And so now I am a father, and Amelie and I have a beautiful daughter. We have named her Anne-Marie.
It is the strangest thing to hear her little cries, oh so tiny, in this camp of war. She is not the only infant in Bois-de-Bois, indeed, but none of the smaller children have come to L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau to date: Bertrand and his lads are the youngest.
I was not present for the birth, no of course not. When Amelie's time came, Madame Poquerie send Jacques to town with a sky-chair to fetch the mid-wife, and when he returned, Madame Truc, Madame Poquerie and Brigitte drove me from her Amelie's bedside.
"This is women's work, mon fils," said Madame Truc to me. "Go away. We will call you when it is over."
I suppose much the same would have happened had we been living in Yorke; although in Yorke I'd just have been banished to another part of the house, there to pace or pretend to busy myself with work or to get drunk (as many new fathers do, so I am told).
But our living space on the former sloop Le-Blaireau is too small for that. I found myself pacing up and down the original portion of the Avenue, from the bank to Le Blaireau and then through it to a sort of balcony where I can look out on the other two sloops, not yet warped into place.
It is a short distance to pace. But on my third return to the bank I found Marc waiting for me; and he and the other men of Grand-Blaireau led me away to the bath house, there to distract me from what was going on in my quarters. There was hot water, and laughter, and, yes, a vast quantity of ale. I can feel it in my head even now. Marc talked about the rebellion, and I talked about our plans for building sky-wagons and how to make the best of our time and our limited lumber supply.
Our current wagons are simple pieces of work with open railings on the sides. The wood is hardened throughout, so they are nearly indestructible, but because they are open they do not offer much protection to the men or goods inside them. But because they are hardened everywhere they are costly in our dearest coin, which is to say my time and effort. That is not work which I can delegate.
I suppose I must find an apprentice. That will be hard, for it is rare to find a lad with the talent to become a former; and then, of course, as a journeyman I am forbidden by guild law to take and train an apprentice. How I wish I knew whether my father or his rival granted me my mastership! Even now, my master's chain may be waiting for me in Mont-Havre, or perhaps hiding in some Provençese commander's coffer. If only I could know that were so! It is the position that matters, not the possession.
But that sky-ship has sailed. I might as well be hanged for a goat as a kid.
And so I must change the design of the sky-wagons. I have decided that we need two kinds: one for general transport, and one for carrying men into battle. The first will be similar to our current wagons in appearance, but only the lifting and control elements will be formed and hardened. In the main, they shall simply be normal wood—and, alas, sometimes green wood at that, for there is no time to allow it all to season. The second kind will have solid rather than opened sides for protection, with loopholes through which the men might shoot at their enemies, and will be hardened throughout. There, at least, the greenness of the wood will be no hindrance, for once the wood is hardened it will no longer matter.
Marc thinks that it might be desirable to have two classes of transport wagon: one as I have described, and perhaps a second kind containing lifting elements only—and that only enough to keep the wagon-bed level and off the ground. This latter kind would be pulled by horses or mules. He is thinking that they would be quicker to build in quantity, as they would take less of my time, and would be more useful in rough terrain than normal ground wagons with wheels. I disagree; much of Armorica is forested, and a ground wagon, whether floating or wheeled, cannot get through the woods without cutting a path through the trees. A true sky-wagon can always ascend above the tree tops.
The discussions and revelry continued through the night, though not of course at the bath house all of that time, or we would have become waterlogged. And then, as the dawn was breaking, Madame Truc came to us and told me that Amelie was perfectly well and had given me a baby girl.
I joined them; and then I could not sleep, so I have been writing this. Marc has ordered me to rest today, and perhaps tomorrow as well: to take joy in my little Anne-Marie, to take care of Amelie, and to sleep as and when I can; and to start again in earnest on my work the day after.
This is not the future I imagined for my child, born into war and rebellion. I imagined living quietly with Amelie in our shop, with our sons and daughters around us, learning the trade, and perhaps finding that one of my lads had the skill to follow me as a former. Instead, here we are, at war with Provençe, and perhaps with some of our Armorican countrymen too. Here I am, building weapons of war. I suppose it is little different than what I would have been doing had I stayed in Yorke, under my father's thumb; for surely the Former's Guild is involved in the construction of His Majesty's navy, and I expect that other work is at a standstill. I am merely working retail rather than wholesale. But I look forward to the day when we may live in peace here, and my creations may transport goods rather than men-at-arms.
photo credit: Norbert Reimer Gimpel via photopin (license)