After This Story from earlier today, which read first, because Au.
She did not want to be here, sitting in Cya Red Doomsday’s office like a petitioner. But Luke was in danger, and Regine would not have it said that she did not value her crew.
Michael was with her. She didn’t know how Linden-Blossom felt about this, but she knew that the Daeva loved Luke, and she knew that she would not walk alone into the den of her enemy if she could avoid it.
“Lady of the Lake. Sa’Linden Blossom.” Cya bowed politely to both of them.
“Jae’Red Doomsday.” Regine was not in the mood for games. “I will meet with Luca before we discuss
“No. You won’t.” The woman leaned forward, hands on her desk. “We meet and sign an agreement first.”
“I don’t think you understand your position–“
“My position?” Cya raised her eyebrows. “I have Leo, Leo has an army, and we hold the northwest. I have twenty Addergoole grads, in addition to Boom, all of them 11th Cohort or older, who have plenty of reason to hate you and more reason to be fond of me. Possibly of more relevance to you, I have Luke in a hawthorn cell. What’s your position, Director?”
“You will let us meet with Luca before this meeting continues!”
“No. I won’t. And if you continue to push the issue, you’re going to be leaving here without discussing anything.”
“Regine.” Michael cut in with a quiet, diplomatic tone. “She has the cards here.”
Regine sighed. “Very well.”
“I will, however, allow you to speak to him.” She pulled an ancient phone out of her desk and dialed a number. “Put him on.” A moment later, she continued, “sa’Hunting Hawk? Please hold for the Lady of the Lake.”
She pushed a button, putting the phone on speaker. Regine glowered at the indignity of it, but Michael had a point. “Luca?”
“‘Gene?” Luca sounded tired and strained.
“Luca, we’re going to get you out of there. Is everything all right?”
“It’s not the Hilton. But they’re not treating me poorly. Regine… don’t goad her.”
“Too late,” Michael murmured. Regine ignored him.
“I… I won’t, Luca.”
“And don’t let her goad you.”
“Too late,” Michael repeated.
Luca sighed. “Regine… just be careful, all right.”
“So.” Cya leaned forward over her desk. “These are my terms. sa’Hunting Hawk serves the same as anyone else who attacks me and mine: one year under the collar. All three of you swear oaths never to attack my city or my people again.”
“Preposterous!” Regine sputtered.
“Or,” and here Cya smiled, a slow and humorless expression, “you release sa’Hunting Hawk from any and all oaths he has sworn to you, and he pays the fine for his attack on his own. That would be more than a year, of course, because I, Director Avonmorea, am not an idiot.”
Regine raised her eyebrows. “Out of the question.”
“Then I suppose you don’t want him back too badly, do you?” Cya looked amused. Regine wanted to banish that expression from her face. “There are other ways, of course, but here I thought you’d be open to reason.”
The nerve…! Regine quirked her eyebrows at Cya. “You ask for quite a bit when you have an army at our door.”
“Technically, it’s at my door, at least at the moment. And no. The point isn’t the army. The point is that your man attacked my man and, well, that can’t stand. So. Release him and let him pay the penalty, or sign off on the whole not-attacking-us thing and let him pay the penalty.”
Regine stared at her. “You don’t seriously think–“
“Regine,” Luca cut her off, “just do it.”
Next: White Knight
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