Christopher Key, end of chapter nine

Now, let’s see: when last heard from, Crown had just realized Alexander was probably beating Christopher up–


… She about-faced and strode in the opposite direction, heading for the chambers that had been the crown prince’s.

By the time she reached them, she was running.

Christopher’s apartments had a day-guard of halberdiers. It ought to be knights day and night—she’d see to that later—but for now she snapped, “Alexander?” looked at the halberdiers waffling their mustaches in sudden guilt, and knew she’d been right. They’d let Alexander bluff his way past. Slam went the door, and in she strode, raising her fists. She let out a shout: “Alexander! Get away from him!”

The halberdiers came in on her heels, in a rush. Girls scattered in all directions. But it seemed like the fight hadn’t had time for more than one blow to be thrown. She wanted to applaud. Alexander, his hair all messed and the back of one hand pressed to his split and bloody lip, looked angry enough to spit out teeth.

The boy was wincing and sucking on bleeding knuckles, but he’d given her brother an admirable punch in the mouth.


She’d wanted to do it herself. But Christopher was the only one who could hit Alexander with impunity.

She crossed her arms and grinned. “Get out, Alexander. This isn’t your bedchamber anymore.”

“No. It’s yours?”

“Get him out!” she ordered.

The halberdiers took Alexander by the arms and marched him toward the door. Alexander made a show of nonchalance, but the blood all over his chin left her full of pure glee. She could guess he’d said exactly the wrong thing, but never mind. He’d paid for it. “And don’t come back!” she shouted as they took him out.

Now there was something even more important to deal with.

Mere. The door closed behind Alexander and the halberdiers, and now they were alone, all of them. The boy was still sucking on his knuckles; the knights’ daughters surrounded him—even gentle Dimity, even Merriment—with Mere right next to him. All of them together, except for her, and every last one was watching her. Dimity’s lips formed faint words: “Your grace—your lovely hair, it’s all gone—“

And … well, Mere.

Mere’s eyes had become mirrored. Just as Father said. She was like Sir Surrey, armed with the Eye of God, one of the most powerful weapons in the knightly arsenal. She had taken what was rightly Crown’s.

Crown stormed toward her and threw her arms around her. “Damn you!” she said, hugging her hard.

I’ll catch up. I’ll pass her. I swear it. I have to.

Her heart hammered, full of fear.


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