"Who is Oakstaff?" said Lorden, trying to sound indifferent.
"He's a professor," said Ceridwen coolly, as they headed towards the concealed entrance to the Underworld.
"Psychology. He was working in a Medblock with people who everyone thought mental."
"I wondered why he's off his rocker."
"He's not off his rocker, he's one of the cleverest people in D6," Ceridwen snapped. "And the patients he worked with weren't mental, they were magical."
"Since when did the Authorites help magicians?"
"Before I was born, everyone thought magic was some sort of mental disorder. First there were five or six, then more, and then eventually the Medblock got so full the King's skivvies decided to do some poking."
"You know what I mean, don't be so dirty-minded," Ceridwen said coldly. "They investigated what it was that people kept coming down with."
"And what did they find out?"
"Nothing. They couldn't explain it."
"So they kicked everyone out?"
"Because magic isn't something science can explain. There ain't no neutron theory or quantum physics that can tell all those square-eyed, top heavy quacks why magic is - it just is. So to keep their ordered laws of motion in check they decided to kick out anything that was irrational."
"And it worked?"
"Up until a certain point, yeah. But then the maggots decided to fight back."
"Short for magicians. Don't know who made it up - do I look like a maggot to you? Nah - it was some racist Overlander who made it up, probably. But everyone uses it now. 'Maggot and proud!' " She actually laughed. "But anyway, they couldn't control magic in the end so they started killing its users. That scared people. Now, all the maggots live underground so they can live their lives in peace. They feel shut out in their own city."
"Is that what the slum's for?"
"Lots of magicians live there, but most of them are involved in the resistance movement under D6. The slums are made up of people who can't afford housing in the city, and the King's emptied his banks on cracking the Outbreak, so he ain't got the time or credits to build any more Accommodations than we have already."
They had reached the concealed entrance now and were marching back down the underground tunnel.
"So, I suppose I'll be going between the two?" Lorden said indifferently. "Spending half the time with you and that grumpy old duffer."
"Yeah, and you might get some trouble," added Ceridwen. "Slummers don't like underworlders interfering with their lives, think they want help. Afraid that if the King sees too much magical activity in the slums he'll see that as our base and destroy it."
"CTOs are easy. Why's everyone being so serious about it?"
"Don't think you realise how powerful you are. Might be easy for you to knock a few coppers around, but for most of us, it's hard enough to start a fire from ten feet away, let alone standing right next to it."
"Bet I'm more powerful than you," said Lorden, watching her closely for a reaction.
"You've got no technique whatsoever. You don't know how to block yet. Oakstaff will take care of that. And no matter how powerful you get, my squaddies will still kick your arse in a fight, magical or physical, so you can stop being so cocky straight away."
"Is that where we're going?" said Lorden, in a close-to-derisive voice. "To meet your skivvies?"
"Yeah," said Ceridwen. "And I wouldn't be so up your own orifice in front of them, they 'on't take goodly to that."
But they had barely turned a corner before Dagger caught up with them, who had been skulking behind them since they'd left Oakstaff's house.
"Oi," he whispered to Ceridwen, though Lorden still caught every word. "I've found one."
"How?" said Ceridwen, stopping and turning to him, a look of incredulity on her face.
"Just heard it through me PI. One of me posts has tipped me off." He cackled gleefully. "And you'll never guess who it is."
He paused, no doubt for effect, before adding:
"The King's daughter."