Christopher Key, chapter three scene three

Two knights had been detailed to escort Christopher. They doffed their spurred boots, took up candlesticks, and walked him through the palace, one on either side. Christopher hunched his shoulders and hurried silently along. They passed guards strolling in fives, halberds at ready; no one else was awake at this hour, and the halls were echoingly empty. Their ceilings were high and shadowy, their floors reflected the candlelight in soft gold pools. “Take care,” one of the knights advised him. “They’re marble. Slippery.”
“Where are we going?” Christopher asked.
The knight, Sir Surrey, shook his head. “Someplace safe for you. Ah. Here we are.”
But these were somebody else’s rooms. Christopher ventured through the open doors, trying to take in everything at once, particularly the windows. A double long row of them, one straight across the far end of the room, and one on the lefthand wall: tall and spacious, and glazed with the expensive luxury of long panes of glass clear as water. The moon shone through them; so did the King’s Eyes, the watch-lights from the city walls. It looked like there was a balcony too. A cavernous hearth to the right, easily large enough to roast an ox in. Dark-paneled walls. The ceiling painted with a dimly-seen scene of the hunt. And two saddles on tall stands, to one side of the doors, and a set of young man’s plate hung on an armor-tree, and a rack of swords and daggers, with a longbow for someone a head taller than Christopher, and a pair of riding gloves stuck atop the fire-irons. More gloves littered the floor. The armor glinted in the moonlight. A wardrobe stood with one door half-open, heaped clothing cascading out.
Two hounds, curled nose-on-tails next to the hearth, rose and stood bristling with their ears down.
Whoever that plate armor had been made for, he was tall. Older than Christopher, probably. And of noble birth, look at that: blue enamel and silver inlay glowed off the polished steel. The helm’s plume was sumptuous white. A jousting shield had been propped against the wall. It was painted with crossed swords over a lock, argent and sable, on an azure field.
Those were the royal arms of Everie. This was a prince’s bedchamber.
The hounds ventured closer, tails beginning to swish. Christopher would have liked to make friends with them, but Sir Surrey leashed them in a hurry and tethered them in a corner. “Our pardon for the mess,” he said, while his fellow knight whisked the wardrobe shut and kicked a boot out of sight behind the skirts of a gigantic canopied bed. There was dog hair on everything, and a smell of roast meat and sweaty leather. “Argan, what became of Alexander’s squires?”
“I, ah, think he dismissed them for being thrown at courses.”
“I’m not surprised. I suppose he made them ride that wild stallion of his.”
Sir Argan, with an unexpectedly kind expression, turned an armchair to the light and shooed Christopher toward it. “Sit, sit. You look exhausted, er …”
“Christopher. I’m Christopher.”
“Sit down,” Sir Surrey said. “I’ll poke up the fire. It’s freezing cold.”
Christopher had never in his wildest dreams imagined that the king’s knights-royal could play servant so easily. But they did, lighting candles, heaping coal on the fire and blowing it up with a bellows, filling the air with warmth and comfort. Sir Surrey poured wine, watering it well. Sir Argan opened a cupboard, brought out a loaf and butter and cheese, and soon set toasted bread-and-cheese in front of Christopher.
Christopher bit and chewed, but he couldn’t really taste anything. He couldn’t stop looking around him. Four inner doors, one of which probably led to a garderobe. He didn’t see a door to the balcony. Too bad. He’d always wanted to shinny down a rope of bed-clothes. Even better, if he could manage, would be to tie a loop on the end and fling it up, hook it on something and climb up instead of down—escaping pursuit across steep rooftops. All perfectly pointless, with both knights watching him like hawks.
And all that sporting gear. Hawking gloves. Jesses. Dueling weapons! A bearskin on the floor, clawed paws attached. A stand of real jousting lances with the paint all scratched and chipped. Christopher couldn’t stop gawking. He burned his mouth on the toasted cheese, gulped down a final swig of wine and set the cup aside, drawn irresistibly toward the jousting lances.
Sir Argan hovered nearby, looking dismayed. “Er—those are live weapons, heavy—ah no, don’t unbuckle that strap—no, no, that’s far too large for you—”
The doors crashed open and someone shouted, “Who are you?”

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