A/N: Just real quick, because they don't specify in the show, when I reference compact scrolls, I mean the ones the size of phones. See bottom for the rest of the A/N.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own RWBY, Rooster Teeth does.
Chapter 7: Death
"I used to sit here and she used to sit over there and Death was as close as you are…"
-Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
The pain burned like fire, from her skin down to the smallest of nerves. It consumed the girl's senses, her thoughts, her soul. All had ceased to exist, replaced by the raging inferno that threatened her very existence.
Hours passed, and as they did, she lost more of herself, until even her name was gone. She knew nothing but the pain, and soon, that too began slip away as she slowly descended into darkness.
The pain suddenly pulsed, but it was different this time, like a flash of bright light. A sharp, almost electric jolt that faded as quickly as it began.
Another jolt, this time harder. She let out a sharp gasp as her lungs filled with the cold air. Her eyes flew open.
A field. A women. Black hair. Silver eyes. A cloak, white as snow.
My little rose red… She spoke softly. It is not your time.
A third jolt.
Her heart pounded rapidly in her ears. She could feel as the oxygen was dragged from her lungs into her veins at an ever increasing speed.
The field and the woman were consumed in light. She heard voices. Someone was shouting. Hands grabbed her as she began to convulse.
Live Ruby… She heard the women call. LIVE.
There was one final jolt, the strongest one yet. Ruby screamed, the sharp glare of fluorescents filling her vision. Several men in pure white medical smocks attempted to restrain her. She threw out an arm, hitting one hard in the chest. There was a crash as the man went flying.
"Sedate her." One of them yelled.
She thrashed even harder as everything began to take on a silver glow. "WEISS," she called out. "WEISS. Wei-" A plastic mask was pressed to her mouth cutting off the sound. She felt the beautiful oxygen that filled her lungs become tainted with poison.
"Cover her eyes." Her vision was immediately plunged into blackness as the silver glow began to fade.
"Weiss…" She spoke weakly. The plastic mask made the word distorted and ugly. She whispered her teammate's name one last time as she returned to the darkness.
Weiss felt nothing. She was awake, and had been so for almost an hour. During that time, she saw nothing but darkness, heard nothing but a constant, sharp ringing that threatened to send her sanity over the edge. She willed herself to move, only to find that she could no longer feel her limbs. In fact, she couldn't feel anything. They weren't numb, or unresponsive. It was almost as if her whole body had never existed in the first place.
Panic filled her mind. She wanted to scream. She wanted to run, to hide. She was held prisoner to her own mind. This, this was hell, her worst nightmare.
That was the before the whispering began.
It was quiet at first, a tingling at the back of her thoughts. As time passed on, the sounds grew louder and louder, until Weiss was drowning in their presence. The whispers were inhuman, guttural sounds. Unnatural, things she'd only heard from grimm. They drowned out the ringing and consumed her thoughts.
Weiss screamed within her mind. She begged whatever gods may be to end her, to stop the maddening voices, even if that meant death.
Then, just as her sanity began to teeter, the young girl's mind was filled by a vast, empty silence. The ringing, the whispers, even her own thoughts had ceased. All was quiet. A beat, two, three. Sensation hit her like a freight train. Frigid air filled her lungs and burned her throat. Her hammering heart filled her ears as hot, dry skin scraped against the scratchy cloth beneath her.
She twisted her trembling fingers into her palms, clenching her hands. She felt the tendons tighten and pull, the muscles constrict, bone grinding bone. The simple act took all her strength. It was several minutes before she could repeat the action. The sensations were lessened this time. What felt like hours passed as she clenched and released her hands again and again, her body learning once again how to feel. As her senses returned to normal, a new sound began to creep its way into Weiss's mind.
It was voices. Not like the whispers. No, these were actual voices, human voices. Two of them, both muffled. By there tones it sounded like they were arguing. The heiress strained to hear, catching more and more of the words as the conversation drew on.
"…shouldn't… in here… even be… this ship."
"You need… chill… explicit orders… watch the heiress…"
"Since when… favors for the Schnees?"
"We're not… for the Schnees. We're doing this for Winter."
Her eyes flew open.
Weiss turned her head, gritting her teeth at the pain of the movement. Her vision was blurry, but she could just make out two men. A man in a standard Atlesian Army Uniform, was pointing at her. The other figure, closer than the soldier, turned. He wore the same outfit, one major difference standing out. A head of messy brown hair.
She could just make out as the second man smiled.
"Hey Drew." He said, his voice smooth and calm. "Why don't you go out and stand watch."
"No way am I-"
"Do it." The man with the brown hair, Ferris, Weiss thought, commanded. The smile had left his face as tension between the two grew palpable.
Drew relented. "Fine. But if you try anything…" He let the words hang in the air. The door opened silently, sliding back with a soft click a moment later. They were alone.
The smile returned to Ferris' face as he rose and turned toward a small table in the far corner. Weiss could see now that she was on a medical bed. She heard the steady, repetitive beep of a heart monitor. Her heart monitor, she realized. She tried to remember what happened. The nightmare, Ruby waking her up, the android, the blood. Her eyes widened. Ruby had been shot. They'd gone to the Kalypso for treatment. Her eyes narrowed. Ironwood had locked her up, kept her from her partner. Then, an android had injected her with… with… well, she didn't know what.
She felt as though she had inhaled glass. The inside of her mouth was thick and gummy and her lips were chapped. She went to speak and instantly regretted it as she descended into a fit of coughing.
"Here." She felt the rim of a cup press against her lips. Icy water trickled down her tongue, and she greedily lapped at it. She heard the whirring of gears as the first half of her bed began to incline, putting her into a sitting position.
The cup was taken away, and her head followed it slightly before falling back against the pillow. She opened her eyes. Icy blue met a deep, playful brown. She managed to croak out a couple words. "What happened?" Her voice sounded dusty and ancient, as if it hadn't been used in centuries.
The smile dropped away from Ferris' face. "Well, the specifics are debatable, but supposedly, a medical android went haywire and injected you with a sedative, to which you had an allergic reaction."
Weiss must of looked skeptical, because he continued with a sarcastic grin. "I thought the same." To that she smiled. "Here." He put the cup back to her lips and once again, Weiss felt the cold trickle of water restore life to her barren throat.
The process was slow, and as time wore on, she felt strength begin to return to her muscles. She withdrew one arm from beneath the heavy blanket, followed by the other. Ferris set the cup beside her bed.
They sat in silence for several minutes. With each passing second, Weiss's senses slowly returned to normal. She could see clearly once again, and turned her head to face the man next to her, wincing slightly at the pain in her neck. "Your kind, for a soldier of Atlas…" There was a question in her words, and Ferris quickly caught on.
"And you're thinking I got some ulterior motive. Typical Schnee." He said chuckling, but there was no heart in it. "Well, no need to worry. I'm just following orders."
Weiss scoffed, her aching throat catching on itself and sending her into another coughing fit. As it settled down, she closed her eyes and let her head fall back against the pillow, trying to ignore the burning pain in her lungs and throat. A few deep breaths later, she spoke. "I highly doubt Ironwood is trying his best to keep me comfortable."
"My orders aren't from Ironwood." Pale blue eyes opened in surprise at those words.
She met Ferris's gaze, as she remembered what she had heard earlier. She opened her mouth, speaking a single word and filling it with the rest of her hope. "Winter?" Ferris smiled and nodded. For a moment, Weiss was overcome with relief. The feeling, however, was short-lived. "That's not possible. Winter works for Ironwood. She wouldn't go behind his back, even for me."
"Really?" He questioned sarcastically. "And do you follow every order your headmaster gives you?" Weiss frowned. He had a point there. "Look, I'm soldier. A grunt. I can't say anything for her motives, or the General's, for that matter. I can say that I woke up this morning to a package. That me and Drew were transferred to a ship we're not even supposed to look at without clearance. And that our primary goal is to keep you safe no matter the cost, even if that means, and I quote, 'keeping you away from General Ironwood.'"
Weiss stared at the opposing wall. She wanted to trust him, to trust someone, but she couldn't. She'd trusted Ironwood, and look where that got her. Ferris all the while was silent as she thought things over.
"Can you prove it?" She finally asked, refusing eye contact with the soldier. She heard some rustling, then something tapped her hand. Looking down, there was a small manilla envelope resting by her fingers. Picking it up, she opened it, ignoring the pain in her arms.
It was a compact scroll, like her standard school issued one, except one major difference: it was red. The sight of the device triggered a memory. She remembered getting a call moments before she had blacked out. A call from Ozpin.
"Where is my scroll?" She questioned Ferris.
The soldier laughed uncomfortably. "Yeah, the general apparently… uh… confiscated it."
"What," she yelled, triggering another fit of coughs. Ferris poured some more water and handed her the glass. She swallowed carefully and breathed. Once her lungs had calmed, Weiss felt her jaw clench in anger. All of this was because of Ironwood. That old man was really starting to get on her nerves.
"So what's this?" She finally questioned. The heiress could tell just by looking at it that the device in her hand was no ordinary scroll.
"It's called a hotline."
"A hotline. It's like a scroll, but a little bit different. Supposedly, the calls they make are completely secure, meaning no one can eavesdrop. Not even from the CCT. The downside is you can only call other hotlines. They also work as a black box of sorts, storing information such as location, vitals, area data. They're even equipped with a high power transmitter and distress signal." He paused for a second as he thought. "Or so I've heard. They're not exactly standard issue."
"Why?" The heiress questioned.
Ferris shrugged. "They're apparently expensive to make. I've only seen Atlas specialists use them."
So it was from Winter. She was the only specialist Weiss knew personally, so it was a decent explanation for why it was sent to her.
She sat in thought for several moments. "Thank you- Ferris, was it?" He nodded. "Thank you, Ferris, for bringing this to me."
"No problem Ice Queen Jr." She sent a withering glare his way as the soldier stood, grabbed his discarded helmet of the counter, and began towards the door. She stopped him before he could leave.
"May I ask a question?"
He turned to the heiress, responding with a smirk. "You just did." Weiss groaned inwardly, beginning to see just what kind of person she was dealing with.
"Why aren't you wearing your helmet?" The soldier's grin faded instantly. "I mean… I've never seen an Atlesian soldier without one on. It's… Well, it's surprising."
Ferris replied with a cheeky grin, though Weiss could tell it was forced. "Because, Ice Queen Jr.," he said stressing the nickname, "then you wouldn't be able to see my beautiful face."
Weiss instantly went red, but he was out of the room before she could retort. As silence settled the small space, Weiss couldn't help but think, what a strange man.
Turning her attention back to the device in her hand, Weiss turned it over, running her fingers over the smooth metal casing, inspecting it. It was heavier than a normal compact scroll, and slightly thicker. Figuring she had nothing to lose, she opened it. The screen blared to life seconds later… and asked for a password. She sighed. Why couldn't things ever be easy? The heiress glanced at the door, considering asking Ferris for help, before figuring he would have told her if he knew. That left one other option. Opening the manilla folder, Weiss shook it, smiling when a small scrap of paper fell out into her hand. Unfolding it, she was surprised to see only three words.
Our Fairy Tale
Her eyes widened, her mind falling back to years past. To the first, and last, fairy tale she ever read. She was young, only six years old. Winter was still heiress at the time, and Weiss's closest friend. Their father had taken Winter for a two week excursion to Mistral to meet business partners. At the time, those two weeks had felt like eternity to Weiss.
The day her sister returned was one of Weiss's happiest, and as she remembered it, a small smile crossed her face.
It was all so vivid, so real. Winter strode through the massive doors and whisked Weiss away to the younger girl's room, bag in hand. Reaching into the bag she pulled out a thin, brightly colored book. The simple cover told a story all it's own. It was a pair of beautiful, silver eyes framed by black hair and olive skin. Above that, in block letters, was the title.
The Song of Seven Queens.
Her sister leaned in, their foreheads touching. Scrunching her nose she whispered. "Don't tell father."
Weiss readily agreed. Their father would never approve of such "idle distractions," as he'd call them. And so every night, for several weeks, Winter would sneak into Weiss's room, and they would read. The book wasn't very long, but the beautifully drawn pictures entranced the two girls, carrying them away from the crushing weight of reality and the stale air of the estate. The bright and exaggerated colors were a far cry from the historical pictures and classical paintings that filled their daily lessons. It was nothing short of pure magic.
Even more than that, though, the story was unlike anything Weiss had ever been taught. Seven Queens. Seven sets of silver eyes. Heroes, who in the end gave their own lives so the rest of the world might live.
It was around that time, a little earlier in fact, that the nightmares began. She knew that if she shared them with Winter, then her sister would do nothing but worry, and she feared what actions her father would take if he found out, so the young girl told no one. The fairy tale became an escape from the dreams of red.
After one particularly bad nightmare, Weiss woke gripped by terror. She ran to Winter's room, not knowing the older girl had gone early to her daily trainings. Unable to find solace in her sister, Weiss had sought the book, unaware of her father's prying eyes. When he saw what she held, he'd stormed into the room, tearing the book from her grasp. Grabbing her by the hair, he dragged her to his study and threw the small children's story into the burning flames of his fireplace. His voice was as cold as ice as she watched what felt like her heart burn to ash.
"You are a Schnee, and I expect you to act like it. You don't have time for childish things such as fairy tales. I do this Weiss…
"…because I care."
The young heiress gasped as she was mercilessly thrown back into reality, to the thick mattress and scratchy sheets, surprised by the hot tears that trickled ran down her cheeks and under the contours of her chin and throat. She had nearly forgotten all about it. Forgotten the smell of the delicate linen paper and the Mistrallin ink as it curled and crackled in the fire, turning to soft, grey ash, taking her childhood with it. She grimaced. Damn her father. And damn Winter, for bringing that book into their home. She sighed. It would do her no good to dwell on the past now. She had outgrown fairy tales long ago. Besides, she was a Schnee...and yet she couldn't help but feel that if maybe…
No. She didn't have time for what if's and regrets. She looked back down to the device, and quickly entered the words "song of seven queens." The device beeped softly before a play button appeared. Beneath it, it read one pending audio message. There was no other choice, and she had nothing left to lose. The heiress tapped the symbol and put the scroll up to her ear.
The man silently watched the three figures on the opposing roof top. He pulled his black cloak tighter around his figure, the shadows cast by the setting sun easily concealing him.
The people were a fair distance away, much further than human ears could hear. Of course, the man thought with a smirk, that would have mattered if he was human.
"But don't you think it's strange that the locks on our rooms malfunctioned the day after Team RWBY's attacked." The green haired one spoke as she paced the open roof. The anxiety in her voice was like sweet music to the man's ears.
The boy with the grey hair was the first to respond. "Will you calm down. No way they figured us out."
"Mercury's right." It was the final girl who spoke now. The man frowned. He could sense something different about her, something familiar. "I doubt Ozpin would risk his own students to flush us out. Besides, the attack is just the thing we need to spread fear. No one doubts the android was Atlesian. With a little push, the rumor might be exactly what we're looking for. And with RWBY's unexpected win this morning…" She chuckled. "Well, everything's back on schedule." She turned to the boy with the grey hair. "Mercury, I want to you to head to Forever Fall. Alert Adam that the time table has shifted. It all goes down tomorrow."
The man tuned out the boy's cry of complaints. Forever Fall. He shook his head in disapproval. First this group, and now another hiding in the woods. Truth was getting sloppy, letting pests infest his home. Now it was up to the man to exterminate them before things got out of hand.
Something caught his eye in the distance. Looking up, he saw the silhouette of the Kalypso, painted black against the setting sun. There was a dark presence about the ship.
How long had the man been wandering alone? The time for action was past due, and he had sat on the sidelines for far too long. He set a hand on the ornate kukri strapped to his waste, tracing his fingers across the four letters engraved on the handle.
F. S. t. L.
He took one final glance at the three figures, still plotting on the roof. He'd leave them for Truth. Till then, he had their friend to take care of, Adam, he heard the girl call him. He turned finally to the stalwart presence of Beacon tower.
"Truth." He whispered softly. "I'm back." With those words, the man disappeared. The rooftop lay empty, not a trace of his presence left behind, save the sweet, acrid stench of blood and death.
A/N: So, yeah, I wanted to talk a little bit about the direction that story is going. So, when I created this story I was working off the information presented in volume four. After that, I filled in other gaps with original content for my own purposes. So the world is kind of AU itself, it's not just Canon Divergence. Thought I'd warn about that before things get too intense.
Shout out to Not So Super Saiyan and dgschneider for the help with copy editing.
Also, shout out to my consistent reviewers. You guys bring me so much joy.
For the next chapter, let's shoot for three weeks from now, but if it's done early, it will be two weeks.
On a side note, the prologue and chapter one have been updated and change slightly (mainly the dream), if anyone is interested. I'd love to see what people think.
Please review, it makes me wanna write more.
Till next time