Sorry this took so long-- I was having trouble getting into the writing mood.
“Mmmmm… well, this Alice you keep mentioning seems like an interesting person.” You say thoughtfully “I suppose I’d like to meet her.”
“Be weird with her, you mean.” Marisa snorts “But I suppose it would be wrong to keep you two apart. You’d fit each other nicely. But more importantly you’ll be out of my hair.”
You give Marisa a hurt look “That’s terrible! What kind of hostess treats her guest like this?” She eyes you with mock coldness “The kind who doesn’t want any more surprise wake-ups.”
You feel yourself blush, though more from the memory of Marisa’s softness than from embarrassment. Mistaking your reaction for shame, she puts a hand on your shoulder in what is meant to be a comforting way “Hey, don’t worry about it. As long as you don’t do it again, I won’t feel the need to blast you.” She smiles “Fair enough?”
You nod your assent, at which she grabs you hand and leads you to the front door of the house “Time’s a-wasting, Bob, we’ve got to get you to Alice’s place!”
Another nerve-racking (though slightly slower) ride later, you find yourself dismounting with Marisa in front of another house hidden away in the woods. This one, however, is undeniably a ‘cottage’—it seems as if both the forest and the house were shaped to work perfectly with each other. The stone walls, the small chimney… It’s like something out a fairy-tale.
Immediately, you notice that a number of small dolls are busily moving about the yard: cutting the grass, washing the windows, putting laundry on a clothesline, and such like. “Welcome to Margatroid Estate.” Marisa says half-jokingly as she leads you to the entrance.
Pushing the door open, she announces herself with a shout of “You’ve got visitors, Miss Doll Otaku!”
True to Marisa’s stories, instead of greeting you in person, the mistress of the house sends out one of her dolls to you—a masterfully crafted one in a dark blue dress, head adorned with a red ribbon. The little doll acknowledges you both with a curtsy. The witch then leans in and peaks into the doll’s eyes as though looking into the peephole on a door “Alice, we’re comin’ in, ok?”
The doll hovers away from you, beckoning you both deeper into the house with a wave of her hand. Following the doll, you and Marisa are led through the house, which you note is a good deal bigger on the inside than it seemed, to a room closed off by a large, oak door. With strength belying her small stature, the doll pushes the door open and gestures for you to enter.
Stepping inside, your first impression is that of a study—the dim but sufficient lighting, the smell of old books, the lack of windows all give you the feeling that you are, truly, in the puppeteer’s lair. At the far end of the room, a girl is seated on a stool, facing away from you as she works diligently at some task, hunched over a workbench. “Alice~” Marisa says in a singsong voice, eliciting a quiet sigh from the girl.
Turning around, she stands up, giving you a good look at her. Medium length blond hair frames her slightly-pale face with its icy blue eyes; she is wearing a blue dress under a pocketed work apron and a pair of light boots. Her gaze is steady and neutral—neither welcoming nor rejecting you.
“Greetings.” She says, her voice soft yet clear. “I am Alice Margatroid, Puppeteer of the Forest of Magic.”
[ ] “Hello, I’m Bob, an outsider.”
[ ] “Hi, I’m Bob the Weirdo.”
[ ] Let Marisa introduce you.
[ ] Custom.