Author Archives: Will Duquette

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

Next letter

____
photo credit: Mike Bonitz Ground via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Inside the Guild Hall (16 May 35 AF)

First Letter

Ma chere Amelie,

I have such news! So much news, that I fear I might burst from it.

Yesterday, I must confess, I was disappointed. I met M. Suprenant's locksmith, a rotund fellow who rejoices in the name of Bertrand D'Aubigny, in front of the guild house at the appointed hour, and there waited while he effected an entry. It took him some little time, for as he told me, the lock was of an old and difficult style, and one rarely seen in Mont-Havre for it had been brought from Provençe.

"It is the sort of lock you might find on the front door of a bank in Toulouse, I think, M. Tuppenny. They wanted no one to get in, and I am sure no one has!"

But in time he succeeded, and beaming with pleasure threw the door wide that I might enter. I left him installing a new lock, and passed within.

There is good news and there is bad, cherie. The good news is that the guild hall is stoutly built of bronzewood, in and out, with bronzewood shingles on the roof. It looks rustic now, but it must have been the costliest building in Mont-Havre at the time it was built—or would have been, if they had contracted out all of the work. Bronzewood shingles, for sooth! But I must believe that the guild members formed at least the shingles themselves, and quite possibly many of the other members, for for bronzewood, though tough, sturdy, and durable, is notoriously difficult to shape. Even here in Mont-Havre it is generally used only for timbers.

As a result, I am pleased to say, there have been no leaks. The roof is sound; and the unnamed journeyman who returned to Toulouse took the time to shut the place up properly, closing and latching all of the stout bronzewood shutters, so that even the window glass has been preserved.

It is not large—for a guild hall in Yorke, or, I imagine, in Toulouse. But it is much larger than the few who built it were in need of; perhaps the Guild was expecting to build a respectable community of formers here in Mont-Havre, and moreover planned to provide at least some of them with living space. No one lives in the Guild Hall in Yorke, though there are a few rooms for visiting formers; but this structure includes three small apartments, along with a meeting hall and communal kitchen on the ground floor. It is plain, mind you—beyond the extravagance of bronzewood paneling, there is no decoration, no marble, no carving. But I think we could be quite comfortable here, should we ever elect to visit or dwell in Mont-Havre as a family; and at the very least it will give me a place to stay when I visit on my own.

The bad news—O, the bad news! Yes, the weather has been kept out. But the dust! And the mice, what remains of them. The survivor who returned to Provençe left everything here but his own personal effects; there are the remains of clothing in one of the apartments, as well as the remains of bedding and other linens, much chewed by small teeth and formed into nests. At least there are no living mice, that I can see; I suppose they abandoned the place when the food left in the pantry was all gone or spoiled beyond even their interest. It can be cleaned, of course, but I believe I shall have to find a cat.

And then there is the worst news. I looked for some kind of library of books on thaumaturgie—without much hope, mind you, for formers are secretive by nature, and certainly there is no such library at the hall in Yorke. But I thought I might at least find the grimoire of one of the deceased formers, abandoned when the hall was closed up. I had no such luck, at least during my cursory inspection. But of course the journeyman would naturally take his master's grimoire with him, at least if he had any sense.

By this time the locksmith had replaced the locks on the front and back doors of the hall; I paid him his fee, he gave me the keys, and we saluted one another. Then I locked it up and went to arrange for a man known to M. Suprenant to come and clean the place out.

I dined with M. Suprenant and his family that evening, and heard many stories of the early days of Mont-Havre that I will share with you when I return home; this morning I unlocked the Guild Hall for M. Armagnac and his workmen; and then at noon I dined with Cousin Jack. We talked of many things, as you can imagine, but in particular he told me that he had spoken of me to Lord Doncaster; and that His Majesty's Government was in favor of my possession of the Guild House though His Lordship saw no need to intervene in any way at this time. "Your cousin appears to have matters well in hand," so he said to Jack.

After the luncheon I returned to the Guild Hall to check on the progress being made by the cleaners, and as I approached the front door I was hailed by a voice behind me. I turned to see an old woman standing in the doorway across the avenue. I crossed the street and tipped my hat—for I confess, cherie, that I have bought a hat, so as to look the part of guild master. I seem to feel my father looking over my shoulder every moment that I wear it; it is not a calming feeling. I believe I shall leave it here in the hall, for it is certain I shan't need it in Bois-de-Bas.

"You are from the Confrerie?" she asked me with the creaking accent of one who has dwelt in Mont-Havre from the earliest days. "The Confrerie has returned to Mont-Havre?"

"Oui, madame," I said. "I am originally from Yorke, but Armorica is now my home; and by guild law I am the Guild Master."

"I saw you yesterday and thought you must be, n'est-ce pas? There is a thing I have for you."

She invited me into her front room, and I waited there for a quarter of an hour or so listening to her soft muttering from another room, until she returned with a small oblong object wrapped in a cloth. She handed it to me, and said, "I have been waiting twenty years to return this to one of the Confrerie. It was brought to me two days after that worthless journeyman ran off to Toulouse, and I have kept it safe all of this time."

I was seized with excitement, as you can well imagine. As I began to remove the wrapping, she continued, "Master Grenadin was killed by le grand-blaireau, oui? They told me this was found some distance from his body."

It was, of course, a book: the leather cover stained and dirty, and some of the pages torn; it must have been ripped from the pocket of the unfortunate master's coat by le blaireau's claws and sent flying. A quick glance verified that it was, indeed, a grimoire.

I thanked her gravely—I wanted to pick her up, buss her on both cheeks, and twirl her around, but as she was quite frail I chose to restrain myself until I return to Bois-de-Bas and can do the thing properly.

And then—O, and then! I returned to the Guild Hall, where one of M. Armagnac's men, a young fellow named Jean-Marcel, was waiting for me.

"We have found something, M. Tuppenny." He led me up the stairs to the first apartment on the right. "We moved the bed frame as we were cleaning, and, well, it is as you see." There on the floor, where it had been hidden by the ruin of the bedding, was a small trap door, perhaps a foot square. "We have not opened it."

I made haste to do so; and there, in a small cubby between the joists, I found a ring, a small sum of money in coins, and two thin books. I removed it all, pocketed the ring, shared the coins between Jean-Marcel and the other two workmen, and made my way to M. Bardot's, chortling softly as I went.

I have now had time to make a brief inspection of the two books, and to my joy they are not grimoires. The chaotic nature of your typical grimoire is impossible to mistake, but these, though written in Master Grenadin's hand, are no compendium of the notes, successes, and failures of a line of master formers. On the first page of the first of the pair is the title Sur la Thaumaturgie; and what follows is the master's attempt to set out a complete discussion of the length and breadth of his reflections on the nature and theory of forming. This cannot have been popular with the Guild in Toulouse—indeed, I begin to wonder whether Grenadin was sent to Armorica "under a cloud", as we would say in Cumbria, as a kind of exile. Or perhaps he came here of his choosing, to have a quiet place away from the Guild where he could work on his book in safety. Either would account for the journeyman's quick return to Toulouse on his death.

I have only begun to read them, cherie, for Grenadin's hand is difficult and my Provençese is barely adequate to the task. But I am more delighted that I can well say!

Please embrace my lovely Anne-Marie for me. I expect I shall be here another week, getting the Guild Hall into some kind of order, and then I shall return to Bois-de-Bas.

Your loving husband,

Armand

Next letter
____
photo credit: wuestenigel Lion door knocker via photopin (license)

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

Next letter

____
photo credit: Tauralbus 20190501_Schlüssel_005 via photopin (license)

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."

Next letter
____
photo credit: wuestenigel A glass of beer with wheat ears via photopin (license)

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!

Next letter

____
photo credit: The British Library Image taken from page 168 of ‘Otto of the Silver Hand. Written and illustrated by H. Pyle’ via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Armorican Reactions (16 April 35 AF)

First Letter

Mon cher Leon,

Thank you so much for getting the recent shipment to us so expeditiously! Your man Guy had a rough drive, so he told me, and certainly both his oxen and his wagon were mud-stained from about shoulder-height on down. How they achieved that while leaving the goods pristine I am sure I don't know; I suppose it is a well-kept secret of the brotherhood of wagoneers.

Guy also told us of the arrival of Lord Doncaster in Mont-Havre with his claims of Cumbrian sovereignty. Indeed, he was most informative in his pungent fashion; and yet I find that there is more I would like to know, and so I turn to you.

I have many questions, and yet being unfamiliar with the political situation in Mont-Havre I am not even sure what I should ask. How did the Grand Parlement take Lord Doncaster's address? What are your customers saying? I know there were Maréchalists in Mont-Havre; what has become of them? And what of the other factions? I am morally certain that at the very least there are those who favor a return to the Provençese crown, should such a thing be re-established; those who favor Cumbrian rule; and those who wish for the Great Lands to go away and leave Armorica to herself.

I've been sitting and pondering that for a bit, and am now of the opinion that that last group probably includes most in Mont-Havre regardless of faction.

But you are in a position to attend to these matters, and I know well that you do so. What can you tell me? And, speaking as a friend rather than as a Cumbrian: I shall quite understand should you find you need to send me only a terse, business-like note in response.

As for us here in Bois-de-Bas, there is a guarded optimism among my fellow citizens. We have all rejoiced greatly at the news of Le Maréchal bad fortunes; and I, being the only Cumbrian in the village, am well-enough regarded. A few wish for the return of the Provençese crown, but for most, it seems, it matters little. I suppose you might think of Bois-de-Bas as having a purer, stronger form of the attitude I described above: just as Mont-Havre wants to be left alone by the Great Lands, Bois-de-Bas wants to be left alone by Mont-Havre (except, of course, for matters of trade). We have much to do here, and we just wish to get on with it. If Cumbria reigns with a light hand, I think they will have no trouble from us.

Finally, I should like to commend to your attention a member of Lord Doncaster's staff, a young fellow named Jack Montjoy. (Jack is my cousin, and my closest friend from boyhood.) He might be a useful contact for you—unless of course you feel you must avoid all overt contact with Lord Doncaster's people. For his part, I should like him to have reason to stay here in Armorica permanently, and so it would do him good to become acquainted with those outside the circle of government. And besides, I think you would like him.

If it pleases you to meet him, write me so, and I shall send him a letter of introduction.

Your friend,

Armand Tuppenny

Next letter

____

Letters from Armorica- The Cumbrian Advance (13 April 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Such news!

I received a letter from my cousin Jack yesterday; it came with our first large delivery of goods from Mont-Havre since the first snowfalls. He has come to Armorica and plans to visit us—news enough, surely—but the real news came with the letter and not in it. Cumbria has claimed sovereignty over Armorica!

Indeed, this is why Jack is here. His Majesty's government has sent a fellow named Lord Dorcaster to be his "governor-general" in Mont-Havre. According to Guy, the wagoneer who delivered our goods, His Lordship addressed the Grand Parlement on his arrival and told them that Cumbria has no interest in Armorica's internal affairs, but only wishes to preserve her from Provençese tyranny.

"And this you may believe if you choose," said Guy, spitting on the ground by his wagon. But he admitted that Lord Dorcaster had made no attempt to claim the former Provençese governor's palace (now the home of what passes for the Armorican government). Rather, His Lordship had rented a house nearby for himself and his entourage.

"And what sort of entourage has he brought with him?"

Guy shrugged massively. "Just a squad of soldiers and a few servants," he said. "And his family, too," he said, shaking his head.

I sent Luc inside with the sack of letters for Amelie to sort, and then Luc, Guy, and I unloaded the goods into our sadly cramped storeroom.

"What are these?" said Guy, jerking his head at the shelf after shelf of warming blocks.

"A mistake," I said. "These boxes should go over here."

It was only after Guy had left that I found I had a letter from Jack and got more of the story.

It seems that Cumbria has Le Maréchal on the run! His troops have been driven out of Andaluse and Malague; more, His Majesty's government has made common cause with certain groups inside of Provençe, and with their help and connivance His Majesty's army is even now approaching Toulouse.

Jack had a bit to say about Lord Dorcaster, whose full title is Dorcaster of Avilona. He was raised to the House of Lords only a few months ago, as a reward for particular gallantry during the seige of Avilona in Malague; his quick action saved the battle and led indirectly to the Cumbria victory in that country. Prior to his exaltation he was but a captain of infantry, and Jack was his first lieutenant. Now he has brought Jack along as his right-hand man. So much for giving Jack a place to stay!

I mentioned to Amelie last night that as the weather was improving, it would soon be time to find Jacques and Madame Truc a home of their own. Jack would be coming soon, and we needed a room for him.

"Non!" she said, much to my surprise. "I will not hear of it." I looked at her in surprise, and she took my head between her hands, drew me close, and kissed me. "Non, we shall simply have to expand our house. For our children need les grand-parents, n'est-ce-pas? And where else shall we get them?"

I thought of what it would be like, per impossible, to have my father living with us in one house, or indeed in one country, and shivered. "Not from Cumbria, not if I have anything to say about it," I said. And then her words registered. "Wait. You said, children?"

"Oui," she said, and blushed. "And if I am to run the shop…"

I kissed her in return. "Yes," I said, "You are right. And perhaps we shall need to get Jean-Paul in to help you." And in truth I am glad, for Madame and Jacques have been very good to me, and I have often noted how they dote on little Anne-Marie.

And I am to be a father again!

I wonder how the Grand Parlement took Lord Dorcaster's address? Guy didn't know. I've heard little from M. Suprenant these past months, due to the weather. I hope I shall be hearing from him soon.

Next letter</i>

____
photo credit: diocrio Ruinas de un molino en el Adaja via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Speculations (30 March 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have worked from dawn until well after dusk for the past two weeks, and I believe I have now re-hardened all of the dishes and cookware in Bois-de-Bas. Also, I have collected nearly all of the warming blocks; stack upon stack of them clutter the back corner of our store room, each stack tied together with twine and carefully labeled. I have room for them all only because supplies are so low after the winter.

The interval was not without its points of interest, though I have been unable to record them until now. Mme. Coterie, about whom the less said the better, tried to trick me into hardening an old set of plates that had never before appeared in my shop. I did so, and then charged her the normal rate for them. She declined to pay, and when I insisted, she repined, she moaned, she bewailed, she threw herself on my mercy, and my mercy not availing she grew fierce, and cast doubt on my parentage. I threw her over to the mercy of my wife, who has none in such cases, and having paid she departed, grumbling.

M. Gascon, on the other hand, simply refused to hand over his warming blocks. He has pains in his joints, he told me, and needs the warmth all the year round. In fact, he thanked me over and over again for the invention, for he says he was snugger this winter than in any of the past ten years! He is a widower, and takes his meals with the family next door, and so perhaps it will do no harm to let him keep them.

As for me, my life has been too effortful for me to forward my study of effort, as I call it; but though it is tedious and tiring, it takes not much thought to harden a shipload of plates, and so I have had much time for reflection as I worked.

I do not know what effort is, but I plainly see that it is part of the world, and is all around us. If I were to travel to a new land where no man has ever been, and there form a warming block, I have no doubt that the warming block would warm me up nicely. I now see that it would do so by drawing effort from my immediate vicinity.

I also see that hardened objects somehow concentrate effort, making it available for use by formed objects such as warming blocks. Putting the two in proximity establishes a flow of effort from one to the other. The plate or the pot concentrates the effort, and the block somehow receives it, uses it, and then—what? Disperses it? It is gone, in any event; it does not return to the concentrator.

Why doesn't the warming block simply draw effort from the area around it once the effort concentrated by the hardened pot is gone? Why does it proceed to consume the pot itself? And where does the dispersed effort go?

The good news is that it does seem that proximity is required: I spoke with Marc today, and he had indeed been keeping his sky-sled in the shed for his oxen, which he had been warming with my warming blocks.

A warming block can function indefinitely if there are no hardened goods nearby; this I believe. Hardened goods remain hardened indefinitely if there are nothing draining the effort from them; this I know for a fact for at home in Yorke we have dishware that was hardened by my great-great-grandfather. Bring them together, and the one devours the other.

And yet, the great sky-ships, and even the sloops we took from the Provençese in the war, combine hardened elements with motivating elements, and yet these do not devour each other. Are motivating elements somehow different than warming ones? It seems not, or Marc's sky-sled would not have crashed. Both must disperse concentrated effort.

This gives me hope: there is a way to make the two things work together. Perhaps now that I have dealt with all of the dishware in Bois-de-Bas I will have time to try a few things.

Next letter

____
photo credit: michaelmueller410 Waves via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- The Flood Begins (16 March 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

The flood has began.

The weather is warming and the snow is melting, the village will be all over mud in a week; but I do not speak of that, but of the ladies of Bois-de-Bas.

Mme. Tremblay came to my shop two days ago, holding the shards of a broken plate. Mme. Simard the butcher's wife came later that day with more. Yesterday they were followed by others.

I had been dreading their arrival, which I knew could not be long delayed; what I had not expected was their diffidence.

"M. Tuppenny," said Mme. Tremblay with an embarrassed smile, "I do not know what I have done. See, the plate, it is in pieces." As though it were somehow her fault for mishandling it, when the whole point of hardened dishes is that they cannot be mishandled.

Except, of course, they can, it seems; and M. Tremblay had been one of the first to buy my warming blocks for his household. I had my answer ready, and making a mental note to thank Luc once again for his perspicacity, I said to her, "Yes, Mme. Tremblay, I know, my Amelie is having the same difficulty. It is nothing you have done. I believe it is something to do with the warming blocks I made for your husband."

Her eyes grew wide, and more than a little indignant. "C'est impossible! I have never—" and she shook her head vigorously—"I, I have never brought them into the kitchen!"

"Nevertheless," I said, "it seems to have something to do with them. Le thaumaturgie, n'est-ce-pas? It is unaccountable." I waggled my fingers.

"Oui, oui, quite unaccountable," she said, nodding wisely as if she knew anything about forming. "So what are we to do?" Now that I had accepted responsibility, as it were, her tone was quite different: the word "we" clearly meant, "You, M. Tuppenny, you!"

"Fortunately," I said, "the weather is warming. If you will have M. Tremblay bring me all of your warming blocks, I will disable them; and if you bring me your dishes I shall harden them once again, and you should have no further trouble."

"But the blocks! L'hiver, it may return next week!"

"Yes, I know, and I hope to find out what is causing the damage so that we can prevent it in the future. But it will take me some time, and meanwhile, your dishes…." I shrugged.

She was forced to agree. "But the blocks, we have paid for them." She looked at me sharply. "You will note down in your ledger that we have returned them, and if they cannot be made safe, zut alors!" Which was quite strong language for Mme. Tremblay.

"Yes, of course. Leave them with Amelie, and she will make the necessary notations. As for your crockery and pots, you may bring them to me."

And with that she had to be satisfied; and with that I had to be satisfied.

And then I went over to the shop, and had a few words with my wife.

"Amelie, dearest," I said, "I have just discovered that Mme. Tremblay has been using some of my warming blocks as plate and pot warmers in her kitchen. Have you, just possibly, been doing the same?"

Her eyebrows flew up—not at the question, but at the degree of my husbandly inattention. "Mais, oui" she said. "It has been so cold, and to put the hot food on cold plates—brrrrrr." She pretended to shiver, which I fear quite distracted me from the main issue for a little time.

"I see," I said at length. "And I suppose you've discussed this with the other ladies in the hot springs?"

She shrugged enormously. "Mais, oui. How not?"

"Yes, I thought so. You must stop using them thus, I am afraid—it is this, I think, that has been damaging your plates."

"O!" she cried.

"Yes," I said. "And I fear the cost of it will be great for us." I told her what I told Mme. Tremblay, and she began to cry.

"O, Armand, I am so sorry, me. I was so proud of you, and so excited, n'est-ce-pas, to share my new trick with the others."

"No, no," I said, "I would have suggested it myself, had I thought of it. No, the fault is all mine. I am trying new things, do you see, and so am finding surprises. It will be a costly mistake, but we will get through it."

We comforted each other for a few more moments, until we heard a customer's footsteps on the porch.

And now the word has spread. We have had to clear a section of the store room, which is now taken up with disabled warming blocks, and my workshop is filled with baskets and sacks of crockery, and I have been working long hours re-hardening dishes.

It has been truly fatiguing, for I must inspect the dishes carefully: if they are undamaged there is no point in expending any effort in hardening them, and yet the inspection itself takes effort. My effort, my own personal effort, that is.

And yet I am glad, for one mystery, at least, is explained, and there is one bright spot. My conjectures are correct, there is some link between the hardened plates and the warming blocks; and if they can be kept separate perhaps the effect will be greatly lessened.

But other mysteries remain. What of Marc's accident with his sky-sled? Why did it fail? I had been considering that it was something of the same kind, that somehow I had exceeded some degree of balance between the number of formed objects that absorb effort, like hardened dishes, and those that consume effort, like warming blocks and sky-sleds, and so there was not enough effort available to keep the sky-sled in the air. But the effect of the warming blocks on the plates seems to be governed by proximity in some way, and Marc's sky-sled was hidden in a shed on his, away from the house-hold.

Which shed, I wonder? Was it near the animals? Perhaps, was it near the goat pen? And perhaps, has Marc been using warming blocks to keep the goats warm? Foolish behavior, if so, for Armorican goats are known to be indestructible. More likely it was the oxen, if so. I must speak to him. Would that I had thought of this yesterday, so I could have spoken to him at the springs this afternoon!

And now I must lay down my pen and pay a visit to Patches the goat in her pen lest she feel lonely in the night and break out to come visit me. Even with her protective gear it is unpleasant to find her at my bedside.

Somehow when I left Yorke I thought that life would be simpler in Armorica. A simple life on the frontier, that is what I was looking for. Adventure, perhaps, excitement certainly, but simple adventure, simple excitement, not these complexities. Goats, forsooth!

Next letter

____
photo credit: Kristian Thøgersen Gæt en smadret ting via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- A Dream of Spirits (11 March 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have scarcely been able to sleep these past days, pondering Luc's question: where does the warmth come from? What makes the sky-chairs go? And then, last night—what makes the hardened dishes hard and unbreakable?

I fell into a reverie, there in our darkened room, remembering an absurd notion I'd had, a vision of airy spirits with little hammers and chisels breaking my plates. I had almost an image in my mind of such spirits flying away from my warming blocks in vast cheer and merriment, each tiny spirit bearing a gift of warmth. And other spirits, darker in color, clustering within a dinner plate, their tiny backs pressing against the surfaces, protecting them from knocks and bangs.

It is a foolish idea, and yet in my fatigued state it seemed to me as good an explanation as any I'd considered, and with great satisfaction I was at last able to sleep.

And then this morning I awoke and realized that I'd only put off the problem: even supposing tiny spirits are carrying warmth away from the warming block, where do they get it? Not from the block; I could burn that and get a small amount of warmth, but my warming blocks keep giving.

I was shaving, wincing at the icy water in the basin—for my Amelie prefers me to remain clean-shaven even at the coldest times of the year—when a different image occurred to me. I pictured Amelie's cooking pot, its walls filled with tiny spirits as she prepared dinner. But instead of pushing against the knocks and bangs, the little spirits grabbed them and held them close, filling their little arms with them. And then, in my mind's eye, I pictured a warming block. Spirits were clustered around it—not in it, but around it—and each one had its arms filled with a warm glow. As I watched others joined them.

And then, in my mind's eye, I put the warming block beside the pot…and saw spirits flying from the pot, arms full of knocks and bangs, to the block. And as they approached it the knocks and bangs began to glow.

At that point Amelie interrupted me and pressed a cloth to my cheek, for I had cut myself without noticing.

I have been pondering this all day, sitting beside the stove in my workroom while Luc copies from my grimoire. I do not believe in my little airy spirits, of course, but there is something, some je ne sais quoi, that is shared by all of these things. I hardly know what to call it, or how it can be so.

The best word I have come up with is something like effort. It takes effort to move a sky-chair or a sky-ship. It takes effort to warm a bed. And, although my father taught me to think of hardening as a change in the substance of the thing hardened, it takes effort for a hardened plate or pot to resist knocks and bangs.

Or, no, I see now! I see it! It takes effort to produce the knocks and bangs! It takes effort on the part of an ox to pull a cart, and the cart is moved by it. The effort is produced by the ox, and transmitted to the cart through the yoke, and is so consumed.

And just so is the effort of banging the pot on the stove transmitted to the pot. This wears down a normal pot, which eventually requires the services of a tinker, but in a hardened pot it is somehow taken in, absorbed like this towel absorbs the water from my face. It is taken in, and the plate seems harder because of it.

The warming block receives effort from—where?—and somehow radiates it like warmth from a fire, and we feel it.

It almost seems as if the warming blocks are somehow drawing the absorbed effort away from the hardened dishes and turning it into warmth. Eventually the plates are not only not hardened, but even weakened! And then, because there is less effort available to them, the blocks give off less warmth.

Could it be that simple? I feel that there is something I am missing. Warming blocks should work properly even in the absence of hardened goods. And then, how did my sky-chairs work for so long, over so wide a region, only to start failing now?

I must re-read my grimoire and think deeply about everything it says in the light of these new ideas.

Next letter

____
photo credit: