After serving through a lifetime of wars, upheaval, riots, and revolutions, the brass figured Aurel had seen enough. But in addition to a few trinkets and his considerable pension, the erstwhile engineer left with something far more interesting: a long-forgotten, incomplete schematic for a Gyrocopter, the world's first manned, non-magical flying device. Retiring to the tropical obscurity of the Ash Archipelago with little else but time and money, he set to work building the device.
As the years wore on and the remains of failed prototypes began to pile up, he began to wonder if mechanical flight was even possible. A decade and a day after his retirement, on a sunny afternoon with a southerly breeze, Aurel sat in his latest attempt bristling with indignation and expectant failure. With a grunt of effort he pulled the ignition cord and covered his head, waiting for the inevitable explosion. However to his great surprise he began to lift and, following a few panicked adjustments, stabilize. Within an hour, he was ducking and weaving with the breeze, level with the gulls, and Aurel found himself filled with the breathless wonder of flight.
As dusk settled in he set a course back to his workshop, but no sooner had he turned his craft when a cannonball tore through his tailfin. Disentangling himself from the wreckage, he swam toward the nearest piece of land in sight, and cursed to see the ship responsible for the cannonball collecting the debris. Days later, when Aurel returned to his workshop, he set to work on yet another gyrocopter, this one capable of carrying a much heavier, more dangerous payload.