A Doomsday Book for Queen Mab – Entry #12

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. As the December 12 prompt was not posted before 5 pm UTC -7, this is based on the September 26 prompts “a pirate radio station and Madiera Silverton”.)

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“…five rescued seals have been released back into the wild by staff at the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek. The three month old pups were to be put back to sea. And around the Cornish coastline now, the next high water at Bude is coming up quite soon at half an hour’s time and Falmouth about ten minutes time at quarter past three. The weather: dry, cool, sunny spells and some patchy clouds, maximum temperature seventeen degrees Celsius, sixty-three degrees Fahrenheit, and tonight it will be mainly damp with some rain in the east. It’s five past three. This is Madiera Silverton and it’s BBC Radio Cornwall, the Pirate Edition!”

“The pirate edition!” exclaimed the kelpie. “I can’t believe it!”

The mournful wail of a violin erupted from the rental car’s radio as the census taker kept her eyes on the motorway. They had one more assignment on the coast of Cornwall before they were to go back to London to receive their next assignment which was apparently so sensitive that they had to meet with one of Queen Mab’s ministers in person. The census taker quickly glanced to make sure that the radio was set in the same place that she had left it.

“What can’t you believe?” she asked. “It’s probably some kind of parody.”

From France we do get brandy, from Jamaica comes rum
Sweet oranges and apples from Portugal come
But stout and strong cider are England’s control
Give me the punch ladle, I’ll fathom the bowl.

“No it isn’t,” the kelpie insisted as he finished singing along to the first song. “I’ve heard that the BBC sometimes does these mythical pirate song shows. But just like pirates, the shows always strike unexpectedly. So unexpectedly that they’re as legendary as the unicorn.”

The census taker winced as a particularly bawdy pirate ballad began playing. “I’m not sure a unicorn would approve of this.”

“Of course not. I’ve met one of the bastards once when I was very young. He was a prissy, rule-abiding snob. So I told him exactly where I thought the nice green pastures were.”

“I hate to ask, but where exactly did you tell him they were?”

“Well, I gave him some pretty clear directions. Which lead straight to a very beautiful place near Hindhead in Surrey. The locals call it the Devil’s Punch Bowl. I think the Beast of Bodmin Moor has some distant relatives who live there.”

“Goodness. That was definitely not nice of you. I’m glad that you’ve outgrown that foolishness.”

The kelpie gave her a toothy grin. “Exactly when have I been nice? I’m just biding my time.”

“Biding your time for what?”

“Selkie fricassee, of course. Served with white sauce and maybe some rum. And there should be some radishes and carrots cut in those wavy shapes. There would also be oxtail soup with a side of watercress. A custard tart would be for dessert. And then after all of that, a cup of black coffee and a chocolate biscuit.”

The census taker wrinkled her nose. “I see you’ve planned it out in detail. Suppose I’m not available to be fricasseed?”

“I can be flexible. Chicken would probably also do in a pinch. Although I would be quite saddened if you didn’t decide to come to dinner with me.”

“I had dinner with you last night,” she pointed out. “At the restaurant on the Quay. I recall you did quite a feat charming the waitress into bringing you several extra slices of chocolate cake. It’s a wonder you’re not as tubby as a hobgoblin living in a pastry shop.”

He patted his flat stomach. “Kelpies are notorious for their high metabolisms. Otherwise, how on earth would we be able to eat all the silly humans who venture too close to our ponds?”

“Lucky you,” she replied with a slightly sour note. “Selkies, unfortunately, pack on the pounds if we’re not careful.”

“But that only makes you all the more delicious!”

She glanced back at him. He had an odd expression on his face that made the census taker feel rather strange. She turned back to keep her eye on the road. It would not do to drive into a ditch. “Sometimes I have the impression that you don’t mean what you say.”

“And other times?”

“That you’re deadly serious.”

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