From the west came word of shape-shifters and forest witches, who changed shape and sex and even species, turning into rock or wind at will. In North America, the resurgent timberwolf population had to contend with competition from werewolves, and the social order was threatened, it was said, by a fashion for vampirism among the young. Whether those were fanciful tales or not, the response of the Anglo-American world was ferocious. The United Kingdom had a Witch-Finder General for the first time in three centuries, and burning at the stake, officially sanctioned in the U.K. and extrajudicially in the U.S.A., became so common that the news outlets ceased to report it.
The first echo-shock of the Great Change struck in Elsa’s immediate vicinity with the news that a young American forensic pathologist, with whom her mentor had been working on the mass graves of the Balkan Wars, had been lynched by witch-hunters.
“The threat of witches is convenient; it gives the authorities an opportunity to root out other threats as well,” he said.