Letters from Armorica- Legless (19 January 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Jack,

O! I am sorry to hear about your leg! But at least I need no longer worry that you might have died in the fighting—or worse, that His Majesty might send you to pacify his new province of Armorica. Yes, I fear that will come, now that Cumbrian troops are fighting in Provençe. Le Maréchal is done for, it seems to me, and my wife's motherland can no longer hope to hold onto its possessions abroad.

It may well be that my new countrymen would welcome Cumbrian rule with open arms; Le Maréchal is not popular here, at least in my own little locale. But it would also depend on the weight of His Majesty's rule here. There will be but little love where there is no intent to be loved.

But enough of that. You want news—and as you have given me more news of the situation between Cumbria and Provençe than I have had in many months, as well as the excellent news of your own good (if slightly truncated) health, why, I must do my best to repay the favor.

It is hard to know where to begin, for I have been writing you letters in my head (and sometimes in my journal) this past year. I have no memory of what I've told you and what I haven't. So let me begin at the beginning.

I left Cumbria not quite two years ago. I settled first in Mont-Havre; and then, when Le Maréchal began his war I joined my friends Marc & Elise Frontenac in a country village called Bois-de-Bas. (But clearly you know that much, for your letter reached me here!) Here I met my wife Amelie, and with her took over her father's shop on his passing, and so moved up from goatherd to shopkeeper. And then two things happened that have had effects I never would have anticipated.

First, I discovered that the Armorican Former's Guild (the Confrerie des Thaumaturges, as they call it here) was defunct. Several masters came here from Toulouse in the early days of the colony, but the survivors soon returned to Provençe—and that meant that I, your cousin Armand, would by guild law be the head of the Armorican guild! If, that is, I were a master rather than a journeyman. I immediately wrote to my father and your mother, have two arrows to my bow; and now (after I still do not know what machinations) I have my master's chain and indisputable seniority. Astonishing! (If you could make some quiet inquiries to find out exactly how it happened, I'd be grateful. No one is talking to me about it, and so I still don't know whom to thank.)

But Le Maréchal's spies read my letter, and his troops came looking for me, presumably so that I could use my skills in support of his war. That led to a fraught situation or two, and in the aftermath I found that the folk of Bois-de-Bas were looking to me for leadership—not solely to me, you understand, but somehow I acquired responsibilities, a great many responsibilities, completely on top of my normal work. I won't put the details to paper, not when the future of Armorica is so uncertain; but I hope one day you will come to us, and then I am sure we shall see the night out with our tales!

But the upshot of these things is that now I seem to be more or less the mayor of Bois-de-Bas. It is an unofficial position, with no high seat but a particular spot in the hot springs of a Sunday afternoon, no courtiers but a collection of old men who occupy the front of my workshop the rest of the week, and no pomp whatsoever; but it is real enough. The previous "mayor" was my friend Marc Frontenac's uncle Herbert de Néant, who was killed by the Provençese cochons. (Having met them, I'm sure you understand what I mean by that term.) Marc and I were more or less his lieutenants during the hostilities, and I rather wish Marc lived in the village proper rather than on what used to be Onc' Herbert's farm, because then he might have gotten the job instead of me.

How you must be laughing at me right now! Truly, I hope you are; though I made light of it above, I know how the loss of a leg must be affecting you. I do hope you will manage to come to us, though it make your dear mother despair! There is work for you, and young ladies for whom your loss would be a badge of honor rather than a liability. And I should deeply like it if my little Anne-Marie could know my favorite cousin.

Your affectionate cousin,

Armand

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photo credit: The British Library Image taken from page 53 of ‘Every-day Characters … Illustrated by C. Aldin’ via photopin (license)