The recruit looked up at the cloudy night sky as, the faint starlight failing to provide enough illumination to stop her from stumbling in the mud. A thought could have had a torch in her hand, but she decided against it – she didn’t want to attact attention.
She got to the small clearing among the mangroves, her shoes sinking into the sucking mud. All logic said she should have been afraid – she was alone, with a huge beast in the trees above her. Its breathing was unmistakable, and he was there on time, quite a feat for a beast without a watch.
She required a huge chunk of meat and and held it out as an offering as he dropped from the tree. He stank – hiding among the mangroves was likely the chief reason for that. His fur was wet and matted, and his hands were covered in what looked like dry blood. The stench of death hung in the air, but she didn’t look around for the corpse – she’d seen enough to ignore them easily.
The beast snatched the meat from her hands, sat on his his haunches and tore into it, taking wet chomps of the meat that had never been attached to a cow. She wiped the blood and juice onto her pants and waited patiently for the beast to finish his snack. ‘I didn’t expect to see you again,’ he said, sinking his claws into what remained of the beef.
‘We didn’t exactly get to finish our conversation.’
‘What more did you to say?’
‘Don’t you want to know when the mirror is going to fall?’
The beast sagged, sadness making him a lot less intimidating. ‘It is close.’
‘The night after tomorrow. If you can manage to stay hidden for that long, and avoid…undesirables until then, you’ll be golden.’
He snorted. ‘You haven’t told me what you want out of this yet. I don’t have access to your currency anymore.’
She sat on a tangle of roots, unworried about the mud on her shoes and pants – one requirement would fix that – and looked up at him. ‘From what I know of the mirrors, you won’t need all of it to bring your girlfriend-’
‘Wife,’ he interrupted.
‘Whatever. Back from the dead. Heart of a whole dead world, you don’t need it all.’
‘All is safer.’
She snorted and drummed her fingers on her knee. ‘If you want all of it, you don’t get my help. If you give me some of it, just enough to make it a good payday, then I’ll help you.’
He paced back and forth, mumbling in a strange language. Alien language. His language. Finally, he stopped and stared at her with his strange, almost glowing eyes. ‘How much do you need?’
‘You take the big part so can make your girl, I’ll take whatever I can get my hands on.’
He knelt and put one of his big hands on the ground in front of him, she watched as it sank into the mud a little. ‘You have a deal,’ he said. ‘You have a deal.’
‘Night after tomorrow, ship yards up the river,’ she pointed. ‘It should appear about ten, need a watch?’
‘Stay hidden until then, and be there early. We’re not the only ones after it, and not everyone has such altruistic reasons for wanting it.’
‘What is…your reason?’
She stood and scoffed. ‘Like I said, a good payday. Money makes the world spin, what else is there to care about?’
The beast looked at her. ‘If you do not know, there is no point in telling you.’
She walked over and stared down at his kneeling form. ‘Just so you know, if you double-cross me, I will kill you.’
He shook his hairy head. ‘I am quite aware this world is without mercy.’
‘Be there, or I’ll take it all for myself.’ She turned to walk away, but a hairy hand stopped her.
‘Not once have you given me your name.’
‘Like a monster needs names,’ she hissed as she shook his hand away. ‘But…fine, whatever. It’s Enid.’
She walked away from the monster, out of the mangroves and back up onto the street. She required a car – something black and sporty, and climbed in. She waved a hand over the steering wheel and felt the engine roar to life, but didn’t have a chance to pull away before a dark shape landed on her bonnet.
‘Black doesn’t suit you, Eeny,’ an unfortunately familiar voice said.
‘Are you following me, goblin?’ she asked of the creature.
Tian, the goblin, flashed her a smile. ‘Sometimes. It’s poor form to lie to a starchild.’
‘That word is so faggoty,’ she said, curling a lip and pulling away from the curb.
The goblin jumped a little and landed in the passenger seat. ‘Madhe wants to see you.’
‘Of course she does,’ she replied as she ran a red light at a quiet intersection. ‘What about? Etiquette?’
‘No, she doesn’t give sanctuary to the violent. Her sniffers found too many bodies that smelled of another world to risk her citizens with this one.’
‘She wants the mirror.’
‘There isn’t a court that doesn’t. Except maybe the Lost, not sure what they’d do with it.’
‘And why does your dear queen need another mirror?’
‘For a rainy day.’
‘She should move out of England if she doesn’t like the rain. I-’
‘What, like you’ve got a better offer? You’re not dealing with Remington are you?’
‘Oh fuck off, of course not. I just don’t want to be tied to Madchester, it’s hard enough to deal with other people now, I’m not one of you.’
‘Not anymore,’ the goblin muttered.
She took a hand off the wheel and made a dismissive gesture. ‘A lifetime ago, not like I remember it. Do we have to have this conversation every time?’
‘Are you going to see her?’
She sped around a corner. ‘Like I have a choice.’
‘You could choose not to work for the suits.’
She shook her head. ‘Sorry, I like being able to pull weapons from air, and the diplomatic immunity, and being able to break whatever minor laws I like with a flash of a badge. There’s nothing in Madchester that compares. I go to Court, and all I’d do is drink and drink until I got trashed enough to sleep with you, no thanks.’
The goblin made no comment.
‘Tomorrow then,’ she said, resigning herself to the meeting. The leader of a Court sought her out for jobs – it should have been an honour, but there was no great honour in serving Madchester. No great honour in serving a Court whose only purpose was to provide sanctuary to crazy people. Had it been one of the Courts actually interested in power, she would have been flattered, and considered giving up the farce of her job at the Agency.
But…so long as they kept paying, she’d work for them.
‘Tomorrow,’ the goblin said, and faded from the car.