Meanwhile in the forest, a transformation was underway, creeping outward from a rotten epicenter.   Young, healthy trees twisted and blackened, flowers withered and died, dropping already-decomposing petals to the hardening ground, and babbling brooks went murky and stagnant.  Overhead, a large, swirling mass of menacing clouds bubbled and writhed, spreading out in slow, violent shudders.  The wind howled in the trees, branches cracked and creaked, and thunder rumbled above, yet over it all, the sound of laughter could be heard, emanating from the twisted tower of Ziema's fortress of sticks and vines.

The Winter Witch was still leaning out of the window, waving her arms about in grand gestures, her long, black hair whipping about with the force of the wind, and her forked, purplish tongue darting out between her pointed teeth in excitement.  She had never felt such immense power, and here she had it gathered at the tips of her bony, claw-like fingers.  It was all she could do not to giggle girlishly, which she deemed to be a very unwitchlike thing to do.

"Now," she shrieked into the gale, "let us have a blizzard!"

Snow began to fall, sharp and stinging.  The screaming wind caught it as it dropped and threw it into a horizontal trajectory.   Soon, Ziema's view of the forest was quite gone, eclipsed by a sheet of blinding white.  Grinning crookedly, she let the storm fight against her.  It desired to freeze her and tear her apart, to consume its own maker.  She was amused by its pitiful efforts: no newborn blizzard could ever match the strength of Ziema the Winter Witch.  Soon it would learn whom it answered to.

"Obey me," she screamed.  "Thou art my servant of destruction, and thou shalt answer to my command!  Go forth, and claim the land for me!"

The End

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