Monthly Archives: August 2019

Letters from Armorica- Learning from Luc (30 May 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Luc, I discover, has been busy while I was away in Mont-Havre. He—

But all things in due course.

When I left for Mont-Havre I instructed Luc to continue copying out my grimoire, which I left behind for that purpose. Amelie, I have discovered, is an excellent teacher; Luc's hand is better than mine ever was, or at least no worse. And as of this week, I can say with confidence that he is understanding much of what he copies.

I cannot say the same for myself and Master Grenadine's Sur la Thaumaturgie. In part it is a matter of language—my Provençese has improved greatly since I came to Armorica but I am constantly having to turn to Frobert's Dictionnaire de Provençese; and since the definitions are also in Provençese a single word can turn into quite the research project. Yes, dear journal, I could simply ask my Amelie; but Master Grenadine affects a high and lofty style, and uses many words that are not in common use in Bois-de-Bas.

But beyond that, Master Grenadine is speaking of arcane matters of forming, at a level of theory that perhaps no other former has reached, and so he is perforce having to invent a terminology in which to describe his thoughts. This is common in every field of endeavor, I suppose; I learned on Onc' Herbert's farm that there is a word for every part of a wagon, or a cow, or what have you. Or of a goat, I suppose, if anyone were willing to get close enough to discover all of them.

But Master Grenadine never stops to define his terms; and worse, Master Grenadine fancies himself a poet. I do not know if it was simply his way, or if obscurity was his goal. But it is no help, and so I have been reduced to listing the words that appear to be terms of art, and then reading along willy-nilly until I find something that appears to match my experience. (Alas, Master Grenadine's experience far exceeds my own.)

For example, I am nearly certain—but only nearly, I say—that by bombastication de tortue he means what I would call "hardening"; for a tortue is what I would call a tortoise, and of course tortoises have hard shells. But what does he mean by protestations d'envie, protestations of envy? Or oeuvres de la charité, works of charity? "Il est tres difficile," as Amelie would say.

But I was speaking of Luc. I was looking for him on Thursday and could not find him—an inappropriate condition for an apprentice—until I spotted him coming down the road toward the shop. He was dusty, and had one of the small ledgers he uses for writing practice in his hand. I waited for him on the porch. To do him credit he made no attempt to sneak around the back when he saw me, though he gave a heavy sigh.

"Maître," he said, and waited.

"And where have you been, Luc?"

"At the Frontenac's farm, Maître."

"At the Frontenac's—but why? What business could possibly take you there?" Luc was acquainted with Marc and Elise Frontenac, of course, and had occasionally run errands there for us, but not in this case, for Amelie had been equally ignorant of his location.

He squirmed. "I have been…"

"Yes?"

He looked up at me. He looked sheepish, but also…excited?

"May I show you, Maître?"

"At the Frontenac's?"

"Oui, Maître."

"Very well, but in the morning. It is too late today. Now, go and feed Patches."

Friday morning we set out for Marc's farm. Marc met us in the farmyard.

"Come to check on young Luc's doings, eh? I gave him some space out behind the goat shed."

I simply nodded, not wanting to shame Luc in front of Marc by saying that he had gone behind my back.

Behind the sheds I found two posts hammered into the ground about three feet apart. A small block of wood topped one of them, and another small block of wood was levitating directly above the other, held in place by a few inches of cord. I fingered the cord; it was tight as a bowstring.

"It has been like that for two weeks," said Marc.

"Luc—," I began, then stopped. "Marc, I apologize for my rudeness, but I must speak with my apprentice in private."

Marc grinned. "Elise will have refreshments when you are done," he said.

After he had gone, I inspected the first block, the one sitting atop its post. It had been hardened—not uniformly, but quite well for a first try.

"Luc," I said.

"Oui, Maître?"

"Have I given you leave to attempt to form anything without my supervision?"

"Non, Maître."

"Very well. So explain to me what you thought you were doing."

Journal, I was flabbergasted by the answer. Luc had been thinking about the hardened dishes and the warming blocks, and why they affected each other so, and had added a couple of questions of his own: "How soon?", and also, "How much?" And rather than merely pondering, as I have been doing, he decided to make a "trial" of it.

"The blocks each weigh four ounces, Maître, and they are exactly three feet apart. I am checking every few days to see when the hardened block begins to get soft." He showed me the ledger. He had written down these facts, and also the date at which he had begun his trial and the dates on which he had checked on it. He had begun the day after I went to Mont-Havre.

"I see. And why here? Why not in our workshop?"

"But there are so many sets of hardened dishes in the village, Maître."

"And you didn't want to risk damaging them?"

He looked surprised. "O! I had not thought of that, Maître. But having them near would have made things different. So I came out here, where there are no formed items nearby."

"I see. But you're mistaken, I'm afraid. Do you know what's in that shed?"

"Goats, Maître."

"And what are goats wearing, Luc?"

"Why, they are wearing—they are wearing hardened coats, like Patches." His face fell.

"Yes, and horn protectors. And so?"

"My trial is ruined, Maître."

"Yes, it is. And you ought not to have started it without informing me."

"O, but Maître! It was to be a surprise for you!"

"It has certainly been that. Now, for your punishment, I have a task for you. It is going to involve quite a lot of walking, I'm afraid."

His shoulders drooped. "Oui, Maître."

"First, you must speak to M. Frontenac, and find a place for your posts at the far end of his fields, well away from the goats. It will be necessary to construct a small shed to house them, so they stay dry. Second, we must prepare the blocks of wood together. And third, you must check on them every other day."

"Oui, Maître! I shall!"

I took the hardened block from its post and handed it to him. "This you may keep; it will do no harm in our workshop." Then I glanced at the levitating block. "Why levitation? Why not a warming block?"

He looked puzzled. "Levitation is more fun, Maître."

And you know, Dear Journal, he is not wrong.

Next letter

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photo credit: Edna Winti There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Town Matters- (23 May 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

It is ironic, I suppose. I spent the wagon ride to Bois-de-Bas alternately pondering how best to study Master Grenadine's writings and wishing for a peaceful soak in the hot springs—for I may say that while traveling by wagon is much quicker than walking, it has its own discomforts.

But I have been bogged down in town matters since my return. Mme. Golombaque, it seems, has been stealing flowers for her table from the garden of Mme. Poquerie. M. Alemagne's dog has been terrorizing chickens at local farms. My goat, Patches, has…but I do not want to think of my goat, Patches. I am simply grateful that Patches did not take it into her knobby head to join me in Mont-Havre, or I should be getting complaints from Honfleur or even Petit-Monde as well.

It seems that no one in Bois-de-Bas can settle any dispute without my aid.

I did get my soak this afternoon, of course, but no peace, for the town matters joined me there. I am increasingly attracted to the notion of moving my family to Mont-Havre. There, at least, I could continue my studies in peace! I said something of this to my Amelie just now.

"Oui," she said. "In great peace, between visits from the servants of le Grand Parlement and those of Lord Doncaster, and visits to the tailor for les vêtements de cérémonie, and invitations from tout le Monde, n'est-ce pas? For you are the Grandmaster, and there you must play le Grand Homme."

I believe I shuddered. I saw the beginnings of that dance myself at my meal with M. Archambault—and I have been familiar with the body of it from boyhood.

"Mais non," she said decisively, and kissed me on the cheek. "You will stay here, where you truly are le Grand Homme."

Ah, well. There will doubtless be further matters to settle tomorrow, and then perhaps I shall be able to settle down to my reading. I will take some time! Master Grenadine's grimoire is neatly written (at least in the earlier pages) but poorly organized, as grimoires generally are; and his Sur la Thaumaturgie has proven to be entirely opaque to me so far. I understand the words, but they seem to have no relation to anything in my experience as a former. But it is a book of reflections; and perhaps it will grow more concrete as I proceed.

Next letter

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Letters from Armorica- The Political Question (20 May 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Jack,

This is goodbye for now, for I must soon go meet M. Frontenac's wagoneer for the ride back to Bois-de-Bas. But I could not leave the city without telling you some of what has been happening, and some of what I've learned.

First, the Guild Hall is in excellent condition, far better than I could reasonably have expected, and now that it has been cleaned it wants only a few items of furniture and a goodly supply of food and new linens to be livable. I have not yet procured these things—I am not sure when I shall return, and I do not wish to encourage the mice. However, I did have M. D'Aubigny change the locks so that I shall be to enter without his help on my next visit.

I was sitting in the main room of the Guild Hall yesterday, pondering Master Grenadine's grimoire while a workman patched a mouse hole or two—I wonder, is there something I could form that would repel mice?—when to my surprise a boy in livery came to the door. It is a thing I have not seen since I left Cumbria! To be sure, there are a few servants in Mont-Havre, in the wealthier houses; but according to M. Suprenant they are generally younger sons and daughters who take a position for a few years to earn some money before heading out to build a new life in the provinces. And even these wear no livery; in thrifty Armorica, who would waste money on such things?

And yet here was a young lad in livery. He saluted me, handed me an envelope, and stood, waiting expectantly. I handed him a coin, which he took quickly enough, but said, "I am to wait for a response, monsieur."

I could see at a glance that his attire was quite new: a tight-fitting blue jacket and trousers, a white shirt and stockings, all topped off with a small blue cap. He had an emblem pinned to his cap and a matching bit of embroidery on the front of his jacket.

"That is quite an outfit," I said.

He regarded me proudly. "It is because I am in service to le Grand Parlement, monsieur!"

"And this is a new thing?"

"O, non, monsieur. I have been running messages for le Grand Parlement for many months."

"And yet I have not seen your uniform before."

He laughed. "O, that is quite new, c'est vrai They say it is because of Lord Doncaster. He dresses up his servants quite fine, and le Grand Parlement will not be outdone."

And so it begins. I am not sure what I think about it.

The message proved to be from a M. Archambault, a member of le Grand Parlement, asking me to dine with him that evening.

I will not weary you with a detailed narrative of the meal. M. Archambault is a tedious gentleman of the sort I am all too familiar with from my father's table in Yorke. He wished to meet with me in his role as representative of le Grand Parlement, and he used a great many words to inquire out what my plans were for the Guild and to whom I am loyal. I used a great many more words, loathing myself the while for speaking my father's kind of language, to say that I am loyal to my family in Bois-de-Bas, that I planned to continue my work in a quiet way, and that it would be a long time before the Guild had a regular presence in Mont-Havre.

"So you are not here as a representative of Cumbria?" he asked in so many more words.

"Hardly," I said. "Armorica is my home."

He did not ask me whether or not it was my intent to play politics; he can hardly think otherwise given the example of the guilds in Yorke and Toulouse, and his own proclivities.

I suppose it was inevitable that Archambault and his ilk would take notice of my presence here, but I mislike it, Jack. I mislike it.

Your cousin,

Armand

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photo credit: Mike Bonitz Ground via photopin (license)