The Shadow Palace - The Viper and the Urchin #6
The Shadow Palace - The Viper and the Urchin #6
The Shadow Palace - The Viper and the Urchin #6
The Shadow Palace - The Viper and the Urchin #6
The Shadow Palace - The Viper and the Urchin #6

The Shadow Palace - The Viper and the Urchin #6

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They made it into the palace…

…But will they be able to escape from it?

In the shadowy world of the Airnian court, nothing is more important than knowing who to trust. And nothing is harder to determine.

Rory and the gang need to make alliances if they’re to succeed in their mission, but their attempts are met with intrigue and betrayal. And all the while, the White Hornet is watching, waiting for an opportunity to make them disappear.

Longinus, meanwhile, continues with his quest to discover what happened to his family. His search for answers will take him deep within the palace, and deep within its secrets, until he is faced with a horrific choice.

Can Rory and the gang save him from a fate worse than death?

🔥Delve into The Shadow Palace, book 6 of a complete 9 book series that’s packed with adventure, banter, and quirky characters, all set in a richly imagined tropical world.

🔥Ebooks are delivered instantly via Bookfunnel email to the email address provided at checkout.

 Paperback Edition 348 pages
ISBN 9782492523137
Product Dimensions 5 x 8 x 0.7 inches (12.7 x 20.3 x 1.9cm)
Language English
Publication Date 31st January 2020
Publisher Celine Jeanjean
Series The Viper and the Urchin #6

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Something was wrong, terribly wrong. Longinus frowned. Never in his wildest dreams had he imagined he would find himself in this position.

He was in the presence of one of the most talented seamstresses he’d ever encountered, and yet he hadn’t manifested any kind of real interest in what she could do for his clothing. Yes, one could argue that once one had reached such levels of perfection, it was futile to attempt to improve upon it. However, Longinus was nothing if not a man of profound humility, and if the seamstress had had a suggestion to make about his clothing, he—normally—would have most definitely considered taking the advice.

As it was, his mind kept drifting back to his family and the myriad of questions that still surrounded them, so he was barely giving her any attention.

Then there was the room he was in, a room of such staggering opulence, it went far beyond what anyone would consider gaudy, past crass, and somehow circled back to beautiful. Yet he was indifferent to it. Was he properly appraising the skill and craftsmanship that had gone into the creation of the gold-thread woven damask that covered the walls?

No. An absolute travesty. Although now that he was paying attention to it, it really couldn’t be denied that the skill of Northern Airnians with patterns was second to none. It was displayed to great effect in Simeon’s rooms—every surface was covered or upholstered with fine, expensive fabrics, the colours and motifs clashing merrily in a way that somehow managed to be pleasing.

Longinus turned to the seamstress, who was fussing with Rory’s skirts. “I have to extend my most sincere apologies for the attention I am utterly failing to lavish upon you right now. This has never happened to me before. Normally, anytime I am in the presence of someone who knows how to work fabric, I give them the due attention they deserve.”

Rory looked down at the seamstress. “If I was you, I’d thank my lucky stars. You got a lucky break there.”
Longinus frowned. “Break? I’ll have you know that practitioners of the sartorial arts normally enjoy my attentions.”

Rory smirked. “That’s what they tell you to your face, at least.”

“Um, I’m fine,” the seamstress ventured, looking confused. She had no real need to be confused—the situation, in Longinus’s estimation, was rather clear. But intelligence and skill with needlework didn’t always go hand in hand. Longinus had come across his fair share of tailors who could sew like angels but had all the intellect of a wet clog.

“And how is it that the world has so spun on his head that Rory is the one going to court while I am relegated to the role of a servant?” he lamented.

“You can always show your face at court,” Simeon drawled. “But many people knew your father, and you could easily stir up trouble, the kind of trouble that would nullify my protection.”

Simeon seemed to only have one manner of sitting down—sprawling across whatever chair or sofa he had selected as if his spine were incapable of keeping him upright. The man also had a rather astonishing knack for crumpling his clothing. No matter how recently he had donned fresh clothes, they always looked wrinkled and like he’d lived in them for a couple of days. The same went for his sandy hair—a perpetual mess that had clearly never known a comb—which matched his red-rimmed eyes.

In short, Simeon still looked like the tired, over-indulgent alcoholic that he was. His wealth, though, was far more obvious now that they were in the palace. Take the huge aquamarine that dangled from one of his ears, so pure it looked like it would chime if one hit it with a spoon. It was almost as impressive as the massive ruby that glinted blood red where it nestled in a thickset yellow-gold ring. To say nothing of his smoking jacket—it was brocaded with such skill that in other circumstances, Longinus might have wept.

As it was, he only had one thing in mind when he looked Simeon over: the man had answers.

He’d known Vaserin, Longinus’s father. He had professed not to know Longinus’s mother, but he’d confirmed that she’d been in the palace. And though it was an enormous, sprawling structure, given enough persistent searching, Longinus should be able to discover what had happened to her. At least that was what he hoped.

Even more momentous was the fact that neither Simeon nor Anton, an associate of his father’s who’d briefly come forward only to be killed by the White Hornet, had outright said that his mother was dead, just that the White Hornet had taken her. Myran’s claims that she was still alive had, at first, seemed like outlandish lies, but now he dared hope it might be true.

Longinus replayed his confrontation with Myran back in Damsport over and over, trying to tease out more meaning, trying to read between the lines.

“I was also told to bring some uniforms,” the seamstress said, making him realise that his attention had drifted away again. The seamstress left Rory’s side and went to the parcels she had set on a nearby table. “Some valets favour tweed,” she told Longinus, handing him a parcel.
“Tweed?” The world hadn’t completely gone to hell in a gold lamé reticule—Longinus’s curiosity was still piqued by the prospect of discovering a new fabric. He opened the parcel. “Tweed,” he repeated, feeling the fabric between his fingers.

“That’s herringbone tweed, actually,” the seamstress said.

“De-lightful,” Longinus declared. “Such rustic simplicity with just a soupçon of elegance.”

“I also have maids’ uniforms,” the seamstress said. “They’re supposed to be altered to fit…” She looked at Adelma dubiously.

The large smuggler let out a bark of laughter. “Aw, sweetheart. You’re funny.”

The seamstress bit her lip, looking back down at the uniform in her hands. Obviously, the dress had been made with a regular woman in mind.

“I think we can all agree that trying to squeeze Adelma into that dress would be like trying to get an elephant’s trunk to fit in one of Longinus’s gloves,” Rafe said.

“Quite.” Longinus winced at the thought of molesting his gloves in such a way. “And believe me,” he added to the seamstress, “you don’t want to subject your eyes to that trauma, at least not first thing in the morning.”

“Not at any time of day, if you know what’s good for you, my girl.” Adelma turned and grinned at Cruikshank. “I guess that means you’ve got to fit into one of the dresses.” Adelma looked absolutely delighted.

The seamstress took Cruikshank’s measurements for the maid’s uniform, looking more and more worried as she circled her measuring tape around the machinist’s muscular shoulders and arms. Then Simeon dismissed her with an annoyed flick of his hand.

Cruikshank looked at the dresses and sighed. “Can someone remind me again why we think this is a good idea?”

“Samara and Cayden need to have personal servants,” Simeon sniffed, referring to Rory and Rafe’s cover identities.

“A handmaid,” Adelma said, pointing at Cruikshank. She pointed at Longinus. “A valet”—she ran a palm along the shaved side of her head—“and a bodyguard.”

“And we don’t anticipate anyone noticing that my cover identity—Darro—is now a valet?” Longinus asked.

Simeon knew their true names, although they would all continue with their cover identities as wealthy Southerners while in the palace. “Samara is the one with the money,” he said, “and Cayden is the one with the title. People already don’t care much for such minor nobility as those two, so to care or notice about their cousin with no money, title, or connections… in any case, it makes perfect sense for a lowly cousin to stand in as Cayden’s valet.”

Simeon may have known that they were Damsians, but he had no idea that they worked for the Marchioness, nor did he know their true reasons for coming to the Airnian capital. A number of Damsport’s allies had turned their cloak, agreeing to back an Airnian invasion in the right circumstances. The Marchioness needed to know who these countries were so she could work to resecure Damsport’s place on the international scene. Damsport maintained its independence through alliance treaties, other larger countries pledging to intervene if someone were to attempt to annex the small port city. With some of those alliances no longer certain, Damsport was very vulnerable to attack.

And of course, Longinus had his own mission relating to his family.


He started out of his thoughts, cursing as he realised that he’d yet again drifted. “Sorry?”

“What d’you think?” Rory asked, gesturing at her dress. “Will it be alright for the meeting?”

It really wasn’t to be believed—he had allowed the seamstress to complete her work on Rory’s dress without giving her input. She was good, but not so good that he couldn’t have given her direction, humility be damned. He was truly not himself at the moment.

“Just so we’re clear, I’m not buying that dress,” Simeon said. “You’ll pay for the seamstress yourself. Saving your life is one thing—my generosity doesn’t extend to Rory’s clothing, nor Samara’s for that matter. I’ve checked, and your credit line at Arvestia will be reopened, so you have plenty of money,” Simeon added.

“If you were able to ensure we can access our money, do you have an idea of when we can expect our belongings?” Cruikshank asked.

“I’m not sure,” Simeon replied.

“And how exactly is it that you knew the White Hornet would want to search our things?” Rafe asked.

Longinus understood why Rafe was so suspicious of Simeon’s motivations. Simeon had stepped in and saved them from the White Hornet’s clutches, but he’d also proven he wasn’t above manipulating the situation towards his own ends. Longinus, however, couldn’t help but hope they could trust the man, especially as far as the information he could potentially share about Longinus’s family.

“Your gratitude overwhelms me,” Simeon drawled.

“Like we should have been grateful for the information regarding Anita?” Rafe asked, raising an eyebrow.

Simeon seemed entirely untroubled. He took a sip of his drink. “If that was an attempt to engender guilt, it failed.

And as to your other question about the White Hornet, I knew nothing. It’s simply how I would have operated if I were her. My intervention would have been for nothing if she’d managed to seize your possessions, organised an official search, and planted something very incriminating.

Anything relating to the safety of the Emperor would override my authority. Luckily for you”—Simeon raised an eyebrow at Rafe—“my man is overseeing the search, and he’ll make sure that nothing is planted. That’s why it’s taking so long,” he added to Cruikshank. “Everything’s being done by the book so that there’s no way the White Hornet can find fault.”

Simeon turned to Longinus. “You also have a number of unusual items that have to be catalogued and identified.”
Longinus shifted uncomfortably. “They’re simply exotic ingredients for the, ah, mixing of cosmetics—”

“I know the compounds of poison when I see them, and so does everyone here,” Simeon said. “But the ingredients aren’t illegal by themselves as such. And you’re in luck, given that poison is a cherished pastime of our nobility. If the White Hornet has you arrested for owning poisonous compounds, that would set a problematic precedent.” Simeon gave a wolfish smile. “If everyone who poisoned a rival or a bothersome family member were arrested, the whole court would fall into chaos.”

“And what kind of heat can we expect while we’re in the palace?” Adelma stood and grabbed a decanter, refilling Simeon’s glass then her own.

“What plays the most in your favour is that I intervened and now have you as my guests.” Simeon nodded as he took the drink from Adelma. “Nobody wants to risk provoking me, you see. We all live in a very fragile balance. My cousin, the current emperor, is unpopular, so if I were to ever make noises about wanting to overthrow my abdication and rule, a lot of people would come out of the woodwork and support me.” Simeon grinned.

“Despite my reputation, or perhaps because of it, I imagine I come across as the kind of potential ruler who can easily be controlled in matters of state. Of course, if I became a real threat to the Emperor, I’d be assassinated in short order, but that would still set off a problematic chain of events. Civil war very nearly erupted during my late brother’s short reign, and that could happen again.

So everyone, including the White Hornet, does their best not to provoke me, while I make sure I stay well away from any matters of state. We have a very uneasy truce, and that is where I exist.”

“My, don’t you like the sound of your own voice?” Adelma said. “Basically, so long as we don’t step out of line, we should be fine. That’s all we need to know, right?”

“Only while you’re in the palace. My protection doesn’t extend to the rest of the city. Once outside the grounds, the White Hornet will snap you up. Making someone disappear in the palace is easy, but so long as I’m here to possibly make noise about it, that keeps her hands tied.

You step outside the palace, and I’m sure I’d be told how you all went back down south, and I would never hear from you again.” Simeon gave a joyless smile. “And that is why you should always be careful what you wish for—you wanted to get into the palace. Well, you’re in. You’re going to have a hell of a time getting back out again. And now I shall leave you. I have money burning a hole in my pocket and a duke who offered me interesting odds on a bet.”

Rafe watched him leave with dark eyes. “He’s not telling us the whole truth,” he said the moment Simeon shut the door.

“I agree,” Adelma said lightly. “The man pours a good drink, though, and that says a lot about a person.”

“Yes, it says that he’s an alcoholic,” Rafe said.

“Like I said, a man of character,” Adelma replied with a grin.

“Earlier, I walked past his private rooms,” Cruikshank said. “His door was ajar, so I snuck a look in. The room beyond was an absolute mess, and it doesn’t look like it’s been cleaned in quite some time. But what got me curious was his door: it’s barred with two sets of steel deadbolts, and it has steel butt hinges—you’d basically need a battering ram to kick that door open. Same for the door across the room, by the looks of things. Why would he need such high security for his rooms when he’s already at the heart of the palace?”

“He’s afraid of something,” Longinus said.

“The White Hornet?” Rory asked.

“Could be,” Cruikshank said. “Whatever it is, we need to keep our wits about us.”

“And I don’t agree that so long as we stay inside the palace, we’re safe,” Rory said. “There’s also that fortune teller, Abisai. She knows we’re Damsian. I sorted out that problem when I told her we’re looking to defect and offered to bribe her, but now the bribe ain’t coming no more. Plus, if word starts to get out about our real identities, it might be that the White Hornet can discover why we’re really here.”

“I agree,” Cruikshank said. “We need to move quickly. Let’s hope today’s meeting with the minister goes smoothly. Adelma and I will look into an escape plan.”

Cruikshank turned to Longinus. “I do think we should listen to Simeon’s warning about you, lovey. It might be best if you stayed with Adelma and me.”

Longinus nodded reluctantly. That would mean his avenue for speaking to courtiers was closed, but he remained hopeful that he could find clues among the more discreet parts of the palace.

“Rafe, you have everything memorised about the gun?” Cruikshank asked.

Rafe nodded. He recited a quick list of the gun’s features that should capture Voynia’s interest. Cruikshank had taken apart the two guns she’d stolen from the factory in Bel Stadd and, based on those, had designed a pitch for Rafe to impress the minister. Voynia seemed to be their best bet to find out which of Damsport’s allies had turned. They needed time with the minister to extract that information from him somehow.

“Alright, let’s get this show on the road,” Adelma said, knocking back her drink.

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Hi! I'm Celine

I write different flavours of fantasy with a twist, but always with one uniting thread: quirky, flawed characters and heart-warming found families.

My books span the sub-genres of steampunk (but set in a secondary, tropical world) urban fantasy (set in Asia and London) and gothic gaslamp fantasy.

I'm French, grew up in the UK, and for the last few years I've been living a life of nomadic adventure, exploring the world with my laptop as my constant companion. My adventures have been a great source of inspiration for my stories.

These days I'm trying to figure out where in the world I might stop and setup some bookshelves.

I love to hear from readers, so feel free to contact me at

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