Palace of Silver
Author: Hannah West
Publisher: Holiday House
Release Date: April 28th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
Two queens confront the ultimate choice as a rebellion emerges against a dangerous despot – and both sides want them dead. When the world of magic is under threat, is loyalty worth their lives?
Return to Nissera, land of three kingdoms and home to spectacular magic. An uneasy peace reigns now that Valory has vanquished the Moth King and settled into her rightful place as queen of Calgoran. New leaders Glisette and Kadri hope to usher the neighboring kingdoms into an era of healing and prosperity. All should be well.
But there’s a fourth queen in charge: Ambrosine, banished overseas to Perispos. Driven by vanity, she vows to become the most powerful and beautiful ruler in the world, even if it means oppressing the mortal kingdom she is meant to protect. Meanwhile a dangerous uprising led by elicromancer-hating rebels gains momentum. Rot spreads through the Forest of the West Fringe. Valory goes missing. Facing enemies on all sides, Glisette and Kadri must reckon with the role of magic. How far will they go to defend their power – and can they build an uprising of their own?
While writing a first draft, I can usually tell when a scene isn’t quite fitting with the arc of the story, but I keep writing in hopes that those thousands of words I worked so hard to put on the page will get to stay. Once I make the decision to delete a scene or even a whole chapter, though, I feel liberated. Sometimes you need to write it wrong before you can get it right.
The following scene is an entire chapter I deleted before even finishing the first draft of PALACE OF SILVER. Fair warning: it’s a little rough, and even though I redacted a major spoiler, it might spoil a few smaller plot points toward the beginning of the book.
Prior to this scene, Glisette traveled to Perispos to check on her older sister Ambrosine because she’d heard rumors that Ambrosine, who was already vain and selfish, had started dabbling in dark elicromancy. She was also persecuting her new stepdaughter, the sweet and lovely Princess Navara of Perispos. Glisette fought Ambrosine to save the princess, but Ambrosine overpowered her, stole her elicrin stone to strip her of her magical power, and ordered a huntsman, Severo, to take both Glisette and Navara to the woods and execute them. Glisette and Navara convinced the huntsman to spare them (sound familiar, fairy tale fans?) and are now on the lam, trying to meet up with Glisette’s brother so he can help them mount a defense against Ambrosine.
By afternoon, we had left the woods behind and traversed sunflower fields and olive groves, at last reaching the rockier coastal terrain that promised the presence of the port nearby.
Following the road from a distance, we walked all the way to the green cliffs until we could see the seaside city and ships below.
“My brother’s waiting at the Firracorno Inn,” I said, grimacing as I chewed meatless sunflower seeds not yet ready to harvest. The olives weren’t much better at this time of year: green, hard, and bitter. “That ship salvage yard down there looks empty. Might be a good place to hide.”
“I want to come with you,” Navara said. She popped the last olive into her mouth and puckered.
“You can’t. One of us alone is recognizable enough, but together? Ambrosine can’t know we survived, for many reasons.”
She nodded. “I wouldn’t want to hurt Severo’s family.”
“And if she thinks we’re dead, we have a much better chance of mounting a resistance.”
Leading the way, I started the trek down to the lonely salvage yard of scrapped hulls and picked bones of once-great vessels. “That’s as good a spot as any,” I said to Navara, pointing at a fishing vessel turned on its side and half-buried in the sand. A torn canvas covering hung over the dark opening like a tent flap.
“How long will it take?” she asked. “At what point should I come look for you if you haven’t returned?”
“Never,” I said. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Here, take the boning knife and give me my boots so I don’t look daft. Do not show yourself to anyone but me. Promise?”
“Yes,” she said, and though I’d thought of her as a child for the past hours—in part thanks to her rumpled, short hair—her composure reminded me again that she was not.
Once she hid, I took a brief detour to the rocky shoreline to wash the blood from my hair. The saltwater stung my wounds, but at least it would cleanse them. I tousled my damp waves and hung them over my face, partly disguising my scar, and walked the short, meandering path to the nearest city street.
It was hard to believe we had arrived at this port just yesterday morning. Aside from Mercer’s warning about Ambrosine, nothing had seemed dire then. Now, after what happened, Perispos seemed like a foreign wasteland, the decision to come here a cursed one from the beginning.
Stinging tears filled my eyes, tears I’d somehow been able to hold back in Navara’s company. She depended on me. I could not give in.
An unseasonal bite of cold air nipped at my face, and the airy, white clouds overhead shifted. At first I thought it was the sea breeze, but when I swallowed the urge to weep, I noticed the air warming again.
It was the magic that had always lived inside me—the reason I knew I would survive my Water ceremony and receive an elicrin stone. Magic without a stone was unwieldy, unreliable, but unmistakably present.
I had not endured a tragedy before receiving my elicrin stone, before I held the reins to steer my magic. If I didn’t suppress the sadness, something inside me would break…and break something else in the process.
Later, I would find somewhere secluded to hide and surrender. But right now, I had to find Devorian.
I walked along the fringes of a fish market with my head ducked and eyes searching. An array of seedy inns squatted along the cobblestone streets, but if Devorian had aught to do with picking our meeting place, he would have chosen something a bit more sophisticated.
Just before I decided to ask someone for directions, I saw a sign with “Firracorno” in flourishing letters and a gilded swordfish. Urgency made my heart palpitate.
Devorian wouldn’t pursue Kadri without meeting up with me first, would he? Please, please, be here.
I raked back my hair and unfastened the top button of my tunic before approaching the entrance. Scraggly hair might disguise my scar, but it wouldn’t win me access. The risk was necessary.
The doorman narrowed his eyes at me. Despite my folksy, filthy clothing, I carried myself like I could destroy the future of anyone who so much as dared serve me a stale scone. “I’m meeting Devorian Lorenthi.”
Though reluctant, the doorman did admit me, revealing a dim parlor full of fragrant pipe smoke and populated by handsomely attired businessmen—no shabby sailor in sight.
Velvet curtains surrounded most of the booths. I glimpsed through the gaps but didn’t see Devorian.
The barmaid was clearing pear-shaped brandy glasses from one of the tables. I approached her. “Is this one occupied?” I asked.
“No, my lady,” she said, her eyes widening as she turned and took in my appearance. “Um, have a seat. Can I fetch you a drink?”
“Ale,” I said before she finished. Devorian would have the means to purchase my drink as well as a hardy meal for me to bring back to Navara. Fending off the sinking feeling that Devorian might have already left for the palace, I sat down to more nonchalantly search the parlor.
I noticed the barmaid speaking surreptitiously with another woman behind the counter. They both glanced over at me and quickly looked away. I tensed, panicking, wondering if I should run, but knowing I might never meet up with Devorian if I did.
The barmaid returned, smiling, and set a mug of ale in front of me.
“Is there a problem?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No…um…well we thought you might be someone wanted by the queen, but the town crier’s description mentioned a ‘terribly disfiguring scar.’ Yours is not…” she shook her head again, embarrassed. “Besides, they think she’s with the princess. Have you not heard?”
“My ship just docked this morning,” I lied, tamping down the rush of fear, regretting that I mentioned Devorian’s name to the doorman. “What’s the news?”
“Queen Ambrosine’s younger sisters arrived yesterday to visit her. But there was some sort of altercation and one of them REDACTED FOR SPOILERS before kidnapping the princess. They say she’ll be trying to make her escape to Nissera and will most likely pass this way. The proclamation said to look for a woman with blond hair and fair skin…and well, the scar…and that if we see someone who matches that description traveling with the princess, we should alert the guards posted at the docks.”
Rage like I had never known boiled until I thought I might scream like a kettle. Ambrosine was pinning everything on me, and proclaiming it to the world.
“Interesting,” I said. Forcing my expression to neutrality made my skin feel too tight.
“Have you seen a Nisseran man here with blond hair like mine? Highly fluent in your Perispi?”
“Devorian Lorenthi?” she asked, and I almost cursed. “Um…he was sitting right here, actually. Left in a hurry about a quarter hour ago, after he heard the news.”
My heart took a horrified plunge into my belly. Not only had Devorian departed already, leaving me without help or hope—but he had heard about REDACTED FOR SPOILERS, and probably didn’t know what was true amid the lies Ambrosine had spread. I wanted nothing more than to throw myself into his arms and let him know the truth. But he was gone and I was alone, surrounded by people who believed me an enemy and a threat to their beloved princess. Ambrosine’s urge to insult me by calling me ‘disfigured’ was the only thing that might save me.
“Can I get you anything else?” the barmaid asked, and I could see the suspicion creeping across her features. Believing that I might not be the horribly disfigured kidnapper the herald had described was one matter—but believing I was merely a Nisseran stranger who matched the description and wanted to meet the kidnapper’s brother would require utter suspension of reason.
“No, thank you,” I said calmly. When she turned her back, I sprinted for the exit and burst out the door.
The barmaid shouted, and the doorman caught me by the collar and yanked me back against him, trapping me with his arms. I thrashed and solidly butted the front of his head, which surely hurt me more than him thanks to my wound. Through the ringing in my ears, I heard another shout from down the street. I blinked the stars from my eyes and saw three armed guards in purple livery running toward us.
The doorman relaxed a little in relief. I realized that he knew who I was the minute I appeared. He had sent someone to retrieve the king’s guards—now Ambrosine’s guards.
Never had I fought anyone without my elicrin stone. But I couldn’t let the guards drag me back to the palace or torture me into giving up Navara’s location.
Taking advantage of the doorman’s waning sense of responsibility, I gripped his forearms for leverage and pounded my heel down on his toes. He instinctively released me and I ran. Facing off against three men without my most powerful weapon would mean death or a grave wound at best.
So fragile, mortals. And for now I was one.
The guards followed me, shouting orders for civilians to stop me. Most of them seemed too stunned to act and merely stepped aside.
Glisette runs until the guards catch up to her in the fish market. She’s able to use objects from the stands to defend herself, killing one and taking his sword to fight and kill another. She thinks she’s lost the third one because he’s not chasing her anymore—maybe he couldn’t keep up or lost the trail. She returns to Navara, anxious to reach the woods.*
*I don’t like to have holes and notes in my first draft, but when I’m on deadline sometimes it can’t be helped. Fight scenes take a lot of thought and planning so sometimes I skip and come back to them. I thought I fleshed this one out before ultimately deleting it, but I couldn’t find that particular draft in my files! Always email your progress, people!
By the time I stumbled into the shipyard, my side ached and my lungs burned.
Despite escaping unharmed, I recognized that the perilous errand had been not only pointless*, but detrimental. No Devorian, no food, no supplies to sustain us, not even a message sent back to the Realm Alliance. Ambrosine would receive word that the huntsman had spared us. The only advantage we’d gained was discovering how she intended to frame tragedies past and future: as all my doing.
*If your character of all people is calling a scene pointless, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up deleting it later.
My tired feet nearly stumbled over the worn grass as I rounded the broken hull and found Navara hunched in its shadow, her arms wrapped around her knees, the unsheathed boning knife clenched in her hand. “What happened?” she asked, unfolding her limbs.
“Nothing good,” I said. “Come on, we have to get back to the cover of the woods.”
I offered her my hand and pulled her up. “Your brother wasn’t—?” she started to ask, but froze like a frightened lamb.
“Let her go,” a male voice behind me said. I turned my head and found the third guard brandishing his sword a hand’s breadth from my neck. It seemed he’d hung back and pursued me secretly, hoping I would lead him to Navara. And I’d fallen right into the trap. “Come, Princess,” he said, gently beckoning her with his gloved hand. “I’m on orders to deliver you safely home.”
“It’s not safe there—“ she started again, but as I slowly turned to face him, I shot her a warning look that pointedly traveled to the knife in her hand. She fell quiet.
“Go with him,” I said to her, splaying my hands in a gesture of surrender. Catching on, Navara meekly walked past me, so innocent that the guard didn’t even seem to notice the knife clutched near her torn skirts.
He pushed her behind him to protect her, and probably to shield her eyes from the bloody deed he was about to commit. “Kneel, and I will make this quick and painless,” he said. “I don’t like to see a beautiful woman suffer, even if she deserves it.”
I complied, but my knees hadn’t hit the ground by the time Navara buried the boning knife in his side beneath his ribs and yanked it out. He cried out and covered the bleeding stab wound, letting his sword clatter to the ground. I lunged to retrieve it.
He fell against the hull and stared at the gushing blood before looking up at his sweet princess in disbelief.
Navara strode to stand at my side as I pointed the blade at his throat.
“I’ll spare your life on one condition,” I said. “Return and tell the queen that you made a mistake, that it was not Glisette Lorenthi you pursued, but someone else who closely matched the description. Tell her you would stake your life on it. Then, you will write and send a message to the Realm Alliance in Beyrian telling them there is trouble in Perispos and to come straight away.”
I hunkered down in front of him, resting one elbow casually on my knee and positioning the sharp tip of the sword near the seam of his pants. “If you’re thinking of defying me, just know that I’m not like my sister. I’ve fought battles. I’ve been wounded. I’ve nearly starved. I’ve killed people with my own hands. I will remember your face, and if you don’t do what I ask…” I leaned in, wetted my fingertip with his blood, and drew a ruby stain across his throat. “I will torture you in ways she’s not even brave enough to ponder.”
He swallowed hard and nodded.
“Give me your belt,” I said, standing up and stepping back.
Groaning, he pushed himself up and scrambled to unbuckle his belt. He dropped it on the ground and staggered away. We watched him weave his way through the rubble and disappear.
I scooped up the belt, cinched it to fit around my waist, and slid the sword into the scabbard. “Will he survive to do as you say?” Navara asked.
“People are more resilient than you’d think.”
“You’re proof of that, aren’t you?”
“We are.” I grabbed the huntsman’s pack and we began retracing our path from the woods. If Ambrosine had dispatched her lies to every corner of Halethenica and the outlying villages, there was no civilized place safe for us to go. “We have to move.
about the author
Don Zolidis grew up in Wisconsin, went to college in Minnesota, and is mostly known for being a really funny playwright. For the past five years, he’s been the most-produced playwright in American schools. His more than one hundred published plays have been performed tens of thousands of times, and have appeared in sixty-four different countries. He currently splits his time between New York and Texas, and has two adorable boys who will someday read this book and have a lot of questions. He aspires to owning a dog. His first novel was The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig.