Noman stepped off of the Headwind with a profound sense of relief. He took a deep breath, forcing tense muscles to relax now that he was back on solid ground. He spared a look back at the flying death trap, wondering how it could have possibly made the trip without plummeting to the ground. There wasn't an ounce of magic in it's construction, not a single rune or spell. And yet somehow, with only the aide of some flimsy spinning blades, it flew.
He hadn't wanted to get on the thing at all, of course. But Hatchet had insisted that The Captain wanted to see him as soon as possible, and that meant taking the Headwind. Noman had refused at first, but Hatchet's not so subtle threat of force had made him reconsider.
He was far from the only passenger, of course, and along with those refugees lucky enough to secure a spot were the mages. Most of them looked dead on their feet, and two appeared injured. If they noticed him or recognized him for what he was they didn't give any indication. Even so their presence made him uneasy. The view from the windows as the Headwind rose into the sky made him even more uneasy, and it was enough to drive Noman to find somewhere with neither. He settled on the cargo hold, the ever watchful Hatchet accompanying him. Though it was occupied by a number of refugees none of them took particular note of him or his escort, content to keep to themselves so long as he did the same. He'd spent the rest of the trip unsuccessfully trying to forget they could all fall to their deaths at any moment.
With a shudder of disgust he turned away from the Headwind, fixing his gaze instead on the imposing skyline of Redhurst. It didn't do much to improve his mood. He glared at it, at the factory smoke stacks with black smoke billowing skyward from them. He made an unhappy noise.
"Yeah," Hatchet agreed, walking up beside him. "Definitely not as scenic as Marsten." Noman looked over at him and raised an eyebrow. When he looked back at Redhurst he was thoughtful. He recalled his words with Airea at the Red Manor, before they'd left Marsten. That she was jealous of technology, that unlike magic it was something man had accomplished for himself, without the aide of the gods. Yet as he looked at its ugly side effects and thought back to the ride on the Headwind he found that his immediate reaction was the same as it had always been.
He didn't like technology. There was something wholesome about magic, something natural and right and trustworthy that technology didn't possess. Yet technology was humanity's achievement. It offered a future without need for the gods or magic, and that was something in and of itself.
He realized Hatchet had taken a step away and looked to see what had drawn the Watchman's attention. There was someone in military attire jogging across the airfield towards them. Having seen both the Watch and Marsten's army, he guessed it must be one of Redhurst's soldiers.
"One of you Noman?" the man asked, looking from one to the other.
"That's me," Noman replied.
"Sergeant Karo," the soldier introduced himself with a quick salute to Hatchet, who looked the most military of the two.
"Watchman Hatchet, of Marsten's City Watch," Hatchet introduced himself. "What can we do for you, Sergeant?"
"There's a carriage waiting to take you both to the castle," Karo told them. "I have orders to bring you there as soon as you're ready."
Hatchet and Noman shared a glance. "We won't keep you waiting then," Hatchet told him. "Let's go."
Volker watched them leave from across the airfield, wondering what business they were off to. He'd never seen Noman before, but it was easy to guess. Rumor had spread, as it had a way of doing, that the Summoner had been freed from the Ivory Tower before the demons attacked. Looking at the brooding figure walking away with a Watchman and a soldier of Redhurst Volker felt the extra senses of a mage telling him 'here is someone with power'.
"How is he?" he heard Gilead ask. He turned away from the Summoner and back towards the mages he'd arrived with. The question was about Dasker, still unconscious on a cot after the battle in the Tower. It was the chief reason the mages had been given a spot on the Headwind, though Ganner's head injury and the exhaustion of the others and also contributed. They moved slowly, painfully so to Volker's eyes. In some ways they seemed older than Elias, and the elder mage himself was subdued and silent.
"He's fine for now," the healer attending Dasker replied. "Though the sooner we get him into a proper bed the better."
"And there we have our next question," Volker said, mostly to himself. Oh, Dasker and Ganner would be taken to a proper hospital. Maybe the others would as well, until they recovered from their exhaustion. But what about after that? Were they to settle into tents with the rest of the refugees? The thought was not one that appealed to him. Unfortunately Redhurst did not have a mages guild of its own, so he could not appeal to them for lodging. There had been one at one point, of course, though they had ceased to exist along with the guilds from other cities as belief in the old gods faded. And there, perhaps, was an opportunity. After all, he thought, even if Marsten could be retaken if might not survive the process, and that meant the mages guild would need a new home.
That new home could be Redhurst, but they would need to make their place in it. For a city so invested in technology that would be a difficult proposition. Convincing the other mages that it needed to be done would be... Volker looked them over curiously. He wasn't sure just how the others would respond to the idea.
"Elias," he asked as they gathered themselves up and headed towards the city's gates, "Without Sarrus, who's in charge of the guild?"
At first he thought the elder mage hadn't heard him. Elias walked along in silence, eyes fixed on the city before them. At last he drew in a measured breath and said, "I have seniority." It wasn't really an answer, of course, and he knew it wasn't what Volker had really been asking. With a wry smile he added, "Of course, I had seniority when..." and he paused to take another breath, "When Sarrus took over."
"Yet you let him lead," Volker commented. Elias nodded. "Why?"
"Because he wanted to," Elias replied simply.
"And you didn't?"
Elias gave him an amused look and said, "No." His look turned serious as he regarded Volker. "Do you?"
"That's not why..." Volker started, but he let the response die on his lips. Maybe it was why he'd asked.
"Someone should," Elias added, taking in a haggard breath. "They will not welcome us. They have... no use for magic, here.... No use for us."
"No," Volker disagreed. "We can show them its uses. It doesn't have to be just technology or just magic. It can be both. I started to show them that back in Marsten. We can do the same here." Elias gave him a skeptical look. "It's the only way forward," Volker insisted. "If we cling to the old way of doing things we'll just fade away with it, become a footnote in history along with magic. Is that what we want?"
"We should have a meeting," Elias conceded. "Once everyone is... feeling up to it. For what it's worth... I agree. Not happily, mind... but I agree."
Volker nodded. They were nearly to the gates now, the heavy walls of Redhurst towering over them. "I'll work on finding us somewhere to stay," he promised. "And then I'll work on making us a place here. I'll meet you at the hospital later "