In my current DnD campaign, one of our party members was pregnant (by an aasimar NPC) and being targeted by the demon lord Graz'zt (or as we call him, Grilled Cheese after we killed him and took his sword). During the labour, the NPC was possessed by a fragment of Graz'zt's soul and unleashed a demon incursion into the heart of the dwarves' capital. So, our party had to fight this entire thing off in the fifth tavern we destroyed while the sorceress had to push out a half-rabbit folk half-aasimar kid.

Pretty much a lot of chaos we've caused since the start of this campaign. Now we need to worry about half our group getting thrown out of the dwarven capital because they were trying to keep this demon shit a secret. This is also after one of those two characters blew up a city to spite the empire she was enslaved under.

By comparison, the elven rogue and my aasimar paladin have plotted to burn the dark elves' shit to the ground (for enslaving the elven rogue's parent and him) and have kidnapped another king's right-hand man to end a war.


[Several Days Later]

Climbing the grand staircase, Yang half-heartedly listened to the rest of the manor's activities. Behind her, Willow was teaching Iris and Lily a lesson on reading in the foyer. Sun, Ren, Nora, Pyrrha, Ruby, May, and Penny played cards in the den. In the far distance, the sound of a hammer striking metal thundered into the cool air.

Tonight was the night Yang returned to the Old Valean ruins. If Weiss and Jaune could enchant armour for Ruby, there was one place she knew where an enchanting table was stashed. A mint condition piece was waiting for her to haul back to the house. So, she was willing to make the journey into the depths of Remnant.

Because Ruby needed this.

Yang could smell the scent of necrotic magic on her. It might not appear as anything to most anyone else, but it sent the Brawler's nerves alight. Enchanting it with something to shield against necrotic magic would mask that. Then, Ruby could continue on in her everyday life. Yang would rest easy if she could return to doing her adventurer thing.

Cinder was prepping the materials to take her back to the ruins as Yang wandered the house. Blake awaited their signal as well. So, it was only a matter of time before the trio could make the delve.

Maybe something great would come out of this? Only the following events would tell Yang. For now, she just had to suffer through the wait.

When Yang reached the apex of the stairs, she heard a shuffle coming from their new friend's room. Curious and able to spare time, the Dhampir crept quietly through the halls until she arrived at the door. Inside, she could smell the scent of Lara in the air. Opening her mind, Yang could feel a surge of emotion pouring off of her.

It was gut-wrenching.

Too late to realise her mistake, Yang witnessed what Lara had experienced. Being hunted by vampires in a dimly lit manor. She was beaten by her captors for fun while bleeding from bite wounds. Put on display at their gatherings for dozens of eyes to see like some piece of meat while wearing revealing clothing.

The worst came when Yang saw Lime barge into the small room she was kept in. Those she was locked away with were pulled out one at a time, then returned inconsolable an hour later. When it made it to her, Lara tried to fight but could nothing against a vampire as an ordinary young woman.

Yang had to pull away before she threw up. Blocking anyone else's mind from hers, she managed a few deep breaths to calm herself. She realised her claws were about to cut through her leather jacket from clenching at her chest. Yang immediately retracted them and smoothed her clothes so no one would notice.

Where is he? I want to kill that fucker myself...

Lime had disappeared off the radar. There was nothing to suggest where he had gone since he'd been cut in half. Hell, the rest of Vale's vampires ran for the hills, leaving only Yang and maybe two others. They were lucky because Yang desperately wanted to kill as many of them as possible to satisfy her anger.

She was happy to know her friends felt the same way about them. Even more that they were invested in helping Lara.

Walking up to the girl's room, Yang tapped the door several times to get Lara's attention. "Hey, Lara, it's Yang," the blonde called out. "Can I come in?"

Initially, there was no response. However, footfalls neared the door, followed by something heavy pulling away from the entrance. The object in question was discarded by the door, and a bolt came unlatched before slowly opening. On the other side, Lara peered slightly through the crack, realising who was there.

"Hi," Lara said, opening the door for Yang to enter.

Yang moved slowly as Lara watched her movements. As she stepped through the threshold, the fox-faunus shut the door behind her. Turning around, the blonde noticed a large wooden drop bar and an impressive iron bolt acting as a second latch. These, in tandem, turned the door into something most would be unable to crash through. Only the stronger members of their friend group would be capable of kicking it open on the first or second shot.

"Did Ren's potions work," Yang asked as she leaned against a pillar on the right side of the room.

She nodded her head. "A little," Lara then answered, rubbing her arm. "It helps take the edge off..."

"Good," Yang encouragingly replied. "But what are you up to right now?"

Looking around, the girls were settling in. Clothes were procured with that extra coin, but the room mostly lacked a personal touch. Lara's side had freshly dried garments set on the bed that was in the process of being folded. Next to the bunk, a large bag of money rested out in the open.

"I-I was washing my clothes," Lara answered nervously. "They were dirty..."

At least she's taking care of herself.

The slight improvement over laying in bed all day long was enough for Yang to be satisfied. However, it was going to be a long road ahead from here. Years in the making before anything could be said with confidence.

"That's good," Yang replied nonchalantly. "Did you find a spot to stash your coin yet?"

"My bag," Lara said, gesturing to her backpack. "I wanted to keep it with some of my things in case I had to leave."

Bug out bag? Smart move...

"What about burying half of it," Yang suggested. "Hide the stuff that's not coin and come back later if you need to? That gem isn't gonna be worth anything to most shopkeeps."

Splitting up the hoard ensured it wouldn't all disappear if someone stole her stuff. If that sapphire was worth as much as Cudgel suggested, it needed to be stored somewhere inconspicuous. At a later date, Yang would definitely help her sell it for gold bars or loose coins.

"Yeah, that sapphire's bad luck," Lara expressed, grabbing a few bits and baubles that weren't coins.

Lara's words left a bad taste in Yang's mouth. Joking it was due to the gem and not the selfish assholes who robbed her pissed Yang off. However, maybe it was a way for her to deal with that trauma. So, she bit her tongue and chose not to correct her.

"When you're ready, we can get rid of it," Yang said, grabbing the small lockbox Nora had broken and throwing it in a leather sack. "Then, you, me, and the rest of the girls can sell it. We can make it a girl's night out..."

...

Outside, Yang found a lantern and a shovel. Lighting the wick, it became bright for forty feet around the pair. Despite neither requiring the lamp, wandering through the dark was not ideal. Lara clung to Yang regardless of where she stood in the lamp's glow.

"Let's go pick a spot... Somewhere we'll remember."

"Over there?"

Lara pointed to a section behind the house near the well. It was along a stone wall made from any extra rocks pulled up during the construction of the orchards. About thirty paces from the well was the desired location.

Wandering to that point, Yang set the lantern on the wall, giving excellent lighting for the dig site. Lara kneeled and pulled a few rounded stones away, stacking them to the side. Yang took that as her cue to begin digging the hole. A few strikes with the iron shovel, and there was a good-sized hole. After a bit of digging, Yang got down about three feet with a gap wide enough to bury the lockbox.

"There, let's put everything in the box and wrap it in some leather," Yang said as she pulled the last bit of soil out of the hole.

Doing just that, they left a water-resistant stash of loot hidden at the base of the hole. As Yang replaced the dirt, Lara grabbed the stones and stacked them atop the hole. With a few more rocks randomly piled on top, it seemed pretty good from their point of view. There was no loose dirt to be seen.

"Nice," Yang expressed, tossing the shovel back towards the house. "Let's get back inside."

"Mhmm."

As they walked back, Yang paused momentarily when they arrived at the threshold. A question emerged in her head. Should she tell Lara about her mind-reading abilities? Tell Lara she knew what trials she was forced to go through?

It may have been some comfort to know a person understood her time as vampire cattle without having to speak the words. However, Yang didn't want to scare Lara. A breach of privacy like that and her finding out about it may do more harm than good.

No, let her talk to us if she's ready... Can't force the issue.

The big sister inside her wanted an easy way to solve the problem, but there was no method in her arsenal. So, all that was left was to deal with the dilemmas Yang knew how to handle. First and foremost was the enchanting table.

With a big hug from Yang, Lara returned to her room. Then, the Brawler set off in search of Blake. A fresh scent in the halls alerted the Dhampir of the direction she took. To the eastern side of the manor towards the library.

Turning into a mist when no one else was around, Yang darted through the halls until she reached the entrance to the library. In the brightly lit vault of knowledge, she found Blake standing atop a ladder. The girl had a stack of books with her, slowly shelving them one by one while noting their locations. Blake had not yet heard her arrival.

In her hands, the Assassin clutched a book with the title Ninjas of Love written across the cover. Yang knew it to be a book with adult themes because she had found a copy herself. It verged on becoming outright smut due to the sheer amount of the content being pornographic.

"Blake, we got a reader with a young mind; you might want to hide your porn somewhere else," Yang said from afar as she walked towards the ravenette.

Blake paused as the statement clicked inside her head. Realising how uncomfortable that situation would be if Lily got ahold of the book, Blake set it aside while grabbing two more from the shelf. Then she dismounted the ladder and locked them in a nearby case.

"I'm still getting used to that..."

"Eh, we had no idea we were gonna take a bunch of people in," Yang replied with a shrug. "The ruins were supposed to be quick and easy, but look how that turned out."

Walking past Blake, Yang turned and gazed upon the shelves of their library. Dozens of sections lined the wood-panelled walls, lit by bright orange magic torches. Blake only filled a small portion where possibly thousands could be contained. That meant the group had the opportunity to stock this trove with writings fitting their own tastes.

"Are you ready to go down there," Blake asked, moving to stand next to the blonde. "It's just going to be Cinder and us?"

"Small group, easier to move around the baddies," Yang expressed confidently. "If Cinder follows us all the way, she'll be the muscle if we really need it."

Blake gave a nod of understanding before turning around to grab a bag resting atop an armchair. Yang, already geared up, followed behind as the Assassin led the way to their Witch. Luckily for them, no one else was around to question why the girls were geared up and on their way out of the house.

"Are we going all the way with this thing," Yang pondered, running a hand through her hair. "If the hoard's got too much stuff between us and it, are we gonna back out?"

"I dunno..."

Wait and see, I guess.

"Then the deal's still on," Yang continued. "I help you drag as much of that gold out as we can; you help me get an enchanting table?"

"Yeah, that was the plan."

Probably got a lot of stuff on her mind. Usually, she's a bit more chatty...

Peering into Blake's mind, Yang was immediately shoved back out. Not as if by a conscious force, but something of a natural barrier. The Blonde couldn't even sense any magical energy coming off Blake that would explain a charm or spell. Any more than an ordinary spellcaster, at least. Jaune and Weiss were a rather intense presence due to their latent magic. Blake was below them but hovered above someone like Sun.

Maybe one of her stats is high enough to block me out? Which one?

Yang noted it and gave the fact no more thought. The pair reached Cinder's room by this point. The Dragonwitch had been awaiting their arrival, gesturing for them to come inside. Closing the door behind them, Cinder began casting a spell, causing a vortex to appear in the centre of the room.

"There, it should lead us to the ruin's entrance," Cinder explained, using her hands to further tear open the portal. "We can return by walking up to it."

Opens by itself. That's cool.

When Cinder stabilised the portal, Yang was the first one through. A blink of her eyes later, the girl was now standing in the middle of a muggy swamp. Cinder and Blake came through moments later, the portal humming loudly as they appeared. Then, the portal vanished from sight, hidden so no one else would stumble upon it.

Now, all Yang could hear were the chirping of insects and distant calls of nocturnal creatures. The swamp was alive and well. None too different from what she could remember at first glance. However, as she looked around, something felt off as time passed.

"Wasn't there water here," Blake said first, lighting a torch and shining over the banks of their island.

That's what was off about this whole thing. All the water that used to stand in the streams and pools of the wetland had disappeared. It was all damp mud and sand with critters attempting to make do with what little moisture was left here. A quick peek around the area found similar characteristics to adjacent pools.

"It's supposed to be wet this time of year," Cinder stated, shaking her head. "Maybe a drought?"

"Eh, it just means it's gonna be easier for someone to get inside," Yang expressed, moving away from the bank and to the ruin's entrance. "Come on, we gotta move these rocks out of the way."

The entrance had been concealed with rocks and branches the group had dropped a few weeks ago. It didn't look like anyone had disturbed them since then, so Yang got to work doing so. With Blake's help, the two pulled away enough debris to crawl through with cargo.

"There, that's done," Yang said, wiping her hands. "You coming, Cinder?" The blonde looked back to the Witch as Blake began making her way inside.

The look on her face was of apprehension. Yang could sense some fear coming off of her, but she managed to maintain composure well enough to be barely noticeable.

"I don't like being underground," she confessed bashfully.

Guess we all have our fears...

"Mmmm, then stick with us," Yang pleaded, moving to offer a hand. "You'll forget about it when we get into a fight." She looked around at the open monster-filled swamp. "Or you can stay out here in this creepy ass swamp with no one to keep you company?"

A distant shriek from some animal getting caught and killed by a predator made Cinder's hair stand on end. It became enough for the woman to eagerly crouch down and begin shuffling into the cave. Yang followed behind to bring up the rear. Fortunately for the Witch, the path was only a few feet long before reaching that first chamber.

"There, it wasn't that bad, was it," Yang asked in jest, dusting herself off and then patting Cinder on the shoulder. "So, when did you figure out you don't like going underground? Is it a new thing?"

"I'm picking up bits and pieces," Cinder replied plainly.

"Some more will come back eventually," Yang said encouragingly. "Just give it some time, and your bestest friends will break you down!"

That got Yang an eye-roll from Cinder.

"Come on, let's get moving," Blake spoke up, interrupting the two. "If we hurry, the three of us should be able to get to the other side of the ruins in an hour."

...

Wandering into the abandoned city was a sensory experience. Everything appeared like Yang was seeing it for the first time again. The chance to gaze upon this beautiful location again was savoured like a fine wine. Only this time, Yang knew what she was getting into. There was no fear about the unknown like the group had all possessed prior.

However, without the draugr, the city was now well and truly dead at its highest level. A carcass picked clean of anything valuable on the outside. Yang almost felt a melancholic sensation about what it used to be.

"Thanks for helping out with this, guys," Yang said as she stepped onto a collapsed pillar. "Really appreciate it. This enchanting table's gonna make things easy on us."

If we can beef up Ruby some more, I'm all for it. Then the rest of us can grab whatever enchantments we want.

I know Weiss can cook up something sweet.

"Of course, I had to return the favour for your friends getting me out of the ruins," Cinder expressed confidently.

"Awww, thanks," Yang replied in a teasing tone. "I didn't know you felt like that!"

Cinder blushed and looked away from the blonde. "You guys freed me from some prison without asking for anything back," she forced out in a harsh whisper. "I can't help but feel that way..."

"We've been making a habit of that sort of thing," Blake expressed monotonously. "If this goes well, you can say you've repaid it."

Nobody in their group even thought about compensation. That's how Yang knew this team was right for her and Ruby. They came for the personalities and stayed for the chance to do some good.

"And if you want to help some more, Blake's cooking up something from what I've heard," Yang continued the conversation as the trio made their way into the fungal caverns.

Here, the stench of draugr was all over the place. The dozens of dead bodies that Pyrrha, Ren, and Jaune wiped out remained to decay in a large pile. As they walked past it, rats and vermin scurried away from the torchlight into the crevices lining the street.

"From who," Blake coldly demanded with a side eye to Yang.

"A birdie or two," Yang admitted. "But, sparring with the King and his brother isn't very subtle."

"I was under the impression they were being sincere," Cinder expressed, having sat in on the conversation. "You think the King is working with them?"

Blake carefully looked around before taking a deep breath. "I don't have any evidence that he is, directly," she admitted. "All I know is there's a lot of money coming in from the south, and it's going to someone. I hoped the King might know about it."

Either he's playing dumb or doesn't know anything... Blake didn't get the reaction she was hoping for.

"Then, is that why you need the gold," Cinder questioned in a curious tone. "If you want to build a spy ring, I believe Professor Ozpin would offer some assistance."

"Part of it," Blake answered, ascending the stairs to their second camp. "If I can get some of it, I don't have to worry about making money off quests. I could take easy jobs and focus on finding some evidence."

"Good idea," Yang agreed, following behind. "I just don't believe Isaac doesn't know anything about it. He's the king! He's gotta know something, or maybe it's being kept from him."

There had to be some conspiracy at play here. It's the only that made sense in Yang's mind. But how would they keep that information from the King? Maybe there was so much he needed to worry about; it was just enough to slip under the radar?

...

The heat of the underground canyon and the humidity they caused hit Yang like a wall. In front of the party, a storm raged on due to the peculiar state of the cavern, blocking their vision beyond twenty feet. Blake and Cinder donned their cloaks to shield themselves, but Yang was left without and became soaked in a matter of moments.

However, the rain felt warm enough like it was bath water. A pleasant feeling across her skin as she pressed on towards the castle. Her boots splashed the water as it gathered in puddles among the many craters lining their path. Occasionally, a dead body would appear waterlogged and further succumbing to decay.

Focusing her senses, Yang couldn't pick up on anything. The rain made it impossible to discern a specific stimulus. Only that there was a thunderous roar all around from this shower. Luckily, that meant the Descendants wouldn't be able to track them in turn.

After a half hour of walking, the trio made it to the tunnel at the castle entrance. Before continuing, they stopped briefly to rest and dry out their clothing. Cinder reached into her bag, withdrew a piece of jerky, and handed some to the girls.

"It's been about an hour," Blake said after swallowing her jerky. "If we don't run into the Descendants, we should be able to make it to the altar soon. I'd say another three hours before we're back to the surface."

"We're not going to check out the side tunnels," Yang asked as she dried her hair. "There's a few I know we didn't follow."

Blake's map had those paths marked out. Around five or six, they never bothered to go down in favour of blazing the centre trail. However, they knew where the main hoard was. Getting that was definitely the priority. Yang merely wanted to take a peak just in case something was interesting.

They had the time.

"Doctor Oobleck can search those," Blake answered, shaking her head. "Whatever's in there isn't worth it."

Give the man something to do. I like it. Can't take all the fun.

Dr Oobleck would be spoiled rotten if most of the ruins were accessible. He would have work for decades to come, given how much there was here. Then there was every to write and publish their discoveries on top of the excavations.

The group began gathering their things after a few moments of rest. Right as they were about to set off, the stone above their heads flexed and whined as if something heavy moved across it. The trio froze at the noise, hoping to hear if it was intent on moving away or if the stone was settling.

Yang sniffed the air, smelling any scent it may have been giving off. However, she could only detect the faint smell of ammonia and iron. These two, in tandem, immediately set the girl on edge as she recognised their sources. Only one possibility clicked in her head. They were of the Descendants.

Cinder stepped back, retreating further into the cavern to put some distance between their assailant and them. A single click of her heel echoed in the tunnel, followed by a loud silence. Both Yang and Blake looked back at the Witch and then to the mouth of the tunnel.

There, the two heard a deep reverberating growl like that of a giant lizard such as a crocodile. Before any party member could think to run, the stone above their heads gave way, crumbling as this creature crashed through. The stone blocks composing this structure were nothing compared to the monster's strength.

Yang and Blake were showered with flying stones as the creature rushed to attack the pair. The Blonde's vampiric abilities allowed her to barely throw her assassin friend out of the way as their quarry barreled through the ceiling. All she could make out beyond the cloud of dust was the monster's giant maw emerging from within. A set of razor-sharp needle-like teeth ready to crush anything that found its way between them.

As the monster closed, the Dhampir was about to transform into a cloud of mist. Her outstretched right arm, having just thrown Blake, remained in the open. This monster moved far too quickly, even for her, allowing the beast to dive at the exposed limb. Yang watched as its massive teeth locked around the arm right above the elbow.

She didn't feel the pain of the bite, only her arm yanked out of its socket from the massive creature lifting her into the air. Blood poured from the wound as three razor-sharp teeth cut through her arm like knives. Yang's breath hitched in her throat when the monster charged forth, barreling down the tunnel with its catch locked inside its mouth.

A shout came from Cinder as she was knocked to the side by the creature. Yang could only see the woman attempt to pick herself off the ground as the monster carried her further into the tunnel. Blake chased after the pair, firing arrows in rapid succession, many striking the creature's back with little effect.

The beast slid around a corner, scraping Yang against a wall as it crashed into the solid stone surface. The blow knocked Yang out of her shock, focusing her on the situation at hand. Suddenly, the roaring pain from the bite wound erupted from the elbow, causing Yang to shout loudly. This scream startled the monster, compelling it to shake the Brawler to tear off a chunk of meat.

The monster shaking its head side to side, threw Yang up and down, crashing her into the wall, the beast's head, and its massive bony arms. Her arm began to tear itself at the bite wound, fraying tendons, snapping bones, and ripping flesh with little effort. All that kept her attached to the arm was the distal bicep tendon.

When the creature exited the tunnel, smashing through the stone gate at the stone troll's lair, Yang was flung to the side by a final shake of the monster's head. She then landed among the falling rocks and debris thrown around from the monster's entrance. Hitting the ground hard, the wind was knocked from her lungs, dazing her further as blood spilt out in large spurts from severed arteries.

Looking up from a prone position, Yang witnessed the monster lift its head and begin swallowing her arm. The last pieces of it slid down the beast's throat and into the depths of its stomach. It turned and looked at her as it tasted the meal's first course. The creature's small black, beady eyes hidden behind the biomechanical plates stared at her with a distant predatory hunger.

It only took a single step before Blake leapt from the gate and threw herself at the monster. Distracted by the Dhampir, Blake could close the distance as a blur. Her black cloak and hair flapped against her as she moved like an arrow loosed from a bow. Gambol Shroud cocked back in a reverse grip, held above the Assassin's head as she reached the monster.

Blake stabbed the longsword down at the beast using every bit of her strength, roaring as she leapt at the monster with bared teeth. The enchanted magic blade sliced clean through the heavy boney plates like butter, causing a tide of greenish blood to spurt from the flesh below. As the sword cut into the tissue, a burst of magical energy pulsed from the blade. A flame shot out from the incision, burning any flesh the steel touched in a sickening squelch.

The monster let out a thunderous screech as the pain of this ambush coursed through its entire body. A sword stabbed deep into its flank, causing the animal to thrash around in an attempt to free itself of the painful object. It twisted its body in circles, forcing Blake to retrieve a dagger and stab the monster to hold with a better grip.

I need to get in there...

Yang forced herself to stand, unable to watch her friend single-handily take down this monster. Despite the blood pumping out of her arm, she threw herself off the ground in an explosive display of strength, blowing dust and rocks away from her body with a single push of her arm. Claws and fangs coming out, her body overclocked itself at the activation of an ability.

Things slowed down for Yang as she moved faster than most anybody else could perceive. She ducked below the monster's giant claws with no effort, closing the distance between herself and it. The Brawler cocked back her left arm and thrust her clawed fingertips directly into the monster's abdomen.

Burying her arm below the armoured rib cage, Yang forced herself deeper. Reaching further into the chest cavity, she bit the monster's stomach to grab ahold of it as it thrashed. With it distracted by Blake, she snaked her arm up and grasped onto an organ that felt like it was beating. Sinking her clawed fingers into the flesh, Yang wrenched it away from the connective tissue binding it in place.

With a final tug, she tore it from the beast's chest. The sudden destruction of a vital organ caused the monster to pause. When Yang ripped it out of the abdomen, a deluge of green blood gushed and landed at the Dhampir's feet.

The monster collapsed, dropping to the floor in a resounding thud. Whatever life remained vanished in seconds as most of its blood was now outside rather than in. Then Blake dismounted the monster, realising how it had fallen and finally bearing witness to a vampiric Yang standing a few feet from her.

Blake leapt back, bearing her sword in a plough guard stance at her friend. However, she did not appear hostile. Only cautious.

"What's going on," Blake coldly demanded.

"Hold on a sec," Yang replied, wincing in pain.

Staring down at the stump that used to be her arm, it began bubbling as the flesh wriggled on its own. Within seconds, a whole new arm started growing faster than any regeneration possible by humans or faunus. It steamed as more flesh built upon the foundation of bone from her humerus. When done, the arm was hairless, without normal skin texture, and missing fingernails. Its soft, delicate pinkish skin was akin to a baby's rather than a teenager's.

"Fuck," Yang cursed loudly. "I didn't want anybody else to find out!"

She wasn't scared. Only angry at the circumstances. Just thinking about this secret getting out to the rest of her friends pissed her off. Yang had worked so hard to make it where she was now.

"That you're a vampire," Blake pointed out the obvious. "Who else knows? Pyrrha?"

"Gods no, Jaune kicked my ass that night when we 'got attacked by a vampire,'" Yang replied, emphasising their lie. "My dad, uncle, probably Ozpin and Goodwitch, and he are the only ones. Now you, because my luck fucking sucks!"

Yang turned and used her boot to crush the cave monster's skull. It was at that moment that another presence was detectable from behind. Yang looked over her shoulder to find Cinder also standing there. The look on her face told the Blonde that she had also heard the secret.

"I think Jaune's the worst person to find out about this sort of thing," Blake expressed as she watched the realisation become painted on Yang's face.

"That," Cinder said, pointing to Yang's newly grown arm, "also makes you a regenerator?"

"Can't kill me with anything but silver, I'm pretty sure, because that's my only weakness," Yang explained, kicking the monster's brains off her foot. "Accidentally chopped a finger off when I was a kid, and that shit regrew in a few seconds. Silver leaves a mark if that makes you guys feel any better."

"Kind of," Blake admitted, going to sheath her sword. "I knew you could see in the dark, but I thought you were part faunus. This makes more sense. If you had faunus heritage, there would be an obvious sign."

I would rather be a faunus. I wouldn't mind having cat ears or a tail. At least you're an average person.

"Then we can use your vampirism to our advantage," Cinder stated, walking towards the castle. "Down here, you don't have to worry about it anymore."

Hearing those words, Yang felt a little better about her situation. She could be herself for just a moment. Even if it didn't wholly lift the weight off her shoulders.

Thanks for trusting me, guys...

...

Following Cinder, Yang and Blake retraced the path the prior expedition took. First crossing the underground lake using the Dhampir's unique traits, they finally made it to where the Descendants were camped. It was the first time Yang saw how this humanoid race lived.

Peering over the ridge from the crystalline cave, Yang observed the village remnants. There was nothing left. Most of the huts were taken down and moved somewhere else. Only some broken structures or what couldn't be carried remained.

"They're still down here," Blake said in surprise at their findings.

"It's possible there were more camps," Cinder expressed, rising to her feet. "I'd say any survivors went to find shelter with them."

Good...

Yang didn't know how she would handle running into that big bastard again. Maybe he was under control by that Silent King, but it didn't change how she felt. It was better the two didn't see each other again.

"Yang, any sign of those things," Blake asked, kneeling along the canyon's edge. "I'm not hearing anything below us."

"No, I don't smell anything new," she replied, dusting herself off. "If they were around, I have their scent. But I do hear water."

It sounded like thousands of gallons flowing into a basin. Yang couldn't pinpoint the source, but it was close enough for her senses to pick up on it. However, this area didn't have stable geology, so she could also hear the caves shifting around them. All she could say for sure was there was a lot of noise.

Not taking any chances out in the open, Yang grabbed her companions and leapt across the crevice below as a mist. They landed softly on the other side within the close confines of the tunnel leading into the ritual chamber. Behind the embrace of the outer walls, nothing the size of that cave monster could reach them.

"Any theories on what the hell those monsters are," Yang asked the group as they shuffled further into the tunnel. "Never seen something that aggressive on the surface."

"Clearly, they live in the deepest levels of the caves," Cinder began. "They only come up here for food since they're not common. I'd say they're also the apex predator down here."

"Those Descendants are terrified of them," Blake added. "They're the tyrants of the caves."

Good one...

"Cave Tyrant sounds like a good name."

"We can suggest it to Doctor Oobleck."

Slowly, the trio forced their way into a more open portion of the tunnels. The catacombs the group had come across prior were still intact. Nothing had changed regarding their condition. However, the chamber had a thin layer of water coating the floor.

Is that why I hear water?

Yang looked to Cinder and Blake for confirmation before pushing forward. All the vampire could smell was earth and ancient corpses. No Descendants or cave tyrants around. She could only hear the sound of water or the rocks around shifting and grinding against each other.

After a few more minutes of walking, the trio returned to the larder. Here, gold was still piled against the walls haphazardly but now covered in ankle-deep water. Reaching down, Yang scooped up a small collection of necklaces and coins coated in muck. Each was still in okay condition, but the gold-plated coins were losing their gilded surface.

Only a drop of what Blake said was here...

Yang pocketed the valuables before moving on. There were still more, but they could quickly return for those pickings. The hoard was most important here.

However, Yang began to notice something as she passed by the barracks and larder. The further they went, the water seemed to rise. It was at their shins, and they had quite a distance. When they parted the veil leading to the chamber before the hoard, it revealed a heartbreaking surprise.

Much of the chamber had collapsed down the stairs and was filled with water. From here, twenty feet away, there was a rock wall blocking their path and ten feet of water before you could see the ground. The blockade of boulders did not have any gap Yang could make out from here.

If the description of the remaining chambers was accurate in Yang's head, there had to be fifty feet of water covering the hoard. She couldn't even imagine how many fallen rocks blocked the way to it either. With the bag of holding, there was no way for them to swim there and back with small amounts of gold at a time.

"No," Blake quietly said aloud. The shock in her voice was palpable. She couldn't believe it. "No way... No-No-No- No-No-No-No-NO! GODS DAMMIT!" The faunus shouted and slammed her first into a nearby wall with a shout. The wall crumbled slightly from the blow, and Blake clutched her hand in pain, massaging the throbbing limb.

Yang could see the expression on her face. It was anger and devastation at the loss. A part of the girl clearly wanted to try sifting through the rubble for an opening, but the logical side of her stopped it. Yet, she could hardly cope with how close they were to their goal.

"Is there anything you can do, Cinder," Yang asked with a grey expression.

"No, unfortunately," she replied, shaking her head. "I would if I could."

"I'm sorry, Blake," Yang expressed, turning back to the Assassin. "We were so close..."

I guess we'll need Dr Oobleck's help.

"Let's grab what we can and leave," Blake mumbled with her head hung low.

Yang watched her friend turn and walk back into the tunnels. Blake threw on her hood as she knelt down to grab the discarded treasure, attempting to not let anyone see her face. The way she moved and carried herself told the Blonde she was hurting.

There's more to it...

[Weiss]

Weiss stood completely still as she observed an insect crawling amongst the bioluminescent grass. With bright glowing marks on its exoskeleton, this beetle waddled along, paying no mind to the Mage. It wasn't until the insect came into an opening in the bed did Weiss strike. She used a small lid to coax the bug into a container, capping it inside as her newest specimen.

It's a chafer beetle...

Standing up, Weiss turned around and brought the specimen to a bag a few feet away from her. Nearby, Jaune was sitting on a rock with a paper in hand, jotting something down. As she slid the container inside her satchel, the girl sat down to rest for a moment.

The warmth of this cave washed over her as Weiss took a second to savour it. Earthen scents and a gentle hum of this cavern filled her mind. A few feet away, a mushroom played a light chime, ringing like a bell almost. Not musical in any way, only a natural sound it created, yet pleasant on the ears.

"What are you writing," Weiss asked, looking over at the boy.

Jaune peeked over in her direction as the question registered in his ears. "Another letter back to Bar," he answered while still scribbling. "I want to let them know about some of the stuff we've been up to." He then reached for another paper and revealed some pictures he'd drawn.

The first was of the Alpha. Drawn in charcoal, the shading and work of Jaune's artistic skills made him seem more intimidating than what the group had encountered. The scene he depicted was the group's final confrontation with him. Pyrrha stood in the background, recovering from another blow that had been delivered to her, while the others were very distantly fighting off the horde of Grimm in the distance.

"These are really good," Weiss complimented as she looked through the rest of them.

The second picture was the group setting up camp around the dead wyvern. This image was nearly lifelike in how it was drawn, with even the scale of the beast and the minute details perfectly drawn. Their friends and Weiss herself were sketched out impeccably.

"Thanks, I wanted to send them something they can see," he replied with a smile. "Now, I need to figure out how to write about it. I haven't even told them about going to Beacon or the Torchwick stuff yet."

We'ss' eyes narrowed ever so slightly at the mention of Beacon. She couldn't judge because her motives for attending the Academy were a partial lie to her father. However, Weiss had expected him to be more forthright about that to his family. They seemed so close in her mind.

"They don't know you're here," Weiss questioned.

Jaune took a deep breath, seemingly realising what he had let slip. "Nope, I left them a letter, saying I was leaving to find my own way," he explained sombrely. "The only thing I told them about my time here is going through ruins and working with a mage." He let out a light laugh. "I don't know how I'm gonna tell them about Torchwick and if they need to watch out for someone like him."

"They'll be fine if they're lower class," Weiss replied, trying to give him peace of mind. "Especially with how far they are away from Vale. I don't think a revolt would make it out into the country. But, we should be worried ourselves if something does happen."

"Any ideas?"

"Help Professor Ozpin, for one," Weiss began, counting off with her fingers. "Then plan for any contingency such as Beacon falling because someone took advantage of Torchwick. If Beacon is taken, Vale may also plunge into their hands, which means those who supported the King could be killed or worse. So, we may have to leave the Kingdom if the worst becomes a reality."

This exact process isn't how Weiss honestly expected things to go. Ozpin appeared clever enough to be able to route Vale's foes with a well-placed strike. He just needed the right people and knowledge of where to combat their enemies. Hopefully, the group's actions gave him a headstart to quash this thing before it got out of hand.

"Then we put your mom on a boat with Iris, Lara, and Lily and send them back to Solitas," Jaune expressed, cupping his chin. "It's the safest place for them. The rest of us could cash out and go somewhere else?"

"We should stick together," Weiss argued first. "Then, go to Sanus's eastern ports and try for Anima. I'm sure Haven would take us in."

"Start our Mistral vacation a year earlier than we wanted," Jaune jested.

Weiss smiled slightly at the turn of events. She didn't want to leave Vale until they were ready to make such a trip. She was happy here. But as long as their friend group was together, they could make things work.

The Mage wouldn't know what to do otherwise if it were only her and one other person from their team. She would be too nervous if she and Jaune were on their own right now. Ruby and she would be okay as partners wandering Remnant alone. The three of them, however?

I need to have a plan if we're separated from each other... Make sure I end up with Jaune and Ruby, so I'll have the best chance.

As the two sat there in silence, Jaune appeared to get an idea in his head and began drawing something else. Curious, Weiss stood up and wandered over to inspect the sketch. The Paladin was drawing out the design for a spear. An intimidating weapon with a point forged from the bones of a dragon. The shaft was forged of steel with spiralled carvings running along its length to an elegantly crafted pommel containing a power source.

"A new weapon?"

"Yeah, if we're going to Mistral because of everything falling apart, then I want to get some stuff ready before it can happen," Jaune explained, penning the last few details of the sketch. "So, this can be Pyrrha's new spear. Then, I can put Nora's hammer together when we find an enchanting table. All she's gonna need is a lightning enchantment and an enchanted steel head."

The passion with which he spoke of these crafts sounded like a young child telling their parents about something cool they saw. Like an artist explaining their works to a group of gathered spectators. The sort of fervour Weiss appreciated in a person. And he shared that excitement with the Mage without hesitation.

"So, what about you," Jaune asked, breaking Weiss' head fog. "Did you want anything else made? I can fix up your chest plate or custom make one."

"Reforging the piece would suit me fine," Weiss answered after some deliberation. "I will be enchanting as much of our gear as possible, however, so I think we can work together on that project."

"Nice!"

It warmed Weiss to hear that. No hesitation in working alongside her on further projects. Precisely what she sought out in revealing her lineage to a select few.

"I know Yang was looking fo-"

Behind them, something shuffled in the darkness. A low growl emerged from deeper within the cavern. The sound was vaguely humanoid, with a series of clicks followed by a loud bark. Like if someone were clicking their tongue loudly against the roof of their mouth.

Suddenly, Jaune shot to his feet and unsheathed his blade with a wide-eyed expression. Seeing what Weiss could not in the low light, she focused her eyes in the direction he faced. Casting a candlelight spell, the Mage sent the ball of light further down to reveal what stalked the darkness.

A humanoid shape emerged from behind a giant mushroom stalk a dozen feet away. When the light graced its body, it showed a horrific image. What used to be a man had turned into something terrifying. Covered in hardened plates all over their body, thin filaments snaked under the skin like a network of enlarged veins. These plates and what appeared to be some sort of root glowed with the same bioluminescence the mushrooms and cave creatures possessed.

It paused where it stood, twitching as it clicked its tongue and snapped its head toward some faint stimuli. Only then could Weiss tell that it was blind. These filaments grew into the eyeballs, or the face was partially covered by the plates, ensuring it could only hunt via these clicks.

When Jaune shuffled, his heavy armour ground against itself, creating a light clang nearly imperceptible among the sounds of the cavern. However, to this creature, it wasn't. The thing snapped its head towards them and shrieked as it darted in their direction.

Weiss drew her blade and stood her ground as it charged the pair. Neither teen yielded as Jaune stepped forth, raising his blade above his head before slicing down at what was once a human. The flesh gave way to steel when the sword crashed into its shoulder, carving a fine line straight through its body.

As Crocea Mors stopped inside the human body's centre, Jaune pulled it away before kicking the person back. As it landed in the damp soil, the person attempted to grasp for the pair despite gushing blood from what should have been a fatal wound, snarling like a rabid animal. From the mangled maw of the creature, it spat saliva and blood between shouts as it clawed its way towards them.

It stopped attacking when Weiss placed her rapier into the person's exposed eye. A single strike to the brain shut everything down. Whatever compelled this person to attack the pair seemed to lose control with such a wound.

Is it a zombie?

No, this person was still alive... It's not like any undead I've seen before. So, it has to be a disease of some kind.

As Weiss knelt to further examine this case, Jaune grabbed her shoulder, pulling the girl back from the corpse. She was going to question him, but then she heard more things coming from the cavern around them. What startled the boy became evident to her.

These afflicted were emerging from the darkness in front of them. Weiss counted a few dozen at least. The same malignancy affecting each of these humans as the first they encountered. Those who could see stared at the pair with eyes bearing a ravenous hunger. The rest began shuffling towards their ground as soon as they picked up their scent or sound.

This is bad...

Simultaneously, Weiss and Jaune dropped everything and ran. The Mage turned and bolted back towards the cavern entrance with the assistance of her spells. Jaune sprinted after her using his greater strength to propel himself further. However, the two could hear the afflicted behind them.

They were on their heels. Whatever limits their bodies once possessed were rendered null from this infection they suffered. A single glance back at Jaune and Weiss could see the pack a few feet away. They tried to reach for the boy, only to trip on themselves and crash to the ground as the horde bunched up.

We need to make some ground on them!

Leaping over a fallen fungal stalk, Weiss darted for the underground lake. Jaune followed behind, trusting her plan without hesitation. As she neared the lake's shore, Weiss began casting a spell. A faint dance of ice crystals in her hands grew and grew until it became a large ball of snowflakes. Just as it reached its apex, the Mage thrust her hands out, sending the ice magic across the water.

"Snowstorm," Weiss whispered with a reverberating voice.

The spell crossed the water, freezing anything it graced as this magic ball raced to the opposite shore. In its wake, a frozen path of solid ice was left for Weiss to run across. As she went to use the bridge, something crashed into her back. A pair of arms lifted her off the ground and turned her to face the rear.

Just a foot away, one infected swiped at the pair with its jagged fingernails. Weiss shot an icicle from her hands out of reflex, piercing the woman straight through her chest. The blow stopped her, but a dozen others behind her were catching up.

"I'll run, you shoot," Jaune shouted, crouching slightly as he rocketed off his toes.

Suddenly, Weiss felt her entire body jerk from inertia, and the ice below shattered as Jaune put everything he had into this burst of speed. In a few seconds, the pair raced beyond twenty miles an hour, only going faster the longer Jaune had a straight track to run on. The speed at which they moved caused Weiss' hair to flap against her and Jaune's back, obscuring her view of the pursuing infected.

The little she could make out was the infected slipping on the crumbling ice and bogging themselves down in the shallow water. Those in the rear of the pack began circling around the lake's shore. So, Weiss lobbed barrages of ice shards at a range to widdle their numbers down to single digits. These massive spears of shining blue ice skewered each infected, pinning them to the ground or nearby fungal trees.

However, despite the severe wounds dealt by these blades, the infected continued to push onwards. The infected pressed forward, ripping their arms off or tearing themselves a gaping hole in their abdomen. Weiss watched those wounds almost immediately seal via the root structures embedded in every corner of their bodies. Losing limbs did not matter in the slightest to them.

We need to use fire or sever the brain stem... I can only slow them down.

Reaching the other side of the lake, Jaune carried Weiss to the cave entrance. The infected were far behind the pair by now, yet neither dropped their guard. Both kept their heads on a swivel for any surprises from the darkness.

Slipping into the passage to the surface, Jaune dropped Weiss to allow her to run ahead. Behind them, the infected shouted and screamed as they chased, and it only grew closer to them. Before they could swarm the pair, Weiss raised a wall of ice at the tunnel's threshold. This effectively sealed the way through as long as Weiss kept her concentration up.

"Good," Jaune expressed breathily. "We need to tell the group about this."

"Let's barricade the door first," Weiss harshly whispered back.

The iron door from the cellar had been recycled for the tunnel. Though solid, Weiss was terrified of the infected crashing through it in the middle of the night. Their first priority was sealing the tunnel or barricading the door until they devised a plan to clear the cavern.

With a nod from Jaune, he followed Weiss back topside. The second they crossed into the basement, the Paladin turned and slammed the door shut before locking it with a bolt. Only then could the two take a breath, sliding to the floor with their backs pressed against the iron door.

That was worse than the spiders...

"I think Weiss said she was gonna be down in the cave," Ruby expressed from the top of the stairs.

"Ugh, down there," Nolan complained at the thought. "That place sounded so creepy."

"Come on, Nolan, you got your magic," Nora chirped, slapping the boy on the back. "If something pops out at you, just blast him!"

Rounding the corner, Weiss spied the trio with a few more members in tow. May, Brawnz, and Roy, to be specific. When they laid eyes on the pair, each was puzzled by the exhausted adventurers covered in mud and sweat.

"Are you guys okay," Brawnz said, moving to offer a hand to the two.

"They didn't get us," Weiss explained through deep breaths. "But there are people down there. They're infected with something."

Suddenly, something charged the doorway. As a human-sized creature rammed the door, the resounding thud caused everyone to leap away from the threshold. It immediately prompted them to grab heavy furniture and move it in front of the door. Bookcases, crates or anything that would keep the door shut was thrown against it.

"That's gotta be why they bricked the hole up," Ruby concluded, holding her scythe at the ready. "But what were they doing down there?"

"I dunno, but everyone should be careful if they're in the forest," Jaune replied, checking the bolts holding the door.

"You guys think it's safe here," Nora asked, grabbing another crate to shore up the barricade. "We wanted to talk about the party, but if those guys are down there, maybe we should push it back?"

"No, I haven't seen anything like that in the woods," May countered. "I would know if there was an opening."

I trust her...

May knew every inch of these woods, supposedly. If these infected escaped somehow, she or a local would have encountered one. That meant the cave was at least a sealed environment, or the infected had not found a way out. Since there were no reports of zombie-like outbreaks in the area either, this would be their first encounter.

"Then why don't Ruby and May do patrols of the forest," Weiss suggested. "The rest of us can stay here and set up or guard the mansion. We move the feast to the village if we don't feel safe."

"Roy and I will take the horses," Brawnz said. "We'll go around the village and check everything."

We know what's down there now. If anything tries to come to the surface, we'll be ready for them.


The cave below the manor is home to my favourite zombies!

But the horde of gold is currently blocked from the party due to the chamber falling apart. Yang also cannot be killed by anything that isn't silver, so she's a tanky girl.

My plan is to speed things up going forth. Like, have the party next chapter and a few more things come up to advance the plot.