The Slave City - The Viper and the Urchin #3
The Slave City - The Viper and the Urchin #3
The Slave City - The Viper and the Urchin #3
The Slave City - The Viper and the Urchin #3
The Slave City - The Viper and the Urchin #3

The Slave City - The Viper and the Urchin #3

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A complicated mission.
A team of misfits that just don’t get along.
What could possibly go wrong?

The team:
A skinny pickpocket with dreadlocks and a big attitude.
A foppish assassin with a fear of blood
An elite fighter, master of the sardonic raised eyebrow.
A smuggler with a drinking problem and a propensity for brawling.
And a no-nonsense, heavily tattooed machinist, trying to keep them all in line.

The mission:
Free a Damsian inventor kept prisoner in the distant city of Azyr.
Spark a rebellion to remove the half-mad tyrant ruling the place, and while they’re at it, end slavery in Azyr.
And do it all without getting killed, shackled into slavery, or arguing.

The latter is proving most problematic.

This latest instalment of The Viper and the Urchin series will make you have fun. Lots of fun.

🔥Delve into The Slave City, book 3 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 436 pages
ISBN 9782492523106
Product Dimensions 5 x 8 x 0.9 inches (12.7 x 20.3 x 2.4cm)
Language English
Publication Date 31st January 2019
Publisher Celine Jeanjean
Series The Viper and the Urchin #3


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Cruikshank watched the tattoo gun trace a delicate black line on her abdomen. The teeth of a cog slowly came into being—a simple outline.

“I thought you were done with going overseas,” Liv said without looking up from her work. The tattoo gun whirred in her hand, the little magnet at the top spinning back and forth, moving the needle up and down. A thin tube pushed pressurised steam through the gun, while another tube allowed it to escape at a safe distance with a faint hiss.

Cruikshank had designed the gun herself—a fun, neat little invention but one that carried a lot of weight and meaning despite its diminutive size. This was its fifth iteration, and this time she had built it using mementos from her life. The little knob that controlled the steam pressure, and therefore the speed at which the needle moved, was a coin from a mission in Aalergia. The handle was wrapped in the leather from her very first vest as a machinist. The ink was stored in a small crystal vial, one of the many gifts she had received to celebrate the completion of Damsport’s Enclosed Docks. The vial was, in fact, the smallest and least valuable of the gifts, but it had come from a poor merchant who was thanking her for the opportunity the docks would bring to him and his family.

Cruikshank had made the vial part of her tattoo gun because the knowledge that her docks helped poor Damsians prosper meant more to her than all the other accolades she had received.

“I thought I was done going overseas too,” Cruikshank said. “But I guess I was wrong.”

“Will it be dangerous?”

“Would I be getting a cog if it wasn’t?”

Liv nodded, her gaze never leaving the cog outline she was drawing.

Cruikshank looked away, letting her gaze drift aimlessly over the innumerable sketches, drawings, and plans that papered the walls of Liv’s studio. The air even smelt of paper and ink—a familiar, comforting smell. It seemed every important event in her life since the Three-Day Battle had either begun or ended in Liv’s studio, with Liv tattooing a cog on Cruikshank’s skin.

The Three-Day Battle had won Damsport its independence from the Airnian Empire and had made it the city it was today. Cruikshank had been organising the city’s defences the night before the battle. As a young machinist, she was woefully underqualified for the job, but there was no one else. An impulse made her pull Liv, a timid teenager apprenticing in technical drawing, away from her task. Out of a bit of copper tubing, some thread, and a needle, Cruikshank fashioned a tool that could serve to draw a tattoo. Liv had tattooed the outline of the very first cog on Cruikshank’s right wrist.

Cruikshank still couldn’t explain the impulse, but she knew that it had been the right thing to do. Liv had completed the tattoo once the battle was finished, and over the years, Cruikshank had added another cog for every important event and person in her life since then. The tattoo now covered her right arm and shoulder as well as her back. The bottom of the tattoo was gradually extending around her waist and across her stomach.

Some cogs represented people Cruikshank had lost, others people she had met. Some were situations she had survived or challenges she had overcome. She knew what each and every cog represented. Together, they were a physical manifestation of her memories, which made her as surely as cogs made up the inner workings of a machine.

Liv, however, was the only one who knew the meaning of the tattoos. To everyone else, they were simply the quirk of a machine-obsessed woman. The tattoos bound them in a friendship that had spanned decades.

Cruikshank let her gaze trail over her right arm. A number of the cogs there represented missions she had carried out for the Marchioness when she’d been younger. It was a rocky period, during which Damsport struggled to establish itself. Short of people she could trust, the Marchioness entrusted Cruikshank with a number of diplomatic and covert missions as well as having her design Damsport’s defences. Once Damsport’s position was secure, Cruikshank had asked to retire, preferring to return to a life of machine work.

It seemed the time had come for her to come out of her retirement. She looked at the partial cog outline Liv was still drawing to represent this event. She felt a thrill of trepidation. Cog outlines were only ever drawn when she was embarking on something potentially dangerous, and it had been a long time since she’d needed one.

Ever since that first tattoo before the Three-Day Battle, which was completed after the battle had been won, Cruikshank hadn’t been able to shake off the superstition that she needed an incomplete tattoo to ensure her safe return from whatever she was embarking on.

“Azyr,” she whispered softly to herself, feeling the word on her tongue.

Lady Martha had only told her it would be a rescue mission. The full briefing would be later that day. Cruikshank had prepared by researching all she could about the distant city state.

Liv finished the cog outline. “There.”

It was flawless, as expected—precise, neat, and fitting perfectly within the wider tattoo.

“You’ll come back to complete it?” Liv asked, glancing at Cruikshank’s face and then away again.

Cruikshank smiled. Even after decades of close friendship, Liv’s crushing shyness and extreme introversion made expressing emotion difficult for her.

“Absolutely. And soon.”

“Good.” The word was curt, but it was accompanied by a small, warm smile. That was as close as Liv would get to expressing that she cared and would worry.

“Thanks, Liv.”

Liv nodded and gave another quick smile.

Cruikshank stood up and let loose the oversized white shirt she’d held bunched up to her chest.

She said a quick goodbye to Liv and stepped out into the sunshine, heading for the mansion. She took a deep breath, the old, familiar feeling in the pit of her stomach. Now that she had the tattoo, the mission finally felt real.

* * *

Lady Martha was the very picture of efficient confidence, perfectly fitting in her role as acting Marchioness. Her mother had retired while she mourned the loss of her old lover, Mizria, and until the Old Girl returned to power, Lady Martha held the reins of the city.
Cruikshank occasionally found herself wanting to impart advice or guidance. She had known Lady Martha since she was a baby, but Lady Martha had long ago stopped being a young girl, and she’d been helping to rule Damsport for a long time. And Cruikshank had to admit that she was doing a stand-up job of stepping into her mother’s shoes.

Lady Martha’s office was all bright light and pale tones, a comfortable space designed to put people at ease.

Cruikshank knew from experience that while Lady Martha didn’t use intimidation as a tactic, she could be every bit as formidable as the Old Girl.

“You know Samuell Kadelta?” Lady Martha asked.

“Yes, he’s a Damsian machinist,” Cruikshank replied. “I worked with him for a time. He had some good ideas and considerable skill, but he was obsessed with the idea of creating a submersible. The problem is that a steam engine requires air, and it requires an exhaust. You can make a ship that sails just beneath the water, with air pipes and exhausts breaking the surface, but all it takes is a large wave, and the engine floods. Kadelta’s last attempt at solving that problem resulted in an explosion that severely injured his assistant, and he fled the city in disgrace.”

Cruikshank didn’t add that while he had talent, Kadelta was arrogant to a fault and headstrong. They had collaborated on a couple of projects, but despite his skill and the potential of the machine he wanted to build, she had found him too unpleasant to work with and refused to collaborate further.

Lady Martha nodded. “It seems he has solved that problem.”

Cruikshank raised both eyebrows, intrigued.

“I’ve been in communication with Reheeme, an Azyrian woman and the Head Alchemist out there. Her parents knew my mother well. They were reformists, and they were killed during the Seneschal’s cleansing of the opposition during his rise to power.”

Cruikshank knew about Azyr’s troubled history. The Prelate was Azyr’s leader, a title passed down in his family over generations. He was mostly a figurehead—the reports Cruikshank had read said he was more interested in eating, drinking, and watching pit fights than in ruling his city-state. Meanwhile, the Seneschal was his chief advisor and the head of the Council—and therefore the true leader of Azyr.

The Prelate had raised his childhood friend to the position of Seneschal of Azyr the day he inherited his title, and the Seneschal had then meticulously cleansed the city of any opposition, dissolving the old Council and setting up a new one made up of only his strongest supporters.

“It appears that Kadelta has washed up in Azyr,” Lady Martha continued. “And he has been made a slave by the Seneschal.”

“How on earth did that happen?” Cruikshank asked.

“I don’t know. But I want you to head up a rescue mission to get him and his machine out of Azyr. I’d be lying if I told you I was only looking to save a Damsian from a life of slavery, as abhorrent as the practice is. That machine of his—his ship that can sail under the sea—could mean that Damsport dominates all sea trade.”

“That’s if his machine works,” Cruikshank pointed out.

“He might only be making out that it’s finished as an enticement for a rescue mission.”

“Possibly. But it’s a chance I’m willing to take. There’s another reason why I’d like to send a team into Azyr.

Reheeme is heading a rebellion against the Seneschal and the Prelate. She’s looking to continue what her parents started, seeking fairer representation for the poorer parts of Azyr and an end to slavery. I’ve brokered a deal with her in which she will smuggle you and your team into the palace to help you rescue Kadelta. In exchange, I will provide you with documents confirming that Damsport will officially recognise Azyr’s new government, once the rebellion has happened, and negotiate trade deals and alliances, with the proviso that slavery be abolished and the poorer areas of Azyr have both representation and fair access to water.”

“They don’t have access to water?” Cruikshank asked incredulously. She knew, of course, that not every part of the world experienced the kind of rainfall found in Damsport, but for her, ready water access was such a basic right, like access to air, that she couldn’t imagine life without it.

“No, they don’t,” Lady Martha replied. “The wealthier part of the city controls all the water, and the people there use it as a way to keep the poorer parts in check.”

Cruikshank nodded. “So we’d also be there to provide support to the rebellion.”

“Exactly. And hopefully to provide a powerful incentive for everyone to play fair. When the Seneschal re-established the old slavery laws, Azyr lost a lot of its alliances and trade deals because very few countries want to be seen endorsing slavery. Damsport, for example, does no trade with Azyr. Having a trade deal with us should help as a motivation for the new government to be as fair as possible.”

Lady Martha leaned forward intently. “If this mission fails, if the rebellion fails, the Seneschal would be left with the submersible, which would make it very easy for him to engage in slave smuggling. Azyr needs more foreign trade, and that is how he will obtain it. I can’t stand by and allow slavery to come back. It was only abolished two generations ago, and there are many who would be happy to see the return of a lucrative source of income.”

Cruikshank knew Lady Martha was right. Just off the top of her head, she could name a number of countries that would be happy to see international slave trade return.

“What will be our official reason for visiting Azyr?” she asked.

“An exchange of alchemical knowledge.”

Cruikshank gave a wry smile. She had arranged mechanical exchanges between Damsport and other countries in the past, believing in the importance of spreading knowledge. The Marchioness had initially used some of those exchanges as fronts for covert missions. When Cruikshank had retired, she had categorically refused to let the knowledge exchanges continue to act as a front for spying and other such work.

“There won’t really be an exchange of alchemical knowledge,” Lady Martha explained. “I know you don’t agree with using a real knowledge exchange as a front for a mission, but this will purely be a front. That will explain Reheeme hosting you all as Head Alchemist as well as the presence of Longinus—who will be posing as Damsport’s Head Alchemist. Rory will be his assistant, you will be there to share your knowledge on how to run these types of exchanges, Adelma will captain the ship taking you there, and Rafe will pose as Longinus’s bodyguard. A man of status in Azyr is expected to have a retinue and at least a couple of bodyguards, so this way, no one present will attract any suspicion.”

Cruikshank nodded thoughtfully. It was a clever setup. She looked Lady Martha over. Her speech had contained no doubt—no search for reassurance or approval from an older, more experienced woman—even though this was the first mission she was setting up. Cruikshank respected that. It was the way a leader should be.

“It will be good to have a proper fighter with us too,” Cruikshank said, “should anything go wrong. I’ve heard Adelma can be quite formidable, but having a Varanguard on our team should be an added asset.”

Cruikshank had a lot of respect for the Varanguards, the elite fighters that formed the Marchioness’s personal guards. She didn’t know Rafe very well, but she knew he was well regarded as a Varanguard, and that counted for a lot.

“Adelma can have her ship ready to sail in three weeks,” Lady Martha continued. “That should leave you enough time to get ready. Be careful out there. By all accounts, Azyr is a dangerous place. The Prelate is volatile and the Seneschal completely ruthless.”

She stood to signal the end of the meeting. She and Cruikshank shook hands, and Cruikshank headed out to begin the necessary preparations for the mission.

Once she was back outside, the adrenaline finally began spreading through her like a red flower slowly unfurling. She would be leading a rescue mission in the far-off and dangerous city of Azyr. She pulled out a cigar, inhaled the smell of the tobacco, and lit it. She exhaled the smooth smoke with a smile.

It was crunch time.

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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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