Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.
20 September 1016
17 Rue Thomas, Toulouse, Provençe
My dearest cousin Armand,
Such changes there have been in my life since I last wrote to you, that I hardly know where to begin—there are so many, many threads to catch hold of.
The first, I suppose, is that while I have continued my studies of the Johannine stream of magic with Dr. Laguerre, I have also returned to my studies of Cumbrian magic—also with Dr. Laguerre, though here she is not so far ahead of me. We have frequently been joined by Dr. Tillotson, come over from Edenford to tutor the both of us, and also by my dear Maximilian!
Yes, this is not the least of the changes: Maximilian has left the Cumbrian Embassy and returned to his first love, wizardry. His limp marks him, you see, so he could hardly resume the kind of clandestine roles that so consumed him prior to what he calls his “pleasure jaunt to Navarre”; and indeed, with the death of the Maréchal and the collapse of the Maréchalist cause the embassy has no wish for him to do so. He has therefore spent these months at a desk, reading and writing reports for Alec Gainsborough; and at last he came to me and said he was damned if he would go on with it, and that if he couldn’t lead an active life he would at least study what he chose. Then, of course, he begged my pardon for his manner of speaking, which pardon was, of course, granted.
As a result of our studies, and my own singular experiences with Johannine magic, I am ever more aware of the vast gap in tone and emphasis between the Provençese and Cumbrian styles of wizardry. The Provençese style, as I now see it, involves acquiring a deep, intuitive, and I might even say intimate knowledge of a particular kind of magic, of how it flows and what it can do. One knows what one wishes to do, and then draws power from this well of familiarity, and feels one’s way to the cusp of the moment…and acts, and the thing is done.
The act is easily described—indeed, I have just done so—and yet the interiority of it is nearly impossible to explain. It is for this reason, I believe, that the books of Master Johannes resemble poetry more than any kind of reasoned discourse, for it is an attempt to put words to an experience that can only be recognized in hindsight.
The Cumbrian style, on the other hand, has no truck with intuition, with “feeling one’s way”. It is crisp, and analytical, and involves flows of magic between nodes in precisely defined patterns. The Cumbrian wizard has no idea of the flavors, of the textures, of the different streams of wizardry, even as he willy-nilly makes use of them; indeed, he has no idea that he is making use of multiple streams! He holds the thing he desires to be done in his head just long enough to design his array of nodes and do his computations; and when at last he acts—such is the Provençese quip—he no longer has any notion of what it is he is trying to do.
But his results, if seldom as powerful and dramatic as those of the Provençese wizard, are more tightly controlled; he achieves what he set out to achieve and nothing else, at least if he has balanced his flows properly. If his work has fewer of the kind of serendipitous surprises that mark a Provençese wizard’s life, it also has fewer less pleasant surprises as well. (I have noted before how portions of the grounds of L’École are as cratered as a battle field; whereas in Edenford, both Maximilian and Dr. Tillotson assure me, the craters are confined to the surface of laboratory benches.)
But then, Cumbrian magic progresses so much more slowly! An intuitive leap can take one much farther, and much more swiftly, when one has but to think and feel and then to act—as I discovered to my own salvation and dismay last March.
I find the slow progress of Cumbrian wizardry soothing these days, I do confess.
And yet—what could one do, if one were to combine a deep and intimate knowledge of the Six Streams with the precision and care of Cumbrian practice? It is a thing worth discovering, as Dr. Laguerre says. And it is this to which we are working.
Quite how Maximilian and I shall manage to live, now that he has left the embassy, I am unsure. I have been receiving a small stipend from the Provençese government in gratitude for my services last March, though I am uncertain how long that will last. It is little enough to live on. And yet, the excitement of each day, of working side-by-side with my Maximilian, brings such a joy and a spark to my very existence!
We shall find some sort of balance, I am sure of it.
Your curious cousin,
Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash