Ruby awoke with a start and was immediately bombarded by a rancid smell, like compost mixed with low tide, reflexively scrunching her nose and squinting her eyes back shut. Ugh, what reeks?
After a moment she opened her eyes again, and wished she hadn't; from what little she could make out she was in some kind of cave, and similar to the cupboard everything was covered in spiderwebs. The scant light that allowed her to still see (were circumstances different she would have wished for the Faunus' ability to see in the dark) cane from some kind of Dust lamps, and were the only thing that wasn't covered in webbing.
There were also a cluster of what looked like cocoons of to one side of the cave, which Ruby felt it best not to think too much about.
OK…, she thought, trying not to panic, I really hope this is a dream and I'll wake up snug in my bed at home, with dad and Yang laughing over who can make the worst pun.
She made to pinch herself, but quickly found she was unable to move her arms. In fact, now that her senses were coming back she could feel herself hanging, something soft and fine holding her up by her wrists. She was still on the ground, so she tried to stand up to relieve the strain on her arms, only to find that her feet were secured in such a way that she could find a balance, and so ultimately gave up after a few more tries.
"...Nora?" she called into the darkness, "Ren…? Jane…? Uncle Qrow…? Is anyone there?!"
"Where is everyone…?" she whispered.
"The other humans are still alive," a voice said from the darkness, "...for now, at least."
Ruby fought to keep herself from gasping in fright; the voice managed to sound like evil itself, somehow sounding comforting and spine chilling all at once, not to mention eerily, distressingly familiar. A voice she thought she would never hear again.
The voice chuckled. "That was what this human was called, wasn't it? I honestly couldn't care enough to remember, since I rarely leave my food sitting around for very long…."
"Food"? She dreaded to learn what the voice meant by that, even though she already had a pretty good idea.
"W-where are you?" she asked, trying to sound braver than she felt, "If you're gonna talk to me, at least let me see you!"
It chuckled again, and something started moving in the shadows. "My my, you really are a brave one, aren't you?"
She wasn't, but right now she couldn't afford not to be.
"Very well, I suppose there's no harm." And soon a familiar silhouette strode forward, revealing its form once it stepped into the light.
Ruby hadn't ever actually seen a dead body before and only one every now and then on this journey, but even she could tell that the figure that stood before her shouldn't be alive, and not just because she knew there hadn't been a body left over when Pyrrha had been killed: her skin was a dull grey, with festering wounds dotting almost every bit skin not covered by her outfit, torn and tarnished and singed in many places. Embedded in her left ankle was a black arrow, which seemed to glow faintly, like embers in a fire.
Pyrrha's face was the most shocking of all. Like the rest of her body it was dull and lifeless, pocked with wounds, though half of her chin was missing, completely exposing the bones of her jaw, making her look much more ghoulish than Ruby thought the young champion could ever look. The effect was amplified by "Pyrrha's" expression, a mix between sweetness and...well, "devilishness" was the only word to come to mind.
"Is this better?" the apparition asked.
Ruby didn't say anything. She was too busy fighting back the flood of emotions from seeing "Pyrrha", and even if she wasn't she suspected that whatever that thing was, it wasn't actually expecting an answer from her.
"It doesn't matter," it said, basically confirming the suspicion, "since you'll be my next meal before too long."
That...was majorly concerning.
"W-w-what do you mean?" she managed to ask.
"I've lived for a very long time," it said, "and food is scarce: sometimes years go by without food and I need to hibernate to save my strength. I probably would have stayed hibernating if you and the other humans didn't kill my brethren on the surface." It leaned closer, causing Ruby to recoil in disgust when it grabbed her chin and forced her to look in its eyes. "Imagine my surprise when I woke and discovered that the one to slay him was the tastiest treat of all? Silver humans are much tastier than the normal variety….~"
Through the revulsion of being touched by this thing her mind started putting the piece together. "...you're a Grimm, aren't you?"
"I suppose you could say that," it said, letting her go, "though technically that's your word for us." It sauntered over to the cluster of cocoons, "...humans are fascinating creatures, when you think about it. You actually go and name your food before your eat it, I've always found that odd…." The fake Pyrrha then leaned against one of the cocoons and began caressing it. "The only thing I and my brethren call are food is 'delicious'!~"
The way Fake Pyrrha rubbed the silken pod was...it made her feel uncomfortable, and when it started rubbing Pyrrha's leg on the pod she felt like she needed an adult.
"I don't think you could comprehend how you humans taste to us; imagine the most delicious thing you can, and how pleasurable it is to consume, and it would still not be close to what I feel when I consume one of you Silver humans…~!"
Now Ruby was starting to panic.
"But that's not to say I don't enjoy a little appetizer before my meal." The fake Pyrrha suddenly grabbed hold of a fistful of the cocoon and tore a large portion of it out, revealing an adult sized figure wrapped almost completely in silk. Fake Pyrrha then in and leaned the figure out of the hole she made and wiped a hand over its face, the motion somehow clearing away the silk, revealing an unconscious-
"Uncle Qrow!" Ruby gasped, nearly leaping out of her bonds. She couldn't tell if he was alive or not, she was too far away and to frantic. Oh my gawd, oh my gawd, oh my gawd! Is he OK? Is he alive? Where's everyone else, are they here too? How'd they get caught? Questions flew through her mind fast and furiously, her silken bonds cutting against her wrists and she struggled to break free and rush to her uncle's side.
"I haven't eaten him yet," it said, "it wouldn't do to snack on the bait, after all. Though I must say, the misery all of them hold is positively exquisite! You all hold very strong emotions for the human that died; I honestly wasn't expecting such a feast to greet me!~"
"The human that died". When Ruby heard the...creature say those words it sent her blood boiling. Pyrrha was a great person: kind, loving, steadfast, a good listener, amazingly talented in battle, and selfless to a fatal degree, and this thing, this evil was just going to wear her skin and dismiss her sacrifice like she nothing more than a statistic?
That made her angry.
"Her name is 'Pyrrha'," she said to the doppelgänger, her voice trembling on the edge of rage. In a moment all her panic and fear vanished, replaced with the desire to make this fake Pyrrha go away!
It chuckled, sickeningly sweet, and in an instant it seemed to rapidly unravel and reform right in front of her face.
"You humans are funny; it's no use trying to convince me to care more about my food than I do. Many have tried before you in a vain attempt to escape my web, and they were delicious." It pat Ruby on the cheek condescendingly, "They were the most fun to play with."
It's touch once again sent Ruby's skin rippling, and she had to fight against the overwhelming, almost instinctive revulsion to keep glaring at the Pyrrha shaped monster.
"Don't be like that," it admonished, "I'm just acting according to my nature. I can't help it if I was created to be like this."
"There's nothing natural about you!" she spat.
Further retorts were silenced when Ruby felt a prick on the back of her neck.
The monstrosity gave wicked smirk and let go. "Whether you believe me or not, I am enjoying the conversation I'm having with you. However, I'm getting hungry, so I'll have to cut this short."
"What did you-…?" Without warning Ruby's vision started to swim and she had trouble thinking clearly. It came out of nowhere, and she couldn't shake away the disorientation no matter how much she flailed her head around, which wasn't much because that just made everything worse. "...wha...didjyou do to me…?"
"Oh, I just gave you a little something of mine to help you be a bit more compliant." As it spoke it seemed to shift between the stolen image of Pyrrha and something else that Ruby couldn't quite make out, yet despite that it filled her with a sensed dread somehow familiar but distinct from the monster that imprisoned her. "Hmm...and it seems that you have an even more troubling memory than the male did."
Did she? She wasn't sure, it was getting harder to think clearly.
"Oh my, this is scrumptious! And here I thought you couldn't taste any better!"
Strangely, the more woozy Ruby felt the more clear the creature became and she could more easily make out its new form.
And unfortunately, it was one that burned itself on her memory forever: dark hair, a cocky smile, a red, strapless dress, and amber eyes that glowed with a sense of power and victory, and all of it wreathed in locking flames. This was the woman who killed Pyrrha.
"I must say," the creature remarked, it's voice now sounding disturbingly similar to Cinder's, "you are quite possibly the tastiest thing I've eaten in a long, long time!~" It states to reach out to Ruby, "I may just dispose of the others who were with you, it's not like they could even compare to this anguish within you, anyway!"
The scene changed; Ruby wasn't trapped in some web covered anymore, now she was standing atop a ruined Beacon, having just arrived at the aftermath of Pyrrha and Cinder's battle. The former was on her knees, the shaft of an arrow sticking out of her ankle, and was sans her weapons. She was looking up at Cinder, who held a hand to the young Huntress's face.
Then Pyrrha started to fade, her body dissolving into embers that the wind carried away.
She was watching Pyrrha die all over again!
"NOOOOOOO!" she screamed, as though trying to reject reality itself. And as she screamed she felt something burning behind her eyes, like there was a fire that was trying to escape from inside. She tried scrunching her eyes shut on reflex, but this only made the burning sensation more intense and they shot open, releasing the building energy in a single burst. She thought she heard an inhuman shriek, but whatever what creature did to her was still making her woozy, so she couldn't really tell if she'd imagined it or not. She felt herself fall forward, and the scene before her changed back to the web covered cave. She was laying on the ground, feeling exhausted; the monster appeared to have vanished.
As she stood up something managed to click: she wasn't bound by the sister webs anymore! She was free! And in this moment of lucidity she was suddenly aware of her surroundings again, and of the cocoons against the other wall. She didn't know where the creature had gone and didn't really care: Ruby had a chance to free everyone else and she was going to take it.
She leapt to her feet, and almost immediately face planted not ever five feet forward. She couldn't tell if it was because of the way she'd been hanging or what just happened with her eyes but every part of her body felt sluggish, like she'd been exercising with Nora for hours.
Oh come on, not now! Work, legs! I only need you for a few minutes! It was a struggle to even move her mutinous limbs, and it felt like it took years, but somehow she manage to stand up under her own power. It was more accurate to say she tripped forward rather than walked, but she reached the cocoons and set about tearing them open before she lost consciousness.
This proved more difficult than she thought it would be. The silk was very tightly woven together, which made it nearly impossible to rip apart like she'd seen Fake Pyrrha do; even Uncle Qrow's cocoon wouldn't give, despite already being partly open.
"Come on," she pleaded, "just open already!"
It didn't take long for her head to start swimming again, this time nearly causing her to fall over from how dizzy it made her.
"Dammit...not now! I need to…!" It was getting harder to think clearly, her brief moment of lucidity now waning. She needed to do something fast, before whatever poison that was coursing through her body knocked her out completely. And with how exhausted she felt, it was probably going to happen sooner rather than later.
There was only one solution she could think of that would get everyone free: she couldn't pull the cocoons apart, but maybe Crescent Rose was sharp enough to cut through the silk. With practiced ease Ruby drew her weapon from its holster and shifted it to its scythe form, holding it above her head. Her arms and legs threatened to collapse under the added weight of the weapon, but she needed to free everyone- ...no, she couldn't afford to let them die.
Not like Pyrrha….
With a mighty heave and a wordless cry she swung her scythe down. It was a clumsy slice with nowhere near the usually precision she was capable of. At first nothing seemed to happen- she wanted to slice open the other three cocoons at the same time, but with how poor her swing was it was clear that wasn't going to happen- but then one of the pods split vertically, spilling Jaune onto the floor.
What remained of Ruby's strength left her as Crescent Rose clattered to the ground, its wielder following immediately. It was an uphill battle just to keep her eyes open, like her eyelids were made of lead. Her arms and legs weren't much better, barely able to crawl two feet ahead without feeling ready to collapse and let sleep take her.
Need to...make sure he's OK…. He wasn't moving, and with how much her vision swam it impossible to tell if he was breathing from so far away. She needed to get closer so she could hear him breath, to make sure he wasn't dead.
Twenty arduous seconds later Ruby pulled herself next to Jaune and pressed an ear to his chest.
Please please please don't be dead…!
It was faint, but she could hear the dull lub-dub, lub-dub of his heartbeat, the soft sound of him exhaling, and because she was laying on top on him she could feel the slight rise and fall of his chest as he breathed.
He was still alive!
"Jaune," she croaked, giving hima weak slap in his cheek, "wake up...you gotta...hah...you gotta help me…!"
She was rapidly losing strength now that the danger was passed and the adrenaline in her body wore off. The lead weights hanging from her eyelids had now; it wouldn't be long before she surrendered to sleep.
Jaune moaned a little.
In one last ditch effort Ruby grabbed his shoulders and shook him as hard as she could with her rapidly dwindling energy.
"Jaune, please...get every...one…."
It was too late. Her plea trailed off as she fell atop the scraggly young man, her reserves all but drained. She finally lost the battle to keep her eyes open, and before long sunk into the warm embrace of dreamland.
She could swear the last thing she heard before fully losing consciousness was Jaune calling her name….
"...by? ...Ruby? Hey, Ruby, wake up!"
A voice managed to pierce through the veil of sleep and drag the young Huntress into the land of the waking. It was...familiar, like she she'd just heard it recently….
"Mmrrr...Yang?" she guessed as her lucidity slowly returned to her.
"Heh, wrong blonde," the voice chuckled. "Hey guys, she's waking up!"
"Guys"? But, she was still at home, wasn't she? There wasn't anyone else there but her dad, Yang and Zwei. Confused, she decided that opening her eyes might be a good idea and, with only a bit of struggle, was greeted with brightness.
Once that faded she saw the smiling, relieved face of Jaune Arc looking down at her, Ren and Nora behind him peeking over his shoulders.
"Welcome back," Nora said, "you feel any better now?"
"You were resting quite soundly," noted Ren.
"Yeah, not even all the Bullheads landed woke you up."
Bullheads...what? What the heck happened while I was out?
"And don't worry," Ren added, "your uncle is fine, albeit a little surly."
Her uncle-? Qrow!
"Where is he?" she demanded, sitting up to get a better look around.
She regretted it almost immediately as she almost pitched forward to the ground. Luckily, Jaune caught her before that could happen.
"Whoa, take it easy, Rubes! He's fine, the doctors are with him."
Past him, Ruby could see a few people in medic uniforms pushing a stretcher towards a Bullhead, her uncle moaning on top and weakly swatting at a Faunus medic who was apparently trying to reassuring him he'd be fine.
"Is she awake yet?" one of the women in uniform asked, walked up to the group. She peered over Jaune's shoulder, "Ah, good. I was afraid we might have been too late; you slept right through our landing, young lady, we were worried you might have slipped into a coma."
She had? Everything was still hazy, like she'd dreamed it all happening. The last thing she could remember clearly was going to bed after washing the dishes, and then….
"...how long was I out?" she asked, her eyes pleading. (They also felt a little sore for some reason….)
"A few hours," Jaune said as he helped her to her feet. Now that she was standing Ruby could see sky was significantly brighter than it had been earlier: the sun was already rising, just starting to cast shadows on everything.
Was everything that happened just a dream? It felt like it was, but at the same time it felt like something had happened, like it had after the fall of Beacon and-
...Pyrrha. She'd somehow been a part of what happened. Ruby couldn't shake that feeling, nor could she shake the inexplicable connection she made to spiders. She knew Pyrrha wasn't overly fond of the critters (and that was putting it very mildly) but surely that alone wasn't enough for such a poignant connection, was it? It hadn't even come up all that much when they knew her.
The reason was right on the edge of her mind, she could feel it, but no matter how hard she tried she couldn't access the information she was sure would help everything make sense.
"You kids are super lucky," the medic woman said, piercing through her musing, "Notmally we try to avoid this area due to there being some especially dangerous Grimm that live here, and if it wasn't for the smoke we'd have just kept flying."
Smoke? What smoke? Ruby looked around, craning her neck behind her. Off in the distance there was a faint orange glow coming from behind some building, with a plume of black smoke rising from it.
She couldn't put a finger on why she felt a wave of relief wash over her at the sight.
"Anyway," the woman continued, "once we make sure your friend is OK-" She gestured to Ruby. "-we'll give you all a lift to Haven. That is where you said you were headed, right?"
The flight to Haven passed by mostly in silence, not that Ruby could blame everyone after what happened. Her friends had filled her in on what happened while she was unconscious. Apparently she'd fallen asleep on top of Jaune, who'd made fairly quick work of cutting everyone else free of the cocoons they were trapped in. After bringing her and Qrow outside they'd gone back in and set the whole place in fire. It had been Ren's idea, since Rachnae nests could be hard to find and properly clear out otherwise. "Besides," he'd said, "no one's using it anymore." A short time later they'd heard the sound of airships approaching.
The explanation helped fill in many of the gaps in her memory, though not all. She still couldn't recall how gotten from their campsite to that house, or why she fell unconscious in the first place. It was nagging, but the more she thought about it the less she actually wanted to know. One of the things she could remember clearly was everyone acting depressed and angry at each other, but they all seemed better now: Ren and Nora were now cuddling together, Jaune seemed less dower than he did before, and Qrow- ...well, he was taking a nap now, but had been talking the ear off one of the medic women, which was usually par for the course for him. At least, it was when he didn't smell like he took a shower in booze.
And now they were practically headed straight to Haven Academy; after the past few weeks she didn't begrudge her friends- or herself- the respite, however brief it turned out to be.
Feeling restless, Ruby stood up and stuck her head into the cockpit, calling to the pilot. "Excuse me, sir! Um, how long 'til we get to Haven?"
"I'd say about an hour," he said, "once we're done with our patrol. Sorry, but you're going to have to sit tight for a while." He glanced back at her. "Gotta say, I'm a little envious of your Huntsmen; we've been trying to take out the Nuckelavee for years and you kids apparently killed it like it was nothing!"
Ruby blushed a little at the sudden praise. "Uh, 'Nucka-what'?" she asked in an attempt to deflect the attention off of her.
"'Nuckelavee'," the pilot enunciated. "It's from an old folk tale around these parts; us rank and file guys have a bunch of names like that for Grimm of interest."
"Oh." Huh, no kidding? She wondered what that Grimm that could process rock was called? "Well, I wouldn't say it was nothing…." She scratched the back of her head.
"Maybe, but it's still impressive." Then he turned back to the sky ahead, "Good thing you guys weren't fighting Anansi, though."
Ruby didn't like that name; the instant she heard a feeling of dread washed over her. "What kind of Grimm is that?"
"Honestly? No one really knows for sure. It's mostly just speculation from reports of people suddenly disappearing; 'survivors' don't remember their companions, even though there's conclusive proof of these people existing. Since there are never any remains, the theory is it's some uncategorized Grimm that's able to lure people away without the others noticing and devouring them." He shook his head, "But nevermind all that. You probably want to relax, not listen to some flyboy talk about scary bedtime stories. Anyway, go ahead and let the others know it won't be an hour before we touch down."
"Yeah, sure…." Ruby made her way back to her seat, replaying what the pilot said over and over in her mind. All if it poked at the part of her memory that apparently locked itself away, and it frustrated her to no end that she couldn't remember why.
"Ruby?" Jaune asked as she sat back down, "What's up, you OK?"
"...Hmm?" She glanced up at him. "Oh, nah, I'm OK. The pilot said we'll get to Haven soon."
"Oh. Cool." He glanced over at Nora and Ren, who were still cuddling, "Think we should interrupt?"
"Nah," Ruby shook her head, "give 'em a few more minutes." She didn't want to intrude on their moment.
She'd just sit here, wishing she didn't ask about that Grimm….
And there you have it, folks! I've finally wrapped up this little distraction keeping me from working on "Accidents Happen". Y'all should see the next chapter of that [hopefully] sometime in April.
So you know how sometimes you just see or read a thing and suddenly you've already written the entire story? That's basically how 90% if the fix's I write happen, including this one, which came to life after I found some fanart if "Pyrrha"mid Head. (It's honestly super cool and I encourage people to look it up.) Of course it morphed and changed as I was writing it, but I feel the basic idea came through.
As you can probably guess from the title, the story was going to play out more like Silent Hill, with Team RNJR all confronting various tragedies in their lives, with Jaune's being a zombie Pyrrha. I guess that turned into "Grimm that could screw with people's minds", which I actually like more because I've wanted to try my hand at Vindictive Pyrrha for a while now. (I mean I've wasted to do a lot I of things with how Pyrrha would feel after dying, this just happened to be the first.) Plus I just couldn't resist the allusion to the classic Anansi fable, obviously with my own spin (heh, spider puns….) on it, or writing something an insert to an already existing story.
Anyway, off to start researching the intricacies of pregnancy again. As usual, follow me on my Tweeter " the_layman215" and elsewhere to keep up to date and watch some fun videos I make. (links are all in my pinned tweet)