Letters from Armorica- Learning from Luc (30 May 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Luc, I discover, has been busy while I was away in Mont-Havre. He—

But all things in due course.

When I left for Mont-Havre I instructed Luc to continue copying out my grimoire, which I left behind for that purpose. Amelie, I have discovered, is an excellent teacher; Luc's hand is better than mine ever was, or at least no worse. And as of this week, I can say with confidence that he is understanding much of what he copies.

I cannot say the same for myself and Master Grenadine's Sur la Thaumaturgie. In part it is a matter of language—my Provençese has improved greatly since I came to Armorica but I am constantly having to turn to Frobert's Dictionnaire de Provençese; and since the definitions are also in Provençese a single word can turn into quite the research project. Yes, dear journal, I could simply ask my Amelie; but Master Grenadine affects a high and lofty style, and uses many words that are not in common use in Bois-de-Bas.

But beyond that, Master Grenadine is speaking of arcane matters of forming, at a level of theory that perhaps no other former has reached, and so he is perforce having to invent a terminology in which to describe his thoughts. This is common in every field of endeavor, I suppose; I learned on Onc' Herbert's farm that there is a word for every part of a wagon, or a cow, or what have you. Or of a goat, I suppose, if anyone were willing to get close enough to discover all of them.

But Master Grenadine never stops to define his terms; and worse, Master Grenadine fancies himself a poet. I do not know if it was simply his way, or if obscurity was his goal. But it is no help, and so I have been reduced to listing the words that appear to be terms of art, and then reading along willy-nilly until I find something that appears to match my experience. (Alas, Master Grenadine's experience far exceeds my own.)

For example, I am nearly certain—but only nearly, I say—that by bombastication de tortue he means what I would call "hardening"; for a tortue is what I would call a tortoise, and of course tortoises have hard shells. But what does he mean by protestations d'envie, protestations of envy? Or oeuvres de la charité, works of charity? "Il est tres difficile," as Amelie would say.

But I was speaking of Luc. I was looking for him on Thursday and could not find him—an inappropriate condition for an apprentice—until I spotted him coming down the road toward the shop. He was dusty, and had one of the small ledgers he uses for writing practice in his hand. I waited for him on the porch. To do him credit he made no attempt to sneak around the back when he saw me, though he gave a heavy sigh.

"Maître," he said, and waited.

"And where have you been, Luc?"

"At the Frontenac's farm, Maître."

"At the Frontenac's—but why? What business could possibly take you there?" Luc was acquainted with Marc and Elise Frontenac, of course, and had occasionally run errands there for us, but not in this case, for Amelie had been equally ignorant of his location.

He squirmed. "I have been…"


He looked up at me. He looked sheepish, but also…excited?

"May I show you, Maître?"

"At the Frontenac's?"

"Oui, Maître."

"Very well, but in the morning. It is too late today. Now, go and feed Patches."

Friday morning we set out for Marc's farm. Marc met us in the farmyard.

"Come to check on young Luc's doings, eh? I gave him some space out behind the goat shed."

I simply nodded, not wanting to shame Luc in front of Marc by saying that he had gone behind my back.

Behind the sheds I found two posts hammered into the ground about three feet apart. A small block of wood topped one of them, and another small block of wood was levitating directly above the other, held in place by a few inches of cord. I fingered the cord; it was tight as a bowstring.

"It has been like that for two weeks," said Marc.

"Luc—," I began, then stopped. "Marc, I apologize for my rudeness, but I must speak with my apprentice in private."

Marc grinned. "Elise will have refreshments when you are done," he said.

After he had gone, I inspected the first block, the one sitting atop its post. It had been hardened—not uniformly, but quite well for a first try.

"Luc," I said.

"Oui, Maître?"

"Have I given you leave to attempt to form anything without my supervision?"

"Non, Maître."

"Very well. So explain to me what you thought you were doing."

Journal, I was flabbergasted by the answer. Luc had been thinking about the hardened dishes and the warming blocks, and why they affected each other so, and had added a couple of questions of his own: "How soon?", and also, "How much?" And rather than merely pondering, as I have been doing, he decided to make a "trial" of it.

"The blocks each weigh four ounces, Maître, and they are exactly three feet apart. I am checking every few days to see when the hardened block begins to get soft." He showed me the ledger. He had written down these facts, and also the date at which he had begun his trial and the dates on which he had checked on it. He had begun the day after I went to Mont-Havre.

"I see. And why here? Why not in our workshop?"

"But there are so many sets of hardened dishes in the village, Maître."

"And you didn't want to risk damaging them?"

He looked surprised. "O! I had not thought of that, Maître. But having them near would have made things different. So I came out here, where there are no formed items nearby."

"I see. But you're mistaken, I'm afraid. Do you know what's in that shed?"

"Goats, Maître."

"And what are goats wearing, Luc?"

"Why, they are wearing—they are wearing hardened coats, like Patches." His face fell.

"Yes, and horn protectors. And so?"

"My trial is ruined, Maître."

"Yes, it is. And you ought not to have started it without informing me."

"O, but Maître! It was to be a surprise for you!"

"It has certainly been that. Now, for your punishment, I have a task for you. It is going to involve quite a lot of walking, I'm afraid."

His shoulders drooped. "Oui, Maître."

"First, you must speak to M. Frontenac, and find a place for your posts at the far end of his fields, well away from the goats. It will be necessary to construct a small shed to house them, so they stay dry. Second, we must prepare the blocks of wood together. And third, you must check on them every other day."

"Oui, Maître! I shall!"

I took the hardened block from its post and handed it to him. "This you may keep; it will do no harm in our workshop." Then I glanced at the levitating block. "Why levitation? Why not a warming block?"

He looked puzzled. "Levitation is more fun, Maître."

And you know, Dear Journal, he is not wrong.

Next letter

photo credit: Edna Winti There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. via photopin (license)

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