Purgatory 2

“Maybe it’s better, this way. You’ll be so much safer, away from here. You won’t have to worry about us anymore. That witch, she promised to keep us safe, in exchange for you. So be brave for us, and when this is all over, we’ll see each other again, yeah?”

The witch once more awoke on the jagged porcelain sands, letting out a welp as he felt his shoulder slip back into place. He was at the bottom of the cliff, now, but the keeper he had jumped at was no where to be seen. He must have fallen while scaling down it. But he was alive.

“Awake again, hmm?” The reflection was sitting next to him, humming an indecipherable song. “Muttering in your sleep about something or another.”

“If you’re my hallucination, you know what it was.” He pushed himself up, slipping his shawl off and beginning to wrap his wounded arm. “I’m close, now. The heart shouldn’t be far from here.”

“Isn’t it so much more healing to tell me? To give your secrets willingly?”

“There’s nothing to give up. Either you know or you don’t.” The witch began walking once more, doing his best to ignore the growing pain in his legs. “Can’t you just leave me in peace?”

“Well, if this is hell, then torment is the point.” It shifted in front of him, walking backwards as he continued onward. “If it’s purgatory, then I’m here to help you understand yourself, to continue onward.”

“Dolls don’t go to purgatory. Witches don’t go to purgatory. This is a physical location on the physical plane. If I was dead, my soul would be in the void until it was fished back out by my dolls or by a witch to drain my magicks. This is a scrapyard for dolls.”

“Comeon now, you of all maybe-people should know that belief is what makes the place. Dolls murmur about this place, don’t they? A place of return, a place of rest, a place of transcendence. If this is a physical place that could be found, wouldn’t there be grave robbers?”

“If it’s on the immaterial plane, why is my arm broken? Why am I getting hungry? How did my body get here? If it’s hell, there’d be countless demons squabbling for my soul.”

“Dolls don’t go to people hell, do they? They come here.”

“Dolls don’t get hungry either.”

“It is funny, isn’t it? Your arm’s dislocated, you can feel your bones are fractured, yet there’s not a drop of blood to be found on your body.” It laughed, slipping behind him and giving his shoulder a slap, soliciting another welp. “Instead you covered it up, quickly as that.”

“Fuck you.” He blinked for a moment, the realization dawning on him. “…You hurt me?”

“You’re having vivid conversations with a hallucination and you think your mind can’t simulate the feeling of pain?”

The witch’s fingers crackled to life, the remaining magicks he had springing forth towards the shade in a sharp roar. The reflection stood amidst it all, an unimpressed look on its face as the magicks faded.

“Did that make you feel better?”

“A little bit.”

They continued onward, now in silence as the witch began to feel out the leylines in the environment. They were all diverging ahead of him, funnels of raw magick running through the piles of scrap like rivers. It was enough to give him a migraine, but he was so close now.

“I made it,” he murmured, finding himself at one final ledge. Below, in a vast crucible, broken and whole cores alike were being collected by far smaller harvesters and deposited in the hellish smelter. Bursts of magic flickered as the cores dissolved, returning their contained magicks to the environment. An immeasurable source of power that no witch could resist… except that witches couldn’t come to this place. This was the resting place of dolls, sacred and forbidden.

“It looks awfully inviting, doesn’t it?” The reflection sat on the ledge, smiling at the display. “Imagine it. Thoughts and self, melting away in that concoction. Maybe your magicks will be remade into something better, hmm? A more perfect doll, for a more perfect Miss.”

“I’m a witch,” he muttered to himself, sitting down crosslegged as he put his hands forward, feeling the air for the threads of magic to tug on. “I shouldn’t be here, but I am. She sent me here, didn’t she? She couldn’t stand it anymore. The mockery from her sisters.”

“Am I supposed to know something you don’t?”

“You know things I can’t right now.” His eyes began to flicker, reflections of the leylines becoming clear in them. “My memories aren’t complete, because you have them. Memories of that night. Memories of the council.”

“Please don’t,” the reflection’s tone turned oddly fearful, anxious. “This was your goal. You’ll die here, become something better. You 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘵 become something better.”

“What happened, shade?” The porcelain under him began to shift, runes forming in deepening trenches.

“She loved you! She never wanted this.”

“She went to the council to get rid of me, and they denied her.”

“She wanted to make you better! To give you Purpose!”

“There we go.” The runes continued to grow outward from the witch, thunderous steps of the keepers now drawing closer to investigate. “I want those memories back.”

“You don’t want this!” It pleaded, growing more erratic in its form. “She can give you all the power you need!”

“She was mocked for it, wasn’t she? Picking a boy of no name, no lineage, to be her ward. And when I couldn’t pass the exams, when I couldn’t learn the things she wanted me to… the sisters made her keep me. A reminder of her mistake.”

“That’s not what happened!”

“She sent me here… my magicks extracted, my soul brought back to her to be reformed, reshaped, into something she would prefer.”

“It’s what you are!” The shade had dissolved in form by now, the magic holding it together fading into the maelstrom forming. “A doll masquerading as something else, something more! But she can make you more, if you’d just let her!”

“I suppose she did.” He looked down at his broken arm, the shawl having now fallen off to reveal the creeping corruption spreading up it. “She’s the reason I’m here, after all. And now, I have the means to kill her for it.”

The reflection grew silent, watching with horror as the piles of broken bodies gave way to continue carving runes into the landscape. The once regulated flow of magicks was now spilling over from their banks, flooding towards the once-witch as he began his enchantment proper. The titanic keepers and diminutive harvesters alike stilled their work, turning to look at this new nexus of power in their space. The runes etched into the landscape began filling with the excess, ethereal power becoming material mana, fueling a spell unlike any they’d seen.

Slowly, surely, broken bodies began to bring themselves together, the remnants of a million dolls bathed in the very magicks pulled from them. New cores crystallized midair, tied to a new Miss, with new Purpose.

He had so much work yet to do.






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