origin, and have the liveliest respect and admiration for the culture and traditions of their motherland; but on the other hand all of them chose to leave that motherland and come here, those who were not born here. I do believe that if Cumbria were the aggressor, wantonly striking at Toulouse, they would be eager to repel the invaders; but as it is, they regard le Maréchal as an upstart and as a disturber of the peace.

It is a pity, as you say, that le Maréchal's depredations have so impacted the abyssal trade routes, not least as I have not been able to send a letter to my people at home since the troubles began. And yet, in strife there is opportunity. I think that we here in Bois-de-Bas might indeed be able to provide replacements for one or two of the items you mention which are no longer available from abroad. Not, perhaps, in sufficient quantity to make up the lack, but enough to do both you and I some good. Now that I have your little list I shall make the rounds of my friends and neighbors to determine the precise quantities that might be available. Our next wagoneer leaves for Mont-Havre several days from now, and I shall try to have the information for you by then. If so I shall include it under a separate cover.

I am surprised and concerned by what you tell me of the Mont-Havre Former's Guild. I cannot doubt you; and yet I am sure that there is a place in Mont-Havre that bears that name, a small building on the Rue de Lapins, for haven't I walked past it countless times while I was in your service? There is a small sign fixed by the door: La Confrerie des Thaumaturges de Mont-Havre, with a date near 12 AF. And yet you tell me that there is no Former's Guild in Mont-Havre. Of your kindness, can you explain this mystery to me?

I remain your obedient servant,

Armand Tuppenny

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Letters from Armorica- Inquiries (21 Avril 34AF)

First Letter

Mon cher M. Suprenant,

Joyeuse Pâques to you and your family!

As you may have heard from Mme. Truc, I appear to be firmly ensconced here in Bois-de-Bas. In point of fact I have married a local girl, the shopkeeper's daughter, and we have a child coming. It seems that Bois-de-Bas is now my home.

As the local shopkeeper, I am also the primary importer of goods to our little village; and I handle the majority of shipping back to Mont-Havre as well, though some of our larger farmers transport their own goods at harvest time. Usually we simply bring our goods to market and sell to the highest bidder. But I was impressed with the extent of your commercial interests while in your employ, and also with your integrity, and I have been wondering whether it would be in our interests here in Bois-de-Bas to come to some agreement with you.

I recognize, of course, that all commerce is curtailed due to the Maréchal's war, but I believe it is not too early to begin building the necessary relationships. I have attached a list of the many good things we produce hereabouts, and another of the kinds of things we need. Perhaps you might guide us as to the things we might most profitably send your way?

Also, I have a favor to ask. Would you be so kind as to provide me with the direction of the Former's Guildhouse in Mont-Havre?

Your obedient servant,

Armand Tuppenny

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