NaBloPoMo 2014 Day 28: The Doll Mage


Author’s Note: This character creation story was inspired in part by the novel Dollmage by Martine Leavitt and also in part to the late night idea sessions held with my husband for Changeling: The Lost. He wondered aloud how creepy it would be to have an Elemental Manikin who was also a doll-maker. I insisted that, no, she would have to be an Artist and this character’s story began to unravel itself in my brain. A girl who hated dolls who was fated to make them for all time for a cruel master. Not a bad beginning, hm?

= = =

Delilah had a serious Elektra complex. At least that’s what most psychotherapists would say. She adored her step-father with everything that she had (her own father had died in the war just before she was born). Her step-daddy was perfect. Everything he did was perfect. She loved being with her step-father.

Her mother…was a whole different story. People often said that Delilah looked like her mother but a sour look always came over the girl’s face when someone said that. She didn’t like being compared to her mother. Delilah’s mother was a quiet woman who loved dolls. She even made her own dolls and, for Delilah’s 12th birthday, she made a very special little lady. She even made the doll’s beautiful blond curls herself, painted that perfect bow mouth with her own two hands. She sewed the doll’s beautiful purple dress, fashioned her lace and satin hat. When she brought it out to Delilah at the height of the girl’s birthday party, it all fell apart. Delilah despised the doll that her mother had so painstakingly made, throwing it on the ground and insisting that she wanted a Barbie doll, the new line that had just come out recently.

“Not your stupid, old-fashioned doll!” Delilah threw it down again, and, this time, the doll’s delicate porcelain face shattered into pieces on the tile floor.

The party stopped dead, everyone going silent. Delilah just glared at her mother and, quickly, her father hurried her off to open gifts from the other guests. “Come on, Del, honey. Let’s open your other presents.”

Silently, Delilah’s mother gathered up the remains of the shattered doll, trying to hide her tears as she did. What none of them knew was that another set of eyes was watching them. In the shadows of the room, a Drudgeman watched everything. This particular one was called Grange, and he adored Delilah’s mother. He loved her creativity and had helped her with her dolls many a-time, adding charming little touches when she wasn’t looking. The little things that hardly anyone would notice but everyone could appreciate without even really knowing what all they were appreciating.

But this little girl. This little girl angered Grange. Sharon deserved a much better daughter than this, especially since he knew this girl had doll-talent. She despised the gift her mother had given her – both figuratively and literally – and he just would not let that stand.

Off to Arcadia he went, a plan percolating in his mind. He had promised one of the Fae to keep his eyes out for a child with maker-talent. And this child was perfect, he decided. So off Grange trot and the Fae was quite glad to hear of his discovery; they concocted a plan and contracted it.

It wasn’t too long. One night, in the darkness, Delilah disappeared, leaving something else in her place. Something sweet, loving, and just what Sharon deserved.

~ ~ ~

Meanwhile, Delilah was spirited off into Arcadia, where she kicked and screamed and hollered all the way in Grange’s grip. Used to humans, he didn’t have issue with it but the Fae that he delivered her to found it most annoying. He commanded her to be quiet. Of course, Delilah didn’t. She, in return, demanded that she be allowed to go home to her father. She wanted her daddy!

Finally, the Fae had had enough. Pulling out an ebonite needle and black widow thread, he held Delilah fast and savagely sewed her mouth shut. “Now you will listen, willful sprite. I have brought you here for a reason. You have maker-talent, doll-talent, and you will use it for me.”

A smile split his face then. A smile like the one she had seen in her storybooks, the scary ones. “You don’t understand. Of course you don’t.” He waved his hand, opening a window of sorts. In it, she could see her father and mother together in the living room…with her. Or at least what looked like her. The little girl was cradling a doll just like the one that Sharon had made for her birthday. She actually seemed to like the stupid thing and Sharon was all smiles. Dad was behind a newspaper, glancing at them every now and again with a little smile of his own.

No! That wasn’t her! It wasn’t real! She could see it for what it was. A doll of cobbled together yarn, Caymanite eyes, and a poison ivy smile. It wasn’t real!

“See? You have one. And you will make those…fetches…for others. You are not a toy. You are a tool, a worker, a means to an end. Nothing more. If you do not do what I say, I will kill you, and that thing will stay in your place forever. Do you understand?”

Delilah had to admit that she did not understand. But, honestly, that she didn’t understand really didn’t matter all that much. The Master-Maker took her into a workshop and plunked her down into a chair amidst sundry tools and materials. Delilah looked around helplessly, wringing her hands and her lips working against the painful stitches.

The Master-Maker smiled over her, grasping her hands. His skin singed her, leaving red, swollen marks on her hands. “Oh, you’ll know what to do. You are the daughter of a maker; you have the maker-talent, the doll-talent, in your hands.” The storybook smile split his lips again and, releasing her, he exited the room. Before he shut her away in the dark for no one knew how long, she barely caught sight of Grange the Drudgeman beyond the door. He gave her a triumphant, leering look, wiggling deformed fingers at her before the door slammed to.

~ ~ ~

Over the next forty-four years (at least it was that many in the human world), Delilah worked for the Master-Maker, creating fetches for those mortals that he stole away from the real world and into Arcadia. He was sickeningly right; looking at each helpless person that entered his hold, she knew exactly what to do. Each fetch bore her own special touch. A smear of honey for a smile here. A porcupine’s heart there. Kitten fur for hair on this one. A pug’s tail for a nose on that one.

Delilah began to age as well. But slowly, oh so slowly. To grow three inches took a decade. To age a year felt like a lifetime.

After not too long, the Master-Maker began to bring other Fae to see her handiwork and they marveled over her maker’s-talent. Soon, he began to contract her services out to other True Fae.

Delilah made hundreds, maybe thousands of fetches over the decades. It became rote for her. Her fingers moved and made of their own volition; she hardly had to look at what she was doing. The Master-Maker had long ago taken out her stitches, and she had never screamed again.

Before she had begun working, however, the Master-Maker had contracted someone else to “make her more efficient”. His name was Vincent.

He put corset lacings in her back to make her sit up straight and keep her from becoming bowed from sitting at the workbench. He took away the color in her eyes and made them dark, empty, cold, and capable of absorbing the very soul of person in order to make their fetch. Her skin paled away in the darkness. But Vincent, at the Master-Maker’s command, left the red burns on her hands from his touch to forever mark them. The stitch-scars stayed as well. While she was to become a fetch crafter, Vincent, she discovered, was a crafter of changelings. They worked together several times after that, but she never spoke to him. Nor he to her.

The Master-Maker only came to her when he had a new commission or a new catch for himself. He called her his “maker” or his “tinker”. So that’s what she now calls herself: “Tink Maker”.

~ ~ ~

One night, many years later, a fresh new mortal was brought into Tink’s workshop. She lifted her head from whatever she was working on and cleaned off her workbench silently. The Master-Maker dropped the mortal in front of Tink’s workbench and, as though distracted by something, he turned for the door. Tink raised her head; he’d never left her alone with one of them before.

“This one’s owner is being fractious about the cost. I shall return shortly.”

He slammed the door to behind him and Tink took her long, black, soulless look at the new mortal. Not really seeing them so much as feeling them, sensing them out, after forty-some years. Finally, silently, Tink turned towards her supply cabinet, pulling things out to make this one’s fetch.

“What are you doing?” came a trembling female voice. The mortal.

Tink didn’t reply, only brought the supplies to her bench and began to work silently.

“How can you work for them? How can you do this?” The scared voice turned accusatory. Silence fell again. The mortal tried another tack. “You…you used to be human, didn’t you? Didn’t you?”

Tink didn’t answer. She never answered. She just worked. It kept her safe. It kept her from getting her mouth sewn shut again.

“Please! Please, let me go! I want to go home. I have a husband, a daughter…please! I want to go home. I want to run in the woods with my daughter, walk on the beach with my husband. Don’t you remember? Don’t you remember what it was like? To see the sun, feel its warmth? It’s so cold here.”

Tink struggled to keep her eyes on her work but found them trailing up to look at the woman. She almost gasped. This time, she saw her. Actually saw her. And the woman looked like…like her mother. Same silky gold hair, same big blue eyes – now swimming with tears.

“Please! I have a little girl. A gorgeous little girl. She loves dolls; I have to make her a new one for her birthday.”

Mama! Tink looked down at her hands in horror at the half-finished fetch on her bench. Hay for hair, a porcelain heart, robin’s blood for the mouth. She’d been making her own mother’s fetch!

With a cry, Tink stood and dashed the half-made fetch to the floor! Tears began to stream from her eyes. Her own mother! Turning to the frightened woman, she approached her, hand out.

But the woman’s look turned frantic as she fully saw the black, empty eyes and the stitch-scarred face. “No! Stay away from me!” she cried, afraid that the creature was just about to tear her apart as well. Still Tink reached for her.

She had so much to tell her. That she was sorry, that she loved her, that she missed them both. All of a sudden, the door slammed open and the terrifying face of the Master-Maker stared down at her! His quick eyes took in her closeness to the mortal as well as the ruined fetch on the floor.

“What are you doing? Why aren’t you finished yet?” he demanded.

Tink shook her head. “You can’t have her! Take her back! I won’t…I won’t make her replacement!” Her voice felt heavy, gravelly after not being used for so long. “I won’t let you take my mother!”

Tears streamed down the woman’s face and the Master-Maker’s own split into that storybook villain smile. “Your mother? Oh, my dear little tinker, no. This isn’t your mother.” He yanked the woman to her feet. “This, my little maker, is your sister. She is the spitting image of your mother, though, isn’t she?”

Then his face fell, darkened, became terrifying once more. “Do you have any idea what your stupidity has cost me? Finish it or you will find yourself, and her, in most dire straits. Servants can be replaced, after all!” With that, he yanked the woman away, through the door, slamming it to before Tink could get near it.

“No! Let her go! Let her go! Please! Don’t hurt her! Sister! Sister!” Tink screamed until her voice was raw and banged on the door until her hands bled. But there was no answer but the woman’s screams. They were changing her, transforming her, just like they had done to Tink.

Suddenly, the slot in the door opened. “Hear that, my little tinker?” the Master-Maker asked, as a particularly painful scream rippled through the halls. “Every moment you dally, the worse it becomes for her. Her pain is on your plate. Enjoy it.” The slot slammed shut.

Tink didn’t have a choice. The longer she refused, the harder they would make sure the transformation was for her sister. Falling into silence again, she stooped to gather up the remains of the fetch, sat at the workbench again and, amidst streaming tears, she let her fingers work.

As soon as she put the finishing touches on the fetch, the door opened again and in swept the Master-Maker. He said not a word to Tink but grabbed up the fetch doll and exited the room once more.

Tink felt a great weight settle on her shoulders and she fell forward onto her workbench and sobbed and sobbed.

After that, Tink’s talent began to wane, become shoddy and lackluster. The Master-Maker was displeased, to say the least. His reputation was suffering because of her worsening work. He sewed her mouth shut again when she verbally refused, burned her hands again when she physically refused.

It went on and on. When her work was less than desired, the Master-Maker punished her for the fall in his reputation. Day after day Tink lay in the dark, unsure of whether or not she would survive her next punishment. He was becoming more and more savage when he punished her and she was becoming more and more reckless in her refusals. The stitches had stayed in this time, the burns making her hands ache.

Tink does not know to this day exactly how she escaped. All she can remember is that a mortal lost their life in the process as she fled the Master-Maker’s mansion. And she…she somehow tumbled out of the hedge, scarred, scratched, bleeding, mouth still stitched, into the wilds of Nowhere, Indiana.

Now her story starts all over again.

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