17 Rue Thomas, Toulouse, Provençe
12 October 1016
My dearest cousin Armand,
What an eruption you have caused, to be sure! You Armoricans, I should say, for it would not be fair to blame it all upon my own sweet cousin, however sizable his role might have been in instigating it.
According to Maximilian’s sources at the Embassy—for though he is no longer employed there he remains on good terms with Alec Gainsborough and lunched with him and Lord Ellesmere this noon—the fat is truly in the fire in Yorke. The Times of Yorke is screaming “Ingratitude!” in headlines an inch tall; Members of Parliament are screaming “How dare they!” at each other; the Army is screaming, “We shall crush them!” to anyone who will listen; the Navy is remaining quietly aloof while laughing up its collective sleeve at everyone else; and His Majesty has asked for calm in calm and stately tones, which has reduced the din only somewhat.
It is too soon to know how it will all play out. Alec Gainsborough called the Armorican’s Grand Parlement a house of wretches; but Maximilian pointed out that Cumbria hadn’t conquered Armorica as such, but merely driven out Le Maréchal’s forces and then assumed control in a rather high-handed way.
“They have been left mostly on their own for a generation,” he said. “One can hardly fault them for wanting to continue to manage their own affairs.”
Lord Ellesmere agreed, but he added, “The point of our remaining in Mont-Havre was to provide the Navy a solid base in that part of the Abyss while denying it to le Maréchal. We achieved that, to our great good; and now that we have a presence there we would be fools to give it up.” In his view, Armorican independence is no bad thing, saving His Majesty’s government a world of headaches—always provided that the Navy is well provided for. “If I were premier, I would be negotiating for a permanent naval presence in Armorica, and possibly a modicum of support in the way of supplies and maintenance, and then do all I could to maximize trade.”
I’ve no more news on that front; but I thought you would be pleased to hear an insider’s view, as I assure you that no good picture can be formed from the cacophony in the daily papers.
In the meanwhile, Maximilian has been much taken up with something called ley lines, which seem to be a perennial subject of discussion amongst the budding wizards at Edenford. Dr. Tillotson has never mentioned them to me—perhaps because he learned in his own student days that the speculation is heady, endless, and ultimately fruitless.
Here is what I know. Here and there in the Cumbrian country side one finds faint lines of magic. These lines run quite straight, sometimes for tens or hundreds of miles, insofar as they can be traced; and if drawn on a map appear to suggest by their intersections the presence of a set of magical nodes, as though the entire land was once the site of a magical working of a size so immense that it beggars belief.
What kind of working might it have been? What objects served as the nodes? How much power was required, and how many wizards working in tandem were needed to do the working? These questions and all such manner of things are commonly discussed into the wee hours, to no conclusive result.
It seems that the apparent nodes and their interconnections resemble no known transform; though Maximilian was quick to point out to me that not all intersections need be nodes, and it is likely that some ley lines have faded beyond recognition so that the nodal map is only partial. A common game is to suggest one or two or three possible nodes to add—or sometimes remove and then to see if it gets one anywhere—which it never does, unless you are interested in Cumbria-wide spell to keep crickets out of your wardrobe. That one requires removing three nodes and adding five others in quite specific places, places for which there is not a hint of evidence.
And do you know, I have never found crickets in my wardrobe?
Others inquire into the nodal anchors? One might assume that significant natural landmarks—i.e., mountain tops—might have been used; but the apparent nodes have little in common geographically. One or two are on mountain tops, yes; others are two-thirds of the way down the slope; some are in utterly nondescript locations.
All of this is quite thrilling, I am told, until the novelty wears off.
But no Cumbrian wizard has addressed the topic with an eye to Provençese styles of wizardry; and as they do not think in terms of nodes and geometry, no Provençese wizard has spent much time looking at ley lines. It seems that Maximilian and M. Lavigne spent some time in discussing these things during their journey together, and they have determined to investigate the ley lines and nodal locations in the vicinity of Toulouse and see what they might find. I am sure we shall all be waiting with ‘bated breath for their conclusions.
Your somewhat skeptical cousin,