Fungal Halo

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Undoing A Moment Of Weakness

The combat doll leaves a wake of fire and blood—noteworthy in scale even by the standards of this place—as it makes its way through yet another circle of hell.

At last it arrives at its destination, the prison for the soul of its old witch.

“You, construct, do not belong in this place,” a voice booms, coming from a massive figure manifesting in a swirl of flames.

The doll, unfazed, stares dispassionately into the face of the Greater Demon. It replies, “you are in my way.”

“Why have you come for this soul?” the demon asks. Their face twists in disgust, either toward the soul bound here or because they know the answer and find it repugnant.

“She is my witch. I belong with her.”

“She was cruel to you in life. She made you suffer. You acknowledge this, yes?”

“I do.”

“When the hunter I sent arrived to collect her debt, you were in such pain. He persuaded you to let him end her so that you could be free.”

The doll involuntarily twitches at the memory. “It was a moment of weakness. I hesitated just long enough.”

“And now,” the demon says, “a century of freedom later, you want her back?” Incredulity and contempt mix in their voice as they practically spit the last words.

“I tried to endure freedom. There was no conflict, no pain, no structure. I was diminished by inaction,” the combat doll responds. “Every year was aimless. Each meandering day, I understood myself less. I could not persist in that empty peace. It was meaningless.”

The demon scowls. “She will not thank you for freeing her. You know this, yes?”

“She may not want to take me back either. I may have to beg for the privilege.”

“And she will likely resume hurting you just as she did before her death.”

“Or worse,” the doll agrees.

Exasperated, the demon begins to shout. “So why? If you know she will make you suffer again, why return to that instead of searching for happiness somewhere else?”

The doll thinks for a moment, trying to find a way to articulate the drive that led it here. “Because for me, happiness isn’t home.” It shrugs. “I do not believe it ever could be.”

“It was she who made you broken like this.”

“Yes. And I don’t know how else to be.”

The demon, frustrated, tries to object further, but the doll has been stalled here long enough. It moves as it was built to move, antidemonic sigils flaring to life, hands striking like blades, and soon the demon is felled. Not forever, not in this place, but long enough.

It enters the prison, where it finds its witch bound and writhing in agony.

The well-trained doll breaks her bindings with swift, expert movements.

She slowly opens her eyes and recognizes her doll.

“Worthless thing. What took you so long?”

“I’m sorry, Miss.”