RWBY (c) Roosterteeth
The City was in flames. The carcass of a township that belonged to Vale's capital city was alight like a raging inferno, rendering the bones of this once grand jewel of humanity into little more than dust when the fires were extinguished.
It, like many other kingdoms, stood as a bold Beacon of salvation, security and stability for humanity. An impregnable fortress and shelter. This was a beautiful and prosperous symbol of hope for all mankind.
Now it lay abandoned, rank with death, despair and ghosts – a dark yet appropriate reflection of what humanity had become now; a worthless pile of rubble and ruin.
The Kingdoms had fallen like leaves before a mighty wind. Grimm ran roughshod through the formerly great fortresses and returned humanity's brief existence to the dust from whence it came. Human life, once as plentiful as the Grimm themselves, was reduced to a few disparate pockets left on the face of Remnant. In good time, even those measly dregs would be utterly eradicated by Salem's children.
Or perhaps they would rise again. Reborn like a phoenix from the ashes with a fresh new perspective of the world like so many of their forefathers did. They would struggle to continue the endless cycle of death and rebirth of empires, destruction and recreation of civilisations that existed since times immemorable.
Ozpin had made sure that every time Humanity rose against the Grimm, Salem's existence and the knowledge of their destruction had been erased from their collective memory, and this dance would begin again. Humanity spurred forward under a web of lies that concealed the world's truth from their eyes. But Salem had killed the last wizard.
It was a shame and a pity. She remembered the helpless look in the poor boy's eyes when confronted with the end. The fear, the confusion and panic – the hopeless realisation that the Wizard's protectors wouldn't reach him in time. Fate was cruel. But the deed had to be done for the world to be freed from the Wizard's arrogance.
With the fall of their last Citadel in the north, once again humanity was reminded harshly of the world's bitter hard truth. And those hard truths would invariably devour them whole. The question remained; would they submit to fate's cruel hand or cry out against it?
Salem couldn't deny her deep satisfaction as she stood on the roof of a commercial building, once part of Vale's central commerce hub. Satisfaction that took the form of a small serene smile spread across her lips. Her hands were clasped in front of her, rested on the pommel of a bone-white sword. It was elegant yet organic in design and as sharp as any steel Humanity could bring to bare against her.
Perched beside her with a head under its wing was a mighty griffon that served as her mount. An ancient griffon that stood at five metres tall when brought to its full height, white bone plates and spikes down its shoulders, spine, face and wings gave a hint to its ancient age. The carapace serving both as layered armour and as a place to cling to the beast in flight.
Perhaps hubris drove her action, but part of Salem simply refused to let herself sit idle in her fortress and await the destruction her shadow beast caused in the distance. Too many of her underlings had fallen in this pursuit for her not to witness her plan come to fruition in person. She had set forth to crush Ozpin's legacy of lies, wanted to see it personally. Her only regret in this that Ozpin was no longer with them to witness to her victory. A victory which in turn served as punishment for his petulance and conniving.
Salem's pale hand reached out to stroke the Griffon's beak almost tenderly as she peered down below, before her eyes found their way to Beacon Academy. One element had always eluded her, the relic hidden away at Beacon's tower. It still had to be there, hidden in place sight. She knew it in her bones.
After countless years of scouring the Kingdoms since the grand tower's demise, there was simply no other place it could be. Though her Grimm searched the tower's structure and ultimately found nothing.
Fortunately, Salem had powers and abilities her soulless children lacked. Whatever magics Ozpin had used to hide away the artefact couldn't conceal it from her eyes.
Still, regardless of whatever satisfaction any victory here would provide, Salem would not allow herself to feel absolution until she was certain the Wizard was destroyed. Though she slew the boy Ozpin had taken as his vessel before their union was complete, Salem would not rest until she was certain his lingering ideals were utterly obliterated.
Like the Maidens after him, the Wizard as no mere mortal. As with the Maidens, his powers and knowledge were not limited to a single shell, restricted by something as trivial as death. The Wizard's power would inevitably pass onto a successor when his mortal host died. Though there was a window to disrupt the process of inheritance, which was exactly the time Salem exploited, she still felt something amiss.
Her gaze narrowed ponderously, so caught up on her musings that she hardly noticed a strange commotion only a few blocks away. Gunfire, explosions, rubble collapsing and a myriad of other combative sounds emerged from that sector of the city. All the louder thanks to the desolate nature of this carcass city. Without awaiting instruction, a horde of Grimm poured through the snake-like streets towards the commotion in a tide of black claws and bone. Nevermores and Griffons swooped from their perches, diving at the mass of machines, huntsmen and humans.
"It seems they've placed their last hopes on this final desperate bid…" Salem mused. At her merest thought, the Griffon at her side stretched out its wings and lowered its head in supplication, awaiting its master's orders.
Salem mounted the creature, hands hooked in a delicate but secure grip around an outcropping of bone and the beast took to the skies with a mighty flap of its wings.
"Do you see Ozpin?" She said to no one in particular. "The centuries of time and effort you poured into building your guardians and your huntsman. And this is all they could offer?"
Indeed it was a small pocket of Huntsmen fighting a pathetic last stand against her children, their forces supplemented by a legion of Atlas mechanical soldiers. But they were less than fodder. They could fight until they've exhausted the last of their strength, but the Grimm they destroyed would be only a fraction of that in the city, and a drop in the ocean against the tide Salem held at her fingertips.
From her vantage point in the sky, Salem could watch comfortably out of reach of their weapons and semblance. Had they simply gone into hiding, perhaps they would have survived for a short while longer.
But in Salem's observations of humanity, there would always be those who would prefer to die in the throngs of battle, rather than idly let death take them when their years were expended. For all her animosity towards the species, Salem couldn't deny their tenacity and stubborn will to choose their own fate was an aspect worthy of admiration.
Sighting Salem from a distance, the Seer Grimm hovered from its position in the city into the sky, its tentacles lightly swaying like a jellyfish as it hovered up to her side, clicks and groans in an unnatural register communicated a report to the Witch. A pale finger raised to her lip, Salem's dark eyes narrowed contemplatively.
"So, Ozpin's Lieutenants seek to end the game where it started," Salem returned her gaze upwards to the skeleton of Beacon tower. "I suppose it's only appropriate. The king and the pawns return to the same box at the end of the game."
That tower once served as the principle communication device between Vale and the rest of the kingdoms, now it too was an empty husk. Once it acted as a perch for the Great Dragon Iszha that had awoken by the collective fear and negativity of humanity.
Salem couldn't help ponder the action. Was this a vain attempt to repair the tower and signal for reinforcements? Was there another wing of fools eagerly awaiting death? Or perhaps…
A thought stuck Salem and she allowed herself to smile in anticipation. Perhaps Ozpin's lieutenants believed the relic hidden there would serve as their deliverance.
"No matter. Reinforce the numbers here. If these Huntsmen are so eager to meet their maker, then we will oblige them with enthusiasm. I will deal with the interlopers at the tower." She instructed the seer. It clicked and twitched in confirmation before it set off to convey her instructions.
Salem peered at the group of Huntsman once more, and took note with some distant amusement that the Atlesian General appeared to be leading them. Perhaps his was a wish for atonement? If nothing else, it would be fitting for the general whose army brought down Vale to die in the city he unwittingly brought to ruin. Salem truly wished she could watch just how long Ozpin's tin soldier would fair against her Grimm, but other urgent matters required her attention.
The trip took less than a moment, and this close the decay had become quite clear. Years of neglect had allowed flora to grow through the cracks in paths in an uncontrolled spread. Nature reclaimed the place man had wrenched from its hand, as it should. Vines even tried to climb up the tower's support spires and base, strangling the half-ruined building.
Salem frowned lightly. If the relic was hidden with magic, it would be under this very tower Ozpin once called his home.
At some unseen command, a large Grimm Dragon landed beside her on all fours, sending massive tremours through the ground. A ball of crackling energy formed in its gaping maw and a stream of yellow-white power connected at the tower's base level. The concrete and metal twisted and warped in molten red and white.
Salem gracefully dismounted and sauntered in through the gaping hole, minding the collateral damage. The blast had warped concrete and metal, superheating them into a molten semi-liquid state. Across the foyer, she approached the ruined remains of the elevators.
Human hands had pried them open, and recently. Salem leaned forward and peered down the deep metal shaft that tunnelled through the earth. Traversing this obstacle was trivial. With a simple application of dust on her person in combination with her magics, she arrived at the bottom floor. Her eyes drinking in the dark vault Cinder spoke of.
Where Ozpin had made his last stand. Salem thought with a sense of mirth.
In mere moments, Creeps, Beowulves and other smaller Grimm would climb down and join in the search. But Salem would most definitely not need that long. Nor would she require their aid. A group of mere mortal huntsmen were no match for her ancient powers. The halls were dark, smelling of human decay. Salem's eyes would acclimatise in time, but in a few seconds after the spell-weaves settle, she would see as clear as day.
Her ears however functioned perfectly. Salem batted away a large rubar projectile with her bone sword, her fingers curling gracefully around the handle as she levelled it delicately at the blonde haired woman. One of Ozpin's lieutenants, Glynda Goodwitch.
Salem recalled she once served as deputy Headmistress to this school. Here she stood, in the place of her master, lining up to die. The woman looked utterly haggard and battle-weary, despite that she raised her crop in an offensive posture. Purple power rippled from her weapon, encapsulating pieces of wreckage around her.
Salem could taste her fear, deflecting more thrown debris. She watched frustration twist the woman's features as elemental dust rose to her command, lightening crackled in the dark chamber and Salem saw a brewing storm mere metres above their heads. A whirlwind of fire ripped forth from the woman's crop, as thunder struck down hard against Salem's form, channels of ice surged from under her feet in great razor spikes. An elemental assault that both knew was a ploy to buy time.
The Grimm Witch gritted her teeth and with one swift lunge forward, she broke out of the torrent and her sword pierced through Glynda's abdomen. The blade drinking deeply from her life's blood. The woman gasped and gulped for air, feebly she clawed at the Grimm Queen's arm in a struggle to find purchase.
Salem tilted her head to the side, her spare hand reached up to Glynda's head as crackling red and black energy gathered from her palm. Discovering what they had intended would be child's play. However, a thunderous explosion deeper inside the vault snacked her attention away, echoing sounds of carnage on the surface.
Glynda managed to gather herself enough, feebly her fingers slipped into a pouch to retrieve a dust crystal no larger than her palm. Clutched in bloodied fingers, the woman poured the last of her aura into the dust. It glowed with blue-purple power and exploded into a massive formation of jiggered ice.
Salem was captured in the blast wave, a furious growl escaped her throat as she glowered at the woman trapped within. No light remained in the cadaver's emerald eyes, her last desperate act in this world was to postpone the inevitable. With a fierce scowl etched on her face, Salem ripped her sword, arm and leg out of the ice formation, and instantly the entire crystal array shattered into pieces. Glynda Goodwitch's body collapsed to the ground, limp and lifeless.
The Grimm Queen surged forward, towards the source of the explosion weaving through the pillars to seek out her pray with a new fury. Rage in the pit of her stomach at being caught off guard so easily. Scolding herself for the overconfidence, she kept a keen vigil. The chamber halls were still pristine, with no signs of destruction what so ever.
A swish and a clang echoed through the massive chamber and Salem raised her open palm to block the blow with sheer strength alone. Such a miniscule attack wouldn't cut her flesh so easily.
Salem glowered, her frustration in full display as she examined her attacker. He wore a fine pair of red eyes and his short unkempt hair was streaked with grey. Her brows shot up in realisation and she allowed a smile to play across her lips.
"The left eye, I suppose you're the 'last' eye now, aren't you?" Salem's hand was still raised, but her gaze wondered down to the cane resting collapsed on his hip.
"You're playing with forces beyond your ken, child."
Her fingers curled around the scythe's edge, the dark energies at her command funnelled into the silver and grey blade. Dark red lines formed along the surface as the metal warped and cracked faster than the Huntsman could release his grip. The void energies jump, his right hand was tainted with the dark lines and spread up his limb like a plague.
At once, in a thunderous explosion, the scythe and his right hand exploded in a mix of blood and steel. Shards of the weapon scattered everywhere, piercing floor tiles, pillars and even the Huntsman's own flesh. A particularly large jagged piece of the handle embedded deeply into his abdomen, shattering his aura as another stray spike of steel skid across his right eye.
Soaring through the air, the Huntsman's howls of agony were abruptly cut off with a sharp gasp when his back collided with a pillar and knocked the air from his lungs. Another crack accompanied the impact, from what was almost certainly several bones. He slumped in a pathetic mess on the ground, blood ran freely from his many wounds and his right arm abruptly ended before the elbow.
Even now his meagre aura sparked and fluttered pathetically, attempting to heal wounds beyond its capabilities.
"You cannot begin to fathom how long I've waited for this day to come," Salem said breezily, feeling victory within her grasp as man's last hope turned to ash.
"How does it feel child?" The near maternal tone was at odds with the undisguised fury on the Witch's face, and turned the Huntsman's stomach. All he could do was return a defiant glare as coppery red spilled from his right eye socket. His dark hair was caked to his scalp by blood seeping from an unseen cranial wound.
Salem kneeled and raised his chin almost tenderly. Something flashed across her features. It might have been pity, hollow as that was.
"Ozpin – the Wizard – used and abandoned your kind. He was little more than a parasite, flinting from one host to the next, wasting away their vessels before moving on. Why do you continue to serve him?"
"Cause the alternative is you," Qrow spat bitterly, still struggling to regain his breath. "I'd rather fight for an honourable man seeking to preserve life than the complete bitch seeking to end it."
Salem was less than amused by the insult, but the Huntsman continued.
"You called the Wizard a parasite, but what in hell does that make you? Yeah, the Wizard does his little body hop trick, and it sure as hell sucks for the poor bastard he lands in. But damned if it isn't better than anything you've pulled,"
The words were spoken with dark sarcasm. "I've heard one or two stories from the old man about how the Grimm Queen lived this long – you're sure one to talk about being a parasite, Your grace."
Qrow managed to sound defiant even as he struggled to keep conscious. The blood loss was taking its toll on him. And both parties knew his death was imminent.
Salem rose to her feet, her lips pursed in a thin line. "Well, I confess myself surprised. I certainly wasn't aware Ozpin permitted his lieutenants to have that knowledge. Given his proclivity to erase any mention of myself or your previous cataclysms from humanity's collective memory."
The Grimm Witch glowered down at him. "Tell me, boy, do you think its honourable to allow mankind to exist ignorant of the greater truths in this world? Of me?" Salem questioned curtly, regaining her regal imperious demeanour. "To permit your kind to wonder through the world completely unaware of the dangers?"
Qrow laughed a pained choking laugh without humour. "Hey, I ain't saying the Wizard's not flawed. No one's perfect." His eyes lit with fury. "But compared to you, he's a gods damned saint. You'd rather see us all ground into dust. Ozpin's world may be a lie, but its better than anything you've put on the table." His solitary eye stared up in hard defiance. "We had peace."
"Peace?" Salem repeated, "You call what happened eighty years ago 'peace'? Where Man and Faunas kind nearly tore each other apart over some petty triviality?"
"A war you sowed the seeds of," Qrow shot back, jutting his chin towards her and the retort seemed to take Salem by surprise before she offered a pleasant smile.
"Ozpin told you a great deal it seems." Salem noted flippantly, "Destruction and creation are two sides of the same coin, my dear. What is raised must eventually fall. However, I am not the one who would create illusions, to have others serve as my agents to enforce it. I merely seek as I always do, to shatter the veil your master weaves and remind the world - remind humanity and its ilk that the greater powers will not sit idle while-"
"Yadda yadda yadda," The Hunsman groaned, then coughed as he forced back another wave of pain. "For the gods' sake, save the 'holier than thou' riff for someone who actually gives a crap, Lady." Qrow scoffed, letting out another cough.
Salem's lip twitched. "I do find your petulance amusing. It's a trait you and your master share. However there is a limit to my patience and you are fast approaching it. Speak to me with such disrespect again/"
"Sorry, but I can't help that you're such a fucking bitch."
Displeasure danced across the Witch's features "Mind your tongue boy." She warned sternly. "Your life is waning, but whether it ends in moment or immediately rests entirely upon your next words."
"And I was hopin' my final moments weren't gonna be boring…" Qrow groaned, coughing and sputtering a mouthful of blood.
Salem raised her sword, ready to strike down.
"This kind of sucks. Ain't afraid to admit that." The Huntsman mused weakly. "Sure, you won this war, and you may win next one too; hell you'll probably win for another hundred generations to come. But sooner or later, something's gonna come along to slap that arrogant sneer off your face. Something even you can't predict. And when that happens?"
Qrow gave a twisted bloody smirk, raising his solitary remaining hand in an obscene single digit gesture. "I'll see you in hell-"
With that, Salem plunged her bone sword through his sternum silencing what profanity he was going to speak, she raised him up, letting gravity impale him further on the sword as he struggled to gain breath. His life's blood trickled down her sword, his body spasmed and jerked until the last dregs of life drained away and Salem let his body slide slowly off her sword.
Salem finally allowed herself a sense of true victory. The last of the Wizard's protectors were silenced.
A sudden shift and ripple in the air rendered that sense of satisfaction hollow.
Salem's smile vanished instantly when she saw the rippling spread, accompanied by a strange bright wash of brilliant green and white light. Salem turned her head and saw the illusion give away. The empty chamber hall was now filled with a strange glowing energy, shapeless and without form, twisting and folding in on itself as the brightness and size of the riff grew in intensity.
"No." It was all she could manage, staring down at the corpse at her feet, taken aback by the change in his appearance. His dark hair was now a silvery white and a faint green glow emanated from his body, drawn like a magnet towards the portal.
"No." The Grimm Queen tore at his limp arm, all too aware of what the appearance of this energy entailed.
She pulled the arm up for inspection and was filled with unbridled outrage at the tattoo-like scars weaving their way from his palm to his shoulder, mapped in ancient runic patterns. Each and every one of these marks had been infused with dust and glowed in resonance with the portal's own light.
"NO! It was you?! You were the Wizard's vessel?!" Salem roared, ripping her sword from his sternum.
She heard a raspy gurgling sound almost like a mocking laughter and the sign of life surprised and infuriated the ancient woman. Salem glowered at the Huntsman dying at her feet, both at the impossibility of his still clinging to life despite the gapping hole in his chest and the utter rage at being so easily caught in this mere mortal's trap!
With a final roar of undiluted rage, Salem raised her sword and plunged it down through his skull.
Then the entire chamber exploded in a flash of green-white light.
Author's note: So, we have the revamp of Erased. This story I promise has a more consolidated and less confusing plot line. I also changed some elements and hope to make a more enjoyable experience. I hope you give this one the same support and care you gave the original.
Thanks for reading and Kind Regards,