Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.
1 Rue St. Albert, Toulouse, Provençe
2 February 1016
My dearest cousin Armand,
You can imagine my joy at your letter of 21 January, in which you suggested that you would soon visit me here in Toulouse; and yet you have not come, nor do I now look for you to do so. Nor do I know when I will be able to send this, nor am I sure why I am writing it when I have no expectation of being able to send it with any promptitude.
I suppose it is simply to make sense of the past week, a week the likes of which I hope never to see again.
You will have noticed, if you are reading carefully, that I am not writing from our flat at 17 Rue Thomas, but from 1 Rue St. Albert—from L’École du Sorciers in fact. I am residing in a room in the student’s dormitory, a room equipped with a bed, a desk, a chair, a bookshelf, and a wardrobe, but alas no fire; so I might better say that I sleep in a room in the student’s dormitory but reside in the junior student’s common room—the room where I took tea with my fellow students in my letter of 5 January.
Claude Bergeron assures me that in time I will be able to keep myself quite warm enough using the wizardly arts, and my room will no longer seem quite so penitential.
And if my room has no fire, it also has no Maximilian, for he has his duty, and it cannot be served here in the safety of L’École. Though there is little safety for anyone in Toulouse during these dark days.
I have just reread what I have written so far, and if my aim is to make sense of things I fear I am failing. Let me try again.
On 25 January I was sitting at the table in our flat, having just read your last, when there came a loud booming noise from over the rooftops. Maximilian went to the window, and then turned to me with as grim a countenance as I have ever seen him wear.
“Amelia, grab your things and get to L’École,” he said. “Go now, this instant—the streets of the Albertine will not be safe for much longer. I must get to the Embassy.” Even as he spoke he was throwing on his coat and grabbing a bag.
“What is it?” I said, hurrying to the window.
“Sky-wagons,” he said, quite unnecessarily, for I could see them for myself. They were hanging in the sky like baskets, dozens of them at least, and I could hear the sound of gunshots. A black dot tumbled out of one of them and disappeared behind the sky-line; and shortly there followed another vast boom.
“Le Maréchal has come,” I said softly.
Madame Laguerre received me with perfect calm. “Tres bien,” she said. “You will be safe here; even Le Maréchal will not dare L’École du Sorciers. We do not serve in wartime, but we very well know how to defend ourselves.”
It has been a week since then. I have not seen Maximilian; I presume that he is at the Embassy, or has gone to ground in one of the disreputable holes he has been made to frequent these past weeks on his chief’s business.
It is quieter now than it was during the first days. Then Le Maréchal’s forces were fighting their battle from on high, bombarding the Gendarmarie and Le Parlement, and shooting at any who opposed them.
One sky-wagon did venture in our direction that first day, a day I spent shivering on the roof of the dormitory with the other students. Several professors gathered in the green below and did something, I know not what…and the wagon burned like a torch. I do not believe anything reached the ground but ashes.
On the third day the majority of the sky-wagons left the city, bound I know not where, though I imagine it was in the direction of the Abyss, and Cumbria; for I cannot imagine that His Majesty’s forces will not respond when this incursion becomes known.
Since then all has been quiet here at L’École, save for my unquiet heart. Dr. Laguerre has bid me to attend to my studies, and I have done my best to do so; and even the objectionable Lavigne gave me his best wishes for Maximilian’s safety.
And yet, despite my fears and worries, I yet hope; for you are in Cumbria still. I remember all you have told me of your work, and I know you will know best how to counter this skyward threat.
Your resolute cousin,
Photo by Daniel Tafjord on Unsplash