Letters from Armorica: The Streams (21 November 1015)

Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.

17 Rue Thomas, Toulouse, Provençe
21 November 1015

My dearest cousin Armand,

With the help of Dr. Laguerre I am beginning to come to terms with the ways of Provençese wizards when describing their subject. Beginning, mind you; by which I mean I begin to understand what they are after.

Cumbrian wizards, or at least those of an analytical and theoretical bent, seem to think entirely in mathematical abstractions: nodes and transforms and so forth. Dr. Laguerre is impressed by what I have picked up, and how sensibly I can apply some of the principles I have read—but for me, at least, it is almost entirely detached from wizardry as it is practiced. I know how to balance a Cadwallader Exclusion so that it will not lose canonicity, but I have no idea what a Cadwallader Exclusion is for, or what it will do, or whether a loss of canonicity entails simple failure or complex catastrophe, a minor setback or a devastated swathe of countryside.

It isn’t that Cumbrian wizardry cares nothing for the practice of wizardry; it is more, I gather, that the bent of Cumbrian scholarship has been to add precision to the practical teachings that master wizards pass down to their students. It is quite possible to be a wizard in Cumbria without being such a scholar, though most these days will have been exposed to this theory.

Here in Provençe, the goal of scholarship has been to capture precisely the practical wisdom of the masters in all of its glory, so that it can be passed on in their absence. And this is the great difficulty, for these same masters, whilst being truly experts in their profession, have not had and so do not share any kind of theoretical framework. They each use their own idiosyncratic words, images, and metaphors, and they are all different. And I must learn all of them.

On second thought, that is not quite fair. A master passes his way on thinking on to his students, and so forward. A student, grown to mastery in his own right, may see fit to augment or modify his own master’s teaching to fit his own experience; but what he passes on still depends on that teaching. Over time, then, there have emerged a number of schools of wizardry here in Provençe, or perhaps streams is a better word. At the present time there are six: six major streams, six ways of experiencing, working with, and speaking of magical forces. I gather that they all overlap to a greater or lesser extent, but also specialize in different kinds of magic.

Each student here at L’Ecole is expected to learn the fundamentals of each of these streams, and then to pick one in accord with his (or, in my case, her) own interests and talents. The truly gifted might master two of them; Dr. Laguerre, for example, has demonstrated mastery (as they describe it here) in the Johannine and Laroussian streams. If I in time opt for one of these, she will become my master; if I opt for another, she will pass me along to the one who can best teach me.

It is a point of contention among the swimmers in each stream as to whether they differ in essence, or only in emphasis: whether they are, at root, concerned with different kinds of wizardry altogether, different kinds of magic; or, whether, they might one day be unified.

Dr. Laguerre is one of those who believe that unification is possible, and this is why she has developed an interest in Cumbrian theory: she sees in it a possible way forward. But few of the masters here share her interest, which is unsurprising; few have mastered more than one stream, and so have little basis for comparison.

I have mentioned to Dr. Laguerre that I have family in the Former’s Guild; and I am afraid that I must tell you that the general opinion of formers here at L’Ecole is very low. Dr. Laguerre’s only remark was the single word, “Artisans!”, accompanied by the raising of an eyebrow. And yet, as I have said before, forming has something of the magical about it.

I cannot account for this lack of interest. The wizards here will sometimes engage formers to aid them in the making of some apparatus or other; but they seem wholly incurious as to how formers do what they do. More, it is clear that I must hide my own curiosity lest I be branded a crank.

Despite all of this, I still have no notion of the teachings of any of the streams, nor have I yet acquired any skill in navigating Provençese texts. I can, however, thanks to Mme. Poictesme, order luncheon in a café without embarrassing myself, so that is progress of a sort.

Your slow and plodding cousin,

Amelia

Next letter

____

Photo by Karim Sakhibgareev on Unsplash

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