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The Witch in Winter

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She should have been more afraid. She knows the stories -- she has heard the preacher thunder fire and brimstone every Sunday. The Devil comes in many forms, and his lies are always poisoned under their honey sweetness.

She should have been more afraid.

(But Jack wouldn't have been afraid.)

"What sort of request would you trade your soul for?"

She lifts her head and she makes a wish.


She wakes with a start, a scream locked in her throat. Confused, she looks around and sees that she has fallen under the large oak tree that overlooks their small home. Her mother is calling her name.

Something sour and bitter rises up in her throat. It was all just a dream, then. She'll pick herself up and she'll go in and she'll have to be careful not to look at the body on the bed -- they'll probably have to burn the bedding, to stop the spread of miasma.

But then she realizes that her mother does not sound upset -- there is something sharp in her voice, yes, but it is ...

... relief ... ?

Her frozen heart starts to pound in her chest. In an instant she flings herself down the hill and sees her mother there, red-eyed but smiling joyously.

"He woke up!" her mother cries, a moment before she slams into her embrace. "His fever's broken, he's going to be fine!"

He's going to be fine.

She throws her arms around her mother's neck and weeps.

Later, after the doctor has been sent on his way, she will creep to the edge of his bed, resting her chin on the edge and watching with awe and love both at the way her brother's chest gently rises and falls, at the way that the horrible red flush of his recent fever has burned away without taking him with it. He will open his eyes and turn his head to her, and he will see her properly for the first time in weeks, and he will smile and she will weep again, clutching his hand in both of hers.


Two weeks later, a freak snowstorm blows into the area unexpectedly, and all of the hunters who were out are caught by surprise. Their thin cloaks are no match for the ferocity of winter.

It is a whole day before anyone can leave their homes to fetch the bodies.

She looks down at his pale face, twisted in determination even under its thin layer of frost, and her scream echoes and echoes and echoes until--

--he opens his eyes and laughs at her weakly, telling her he was trying to sleep.

She almost slaps him for it, but instead she crumbles on his chest and sobs, and around them the others begin to stir instead, murmuring their confusion and their relief.

For a week after she refuses to let him out of her sight. But in the end, he has to leave again (it is winter, there is hunting to be done), and she remains close to the window, staring out at the road and hardly breathing until she sees his familiar shape on the road.


The icicle shouldn't have been that big.

It shouldn't have been that sharp.

But it was, and it was, and it strikes true and paints the snow with her brother's blood. He meets her eyes for an eternal second before he falls and she does not even have the breath to scream his name this time. She falls to her knees and watches as a shockwave ripples out from her knees, like a tremendous wind. It is hot and sharp; she wonders, dimly, if this is how Hell smells.

It melts the icicle in her brother's neck and closes up the gaping wound with the deftness that no human hands could match. She watches as it coaxes color back into his cheeks and his eyes open. He sits up, rubbing at an injury that no longer exists, and the wind blows snow over the blood, erasing all traces of it.

She breathes in huge desperate gulps until her lungs burn with it, but inside of her the cold is growing, oh, it's spreading, and it will reach her heart soon.


"We're gonna have a little fun instead," he says.

"You have to believe in me," he says.

But all he does is gasp when he plunges into the icy water and takes the last of her light with him. And this time, when she screams (and she screams and screams and she screams), there is no one to tell her to stop.



The fire witch with a regretful nature. Her tears are flames and she spits them at her familiars, who taunt her with voices that she doesn't know. Until the person that she weeps for returns for her, she will never stop.


"They almost didn't build the city here," Jamie says, swinging his legs as he turns the next page of his book. It's brand-new from the library and it crinkles crisply as he adjusts its weight.

"Yeah?" Jack barely looks up from the carving he is making out of ice, of a fat floppy-eared golden retriever (Jamie had hinted rather strongly that a pet would be a great Christmas present, and, well, North had a bit of a soft spot for the kid, as long as he knew what he was going for). "Why not?"

"There was a fire." Jamie frowns down at the page in concentration. "Nearly wiped out the whole settlement, it says. It took them years to rebuild everything. Kinda weird, right? Since it's always so cold here normally." He grabs his hat from the bed and tosses it at Jack. It flutters maybe halfway across the room before it drops, but Jack does look up now, grinning.

"You can thank me for that," he says, and he holds up the dog. "Like this?"

"It's gotta be fluffier. Something that Sophie would climb on."

"Fluffier, right." Jack smooths his fingers over the ice dog's fur. With his back to the window and the world, he does not see the tendril of white that curls in the wind, which has nothing to do with his snow. He does not see the girl who appears for a fraction of a second, her eyes wide and shining, or the other girl who floats beside her, who eventually draws her into a loving embrace and pulls her away.

(There are some things that even the unseen cannot see.)

(There are some things that can never be seen.)