Auberon was published after the eighth book, but it takes place right after book seven, when Duarte’s empire is just getting started. The Laconians have installed a brand new Governor on Auberon, one of the many colonized worlds of the gate system that will be instrumental in feeding the empire, and he’s our main POV here. But Auberon won’t just lie down and accept Laconian rule. They may not have fought any battles, but the criminal underbelly that’s been running things until now is not giving up their power.
What results is the two sides, Governor and criminal, attempting to work at each other through non-violent means. Governor Rittenaur thinks he can get the lay of the land, and then start taking control gradually. Erich (who I think was from The Churn?) declines to assassinate Rittenaur, knowing that Laconia will just send a replacement. Instead, he decides to find a different way to get what he wants.
It was interesting to see such polar opposites clash like this. Laconia is all about rigid control and discipline, taken to an unhelpful totalitarian end, whereas Auberon is a planet full of graft and chaos. What will come out the other side when they’re done?