I’m at the airport, waiting for Shady’s plane to come in…
I am glad she’ll be back soon. On my way to the car to come out to the airport, I was nearly flattened by a falling branch. A healthy falling branch, I should say. There was no reason for it to have come off the tree beyond the obvious cut marks that weakened it. It was only the chattering of angry birds and an uneasy feeling that saved me from walking right under the thing.
I bolted back inside to warn the others (and because I was freaked out).
The only people who weren’t around were Ron and Sunshine, though that doesn’t mean anything. If Sunshine wanted me dead, he wouldn’t use subtlety, and Ron would never have managed to climb the tree in question. Ecko, Drake, and Trina walked with me to the car, an armed guard, but nothing else happened. At least everyone is aware of our suddenly aggressive stalker and will be careful outside the house and grounds… I hope.
Lullaby is keeping Dollmaker company somewhere on the second floor while the thing sulks. I confronted it early this morning with Lulls as translator. After reading her blog, I couldn’t just sit and wait for it to call its “Father” if we ticked it off bad enough. So I countered with a threat of my own.
When Lullaby came down for breakfast, I asked her if she trusted me. Not exactly something someone expects to be asked while they’re still rubbing sleepdirt out of their eyes. She looked terrified because, well who wouldn’t be when presented with a question like that, but she finally nodded.
“Alright… come out to the garden with me. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes,” I said, giving the last of the porridge a stir to mix in the last of the honey. There’s a lot of “last ofs” in our pantry right now. Hopefully Zach didn’t forget the original reason Shady went to see him. That’s a bit mercenary of me, I admit, but there’s no denying we need the money. There’s plenty I can harvest from the garden, but there’s also plenty of essentials that can only be bought at a store… like oats and honey.
“Put the doll there,” I said, gesturing to a circle I‘d drawn on a large piece of slate with some chalk. Lullaby looked reluctant, and there was no denying the furious glint in the doll’s button eyes. “Please, Lullaby? This’ll just take a few minutes, and then you can have her back.”
The doll’s little arms pawed at Lullaby’s thumb as she placed it in the circle, a gesture that most would have thought to be an illusion created by the act of moving it. It lay still as any normal rag doll though, as I connected the inner and out bits of the circle I’d left open. The little button eyes were dull and lifeless as it stared up at the overcast sky.
“You can quit the act,” I said, staring at the doll in a way usually reserved for poisonous animals. “I’ve read Lullaby’s blog. I know you can move and talk.” It sat up and glared at me.
“Can you still hear her?“ At Lullaby’s nod, I said, “You’ll have to translate for me, Lulls, since she either can‘t or won‘t talk to me.”
“OK… do you, do you want me to say what she’s saying right now?” the girl asked, her cheeks turning red with embarrassment.
“No, I can imagine what she’s saying without an exact translation, thank you. Just tell me anything pertinent.” I turned back to the doll. “Now you listen to me, you selfish little parasite. I’ve read Lull’s blog, and I’m not going to let you bully her by threatening us or guilt her into running away again. I don’t know how real or permanent your connection to one another is, but if you think I’d risk hurting Lullaby just to get rid of you, you’re not as smart as you think you are.”
“She- she says that you should be careful, or she’ll call father,” Lullaby said in a tiny voice. The doll stood with its arms resting on what passed for its hips, a smug look in its eyes.
“Not from that circle, you won’t. You see all those symbols around the outside? So long as you’re in that circle, you’re not calling anyone. Now, you are going to listen while I tell you the terms of your freedom, and if you do not convince me that you will abide by these terms, I will do worse to you than put you in a doll body.”
“She says if you hurt her, you hurt me.” Lullaby went very pale as the flush leaked from her cheeks.
I smiled down at the doll. “What makes you think I’d hurt you? I just said I’d do worse than put you in a doll body. At least in this body, you have some mobility. Tick me off, and I’ll take that bean, dunk it in some epoxy, inscribe it with some binding sigils, and turn you into a necklace for Lulls to wear. You will be unable to move or hear or see anything beyond what Lulls chooses to share with you. And if you are in the habit of haunting her entire bloodline as her grandmother suggested, then you‘ll be shit out of luck when Lullaby finally dies. I will take you to the deepest hole and drop you in. You will be stuck in there… in the dark, forever, alone and forgotten.”
Dollmaker dropped its arms to its sides and looked up at Lullaby. For a doll whose only features were two button eyes, its expression was surprisingly eloquent. Lullaby reached for it, but I held her back.
“You will have to convince me that you can be trusted before I let Lulls have you back. So, promise time. Give me a binding promise, one which I know I can trust, and you’re free to accompany Lulls wherever she chooses to take you. You‘re helpless in that body, and we both know it. You can call your so-called Father or you can convince Lullaby to do things for you, but you, by yourself, are useless. So there will be no calling of Him ever again, and you will stop trying to make Lullaby leave us or do anything which she does not want to do. Now convince me.”
The doll turned from Lulls to me and back again, indecisive or angry or both. “She says what if someone tries to hurt me. If she can’t call Father, there’s nothing she can do.”
“I will allow that if Lullaby agrees, you can call him. Without her agreement, never. Now, your promise.”
The doll raised its arms as if begging and gestured here and there, making its case to Lullaby, who shook her head slowly back and forth. “No, you have to promise like she said. Or- or I’ll let her do it.” The doll hung its head. After a few minutes, Lullaby said, “She says she promises by her… sorry, our divine parents and protectors and their son and by the first murderer and his son.”
“Names,” I said impatiently.
“She promises by Tiawath, Apsu, and Mummu, and also by Ea and Merodach, and is that good enough for you?” Lullaby bit her lip. “Sorry, she said it so fast, I was just trying to say the names right.”
“It’s alright. I don’t care what she calls them, so long as she names them. You can go ahead and pick her up.”
They just called Shady’s plane, so I’ll clean this up and post this when we get back…