Tag Archives: letters from armorica

Letters from Armorica- Alliances (9 Octobre 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I find that I am all to pieces, so much so that I can hardly write.

Today I conveyed Jean-Baptiste to Bois-de-Bas, where I had not been since being hurried away to L’Isle de Grand-Blaireau back in July. Marc is away with the better part of our young men, seeking alliances and harrying the Provençese wherever they can, so long as it is far distant from here, and so things are quiet in our vicinity. Thus, when Jean-Baptiste came to me and said that he must speak to Brigitte’s father—an event long foreseen, at least by Amelie and I—it seemed much the most natural thing to fly him down myself, and as his friend to vouch for him.

I am happy to say that that all went quite well, and if all remains calm we shall bring a party down from the island on Samedi for the wedding. Though for myself I am not calm at all.

But the prospective nuptials are not what has me all aquiver, whatever effect it may be having on Jean-Baptiste. After the meeting with Brigitte’s father I left Jean-Baptiste and began to make a rounds of the village. I was at the Gagnon’s when M. Tremblay came to find me. I believe I have written of the Tremblays before, great friends of Onc’ Herbert (on whom be peace); and M. Tremblay is overseeing affairs in the village in Marc’s absence. He had with him an odd little man with the look of a solicitor, for he was dressed all in black, with lank straw-colored hair and square spectacles. I had often seen his like in Mont-Havre—or in Yorke, come to that—but never out here, in the countryside. Imagine my surprise when he spoke to me in a broad Cumbrian accent!

He begged leave to speak to me alone, which I readily granted; but rather than going into a room by ourselves he insisted that we walk on the green.

“The better not to be overheard,” he said, speaking now in Provençese, perfectly Armorican Provençese. “You are Armand Massey, son of Burlington Massey of Yorke?”

“I do not use that name any longer,” I said. “Here, I am Armand Tuppenny.”

“Quite so,” he said. “Now, I was directed to ask what it was that you received from your father on your twelfth birthday.”

I stared at him. “I beg your pardon?”

He regarded me somberly through this spectacles. “It is easy to claim that you are Armand Massey; and indeed you match the description I was given. In my profession, however, I must observe all due diligence.”

I began to feel a profound sense of worry. “Has something happened to my…to my parents?”

To my surprise, my visitor smiled slightly.

“No, no, nothing of that kind. Now, I must ask again: what was it that you received from your father on your twelfth birthday?”

“I hardly like to say.”

“Nevertheless.”

I sighed. “If you must know, I received a good caning for not having studied my lessons to his satisfaction. I did not sit down for a week.”

“Very good. Though to be precise, it was for defying him in the matter of your forming exercises, was it not?”

“Yes, it was.” That was a detail known only to my father and I. I well remembered the occasion, he and I alone in his sanctum. Very well, this man must be from my father; or, if not, all was already lost in Yorke.

“In that case,” he said, “I have something to show you.”

He led me to the front of the church, which was completely untenanted at this time of week, as though to get out of the wind. We stood with our backs to the green, and he removed a flat box from the side pocket of his coat. He opened the lid, and showed me its contents.

“None of that,” he said, when I reached for it. “All things in due course.”

“But that is my master’s—”

“Not so,” he broke in. “This is a master’s chain of the Former’s Guild in Yorke. It may, perhaps, become your master’s chain. If we can reach an accommodation.” He closed the box and returned it to his pocket. Later, I was able to reflect that this was my father’s mark: never anything without strings attached. At the time I was merely furious.

“What kind of accommodation, monsieur—I do not even know your name.”

“And that is for the best for now. Tell me, M. Massey, where do you stand on the war between Cumbria and le Maréchal?”

I stiffened. “With my Armorican countrymen, monsieur. And my name is Tuppenny.”

“Your Armorican countrymen are divided, M. Tuppenny. Where do you stand?”

“I am quite sure that you know. The cochons have invaded our homes, and abused our people. Armorica will have none of them so long as le Maréchal is in command.”

“Very good. And where do you stand as regards Cumbria?”

“It is the land of my birth.”

“That is good. For I may tell you plainly that Armorica is too weak to stand on its own. This war will end one day; and either le Maréchal or the King’s forces will prevail. And as goes the war, so will go Armorica. Will you support the King in this?”

“What kind of support do you have in mind?”

“Will you speak well of His Majesty to your new…countrymen? Would you provide information to his agents? Would you undertake tasks for him?”

“And if I would not?”

Le Maréchal‘s men in Mont-Havre are looking for one Armand Tuppenny. They know he has gone to ground, but they do not know where, all of the troops sent in this direction having mysteriously disappeared.”

The thread was plain enough. “And what is to stop you from mysteriously disappearing, monsieur?” I found myself trembling with rage. “I should find it easy enough to take the chain from your corpse, and none here would say me nay.”

The man was unmoved. “That is up to you, of course. But if I do not return to Mont-Havre in good time the information as to your whereabouts will be released to the Provençese commander. And more, once His Majesty’s forces have defeated le Maréchal the Guild in Yorke will repudiate you utterly. You know what guild law entails for such an offense. You see, my friend, that you have little choice.”

I have the chain before me as I write. And I must say, my rage is not for the little man in black, but for my father—my father, who will never simply ask when he can coerce, damn him!

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Letters from Armorica: Clerk (23 Mai 33 AF)

First Letter

Dear Mum,

As of yesterday morning, thanks to the machinations of Madame Truc, I am the newest clerk at the firm of Suprenant & Fils. S&F is one of the smaller merchant houses in Mont-Havre but it has a good reputation; it was one of the first to be founded and its headquarters are located on the Rue du Champs, the most prestigious business address. That wasn't the firm's first location, of course; that was a metal shack on a dirt road near the port. The Rue du Champs was surveyed less than ten years ago, and is where the more successful businesses have moved now that they can afford nicer buildings.

If you are picturing marble floors and spiral staircases with wrought iron railings, think again—no one has time for that here. Here in Mont-Havre, a nicer building is one designed by a local architect out of local materials. Most of the newer buildings here are timber-frame and plaster on stone foundations. The local bronzewood trees, of which there seem to be far too many, produce a very hard wood. It's too expensive in sawblades to shape it into planks, they tell me, but the bronzewoods have to be cleared for fields; and as they grow tall and straight with few branches they make good and durable timbers.

There are other sorts of trees about Mont-Havre, enough for building and general carpentry; many of the older buildings, including Madame Truc's rooming house, are built of a soft wood called crêpe de chêne. But timber-framed buildings are longer-lasting, and the merchants here are planning ahead.

There are townships in the provinces that have good stocks of other kinds of hardwood, very beautiful and not so difficult to work as bronzewood, but they too are growing and have need of it for their own homes and businesses. S&S imports coralwood, chêne-pierre, and beechpine from the provinces for the local furniture-makers, but only the wealthier residents can afford such things.

Most floors and roofs are of tile—there are good stocks of a fine green clay in the valleys near Mont-Havre.

So I am learning the duties of a clerk, making entries in ledgers using a metal-nibbed pen—the very latest thing here in Mont-Havre—and ink made from the galls of chêne-pierre trees. It is primitive, yes, but sustainable; it would be too costly to import modern fountain pens and ink from the manufacturies of Cumbria or Provençe.

Now that I am a clerk, Madame Truc has told me that my little room, for which I have been paying three francs a week, is of the most unsuitable. I, a young man of business, must have a finer room at five francs a week. She has just such a room newly available, and nothing will do but that I move into it as quickly as I can. I believe the major difference is that it is very slightly larger and comes with a lamp and an easy chair. But as I am grateful to her, and as my increase in pay is more than sufficient to cover it, I have chosen to go along. Madame Truc is something of a force of nature, though I believe Dad would use a stronger phrase than that.

Mum, I know that you must be bemused and disturbed by my present situation and employment, so different from in Yorke. But these are my people now, and this is my new home. I am glad to come to know them "up from the earth", as they say here.

Please write me and let me know how things are with you.

Your loving son,

Armand

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Letters from Armorica: Dock Work (10 Mai 33 AF)

First Letter

Jack,

I did it! I have finally gotten out from under my father's thumb and all of the guild politics back in Yorke. You said I never would, but at last I have. It took over a year of saving my pocket money and bowing and scraping to the old tyrant, but I managed it in time.

I'll have you know that I'm writing to you from Mont-Havre in Armorica, the biggest city in the colony. I'm sitting in a tiny little room on a hard wooden chair, writing by the light of a handglow, and I hurt all over from working all day at the port— but I'm feeling fine. I'm on my own for the first time in my life, truly all by myself except for the fleas. Madame Truc insists there are no fleas, but I've got the bites to prove her wrong. It's still better than having the servants spying on me and reporting to my father.

Yes, I know, I opted for a Provençese colony rather than a Cumbrian one. Shocking, but I did it on purpose, and only after doing my research. I had over a year to plan, remember.

Armorica is young enough that there are still opportunities aplenty for an ambitious young man, but old enough to be livable. Better still, the guilds here aren't beholden to any of the guilds back home, not in practice. The present guild masters here in Mont-Havre all came here from Provençe as young men, so they are doubly separated from all of the guild politics back in Yorke. In fact, they are triply separated. Because of the Troubles, the Provençese colonies have always been more independent than the Cumbrian ones, and these guild masters have been too busy building up Armorica to have any attention left for Old World matters.

In short, my father will find no ready-made cat's paws here.

And it will not be as lowering as you might think. Armorica is becoming more Cumbrian with each ship-load of colonists; now that the Troubles have subsided in Provençe, they aren't sending as many colonists over-skies as they had been for many years. That's true in all of the Provençese colonies. Everyone here speaks Cumbrian perfectly well.

Yes, I've been doing hard manual labor at the port, carrying this and lifting that. Quite a come-down after my sheltered upbringing, I know, but it took all my funds to secure passage on the Lombard, and that was in steerage. I made a few friends onboard the ship, but by the way of things they had little more on arrival than I did.

Dock-worker was literally the first paying job I came across after I disembarked: there was a sign offering ten francs for workers to help unload the Lombard. I jumped at it, because I wasn't going to have anything to eat otherwise.

That was three days ago. The Lombard left for Cumbria this afternoon, and I must say it was a fine sight, rising up into the sky and vanishing into the West. I was sorry to see it go, though. Dock-working isn't a full-time job; it only pays when a ship is in port, and there won't be another ship in for several weeks. The ten francs would keep me fed and housed until then, barely, but I think I'll use the time to find something better. I can tell you, I thought quite a lot about that on my walk from the port down into the city.

You're no doubt off somewhere with your regiment. As I've no notion how long it will take this to find you, you had best write me care of the Courier's Guild here in Mont-Havre. I've no concern about giving you my permanent direction, of course, but I do not intend to stay with Madame Truc any longer than I must, and who knows where I shall end up.

Hoping this finds you well,

Your cousin,

Armand

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