Monthly Archives: January 2020

Letters from Armorica- Gossip (13 March 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have finally found Bertrand, who I have been looking for these many weeks.

I had been thinking and pondering about his future ever since I called for him to come to me in Mont-Havre last summer. He has been such a help to me, and is such an able young fellow, though unskilled; and I fear that I have made his life very much harder. His father, M. Laveau, is a foolish and angry man; and when the Provençese troops withdrew and we were able to return to town from L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau, Bertrand was so full of M. Tuppenny this and M. Tuppenny that that M. Laveau thought I was trying to transfer his son's affections to myself. I spoke to him at the time, and did the best I could to smooth it over; but it seems that my existence has continued to rankle.

After we returned to Bois-de-Bas from Mont-Havre, Bertrand simply vanished. Even Luc did not seem to know where he had gone. I kept my eyes open for him, but did not approach M. Laveau for fear of throwing fuel on the fire.

And then, two days ago, Luc came to me with a message arrow in his hand—and one not of my making. He seemed distressed.

"You've been busy," I said, taking the arrow and examining it. It was simple, as such arrows are, more the suggestion of an arrow than an arrow one might shoot from a bow. I could tell at once that it had been properly made and formed. "Have you tried it?"

"Oui, maître, I have. It was from Bertrand. He is very ill, and has no one to help."

"So you do know where he is?"

Luc looked down. "Oui, maître. Je suis désolé."

"Poppycock. You're not a bit sorry, Luc. You're worried about Bertrand, and pleased that you gave him some message arrows. You did give him more than one? And a message board?"

"Oui, maître."

"You're too sharp for your own good, Luc, but I supposed I must be pleased at your skill. Now, tell me about Bertrand."

It was a brief tale, quickly told. I had called for Bertrand to come to Mont-Havre; and he had come without his father's leave, without even asking for his father's leave. This was very bad; and when we returned to Bois-de-Bas his father accused him of horrible things, and cast him out.

He was ashamed and humiliated, and afraid to come to me; but he spoke with Luc, and remembering some of the tales we had told during the war he found shelter against the winter in the hunters' caves east of Bois-de-Bas, the place where we had made a decoy against the Provençese, hunting and fishing in the increasing cold.

"But now he is sick, and has no more food."

"You have more arrows? Send him a message telling him that we are coming." And then I went and found Jacques Poquêrie in his workshop and asked him to organize a rescue. We left early yesterday morning in M. Tremblay's sleigh, Jacques and Luc and I, stopping frequently to trim back branches to clear the way, for the snow was still many feet deep—and how I wish I had a sky-wagon in good working order, for we could have been there in a few hours and back in time for dinner!

We found him some distance into the cave, feverish and wrapped in skins and the remains of an old blanket. He had managed to keep a small fire going, and had been melting snow for drinking water, but he was bony and shivering. He lay on his side, clutching Luc's last arrow to his breast, and was hardly able to look up at us.

Luc sat by his side and fed him water and biscuit while I built up the fire. Jacques brought the two horses into the cave and attended to their needs—we were glad for their warmth—and then hung skins against the draft. I made soup, and gave Bertrand willow bark against his fever. I had brought the willow bark from our shop, which doubles as our village pharmacie. I shall have to see about finding a proper doctor for Bois-de-Bas; folk medicine and midwifery are all very well, but it is past time we should have a doctor of our own.

And then we settled in for the night. Bertrand was in no state to tell us his story, and we did not press him. Jacques and I kept the fire going through the dark hours; and after the sun rose we carried the invalid out to the sleigh and returned to Bois-de-Bas.

I would have brought Bertrand to our home and made room for him here, but Jacques said no. "There is gossip that does not reach your ears, Armand. It will be better if he comes and stays with us tonight. And tomorrow I think I will go and pay a call on M. Laveau, n'est-ce pas?"

"Is that wise? Perhaps we should leave it for now, and address it at the hot springs next week."

He laughed harshly. "A man who drives his son away to die in the snow, Armand, what should be done with a man like that? I know what the men will say at the hot springs even if you do not. And as for you, you should take no notice. It is beneath your honor."

"Are you sure, Jacques?"

"Mais oui. Leave it to me."

I do not know what Jacques proposes to do, for he would not tell me. But at least Mme. Poquêrie will take good care of Bertrand.

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photo credit: davebloggs007 Lake Louise along the trails via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Equations (6 February 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

It has been a long and cold and quiet winter in Bois-de-Bois—quiet, that is, except for the noise produced by little Anne-Marie and Margaret. So quiet, in fact, that there has been little to say, as occupied as I have been with Amelie and children, and with settling back into my normal life here in town. The front of my workshop has remained a hotbed of anecdotes and grey hair; Jean-Baptiste has been ably running the shop for Amelie; the hot springs have retained all of their warmth and attraction; and the new Town Hall, completed in my absence, has been receiving regular use, which has done much to reduce the friction between the original settlers and those who have come to Bois-de-Bas in the aftermath of the war. And Patches the Goat has remained every bit as much of an infernal nuisance as ever.

I wonder—it is possible to harden plates, pots, and so on; I wonder if it is possible to soften Armorican goat hair while it is still on the animal. It would have to be repeated periodically, of course, and I am not at all sure that I want to be spend quite that much time with goats on a regular basis. I shall have to think on this.

But quiet is good; and that is not to say that I have been idle, for I have been diligently studying mathematics with Luc. It is difficult, yet intriguing; and I believe that in time I will be able to state my findings with regard to thaumaturgical effort, greed, and generosity with great precision.

In the meantime, working from my trials of this past summer and fall, I believe I have come up with a way to make my warming blocks practical without risking the destruction of other formed elements in the vicinity. They will necessarily be more complex than the simple wooden blocks I started with, and so will be more expensive; but I think they will not be difficult.

The trick is to combine a simple heating block with a thin hardened element that is under tension. The tension is achieved quite simply, by means of four screws that fasten the hardened element to the heating block. The screws are tightened, causing the thin element to bend imperceptibly (I have exaggerated this in my diagram). This produces a source effort generously given up by the hardened element and used greedily by the hardened element. The whole contraption may then be enclosed in a frame leaving the faces of the two primary elements exposed.

I am not yet sure how as to the best size for the hardened element, or the required degree of tension, to make them absolutely safe; but this, after all, is why my design leaves the hardened element exposed: should the greed of the heating block consume the hardened element it will be immediately obvious to the user. And

In the meantime, our beds are toasty warm, which is a joy and a delight in this cold, snowy weather.

In the meantime I am eager for spring. We have received no letters from Mont-Havre, let alone Yorke, in some time, due to the snow; all I can say for certain is that there have been no disasters, or Jack would have spoken with M. Suprenant, who would have sent me an arrow. I must remember to provide him with a new set sometime in the coming months, for it is likely he is running short.

I suppose I am over-eager, for it has been barely enough time to have received word from Yorke concerning Trout's pernicious plans and ultimately fate at the hands of His Majesty's government—always assuming that anyone deigns to pass the details along to me—for the wheels of government grind slowly. But I hope I may soon have word from my mother.

Ah! Amelie is calling.

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Letters from Armorica- Friends and Family (17 October 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Mum,

It has been far too long since I was last able to write you and send you my love; indeed, between the war with Provençe and other goings on I haven't been free to write anyone in Cumbria in almost a year. At first I was trying to avoid attracting attention; and then later there was no way to send a letter; and in recent months I have been out of contact with almost everyone. But things have changed, both here in Armorica and there in Yorke, and I have reason to think that this letter will not be unwelcome.

First, give me joy! And give yourself joy, too, for you are once again a grand-mama! Two days ago, on 15 October, my Amelie gave Anne-Marie a sister, a lovely baby girl. We have decided to name her Margaret Elise after Aunt Maggie and Amelie's good friend Elise Frontenac. I have mentioned Mme. Frontenac to you in the past, though you may not remember; I met her and her husband Marc on the boat here to Amorica—my word, almost three years ago! They have been stalwart friends all of that time, and I owe much of our current health and prosperity to them. But there is a special reason for honoring Mme. Frontenac, and that is that I was obliged to be away in Mont-Havre on business starting in early August until just a week or so ago. Mme. Frontenac has taken good care of my Amelie in that time, and made sure that she wants for nothing.

Oh! There is so much to tell you. I expect you have had some words of me from Aunt Maggie, through Cousin Jack, but I have no idea what you know and what you don't know. Let me tell it all plain.

When the War broke out something over two years ago, I was obliged to leave my position in Mont-Havre. Marc and Elise, bless them! took me into their home here in Bois-de-Bas. I soon met my Amelie, the daughter of the proprietor of the general store here in town, and we married that December.

Truly, I know it seems a bit of a comedown for my father's son to wed a shopkeeper's daughter—but remember that Bois-de-Bois is a small place on the frontier. The general store is the lifeblood of the community, and its owner an exalted personage by local standards! And, well, my Amelie is a dear and a delight, and I know you would love her as I do. I think, given time, she would even manage to charm Father.

After we married I took up forming again in a small way; and on investigating—for Father has always impressed on me the importance of the approval of the Guild—I found to my surprise that I more or less am the Former's Guild in Armorica. Three formers came here from Toulouse in the early days of the colony, but they returned to Provençe after one was killed by a wild beast. They left behind a small but soundly constructed guild-hall. I wrote home seeking to be granted my mastery, as I believe you may know, and under guild law and with the approval and support of Lord Doncaster, His Majesty's governor-general for Armorica I am now the grand-master of the Armorican Former's Guild, La Confrerie des Thaumaturges. You may tell Father that I claimed the grand-mastery and the guild-hall last spring, on my own authority under guild-law and without seeking approval from anyone; that should bring him satisfaction. His Lordship's approval came later, as Father would say it should.

But I am getting ahead of myself, for I have neglected to mention the War! How clumsy of me, for of course it is the War that has prevented me from writing home as I would have liked to do. It was the War that drove me here to Bois-de-Bas, yes and it followed me here, and we had a time of great confusion. I shan't say much about it, as I was rarely in direct danger myself; but I served in my way, and in so doing won the hearts of my neighbors. We do not have much in the way of formal government in Bois-de-Bas, being a small place on the edge of things; but at the time of my coming the mayor of Bois-de-Bois, if so I may call him (for no one here ever did) was Marc Frontenac's uncle, Herbert de Néant. He was a wise and strong man, and my benefactor, but he was tragically killed during the fighting…and to my shock and surprise (and some amount of dismay) my neighbors chose me to replace him. They don't call me "mayor" either.

It is not a time-consuming task, mind you. I preside over the town meetings, when we have them; and I am the one to whom everyone brings their knottiest problems involving their neighbors. I have not yet had to prove my wisdom by dividing a baby down the middle, but it may well come to that. In the meantime, the front half of my former's workshop has become a kind of salon for the old men of the town, especially in cold weather. They play chess and tell each other stories that they all have heard a thousand times, and they are literally my council of elders, giving me the benefit of their wisdom whether I ask for it or not.

Among their number is a fellow named Jacques-le-Souris, whom you may remember my mentioning in my early letters home. He was another boarder at Madame Truc's boarding house, and when Le Maréchal brought war to Mont-Havre and his men confiscated her house to garrison troops in, she and Jacques came to Bois-de-Bas. They are married, now, and live with us, and have been a great help to Amelie.

Indeed, our household has grown alarmingly. In addition to my Amelie and Anne-Marie (and now Margaret Elise as well!), and Jacques and Madam Truc, there is also my apprentice, Luc, a quick and likely lad who will be a great former one day; and also an Armorican goat named Patches of whom I have been inordinately and mysteriously fond—for Armorican goats are distinctly and uniquely unlovable.

And then there is Jean-Baptiste and his wife Brigitte. I first met Jean-Baptiste in Mont-Havre when I worked at Suprenant et Fils. He also came to us because of the war, and being commercially minded has been helping Amelie with the shop while I am away. I expect that in time we may sell it to him, for I am more and more involved with my forming and with the town, and so have little enough time to spare for it, and Amelie's time is increasingly taken up with our children.

Oh, and I have forgotten to mention young Bertrand, a stalwart lad and a great friend of my apprentice, Luc. Bertrand is not my apprentice, having no talent for forming whatsoever that I can see; and yet I think I shall have to find a lasting place for him. He was of great use to me during the war, and also more recently, and his father insists on treating him like a child though he has proven himself to be a young man.

As you can see, Mum, I have built a new life for myself here; and if my actions with regard to the Guild have earned Father's respect and approval, well. That's something I think I never would have done had I remained in Yorke, for we should have always been butting heads. For my part I am surprised at the lessons I learned from him without realizing it, and at the good use I have been able to make of them, and I though I miss you I am quite content to use them out from under his immediate supervision.

Do feel free to share this last paragraph with him. I am quite done trying to please him—and yet I find that I would be glad of his good opinion.

Dearest Mum, I shall try to write more often now that peace has broken out. Please give my best to Aunt Maggie.

Your loving son,

Armand

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photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar Cute baby goat! via photopin (license)