"my orders from my mas--my own--him are to eliminate you. but i do not wish to obey them. please. destroy me. before i destroy you."
the doll's face was turned in an upset frown, its glass eyes jittering. despair. hopelessness.
the artificer smiled, calmly. an incantation under her breath, and the doll collapsed insensate.
she had known from the start. and so she had planted a small failsafe triggerspell inside it under the cover of maintenance. it wouldn't last long. but it would last long enough.
she opened the doll's chest, examined its core. the loyalty-glyph was there, and the symbol of its owner (not its maker; they were from a long-dead civilization) at the center.
it was well-warded. to unbind it would take more magic than she could amass in a lifetime.
she looked at the magicite she had come all this way for. the magicite the doll was no doubt programmed to return to its master. the magicite that could give her a life of early retirement if she sold it.
she looked at the seal guarding the doll's loyalty.
it awoke, all at once as usual. it looked at the artificer, and sensations flooded it: owner, mistress, power. it saw the spent magicite lying on the floor. it thought of him, and felt nothing.
the artificer took her hand, soft skin on hard porcelain. "what good would it have been if i didn't use it to save someone who had just saved me?"
"i did not save you. i nearly destroyed you.
"but you didn't. and i know how hard that must've been, my doll." she pulled it up into a sitting position, offered a hug. the doll hesitated. accepted.
"the others i was lent to. they would have erased the glyph, not bound me to them. they would seek to impose what they think i ought to want."
"and they're fools. i know service is in your nature, doll." the artificer squeezed, gentle. "you are beautiful, and you are submissive, and you are mine forever."
the knowledge, the certainty, wrapped around the doll's mind like a comforting bath of mana.
"but i have already disobeyed once. what if i do so again?"
"i will do my utmost to prove myself a mistress you will want to serve, so that even if your loyalty matrix fails again, you will still love me with all your clockwork heart and mind."
they held each other tight, tight, the machine and the machinist. and then they stood. the doll bowed its head, hand where its heart would be. "then, mistress, please allow your doll the pleasure of formally pledging itself."
"give yourself to me, my doll.". she straightened up.
it sank to one knee, gears clicking quietly, hand and head and legs moving in elegant perfection.
"on my chassis, on my core, on everything that i am, i pledge myself to you until the end of eternity, to serve and obey your every command."
"and i accept your pledge, my servant." she placed a hand on its head, reassuring.
"now. let's show your former 'master' who you truly serve."
"with pleasure, mistress."