Ren was quieter than normal on his now common evening walk, his team, those that remained, let him go without question. They knew where he was going.
The sun was setting as he approached his single stop, he passed the other graves with little notice of them. He froze however when he noted a hole in the ground, it looked like something very large had crawled out of it. Something about the size of a person. It was right in front of the gravestone that read 'Nora Valkyrie' and he glanced down in the near darkness, noting the dirt on the white silk of the coffin below.
Ren swallowed the growing lump in his throat as he glanced around.
There came a sound behind him followed by. "Reeeeeeeeeennnn"
He knew that voice very well. Quickly, like a cat, Ren spun away, turning to face the thing with Nora's voice.
There she stood, wearing the pretty white dress her family had chosen for her to be buried in. Her skin was a grayish hue and her hands were bloody and torn, bits of wood and earth caught in the flesh.
The worst part though was her eyes, they were black, completely black with tiny, red glowing dots at the center.
"Reenn..." She rasped again, tilting her head.
"Nora..." Again he swallowed. "You're dead..."
She covered her face. "I know... I must be horrifying..."
Ren froze again at the change in her tone, the recognition. He frowned as she started to sob.
"Why am I here? How?" Her voice held distress as she looked back up at him, tears of blood trailed down her face.
He took a steadying breath, cautiously moving a little closer. "What do you remember?"
She shook her head. "The grimm… Getting hurt… The look on your face as the world went black… Then the next thing I knew I was in a cold dark place and I panicked. Then I figured out where I was."
She hiccuped another sob, bringing her hands to her eyes.
"And you dug your way up?"
"Yeah… it.. hurt." She noted, pulling her hands from her face and examining them, picking chunks of wood from her skin. Ren looked around nervously, worried what might happen if anyone else saw her.
"What am I going to do?" Nora asked while wrapping her arms around herself and sinking to sit in the grass. "I'm scared."
He looked back over at her, certain she was really afraid for her to have that tone of voice. "It will be okay."
Nora looked up at him and realized that was the last thing he'd said to her before she'd died. She gave him a bitter smile. "I kinda doubt that."
"No, it will…. I'll call Jaune and we can sneak you back into the dorm where you will be safe."
She offered him a sad smile, doubting the team leader's judgement would be as clouded as Ren's. He turned on his scroll, tapped Jaune's contact icon to call him, and waited on him to answer. Jaune's sleepy face filled Ren's screen a moment later.
"We… I need you and Pyrrha to meet me at Nora's grave."
"Now? Can't this wait till morning?"
"No, it can't."
"Mhm.." Jaune ended the call and Ren leaned against Nora's headstone.
"How long do you think you can hide me?"
"I…" Ren sighed, looking away from her.
"Ren…" The increasingly calm of her tone was making him nervous.
"Everything will be fine."
"I shouldn't be breathing."
They both fell silent. Soon Jaune and Pyrrha came into view, Jaune still looked half asleep. Pyrrha froze when she spotted Nora, bloody and leaning against a headstone near her grave.
"What's so important-" Jaune was saying but was interrupted by Pyrrha grabbing his shirt and holding him back. Jaune glanced at her then followed her gaze, then he too, froze. Nora glanced up at the two, watching their eyes go wide in fear. She nodded and turned away from them.
"Nora?" Jaune asked cautiously.
"I don't know.."
"I found her here, like this.." Ren explained.
"What do we do?" Pyrrha asked.
"Sneak her back into the dorm." Ren stated plainly.
"Then what? Hide her?" Jaune asked.
"Until the smell gets overwhelming…" Nora grumbled.
"You don't smell." Ren protested.
"He's got a point, you're in very good shape for being three months dead." Pyrrha noted thoughtfully.
Nora blinked up at her, tilting her head. "That long?"
"There has to be a reason for this… People don't just climb out of their graves everyday." Jaune said, rubbing his chin.
"We need to get her somewhere safe before someone sees her." Ren pointed out, worried.
"Or maybe you should just-" Nora started but Ren cut her off.
"No, don't even think that. We need to know what is going on."
Jaune nodded. "He's right, let's get you back home Nora."
She sighed, got to her feet and followed them back to Beacon.
They got back, a fairly uneventful trip. Few people were up at that hour and if they were they were busy studying. Nora took a deep breath as Ren pulled the splinters from her skin then cleaned and bandaged her hands.
"Do you remember anything? Anything at all other than what you said earlier?" Jaune asked, pacing the room.
"No… Just… waking up and being afraid." She shook her head. "Something feels off but I guess that is to be expected… considering."
"Everything will be fine."
"I cry blood, Ren. That is the opposite of fine."
"I don't think it's too late… I'm going to see if I can find anything in the library… Maybe this has happened before." Pyrrha stated, heading for the door.
"Good idea." Jaune noted. Just as Pyrrha pulled the door open she stumbled back and Professor Oobleck stepped in after her.
"I'm not seeing things then." Oobleck noted, sipping his coffee.
"Professor.." Ren said, his tone holding several things at once, questioning, threatening and slightly hopeful all at once while staying even.
"Miss Valkyrie, what are you doing up? It's a bit past your expiration date."
"That's what we'd all like to know." She admitted.
"Hmm.." He stated, sipping his coffee again.
Nora took a breath then shuddered violently, slapping a hand over her mouth and frantically pointing to the trash pail under her desk.
Ren didn't ask he just reacted, he grabbed it and handed it to her. She took it and fell to her knees with another heave. A foul smell filled the room as she vomited, a stench worse than death. Oobleck quickly moved over to open the window.
"Shouldn't her stomach be empty?" Jaune asked.
"It's embalming fluid…" Oobleck noted as he moved just close enough to look the girl over. Nora gasped and coughed, her body trembling. Ren handed Nora something to wipe her mouth with as the professor turned away, pacing across the room.
"What is happening?" Nora pleaded, looking up at Oobleck with those, unsettling eyes. Fresh trails of blood streaming down her face.
"I don't know…" He admitted.
"What do we do?" Jaune asked.
"I'm not sure yet…"
"This isn't natural…" Nora whimpered. Ren watched her worriedly, noticing the pain in her voice.
"Nora… Do you, have any cravings?" The professor asked her.
Nora frowned, her brows knit together as she thought about that then shook her head. "Not really… I mean, I could go for a glass of water at the moment but that's about it."
"No thirst for blood?"
"Desire for pain? Suffering of others? Hunger for flesh or brains?... Anything at all like that?"
"No… None of that.."
Ren silently took her a glass of water.
"Thank you." She gave him a grateful smile before sipping some of the water.
"Nora… Try using your aura to heal the wounds on your hands." Oobleck instructed.
She nodded and set the glass of water aside. She focused a moment then frowned when nothing happened.
"I don't understand…"
"Can anyone sense her Aura?"
Jaune shrugged, not sure how to even try. Ren frowned, shaking his head. Pyrrha crossed the room and reached out to her, trying to tap her aura as she had Jaune's but there came nothing in response.
"Nothing…" Pyrrha admitted.
"No aura… No soul…" Nora noted nervously.
"Nora, you're not supposed to take sayings like that seriously, just cause you're a redhead does not mean you shouldn't have a soul." Jaune said in a lame attempt at cutting the sudden tension in the room. His efforts earned him a few glares.
"Without a soul…. I'm no more than some sort of Grimm…"
"Nora, don't say that." Ren pleaded.
"Hmm…" Is all that came from the professor.
Nora's body convulsed again, causing her to quickly grab the trash bucket again before putting her face in it. She whimpered as she gagged and sounded as if it was far more painful this round. The smell was worse as well. When she was finally able to stop she gasped for air, taking a moment to catch her breath and let the pain subside.
Once she seemed a bit better and again sipped at her water the professor asked her another question. "Do you remember anything at all from when you woke?"
"Not anything of use… I remember… dying I guess… And then I woke up, like waking up from a dreamless sleep and it was dark and cold… I tried to get up but I couldn't, that's when I realized I was in a box and I started to panic."
"Do you remember hearing anything when you woke?"
"No… I was six feet underground."
"How did you get out?"
"Well, when I finished panicking I busted my way out and dug up."
"That had to have taken a while…"
"Yeah… Pretty sure I was underground a while… It was getting pretty hard to breath when I finally busted through, I thought it was strange that the ground was packed so hard… Until they told me how long I've been… dead."
Oobleck nodded then looked back to Ren. "Did you see anyone at her grave yesterday?"
"No... Wait, yes I did. Cardin and his goons were there acting like idiots and being highly disrespectful." Ren offered.
"Define 'acting like idiots' please"
"They were all dancing around, laughing and yelling weird things and spitting on her grave... Then I ran them off... Why?"
"Because... Something went missing from my office the other day... Did one of them have a black amulet?"
"Big X looking thing with a circle? Yeah Cardin had it..."
Oobleck sighed heavily. "That is not good…"
"Professor… What exactly was that 'amulet'?" Ren asked.
"An artifact from a fallen kingdom… The people of that kingdom died out many many years before any of us were even thought of. Long before the last war even… Now I think I know why."
Everyone fell silent, waiting on the professor to continue.
"The rumor was that massive numbers of Grimm wiped out the far less defended kingdom but that didn't account for what appeared to be a much more human fueled massacre. Those amulets were common in that place… If they raise the dead then… It may not have been Grimm but overpopulation gone out of control."
"And nobody knew what those amulets did?" Jaune asked.
Oobleck shook his head.
"And then Cardin figured it out on accident by being a jerk…" Nora groaned.
"We need to get that away from him before something else happens." Pyrrha pointed out.
"We should break his legs!" Nora suggested for far from the first time.
"We will put that under consideration…" Oobleck growled, not liking that Cardin would steal from him and do something this stupid.
"Once you have the amulet back what will we do?" Pyrrha asked.
"I will do some extensive research and see if I can find anything out, until then you will keep an eye on Nora. There may still be side effects from being resurrected in such a way… Especially considering the way that kingdom fell."
Nora nodded. "I don't want to hurt anyone… Though Cardin deserves it and has for a long time…"
"Not going to argue that…" Oobleck noted, adjusting his glasses. "Nora, are you feeling better yet?"
"I think so… I don't feel like puking anymore." She answered, sipping the water again.
Oobleck nodded. "Well then, no time like the present to go see our dear trouble maker… Before he does something else stupid."
JNPR nodded their agreement.
"Alright then, just follow my lead, Nora, stay behind someone else, stay out of sight unless I give you the signal." Oobleck stated, showing the signal in question and Nora nodded. With a nod Oobleck lead the team from their room and down the hall, quickly coming to team CRDL's room.
Oobleck slammed his fist against the door repeatedly in a very demanding knock.
Just a few moments later a very sleepy looking Dove answered the door.
"Get Cardin." Oobleck snarled in a tone that left no room for arguments and the suddenly very awake student scrambled into the dark room. Cardin appeared at the door moments later, leaning on it casually as he glanced at everyone in the hall. "Yes professor?"
Oobleck's patience seem to have run out as he slammed an open palm against the door, sent it swinging hard against the wall and caused Cardin to stumble. "Where is the amulet you took from my office?"
"Is that alcohol I smell on your breath professor?" Cardin asked in retort.
"Do NOT avoid my question!"
"You just dodged mine."
"The amulet. Now."
"No idea what you are talking about."
"Oh, I think you do. What you have no idea of is what you've done." Oobleck grinned darkly, giving the signal. Nora stepped out from behind Jaune, walked closer but moving very slowly, she let her murderous look burn into Cardin.
Cardin's eyes went wide and his mouth dropped in a silent scream as he stared back in absolute terror. Nora raised her hands and curved her fingers to add effect, her nails already like thick, sharp claws. The red dot in the center of her eyes widened to fill them, the black made way for glowing red and she peeled back her lips in a snarl, hissing at Cardin. "You did thisssssssssss to meee."
"No…" Cardin whispered, falling back a terrified step.
"Yesssssss" She hissed again.
"Give back the amulet." Oobleck ordered tonelessly, not stopping Nora from creeping closer and closer. Cardin nodded hastily and ran back into the room, vanishing from sight as the sound of things being tossed around and his team arguing spilled into the hall.
The team and professor exchanged glances as they waited. Soon Cardin reappeared, holding the item in question. "This thing?"
"Yes, that. Hand it over this instant." Oobleck demanded.
"How do I know she won't attack me if I do?"
"How do you know I won't if you don't?"
Cardin seemed to debate, glancing between the two. "Fine."
He pitched the thing at them, between them and neither expected him to do that, neither caught the amulet that slammed into the wall behind them with a loud shattering sound.
Nora hissed in pain, her eyes went completely black then white then red again.
"I don't think that was wise…" Oobleck noted and Cardin swallowed hard.
With an ear splitting shriek Nora moved in a blur, tackling Cardin before he could so much as scream.
Oobleck made no move to lift a finger as the sounds of bones being broken filled their ears. "He did break multiple laws…"
The remaining members of team CRDL screamed in horror along with Cardin's screams of agony.
"Shouldn't we do something?" Pyrrha asked uneasily.
"He brought this on himself." Oobleck shrugged. Cardin's screams of agony shifted to terrified moans as Nora reappeared in the hall, covered in blood.
"What did you do?" Ren asked in disbelief.
"I broke his legs… Admittedly I did it as painfully as possible… Grabbing the bones themselves and snapping them like twigs." Nora explained, her eyes shifting through red, black and white to settle on almost normal but with the iris still a glowing red. Other than that her eyes now looked normal.
All the screaming had gotten the attention of other teams, RWBY appearing to one side of them and CVFY appearing at the other. Weiss stifled a scream by covering her mouth.
"Nora?" Ruby asked, confused.
Blake stared wide eyed in shock and Yang tilted her head. "That's new."
Velvet let out a startled cry and hid behind Yatsuhashi who was silent. Coco let out a long breath and Fox's blind gaze darted about as he listened and smelled the air.
"Coco I smell blood, what is going on…"
"I don't think you want me to describe it to you…"
"Everyone remain calm… I think the worst of this is over." Oobleck noted as he moved over to pick up the pieces of the amulet. Dust poured from the fragments and the whole thing evaporated. Oobleck sighed sadly.
"You guys should probably get him to the infirmary!" Nora called into the terrified team CRDL's room. "He deserved what he got but he doesn't deserve to die."
She then moved away from the doorway, causing the other teams to all step back and allow team to carry the still whimpering Cardin away. Everyone except Nora and Oobleck were taken aback by just how badly Cardin's legs had been mangled, bone visible through torn flesh.
"Nora?" Fox asked, still trying to piece together what was happening.
"What is going on?" Coco demanded. Team RWBY shifted uneasily, wanting to know the same thing.
"I'm not entirely sure… I'll tell you tomorrow." Oobleck offered, straightening and turning to leave. "Until then just return to your rooms… and Jaune, have your team sleep in shifts to watch Nora."
Jaune nodded, watching the undead girl nervously. Nora frowned, glancing around at all the eyes trained on her. "Hi…"
An uneasy silence filled the air and no one answered for several moments. Ruby was the first to speak up, calm and unafraid. "Hey, Nora…"
"So… What exactly is going on?" Fox asked.
"Apparently Cardin used some sort of ancient artifact he stole from Professor Oobleck to bring me back… Not on purpose though, he didn't know what he was doing."
"So why do THAT to him?" Weiss asked.
"Because he broke the artifact instead of giving it back and when he did it made me hurt…. All I could see was red and every fiber of my being wanted to rip him to shreds… So I broke his legs."
There was a chorus of "Oh." From everyone.
"Well… However it happened as long as you're not going to hurt anyone else, it's good to have you back." Ruby smiled.
"Yeah, and Cardin had it coming. Good job." Coco added.
"Thanks." Nora smiled, her razor sharp teeth glinting in the light. With exchanged goodnights and wishes for sweet dreams the teams all returned to their rooms.
Ren insisted Nora take a shower, gathered some of the clothing her family had left behind and her team escorted her down the hall, Pyrrha went into the room with her when she went to shower. Once clean they all returned to their dorm again, Nora flopped into her bed and passed out with a steady stream of snores.
The next morning Nora woke, yawning and rubbing her eyes. Ren was sitting at the foot of her bed, watching her.
"Any weird cravings or anything?"
Ren smiled softly, a deep sad, pain in his eyes as he nodded. "Sure."
"Really? You said no last time!" Nora smiled but that smile faded as she realized the pain in her friends face. The last time he'd told her no when asking for pancakes she had ended up dead later that day.
She stepped out of bed then tackle hugged him. "I'm sorry."
"Me too…" He admitted.
Once everyone was up and dressed they headed down to the dining hall and Ren went into the kitchen where he fixed enough pancakes to feed an army. Once the team settled at a table together teams CVFY and RWBY joined them, all enjoying the pancakes.
Pyrrha had explained while they waited on Ren to finish that he hadn't cooked since her death and wouldn't even look at pancakes, often not eating at all.
They had not been eating long when Professor Oobleck joined them, coffee in one hand and a heavy, old book in the other. He set the book down and accepted an offered plate of pancakes.
"So, what did you find?" Nora asked.
"I was right about the origins of the amulet and it's purpose. Thing is it allows the user to control the person they resurrect like a slave. However, when that person breaks it they relinquish control, the lifting of the effect is very painful on the undead slave in question. Normally they would kill their captor but in the very rare case they do not…"
"What?" Nora asked.
"Can anyone sense Nora's Aura now?"
After a quick check everyone nodded.
"You got your soul back. See, if you had killed Cardin you would have lost all hope of getting your soul back, causing you to become a banshee. You didn't though. With your soul back you have become a living Wraith."
"Is that good?"
"It's as close to normal as you will ever be again." Oobleck nodded.
"So… I can stay?" She asked, starting to smile.
"I still have to talk to Ozpin but I think so."
"No need, I heard everything. As long as no one else turns up dead or severely wounded like that… No more broken legs..." Everyone jumped and turned to face the headmaster who had snuck up on them. "And if I can have some of those pancakes... Then yes, Nora, you are welcome to return."
A cheer went up at the table and several of Nora's friends hugged her. Happy to have her back. Ozpin joined them for breakfast and happy banter.
A/N: Happy Halloween everyone!
I know I don't normally do any holiday fics but I actually wrote this one a wayyys back and decided it'd be best suited to post on all hallows eve.
Hope you enjoyed it! I had fun writing it.