1. Winter Conqueror

    Winter never arrives until after his vassals and adherents have completed his orders for them. He sits back until his time is right, allowing those of his host to set the stage for his ascension. He is willing to bide his time the whole year, considering his plots and stratagems and coveting the control he has been denied thus far. “This will be the year,” he says to himself, “The final one.” His powers gather at his hand, and he sends them forward to prepare his way to the throne he always sees himself sitting in when he dreams the dream that has haunted him for so long he has decided it is his fate.

    Frost, agent provocateur, sneaks in underfoot, below notice, under the cover of Night. Her delicate beauty is captivating. She insinuates herself among the flora to put down the last brave blossoms and sabotage what remains of the fruits of summer. She beguiles the leaves to turn from the green, tricking them into trying to substitute their color for the lost bloom’s. Under the eye of the sun, she goes back into hiding, leaving no trace of her passing but for barely perceptible progression of browns.

    The cavalries of Wind ride in the vanguard when the call comes to advance. They swoop in, circling the defenses, seeking any opening, any entry to take the advantage. Storm charges in to strike down the last leaves and to pull in the dark clouds. Gust rushes past your scarf to get a hold of your neck, or trip you up at your ankles, or to wring a tear from your eye. They blast and repeatedly blow, taking you by surprise to chill you in ambush on the last sunny days. On the attack, they howl and wail their war cry, bolder and more self-assured with every passing day

    The forces of Night are the most numerous and play the deciding role. He moves the boldest, methodically advancing expeditions of darkness to encroach and violate the borders of Day from both fronts. Remnants of his troops strike through at the middle, bringing the sky to gray and filling deep shadows. What Day is left comes forward only with the most effort, and begins to retreat again almost before it has arrived, unable to distinguish itself from its predecessor.

    The engineer, Cold, saps the defenses, gradually eroding the warmth and comfort. His persistence wears down enthusiasm to collapse into lethargy. When he is bolstered from reinforcements by Night, he is the most bitter, and the least forgiving. He strikes through all but the thickest armor or blanketed fortress. He pulls the moisture down from the air, making lips cracked and mouths unwilling to open, skin brittle and abrasive. He slows even Time, drawing it out in monotony.

    Contagion’s militia musters within the subdued. They arrive unbeckoned and unannounced to take captives at random. They come to disrupt gatherings with the absence of those missing. Within their sphere of influence we become wary of our associations.

    Winter arrives after these offenses have taken their toll, and he assumes his dominion.  Having fulfilled his bidding and their charge, his forces are released to run rampant and unopposed through his realm. His rule is bleak and harsh, there is no spare relief and are no second chances. The landscape is decorated with skeleton trees, a warning that even the mightiest are under his dominance. He can see no challengers to his supremacy and revels in his victory. He sends forth Snow, to erase the world so he may remake it as his own.

    The resistance is quiet, secretive, but growing. Galanthus and cyclamen still raise colored banners calling to rally. The striped standards of crocus have begun to multiply among the brown grasses. Narcissi, daffodils, and hyacinth lift their pikes. They prepare to bring back color, and call upon the Sun. Night has already begun to be pushed back by Day, but has neglected to report it. Beneath Snow, the greens gather in secret and subvert it to revive themselves. As Winter begins celebrating his triumph, his downfall is already accelerating in its approach. Each purple bud, each yellow bloom, every pink array, every chartreuse hint of leaves, all strike a determined blow and admit the warmth back in on which rides Spring.