Last time on The Crown of Embers, Elisa’s birthday parade was crashed by an animagus who demanded Elisa’s surrender before burning himself alive. Can this day get any worse? Find out after the cut.
Part 1: Remember that Secret Passage We Never Used?
I pray during the walk back, thanking God for my life and the lives of my guards, asking him to keep us safe just a little while longer. But as we approach the palace, Hector holds up a fist to halt our procession.
Elisa, Hector, Ximena and their massive entourage of Royal Guards are heading back to the palace when they discover a mob of citizens at the palace gates. It turns out that the people thought the city was under attack, so they took their stuff and ran to the palace for protection. The bad news is that the palace gates are locked, so nobody can get in. Well, okay, Elisa and her party can get back in, but that would cause a riot, which is obviously not a Good Thing.
Elisa thinks that somebody’s trying to keep her out of the palace on purpose, so she decides to find another way inside. But how is she going to get in without being noticed by the mob? Well, first of all, Elisa has Ximena hide her Pimped-Out Crown, and the Royal Guards all turn their cloaks inside-out so they don’t look conspicuous. Next up is actually getting inside.
Remember those escape tunnels that Elisa briefly mentioned in The Girl of Fire and Thorns? The ones that she was supposed to use to escape from Brisadulce during the siege, but couldn’t because of a boss battle? Well, Elisa conveniently remembers that those tunnels exist, so she decides to use them to reenter the palace. Of course, this means that they have to actually find the tunnel entrance first.
Hector knows where the tunnel entrance is, so he leads the party to a blacksmith’s in the merchants’ alley. This blacksmith is Mandrano, a retired Royal Guard; his house contains a secret trapdoor to the tunnels. Hector and Elisa take the tunnels while Ximena and the massive entourage of guards all enter the palace the normal way. Of course, Ximena protests, but Elisa’s all like, “Yo, I’m gonna be fine with Hector.”
The trip through the tunnels is kinda uneventful. Elisa and Hector just discuss who may have ordered the palace lockdown. There are only five people who can order a lockdown: Elisa, Hector, Luz-Manuel, Eduardo (remember him from the last book?), and the palace mayordomo. Hector and Elisa obviously didn’t order the lockdown – they were just at the parade! So it must have been one of the others. But why would they want to keep Elisa from the palace?
Anyway, Hector and Elisa make their way to the end of the tunnel, which happens to be in Alejandro’s now-empty closet. After Hector makes sure that the coast is clear, Elisa returns to her suite.
Part 2: Crisis Averted
We have returned ahead of Ximena and the guards. I pace in the bedchamber while Hector stands at the entrance, arms crossed, chin set.
Back in Elisa’s suite, Mara tries to hide her discomfort regarding the current crisis by offering to bathe and groom Elisa. Elisa politely declines the offer, because she has more pressing things on her mind – namely, lifting the lockdown and figuring out who ordered it in the first place.
At least Elisa can do the first thing on her little checklist: she can lift the lockdown, but only in person, since the lockdown was ordered by a member of the Quorum of Five. So Elisa and Hector run off to the main gates, and immediately run into the palace garrison. The soldiers are kind enough to reveal that they’re defending the palace from the mob, and that Eduardo (via his advisor Franco) ordered the lockdown.
However, when Elisa does finally make it to the main gates and finds Eduardo, he says that the mayordomo ordered the lockdown. He also refuses to open the gates because of the obvious mob outside. Elisa orders him to open the gates, but he doesn’t obey immediately. Of course, once the gates do open, the mob actually walks inside the palace in a rather calm, orderly fashion. Eduardo insists on discussing this incident, so Elisa orders an emergency Quorum meeting.
So yay! Crisis averted! But Elisa wonders why Eduardo hesitated to obey her orders, and she worries that this is only a harbinger of worse things to come.
Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:
We’ll be seeing more of Mandrano and his secret trapdoor later in the series. He’ll also make an appearance in Hector’s prequel adventure.
Elisa finds a scorpion that glows blue in the secret tunnel. Thankfully, it’s just a harmless cave scorpion. Hector does mention a larger, poisonous version of the same creature, called a Death Stalker. They’re native to the
eastern holdings new nation of Basajuan.
Elisa notes that the cave scorpion glows “Godstone blue”. Why do the scorpion and the Godstone shine the same color? Believe it or not, this will be addressed later in the book.
Elisa can totally move into Alejandro’s suite now, but she refuses because a) it’s too goddamn opulent, and b) the place reminds her of Alejandro’s death.
Mara is the same age as Elisa. Damn, and all this time I thought she was older.
Franco is going to be a pain in everyone’s sides later in the book. Just warning you.
All the foodstuffs mentioned in this chapter:
- Coconut scones
- Sticky date pops
- Meat pies
Note: none of these foodstuffs are actually present in this chapter. Elisa just mentions them in her inner monologue.
It’s Translation Time!
In case you didn’t figure this out, “mayordomo” is Spanish for “majordomo”.
Next time: Elisa sits through a Quorum meeting, then goes dungeon crawling. Neither of these go as planned.