For witches that weren’t wholly self-taught, learning the ways of casting spells and laying enchantments was a long and arduous one under the tutelage of an elder witch, sometimes in conjunction with a coven.
In this witch’s case, she had been learning since her early days as a little girl, left to the care of a matriarch at an age too young to remember. Her talent sprung early, showing promise when she came of age years later.
The spark of her childhood rapidly dwindled, though; she found it difficult to progress beyond the initial spells any apprentice had to practice time and time again, instead stuck watching as her peers began to outclass her in every way.
Her matriarch wasn’t a particularly cruel witch, as these things went, but her attention rapidly turned away from the underwhelming apprentice and to newer, more promising witches to raise her prestige in the coven. Soon, the apprentice was left to teach herself.
But that self-teaching left her free to begin to explore her matriarch’s sanctuary, to spend more of her days with the manor dolls. Friends that she had made as a little girl, now able to go on adventures with them through the winding halls of the mansion.
One doll in particular she began spending more and more time with, a friend and confidant from her first days under the witch’s care. A broken doll that kept to itself, held together with the ethereal equivalent of packing tape and loose string, sweeping forgotten corners.
It was a queer companion, teaching its wayward apprentice friend the things that she couldn’t learn in her classes. Minor enchantments lost centuries ago, only kept alive by cutlery dolls listening below the floors of their misses.
When their time together grew longer, and the apprentice’s matriarch had forgotten her presence, the two would begin practicing more obscure magicks, ancient magicks that hadn’t been seen since nephilim walked the earth. Things long thought lost, or regarded as obscene.
Even these potent enchantments couldn’t overcome the apprentice’s shortcomings, unable to hold together a sigil without the steady hand of the doll. It had no magic to its own name, but it could guide the witchling, holding her hands and tracing the runes with them.
It wasn’t long before the guests of the matriarch began to notice a change in the air, the scent of forsaken rites being practiced deep within the sanctuary. When other witches came to investigate, they tore the mansion down to its baseboards, desperate to find what was hidden.
The two had absconded in the night, the doll teaching its new witch a deeply taboo ritual, severing its tether to the matriarch by force and tying it to the once-apprentice. They fled for weeks, hunted by every witch that could be rallied against them.
The pursuit came to an end when the doll taught its young witch its final secret; how to steal power from the Choir, to obtain power beyond anything her sisters could imagine. If only she would embrace her potential, to pray for things she had cried for as a child.
The two conducted the ritual under the darkness of a new moon, summoning an angel from its post and slaughtering the thing like common cattle, transfusing its ichor into the broken doll and beginning the final incantation.
By the time the hunter witches had arrived, there was little left to take back for trial: the crucified form of a Virtue, the smoldering char of an unearthly brightness, and the tattered remnants of an apprentice’s sash.
Somewhere, far away, a witch and doll passed through a market, the witch performing little spells with burnt hands for the passing children as her doll stood tall behind her, slivers of radiance leaking through its sealed cracks.