Christopher Key, chapter three, scene one

They were taking him to the palace. Christopher knew it.
Not that they’d bothered to tell him. None of the knights said a word. The only noise was the clatter of hooves, the splash of water off leaves and rain-chains. The rain itself had stopped as if someone had chopped it off, but every tree dripped. Every gutter too. The stones of the streets steamed with wetness, and there would certainly be fog come morning.
The black clouds had rolled away so fast that the full moon, exposed, looked surprised. Christopher wondered where Bernard had gone. And the rest of the magicians—where had they all gone?
Being snatched from their care made him feel as if the world had turned upside-down.
Yesterday he would have traded every book he owned for this moment. To be riding through the night with the knights-royal, the flower of the kingdom’s chivalry? He’d have given everything he possessed, down to his last pair of shoes.
It was like a curse from a bedtime story: may you get what you wanted.
Escape was impossible. He watched every moment for a chance to slide off the warhorse and vanish, but the knights surrounded him three deep, and no matter which way he slid his eyes, he found them staring back at him. All that concentrated attention left him itchy. He tried to stay small and still and invisible.
His guardians had taught him that the king was a tyrant and the knights-royal were just as bad as their master.
They rode through the midnight city. He’d never been out at night, of course, and he’d never been near the palace, but he could tell where they were going. Uphill at every corner, toward the summit of the city. It was also the oldest part of the city, its streets overhung by very tall houses.
The knights barely spoke. One gave orders from time to time—not Sir Gawaine, but someone with a soft sarcastic voice, the kind of voice that takes obedience for granted. Menacing in its lazy drawl. Nobody gave him back-talk. Christopher couldn’t pinpoint the speaker; all that plate armor made it seem he was surrounded by anonymous steel giants. They’d put him up on one of their chargers, a black colossus that could have pulled a cannon: Sir Gawaine’s warhorse. Or maybe Sir Gawaine’s young elephant. He remembered it from the procession. Sir Gawaine walked at its head, leading it. He felt like a child on its back.
They’d ridden a long way before the commanding knight finally spoke to him. It was definitely the knight who kept giving orders. There was no mistaking that offhand, authoritive voice. “You. What’s your name?”
“Me?” Christopher said.
“Yes, you. Well?”
“I’m Christopher.”
A kind of stir went through all the knights, saddle-leather creaking and armor chiming faintly. One swore. “A boy’s name!”
“Basil,” said Sir Gawaine, warningly.
The street switchbacked now, climbing steeply. The city spread out below, with the river silvered in moonlight, many ships lying at anchor in the Pool, and beyond that the Tower of Dogs. A circuit of walls zig-zagged along the outskirts of the city, and a second, inner circuit guarded what was called the City—the city without being newer (and humbler) than the City within—and a third circuit above and within the rest, its towers jutting out against the night. This innermost wall encircled the royal palace, Folly Hill, and the houses of the Seven Families. Its walls were sheer, sharp angles guarding every line of fire, their points studded with star-shaped redoubts. Fortress walls. Lighthouses crowned the redoubts, all built within the past several years. The King’s Eyes, the daily news-sheets called them. Their beams swept the sky and lit the city below. Since they came into use, nobody needed torch-linkmen to light their way at night. The King’s Eyes illuminated the streets.
The small group of knights passed a squad of cavalry riding down the royal road, hippogriff-riders astride heavily-muzzled beasts. The knights’ war-destriers showed a tendency to snort and stamp their feet challengingly, at which the hippogriffs hissed.
They reached the third circuit of walls. The horses trod over a drawbridge that rang hollow beneath their hooves, and passed through a gate’s arch. Lanterns lit the quadrangle beyond, the cobbles shiny with wetness. Men in grey livery came running.

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