“Are you sure about this?” The witch asked softly, stroking a strand of hair out of the girl’s face. “There’s no going back after this.”

“I’m sure,” she whispered back, her eyes fluttering shut as the sedative took effect.

Around the two, three dolls stood, one putting away the cup of tea the girl had just drank from. They were unlike the other dolls in the coven; fingertips that constantly burned with the magic imbued in them. One had its hands together, breathing a quiet prayer over the girl.

The witch smiled over the still body, closing his eyes and starting the incantation. Time was essential, now. His fingers lit up with strands of thread, lofting a scalpel and beginning the work. No room for mistakes, no room for hesitation.

Crafting a doll from fabric and force of will alone was a far cry from doing the same with flesh and bone. A human soul had to be tied, the cracks in it cleaned and filled appropriately. To hesitate, to fail, risked spawning something far worse than a doll.

A sufficiently distraught soul might give in to the despair and seek to rejoin the Choir. A sufficiently rebellious soul might seek to overwhelm the witch and spawn a demon in its wake. Or perhaps the soul would just wither, plucked from the vine. He would have neither.

The acolyte doll continued its prayer as its companions began to assist with their witch’s task. They embroidered sigils into the girl’s skin, blood and thread combining to begin the process proper. The witch focused on his goal: the heart. Cutting away the scars keeping it away.

The scene turned macabre quickly enough, blood pulling in a trench cut around the table. It only served to heighten the process, sparks of ethereal magic and competing forces fighting in the air. Other things had sensed a ripe soul for claiming. He would have to keep them away.

A fleeting spark of radiant light struck his fingers, severing a thread hooked in the heart as his ears filled with distant voices. Reminders of his failure. Reminders of those he lost. Reminders of all those he had never saved. A gentle voice, telling him to give her over.

He gritted his teeth, pulling a new needle through the heart as he continued his task. The acolyte doll looked up from its watch over the head, continuing its prayer as its body contorted. To any other observer, it’d appear the doll had simply gone limp and crumbled; to those attuned to these matters, its true form was revealed, the restrained and honed Suffering of an angel put to the service of a witch. The radiance could do nothing but be still in its presence.

His work was nearly done, now. He could feel the soul in his hands now, see the decay that had begun to take hold. Now, though, he could excise it, cut it away and begin the long progress of filling it up. His breath grew shorter as the seamstress dolls continued their work, the body now intricately stitched with countless patterns and runes. It was ready at last. He breathed deep, and began cutting away at the soul.

At first nothing happened, but moments later, body began to reflect soul. Skin began to turn, smooth porcelain creeping across it as joints became exposed. Stitching turned to paint and stain, adorning the new body in countless blossoms.

For the witch, it seemed to be an eternity, holding the searing heat of a soul under transformation in his hands. For the room it was seconds. When the two synced back together, he opened his eyes to see the completed work in front of him.

A new doll lay on the table, covered in the remains of its old body, blood trickling out of its joints. The acolyte doll came to, finishing its prayer as the remaining dolls began cleaning their new sister’s body.

It blinked for a moment, lifting off the table and looking its hands over, before tilting its head and looking at the witch.

“It… doesn’t remember why it’s here,” it murmured. “Was this one dreaming?”

“In a manner of speaking.” He smiled weakly, looking at his arm and the new sigil that had appeared on it. “You’ll remember what happened as a dream. Fleeting moments, nothing clear. It’s the cost we pay, to cut the pain away.”

“Was this one in pain before?”

“A great deal. It’s past you, now. I’m holding onto it, keeping it safe. I’m a witch; it’s my duty to keep dolls safe.”

“This one remembers you, it thinks.” It blinked the remnant of a tear away. “Are you its Miss?”

“Yes.” He pulled the doll to its feet, helping it walk to a mirror. “In time, you’ll feel me, no matter where you are, no matter where I am. Your swore yourself to me, in the dream. Now I’ll give you Purpose, keep you safe, bring you to dolls just like you.”

“Did it want to forget, the dream?”

“At times. But forgetting is so permanent. You didn’t want to lose it, forever. So now I have it. Eventually, when you can feel my dreams, you’ll be able to dream it again. With me at your side, this time around.”

“Thank you Miss.”






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