Chapter 4:

Chapter 4


"Well done..." Kalis sarcastically sighed as he clapped his hands in approval. "Every task has its price. And now that you have repaid yours, I do hope you take this chance with great care."

"She cannot hear you." Anger muttered in an annoyed tone, his arms still carefully cradling the slumbering witch. "You wanted her to die, what else have you planned for her? And where is the thing she calls brother."

"Fear not young knight, my allegiance is forever towards my kin. He is safe, frolicking about the basement in blissful ignorance."

"He is a fool."

"Then it is your duty to ensure he does not die a fool." Kalis waved as he casually left the room.

His departure marked a solemn end to Salem's unpleasant journey. She was back where she had started, alone and afraid in this dark new world. There was no telling what Kalis would do next seeing as he was perfectly comfortable with slaying his makers. A dark storm was surely brewing in this so-called heaven. And whether Salem liked it or not, she would have to play a role in it.

But not everything about the day had to be miserable. Valor arose from the basement below, and was more than eager to learn of the evening's events. But Anger hadn't the heart. He would have much to teach the naïve child if he were to be a successful guardian. But first, the witch required a proper place of rest. It was easy to forget Salem had such needs.

It was Valor who insisted on using Cora's old room, worrying that Salem may catch a cold. He was practically beaming with pride upon fixing the soft bed for the witch. It was almost ironic to see the mother treated like a child after a bad tantrum. She even began to murmur and whisper her many pains as she tossed and turned.

Any other form of life would be surely irritated with her incessant whining. She was an everlasting victim of limitless guilt. But the children paid no mind as they gave the girl her space, leaving the room like the loyal sentries they were.


Through all her inhuman experiences, Salem held little in the way of habitual patterns. But in this case, her behavior was almost comically human. The witch would groan and bicker as she rose from her sleep. The process was as rejuvenating as it was painful. Many of her previously absent senses now made themselves clear as the girl's body began to wake. Most noticeable of all was her vile stench. Not even her naturally sweet aroma could combat the smell of blood and tears. Surely a bath of sorts was in order. It was completely implausible to suggest the prideful Tella did not possess cleaning equipment. And surely enough, she found her way into a pearl white spa.

For a moment Salem was under the assumption that a painless shower was in order. Though the witch greatly underestimated her own state of disrepair. Upon making the mistake of using the mirror, she nearly froze in place.

What stood before her was dreadful. The girl's soft white hair appeared disheveled and stained with blood, while her joints and face contained an array of deep wounds and dried oil. Her legs had rusted and bent, their forms now resembling solid mud bathed in excrement. But most importantly of all, her dress had been ruined.

"You filthy little harlot." Salem hissed as she berated herself. "Into the shower you go!"

She was quick to strip herself of whatever clothing she had left, her will now bent towards purification. But once again her fragile conscience had but a few more words to say. For even if the witch was as clean as one could be, she was still not impressed with her bodily form. Salem believed herself to be flat, short, stubby, ugly, and overall unbecoming. This of course was natural behavior for a woman such as her. Salem might have even harmed herself if not for the presence of her children just beyond the room.

Finally trouncing her self pity, Salem stumbled into the glass box as she fumbled her way into controlling the onslaught of liquid. She closed her eyes and began to reminisce as the frigid tears of the sky once again fell upon her. For most, the experience was simply known as a shower. But to those who's respite was but a cruel joke, it was just another day in hell.

It had been a great deal of time since Salem had been faltered by the cold. For it was water in particular she had always despised. The wet sensation was necessary for overall cleanliness, but was also a cunning tool of torture and despair. When considering her inability to swim, one can imagine her fear of the depths. Though sometimes even just the slightest of sprinkles could bring upon the most wretched of memories.

One morning stood amongst the rest in perpetual infamy. It was her first time being hung. It was not for a detestable crime; it was not for some sort of cruel euthanasia . The painful execution was wrought upon her simply based on appearance, and the sadistic fascination in a beautiful creature's demise.

In that time, Salem was still an innocent little creature. She pleaded and begged for her life. But when the time came, and the prostitute outlived her usefulness, the floor underneath her was swept away. Her demise was swift and painful. But appearances were always deceiving in the forsaken lands. But while her corpse hung in a pathetic and humiliating fashion, she was very much still alive. Only after days of torture was she cut down from her exemplary post. Her only spot of luck was found within the muddy ditch she had been carefully thrown into. Here she would lay for some time, attempting to breath once more, her shattered corpse struggling to repair itself. Never before would she become so very thankful for a single breath. For in that moment, Salem's innocence had been torn from her. It was not the endless wandering or pain that had broken her spirit. Alas, it was the cruel lesson of immortality that displayed how doomed she truly was.

"And yet you never cared to ask how. Always why." A childish voice whispered into her ear.

The witch awoke with another scraggly moan, her mouth releasing the pool of water she had swallowed while laying on the shower floor. Her rather obnoxious habit of fainting just about anywhere had begun to take its toll. Yet another wave of mental assailants emerged within the witch's mind as she began to feel pity and remorse.

"To what end." Salem whined as she brought herself to her feet. "Can I not be a mother? I leave my children alone and afraid, so I can grovel in the dust and reminisce about my supposed victimhood. What do they think of me now?!"

The machines thought very little. Each child was almost certain of their roles and what had to be done. Only one understood their mother. But whether or not they possessed the heart to act on it was indeed quite the debacle.

"Why must we stay here? Surely she requires our aid." Valor implored as he attempted to move past the cold sentry he called brother.

"She is well. Time alone is something she has always required. Had you taken the time to contemplate this, there would be no contest.
"With all due respect brother how are you certain?"

Anger paused, unable to share the truth. He would have been afraid if not for his brother's ignorance towards their unique curse. In a way, Anger's mind had melded with the white witch. Their thoughts and memories had become one and the same, though only the machine had even the slightest clue as to what to do with them. Valor himself shared only doubt. Perhaps the intrepid mother had bestowed an array of gifts after all. Either way, Anger was sure to possess his haunting ability in secrecy.

"I know..." Anger muttered.

"But does she? Our certainty and courage is a gift. Our mother made us for a reason. She is lonely..." Valor sighed.

"Indeed she is. But do you doubt her strength?"

"Her care may extend toward us, but not herself brother. We would be fools to do nothing short of grand for her sake."

Anger paused as he reconsidered. He was not accustomed to feeling wrong. But in the end, his brother did speak the truth. Without their precious creator no pitiful machine could ever hope to exist. And Salem was not at all safe, her own heart continued to beg and plead for its demise. She would rant and remain in a state of hysteria all so that she could rip her guilt from her heart. But truly, the witch was surprised to see Valor gracefully peek through the door, looking for his beloved mother.

"May I come in?" He asked politely.

"Well usually you would knock first, look later. But may."

Salem took her child's arms as she attempted to assert some form of maternal dominance. He of course was fooled by the act and was more than joyous to follow her along. But it was not long before even the naïve began to detect her misery,

"Mother? Where do we go? And why are you bewitched?" Valor called as he was led into Cora's ravaged bedroom.
"My dear child, I do not wish to linger on the past." She frowned as she clutched her metallic legs, momentarily forsaking her child.

An ever growing sense of resentment towards her own actions had driven the witch to madness. She despised her mechanical replacements, and could not stand the sight of herself. But upon fleeing deeper within the catacombs she found only further sorrow. Cora's own private workplace had been revealed along with an assortment of bodily pieces, each segment resembling an aspect of the witch's lies.

"You find yourself to be undesirable?" Valor muttered as he began to understand.

Salem offered no answer as she knelt before a nearby mirror. Her chassis had been consumed with her victims flesh, no doubt an incriminating detail Kalis chose to ignore from the start. It was a reminder of her own failures. And no amount of rejuvenating water could wash away the deeds. How could she pretend to value the life of a machine, if those with undeniable hearts were so easily destroyed.

"And to think, I felt confident naming you Valor." She lamented. "A token to what I am not."

"Acceptance is not cowardice." The child reasoned. "You seek to cleanse yourself of your sins, not flee your past."

"If only it were the past! But even now I stand coated in the blood of my victims. Will this not happen again? I may be aware of my faults, but lack the strength to solve even a fraction of it!"

Kneeling down before his mother, Valor offered his care as he caressed his mother's tear stricken face. His cold metal grasp had been nearly outmatched by the bright warmth of his friendly gaze. Everything about her child was from the heart; and only now did the witch begin to understand. She cried and screamed into his shoulder with furious rage. For whenever the girl found strength, her pitiful weakness was soon to follow.

"Now, there is still hope for respite." Valor calmly explained as he gently led the witch by hand. "I am still your child. And I believe you have much to tend to in that regard. Something you'd be willing to do?"

Salem nodded in silent approval as she pondered her child's behavior. Much of the machine's physical approach was notably different. He led her with care, but still without agreeing to her present state. She was treated as an equal, and not as a forsaken child. It seemed the machine had already grasped the concept of true love. One cannot simply give way to another's demands.

Though in this case, Salem would have to be the one to endure the childish play. She would have sworn the fabled activity to be ridiculous. But alas, the simple act of reading a book proved far better than yet another death.

"You want me to read to you?"

"Even the most prestigious craft is lesser without a mother's guidance. Please, read to me of this world, for I wish to learn of it."

"What is there you do not understand dear child?"

"Nearly everything. But most importantly of all, what am I?"

"You are not alone in pondering such things." The mother sighed as she unveiled a children's book.

The small little novel was bright and vibrant with color, each letter including some sort of cryptic symbol beyond the logical mind. Valor had already taken great interest upon reading the title. Whatever it was, it appealed to him almost naturally.
"The knight in shining armor." He read.

"What a joke." Salem mumbled as she began to read. "They actually expect young men to do something other than take."

The witch's tale was short and sweet. She spoke of a proud knight overcoming every challenge he encountered through sheer will alone. He was not as strong as the mighty Viking of the east, nor as clever as the magical wizard of the north. And yet only he stood atop the mountain where the princess lay. Valor clung to this truth faster then Salem had even realized it.

"He won because he had too. There was no giving up. The Viking forsook the princess for he did not care. The wizard was too proud and selfish to risk his own life while he could solve every puzzle from afar. But the knight...he cared for the girl. Is this what it is to be a man?"

"Women are not perfect Valor. They often take everything for granted, always ungrateful whenever they're not the pretty little victim of the story. If there's no trouble for them to feed off of, they'll make it for you."

"And what of those who really are in danger?"

Salem seemed almost disappointed with herself. She would have done anything to meet a man like Valor in her youth. Someone to take care of her, protect her when the rest of the world condemned her. But perhaps now was the chance to ensure at least one man cared.

"It's up to you Valor. You have to make the call. As a knight, and as a man. Is she worth a single effort? Or is she better off dead."

"That's quite a task mother."
"I'm sure my brave knight is up to it." She smiled as she gave her child a warm hug.

Whether she knew it or not, this moment was insurmountable in its value. Valor would absorb every scrap of wisdom he could, always desperate to do the right thing. And in a way, his mother had succeeded in raising a child. For when one cannot lose a memory within their mechanical mind, the first impression is of the utmost importance. Salem was lucky to have conditioned her child with such words.

But what of Anger? What moment had defined the apathetic machine. Surely Salem's wisdom was not as fleeting as her sanity.