You open the door to the ancient cellar, the soft creak of aged wood drawing its eyes up towards you, a pair of uncanny lanterns glowing with nonexistent moonlight. The spells were still secure, it was right where you left it. Beyond it, the Door looms on the far side of the room, shut tight.

It rises with a dripping slithering sloshing, assembling itself into the shape of a young woman, the form it usually takes with you. As a creature of the Unreal, it has no definite form, it just uses the one it thinks is most likely to get under your skin. It won’t of course, and it’s long since abandoned the pretense that such confabulation would work on you, but still we all have our little rituals.

Its smile is nothing but teeth as you pace the perimeter of the Liminal Bridge, observing it from all angles. Yes, this one will do nicely today. “Is it time to release me?” It asks, putting on an innocent singsong affect, “Have you come to your senses yet, too-clever-for-your-own-good Mage?”

You chuckle and set the containment vessel on the floor before it, “We’re going on a little trip.” Its smile grows only wider and more malicious, warping the shape of the face it wears far beyond what should be possible with flesh. When you snap your fingers the chains binding it to the Liminal Bridge release and it’s sucked into the artifact. The containment vessel wobbles for a moment, then chimes softly to indicate the seals are locked in place. Smile, this next part should be fun.

The Dollhouse is perched on the ridge above town like a crow warming itself on the wires. The ugly Victorian mansion slumps over the top of the hill and seems be holding itself up with nothing but magic and willpower, which is probably the case. Witches clearly need to dollify more structural engineers. The Witch who owns the Dollhouse in question is young for her kind, full of passion and malice. Normally witches know better than to make Dolls out of Mages, but this Witch thought she’d be clever and make an extra powerful doll out of one of your apprentices. She needs to be given an extra powerful lesson about why even a novice Mage is not a viable target for her predations. There are lines even Witches must know better than to cross.

Your robes whip dramatically behind you in the wind as you crunch your way up the gravel footpath, pulling the creature you’ve disguised as a Doll along with you. The witch opens the door before you can knock. Didn’t even send a doll to do it, she knows she’s in trouble. The girl before you frowns, looking from you to the doll standing silently behind you. You can sense the magical tension in her, she expects a fight. If it came to a duel she would have a decent chance of winning, but it won’t come to that, Mages don’t fight fair.

“You know why I’m here, Witch.” You tell her sternly, “You’ve violated the treaty. This is your last chance to return the Mage you dollified. If you don’t, the Compact will be forced to take more extreme actions. You owe it to your sisters to not turn this into a major incident.”

She scoffs and crosses her arms, clearly too full of herself and drunk on her own power to see reason. She was already summoning her dolls behind her, anticipating the coming battle. So much for the easy way. You shake your head in disappointment.

“I don’t give away Dolls for free, it doesn’t matter if it was a Mage or a Witch or a president, they’re my dolls now,” She tells you, a sly smile creeping onto her lips, “If you really want her back, than what are you willing to trade?”

You avoid letting the smirk reach your face as you glance behind you, “Doll for a doll,” you tell her, “I made this one custom, it’s much more powerful than a normal doll, and even more powerful than a doll someone like you could make from one of my Mages. You should be able to sense that.”

Her eyes go past you for a moment and widen somewhat as she studies the doll still standing silently behind you. Witches are so predictable.

“It’s not often you have the opportunity to get your hands on a Mage’s doll.” you continue, “We don’t tend to make as many as y’all do.”

“And you will trade this one for the one I took from you?” she asks. You see the gears turning in her head and know you have her. She’ll try to pull some other trick, but you already know you have her.

“Along with a promise to not violate the treaty again in the future.” You say, reaching into the pocket of your robes and fishing out a half-crushed pack of smokes. She watches you carefully while you unbend a cigarette and light it with a cantrip.

You’re expecting her to try some sort of “if you can tell me which one is your doll it can be yours” type shit while the dollified mage is sitting in another room, and of course that wouldn’t fool you, but it never actually comes to that. Instead, the witch fumbles over herself agreeing with your terms, completely blinded by the potential she detects in your bait and handing over your apprentice doll without any trickery. You exchange mainspring keys and soon you’re heading back down the hill with your new doll. You might almost feel bad for the witch if you didn’t know how much work it was going to be to reverse the dollification process she performed. Ah well, consequences.

You’re almost back to the main road when the spells keeping the unreal monster contained in the doll you made fail. The Dollhouse sways and warps as a battle suddenly breaks out within, you can’t help but stop and admire your handiwork. Gradients of impossible color radiate into the clear air and cracks begin forming in the sky. The battle won’t last more than a few seconds.

Windows explode, trees fly off into the sky, the house itself seems to boil, new rooms erupt and vanish chaotically, chimneys blister and burst off sending bricks soaring into the air. The ground warps and twists, local reality collapsing as the Dollhouse folds itself in half and implodes with a sound like water being sucked down a drain.

The top of the ridge begins folding in half as the Unreal hungrily sucks up the wreckage of the structure, fractal tentacles blooming into the sky as your monster stretches out into Reality. You smile as all evidence of the witch’s existence is ripped from reality. Message sent.

You give your monster a few minutes of frolicking mayhem you think it earned, then activate another spell, sucking the creature back into its containment vessel and leaving the hilltop a barren crater. All in a day’s work.

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