1 Rue St. Albert, Toulouse, Provençe
11 May 1016
My dearest cousin Armand,
I have received good news and bad, and the totality of it is such that I do not know whether to kiss Lord Ellesmere or burn his embassy to the—but no, I must never allow myself to think that way. For I could, Armand, I could.
Not kiss Lord Ellesmere. His wife must, I suppose, but I can hardly see why anyone else would choose to. Except for his mother perhaps. Or a maiden aunt not long for this world and hardened to vicissitudes.
I am sorry, Armand, I am giddy and struck with horror by turns.
Lord Ellesmere admitted to me today that not only is the embassy in contact with my Maximilian, but that they have been so for weeks! Only they could not tell me, for fear I would let it slip.
That is the good news: Maximilian is alive, and he knows that I am safe. He will not throw his life away on some desperate act of vengeance. And for this, I am, I hope, fully grateful.
And at the same time my next-to-worst fears are realized: for he is indeed traveling among the people of Malague in Malagueñan guise, to stir up local passions against the Maréchalists. Lord Ellesmere has attempted to assure me that Maximilian is in no danger, that he is “simply building bridges with the Malagueñans as we move forward to a post-Maréchalist future”—but I know better. He is a Cumbrian diplomat traveling in a war zone under false pretenses.
Oh, Armand, if he is caught, he will be shot.
I tell myself I must be calm. I married an officer; I must not be surprised when he goes into harm’s way. I must be as courageous and steadfast as he; I must do my part here as he does his there.
But in my dreams I see flames, Armand. That bacon-faced man at the embassy kept me in the dark, allowed me to think the worst. And in my anger and my passion I could burn the embassy to the ground. The flames are so eager to please!
But I force them down. I keep my schedule. I control my thoughts.
Dr. Laguerre has spoken to me of this. “Of all the ways in which you could have come into your powers, this was the best and the worst. The best, for you have established a channel as broad as the nearer reaches of the Abyss; there will be little that is beyond your reach, given sufficient study. But the worst, too, for now you must be ever on your guard and must practice strict control in all things or your power will consume you and those around you.
Some day I hope to come to Armorica with Maximilian to meet your Amelie and your daughters—but it will not be soon.
Your monstrous cousin,