“Has Miss ever regretted using his magic for something?”

The question held in the air longer than the witch thought it would, staring ahead at his journal while his figurine doll sat beside him, kicking its legs off the table.

“I’ve taken jobs I’m not particularly proud of, sure, to make ends meet. But I don’t think I really regret anything,” he finally answered, writing another line. “I do as I’m asked. Witches rarely regret, but their clients often do, if that makes any sense.”

“Does Miss have a lot of upset customers?”

“No, one of the first things you have to learn to be around humans so much is to learn when they want something that they really shouldn’t. When to tell them you can’t help them. Helps to prevent buyer’s remorse.”

“Do humans regret what they ask for often?”

“Sometimes. Humans tend to know themselves well enough, even if they don’t think so. They very rarely know what’s best for others, though, and always think a witch can fulfill their desires for the world.”

“Is that why witches don’t work with human rulers?”

“For the most part. Witches scheme amongst each other, but they know that world domination isn’t beneficial for anyone, certainly not a world dominated by humans. Other witches would stop them quickly enough.”

“Has Miss ever done work for a human ruler?”

“Once, actually. One of those regretful clients, as a matter of fact.” He leaned back in his writing chair, retrieving a freshly rolled cigarette and lighting it with a spark. “He was a prince, of all things.”

“Miss worked for a real prince??”

“They’re a lot less impressive these days than the ones in your books and shows but, yes. His story was a stereotypical one, and I was younger, a fresh witch making his way. It was a lot of money back then to turn away.”

He watched the ceiling for a moment, tracking the wisps of smoke breaking against it, before continuing. “He wanted to be free of an arranged marriage. He was going run away, to another country, go live with a boy he fancied instead. I took it of course, not knowing any better.”

“Doesn’t Miss still help anyone who’s being forced to do something they don’t want?”

“If it were just that, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.” He gave a faint smile. “The thing is, doll, when you meddle in one person’s life, you meddle in dozens.

“I cast a spell on him that did what he wanted; his parents were delayed in searching for him when he disappeared. His wouldbe fiancee felt her love fade faster than it ordinarily would have. A glamour kept others from readily recognizing him.

“In time, though, he realized that the life he dreamt of, the simple life with his lover, wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as he had hoped. He’d grown too used to the life of privilege he lived, to all the material things he had access to. He wanted it all back.”

“What did Miss do?”

“I told him the truth; I couldn’t just call it all back. He made his decision, and he had to live with it, for the rest of his life.”

“Did he?”

“In a manner of speaking, I suppose he did. He eventually made it back to his parents, but they hardly recognized him.

“His fiancee had long since married another. The life he returned to was one in ruins, and the only thing he could do was try to seek revenge on the awful witch that had so clearly cursed him.”

“Did he attack Miss?”

“He hired a rival to find me and led an assault on my first manor, yeah. Razed it to the ground and very nearly did me in.” The witch laughed. “You know me, I’m not much of a fighter, especially not back then. At one point, he had a gun to my head, and I’d made my peace.”

“So what happened? Did Miss’s magic push him away?”

“No, Lilac did.” As if on cue, the quiet maid doll had appeared in the room, replacing the waste bins and looking around for loose things. “It gutted him, and then his guards, and then it took me and you away from there.”

“This one doesn’t remember that, though? That seems awfully exciting for it to just forget.”

“Some things are better not remembering, Button.” He finished the cigarette, handing it to the maid doll with a knowing smile. “At very least, now you know how we came here, yeah?”

The doll didn’t seem particularly satisfied. “Even after all of that, Miss didn’t regret using his magic?”

“No, I don’t think so.” He gave a slight shrug. “I’ve cast far worse spells than that, I’ve seen my sisters brainwash entire villages. Something like that…

“I don’t regret it, no. I wish I had known not to accept his money, certainly, without being prepared for the consequences. I regret not doing more to protect you and my dolls. But in the end, the regret for the spell was entirely for that prince, not me.”

“Would Miss do it again?”

“With where I am now?” He looked to Lilac, who looked at the figurine doll with the hint of a snaggletooth poking out. “I don’t think he’d make it past the front gate this time.”






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