The doll stood admist the burning wreckage, sirens echoing in the distance. The facades on its limbs had long ago been shredded off, arms now little more than scythes with fingers and legs exposed to their reinforced frame. It breathed deeply, tasting the air.

It looked down, kneeling down at the feet of its witch and looking over her body. Countless wounds covered her body, her combat armor having shattered and crated several times over. A broken rifle lay next to an soaked hand, a soft smile still on her face.

The doll wasn’t sure what to do. It knew what had happened: the piece of shrapnel protruding from the witch’s chest was the killing blow. An ignoble death.

It couldn’t quite register the witch as being dead, though. Surely she had a ward. Any moment now, her eyes would flicker.

It knelt there, unmoving, waiting. The witch’s body remained just as still. Perhaps it’d take more time.

A shift in the rubble distracted it, standing to alert. It had to protect its witch while she recovered. It dashed forward, swiping away fallen facade…

…to find an unexpected sight: a cowering child.

He looked up at the doll, confused at first, clearly expecting it to finish him off. When it just stared at him, uncertain, he tilted his head, looking at it intently.

“Is… is she dead?” He whispered, barely audible.

It looked back at the broken form of its witch, unsure. The boy crept forward, cautiously approaching the witch’s body, looking at it with a certain shock.

“She saw me,” he murmured. “I heard the artillery crack, her ward fell…”

The doll sniffed the air, confirming the boy’s story. Its witch had recast her ward, the residual magicks still drifting in the air around the child. What would have been trivial to deflect became a killing blow.

The boy knelt over over the body, hands together in a soft prayer as the doll approached, kneeling down next to him and looking at him curiously. There was more than just residual magick about him; it could smell something deeper, more intrinsic. The boy had latent talent.

“What’re you going do?” He asked, looking up at the battered frame.

It made a confused noise, unsure of what to say to the child. Words didn’t come naturally to it, after sharing its thoughts with its witch for so long. Instead, it reached for the witch’s pendant, still glowing a soft blue around her neck, unfastening it with a gentle motion and handing it to the boy. He took it, gingerly, holding it in his hands and staring into the depths of the simple thing.

“I can… hear her?” He blinked, unsure. “In the distance… is it an echo?”

The doll stood up, offering a hand to him. He hesitated, still staring into the pendant, lost to some faraway song, until finally he clenched his hand around the gem, accepting the doll’s hand.

It pulled the new ward up to its shoulder, letting him settle atop it before beginning its long trek out of the rubble and into the desolate and burning streets.






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