Letters from Armorica: Old Man Blaireau (26 Juillet 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

It has been quite a busy week, Dear Journal, as you well know, and Dear Lord, when did I start talking to my journal as though it were another person? I am so tired of living alone. This sloop is not large, though far more than ample for one, and I have walked every inch of it over and over again, yes, and banged my head on the low beams over and over again as well, just trying to move. I once saw a lion in a cage in Yorke; I have been feeling like that lion, pacing back and forth, up and down, trying to find some part of the sloop I’ve never seen before, and of course failing.

But in between all of that it has been a busy week, filled with the building of skychairs and diagrams of congeries and much thinking, and it has borne much fruit. During the days I was able to construct three more of my two-man sky-chairs, ugly but effective, for a total of five! Leaving one here for me, that means that eight men can quickly come and go from Le Blaireau at a time; and that means that we were at last able to organize a hunting party for Old Man Blaireau. Though the phrase “hunting party” is misleading, for there was very little hunting involved. It was by no means necessary to seek out Old Man Blaireau, for he has been my daily companion through the week, my sole visitor in my loneliness, and so he came to us. And given the means used, it might be more descriptive to call it an execution party.

I did not participate, though I watched from above. I did not even need to take to the air, but could see everything from the railing of the sloop.

Old Man Blaireau is—or, I should say, was—enormous even by the standards of grand-blaireau, and so my friends took great thought of how to dispose of him with minimal risk. In the end, guided largely by Marc, I think, they adopted radically new tactics. They brought with them an enormous net, and they spread it out on the flats at the top of the bank, in the nearest suitable spot to the sloop. In the middle of the net they staked out a kid goat. From the corners of the net ran four pairs of lines, one pair to each of four sky-chairs, where they were attached in some way. The sky chairs took station over the corners of the net, high enough to be out of the beast’s reach; and then we waited, listening to the kid goat bawling for its mama.

I felt only mildly sorry for the kid goat, being acquainted with its mama, for she, I believe I may say without fear of contradiction, is no lady.

We did not have to wait long. Old Man Blaireau, looking more famished than ever, rushed through the trees, his broad nose low to the ground, and bit the kid goat in two. He was not left to enjoy his meal, for no sooner was he on the net than the four sky-chairs burst upward at speed.

The net had been designed to tighten and bind and ensnare its contents when the corner lines were pulled; and as Old Man Blaireau’s nose was at the center of the net he shortly found himself head down and tightly meshed.

I had had reservations about the plan when it was first broached to me: would not the giant beast’s thrashings tear open the net? Might he not pull one sky-chair or another into a tree?

“We have practiced,” Marc said. “And your chairs are of the most stable because of your design: they may tilt, but they can never capsize.”

“But might they not tilt so far that you fall out?”

Mais non!” he said. “For we have fitted them with straps. You are not to worry, mon ami. We are quite safe.” He assured me that so long as the chairs ascended with sufficient rapidity, Old Man Blaireau would be wrapped too tightly to move before he could do anything untoward. And so, indeed, it proved.

And then, each sky-chair no more than an arms length from the other three, the four chairs moved with care through the trees. They carried their burden beyond the stern of the sloop and lowered it head first into the river. This was the part of the plan I hated most.

“We must kill it in some way,” said Marc, shrugging, “for it is a menace.” And then, winking at me, “And it would be a shame to spoil the biggest blaireau fur anyone has ever seen by piercing it with holes. However, if you wish to cut its throat you may be my guest. Take care not to damage the net.”

“No, no,” I said. “Please, proceed.”

When the beast was safely dead, they transported it some distance from the sloop, cleaned it, and skinned it; and the skin is now drying on the foredeck. The carcass they wrapped again in the net, and two of the sky-chairs carried it off to be dropped somewhere in the woods below, far from town, for blaireau meat is no good to eat unless you are starving.

I find I miss Old-Man Blaireau somewhat, for all that he would gladly have devoured me as quickly as he did the kid goat. But Marc’s final words to me before leaving were that he would bring Amelie to see me on the morrow; and of course now I am free to explore!

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photo credit: garryknight Nets and Ropes via photopin (license)