I seem to have made a bit of a fool of myself. Yes, Le Maréchal has vanished from Guyanão, yes, his current whereabouts are unknown, yes, it is reasonable to make provision for the future. But, as Jack has acerbically reminded me, winter is coming, and Le Maréchal is not enough of a fool to campaign in winter. He will have gone to a place prepared by his supporters, a place unsuspected; but he will make no overt move until spring at the earliest. There is no immediate threat, Jack tells me, and no reason for me to have alarmed M. Suprenant so severely.
How had it escaped me that wars are fought from late spring to early fall? I suppose it comes from growing up in Yorke, where life goes on the year round: the streets are shoveled, and commerce proceeds. Sky-ships must beware the winter storms, indeed, but the snow is no hindrance to their movements; and I suppose I assumed that it was the same for ships of war.
To some extent it is. A sky-sloop or larger vessel can certainly go where it pleases, just as a freighter or packet can. But ships are not enough for conquest; troops are required, and troops must be kept warm. Delivering a company to a place where there is no housing for them in the middle of winter and keeping them alive and in fighting form can certainly be done; but expecting them to go out and take and hold territory in deep snow is much more difficult. Indeed, keeping a sizable number of soldiers warm and fed on shipboard in cold weather is tricky in itself. Even freighters have this problem, Leon assures me; some goods are better shipped in winter, some in summer.
And then, troops are easier to come by than troop transports. Raids are possible on widely dispersed points by use of sky-sloops, but occupation and conquest, Jack tells me, involve considerable marching. A transport most usually spends it time moving from port to port, if not from Land to Land, not ferrying troops around the countryside.
So it is unlikely that we will see les Cochons for some months, if we see them at all; and as le Maréchal can't have many ships, his first concern must be transport for the troops he hopes to gather to his cause. If this is so then I am doubly a fool, for shipping is much more readily available elsewhere than it is in Mont-Havre.
Jack thinks the following is most likely: that troops have already gathered at some location; that le Maréchal either has or will join them; and they will strike some nearby harbor or shipyard in a quick raid, cutting out the shipping they need; and then they will vanish. To where? There are Lands unknown in the Abyss, and islands that appear on no merchant's charts. They may well have established a haven in such a place. And then, no earlier than this spring, they will strike. And as the prize is in Provençe, Jack is certain they will strike there.
He may be right. Far be it from me to wish ill on my Amelie's distant relations, but I very much hope he is. But as for me, well. There is no harm in keeping L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau well-provisioned, or for continuing our preparations for building hardened and self-moving wagons.
And in the meantime, I wonder. Ships of war may indeed go where they like; is there aught I could to do give them pause? It seems unlikely, for defense is a constant need, and not all formers are as hide-bound as my father; if there were something, surely someone would have thought of it? But in the event I have time to ponder this, for Luc has progressed far enough to do most of the day-to-day work at the counter, though under my supervision, and Bastien is still learning to read and write English well enough to copy my grimoire.