These books just get way more complicated as the series goes along. Seriously, do not start with either of these.
AND I REALLY FUCKING MEANT IT ABOUT SPOILERS.
First, everyone arrives on Lytaxin. As a result of shenanigans instigated by the Commander of Agents, Lytaxin is recovering from a barely unsuccessful coup attempt. Clan Erob, long time allies of Korval who have a Tree of their very own, is winding down the merc operation when Miri and Val Con arrive in the ship they stole from the (deceased) Agent of Change sent to retrieve them from Vandar. There are some Gyrfalks on planet, altho the main group of mercs has left. Miri is Seen by Delm Erob and there is a big party that Miri and Val Con don't enjoy but at least they get to sleep in a bed with aphrodisiac flowers after (LIKE THOSE TWO NEED APHORODISIACS).
Alas, some ambitious Yxtrang sort of saw the coup and figured now would be a good time to take a planet away from Liad. They show up with a battleship and a bunch of other ships and Troops and so forth, including some disgraced Explorers (= Yxtrang Scouts), including, YEAH THEY WENT THERE the one captured so long ago by Val Con and then turned loose. That guy recognizes Val Con's ship and speaks out of turn (guess what, a big deal among these nut jobs) to say hey, that ship is super dangerous deal with it pronto, in the middle of Captain's Mast (they don't call it that, but that is what it is). He gets into several shades of additional disgrace and is dumped on planet to scout and, duh, be captured AGAIN by Liaden. Meanwhile, Val Con's ship fires back when attacked and does some damage to the battleship and a lot more to some other ships.
Meanwhile, Shan has worked out the meaning of the location that Val Con would like to meet, and arrives in system. Alas, on the way, they discover that one of the weaponified additions to Dutiful Passage has been sabotaged extensively. They figure out a way to get it separated from the ship in jump, but upon arrival, some damage occurs to Dutiful Passage which must be repaired. While Shan is working on that, they are attacked by still more Yxtrang ships ("fleas") and Shan separates and goes down to the planet to meet his brother.
So, to recap: on Lytaxin so far are Shan, Val Con, Miri, Beautiful (the aforementioned Explorer whom they turn and he becomes an armsman -- they don't call him that, but that is what he is), Jason (with the Gyrfalks). But that's not nearly enough for a party!
First, the Yxtrang must be dealt with, which involves clever things like Shan, Beautiful and Val Con stealing some airplanes from the Yxtrang and them doing a bunch of damage with them and retaking the airfield along the way. While this is all going on, one jump out from Lytaxin, people have figured out there is an attack in progress, triggering every merc in existence to go rescue the mercs stuck on planet. Nova, attempting to track down Val Con and Miri, finds Liz Lizardi, hires her, and they go to hire mercs and run into all this activity and hook up with Suzuki.
But that's not nearly enough for a party!
Ren Zel, up on Dutiful Passage, tho clanless, becomes First Mate when Priscilla becomes Captain because they are short handed as a result of Plan B. Ren Zel is having weird dreams involving Merlin (he doesn't realize it is Merlin -- HEY LOOK THE WITCH HAS A FAMILIAR!). Merlin gets Ren Zel and Anthora to hook up (BEST FAMILIAR EVER!), and Anthora registers Ren Zel as lifemate and thus he is no longer clanless. Guess how Nova feels about this when she realizes that Shan and Anthora have now both announced lifemates. Any hope of dealing with the complex politics on Liad itself have basically been completely torpedoed -- which at this point in the series you should start to be thinking was maybe authorial intention.
Do we have enough for a party?
The Yxtrang decide to leave, turtles arrive, also Jen Sar Kiladi aka Daav arrives with Clonak (NOT DEAD) and Shadia (ALSO NOT DEAD).
But we have big suspense because in the course of the climatic ending of one novel, Val Con was turned into neurotoxined hamburger, and the med techs are making a real hash of him with the autodoc because they have suppressed the cerebral manifestations of the lifemate bridge. (REALLY IT IS LIKE PEOPLE IN THIS UNIVERSE ARE IDIOTS.) Turtles to the rescue.
WE NOW HAVE ENOUGH FOR A PARTY!!! Big reunion scene. Awkward! Also, interrupted by the party of Agents of Change sent to retrieve Val Con and/or Miri. Agents dead. Ship has an oops and reunion continues.
MEANWHILE, the Department of the Interior commissions a fake ring (perfect emeralds. Ooops.) which they offer to Pat Rin saying his whole family is dead. They fail to mention the kids and obvs the ring is fake, but Pat Rin still decides they might be telling the truth so he offs them, hooks up with a Juntavas Sector Judge who is super hot and they all take off for Surebleak to build a base of operations suitable for using to effect Balance against the Department of the Interior. Pat Rin/Conrad sets up as a fatcat, becomes fatcat of fatcats, finally becomes a pilot, goes off to retrieve a bunch of mothballed Korval ships, and comes back to an attack by the Department of the Interior in Surebleak space. Bam bam bam, Pat Rin/Conrad is a Hero and they all head off to Liad.
BECAUSE PARTY TIME!
Everyone goes to Liad. I mean everyone. Turtles. Korval. Pat Rin. Mercs. You name them, they all leave Lytaxin or wherever they have been and go to Liad, where Anthora is having her own troubles with the Department and the Council of Clans and all the tools brought along get used, including those mining ships that were mothballed.
In the end, not too unexpectedly, Liad decides that Korval is a lot of trouble, terminates the contract and tells them to leave. Which they are ALL TOO HAPPY TO DO.
Lots of fun scenes. All the backstory is important (and I suspect I'm missing some backstory, because I haven't read the Kiladi books). Tons of narrative momentum. Again, don't start here, but arriving at the end of _I Dare_ is pretty amazing.