" Lyena," Diurn greeted, bitterness readily evident in his scratchy voice.

Nova sat down, not yet speaking.

" I see you've crawled in not only with rats, but with birds," Diurn continued. " How disgraceful."

" I go where I will," Nova said, not showing any give.

" Redlin has called you in for that monster, has he?" Diurn asked.

" I was under the impression you've falsely imprisoned yet another little underage girl," Nova responded coldly.

" Whatever this is, I wouldn't consider it a little girl," Diurn said.

" I've no time to argue with you," Nova said. " I told Brother I'd pardon her for his family's sake. And the Commodore General formally requested her licensure. I would like you to agree to this nicely."

" And if I don't? You're quite far away, aren't you? All the way on Noahl..." Diurn's voice trailed off, threat following.

" And if you don't, I'll just send Kaama over to kill you," Nova stated, setting his head on his hand, elbow on the table. Redlin gave him a bit of a look, but he dismissed it. " He could get there within about half a day."

Diurn was visibly angered by this.

" Always sending your rotten conquests after me," he hissed. " Come fight me yourself, you whore of a coward."

" Perhaps I should," Nova replied, riled. " Did I not tell you last time we met I'd cut out your tongue if you spoke such perverted slander around me again?"

" I don't recall speaking anything but the truth," Diurn said, venom now overflowing.

Nova stood.

" Cut off the call, I need to contact my estate," he said harshly.

At this, as Redlin hesitated, Diurn seemed to change his tune.

" Don't," he sharply commanded, give already showing in his demeanor. " I'll sign your goddamned pardon. But next time you're back in the empire, I'll kill you on sight."

" Then Kaama'll be on the way to receive her from your prison," Nova said, dipping his head. He did not say anything more; the screen flickered and shut off from Diurn's end.

Redlin was quiet, and still giving him that look, like he didn't know who he was. Worse than that. It was the look he used to get when people spoke about that.

It burnt in the back of Nova's throat like acid.

Redlin had noticed that soft look he'd given William.

Redlin had heard Diurn call him a whore.

It made him sick, but he tried not to betray it in his expression, instead walking out without another word.