Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.
1 Rue St. Albert, Toulouse, Provençe
6 April 1016
My dearest cousin Armand,
I described your message arrows to Dr. Laguerre, and she was fascinated—or, to call a thing by its proper name, outraged.
“C’est impossible!” she said to me in the most frigid of tones, and all the firmness she would use in dispatching untimely and unwanted visitors. “Such tales are for les enfants.”
The good doctor is at her most formidable when she is in such a state of disapproval; and yet I found it in myself to contradict her, and to persist in describing what you had told me; and in the face of my persistence she at last agreed to consider the notion.
And then she rose from her chair, silently admonished me to remain with a look and her index finger, and vanished. She is accustomed to doing so, in order to fetch some book or monograph—but in this case she turned left rather than right upon leaving the room, and I heard the exterior door open and close.
I sat there before her fire for a quarter of an hour at the least, before she returned—and not with the dusty tome I expected, but with the spiky master I wrote of last month, and whom I later discovered to be Dr. Guisman, the head of L’École. He seemed to be quivering with excitement.
“Tell me everything, s’il vous plait,” he said to me. “Leave nothing out.”
And so I told him what you have told me about your work: about the sky-wagons and sleds, and your message arrows. It was the latter that concerned him.
“It is as you have said, Aurélie!” he said to Dr. Laguerre, which was shocking—it had not occurred to me that my preceptress had a given name. Then he turned back to me and leaned forward in his chair, forearms on his knees.
“You have learned of the Six Streams, bien sur?”
He looked at me expectantly, brows raised, and I nodded.
“Bon. Once, it is said, there was a seventh: the Fleuve de Belazel. The last master of that stream is said to have died in Moravia centuries ago; his writings were never found.”
“His work,” said Dr. Laguerre, “is said to have involved the animation of les objets domestique, and the, how shall I say, le rapport des tessons, of things once joined but now separated the one from another.”
“The animation des objets, bah,” said Dr. Guisman. “Any mountebank may do that. But to preserve le rapport des tessons, of shards as you may say, that no sorcier can do.”
“And many lives have been wasted in the pursuit,” said Dr. Laguerre in her driest voice.
“Mais oui,” said Dr. Guisman. “And now you tell us the problem is solved.”
“And by a mere artisan as well,” I said, and was rewarded by seeing Dr. Laguerre’s cheek grow rosy.
“C’est vrai,” she said. “I was too abrupt. Je suis désolé.”
“Oui,” said Dr. Guisman. “From what you say, he is no more artisan.” He sat up straight, and pronounced, “He must come to us, and that rapidement.”
“I shall write him and tell him so,” I said. “But Dr. Guisman, Dr. Laguerre, I spoke of him with particular intent. My cousin’s arrows can find their destination from a great distance. If one were to attach a string to such an arrow and keep a good grip on it, one could use the pull of the arrow to guide one to the block it seeks, n’est-ce pas?”
My instructors nodded.
“I wish to find my husband. He thinks me captive, or worse; and what he will do if he discovers that le Maréchal does not have me I dread to think, for he will surely think me dead. Had he been equipped with such a block, finding him would be tres facile. And yet, I have his things, and a hairbrush with strands of his hair. Can these things be used to seek him out?”
Dr. Guisman pondered. “C’est impossible, I would have said prior to today. And yet, perhaps not. I should need to speak with your cousin.” He turned to Dr. Laguerre, who nodded.
“If one stream will not suffice,” she said, “perhaps the confluence of two streams?”
“Bien sur,” he said, and turned back to me. “Write to your cousin, Mme. Archer. Then we shall see.”
And so have I done, beloved cousin. Please come to us: in your packet Anne-Marie, or in any other way, but come speedily, I beg you!
Your importunate cousin,
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash