Guidance

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

Bois-de-Bas, Armorica
18 August 1016

Dear Journal,

I have reached a lull in my work on the good packet Amelie: the forming is complete. Much construction and finishing remains, but that can proceed without my help. Meanwhile I am quite caught up with regards to the wagon-works’ other endeavors, and business at my former’s shop is slow, due I think to the weather, which is both hot and damp.

I have been using this time to good purpose in training Bastien, who is, as always both quick and diligent; despite his ox-like exterior he has a keen mind, and very little escapes him. He is beginning to do more and more of the simple work that comes across the shop counter.

It has not been at all difficult to find ways to fill the time: playing with my daughters, reading to Amelie, sharing picnic meals with Marc and Elise. But I have also had more time to sit and ponder. Certainly I got my fill of that on the voyage home from Cumbria, but I find that it is one thing to sit and ponder as a distraction from the travails and boredom of a voyage through the Abyss and quite another to do so in a state of content and relaxation.

And so I was sitting in my shirtsleeves on the porch yesterday evening, enjoying the cooler breezes that come with the setting of the sun, a pint of ale in my hand; and with the Amelie nearing completion my mind turned to the problem of navigation.

It is a well-understood skill, indeed; we should never have spread to all of the Lands of the Abyss without it. (And perhaps I should say “skills,” rather than “skill,” for navigating the skies of a Land and navigating the depths of the Abyss are two different things.) But it is not a simple skill, nor one that all folk are well-suited to acquire. Nor is it a common skill among the general population.

And yet, whether over land or through the Abyss, it seems to me that it is simply a matter of determining the direction to take towards your chosen destination, and then traveling in that direction. Over long distances this takes charts and sightings and much mathematical scrutiny, as well as a good notion of one’s starting location. But how if it could be simpler? How if an ordinary person could safely navigate the Amelie from Bois-de-Bas to Mont-Havre, not by following the road from above (as I confess I should need to do) but more simply?

And then it struck me. My message-arrows fly quite reliably between Bois-de-Bas and Mont-Havre, due to the connection between the target blocks and the arrows themselves. The same principle can be used as a means of navigation.

Consider. I form a large target block and place it in a prominent location—on a tower at the port of Mont-Havre, for example. I cut from this target block a small piece, and form it as a seeking block, just as I would with one of my message arrows, so that it is attracted to the target block from which it was made. I bore a hole through this small seeking block, and string it at the end of a cord. I tie the other end of the cord to a vertical post fixed in front of the helmsman’s station on the Amelie.

The seeking block will move towards the target block, just as a message arrow would, but will but caught short at the end of its cord—thereby pointing the way to the desired destination. The helmsman need simply direct the Amelia by the guidance of the block on its cord to unfailingly arrive in Mont-Havre from wherever they may be.

Over time one could establish position target blocks in every major port; and each packet could have a cabinet containing seeking blocks for each of its ports of call. One would have to take steps to prevent the blocks from flying away accidentally, of course.

Clearly this will work between here and Mont-Havre. But will it work across the Abyss? I had not hitherto considered the problem, for it would be rash and foolhardy to attempt to send a message arrow such a long distance—the chance of skewering some poor soul is far too great.

And how would the blocks stand up to long use? The message arrows are working as well as ever, with no sign of degradation even after two years of service, but they are not in use every day.

Or are they? Certainly the pull between an arrow and the target block is not lessened when the arrow is restrained in its quiver.

Oh, I have so many questions!

Next letter

____

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

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