Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.
1 Rue St. Albert, Toulouse, Provençe
23 February 1016
My dearest cousin Armand,
I write, as always, in hopes that someday you will be able to read this; and I write in renewed hope for today has been a day of moment.
I was sitting with Dr. Laguerre, listening to yet another highly poetic discourse on the nature of Johannine wizardry and striving to discern which words were mere poetic conceits and which bore the weight of significant if metaphorical import, when of all unexpected things there came a knock at her cottage door.
Dr. Laguerre rose immediately, her countenance thunderous—for in her view interruptions have no place in a well-regulated universe. I heard voices and when she returned her face was stern but no longer ominous.
“There is one here whom you will wish to see,” she said. “I shall return in un quart d’heure. And with that she left the room, bound I know not where—for standing in the doorway was my Maximilian!
He was dressed as a common workman, in the meanest of clothes, and those none too clean. He held a flat cap in his hand, so that I could see that he had severely trimmed and darkened his hair, and there was a smear of dirt across his forehead.
“Yes, it is Maximilian,” he said warmly. “I am quite alarming in appearance, I know, but I believe you will not find me greatly changed.”
And I ran to him and he embraced me, and I do think he would have swung me about the room had there been fewer breakables in close proximity.
Instead we stood before the fire—for he was chilled through—and shared our news. I had little enough, for I have been finding the Flueve de Johannes a difficult stream to imbibe; but he! He had more than enough.
He has been avoiding the Embassy, which is watched, though it is clear he has ways of communicating with them. He has joined an anti-Maréchalist group, a group dedicated, so he says, to “making Le Cochon’s life a misery to him” in small ways: harassing patrols, stealing supplies, destroying war materials. “It is little enough,” so he said.
Le Maréchal is at the front, having left a Colonel Marchant in charge here in Toulouse, and it seems that Colonel Marchant is staying at L’Hôtel de Ville, the seat of the city government. Two days ago one of Maximilian’s comrades in arms infiltrated the building and left a dead animal in the cistern. It sounded appalling to me, but, Maximilian said, “It will put a crimp in the Colonel’s ability to respond elsewhere. Without the distraction I wouldn’t have dared to come to you.”
Our time together was brief, for he could not stay and Dr. Laguerre returned all too soon; but Dr. Laguerre allowed me to escort him to the gate.
And as I was returning to the cottage, I thought that indeed, beneath his grime I had found him unchanged; and a passage from Master Johannes came to mind. I have written of it before: The bird takes wing, and flies thrice around the Sun while draped in damask.
The bird flies, but it is natural for a bird to fly; and if it is unusual for the bird to be draped in damask yet to be so does not change the bird in any essential way. And then I saw it, the key to understanding Johannes.
Cumbrian wizardry is about flows of…something, I am still unsure as to what, between nodes, and about maintaining balance so as to contain and constrain the results. But Johannine wizardry is about change, and not simply change, but change that leaves the essence of a thing untouched. A Johannine enchantment consists of one or more changes layered, if you will, upon a thing, so as to enhance its natural properties and to extend them in unnatural ways.
A bird appropriately draped might fly around the Sun. A man with the proper mantle might speak with the tongue of birds—or angels. The air once filled with the correct words might convey fire into an enemy war wagon—thereby causing an essential change in the wagon, it is true, but that is the effect of the fire, not of the wizardry as such.
How this relates to nodes and flows I have as yet no notion at all, nor any idea as to how to evoke such effects myself. I am sure that it is harder than it looks.
I spoke of this to Dr. Laguerre when I returned to the cottage. “Bon,” she said, and then dismissed me; for, she said, “You have much re-reading to do.”
Your uplifted (but essentially unchanged) cousin,
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash