Sarchi & Keating is an old firm, with old money behind it. There are wards against the dead burned into the floors and ceilings and carpet thick enough for feet to drown in. Keating himself had begged my aid, bent his pride enough to say they needed a magician. Seven businesses in the district have been crippled by bad debt and market implosion in the last week and he thought they would be next. I accepted payment as a favour owed and enter after hours because they'd never let me actually explore the place if staff were present.
They have security, a Servant from the outer edges of reality, some tentacled monstrosity that had once been one of their enemies. I leave it to Charlie for her to eat and test herself against and walk inside. There are other alarms and I tell them not to work at first, then force them when they resist. It only takes seconds after that to find the disturbance at the core of their problem.
Sarchi's office is the publicity office, all rich carpets, antique desk and bookcases lined with ancient volumes. About half of the were in tongues humans weren't meant to read, which didn't surprise me. S&K have a long reputation for helping – or dealing with – things that weren't human at all. Which means they should have figured out what was going on here long before hiring me, but there are always things no one wants to believe in, monsters so nasty that knowing about them would have given even a lawyer a sleepless night. Maybe even two.
The creature rummaging in the floor safe spins at my voice. It is small and green of skin and hair, sporting a perfectly tailored suit and a smiling of gleaming gold teeth. "Magician. Whatever Keating is paying you, I can double it."
"Well, shit." The leprechaun lets out a sigh and then gestures sharp with his right hand, speaking words of power. The room shudders and twists, bending inward.
"No." A magician is the world, when we have to be. The world snapped back into shape with the ringing of distant bells. "To bind and to banish, to stir and call to sleep: this is what a magician is, little one. You are greed, and greed does not go near deep enough to bind a binder."
"I am more than greed," he says in a voice like curdling milk.
"You know what will happen if you bind or banish me, magician. The country itself might fall."
"That could be true. Why are you doing this?"
"Their money funded the redcaps. They are everything we are, twisted into everything we should not be. Blood money," he hisses, and the fury in his voice is more than enough to rip the economy of a country apart.
"And you have proof?"
He closes his eyes and opens them, his true name dancing behind them. For such as he that was truth enough; offer enough for me to bind him so greatly his power wouldn't touch the world at all when he died.
"What do you need?"
The leprechaun blinks. "There is a safe naywards of the building; I need access."
I walk back and poke my head out the door. I can't hear any destruction or feel the play of alien energies in the air. "Charlie?"
She comes walking down the hallway: the entire corridor is decorated in intestinal juices and smells of rotten eggs and rotting fish. I focus my will a moment and the smell and remains of the creature are gone from her; the killing look in her eyes lessens only a little.
"There were three of them." A gods claws glitter brightly about her fingers, furious hunger in her eyes. "Do you know what I just ate?"
"Just because you're a god-eater doesn't mean you need to eat them. Especially since they weren't gods. You could have scared them enough to flee."
"They didn't," she bites out.
I decide not to point out that I am half-considering fleeing and step back into the room. The safe is as unreal as Sarchi & Keating can make it but staff do need to access it. I open possibilities to the leprechaun, who wraps himself in the essence of an employee and gets to work.
"Magician." Charlie scowls. "You can't mean to –."
"Ms. Sarchi, I do." I don't turn, mostly because I have no desire to see what she turns into next. "I may be out of sorts at the moment, but I would have noticed if this place had more than one Servant guarding it. And Charlie would not eat it since she hates seafood."
"You think," the thing behind says in a voice felt more than heard, "we will permit this?"
"Yes. Because there are other worlds. You can start over. And because I just banished your Servant and Charlie wouldn't hesitate at eating a lawyer no matter how bad the aftertaste."
Ms. Sarchi's silence is a thing of grinding glass and bone. I just turn and smile, taking in shapes and forms without seeing them. Useful trick when facing off against mind-melting horrors. Also when watching children's cartoons.
The creature twists elsewhen and on itself and is gone a moment later; the leprechaun never even noticed, intent on ripping apart financial records. I leave him to it and walk into the hallway and down it. No entrails, no horrible smells, only Charlie looking dishelved and scowling at me.
"You said I'd eat a lawyer?" she snarls, but keeps herself seeming human with an effort.
"Never let them see you bluffing. Especially if you have no cards." I walk past toward the exit. "We're done here: want some sushi, my treat?"
"I don't like seafood," she says.