Voices from the past

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The parade of vehicles wound their way down the mesa, picking up an ever-growing throng of people, some trailing on foot while others rode horses or joined one of the caravans or chariots. A carnival air of celebration enveloped the movement as they descended towards the spread of the city. The royal transport had been designed specifically to navigate such awkward roads and was able to turn exceedingly tightly despite its length and bulk.

King Guijus Tellador felt the wind on his face and inhaled great gulps of the smells and tastes of his city as they passed first the barracks, then the diplomatic residences and the estates perched on the cliff side. He had not ventured past the plateaus atop the mesa for longer than he would like to admit.

The valley felt poised for change, an almost palpable sense of anticipation leading them on. He'd not known it, but he knew now that his entire life had been leading to this day. This was the day that he brought real, lasting change to the valley. He would be the king that re-opened the passage to the south. Guijus Tellador would be the man to break the deadlock of power in the valley and open their society up to the wonders and opportunities of the wider world. Where he had lived in the shadow of his forebears, now he felt himself growing taller, rising above them in a kind of apotheosis, drawn towards the promise of something better. There would be trying times ahead, he knew, and not everyone would accept the new order. That was understandable, and therefore could be predicted and anticipated. Lief and his followers would no doubt dissent, but even they would surely see reason once they were enlightened to what lay ahead. Excitement and optimism would trickle down to all in the kingdom, with Guijus Tellador at its source.

He had two people to thank for this turn of events: Tranton Seldon, the odd, abrasive, ambitious outsider for proving it was possible; and Kirya, his daughter who never failed to dream and hope and inspire him. To think that he could have gone his entire life without this moment and without the valley finding salvation. One mis-step leading to an accidental fall on a glacier, or the ice harvesters of Lagnin farming a different field that day, or Roldan Stryke failing to recognise the importance of what had been found in the mountains - any of those and countless other possibilities would have robbed him of this victory and left him to retreat further into his palace, with only a bitter, tired old man remaining to warm the throne.

Instead, he was stood at the front of this great land-ship, waving at those standing on the balconies and rooftops of houses that they passed. The city was coming out to greet them.

Guijus made his way towards the rear of the vehicle's open roof, steadying himself as the floor rocked gently from side-to-side. Seldon was occupied with the pleasantries of countless encounters, which he no doubt loathed having to do, but he seemed pliant enough. Guijus had worried that the farce with Martoc and the guards would have soured the man against them but it seemed to have done no harm. He had made sure of that, especially once it came to light that Seldon's actions had been more likely to have saved Kirya's life than threaten it.

The gathered attendees moved courteously aside until he reached the covered area at the rear, where he found his wife and daughter enjoying canapes and tall flutes of wine. The scurrilous Pienya Martoc stood to one side, always bothering his peripheral vision, an itch he could not scratch for fear of offending his wife. Anja had always taken to the girl for reasons he could never fathom, but was willing to allow - Martoc was undeniably skilled in her work.

Picking a freshly poured glass from a table, Guijus raised it to his family. "To your imagination, my dear," he said to Kirya, smiling warmly. "This is your celebration as well as mine. We would not be here without your insight."

The queen put her hand on Kirya's leg. "And in one so young," she said. "You have served our family well in this matter, Kirya. Most queenly of you, if I may."

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