Home > Palace of Silver (The Nissera Chronicles #3)

Palace of Silver (The Nissera Chronicles #3)
Author: Hannah West

PROLOGUE


Once upon a time, there were four queens.

The sheltered queen learned that she did not need magic to be brave.

The mortal queen learned that she was worthy of more.

The almighty queen learned that limitless power has its own constraints.

The last queen looked in the mirror and decided she would bend the world to her will.

 

 

ONE


GLISETTE LORENTHI


PONTAVAL, VOLARRE


A SIGH of wind snuffed out the campfire. The darkness in the belly of the forest was as dense as the black soil underneath my bedroll. I went rigid, listening to the rustle of footsteps and the rattle of rasping breaths. Enemies were near.

My elicrin stone held reassuring warmth from nestling against my breastbone. But magic couldn’t guarantee my escape from the soulless creatures prowling in the shadows. When I opened my mouth to utter a spell, no sound emerged. No light burst from the stone. My head felt too heavy to lift.

A blight with sallow, sore-ridden skin and milky eyes approached, raising a jagged blade to ram it through my quick-beating heart. The creature drew so close I could smell its putrefying flesh, the scent of dark magic unbridled. Yet I couldn’t react, couldn’t move. I could only hope my death would be swift.

“Glisette?” the blight said in a cheery voice.

I gasped and heaved awake, terrifying my younger sister, Perennia.

Cold sweat dampened the satin sheets twisted around my thighs. Shafts of light from a flaming sunrise melted through gaps in the powder-blue drapes, skimming over gilded furniture and velvet upholstery. I was at home in the palace at Pontaval, not in the woods at night or in the throes of a bloody battle.

Months had passed since I’d helped to overthrow the Moth King, but the most harrowing memories of the journey still stalked my sleep.

“Sorry!” Perennia squeaked, holding aside the embroidered canopy that surrounded my four-poster bed. “Oliva said to tell you the mayors of the border towns have arrived.”

With an irascible grunt, I swung my legs over the edge of the bed, brushing strands of blond hair from my face. “They’re early.”

“Yes.”

“Was Oliva afraid to wake me?”

Perennia’s honeyed curls bobbed as she nodded.

I could hardly blame my head maid, not after I’d accidentally unleashed a spell last week that had flung her across the room and into my open wardrobe. My heaps of flouncy dresses had padded her fall, but since then Oliva had been skittish when it came to waking me.

I pounced into action. A year ago it would have taken me hours to prepare for a social engagement. Sometimes I missed the simple luxury of pruning in the scalding water, dozing off as a maid’s gentle fingers sifted through my long locks. Now I barely took the time to use a comb and mouth rinse before throwing back a swig of tea and hurrying off to whatever appointment awaited me first, pursued by Oliva and her flock of underling ladies-in-waiting. I could hardly even visit the lavatory alone for all the guards and servants tailing me.

Nothing had been the same since the day I told Uncle Mathis, in no uncertain terms, that I was stepping into the role of queen of Volarre and forcing him out.

One of the maids broke formation to scuttle ahead and open the door to the meeting chamber—I hadn’t opened a door for myself in months either—revealing my chief advisor sitting at the marble-top table with a group of strange men.

“I present Her Majesty, Queen Glisette Lorenthi,” he said.

As the mayors stood to bow, their gazes coasted over me, moving from the misty lavender chalcedony at my throat to the silver crown on my head, landing in unison on the scar that slashed over my right eye from forehead to cheek.

“Gentlemen,” I said, scooping the skirts of my sapphire dress—a bit modest for my taste, despite the plunging neckline—to claim the head of the table. They took their seats. “Once again, I profoundly apologize for the decisions made by my uncle and elder sister, which brought food shortages to your towns. How are the assistance programs faring?”

“They’re helping, Your Majesty,” answered the man to my left, who looked too youthful for his silver hair. “The problem is that when Prince Regent Mathis tripled the tolls, the produce vendors who cross the border to our markets raised their prices.”

“But we’ve decreased the tolls,” I pointed out. “They’re even lower than before Uncle Mathis raised them.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” my chief advisor said, “but the vendors fear the crown might raise them again on a whim.”

I was grateful for Hubert, who patiently filled in my gaps of understanding. My younger brother, Devorian, had been coached to take the crown while my sisters and I learned etiquette, languages, and, of course, elicromancy. As queen, I was forced to countervail my years of deficient governing studies with tireless initiative.

“I’ll sign a decree guaranteeing that I will not raise the tolls for a decade,” I said. “We’ll have a ceremony in one of your towns.”

“A bold idea, Your Majesty,” Hubert said. “But it doesn’t solve the immediate problem that many poor Volarians cannot afford food.”

A blush of embarrassment bloomed behind my cheeks. In moments like these, I missed my old life—but not sprawling in the lap of opulence and reveling in a lack of responsibilities. Instead, strangely, I longed for my time trudging through the wilderness, scared, hungry, thirsty, sore, and wounded, but driven by a singular purpose.

The quest had been arduous, but with only one goal: deliver Valory Braiosa to the Moth King’s court so that she could kill him before he destroyed Nissera.

The upheaval that necessitated the quest had happened so swiftly that I’d barely had time to second-guess my decision to join.

First, Valory had touched the Water—the ancient source of elicrin magic hidden deep in the woods—without permission from the Conclave. But unlike others who had tried before her, she did not die. Nor did she receive an elicrin stone, which would have bestowed upon her a magical gift. Instead, she had dried up the Water and gained a destructive power that looked nothing like elicromancy.

Meanwhile, my brother Devorian had come into possession of a pearl tablet inscribed with an arcane “awakening” spell written in an ancient, forgotten language. Though Devorian was an Omnilingual, the language was so strange that even he struggled to make sense of the spell. He convinced himself it would have the capacity to resurrect our parents from the dead.

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