Her fingers danced over the open chest cavity in front of her, stammering out the next words of her enchantment with hesitation and uncertainty. She’d never done anything like this, never had enough sensitive porcelain to try to try and craft her own doll. It was a stroke of luck to have this corpse practically fall into her lap, a broken doll that she could repair, rejuvenate. Threads of white and blue and orange formed on her finger tips, stitching broken gears back together, twisting around loose mechanisms. So many things were happening at once, it was impossible to think about them all; it was pure instinct, letting her hands flow over the currents of residual magic still left in this doll.
With a final enchantment she closed the chest of the doll, feeling the air around her grow cold and seize around her body, as though the room itself was trying to reject what she had done. It passed as quickly as it had come, leaving her with a sinking sense of dread as she heard the gears begin to turn once more. This would make her a real witch, a proper witch, with a familiar to assist her and defend her. She’d make her mother proud yet.
The doll’s eyes blinked open, taking a moment to look at the ceiling before pushing itself upright, sitting off the side of the workbench with a light smile on its face. Its body was a mess of hexes and runes, the sensitive porcelain of its exterior glistening and glowing with the unearthly power trapped underneath. Under clothes and the guise of darkness it might be mistaken for a person; up close there was no doubt that it was something far more. Looking at it was hard for her, even now; it was like looking at a mirror, distorted. She could feel the bit of herself that she’d given to bring life to its gears, circulating in its mechanisms.
“Hello Miss,” it said with a sing-song tone, slipping off the bench and hitting the floor with far less noise than one would expect from its frame. “Thank you for recovering this one.”
“Are you in service to another witch?” She didn’t know much, but she did know enough to make sure her doll was loyal before she let it out of this room.
“In a sense.” The doll bowed with a flourish, now smiling widely. “This one swears its loyalty and its service to you, Miss. It also serves a higher purpose.”
“This one is a seed doll. It was constructed by another witch, who’s abilities and powers far outmatch your own.” It plucked bits and pieces from a hanging wall rack, beginning to integrate them into itself as it fixed the remainder of its broken parts. “It’s purpose is to make you into a witch who’s power can grow comparable. When the time comes, that matriarch will find this doll, and you, and will consume us both.”
Her blood ran cold at the mention of a matriarch. “Consume us?”
The doll cocked its head at her, studying her face for a moment. “Oh. Oh dear. Miss doesn’t know how this works, does she?”
“I… my mother taught me enchantments, to keep me safe…”
“Miss Witch, did you bring a scrap doll to life without knowledge of doll making, or the traditions of witching?”
“I just… wanted to be a real witch…”
“Miss’ abilities are astounding to bring this one back without formal training, but her foresight leaves something to be desired.” The doll stepped forward, grabbing her hand and placing pieces of broken porcelain in it. “Please attach these to this one’s face. It does not like having its components exposed.”
She breathed deep, her fingers lighting up with their threads again even as they shook from fear. “What’s… what’s going happen to me?”
“This one will teach you.” It smiled up at her, no different than before but now with a certain menace underneath its exterior. “Miss must become a powerful witch, now. When this one’s former miss comes, either its Miss will defeat her, and grow even more powerful, or she will die, this one with her.”
“H-how am I supposed to fight a matriarch? Aren’t they centuries old? Some of the most powerful witches in existence?”
“Everyone bleeds, Miss Witch. Everyone can be poisoned. Everyone can be tempted by power unobtainable, everyone can be pushed off the edge of a cliff. This one will find you other witches to ally with, other witches to fight and consume. It will teach you all that it can, and then you will learn even more. In time, Miss will make new dolls of her own, who will do as this one does. This one wishes to survive, and it wishes to grow powerful with its Miss. Miss will do whatever it takes to make that happen.” The final piece slotted back into place, the doll’s face once again complete, strands of magic still visible underneath the cracks. “Miss must live, after all. Nothing else is more important.”
She stammered for a moment, uncertain, before something changed in her mind. She could feel the doll’s own magick bleeding back through her, their thoughts beginning to mingle as the bond took hold. The confidence and assurance of the doll fed her own, which fed the doll, until there was nothing left but certainty in the task at hand.
“Tell me everything you know.”