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(Book Two of the Peridot Shift, Second ed.)

by R J Theodore

Salvage - RJ Theodore - Peridot Shift
Part of the The Peridot Shift series:
Editions:Hardcover - Second Edition
ISBN: 978-1-956771-10-7
Paperback - Second Edition
ISBN: 978-1-956771-04-6
Size: 5.50 x 8.50 in
Pages: 424
ePub - Second Edition
ISBN: 978-1-956771-08-4
Pages: 424
Paperback - Second Edition, Large Print
ISBN: 978-1-956771-09-1
Size: 8.50 x 11.00 in
Pages: 628

Peridot is headed for its second cataclysm. War has broken ancient alliances, sealed borders, and locked down the skies. The Five, Peridot’s alchemist gods, have seen one of their number die and another fall in their efforts to protect their world from invaders beyond the stars. Defeated and diminished, they have ceased to answer the prayers of their people and have left the rapidly unraveling world to fend for itself.

Talis and the orphaned crew of the lost airship Wind Sabre have a plan to set things to rights, but they’re stranded on a rock far from the heart of the conflict. When an old enemy comes and offers them a ship and a path forward, it comes with strings that will pull them further from the home they are so desperate to save.

Can Talis and her crew chart a course through hostile skies, shifting allegiances, and subverted governments before the true enemies of Peridot claim a power that can destroy the world once and for all?

Publisher: Independently Published
Cover Artists:
Tropes: Aliens Among Us, Ancient Weapon, Band of Misfits, Cross-Species Friendships, Enemy to Ally, First Contact, Found Family, Magic Talisman, Powerful Artifact, Quest, Reluctant Hero, Roguish Thief
Word Count: 149,000
Setting: Peridot
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Tropes: Aliens Among Us, Ancient Weapon, Band of Misfits, Cross-Species Friendships, Enemy to Ally, First Contact, Found Family, Magic Talisman, Powerful Artifact, Quest, Reluctant Hero, Roguish Thief
Word Count: 149,000
Setting: Peridot
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters

Emeranth woke to a hand over her mouth. As she tried to sit up, its owner pushed her back down. The room was dark, and she could barely see the outline of her bed’s curtains and a person leaning in over her.

“Sorry, Em. Sorry.” The voice was deep with a solid center, but it was raspy at this hushed volume.

She nodded, and the man removed his hand, allowing her to sit up. “Uncle? Why are you—”

Uncle pressed something soft and heavy into her hands. Her jacket. “We need to go. It’s not safe. I’ll tell you on the way.”

“Where are my parents?” But she did as he said, sliding out of bed and into her slippers while pulling her jacket over her nightgown. The fabric tangled around her hips and knees, and her sleeves bunched up around her elbows.


In the limited nexuslight that made it past the curtains, Uncle’s pale skin—many shades lighter than Em’s own—allowed her to see him step back toward the bedroom door. “I’ll tell you on the way. Quietly. It’s not safe.”

When an adult said things more than once, they were nervous or mad. Uncle sort of sounded both, and she obeyed with no more questions.

He led them down the hall outside her chambers. They didn’t pass anyone else. Em was even more alarmed than she had been to wake with a hand on her face. There should have been people in the corridors. Guards. Someone. The air seemed to buzz, and she thought she could make out distant shouting but couldn’t tell what direction it came from or what was being yelled. She clung tighter to Uncle.

A familiar voice sounded from very nearby. Em almost yelled in fright. Uncle stopped them before they crossed in front of a doorway that spilled lamplight across the hall. The silver fingers of his left hand reflected the meager glow as he signaled her to be still. She focused on the words coming from within the room, staring at the familiar cogs and pins of Uncle’s beautiful gearwork knuckles.

“She is nowhere to be found.” The voice was irritated. She recognized Patron Demir’s voice. He always sounded like he smelled something unpleasant.

Another voice responded, heavily accented with throaty stops, hums, and hisses. This one, too, was familiar. Familiar and terrifying. She could imagine the tall Yu’Nyun Representative of Culture even without seeing xin. “Unacceptable. You were to have taken care of this first.”

When the Yu’Nyun visitors had first arrived, Em had thought they were fascinating and pretty. They looked like living versions of the carvings airship sailors made from sirenia teeth and bones, and they walked with the kind of grace and poise the court folk tried to train into her. Their clothes were beautifully made, even with the burns and tears from the attack at Nexus. As if they were right at home in the royal court, though they looked very strange.

Lately, though, she found it hard to breathe around the aliens. She could tell everyone was trying too hard to be nice to them.

“The child must be found and secured. Search the grounds again.”

They were looking for her! When she gasped for breath, Uncle tapped one finger on his earlobe. She nodded. He backed away from the door, moving them into the shadows along the other side of the hall.

Why were they looking for her? She gripped Uncle’s arm with both hands and stayed as close as she dared without tripping him.

“She can’t have gotten far.” Patron Demir sounded like he was in trouble.

“Be sure of it. With the emperor and empress dead, she is now the legitimate ruler of the Cutter empire.”

Em stumbled. She forgot about being quiet, but as she tried to repeat the words, no sound emerged from her constricted throat.

Her parents couldn’t be dead. She had just said goodnight to them at bedtime. Maw’n sat with her as she finished her needlework, and then they talked about what they’d like for breakfast the next morning.

That seemed like a strange dream now. The alien’s voice seemed all too real. Too sharp.

Her parents were dead.

Uncle tried to pick her up—even though she was nearly fourteen years old, and a princess—to keep them moving. She wrested her arms out of his grip. His metal arm was beautiful, but the joints were fragile. A cog ground its metal teeth at her rough treatment. She didn’t stop or calm down. She had to find her friend Annie. There were killers in the palace!

She slipped away as Uncle chased after. She felt her hair snag in the joints of his fingers but didn’t care. No one else would make sure the palace servants were okay. But Annie was like a sister, and that meant she was the only family Em had left.

Uncle didn’t shout, couldn’t say a single word while hidden outside the room where the Yu’Nyun representative and Patron Demir argued. Uncle would be caught if he didn’t mind the noise of his steps.

But Em was barefoot and could run as fast as she wanted without making a sound.

She headed for the wing where Annie lived with their Breaker tutor, Catkin. Sometimes Em and Annie escaped Catkin’s lessons and hid in the palace’s secret rooms and passages to play until they got hungry and emerged to reprimands and a hot supper. If Annie knew anything was wrong, that’s where she’d be.

There were more angry voices and more shouting. Em heard Uncle calling for her. She ran down the empty halls and ducked into side rooms and around corners whenever she heard people coming.

It had to be the Yu’Nyun. She didn’t know why, but she knew it had to be. Everything had changed after they lost their ships at Nexus. Em wished they had their ships back, so they could leave Peridot and stay away from her family. Her face felt wet. She had no family left but Annie.

She didn’t get why her parents’ advisors had kept inviting the Yu’Nyun representative back. The aliens didn’t behave like other refugees. They didn’t just want help; they wanted to live at the palace and help the Cutter folk govern. Her parents had told them no, and now her parents were dead.

Em went straight for the most secret room she and Annie knew about, pulling a candelabra near a shelf, tipping an unassuming book about trade economics, and stepping on a pressure-sensitive floor tile. She winced as the stone door slid noisily back, then rushed inside and up the darkened stairwell within. She could hear Annie crying before she reached the hidden workshop above.

Beneath a table against the wall, a girl curled tightly around her knees, clutching her arms. There was enough light from the clouded windows to catch the Cutter sparkle in her warm brown skin. The sleeves of Annie’s nightgown were as wrinkled as Em’s own felt beneath her purple velvet jacket.

“Annie, come! We have to go.”

Annie wiped her face on the back of her forearm, blinking dark brown eyes. “Em, thank the winds! What’s happening?”

“We have to go.”

Annie climbed out from under the table and seized Em’s outstretched hand. Her terrified whisper came out as a hiss. “Shouldn’t we stay hidden in here?”

Uncle had given her a jacket, so he was going to get her out of the palace.

“I don’t think it’s safe anymore.”

Without giving Annie time to argue, Em hurried her down the stairs and back through the halls. She’d run off without Uncle, but she could still follow his plan. There was a back door to the garden, and if they could get outside and past the palace gates, they could hide in the city.

“Em!” Annie was shaking. “What’s happened?”

Em stopped, pulling them into a recess along the wall. They were outside the royal audience chamber, but everything that should have been familiar looked different in the shadows. The couch on which she’d spent so many idle moments waiting for Faw’n to finish his daily audiences so they could walk to dinner seemed the wrong color. The curling fern beside it looked threatening instead of frilly.

“My parents are dead.”

Annie didn’t speak. Her mouth hung open, as if her thoughts caught on the back of her tongue.

“I think they were killed.” She swallowed. “Assassinated.”

The word caught Annie’s attention. Their tutor had just been talking about historical assassinations that morning, and Em remembered too well how similar the described situations mirrored what was going on in the empire since the aliens arrived.

As realization took hold of Annie’s expression, Em nodded. “I think Catkin was trying to warn us. Have you seen them?”

Annie shook her head, and her chin quivered. “Not since our lessons. What are we going to do?”

“We’re going to escape out the gardens and through the drainpipe.”

Annie pulled her hand free and stopped short as a stubborn horse. “And then what?”

Em didn’t know. She had been out on the streets of Diadem on many occasions, but never unescorted. It wasn’t proper. She was hardly ever far from the watchful eyes of one palace guard or another.

“Hide. Find someone to help us.”

Annie screwed up her face. “Shouldn’t there be people to help us here?”

Somewhere, they heard voices shouting. Em couldn’t tell if they came from within the palace walls or without, but they were angry, in a way her father never got angry.

“Annie, it was the aliens. I know it was. Anyone who helps them might hurt us.” Now that she’d gathered Annie, Em wished she knew where Uncle had gone.

Em’s fingers were cramped and sweaty from gripping Annie’s hand. She wanted to squeeze her eyes shut and wish herself back into bed, to awake from this nightmare and run to Maw’n and Faw’n.

She heard someone shouting Uncle’s name. Her heart lifted with hope. If they could find him again, they wouldn’t need to rush out into the night alone. The shouts sounded like they were coming from the floor above.

“Wait here.”

Annie pressed herself deeper into the shadows, blending with the darkened shapes of the furniture. Em moved toward the nearest stairwell to listen. Right into the hands of a palace guard.

The woman seized Em’s shoulder. She tried to pull back, but the grip was like iron. “Here, now, Princess Emeranth, you’re safe.”

“Go.” Em mouthed the word, and Annie nodded, crept out of the nook, and bolted. If Em hadn’t known she was there, she wouldn’t have been able to see her run toward the kitchens.

The guard shouted up the stairwell above them. “Here, m’lord!”

Uncle appeared at the railing, his face a mixture of concern and anger as he peered down. When he saw Em in the guard’s care, the expression changed, but in the shadows, Em couldn’t tell what emotion it described.

He rushed down the steps to her side. “My little Em, you need to stay by me. There is a dangerous person in the castle. Perhaps many.”

Sometimes it was even worse when adults did tell her what was going on, but she loved him for not lying to her. “My parents are dead.”

Her voice sounded smaller than she would have liked. She swallowed to clear a lump in her throat, but it didn’t move.

Uncle looked like he couldn’t remember the words he needed. He swallowed, too, and sounded strained when he finally spoke. “Yes. I’m sorry. I know this is painful.” He turned to the guard. “We need to take the princess to a secure room.”

“Yes, Lord Hankirk.” The woman took a few steps away.
Uncle tried to lead Em out of the stairwell, but she couldn’t move.

“No.” Her voice was shrinking on her. She repeated it more firmly. “No.”

Uncle pulled her into a hug. His coat felt strange against her skin. She was shaking.

“No.” Again, as if she could convince herself not to believe him. Believe what she’d heard and believe what Catkin had tried to warn her about.

He pulled back and held out his filigree-traced hand. “Come with me. I’ll keep you safe. They’ll catch whoever did this.”

Uncle had lost his arm in the battle at Nexus. He told her he’d been fighting the aliens. And now the aliens had killed her parents because no one else would fight them. Everyone else wanted the aliens there. He was the only adult in the palace she could trust.

She took Uncle’s hand and let him lead the way.

Reviews:Laura N. Garrity wrote:

A great installment in this exciting series!

Mary Robinette Kowal wrote:

I can't stop thinking about the world of Flotsam. Science-fiction, alchemy, and airships. It's magic.

About the Author

R J Theodore is an author, graphic designer, podcaster, and all-around collector of creative endeavors and hobbies. She enjoys writing about magic-infused technologies, first contact events, and bioluminescing landscapes.

Her love of SFF storytelling developed through grabbing for anything-and-everything “unicorn” as a child, but she was subverted by tales of distant solar systems when her brother introduced her to Star Trek: The Next Generation at age seven. A few years later, Sailor Moon taught her stories can have both.

When she's not tinkering in her own worlds, she reads for both pleasure and research, sews, plays video games, cooks, and, when she can let herself be still, naps with her pets.

She lives in New England, haunted by her childhood cat. Find more information at