Letters from Armorica- A Game of Darts (8 April 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Jack,

I hope all is well with you, and that you've not broken too many hearts in Mont-Havre; there are several tender ones here in Bois-de-Bas, I do believe, who would rejoice in making your acquaintance once again.

Your Sergeant Allen has proven to be quite the treasure. His inn, Le Cochon's Head, has proven just the social center I hoped it would be, and with him behind the bar there's been little in the way of drunken trouble for me to take official notice of. He's a solid man, if stout looking; and the same describes the truncheon he keeps near to hand, not that he's had to make much use of it. He has the knack, Jack, and the townsfolk like him.

I shall tell you a story. Some while ago, Claude Fourneau got into a brawl with Guy Sanfois over a game of darts. Fourneau is one of our newer men, a fellow from Fôret-Rose who came here during the war; Sanfois is one of Marc Frontenac's hired men, and a third-generation resident. It was the usual sort of thing: Claude said Guy had shot with his foot over the line, Guy denied it, both had been drinking heavily, names were called, fists were thrown (and mostly missed), and it was about to become general when Allen stepped in and told them that if they were going to have a fight they were going to "do it proper," at least if they ever wanted to drink in his inn again. He'd never seen such poor excuse for fisticuffs in his life, and he wasn't going to stand for it.

I assure you, Jack, every jaw dropped.

Allen escorted them both outside, followed by all of the other drinkers, and sketched out a circle in the road with his foot. He pushed them both inside, and proceeded to give them both instruction in how to properly throw and receive a punch, how to block, and so forth. I'm not being coy, Jack; I don't mean he beat them up. I mean that he let them beat each other up under his tutelage, and damme if they both didn't improve quite a bit despite being half-seas-over.

And then they both collapsed, more or less simultaneously, and their friends took them home at Allen's direction, and everyone else went inside and had a round of Allen's excellent beer. Claude and Guy were back the next day, battered but happy, shook hands with good will, and last I heard were still badgering Allen for more lessons.

Bois-de-Bas remains a frontier town, as you can see; and I may say that the local ladies were quite impressed. At least one of your erstwhile admirers has set her cap at the good sergeant, and as I expect to see a wedding before Deuxième Débarquement in June you will have to move quickly if you wish to regain your place in her heart!

I joke, of course, but in all seriousness: when might we see you here again? I am eager to come to Mont-Havre, weather permitting, but I cannot bring Amelie and the girls, nor have you yet laid eyes on your newest cousin.

In the meantime I have a favor to ask of you; or, possibly, for you to ask of His Lordship. I am close to making a breakthrough, Jack, but I need numbers. More specifically, I need the plans and details of a small sky-ship: a sloop, or something of the sort. A sloop-of-war would be preferable, but I will take whatever I can get.

As you know, I have had occasion to examine two such sloops, both Provençese in origin, so I have a good idea of their draughts and dimensions; what I do not know is their tonnage: how much they weigh, how much material goes into them. If I can get some numbers, Jack, I am poised to make some major advances in shipbuilding—a good thing for me and mine, for Armorican industry, and potentially for Cumbria as well.

If it is possible to get what I need without involving His Lordship I would prefer it—for I have become a shopkeeper, Jack, no doubt to my father's dismay, and wish to be able to drive the hardest bargains I can—but I would never wish you to go behind Lord Doncaster's back. I owe him too much for that.


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photo credit: Hannes Del’haye Bull’s eye via photopin (license)

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