Christopher Key, chapter three scene three con’t

Christopher leaped away from the rack of swords. A gang of young men, all bigger and older than him, swaggered in through the doors. There seemed at least a dozen of them, and the one in the lead looked familiar. Fair hair, blue and grey jacket. There was no time to think about that, though. He came straight for Christopher, chin outthrust and fists raised. The hounds in the corner leaped up and began to bay. Sir Argan stepped in front of Christopher and said, “Enough.”
The stranger with the fair hair and the big fists stopped short just before plowing into Sir Argan’s armored chest. He had his head down, his hair in his eyes, so all Christopher could see of his expression was his bared teeth and determined chin. And yes, he looked exactly like the princess from the procession in the morning.
There were only two royal children, so this was Prince Alexander, the heir.
He was certainly large enough to own the big suit of armor, that tall bow, and the heavy jousting lances, not to mention all those other enticing weapons. Christopher envied him.
“Your grace, you forget yourself,” Sir Surrey was saying. He had come to join Sir Argan. Prince Alexander’s cronies now crowded up behind the prince, silent and hostile. One swigged from a flask.
Prince Alexander himself craned, trying to see past the knights. All right. Christopher moved sideways and let him take a good look.
In about four years he might be as tall as the prince, if he kept on growing the way he hoped he would. He doubted he’d ever be as angry.
Or as drunk. The smell of wine-fumes was stifling.
Sir Surrey said, “Your grace may go stay at Adwarde House with the Appleacres. Hasn’t Ruthven already offered?” One of the young men behind Prince Alexander shuffled his feet and shrugged. To Christopher, Sir Surrey said, “Our apologies. This is awkward. The king has ordered that you be brought here, because it is safer than anywhere else in the palace—here in the state apartments. These have been Prince Alexander’s chambers, but they’ll be yours now. It sounds strange, I know, but there are good reasons.” He went on a little more loudly, with a glance back at the prince and his friends, “The king ordered that no one should trouble you or cause you alarm. Prince Alexander would probably like to collect his hounds, though.”
Sir Argan added, “And send someone—some pages, or the housemaids—well, no, not the housemaids, if—send servants to take away his other possessions. Er. Later.”
“Yes, I want my dogs,” Prince Alexander said. “We came for my dogs. I want some clothes too, and we’ll take them. Now. Stand aside. I want everything that is mine.”
His friends spread out through the room, snatching things, as the two knights stayed right where they were in front of Christopher, in their full armor, weapons and all. They crossed their arms. Ruthven untethered the hounds and brought them to the prince, glaring at Christopher all the while. “These are the sons of knights,” Prince Alexander said loudly in Christopher’s direction. “A hundred times the worth of any commoner.” The hounds growled. “We’re all noble here. Sprung from the seven knightly families. Raised to inherit. Inherit Everie. The girls don’t matter, no girls matter, but we men will rule in the next generation.”
And the prince would become King Alexander. Christopher imagined it. “Why are you so angry?” he asked.
“Damn you.” Prince Alexander pushed at the knights, without warning—shoving between them, shouldering them aside. Then he shoved Christopher too, hard. Christopher staggered. He’d been too surprised to dodge. “What are you?” the prince shouted. “Hey?”
Christopher had knocked his head against the wall. Both knights had hold of Prince Alexander, keeping him back. But they were having trouble. They were two to his one, but he was almost too much for them. It didn’t help that the dogs, losing their heads, set up a mad yammer and tried to bite the knights through their armor.
Prince Alexander’s strength wasn’t natural. It looked like magic. Like the magic of the knights.
“Your grace, your father—”
“Damn my father!” said Prince Alexander.
Three more knights had arrived. Christopher hadn’t even seen them come in. Other people were with them too, but the knights went straight for Prince Alexander. Five against one seemed to be the right odds to discourage the prince, because he gave up, flinging up his hands with a not-very-muffled curse, not quite steady on his feet. The knights cuffed the dogs away and took firmer holds on the prince, all five together. Maybe to keep him from falling, but probably not, because the next thing they did was march him away from Christopher, and if Prince Alexander wanted to argue about it he had enough opponents to make even the most belligerent drunkard back down. Besides, all his friends were already fleeing the field, dragging the hounds after them.
“Your grace, you’re drunk. It would be best if you removed yourself.”
“No. Considering what’s at stake for me, I want to see what thish … boy … what he hasn’t, I mean, who he isn’t—or is, that the doctor—I mean, dammit, I’m not leaving, see?”
He glared at Christopher. Christopher, trying to work his way through the sentence he’d just heard, glared back.
“You should be afraid,” Prince Alexander said threateningly. “If you know what’s good for you.”
“Enough,” said Sir Surrey. “Christopher? This is the queen’s doctor.”

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