After the war, Chivaka is faced with an untenable choice. She could abandon her people, the half-dragons of House Reseda, to their self-destructive ways. She could kill her uncle Padric to prove herself to them, and challenge the current House head, Hale, for the position. Then, at least, she might be able to change their ways from the inside.

Or, she could continue to waffle, and watch what's left of her people slip away, regardless.

She's learning magic from the Red Glade healers, but that alone won't allow her to shape the world to be the way she wishes it was. Not this time.

It will take some unconventional ideas from a new friend, but there may be a way to save her uncle and her House, after all.

Irene's Favorite Things

Overall? It has to be Eben. I came out of writing The Red Glade Peacemakers really wanting to spend more time with Eben, and I loved being able to explore him further, and especially her queerness.

But there's also a few other scenes here that I just loved writing. They're so dramatic, so theatrical. There's a theatrical quality that runs through the Half-Dragon series that I find intoxicating. Some of my favorite examples are from this novella.

rating: mature (mature themes)

major relationship: f/nb

asexual character

ableism, eugenics, executions

cisnormativity, sex normativity

age difference

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As Chivaka passed by the new server room, she could hear that it was brimming with energy, humming with the compelling vibrations of people, electricity, and magic.

She poked her head into the room, and saw that Eben and a couple of the other Copper Eye half-dragons were busy at the keyboards. The other two were arguing with each other and with a couple of slightly worse-for-wear rubber ducks, but Eben was just humming to himself, wiggling a little as he typed.

He looked up as she stepped into the room, and smiled. He always seemed to know when she was around.

“Come to see how the database is coming?” he asked. “Hardware’s pretty impressive, but a lot of the work we’re putting in now, I guess you can’t really see.”

“No, I….” Chivaka wasn’t sure how to explain what she perceived here. “I feel the magic in what you’re doing. I’ve been around computers all my life, but it never occurred to me how magical it all is, what they do, until I started training in magic. Now, I know what magic feels like, and I know there’s power in what you’re doing.”

He laughed. “I’m not quite there yet myself, I guess,” he told her. “Still feels like I’m pouring a lot of myself into a little tiny box that never gets full.”

“It’s there,” she reassured him. “In there with the sparks of electricity and all those little tiny parts. They’re filling up with something amazing. It’s disconcerting, actually. All my life, magic has been forbidden for dragons and half-dragons, so we barely recognized the magic humans had created when it was under our noses. It’s so different from the old stories about magic, so different from what we’d been taught.”

Eben shrugged. “Magic’s just sitting down with the universe and having a little chat. Finding a way to make the fabric of reality sit up and listen. This has its own language, just like the old spells Isis knows, and the ones from the stories.”

“But this, it’s all so tiny and intricate. So controlled.”

Eben snorted with laughter. “Tell that to the rubber ducks,” he said.

“What?” Chivaka asked, frowning.

“Rui and Kalila are on the trail of a nasty bug in the database code, so stick around and you’ll see soon enough,” Eben said with a wild twinkle in his eye.

Chivaka just shook her head, not sure she wanted to know. “Anyhow, you know what I mean. It’s all so… focused. So many of the stories we hear about how spells were used in the old wars are about great big plumes of fire, enormous waves of water. They could do great things with it, but they couldn’t do this.

“I don’t think they really wanted to,” Eben replied. “Or didn’t imagine it was possible.”

“So do you think it’s possible?” Chivaka asked him. “Doing things like this with the dragon half of magic? Not just with earth and air, silicon and waves, but with water and fire? Building spells that cast themselves over and over, that react to whoever’s using them in complex ways, past that person’s ability as a caster? Do you think it’s possible to—to program fire?”

“I think so,” Eben replied, quiet and intense, hands stilled on the keyboard. “We locked ourselves away from magic when we signed the treaty, your people and mine. And for hundreds of years, humans took the world in their hands and put everything they had into shaping it.” The corner of his mouth quirked. “We’re just a little behind.”

“Do you think we could catch up? Do you think we could figure it out? Build something?”

Their eyes locked, and, oh, great Bahamut, when did he get so close, when had she stepped so close, because his chair hadn’t moved but here he was, close enough that she could see the little flecks of amber in his deep, dark brown eyes, and the hints of green glow under that.

She knew he wanted her. He’d said as much. But she didn’t….

Across the room, the muttered conversation turned to startled, angry swears, and a rubber duck flew through the air to smack against the wall with a squeak, a few new claw punctures in its cheery yellow surface.

Chivaka jumped, and tore herself away from the paralyzed… something she’d been trapped in. “I have to go,” she told Eben. She had to get away from his orbit, from the way he always pulled her closer, beckoned her towards the kind of relationship she was almost sure she didn’t want.

Almost sure.


There was so much that humans could do with their magic, their technology, and there was so much that Chivaka needed to do.

She needed to find the trick to speaking to her people, to the Movrekt, before they went any farther in their seeming quest to destroy themselves. They were part of the universe, right? So she should be able to find magic appropriate to the task.

The Movrekt were all half-dragons now—the last of their true dragon lords had died in the war—but they still held themselves above humans, above their own human sides. They’d listen better to something based in the Bahamutic elements of water and fire. But all she knew how to do with that now was flash and fear.

It served its purpose. It got their attention. But it couldn’t communicate anything real. It wouldn’t save the Movrekt from themselves.

It wouldn’t save the life of her uncle Padric.


But shock and awe had their purposes, and Chivaka had her duties.

It was time to gear up.

Chivaka West was small, feminine, pale-on-pale, and it would have been easy for her to appear soft. But today, she didn’t want that. Today was a leather jacket sort of day.

The ideal Movrekt half-dragon was ambitious, driven, prone to violence. Chivaka had been taught from her earliest childhood that dragons, and therefore half-dragons such as herself, were hunters by nature, and that humans were their natural prey.

Which was unutterably stupid, of course.

Chivaka had grown up in a Movrekt organization ruled by the late Lord Harkesh. She served the new Lady Harkesh now, and Lady Ezri Va Harkesh was an entirely different beast. With luck, the Movrekt would become a different beast as well.

Ezri was meeting with the other House lords today, and she’d need Chivaka there for protection. So Chivaka armored up. Jeans, long sleeves, shoulder holsters and the handguns that went in them, and finally, her leather jacket.

It always took her right back to the Movrekt mindset, right back to training, that heavy old leather jacket that had once been her mother’s. It wasn’t really any protection, practically speaking, but it made her feel ready to wade into the fray. Follow the beat of the war drums without question.

As competent and brave as Ezri was, she wasn’t familiar with the ways of the Movrekt, hadn’t been brainwashed with their ideals as a child.

It was bad for her survival, not to know when or how they’d strike at her next. But it was good, for someone trying to think outside the box, change the way the Movrekt worked.

Chivaka was loyal to Ezri and her family, the reborn House Harkesh, because they’d saved her from a vicious cycle, from the brutal assumptions of Movrekt philosophy.

She wanted to do the same for the rest of her people.

For her own House. For her uncle, Padric West. For him, in particular, she was running out of time.

The two women needed all the advantages they could get in appearing to be the ones in charge. Ezri’s command was all that was stopping the other Movrekt nobles from executing her uncle and the others like him, any Movrekt soldier that would never fully recover from injuries received in the recent war.

Ezri Va Harkesh was the rightful heir to House Harkesh, the First House. She was the closest living relative to Nash Harkesh, the Reaper, the pureblood dragon who had controlled the Movrekt organization for time immemorial.

But of course, it could hardly be that simple.

Nash’s old office was huge and cold and imposing, and Chivaka would always be a bit intimidated by it, by the thought of who had once occupied it. They used the space because it would have the same effect on any Movrekt soldier. But just as Chivaka did not allow that to cow her, neither did the most defiant of the nobles.

Destan Ael, of course, was chief among them. Even after Chivaka had shot him a few months ago, he continued to be one of their most vocal opponents. And today was proving no exception.

“Who are you to be head of House Harkesh?” he demanded. “Daughter to that pacifist traitor, Isis? She only married to weaken our ranks. To pull apart the Brothers Harkesh. And we will not let you do the same.”

He was big, blond, and imposing. Chivaka didn’t react.

Chivaka was Ezri’s second, her lieutenant, and part of her job was to stand between Ezri and all the vitriol that the riled-up lords of the old houses could hurl at the new head of House Harkesh, the First House.

This time last year, Chivaka had been little more than a foot soldier and an asset to her House. The most intimidating thing she could think of then was being asked to dance with Nash’s son, then-heir to House Harkesh.

Now she stood before an array of all the most hostile lords, and a handful of ladies, of the Movrekt houses, in front of the new head of the First House, defying them. Defying the conventions and traditions that had built the Movrekt.

“I am the daughter of one of the Brothers Harkesh,” Ezri said, cold and calm, “the Reaper’s niece, and more than that, I am the only person with the courage and initiative to step up, to fill the void that Nash and his children left behind.”

“Courage. Initiative. They don’t make you a Movrekt,” Destan spat. “No one as soft, as optimistic, as willfully ignorant as you could ever truly be the head of House Harkesh! And you won’t last long, you won’t keep your position as First House if you don’t cull the weaklings, as we always have! As Nash would have done!”

Chivaka checked her sidearms automatically as Destan took a step forward, found them ready and loaded as always.

Lady Albastru rolled her eyes. She clearly wasn’t entirely on board with Destan’s blustering. Good. Chivaka knew that House Albastru was a good prospect right now, in Ezri’s one-on-one negotiations. Ezri was eager to worm her way into business with House Albastru’s drug distribution networks as soon as possible.

The men in front of them hissed and yelled, but they only had the courage to speak like this when all of them stood together in a mob. When Ezri met them in the trailer that served as her own private office, they were more respectful. But they were also less honest about their intent.

Ezri needed to meet them here, on Movrekt ground, if she wanted to know what was bubbling under the surface. Who might act because their fellow nobles expected it of them.

Chivaka knew that they were walking a narrow line, striking a delicate balance. If they pushed too hard, the Movrekt nobles would lash out in defiance. But they were still riding the wave of Nash Harkesh’s reign of terror, and Nash would never have let disobedience go unremarked.

They’d been culling. No, that was too polite a word. They’d been killing. After the head of the First House, Ezri Va Harkesh, had expressly forbidden it.

“Your oh-so-respected Lord Nash ‘culled’ himself right out of any kind of real family,” Ezri reminded them. “He killed his own heir for a ‘weakness’ that was completely imagined.”

Frost began to form on the marble floor, creeping out towards the gathered lords. Some noticed it, eyeing it warily. Others did not. But then a breeze started up in the closed room, ruffling Chivaka’s straw-pale hair, chilling the audience, but leaving Ezri eerily still, the red sheen of her dark hair untouched.

Chivaka knew without looking behind her. She knew from the looks in the eyes of their audience. She could tell when Ezri’s eyes glowed red, when she bared her claws. The growl in the Lady Harkesh’s voice told that part of the story, too.

“You want to be strong? You want to be strong like the old House Harkesh? The old House Harkesh is broken. It is dead. House Harkesh now is me and mine. My mother, Isis of the Red Glade. Gabiya Natikan, the woman whose blade felled Lord Nash, the Reaper himself. Many of Nash’s servants and human contacts are loyal to us now, and for good reason. House Harkesh has at its command the power of the mages who broke and remade the world. There’s no going back. There’s only this question to answer. Do you stand with me, and the new House Harkesh? Or against us?”

The eyes of the collected lords widened.

“There will be no culling,” she told them. “No executions of loyal soldiers. You will stop this worthless practice, or you will face the wrath of my House Harkesh!”

Chivaka knew this was her cue. Without moving, except for a quiet breath as a focus, she reached for the fire. And it sprang up on the floor, chasing the places where the frost had crept, quick as lightning.

Ezri roared. “Go.”

They went. Destan, Lady Albastru and a few others kept their appearance of composure, walked instead of ran, but they all went.

It was a good show. It kept the Movrekt lords from challenging Ezri physically, while they were gathered in their strength like this. But it wouldn’t work every time, despite the little changes Ezri and Chivaka had made since the last time they used it. And it wouldn’t help them get what they ultimately wanted. They were on the defensive, and they knew it.

They needed to develop a plan for the long term.

As Chivaka watched Lady Albastru move, pick her way among the mass of the other frightened nobles, she remembered the time when she’d attended one of Nash Harkesh’s famous parties.

Last year. Had it really only been last year? So much had changed.

All the nobles had been there. No one had dared slight Nash by refusing his invitation. His son, Prince Mahkai, had asked Chivaka to dance. And an awkward, stilted thing that dance had been. But when Mahkai had left her, he’d snagged the arm of Aetwa Albastru, the daughter and heir of Lady Albastru.

The Movrekt, as a rule, were stilted and regimented as Chivaka had been. As she still was, in many ways. But she had seen in that dance that Aetwa and Mahkai were anything but.

Their dance had brought life to the whole ballroom. The other dancers on the floor had seemed to orbit them as if they were twin suns.

Some people described fighting as being like a dance, but that dance had been like a fight. Mahkai led, and he led well, but Aetwa’s gestured suggestions and raised eyebrows were like commands—or, Chivaka thought, they were dares.

As Chivaka watched the nobles leave, she fully realized that the Albastru family was led by the woman who had raised Aetwa to have that independent spirit. She was one half-dragon they needed to watch.

This whole operation was a dangerous prospect in need of careful handling, and they needed to be wary every moment, but some of the Movrekt lords were more dangerous than others, and Lady Albastru more dangerous than most.

Once the Movrekt lords had gone and the door was closed, Ezri activated the circles of wards she’d worked into the marble floor, and her shoulders slumped immediately.

Inside this circle, it was just them. Inside this circle, they were Red Glade, part of the peace-loving but fierce group of healers in which Ezri had been raised, or maybe they were Darkhan, like Eben and the other half-dragons they lived with sometimes in the nearby compound, or they were independent and free. They were whoever they wanted to be, without the Movrekt lords breathing down their necks. The war drums were silent.

Chivaka rubbed at her shoulders through her jacket. It always itched a little, coming out of that paranoid, violence-driven skin she wore when she was Movrekt, when she was Lady Harkesh’s second.

But then, she hardly knew who she was without all that. Inside the circle, it was still. It was a place between places, a time between times. Chivaka could be anything she wanted, but she had very little idea what she wanted to be, by herself, for herself.

What she knew was out there, was the mission. They must change the way the Movrekt worked in order to save them. If it took taking over the whole organization piece by piece, then they would do that. But that would take time that many Movrekt soldiers did not have.

Lady Albastru could be an asset to them, or a serious problem. She had the power, the force of personality, to do what she pleased in her own house, and, Chivaka thought, to take over the whole of the Movrekt, if she’d had a mind to. But she hadn’t, so she must want something else.

“Talk to Lady Albastru,” Chivaka told Ezri. “If you can find out what she wants and give her enough of it, I’m almost sure she’ll work with you.”

“I’ll do that,” Ezri agreed. “Chivaka. I’m sorry we haven’t gotten what you wanted out of this whole endeavor yet. We know they’re still killing their own, and I don’t know that we’ll be able to stop them any time soon. The only thing I can think to do for those people is to work faster at what’s working. Gain more influence, more power.”

Ezri Va Harkesh was a woman who seemed to be fashioned out of darkness and strength when she stood before the Movrekt, skin the color of mahogany and just as finely sculpted, clothes by habit in rich dark reds and purples, tailored not to hide the lines of her body, but to reveal the wiry muscles and the hard stances, the way everything about her said “predator.” The only touches of light color were the whites of eyes, teeth, and claws.

It was so different from the way her mother, Isis Va, wore the same features—calm, regal, and knowing. In many ways, that loud-broadcast viciousness was an act. But it wouldn’t have fooled the Movrekt lords if it weren’t also true.

Chivaka was one of the trusted few who got to see Ezri like this, in moments where she stopped to let herself feel, let herself care, let herself be soft.

“I know you’re doing what you can,” Chivaka reassured. “You just get Lady Albastru on board. We’ll get there.”

“And meanwhile your people die. I’m sorry about Lira.”

Lira Viresca had been a good and faithful soldier. She’d fought to her last, or so she’d thought, but she’d woken up to find that a brain injury had left her without her hearing.

Ezri and her mother had worked hard to save her life, make sure that was all she lost. But it was not to be.

“I’m sorry, too,” Chivaka told her. “I can’t imagine how hard it must be to spend so much time working to heal someone just to watch them throw it all away.”

“Pah!” Ezri spat. “Made me wish I’d never trained as a healer.”

“No,” Chivaka objected.

“No,” Ezri agreed. “No, I’m glad to be able to help, when people let me.”

Awkwardly, Chivaka laid a hand on the shoulder of the young Lady Harkesh.

“We do all we can,” Chivaka assured her.

“Well, sometimes it’s not enough.”

It wasn’t. It really wasn’t. There were people who they were not going to be able to save.

“They’re not going to stop, are they?” Chivaka asked Ezri, watching the other woman’s bowed head and defeated stance. “The Movrekt lords won’t stop killing their own until we force their hand.”

Ezri shook her head slowly. “Not in any future that I can see,” she admitted with a dark laugh. “This goes against everything I’ve been taught to believe, as a Red Glade healer. We accept people as they are. We work to save them. We try our best to teach them how to live in harmony. We don’t scare them into acting the way we want.” She laughed again, a little bitterly. “Although I have to admit that it’s a tactic I’m pretty familiar with myself.”

“It’s how Nash ruled, for a long time,” Chivaka said. “But it doesn’t last forever. Nash fell. You will, too, and soon, unless we find better tactics. Find a way to shift the tides.”

Ezri groaned, rubbing her temples. “My mother warned me this wouldn’t work,” she gritted out. “And of course I still put myself smack in the middle of it, and dragged you in, too. I’m sorry for that.”

“No,” said Chivaka. “Don’t be. This is right where I want to be. In the middle of the mess that is the Movrekt. But in a position to do something about it. We just have to find an approach.”

As much as she hated what they had learned to be, the Movrekt would always be Chivaka’s people on some level.

The Red Glade had rescued her, had freed her from that, without ever making it seem like her bonds to the Movrekt were unimportant.

The Movrekt had trained her as a fighter and sent her out to fight, but they’d taught her to value respect, power, positions and deals between families. Set her to strive for power and jockey for position.

Following orders was not the way to the top, the Red Glade had taught her that. The way to the top was seizing your opportunities, learning from your mistakes, not being afraid to take risks.

And respect for respect, and kindness for kindness. But that didn’t apply, when dealing with the other great houses of the Movrekt.

Not yet, at least. But they had a long way to go.

They got into Ezri’s truck and made their way back to the old Darkhan compound. They didn’t always sleep there—the trailer was serviceable enough for that—but in the past year, they’d both learned to call the compound home, in one way or another.

Isis Va lived there. Ezri’s mother, the founder of the Red Glade, had, unthinkably, finally settled down, built a home that didn’t have wheels.

She wasn’t retired or anything, not by a long shot, and both women knew her well enough not to go looking for her in the tiny house that she and her new wife and adopted child shared, back in the woods surrounding the compound. No, at this time of day, she’d be in the old mansion. Probably with the baby strapped to her back, neck deep in her manuscripts.

The place was bustling. Before the war, the Darkhnit said, it had been nearly abandoned, since it was too big for any one family in the compound, but too public to serve as one of their meeting places for secret dragon business. With the war, they’d needed somewhere to serve as a hospital, a base of operations, a home for visiting Darkhan and Red Glade half-dragons. And that had never really stopped.

For the past few days, it had been swarming with Copper Eye dragons, who seemed to be all color and energy, filling the space with Eben in his graphic tees doing an impromptu dance, or Rui digging in her Hello Kitty backpack for whatever fidget toy she craved at the moment. They were an eclectic bunch, gathered to the Silver Horn compound from their homes dispersed throughout the country in order to build a server farm in the mansion, and use it to host a database of the combined magical knowledge of Isis and the other Red Glade healers.

“Passworded, of course,” Eben Keth told them. “I know Isis wants to get this knowledge out there. But I don’t think we’re ready for the Movrekt to have access to it yet.”

Chivaka snorted at that thought. “I don’t even want to know what the Houses would think of to do with all that power,” she said, shaking her head. “We’d have war all over again, more than likely.”

“No,” Ezri agreed. “We’re not ready. And even you folks having access to it all… it’s scary. We’re used to all this being Red Glade knowledge, Red Glade secrets. Putting it all out there for the Darkhnit? It’s going to change the world, again.”

“And we’re all itching to do something with it. Something the world has never seen. The Movrekt spent all those years keeping track of the Silver Horn, watching the Darkhan warrior tradition stagnate. But us? We weren’t sitting still to be kept track of. We were changing, learning. Getting ready.” Eben waggled his eyebrows. “Copper Eye is the sleeping dragon they would have done better not to tickle.”

Ezri snorted. “You’re also enormous nerds.

“Hey, you got the reference,” Eben retorted. “That puts you firmly in the ranks of us nerds.”

Chivaka shook her head. “I grew up in London in the aughts,” she told them. “From my perspective, knowing Harry Potter isn’t a nerd thing. It’s a cultural requirement.”

Eben looked at her with glee sparkling in his eyes, but then those eyes went soft, his eyebrows up and just barely drawn together in the middle of his forehead, the barest hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth.

She shivered. Hot and cold. Her fingers twitched inward, and she wished suddenly that she were still wearing her heavy old leather jacket. She didn’t know whether she wanted to run or step closer.

It was so strange. Chivaka was rock steady with a gun pointed at her face, but Eben felt more dangerous to her for all his complete lack of malice.

She was used to cold. She expected cold. First her mother, then her grandfather. All hard expectations and hard lessons. War drums. The command to march.

The Movrekt were cold enough that to survive, you couldn’t care. You couldn’t feel. But here everything was warm and welcoming, and things mattered a frightening amount.

She mattered to Eben, and that frightened her. So did the fact that this dance he wanted to draw her into, she had no idea what the steps were, or where it led.

“How did things go today?” Isis asked, wandering into the server room to interrupt. Chivaka was glad of it. It shook her out of her stupor.

Ezri shook her head. “Not good. We had to use another of our flashy exits. And I know they have an expiration date.”

“I don’t know if we can get through to them,” Chivaka told her. “But I know I want to keep trying. I’m just not sure what to try next.”

Ezri made a frustrated noise. “I just want to shake them and make them see. I just want to fix them. But I know that’s not possible.”

“No, honey, it’s not.” Isis rubbed her older daughter’s shoulder. “And you’re so brave for trying. I know I tried to stop you both from taking this on, but every day I get closer to believing you can do it.”

“They’re going to kill them all,” Ezri said in a small voice, a voice Chivaka only ever heard out of her in the presence of her mother. “All of the soldiers who fought for them, lost part of themselves for the ‘glory’ of the Movrekt. Like having gambled and lost makes them less. Like being hurt makes them less.”

Ezri’s (sort-of) boyfriend was blind. Injured in the same war as all the Movrekt soldiers they were trying to save. Khislon was one of the best fighters to come out of the Silver Horn compound. He was a hero. But on the other side, among the Movrekt, that injury would have made him a liability, a lost cause.

There’d been executions during the war, of course. Some, probably even the Red Glade healers would have agreed that they were mercy killings. Lady Harkesh’s proclamations had slowed down the timetable for the rest of the injured. But it hadn’t stopped the killing, not entirely.

“I’ve been visiting the patients the Red Glade treated,” Chivaka reminded them, “and some of them are showing signs of coming around to our way of thinking, but that only makes them more vulnerable to the others. Weaker in the eyes of the old guard. If the Movrekt heads of houses realize they’re liabilities in that way as well, it will give them all the more reason to strike.”

Ezri nodded. “I’ve been hearing some things through the network of Movrekt servants we have ties with. I think they’ll strike the hospital soon.” Her expression was bleak.

The servants of the Movrekt houses all talked to each other, gossiped and told stories, like some kind of secret underground society buried beneath another secret underground society. That network had opened itself up to the leaders of the reborn House Harkesh once it was made clear that Ezri and the others respected the servants as equals, the way no other Movrekt nobles had.

The information was good, and it came quickly. When Lira Viresca had disappeared from the hospital, having hinted that she would turn herself in, would rather die than live in hiding, they learned her fate. They learned she’d been beheaded. As an example.

Chivaka had to offer what she could. “Just tell me what you need me to do. I’m your second, remember?”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Ezri said. “You could take hold of more of that power yourself, you know. You know the culture better than I do.”

“Yes, I do, in some ways. And you may frighten them, but the power you have over them is fleeting. They wouldn’t respect you as much if I appeared to have independence. I need to follow your lead.”

“Or at least appear to,” Ezri said with a raised eyebrow, and then a devious smile.


“They need to believe that anything you do is my idea. So here’s carte blanche: it is. Go do your thing.”

Chivaka blinked for a full minute, before she could absorb the implications of that. She spoke for Ezri. She acted for Ezri. For the head of House Harkesh.

Her head lifted in pride, that Ezri trusted her so much. But she felt lost, as well. Confused.

Before her stood a void, an empty silence that begged to be filled with her voice. But what would she say? Who was she?

Movrekt. But what did that mean now?

Where on Bahamut’s earth was she meant to begin?


Chivaka knew how the Movrekt worked now. How they’d worked for centuries before Chivaka had even been born. But there was a yawning chasm between that and the vague and distant future she could almost picture for them. And she was not yet standing in the right place to even begin to bridge that gap.

She knew the major players in the Movrekt organization, she knew where many of their business interests lay, thanks to a very secret black book that had come into Ezri’s possession. But to move them, she would need them to owe her something. She’d been a foot soldier, no standing in the business. No one owed her anything. Except, perhaps, her uncle Padric.

And he was among the wounded. He’d lost a hand, his right.

With that, he’d lost so much of what mattered to him, and every time Chivaka visited him, she worried that she was watching her only remaining family slip away. Being able-bodied, being a soldier like any other, was so important in the Movrekt.

He should have been in no position to negotiate, either. But House Reseda was in almost as much disarray as House Harkesh. Her grandfather, Tanot, had been head of house, before he’d pushed too hard in battle, his lieutenant had betrayed him, and the whole power structure had fallen like a house of cards.

House Reseda had been a small house scrambling for position, only having become a major power in organized crime in Europe in the last decade or so. Before the war, one of their greatest assets for alliance with American houses had been Chivaka herself. And if she knew anything, she knew that her body was not something she was willing to trade away in this game.

But, if she could get Padric on her side, she might be able to gain some foothold in House Reseda, with all of its connections. And that would be a start.

Would it be worthwhile, though? She did not want to be a part of what the remains of House Reseda had become.

Chivaka wanted her family back, she wanted to be part of House Reseda again, but she hesitated to be part of House Reseda unless the House operated on her terms. She’d learned so much; her principles were radically altered. Although she admired Hale for standing up for his men against his commanding officer, her grandfather, when it came to humans, he was no better than his predecessor had been. And when it came to the culling, he was worse.

Just in practical terms, House Reseda specialized in the money laundering side of the Movrekt’s criminal operations. Influencing that meant gaining influence over the other Houses. They could choose which houses they did business with, and either encourage or punish those who had been disobeying Lady Harkesh.

There was a lot at stake.

She didn’t know what she was doing, but all she could do was begin.

She went to the hospital where the Red Glade had collected all the permanently injured Movrekt soldiers they could find, first to heal them, then to keep them prisoner, and ultimately it had become a kind of protective custody. It was a grey area for the Red Glade, who generally didn’t get involved in Movrekt affairs, and their interest in protecting people who didn’t want to be protected was waning. They helped those who asked for help.

Her uncle was there, reading a book, trying to look cool and above it all despite the bandaged stump of his right arm and the subtle lines of pain she could see in his face.

“Uncle Padric,” she greeted, warm, but not too warm. He was old Movrekt. It wouldn’t do.

“Yes, my dear?” he asked. His accent always transported her, to England, where they’d both lived on and off for most of her life.

Chivaka sat in front of him, fixing him with her eyes, not indulging in any further pleasantries. “I want to talk about the future of House Reseda,” she said.

“If you’re asking me what I think, then I think neither one of us is going to be able to do much to change the future of House Reseda.” He eyed her thoughtfully. “The war has changed us both too much.”

She shook her head. “I don’t accept that.” She took a breath, and told him what she’d concluded. “I need to gain control of the House.”

Padric raised his eyebrows. “Well, you’ve gone and aligned yourself with the Red Glade,” he pointed out. “Learned their ways, their mysteries. Become one of them. Don’t think I’m not grateful, because I am. You, the Red Glade, you saved dragonkind. You’re the only reason I’m alive right now. But then again, am I?” He shrugged, in a way that brought attention to his stump of a wrist.

“Yes, you are,” she insisted. “You have to believe that, or we’re not gonna get anywhere.”

Padric scoffed. “You think believing in yourself will save you? Sounds like exactly the Red Glade’s kind of brainwashing. And a Red Glade healer, no matter how determined, will never really be able to take over a Movrekt house.”

He meant Ezri, she knew, as much as he meant her.

He disrespected Ezri. He disrespected her place as head of House Harkesh.

That spurred Chivaka’s anger, but she had no trouble channeling it into indignance on her own behalf, as well. Her eyes glowed vividly purple. “I am not here as a Red Glade healer,” she said coldly. “Taking what the Red Glade offers in knowledge, in power, that in no way stops me from being Movrekt. Not your niece, and certainly not the Reaper’s.”

Her uncle looked at her skeptically. “She does have the heads of houses spooked, for now. She’s got her uncle’s ferocity, his temper. But until she proves herself cold-blooded and ruthless in actions as well, until she kills for the position, they won’t respect her. The same is true of you.”

Chivaka hissed through her teeth. “I don’t want to be a Movrekt head of house, if that’s what it means.”

“Then don’t be a Movrekt head of house.”

She glared at him. That very practical suggestion, with its implication that she should give up her ambition if she wasn’t willing to sacrifice her principles, just made her all the more determined to prove him wrong. To prove all of them wrong.

She needed House Reseda. She needed him. She channeled that need into confidence.

“Padric West. I am Movrekt. I am Lady Harkesh’s second in command. I outrank you. I am what the Movrekt are now. You are the soldier I want. Will you grant me that I am your commander, and therefore head of a viable faction of House Reseda, or do I need to start a new House on my own?” Her tone softened fractionally. “You are my last family, Uncle Padric. I will not lose you to this.”

Padric smoothed his thumb over the cover of his book, something old and leather-bound, but distinctly human. “It’s not what your grandfather would have wanted,” he mused.

She growled, deep in her throat. “I don’t give a flying fuck what Tanot would have wanted. He wanted me married to Prince Mahkai and breeding like a cow. He thought it was the only way to tie House Reseda to House Harkesh. But now I am firmly tied to the head of House Harkesh by my own means, and Tanot Reseda is dead. So are you with me, or not?”

Padric was silent, contemplating her, but she waited for an answer. Finally he said, “You’re different.”

“You’re damn right I’m different. I helped take apart the world, and now I’m going to put it back together the best way I know how.”

Her uncle let himself look tired, then, dropping some of the pretense of cold composure. “They won’t listen to me, if that’s what you’re asking for. My voice will do you no good.”

“Have you tried?” she asked.

He opened his mouth, then closed it again, looking pained. The expression of affection, of concern, was one she had never seen on him, but it looked very much as it had on her father, his brother, before he’d died.

It had been a long time.

“Chivvie, darling,” he told her gently, “I’m in here with the others for a reason; they’ve written me off. Without both hands, I’m as good as dead to them, you know that. Even if, by some quirk or miracle, they let me live? They won’t take my advice. They won’t see me as fit to pass on the title.”

He feared for his life. He was practiced at hiding it, but he showed it to her now. He wouldn’t budge on this. And, remembering what had become of Lira, she really did understand.

She’d simply never before seen her uncle as an equal, rather than a better. Even when demanding his allegiance. That had been a search for leverage among those superior to her. But no. She fully realized now that if she wanted to change the Movrekt, if she wanted to lead House Reseda, she would need to know that the power she had access to was the power that rested in her own hands. No greater power would bend to her will. All she could do was increase her own.

She took a deep breath, let it out in a sigh. “Fine, then,” she said. “How might the title pass? Who does Hale fear?”

“The way things stand? Anyone willing to fight him for it. His grasp is the strongest, but still not strong. He fears you, yes, in many ways. You have a strong claim. Your grandfather was grooming you for a high position in the family. Hale would try to put you in as a puppet if he thought he could pull it off. But you aligned yourself with the Red Glade before you aligned yourself with the reborn House Harkesh. They know you won’t follow their lead. They know you have outside interests. And you haven’t been fighting for control of the House, not actively. As Tanot’s second, Hale has a claim on that basis—you haven’t been there, and he has.” Her uncle gave her a long, penetrating look. “If you want House Reseda, don’t let that go. That’s your place, by our traditions, if you can take it back, if you can defend it. You can, Chivvie, I know you can.” Padric’s voice had gone pleading. “You are as good a Movrekt soldier as any of them. You’re a sharpshooter, and a scout, and a commander. You have the tools you need. My advice to you? Show them you’re still a Movrekt. Kill him, and me.”

He gestured to his chest, posture open and waiting. His expression was so earnest. He would have her take his life right now. He sat ready to be stabbed in the heart. For her life, for her ambition, for her place in the House, he would gladly see his life taken away by her hand. He asked her to lead House Reseda. He asked that it be her that killed him.

Chivaka’s face set, determined. “I won’t.” She wanted House Reseda to save her uncle and the others. To save the Movrekt from such senseless traditions. Without that, it was a senseless goal. She would never kill them to get there.

Her uncle shook his head, disappointed, but resigned to that answer. “Then you won’t truly be head of House Reseda.”

She needed House Reseda. She needed to save him. She needed to save her people from themselves.

“I’ll find a way.”

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Full Book List

The Half-Dragon Series

The Red Glade Peacemakers

The Movrekt Warmongers

How to Train Your Mafia

Other Books



The Grafting Mark



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