Monthly Archives: July 2019

Letters from Armorica- The Guild Hall (14 May 35 AF)

First Letter

Ma chere Amelie,

And here I am in Mont-Havre. It seems so odd to see it again—it was so much my world when I first came to Armorica, and yet for such a brief time, only a few months. It is much larger than Bois-de-Bas yet smaller than I remembered, and much smaller than Yorke—although, of course, I might find Yorke similarly diminished were I ever to return there.

As you know, I had hoped to stay with M. Suprenant and his family. I find that Mme. Suprenant was recently delivered of a son, and so the house is even more full of life than usual. M. Suprenant offered to let me sleep under the counter if I could find nothing better, but it was truly the only space he had. And so I am staying with M. Bardot, the head clerk at Suprenant et fils. It shall do very well, for Mme. Bardot is a very good cook; and tomorrow I shall dine with the Suprenants after the close of business. You may write to me at Suprenant et fils at need.

I might also have stayed with M. Fournier, indeed he encouraged me to do so. But though he is a delightful man to converse with, he is unmarried and lives in a single room over his bookshop, and I find, cherie, that I have grown to appreciate the comforts of a real home!

I have not yet seen Jack, but I have arranged to meet him for the noon meal on Friday. We shall dine at a local inn, Les Fleurs, which was recommended to me by M. Suprenant.

It must seem odd to you that I make such a noise about this—that I do not simply go to stay with Jack and dine at his table whenever I am not with other friends. And yet more of my father's lessons have stuck with me than I would have guessed. I am the grandmaster of the Former's Guild here in Armorica, and as such I must maintain my independence from both the Armorican government, such as it is, and the Cumbria governor-general. The latter would be particularly fatal, as I am from Cumbria and I represent the Cumbrian branch of the Guild rather than the Provençese; and as Cousin Jack lives in the same house as Lord Doncaster and his table is in fact Lord Doncaster's table, I must keep my distance. I must meet him as my cousin, not as Lord Doncaster's aide; and I must do so in public.

Nor have I gone to speak to any members of le Grand Parliament, as I originally intended to do, nor to M le maire of Mont-Havre, for M. Suprenant has advised me not to.

"The hall of La Confrerie des Thaumaturges has been locked up tight since the last member departed these twenty years ago," he told me. "I have made inquiries, and found that he left no one responsible for the care and upkeep of the structure. As a journeyman, I suppose he had no authority to do so. And the city has not touched it, for by Guild law it is sacrosanct. Le Marechal would have cared nothing for that, I suppose, but his forces ignored it entirely; perhaps it was beneath their notice. And so it has just been mouldering.

"If you will take my advice you will ask no one's permission for entry, but simply engage a locksmith. It is your guild's property, n'est-ce-pas? Oui, oui, it is the property of the Provençese branch of the guild, c'est vrai, but you tell me that that does not matter by guild law. Begin as you mean to go on! And I may say that any true Armorican would rather see it in Armorican hands than in those of les Provençese cochons. Non, mon ami, you must act as one with authority!"

It did not surprise me to discover that M. Suprenant has arranged for such a locksmith to meet me at the Guild Hall tomorrow morning. Truly he is a good friend!

Perhaps I will find nothing but dust and discarded clothing, or such weathering that all within is in an advanced state of decay. But perhaps the structure may be saved, and we shall have a place to stay in Mont-Havre when we choose; and you know my other hope. We shall see.

Bless little Anne-Marie for me, and yourself as well!

Your loving husband,

Armand

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Letters from Armorica- A Leg to Stand On (5 May 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Jack left us this morning after an extended stay; word came that His Lordship needs him in Mont-Havre, as well he might. It was the longest Jack and I have been able to spend together since we were boys, and we spent it as you might expect: up until all hours talking, drinking just a little too much, and making the rounds of the village—for everyone here wanted to meet the hero who lost a leg fighting Le Maréchal.

Truly he was welcomed, and more than welcomed. He spent several days in my workshop while I worked, talking with my covey of older men and swapping outrageous stories with Jacques-le-Souris until they were all howling. The old men spoke of him to their families, which led to a stream of folks coming by to catch a glimpse of him, and to be introduced; and that led to invitations, and after a few days had passed I seldom caught sight of him between breakfast and supper. He had won their heart with his sacrifice, and they won his with their welcome.

When he first came, Jack was inclined to be sensitive about the remains of his leg, and morose with it when he was off his guard—for Jack has always understood his duty to his friends and family, to be of good cheer and keep up appearances. But I could see it in his fatigue at the end of the day, and the look in his eyes when he turned to go. I invited him to join us at the hot springs on the first Sunday afternoon he was with us, and he declined. "No one would care to see this," he said, with an overly casual wave downwards. I fear he spent the afternoon brooding.

But the folk of Bois-de-Bas are no strangers to serious injury—they hardly could be, given the rigors of building a new home in the forests of Armorica. They take it in stride, if I may use so inappropriate an expression; and an injury honorably received is a source of respect rather than revulsion, just as an injury foolishly received will be a source of humor (in others) for the rest of the person's life.

"You could cut a wide swathe her in Bois-de-Bas," I told him. "You're a handsome fellow, and charming with it, and the leg is neither here nor there."

"That last bit is true of a certain," he said. "I can't find it anywhere."

"But don't, please," I said. "Cut a swathe, I mean. It's a small town, and I live here."

He nodded, but he seemed more cheerful after that. And though he spent time with many families with daughters, I didn't hear his name linked with any in particular.

We had Marc and Elise to dinner, and visited them at their farm; and I saw Elise and my Amelie whispering to each other in the corner and giving Jack the occasional look. I didn't inquire as to what they were discussing. It was obvious enough, and besides, there are things man is not meant to know.

Yesterday I was told by several men of the village that I must be sure to bring him to the hot springs after our divine services, and to my surprise he came willingly. He seemed to know most of the men sitting near us by name, and when he told the crowd that he must leave in the morning they drank round after round to his health. Jack being Jack, he showed no effects from it on the walk home.

"I don't suppose you'd care to pursue a career as an innkeeper?" I asked him as he gathered his things this morning. "We have no proper inn here in Bois-de-Bas, and you have the temperament for it. Also the capacity."

He chuckled. "Wouldn't that set the cat among pigeons back in Yorke! It's bad enough that you've flown off as you have, but at least your father can tell himself you're extended the reach of the Cumbrian Former's Guild. But for me to descend to being a tavern-keeper! My parents would never live it down." His eyes got a faraway look. "Attractive idea, though. But no, that's a sergeant's retirement, not a lieutenant's, and anyway I think His Nibs has grander plans for me back in Mont-Havre."

And now he's off to whatever work "His Nibs" has for him. When he had passed out of sight, Amelie turned to me. "He must return soon, n'est-ce-pas? Perhaps you should visit him in Mont-Havre."

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Letters from Armorica- Stress and Strain (23 April 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I write quickly, for it is late—but I must not lose this thought. Cousin Jack is here, in fact he is snoring in the next room as I write, and during the evening he told us of his time with the Army. At one moment he spoke of trying to sleep on a troop transport during a storm, the void winds buffeting it and—and here is the point, Dear Journal—every sinew of the vessel straining and creaking. Even in calm, he said, there were always many small creaks and groans, but in a storm!

This past summer I often had cause to reflect on the hardened portions of the sloops we captured during the war: the keel and a framework around the gunwhales. Why so little, when you could harden more and give the ship a good measure of armor? But now I see, and it has all to do with the formed elements that keep the sloop in the air, and why the elements that move the sloop around the harbor can only move the sloop ever so slowly.

The hardened elements are like my hardened plates: as the ship works in the wind, groaning and creaking, they keep it whole—and collect the effort required to do so. And the lifting elements, for so I shall call them, make use of the effort so collected. The two are in a kind of balance! The movement elements are puny for fear that they will use too much effort—for fear that they will degrade the hardened structure, and eventually cause the sloop to fall from the sky.

If one were to harden the entire hull and support members of the sloop, what effect would that have? I had assumed it was a matter of cost only: that formers couldn't be spared for that. Hardening a wagon or sky-chair is no great difficulty, but a sloop is much, much larger. But perhaps such a hull would be too stable, would work too little, would collect too little too little effort (for which I need a better name).

How does one achieve this balance? There is nothing about this in my father's grimoire; but perhaps my father comes from a long line of incurious and unskilled formers. (It would explain his focus on guild politics.) Do the other masters in Yorke know more? What of the shipwrights? Someone must have recorded how it is to be done, even if not why it is to be done that way. But my grimoire records none of that: it is simply, "do this, and that will follow". And rarely, "My master tried that, and now he is gone."

But someone knows, or at least knew how to balance these things: how to assemble them together so that they will work safely. I will find out; and I will record my findings so that Luc and my future apprentices need not repeat my mistakes. And just perhaps I will find out how to safely do more than my father has ever dreamed of!

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