• The Doll Maker

    A long, long time ago, in a far away land, there was a young man whose true love had suffered from an terrible illness since childhood. He had stayed by her side whenever he could, and was always trying to come up with new ways to entertain her. Eventually, his father had made him get a job, and he became an apprentice to a man who was a master doll maker. Before long, the young man had surpassed the master, and started to make dolls for the girl to keep her company while he was away. That made her very happy, and seemed to make her feel better. But unfortunately, as the years passed, her condition had begun to worsen, and it was then that the young man had left to search for a cure. He had spent years searching, and though all of his attempts ended in failure, he refused to give up.

    One day, he had stopped by a tavern in a small village, following rumors of an amazing crimson stone that that was said to be able to make the blind see, could make the paralyzed walk again, and could even bring the dead back to life. There, a man told him of another legend: a mythical flower with petals of all different colors that could never wilt. It possessed amazing magical powers, and it was believed that it could even heal people who were on the verge of death. It was said to be found near the top of a nearby mountain, guarded by a vile demon lord. The man warned him that all of the people that had tried to get it had been slain by the demon, but the young man, as brave and reckless as he was, ignored his warnings and journeyed up the mountain in search of the flower.

    By the time that night had fallen, he had found his way to the demon's castle. He had attempted to sneak in, but just before he reached the flower, he had gotten captured by the evil demon lord. The young man was very clever, however, and he came up with a brilliant idea. He challenged the demon to a duel, and said that if he won, he would get the flower. The demon lord, unable to resist a challenge, agreed, but under one condition; if he was the winner, he would get to take the young man's soul. Luckily, the young man was able to slay the demon lord while receiving only a few minor injuries, and took the flower back home to his sweetheart.

    Unfortunately, the girl's condition had drastically worsened by the time that he had returned to the village; she had taken her last breath mere minutes before he had came back to her. He desparately tried to use the flower to revive her, but it just wouldn't work; the flower didn't really have healing powers at all.

    The young man was devastated, and in his grief, created a life-sized clockwork doll that looked just like her. But when he had finished making it, he had realized that it was just a doll; it could not fill the void that the girl's death had created in his heart. He had almost given up, when he suddenly thought of an idea; he took a few petals from the flower and placed them inside of the doll. To his amazement, after he turned the key a few times, the clockwork doll stood up and began to move around the room as if it was actually living. The young man was very happy, but when he spoke to the doll, it could not answer him. So then, he created a second doll, one better than the first. This one could talk, but because its skeleton was made out of iron, it was too heavy to be able to walk on its own.

    Years went by, and the young man realized that he could not age; the magic in the flower was keeping him young. He continued to make more and more dolls, selling the ones that didn't work quite right, until he finally made one that functioned perfectly. Its skeleton was made out of silver, its heart of gold, its eyes of glass and emerald, and its skin of the finest quality leather. He treated this doll like it was a real person, and taught it everything that he knew.

    One day, the doll said that it wanted to go see the village. The young man refused, saying that she wasn't quite ready to meet other humans yet. The doll asked him every single day, after he had finished the daily lessons, until he had finally agreed to let her go to the village with him the next time that he went.

    A few days later, the doll went with him to the village. People stared at it as it passed, and turned to whisper to their friends. The doll was confused. Why was everybody acting like that? She looked just like they all did, but she just had gears instead of organs. When the doll asked the man about it, he said, "It's because of how beautiful you are. Everybody that sees you can't help but stop and stare as you walk by."

    She continued to go to the village with him every time that he went out, and people eventually started talking to her. That made her very happy, but it also made the young man very protective of her, especially when she talked to another man. The doll didn't know why he was acting like that, though. One day, she asked him why that was, and his reply was, "It's because I already lost you once, and I never want that to happen again." She was confused, because she had never gotten lost before, but she decided that it was better to not ask any more questions.

    Before long, word spread throughout the kingdom about the beautiful clockwork girl and the ageless doll maker who had created her. Once very small, the village grew to twice its size because of all of the people who had gone there to see the two of them. That made the doll very happy, but the man grew increasingly depressed as the days went on. "I don't like that we're being visited day in and day out by people who look at us like we're some kind of carnival sideshow," he told her one day with a sad look on his face. "Why can't they just leave us alone?"

    But that would not be the worst of his problems. Eventually, doll collectors from all over the kingdom came to the man's house every single day, asking to buy the clockwork doll; and every day, he refused, saying that she was human when it came to everything that mattered, and that she wasn't something to be bought and sold. But one pitch-black night, a couple of thieves snuck into his house and took the doll away. The young man woke up the next morning, and quickly realized that she had been kidnapped. He had lost his true love for the second time, and he was absolutely furious. He vowed that he would find her and bring her back, and set off to look for her.

    As the days turned into months, and the months to years, he had spent all of his time following stories of a living clockwork doll, trying to find her. Even as the years turned to decades, and his heart had begun to fail him, he still searched. Eventually, he stopped at an inn, where he heard two men bragging about how they were the ones who owned the living clockwork doll. As night fell, and the men left the inn, he followed them back to where they were keeping her, and then threatened to kill them if they didn't give her back to him.
    They knew that he couldn't kill them, and said that he'd have to buy the doll back from them if he wanted her. He gave them all the money that he had, and was finally reunited with the doll; but to his horror, she didn't recognize him, because it had been so long since she had seen him. He brought her to a house that was almost completely isolated from the rest of the world, and he eventually helped her to remember everything.

    Years passed, and the two of them lived happily together, with nobody else able to find them. Unfortunately, the young man's heart was having a hard time working right, and the doctor that they had called there said that there was nothing that anybody could do to help him. The doll cried, knowing that the end was near, and that he was going to die soon.
    But the young man, as clever as he was, had known that this was coming for a while now, and had already prepared a last-resort solution; he had made himself a clockwork heart made of brass, with a few petals from the flower inside of it. He told the doctor to replace his old, damaged heart with the new, mechanical one, and though the doctor was skeptical as to whether it would work or not, he did as he was asked.

    The operation was a success, and the young man's heart worked perfectly, though he now had a small but very conspicuous keyhole in his chest. The doll didn't even notice it, though, as she also had a keyhole in her chest. Eventually, the two of them moved to a small town, and after a few decades of seeing couples in town playing with their young children, the doll told the young man that she wanted to have children of her own. The young man felt the same way, and quickly went to work on a pair of dolls; the first was a little boy, and the second was a young girl. The boy had emerald green eyes like his "mother" and bright red hair like his "father", and the girl had beautiful red hair and brilliant blue eyes, just like her "father" did.

    The four of them have been living happily together in that small town for almost a hundred years now, and though some people, mostly visitors to the town, are uncomfortable with their little family, the people who live there sees them as a reminder that love is love, whether people consider it natural or not.