Anne-Marie Rising

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

The Abyss
13 April 1016

Dear Journal,

Such glory! At precisely eight of the clock this morning the packet Anne-Marie rose from her dock at Camp Moorhen and ascended into the skies. It is now mid-afternoon, and the approaches to Provençe are in sight. Just think of it! A normal diplomatic packet, proceeding by sail, would make the journey from Yorke to Toulouse in a few days; we shall make the same journey in a matter of hours!

There are twelve of us aboard: myself and eleven sailors, from Captain Aames down to the estimable lad who just brought me my tea. I am told that this is a tiny crew, even for so small a vessel as a packet; but then, there are no masts and no sails, and no rigging to tend. Truly Anne-Marie might be sailed by one man only, the helmsman; or, better, two: one at the helm, and one to navigate. And if properly trained, the two might switch off from time to time.

I say that there is no rigging; but the Admiralty was unwilling to build a vessel that must rely wholly on my infernal formings, as the Shipwright’s Guild has taken to calling them, nor to man it so sparsely. She is therefore more traditional in appearance than I had intended, and indeed has a full complement of masts and so forth; but the masts are unstepped and lashed along one side of the deck, as are the required yards, and the sails remain in their lockers below.

She is also larger as a result; for she must carry enough men to rig and sail her at need, and so must also carry food and water for so many.

It is too absurd, for we shall not need them. I suppose my notion of but two crewmen is insupportable, at least for voyages longer than a day’s time; but four would seem ample, two on watch and two off, especially as the navigator might also prepare the food for the two on watch, and take care of other small tasks as they might arise.

“No, no, no, my dear fellow,” Lord St. Victor said to me at the Admiralty. “Can’t have on officer cooking the mess, you know. Bad for discipline. We shall do it our way, I believe.”

And with that, of course, I have had to be content.

I have spent my day touring the ship and inspecting her many formed elements; and listening with mingled joy and dismay to the abysmal creaking she makes as she goes. It is a necessary part of my design that the hardened parts of the ship work against each other, providing the effort required to prevent the motive blocks from gutting them over time; but I may say that I had not considered what it would sound like. The captain and his men seem not to regard it, however, so perhaps I am over-nice and it is not as shocking as it seems to me. I have found nothing else out of the way; the ship—no, the packet, for I am told I must on no account refer to a packet as a “ship”—is performing as I expected.

For the rest, I have spent my time on the quarterdeck, observing the helmsman at his work and conversing with Captain Aames.

He and his men are all volunteers, of course; the Admiralty could do no less in light of the campaign of Master Eaves and the other shipwrights to prevent the launch on grounds of safety. I was pleased at such a turn-out; I felt that it was a testament to my reputation and skill. Lieutenant Morgan put me right directly after I came on-board. “It is such an honor, sir,” he said, shaking my hand, “to fly with the cousin of Mrs. Amelia Archer.” I find it hard to disagree with his priorities.

We should be making our landing in Toulouse by this evening, a mere eleven hours after our departure. “It is the most shocking thing, Mr. Tuppenny, to be sure it is,” said Captain Aames to me. “Are you quite convinced that you cannot do the same for our larger vessels? At speeds like this, Cumbria could rule the Abyss!”

“I fear not,” I told him. “There must be a careful balance between the formed members, one that becomes impossible to achieve as the ship grows larger. Truly, I should not like to build anything much larger than Anne-Marie herself.”

“Then these stories the shipwrights have been spreading about—”

“Are most likely rooted in fact, yes. But the shipwrights work to an ancient rule of thumb, which they do not understand and apply unthinkingly to vessels of all draughts; I have come to a deeper understanding.”

The good captain hesitated a moment, then said, “Are you quite certain of that, Mr. Tuppenny?”

“Oh, yes, captain. The road has been rocky, I admit, and my particular friend M. Frontenac was severely injured along the way. But I have studied, and built many things, and I am confident in my results. I would undertake to sail on the Anne-Marie at any time, and to any destination for which she can be sufficiently victualed. Indeed, I hope one day to fly home to Armorica in her.”

Captain Aames nodded. “Very well, then.”

And now I shall close, Dear Journal, for we are over land and there is much for me to see as the sun sets over the Provençese country-side.

Next letter


Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash

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