House Of Dolls

Rogue listened to the storm raging outside as she lay under the covers with a flashlight, the sounds of pounding rain and sheet lightning only serving to accentuate the forbidden mystique of the book she was devouring. These were the ones she never read in public, the ones no one knew about; these were the ones she saved and savoured on nights such as this. With everyone asleep around her and the light carefully shielded so as not to wake anyone, Rogue consumed page after endless page.

She had always had a passion for the Craft, that secret knowledge only a few knew of, the knowledge that could give them the world. She knew the stories, knew the power, knew to respect it, it could be dangerous at the best of times, and disastrous at the worst. Rogue, however, knew the risks, took the proper precautions, and was as devoted to her studies as any Wiccan. It was with this power that she had managed to stave off the inevitable insanity of her genetic curse that no magic was strong enough to remove.

She would go into town on one of the monthly runs with some of the other students, and when no one was looking, sneak off. She knew the place well, a hidden little store, overlooked by all but those who knew it was there. As she walked in, the silver chimes above the door would tinkle merrily, like the laughter of faeries. The store was dark enough to appear mysterious, yet light enough so as not to seem oppressive, and it smelled heavily of incense, yet not overpoweringly so. Amid the various artefacts of those who practiced, there were rows of silver jewellery and her most coveted pieces of all; the books. There were all kinds, from the various pagan and occult religions to specific books on certain types of magic and even history. Rogue would budget her time wisely, yet be careful to select just the right book with the utmost care. Then hurry back to her group before anyone had even realized she was gone, with her purchase safely hidden in the folds of her long coat, and hide her book up in her room waiting for a night like this one in which to discover its secrets.

On her most recent trip, where she had purchased the book she now read, she had also bought an assortment of candles, a bottle of oil and a small pentacle she kept wrapped in cloth in the old shoebox under her bed. When she got a chance, she would go out looking for the herbs she needed, she knew where they grew. Maybe this weekend. She finished the last page of the book she had started earlier that night and turned off her flashlight, tucking them safely under her pillow, Rogue drifted off to sleep listening to the storm in the background and dreaming of the spells that were to come.

That morning in the library after breakfast Jubilee walked up to Rogue and seated herself down purposefully across from her. "Well?" Jubilee was the only one who knew of Rogue's secret past-time and sometimes helped with her spells, on occasion she would even let Jubilee read her coveted texts. "I just need some herbs, then we just have to wait for the full moon." The conversation continued in hushed whispers until the bell sounded for them to go to class.

Rogue waited impatiently for everyone to toddle off to bed after dinner, it was Friday night so she should have known it would take forever, but the esbat was only a week away and she needed to gather her last few supplies as soon as possible. Finally when the last person sauntered passed her out of the kitchen, Rogue stole a knife from the block on the counter and slid it into her coat along with the bottle of water she had taken earlier. Sneaking out onto the grounds, Rogue moved into the woods and began her search. Finding what she needed, Rogue used the knife to cut the juniper berries while saying a silent prayer in thanks to the plant for its sacrifice, and poured out the bottle of water at its foot. Before returning the knife to its holder and going upstairs, Rogue snuck into Ororo's greenhouse and stole a few petals from the violets and roses along the wall, and some lavender potted in the centre, once again offering a prayer and a gift of water.

The night of the full moon at the very stroke of midnight, Rogue threw back her covers fully clothed and grabbing the box, crept silently downstairs. Sneaking across the grounds, she made her way to the woods where she knew Jubilee would be waiting, the grass dying instantly beneath her bare feet. She mourned its loss and finally stopped to don a pair of slippers. Wiccans went barefoot into ritual to better commune with nature, to feel the Earth beat beneath their feet, Rogue could afford no such luxury. Reaching the clearing, Rogue saw that Jubilee was already there waiting impatiently, Rogue apologized for making her wait, and the ritual began.

Drawing out a circle in flour, the directions were marked with appropriate symbols. A branch for Earth, a stick of incense, gathered on one of Rogue's trips, for Air, a red candle for Fire in a red glass container to protect against the wind, and a bowl of spring water for Water. The Circle was set up clockwise, or Deosil, and this was the direction in which Rogue and Jubilee now traveled, taking turns sprinkling the Circle with consecrated ingredients, compliments of Rogue, sea salt, incense smoke, a candle flame, and water. That being done, Rogue proclaimed the Circle open and invited the elements and deities, then set to work on the purpose of this midnight rendezvous.

Taking an earthen bowl and a thick wooden dowel, Rogue lit a pink candle she had earlier consecrated, anointed and engraved for this purpose and brought out the rest of her supplies. Crushing the juniper berries into the bowl, Rogue intoned her chant, "This be the blood of love, the blood of my wounded heart." Adding the rose, violet and lavender petals, she continued, "by the light of the Guiding Lady, by the love of those around me, and the words I now incant, may I be given the knowledge so that I may better love myself." Adding a few drops of rose oil, Rogue dripped candle wax into the bowl and mixed everything together, "so I have spoken, so shall it be!" A gust of wind picked up unexpectedly and blew out the candles, the girls looked at each other and laughed in shocked amazement. The spell being done, the Circle was dismantled with proper thanks given to all, and a small meal of berries and water was ingested. The remainder of which was returned to the Earth with thanks, the elements of the spell were buried and the two girls returned to the mansion.

The following days had went by as uneventful as ever, but Rogue felt better than she had in years, all of her spells and rituals worked amazingly well, and she had made a good decision in casting this one to promote self-love. She sat reclined in the window seat of the library, watching the people as they went by, when Jubilee came running up to her bursting to show her something. Rogue followed, still in the thralls of peace and self-love from the spell she had cast only a few months before, nothing could ruin her mood; except what Jubilee had to show her.

Jubilee led Rogue to her room where, from her desk drawer she pulled out a corn doll. Rogue would have thought nothing of it, had she not been familiar with doll magic and the doll hadn't born such a striking resemblance to the one it was supposed to be tied to. It was in the form of a male and wore clothes made from a handkerchief with black hair fashioned into familiar tufts, and if there had been any doubt, a set of claws protruded from each arm made out of razorblades; she instinctively knew who the handkerchief belonged to. That could have been gotten from the laundry, but the hair, and unless she missed her guess, the razors, could have only come from one place. Which meant she had gone into his room, and he would know as soon as he stepped foot in the door, if he didn't already.

"Are you crazy, what were you thinking!" Rogue chastised Jubilee, she knew just how powerful, and how dangerous this type of magic could be. No doubt Jubilee had decided to play Voodoo Priestess, but little did she know that the popular symbol had been very misconstrued over the years, and wasn't what Voodoo was about at all. Still, that type of magic wasn't any less dangerous, and someone, namely Logan, could really get hurt. "This is dangerous, magic isn't a game, and someone could get seriously hurt!" On closer inspection, Rogue noticed the doll was bound with a red ribbon securing a heart-shaped photo of Rogue to its chest on a red heart-shaped background, and Rogue could smell rose oil mixed with the scent of Logan's cologne.

"Self-love is all well and good, but doesn't compare to the real thing," Jubilee waved the doll around. "And you think this is the real thing!" Rogue was furious, she knew her friend meant well, but she just didn't understand the dangers.

"Give me the doll." Rogue reached out her hand.

"Why," Jubilee held it close, then an idea came to her. "Give me your dog tags," Rogue placed a protective hand over the tags that hung around her neck. "Oh come on, he couldn't be anymore perfect." Reluctantly Rogue handed over the tags and Jubilee draped them over the doll, "Perfect." Rogue snatched the doll away and ran to hide it in her room, no telling what Jubilee would do with it, carefully she wrapped the doll in cloth and placed it in the box under her bed.

In the kitchen down the hall, Logan unexpectedly flung his laced coffee across the room where the mug shattered on the opposite wall, then was flung about himself as if by invisible hands. Luckily no one was there to witness his display, and he cleaned up his spilt coffee and broken mug and went to take a shower; he wasn't fully wake yet.

Over the next few months Rogue watched nervously as Logan stared at her from across the room or brushed lightly passed her in the hall. She tried to ignore the flowers that were delivered to her room and the gifts she would find on her bed, she knew who they were from even though there was never any card, and she couldn't figure out way it was happening. Then one night she heard a knock at her door and opened it to find Logan, looking like he hadn't slept in months, standing there. He smiled nervously, "nice night, I was wondering if you'd like to accompany me on a stroll." This didn't sound like the Logan she knew, in fact it wasn't and she found it easier to agree than to prolong his obvious suffering at the hands of a spelled doll that slept peacefully under her bed. As she left, she made a note to remove the spell even if she couldn't de-spell the doll.

The walk was decidedly uncomfortable, he kept looking at her, giving her sideways glances, brushing his hand against hers. He tried to make his meagre advances as unnoticeable as possible, and maybe they would have been, if Rogue hadn't known the real reason behind them. As the night progressed, she felt a sense of dread and despair creep over her. It would have been nice if he had been doing this of his own free will, but it was the spell and she knew it, he seemed lost, like a child, compelled to do these things though he didn't know the reason. Rogue could feel it, and her heart broke because she knew that free of it, he would not have done the same; he was living a lie, and she was letting him.

As the night came to a close, Logan walked her to her door and waited expectantly for he didn't know what. Rogue saw this and her mind raced searching for an answer, if she gave him what he was looking for, she would be hurting them both, and leaving more to answer for when the spell was lifted and she had to answer for her crimes- or rather Jubilee's- but she hadn't been much better. On the other hand, if she did nothing, if she left him there waiting, he would remain there waiting, and it was better to gently and respectfully humour him with caution, then to outright alienate him, things would turn ugly then. So she settled on a hug, strong yet innocent, at least on her part. He held her longer than was platonic and breathed in her scent so he could always remember, then before he allowed his hands to wander, he released her, bidding her goodnight, and retired to his room.

Looking around to make sure no one saw her come in and that everyone was still sound asleep, Rogue took the doll from under the bed and carefully unwound the ribbon Widdershins, or counter clockwise. "With this motion I release you, no more will you feel the pangs of love. With this motion I unbound you, you more will you be slave to my will. With this motion I discharge you, no longer are you slave to your passions. As I will it, so shall it be!" It was done, and tomorrow at dawn, she would burn the ribbon and photo to complete the reversal, then she would find a way to return the doll back to trappings and corn.

Rogue got up at dawn to burn the effects of the love spell and lay awake thinking of ways to reverse the poppet's power until everyone else began to rise. While they enjoyed their Saturday, she spent the day pouring over her books looking for an answer. As she flipped frantically through the pages, she found both the doll and love spell Jubilee had used, and went over both very carefully to try and find a loophole. Amid the instructions for making the doll and giving it life, were instructions on how to revoke that life once it had served its purpose. The process was simple and Rogue brought out the doll, when there was a knock at the door.

She opened it to find Logan standing there looking uncomfortable as always and for a moment, feared her counter-spell hadn't worked. "I'd like to apologize for my behaviour over the past few months, I don't know what came over me, I haven't been myself lately." Rogue was about to say something when Logan spotted the poppet on her bed. "A little old to be playing with dolls, aren't we?" Then he stopped, noticing the likeness, and stepped into the room to pick it up, "what is this?" Rogue bit her lip, thinking hard, she could lie, but nothing sounded convincing enough, finally she settled on the truth. She let him come to his own conclusion as he took in the books and candles strewn across the bed, then corrected him before he could draw the wrong conclusion.

"Jubilee thought it would be- I don't know- amusing, she didn't know what she was doing, and I've been trying to reverse it." It came out in a rush and she held her breath waiting for him to respond. Logan thought of the day in the kitchen months back, and the intense feelings he'd been having without knowing why, and how they suddenly went away, and laughed.

"And you had nothing to do with this?" Well she wasn't completely innocent, she could have refused to hand over the dog tags and removed the spell immediately instead of letting it brew, which she admitted to him, but yes, for the most part she was innocent. Unless you counted being the one responsible for showing Jubilee the art of magic in the first place, but you can't control what others do; well, except in this case. By this time she was rambling and Logan took her by the shoulders, laughing at the situation.

They sat for the rest of the day talking and laughing about what had happened, "You know, I was beginning to wonder what I'd done with my handkerchief and razor blades, and I thought the room smelled different, guess now I know why." Rogue just smiled. "But she went through my trash!" He shook his head at the lengths Jubilee went to, nothing was sacred anymore. He picked up the doll, "It's pretty good though, mind if I keep him?" Rogue laughed, "You better let me de-spell it first, no telling who could get there hands on it."

After the poppet had been neutralized, Rogue returned it to Logan for safekeeping, despite being discreet, the rest of the manor were dying to know what was so funny about a doll. Rogue had been teaching Logan how to make corn dolls in her spare time and he'd even read a few of her books, even though she now strictly censored the material she lent out. He had gotten quite good and when she came to return the doll, she noticed one in particular looked very familiar.

The male form was dressed in leather with brown hair, and had an unmistakable black band round the head made out of construction paper and a cut out window were red cellophane showed through. He had a doll for each of them, and even made a little wicker wheelchair for the professor. They exchanged dolls, and Rogue found herself looking at a miniature version of herself. The skirt of the doll served to billow the long cloth coat and there was a small scarf round its neck, he even managed to make a pair of gloves and the brown hair was streaked with white. Of all the dolls, he had clearly spent the most time on this one, and it showed in the craftsmanship.

The trend of exchanging dolls in each others' likenesses would become catching, but no one would really know why, and none would match the care and craftsmanship of their predecessors. Rogue took one last look at the doll on the desk, she hadn't taught Logan how to spell them, and she made Jubilee swear never to say a word, but she took the box of pins sitting beside it all the same.