Les Rives, 20 December

Dear Uncle Friedrich,

May I call you uncle? Maybe you were not even aware we had a connection. I certainly wasn’t aware of it until recently. If I’m not mistaken, your sister Hildegard married a Gallian, Thierry Arnaud, who is a cousin to my mother, Annette Dupont – I don’t know if you’ve met her, but I’m sure you at least know her by reputation. Anyway, Maman pointed all this out to me. What a strange coincidence!

You’ll have to be patient with me as I “get up to speed,” a delightful New Columbian expression. I have spent most of the past six years there, so my Albionese is excellent. Yours seems perfectly adequate so I think it will suit our purposes. Which are … what, exactly? The way it was explained to me is that I am to serve as a liaison between the Gallian government, or, more specifically, those parts administering La Quarantaine, and the Society, represented by you. Open channels of communication, fostering trust and cooperation in a difficult time, et cetera, et cetera. I will confess, my first question upon receipt of this assignment was, “The Society? Weren’t they based in Albion? Do they even still exist?” Evidently you do, at least enough so that my Gallian superiors think it’s prudent to make nice.

Let me give you a sense of just what our liaison looks like on this end. Ever since Albion was … destroyed? Transformed? Irrevocably shat upon? I don’t know what the right term is here. Anyway, La Quarantaine has been a haphazard process, but very recently an official commission has been established, with a name and stationary and everything, definitely making it more official and if we’re lucky also making it a little more effective. It is La Commission d’EnquĂȘte de l’Albion. Among its many official acts was summoning me home from my vacations (technically “studies” but let’s be frank here) in order to serve my country in an administrative capacity.

As I’m sure you can imagine there are a thousand opinions around here over what do about the Albion situation. With your own country still recovering from the ravages of Blood War (and speaking of that, let me just state that I was not of military age then, so had nothing to do with it, no hard feelings I hope), Albion completely off the map (hopefully not literally but it’s not as if anyone has been able to check for sure), Hispania busy with its own internal strife, and New Columbia content to keep this mess at ocean’s length, Gallia finds itself in an odd position of power and influence. Smaller nations now look to us for leadership and guidance! Frankly I’m not sure we’re up to the task. But so it goes.

As you so aptly put it, a wall has two sides, and at La Commission, there’s Faction A, which consists of people who want to keep that wall very high and very firm in order to keep the Continent safe. (You used the word “lycanthropy,” which either means that you believe all the crazy stories floating around, or that you know something I don’t.) Then we have Faction B, which consists of people who want to keep the wall porous enough to get people to and from Albion. Faction B is a strange alliance of scholars and humanitarians with the hyper-aggressive types. I heard one general at a meeting yesterday use the phrase “annex them for their own good.” You get the idea. (Of course, for the moment the storms in the Channel preclude anyone getting through, but believe me when I say there are a lot of people here working on that problem.)

And moi? You’re not going to like this part, especially because, given all the materials that you have sent me, it’s evident that you have received some assurances as to my education and expertise that were probably … exaggerated, to say the least. I’m afraid the truth of the matter is that, for reasons of family prestige, and in order to keep herself well-informed as to the internal workings of La Commission, Maman arranged to get me this assignment. Her main instruction was “Do not embarrass yourself, or me,” but she used much more colorful language that does not translate well.

You’re probably thinking now that corresponding with me will be a colossal waste of time. And maybe you’re right; I certainly wouldn’t blame you if this was our last contact. The only reason I do not say that I am “out of my depth” is that I look around and see plenty of other people just as ill-equipped to deal with the Albion problem as I am.

But if you do decide to write back, it will be because of this: I want to help you. I didn’t think I would, but you wrote, “ … there are those of us who believe that Albion’s condition is only temporary. We believe that the reversal can even be accelerated.” And I want that … I need that … to be true. For my own reasons. It is the one thing no one at La Commission seems to be saying.

So, as to all of these rubbings from historical sites you have given me. I hung them on the wall at a salon I hosted last weekend, and they were very popular. Perhaps we have started a fashionable new trend! But in all seriousness, my position as an official of La Commission gives me a lot of freedom, so I am hopeful that I can find out what you need. I will see if I can find someone who can translate the strange symbols, but any direction you can give would be most welcome. I will also read up on our own reports of contacts and near-contacts with Albionese since the Event and hope to be much better-informed on all these matters in short order.

As for prying eyes reading our letters … I will say that thanks to my family connections I am reasonably sure that mine will reach the diplomatic pouch unexamined, but how things go on your end is another matter. It is best to assume these are being read by someone, as you said. But I have never been one to hold my tongue, and have no plans to start now.


Bertie Dupont