On the last week of the last month of the year.
When winter is at its highest when the cold seeps into your bones and snow doesn’t seem to stop.
A strange phenomenon occurs.
Red snow starts to fall.
It doesn’t stop until the land is covered in crimson.
Like the world was dyed in blood.
This effect is seen in the entirety of Loam where snow falls.
There is no explanation for this event, even though it’s been happening for over 100,000 years now.
It has been the bane of scientists and sages.
The red snow is no different than white snow.
There’s nothing in it to change its color nor does it have an effect on living things.
And when melted it turns to clear water.
As such over time the red snow was just accepted as a part of life.
Like when leaves turn red in fall.
People have dubbed this time of the year.
The Red Winter.
A small figure covered in a tattered blanket races across the red snow.
The figure quickly ducks behind a tree as people pass by.
They peak at the people while trying to keep themselves hidden.
It was a family of 12.
Most of them were children with only a few adults.
The figure watched them as they walked through the snow shoveled path.
They held bags and boxes.
Each one had gifts inside of them.
It was a tradition to exchange gifts at the end of the year to celebrate surviving it.
Most people die before they can make it to the end of the year and those who live count their blessings or their curses.
The figure clings to the tree, their fingers digging into the bark as they watch the family walk by.
Their eyes mostly followed the children, their happy blushed faces as red as the snow.
They watch intently as who seems to be the mother picks up a little girl and kisses her cheek.
The figure quickly looks away.
They release themselves from the tree and start running again as the family moves out of view.
After running in the cold snow for what seems like ages.
The cold threatening to freeze their body to the core.
They finally made it to a small wooden shack that looked like it was going to fall apart.
It seems this used to be a storage space long ago but it was abandoned now.
They enter through a creaking door and then shut it as fast as possible.
The cold wind upends the dust and flies it through the room.
The figure coughs as the dust gets into their lungs.
They pull something out of their blanket.
It seems to be a bag.
The figure throws the bag on the ground.
It spills open.
Cans of food fly out and travel across the shack.
All of them were past their expiry date though you wouldn't know that since they had no labels.
The figure takes off the blanket and throws it on the ground.
They didn't have to fear it being dirtied because it was already dirty.
The cold immediately hits them.
Slowly a fireball materializes in front of them.
They bring their red hands closer to feel the warmth.
Now that they weren't covered in a blanket you can see who the figure was.
They seemed to be a half-devil girl, no older than 12.
She slowly whispers to herself.
The words fell out of her mouth as if she practiced them.
Her breath seemed to smoke black.
Ruby brings her hands into the fireball to warm them more.
Usually being a half-devil meant she could stand the cold due to her body heat but the last week of winter was simply too brutal even for devils.
She could cover herself with fire.....but she still doesn't know how.....
Well, she tried once...........it's better not to remember that.....
A Lot of people still want her dead for that…..
Ruby holds her belly in pain as her stomach complains that it hasn't been fed in three days.
Ruby picks up a can.
She got really lucky with these, they were just throwing them away.
Ruby uses a fingernail to puncture a hole in the can and slowly open it.
She hopes to Satan that this would at least be edible.
Thankfully she got a peach can, and it didn't taste that bad.
She practically inhales the thing.
After eating two more cans, one was peas and the other was some kind of grey stuff.
Ruby sits down while holding her arms and starts talking to herself in a monotone voice.
"maN...I surE wisH I haD somE kinD oF jackeT tO keeP mE warM...."(Ruby)
Ruby moves a plank of wood with her leg without looking at it.
Under the plank is what seems to be a present.
Well, seems to be at least.
It was a box clumsily covered in wrapping paper, it seems that no glue or tape was used because a rock was keeping it together.
Ruby stares at it.
"woW.....A presenT foR mE....I wondeR whO coulD havE donE thiS..."(Ruby)
Ruby tried her very best to believe her own lies.
She slowly moves to the gift and unwraps it.........well she moves the stone.
She opens the box.
And pulls out a black hoodie.
For one second Ruby had joy in her voice.
But that was quickly betrayed by the pitter-patter of tears falling on the hoodie.
"ThiS iS sO nicE......hicH......maybE...someonE doeS carE abouT mE....."(Ruby)
Ruby slowly puts the hoodie on while crying.
The hoodie was far too big for her, which makes sense since she stole it from a grown woman.
"I'lL groW intO iT........iF I'M stilL alivE bY theN....."(Ruby)
Ruby moves to the corner of the shake and hides inside the large hoodie.
All the while she looks outside the window as the red snow keeps falling.
Ruby hated the red snow.
It reminded her of her ugly red skin...
Ruby puts the hood on to cover her face.
She wonders how long she can stay here before someone finds her and she gets chased away again
Ruby tries to sleep, she's too tired and cold.
It was difficult but she managed to lull herself to slumber.
A few tears fall from her eyes as she dreams........
"......mommY......I hopE youR happY noW thaT I'M gonE.....................................................................thankS foR thE jackeT mommY...."(Ruby)
As she slept deeply, her body too tired to feel anything around her.
She failed to notice two red eyes staring at her through the window.
The sound of mechanical gears echos just outside.........
The clock is broken.
But it refuses to stop ticking.
It seems to be unending.
It slowly trickles out of a building’s door like a wounded beast.
The blood meets the red snow.
And the blood seems to be absorbed into it.
You couldn’t tell when the blood began and the snow ended.
Someone was standing outside this building.
Watching as the blood continues to pour out.
They’re smoking a cigarette.
Judging by the number of cigarette butts littered around they’ve been standing outside for a while.
This person was an elf, though you wouldn’t be able to tell.
They were wearing a headband to hide their sharp horn and used a cloth to hide their ears.
The cult of outliers sees gender and race as unnecessary and while there some elf outliers that sanded down their horns and cut their ears, it seems this person passed on that.
They wore androgynous clothing but it was covered with a thick winter coat.
The coat did little to help with the cold but it was better than nothing.
They finished their cigarette and were already on to another.
They light up the cigarette with a portable lighter in the shape of a pig.
The fire would come out of the pig’s nose.
This cute lighter never failed to bring out a smile from its owner.
They loved it so much they made sure to carve their name into it.
The new name they picked for themselves after joining the outliers.
Zylnan lights up the pig a few more times for amusement.
Plus it brought some heat.
It didn’t help that Zylnan has been standing outside in the cold for a while now waiting for them.
This was Zylnan's first real mission since they joined the outliers.
The red winter brings out a lot of cults, especially devil worshipers.
Something about the red, since most devil worshipers have the brains of six year olds that think in colors.
So for the cult of outliers, this was basically a game of whack a mole.
Zylnan grips their knife attached to their belt.
It was quite a large knife with a very fancy sheath.
Zylnan really wanted to use it to cut some heathens up.
But they were ordered to wait outside…..
After what seems like a year.
Zylnan finally hears the signal.
A small bell rings.
Zylnan walks inside while taking out their knife.
Their leather boots soak in the blood.
As they walk through the entryway they can already see bodies.
Each of them had their heads crushed in.
Some of them were flattened to red gooey mesh.
There seems to have been statues of devils around but they were all destroyed.
The further they walk the blood paved path the more bodies are strewn about.
As they enter what seems to be the main hall they can see some bodies with armor.
The metal armor was crushed in and became their coffins, blood was slowly oozing out of them.
Zylnan stares mesmerized by the carnage.
Another ringing of the bell brings them back to reality.
They pick up the pace and walk through a red devil door that looks exactly like it sounds.
As they open the door the smell of death hits Zylnan.
They take deliberate steps as they walk in.
This was the biggest room so far it seems this where they worshiped.
Two things catch Zylnan as they scan the room.
The first thing is the staggering amount of corpses.
The second thing is the person standing in the middle of them.
Half of their face was covered in makeup and the other covered in blood.
In their right hand, they held a large hammer with flesh sticking to it.
And in their left hand, they were holding a small black bell.
As Zylnan tries to speak they realize just how dry their throat is.
The saliva going down their throat seemed to move in slow motion.
Like it knew that when it reached Zylnan’s stomach they were going to have to say something.
Marcel slowly turns their head to them.
Then…...their eyes met.
Zylnan held their breath.
And at the moment, Zylnan considered going outside again……..it was far warmer out there.
Marcel was stoned faced, as long as Zylnan had known them they never showed any emotion.
This wasn’t out of place in the cult of outliers, a lot of members looked dead, their eyes nothing more than black holes.
But Marcel was different.
Their eyes were filled with violent emotion to the point where a single look locked Zylnan in place.
Marcel sighs and puts the bell back into his pocket.
“Zylnan……...Please don’t drag your feet next time…..I value punctuality”(Marcel)
“Sorry! I was just!....sorry….”(Zylnan)
Even though they were supposed to be on the same level Marcel still treated Zylnan like an underling.
And Zylnan couldn’t really do anything about it.
They both joined the cult around the same time but Marcel raised through so quickly.
It was to the point it was rumored they were already put on the future subjugator list.
It was hard to believe they were only 17.
Zylnan looked around to distract themselves from their insecurity.
“I see you clean up pretty well….was is there even a need for me?”(Zylnan)
“I need you to use your power...we need to make sure no one lives”(Marcel)
“........yes of course”(Zylnan)
Zylnan didn’t want to bring his power up because it meant it was the only thing they had going for them.
Zylnan puts a finger to their forehead and closes their eyes.
“You see anything?”(Marcel)
“Hmmmmmm……...nothing here…...but….oh!! Five! There are five living things left!......they seem to be underground…….”(Zylnan)
Marcel taps their lips.
“There’s probably a secret door or something….”(Zylnan)
While Zylnan’s power let them see where living things were, it was pretty useless in situations like this.
Marcel looks around.
"I've been in many devil worshiping cults.....and most of them tend to think the same......."(Marcel)
Marcel scans the room and stops at a statue of a devil.
The devil looked like a man with no eyes, three noses, and two horns coming out of his ears.
Marcel walks up to it and swings their hammer.
The hammer crashes into the statue.
Cracks start to appear.
Marcel keeps swinging at it till the crumbles to pieces.
Behind the rubble, a secret door is revealed.
"Woah!...how did you know!"(Zylnan)
Marcel shrugs, looking done with it all.
"this a statue of the sin of lies.....they always hide shit behind it...."(Marcel)
Marcel just sighs.
Opening the door exposed a set of stairs leading down.
The stairs were made of black stone and covered with a red carpet.
It was dark so Zylnan made a ball of light to illuminate the way
“Take out your weapon…..we could be ambushed at any moment…”(Marcel)
It didn’t take long for them to reach the bottom.
While Marcel was cool and collected Zylnan was nervous.
Who knows what’s down here…
Maybe they were summoning their devil god or preparing a spell…
Zylnan grips their knife
It glows slightly.
As they stepped off the stairs they could start to hear voices.
It sounded like they were moaning, either in pain or………
As they kept walking forward they reached a cage.
The door to the cage was open and they could see inside.
In the cage were.......children.
5 children, their ages looked to have ranged from 7 to 13.
The children were laying on the ground, none of them moved.
Their eyes were completely red.
Like they had red marbles instead of eyes.
Foam was coming out of their mouths.
Zylnan quickly rushed forward.
They grab one of the kids, a human girl, and checks her pulse.
"her heart rate is through the roof! we need to get these kids to safety now!"(Zylnan)
"why are you just standing there!? come on! help me!"(Zylnan)
Marcel walked up to one of the kids and dipped their finger into the foam coming out of their mouth.
"it's too late"(Marcel)
"These kids are all overdosed on devil weed"(Marcel)
Zylnan felt like they were outside again.
It was so very cold.
Devil weed was a special drug, it would sever the connection between your brain and your body.
You'd still be able to think but you wouldn't be able to move.
But you'd be able to access your mind, letting you live in a world of your own fantasy.
This made it very popular with cults, especially devil worshipers.
But overdosing on this drug is very dangerous as it permanently cuts off the brain.
It leaves the body in a hell-like state as your mind slowly deteriorates, turning your fantasy into a nightmare.
"why....were they going to sacrifice these children? "(Zylnan)
"no. they don't have any sacrificial markings, these were probably the children of the cult members, they likely told them to take it if things went south"(Marcel)
"that's......horrible.....can...can we take them back to the cult of outliers? maybe they can help them..."(Zylnan)
"...I fail to see why you care so much"(Marcel)
Marcel was now narrowing their eyes at Zylnan.
Zylnan couldn't finish as a shadow was cast on them.
Marcel was staring them down now.
"we outliers are supposed to be ruthless......we don't help people.....we only work towards our cult's goal and crush anything that comes in the way of it....."(Marcel)
Zylnan slowly lowers the child.
"......................so what now..."(Zylnan)
"you have to kill all of them"(Marcel)
Zylnan shot up.
"WHAT! WHY ME?!"(Zylnan)
Marcel held their hammer with both hands.
"Zylnan..........your loyalty is in question...."(Marcel)
"if you can't even do this...........the outliers have no use for you"(Marcel)
Marcel's montane voice turned threatening at the end.
They gaze down not wanting to look Marcel in the eyes.
Their eyes meet instead with the little girl.
They slowly raised their knife.
This.........this was mercy....they were doing a good thing! they were saving them from a life of pain.............there was no other way!
Zylnan's hand went down.
Marcel and Zylnan walked out of the building.
Zylnan's clothes were dyed red.
They almost seemed to be melting into the red snow.
Zylnan very slowly took out a cigarette.
Their pig lighter failed to get a smile out of them.
The flame lit up their now hollow eyes.
Marcel turns to Zylnan.
"now that wasn't that bad, you gave them all painless deaths, that pretty much makes you a saint in outlier standards"(Marcel)
Zylnan didn't respond.
"chin up..........we only have two more devil worshiping cults to go through"(Marcel)
Zylnan coughed, the smoke filling up their lungs.
".....are you serious!?"(Zylnan)
"I'm always serious"(Marcel)
Zylnan watched Marcel walk ahead.
"come on.....I'll let you take on the devil worshipers this time~"(Marcel)
Zylnan only saw Marcel's face for a brief moment....but they could have sworn they saw a hint of a smile......
The mind is filled with uselessness.
The only cure is death.
At the edge of the woods, there exists a village.
The village was small, only about 27 people lived there.
All the houses were grouped up next to each other.
Except for one.
It was far from the rest of the village.
It was the only house with lights on at this time of night.
Walking towards that house was an Elf.
In his arms were two boxes wrapped up with bows.
He slowly makes his way trudging through the snow.
They opened the door to the house and walked inside while trying not to drop them.
He puts the boxes down and takes off his large coat.
Then he takes off his hat, you couldn't tell what type of horn he had because it was snapped off.
"welcome back honey"(??)
Greeting him was an elf woman.
She was a beauty, she had blond hair reached her back.
She had a nubby horn, and a cloth wrapped around her head to hide her right eye.
"I'm home, man that snow is killer"(??)
"Hmmm...you were really late...."(??)
"Sorry sorry! on the way to get the presents chief called for me, he just wouldn't let up....even when it started snowing heavily"(??)
The woman sighed.
"I wish he wouldn't make you go out in this weather.....just how awful can he get..."(??)
The man waved his hand.
"don't worry I got it sorted out, he shouldn't bother us for a while"(??)
"Please don't tell me you gave him more money...."(??)
The man awkwardly smiled.
"I just gave him more gold jewelry, I have no idea why he likes that stuff but it helped us a lot, it was pretty lucky bringing it all along with us"(??)
"I know we're not welcome here but do they have to be so cruel about it..."(??)
The woman looked down, a tear in the corner of her eye.
The man walked up to his wife and held her face.
Then he slowly removed the cloth covering her.
The woman weakly tried to stop him but he took off the cloth.
She was born with a deformity, her right eye was far lower than her left.
While for humans having one or two mutations was very common, elves tended to look down on it.
As such, she lived a very hard life before she met her husband.
She still hides it no matter how much her husband insists she looks beautiful.
The man kissed his wife.
"don't worry, we won't be here for long, as soon as things start to die down, we can move to the Neoteron United Empire.....we'll be safe there"(??)
"....I just hope we can make a good home for-"(??)
A sound of a door slowly opening interrupted them.
A small elf girl walked in.
She looked to be either 9 or 8, her fluffy blond hair was almost covering her nubby horn.
She was rubbing her eyes and seemed very sleepy.
The woman reacted in surprise.
"Keya!! why are you up so late!"(??)
"mmm....I waiting for daddy...."(Keya)
The man walked up to the little girl and picked her up.
"come on, time for bed, you have presents to open in the morning!"(??)
The man took Keya to her room and tucked her into bed and then sat next to her.
"you want me to read you a story?"(??)
"ok! let's read the horse one!"(??)
Keya shook her head.
"no! I want miracle man!"(Keay)
The man looked disappointed.
"I always read you that one...come on let's read about horses"(??)
"would you stop pushing your horse obsession on our daughter"(??)
The woman came into the room and sat next to the man.
"I'm not obsessed with horses...I'm just fascinated with them that's all!"(??)
"yes come here, let's stay away from the weird man"(??)
The woman hugged Keya.
Keya nestled into her embrace.
Keya's favorite place in the world was between her mother's arms.
The man pretended to cry.
"you two are bullies!"(??)
"hehe! come here daddy"(Keya)
Keya raised her arms up.
The man smiled and hugged them both.
"ok let's see here"(??)
The man picks up a book on the nightstand.
"Did you know! there is a Man that lives in the center of the earth!"(??)
Keya drifted to sleep in her parents arms.
As she closed her eyes.
Keya made a wish to the miracle man.
That she and her parents would live happily forever.
There is no light anymore.