Tip of the spear

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All things said, Tranton's life was moving in an unexpected direction. In a few short weeks he'd moved from seeking shelter in snowdrifts and ice holes to a warm but flea-filled bed in Lagnin, and now found himself in a bed chamber unlike anything he'd ever seen. The palace's guest bedroom was clearly decorated to impress its visitors, the high ceilings lined with columns and elaborate filigree patterns, while the centrepiece bed was huge and draped with brightly coloured, rippling silk. The room was large enough to also accommodate its own sink and bath, obscured considerately behind a movable screen, while another corner hosted a round table and chairs for entertaining further guests. It was opulent to an extreme and left Tranton feeling decidedly uncomfortable.

He was a trader, admittedly a very successful one, and was not used to operating in such social or political circles. To think that he'd ventured up into the mountains precisely to get away from responsibility and personal ties, only to find himself staying at the heart of government of a foreign, unfamiliar power. It felt as if the plan had gone somewhat awry. He'd always thought it more likely that he'd find the valley deserted of humans, occupied instead by animals and beasts, allowing him to live out the remainder of his days on his own terms. Instead, he'd found a confined cluster of people with as messy a setup as he could imagine. Even in his basic understanding of Lagonian society, he could sense a fragility to its institutions, revealed through the nervous questioning from Roldan Stryke.

The night had passed uneventfully, with Tranton escorted swiftly into the palace via a small side entrance. Keeping his part of the bargain was the easy part; he'd cooperate and have the 'conversation' with Fenris Silt, as it would be a way to get the measure of the place through Silt's reactions to his answers. He held little optimism of Silt keeping his end of the deal and allowing Tranton to leave - but one thing at a time. Tranton was aware that he needed to know more about the valley and its people before he went gallivanting about the place. Exploring a capital city was not the same as negotiating a snowy mountaintop.

Silt's office was below ground, lower even than the kitchens, nestled between food stores and rows of empty jail cells. The painted walls with their hanging tapestries made way for bare brick and stone and there was a slick, weathered dampness to the floor. The man's office was lined with bookshelves and cabinets, on top of which were piled folders and stacks of papers. There was an organised chaos at work, with everything positioned precisely while being evidently too much information for one mind to properly comprehend. It reminded Tranton of his trading office just before he'd sold the Red Sails and the business.

A guard, silent but friendly enough, led him down the bare corridors to Silt's office and showed him inside.

"Please, take a seat," Silt said, gesturing.

Tranton walked slowly around the room, taking in its detail and eccentricities. A map, more functional than the illustrated one in the Lagnin inn, adorned one wall, nestled between cabinets. It, too, had no detail beyond the mountain ring but it at least had the restraint to not include depictions of triple-headed monsters in the lands beyond. A metal and glass tube, about the circumference of a clenched fist and with an access hatch set into its top, ran along one wall at waist height, before angling upwards and disappearing into the ceiling. A framed portrait of a man, presumably the king, hung from one wall, while an image of a young girl sat atop the large desk which occupied the centre of the room. Sketches of plants and animals were pinned to the side of one bookshelf, while a glass cabinet contained a selection of stuffed animals, most of which were entirely unfamiliar to his eyes.

"Thank you for staying the night," Silt continued, "and for coming to see me today."

"I didn't feel like testing your magnanimity," Tranton murmured. He pointed at the portrait of the girl. "Granddaughter?"

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