Monthly Archives: May 2019

Letters from Armorica- Shattering Experiences (1 March 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have spent the last week brooding over Marc's accident with the sky-sled. I still do not understand what could have gone wrong.

The forming required to make it work is straightforward, if unconventional; the basic techniques were all in my father's grimoire. I woke in the middle of the night earlier this week wondering if I could have copied his grimoire entries incorrectly—indeed, in a dream I remembered just the page and the exact mistake that I had made—but of course the dream made no sense when I awoke, and as my father checked my efforts and beat me if I copied his words incorrectly—

I have written myself into a tangle. The point is, Dear Journal, that any mistakes would have been caught at that time and corrected.

Might my father have made mistakes? It is possible, I suppose, but my father received most of the pages in his grimoire from his master, and he from his, and so on back; and my father was a stickler for training me as he had been trained. The pages my father added on his own are of course less reliable than those of his predecessors; if a former finds an error or a new wrinkle on an existing page he is encouraged to add marginal notes, notes which will be copied into the main text by his apprentices. But come to think of it, my father has added precious few pages, and few marginal notes either. He despises innovation, and he has always been too intent on acquiring power within the guild to spend much time on research.

No, my grimoire is complete and correct, so far as it goes; but of course there are things that neither my father nor his masters knew, and also things his master's master's masters might have known but failed to write down, either because they were secret or because they were commonplace, but now forgotten. I must look elsewhere for a solution.

A few nights ago I retrieved my sky-sled from its hiding place, and tested it within the confines of my workshop. It appears to work perfectly—though I confess I did not raise myself more than a foot or two from the floor, and of course I could not go far or quickly. In all ways it appears to function normally.

How I wish Marc had retrieved the broken pieces of his sled and brought them home with him! In point of fact he burned them rather than carry them or leave them lying about, a decision that I quite understand and might, in other circumstances, applaud. And, of course, it helped him avoid freezing, which I quite approve of. But it is most inconvenient.

I should also like to investigate the remaining sky-chairs and wagons…but I dare not use my sled to fly to L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau, nor indeed would I trust a new sky-chair to take me there in safety until I understand what is going on. And I do not at all understand what is going on—if anything; I suppose it is possible that there was a flaw in that one sky-sled.

I had nearly persuaded myself that this must be the case. And then my Amelie came to my workshop this afternoon, carrying in her apron the fragments of a plate she had dropped. It was a plate I had specially hardened for her quite some time ago now. And yet when dropped it had shattered. Or, rather, it didn't shatter. It broke into large pieces, but the broken edges are soft and I can easily crumble them into a powder with my forefinger.

Of course I immediately examined all of the other dishes in the kitchen. The plates and other vessels that we use daily are strong enough; I tried to smash one on the stones of the hearth and was quite unable.

Was this another bungled effort on my part? But hardening plates is a trivial matter for even a journeyman former, and I have never heard of a hardened plate breaking like this. Am I that incompetent? Or is there something else going on? I am unsure.

The broken plate was a large serving plate we had not used for some time, we rarely having need for a dish so large during the winter months. Amelie had taken it down from the shelf of the china cabinet to clean it—I've no idea why, as the fragments look perfectly clean to me—and it slipped from her fingers and shattered on the floor.

I do not know what to make of this. Did I fail to harden it properly? Is it something to do with not being used? My father and the other masters regularly harden cooking vessels for use by their own households, and as a distinct favor for a very few others; there may well be more hardened dishes in Bois-de-Bas than there are in all of Yorke. And while they could make sky-sleds and wagons as I have, they never do, but confine their efforts to much larger, more expensive items such as sky-ships…which are always made in the classic way.

What do they know that I do not? What did their masters know that they do not?

In the meantime I have something new to keep me awake at night. No one will flying one of my sky-chairs; they are safely out of reach, which is a great and glorious thing. So long as that was the case, I could treat this as an interesting problem to gnaw on and perhaps solve some day. But now I dread the day, a day I fear is not far off, when the housewives of Bois-de-Bas will descend on my workshop demanding that I replace the hardened dishes I made for them. I had best have an answer or my stock in Bois-de-Bas will be low indeed.

Next letter

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Letters from Armorica- Technical Difficulties (20 February 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I had a troubling visit from Marc Frontenac this noon. Several days ago he received a seeker arrow with word of renewed enemy activity from Camp du Bûcherons, one of our neighboring villages. The notion struck me as quite unlikely, and so it seemed to him as well. Le Maréchal's forces left Amorica months ago, according to our latest news, and seem to be on the run from the Cumbrians; and even if that should have changed, any troops sent to Armorica by either side should have no call to be skulking about in these hinterlands, but would appear openly in Mont-Havre. In any event it is hardly the season for campaigning, not with the snow ten feet deep.

But Marc felt he must check it out; and, what with the snow ten feet deep, he retrieved his sky-sled from its hiding place and used it for his journey. Or, rather he tried. About a mile from Camp du Bûcherons his sled dropped out of the air, plunging him into a snow drift. He had found that if he went too high or too fast he could not keep warm, so he was moving slowly, and low to the ground, and it is fortunate that he or would have been killed. As it is the sled broke in two, but he himself suffered only a few scrapes.

He struggled the rest of the way to the village, where he was not best pleased to discover it was a false alarm: a hunter had gotten drunk and started to see things that weren't there. The villagers were embarrassed, of course, and to make up for it one of them drove him back to Bois-de-Bas in his sleigh yesterday. And today he came to see me.

He was understandably distressed and irate, as well he should be. For my part

I have no idea why the sled should have failed, and I shudder as I think about the sky-wagons that carried my wife and daughter from L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau back to Bois-de-Bas. What if they had fallen out of the sky?

I must never forget that I am in uncharted territory in this work I am doing: formers have not made these kinds of things before, or if they have (as the presence of our sky-ships argues that they must have) then they long ago ceased to do so. Why, when they are so obviously useful? Is it that they cannot be made safe? If so, why have the reasons not been recorded? And why do sky-ships function and my sky-sled fail?

I have much to think on; and I am more grateful than I can express that Marc and I chose to sequester all of the sky-wagons, chairs, and sleds out of reach on L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau until a more opportune time.

I do not believe I shall sleep well tonight.

Next letter

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Letters from Armorica-Penny Dreadfuls (12 February 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Today has been particularly quiet for a Sonnedi, for it has been deeply, deeply cold these last days, colder than I've ever seen it here in Bois-de-Bas. Everyone has remained at home, mostly huddled in one room for warmth—even in households with more than one wood-stove or hearth, for the firewood must be made to stretch until spring.

The Sunday routine has been the main constant in my life in Bois-de-Bas—divine service in the Church, Sonnedi dinner with friends, and then, of course, the hot springs—but today that routine was broken. Were Pére Georges still with us everyone would have come to Mass regardless of effort, but as he left on Lundi well before the weather turned, our service was but sparsely attended. Madame Truc was most shocked, but as Amelie said to me, one cannot miss Mass when there is no Mass.

Then, after services, M. Gagnon sadly informed us that he and Mme. Gagnon would not be hosting midday dinner, as the temperature in their dining room was below freezing and they dared not heat it. It would have been a sad disappointment had it been a surprise. And then, most tellingly, no one went out to the hot springs. At least, we didn't; and none of those I met at Church were planning to do so either.

Everyone gathers in one room, I say; and that room is usually the kitchen. If you plan to keep only one room heated and one fire lit, it makes sense that it is the room where the food is! That is what we did: Amelie and Anne-Marie and I, and Madame and Jacques-le-Souris, and young Luc. It is not a large room, but we made do, with Amelie and Anne-Marie near the stove and the rest of us at the kitchen table. I had Luc collect the heating blocks from each of the beds in the house, and by keeping them by us I am sure we were much cozier than average for Bois-de-Bas.

Well, except for Patches the Demon-Goat, I suppose, who remained outside in her pen; but as her pen is now insulated by drifted snow, and she herself by her new goat armor, I suppose even Patches is cozier than average.

There are always little tasks to be done, even in winter, even indoors; but today being Sonnedi we instead passed the time by making as merry as we could. Indeed, we spent most of the day by taking turns reading aloud from some of the books we received from my friend M. Fournier in Mont-Havre.

I would have preferred something Cumbrian, some Dikkons or perhaps Thomas Becker, and perhaps Amelie might have as well. But Luc has only been learning his letters this past month, and in his native Provençese—though of course he will need to learn to read and write in Cumbrian as well. As he has been most diligent, Amelie insisted that we read something suitable to his age and taste, which is to say one of the Provençese penny dreadfuls M. Fournier acquired for us from M. Harte. I regret to say that these books are also suitable to Amelie's age and taste, for she devoured them once they arrived and returns to them often.

For our first book she picked Janvier et le Mouron Pourpre, a tale of attempted assassination, swordplay, and romance set in a past and most unsettled age of Provençese history. Janvier, I may say, isn't the first month of the year, but rather the name of the hero, Michel Janvier, a dashing swordsman and member of the royal guard. The author (if I may use so exalted a term) has penned many books about Janvier, all with titles that begin with Janvier et: Janvier et le Empoisonneur de Gascon, Janvier et le Crapaud Argent, and Janvier et la Mademoiselle du Morte being but three others that came in the same shipment. The books are stirring, lurid, and soon read, and having finished one, one soon wants to begin the next, that is, if one can stomach them at all.

The volume in question concerned a highwayman known as le Mouron Pourpre, the "Purple Pimpernel". This worthy began his career of crime by rudely accosting minor Provençese nobles in their carriages and relieving them of their goods. This was just in the nature of things in those days, and caused but little comment; but when he began robbing them in their homes, and then, during one such invasion, abducted a young lady, a near relative of the Duc d'Avignon, le Roi sent his favored agent, Michel Janvier to find her and put a stop to the Pimpernel's doings. Our hero discovered a vast scheme to assassinate le Roi and see Michel hanged for it, but of course he put a stop to it at the last minute, running the Pimpernel through with his sword and rapier wit, before carrying the young lady back to Toulouse with a smile and a leer.

I believe it was meant to be rapier wit; but perhaps the author simply failed to remove the training button from the point of the rapier.

I say we took turns reading, but mostly it was Amelie and me. When I passed the book to Jacques he just smiled and passed it along to Madame Truc; and when Madame Truc came to the passage in which our Michel flirts with the serving girl in the tavern in Saint Rémy she turned bright red and handed the book back to me.

"Such a thing in my house, I would never tolerate," she said. "It is of all things the most scandalous." Jacques just chuckled.

Luc turned bright red as well, I noticed, and neither he nor Madame would look at me as I finished out the scene. It was mild enough for all that, but strong drink for those not accustomed.

And so we passed the day, finishing that book and one more, in which Michel Janvier foils yet another obscure and overcomplicated scheme to bring down le Roi; and when we were done I left the two books on the corner of the table rather than returning them to the bookcase in the parlor. If I am not tempting young Luc to virtue, at least I may tempt him to read!

Next letter

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