The White Hornet - The Viper and the Urchin #5
The White Hornet - The Viper and the Urchin #5
The White Hornet - The Viper and the Urchin #5
The White Hornet - The Viper and the Urchin #5
The White Hornet - The Viper and the Urchin #5

The White Hornet - The Viper and the Urchin #5

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A city of snow and wind.

A logistical nightmare when running a mission…
…or an opportunity to explore new sartorial delights?

Rory has faced many challenges in her time, but none quite so frustrating as mastering the art of walking in a corset and bustle.

She has to pass herself off as a wealthy heiress to infiltrate the House of Bel, a mysterious and highly exclusive club for Airnian high society, and of course her true identity must remain hidden at all costs.

Luckily, Longinus is on hand to advise—that is, when he’s not busy discovering the giddy delights of winter outerwear and investigating the mystery of what happened to his family.

But they soon become aware of a mysterious presence—someone paying disturbingly close attention to their every move.

Who or what is the White Hornet? What is the link to Longinus’s family?

And will Rory and the gang be able to infiltrate the House of Bel before the White Hornet uncovers their true identities?

🔥Delve into The White Hornet, book 5 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 356 pages
ISBN 9782492523120
Product Dimensions 5 x 8 x 0.8 inches (12.7 x 20.3 x 2.0cm)
Language English
Publication Date 8th October 2019
Publisher Celine Jeanjean
Series The Viper and the Urchin #5

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

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Some events change a man’s life so definitively that everything becomes defined in relation to this one moment. Such a milestone divides all other points in one’s life into Before and After.

This was one such moment for Longinus. He knew with perfect clarity that his life would never be the same again.

He gathered himself, took a deep breath, and burst through the velvet curtains, stepping regally out from the changing booth. In one fluid motion, he graced his audience with a twirl.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… the Cape.” He managed to put a special emphasis on the capital ‘C’, feeling that so glorious an item most definitely warranted capitalisation. The Cape was of the most divine cerulean blue, its edges embroidered with silver.

“Who you calling a lady?” Adelma grunted. She lounged, or rather sprawled, on a chair by the door, with all the grace of a boulder dislodged by an avalanche.

She’d removed her fur hat, revealing the shaved sides of her head with their incongruous tattoos of small purple flowers. A thick plait ran from the top and down the back of her head, curving around her neck, over her left shoulder, and finishing by her waist.

“Ain’t you got one of them cape things already?” Rory asked from a nearby tailor’s fitting platform. She frowned. “Yeah, you definitely got some of them back in Damsport. I saw you wear one and all.”

White calico was pinned to her body, approximating the elaborate dress being made for her. The thick ropelike segments of her hair were piled atop her head, the copper rings and tubes she’d taken to wearing in her hair gleaming in the light.

The tailor and his team of assistants had all been kicked out when Adelma and Cruikshank had arrived earlier, so they could all talk in peace.

“No, no, no,” Longinus replied. “What you’ve seen me wear back home are cloaks. They are completely different. Cloaks are merely practical, to protect one from the rain, for example. This, however…” Longinus moved again, displaying the stunning drape of the fabric. “Look at the thickness of it. The richness. The silver detailing here. And the versatility! See how the clasp and chain adjust? I can have the Cape pushed back as a simple decorative item at my back, like so. Or I can wear it like so, covering my shoulders. Or like so, for a more rakish, off-the-shoulder look… oh, that is just divine.”
Longinus planted himself in front of a triptych mirror, moving to observe himself from every angle.

Rory snorted. “Did you seriously just call yourself divine?”

“Well, when one looks like this, what else should one call oneself?” Longinus replied distractedly, admiring himself in the mirror. “I look like a winter god—an elegant winter god.”

“Let’s not forget that modesty’s for amateurs,” Rafe said from his fitting platform. A half-finished jacket was pinned to him, chalk lines showing where the jack would be fitted snuggly to his waist.

“Much as I like to hear my words quoted back to me,” Longinus said, “I should point out that only fools mistake sarcasm for wit.” He moved again, placing a hand on his hip and admiring the ripple of the Cape’s fabric. “The cloak is prosaic and common. The Cape, however, is a statement.” He lifted both arms, spreading the Cape like two ethereal wings. “I shall get one in black too.” After all, no self-respecting assassin went out at night in anything other than the deepest, most perfect midnight black.

Longinus didn’t yet have a firm opinion of Northern Airnians. Most Damsians considered Airnia to be a cruel, brutal force that had kept Damsport in slum-like poverty for most of its existence until the Old Girl had freed the city by obtaining its independence from the Empire.

All this was true, of course, but Longinus knew better than to give weight to the myriad of stories that circulated about Airnia. He was waiting to make up his own mind. Prejudice could easily muddy the waters, and their mission was too important to take that risk.

The Old Girl expected them to return with information on which Damsian allies had turned their cloaks and agreed to potentially support an Airnian invasion. Longinus also hoped to discover the truth behind his sister’s wild claims that their mother was alive and a prisoner of the Empire.

For now, one thing was for sure—Airnia could teach Damsport a thing or two about the uses of fabrics, patterns, and colours. And as luck would have it, it wasn’t a conflict of interest for Longinus to play the eager pupil.

The fine establishment they found themselves in was a perfect example. The walls were upholstered in teal damask with a delicate repeating pattern woven into the fabric itself so that it was only visible when the light hit it in a certain way. Luxury without slipping into gaudiness.

Beneath the fabric, the walls were padded, so every corner was a soft curve, further softened by the perfectly diffused golden light. The walls were uninterrupted by windows, which was a blessing. The city of Bel Stadd might have been a hellish place of icy cold and horrid flat-grey light that filtered through the snow-laced winds, but one merely had to go to the tailor’s to escape to paradise.

And of course, the padding and lack of windows meant complete privacy—no sound or sight could be perceived from outside the room.

“I should have been born in a cold-weather country,” Longinus said, still moving the Cape in front of the mirror. “Heat limits the sartorial spectrum at one’s disposal.”
“Oh, alright, enough already,” Rory said. “Will you stop about the damned cape?”

“My dear girl, when steam power was invented, one did not stop talking about it. It revolutionised the way we live, just in the way that this Cape is going to revolutionise the way I live.”

“I’m not sure you can compare the marvel of technology that was the discovery of steam power to an item of clothing.” Cruikshank let a thick puff of smoke escape her mouth as she spoke. “Much as I think you look great—maybe consider a little realism in your statements.”

She sat next to Adelma, and in spite of her stocky frame and thick musculature, she looked almost small next to the massive smuggler. The complex cog tattoo over her right arm was hidden beneath layers of warm clothing.

She and Adelma were dressed like simple Northern Airnian workers: thick, padded tunics fastened by leather straps down the left sides and belted at the waist, over boiled wool leggings tucked into sheepskin-lined boots.

“Could we maybe go back to our assigned roles?” Rafe suggested. “Rory, focus on behaving like the eccentric heiress you’re supposed to be. Longinus, go back to being her cousin. And Cruikshank and Adelma should really be leaving. Hired help aren’t supposed to sit and ogle their employers at the tailor’s while making sarcastic comments and smoking.”

“If it bothers you, Cruikshank can put out the cigar.” Adelma grinned.

Longinus picked a tiny bit of fluff from his Cape. “I’ll have you all know that I haven’t stepped out of my role as a wealthy Southern Airnian merchant,” he sniffed. “I’m displaying just the kind of enthusiasm a man from the Choma province would feel on arriving in the capital and finding an establishment ready to attend to all his stylistic needs. Choma is rather provincial—pun intended—so my alias would be thrilled to find himself in the cosmopolitan beating heart of the Empire.”

The Airnian Empire was the vastest in the world—so vast, in fact, that it encompassed numerous climates and ethnicities. The Choma province, part of the Southern District, bordered Damsport, and its people were ethnically identical to Damsians. Choma had the same hot and humid climate too.

“Come on, Adelma. Let’s leave them to it.” Cruikshank stood up, clamping her cigar between her teeth. She winced and shook out her right leg. “Ooh, my foot’s gone to sleep.”

Adelma stood. “That’s right. Some of us got proper work to do. No fannying around with clothes for us.”

Rory looked longingly at the two women. It was painfully obvious just how much she would rather go with them than stay at the tailor’s and get dresses made.

“We’ll see you at the tavern,” Cruikshank said.

“Don’t forget the all-clear signals,” Rafe said.

The two women headed for the door, leaving it ajar.

“They're ready for you now,” Adelma called once they were outside.

A scratch against the door’s wood. “Are the gentlemen and the lady ready to continue?” the tailor asked, poking his head through the door.

“We are indeed,” Rafe replied imperiously.

The tailor bowed and clapped his hands, and a stream of seamstresses and various assistants followed him back into the huge fitting room.

Interesting. Earlier the tailor had been aloof. He’d left them to a couple of seamstresses, claiming to be too busy to attend to them himself. Now he eyed Rory and Rafe with greedy eyes.

That meant he’d gotten confirmation of the enormous line of credit they’d opened with Arvestia Bank under Rory’s alias’s name.

Good. That will start building our reputation nicely.
“Good to see you’ve finally found the time to tend to us,” Longinus sniffed. “I shall require a full team all to myself—I have many orders to place.”

“But of course. I do so apologise for the delay in tending to you. Now, about this cape…”

“The Cape requires no alteration.” Longinus shrugged it off in one theatrical movement, allowing it to drape over the arms of a seamstress. “This waistcoat, however, does. Look at this loose fabric, here.” He pinched the fabric to the side. “It’s as if you’ve only ever clothed men with potbellies.”

“I will rectify that at once.” The tailor smiled obsequiously. “You must be the envy of the town, with such a trim waist.”

“I appreciate flattery, but I draw the line at sycophancy.”
“Yes, quite. I didn’t mean… of course.” The tailor bent to work on the waistcoat.

Longinus had no trouble playing Darro Bogats, cousin to a millionaire, especially since he was required to clothe himself in keeping with his persona.

The trials and tribulations of spy work…

Rafe, likewise, had easily stepped into his cover identity. Cayden Stayre was a minor noble from the Choma province, and since Rafe’s family was one of the richest and oldest in Damsport, he had grown up in a world very similar to that of minor Airnian aristocracy.

Rory, however, had a little more trouble. Her alias was Samara Bogats, her father being the millionaire Darro Bogats was a cousin to. Samara’s father had made millions in the trade, specifically in the export of tropical fruits. He was real, as was his daughter, but she was a recluse who hadn’t left her home in years and who had never been to the capital.

The perfect person for Rory to impersonate. Her supposed wealth would make people forgiving of her lack of refinement or manners, following the principle that eccentricity was most easily forgiven for those who were very young, very old, or very wealthy.

Not only that but, as anyone with old money could testify, nothing was more crass than new money. And no one did crass as well as Rory.

Cayden Stayre was also real but had died in infancy. The Airnian Empire was lousy with minor nobility, many of whom lived in complete obscurity, so there was no danger of anyone in the capital knowing of the real Cayden, not without a lengthy search through the Southern Province archives.

Cayden and Samara were supposedly following the time-honoured tradition of matches seeking to bring money and titles together: they were engaged, and the official reason for their trip was to look into a new business opportunity that Cayden had supposedly put together.

Darro was a complete fabrication, but some kind of supervising family member would be expected on such a venture, and given that Longinus was somewhere around ten years older than Rory, he could realistically pass as her cousin.

“Ow,” Rory protested. “Watch what you’re doing!” She glared at the girl pinning the calico. “Last I checked, I didn't come here to be turned into a human pincushion.” The tone was perfect, but she ruined the moment by allowing guilt to skitter across her features.

Longinus gave her a quick warning glance. Passing for nobility was easy—all one needed was enough money and to be either exquisitely polite or so rude it bordered on abusive. Teaching Rory manners would have been as efficient as teaching a cat to juggle, but she still had to practice not looking guilty when she abused the staff.

“I do beg your pardon.” The tailor hurried to Rory’s side. He hissed something at the assistant, slapping her hand away. He looked up at Rory with a bright smile plastered on his face. “I do apologise, Miss Bogats. I will take over.”

“Well, hurry up about it,” Rory replied crossly. “I got better things to do with my time than stand around while you prod me with needles.”

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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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