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The Outsider

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Rain pours loudly as a figure steps out amongst the muck of the swamp. They glance from beneath a black hood, pupil-less eyes glinting in the moonlight. Something dark lurks beneath the surface of these wilds --Midmoon-- their letter called it. The name carries a bitter taste in their mouth every second they utter it. Anything with that name is bound to carry a curse or two, which is apparently the case according to that doctor --Mila they believe it was. Curious as to why the Queen of her lands sent a letter out to them, let alone managed to get it to them. Once again they glance out into the shadows, catching slight movement between the trees. Accompanying it was the slight flicker of firelight. The figure tenses as they ready a cantrip, the gentle ringing of bells soft enough to not alert whoever walks past. They don’t get the chance to unleash Toll the Dead, instead finding laughter following the fire. One of the others --The Chosen.

Still a possible danger. Might as well have taken the shot

A voice echoes in their mind, cold and cruel. The figure rolls their eyes and clenches their fists together in annoyance. Quietly they respond, eyes flitting towards the laughter.

“I do not need your comments, sir. These people are fine. Finer than you at the very least”

Do not snap at me, Asariel. We have work to do and I will not have you squander it with these fools.

“You have no shortage of warlocks, get another to do your bidding if you do not like it”, Asariel hisses, nervous as the giggling gets too close. It sounds too light. Too gentle.

An icy wind blows through their skirts, sending a shiver through their body. Wrong answer, but when is it ever the right answer? Steeling themself they look over their shoulder and up at the moon through the treetops. It’s shape changes before them into that of a cunning, cruel grin. The Man in the Moon. The Faceless God. Nyarlathotep. Asariel’s stomach churns into knots at the sight and they gnash their teeth back in response.

Now, is that any way to treat your patron?

“Fuck. Off. We have a contract and that is all. I research and you sit up there in the sky”

Poor, little, mad librarian. What ends you will go to for friends is so...comedic. Did we not discuss what happened the last time?

Memories pour into Asariel’s skull painfully, so much so they cry out and lean against a tree for support. Their nails dig into the bark harshly, shoving splinters into the beds. The smell of pine and sea water fills their nostrils. Laughter turns into a tender touch to their cheek, the familiar cadence of Imenian. How they miss their home, the Atoll, the white sand beaches of Innsmouth off the Widow’s Walk. But they can never go back. Not after--. The smell quicly fades into a metallic, bloody wave. Thin arms reaching out towards them in the dark. Sharp canines dig into their flesh. Quietly, Asariel hangs their head and begins to sob, pressing their forehead to the tree.

“He died in a cave in”, they spit out, glaring up at the moon. It still grins wickedly.

He died because of your negligence, little angel. You walked into that ruin, knowing full well-

“Stars damn it all! You are an absolute jelly-faced coward! I walked into that ruin with the promise of knowledge! I had no idea that you would throw me to the wolves! Let alone that you were even there”

Says the person who ran from home at the mere mention of trouble

Asariel groans in response, riding out the waves of pain. No use in speaking with the man who always gets a final say. They settle in the muck, listening to the rain and willing their breathing to calm. The laughter is so far away now, it seems like a dream. For a beat or two Asariel is able to rest, the lingering whispers draw back and leave them be. But much too soon there is another sound. A crunching of leaves and branches under boots. Whoever is making their way through the forest is skilled but not enough to pass Asariel without notice. Days in a cavern will do that to a person, make them paranoid. At the very least the steps are too slow and quiet to be a Thin Man, not scrabbling either. This was a person.

They slowly rise, listening for the tell tale squish of mud. Shadows play at their fingertips but do not form into Ry’leh, their scythe, not yet. Asariel shivers, not from cold, but from a creeping fear. Was this one of the Chosen? It has to be, there’s no other option, unless there’s something else out there. Thin Men and Nyarlathotep are not native to these lands, however others more frightening might be. While their heart slams against their ribs they circle around the sickly trees, keeping their head low. Every so often there’s a harsh, wet step but they cannot seem to see the source. Minutes pass as they track the noise to no avail. A growing fear twists their guts and makes them shake in their heels. The rain halts to a trickle, leaving them unable to hide their own movements. Blast this swampland, it’s nothing like Innsmouth or the Ivory Woods! If only it were.

A short sound like the clearing of a throat freezes Asariel in their steps. They swallow hard and turn around to meet the eyes of a tired elf. His eyes are sunken, dull even, and he stands with a slight bend. Despite that he’s handsome enough, noble perhaps. They curtsy, feigning confidence on wobbly feet.

“Fraanic, apologies, my darling. I had no idea you were out and about”

“Should you be out here by yourself, Asariel?”, the man asks, arching a dark eyebrow in their direction.

“I could ask you the same question. But I’m going to assume the both of us are well aware that we can take care of ourselves”, they smirk, taking note of how Fraanic sags slightly.

There is no reply from the man but he clearly looks...haunted. They’re not sure as to why he’s wandering about this late, considering how sick he’s been the last few days. A wash of concern comes over Asariel and they reach out to steady Fraanic, catching his arm as he stumbles in place. Sweat beads along his brow and his eyes flutter, no wonder there wasn’t a reply.

“My...hero”, Fraanic manages, leaning against Asariel heavily.

For the briefest second they consider that he might be faking it, but the thought quickly evaporates as the elf collapses completely in their arms. Odd, perhaps. But right now Asariel is most anxious to get him back to camp, possibly to one of the clerics. They are the outsider in this place, it will be for the best, for both their sakes.