Author Archives: Will Duquette

Letters from Armorica- The Garrison (28 Août 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Nearly the worst has happened: the Provençese cochons have come to Bois-de-Bas in force, and established a garrison in the village, bringing three sky-sloops and a full company of troops in addition to the crews. Marc and Elise have been ejected from the shop, which they had been running in our absence; it has been taken over by their quartermaster. Others have been ejected from their homes as well.

It seems that the Provençese commander in Mont-Havre, Général La Salle, has become suspicious of the number of sky sloops that have been lost in the vicinity of Bois-de-Bas, and sent the garrison here to find out what has been happening to them, and to put a stop to it. Beyond that, I know very little.

The first we knew was when Jean-Pierre, one of Bertrand’s lads, flew right into the Avenue on a sled, bellowing “Les cochons, les cochons.” He had been manning the western watch post and seen them with his spyglass when they were still on the horizon. He is a good lad, and will not be made to tend the goats any time soon.

Étienne was here making a delivery—not of goats, for which God be praised—and leaving his sky-wagon where it lay, he took one of my first man-sized sky-sleds back to town to give the alert. He is a brave man as he had never flown one before, for I must say that flying head first at speed between the trees while lying prone in a sky-sled is very different thing from moving more sedately in a sky-chair or wagon!

We had been preparing for this, of course. There are a fair number of sky-vessels in in Bois-de-Bas, now, and it would be fatal for les Cochons to find them—even if it did not turn their attention to the skies, which it surely would, it would reveal that I am still in the vicinity. It would also remove our advantage in short order, for there is little difficult about forming a sky-chair or wagon once you have the knack. But we had laid plans, as I say, and within a quarter of an hour of Étienne’s return, every chair and wagon in Bois-de-Bas was on the way north under cover of the trees while the Provençese vessels were still miles off. Their drivers left them in a hidden spot near the lake shore and returned to the village, and this evening after dark my men descended in Étienne’s wagon and flew them all home to L’Isle de Grand-Blaireau. Now they are all stacked higgledy-piggledy among the trees on the edge of the encampment.

Étienne has retained the sky-sled, which he will have stashed in a safe place; it is essential that the village has a means of communication with the island. It should not matter if it is found; it is much less obviously a conveyance than a chair or wagon, appearing to be little more than a simple wooden frame. I hope that Marc will use it to come to us as soon as safely may be. There is much we can do to harry them, if we are careful, but we must have information; and of course there is much concern here in the encampment, for everyone here has friends or family remaining in the village and its environs.

In the meantime we have disguised our settlement here on the island as best we can. We have stopped all building, all hammering and pounding, and the fires have been put out. Even the use of candles and lanterns has been forbidden: the Provençese commander in Bois-de-Bas shall certainly notice that many folk are missing, and I would not be surprised if he were to conduct night patrols with his sloops looking for signs of cooking fires. If they should fly directly overhead we shall be lost in an instant; but islands are common in the skies of Armorica, and everywhere ignored, and if we take care I have every hope that we shall be above notice.

Next Letter

____
photo credit: vastateparksstaff camp cooking via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- The Sky Goats (24 Août 34AF)

First Letter

Cher Onc’ Herbert,

I very much appreciate the several wagon-loads of livestock you sent us yesterday, especially the chickens, for they will go a long way toward making our little hidden settlement self-sustaining should les Cochons du Maréchal come in force. But I ask you, was it really necessary to send us your goats?

Without warning? Seriously?

I picture you sitting in your big chair at the head of the table, guffawing at my expression when I discovered I had received a wagon-load of les chèvres du Diable. Whatever you imagined, it was less than the reality, as I’m sure Étienne was quick to inform you. At least you had your men put the goats in chains for the wagon ride, so we could keep them contained until we had a place to put them! Étienne wanted to leave immediately, for which I cannot blame him after a flight with a cargo of goats; but when I learned that he meant to let the goats go free, to roam the village and despoil men, women, and children, I am afraid I had to threaten him with violence.

Yes, Onc’ Herbert, I did. I threatened to chain him to one of the goats for the afternoon. More than that, I had to call a halt to the work that was going on so that my men could build a stout pen for the pernicious beasts, and I made Étienne fall in and help.

I have been wondering, did you bring these goats with you from Provençe, or did you find them here, in Armorica? I seem to remember meeting some goats on a farm in Cumbria when I was a small boy, and they weren’t like these goats. They were smaller, and they had gentle eyes, quite without that little red glow deep inside. I remember, I was able to pet them with my bare hands without abrading the skin from my palms, and I had no fear of turning my back on them. So are these Armorican goats, or are they Provençese, relatives of Le Maréchal, perhaps?

Speaking of palms, could you send us some leather gloves? Or at least some leather, so we can make some? Amelie is due soon, and as tempting as it would be to slaughter the goats for their hides I am afraid that we may need their milk. And for that, we shall need gloves.

My only consolation is that my regular duties leave me no time to be directly responsible for the care of the goats. Well, and I suppose it does give me another handle on young Bertrand and the other lads, and on the young men. Not that I will assign goat-keeping as a punishment, mind you. Far from it. I shall set up a rotation, and shall excuse people from goat-keeping as a reward for hard service and heroic effort. Building should go more quickly in the future.

Aha! Amelie has returned from the bath house; it is now the mens’ turn. I must go.

Goats. Bah.

Armand

Next Letter
____
photo credit: Maxwell Hamilton Goat via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Sleds (22 Août 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Marc,

First, my thanks for the many wagon-loads of supplies you have sent to us over the past week. I begin to think you are stripping the barns and storehouses of Bois-de-Bas quite bare! Fortunately the lads have found some grottoes we can use for storage, or we should have been quite unable to get it all under cover. I know, of course, that you are sending it to us not for our own use, but to keep it out of the hands of Le Maréchal‘s men when they come, but as more and more of the villagers come here to the encampment the supplies are quite necessary. And indeed, our simple encampment is looking more and more like a village. The simple tents on the ground are being replaced by what I might call demi-cabins, with wooden floors but canvas roofs; some even have the beginnings of wooden roofs. The little church is coming along slowly, and the bathhouse has become a great comfort to all of us. Le Blaireau scarcely resembles a sloop any longer, being more of an inn and community center. Her masts and cordage have been taken for other uses (her canvas went long ago); windows have been opened everywhere, giving light to the spaces within; and she is connected to both banks of the river by a pair of permanent bridges that connect to a passage way of sorts cut through her hull. My folk here have taken to calling it the Avenue.

The space just forward of the Avenue is now my former’s shop; it is central, so I am always available for questions, and I have a desk for my work managing the encampment in the afternoons. The space aft of the Avenue is my Amelie’s domain where she manages the encampment’s stores. We can’t keep the stores all in one place anymore, and it is easier for her, in her condition, to work from Le Blaireau than to go out to her old spot on the bank. Not that she will be able to keep it up much longer! Indeed, she is spending most of her days sitting in a comfortable armchair directing others in the work.

And speaking of that, thank you so much for sending us Brigitte! She has been a great consolation to Amelie, for I find that they are old friends; and Amelie is teaching her what she must know to help out in managing the stores. Brigitte is also, as I’d hoped, assisting Madame Truc in nursing poor Jean-Baptiste! It is embarrassing for him, I think, having such a pretty girl see him so low, but at least it has brought color back to his cheeks. And this morning, to my delight, he agreed to be carried down to sit with me in my former’s shop. He could only manage it for a little over and hour before he had to be returned to his bed, but we had much conversation in that time, and I noticed that his eyes were much on a certain person at the counter on the other side of the Avenue.

I believe I have solved the communication problem, at least here on Grand-Blaireau. As Onc’ Herbert may have told you, we have our lookouts around the perimeter of the island: the lads of Bois-de-Bas, led by Bertrand and Jean-Marc. They are all much steadier now they have something to occupy them! But when they spy something it is a long and weary slog for them back to the encampment, the more so as we have not had time to cut proper trails. It would leave little enough time for us here to prepare for a direct attack, let alone to pass word along to you down below. But I have come up with a solution: the sky-sled!

Imagine a sled, just big enough for the occupant to lie prone, but with the runners extending above instead of below. The entire package is not much bigger than one of the lads. I have now built two of them; they are light and speedy, and can maneuver deftly between trees and over briars. Each of the lookout points will have one, to be used to alert the encampment, and I intend that each of the boys will be trained in their use.

I admit that I was concerned that the lads would take them skylarking and do themselves injuries, but my Amelie had the answer to that. She took Bertrand and his lieutenant aside. “Those who fly recklessly shall not be allowed to fly at all,” she told them. “And my husband will hold you two responsible.” That put a stop to their capers. Young Bertrand would be mortified to be grounded when others can yet fly, and he has the others firmly under his thumb.

The sleds are easy to form, delightfully so after all my work with sky-wagons; they are light, and hardened throughout so that they are nearly indestructible. I should have enough for our needs soon. You might consider whether you could use a sled or two for your scouts—they carry less than a two-man sky-chair, and are far less comfortable; but they can go more places, they are easier to hide, and of course they leave no tracks.

The next challenge is how best to communicate what we learn to you on the ground. I have no good solution; but I’m thinking a sled relay might be best. When we see something, we send a sled to the lake shore, using the waterfall for cover. You keep a man with a sled or sky-chair on duty there, to carry word along to you and Onc’ Herbert.

I wish there were a way for us to use semaphores of some kind; but I cannot think of anything that would be visible to your men on the ground that wouldn’t possibly be visible to les Cochons as well. For them to find our encampment would be a waste of all of our hard work, and as our establishment here grows in size I find I am nervous even about sending out so much as a sled out during daylight hours. I have already constrained the hunters to go out before dawn and not return until after dark.

Armand

Next Letter

____
photo credit: marcoverch Brennholz als Backdrop via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Jean-Baptiste (17 Août 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Marc,

I must thank you for your care of my friends Madame Truc, Jacques-le-Souris, and especially Jean-Baptiste, and for bringing them to me most swiftly. They had to take off Jean-Baptiste’s leg below the knee, but now he is doing ever so much better than he was when he arrived. He is still weak, but his fever has gone and he is speaking sensibly.

He is, of course, in a dark mood. His livelihood is gone, and so is his leg; he is angry at Le Maréchal, as who isn’t; he feels that he can do little to help, and that his future is gone. It is difficult for him. We are taking the best care of him that we can—Madame Truc has nursed many a sick gentleman in her time—but there is something lacking.

As you know, we have men here on Grand-Blaireau, and mothers with children, some with and some without their husbands; but we have no young ladies, no one to visit with him and give his life a little interest. Jacques-le-Souris tries his best, for he has a fund of stories going back to the founding of the colony; but I do believe that Jean-Baptist heard all of the best ones, and many of the worst, while on the road from Mont-Havre, and to him they all now have a tinge of pain and delirium.

Might you and Elise be aware of some other young lady in need of a husband, who might be willing to dare the wilds of L’Isle de Grand-Blaireau? Jean-Baptiste is a diligent and serious young man, a clerk, true, but one whom M. Suprenant put in a position of responsibility at the port of Mont-Havre. And he is something of a hero; I have been spending as much time with him as I can manage, and I have been delighted by such of his stories as he has had strength to relate. Before his injury, he and his compatriots managed to do not a little damage to Le Maréchal‘s forces; it seems that the Provençese have been bringing war materiel to Mont-Havre, to support their efforts to rouse the colony and conscript her people, and Jean-Baptiste’s group have been busily sneaking in to the port and burning them as quickly as they arrive. Apparently they also left a grand-blaireau in the commander’s bed. It was dead, of course, and had been for some time, and the commander, General Marchant, was forced to move out of Le Gourverneur‘s mansion.

I have employment for him, as soon as he is well enough to take it. My darling Amelie has been serving as our quarter-master here, but her time approaches. I am hoping to transfer her responsibilities to Jean-Baptiste’s shoulders as soon as may be.

I do not know what Jean-Baptiste will wish to do when peace comes, if it ever does; but I am confident that he would be an asset to Bois-de-Bas should he be persuaded to stay. All that is necessary at the moment, of course, is that he be persuaded to live.

Have a care, though. He has been unlucky in love before, for some time ago he was betrothed but his intended ran off with a sailor; you do not meet young ladies of good family at the port of Mont-Havre. If you know of any young lady who might be willing to come to us, let it be one who knows her own mind, and who will not lead him on if she decides against him. Sincere friendship will do far more for him than love followed by a broken heart.

In the meantime, we have enough sky-chairs and wagons now, and I have enough other responsibilities, that I am slowing down production. Which is to say that Jacques Poquerie and I have been working on new chairs and wagons in the mornings; and while I have been attending to the business of L’Isle de Grand-Blaireau in the afternoon, Jacques has been working on completing our new bath house. It is still a tent, mind you, and more rustic than I can well say. But the first set of tubs are complete, as is the boiler for the hot water (for which I formed a heating element out of slate), and today is the first day we shall make use of it. Indeed, our ladies are in the bath as I write, for we do not yet have enough space for both sexes to bathe at the same time. Oh, I am looking forward to it; I have greatly missed the hot springs in the grotto.

You and Elise must come visit us when you can spare a few hours; Amelie misses her friend!

Armand

Next Letter

____
photo credit: Feist, Michael – FunnyFence – catchthefuture 1170622 via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Visitors (14 Août 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I am shocked and appalled. A sky-wagon came from the village today, bearing three people I have reason to know well: Madame Truc, Jacques-la-Souris, and Jean-Baptiste. They came to the shop in Bois-de-Bas seeking shelter, for of course Madame Truc knew I had come there. Elise directed them to Onc’ Herbert, naturally, and he arranged for them to be brought to me. I could not believe my eyes.

“O, mon fils,” Madame Truc cried when she saw me. She looked tired to me, tired and worn and small. Jacques-la-Souris looked haggard and much thinner than when I’d left Mont-Havre. And poor Jean-Baptiste! It seems that when Le Maréchal’s men came they took over the port and all of its functions. All available goods were seized to support Le Maréchal’s war, and of course all of the merchants and their clerks were sent away. M. Suprenant could only help him so much, for of course it was his business at the port that was shut down; and so he fell in with a group of young men who opposed the Provençese cochons. There had followed a number of scuffles and skirmishes and in one Jean-Baptiste was wounded in the leg. Madame Truc brought him from Mont-Havre in the back of a cart, moaning and delirious.

“It was an escape of the most thrilling!” Madame Truc told me with a little of her old fire. We were sitting here, in our quarters on Le Blaireau. It occurs to me that I have not recorded this before, but it was decided (and not by me) that Amelie and I should remain here, the sloop’s interior being less drafty than anything on the island itself. Jacques Poquerie (we have too many Jacques on this island!) and his men expanded the narrow little hole the sloop’s commander had called his quarters forward into the body of the sloop, and made for us a cozy apartment, complete with a pot-bellied stove against the chill of the night. I am not at all sure where the stove came from, and have learned that it is best not to ask such questions. It is a great comfort to us, especially when I remember my first nights on board, huddled in the galley!

When they arrived Jean-Baptiste was whisked away to have his leg attended to; Bois-de-Bas remains a town of the frontier, and her people are accustomed to the sort of injuries received while felling trees and the like. I was assured that though different in origin, Jean-Baptiste’s wound is not all that different in kind, and that although he would certainly lose his leg below the knee he is quite likely to be well enough after. Provided they were quick enough, for it had grown much worse during the journey. I trust that they were quick enough, for I heard his cries as they took his leg from him.

And so it was that Madame Truc and no-longer-so-fat old Jacques-the-Mouse sat with us in our “parlor” in the stern of Le Blaireau. I escorted them in, and introduced them to Amelie. Even in her fatigue Madame Truc gave Amelie a careful looking over, eyeing her from head to toe, for of course only the best would do for one of Madame Truc’s young men; but Amelie rose (with difficulty) from her chair and advanced to meet her, taking her hands.

“Dearest Madame Truc,” she said. “Armand has spoken of you so often and so warmly. I am delighted that you thought to come to us in your need.” How many are the ways that a woman might say those words! But Amelie’s sincerity was so clear that Madame Truc simply nodded, looked me, and said, “Bon.”

It was then that Madame Truc and Jacques sat down and told us of their “escape of the most thrilling.” Jean-Baptiste had been carried back to Madame Truc’s boarding house by his friends after the scuffle, and she had hidden him away. A day had passed, a day of watchful waiting, until she began to think that his identity had passed unnoticed and that no one would come looking for him. It had, in fact, passed unnoticed, but that was no help; for the very next day a squad of Provençese soldiers came and told her to turn away all of her borders; the soldiers were to be garrisoned there from now one, and she was to see to their needs.

“All of my people, my gentil-hommes had to go,” she said. From another I might have expected tears, but Madame Truc was simply irate. “Even pauvre M. Sabot. It was too much. I had Jacques move young Jean-Baptiste to the cellar, and then sent him off with his things, as if he were leaving, but really to hunt for a cart and horses.”

“I hid them outside of the town,” said Jacque-la-Souris with a hint of a smile. He looked bad, gray in the face, and had not yet spoken much to us. “It is many years since I last hunted les grand-blaireaux, but still I know every inch of the country-side, me, what the town has not covered.”

“And then he returned by night and we fetched Jean-Baptiste up from the cellar.”

“But how did you get through town, just the three of you! Surely the cochons were keeping watch, and with Jean-Baptiste wounded—”

“It was tres difficile,” she said. “But M. Suprenant sent two of his men to help us.”

“There are many ways out of Mont-Havre,” said Jacque-la-Souris. “Le Maréchal’s men could not watch them all. It is not so hard, if you know the town. And it was very dark.”

“And now we are here,” said Madame Truc. “And moi, I do not know what we shall do.”

“First you shall rest,” said Amelie. “You shall stay with us, of course.”

“Yes,” I said, “and for as long as you like. But you know, this sloop on which we are living is not unlike a boarding house.” I shrugged. “I should not object if you chose to help with running it.”

“And my time, it is nearing,” said Amelie, “and I have no mother or older sisters to watch over me. You are welcome for Armand’s sake, but I am sure you can make yourself welcome for your own sake, n’est-ce-pas?

At that Madame Truc brightened up, as I knew she would, for she lives to take care of others, and I knew she should hate to think herself useless.

Et moi?” said Jacques-la-Souris.

I knelt beside him, putting my hand on his shoulder. “As for you, you old reprobate,” I said to him, “my old friend and counselor, you shall remain with us as well. They seem to have put me in charge here on this island; I shall need men of sense to advise me.” I raised an eyebrow. “And besides, what would Madame Truc do without you to take care of?”

He chuckled a very little, though it was hard for him. The journey had taken nearly all he had.

“Come with me,” I said to them. “They will have made spaces for you by now. Sleep well tonight. You are safe.”

And so they are; yet they have walked away from everything they had in the world. I shall certainly see them taken care of. But my heart is sore for them, and also for M. Suprenant and his people, and for M. Fournier. If only we had more men, and could drive les cochons from Armorica!

Next Letter

____
photo credit: DarrellR IMG_0766.JPG via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- On Tactics (11 Août 34AF)

First Letter

Cher Onc’ Herbert,

I am troubled by what you write me of the news from Mont-Havre: Provençese soldiers garrisoned in private homes, men taken from their houses and their places of employment and pressed into service, my friend M. Suprenant’s young lads conscripted—and them still boys! And not for the defense of Armorica, but to be sent abroad to fight for that cochon Le Maréchal! It is monstrous!

It is with that in mind that I tell you what happened at L’Isle de Grand-Blaireau today. One of the lads—not Bertrand but his lieutenant-in-mischief Jean-Marc—was manning his observation post and saw a sloop flying Provençese colors sailing along the road to Bois-de-Bas. He ran to the encampment to give warning—and may I say, I wish we had a faster means of communication than running! But we are meant to be secret here, and so beacons or alarm bells won’t do.

I trust that by now you have dealt with the sloop and its crew; and might I suggest bringing the sloop here to the lake, burning it to the water line, and sinking what remains to the bottom of the lake? I think that would be much simpler than what we did with the Rubicon. But it got me to thinking.

Consider: the sloop is sailing along, eyes to the ground; and why wouldn’t they be, as the skies of Armorica are completely uncontested so far as Le Maréchal knows. From above comes a swarm of sky-chairs, each manned by a pilot and a gunner. The gunners, our best shots, begin picking off the crew one by one, the sky-chairs constantly moving so as to be difficult targets. More than this: the sky-chairs are presenting their bellies to the sloop—and every inch of them is hardened. Perhaps the gunners might even carry torches or grenadoes to drop on the sloop’s deck. Eventually they descend and take the sloop, and voila, there we are.

It is premature to execute this tactics, it seems to me; so long as the sloops come to Bois-de-Bas and land, giving your men easy access to the crew, there is no need to go to such trouble. But if Le Maréchal begins to make war on Bois-de-Bas in earnest, we must know what to do, and be prepared to defend against him on the ground—or the skies—of our choosing, rather than in the village itself.

So we must give thought to the tactics, n’est-ce-pas? Would it be better to begin with shooting the helmsman, or by shooting fire arrows at the sails? A sky-ship without its sails is a wallowing pig, as we have reason to know. And once we have decided on tactics we must train the men to execute them.

We now have several sky-chairs here on the island for our own use. I have begun sending our best hunters and sky-chair pilots down to the forest below (under cover of the waterfall, of course) to hunt for meat for the pot—and I have directed them to hunt from the chair, rather than on foot, descending to earth only to retrieve a kill. It is practice for them, of a sort, and good for us here. I dare do no more, for I must not risk the enemy discovering us.

Perhaps you might do the same in Bois-de-Bas: send your pilots and hunters out to practice their marksmanship from the air. You might even set up some targets.

In the meantime, we must give thought to our communications. We are well situated here to be good lookouts for you, if only we could keep you informed as to what we see. Perhaps we might do something with mirrors? I shall think on it.

In the meantime, are there any spyglasses in Bois-de-Bas? We have two here, taken from the sloops Le Blaireau and Rubicon, but that is not enough for all of the lookout posts.

Armand

Next Letter

____
photo credit: John Brighenti Moon Rising Over Moss Lake via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- A Day of Rest (10 Août 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I am not quite sure how it happened, but here in the encampment on L’Isle de Grand-Blaireau I have become the person everyone asks for permission to do things. It is a great nuisance and distraction, for I have many things of my own to attend to; but at times it becomes endearing.

Today, of course, is Sunday, a day of rest, and the day for Divine Worship; but we have no church here, and no way (even were it prudent) to transport everyone to Bois-de-Bas; though of course we have no priest in Bois-de-Bas either. We have been observing the day of rest in past weeks; the people are working hard all day every day, and need their rest, even if it were not customary. But today I had a deputation of men, led by Drunken Jacques (not that he has touched a drop since he arrived on the island) asking my leave to continue working today—to begin building a church here, and a bath house.

“It is the Lord’s Day,” said Drunken Jacques to me, “and so we ought not work; and yet we have Church in which to attend to Him. And no time the rest of the week to build one.” I discussed it with Amelie, who told me she quite liked the idea, especially the idea of a bath house, and so I gave them my leave.

I was pleased to see that they do not intend to build the two structures all at once, but a little each week. Today they prepared the site for the church and sank timbers into the corners to support the floor and, eventually, the roof. We had our Divine Worship sitting on sections of log and on blankets on the ground in the midst of the site. Drunken Jacques led the worship; he has a rich baritone voice. Afterward we had a communal meal in the new clearing near Le Blaireau that has become the village square, after which my friend Jacques the Carpenter began building a pair of enormous tubs for the bath house. Tents are enough for modesty, at least until winter comes; and we shall need a stove for a ready supply of hot water ere long; but we cannot have our Sunday afternoon baths without the tubs—and we cannot have our town hall meetings, as it were, without the baths.

The folk of Bois-de-Bas are keenly attuned to social position, I have discovered. Onc’ Herbert is influential as much because he is a prominent farmer and land-owner as because of his undoubted wisdom; and I suppose my upper-class upbringing in Yorke, and my role as the town’s shopkeeper and former lend me cachet I am not at sure I deserve. Apparently Amelie has been bragging about me, for some of the folk here have taken to calling me Maître Tuppenny!

But wisdom and common sense are also highly respected—and in the baths, social position is forgotten. Everyone may speak, and though fools are not heeded, poor men are heard. Amelie tells me it is the same for the women. It is a system I have not heard of elsewhere in the world; and it may well be unique to Bois-de-Bas.

In the long run, I think, we will need to excavate much larger pools, as I have seen in the public bath houses in Yorke, and how we shall heat them I have no idea; perhaps I could form something? But for now Jacques’ tubs will serve admirably, and I find I am quite looking forward to their completion.

Next Letter

____
photo credit: James St. John Black Pool (afternoon, 10 June 2017) 2 via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- On Disappointment (9 Août 34AF)

First Letter

Cher Onc’ Herbert,

I have just this moment discovered what Drunken Jacques was telling people to get them to cooperate with getting the supplies in order. He was telling them that I’d be disappointed if they continued to make a fuss!

Me! What am I, some kind of monster? Why in all of the lands would anyone care about me being disappointed?

When I asked him why he was saying that, he said that you told him too. And that it was working quite well, and he intended to keep doing it.

I don’t know what you meant by it, M. de Néant, but I find that I am quite dis—oh, bloody hell.

I sent the boys out first thing this morning to look for good lookout spots all along the perimeter of the island, places where they can see without being seen, and it was much quieter around the settlement with them gone. In a few minutes Gérard de Soux will be heading out in a sky-chair to circle the island and see if he can spot them. He’s taken several shirts with me, and he’s going to change colors every so often. I’ve promised the boys that if they can identify the person operating the sky-chair, the time they saw him, and the shirt he was wearing, without being seen by him, I’ll give them extra sweets tonight.

We’ll see how it goes. The sky-wagon is about to leave so I’ll stop here.

Armand

Next Letter
____
photo credit: fabian.kron Balas Rocs via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- The Supply Team (8 Août 34AF)

First Letter

Cher Onc’ Herbert,

Merci beaucoup for sending Drunken Jacques and your grandson Christophe to help manage the goods you have been sending us! You were quite right: Amelie was horribly bored here on Le Blaireau with nothing to do, and she has quite taken to sitting in a comfortable chair under the canvas roof of the new store while Drunken Jacques and Christophe do all of the running around and heavy lifting. She tells me that Christophe is an apt pupil, with a neat tidy hand in the ledgers, and that Drunken Jacques has been quite successful at encouraging the others who are here with us to carry, move and organize the supplies. There were some quarrels over it—apparently some of our people had become quite attached to their own little piles of goods. I don’t know what Drunken Jacques has been telling them, being busy with my own work, but it has been quite effective. Perhaps it is simply that he is so large? At any rate, we are coming to know just what we have and where it all is. It is already helping us accomplish our tasks more efficiently.

Thanks in large measure to their efforts (which are on-going), we now have everyone who was living on Le Rubicon and all of the supplies she carried under canvas on the island itself. She is now more or less as she was taken from the Provençese, and is ready to be carried off and burned. Meanwhile, we are continuing to clear land for living space and, eventually, for crops, and Jacques the Cabinet-Maker and I are fully engaged on the next of the sky-wagons.

We have had to discipline a number of the younger boys, unsurprisingly. One of them, young Bertrand, nearly knocked Amelie off her feet! I sent him to the top of Le Blaireau‘s mast to keep watch for Provençese invaders. In the end, I am afraid it did nothing to quell him, for he has rather been crowing about it to all of the other boys. I was forced to keep him by me to run errands after that.

We must make use of all of this boyish energy. The Provençese will come, and soon; we should establish watch points around the edges of the island and keep them manned—or, perhaps, boy’d—all around the clock. And I wish we could find a way to get our people underground in case of attack! At present, our only hope here on Grand-Blaireau is not to be noticed.

Christophe has been telling me this evening that Marc Frontenac has been training some of the men still in Bois-de-Bas to shoot from our sky-chairs, and also practicing boarding maneuvers onto the roof of my house! Please tell him I trust he will replace any lost shingles before the rains come, and also that I want to hear all about his experiences in this matter. There may be much we can do to make the sky-chairs more useful in combat.

Yours sincerely,

Armand Tuppenny

Next Letter

____
photo credit: John Brighenti Butterfly Feeding on Nectar via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Order from Chaos (6 Août 34AF)

First Letter

Cher Onc’ Herbert,

We now have quite a bustling little place here on L’Isle de Grand-Blaireau, and I am beginning to worry about supplies.

In the long term, I am worried that we will not have enough, either here or in Bois-de-Bas. The Provençese forces either have control of Mont-Havre and the roads thither, or they soon will; and surely they must soon begin to believe that we are not loyal to Le Maréchal. When they do, it will be the easiest of all things for them to deny us supplies from the city. We must be self-sufficient, and we must put off that black day as long as possible.

To that end, I think we must get rid of the sloop Rubicon. It is useful living space, I grant—but will not les cochons keep looking for it, so long as it is not found? But how would it be if it were found in the woods, say a night’s distance from Bois-de-Bas, crashed in the forest and much burnt, and if possible with the bodies of the crew on board. Perhaps it might even be blown asunder by a spark in the magazine. It would be the easiest of all things: leave it in mid-air, set a fuse, and abandon ship by sky-chair. In a short time, the Rubicon is spread across acres of forest, and it appears to be an accident.

Moving on, I am not to be advising you in matters of prudence: you and the other good folk of Bois-de-Bas have been ahead of me ever since I arrived. But it seems to me that the more goods and food we can stockpile here on Grand-Blaireau, the better off we will be on the day the Provençese decide to take and garrison Bois-de-Bas. Judging by the loads I see arriving on our two sky-wagons, you must agree with me.

And that leads me to my present worries. Many things have been brought here already, with more coming every day…but there is no one here to manage these things, or to keep track of them. There are piles of goods haphazardly spread on the decks and through the holds of the two sloops, and in the midst of the encampment; already it is becoming hard to find things. We need a proper store, and a proper clerk to run it. We need someone to bring order out of chaos. More than that, I know these goods are being provided by the people of Bois-de-Bas in light of the current crisis…but all of them ought to be recompensed for their contributions, I think. But we cannot do that, we cannot even honor them as they deserve, if we do not track those same contributions.

I cannot take on this role, for I am fully engaged with Jacques in extending our fleet of sky-chairs and wagons. Amelie is well-qualified, but cannot so easily move around the sloop; it was not designed for a woman in her condition. And even if she were, we have none of the ledgers we would use to record the information.

To that end, I think it necessary that we begin moving the remaining contents of our store from Bois-de-Bas to Grand-Blaireau, starting with our ledgers, pens, and ink. But that will be to no avail without the clerk I speak of!

Finally, we need someone in overall command here on the island. Everyone here has a task already, and is intent on doing it come what may, and we have had more than one fist fight over tools and materials. (They are good men, but tensions are high.) We need someone who can judge which tasks must be done now, and which may be delayed, and make it stick. (And having a central source for supplies will help!)

I do not know who best to appoint to these roles; I am still very new to Bois-de-Bas. But I trust you will understand both the need and your people. Please do not delay!

Yours sincerely,

Armand Tuppenny

Next Letter

____
photo credit: alh1 Lowther Castle via photopin (license)