Monthly Archives: April 2020

Letters from Armorica- Ground-breaking (16 July 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Today we finished clearing the ground for Tuppenny Wagons' new home! I have seen how quickly my fellow townsfolk can put up a new barn, so it shouldn't be long before we can move in and get to work.

Amelie already has ten or so orders in her ledger; one is from M. Trousseau, the lumberman, for a wagon to carry logs to his mill. I have been pondering how best to meet his needs for some time, and after much discussion with Jacques we think we have come up with a solution.

At present, M. Trousseau's men do the rough cutting where the trees are felled, and then haul the sections to the mill by harnessing them to a team of oxen and dragging them. This is hard on the software woods (though not on bronzewood), and also hard on the oxen. But there has been no help for it: the sections are quite heavy, too heavy to easily lift onto a wagon; if there were roads for wagons, which there are not.

Now suppose we made a pair of lifting elements that could be strapped onto each end of a section of trunk. The first of the pair would have the attachments for harnessing a yoke of oxen. The second would have a hardened skid as an aid to dragging the section—for from our experiences with wagons, we do not consider that lifting the entire log into the air is a good way to transport it, as a floating section of log could easily get out of hand and crush someone. No, we intend that the lead end should float just off the ground, while the hind end should simply be lightened but not lifted.

To this we would add other lifting elements, with straps, that can be attached to a log and used (with care) to move it about "by hand", as, for example, onto the bed of the sawmill, or just to lift it enough to get the transportation fittings attached to the ends.

We will be presenting our ideas to M. Trousseau tomorrow; and no doubt will be told that we have missed some vital point, and shall have to start over. Still, I think we are making progress.

In the meantime, Jacques and Luc and I have nearly completed our first two wagons for sale; and Amelie will be sending word to the buyers in a day or so.

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Letters from Armorica- Ducks (28 June 36 AF)

First Letter

Mon cher Leon,

His Lordship is attempting to use guild law to put pressure on me to make my home in Mont-Havre. It was delicately done, by a brief word from Jack—while I am sure he would like to have Tuppenny Wagons based in Mont-Havre our mutual venture was nowhere mentioned, but only the legal status of the Armorican Former's Guild. I have put him off for the time being, but we must get our ducks in a row, as they say in Cumbria.

I enclose a copy of my letter to Jack, so that you know the full position; you are free to discuss it with him, if you think necessary; but I am concerned that he is in a delicate position himself, and I would not wish to put a strain on his loyalty to His Lordship. That would not be fair to him as a loyal and trusted aide, nor as my cousin and friend. But you will know best, I am sure.

I suppose I didn't need to say any of that; and naturally you drew certain conclusions from having received this by arrow.

You had best read the letter to Jack before continuing.

What I chiefly need to know is the state of Armorican law (and of the city of Mont-Havre's law, if there can be said to be such a thing, apart from Armorican law) regarding the establishment and maintenance of guilds. This must be kept quiet; I am sure you know someone who can help.

But second, as I most definitely did not discuss with Jack: I should like to know the laws regarding the establishment of new city charters. I have no wish to formally move the guild house to Bois-de-Bas; but at present I cannot even threaten to do so, as Bois-de-Bas is nothing more than a rather large village at present. That must change when our business grows larger and so I would have asked this question eventually in any event. I have discussed the possibility with a few of the folk here, with positive results (the idea of Bois-de-Bas being the second city of Armorica piques their vanity if nothing else) but of course we should have to have a town meeting to settle it. Before that, I should need to know precise details.

This question, you will understand, must be kept deadly quiet. I am sure that Armorica's charter as a colony has rules for the chartering of new cities, rules that quite possibly no one has looked at in decades; we have been a backwater here, and our towns and villages haven't needed the protection a city charter provides. As soon as the question is raised, however, there will be those who wish to change the rules to their advantage—and, possibly, to our disadvantage—and should we choose to pursue the matter I should like to have it a fait accompli under the law before any such legislation can be suggested.

I do not think we are in great danger, Leon; His Lordship is a reasonable man, and if necessary I will journey to Mont-Havre to speak to him myself. But my father taught me never to show my cards, and always to bargain from a position of strength. I find it distressing how useful his advice is becoming.



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Letters from Armorica- Guild Rules (27 June 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Jack,

Well, now. That's an interesting conjecture on His Lordship's part; and as you tell me Lord Doncaster has only my best interests in mind in bringing it to my attention, I must of course believe you.

It is certainly true that in Cumbria—or, rather, in Yorke, for historically the Guild, though united, owes its existence to its charter in each city—well, not to put too fine a point on it, yes, in Cumbria a guild must maintain a regular presence at its guild houses or lose its status before the law. That is, ultimately, the foundation of my legal argument for assuming mastery of the Former's Guild here in Armorica—the Confrerie des Thaumaturges packed bags and returned to Provençe, abandoning the field decades ago.

Best interests or not, this is an absurdly transparent attempt on His Lordship's part to persuade me to move lock, stock, barrel, and company to Mont-Havre. That would kill two birds with one stone: I would preserve the guild by taking up residence in the Guild Hall, a pleasant enough space, and His Lordship would have me ready to hand.

But you know, Jack, that my father expected me to take over the Cumbrian Guild from him in good time, and so spent more of my apprenticeship teaching me Guild Law, especially as regards this sort of thing, than he did teaching me forming. It was always a bone of contention between us, but after so many years it stuck well enough. And I can tell you, the situation is less simple than it looks.

Under Cumbrian law, His Lordship would be perfectly right. But we are in Armorica. The Former's Guild here has its origin in the Cumbrian Guild, as represented by my person; but it is the Armorican guild, and is free to adopt its own unique rules as circumstances dictate. To be blunt, within certain customary limits, the laws of the Armorican Former's Guild are what I say they are.

And, of course, within the limits of the laws of the land in question.

The question is, what are the Armorican laws regarding guilds? Before the war, I expect they would have been the same as the Provençese laws, Armorica being considered a province of Provençe; but what are they now? His Lordship is the Crown's representative in Armorica, more or less by right of conquest; but as a protectorate of Cumbria rather than as a province. His Lordship is here with the agreement of the population, and that only because His Lordship's hand has been light, and he has chosen to allow us to retain such of our local laws as seem good to us. Armorican laws apply. And then, the overarching law of guilds is ultimately the law of the city corporations, taken together, as they involve guilds, which is to say, the law of Mont-Havre.

So what is the law of the City Corporation of Mont-Havre as regards guilds? That is what I must determine—for I tell you plainly, I have no intention of making my home in Mont-Havre as a long-term proposition. In the meantime, the phrase "a regular presence" is subject to interpretation; and for the time being I am happy to establish a presence there at least once a year.

Might I add—I have no wish to discommode His Lordship; indeed, I am happy to hear any proposal he might have for me. But Bois-de-Bas is my home. If His Lordship truly has my best interests at heart, he will respect that.

Your affectionate cousin,


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Letters from Armorica- Making Haste Slowly (6 June 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Leon,

Everything seems poised to go so fast, and yet proceeds so slowly! Amelie received three inquiries for road-wagons before I'd ever returned to Bois-de-Bas, and several more have come in during the last month. There would be many, many more, I feel sure, if we began to use our only road-wagon to haul goods in earnest between Bois-de-Bas and Mont-Havre, but it will be too useful to us here as we get La Compagnie des Wagons Tuppenny started. That, and as you say we must move avec prudence: let us by all means have a few wagons to sell and the ability to produce more before we starting enflaming demand too much!

And that will take a little while. CWT has so many needs, and even though so many are readily available here in Bois-de-Bas it takes time to get them all together. Lumber, for example. We have been using chêne-pierre because it is common here, and it was easy enough to gather sufficient seasoned wood for a single wagon; but if we are to make many such we need a steady supply, and that requires planning.

And then, Jacques has suggested that we might use a proportion of beechpine in place of chêne-pierre, as it is softer and easier to work, and might do equally well for the parts of the wagon that aren't load-bearing. And as far as that goes, it might do quite well for the hardened struture as well—though I will have to carefully determine whether the material to be hardened has an effect on the degree of effort a hardened block can make available to the other parts of the wagon. I don't believe it does; it seems to have more to do with shape and geometry.

But if we can, then using beechpine could result in a considerable savings of both time and money—except that we would have to acquire it from a distance, and it would need to be hauled here, and we would need you to set up relationships with those who sell it.

Oh, my. I have just imagined a discussion I must have with M. Trousseau, who owns our local lumber mill. Imagine, mon cher Leon, a road-wagon for hauling logs…to a lumber mill outfitted with formed devices for moving them easily. I'm picturing something like an object with a strap for strapping around a log that provides lift. Strap two or more around the log at intervals, and it should be possible to lift the log into the air and move it into place. It would need to be carefully designed: as with our road-wagon, you wouldn't want the log to get away from you. But it seems that the work could be made much easier and safer than it is now, and that would be worth quite a bit.

Hah! Perhaps we might acquire our chêne-pierre at a lower cost than we had planned! Yes, and then sell the equipment to other places in good time!

But our deepest needs are two: men to do the work, and a place for them to do it. The latter is the more pressing, as we have some number of young men who came here during the war and are eager to stop "feeding the goats" as my townsfolk have begun to say—that is, to do the unpleasant jobs that as newcomers they are most welcome to do. I've no doubt they have friends in their home villages who are eager to the do the same.

The facility is easy enough, in principle: all we need to get started is, effectively, a barn, to get us out of the weather, and that's a structure that the people here know well how to build. And quickly, too, as I saw with our town hall some while ago. But there is no place to put it right here in town, as the town hall got the last available space for such a large structure; and in any event no one wants it right here in town anyway. Marc and I have found a property some miles to the west of town: a nice spot on dry, high ground, but with bad soil for farming or it would have been taken decades since. The land will need to be cleared, of course, but we should have something in place in a month or two, enough to get started. It is a place of the most excellent, as Amelie noted to me, because it overlooks the road from Mont-Havre. We shall put a large sign on the front, and every drover who goes by will see it.

The more difficult issue is how we divide up our time, Jacques and Marc and I. Jacques remains our cabinet-maker here in Bois-de-Bas, but we will need him to build the first several wagons, and then to oversee the work. He will need to take on another apprentice or two, it seems, which will further restrict his time in the short run. And Marc, of course, has his farm; but he is planning on spending a good bit of his time on our new endeavor, and if it goes well he might, so he tells me, give up farming altogether.

Ironically, my services are the least of it so far as building the wagons goes; and I begin to see how the Former's Guild has become so powerful and its members so lazy. The forming proper is a small fraction of the effort required to produce a finished wagon; some of it I can do here in my workshop, and the rest can be done on-site quickly enough. And yet, only a former can do it. It will be quite some time before the work required is beyond the strength of Luc and myself. Still, I suppose I should begin looking for another apprentice. Luc is progressing quickly, now that he has learned to read and write fluently; his indentures run for another five years, but he will be capable of journeyman work long before that.

So there is much to wait for—but of course we are not waiting for all of that to fill the first few orders. Jacques and I have revised the design somewhat after our journey to and from Mont-Havre, and have begun work on the first few orders; and Amelie has designed a pretty little emblem we can place on each wagon, like a hallmark. On a part of the hardened structure, naturally, so that it can't be removed!

And so we go on, mon cher Leon, so we go on!



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