Book One: Baptism by Fire
Chapter 1: In The Cold Light of Day
"In those days, legions uncountable shall march under the banner of a Fallen Star. Hear their boots, my brothers and sisters! Hear them thunder across the Galaxy!" – Farseer Sylvis
A chorus of birds sang their morning cry, awakening Yang from a long and troubled slumber. The soil beneath her was soft, the scent of rain clinging to its moss with a rich, earthy aroma. She didn't remember how she'd arrived in such an alien forest.
The trees surrounding her were unlike any she had seen before, their branches twisted and gnarled like tangled rope. Some knotted trunks were so large they could have served as apartment buildings. Yang sat up to survey her surroundings, pawing at her eyes to clear the remnants of sleep. A half-remembered dream clung to the edges of her consciousness, flashes of a pale face and a red cloak. Rubbing her eyes, she yawned, stretched her arms until her shoulders popped.
No hangover, she thought. Odd. It wasn't often Yang found herself lost in an unfamiliar place without the influence of alcohol. I know I was out drinking last night. She sighed, running her fingers through her waist-length golden hair, clearing the dirt and twigs that infested it.
Spitting out the grit that ground against her teeth, she could taste the remnants of some iridescent solution. And blood.
It had been two years since Ruby sacrificed herself.
Two years to the day. Yang had said her goodbyes, watched her go, held her while she passed. The one person she loved most in the world, the sister she'd sworn to protect and cherish. Gone. The words came to her again, as they always did.
Let me see that smile of yours.
Yang shook the memory away. C'mon. Up and at 'em. She struggled to her feet, the stiffness that ached in her limbs all too familiar. Time to figure out where I am.
Ember Celica glittered on her wrists, shining gold in the glow of dawn. Stripping the shell-belt, she noticed that a few slots were empty, and both muzzles were charred. Don't remember a fight. Just how much did I drink?
It didn't matter.
An unknown forest meant unknown grimm, danger. Yang grinned, cracked her knuckles.
"Suppose I should get a better view," she said. Her voice was thin and parched, and it tasted like sand. With a few blasts from Ember Celica, she was straddling the branch of the tallest tree, surveying her surroundings.
The forest continued on far behind her, reaching up a ridge of sheer grey mountains. A host of clouds whispered over the crags, all-consuming white mists that spilled through the viridian woods, borne on a cool and gentle breeze.
Beyond the forest lay an unwalled city surrounded by a host of smaller communities. The largest buildings easily dwarfed most of the towers in Vale, and were much darker. Fewer windows. They reached in to the sky triumphantly, defiantly, as if they were challenging the grimm to tear them down. Around the city lay miles and miles of expansive farmland. Golden wheat and green maize stretched all the way to the horizon, rustling softly.
If there was any hope of finding home – and a drink along the way – the city was where it lay.
It didn't take her long to leave the forest. Though it ate through the rest of her ammo belt, she left the forest in minutes, soaring on chained blasts that propelled her through the tangle of branches and alien leaves.
Skidding to a halt at the edge of the forest, Yang reloaded, tucking new belts in to her treasured weapon. Can't be too careful. The land beyond the forest was hilly, but manageable. Long leaves of wheat caressed her passing. She ran her fingers through it, combing the strands with gloved fingers. With a deep breath of morning air, she felt… refreshed. Sometimes getting out of Vale helped. The black, omnipresent obelisk that was Beacon Academy was also nowhere to be seen. Another positive.
Where am I? I know there's a lot of farmland outside of Vale...
But the rows of wheat and maize had no end, nothing like what she'd seen in her travels. The crops swallowed everything. Cresting a gentle knoll, Yang relished the morning sun at her back. A small gathering of farmers sat at the base of the hill, tools resting on tanned shoulders. Today's work was about to begin.
"Uh… greetings!" She called down to them. They jumped in surprise, squinting against the sun's yellow glare. They were dark-skinned, stocky and strong with pale, roan-colored hair. Enormous treaded tractors flanked them, bulky and baroque. They look like they're centuries old.
"Hello!" A little girl called back, waving ecstatically. Yang waved back and approached the small crowd. Dressed in well-worn linen and wool, they seemed like simpler folk. Wide-brimmed hats sat on their heads, woven from straw. The only objects of worth they possessed were necklaces in the shape of double-headed eagles, wrought from dark, polluted gold. They regarded her with suspicion, eyes carefully inspecting her for signs of hostility. In a disarming gesture, she raised her hands, fingers spread wide.
"Sorry for bothering you guys, but I'm awfully lost. Can you point me to the nearest transit station?"
The little girl stepped forward before her mother pulled her back. An older man turned to face her.
"And who might you be?" He asked.
"The name's Yang, I'm a huntress."
A few nods, and relieved smiles. "Ah!" The man said, beaming. "Don't get many of your type this close to Aesbrouth."
Strange, Yang noted, not letting her confusion show. Never heard of a city called Aesbrouth. And what farmer doesn't see much of huntsmen? They were a common sight among all four kingdoms.
"Any game?" The man inquired. Eager to continue exploring and careful not to throw away their easily earned trust, Yang nodded.
"There's a few packs of… beasts… in the woods back there that I've been tracking," she said. "Probably what led me all the way here!" She added with a disarming laugh. A few nods.
"I can't tell you how many acres we've lost to those jortni!" The elder man said. "Well, there's an Administratum station in the village. I'm sure you can get your bearings there." He took the little girl by the shoulder. "Little Hilde here will show you the way. She's not old enough for harvest work anyway." Hilde pouted, putting her hands on her hips and huffing loudly. Yang giggled. The girl reminded her of herself when she was little. Small in stature, but with a generous helping of spunk. Nevertheless, she looked happy to escort Yang around the village.
"You have really pretty hair, Miss Y… Y…Yang!" She said, turning to reveal a beaming smile.
"Thank you sweetheart," Yang said, stooping to ruffle her hair. The adults chuckled.
"Be back soon, yes?" Hilde's mother asked. "We'll need your help with the animals later."
Hilde nodded vigorously, taking Yang's hand and pulling her along.
The village was unlike any she had seen before, clearly designed to maximize horizontal space. The simple apartment flats and houses stacked atop one another, some rising six stories into the air. Countless bridges and walkways hung over the street, just tall enough for the oversized tractors to pass under. The village stirred to life around them. Doors creaked open, spilled forth yawning farmers. They scooped up tools and equipment that lined the packed-dirt streets, the sleepy village swiftly becoming a hub of activity.
"Your family must keep pretty busy," Yang said.
"Oh yes!" Hilde said, nodding. Her nutmeg-brown braids bounced against her shoulders. "Our crops keep the Imperium healthy and strong."
Lost in observation, Yang nodded. "That's nice," she said. Fluttering posters lined the street, each stamped with a black 'I'. Small skull icons bordered the paper, centered around a pair of soldiers, one male, one female. Clad in solid green armor and posed heroically against a cliff, it was obviously a recruitment poster.
'To the faithful servants of the Imperium!' It read. 'Avoid Conscription! Volunteer for the Biennial Tithe!' Additional information was attached to the bottom of the poster in tiny, easy-to-tear-tickets. Only a handful were missing. Yang tore one loose, gave it a closer look. There was no Empire in Remnant. Something was very, very wrong.
She read it closely, Hilde still clutching her hand in a death-grip. 'In two month's time,' it continued, 'the biennial Imperial Tithe is due! Join now for a chance to serve the Emperor with faith and zeal! Surrender this stub to your local Departmento Munitorum warehouse to participate in this chance for impossible glory in His name!' Sticking it into a pocket in her vest, she decided to think about it later.
Hilde was too cute to ignore for long anyway.
"There's my house!" She chirped, gesturing emphatically. It was a squat building, with rusted door hinges and chipping paint. It reminded Yang of her childhood home in Patch. Worn, but lived-in and comfortable. "Say Miss Yang, what's it like being a Huntress?"
"Well…" Images of Ruby flashed before her, before she swallowed them with a fake smile. "It's awesome! I get to make a difference and help out lots of people."
"That's so cool… I wish I wasn't a farmer…"
"Hey, being a farmer's not so bad!" Yang said. "You have… wheat… and cute little animals!"
Hilde giggled. "You're funny, Miss Yang. Yang. That's a funny name. I've never heard it before!"
Hilde smiled and pointed at a massive building utterly unlike its neighbors. It was tall, with gothic flairs to its black metal siding. 'Administratum' was emblazoned on its side in large, blocky letters.
"There's the Admina… Admnia… Adminiastratum!" Hilde said, finally landing on the alien word. "I hope you find what you're looking for!"
"Me too," Yang said. "Thanks Hilde. You run along now, tell your family I said thanks." The girl looked sad to be parted from Yang so soon, but smiled anyway.
"I will!" She dashed away, nearly tripping in her effort to keep her eyes locked onto Yang's brilliant golden hair.
Ducking inside the building, Yang inspected the interior. Colossal rolls of paper sat in cubbyholes, each one capped with black metal seals. A policewoman in a greenish-gray uniform sat at a towering metallic desk, frowning over a stack of something that looked like vellum.
Yang approached her, a million questions boiling in her throat. When she neared the desk, she noticed the policewoman was accompanied by a… thing, some horrid amalgamation of flesh and metal - a half-man made from pallid skin and a host of mechanical limbs that whirred and clicked, each one furiously scribbling on a thick sheet of parchment.
No face was visible behind its black mask and red hood. Extraneous limbs hissed and tapped at a green computer screen, aiding the thing in its unknowable task. Yang's stomach turned at the sight of it, at its oily, bloody scent. She had never seen something so mutilated before. So alien.
The woman beside the monstrosity sighed. Taking a hefty sip of bitter-black coffee from a steaming plastic mug, she waved Yang over. Dark bags hung from her sunken blue-grey eyes. Taut, unpainted lips pulled tight in an unsightly frown, accentuating the wrinkles that lined her cheeks. A few strands of grey hair fell out from her pointed cap, swiftly brushed aside.
"What's the matter," the woman asked, "never see a servitor before?" Her voice sounded like someone had taken sandpaper to her larynx.
"I… uh… no, ma'am," Yang said.
The woman sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Gonna be one of those days," she muttered. "What can I help you with, citizen?"
"Look, Ms… Vadiik," Yang started, trying to decipher the small print on her name tag, "I'm extremely lost."
"No, I'm not. I woke up in the woods over there." She jerked a thumb over her shoulder towards the forest. "And I have no idea how I got here."
The woman blinked at her. The servitor continued to scribble away, and Yang shuddered, averting her eyes.
"Can I just have a map or something?" Yang asked, hunting down a particularly interesting coffee stain on the floor to stare at.
"Yeah," the woman said eventually. "Gimme a sec. First, let's just get this on record." She snapped her fingers at the 'servitor', and its scratching movements stopped immediately - though it continued to tap away at the screen. "Ay-o, Ralphie," Vadiik grunted, "start a new incident form." Without looking, the flesh-metal construct removed a piece of a paper from a stack with one arm, while another poised with a pen, ready to write. "Can I get your full name, Miss?"
Yang just wanted a map.
"The name's Yang Xiao Long," she said. The servitor whirred and spluttered, meaningless robotic syllables pouring out of its unseen mouth.
"Easy there Ralphie, belay that."
"BELAYING," it said, its tinny, artificial voice somehow worse than everything else about it.
"Can you spell that, Ms… Long?"
"Why-Ay-En-Gee," Yang began. She waited for the woman to nod before she continued. "Ex-Ai-Ay-Oh, El-Oh-En-Gee."
"Transcribe as phonetically described." Vadiik muttered. The servitor obeyed. "That's an unusual name, Miss Long. One I have yet to see on the likes of Woadia."
"Woadia?" Yang asked. Is that the name of the village?
The woman stared at Yang, eyes narrowing into slits. "Now I deal with a lot of backbirths out here in this shithole post," she said, "but I don't think I've ever encountered someone so incredibly stupid they don't know what planet they live on."
Whoa, whoa, what did she say? Planet? Danger. Either she was having one hell of a dream, or something was terribly wrong.
"Uh… Miss Long?" Vadiik said, rapping her pen on her desk. "Do you have any I.D. on you?"
Oh. Right. Yang retrieved her wallet, which held her I.D. card - a piece of plastic with a picture of her grinning broadly, flashing 'peace' to the camera. A few lien notes stuck out of the leather slots behind it, their edges worn and fuzzy. Pictures of team RWBY were there too, battered and worn but warm and familiar. Heart-rending.
"Here you go ma'am," Yang said, showing her the card. Officer Vadiik looked it over for a few seconds before sighing and lighting up a cigarette.
"I see now," Vadiik mumbled. "This is a joke. You came to this station to waste my time with some groxshit story and a made-up I.D. And I thought you were dumb enough to not know what planet you were on!" She shook her head. Flicking the I.D. back to Yang, she shooed her away. "Now leave, before I arrest you for wasting my time."
"Now hold on-" Yang said, before a red burst of blossoming pain exploded in her head. "Ah. Ouch." She forced her mouth open to stop herself from grinding her teeth. "Ugh. What was that?"
A police officer burst through the door, panting.
"Raiders!" He cried. "Spilling out of the Warp," he wheezed, his face ashen from fear and exertion. "Heretics! They got a dozen ships coming down. No idea how many more might be coming."
The cigarette Vadiik had been holding fell into her coffee, extinguishing its faint light and sizzling gently. Her mouth fell open.
"Uh…what?" Yang asked.
"Golden Throne of Terra," the older woman whispered, ignoring Yang, her face grim and twisted. "Heretics? So far from the Eye?" At once, the precinct was a hive of activity. Civilians were rushed out of the building, and officers scrambled for weapons. Shouts of panic and confusion reigned.
"What's going on?" Yang asked.
"Look Miss Long, I've served in the Imperial Guard for forty-five years. I've seen my share of the arch-foe. And they're going to do their best to kill, rape, and torture as many people as they can. I pray to the Emperor they didn't come in numbers." A green-uniformed officer approached Vadiik, a giant radio strapped to his back.
He handed her a receiver, his hand trembling. "We got Colonel Brandt on vox for you, Ma'am!"
She snatched the receiver from his hands. "This is Vadiik," she said, all business. "Yeah. Got it. Understood." There was a pause. "We'll do our best. The Emperor Protects." She nodded at the man, who looked to her for guidance. "Get your wargear and soldier up," she ordered. "No PDF back-up here. Not for awhile at least." Vadiik turned to Yang, who still had no idea what anyone was talking about or what was happening.
"Miss Long," Vadiik said, "my suggestion is to either pick up a lasgun or find a deep fucking hole to hide in. We've got a few raiding parties heading our way."
If what the woman was saying was true - and the panicked, frantic preparations for a defense were any indication - the people here were in grave danger. Yang beamed at the officer, unleashing Ember Celica. The gauntlets clicked and clacked as they expanded, a fresh belt of hunter-grade shells primed and ready to go.
"Put me on the front lines, lady," Yang said. "I've been dying to kick some ass." A good fight should help get my head on straight.
Vadiik stared at her dumbly."You're the strangest person I've ever encountered, Miss Long," she said. "Not many civilians would so willingly lay down their lives to fight heretics. And I don't know how some fancy expanding bracelets are gonna help."
"Ma'am, I've been training to fight for a long time," Yang replied, ignoring the 'bracelets' comment. "I just hope these 'heretic' people make it fun. So where do you need me?" Yang asked. Officer Vadiik didn't answer at first - she was busy ramming some kind of ammunition into a blocky rifle. Motioning Yang to follow her, she left the building.
"Shoot whatever we shoot at," she said, "and don't get in our way. For now, you're with us." Vadiik tossed a bulky pistol to Yang. "This is the best I can do."
Thirty officers had gathered in the street, each waiting anxiously for Vadiik. They looked to her like most looked at huntsmen.
"Listen up people," Vadiik bellowed, "we have heretics inbound. As I am the ranking officer here, I will be taking command. Affirmative?"
"Aye!" They cried.
"This is a dark day for Woadia, that the arch-foe should reach us here," she called to them, "But their attack is one born of Warp-driven lunacy!" She cried. "For when they meet us in battle, they will only find the steel hearts of the men and women of Woadia! With our fists raised in righteous anger, and the Emperor watching over us, we shall break them! Kill them all, and leave none alive! For the Emperor Protects, and today, we are His instrument!"
"The Emperor Protects!" They echoed.
"Good! Now you six, go set up barricades. You four, go round up the civvies, get them inside! The rest, lock and load! Our orders are to defend the village, and wait for the PDF!"
"Aye!" They cried. Vadiik sighed as they went about their tasks. The miasma of fear that had permeated the station had dissipated, replaced by a steely courage.
"Talk about a change in attitude," Yang said, grinning. The cold look Vadiik gave her chilled her to the bone.
"I don't have the luxury of being afraid," Vadiik spat. "If I falter, every single person in this village will be killed. And even if I don't, they might die anyway. So for your first instruction, I need a pair of eyes out there. Go scout, and come back if you see anything. Dismissed, Ms. Long."
The police here are awfully militaristic, Yang thought to herself. Wherever 'here' is. She nodded, and dashed out of the village. I'll get answers later.
Looking to the sky, she saw spiky black fliers jet underneath the morning clouds, their hulls painted a deep, bloody red and covered in strange symbols. Rage and bloodlust surged from them like waves crashing upon the shore, hammering, relentless. The fliers were enormous, bigger than any airship Yang had ever seen before.
Yang pushed fleeing civilians towards the village center, fighting her way through the tumult to get a better view of the ships. Landing crafts by the hundreds jettisoned from them, scattering over the planet's surface. Most of them headed towards the city.
She scrambled to the top of a nearby hill and watched a squadron of vessels hurtle towards the village. Four landing craft swept low, effusive black-smoke jetwash flattening an entire acre of wheat. A hundred warriors clambered out, scrambling over each other in their eagerness.
And Yang thought the Ralphie the Servitor had been horrific.
Whoever these 'heretic' people were, they were bad news - scars and vivid, violent tattoos were more common than plain skin. Some had burned eight-pointed brands into their chests, while others hung thorny black metal from their skin, letting the cold iron cut into pale and pallid flesh. What little armor they wore was painted in flaky, bloody brown. A handful of taller warriors wore leather tunics, woven together from human skin.
Their weapons were worse. Rusty and spattered with rotting flesh, they were brutal, nasty things, ramshackle yet functional, a hundred notches carved into their stocks. Now she understood Vadiik's initial reaction.
Yang choked back the bile that rose in her throat. I made the right decision - I'm going to help these people. And I'm going to kick some ass doing it. Every single one of these monsters looked particularly punch-able. Then, their leader stepped out. Clad in hulking, oversized armor, he stood much taller his underlings. Skulls sat on top of long pikes that jutted out from his pack, an axe the size of Yang effortlessly carried in his right hand.
Time to go.
She sprinted back to the village to inform Vadiik of the invaders' location. A barricade had been hastily erected from sandbags, sheet metal, and pallets, manned by trembling police officers that clutched their weapons tight. Gesturing and pointing wildly, Vadiik stood behind them.
"They're right over the hill!" Yang cried, dashing over to them.
"You're alive," Vadiik noted.
"Well yeah." Yang stopped. "Wait… you didn't think I'd make it back?" She asked indignantly. No response. "Anyways, four of those fliers landed, and there's about a hundred of those heretic dudes. Looks like they stepped out of a seriously fucked-up metal band. And there was one guy, built like a tank. Had these over-sized shoulder pauldrons, and this massive axe…"
"Oh no." One of the officers whimpered. "Oh, Emperor save us. A traitor marine. Golden Throne, I thought they were just legends."
"They're real, alright," Vadiik growled. "But that doesn't mean this asshole is one. Could be a champion of some sort." She gave the officer a look that was half withering, half reassuring. "Be assured, they die like anything else. Have courage!" She turned to Yang. "Miss Long, get behind cover. Try and help where you can, but stay out of our way."
"Don't worry, Ma'am. I'll send them packing!" She cocked Ember Celica, ready to fight. It didn't matter that she was lost in a strange land. There were people in danger, and her duty as a Huntress demanded that she protect them. The fact that she got to knock some skulls to do so just made it better. "Bring 'em on!"
They obliged her, pouring over the hill. Frothing at the mouth and swinging horrid weapons, they charged the village.
"Open fire!" Vadiik cried. Her men obeyed, and a salvo of red-light lasers soared downrange. The air was immediately filled with a noxious cloud of vapor that spewed from their strange guns. The invaders toppled and fell, their chests bursting open. They died screaming, clawing at cauterized holes with sharpened nails. The officers cut through their aura like it wasn't even there! She drew the pistol she'd been given.
Aiming it, she took potshots at the incoming troops. As she hammered the trigger, small laser bursts erupted from the gun. Even when she missed center mass, the lasers were enough to dismember the attackers.
This thing is awesome.
The invaders stormed onwards, returning fire with crude, twisted weapons. Bullets snapped overhead, rattled off the hastily-erected cover and buried themselves deep. Some found their target, ripping the lightly-armored policemen to shreds. Blood splashed over Yang, the screams of the wounded and dying battering her ears.
"There's too many!" Someone shouted.
"Keep firing!" Vadiik shouted back. Yang snatched up a discarded rifle, desperate to stem the tide. Each time she pressed the trigger, another attacker fell victim to a crimson lance, howling in agony. It wasn't enough.
"Fix bayonets!" Vadiik cried over the roar of combat. She directed the officers' fire with a lethal-looking weapon, some sort of sword that had been converted into a chainsaw. It gurgled and spat, humming with murderous intent.
The swarm of invaders was only a few yards away now, demented war cries on their lips. They brandished wicked swords and firearms, all of them covered in grim trophies.
Time to shine. Yang thought, grinning. She tossed the rifle over her shoulder.
Bursting forward, her fist met the first attacker, shattering his face and sending him hurtling backwards. There was no resistance, no push of unseen force that indicated the presence of aura. They're not using aura! Yang realized. That's why the rifles were so effective! Her grin widened. This will be too easy.
Another man approached her, sword raised. Ember Celica met his stomach, tore him apart. The recoil sent her elbow into the chest of another, tumbling him back. She punched another one, firing a shell as her fist met his chin. His head vaporized in a flash of gore, brains decorating his comrades.
"Blood for the Blood God!" One cried, charging her. "Skulls for the Skull Throne!" She gave him a low whistle. His lips were pulled back with a mechanical vice, blood pouring over his rotten green teeth. Piercings covered every inch of his face.
"You're a real piece of work, aren't you?" Yang said. She ducked under his infuriated strike, blasting him in the back with her gauntlets. He tumbled into his comrade, the right half of his torso sprayed across the grass. Yang killed the other one, smashing Ember Celica into his heart and vaporizing his ribcage.
They surrounded her now, slavering with bloodlust. One fell to her blows, then another. Grabbing an invader by his arm, she threw him into his comrades, bowling them over. She smashed their heads in with the heel of her boot.
"Golden Throne, they've got us flanked!" An officer cried. Yang saw a second wave approaching, sprinting out of the maize and into the village. A sword twisted around to slash her stomach open. Her aura shrugged it off, turning her around but keeping the blade from cutting her exposed midriff. The attacker paused, eyes wide.
"Sucks to be you," Yang said, Ember Celica claiming another life. She needed to reload. Throwing her arms forward, empty shells sprang from her gauntlets, falling to the blood-soaked earth where they pattered against corpses and hard-packed dirt. A few rounds hit her in the chest, pushing her back.
She reloaded, slamming a brace of shells into her gauntlets, years of experience guiding each movement. Launching herself at the flanking heretics, she landed amongst them, the golden flames of her aura licking at her hair.
"C'mon who's next?" She cried. A dozen men answered her challenge, growling and snarling. Her arms spun, a whirlwind of death, Ember Celica roaring with glee as it tore into Yang's enemies. A maelstrom of punches sent corpses flying, tumbling over the ground in meaty, bloody heaps. Sending her boot into a man's chest, she pushed his sternum into his heart, crushing it from without.
Shotgun shells tore into her opponents, pellets rending skin and sinew into a pulp. Vaulting over an attacker, she slammed his head into the ground before picking him up and snapping his neck with a wheelhouse kick. The rest of the men backed off, fear glowing red in their seething, rheumy eyes.
Propelling herself with Ember, she flew backwards, skidding to a halt beside the remaining officers. They were hard-pressed - heretics swarmed them, pushed them back. Unimpeded, some warriors sprinted past the clash, howling as they dove into the village.
Vadiik panted hard, covered in blood. Her pistol hummed and smoked as brilliant red beams scythed into the heretics, melting their faces until they ran down their chests. With a wordless cry, Vadiik surged forward, her sword roaring to life. Its teeth screamed as they bit into the flesh of an attacker. Gore spilled out from his shoulder before he split in half from the blow.
Brutal. Uncompromisingly brutal.
This is how they wage war here, Yang realized. No auras, no semblances, no concussive rounds, no blunted weapons. It was steel and fire against bare skin. But as the cool morning air rushed to fill her depleted lungs, she felt alive. She'd been in life-or-death fights before, but this… she'd never fought like this… ever.
A man hefted his ax, ready to bring it down on the face of an officer. Yang was quicker. Ember Celica rocketed her forward, and she crushed the man's chest, sending him spiraling away before his blow could land.
"To me!" Vadiik cried. An officer turned to heed her order, but a blast caught the back of his neck, blowing a chunk of muscle and tissue onto the earth. He choked and gurgled as he died, hands desperately trying to stem the flow of blood from his neck.
Yang flattened as two men with assault rifles lit into her, pouring lead from their ratty guns. She dove forward, under their firing arcs. Her fist connected with a knee, a resounding crack her answer. She took the rifle and bludgeoned the other one with it until his head became red sludge.
"Long!" Vadiik cried, desperately fending off an assault from a towering man who had draped himself in human leather.
"Kill, kill, kill!" He bellowed, reaching out to crush her beneath his enormous fists. Yang dashed over to her. Running up the man's back, she drove a fist into his skull with a vicious jab, slamming his body down with a burst from Ember Celica.
She offered a hand to the officer, hauling the bruised and battered veteran to her feet. Vadiik took it readily, narrowly avoiding a blow from another heretic. She put two lasers into his kneecaps. He toppled over, screaming in pain. Vadiik let him suffer as she caught her breath.
"Thanks," Vadiik wheezed, priming her weapon with a replacement battery.
"Any time," Yang replied, the heel of her boot silencing the screaming heretic.
"You're a blessed fighter, Miss Long. I've never seen such speed."
"My sister's even faster," Yang said, heart swelling with pride. Grabbing a man's tunic, she hurled him into the air and drove him into the ground with her elbow, breaking his spine and pulverizing him. And that's for taking her away.
A crack, and Vadiik fell - an attacker had brought the stave of a polearm into her back, knocking her out cold. Yang snarled and punched the heretic in the chest, rendering him into a trunkless set of limbs and a head.
"Enough." A voice rang out, deep and raspy. The attackers backed away from the remaining officers, hissing and spitting. Yang whirled around, weapons raised.
The huge man stepped forward, armor slick with blood and grime. He was titanic. Taller than even Yatsuhashi, and twice as thick around. His armor was deep red and trimmed in dull bronze, his face hidden behind a horned helm.
"She is mine." Each step he took shook the earth, each step kicking up mud and gore as he strode forward. He braced his oversized axe. "Khorne, bear witness to my battle." Blood ran down his armor, soaking the joints and running down the thick plates. Too late, Yang saw the source.
Hilde's head had been jammed atop one of his hideous pikes.
Yang's mind went blank from shock. Reeling, it boiled red, frothed over with seething rage.
"You… MONSTER!" Her fists smashed together, her semblance igniting in a burst of golden, white-hot flame. Burning a glowing crimson, her eyes flickered red. She slammed into the towering heretic, fists hammering him in lightning succession.
His armor weathered the force of her attacks, Ember Celica denting the plates but unable to penetrate. He returned with an uppercut, catching Yang on her chin. Pain exploded through her as she stumbled back, her aura drinking in the attack. She tasted blood.
Yang renewed her attack with a wordless roar, her semblance pouring raw power into her fists. Ducking under a swing of his axe, she launched upwards, returning the uppercut with relish. Though an earth-shaking blow, she only managed to shear away the front of his helmet.
His face was horrific, a sneering mess of ritualistic scars and unnatural, blood-red eyes. He spat out a sharpened tooth.
"Rotten, stinking psykers," he growled. Yang had no idea what he called her, and she didn't care.
His axe whirled around, the teeth on its edge howling with gleeful, untameable bloodlust. It scraped against her aura, tearing through her huntress outfit like paper. Better than skin. Semblance or no, she didn't want to get anywhere near that thing.
"Get back here!" He roared, his gauntleted fist launching forwards and catching Yang's neck. She felt her life leaving her, his fingers crushing her windpipe like it was styrofoam. Slamming her into the dirt, he braced his foot to split her skull.
Yang's head rang like a billion bells, she tasted metal, and her vision lost focus, wavered, darkened.
Ember Celica caught his death-blow, the gauntlets grinding his boot to a halt mere inches above her face. White-gold flame erupted from every lock of her hair. She roared, her semblance pouring the power of his assault into every fiber of her being. She twisted his foot and fired her gauntlets, snapping his ankle like a fleshy twig.
He bellowed, his fist smashing her face into the dirt. Her lip split, her vision went black, but her aura held, reflecting every ounce of force back unto the champion. Rolling out from underneath him, she leapt upright, spinning a foot into his exposed jaw.
A wet, metallic snap.
The warrior grunted in pain, black-red blood spilling out between his pierced lips. Pure fury ruled him, his sunken eyes radiating hate like a grimm's. He brought his axe around, the swing unbalanced by his backwards foot.
Yang sidestepped it, felt its teeth scrape her skin. Planting her feet as he recoiled for another strike, she focused her aura into a singular, concentrated strike. Ember Celica blared, its final shell shattering his knee as her fist split armor, tore flesh, shattered bone.
She beamed as he howled in agony, as he stumbled to his knees. Her shoulder dented his oversized armor as she flattened him, a vicious stomp of her boot pinning his axe-wielding arm to the earth.
Channeling the entirety of her aura into her fists, Yang bellowed, her gauntlets hammering his skull, one blow after another, again, again, again. The aura-enhanced strikes finally stove his head in, and his struggling slackened. Yet her attacks did not. Ichor caked the front of her clothes, and the monster's armor whirred and hissed as his body's final attempts to push her off withered away. She stopped her assault, panting.
A deathly silence greeted her, fear ruling each heretic warrior.
Yang screamed, flush with primal, animalistic victory. A thunderous explosion disrupted her moment of triumph, hurling her off her feet. Bulky, oversized tanks stormed past, guns blazing death at the invaders. Broken by the sudden assault, they scattered and fled. They died anyways. As the surge of adrenaline faded, Yang's hair returned to normal, settling about her shoulders like a silken yellow coat.
She screamed again. Tears ran down her cheeks, salt rivers that streamed down her bruised bloodied, anguished face.
Yang Xiao Long was lost, trapped in a world of atrocities the likes of which she'd never known.
A/N: Welcome to A World of Bloody Evolution!
As you may have already noticed, this version of Yang comes from an AU, one that I envisioned and conceived after V2's conclusion, meaning that though most of V3 is canon, there's been significant divergences. Many of these will become apparent over the course of the story, but you should know that this takes place 'after canon', or when (my version) of RWBY's story concludes. Very little from V4 onwards is considered canon.
In case you're a RWBY fan who's a little lost, this story serves as a decent introduction to Warhammer 40k (but is not its primary purpose). You'll be able to follow along with Yang and enjoy the story as she explores the grim darkness of the 41st millenium!
There might be a few lore discrepancies regarding 40k fluff, and if you see them, let me know ASAP. I'll do my best to rectify them.
Disclaimer: I will do this exactly once. I don't own either universe. I just think that they'd be awesome together - which is why we're sitting here today.
Please, PLEASE let me know what you think. Reviews make my day!
Addendum (04/30/19): The story is going under minor revisions, with this chapter being the first. It's mostly focused on cleaning up technical errors and other mishaps. If you're new to the story, you might notice the style changing slightly as you continue to read, which likely means I haven't gotten to revising it yet.
Thanks so much for four years of incredible support!