A Doomsday Book for Queen Mab – Entry #1

by syaffolee

A census taker travels the length and breadth of the British Isles to survey the land’s supernatural inhabitants.

(I’ve decided to do a series of short vignettes inspired by the December 2012 prompts from the International Story a Day Group. Mostly to keep myself regularly writing and posting in this blog. This is based on the December 1 prompt “I Thought You Would Run”.)

* * *

The kelpie crouched in his man-shape at the edge of the pond. His skin was as pale as the full moon above and his dark hair dripped scraggly with water weeds. A halter of silver and red thread lay upon his neck. He stared at the census taker with annoyed, black eyes. And when the census taker tugged on the halter in warning, he grinned that annoyance, showing sharp teeth.

“It was probably my fault for thinking that you would run.” His voice was low like the dangerous currents of an undertow. “I was expecting a nice chase. And a tasty snack afterwards.”

“You probably wouldn’t want to eat me. I’d taste mostly like liver.”

“That’s what they all say.” The kelpie raised his hands and grasped the halter. But otherwise, he could do nothing to shake it off. It was bespelled to follow the wishes of its owner. “I bet you’d taste like a custard tart.”

“I hate those things,” the census taker replied. The other end of the halter was wrapped around the crook of her right arm, “So you’d be wrong.” She had no problem reaching over to pull something out of the messenger bag she wore across her torso.

It was an envelope made of thick, creamy card stock. With a flick of her left wrist, the envelope went sailing. It smacked the kelpie right between the eyes before it slid down. He released his hold on the harness and grabbed it before it hit the ground.

“What is this?”

“A summons from Mab. She’s calling in a favor, I believe.”

At the mention of the Queen, the kelpie cursed and ripped the envelope open and quickly read the missive on the official royal stationary. As soon as he finished reading it, the envelope and the letter spontaneously combusted in a glitter of fairy dust which clung and sank into the his skin.

“This is ridiculous. I’m not going to traipse around the country like a traveling salesman!”

The census taker sighed. “She warned me you would be difficult. Her Highness is not asking you to traipse around the country like a traveling salesman. She’s asking you to traipse around the country as an assistant census taker. It’s not like I can do all of this by myself.”

“Oh yeah? Well, I won’t be your assistant if I make you conveniently disappear.” He suddenly pulled on the halter, jerking her off her feet. The grass was still slick from a recent rain making it easy for him to drag her towards him. Once she was within reach, he grabbed her.

Up close, he could tell that her hair wasn’t black but the color of dark mink. He imagined that he saw a bit of pleading in her eyes. But he knew she couldn’t escape. No one escaped the sticky clutches of a kelpie. But perhaps he would play with her a bit first, he decided. He did like to play with particularly pretty food before devouring them whole. He began dragging her toward the pond.

But as he was about to dunk her in, she slipped from his grasp and rolled away. With her grip still on the other end of the halter, he was tugged back again.

“What the hell? You’re as slippery as a seal. The Queen must have given you a spell.”

The census taker’s eyes took on an odd sheen. “Oh, I am a seal. I didn’t need the Queen’s help on that.” She tugged on the halter again, making him scowl. “It’s time to get dressed, Mr. Waterhouse. We have a lot of work to do and not a moment to waste.”

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