A Doomsday Book for Queen Mab – Entry #3.5
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 from the belated December 3 prompt “Polarity”.)
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Tobias Wurzburg Ellis-Howe, the last of the Wurzburg kobolds in the British Isles, crossed his arms as the census taker began asking her questions. Many kobolds lived away from human civilization, hiding away underground in abandoned mines and caves. They were also quite unhuman-like, short, squat, hunched, and remarkably ugly. But there was obviously the blood of something else running through Tobias’s veins. He was of average human height and stood rather straight. His looks would not win him any beauty contests, but he wasn’t remarkably ugly either. He could pass, without much problem.
And he must have used that to his advantage. Because his house was a rather nice Victorian in a well-to-do neighborhood of the Nether Edge. No one would have realized that a fae was living in their midst had not one of Queen Mab’s blackbird minions spotted some decidedly strange goings on in a yard of a residence registered to one Tobias Wurzburg Ellis-Howe several months ago. As a result, he had been put on a list for a personal visit by one of the fae census takers. But when the census taker and her assistant finally arrived at his residence and announced their intentions, he never invited them inside. Instead, they stood on the stoop. The census taker had her clipboard and a pen in hand. The kelpie stood behind her with a saddlebag slung across one shoulder, shifting on his feet, a bit bored.
“I would rather not answer any of those questions,” said Tobias.
“But you must,” said the census taker. “Queen Mab requires all of her subjects to respond to the census.”
“I like my privacy, thank you very much.” He moved back into his house and began to close the front door.
“Wait.” The census taker reached out to prevent the door from completely closing. “Really, you must answer the census questions. Otherwise the Queen wouldn’t…”
“Screw the Queen. I don’t answer to her. Or anyone else for that matter.” He began shoving the door closed.
The kelpie stepped forward to help the census taker shove it back open. “Mr. Ellis-Howe, it’s the law,” he said. He grinned, showing sharp teeth. “You must answer.”
“I don’t care if it’s the law or not. Tell the Queen to keep her nose the hell out of my business.”
There was a bit of a tug of war with the front door, but after a couple of minutes, when it became clear that Tobias was not going to win against the two of them, he turned his head and yelled, “Whistlewaite!”
“Who’s Whistlewaite?” demanded the census taker.
The kobold gave her a nasty smile. “So you’re trying to figure out who’s living with me? Well, you’re going to meet one of them right now. My roommate, Whistlewaite.”
From the dark interior of the house, there was the sound of scuttling across a hardwood floor. The kelpie did not even realize that he had been holding his breath when whatever that had been making that sound suddenly appeared at the threshold of the front door.
It was a small lizard with slick bright red skin. Its gold eyes peered at them.
The kelpie let out a breath and started laughing.
“That’s Whistlewaite?” the census taker said, incredulous.
The kobold’s eyes gleamed and he and simply said, “Yes.”
At that moment, Whistlewaite opened its mouth. And became a lizard flamethrower.
The census taker screamed. Without a thought, the kelpie grabbed her by the back of the shirt and leaped off the stoop. The two of them rolled along the grass for a while, hoping to douse any remaining flames. When they finally came to a stop, next to the bushes in the neighboring yard, they were both wide-eyed and breathing hard. They both looked back at the kobold’s house. The front door was shut. But the stoop was still smoking.
The census taker glanced back down at her clipboard. The paper form on top was singed at the corners. She had lost her pen, but she found another one in her messenger bag. She scribbled something on the form.
“A request,” she replied, “for someone else to handle this particular household. You must admit, a selkie and a kelpie are rather ill-equipped for this place.”
“Well, I suppose that’s true,” he said, agreeing. “Water and fire don’t mix.”