The knight looked down at Victor, grunted, and then stood to attention, holding its sword point-down in front of itself, just as it did when Victor first encountered it. Victor, on his knees with his hand raised in front of himself in a plea for mercy, slumped his shoulders and exhaled in relief. The Spectre descended the steps from the throne; Victor looked up and watched the dark, druid-like figure approach. The Spectre stood in front of him and looked down from within its dark hood. “You will answer my questions?” asked the Spectre.
Victor nodded. “Yes.”
“And you won’t laugh?”
Victor shook his head. “I won’t.”
The Spectre looked about the room. After a long pause he said, “Very well. May wisdom prevail. Be seated.”
With that, the Spectre turned and moved toward the throne. The grind of stone on stone rumbled as a thick cylinder of rock rose from the floor in the middle of the mosaic path, ten metres from the throne’s platform. The Spectre climbed the platform steps and took its seat on the throne, while the knight, with a sweeping gesture of its hand, directed Victor to the rock cylinder, which had risen to a height of about a metre and then stopped. Victor stared for a moment. “It’s a chair,” he said.
The knight nodded, and made a further motion with his hand in the chair’s direction.
“Oh, okay, sure,” said Victor. Keeping beyond range of the knight’s sword, he made his way around to the middle of the floor and sat on the flat, stony stool.
A long silence settled upon the hall. Victor sat on the stool, the knight in lion armour stood nearby him, while the Spectre of Puberty had the most prominent position, at the head of the hall, elevated on the platform like a ruler sitting to judge his subjects. Victor, dishevelled and pinning his left arm to his side, watched the soft shades of purple grow lighter and darker on the wall behind the throne. The lion knight stood unmoving. Far behind Victor, near the lava lamp, the conveyer belt continued its low whir. The Spectre flattened out his black cloak on his lap; he scratched the back of his hood. Victor looked to his left and right: the other suits of armour remained as statues between the tall stone pillars. The Spectre adjusted his position on the throne; he leaned his head forward, close to the end of one of the arm rests, and then rubbed his sleeve repeatedly over the curve at the end of the rest, as though trying to remove an annoying stain.
Victor shifted on his stone seat and cleared his throat loudly. “So, uh… you said you had some questions for me to answer?”
The Spectre sat upright and looked toward him. “Questions. Yes.” The Spectre looked to either side of the hall.
“Well then,” said Victor, “I’m ready to answer them if you’re ready to ask them.”
The Spectre re-adjusted his position. “Yes… good. I do have questions. It’s just…” He looked around the room. “The subject of my questions—ahem—questions is… sensitive.”
Victor nodded. “Okay. Well look, I won’t make a big deal of it, whatever it is. I’m good at keeping secrets. Ask me whatever you like.”
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