Greythorne

Greythorne

by Crystal Smith

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Overview

Brimming with deliciously mysterious magic, political intrigue, and a passionate heroine who will do anything to save the ones she loves—this highly anticipated sequel to Bloodleaf, praised as “enchanting, visceral, and twisty” by Laura Sebastian, won’t disappoint.

Princess Aurelia’s life is upended when the kingdom she thought she saved falls to ruin, a loved one is tragically killed in a shipwreck, and her home country turns against her. With no place left to call her own, Aurelia returns to Greythorne Manor—her best friend’s family mansion—only to find that Greythorne has sinister secrets of its own. With enemies closing in on all sides, Aurelia is caught in a mad fight to protect the only people she has left—her family. In her darkest moments, when all seems grim, will Aurelia find a spark of hope from a love she thought long lost? 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781328496317
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 09/01/2020
Series: Bloodleaf Trilogy Series
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 46,465
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Crystal Smith is a writer, photographer, and artist who developed an early love of storytelling in a family of voracious readers. She resides in Utah with her high school sweetheart husband and two lively sons. When she isn’t writing or creating, she can be found re-watching Jane Eyre or reading ghost stories with all the lights on. @crysrensmith.

Read an Excerpt

My opponent was a merchant of middle age by the name of Brom Baltus who had stopped at the Quiet Canary Tavern hoping to acquire some female company and play a couple of rounds of Betwixt and Between before hauling his goods—a cartload of apples, cheeses, and fine wines—the final stretch of his route. It was to his great misfortune that he sat down at the card table with me; when I was done with him, he’d be lucky to leave with enough coin left to hitch a ride home to his unhappy wife, let alone purchase an hour or two of a Canary girl’s precious time. I’d have hated to rob them of good business, but from the smell of him, none of them were likely to mind.
      Brom leaned forward to lay down his second-to-last play. His smug grin revealed a mouthful of tobacco-stained teeth. “Sad Tom,” he said, pushing the card toward me. “Time to up your wager, miss, or call the game.”
      I frowned at the card and its depiction of a despondent, droopy-eyed lad clutching a withered four-petaled daisy. It was a surprisingly savvy move for a man who had accidentally singed his mustache trying to light his pipe not five minutes earlier. I’d already put down all the collateral I’d planned on staking—twelve gold crowns earned over two months of careful card-game conquests—and had little left with which to improve the pot. If I failed to provide Sad Tom with something to cheer him up, I’d lose all of it, and the cart of goods besides.
      I hesitated only a moment before reaching into my pocket and retrieving the last thing of value left to my name: a fine white-gold ring set with an exquisite clear-cut stone. I hadn’t worn it for months, but somehow I could not bring myself to lay it away in a jewelry box. Even now, as I placed it in the center of the table and the stone caught the candlelight and bounced it back in a thousand rainbow shards, I felt a keen sense of trepidation at the possibility of its loss. But I had plans to keep, costly plans, and Brom’s goods would go a long way toward covering the costs.
      “Finest Achlevan jewel crafting,” I said. “Pure luneocite stone, skillfully cut and artfully set.”
      “And what makes you think it’s worth—?”
      “It used to belong to the late queen Irena de Achlev,” I said. “It’s engraved with her initials and the de Achlev seal.” I steepled my fingers and leaned forward with a cocky tilt to my head, eyes still shrouded beneath my dark hood. “Imagine what the ladies at court in Syric would pay for such a souvenir.”
      Brom’s eyes were gleaming—he knew exactly what kind of price it would fetch. Relics of the fallen de Achlev dynasty had become hot commodities among Syric’s social elite. And to have belonged to the last queen . . . the ring was worth double the pile of coins on the table. I said calmly, “Surely Sad Tom is not so sad anymore?”
      “Indeed not,” the man said with a smirk. “Wager accepted. Make your next play, little miss.”
      Little miss. If a man had placed that selfsame wager, it would have been met with suspicion. This fool would have at least asked himself, What kind of hand would warrant such an extravagant offer? But because I was a woman, and a young one at that, Brom Baltus saw the move as a signal that he’d already gotten the better of me. That he’d forced me into a corner and I’d naively cast out my last line in desperation just to stay in the game.
      What had Delphinia said? You don’t play the cards; you play the player.
      We were still two moves from the finale, but I had already won.
      I waited for Brom to settle into his self-assuredness, using my next turn to play the Fanciful Blacksmith, resplendent in his great brown beard and frilly petticoats, hammering happily away at his forge. My opponent did just as I thought he would and mistook the balance card for a schism card and played Lady Loveless over the top of it. He sat back in his seat with a sneer, certain that he’d just secured his success.
      “Lady Loveless has just sent your Blacksmith into the furnace,” he said. “Time to pay up.”
      “Ah,” I said, “but the Blacksmith stands on his own. He has no need for Lady Loveless’s approval.” I allowed myself a tiny hint of a smile. “Which means I have one more card to play.”
      I made a slow, deliberate show of turning over my last card, taking far more satisfaction than necessary in Brom’s changing expression—disinterest followed closely by chagrin, shock, and dismay—as he realized what I’d done.
      Staring up at him was the Two-Faced Queen.
      The card depicted two versions of the same woman, one with night-dark hair against a snowy background, the other with ice-white hair against a deep black wood. They echoed each other in the exact same position, as if the line dividing them and bisecting the card was a mirror. And indeed, the card itself acted like a mirror, reflecting the players’ own plays back onto them. My cards had all been balance cards, while his had been schism after schism. He had, in effect, annihilated himself.
      I plucked the ring from atop the pile of coin and twirled it around my fingertips, allowing myself a single moment of melancholy before returning it to my pocket. “Now, then,” I said, brusque and businesslike, “where shall I collect my winnings?”

While Brom went to complain about me to the tavern’s proprietor, Hicks, I went upstairs to my tiny room to stash some of my winnings away. It was little more than a closet, my room—especially when compared to the lavish accommodations occupied by the Canary girls just down the hall—but it had a big window overlooking the front entrance of the tavern and the wide, grassy expanse of the Renaltan provinces beyond. I experienced bouts of panic sometimes if things got too dark or quiet; this room and the bustle of this building suited me just fine.
      The Canary girls did not understand my stubbornness at keeping the room despite being able to afford a bigger one after my winnings began to accumulate, but then they were always fretting after me. The girls were easy to like, and despite my early reticence, we became fast friends. They coached me in card-playing strategies, and during my card games, they’d sometimes drop hints about my opponents’ hands. In return, I’d slip them a few coins whenever their hints proved to be especially valuable. They’d all been born with different names, but when, one by one, they came to work at the Quiet Canary, they each went through the process of choosing a new one for themselves. Lorelai, Rafaella, Delphinia, and Jessamine were what they went by now, names that had a lovely glint to them; saying them together felt like letting brightly colored jewels drip through your fingers.
      Built at a crossroads between four of Renalt’s remotest provinces, the Quiet Canary was always busy with dealings both above the table and below, as much a haven for the honest merchant as it was for the cutthroat highwayman. It was set just far enough from Syric to make it inconvenient for the capital to police, but central enough to make it an easy waypoint for merchants and travelers crossing from one side of Renalt to another. It was a place where you could be whoever you wanted to be, and no one would second-guess you or even care. They knew exactly who I was, but they never made me feel any different for it.
      Delphinia was coming down the stairs with a client as I was going up. “Evening, Delphinia, Father Cesare,” I said to them as we passed.
      “You’re in fine spirits. Had a good night, did we?” Delphinia asked.
      “I did,” I said. “You were right about using the Two-Faced Queen. Brom Baltus didn’t even see it coming.”
      Delphinia’s smile faded just a little. “Be wary of that man, Aurelia. He’s a mean one—not someone to be trifled with.”
      I assured her, “He’s aggrieved, of course, but Hicks will have him on his way in no time.”
      Hicks, bless him, had developed a disinterested languor in his years as proprietor at the Quiet Canary. If no one was dead or dying, Hicks preferred to be left to his hobby of whittling toys and trinkets, like the puzzle box I’d bought from him to give to Conrad. He certainly wasn’t going to lift a lazy little finger to interfere with the results of a fair round of Betwixt and Between.
      Delphinia did not look convinced, but I turned to Father Cesare. “Any news for me today?”
      The soft-spoken priest began feeling around in his robe. “Yes, my dear,” he said. “As a matter of fact, a parcel arrived at the sanctorium this morning, addressed to you from one Simon Silvis. It’s why I came tonight.” At Delphinia’s smirk, he added, “Well, one of the reasons.”
      “Simon?” I asked incredulously. In the aftermath of Achlev’s fall, Simon had decided to retreat into the solitude of the abandoned Assembly Hall, telling us that he preferred to dedicate the remainder of his years to quiet study, free from the daily sorrows and strain of a kingdom at war with itself. That he chose to retire to the one place in the world that could not be found by those who did not already know its location was significant; he wanted to be left alone. I could hardly blame him, but I never thought I’d hear from him again. “Why would he send something for me to you?”
      Father Cesare handed me a small parcel and said, “It happens more often than you’d think. We at the Stella Regina sanctorium are well-known for our . . . discretion . . . in certain matters. We keep a more open mind than most of our fellows, especially those of the judicial arm of the faith.” He raised his eyebrows meaningfully; he was referring to the Tribunal.
      I untied the twine from the package and pulled off the paper. Inside was a book of indeterminate age, bound in leather dyed a deep emerald and inlaid with a pale rose-gold design that looked like spindly branches. I cracked it open and began to slowly thumb through the delicate pages. They were filled with archaic drawings of circular patterns and strange figures, annotated in a tongue I didn’t recognize.
      “I don’t understand,” I said finally. “Why would Simon send me this? I can’t read it.”
      “I’m the sanctorium archivist.” Cesare leaned over, lifting his spectacles from the chain around his neck to squint at the book. “I’m not as well-read as an Assemblyman, to be sure, but I don’t think it is immodest to say that I do have a knack for ancient vernacular. Ah, yes! This is written in the pre-Assembly dialect preferred by the female-led clans of the Ebonwilde. About 450 PA would be my guess.”
      “You’re saying that that little book is two thousand years old?” Delphinia gaped.
      “Maybe not the book itself, but the language in which it’s written, yes. Give or take a few hundred years, yes.”
      “But what does it say?” I turned another page to find three humanlike outlines overlaid on one another, each inked in a different color.
      “I could make out only a few of the words,” Cesare said. “Let’s see . . . Life. Or flesh, maybe? Sleep.Soul . . .” He shrugged. “The translations aren’t exact, and I’m rusty. But I do have a few texts back at the sanctorium that might help you with translation. If you want to come by before the coronation tomorrow.”
      I stiffened but forced a smile. “Perhaps I will, if I decide to attend.” I slipped him one of my new-won coins. “Thank you for bringing this to me,” I said. “I know it’s a long way to travel just to drop off a book.” I glanced at Delphinia. “I’m glad to see you making good use of your trip.”
      “Oh, it is always a pleasure ministering to the faithful here at the Canary,” Father Cesare said, his stout arm around Delphinia’s waist. “Shall I buy you another drink, my dear, with this new wealth?”
      Her red-currant lips curved into a smile. “If you must.

Back in my room, I tucked Simon’s unusual gift into my satchel next to the bloodcloth that still carried a round, rust-colored drop of his blood before spreading my winnings out across the desk to count them. I almost had enough saved now. As soon as the coronation was over and Conrad was officially installed as king with Fredrick as his regent, I would be able to buy a room on the Humility, the ironically named pleasure boat owned by Dominic Castillion. The floating fortress of Achleva’s self-proclaimed new king was renowned for its beauty and brutality. It was of an unusual design, powered not by wind or rowing but by coal and steam from great furnaces housed in the ship’s belly, freeing up room for ballrooms and banquet halls and baths on the decks above while malnourished and mistreated prisoners toiled in oven-like heat below.
      The first coins I’d won at the Canary had all gone to procuring a copy of the ship’s plans from an Achlevan refugee who came through, got wildly drunk, and claimed he was formerly employed as a shipbuilder by the Castillion family and had helped the ambitious noble-man build his fleet. Even if it was an embellishment of the truth—or a complete fabrication—I paid him ten silver coronets to reproduce diagrams of the ship on the back of the elegant Canary-stamped stationery Lorelai had ordered in sheaves to pen elaborate and illicit letters to her favorite lovers.
      The man had re-created the Humility’s schematics from his memory while completely stewed, but the sketches were startlingly intricate and full of minute details suggesting a deep familiarity with the ship’s layout. I decided to operate on the assumption that his claims were true and spent the last eight weeks studying the drawings to memorize every crucial detail, every weakness. As the vessel was protected by a fleet of well-armed fighting ships, the only way to get to it was to buy my way aboard and attend the balls and feast at the banquets. Though the idea of that disgusted me, I’d do whatever it took to end his ill-conceived attempt for Achleva’s crown.
      The man was a monster, and I would not rest until he and his ship met their final resting place at the bottom of the cold Achlevan Sea.
      There was a soft knock at the door. “It’s open,” I said, sweeping my ship notes and coins into the top desk drawer alongside some of my favorite past prizes: a silver hand mirror, bottles of perfume from the continent, and jewelry too pretty to sell and too outlandish to wear. As an afterthought, I took the luneocite ring from my pocket, setting it on top of the pile before closing the drawer. If I didn’t have it with me, I wouldn’t be tempted to wager it again.
      I shut the drawer and moved to sit on the bed just before Jessamine poked her head inside.
      “I have something for you,” she said, sweeping her wealth of auburn locks over one shoulder, her brown eyes bright. She had to stoop to enter, nearly hitting her forehead on the low-hanging eaves of the steeply pitched ceiling. “I don’t know how you stand this,” she said. “I really don’t.”
      “I’m almost a full head shorter than you are,” I pointed out.
      “An infant would still find this room stifling,” she said, settling next to me. “And that window, and the noise . . . How do you sleep?”
      “I don’t sleep much,” I admitted. “And when I do, I rest better with people nearby, coming and going . . .”
      “Oh, yes,” Jessamine said, “You do so love people.”
      “I like knowing they’re there,” I said. “I don’t need to be best friends with them.”
      “Stars save me,” Jessamine said, dimpling, “you are a strange creature.”
      “So you’ve brought me something.” I brightened. “Is it more Halderian chocolate? Please tell me it’s more Halderian chocolate.”
      “Not chocolate,” Jessamine said. “Better.” She pulled a bottle from behind her back—it had already been uncorked.
      “Wine?” I suppressed a smile. “I can’t drink with you tonight, Jessa. I’ve got somewhere to go.”
      “Not just any wine,” she said. “Sombersweet wine.”
      My eyebrows shot up. “Where, exactly, did you get that?”
      “Brom Baltus has a dozen bottles in his cargo. It costs a fortune, but it is worth every penny.”
      “I guess that means I’m now the proud owner of a dozen bottles of sombersweet wine, as I just won his entire cart of goods at Betwixt and Between.”
      Her mouth dropped open.
      “You can take what you want,” I said. “I’m mostly interested in the apples and dry goods.” “I’m not worried about whether or not you’ll share your sombersweet wine, Aurelia. I’m worried about Brom Baltus. That’s a man who doesn’t like to lose. And he especially won’t be happy about losing everything.
      “Delphinia said much the same thing.” I shrugged. “His hurt pride is hardly my problem.” My gaze shifted from the drawer with my savings back to the bottle in her hand. “How much did you say sombersweet wine would sell for?”
      “Double, maybe triple, one of the Canary’s own bottles.”
      I did the calculations in my head. That would give me more than what I needed; I could move my plans up by a month at least. I suddenly felt light with relief.
      “Perhaps we should celebrate my acquisition,” I said, taking the bottle. “Is this going to give me hallucinations?”
      “Oh, come now, hallucinations? It’s just supposed to make things glitter a little.” She watched me take a swallow. “Anything?”
      “Afraid not,” I said. “No glittering. Are you sure that Baltus didn’t lie? Sombersweet is rather hard to come by; not many would know if it wasn’t legitimate.”
      “I guess I’d better drink this whole thing and see what happens,” she said wryly. “Best to know for sure.”
      “I’ll ask you for your appraisal tomorrow morning,” I said, rising to reach for my wool cloak, which was hanging from a peg by the door. Then I stopped, staring at the mirror over my desk. “Did you see that?” I asked Jessamine.
      “See what?”
      “My reflection. For a second there, it looked . . . different. Not quite like me, exactly.”
      She said excitedly, “Maybe the wine causes hallucinations after all. What did you look like? A mermaid? A goblin?”
      “No,” I said. “I looked like me, but my hair was darker. Almost black.” I gave a self-conscious laugh.
      “I’ve always thought you’d look ravishing as a brunette,” Jessamine said. “And I’ve got the dyes we’d need. Just say the word . . .” She winked.
      “The same dyes that turned Rafaella’s hair green last month?” I smiled. “Thank you, but no.”
      “It was only for a few days!” Jessa protested. “And her bookings went up wildly. She’s even thinking about trying it again.”
      “Rafaella could have no hair at all and still get bookings,” I said, settling my cloak over my shoulders and lifting my satchel over my arm.
      “True,” Jessa agreed. “Where are you off to?”
      “None of your business,” I replied.
      She grinned widely. “Tell Kellan Greythorne I said hello.”

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