The queen of Soluna sat in her tower. She very much liked towers. They were distinctive, ominous, and always gave the right impression to any passing noble who thought he might like to kill a witch that day. The original castle had one turret, and she'd quickly fixed that.
Nedra did very little queening these days, since most of the population had died off by now, and exploring the castle proper had been fine in the early days. Now she preferred the spaces she'd created for herself. There wasn't much for a witch-turned-queen to do. Kyanos and Cucurbita had long since decided it was easier to wait for her to die off than to try and conquer the land, and her books had lost interest. A hundred years ago she was constantly striving to grow her power, but these days she was tired. She still looked as young as she had back then, but she'd allowed herself to grow matronly. she kept her high collar and dark makeup, but there were no more plunging necklines or spike-heeled boots for her. She'd resigned her hair to be netted behind her in a style that was popular ages ago. She wore comfortable waist lines and allowed the occasional wrinkle to mar her otherwise perfect face. It would've disgusted her, but these days Nedra didn't care for anything. These so-called children of the Golden Kings couldn't hold a candle to the real thing, even if the real thing was buried beneath her feet. She didn't have anyone to care for or care about. Life was growing dull and pointless. One of the problems with extending it so long, she supposed. Eventually you run out of things to do.
There was always...
Nedra shook her head. There wasn't. Too long ago she'd laid that to rest. There was nothing she could do for it now. She turned her mind to the snow.
It was everywhere, falling from the sky as fat wet flakes and covering everything. An unnatural cold had been permeating the air for ages now, but this was the worst it had been. Far away, she heard a bang on the castle doors. There it was again, louder, demanding. No one had knocked for a hundred years, but she was not surprised. Stretching her arms a bit to get the old magic flowing, she waved her arm, and in a puff of black smoke ended up in the main hall below. The doors were craning against the force of what was behind it. Bang after heavy bang rang through the empty building. Finally the doors were blown open by a gust of winter wind. Nedra shielded her eyes against it, frowning at the amount of debris that floated in with it. Leaves and twigs and snow went everywhere, and she could see through the opening that the entire outside world was covered in a fresh batch of snow. A tall, thin woman walked through, her long dress trailing behind her, the softest blue, and it shimmered like the sun off a snowbank. Her light blue skin gave the feeling of luminescence, her frosty blue eyes of cruelty. She pulled back thin blue lips into a smile and tossed her stark white hair over her shoulder.
"Nedra," she said, voice chilly as the wind, "it's been a long time."
"Dramatic as ever," the dark witch sighed. She fixed her hair as the doors closed behind her visitor. "Come on in. I'll pour us a cup of tea."
Onna followed her through the dim halls, gazing up at the home she was not unfamiliar with. The vaulted ceilings hung high above their heads, tiny balls of floating light the only source of illumination. Long, dark colored columns held the ceiling up, and with the only windows two feet from the ceiling, it gave a proper sense of foreboding. Things like this were what she always liked about Nedra. She had a proper taste for atmosphere. It was classic dark sorcery.
"You'll have to catch me up," she said as Nedra led her into a small tea room. Onna didn't sit, choosing instead to look around the room. Various portraits hung from the walls, all obscured now, the paint smeared or washed away. Bookshelves alternated the empty space on the far wall. None of the books had titles and were bound in leather. Many were frayed from use and age, and all of them were handwritten. Nedra always liked books. They held class and prestige. Onna didn't need silly catches like that. People didn't need to think she had power, they already knew.
Nedra entered once more carrying a black and purple tea set, and she set it on the small circular table in the center. She walked over to the grey stoned fireplace and laid her hand on its mantle. Immediately purple fire flared up and lit the room. She gestured to the chair, but Onna still waited for her to sit before she allowed herself. Little dances amongst old friends.
"How many years has it been?" Nedra asked, pouring tea into her cup. "I lose track after so long."
Onna smiled good-natured into her own cup. "Memory is the first to go, I hear. I've noticed things are changed. No more Golden Kings to ruin our day."
"It has been a bit of a reprieve, I admit. There are a few others. The great-grandchildren of the king's second cousin or something took over. You'll have to meet them. They're utter rubbish."
"I walked through." She glanced at the fading walls and smeared paintings. "You seem to have lost some territory."
"When you knew me, I had a tower in the center of the king's land. Now I have a country between two tiny kingdoms."
"You have a forest between two growing powers. You won't last long, if you last at all."
Nedra sipped her tea without so much as a flicker of emotion. "And tell me, what is it you've been up to these past few decades. Sitting in your castle, watching the seasons pass?"
"I have patience, dear. Little I could've done with that king and his sprout of daughter, so I waited. I had to ensure the bloodline was diluted enough that nothing stood against me."
"And what is your plan, my friend?"
Onna's cup clinked as she returned it to its saucer. "There are many things I want to do in life. I won't share them all with you. I want to know more about you. Rumor has it you're the one responsible for the end of the kings."
The witch very carefully set her tea aside. The room was growing colder. "The spell didn't have quite the effect I thought it would. If any of them survive, they surely won't after your ice storm."
"Isn't it lovely?" She glanced out the window and sighed. "It'll be proper snow too, not like before. I've got to get my bearings though. Don't want to burst into the wrong castle!"
"The usual then? Cover the world in ice?"
Onna frowned. "It's all I really want. If they'd just let me rule over them with an icy fist, I'd be perfectly content."
"I can't imagine why they wouldn't."
She gave a wry smile and leaned forward, tapping idly on the teacup. Spiderwebs of ice were quickly forming.
"I have to ask," Onna said slowly. "About the girl."
"Oh, you know." She stared at her, face growing very concerned. One disadvantage weather beings always had was their inability to hide their emotions. "I assume you did away with her like the rest of them."
Nedra didn't answer. Ice was forming on the windows.
"Because," Onna continued, "I can't believe someone as strong-willed as you could be turned by simple sentimentality. You left her to rot. You let them all die."
"Have you been listening to the local folklore?"
Onna stood very slowly. "Where is she?"
Nedra said, "I put her away."
She met her friend's gaze. "She is taken care of."
Ice snaked across the ceiling. "Where?"
"Somewhere no one can get to."
Onna balled her fists. "I can't believe you care so much for her. You didn't even know her."
Purple fire surged up in the fireplace, but the room only grew darker. "That was hardly my fault."
"And now! Now you're hiding her from me! You're trying to keep her safe. Are you that desperate to mean something to her?"
"It's been a century. No one's found her yet."
The tea was completely frozen over. "Humans are persistent."
Nedra looked her right in the eyes. "You'll certainly never find her."
Onna grasped at the air. Her side of the room was completely covered in ice. "Why are you fighting me? I'm trying to reshape the world. I'm trying to make it mine. Why are you hiding the one thing that can stop me?"
The dark witch smiled. "The one thing?"
With a growl Onna extended her arm. Icicles formed from the walls and flew at Nedra. She waved her hand, and the fire surged up around her. They melted before they could touch her.
"Do you know what humans do?" the Snow Queen shouted, tossing another round of ice. "Humans die. Humans freeze and rot and starve, and if they survive one thing, they always succumb to another. Why do you want to protect that?"
Nedra easily dodged her volleys. She snaked the fire out, but Onna was quick.
"She's hardly human," Nedra said.
"She might as well be!" She allowed the snow to build and fire at Nedra. It doused the flames that stood between them. "She was raised human! She believes she's human! A mind is easily shaped!"
"Humans aren't the only ones who die." Nedra made a complicated gesture with her fingers, and a long golden scepter appeared. She slammed it against the floor, and fire burst up beneath Onna, who quickly turned the ice to water to subdue it.
"No they aren't," she growled. She stood straight again, and a wind whipped up behind her. It howled at Nedra, knocking her back, and ice began to form against her skin, locking her to the wall. She tried to move, but the wind was too strong, and her fires were slowly going out. Ice coated her, and she had no means of struggling against it.
"Luckily," Onna said, "I don't want you dead. I'll find the little flower. With or without your help."
"You won't find her," Nedra said, trying to grasp one last breath before the ice completely covered her. "And the humans will survive. It's what they do."
Onna glared as the ice froze over her friend. "We'll see about that."