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

12 January 1017

My dear cousin Amelia,

The result you foresaw has occurred: Lord Doncaster has been summoned to Yorke to answer for his support of the Armorican Grand Parlement. He requested my presence in Mont-Havre this past week, and I dined with him and your brother Jack.

“I shall be bringing M. Laplace and M. Galois with me, to speak for the Parlement,” he told me. “I do wish I could bring you along as well, but I fear you rather blotted your copybook with the Lords when you scuttled off back here.”

I rather began to bristle, but His Lordship held up a hand before I could speak.

“Yes, yes, I know, you were unaware that you had been summoned to Parliament. That’s the official story. But you know and I know, and the Lords know, that between them His Majesty’s Army and Navy smuggled you out of the country before the official word could get to you. Whatever led you to go along with it?”

“You know quite well what led me to go along with it,” I said.

“Yes, but I should like you to run through it again. It might be useful to me.”

“Oh, very well. In the first instance, I had returned to Yorke to deal with an unfortunate family matter.”

“Your father, yes.”

“Yes. The war with Le Maréchal hotted up again while I was there, and I was moved to use my skills to aid the fight against him, the more so as Jack’s sister Amelia was in Toulouse. During that time I created the war-wagons, which were not so effective as I had hoped, and my first fast packet along the same lines, the Anne-Marie. The Anne-Marie was meant to improve communications for His Majesty’s troops.”

“Quite so. And then?”

“The war in Provençe ended in its unusual and spectacular fashion, and my services were no longer needed. So I returned home, to Armorica.”

“Quite. Why did you return in such haste?”

“I had already been away from home far longer than I’d wished or anticipated. I had a wife and two small children awaiting my return. And to be blunt, my lord, small-minded men were conniving, seemingly with Parliament’s aid, to steal or ban the use of my finest work. It seemed a poor re-payment for my services to a country that, while it will always be my motherland, is no longer my home.”

“Then you deny that you feared your Anne-Marie would be found to be unsafe?”

“I do. I had already flown in her from Cumbria to Toulouse and back; and I intend to journey from Bois-de-Bas to Toulouse in the Amelie as soon as I can leave my affairs in good order here. Which, I may say, will be some little time; the wagon-works are still recovering from my previous absence.”

“Very good. And now we come to the nub: do you also aver that your support for Armorican independence—for that is what it is—has no root in animus for Cumbria or its Parliament?”

“I certainly do! I believe my record stands for itself. And here’s the whole of it, my lord: my new home has had a rough time of it. It was more or less abandoned by Provençe in all but name shortly after its founding, and forced to survive on its own; then it was manhandled by Le Maréchal and his forces, while the most of us steadfastly opposed him. We greatly appreciate Cumbria’s aid in seeing him off, and are delighted to find ourselves in relation with her, for Provençe has long been a difficult motherland to love. But we have earned the right to see to our own affairs.”

“And should you be willing to say all of this before the House of Lords?”

“If I were given a guarantee not to be imprisoned on the lying words of the masters of the Shipwright’s Guild, with a certainty.”

“You give them the lie, then?”

“I do.”

“And if one of their number seeks satisfaction from you, as a matter of honor?”

“I would reply that as a craftsman, my honor is in my work; that they have been ceaselessly impugning that honor, so that it should be for me to seek satisfaction from them; but that I see no reason to seek honor from men in whom it is nowhere to be found, as they have shown by their actions in this matter from the first to the last.”

“Hah!” said His Lordship. “Jack, you’ve gotten all of that down?”

“I have, my lord.”

I noticed for the first time, rather to my surprise, that Jack had been making copious notes through this part of our conversation.

“Excellent, most excellent. That should do nicely.”

I was taken aback. “What do you mean, my lord?”

“Your name, I fear, has been rather dragged through the mud in Yorke, thanks to these men of no honor of whom you speak, and mine has become associated with it. Therefore it falls to me to clear your name in order to clear my own—and though you may disdain to engage with the masters of the Shipwright’s Guild, I do assure you that I will whip them like the curs they are if they stand in my way.”

Lord Doncaster being the general who had sent Le Maréchal running from Armorica there was little I could say to that, save to raise my glass. “Confusion to our enemies,” I said; and His Lordship and your brother both did gladly drink.

Your honorable cousin,


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Photo credit: Anonymous, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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