Astonishing news: the Provençese forces seems to have vanished! Marc brought this news with him today, and has no more idea what to make of it than I do.
For the past several weeks Marc has been out and about with the young men of Bois-de-Bas and the other frontier villages, hunting the Provençese and harrying their troops.
"Harrying their encampments, mostly," Marc told me.
They've worked out a scheme for this. They send out scouts on sky-sleds under cover of darkness. A sky-sled can travel quite far on a clear night, flying well above the trees and navigating by the stars, and searching out enemy encampments by the light of their fires. When a scout finds a body of troops, he returns to our camp, where a troop of men are waiting. Riding in sky-chairs and a sky-wagon or two, they travel silently to where the enemy sleeps. Perhaps half of the troop dismount, and attack the encampment from one direction—but this is a feint, and is meant only to concentrate the enemy's attention. Meanwhile, the sky-chairs ascend into the skies in the other direction, and prepare to snipe at individual soldiers from above. They hide near tall trees, where they are not silhouetted against the sky, and wreck havoc.
How the raid goes after that varies. If the cochons can be drawn all of the way out of their camp then two or three of the sky-chairs will descend to steal goods and set fire to the encampment. And then our forces are away, skimming silently over the tree tops, leaving no trace of their passage.
On other occasions we will prepare traps and ambushes. A small force will lead a larger Provençese forces into the trap; and again, hey presto, our men will be away silently.
But Marc tells me that they haven't seen any Provençese troops in the last three days. There seem to be none on the frontier, nor any between here and Honfleur, which is within a two day's walk of Mont-Havre.
Marc is worried. "They may be planning a new offensive, and have withdrawn to prepare."
"Maybe," I said. "Or maybe the war is going poorly for them elsewhere, and so the troops have been withdrawn from Armorica"
"I would like to think so," he said. "Some of the men believe so, and are ready to return to their homes."
"Let them," I said. "Keep a group of scouts; and send a homing board with each village's contingent. We can call them back quickly enough if the Provençese should return."
"Perhaps you are right," he said. "I plan to send men to Mont-Havre—on foot, you understand—to see what is going on there."
"I expect you will find that the cochons have left only a token force. I have reason to believe that the war is going well for Cumbria." Then I told Marc about Mr. Trout, my visitor from the Cumbrian Former's Guild—or, more likely, from the Cumbrian crown, for I am sure he is ultimately in the employ of His Majesty. He shares my misgivings, but agreed that there was nothing else I could have done.
"I would have told you before," I said, "But I did not want to put any of this down on paper."
"Vraiment," he said. "You were wise to wait. And I would not be too worried. You belong to us, now. We will stand by you. And then, suppose the Cumbrians do win? My father always said that Cumbrians are most pragmatic in the way of trade. And when peace comes, your sky-wagons are going to make trade easier than ever before. Until now Mont-Havre has always been the major city, because it has the only port for the big sky-ships, and it has been too hard to ship goods in quantity to and from other parts of Armorica. But with your sky-wagons, zut alors! It will not be long before we are exporting sky-wagons to Cumbria, and Bois-de-Bas is the second city of Armorica."
Bold words, intended, to buck me up, which they have. I pray that they may prove true.