The Princes of Marsten had been offered guest rooms in Redhurst's castle. Some had accepted, others had found places to stay within the city proper. Her Ladyship Vanora had accepted the invitation, and Noman now stood before the door to her room. He glowered at the servant who answered his knock. "I need to have a word with the Prince," he told her bluntly.
"Um," the servant looked surprised. She glanced back over her shoulder. "Is Her Ladyship expecting you?" she asked at last. Clearly there had been no visitors expected, especially none with his reputation.
"Unless she's suddenly become a mind reader, I doubt it," Noman told her.
"Then I'm going to have to ask you to come back later," the woman told him. "I'll let Her Ladyship know that you want to see her." She made to close the door, only to find that it had been stopped by Noman's boot. He fished inside his coat and produced the credentials provided to him by the Watch.
"I'll let you read this," he told her. "It's an extension of authority to work as an agent of the Marsten Watch. It's signed by Prince Vanora. I want to talk to her about a matter pertaining to Watch business. So if she's here, I need to speak with her. Now, not later."
The servant gave Noman a sour look. "Wait here," she told him and promptly closed the door. He took a deep breath and slowly let it out, resisting the urge to pace the hallway while he waited. Finally the door opened again. "Follow me," the woman told him.
Her Ladyship met Noman on a balcony that had a view past the city walls, to the grasslands beyond. She was standing at the railing as he approached. She turned as the servant silently withdrew and gave him a smile that sent a chill down his back. "Noman," she greeted him. "How unexpected."
"My Lady," he replied stiffly. "Thank you for seeing me."
"Oh, no need to thank me," Her Ladyship said, a dangerous edge in her voice. "After all, you have your papers."
"I've been put in charge of your inventors," Noman told her, pressing forward despite her obvious annoyance.
"My inventors?" she asked, arching an eyebrow.
"That's right. I've been around enough to hear how they talk about you. The technology fair was your idea, wasn't it?"
"It was," she agreed. "All right, Noman. What about my inventors?"
"How much have you kept in touch with them since we've arrived in Redhurst?" he asked. "You must have talked to at least a few of them."
"I have, yes. And I've heard the way they talk about you," she smirked. "Not a few of them are unhappy with you, you know. I think you hurt their feelings."
"Their feelings I couldn't care less about. It's their cooperation I want. I need you to talk to them for me." He walked to the railing and put his hands on it. He leaned over so he could look down at the city below.
"If you've kept in touch with them you know they're supposed to be finding ways to use technology as a weapon against the demons. Some of them got a little creative. They hooked up with a mage from Marsten." Noman patted his hands against the railing before pushing himself away. "They've decided to use magic in some of their inventions."
"Don't worry," Her Ladyship assured him, "I'm sure I can talk them out of it."
"Actually," Noman crossed his arms, "I'd like you to talk the rest of them into it."
"What? Why would I want to do that?"
"Because it's an idea worth pursuing," he told her.
"Technology is meant to replace magic," Her Ladyship argued. "Anything magic can do we can do just as well, if not better, with technology. It's the way forward, the future."
"Your inventors have convinced me that together the two can be greater than either is apart. You're a woman with a technical mind, aren't you my lady? Then let me tell you what they told me, and you can make up your own mind." He waited for her to nod in agreement before continuing. "A lot of their inventions rely on clockwork or steam power, sometimes both. The problem with steam power is that it takes up a lot of space. You need to carry around the fuel to feed the boiler, you need pipes for the exhaust, and on top of it all the thing needs constant attention. Now imagine this: a tank of water, heavily reinforced. Inside is suspended a hollow metal orb. Inside that is a rune matrix, which when activated will produce and sustain a magical flame. Experiments have already confirmed that such a fire will burn hotter than a normal flame and at a constant temperature. It will burn in the absence of air or fuel. Just think of what you could do with that sort of system."
Noman watched as she did just that, her eyes narrowing as they tracked back and forth. It was as if she was reading a book only she could see. At last she sighed. "I can see where that would be useful," she admitted, "But I still don't like the idea of putting magic into our inventions, especially if we're going to put them into battle against the demons. What if they're able to interfere with it? Or turn it to their own advantage? How do we know we can rely on it, keep it under control?"
"I know first hand what fighting demons is like," Noman told her. " Trust me, we can use any advantage we can get. If putting magic and technology together can give us an edge why shouldn't we go for it? My people already have several ways to make an immediate difference."
"Its..." Her Ladyship pinched the bridge of her nose. "It's not right," she insisted. "It's not natural."
"Fine," Noman said, more accepting than angry. "Your efforts would have made this a lot easier, but it isn't impossible without you. The Captain of the Watch, the generals, even Prince Haldran himself... someone is bound to think this is a good idea. I just thought you would be the easiest to convince. From what I heard you spent a long time encouraging new ideas and innovations no one thought would work. It's a shame to find your open mindedness was exaggerated." He turned away from her and walked towards the door. "Thank you for your time, my lady," he said over his shoulder.
"Noman," the word was a command that stopped him as his hand reached for the door. He turned towards her with as impassive an expression as he could manage as she continued, "If there's one thing I've learned its that progress isn't possible without change. And if you can't change your mind, you can't change anything. As much as I hate to agree... I do. You're right; I shouldn't dismiss new ideas out of hand just because they involve magic. Not with the situation what it is." She sighed and shook her head. "I'll talk to them. Hear what they think. If they can make their case... then yes, I'll help you."
"Thank you, my lady," Noman said, and he couldn't quite keep the corner of his mouth from twitching up into a small smile. "I'll let them know to expect you."
Her Ladyship's visit to the factory was greeted with an air of excitement and expectation one would have expected for royalty. Noman knew, of course, that it had nothing to do with her status as Prince and everything to do with her status as patron of every inventor she could find. She arrived by carriage drawn the old fashioned way, by horses. The complicated steam powered thing that Heinrich had created for her had, alas, been left behind at Marsten during the hurried flight from impending doom.
It seemed that every inventor at the factory knew the prince personally, and in turn she somehow remembered the name of everyone she greeted. Noman hung back with Hatchet and Anara, watching as she moved easily through the gathered crowd, much to the obvious consternation of the guards who had arrived with her. Anara said what Noman was thinking when she commented, "I bet they had to insist on coming along. I'd hate to be a part of her security detail, she's too careless."
"She trusts them," Hatchet commented.
"It's a good way to get assassinated," Noman pointed out. "The easiest way to get close enough to stick a knife in someone is to get them to trust you. I promise to be suspicious of every living thing that crosses my path," he assured his escorts. "And lots of things that aren't living," he added after a second of thought.
"Good man," Anara said with a grin.
"I think we're here to keep him from hurting anybody, not the other way around," Hatchet said.
"Either way," Anara said with a shrug, smile still firmly in place.
"Still don't trust me?" Noman asked Hatchet.
"Not really, no."
"Good man," Noman echoed Anara's words, though his expression remained serious. "It looks like Her Ladyship has mostly worked her way through the crowd. Lets get in there and make sure she talks to our people as soon as possible."