Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.
L’Hôtel d’Esprit, Toulouse, Provençe
16 September 1015
My dearest cousin Armand,
I feel as if I had been snatched from Wickshire and conveyed across the Abyss by a whirlwind, so impetuous has been our progress during this past week! There was no time for me to buy gowns or travel attire as we passed through Yorke—though as Mama assured me, “Dearest daughter, you are going to Toulouse. One doesn’t buy clothing for Toulouse, one buys clothing in Toulouse.”
The usual means of travel to the capital of Provençe is to embark on a sky-ship at Westminster for one of the major Provençese ports—Bardot, or possibly La Rochelle—thence proceeding overland to Toulouse. This is a lengthy journey, with many hardships, Westchester being far south of Yorke, and Toulouse far from the coast. As one in the employ of the Foreign Office, however, one Maximilian Archer (and spouse) was entitled to travel by diplomatic packet from Yorke directly to Toulouse, which is a voyage of but a few days.
The packet was, I may say, both cramped and windy: cramped below, in our cabin, and windy on deck, where we were obliged to spend most of our time if we wished to avoid becoming prematurely hunched. It was just as well I had no time to shop for necessities for the journey, for I should have had no place to keep them. Even with the little we brought, Maximilian was obliged to stand in the passageway while I prepared for bed in the evening.
Oh, but the views, Armand! I do not know how much you were able to see while in steerage on your way to Armorica; but we were able to see everything. I felt quite apprehensive as the packet rose from its mooring atop the Foreign Office building in Eburacum Place, but how wonderful it was to see all of Yorke spread out below me! Why, I could even trace the line of the old city wall—which, as you know, is now nearly non-existent in most parts of the city, its stones taken and used in new construction—but it has left its mark on the lines of the buildings. And how grand the Minster looks from above!
And then we had the lovely and green Cumbrian countryside spread out below us, fell and farm and village and lake, all the way down to Westminster, where at last we set off into the Abyss.
The Abyss—what can I say about the Abyss? I had always thought of it as just more sky: the land ends, and the sky is open from top to bottom until at last you come to new land. But it wasn’t like that at all. Or, it was at first; but then, the colors, Armand! I have no words for them, or for the odd creatures, drifting past us like so many giant cucumbers. And once the crew hurried us below, making all fast above in response to some threat only they could see. I never learned what it was; it was no kind of storm, or if it was it passed us by, for I felt nothing out of the ordinary in the motion of the vessel.
And then we were across, all too soon, and traversing the Provençese countryside, so like the Cumbrian—and yet with ragged black scars here and there, where Le Maréchal’s war had claimed a farm or a field or a village: so picturesque, and by turns so bittersweet.
And now we are in Toulouse, settled across the boulevard from the Cumbrian Embassy at L’Hôtel d’Esprit; though I suppose you had best write to me in care of the Embassy, for Maximilian intends to find us a residence closer to L’Ecole du Sorciers as soon as may be.
I have so much more to tell you, dear cousin of mine; there is so much to see here, and I have met ever so many people in the two days since we arrived. But each thing to its proper time.
I look forward to your landfall in Cumbria, however soon that may be; though regretting the necessity, I am glad to think that for a brief interval our letters may pass between us more swiftly.
Your transplanted and bemused cousin,