Letters from Armorica- News (2 Septembre 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

News, at last! We had a visit from Marc Frontenac late this evening, and none too soon. I was delighted to see him. He came to us quietly after twilight, and left perhaps two hours later. It was a pity that he was not able to stay until morning and speak to everyone here, but I shall have to do that myself. As it is, I shall have to judge carefully what I say and what I do not. For now, I am recording this in the hold of Le Blaireau by the light of a handglow that I will extinguish the moment I am done. Everyone else has long since gone to bed.

The Provençese cochons have taken over all of the best houses in the village itself; the townsfolk, those who aren't here on the island, have either dispersed to outlying farms or are living cheek-by-jowl in the smaller homes that remain. Onc' Herbert himself has taken in many.

Passions are running high. The townsfolk are angry, as is only natural, and les cochons are angry for they have not found any evidence of their missing sloops. There have been no brawls, to my surprise, but then most of the younger men are gone—are here on the island, in fact. But there have been harsh words, and harsh looks, and I am glad for her sake that Amelie's friend Brigitte has come to us, for soldiers are soldiers everywhere.

The Provençese have been scouting the surrounding area by day and by night and have found nothing; yet they are certain that there must be something, for the missing sloops never made it to the adjoining regions.

Onc' Herbert has decided that it is time to give them something to find. Tomorrow night I shall send a group of men to a grotto well to the east of Bois-de-Bas. It is one of the larger grottoes in the vicinity, and well known to the young men of the town, who often use it as a hunting camp, or go out there for the night as a kind of adventure. It is too distant from the town for casual use, not like the grottoes where our hot springs are; and it is hard enough to find if you don't know the way that it is unlikely that les cochons have found it. The men will set it up as a base for insurgents: fresh fires, a modicum of foodstuffs, and other evidence of recent occupation. It will not be hard to make it convincing, given its past history. And there they shall stay until the next sloop comes by on patrol. They shall draw it in and take it and burn it, and then flee to the east on foot.

And when night falls, then of course they shall return here by air, leaving no trace.

I had many questions.

Why burn the sloop in place? Why not make it disappear altogether? But that of course is the point: the Provençese do not know what is happening to their men and materiel. Here we shall give them something to see, and a trail leading away from Bois-de-Bas. They will send a patrol and find the downed sloop; they will most likely find the "base", and will certainly find the trails to the east; they will discover that none of the townsfolk they have seen are missing, and that there is no fresh trail to or from Bois-de-Bas; and they will spend much time looking farther afield, where there is nothing to be found.

I also asked about the base. If it is well-hidden, why not use it as a base in actuality? Why plan to cede its location to the enemy? Marc told me that it was too well-known. Everyone in Bois-de-Bas but us newcomers knows of it, and all the men older than twelve know how to get there. The folk of Bois-de-Bas are stalwart against le Maréchal's interlopers, but les cochons are ruthless. Someone would talk. Better to give it to them at a time of our choosing. And if by chance they do not find the grotto on this occasion, perhaps we can repeat this again in a week's time.

And besides, he said with a nudge and a wink, we have a better base. I am afraid that I blushed.

I shall have to ask for volunteers for this escapade, but I'm sure there will be no lack of them. The difficulty will lie in keeping Bertrand's lads here on the island. I should quite like to go myself, for that matter, but Marc strictly forbade me to do so; and if he had not, I am sure that any number of voices here on the island would say the same, starting with my darling Amelie. I confess I am glad to remain here with her. Her time is near, and so she sits in our apartment here on Le Blaireau, knitting blankets and such like, and Jean-Baptiste comes in twice a day to consult, and to visit Brigitte.

Things move quickly during war-time, and I think we shall have another wedding quite soon.

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