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"So I passed the entrance test?" For a time, Tranton had expected Silt to throw him into a jail cell and pretend that none of this had ever happened, rather than present him to his king. Yet here he was, standing before a tall, gleaming, elaborately decorated door to the throne room. Some might describe it as ostentatious, though Tranton thought it best to keep his assessment to himself. He'd been informed that it wasn't even the main entrance.

"Your score was sufficient to permit some access," Silt said grudgingly. "This will be a brief introduction; the king has a busy schedule and will need to see to more pressing matters."

"How long do I have?" Tranton noted the engraved patterns on the doors were in fact abstract depictions of what appeared to be a conflict of some sort.

"You will be in his presence for ten minutes."

"Makes all the effort in getting here worthwhile," Tranton muttered, glancing back at the wide, empty corridor behind them. It was lined with pillars and the floor was polished to such an extent that the stone would suffice as a mirror. It was a private way in and out, without having to suffer the stares of the common folk in the foyer. Tranton was looking forward to meeting some common folk, if he ever made it out of the palace alive.

Before leaving Lagnin he'd requested that Erin pass on a message to the man and his team who had retrieved him from the foot of the cliff. Arrek had been his name, though Stryke had refused him access after that initial encounter. It seemed that he was hoping the ice runner would forget all about what he'd seen - Tranton wouldn't be surprised if he'd been compensated as such. Or, perhaps, threatened. Both Stryke and Silt shared a desire to control information at all costs, perhaps on orders from their king. He wondered what would happen to the happy inhabitants of Lagnin should they speak a word of the foreigner they'd found on the glacier.

The door emitted a series of clicks and whirrs and to Tranton's surprise the figures in the abstract engravings began to move, shuttling about in crude animations as the locks disengaged. Rather than simply swing open, the door instead ratcheted outwards and folded in on itself, disappearing almost entirely into a recess in the door frame. It was technically brilliant, visually captivating and entirely worthless.

"Hinges not good enough?"

Silt ignored him and instead placed a hand at the base of his back and pushed him gently forwards, into the cavernous throne room where light poured in from an expansive, panelled window, splashing across the ornate throne. The room was seemingly deserted, its corners dark and shadowed, hidden from the window by heavy curtains hung at intervals throughout the space.

"King Guijus, ruler of the great valley and commander of the marshes, mines, forests and plains, allow me to introduce Tranton Seldon, born of Hollanhead," Silt announced. "Recently master of the Barrier Mountains, travelling from Lagnin."

"Then you are the master of those damned peaks?" came a deep, rumbling voice, as the king lifted himself from the throne and got to his feet, turning towards them both. "I would not believe it had you not already convinced Fenris Silt."

Tranton glanced at Silt, who remained impassive, his face betraying no emotion whatsoever. "It's true," Tranton said, his voice sounding oddly small in the chamber, as if the ceiling drapes were absorbing all but the king's voice.

"Then come to me, Tranton, and tell me all," the king said, stretching out his arms in welcome. "I have so wished for the rumours to be fact."

He approached the throne, taking in the geometry of the room as he moved, noting where cushions and depressions in the floor were located; chairs and tables and rugs. He didn't trust these people and his first thought upon entering any room was how best to exit it in a hurry. As he got nearer, the view out of the window caught his eye, as he realised the throne room was perched on the edge of the mesa, with the city and valley stretched out far below.

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