The two witches, emerald and ruby, stood atop an overhand and peered out into the crowd of dolls below. Behind them, a lithe demon was cleaning its pistol, while their fae companion paced back and forth.
“It’s too risky,” the fae mumbled, holding their coat close.
“We were hired for this job; we can’t very well walk it back now,” the emerald witch whispered back, looking over the mill with increasing concern. “We just need to rethink our approach.”
“They’re dolls; can’t you two cast some spell or another on them?” The demon asked.
“Under ordinary circumstances, perhaps.” The ruby witch pulled his dual swords from their sheaths, holding them forward into the moonlight and watching the runes on them begin to glow. “In these, a direct assault is still the most viable option.”
“There’s at least three hundred of them down there!” The fae raised their voice for a moment, before quieting back down. “We’ll be overwhelmed in seconds, and eviscerated before I can tell any of you lot how bad of an idea this was.”
“If we come back to our employer empty handed, that’ll look like an enticing alternative.” The demon laughed, holstering its pistol and looking around at the party. “Now, these things aren’t particularly smart, and they’re very aimless without a witch, yeah?”
“Mostly,” the emerald witch nodded.
“Shock and awe, I say. Distract them with a few flashbangs, maybe a little bit of that witch magic too, our glamorous friend here sneaks through and retrieves those mana canisters, we make a hasty retreat.”
“What’re they planning to do with those, anyways? Dolls can’t use magic, this doesn’t sound right.” The fae peaked over the cliff again, furrowing their brow. “There’s gotta be a witch somewhere in there.”
“If there was, we’d feel them.” The ruby witch shook his head, his runes growing ever-brighter. “No, these are purposeless dolls, feral even. Connections long ago severed, voluntarily or otherwise. They’re little more than a school of fish, gathering and awaiting a shark.”
“Unfortunately, I do agree with my ruby companion; time is of the essence. We move on my signal.” The emerald witch crouched down, crackles of magic forming in her hand as her other began a countdown.
Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six.
Five. Four. Three. Two.
The demon timed its grenades perfectly, explosions of light and sound booming over head as the party soared over the cliff, landing atop a cushion of magic as they began their rampage. Bursts of magic, bullets, and blades lit up the night, servitor and combat dolls alike falling. The fae had vanished in the chaos of the scene, well on their way to retrieve the prize. Seconds ticked by as the disoriented crowd of dolls began to converge on the fighters quicker and quicker, threatening to overwhelm the trio by sheer numbers alone.
The emerald witch fell first, a broken infiltrator doll succeeding in landing a fatal blow with its daggers. Her magicks sputtered out as she fell, vanishing into the swarm as the ruby witch and demon went back-to-back, bolts of lightning and rifle rounds giving way to fire and pistolshot.
“Is this it?” The demon hissed, smacking a doll away with the butt of one of its pistols. “Not even three minutes!”
“Hold the line,” the ruby witch hissed back. “They’ll be back soon enough.”
“There is no line, we’re back to back!”
“Then don’t die.”
The witch’s encouragement meant little; soon enough, the demon found itself overrun, pulled to the ground by two service dolls as they dragged it into the crowd. Through its screams, it twisted its head to look at the ruby witch, now completely surrounded and bathed in fire. Even as a doll boot came down on its head, it watched, wondering how these dolls had proven so effective against them…[-/-/-]
The fae awoke, blinking as they surveyed their surroundings. They were shackled to the ground, an anchor holding their chains in place. Around them stood dozens of dolls, including two very intimidating combat dolls in front of them.
“H-hi,” they stammered, smiling sheepishly. “I’m a fae noble, just so you know, so you really shouldn’t mess with me.”
“They don’t care,” the emerald witch was bound next to them, pale in the face as she roused from her stupor. Her dress was stained with blood, still fresh from where her liver had been sliced open. “Dolls have no concept of making deals with the fae.”
“Weren’t you dead a moment ago?”
“Yes, it was extremely unpleasant.” She looked around, taking in the makeshift throne in front of them, and the many canisters of mana surrounding it. “Did you even manage to get close?”
“That’s a lot of attitude from a dead witch.”
“Where’s the demon?” She looked around again, searching for other survivors. “Where’s my coven brother?”
“Probably off doing something horrific to them. I hear feral dolls will consume magicks directly, by eating the flesh.” The fae grimaced. “Which I don’t have, by the way.”
“You don’t have flesh?”
“No, magicks. I’m letting our captors here know, they can’t get magicks out of me. Fae don’t work like that.”
“Save your breath fae,” a familiar voice approached, the two turning their heads to see the ruby witch walking up, flanked by multiple dolls.
“It’s interesting you mentioned being a fae noble; it’s the only reason you’re still alive.”
“W-what are you doing with those dolls?” The fae seemed genuinely confused, while the emerald witch sighed.
“He claimed these dolls.” She cursed under her breath. “Fucking schemes…”
“Well, that’s not strictly true.” The ruby witch shrugged, stepping onto the makeshift platform and sitting on the accompanying throne. “Truth be told, these dolls claimed me. They manifested dreamwalkers in their ranks, and they found my dreams… agreeable.”
“By the matriarchs… you let yourself get possessed by lost dolls?” The emerald witch looked with both disbelief and horror. “Were your wards that weak?”
“This is a ready made manor, sister. We’d be fools not to take this. More dolls than our entire coven, combined!”
“They’re puppeting you like a cheap marionette!”
“And yet here we are.” The ruby witch turned back to the fae, nodding to the keeper dolls to unshackle them. “Thank you for your help as always, fae. Please see that word of this doesn’t reach the unseen court.”
“I- I helped?” The fae blinked, before deciding not to ask too many more questions. “Yeah, yeah of course. Well, I’ll just be, on my way then…”
With little further urging, the fae began briskly walking away from the situation, leaving just the two witches and many, many dolls.
“I’m not going to help you with this,” the emerald witch hissed. “This is lunacy. You’re stronger than this!”
More dolls gathered around as the ruby witch stood back up, stepping down to kneel next to his once-companion and smile warmly at her.
“We have all the time in the world to argue about this, but I am right, and you’ll come to see that.” The ruby witch shrugged but continued to smile. “In the mean time, dear sister, can I interest you in some tea?”