And here I am with a new tale to tell.
This concept for this story, which has been floating in my head for quite a while now, was inspired by Chaos Productions' story, Will of Iron, Heart of Gold (with his permission), which is, in my opinion, an underrated masterpiece. If you haven't heard of it, I suggest you go read it right now. Yes, I'm telling you you should go read someone else's work before my own, it's that damn good. This will still be here when you're done.
See, what did I tell you? Epic, right?
Well, with that bit of advertising out of the way (seriously, that story doesn't have one tenth of the reviews it should), let's get on with the show.
Let us hope that I make something Monty, God rest his soul, would approve of, eh?
That curious emotion resulting from one's perception of danger, that feeling that can either be one's worst enemy, or greatest ally.
For as long as there's been life, there's been fear.
Fear of predators, Fear of death, Fear of the unknown.
Fear of the dark.
In every world in existence, humanity has had to deal with fear. For millenia, caring parents have had to check their children's beds and closets for monsters, to assure their young that the darkness hid no horrors out to harm them. And in most worlds, they are correct, in most worlds the shadows are only as frightening as we allow them to be.
In the world of Remnant, the light of the shattered moon revealed a red blur speeding through the forests spread troughout the island of Patch.
This blur was a young Ruby Rose, and she was very much afraid.
For in her world, the darkness was truly something to be feared, and things that go bump in the night were not only very real, but often fatal to mankind.
The four-year old girl didn't know how this had happened. Like so many times before, her Daddy had left her and her big sis Yang alone at home. And like those times that meant playing games, telling stories and lots and lots of cookies, until she tuckered herself out and took a nap, waking up to the smell of Daddy's cooking. But this time, she woke up to the growling of beasts. Having no idea what was going on, she rose from the small handcart and looked around, to see three mean monsters walking out from an old, ruined house. Walking towards her... and her big sis standing between them and her.
With the beasts moving with the slow certainty of predators who knew the kill was guaranteed, the teary-eyed older girl had begged her to run, to save herself.
Confused, frightened, so removed from her natural element, young Ruby reluctantly complied, running into the woods, with two of the wolf-like monsters giving chase.
This had happened hours ago, but no matter how much she used her awsome speed (Uncle Qwow said it was "Selance"), no matter how well she hid, the monsters seemed to always find her. Unknown to the girl, the creatures of Grimm could feel her fear.
Her red cloak, the last gift of her Mommy, the last thing she had to remember her by, had become torn and ragged at the edges because of all the bushes and branches she ran through.
But even confused, lost and exhausted as she was, the young girl did not give up. She had to find help, she had to find some one who could save big sis!
There was no way she could have known, but this blend of fear and innocence would forever change the fate of the world.
For eons, silence and dust had been his only companions in this place. How many ages had passed since someone dared to disturb him? He did not know, nor did he particularly care. For as long as it took, he would continue his vigil, he would wait...
He felt something, something he hadn't felt in a long, long time, but something he would always recognize.
Somewhere nearby, someone was afraid.
Since fear was the very essence of his existence, this caused two emotions in him. Satisfaction, because of how long it had been since he last tasted it... and curiosity, for try as he might, he couldn't remember ever experiencing a fear quite like this.
And so, for the first times since an age long forgotten, the silence in the chamber was broken... by the slow creaking of wood as the being turned his head towards where the feeling was coming from.
Unknown to all, the events unfolding where being watched.
From the stars, an intelligence beyhond comprehension observed with growing concern. This was not supposed to happen. The Sun and the Rose should have been saved by the Crow, left only with a great fright that would in the end make them stronger. As it was, the Rose would soon be claimed by the Dark, and without her, the world would follow eventually. And that was something he would not allow.
But that left him with a serious conundrum. He no longer had the power to directly intervene, not since he had failed so very long ago, so how could he make sure the Rose lived?
So many possibilities, so many outcomes...
How to make sure the best one came to pass?
The Rose was nearing his prison...
What would be the outcome of that?
Perhaps a Crow could still save her...
Time was running out, he had no other choice.
The lives of many... for the innocence of one.
He hoped there would be no cause to regret it.
The young girl stopped again to rest, but the howls in the distance told her it would be brief.
The mean monster weren't going to leave her alone, where they? She wouldn't be able to find someone who could help big sis...
The sudden noise startled her, causing her to fall on her behind. She looked up, to see a strange little thing giggling at her. It looked like something out of Yang's fairy tales. Floating in the air on a balloon-like head, a soft yellow glow surrounding it, the little critter looked like an armless rag doll, and it was looking at her with big white eyes that looked both amused... and sad?
"Is that your name?"
"Meep..." The being shook its head.
"Oh..." After a brief awkward silence, Ruby remembered her situation. "Look, I need help. My big sis in danger! Can you do save her?"
In response, the little sprite floated further into the woods, stopping briefly to glance back at her.
Seeing no other option, the youg girl followed.
Deeper and deeper into the woods they went, until the cloaked child started noticing that amongst the trees, stood large, partially collapsed stone walls and ruined arcs. Even for her young mind, it was obvious that at one point there had been a huge building in this place. She briefly paused in front of a relatively intact arc, which led to a long since crumbled room, on which she could see some words, but not knowing how to read, she quickly pressed on, completely unaware of the fact that the words were written in an ancient language.
"The truest opponent lies within."
The little being led her further into these ruins, until they reached a large circular patch of ground free of any sort of vegetation. Within it, Ruby saw an enourmous oak, which unlike all the other trees in these woods, was an twisted, gnarled, dead-looking and very ugly thing. And between the roots of this old tree, the girl could glimpse a dark entryway to a still intact room, to which the little guy was now pointing with its feet.
"Are you saying I'll find help in there?"
"Meep..." The being confirmed in a sad yet resigned tone.
Steeling herself, she started traversing the empty terrain, briefly turning around.
"Oh, and thank you..."
But the little guy was no longer there.
Frightened, she still pressed on, hesitating only for a moment before braving the dark entrance. Within, she found herself in a large square room, completely pitch black if not for a large crack in the left wall allowing the moonlight to seep through.
And what that light revealed baffled Ruby.
In the middle of the room, inside what seemed to be a circle of weird symbols on the floor, sitting in a slumped position, covered with large layers of dust (not the glowy, boom-making kind, the dusty kind), was a doll.
Its arms and legs were made of twigs tied together, yellow glove-like hands at the tips of the arms and no feet at the tips of the legs. Its body was made from a tattered and patched burlap sack placed on a wooden cross, the lack of filling giving it a thin, lanky appearance. An orange rag was tied around his neck like a scarf, and its head seemed to be made from a smaller sack, where eyes and a large, scary shark-toothed mouth had been cut.
Ruby blinked. This was... a scarecrow?
The girl pouted in frustration, how could this thing help her?
Giving it a better look she noticed that, laying in the doll's lap, and firmly in its grip, was a large, rusty, but still sharp-looking scythe.
Maybe this was what the little guy meant, she could grab the scythe and do like Uncle Qwow to deal with the mean monsters.
Well, it wasn't Uncle Qwow's scythe, not even close, but it should work just as well, right?
With that in mind, Ruby approached the scarecrow, and grabbed the weapon...
The doll's head suddenly jerked upwards, and ghastly, green glowing orbs stared deep into her own silver ones.
Once more, startled young girl fell on her rump, crawling a bit away from the frightening visage.
A long moment of silence passed while the eldritch being and the cloaked girl stared at one another, her eyes startled and curious, his intense and searching.
"H-hi." She ventured. ""I-I'm sorry... I'm sorry... about the scythe... I didn't know..."
"You... are afraid."
Its voice was barely above a whisper, its pitch constantly shifting between a squeaky, merry tone and a deep, cavernous rumble. Ruby wasn't expecting that. Was it that obvious? Something told her that lying to this guy would be useless.
The scarecrow's head tilted slightly with a creaking noise, his eyes never leaving her.
"But not of me... and not for yourself..." It stated, its tone curious."Tell me, what do you fear?"
Ruby thought about it for a bit, before her eyes widened.
"Oh no, Yang!" She suddenly rose to her feet, how could she have forgotten? "My big sister is in trouble! The mean monsters will hurt her if I don't do something! Please... can you please help her?"
The being's mouth gaped open in shock.
This human... This little thing that he could easily end... was asking him for help?
She feared more what could happen to others... than what would happen to herself...
As he gazed into the very essence of her soul, his mouth slowly twisted into a terrifying grin.
At last... at long last...
"Not as I am now."
The girl deflated.
"Isn't there anything you can do?" She begged desperately.
"There is a way..." He replied. "But are you willing to pay the price?"
"Please..." At this point, tears of fear and hope started flowing. "I'll do anything... but please save her... Mommy went away already... I can't loose Yang..."
"... Very well."
With these words, the scarecrow's mouth widened to inhuman proportions, the ghastly green glow growing within.
And as this glow lit the entire chamber, Ruby screamed.
Qrow ran through the woods at a fast, desperate passe, bissecting Grimm left and right without breaking stride.
When Yang hadn't answered her father's calls, a very concerned Taiyang had asked him to check up on the girls. While Qrow thought he was being slightly paranoid, he still complied... and found the house completely empty. Due to the picture in the table, he quickly realized what was going on, and after warning Taiyang and the authorities, he ran after them.
He arrived just in time to save Yang from being eaten by a beowolf, but Ruby wasn't with her. The crying blonde told him she had begged her younger sister to run, in the hope that she could escape, but the monsters had given chase.
And so, with Yang clinging to his back, he set out to find the smaller girl.
Unfortunately, Yang's guilt, regret and fear, coupled with his own, had attracted most of the Grimm in a wide radius, and each one he had to put down was one more moment Ruby was at the mercy of the monsters.
Eventually, the veteran hunter stopped at a glade through which a stream flowed, and right behind him, a pack of beowolves appeared from the woods, glaring and snarling.
He grimaced in annoyance, he shouldn't be wasting his time with these small fry.
But before the bloodshed could begin, a single sound echoed.
Qrow, Yang and the beowolves all looked to the far side of the glade, where a crow stood on a low, dead branch.
Beneath the bird, a ghastly green flame was visible through the foliage, and out of the bushes came...
"Ruby!" Yang cried out in happiness, relief... and concern.
A concern that was shared by Qrow. It was indeed his adorable little niece, but a few things were different. Her cloak, a memento of Summer, was ragged and fraying at the edges. An orange rag was tied around her neck. In her hand, she carried a large scythe, which was obviously very old and well used. Her face, usually so bright and cheerful, was completely expressionless. And strangest of all, that green flame... was coming from her left eye.
The crow flew down from the tree, landing on the girl's shoulder.
"Yang." Qrow's eye widened in shock. Not only her face, but also her voice lacked any form of emotion. "Uncle Qrow. Hurt?"
It took a couple of seconds for Qrow to understand what she meant.
"We're fine, Ruby. What about you? Are you injured?"
The girl shook her head.
"Good, Let me just handle these guys and we can..."
It was at this point that Qrow finally noticed the Beowolves' lack of reaction. Looking at the beasts, he was very surprised to see why. Everyone of them was staring at Ruby. But these weren't the stares of a predator sizing up their prey, no. Nervous shuffling, hackles raised... these were the stares of a scared beast that knew it was cornered.
Without warning, one of the younger beowolves howled, then charged the small girl.
"Ruby!" Both he and Yang cried out in concern.
But before he could take action, Ruby disappeared in a burst of her semblance, and Qrow noticed something else was floating alongside the rose petals that manifested as a result.
The beowolf stopped, and Ruby appeared behind it, the blade of the scythe permeated by that strange green glow, and from left shoulder to right hip, the upper half of the beast fell to the floor, followed shortly after by the lower.
"It's fine." The girl stated to her shocked sister and uncle. "I'll handle it."
The crow on her shoulder took to the sky, and like a general leading his army, she pointed her scythe towards the remaining Grimm.
Qrow didn't know wether he should be more disturbed by the fact that the command was given, or by how emotionlessly it was given.
For a few seconds, nothing happened. Then a crow was heard cawing.
"Caw Caw Caw..."
"Caw Caw Caw Caw Caw..."
"...CAW CAW CAW CAW CAW CAW CAW CAW CAW CAW CAW!"
From out of nowhere, a large black cloud exploded into the glade, blotting out the moonlight. Hundreds, thousands, crows beyhond count engulfed the creatures of Grimm, their wings razor sharp blades, their talons vicious hooks, their beaks savage spears. With growing desperation the beowolves clawed and bit, trying to break free, but it was futile. There was no escape from the crows.
Within an area the crows steered clear from, a literal eye of the storm, Qrow and Yang could only watch in mutted shock.
Then, as quickly as it had appeared, the murder dispersed, leaving behind the barely recognizable and quickly decomposing corpses of their victims.
A single crow remained, who once again took its place on Ruby's shoulder, the glowing flame in her eye fading away as she approached her uncle and sister, who were staring at her with surprised expressions. Quickly recovering, Qrow asked:
"Ruby... Are you... alright?"
"M'fine." The young girl mumbled before rubbing her eye. "Sleepy."
"I see." The girl was visibly tired. Perhaps it would be better to talk about what happened later. "Well, then we'd best get back home for a good night's sleep. And tomorrow, we'll be having cookies for breakfast. With strawberry jam."
On one hand, the way Ruby's eyes lit up at the words made him certain that she was still herself.
On the other, it made him notice that, while the glow had disappeared, her left eye still had a pale, ghastly green color.
And that's that.
What do you guys think? Good? Bad? Please let me know.
With that said, see you guys on the next one :) .