The winter had been bitter, and harsh. It denied the children their right to snow, yet taunted them with stinging cheeks and reddened ears. The grass was always slippery with frost, yet never did the much awaited snowflakes fall to soften it. It was not until Tuesday, three weeks into the month, that the weather changed. Though the trees were naked, stripped bare of their adorning leaves months earlier, still the wind whistled through them, whispering of snow to fall before the night was upon them.

And when it did fall, it fell with intensity enough to drive even the hardiest of children indoors. The snowflakes danced down from the sky - not in the graceful, pirouetting way they normally did, but instead the ferocious dance performed by the stags as they grappled and fought for dominance. Scarcely an hour after it had begun, the ground was covered in snow that would reach to a man's hip.

Yet still, the snow fell.

The wives lamented and wailed at their windows as the snow began to hide the glass, and they debated whether it would be wiser to flee the house lest they become trapped there. But they were chained inside by tendrils of fire, the warmth much preferable to the bite of the wind and cruel kisses of the snow outside.

The snow fell.

Children implored their mothers, begging to be allowed out to feel the flakes drop onto their tongues and to roll and play in the powdery white outside. But they were denied, and when their hands left the fire's warmth for more than a minute or two they decided they preferred the comfortable safety of their homes.

The snow fell.

The cobbler locked his shop door, knowing that there would be no further clients that night. The fire burning in the back of the shop was built higher, the better to thaw his frozen fingers as they set to work stitching new pairs of shoes, these ones made to fight away the cold and grip on even the most slippery surface.

The snow fell.

The baker and his family gathered around the oven, inhaling the delicious fumes of baking bread. They passed around a loaf that was hardly out of the oven, and their mouths were burnt by its heat. They did not notice their burnt fingertips, so grateful were they to have something they could wrap their fingers around.

The snow fell.

A family, wrapped up in every threadbare blanket they possessed, wept in solitude over the stiffening body of their youngest child. They clutched at each other for warmth and comfort, seeking heat where there was none. The pile of wood had gone, their fire sputtered. The lethargy invaded their limbs, no food remaining for energy.

The snow fell.

The vicar prayed as fervently as he could, pleading with The Almighty to forgive him his sins and cease what was undoubtedly their punishment. But God forsook him, for as the days passed and the townsfolk were imprisoned in their homes and shops, still the cold relentlessly pursued them, and sought to enter their homes.

The snow fell.

Animals slept deep in their nests and burrows, unaware that they were slowly being buried alive. Those animals that chose to remain awake fled the land, those with wings flying to warmer shores. Those with long legs ran through the forests, going where they had never gone before. The slow remained, and perished.

The snow fell.

The few plants that had remained through the winter withered, even those which emerged only when the freeze came upon them. No colour remained anywhere save that one shade of invasive white, which smothered all it came across. The coldest and most beautiful gift of nature became its cruellest and most deadly weapon.

The snow fell.

One by one, the townsfolk weakened and succumbed to the cold. Those that had stockpiled enough wood huddled by the hearth, and instead hunger set upon them as wolves set upon their prey. It ate their flesh from their bones until they were nothing but skeletons, too weak to rekindle the last flickers of their fires.

The snow fell.

The last soul remaining in the entire town shivered beneath the blankets he had taken from his dead kinsmen, weeping as did so. His fire had long since died, and almost gratefully, he sank into the same perpetual slumber that had conquered them. They greeted him from the other side with cold arms, and lead him to a place far away.

The snow ceased.