Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/5Be6x31jUgs
Meet the Author: https://youtu.be/hHQh7-MVEN0
Raveno Hoviir didn’t suffer incompetence. He didn’t suffer anything without consequence, a policy his crew was testing time and again lately and without any perceivable sign of becoming more competent. His reputation, carefully cultivated over a long and brutal career, was usually incentive enough to inspire obedience. He couldn’t let that reputation crack, not for anything: not for his morals as he punished decent soldiers for mistakes that didn’t warrant such severity; not for his soul as he led abominable missions to maintain alliances with Bazail, Iroan, and Fray; not for his body as he’d gone to unmatched extremes to prove his loyalty to Cilvril s’Hvri Josairo.
He played the villain in service to his people, a role as necessary as it was revolting.
During Josairo’s early reign as Cilvril s’Hvri, the killing hand of Havar, he’d been the strength and armor their planet had needed to survive what historians now referred to as the War of Wrath’s Will. After bolstering their military forces and gaining the autonomy to wield them as he deemed necessary, Josairo achieved what four previous Cilvrili s’Hvri had died failing to accomplish: He’d secured Havar’s independence from her sister planet, Haven, and ended years of oppression and tyranny.
Or so the historians claimed and the schools taught. Based on Raveno’s first-hand experience, he often wondered if Josairo hadn’t simply murdered historians until he’d found one willing rewrite the war to his liking.
Nevertheless, however he’d managed to wrest unilateral control of their military and judicial systems, Josairo’s unmatched combat skills ensured he kept it, even as he modified their fleet of luxury destination ships into prison transport vessels. Even as he ordered the abduction and trafficking of innocent, sentient people. Even as the peace and prosperity he’d supposedly achieved following their victory against Haven soured into fear-filled obedience. In earning their independence, the havari had traded a foreign tyrant for a domestic one, and every warrior brave enough to challenge Josairo to a frisaes and legally end his rule had thus far lost.
When Raveno ended his rule, it wouldn’t be legal. But he would win.
Until then, the weight of Raveno’s sins were his to bear or be crushed by. Which made confronting the horrific results of his own undercover operation insufferable, knowing his reputation would demand he deliver swift and harsh punishment when faced with his crew’s greatest incompetence to date: a human outside her room and tampering with the equipment in their control room, of all places.
Dellao and Tironan were asleep in their seats, and the woman, cry mercy, the woman was fierce as only a mother could be, all snapping eyes and straining muscles. Some people withered from the poison of oppression, but not her. She seemed fueled by it. She gritted her square teeth with determination. Her soft cheeks flushed a deep crimson from her efforts, and her scent—Raveno sealed shut his nostrils, cutting short that disturbing thought before it could fully form.
“Who do you work for?” Thev sa shek, a traitor on board Sa Vivsheth was the last thing he needed.
Her jaw fell slack. “Y-y-you speak English?”
“Obviously.” His English was rusty and not quite as good as his Mandarin, but still good enough for interrogation. “Who sent you?”
“I think we got off on the wrong foot.” She licked her lips, and deep indents on the corners of her mouth dipped into her cheeks. “My name is Kinsley Morales, but my friends call me Switch.”
He stared at her a moment. Had she just introduced herself? Didn’t she realize she was being interrogated? To death, if she didn’t cooperate.
Please, just cooperate.
“My mother named me after my paternal grandmother. An ‘apology’ name, I always said, because she’d named my sister in honor of her mother, which caused quite a stir on my father’s side of the family. But everyone’s ruffled feathers settled after she named me. The only time my presence had settled anyone’s feathers.” She ran out of air and inhaled a deep, trembling breath.
“What’s your name?”
Ah, he might have believed her composure if not for that tremble. She knew her predicament precisely and was attempting to save herself by appealing to his compassion.
The man he’d become to overthrow Josairo couldn’t afford compassion. “Did my brother recruit you with the promise of freedom? What are your orders?”
The woman flinched. A pained whine escaped her clenched teeth.
Svik, was he hurting her? Raveno loosened his hold, just in case. It might come to that, but not now and certainly not by mistake.
Yet, even beaten down, in pain, and defeated, the gleam of calculation sharpened the woman’s gaze.
Strong in mind if not in body, he thought warily, knowing the terrible efforts it took to break the strong of will. His own physical wound had long since healed, but the muscles of his residual limb often pained him as if his left calf still remained, twisted foot and all.
“Must I repeat the question?” he asked. If not Tironan, someone on board had released her.
The furry tuft above her right eye lifted. “How should I know if I know your brother if I don’t even know you?”
Ha! Fine. He spoke his full name and rank for her in traditional Hvrsil, just for the pleasure of matching her obstinacy with his.
“I…I’m not sure I can pronounce that,” she admitted.
“Considering the deficiencies in the form and function of your tongue, I expect not.”
She narrowed her eyes, clearly unsure if she should be insulted. “Do you have a nickname too? Something less, er, taxing on the vocal cords?”
“What do your friends call you?” she tried.
“I have no friends.”
“Something I can call you while I beg for mercy, then,” she snapped.
A laugh overtook him at that, as swift, unwanted, and jarring as a seizure. Oh, this woman was a little firework: all sparks and fierce light wedging lethally beneath his scales.
“When you beg for mercy, you may call me by the modern Haveo version of my name,” he relented. “Raveno Hoviir.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Raveno Hoviir.”
He was certain it wasn’t.