Now this is a surprise for all of us, myself included. This idea struck me like lightning, and I haven't been able to let go of it since. I really hope you guys like it.
Oh, quick note! There's a lot of historical terms and phrases contained within (which are mostly italicized), and there's a glossary of terms at the bottom of the page if you want to check them as you go along! Or you can just read the chapter and find out later, either way works!
I've done my best to keep everyone in character, and I really like where it's headed! This is a wild ride folks, so grab your togas and get crackin'!
Chapter I: A Dawn Drenched in Blood
This would be their first blooding. There was no denying it any longer. A horde of angry slaves stormed towards the Legion's lines, free of their shackles. As they marched closer, Ruby shifted in her armor, the countless chain links rustling softly. The grey morning dew caressed her feet, the frigid water keeping her alert in the crisp early morning air.
She checked her equipment for the fifth time since the horn sounded. The curved rectangular scutum was strapped tight to her forearm, her pila shouldered, her gladius grasped tight in a sweaty palm. Yang nudged her, bearing a large, reassuring grin. Despite the unease that boiled in the pit of her stomach, Ruby returned her sister's smile. They were inseparable. When mighty Caesar beseeched the people of Rome to take up arms, they had responded as one.
Now the rabble approached, the weight of their numbers giving a low rumble as they marched across the plain. Unlike the Legion that stood before them, they were disorganized, howling like mad dogs.
And the legionnaire sisters were as ready as they'd ever be. Their comrades formed an impenetrable line of soldiery, a mass of armor and swords that stretched across a grassy knoll. A year of brutal drills had forged them into a disciplined war machine, ready to fight and die in the name of Rome.
Let them come, Ruby thought.
Centurion Acheron stalked up and down the ranks, a piercing glare inspecting the fresh-faced legionaries. Ruby and her sister were on the front line, one of the first of the Legion's cohorts to receive battle. Any moment now. Any moment, and the cornicen would blow his curved trumpet.
The slaves were even closer now, thousands and thousands of faunus and humans that had thrown away their farming tools and picked up weapons. They formed an enormous, amorphous mass, one that made its way ever closer.
Awoooooooooooooo. Awoooooooooooooo. The trumpets sounded their low howl, one voice joined by countless others. The fourth centuria's cornicen added his instrument to the call. Awooooooooo.
"Fourth Centuria," Acheron bellowed above the resounding noise, "forwaaaard march!" They snapped to attention, sandals slapping against sandals, hundreds of feet hammering the earth.
"AYE!" They cried as one.
Following Acheron and their signifer, they marched towards the enemy. Ruby let loose a deep breath. One. Two. Right foot, left foot. One after another. Yang had not lost her radiant smile. Even as a little girl, the blond-haired beauty was always spoiling for a fight. It had caused them no shortage of trouble, but Ruby wouldn't trade her for anyone. With a deep breath and quick chinstrap re-adjustment, she sent a quick prayer to the gods of war.
Fearsome Mars and Dreadful Mara, fell twins born of battle, I beseech you for guidance. Protect your faithful today in the holy act of war. Guard my sister, and let my sword fall true.
Her prayer ended, and Ruby could see the face of the enemy. They were hard men and women, skin tanned and leathery from years spent toiling in the sun. Many of them were faunus, bearing a set of horns or pair of animal ears that protruded from short-cropped hair.
"Fourth Centuria! Ready pila!" This was it. Ruby and her hundred comrades hoisted their javelins, gripping the weapon and settling into a throwing stance. Nerves racked the new soldiers, and one man spilled the contents of his breakfast onto the earth. "Steady!" Acheron roared. The man wiped his mouth, eyes now set on his task before him.
"Loose!" The centurion bellowed. They obeyed, hurling their pila into the press of rebels. Howling through the air, a tide of javelins crashed into the slaves. Most lacked shields or protective armor. They died screaming, blood pouring from their wounds. Many fell to the barrage, but still they came, howling war cries. "Lock shields and brace!" The whistle blew. No time for a second volley.
Their shields slammed together, a clash of wood and metal. This was Roman discipline, unwavering, merciless.
Like the tides upon the beach, the rebel army crashed against the scuta. Ruby grunted as the slave before her hurtled into her shield, locking them into a crushing embrace. No blows were exchanged, no flash of swords. Such was the press of warriors; she couldn't even lift her sword. Her left arm ached, working hard against the weight assaulting it.
The man roared, his face mere inches from her own. He was also unable to strike, pressed to breaking point by his allies. She snarled back, her brothers pushing against her, straining to drive the enemy back.
Sandals and bare feet dug into the earth, churning dirt and grass as the armies struggled against each other. Feet slid, curses spat, shields braced, but the line did not budge.
Seeing no other option, Ruby slammed her helmet into the man's face, feeling his nose shatter under the strike. He fell back, swearing as blood coursed from his nostrils. There was an opening. Like lightening, she gave a cry and thrust her gladius forward, feeling it dig deep into the man's chest.
Shock and pain rippled across his visage as he toppled, Ruby's sword lodged in his heart. I… I did it! Oh gods… oh gods his face! There was no time to reflect, as her kill allowed Yang enough breathing room to strike as well. The Legion's swords burst forward in a hurried rush of metal, stabbing back and forth from behind their broad shields. Screams echoed across the battle lines.
A polearm fell across her scutum, sending a shock along her arm. She twisted, stabbing the attacker under his arm. Blood spurted forth, the warm crimson ichor splashing against Ruby's chainmail. He fell clasping his wound, screaming as his comrades trampled him underfoot.
Yang bashed a man in the face with the brass center of her shield, breaking his nose and throwing him onto Ruby's gladius. She twisted it, but it stuck fast in his spine. Kicking at the yowling faunus, she tried to free her sword. Another slave stabbed at her with a spear, but she was rooted in place, unable to avoid the attack. Her eyes went wide as the point screamed towards her throat.
Snarling, Yang spun and hacked the spearhead off, where it clattered uselessly against Ruby's armor. No time to think, no time to thank her, just stab! Stab, block, stab! Her arm grew weary as the chorus of war grew, more and more victims falling to the Romans – to Ruby.
Acheron blew his whistle, the signal to rotate. Spinning, Ruby slipped in between the thin gaps in the Roman line, while the next legionnaire stepped forward to take her place. Worming her way past her friends and comrades, they nodded, giving her small smiles that let her know they were proud.
Yang joined her at the rear of the Roman lines. They were breathless, bloody, and spent. The rotation was in effect to ensure that fresh soldiers stayed at the front, forcing tiring enemies to battle rested troops.
"Jupiter's cock!" Her sister swore. "Ruby, are you ok?" Ruby nodded, her breaths sharp in her chest. Yang looked unhurt, thank the gods.
"I'm fine, Yang." Gallons of blood covered her armor, soaking the white linens beneath. "It's not mine. Mara blessed us both." Ruby whispered, paying homage to the goddess of warrior women.
"I'd say!" Yang clapped her on the back, ever-present smile shining bright. "That was well fought!" Golden sweat-stained hair poured out from underneath her helmet, matted and spattered with gore.
"Thanks for the save, by the way."
"Any time. It's the least I can do for my little sis." Ruby thanked her again and grabbed hold of the soldier in front of her. Soon enough, Acheron's whistle would sound again, and they would be re-assimilated into battle order.
As she caught her breath, the fact that she was now a killer danced above her head. She shook her head, wishing the thought away. It is my duty. She insisted to no one but herself. It is for Rome, and for glory eternal. It was for Yang, and my brothers and sisters in arms. But the mantra did little to stem the growing grief.
"It seems battle has been met." Weiss Schnee turned to the speaker, her fellow Tribunus Militum Jaune Arc. They were both well-bred political stock, and incredibly young for their lofty command positions. At eighteen, they shared the honor of being the youngest tribunes in the Roman Legions.
Despite these shared traits, Weiss held nothing but contempt for her peer. The Arc family had recently turned patrician, Jaune's father marrying into the ancient Cornelii household. And now, the Arc patriarch deemed it prudent to send his son to the Legions in an attempt to bolster his progeny's senatorial standing. A good move… if the son in question wasn't a complete dolt.
"So it has." She replied. Her horse nickered, smelling the blood that befouled the crisp morning air. "Whoa. Easy, Konrad." She patted his flank. Weiss had spent her entire life preparing, toiling to help build the Schnee name into a political dynamo. Years of training and lessons under her domineering father had produced an exemplary warrior and scholar, a true Daughter of Mara. Only two months ago, she had ridden forth from Rome under a firm salute, the banner of the Legio Pharus at her back. Now, she stood in Gaul, with a horde of rebel slaves before her.
Glory shall come to the House of Schnee, hard-won on the battlefield. Father shall be proud, and the Schnees will stand tall before Caesar and the Senate. Even if I have to shoulder my way through up-jumped scruffy-haired jackasses to do it!
"So… what now?" Jaune asked. Wiess sighed.
"We observe." She spat. It's the obvious thing to do, however much it irks me. Weiss desperately wished to join the battle.
Jaune's retinue of bodyguards examined her. She sniffed indignantly, tucking a strand of pale white hair into her horsehair helm. And speaking of his companions, what business does he have bringing a greek with him? Sure, it may be Pyrrha Nikos, the teenaged veteran of the legendary Silvershield Company, but a greek nonetheless! The sight of a foreigner so near the Roman command rankled her deeply.
Pyrrha noticed her glare and nodded politely, a genuine smile on her face. Green eyes sparkled behind her Corinthian helm, bright and full of mystery.
"What do you think Pyrrha?" Jaune said, pivoting on his horse.
"I am amazed by the discipline of your soldiers, Sir." She purred, her accent thick and rich. "The might of the Roman Legions is truly a wonder to behold." Yeah, 'cause we conquered you bloody barbarians a century ago. Weiss fumed. The nerve of this man, bringing barbaros along!
"What about the situation as a whole?"
"Lady Schnee has the right of it. Patience is a value well-rewarded on the battlefield." She said. "It is an important lesson to learn." She's correct on that matter, at least. Jaune smiled.
"Thanks, Pyrrha." She gave short bow, a faint dusting of red staining her armored cheeks.
Weiss' warhorse must have sensed her discomfort. He reared, pawing at the air with powerful hooves.
"Easy!" General Ozpin said, riding up to the assorted Roman commanders. His own horse was a gallant red destrier, muscled and strong. Behind him rode his second-in-command, Senator Glynda Goodwych. "Your time will come, children." A smile lurked in his eyes. Caesar Augustus himself chose Praetor Ozpin to sally forth with the new Legion… a veteran of the Civil War just a decade past; he was a formidable and reputable warrior. "As of right now, the legionaries should be more than enough to carry the day."
Hearing those words cause Weiss to flinch. Patience be damned, the opportunity for glory is right there! She saw it, calling for her amidst the horde of struggling soldiers, in the shouts and cries of battle!
Years of history lessons and strategy texts screamed at her, begging her to ignore the voice that demanded satisfaction. Her blood curdled and burned against her bones. These arrogant slaves had the ludicrous notion to take up arms so close to the capitol! It was her honor and duty to cut them down like dogs! But no, she must let the lowborn footsloggers slake the Roman thirst for justice. She snarled, a low and ugly sound.
"I've changed my mind, General. I believe a swift strike on the right flank could crush these rebel dogs in a single stroke." A grey eyebrow shot skywards.
The words came forward, flooding from her mouth, building upon each other, one after another. "Yes! The slaves are barely armored, and would be easily run down under the weight of horse. And instead of risking Roman casualties so early in our campaign, our cavalry could strike a crushing blow, and alleviate potential losses." Ozpin sipped at a wine-skin.
"You raise a good point, Weiss Schnee."
"I do? I mean, of course I do!" Wiess blurted, reddening at her sudden outburst. He nodded.
"Although I would still call it the pinnacle of foolishness." Her heart fell.
"I will not stop you, but know that I disapprove." He turned to Weiss. "Do what you will. I await favorable results." Sighing deeply, she nodded to her adjutant Marble. I'll show that prissy ass what a Schnee can do. Weiss summoned the roman cavalry. They were few in number – only a hundred or so – but they would serve.
"It appears as though our short wait is over." Weiss said, wearing a feral grin. "Now come, Jaune. Let us join the battle."
It was almost her turn again. The butchery had not let up since Ruby and Yang began their rest. Howled curses and screams of dying men assaulted their ears as the battle raged on. She steeled herself for what was to come. She prayed to Mars and Mara again, begging for the bravery to face the enemy again. Give her courage to kill.
The line shuffled forward, and Sky Lark passed them, breathing hard. Blood poured from a gash in his shoulder, but he bore a grim smile. Yang patted him on the back.
Two more to go. Ruby thought, her hand tightly bound in the armor of the legionnaire before her. The slaves had pulled away for a few minutes, the lines spitting and mocking each other. Two more whistles, and it's my turn again.
With a resounding cry, the armies met once more, and Ruby pushed hard against her comrade, steeling the front with all her might.
Blood flowed once more when the press was broken. She turned to Yang. They bumped their helmets together, metal ringing softly. It was an old, familiar gesture. One of their oldest.
"Mara bring you luck!"
"And to you as well!" Acheron whistled, and the lines shuffled forward. A slave barreled forth, hurling himself over the wall of shields. Ruby rolled him away with the brunt of her shield, bringing her gladius down to spear his throat. He gurgled and spat, clutching at the spraying wound.
"Nice one, Ruby!" Ruby just stared at the man. A small set of tusks jutted forward from his jaw. She watched the light fade from his eyes, and felt a turning in her stomach.
Acheron blew his whistle, and it was her turn once more. Ruby pushed forward and dug in, steadfast. A shrieking woman brought an ax across her shield, clanging against the brass center. She jammed the lip of her scutum into the woman's leg, snapping it in two. With a wordless cry, she brought her sword down, the steel biting deep between her neck and shoulder. Twisting in agony, the rebel writhed and collapsed.
The earth shook beneath her. Is that… the sound of hooves? She didn't have time to ponder it, as another berserk slave rushed her, splashing through the puddles of viscera. She dueled with him, trading sword blows and blocking his swift strikes. A minute passed before an opening appeared. Screaming, she threw her shield forward, shunting him back. Any second now, the whistle should sound.
Any second now.
WHERE IN HADES IS THE WHISTLE?
Yang bellowed beside her.
"Acheron is down!" Ruby turned, and sure enough, speared upon a pitchfork was their Centurion. Panic, cold and sudden, shocked its way through the Fourth Centuria. Their Centurion was dead? What now?!
A thundering conch soon distracted them from their dead leader. Like a hammer upon an anvil, the Legion's cavalry smashed into the slave's right-most flank, bowling over the rebels and crushing them under the weight of heavy horse. They pushed deep into the pack of slaves, stabbing down with vicious spears. A cry of support rang out across the entire cohort as they cheered on their mounted brethren.
At the head of the charge rode the most gallant soldier Ruby had ever seen. Ivory hair spilled out from underneath her helmet, a shout of defiance on her painted red lips. A scar ran its way over one of her piercing blue eyes, and a crimson cape trailed behind her, rippling with speed as she slashed and cut her way through rebel lines.
But against all odds, the slaves stood their ground, and the charge stalled. The white-haired officer was torn from her perch, her horse screaming as it was gutted. Despair clenched at Ruby's heart, black and suffocating.
"No!" Yang turned around, pushing away an attacker.
"What is it?"
"We have to go save her!"
"Fuck that, she's dead! We have-" She brought her gladius around in a sweeping arc, disemboweling an attacker. "We have ourselves to worry about!" Ruby ignored her.
"To me!" She bellowed, "Shields on me!" She burst forward, not caring if her fellow legionnaires followed. Her shield swung around, battering a slave away from her path.
"Damn it, Ruby!" Yang roared, storming forward to follow her sister. "Close the ranks!" She shouted over her shoulder.
A dozen Romans took up Ruby's cry, rushing forwards to aid her advance. Thanking them wordlessly, she pressed forward, hacking and stabbing at the wall of flesh before her. Even with Yang's help, it was not easy. The slaves were reluctant to lose ground. After a minute of backbreaking effort, the small task force reached the officer.
She clutched at an open wound, which leaked blood down her pale-skinned sword arm. Matted white hair fell about her shoulders, freed from the confines of her helmet. Her once glorious cape was torn to shreds, and she swung her pugio around wildly, daring an enemy to approach.
Her eyes nearly popped from their sockets when she saw Ruby and her contingent of soldiers.
"Shields! Shields!" Ruby cried. Shoving aside the rebels, the Romans formed a small barrier around the wounded woman. Ruby threw aside her last pila and bent down before the noble lady, gesturing her to climb aboard her back.
Nodding weakly, she did so, adding a considerable weight. Grimacing, she stood.
"Back to the lines!" They obeyed, struggling against the weight of their enemies. An ax whirled around the top of a scutum, burying itself in the face of a legionnaire. He fell like a sack of meat, without word or ceremony. Yang did her best to close the gap, growling and shoving her shield before her.
"W-Where is… ugh…" The woman moaned in her ear.
The gods favored Ruby that day, and her compatriots stood fast against the enemy. They managed to break away from the press of slaves, carving their way through dozens of warriors. The tight circle drew tight against her and her burden, but she managed to stumble back to Roman lines, where her legionary brethren swallowed them behind a wall of scuta.
Ruby sank to her knees, the weight of the woman too much to bear now that her lungs burned and muscles ached. Slowly, she set her down, careful not to aggravate her wounds.
"That was… well fought, soldier." The officer managed between rasping breaths.
"Thank you, Ma'am. Are you hurt?" Her white hair shook.
"Looks worse than it is. Hurts like a bastard though."
Another conch sounded - the cavalry had wheeled around. A second charge hammered the rebel lines, scything the rebels down like wheat. They broke apart, shattering under the weight of the assault. Weapons clattered to the ground as the slaves turned to flee, desperate to escape the murderous hooves that hounded them.
In no time at all, the battle devolved into slaughter.
"Make way!" The Roman lines separated, allowing a rider to pass between the ranks. "Make way!" The voice bellowed again. He was another officer, panting and beaming behind a golden head of hair. The destrier came to a halt before them, nickering and snorting.
"Not bad, huh, Ice Queen?"
Ruby sighed, letting exhaustion seep through her. This wasn't her battle.
Yang picked her way through the corpses, sandals squelching softly as they trod through the blood-soaked earth. So this is war. She thought to herself. Praise Jupiter, Juno, and the whole bloody host of gods that Ruby was ok. It had been incredibly brave of her to break ranks like that. Not to mention incredibly foolish. Let it never be said that bravery and foolishness weren't two sides of the same coin. Yang mused.
While her sister spoke with the officer, Yang strode across the battlefield, looking for survivors. Sobs and wails unending echoed across the muddied grounds. Yang put a few slaves out of their misery when it was clear their agony was too great. A sharp jab with her gladius, a twist of her wrist. All it took.
Another wounded faunus blinked up at her as she lay in a pool of viscera, defiance and rage pulling her features taut. Long black hair clung to her, dripping with blood and sweat. Although grime and gore smeared her face, Yang couldn't help but notice she was extraordinarily beautiful.
Sighing, she poised the sword above her heart. The faunus hissed, black cat ears pulled back in sheer hatred. It gave Yang pause. She is not nearly as wounded as the others. I can save her.
"What's the matter, coward?" The cat-faunus sneered. "End me!"
The sword-point lowered.
"I will not." The slave jerked forward, before Yang put the tip of her blade at the center of her throat. "Ah-ah-ah, none of that now."
"Kill me already!" She cried. "You gutless, witless coward!"
"No, I don't think I will. In fact, I think I've found my first spoil of war." Yang grinned. Caesar had been incredibly magnanimous when commissioning the Legio Pharus. While monetary loot would be distributed normally among the Legion, personal slaves were allowed to whatever soldier managed to capture them.
A camp slave would no doubt come in handy. An extra pair of hands to help with cooking, cleaning and entrenching would always be welcome. And when her sixteen years of service were over, she could sell her for a heavy sack of coin! Yang grinned.
"You cannot possibly mean to make me a slave again." The faunus girl spat. A sigh escaped Yang's bloodied lips.
"I'm trying to save your life."
"Doubtful." She sneered.
"Look kitty." Another hiss. Ok, don't call her kitty. "Submit. Do you know what will happen to you if you don't?" Yang didn't wait for an answer. "Crucifixion. Well… probably rape first, then crucifixion." This gave the faunus pause. "The only way I can save you from that is if you surrender yourself to me." Tears welled in the girl's eyes , threatening to spill over onto her bruised and bloodied cheeks. Slowly, the feline ears relaxed, and she shook her head. Pretty cute. Yang thought, flashing her new slave a toothy grin.
"You've made a coward out of me." She murmured, bowing her head. "I… I submit."
"That's more like it!" Yang laughed, clapping a hand on her shoulder, while the girl looked up at her in bewilderment. "I'm Yang, your new master. What should I call you?"
"Blake." The slave said, yellow eyes downcast. "My name is Blake."
A/N: Well damn son, that was a wild ride! What did you think? Please, let me know! This is probably my most out-there, bonkers story yet, so letting me know helps a ton! Drop a review, and I'll be sure to reply in the next chapter! :D
Thanks so much for giving it a try! I'm sure I flubbed up something... I tried hard to stay true to the times, despite... well... you know, it being a RWBY story and all. There's some additional notes I made further down in the A/N, hopefully they may address any questions you may have.
Glossary of Terms:
Legio Pharus: Lit; Beacon Legion. Can be interpreted as "The Shining Legion". Fictional legion raised in Rome to campaign across the Germanic and Northern borders of the Empire, after defeating an upstart slave rebellion in Gaul.
Barbaros: Probably incorrect latin for "barbarian".
Centuria: (Century), a unit division in the roman legions. Literally means 'one hundred men' but in practice, these often numbered around eighty men.
Centurion: Roman military commander, in charge of eighty men.
Cohort: Sub-grouping of the legion, composed of six centuria.
Cornicen: Lit; Horn blower. A soldier who was responsible for communication between regiments and centuries... with a horn.
Destrier: Shorthand of sorts for "war-horse". Technically medieval in origin, but eh, it's a fun, old-sounding word, so it's here.
Gladius: Ubiquitous straight sword of the Roman Legion.
Pilum (Pila – plural): Javelin used by Roman legionaries. Each soldier carried two, and were thrown before contact with the enemy. They were intended to render enemy shields useless, but were also effective against unarmored targets.
Pugio: Dagger used by Roman soldiers.
Scutum (Scuta – plural): Iconic rectangular shield carried by legionaries. Slightly convex, it was rimmed in bronze or hard leather, and bore a thick metal boss in its center.
Signifer: Standard-bearer for a century.
Tribunus Militum: Drawn from the ranks of plebian noble houses or Tribunes, five of these officers acted as the Legate's (General's) staff. Their actual role in the Legions was somewhat nebulous, but they probably weren't as active as I portrayed them here. But hey, more fun stuff for Weiss and Jaune to do.
Anachronisms, issues to address, and other misc. addendum.
Women in the Legion: I know… I know… You're thinking WTF?! Yeah, you got me there. It was a necessary change. I wanted to do a Roman legion story, and I wanted RWBY characters. Sue me. Also, see Mara below.
Roman History in general: Mostly untouched, but differences and changes will appear.
Names of Characters: Some names will be tweaked slightly, while some remain the same. In an attempt to remain balanced, it won't just be the RWBY cast with weird, misplaced names. Besides normal Roman names, odder, more RWBY-esque names will also be used for regular roman citizenry (OCs). You saw a bit of this with 'Marble', Weiss' adjutant. You'll see some more of this later on.
Ages of characters: The more historically minded of you are already frothing at the mouth that a bunch of women are in the Roman military, so I figured making them unrealistically young couldn't make it much worse. The reason for this is that I'm trying to capture a lot of the themes and character traits that exist in RWBY, which are impossible to portray and even moot at the age required to match their station.
Where is [Insert your favorite RWBY character here]?: Rest assured, they are here. The whole gang will come in due time.
Weiss being racist: This is nothing new, move along please.
Faunus: So imagine perfectly normal history… but now there's faunus too. Pretty much all there is to it. Will be expanded upon further on in the story.
Grimm: Grimm exist now in ancient Roman times, but are nowhere near as populous as they are on Remnant. About as common as regular animals.
Mara: Twin goddess of Mars, and does not actually exist in Roman mythology. It's an OC Goddess that will come to explain the heavy presence women in ancient society. While a similar (historical) goddess named Bellona exists, she is incredibly obscure, and Mara here is far more active in my fictional mythology.
Use of the word 'Hades': Pluto is the Roman name for the Greek god of death, but Romans still frequently used 'Hades' to refer to hell or the underworld.
Use of the word 'fuck': Actually very common in latin. Used to hilarious extremes by the poet Catullus. Seriously, go check out 'Catullus 16' it's hysterical.
Yang practicing slavery: Hi, I'm RedrumSprinkles. Welcome to Roman times, I'll be your guide for this magical journey.
Thanks again! You guys rock! Can't wait to see ya'll next chapter!