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.

Failed Matchmaker


Inspired by White Wolf CCP’s Changeling: The Lost game.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match. Find me a find, catch me a catch!

What if you had an exact match? Something – no, someone – who looked just like you, is you in every respect? They aren’t just you; they are the you that you wish you could be. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

~

She had never intended to find it. Hell no! And she didn’t. It found her. Of course, by Arcadia’s curse, one was older, the other still young. They hardly looked alike anymore; rather like mismatched twins from different species.

If you could See, that is.

She seemed perfectly content, working in a chocolate shop on the swanky side of town. She didn’t live there, of course, but it wasn’t a bad job. Everyone needs money these days.

Christmas-time. Busy season as always. Parties to attend; hosts to impress; meaningless presents to be given.

She stood at the end of the counter, wrapping gift boxes. She had a way with paper, ribbon and scissors that was just short of magic, the shop owner liked to say. Her wrapping was the best in town; people came just to watch her make her creations. The shiny paper, the sparkling ribbons, the little decorative touches that she added: a curl here, a twist there, a double bow for flair.

It was Christmas Eve when it found her.

Six years old with eyes like shards of blue glass, sunken into a pale face devoid of emotion or expression.

The au pair left her at the wrapping table. “Stay here. I’ll be just a second.”

It was like something had turned her spine to ice inside her body. She saw that girl standing there, and it was then that she felt like her glamour shields were savagely ripped away. She stood there, a Changeling, naked before this child monster.

“I know what you are.” That was all it said, but that was enough.

The store was crowded, full to capacity. Surely it wouldn’t try here. That would give her time to run away. Start again. Somewhere, anywhere.

No. Her shears were gone.

“No second chances,” came the acidic hiss.

The shears sliced into her side, through flesh and blood, with nary a sound at all. She felt a chink inside her and stumbled back, blood pouring from the wound now vacated as it yanked back the scissors. Red streamed through her fingers as she grasped at her side. But resistance is futile.

The monster-child’s hand and dress were covered in her blood, making pink velvet ugly.

Somewhere there was a shriek; it sounded muffled, far away. The first sign that you are dying. Still holding her side, she blinked slowly. Once. Twice. It was still there, over her, ignoring the screams of her au pair. It pushed the woman away fiercely, violently. It only had one goal, after all. It wasn’t going to let her come back; it wasn’t going to let her exist.

“No second chances.”

It was going to watch her die, make sure she was gone. Already the store owner was calling 911, and people were shielding their children from the spilling blood when all the little ones wanted was to watch with rapt attention. The au pair, gutless woman that she was, cowered from the thing with the bloody shears.

She tried to make herself aware, call on her defenses, her abilities, but it just smiled.

“Anything you can do, I can do better…” Wretched song.

She was dying, she knew it. The blood was pooling on the floor now, staining white marble. Ouch! Something behind her pricked her fingers, something sharp.

A chocolate knife? Good enough.

It was less than pleased and screeched with all the rage of a 6-year-old as it pulled the small blade out of its shoulder. Loss of blood makes you dizzy, throws off your aim.

It became even angrier when a child-voice, like its own should have been, cried out. “Leave her alone, freak!”

“Stupid changeling. Stupid humans. Fine. Didn’t like it here anyway.”

The world went blurry along its edges; she was almost gone. It had won, no denying that.

Just as she was fading, it turned to her and grabbed her hair. “Not yet. You need to see this.”

Even amidst her blurred fading, it was like a nightmare. The kind that you see and feel, clearly and crisply. The very seams of the store tore away, the world turedn on its side, and a great horned beast, more terrifying than any horse, dragon, or chimera that can be imagined thundered through the break. The creature that sat atop it was infinitely more beautiful and infinitely more terrifying.

People screamed, children keened, humanity swooned.

It ran to him and he scooped it up with a look one part affection and one part disgust. It threw its arms around his neck and then gestured around.

“Merry Christmas, Daddy!”

Instead, he turned his eyes on her. “Time to go home, my pretty.”

She had been right. It was like someone lowering a curtain. No hope, no peace, no heaven. No second chances.

The Soul of a Shadow [Changeling: The Lost story]


She was a terror, a hellion. At least that’s what the neighbors said. She could be heard yelling defiantly at her parents at all hours, sneaking out, sneaking back in, throwing things when she was upset.

They’d tried everything: cajoling, yelling, threatening, therapy, punishment, pleading, none of it worked. Finally, in despair, they threw up their hands and sent her away to her great aunt in Britain.

Grandma Leona, as everyone called her, lived in a small town about two hours north of London. Hell on earth, Brie thought. And they seriously expected this old crone to tell her what to do? She began here just as she had ended at home, sneaking out with boys, going to the local pub at all hours, terrorizing the neighborhood girls. But her behavior was not limited to outside Leona’s house. Brie messed with her tidy cottage as well, breaking things, stealing, hiding things to confuse her great aunt.

However, Grandma Leona was less patient than her parents. She tried a few things, even swatting the girl with a switch, but her old bones were not made to deal with someone else’s mistake.

One night, when Brie had snuck out, again, Leona took several household items and made her way into the deserted back garden. Placing a jar of honey, a bowl of mead, and some bread and pork at the woods’ edge, she stepped back twenty paces and turned her back on the tree line.

“Good Neighbors and especially you, O Darkened King, please hear my words. My grand-niece is a terror amongst mortals. She flaunts all rules, mortal and your own. I beg you, come teach her a lesson. Teach her the necessity of rules, of obeying those who know more than she. Take my offering and help me, please.”

Grandma Leona waited for a few moments and then headed back to the house, leaving the offering for whichever of the Good People would see fit to accept it.

The next day, Brie was a completely different girl. Kind, courteous, obedient, helpful.

A completely different girl…

= = =

“I don’t belong here. I want to go home. Please! Please let me go home,” she sobbed and blubbered.

He stood over her, an ebon cane in his hand, which he brought down on her back again. Unfortunately, she only cried harder.

“I want to go home, you bastard! You can’t—you can’t keep me here!”

“I shall do whatever I please with you, you ugly trollop. First, we must make you presentable.” He clenched his hand and raised it upward.

The shackles around her wrists rose up, the chains clanking heavily as she was raised to her feet, the large shackle around her neck forcing her head up.

He paced and forth before her, observing, examining. His painfully, terrifyingly beautiful face was serious, grave. Then, raising the cane, he moved it along her face, feather-light and white-hot all at once. As he moved it along her face, her features began to reshape themselves. A higher brow here, get rid of those mortal wrinkles and blemishes, deepen the dimples, straighten the nose, draw out the cheekbones. He spent all night changing her, listening to her screams as her skin stretched, retracted, bones moved and realigned.

Finally, just as the Arcadian sun began to pink the horizon, he stopped.

“You shall remain here, now that you are a little less ugly,” he droned, the wolfish look in his eyes flashing.

She just hung there, the shackles tight around her wrists, ankles, and neck. Finally, out of sheer exhaustion, she fell asleep in that position.

= = = =

She never knew how long she was there. But he came to her every night, fashioning her until she was perfect in his sight. Then, when he came to her, it was to revel in that beauty that he had made…whether she wanted it or not.

After a while, Grayfold moved her from her cell to a rich, ivory-laden room. She was his favorite nocturnal concubine. But the shackles always remained. Even when he bedded her, the shackles were never taken off. They were part of her now. Her freedom was totally gone; Grayfold decided when she ate, when she slept, when he had his way with her, who else had their way with her. She never saw daylight; her room had no windows, only candlelight; he always came to her at night, and the darkness was her life.

Slowly, over the years, she began to change. Her skin darkened, as did her hair. The shadows of her room became a part of her, swathing her body, wrapping her like clothing. This pleased Grayfold, for when he came to her, all it took was a swipe of his powerful hand to disperse the shadow-raiment and lay her body bare to his sight and touch. That body that was now beautiful and perfect.

She never knew how she escaped. One day she was in her ivory tower and the next, she was scarred, bruised, cut, and broken in a place totally different. A place that smelled, looked, sounded, and felt different. Some part of her knew she was “home” but it felt…wrong in a way. Oh, yes, she was glad to be away from Grayfold, but something was missing.  It was then that she looked down at her hands.

Her shackles were gone! Her beautiful nightmetal shackles had disappeared. On her wrists, ankles, and neck were only thin, whitening scars outlining the bindings that had been there for years. Her limbs felt strangely light…and entirely wrong.

It was then that she began to cry—breaking, wracking sobs. It was as though she had lost five very important limbs, five very intense parts of her. Those shackles told her who she was; what she was for; what her life’s purpose was; what her place was in the world. Those shackles were her identity. And he had taken that from her, tossed her out into the cold like a used-up doll.

Even as she cried, she began to weave leaves together and wrap them around her wrists, neck, and ankles. Anything to cover those scars, anything to make her feel normal again. She felt better once they were covered but it still felt wrong. She would have to figure out a way to make it right again. She HAD to make it right again.