The Dressing Doll - A Witch's Art

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"Alistair, it's time for you to give up these childish hobbies. It was cute when you were a kid, but I really thought you'd outgrow this by now. Dollmaking is a witch's art. It's just not… healthy for a warlock your age. You understand?"

He didn't. What he did understand was that this was the kind of conversation where whatever he said wasn't going to be heard. The decision had already been made long before his mentor entered the room. His opinion was not being asked for, he was being asked to just agree.

Still, perhaps there was a way out of this, Alistair thought. Perhaps if he gave his mentor what he wanted without too much of a fight, he'd allow a little indulgence. "Oh, okay… I-I guess I won't make any more then. That's good, right?" he offered hesitatingly.

His mentor just looked from Alistair to the young boy's bed. At least two dozen little dolls sat there, enjoying miniature teas or running in circles crying awawa, oblivious to the implied threat. The sheer disdain he shot them made clear that no, that alone would not suffice.

"You want the other students to respect you and your abilities, right?" his mentor asked. "You're probably the only warlock in your class who still has any dolls, much less is still making more. Do you want them making fun of you?"

Alistair got the sense that this conversation wasn't happening out of concern for the respect people would give him. Voicing that thought at this moment though wouldn't win him any favors, he knew.

"I… I guess I could find some to… to donate? To the younger kids? Or-or maybe one of the guest witches? I'm sure they could find a nice home in a witch's atelier."

His mentor let out an exhausted sigh. "No, Alistair. Look at these things," he said, roughly picking up one of the dolls by the neck. The doll let loose a joyous weeee as she was lifted into the air. "They are rough, crude, hardly a glimmer of existential potential in them. Would you ask a museum to catalog your childhood drawings or gift them to someone younger than you? No. Alistair, sometimes you have to let go of the things you once treasured. We all do eventually, so it's best to learn how now. Choose one to keep. We'll Unmake the rest."

In an instant, all the color drained from Alistair's world. He felt numb all over. This couldn't be happening, he thought. His dolls had earned him the snide remark here or the reproaching glare there from his mentor. Not even his nightmares could have come up with this though.

His dolls, he realized, carried on with their frivolity as though nothing had happened; innocent beings without a concern in the world. They could not even conceive of what was to come. All except one...

One doll realized. One doll fretted. One doll knew. For the first time since her Making, he realized, she looked at him not in love or adoration, but in fear. The realization alone felt like a piece of his soul withering away to dust.

He couldn't do it. He wouldn't do it. They weren't just things. However crude or half-formed, each was a precious memory of his and a potential being unto themself.

Screwing up what courage he could muster, Alistair turned back to his mentor and declared, "I'm not going to—"

The old warlock grabbed Alistair by the shoulders and spun him right back around to face his creations. Bending over, he whispered in his protégé's ear, "Choose one to keep or choose to Unmake them all. Those are your options. Be glad I'm allowing even that."

The one doll stared at her Maker. She stared and she cried. She stared and she resented. She stared and she silently pled for her sisters' sakes. Her little eyes bore holes right through Alistair's very heart. He couldn't think. He couldn't breathe. Not with her staring at him.

So Alistair shut his eyes. He shut his eyes and he chose.

Late that evening, Alistair clutched the last of his dolls to his chest as he cried great, heaving sobs into his pillow.

He didn't get the time to do it right. He didn't get the time to do it all himself. He didn't get the time to give them the goodbyes they deserved. There was little understanding in those he rendered inert. There was none in those his mentor handled himself.

"Perhaps that was the greater mercy..." he thought.

What little understanding he was able to impart on those he Unmade seemed only to confuse them. "This one is going far away, but she'll see you again, Maker," the newest of his dolls had said just before the end.

Alistair shed a river of tears for her. He shed a river for each of the dolls he'd betrayed that evening as he went through them one by one in his mind, trying to commit every facet of their being to memory before it faded, knowing it was a losing battle.

The last and first of his dolls did not hug him back. Did not console him. Did not offer him the forgiveness he begged the heavens and angels for. The only solace Satin would offer Alistair in that moment was to grieve alongside him for the sisters lost in the slaughter.

End 🧵

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