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.