“Golem Animus!”
Nothing became something, awareness flooded in, and suddenly, everything was.
Button eyes wiggled, as they looked around at a cluttered room. A furry neck moved as a cloth-and-fur head twisted, using its newfound ability to look at things. It didn’t enjoy it, not precisely. If you asked it, and somehow gave it the ability to reply, then it could have told you that it didn’t know what joy was. It didn’t know much of anything.
It didn’t know that the hard thing it was sitting on was a wooden shelf. It failed to comprehend that the brown thingies lashed around its limbs that ran down through the holes in the wood were strings binding it in place. It had absolutely no concept of books, which were the things that filled the shelves across the way. It couldn’t tell you that the oddly-shaped thing three slots down from it was a wooden hobby horse, or that the thing two slots down was a stuffed ragdoll, or that the black-and-white shape directly next to it was a taxidermied skunk.
Heck, it didn’t even know it was a toy teddy bear, a very old one as they went.
The other toys looked to it for answers, and it looked back, without the mental capacity to question or the vocal capacity to answer.
“There we go. Four should be a good test batch.”
The teddy bear swiveled its head forward again, to regard the speaker.
Any human who wasn’t currently wearing diapers and had a few years of experience under their belt could have told you that this was an older man. Worn, silver-haired, and haggard, he moved with a slight limp as he paced back in forth in front of the toy shelf. A tailor would have identified the many-pocketed apron and sturdy, patched clothes that he was wearing as artisan’s gear, specifically the garb of a fellow tailor. Scissors of varying shapes, spools of thread, measuring tape, and swatches of leather and fur poked out of the neatly-kept pockets. The man rubbed his neatly-trimmed silver goatee, and considered the now-moving toys with a critical eye.
He pulled a notebook from his pocket, and scribbled in it. The toys craned what necks they had to follow the sounds of the quill.
“Standard reactions for toy golems. Visual tracking, responsive to sound, limited movement… here, none of that.” He reached out as the loop started to slip from the teddy bear’s arm. It was wiggling, and without hands, the bindings were more of a formality. “Feisty one. Superior animation?” He cleared his throat. “Command golem! Be Still!”
The words echoed inside what passed for the teddy bear’s mind. It became still. It could not conceive of any alternative, nor could it want to, even if it had the ability to want in the first place. It could no more go against that command than it could breathe fire or turn itself into marmalade jam.
But at the time it had received the command, the bear happened to be pointing at a window. Something moved beyond… a tree branch, heavy with fruit, beset by birds.
The teddy bear was not the only watcher.
On the windowsill, rapt and staring at the birds with the lust for excitement and an ancestral urge for predation bred into its very soul, was a fat, yellow-eyed, black cat. Its eyes darted back and forth in the reflection of the dusty glass, following the bird movements with a passion and quickness far belying its rotund frame.
“Eye for Detail,” the man murmured. The teddy bear tried to look at him, but couldn’t. Be Still resonated within the core of its very being. It was a golem, and a golem could not go against the words that filled it.
“Yes… Hm. Interesting… two superior qualities, good. Same craftsman? Have to ask Mordecai next time.” More scratching. More notes.
Followed by a sigh. “No point in putting this off. Test seven, four subjects, two exceptional… here we go. Yorgum watch over me.” The man moved past the teddy bear’s vision, tucked away his notebook, and stretched out his hand toward the toys down the shelf. “Greater Golem Upgrade!”
The room pulsed with golden light, and there came a sound like mighty gears turning. The dust motes hanging in the sunlight seemed to pause, pulled together in geometric shapes before dissipating again. The teddy bear watched the cat glance back at the movement… then yawn, because the cat had seen it all before.
The flashy part went on for a bit, then died away to nothing. The man nodded, and mopped sweat from his brow, before turning a bit and repeating himself, with the same arm motions. “Greater Golem Upgrade!”
Again came the lights, and the flashing, and this time the man’s eyes went wide, as his worn face stretched into a smile. “Skill up? Good, good.” He moved out of the teddy bear’s view and wood scraped on wood, then something creaked.
“Getting too old for this.” Liquid splashed against metal.
The cat whipped its head around and made a sort of ‘blart’ noise.
“No, Pulsivar. This isn’t milk, and Celia would kill me if I fed you seventy-proof rum.”
The cat yarped again, until it was certain the man would continue to ignore it.
And after some time, the teddy bear found it could turn its head again. It looked at the man, and the toy didn’t have the words to say that he was sitting in a chair, scribbling notes, and muttering to himself. “Skill’s up to a nice even eight, now. Hopeful there, might finally be able to make it work. If I can get at least one functional subject out of this batch, I can move on to the next stage.”
Seeing nothing that made sense, the teddy bear looked back down the shelf, and saw the dead stuffed skunk looking back at it. But the other two toys, the hobby horse and the doll, were frozen, save for random tremors that rocked them every few seconds.
“Well! On with it, then,” the man rose to his feet again, and the teddy bear watched him walk over, and stretch out his arm once more. But this time he could see the man’s fingers moving on the skunk, tracing glowing symbols on its ratty hide that spread to cover the grisly little toy. “Greater Golem Upgrade!”
The teddy bear watched, as the light flashed again, and the dusty sunlight formed symbols to mirror those glowing on the skunk, watched them sink into the taxidermy as golden light poured forth from its every orifice.
And the skunk fell still.
Then the man’s hand was on the teddy bear’s face, and words thundered forth, filling its being, filling it, blending in and becoming it-
“Greater Golem Upgrade!”
-and suddenly the world made a lot more sense.
The teddy bear realized that it could think. But right now all it was thinking of, could be summarized by its very limited, intelligence 2 mind, was “what the heck are these squiggly things right in front of my face?”
It didn’t recognize the words as words. It couldn’t read. They were just some sort of looming thing in front of it, that overlaid and blocked a good portion of its vision. And without the ability to answer the prompt, the words simply hung there, incomprehensible.
“There we go.” The man mopped his brow again, leaning against the shelf. “Woof. Takes it out of you. More mana draw at this level. Greater results? No matter.” The man stepped back, and spoke again. “Eye for Detail!” The teddy bear watched as the man’s eyes flashed gold for a second, then returned to normal. “Yes, all Greater Golems. Int score successfully gained for all of them.” He frowned. “Odd that the bear’s intelligence is so low. Good wisdom though, oddly good. Form following function? Investigate later.” He flipped open his notebook and scrawled again.
Not that the teddy bear noticed, it was busy looking around the room with new eyes. New thoughts filled its head. It now had the ability to question, to wonder what things were, and why they were that way. And it found itself growing rather annoyed at the way the glowy squiggles kept getting in the way of its looking at things.
Snap, went the notebook. The man cracked his knuckles, eyes dropping, even more tired than he had been at the start of this whole event. “No point in putting this off. Sink or swim time.” He took a deep breath, and spoke clearly. “Form Party.”
The sound rang from everywhere and nowhere, and the toys looked around to see where it was coming from. The cat growled in annoyance at the high-pitched sound, and relocated under the nearby table.
“Moment of truth… let this work!” The man rubbed his hands together, and looked to the hobby horse. “Invite golem!”
Golden light flared between them. The hobby horse looked back at him. It twitched slightly.
“No. Nonononono… not another wasted run. Come on, it has to work. Invite Golem!"
The hobby horse just stared at him, with its painted eyes. And the man’s face sunk into his hands. “Damn. Just… damn.” He looked down the row, lips pressed into a thin line. “Ah well. Three more chances with this batch. If not this one, then sooner or later I’ll crack it.”
He turned back to the hobby horse. The bear turned, angling its head until it could see what he was doing relatively well, around the gaps in the glowy words.
“Waste not want not,” the man said. “Disenchant!”
And to the teddy bear’s utter surprise, the hobby horse evaporated into dust with a flickering yellow crystal dropping down to land in the pile. The hobby horse was gone.
The man swayed, then leaned against the wall, breathing hard. “Enough for one more, I think. Mmf. Might as well get this over as fast as possible. Invite Golem!” he barked at the ragdoll, and again the golden light flared…
And the teddy bear realized that if the man kept doing that, he’d eventually get to the teddy bear.
To the bear, the words shifted for a second to display a much shorter, smaller bunch of squiggles, then faded away to return to the old familiar ones that had filled its vision for the last few minutes.
But inside its fuzzy skull, ideas started trickling in more freely. It was still relatively stupid, but now it was stupid at about one point five times the thinking speed it had before.
“You too, huh? Pity. And you’re double the intelligence, so it’s not that, “ the man mused, as the ragdoll didn’t react to his invitation. “Goodbye, my dear. Disenchant!” Again, the toy turned to dust and crystal.
Though the teddy bear was new to sentience, and new to this whole concept of, well, things and existence in general, a notion formed in its newly-enlightened mind.
And the first thought to cross its mind that wasn’t a question, was a pretty simple one;
I don't want to be dust.
???? Character Sheet
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About the author

Andrew Seiple


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