Milo laced up a pair of boots, ignoring the endless apologies coming from the boy in glasses behind him.
"C...come on! What happened, Milton? I'm back to 'normal', whatever that means!"
Every word Poe said went in one ear and soared out the other like a restless falcon. He zipped his aviator jacket up, slipping a thinner sweater on over it. The seraph pulled his hood out from under the thin fabric of the black pull-over and put it over his orange hair, keeping silent.
"Why aren't you responding? Did I do something bad?"
"....you did everything bad. You're lucky Riamh didn't abandon the town. Now get out of my room." He sullenly hissed at Edward, roughly shoving past him while slipping on gloves, walking outside.
"...what? Where are you even going?"
Milo glared over his shoulder. "Every year on the first snow, my friends and I go to the place that earned this town its name. You wouldn't know, newbie."
"Are you suggesting we aren't friends?"
The seraph spread his wings, lifting off the ground outside. "Not anymore. Not after what you did."
A small group stood at the decrepit gate to Tanglewood Forest. It consisted of Katherine, Sephrona, Midori, Remus, Milton, Watson, Drake, Xander, and Ryan. Katie and Sophie huddled together, small clouds of mist puffing out of their mouths. The kitsune made a small, hot blue flame in her hands, holding it close to her and her friend for warmth. Midori laid in Remus's arms, curled up and asleep. Milo stood alone, near Watson, who had Drake residing in his shadow. Xander was close to Ryan, keeping a close eye on the possessed boy.
"Here we go." Milo gestured at Katie, stepping back from the gate. She nodded, enlarging the flame in her hands and pushing it towards the gate, heating the bars up enough to be more easily bent. With two firm hands, she grasped the red hot bars and pushed them apart, gradually heating them up more to speed up the process. After hopping through, she stepped aside for the others to go through. One by one, they all slipped through, even Remus - except for Wata and Milo, who simply flew over. Xander tugged on Ryan's sleeve, jolting him out of a daydream enough for him to follow the others.
They each traveled together, going deeper and deeper into the forest until they came to a clearing. It dropped off into bluffs, a large pool of clear water in the middle of the drop-off. A shimmering waterfall poured down into the partly frozen lake, and the entire perimeter was made up of ancient willow trees. As a tradition, Milo jumped off the cliff, hovering in mid-air over the center of the water and holding his arms out, beaming.
"Welcome," he shouted, "to the original Willow Falls!"
Katie sat down and patted the patch of snow-covered grass next to her, dangling her legs off the edge of the cliff. "Come over here, Midori. I wanna give you something." The small cat hybrid wriggled out of her overprotectvie sibling's arms, plopping down next to the kitsune. Katherine twirled her finger in the air as a sign for the little girl to turn around. "Just gimme a bit..."
Sophie plucked an apple from a tree a bit outside of the ring of willows, biting into the still-ripe fruit with a juicy crunch. "The snow must have been recent in this area. If it was any longer, the fruit would be frozen and unfit for consumption." She quietly mused to herself, finishing the red fruit in a few large bites. One doe ear perked up, picking up the sound of rustling leaves. "Ah. Must be an animal. I'm one of your kind, fellow crea-" She turned to face the source of the noise, paling. "-ture?"
Wata sat back in a cave inside of the cliff's face, looking around. "This cave's always full of geodes. Wonder where they are this year?" He mused to himself, scanning the dark crevice with cold blue eyes. "Ah!" Spotting a shimmering mound of clear crystal, he kicked it firmly with a boot to unsettle it, loosening it. A large cracking noise sounded, but he ignored it as he picked up his prize. Right as he was stepping out of the cave, the stone beneath his feet gave out, causing him to plummet. He frantically put the geode in his pocket and jumped into the sky, but it was so sudden it caused Drake to be ripped out of his shadow, caught in the rock slide.
"Wata, you moron! You always cause rock slides when you kick thegghAHK--!" Drake was cut off by a shard of rock getting lodged in his neck. He staggered and made himself intangible long enough for the sharp stone to fall out of his body, the wound closing itself in a splotch of black. "...ech. I hate when that happens."
Ryan vanished into the thick trees, absently plucking large bugs out of the air and shoving them into his mouth. Xander followed, grimacing. "Ryan! You're still partly a human, don't just eat bugs! That's gross!" The arachnid hybrid hissed and ate another beetle as a rebellious act.
Katie finished braiding Midori's hair and weaving decorative roses into it as a loud scream came from behind her. It was Sophie. She was tackled by some impossibly fast, orange and red blur, being shoved off the edge of the bluff in the chaos. The assaulter was already gliding away, still too fast to be seen clearly, but appeared to be some kind of demon. The satyr plummeted into the ice-cold water, crashing through a layer of thin ice.
"So...ph..?" Katie gasped, staring down over the edge at her friend. A huge bite appeared to be taken out of part of her neck and a lot of her shoulder, enough for her arm to have been ripped off in the split seconds it took for her to be thrown into the frigid lake. She wailed, clambering down the cliff face and diving into the water, pulling the shivering, dying girl out while warming herself with her cobalt embers. "S-stay with me... j-ju-just heal yourself, Soph..!! Please!"
"A-ah... I was just... eating, Ka-Katherine..."
Sephrona weakly smiled, shakily raising her remaining arm up to touch Katie's trembling chest. "It's... my time, Kath-Katherine... I-I knew this would hap-happen..." Slowly, her arm slacked, growing colder than it already was. The kitsune held her close and screamed.
Poe heard the scream. He was sneaking into the woods, and had a warm coat on over his vest. The scream made him break into a sprint, skidding to a stop at the entrance to the clearing. The landscape took his breath away, but as soon as he looked down, he froze, his body feeling colder than the snow gathered around his legs.
"What on earth..?"
Drake climbed up the bluff in the form of a thin shadow, rising up next to Poe with a smirk. "Look at them, Poe. They're suffering. Entertaining, right?"
"...no. You're disgusting if you find this as a good thing."
"Ah, then allow me to help you out." He tried to grab the feather and rip it off, but a raven screeched, diving from above and clawing his face with talons. "--!!"
"Riamh..? Where have you been?"
The raven fended off the ghost long enough for him to give up and slink away into the darkness of the woods. "It's a long story, involving you."
"Yes. Would you like me to explain?"