Ask me for anything but lumber!
Wood we have a-plenty—L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau is heavily forested, as are the surrounding lands below—but of seasoned lumber we have but little, and we need far more than we have. Lumber for housing here on the island, lumber for sky-chairs, wagons, and sleds, and just plain wood for cooking, these are in short supply. The problem is particularly acute now that I am working on the design for our transport wagons, which will have a minimum of formed parts. When I was hardening everything, it mattered little whether the wood was seasoned or not: once hardened, a plank will no longer warp or splinter. But our transport wagons will not be hardened, and so seasoned wood is essential.
Gah! I have been going over and over this in my head so that I can hardly sleep. I try to break it down. We must fell trees. We must cut them into timbers, which is slow work; we have no sawmill in Bois-de-Bas. We must let the timbers season; which means getting them under cover, which means we need to build sheds.
That's if we do all of the work here on the island; which means it's probably better to do it downside and store the timbers in Jean-le-Marique's woodshed. But that means moving some of the men back to Bois-de-Bas, a thing I am most reluctant to do. I suppose it is for the best, though. If we fell too many trees here on the island, the gaps will be immediately apparent to anyone who cares to look, and then where would we be?
But what shall we do for lumber in the meantime?
Marc tells me I must not worry. Folk have lived without sky wagons for all of recorded history until now; we will need to make war on le Maréchal's forces without them for a time. In the meantime, he says, we need more sleds and chairs. He has found the sleds to be the most effective way to get sentinels to and from their posts, just as we have here on the island; and he needs the chairs to build his lines of communication with the surrounding towns. A sky chair is much faster than a horse or mule, and can easily be hidden in the woods, out of sight.
Already he has sent messengers north and south, to Bois-de-Soleil and to Trouville, to speak to the leading men there and to sound them out. We must be careful; it is by no means clear that our neighbors will share our views. In addition, he has sent men on sleds to scout the road west towards Mont-Havre. The Provençese will be wondering what has happened to the sloops they sent our way, and the next wave of troops will likely be on foot. We must know where they are based, and when they are coming; and we must have plans to drive them away.
Marc, blessings upon him, has not asked me to participate in this planning, nor to use my gifts to create more weapons of war beyond those I have already designed. Yet I find that I am uneasy in my mind. When I sit of an evening, and hold my daughter, my beautiful Anne-Marie, I am filled with a kind of ferocity in which I would gladly destroy anyone who might threaten her, yes, and sow their fields with salt besides. But then I reflect that even the wicked Capitaine Le Clerc was a mother's son, and possibly also the father of children, children who are now orphans, and I find that my ferocity fades away.
Amelie, I may say, has no such qualms. "If les cochons come here, why, we will deal with them," she says. "They may live for all of me, so long as they live somewhere else, n'est-ce-pas?" And Madame Truc agrees with her. "You are too good for this war, mon fils," she says. "Mon cher mari and I did not come here to be hounded by the men of the old country. If he were here, zut alors! He would show them a thing."
If we are confined to using green wood for the coming months, then I must harden it; and if I must harden it, I must have an apprentice. Tomorrow I will start testing Bertrand's lads; perhaps one of them will have the gift.