Episode 1 Chapter 16

The fun part was designing a system to assign turn order. Theodore corralled the creatures into the yard, and set to work cutting out numbered slips of paper. He set up a table outside with the tickets and a pitcher of lemonade, and announced turns would be assigned by lottery.

After calling out numbers, it was clear after the first few that most of the monsters simply needed to fill out and submit appropriate forms. Soon the office was filled with creatures, many hunched over tables and corners filling out forms while Theodore floated between them answering questions.

“Hey!” A pooka flagged him down. He was a small rabbit man, with black fur and golden eyes. “What am I supposed to do if I haven’t got a mailing address? I live in a hole. I dug it in the dirt. Mail isn’t a thing that happens.”

Theodore pointed to section C of the application. “Indicate here that you want the visa delivered to this office. You’ll have to come back in a month to pick up your visa.”

“Umm!” The werewolf stuck his long arm straight up to the ceiling, holding it up with his free hand. His face was a shaggy mop of hair and teeth.”Mr. Deputy! I need help please!”

“What is it now, Barghest?” Theodore asked, careful to step over the gnomes.

“Can you check that I’m doing this right??” He held up a permit renewal decorated in careful chicken scratch. “I have to do these two pages as well, right?”

“No. Remember, you are just asking for an extension of your permit. Those pages are only for new applications.” He scanned the document for errors, and nodded. “You’re doing fine. There’s no need to get so worked up.”

“If I don’t get this submitted on time, they’ll take away my haunting ground!” He squirmed in his seat, tugging at his neck hair. “I can’t lose it! I’ll die!”

Theodore hovered closer. “It’s okay. Breathe. If it’s so important, why did you wait so long to renew?”

“I couldn’t! There’s been no Ranger Deputy in months, and I’m not allowed in the city! It expires in two weeks! Are you sure it’s going to get submitted on time?!”

Theodore hesitated to touch Barghest, but gave the werewolf a reassuring pat. “I’ll notarize it so they know you filed today. You won’t lose your claim even if your paperwork lapses, alright?”

The wolf man breathed in and out until he calmed. “Okay,” he said. “And you’ll double check for mistakes before I leave, right?”

“Yes, of course.”

“…Thank you.” Barghest pressed his face back up to the paper, squeezing the tip of his pencil.

Theodore glanced around the room and found a rare moment where everyone was at work but no one was looking for help. The sound of scribbling filled him with a sense of gratification. He drifted through the room, and noticed a fox struggling in the corner. She gripped the pencil with her teeth and scraped it across the paper in slow and nervous strokes. The fox had been toiling over the first sheet of the city visa application for the past half hour.

Theodore stepped closer. “Would… you like me to help you with that?”

“Wo hoo bant elp!”


She spat out the pencil.

“I said don’t help me! You can’t! Last time they turned me down because I didn’t do all of the paperwork myself!”

Theodore backed off. She was, of course, correct about the policy. He just felt bad to watch her. “I’m sorry.”

The fox looked down at the remaining ten pages of demographic forms, with budding tears. “I just want to eat at a nice restaurant.”

Theodore felt a pang of sympathy. “I’ll let you work in peace. Pardon me.”

She nipped at the pencil, picking it up back up with her teeth and resumed her laborious task. Before Theodore could move away, he was cornered by a half dozen sylph.

“We are next!” they announced, and maneuvered to surround him. They were bug people, the size of human children. Their bodies were bulbous like lady bugs, with shrill nasal voices, two pairs of eyes all glaring, and antennae dangling off their shelled heads. “You will attend to us, human!”

“One at a time, please!” Theodore said.

“Impossible!” the lead speaker said. “This matter concerns our whole Hive of Commerce!”

“We have submitted our applications for trade visas,” another said. “Yet we have not yet received them!”

This was ridiculous. “That was less than an hour ago,” Theodore said. “You have to wait three to four weeks for them to arrive.”

“Unacceptable!” The sylph vibrated their wings in anger. “We cannot lose profit just because your government was too useless to assign a new worker!”

“There are deliveries to make!” another said. “Your university depends on our spell weaves, and our wares bring in trade from across the sea! It is in your interest to help us!”

Theodore pondered this puzzle. “If you have your expired papers, I can stamp them for emergency extension.”

The sylph broke formation and huddled, exchanging chirping whispers until consensus was reached. “We will retrieve our documents. Do not die before we return!”  Theodore retreated into the kitchen to brew an additional 170 milliliters of coffee. There was still a dozen more creatures waiting in the yard. It was going to be a long day, yet Theodore was surprised by how much he was enjoying it.

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