The mirror in the waiting room shimmered and rippled. A tall blonde woman with delicately pointed ears and an unnatural air of beauty and grace stepped through.
“Good afternoon,” said the receptionist, consulting the appointments book. “You must be… Ithuriel?”
The woman nodded. “Yes,” she said in a voice like the tinkling of silver bells. “I am Ithuriel, daughter of-”
“Mister Thurkas is waiting for you,” the receptionist said quickly. “Go straight through, please.”
The blonde looked at her icily, then turned and walked through the door to the office.
Behind the desk sat a stunted and deformed figure. He blew his large bulbous nose on a red and white spotted handkerchief, then stood up. He smiled at Ithuriel, a big gappy grin.
“Welcome to the mundane world, Miss Ithuriel,” he said, holding out one hand.
She ignored it and sat down in the chair in front of the desk.
“Well,” he said, “Straight to business then. Your immigration has been approved, and I just have to run through the naturalisation procedures with you. First of all, human names are a little different, so we have suggested the name Anita Reel for you.”
She frowned. “My name is Ithuriel,” she said.
“Well, yes,” he said, “But that’s not a human name. The aim is to blend in, you know. You can use your name within your own kind, of course.”
She sniffed. “Very well. What else?”
He pressed a buzzer. “Could you send the ladies in please, Jennifer?”
The door opened and several non-descript ladies walked in.
“Now, Miss Reel- I’m calling you that so you get used to it – these are the sort of women you’ll need to blend in with. If you could adjust your glamour accordingly?”
She frowned again. “They are so plain.”
“You’ll find that, with humans. They look beautiful enough to me.”
She looked down her nose at him. “All things look beautiful to a troll.”
He shrugged. “Do your best. I’ll tell you if you have to tone it down some more.”
She sighed and waved her hand in front of her face. Her features became a little less stunning, her ears became rounded.
“A little bit more, please,” the troll said. She sighed and waved again. Her complexion dulled, and her cheekbones sank a little lower. “Lovely,” he said. “By human standards, anyway. Plain enough for gazes instead of stares, at least.”
He walked up to the nearest of the plain ladies and tapped her with one bony finger. She transformed into Ithuriel’s identical twin, then disappeared.
“She’ll walk into the office by the front door in a few minutes, then you can walk out,” he explained.
“Why can’t I just walk out?”
He shook his head. “People notice if an office has people constantly coming out and nobody coming in. So she walks in as you, then you walk out as you. Simple. Here’s your introduction pack. Maps, leaflets, a full introduction to the city. You’ll have to live here for at least a couple of years before you can move into the wider world.”
“Why here,” she asked, “Why this city?”
He smiled. “It’s a university city,” he said with a wink. “Students are always the closest to the fey. They look a little odd, act a little odd. They stand out in the same way you do, so it makes it easier for your kind to blend in when there’s a student population. This way, Miss Reel.”
The fairy woman sighed as she passed a mirror. “This will take some getting used to,” she muttered as she made her way out into the mundane world.