Christopher Key, chapter eleven cont’d

Here’s the second half of scene two. Mere learns a little about her new power. But it’s not all roses …


“This was another test?” Mere said. “To see if I felt you looking at me?”

“Yes,” he said. She’d always liked him, the way his whole face creased when he winked, and his bristling eyebrows and shock of rust-red hair. Uncle Surrey could wear a helmet all day, and when he took it off to greet a lady, his hair would spring upright like startled broomstraw. She wished she could see him now. “I laid a wager with your father,” he said, “that you’d see me, and look here, I’ve won. Time for a lesson, Mere.”

She’d hoped for this, but decided it wouldn’t happen. Not with Queen Amily laid low. “But the queen,” she began.

“She sleeps,” Sir Surrey said, “and Mistress Cecily professes herself satisfied that she will make a full recovery.”

“Oh, thank the angels,” Mere said.

“Indeed, thank them—whatever angels watch over Westminster. And I’d welcome a distraction just now. I’m glad you could see I wanted you, child.”

“But I didn’t really see you. I just knew you were looking at me, somewhere.”

“And you knew how to find me. I knew a spy once who said there were ten kinds of different glances, and he could tell all of them apart by the different ways they made his skin prickle. The look of the eye holds power. It’s my pleasure to teach you, as I was taught by a knight from the court before Amily’s, Sir Howard Drake—he was your father’s great-uncle, but died when you were still in swaddling.”

“I know about him. He had the Eye of God too.”

“Yes, like us. Now, I chose this place for a reason. If you looked across Westminster to the old town and St. Paul’s, could you count the cathedral pigeons?”

She pictured the cathedral, standing proud over the roofs of old London, with its famous double spire that was a landmark from everywhere in the city. “No,” she said. “It’s too far away.”

“I can see,” Sir Surrey said, “every detail of the cathedral. Down to the chisel marks in the stonework, and the panes in the rose windows. I can indeed count the pigeons. More, I can see their nests—they’re tucked in around the gargoyles, mostly—every nest, every bit of straw, each twig, each loose feather. I can count the eggs in the nests.”

“But I am blind,” Mere whispered. “Why can’t I see like you?”

“You will, soon. Sir Howard could count the petticoats of milkmaids as far away as the fields beyond Limehouse. He taught me all he knew, though he saw differently than I.”


“Sir Howard’s Key was a frivolous woman, eager to hear every old wives’ tale, obsessed with the uncanny. So he could see ghosts, he said, and invisible black dogs that roam the city streets and go in at the house-doors of the dying. Spectral soldiers walking on Highgate hill, airy spirits flitting along the Thames. Strangenesses such as that. But Queen Amily does not believe in the supernatural. I never saw those things.”

“I … didn’t know any of that.” She’d thought that those who had the Eye only saw useful things. Important things. Like buried treasure? Or hidden weapons, in case an assassin lay in wait for the king. But then Sir Surrey had not seen the poison being put into the queen’s tea.

Beside her, Sir Surrey must be thinking much the same. He sighed heavily. “We see what our Keys need us to see.”

“So different Keys need to see different things?”

“And mind you this, Mere. When we first come into the power, that’s when our sight most clearly reflects what our Keys need. When I was new to the Eye, for instance, I saw mostly into the hearts of those around me.” He sighed. “Amily was troubled then. I won’t say more.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Your blindness won’t last. You too will see many things. One warning. Do not depend too much on the power of the Eye. Or any knightly power. Prize your wit and judgment instead, for anything else is a mistake. Sir Howard made that mistake, and died of it.”

“What? How?”

“He lost sight of ordinary things. He could not see the obvious, but was always raving of an invisible world around him—dangers that never materialized as far as I know—I myself witnessed how he would draw his sword upon shadows or nothing at all, or wander lost through familiar rooms, not recognizing his friends. Eventually he said it was dark in broad daylight, and sunny during the night. He died in a fall, from this very rooftop. That’s why I brought you here. I was not present, but witnesses said he walked over the edge—stepped confidently over the rail in broad daylight, and plummeted to his doom.”

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