The text begins:
"Once upon a time..."
Poul Anderson, "The Master Key" IN Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 273-327 AT p. 275.
"...there was a king who set himself above the foreign merchants." (ibid.)
- but then we are told that what he did is no longer of any account. A man called Harry Stenvik and the first person narrator of "The Master Key" hung the king from a minaret, thus enhancing the prestige of the Polesotechnic League, then got drunk, thus adding to the profits made by the local Solar Spice & Liquors Company factor.
This has told us a lot:
the story is set within Anderson's Technic History and specifically within the Polesotechnic League period of that future history;
mention is even made of Nicholas van Rijn's company, SSL.
All that is directly relevant to the current story is that there is an unnamed first person narrator with an old friend called Harry Stenvik. The second paragraph introduces van Rijn who invites Harry and the narrator to dinner at his Winged Cross penthouse which we also see in two other installments of the Technic History: rich background details. We are shown a summer's dusk, Venus, Chicago Integrate as seen from a flying "flitter" and the flowers in van Rijn's rooftop garden. We are told that Harry has:
"...built a house on the cliffs above Hardanger Fjord and raised mastiffs and sons." (p. 276)
Again, the narrator declines to disclose anything about himself - but he has told Harry that he has most recently been somewhere with ammonia in the atmosphere. Like Emil Dalmady before them, they cross:
"...a few light-years of trollcat rug..." (p. 277)
- to where van Rijn wallows and one of Harry's sons, recuperating, remains seated but a man with a holstered, much-used blaster stands to greet them. The narrator bows to the master merchant, van Rijn.
All of these details come before the story to be told has even been approached.
Addendum: At the end of a month, as now, I take a break from this blog and add to others so today, Dec 31, I have published three posts on Poul Anderson's Cosmic Environments.