I promised I’d start writing a bit longer bits about the poppets, so here we are, the first installment of the story, from the Poppet Witch herself. I hope you like it!
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I’m told that, given recent happenings, I should start writing stuff down a bit more than usual. Always was bad at it, and leaving a paper trail always seemed a bad idea, but something about “documentation” and “for the love of God, what if something happens to you?!?” and all that, so I guess I’ll give it a shot. I ain’t gonna promise to be regular about it, though, and fair warning, there’s some things you can’t pay me enough to write down and others that ain’t no one’s business but my own, even if I’m dead before anyone reads it.
Haven’t kept a diary since I was a teenager, and I feel a bit ridiculous trying to do so now, but well, here we are. Maybe if I pretend I’m writing someone a letter I’ll feel a bit less foolish about the whole thing. Figure I should start at the beginning so the rest makes some kind of sense, while I’m at it.
Folks have lots of theories about what the poppets are and where they came from. Souls of lost children, mine or someone else’s, are a particular favorite. Stolen souls, in general, seem to be popular. Bargains with devils were made, they’re devils themselves, familiar spirits summoned to do mischief, that sort of thing. Course, they’re all wrong, but they do amuse me just the same.
No, I think I’m not going to write down what the truth is. Folks need a little more mystery in their life. The world’s getting too tame and besides, too much information is bad for you.
I must say, I didn’t expect them to get as advanced as they have been. That’s been a nice little surprise.
So what are they? What it says on the tin, more or less. They’re dolls of sticks and twine and scraps of cloth, mostly. Whatever’s around that works. Like those little corn husk dolls folks make, just, well….more. I made the first one when I was out cleaning up the dead wood that’d come down in a storm a while back, and remembered making little dolls from flowers and things in my ma’s garden while I was little. I wanted to see if I could remember how to do it. Poor thing was rather rough and didn’t hold together well, but it was alright. Or it was until the kitten decided it was a toy and it got chewed up and scattered around, at any rate.
Still, I’d like having it around and I wanted to see if I could do better, so I kept practicing and trying new things until I got it right.
Honestly, it was as much of a surprise to me as anyone else when the first one got it into its head to move. Damned near threw it into the fire before I caught myself.
The thing a lot of folks don’t realize is that witchery is a sort of science. It’s got different ways of seeing and doing things, but the main difference is what you’re working with, really. Also the scientists take better notes, from what I hear. A big thing we’ve got in common, though, is neither of us are particularly good at leaving well enough alone when something gets our curiosity up.
That first one was years ago, now, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was just a bit after dark, in late fall. Day’d been pretty normal…I’d spent most of it dealing with getting the gardens set for winter and sold a few teas and things to the local folks, Himself was off doing his thing, as usual. I was getting dinner ready, when I noticed that the cats were sitting quietly side by side instead of fighting, staring at something. Figuring it was either a mouse or a bug, I went to take a look. It wasn’t a mouse. It was one of the little dolls, standing in the middle of the living room floor, looking back at me. When it tilted it’s head, I yelled and moved to grab it and toss it into the fireplace. I stopped because it raised its hands in front of its face, like it was trying to protect itself, and well, it was obviously scared and well, I ain’t a monster.
After shooing the cats out of the room, I sat down on the floor so as not to spook it more than it already was (the poor thing was shaking so much I had a concern that it might actually rattle itself back into a pile of sticks, and that wouldn’t do at all), and started talking to it just like I would any scared critter, and waited to see what it would do. After a bit, it stopped rattling, took a few halting steps closer, and looked at me like it was expecting me to do something. So, I did the first thing I thought of. I held out a hand, and it climbed up, sat down, and wrapped an arm around my thumb, for all the world like it was settling into its favorite chair.
Over the next weeks, it took to following me around, and would climb up onto a nearby shelf or look at me until I picked it up and put it where it pointed me to bring it so it could watch what was going on around the house. I taught it to make different sounds in certain patterns for important things like “yes”, “no”, “help”, “please”, “thank you”, and all that. It was a curious little thing, and seemed generally good-natured, though it had moments of oddly intense…staring, isn’t quite the right word, given it’s lack of actual eyes, but it’s close enough. It would fix it’s attention on you so hard you’d almost swear you could feel it, and you weren’t sure what, exactly, it was thinking.
Not gonna lie, it was a bit unnerving at first, but we had a talk about it and got some ground rules sorted.
One day I found it in the work room, looking at the half-finished bits of others I’d been working on. Hadn’t touched them since the night it walked itself into the living room, so it was the only one finished at the time. It looked so sad it hurt to see, and I decided I needed to finish them and see about making it some others of its kind.
That’s a story for another day, though, and I’ve used up enough daylight writing this much for now.
(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)