Letters from Armorica: Killing Time (18 December 1015)

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

13 Norwich Street, Yorke, Cumbria
18 December 1015

My dear cousin Amelia,

Thank you for your letter; I am glad that at least one of us is able to remain fully occupied under the present circumstances.

Yes, it is true: I am morose. I go about with a long face until my mother tries to ply me with tonics. It is juvenile of me, I know; it is just that there is so little of importance for me to do here!

The tradesmen have all been taken care of.

Father is ensconced at the Guild Hall, and will continue to do very well there for the present. He must be visited, but he is causing no further disturbances.

I am still mastering the details of my father’s personal business dealings, but as most of his business was guild business (and so in the hands of Grandmaster Netherington-Coates) there is little enough.

Mother, now that she is no longer being beaten down by Father’s madness, is blooming once again.

I have done what I came to do, all but the most important task, which is to see matters settled. And I cannot do that while the legitimacy (hah!) of Father’s will remains in question.

I had good news from Wackspallen a few days ago: he wrote me that he has determined conclusively that my grandfather’s mother’s third cousin Norbert Flagoner “has no living male issue.” Huzzah! The bad news is that Cousin Norbert was not the last of my grandfather’s distant relations on Wackspallen’s list. It seems there are several more, though he did not provide me with the details.

I spend time with Mother, of course. I have been escorting her to visit her friends, and we dine together most evenings; we dined with your parents two nights ago. I have also been spending considerable time with Grandmaster Netherington-Coates, who is itching (if I may use a low expression) to know more about how I form my sky-wagons so that they do not crumble. I have spoken to him of my theories of effort, and of greedy and generous formings, but he is baffled by the mathematics; and without the mathematics one cannot safely combine the greedy and the generous. That is, one could simply replicate a carefully designed plan; but of course all of my plans are safely in Bois-de-Bas, and if I did have them here my partners would object to my sharing them. The theory, however, I must share, ultimately; I see that I must write it all up more carefully once I return home.

I have also been spending a certain degree of time in Father’s workroom, here in Norwich Street. It is a sad place: materials neatly put away, the floor swept, with no sign that any work has been done here this past age. I wonder when Father last did any forming with his own hands? I have found his grimoire, and the most recent entry is a recipe I copied into my own grimoire as an apprentice.

Still, there are materials in the workroom, and all other things needful; and it reminds me in some small way of my workroom at home in Bois-de-Bas. I am sitting there now, as I write to you.

If only there were a faster way to travel thither, and to return. His Majesty’s packets are as speedy as can be—they have an edge over the Courier Guild packets in that they do not need to show a profit, and so can push harder—but even they are at the mercy of the winds that blow through the Abyss. I examined the Pollyanna‘s moving blocks during the passage to from Mont-Havre to Yorke, and they are little different from those of the Provençese sloops I have examined: small, weak, and suitable only for moving the package around a harbor.

It is a tried and true design…but I wonder, can it be improved? A packet with a stronger set of moving blocks—a sky-wagon suitable for crossing the Abyss—would not be at the mercy of the Abyssal zephyrs. And yet, I know little of the forces a vessel capable of crossing the Abyss must withstand.

Tomorrow, I think, I shall speak to Netherington-Coates about the Guild’s shipbuilding contracts, and arrange to speak with a shipwright.

Please do not speak of this notion to anyone, save your Maximilian, and impress upon him not to share it; I do not want to give the Provençese any ideas! Or, I suppose, the Cumbrians.

Your encouraged cousin,

Armand

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