Marley trudged through the storm. She was certain it wouldn’t be much and passed a number of potential refuges. Of course it began to rage after she had nowhere to take shelter. She grimaced and pushed through the weather, but it was getting more difficult as her plush insides became soaked through.
She again regretted not setting off with Barnabus, but they needed information. Thoughts of the bear came back to her and the concerns that something is changing within him. His fury was growing, but so was his unstoppable strength. He didn’t care for the nickname when she called him the Apocalypse Engine, that was evident. He did not vocalize a complaint, though. Marley smiled, knowing that she was the only one who could talk to him that way.
He went off on an unspecified errand and she found herself in some tropical climate, feeling the water squishing through her felt and plush body. Something drew her here, but it was pure intuition. There was no clue what pulled her attention to this place in the middle of what must be a hurricane.
The sight of a low overhang, further shielded by vegetation, was a welcome discovery. Huddling into shelter, Marley’s mind began to replay so many thoughts that had been weighing on her. Barnabas doesn’t lie, as such, but he is careful with what he divulges. She was certain that he was withholding something and it gnawed at her. A direct confrontation had no chance of success. The bear would close up, she knew, and wouldn’t be talkative. He had to be drawn out somehow. Whatever he wasn’t saying could be disastrous for them all.
Then the question of the bear Bilal came to her mind: Who was he? Teddy seemed to be familiar with him, but no word or sense of his presence ever reached her. He was certainly a strong warrior and was seemingly defending Amman without aid, but how? One bear defending such a large territory seemed preposterous.
While deep in her musings, the storm had begun to wane, and even some rays of sunshine were peeking through the clouds. Dragging her sodden mass upright, Marley resumed her walk through the vegetation. It wasn’t long before she reached a magnificent beach that stretched off to both sides, disappearing at the curve of the coastline. She sighed and began to stretch, the water squeezing out of her in waves. Through the sound of it smacking into the sand, a barely perceptible giggle caught her attention. Marley turned slowly and saw a figure in the distance. It had an odd sparkle in the sunlight, particularly around the center of the form.
Walking along the beach, water still squishing out of her plush body, Marley’s hair began to stand. There was something entirely wrong about how the figure moved. The rest of the form was bone-white, the arms making flowing gestures while the rest was stiff and rigid. The strange glint was coming from the creature’s chest, sending off twinkles of varying colors.
Drawing closer, Marley realized it was the strangest doll she had ever seen. The entire body was porcelaine and, but for the arms, moved stiffly or not at all. The flecks of color erupted from a grey pearl, the surface of which was an ever changing field of colors, ebbing and flowing as though alive. The doll’s facial features were highlighted by delicate brushstrokes that might have been intended to enhance the artist’s skill, but instead gave it a horrifying rictus. The eyes were filled with a malicious amusement at the bear, mocking giggles emanating from the mouth.
“Look at the tubby little bear,” the doll trilled, spinning in the air, sending the ringing laughter throughout the air. “What do you seek, chubby, little bear? Another pot of honey?”
Marley looked down at her still-bloated form, returned her gaze to the doll, raising her eyebrows in a sardonic expression. Wisps of steam began to drift out of her clothing, rising in volume until it began to seep through the fabric. She felt her stretched clothes loosen on her diminishing form. The doll’s laughter began to trail off, staring in confusion as the bear dried out.
Marley shook off the remaining drops of moisture and straightened up. A small hand pulled back her long coat, revealing the hilt of The Queen. The doll resumed laughing.
“Poor little, floof, your precious little sword will do nothing to me.”
Marley was certain she was wrong when it came to this sword, but let her coat fall closed. Instead, she shifted her legs, left foot forward, raising her little fists. Again, there was more laughter, causing a grim smirk to tug at her muzzle.
The laughter stopped when the first blow landed on the doll’s cheek, causing cracks to spread across the pristine surface. Rocking back, the doll was thrown to the side when the second fist landed. Marley landed on her feet, watching the cracks writhe as they knit themselves together.
The shriek of rage caused Marley’s muzzle to spread in a smug smile.
“Hmm,” she cooed, “you seem to think that no bears are capable of unarmed combat,” She smiled sweetly at her opponent. The crack had disappeared.
The doll began to issue a retort when the bear rushed in again. Marley ducked under the sharp nails that threatened to rip her open, her tiny fist slamming into the creature’s midsection. Another spider web of crack spread across the smooth, white porcelain. She continued the assault, large slivers of the material sailing through the air with each strike.
The doll began to shriek in fury, swinging wildly at her nemesis. Marley easily side-stepped and dodged every one of them. The cracks continued to seal up almost as soon as they appeared. When a blow landed near the pearl, the doll began screaming in an inhuman screech, doing it’s best to shield the treasure. Marley narrowed her eyes, and charged again, head lowered until her muzzle was pointed at the ground. She tensed her shoulders and back, using those muscles to power her blows. Arms pumping like pistons, the doll’s defences were being worn away until Marley saw her chance.
It took three blows to open a hole in the doll’s chest. Before it could close, Marley’s hand darted in and closed around the pearl. She wrenched it free, causing her opponent’s shrieks into a mournful howl, desperately clutching at the air, but the bear had already rolled out of reach.
Marley felt a surge of strange energy climbing up her arm, leaving a feeling of peace. The thoughts that invaded her mind were pushed aside. She could examine those later, after she ended the creature before her. Without a word, she drew The Queen. This time the doll’s face was twisted in fear. The cracks in her body had stopped reforming. Chips and fragments fell out of the face, and the doll collapsed on the sand as Marley resolutely approached and ended the nightmare.