The Sword of Oz - Prologue
Daedric, the Bird Prince, swooped and soared, dived and glided, drifted and danced upon the wind. High above the dark woods in which he had grown up the air was crisp and sweet, cold and refreshing. Wind ruffled through his feathers and he let out a delighted cry of exhilaration. Up here, Daedric was free.
It was easy to forget his problems so high above Oz. Below him the dark wood stretched out for miles in every direction concealing within its mass of twisted, bitter old trees, more creatures and monstrosities than could be counted. Normally Daedric feared nothing, or at any rate, very little. But there was one creature above all others that sent a frozen bolt of terror through his heart.
A sudden up current of wind sent him soaring and fright gripped his majestic body. But the instant of fear passed soon enough and once again Daedric was free to soar in peace.
Far below him, the Witch of the dark wood was moving.
She moved in a flash of death black robes and putrid green skin. Boils and warts rippled over her ancient body and from under a heavy hood emerged a long, bent nose. The trees clawed out at her jealously, their old and brittle branches occasionally scraping the hood which obscured her face, exposing just a little more of her horrid form to the world. For the most part the Witch ignored these insults.
Small creatures upon hearing, seeing or sensing the Witch (for the creatures of Oz were as prone to sensing witches as they were to seeing them) darted into burrows or under root or high into the sky. It was as if they believed that the Witch would destroy them for simply having the audacity to exist. And on other days their fears may have been justified, but not this day.
The woods were utterly silent.
The only noises that dared break the calm were those made by the trees as they chattered amongst themselves or snatched out at the Witch as she passed among them.
Though the trees had been pestering her for most her entire journey, the Witch had not, until now, deemed to notice. Far more important matters occupied her mind but the constant harassment was beginning to prove distracting. Trees, it must always be remembered, see the world in a profoundly different way to most all other creatures. And where smaller animals scampered, fluttered and burrowed away from the approaching witch, the trees reached out and abused her.
The Witch, tiring of their antics, raised one arm. From within layers of a black sleeve emerged a rakish hand. Fire and ice danced between her fingers tips before fading into nothingness. For an instant the woods were once again silent.
The tree which had last snatched at the Witch again dared to strike the wicked creature.
A smooth, blue fire rippled up the tree's trunk, engulfing the ancient bulk in flame which burned slowly and painfully into its core. The tree did not die quickly and it certainly did not die easily. Around it, other trees leaned as far from their burning kinsman as such creatures could manage though several of the closest also caught fire.