Kiss of Winter

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The breeze passed through the trees, whose sticks grasped at the sky in pointless boredom. Their leaves were gone, and there wasn't much sun to feed them anyway. The woods were quiet, not much going on except the whistling of the rushing air. Snow sometimes piled up on top of branches, or in little hills under the trees, windswept, and resembling those of a sand dune.

It was winter. But it was winter for years. It felt as if it would never end, this endless expanse of cold. Those who lived in the local village regretted not building up enough lumber to last this long, and most certainly food was becoming scarcer. No one knew what caused the Reign of Cold, but somewhere along the way, quite a number were catching on how to survive it.

For instance, most learned that dunking blankets in water, and laying them atop their houses allowed them to freeze in a straight sheet down walls of their home, being extra protection from the wind, and also hanging onto the heat on the inside. Small details kept the villagers running.

As if the cold wasn't enough of a plague, there had been an influx of monsters as well. Demons, who stole children in the night, and destroyed homes who seemed to flourish under the cold. Hunters had begun to form to take out the dangers, but few were hearty enough to last very long on the long, cold watch schedules. And worse, those who were alone sometimes disappeared.

One of those such demons, a jester, one sat idly on a branch, blowing little ice crystals into the air, and watching them form snow. He had been idly playing with his magic, and so bored, swung his thin, long legs from the branch wondering what to occupy his time with.
Inside the house a small smoldering fire burns, mostly coal rather then flames, gives off what little heat it has to the room. The plain walls of the house looking stark in the glow of the fire, but showing where the small mattresses lay in the corner. Two of them total one big enough for two people the other close by. That bed was only for one.

Two women, a mother and daughter, are inside the house cleaning up the room, and doing basic house hold chores. They frequently look out the windows as if watching for their loved one to come back. At times hearing the chilling sound of the breeze weaving through the trees.

No one in the village ever dared to go to the woods alone. The men would always go with neighbors to look for food and get firewood. This is the time of day when most of the men are out doing this. Women are not to go because they believe the women are not strong enough.

The girl Safria, who is in the house with her mother was tired of this, tired of being stuck inside, and tired of being cold. There needed to be a change somewhere in this world, and the men were not doing this. Yes, thee women were being protected to the best of the men's ability, but what type of life is it to be cooped up inside the house all day. Only going into the village if accompanied by a male. She decided it's about time explore the mystery of this world herself instead of having it told to her.
He walked by beneath him, and he smiled. Three fangs on each side of his mouth, gleamed. He swung himself up, and jumped to a higher branch out of view. Hunting time.

Two men walked side by side between the trees, and spotted the deer. They gestured to one another, and closed in silently, holding their guns to their shoulders ready to fire. The crunch of snow was loud, and it was extremely hard to be stealthy enough to evade a finicky deer's ears. When they decided they were close enough, and the howl of air rushed their scents and sounds down wind, they crouched, and aimed their guns for a clear shot.

Before each of them had a chance to open fire, a flash of black, blue, and silver rushed across the field, and the deer howled in pain, dashing away. The two men yelped, and jumped back, both angry and frightened that the thing had wounded their prey, but could possibly come for them. They looked at each other, and leaped behind two trees to hide, peeking out to see what became of the mammal.

He thrashed, turning and bucking his head in the snow, blood collecting in little chunks, before he finally fell. He fool jumped down, and began work on cutting the edible parts for himself. The two men weren't even noticed.

Shocked, they exchanged glances, and raised their guns to shoot the demon.
There was an ominous feeling in the house that afternoon. Where were the men? They usually came back for by now. Something must have happened. No way could the mother stand the loss of her husband. She has already had too much loss in her life already to even think about not having him there to support her. The activity in the house died down slowly as it got later in the day until the mother didn't move just sat waiting.

"I can't take it. I'm going to look for them." Safria told her mother putting on the warmest clothes she could find. Wishing they had another gun that she could take with her. She was going into the woods. She was tired of just sitting there doing nothing! There had to be something she could do someway she could help.

"You can't go. Who will take you? No one will go into the woods at this time of day. The men all just came home to rest and warm up." The mother waking from her stuppor to say this, though her eyes looked terribly empty.

"I will go by myself then. They could be in trouble I might be able to help!" Before her mother could object anymore she grabbed the biggest knife they had, and strapped it to her belt. Then walked out. Heading straight towards the woods with the icy wind blowing at her back, as if driving her forward. Driving her to her fate.
The demon caught the scent, and smelled the men close by with his sharp nose, the second the wind changed direction. He looked up from his cutting the meat, and stared at them. He didn't snarl, but he didn't give up his prize either. He held steady gaze with them, and refused to move. He didn't make a twitch toward them, or away.

The two men held their guns ready, and prepared to fire. One man shook, and watched him. "He's not moving," he whispered to his partner, "but he knows we're here. Hold your fire. Maybe he won't attack."

"And starve? We need the meet, Jake. We can't let that... monster take it." The man snarled, and held his arm steady, preparing to aim straight at the demon's chest.

"There are other deer. They run in herds, all we have to do is track them in a different direction. That's all."

"And letting it live is also a good idea? Do you know what they've done to our village?"

"He's not attacking us."

The two bickered over whether or not to kill the fool, and he stood and listened carefully. He refused to continue cutting, but watch their hands. If one made a move for the trigger, a single twitch, he would leap clear, or raise an ice shield to protect himself. "I have an idea," he said loudly to them. They froze in their talk and turned to stare back at him. "Why don't you just go away, and I'll let you two live? Simple."
Moving through the woods was easier for her then walking in the open. The trees provided some relief from the breeze that made the cold surrounding her even colder. Even though she had a sense of dread building in her stomach she could not help but to be awed by the terrible cold beauty of the woods. For this was only the second time she has been in the woods. The first time being a distant blurry memory. Therefore this is the first time she could really appreciated what she was seeing.

There was even a creek she found. The water not moving but on one of the mini-waterfalls in the creek the water froze when falling. Giving the woods a mysterious, mystical beauty. At the same time she felt sad that she has never seen the greenery of the woods, and not knowing if she ever would. Her mother would tell her about the beauties of the woods from before Safria was born.

The dread in her stomach not disappearing but getting worse with each step she took into this unknown world in the woods. She followed the hunting trail left by the men in the village when they are out. She was sure this was heading in the right direction. Then she reached a large oak that seemed as if there was more to it then the tree would ever tell. She stopped and watched the tree for a bit, as if she could figure out what secrets it held. Here is where she got the feeling that she was not supposed to keep on the path that she was heading. Her gut instinct telling her to step off the path and go into the thicker part of the woods. Debating what to do she decided to follow the path trying to use common sense.

She took one step on to follow the path she was on. When she heard the gun shot. It came from off the path into the thicker part of woods that her gut was telling her to go to. Not hesitating, she ran towards the sound no thoughts running through her mind.
The demon roared, and then abandoned the deer. There was a small wound in his arm that gushed green blood out into the snow, and he grasped it snarling. When he fled off into the tree tops, leaping like an elf from branch to branch, the man who shot him grinned to his buddy.

"See? What'd I tell ya? Let's cut what we want from it now, he's gone. Oh wait, look! He didn't even take what he already cut off. Good, we could use that." The other man stared at him in disbelief.

"You wounded it. You didn't even kill it. Do you really think that monster isn't going to come back for vengeance? Way to go, Jake."

"Hey, look, it's not like it matters right now. We get the meat, we go home, and he has no idea where we live anyway."

The fool listened to their conversation from far off, still glowering at the gun in Jake's hands. The wound hurt. Along with learning to fortify their homes, the villagers also learned silver bullets hurt just about anything mythical in the woods, and it was something that they took great care to carve themselves, and sell to each other for cheap. The rumor was that if you took more time making them, and had more charity in handing them out, the demon would be stung even more by its bite. Angry, he swore vengeance, just as Arnie had guessed. But not now. He would wait.

He stumbled off a branch and fell, hitting the snow rather hard. Instead of getting up, he rested there, staring at the sky, until he caught a whiff of a female on the wind heading their way. He sat up, and pointed his nose to the air, trying to pinpoint it's direction. Why would a female be out here? That never happened, and when it did, a male was present too, yet the only other scent he could catch were the two men, and the deer. Startled, he leaped into a tree, and waited.
Soon I hear the men's voices ringing through the trees. Still running towards that direction, she slowed hearing that they were okay. Now trying to catch her breath with each gasp stinging the back of her throat. Now if she goes forward to help she know she will be lectured about being out in the woods alone. She could just turn around and go back to the house, and nobody would know the difference. Except her mother who would tell her father what she did.

"I may as well just face it now." Steeling herself for what's to come back straight and head up she walks forward to the voices. She walked into a small clearing where there was a deer just brought down. That must have been the shot she heard, though in the back of her mind there was a feeling that it wasn't the deer shot. What else could it be?

"Dad? Do you guys know how late you are?" As soon as she said that both men whipped around to face her shock on their faces. Then as suspected the shock turned to anger on both of the men's faces. Jake, her dad was the one to speak.

"What are you doing out here!? There are demons out here do you want to be taken away?"

"Well I have not seen any demons."

"I just shot one! They are out here, and they could have taken you!"

"You shot a demon? Oh...well even so I was not taken, and it was worth the risk. Mom is not doing well and you guys are late getting back! I also had a bad feeling like you were going to both end up dead. Plus I am a grown women I can take care of myself."

With that she walked over to the deer which they had finished cutting up grab some of it to help carry, and started to walk away. If she didn't do this they would have been standing there arguing all day. They needed to get home her mother probably wasn't doing to well right now. As she walked with the men following her both still angry that she did something so reckless. As she was walking away she got a prickling feeling on the back of her neck. It felt as if she was being watched.
He hovered in the tree, and looked down at her, and couldn't help but grin. For a female, she had nerve to come out, alone, in the cold, to find her father. And her father was the one to shoot him. He glanced down at his wound, and scoffed. 'Now to find food,' he thought.

He jumped down when he thought they couldn't see him, and walked to the remains on the deer carcass. There was barely anything left but a few scraps. Disappointed, and angry that he'd been robbed of his meal, he grabbed his dagger and began to slice off what little was left, sticking them in a pouch he carried in his left hand. When the last bit was collected, he sat back, and pulled out one of the pieces, uncooked, and stuck it in his cheek to suck on. 'Eat too fast, earn a stomach ache. Especially where there isn't much food to begin with.' He got up, and wondered if he could find the herd.

For whatever reason, he decided against it, and his mind flashed back to the woman who came into the woods. The absolute nerve. He wondered how nobody else in the village had the guts she did. Instead of heading toward where the herd would have run to, he headed back to the town. Before he left, he grabbed a cloak, and wrapped it around his face, hiding his blue skin and white eyes, and then headed toward the tree line.
That afternoon was not pleasant as soon as they got back they had a small late lunch. After that they, as a family were going to head to the village square to do some trading for supplies. Dad threatened to leave her at home, but decided against it because she might leave and wander on her own again. Will she ever have any freedom again? Probably not.

When they walked in that afternoon mother thawed from her perch staring out the window, and rushed to hug Jake. Then she hugged Safria. The father and daughter both not talking to each other because both knowing if they say anything now there will be a major fight.

Safria does not regret the fact she went out there in fact she tasted a bit of freedom. She did not get the forlorn feeling from the woods as the rest of the village did. It felt almost calming to her, granted there was that one instance where she felt like she was being watched. That did cause her to have a trickle of fear. She was mad at her dad though why would he shoot a demon if it said it would let them go, and on top of that he missed! If she says this to him though he will just point out that she went into the woods alone, which is stupid in his opinion even if she went out to save them.

So needless to say the afternoon was long. When they got to the village square there were already people out trading and selling items. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood as well. Sometime during the trading and selling the father and daughter forgave each other for the mistakes made. Safria drifted off to other villagers her own age to talk.
Noticing the commotion, he couldn't help but stare at all of the crowds of people. Different merchants little trinkets, or sometimes food here or there. He passed by a few, and grabbed a bauble, dropping a coin or two to the those who didn't realize they were made of ice, and not silver. Along the trip, he caught her scent again.

'Uh huh,' he thought, 'I know you're here, now where are you...?' He looked around and tried to find the girl he'd seen in the woods. He caught her with a group of humans her age in a section of town. When he closed in, he sat down at a table in a small dining area, and ordered something to eat. When the plate came, he watched, to see if her family was known for demon hunting, or if the woods incident was just a one-time deal. 'Eventually. Eventually, I will talk to you,' he thought, and took a sip of gin.
Being with her friends helped her forget the fight she had with her father earlier that day. They just walk around looking at the tables set up. She found a bracelet she really like, but there is no way she could afford it so she just admired it from afar. Her friends noticed how she liked it.

"you really like that bracelet don't you Safria. Why don't you buy it?"

"Darrian you know there is no way my family could afford that. You should get it for me!"

"Yea like I can afford that, Safria"

"Will you guys hurry up we are going to go eat at the tavern!"

They went towards the tavern to sit down for a round of beers, while they spent the evening conversing with each other.
He chuckled, and walked up to the booth. "That one," he pointed, and played his icy coin trick. When he found them later at the tavern, he smiled. 'Now,' he simply thought. He walked up to their table, and set the bracelet down, taking great care with his hood, to make sure his face and eyes didn't show. The gloves on his hands were loose on the tips of his fingers to hide his claws, and he smiled at her. His teeth gleamed from beneath the hood. He'd forgotten his fangs.

"I saw you ogle it," he said calmly, and then walked up to the bartender.
She looked at the bracelet left on the table, as did all of her friends who all went silent. Then she looked up at the man standing at the bar.

"I can't keep it." She said to no one in particular.

"Why not its a free gift that you obviously wanted."

"Lissetta it is a gift from a stranger and on top of that he does not seem normal." Did no one else notice the gleam under his hood when he smiled that is not natural. She could not keep this gift. Getting up from the table she went to the bar tapped the man in the cloak on the shoulder. Holding out the bracelet for him to take she said.

"I can't keep this, but thank you."
He raised an eyebrow, but took it back. "Whatever suits your fancy, miss," he said tipping his hood, and then took the bottle of wine from the bartender, who eyed him warily. He turned to leave the tavern, and then thought about something. He smirked to himself, and then turned back to her. "By the way," he said, "your father isn't a very good shot, but he knows his bullets."

With that he stepped out, and headed back for the tree line. The wine would go better with what little scraps of meat he'd gotten from his supposed kill, and he would enjoy the dizzying buzz it would give him on the side.
Shock ran through her body. Her dad not a good shot though he knows his bullets? She walked outside and stared after the demon because there was no doubt now that that's what he was.

"Safria come back inside aren't you getting cold?"

"Darrien Can you tell everyone I am going home? I can not stay here I need to go."

"You wait here then do not leave with out me! You have already gone wandering alone today you do not need to do it again."

"Fine I will wait can you please hurry though I want to go home."

Darrien came out of the tavern holding out her coat for her. Then side by side they walked towards her home.

When they got to her house she thanked him, saying she would see him tomorrow. She stepped inside getting ready to tell her family about what happened, but both her mother and father were asleep. They probably drank too much. She didn't want to wake them because she knew in the state they are in they would never listen to her. She stepped up to the window looking out it at the woods that held so many mysteries.

Why had the demon bought her a bracelet? She would have expected the demon to kill her for revenge not get her a present.
He sat high in his tree, and hummed to himself, sipping the wine. He gathered the tiny bits of meat forever ago, and blew an nice icy layer around them, to keep them fresh. He swung his legs, and continued to sing, relatively bored, and trying to occupy his mind. The village had been fun, what with all that was going on. Out here, it was just... trees. And more trees. And maybe a bush with no leaves, just sitting on the ground in sticky... stickdom. He glowered at the woods then, their silence echoing in his head. 'This is it. I'm bored, and I'm going back to town. It's not like anyone can see me under my cloak.'

He grabbed it, and then dashed out. When he got there though, the village was dark, and no one was awake. He'd forgotten humans need sleep, and that taverns an meal places closed. He crooked his lips, and then wandered about anyway, to the center of town, where an empty water fountain stretched it's stone limbs out as a gargoyle. Below it, was a plaque written by the town mayor claiming that Demons be Eradicated. He loudly scoffed at it, and then began dance around, and talk to it. "Eradicate my left nut." He smiled at it, and then did a twirling dance to the left around the fountain. "And whose going to do this? Your entire village? The man with a horrible shot?" He laughed a classic jester-ish laugh, and then peeled back his cloak enough to view his bandaged arm, some green blood still oozing, and staining it. He did another dance, and then accidentally dropped the entire cloak into the snow. He panicked for a moment, until he remembered no one was there. 'Plus, whose going to see my skin and eyes this late at night? Or my claws?' He turned back to the statue. "See me now? I'm here. And I'm alive," he mocked.
She couldn't stand the isolation. with everyone asleep thing quiet was hurting her ears. She grabbed her cloak and headed towards the door, should she go outside at this late hour? No human would be out. No one would bother her and maybe this is what she needed anyway some fresh air without anyone pressuring her to do something that she didn't want to do. To stop pretending to be the perfect child. To be alone for at least a little bit sounds like exactly what she needed.

instead of heading for the town square like any normal person she walked towards the woods. Once she walked deep enough she could not see that village she stopped, and sat down at the base of a tree. Should she have been worried about a demon coming out to get her, probably but right now she did not care because the tree against her back, and the peacefulness of the woods calmed her. Calmed her so much so that at the base of that tree she fell asleep even though she could not sleep at home.
When he was done with his mocking of the fountain in the town square, he grabbed his cloak, returned it, and headed back home to his boring little space in the tree. He'd agitated himself, and now wanted to take an optional nap. When he got to the tree line, however, he caught the human girls scent again. Shocked, he crouched. Ambush? Was her father with her? He sniffed the air a second time, and concluded she was alone. Confused, he quietly stole inside, and followed it.

When he found her, she was asleep at the base of a tree. The very tree he rested in, and called his home. He looked up at the giant pine, and then back down to her. At this, his thoughts raced. Kill her? Good option. She was alone, and her father wasn't around. She didn't seem to be carrying a gun, and she looked like she'd be caught in surprise. For some reason he couldn't understand, he dropped the idea. Until now, she hadn't tried to kill him at all. In fact, after he'd made it clear he was the demon her father killed, she still came into the woods. Alone. Without a weapon. Even weirder, fell asleep under a tree. His tree.

This decided, he gently picked her up, and flew into the tree holding her in his arms. If she was going to rest back here, she may as well rest somewhere more comfortable. Especially if she didn't mean him any harm. He didn't see the need to harm her, if she wasn't going to harm him. He also chuckled, thinking of her expression when she awoke to be 30 feet off the ground, in a small makeshift tree house, out of view of the people below. Worse, when she saw him. He laid her down on a small wooden bed inside the tiny hut, on a bed of soft pine needles, then draped a tattered, black blanket over her. As for himself, he sat against the wall on the other side of his room, chewed on a frozen piece of meat, and then drifted off himself for some time-killing.
She had the weirdest dream it was as if she was flying, but only for a second. Then she was in a place she never knew before asleep among the smell of pine trees. Then she slept for a long time, and if she was being truthful the most restful sleep she has had in years.

How she loved the woods, wishing she could stay there. Half asleep she opened her eyes, and looked around. Her eye widened she was not at home in her own bed. She must have fell asleep at the base of the tree. The problem she was no longer at the base of the tree. Screaming she got as close to the tress trunk as she could for she did not like heights, and from the brief look she got she was way higher in the tree then she ever wanted to be.

That is when she noticed the blue and sliver demon sitting across from her. This time she only let out a tiny muffled scream.