Upon arriving at her new home in Wisconsin, one of the first things the Witch needed to do was select a tree for enchantment. In past incarnations she had enchanted everything from a scrawny scrub pine barely clinging to life on a steppe to a majestic redwood in northern California. Unlike other duties discharged by her vast array of familiars, tree enchantment was a task she had to perform in person. In a way it was like picking a Christmas tree, yet instead of murdering the damn thing and dragging it home, the Witch would endow the chosen tree with eternal life. The irony was not lost on her.
Enchanted trees gave the Witch a connection between Hell and the Earth itself, and they intensified her spells. Since she had to travel to a new land every time she returned from her latest season in Hell, a new tree had to be enchanted upon her arrival. She took heart that none of her former enchanted trees were sad to see her go. To the contrary, nothing conveys malevolent grace or gleeful, malign intent better than a retired enchanted tree. And if a branch happens to break off and kill a peasant now and then, well, accidents happen.
There were many suitable candidates for enchantment on the large estate that one of the Witch’s familiars had purchased with a tiny portion of her vast wealth, while she was preparing for her return from Hell. Hemlocks, hollies, oaks and maples; even a sinister crabapple tree, twisted and deformed, a veritable leper of a tree, which seemed to actively pursue the job. But it was what the Witch did not own that she coveted. And at 3 AM on her first day in Wisconsin, she saw a young Evilmost Elm standing on the other side of the fence.
Her human familiars, those shadowy persons who worked behind the scenes and did the housework and drove the cars and saw to the humdrum of her business affairs, were also of no use when it came to buying an enchanted tree. This too had to be done personally. And although the Witch had black cats who stole baby breath for kicks, and rats, by the thousands, who could dig and fill a grave faster than any machine, thus easily capable of plucking and replanting a tree without attracting unwanted attention, the Witch was an honest Witch.
The peasant’s name was Marcie and was the only person at home. The Witch knew that the instant the rather plump blond of maybe thirty opened the door the next morning.
“Hello, Marcie,” the Witch said.
“Um, hello–Do I know you?”
“May I come in?”
“Well, it’s not a good time right now–” said Marcie, unease in eyes, which pleased the Witch.
“Excellent,” the Witch said, stepping inside. “Good thing I don’t need to be asked in, like a vampire.”
“Who are you?”
“Why, Marcie, didn’t I mention that I’m your new neighbor.”
“How do you know my name?”
“Maybe you should come back when my husband is home.”
“No need. I’ll get down to business. I’d like to buy the elm in your backyard. I’ll oversee the delivery, personally.”
“Really, I think you should go.”
The Witch, not the most patient of Witches, spoke a spell into Marcie’s brain.
“I’ll go when I’m fucking good and ready to go, useless twat. Unless you want to hang upside down from a hook, bled like a shoat, you will sell me that tree.”
“Five hundred?” the Witch said, smiling.
Five hundred was just fine.
At three the next morning, the Witch summoned every rat in ten counties and spoke impeccable midwest rattish to the masses. Within seconds the magically assisted horde uprooted the Evilmost Elm, tossed it over the fence, and transplanted it into the Witch’s soil. The Witch never tired of watching how well the tiny fiends worked together.
“Wonderful, my babies–wonderful, wonderful.”
The Witch gave the Evilmost Elm her profane blessing.
Then it was time to try it out, think of it as a test, to judge its connection to Hell.
The Witch gazed at Marcie’s house. “Such a pity about the husband. Going mad like that…Seems it’s always the quiet ones.”
A light came on in the house.