I think it appropriate to start with the reason I write this. The inciting incident, that led me to purchasing first a notebook and a quill, then gathering up a bunch of loose paper to take notes, because I wanted this notebook to be perfect, then looking if I couldn’t have someone invent typewriters or any quicker way to write anything down.
I could use magic to make the quill move, and I do that to take notes, but it feels ... impersonal.
Even if I don’t have the quill write down my exact thoughts though, I get distracted easily. I apologize.
I work for what could best be described as a fantasy immigration department. Particularly, my job is to control entry and customs. That mostly consists of adequately preparing people of races other than human for life in a human city. Up until a couple years ago, my job also consisted of negotiating peace treaties with the other races or people from other nations, but this is rarely an issue nowadays. The nations we have already formed a pact with meet up once a year to renegotiate, if there is any need for that, but that is about it.
It is a pretty relaxed job.
But also a pretty exciting one, as I get to meet all different kinds of people every day.
You know what, I am going to tell you what a typical workday looks like for me.
I know that back in my old world traveling from one country to another is roughly the same for everyone. Living in a fantasy world however is so much more fun, because humans are not the only ones traveling.
For example, what do you do about dragons the size of houses?
And what do you do when that dragon has been in deep slumber for a couple centuries and thus has no way of knowing the laws in place?
That’s what happened a couple weeks ago, and it was disastrous.
It was during the late morning. I had just gotten into the routine of waving through elves, vampires, lesser dragons, spirits, elementals, etc. Explaining to the new ones how to behave in the city and what spots best accommodated for their needs. (Vampires for example, just like it was said in my old world, preferred to stay out of sunlight, so I recommended them hotels made specifically for nocturnal creatures, and gave them the quick guide for the newly built caves district.)
“First time in the city?” I asked the vampire girl before me.
For such an occasion we would move to a separate darkened room. The vampire girl had taken the same midi-dragon-carriage as every other passenger. The way transport works was that the kingdom erected hubs all over the continent, in which dragons can land to pick up passengers, then fly to the next hub. Passengers get out, passengers get in, rinse and repeat. It’s more like a train than a plane though, despite the flying. Maybe one day I can get flight attendants arranged, if we someday manage to do long-distance flights. But since we only established this system few years ago, it is still rather rudimentary.
“Yes, it is my first time,” the girl in front of me replied.
“Alright. May you please fill in this form?” I asked while getting out a stack of papers clipped together from under my desk.
“Um ...” The girl looked at the form with hesitation. “Actually, I, uh, can’t read your script.”
She must be young then, I figured. Most likely she grew up during the time period when the races were still waging war with each other. Those vampires who were more than a thousand years old still knew the time when the races used to mingle with each other, and animosity was a matter of being a good person and not where you were born. Most of those vampires used to be able to read human script but as the races drifted apart from one another, people stopped teaching their children the language of the other races.
Considering this, it was amazing how fluent her speech was, though that might simply have been translation magic at work.
“No worries, we can go through this form together one by one,” I offered, adding forms in multiple languages to my long check list of things to help improve our service. “Sadly, we haven’t managed to get a hold of a vampire translator yet. So, if you know anyone who would be willing to help out, that would be much appreciated.”
“Of course. I might be able to ask my teacher, but despite knowing the language he doesn’t seem to be all too interested in his own work. He only was willing to teach me for an extraordinary sum of money, as well as special blood deliveries.”
“Is that why you are here?” I asked. I wasn’t too surprised to hear this. Most vampires have a very lackadaisical attitude about anything really. I guess being alive for a couple thousand years really does a number on you. In fact, vampires were one of the species least likely to visit the city. I don’t really expect it to change any time soon. But this is sadly also the reason why vampiric accommodation is still lacking in some departments.
“Oh no, I am here to visit an old friend of mine. She has been living in the city for a couple dozen years, and as soon as the message of the city opening its gates to everyone started spreading, she sent me a letter, asking me to visit her. So, I started learning the human language and now I am here.”
“That is quite impressive!”
“Thank you, but I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of it. Reading is so hard! Why do you have so many letters! And why can one letter be a different sound totally at random!”
I let out a chuckle.
“That reminds me of when I started learning the human language. It was also quite the chore but after a couple years when I realized I’ve read a newspaper without having to ask my wife for help I felt very accomplished.”
“Wait, are you not human?”
“Oh, I am, but where I come from, I speak a different language.”
“Well, then how did you do it?”
“Well, living in a human city for one helped a lot, but I also went to school to learn. Took me a long, long time, but after a while I managed.”
I should maybe add that what I am telling her does not 100% refer to learning the language of this world. When I first arrived here, I already spoke the human language, so I only needed to learn the script. What was hard though was learning English back in my old world. I do not know how the inventor of this language thought it was a good idea to only have 26 letters, but then have like twice as many sounds. But moving to England for college proved – surprise – very beneficial for learning that country’s language.
“You know, in my daughters’ school I saw a poster for language classes for adults a while ago,” I added. “If you plan on staying in the city for a while, you might want to check this class out. If you are serious about this language, and getting around the city on your own, I think you should take classes.”
The vampire girl contemplated this idea for a bit, scratching her chin.
“Well, I was planning on staying for a few months, and since my friend has work to do anyway, I think I’d find some time to spare.”
“Great! If you want, you could come back to my office tomorrow and I can gather all the information you need. I guess money shouldn’t be an issue? Sadly, adult schooling is rather pricy.”
“That really is not a problem.”
“Great. Anyway, let’s move on to the form now.”
“Oh dear, I am so sorry for keeping you from doing your job.” She held a hand in front of her mouth as an apologetic gesture. She seemed unusually humble for a vampire.
“Hahah, no need to apologize. Getting to know the people is half the fun of the job. Now then ...” I dipped the quill that had already dried into the ink once more.
“May I ask you for your name?”
Kind of weird to be asking for someone’s name this late into the conversation, but alas ...
That certainly was a name.
I made the quill write down the name by itself and proceeded to ask her the remaining questions. Standard stuff like date of birth, place of birth, expected stay, planned residence in the city et cetera. The fun part came on the second page.
“Are you shape-shifting during your stay in the city?”
“Shape-shifting?” She asked rather dumbfounded. “I had heard shape-shifting falls under identity theft and is therefore illegal ...”
“Oh, that is true for most human cities. We have special exceptions however, if, say, you are a dragon and thus would not be able to live among humans due to your size, or if you as a vampire have a fear of frightening people due to your appearance.”
The bat-like wings on her back twitched at this comment and she self-consciously reached for her hair to touch the long horns protruding from her head.
“Well ... that makes sense ...”
“There is no need to hide your appearance, however you should expect people to be uneasy around your true form,” I said. Maybe it was a bit too matter-of-fact, but that was the truth.
“So, you think I should shape-shift into a more human form?”
“That is up to you!” I objected without a second of hesitation. “You know, the more people appear in their actual form, the more people will get used to this sight. So actually, I would prefer you to go out in your usual form. This city has only been welcoming vampires for a few years, you know?”
“That is true. I always forget how differently you humans experience time ... Alright then, I will go out in my usual form.”
“Great!” I checked NO for the shape-shifting question and skipped to the end of the form.
“Well, then I would just need you to sign this form, and you are done.”
“Is it okay if I write my name in vampire script?”
“Well, it’s your signature. Most of the human ones are unreadable anyways.”
She chuckled. “That goes for vampire ones as well,” she commented as she fished the quill out of the air and wrote her name in fancy serifs onto the paper.
“Great, any more questions then?” I already told her about the cave district, and the usual stuff about where best to go as a vampire.
“No, that’s it.”
“Great, then I will get you some information for a language school by tomorrow.”
“That is much appreciated.”
What I was doing was honestly stretching what my actual job was, but I felt a deep sense of satisfaction knowing these people felt safe and welcome in our city.
“By the way, on the way out you will come across a couple of shops. Since you are a vampire, you might want to pick a sunhat especially made for nocturnal creatures.”
“It has a wide brim, specifically made to protect you from the sun. It’s nice if you want to go out and explore the city during daytime.”
Yes, I am recommending the over-priced souvenir shop our hub has to offer. But she can afford it.
“Thank you for the tip. I am looking forward to exploring the city!” She said as she rose from her seat.
“Have a nice stay, and until tomorrow.”
“Until tomorrow!” Babylonia left the room after saying goodbye.