I know that one or two people have pointed out how Salem wanting to live clashes with recent canon, and also the fanon I've used before in Professor Arc. The idea that Salem wants to die was predicted ages ago. Still, she also wants her revenge first and that's what I'll be sticking to on this story because what would the point be of taking Ozpin's words in the show as literal gospel?

People's motivations are usually a little deeper than "one thing" and one thing only. Otherwise, if she "only" wanted to die then she wouldn't be competing against Ozpin and the cast at all. She allegedly wants to die and punish those she believes are responsible, etc.


Chapter 2


Jaune Arc lay on his back with an arm above his face, blocking out the fearsome sunlight burning down on his vulnerable body. Sand whipped by his ear and a tiny spider huddled in the shade cast by his shoulder. Birds circled high above, eyeing their potential snack and waiting for him to expire. In all honesty, he was surprised he wasn't dead already.

"I'm no mechanic, my goddess, but I think it's broken."

Tyrian stepped back with a nod, pleased with his assessment of the flaming piece of twisted metal wreckage buried nose first into a sand dune. Its engine fell off with a horrific clang, thudding down into sand and wedging there. Beside it, dressed in her tattered long robes, Salem hummed, one hand on her chin and her pale blonde hair fluttering in the breeze.

"Are you sure, Tyrian? Have you tried giving it a good kick?"

"No amount of kicks are going to save that," Jaune moaned.

"Is that so? Are you a mechanic now? No? Then don't knock it until you try it!" Salem snapped. "Tyrian, kick the thing!"

"At once my goddess! Hyah!" The sound of flesh striking metal echoed across the desert. "Arghhh! My foot!"

"Did it bite you?" Salem demanded. "Bad Bullhead. Bad. No servant of mine shall act in such a childish manner. Tyrian, kick it again. It should have learned its lesson by now."

Jaune sighed as he heard another strike, another cry and Salem's furious rant about the aircraft getting too big for its britches. She ranted at the inanimate object until she was out of breath, then stomped over to Jaune, turned around and sat on his chest! Aside from the air being blown out of him, the sudden fact a shapely woman was squashing her butt into him was more than a little distracting.

"W-What are you doing?"

"I am thinking, peasant. What does it look like?"

"O-On my chest…?"

"Just as a queen's feet do not touch the ground, nor does her derriere. Cease your squirming. I am plotting our next course of action."

"But you don't even know where we are!"

"Of course I do," she said, laughing dismissively. "A vast desert such as this can only belong to the Empire of Venestrad."

"Vacuo," Tyrian coughed.

"Vacu-what-now? What happened to Venestrad?"

"Malik the Sunderer's empire fell almost a thousand years ago," Tyrian said dutifully. "It's called the Kingdom of Vacuo now."

"Is that so? What a shame. Well, times come and go, let's speak to the royal family of Vacuo and see what they can offer."

"Actually, my goddess," Tyrian said awkwardly. "It's a democracy now."

Salem stared at him for a long moment. "Then why in the name of the brother gods is it called a Kingdom!?"

Tyrian shrugged.

"Whatever. Fine. I am still the best bet at saving us from this unfortunate situation," she said. "After all, I was educated by the finest minds of our people. I know how to weave cloth, ride a horse and predict the future through the entrails of a mountain goat."

Jaune groaned. "We're doomed."

"Fear not, I won't let you die yet. I still need you around to fix the mess you've put me in. Tyrian, I assume this Kingdom – or whatever they want to call it – still has a capital city, yes?"

"Vacuo, my most deific master."

"There." She slammed her fist into her palm. "Then that is our destination. We will travel to this Vacuo, seek shelter and plan our next move. That is my plan." She smiled. "You may commence with your praise."

Tyrian threw himself to his knees in front of her, and by extension Jaune, weeping into the sand and whispering words of awe. Jaune simply lay there, questioning in his head why the vultures weren't already ending his tortured existence.

"And how," he asked, "do you expect us to make it to Vacuo?"

"On foot, of course. Your feet, that is."

"I guessed that. I meant what direction. We're in the middle of the desert. Do you even know where Vacuo is? Do you even know where anything is?" He slammed a fist down on the sand. "Face it. We're dead. You've crash landed us in the middle of the desert without food, water or any hope of survival." His voice rose in a scream. "WE'RE DEAD!"

Salem crossed her arms and peered down at him. "Are you done?"

Jaune opened his mouth, paused and then closed it. "Yeah. I think so."

"Good. As for directions, that is simple." Her hand rose. "We'll ask them."

Jaune's head rolled back so hard his neck cricked. Through the haze of misty mirage and burning hot sand, the vague shape of a caravan train could just be seen.

/-/

As luck would have it, the caravan was already making its way toward them and arrived within fifteen minutes. Huge, muscular camels pulled brightly coloured wagons fixed with pennants, flags and exotic charms. The men and women and even children peered out from inside, wrapped from head to toe in bright cloth in shades of pink, cream, blue, orange, green and every other colour you could think of.

Their clothes were also heavily patterned, some with triangular weave, others with stripes or dots. No two people wore clothing that looked the same, and all had wraps about their heads to keep moisture in and heat out. The man in the lead reached up to pull the cloth over his mouth away, letting it fall and reveal a dark-skinned face with a beaming smile.

"Stars bless us," the man said in a thick and warm accent. "We feared the worst when we saw your airship crash, but to find any alive and well – truly, this is a wonderous day."

All of Jaune's worries faded away. The man looked far too happy to have ill intention, and seeing children cheer from the wagons only made that more obvious. "You came to check on us?"

"Of course! I am Asol, son of Amon." He clasped Jaune's hand warmly. "You are twice blessed to have survived such a landing. Were all of yours so fortunate?"

"We all lives, yes. I'm kind of surprised…"

"Why are you speaking for me?" Salem asked sharply. "You'll only muck this up." Striding forward, she yanked Jaune away from the man and stood before him imperiously. "I am Salem, Queen and Goddess. This is my retainer, Tyrian, and my slave, Jaune. I demand accommodation as befits my status."

Asol and his people stared at her, gobsmacked.

Jaune could have screamed.

"What she's saying!" he shouted, jumping between Salem and Asol again. "Is a joke! Ha ha! Funny! I'm afraid that even if we all survived the landing, she took a bit of a knock to her head."

"No I didn't."

"-and she's taken to referring to herself by strange titles. Please don't think anything of it. The heat and thirst might have gotten to her as well."

"Ah." Asol clapped a hand to his face. "I have shamed myself! Quick, water for our guests – what are you all waiting for? They have spent hours in the burning heat. Let none claim our hospitality lacking!"

Several people hopped down off the wagons and uncorked large jars of what Jaune assumed contained water. Pails were dipped in, and a woman offered him a crystal clear cup with a bright smile. A man offered one to Tyrian and a small child beamed up at Salem, holding out a cup with both hands. He feared the worst.

"I accept this offering," Salem said regally. "Rejoice, child."

Judging from the look on the little boy's face, she'd made his day. All three of them drank deeply, relishing the cold, sweet taste. It must have been a sign for Asol's people as they quickly disembarked and began to make camp, erecting tents and shelters in the sand.

"Tell me who you are, travellers. And why does she call you slave?"

Jaune sweated only a little. "I-It's a pet name," he lied. What else could he do? He didn't know if these people could withstand Tyrian. He had to play along. "The same as how I call her Goddess and my Queen."

Asol blinked. Smiled. Winked. "Ah. Say no more, my friend. I understand completely."

"I have a feeling you don't…"

"When my Inessa smiles, I am but a slave. What she asks of me, I give willingly." He laughed suddenly. "Goddess and Queen? Perhaps you speak the truth all men know deep inside!"

A few of the women nearby giggled and elbowed one another, while men laughed, and some made the sound of a cracking whip. Jaune's cheeks grew darker and darker, which probably only confirmed their theory. "It's not like that!" he whined.

"Of course it's not! Every man is a warrior, the king of his hearth – but all kings need a queen, no?" Asol slammed a fist against his back. "We will not separate you from yours! You shall have my caravan tonight, while I rest out beneath the stars."

"That's really not necessary!"

"The bed is big enough for two, but please…" Asol winked. "Try not to break it."

A hand fell on his shoulder from behind. He feared the worst – then feared it doubly so when he found Tyrian watching him with narrowed eyes. This was it. He was dead. Jaune Arc whimpered.

"You called her your goddess," Tyrian whispered. Then, suddenly, hugged him. "You have seen the light!"

"And this Tyrian," Asol said. "Who is he?"

"I am-"

"He is my uncle!" Jaune blurted out.

Tyrian sucked in a deep breath of air, eyes widening.

"He's also really bad at social interaction so please ignore half-to-everything he says."

"I am not!" Tyrian whined. "Watch. Asol!"

"Yes, friend?"

"Are you a virgin?"

"No, friend."

Tyrian smiled proudly. "See? I'm socialising."

Jaune spun his finger around his ear while staring intently at Asol. The man nodded solemnly back, quietly accepting that Tyrian wasn't quite all there. Hopefully, that would be enough to excuse any odd behaviour from him.

"You are all guests of the tribe tonight," Asol said. "We make for Vacuo in the morning to restock. Will you travel with us to the city of sand? I assure that you shall be cared for until we reach it."

"That saves me demanding you escort us there," Salem remarked.

"And by demand she means ask," Jaune said.

"No. I meant demand."

"It's a regional dialect."

"Where are you from again?" Asol asked.

"The Grimmlands."

"Vale."

Asol's eyebrow rose.

"We're from a frontier village far away from the main cities," Jaune said, not technically untrue on his or her part. "It's so heavily contested by the Grimm that it might as well be called Grimmlands. You know how it is, the cities only look after their own and all that."

"Your Queen is an odd one, my friend."

Jaune sighed. "Tell me about it…"

/-/

Ozpin was a man who had been many men before and would likely be many men again in the future. He was a man who had made mistakes, some small, some great, and who had this night made the mistake of promising Glynda he would have the school's database updated after initiation. He was a man staying awake on 9% willpower, 11% coffee and 80% concentrated power of fear for what Glynda would do if he didn't get this done by morning.

He was not a man best pleased to find a blackbird pecking aggressively at his window. Sighing, he stood and walked over, opening it and letting the bird hop inside.

"Qrow, this had best be important. Also, I have an elevator."

"I have wings," the once-bird-now-man said. "Your argument is invalid."

"What have you found?"

"Not much if I'm honest," the huntsman said. "I expected a lot more movement after Amber was attacked, but she's gone quiet. Very quiet. I was able to fly into the Grimmlands-"

"Qrow! I've told you how dangerous that is!"

"I know. I know. The Grimm are barely paying attention, though. Nevermore just let me go, ignoring me like I was any other bird. I tried changing back and sure enough they rushed me, but they let me go once I was a bird again."

"How strange." Salem knew of Ozpin's magic and had to the best of his knowledge instructed that no animals be allowed into the Grimmlands. "I'd have expected more activity given that the overall level of aggression appears to have increased. The Grimm are more active than ever. Were you able to reach her tower?"

"I didn't go that far. Didn't want to push it."

"That's probably for the best. I'll need to get in touch with James and see what is happening on his end. Leonardo, too." Ozpin coughed mildly. "I've been out of the loop since catching this flu. On the bright side, your nieces performed admirably in initiation."

"Heh. Knew they would. Any other noticeable ones?"

"Pyrrha Nikos, naturally. Weiss Schnee as well." Ozpin's fingers drummed on the table. "There was one thing I was surprised by." He moved over to the computer, gesturing for Qrow to follow. "This gentleman, Jaune Arc, was supposed to be attending but failed to show."

Qrow hummed. "Case of the nerves?"

"Perhaps, but when Glynda attempted to call him to confirm his failure to attend, his scroll did not connect. She then contacted his next of kin and they claim that their son did not leave to attend Beacon at all. According to them, he had told them he was going to Vale to study in college."

"Arc. Arc. Nicholas' boy?" Qrow's question earned a nod. "He wouldn't let any of his kinds become a huntsman. Sounds like a classic case of a kid running away from an overprotective parent. College. Hah. Sounds like something I'd say. So, the kid is missing?"

"It seems so."

"Feels crappy to say it but the Grimm might have got him…"

"Yes. That does seem to be his likely fate." Such a shame, and for one so young. "Still, I'm going to ask people to keep an eye out for him. As little as Nicholas may like me, I have fond memories of him. Please contact me if you see the boy."

"Will do. What about Salem?"

"For now, we will have to see what it is she's doing," Ozpin said. "If she has gone quiet then it can only be because she is plotting something most nefarious. Be on your guard, Qrow." Ozpin's eyes narrowed. "There is no telling what evil is afoot."

/-/

"My foot hurts." Salem shoved it in Jaune's lap. "Massage it."

They were in the middle of Asol's camp eating when the request – and he used the term lightly – came. Women all around them giggled and men catcalled. Salem simply stared at him, her green-blue eyes demanding obedience. Knowing that she'd only argue and say something that would get him in trouble if he didn't, Jaune woodenly picked up her foot and began to knead his thumbs into her skin.

"More food, my lady?" a young girl asked sweetly.

"Yes." Salem took the plate of dried, spiced meat and popped a little into her mouth. "Well done, child," she said dismissively. The girl beamed. "Hm. This is delicious. Jaune, you should learn the recipe so you can cook this for me in future."

More giggles.

Jaune sighed. "Yes, my queen…"

"He serves you so well," Asol's wife, Inessa, said with a hand over her mouth. "You've certainly trained your man well, Salem."

Salem didn't catch the innuendo. Why should she? Having Jaune referred to as "her man" simply confirmed the notion that his life belonged to her – the natural order of things as far as she was concerned.

"It's a work in progress. He is doing well enough, all things considered."

"Well enough to be rewarded tonight?" another woman teased.

Jaune choked.

"I will consider it."

More giggles.

"Though," Salem went on, "Serving me is pleasure enough. I doubt the act ever leaves him unsatisfied."

A few of the younger women shrieked girlishly, while even the older ones blushed. "My, how bold," Inessa said. "And are you satisfied when he services you? Does he measure up?"

"Hmph. I suppose there's nothing to complain about just yet." Her eyes narrowed. "But don't let that get to your head, Jaune. I am your queen, so don't you ever forget that or think to serve another. Other foot," she added, plonking her second foot in his lap.

"A man who would try and serve another is no man at all," a girl said firmly. "He should be loyal to you and only you."

Salem nodded. "Exactly. I'm glad someone understands."

It's not you, Jaune thought with his ears burning bright red. In fact, Salem was the only one here who didn't understand, much to his horror. Or maybe Tyrian didn't either. He was busy letting a bunch of children play with his tail, which was probably about the worst thing he could be doing but whatever, Jaune had given up on trying to handle him.

"What had you all travelling together over Vacuo in the first place?" Inessa asked. "Your ship looked like it was damaged before you got her, so I doubt it was a leisurely flight."

"Not at all," Salem said. "I had to leave my former home in quite a hurry."

"Oh?"

"You see, my slave…" She indicated Jaune. "Put me in something of a vulnerable state. It was quite the surprise, but suddenly I wasn't welcome in my home anymore, so we had to flee." She crossed her arms and shoved her foot into his stomach, knocking the wind out of him. "As the one who put me in such a state, I decided it was only fair that he take responsibility!"

Every woman in camp was silent.

Jaune wished he could be swallowed by an antlion.

"Oh my…" Inessa covered her mouth with one hand and then leaned in, laying her other on Salem's shoulder. "Oh my poor dear, that must have been quite the difficult moment."

Salem sniffed. "I handled it well enough. At least I believe so."

"I'm sure you did. And you're right, he should take responsibility for it. What else can he do?"

"Definitely," another woman said. "It's all fun and games until that happens, but then it's time for him to man up and accept that he had a hand in things. No wonder you were so hungry."

"And hormonal," another muttered quietly.

The women closed around Salem, all sympathetic words and understanding smiles. They praised her strong will, her strength in the face of adversity and how mature she was to face the issue head on.

"Your praise is unnecessary but appreciated all the same," Salem said magnanimously. "This is a new experience for me, this… fragility I feel right now…"

Inessa crooned and rubbed her shoulders.

"-but I shall persevere, and Jaune will be taking responsibility for the position he's put me in. Won't you?"

Suddenly, every female in camp was staring at him intently.

"Y-Yeah. Heh heh. O-Of course I will."

"Salem will need more clothes if she is to be comfortable." Inessa decided. "Miriam, Samira, let us prepare our finest cloth tomorrow. Something flexible but breathable that she may grow into. Those tattered robes will not do. You deserve to show off your splendour, to show off the life you have within you."

"Well. I suppose you're not wrong. I am splendid. Though I am a little tired…"

That was that. Inessa clapped her hands and they were suddenly surrounded by women, ushered up and toward the largest of the caravans. Additional food was shoved into Jaune's hands – "in case she has any cravings" he was told – and then they were shoved into the caravan. Jaune didn't even have time to argue before the door was slammed shut behind him.

"Well?" Salem asked, hands on her hips.

Jaune stared at her stupidly. "Well what…?"

"Well, aren't you going to say anything?" Her lips pulled into a smug grin. "I told you that I was silver tongued. With but a few words, I have them eating out the palm of my hand. You may express your awe whenever you wish."

"Do you have any idea what they think is going on between us?"

Salem pouted. "That you are my loyal servant, and I am your queen. What else could they possibly think?"

He wasn't even sure he should since if she went out there and told everyone they were wrong then they'd only ask what the truth was. Not something to be shared safely. If Salem was this naïve, she might just tell them the full story and expect the tribe not to attack them. And if Tyrian fought back, what about all the children? Jaune clenched his eyes shut, groaning internally. There was only one thing he could do.

As much as he hated it.

"You…" He sighed. "You were amazing, my queen. You did such a fantastic job of convincing them. I was a fool to doubt you."

Salem, as expected, missed the sarcasm. "Quite so. Well, it's good that I can teach even an idiot like you something. I am going to retire for the night." Salem approached the bed and reached up to her shoulders.

Squeaking, Jaune spun on his heel, staring away as he heard cloth fall. Annoying as she may have been, she was still a very beautiful woman. His brain happily provided imagery of what she might look like, with explicit detail. The sheets rustled behind, but he kept looking away.

"W-Where shall I sleep? I guess I can take the floor."

"Sleep?" Salem sounded surprised. "You don't get to sleep."

"What? Why not?"

"Who would keep vigil if you slept? Tyrian is outside. You need to keep watch over me to ensure no one interrupts my rest." Salem huffed. "This duty is really more befitting a royal guard, and I certainly don't want you getting ahead of yourself there. Needs must, however. You may have the honour of watching over my rest this night."

Jaune's eyebrow twitched. "And when am I meant to sleep?"

"I would not know."

His entire face twitched. "And when will you wake up?" he asked.

"When you wake me," she said impatiently. "Now hush. I'm tired."

With that simple command, Salem rolled over and was lightly breathing within a matter of seconds, leaving Jaune – her vaunted slave – to fume by the door. Who did she think she was? Well, the Queen of the Grimm. Which she was to be fair.

Still, she's treating me like I'm nothing.

Which, again, he was forced to admit he was to her. He'd been captured by her and almost killed, only spared because his Semblance was technically of value. Between her regal naivety and Tyrian's fanaticism, he was at his rope's end. Still, he was alive, and that was more than he'd expected given being kidnapped, nearly sacrificed, attacked by Grimm and then involved in a Bullhead crash.

This is fine, he told himself. I need to stick with them until I can get away.

Vacuo would provide that. Once Tyrian and Salem unwittingly helped him back to civilisation, he could make his excuses and slip away. She was so arrogant that if he told her he wanted to go buy her a gift to show his admiration, she'd let him. Then he just had to find a boat or airship to Vale, and he'd be done with them.

I can go to Beacon, explain the situation and maybe use it to get into the academy. Salem said she was an enemy of the headmaster, right? That might mean he'll help me.

After all, he was the headmaster of a school of huntsmen – heroes – and Jaune was a guy in desperate need of help right now. Help and a therapist, and a good night's sleep. Speaking of, if Salem said she would wake up when he woke her up…?

Jaune pulled out his scroll and set the alarm to vibrate, then put it to around seven in the morning. Popping it back in his pocket where he'd be sure to feel it, he laid down on his side and pulled over a few of the many cushions and rugs Asol had in his caravan, snuggling up under them and falling asleep almost as quickly as Salem had.

/-/

"Wake up. It's morning."

Salem cracked her blue-green eyes open and yawned, her hair frizzy and face slack for all of the time it took her to recall she was human, currently in a caravan and being awoken by her manservant.

"Did you keep vigil over me as instructed?" she demanded.

"Yes." Jaune lied. "Yes, I did."

"Good. Maybe you're not as inept as you appear. What is happening?" she asked, suddenly noticing the rocking of the caravan. "Why are we moving?"

"The tribe broke camp early and is on its way to Vacuo."

"Is that so? Good. The less time wasted the better." Her eyes narrowed on him. "Have you been practicing with your Semblance?" His hesitation said it all. "Lazy! I need you capable of fixing the state you've left me in, and instead you're spending it sat around doing nothing."

"Keeping vigil over you actually…"

"Ah. Ahem." She flushed slightly. "Well, that's not completely nothing then. Still, I think it's time you better learned to utilise your Semblance. And your aura. I may help you with the finer details, but Tyrian is more up to date on it all. You'll study under him."

Jaune paled.

"Rest assured he will not kill you. Not if he wants to avoid earning my most merciless ire. Turn around," she commanded, rising a moment later. Jaune yelped and looked away. "Have Inessa and the others brought the clothing they promised? Ah, there it is. Good. Hand it over."

Jaune fumbled it out and saw a very bare, very smooth arm appear to take it from him. He swallowed, unable to avoid thinking about what the body said arm was attached to might look like right now.

"Aura is all very simple, especially compared to magic. Why, if you stumbling baboons could learn to master it then I'm sure you'll have it down in a week or two. Semblances can be trickier I'm told, but I can provide sufficient motivation."

"M-Motivation? What kind of motivation?"

"My gratitude, for one."

"A-A-And how would that gratitude be shown?" he asked, head spinning with ideas.

"As gratitude," she said simply. "Or if you're looking for something more spiritually fulfilling then I suppose I can pet your head or grace you with some words of wisdom. Really, you should be falling over yourself in glee already. Imagine having the pleasure of watching one such as I sleep."

"Yeah." Jaune's face twitched. "Such pleasure."

"I know. You really are lucky. Here. How do I look?"

Jaune turned and saw something of a transformation. Salem's black dress was much too hot to wear in the burning heat of Vacuo, and so she now wore white and cream – a combination which worked well with her blonde hair and bright eyes. It was a loose fitting dress that was billowy around her midriff and hips for reasons he dare not tell her.

Her neckline dove down to expose her breastbone and her sleek neck while a silken scarf hung loosely beneath her chin, sheer white like a bridal veil but ready to be drawn up to protect her face from sand if needs be. The split leg on her left side gave her a little movement, but also gave Jaune something to try and not look at as she tilted from one side to the other, admiring herself in a tall mirror propped against one corner of the caravan.

Rather than wait for him to say anything, she purred and said, "I really am beautiful, aren't I? Ah, the bards were right to sing songs about my loveliness."

"And your modesty…"

"False modesty is an arrogance of its own. There's no point lying about what can be seen by the naked eye." Salem posed with one hand on her hip and smiled coyly. "Mm. Some things really do look better when your body isn't riddled with darkness and veins."

On that he could agree. She really would be beautiful if it wasn't for the fact she was some kind of lunatic bent on using Grimm to kidnap and kill innocent people like him. No. Don't think of that. She kidnapped you. You don't owe her anything.

As soon as they got to Vacuo, he was ditching her and her psychotic retainer.


Jaune has the right idea here. Lol.


Next Chapter: 18th January

P a treon . com (slash) Coeur