"OK, so we're ... underground," said Lorden slowly.

"Of course," said Ceridwen.

"Why?" he said, somewhat stupidly.

"Why do you think?" she said coldly, as if it was an obvious answer. "We're underground because every single Unbeliever is jealous! It's jealousy, not fear, that fuels the King's crackdown on magic. He wants magic for himself and his skivvies, and he hates the idea that members of his constituency are more powerful than him. And then when you -" she pointed dramatically at Lorden, as if she was uttering a malediction "- go and blow up half a street and kill two CTOs in the process, that's exactly the publicity we need! You realise that one of the biggest manhunts in Dartoc-6 is happening right over our heads! If it wasn't for us, mate, you'd be busted and away with the fairies. And it wouldn't have been a nice way to pop your clogs, I'll say."

"Well, maybe I didn't need help rescuing!" Lorden retorted defiantly. "I had everything under control. If you hadn't noticed, I'd already -"

"Don't you dare," snapped Ceridwen dangerously. "If it hadn't been for my hitmen you would be dead."

"No, I wouldn't, I've avoid-"

"- and I think you're forgetting where you are. You're locked in a Medroom, a hundred feet under D6, and there's no escape without my say-so. I think it's in your best interests to help us."

"You can't make me -"

"- and surely that is what you want? A city where you can walk free, using your magic for good without the Unbelievers cawing that you're an inbred bastard born in a bin? You've no idea how much I want that ... and how much you know you want that ..."

Lorden fell silent in deep thought. He had never submitted to the will of someone else, as if they were a superior, and had promised himself that he never would, as long as he lived - but Ceridwen was right - that was indeed what he wanted. And it wasn't as if he was scared, either - the only thing he was worried about was the sporadic, devastating nature of his magic ... he needed to get that under control ... and if he was entirely honest with himself, he wouldn't mind staying with this feisty, beautiful woman at all, in fact -

"Alright," he said curtly. "I'll help you."

"Then shake," said Ceridwen, holding out a strangely callused hand.

Lorden shook without hesitation. He didn't know what that would mean to him, or what fate awaited him, but it must surely be better than what he was leaving behind.

The End

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