CW: (Probably) noncon, (probably) gaslighting, violence, stormy-seas-ahead-beware
“Ma’am, it’s gone off on its own again.” The benignity of the officer’s statement underscored the scene in front of the witch; a fresh recruit, torn half apart. He was screaming himself hoarse until a medic jabbed an autoinjector into his thigh, finally bringing his volume mercifully down.
“What did he do?” The witch scowled, kneeling down next to the mewling private as the medic began working on the bandages. “Can you talk? What did you do?”
The private murmured some nonsense in response, the officer cringing as the recruit drifted further away. “Best as the rest of the barracks can tell, he decided to get handsy with the unit, it overloaded the restraint mechanism and took off after doing… this.”
“Of course it did.” The witch’s hand sparked above the worst of the private’s wounds, eliciting newfound screams as flesh and bone began to stitch back together. “I’m going after my doll; use him as an object lesson for the rest of these idiots.”
She didn’t wait a moment more, standing back up and pushing past the onlooking officer and the gathered and gawking crowd of infantry and mechanics. A ragtag group of conscripts and tech school dropouts, that she now had had the privilege of babysitting while they broke her things. The more experienced of them parted to the side as her hands lit up with teleportation runes; the others learned what happened when they stood too close to an active ley portal.
The witch journeyed across arid tundra, searching for the tracks of a weapon designed to leave none. The days were spent looking in every crevice, burning the undergrowth to try to flush it out, sending out seeker runes in hopes of tagging its unique ethereal signature. She sprinted across long-dried river beds, the warmth of her magic the only thing keeping her from freezing as the winds swept up dust and ice.
Nights were spent staring out at a camp lantern, a sleepless rest that let her mind wander. In those twilight moments, she could feel the thing’s thoughts, distant, erratic, but… yearning, all the same. Wondering if it should return to her. She seized those moments, an anchor to pull against and see where the line tightened. Those feelings guided her ever closer, and kept it from moving at night, when it could easier outpace her.
When she found it, it was by a river, trying to wash its uniform and the long since dried blood covering the fabric. Ordinarily, it would have sensed her approaching at least a kilometer off, but it was too distracted with this task to register her presence. So enthralled in the task, the witch was able to stand directly behind it without alerting it, watching as it scrubbed the fibers raw, trying to remove the blood to no avail.
Weaves of light and void formed on her fingers, ropes of magicks given physical form becoming taunt between her hands. She would need to be quick about it. A single wrong move and…
It lashed out, a reaper’s blade emerging out of its arm as it clipped her eye. The witch let out a violent gasp, going in close and tackling it to the ground as the ropes came off her hands and tightened around the trashing thing. It was over in a blink, the witch laying next to it on the ground, cursing profusely as the doll continued to thrash against the now impossibly-tight restraint.
“Let me go!” It screamed, its own magicks desperately flickering and fizzling out under the overwhelming presence of its witch. “Please, just let me go!”
“Not today love,” one of the witch’s curses took form, the gash above her eye beginning to stitch itself back together as she wiped blood off her face. “It’s up to doll now to decide how hard this is going be. Does it want to go to sleep with its sisters tonight?”
“That wasn’t a fair question; doll’s going to, one way or the other.” The witch rolled atop the doll, putting her hands on its face as it desperately tried to bite at her fingers. “What it does have control over is, is it going be wearing a muzzle for a month?”
The doll struggled harder, the ethereal ropes binding it beginning to fray under the sheer force of the thing. With a grimace, the witch concentrated, her fingers once again lighting up as she felt for the doll’s thoughts, until finally she found something she could use. A deep breath, and…
She opened her eyes to an apartment, some modern construction in a city she’d become all-to-used to. When she looked out the window beside her, the city shimmered in and out of view, fragmented recollections of a time now long gone. In front of her, a boy sat, scribbling away notes in a journal. It was always the same page, no matter how many times she visited.
“You need to pull yourself together,” the witch said softly, pulling herself a seat next to the boy. “It’s not going end well for either of us if you don’t.”
“They’ll be home soon,” he mumbled back, focused on his drawings. “Are you going be there?”
“I’m always there, you know that.”
“I guess.” He turned the journal over to show her an illustration of some sort of insect colony. “I’m killing the next one who touches me.”
“If you cooperate, I’ll send the one who bothered you to rec time with your sisters.”
“Can I watch?”
“If you cooperate.”
“Fine. I want better rations tonight, too.”
“If you cooperate.”
The door clicked open, and once more the witch was by the river bank, the doll beneath her now still and murmuring quietly to itself. With a sigh, she stood, helping it to its feet and releasing the magicked cords from it. It looked at her, some distant insight in its eyes, before it finally smiled.
“Are we going home Miss?” It chirped.
“Yeah, we are.” Her fingers lit up with teleportation runes once more, a portal rupturing to life behind her and the doll. “Is doll going to behave for Miss?”
“Of course Miss!”
“Good doll.” She ushered it through the portal, pausing only for a moment as she stepped through to look back to the river, and the uniform still laying on the dirt besides it, watered down blood now beginning to release and pool beneath it.
The portal snapped shut, the officer already standing in front of her, a look of nervousness on his face as he looked between her and the doll. “Ahm… Welcome back, ma’am. I see your hunt went well.”
“It did.” She broke her thoughts off, giving the doll a pat on the head and shooing it off. “It gets ice cream tonight. So do the rest of the dolls. And… what was that private’s name?”
“Private Hans, ma’am.”
“Can he stand on his feet yet?”
“Tell him its his lucky day; he wanted to feel up my dolls, so he gets to spend an hour with them at rec time.”
“Was something confusing, Captain?”
“…No ma’am. I’ll let him know.”
“Good soldier.” The witch sighed and started towards the command barracks, leaving a mortified officer behind as she stretched out her arms. Maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t have to do this again until the next batch arrived in six months.