This is my first attempt at an AU, or Alternate Universe.
WARNING: contains medieval blood, violence, language, and sensuality.
Please leave a review: anything and everything helps. Thank you so much!
This story is dedicated to two very special people to me.
Monty Oum, RWBY's beloved creator, passed away on 2/1/2015. Because of his brilliant imagination and unyielding desire to create, RWBY, the very foundation of this story, came in to existence.
Nancy Phetchareune, a wonderful artist, passed away on 9/22/2013. Because of her incredible RWBY artwork, I received the inspiration to write this story.
I am eternally grateful for what they have done for me. Without the both of them, I would have never been able to write this story.
Rest in Peace.
A cool autumn breeze blew towards Ruby Rose's face, tickling her bright red cheeks. Resisting the temptation to wipe away the sweat gathering at her brow, she inched forward, careful to avoid fallen twigs on the forest floor. The elements seemed to be on her side as the wind blew towards her, ensuring that the buck wouldn't be able to pick up her scent. Muscular and seasoned, its ears twitched as a nut fell from the tree; judging by its immense size and long, weathered antlers, the buck had seen many summers.
The huntress froze in place as the animal momentarily observed its surroundings before resuming to pick bark off of the tree before it.
Holding her breath, Ruby reached into the quiver fastened to the back of her belt and quietly drew out a single steel arrow. Nocking it without taking her eyes off the beast, she then drew the bowstring back even slower, the skin on her middle and index fingers toughened and calloused from years of archery. With her bow and the shafts of her arrows made from the black trees of Forever Fall, and her hooded cloak dyed blood red to match the year-round color of the forest's leaves, the huntress was engulfed in a sea of red and black.
By the time the buck reacted to the loud twang of the bow, it was too late. Quickly firing another arrow into the dying animal's thick neck, Ruby nocked a third arrow before hurrying forward.
Bleeding profusely from the two fatal wounds in its neck, the deer gazed up weakly at the young huntress. With a quick inhale, she released the third arrow, swiftly ending the animal's life. After making sure it was dead, she removed the arrows and cleaned them with a cloth before walking away. She returned shortly later with her homemade sled in tow.
While visibly shabby due to it being made out of scrap wood, it was sturdy as it was reliable. Pulling it to the side of the buck, she grabbed the buck's antlers and pulled with all her strength. At first the body refused to budge, but after several attempts, she finally managed to pull the massive beast onto her sled.
Rubbing her hands in excitement, Ruby then grabbed a coil of rope from the sled and tied the buck down to the sled. After the body had been secured, she took the sled's front reins and wrapped them around her shoulders and waist. With a happy sigh, she began the trek home.
With such a heavy animal in tow, Ruby found herself stopping frequently to catch her breath and to stretch. It was those short moments that allowed her to continue to marvel at her accomplishment; it was rare of her to get close enough to a buck and even rarer for her to manage to bring it down. Most times she left the forest only with small pheasants or rabbits. Never before had she managed to kill something of this size.
Along the main road that led to her home, she passed by the dozens of fields that lay on the outskirts of her home. Some privately owned and some owned by the aristocracy, farmers and their families worked them tirelessly. As autumn approached its midpoint, farmers were in the process of harvesting crops planted during the summer and tilling the land for the winter. While heavily immersed in their work, there were some who managed to catch sight of her and the buck on her sled. Reactions were varied as usual: some waved, some looked the other way, and some shook their heads.
After trudging through a personal path she made for herself in a long stretch of underbrush, Ruby finally pulled herself and her sled free from a vine and out into a lush, green pasture.
A wave of cool wind immediately greeted her, almost throwing her off balance. Exhausted and covered head to toe with twigs and leaves, Ruby lowered herself down slowly, groaning as she felt her calves and thighs ache as she sat down. Leaning against the front of her sled, she inhaled deeply through her nose and exhaled slowly out of her mouth. Deciding that a much longer break was needed this time, she wrapped her cape around her sore body and took in the beautiful view before her.
At the end of the pasture stood the city of Vermilion. With two defensive walls that no other could match in the north, the city served as the proud capital of Weischandel. Located in the northernmost region of the Kingdom of Vale, Weischandel was one of the twelve provinces that comprised the kingdom. Revered for its abundance in mines, as well as the unmatched skills of its miners and metal smiths, it was also the territory responsible for maintaining and defending the Northern Wall.
A massive superstructure over one hundred feet tall and hundreds of miles long, the Northern Wall divided the kingdom from the Wastelands, the barren and desolate territory north of Weischandel. The wall's sole purpose was to protect the kingdom from the horrors that lurked beyond the wall, humankind's deadliest and oldest enemy: the Creatures of Grimm.
As the entire wall was in Weischandel, the responsibility for the protection of the kingdom personally fell to Lutolf Schnee, Warden of Weischandel and one of the kingdom's twelve rulers.
Just like the other eleven provinces in the kingdom, Warden Schnee was of ancient blood and the direct descendant of one of the Mythic Twelve. Hundreds of years in the past, the Grimm had almost returned humankind back to the dust it had been born from. However, when twelve legendary heroes rose up and united the peoples of Vale, humankind was able to push the Grimm back to their toxic womb in the Wastelands.
With bloodlines tracing back to the very twelve heroes who had preserved the peoples of Vale from destruction, each of the twelve rulers were the legitimate and rightful rulers of their own territories.
However, they ultimately owed their complete loyalties and allegiances to one of their fellow rulers. Her Majesty Constantina Dragas, Grand Duchess of Finestra, and Queen of the Kingdom of Vale, was the supreme ruler of the realm. The direct descendant of the leader of the Mythic Twelve, Queen Dragas was the realm's current monarch, ascending to the royal throne at the tender age of fifteen when her father passed away from old age. Now at the age of twenty-five, she was the youngest monarch to rule over the kingdom in recent history.
Ruby sighed enviously at the thought. A girl, not too much older than her older sister, ruled over the entire kingdom. Wealth, power…recognition. The young huntress shook her head and instead focused on the beauty of her home. From where she sat, she could see just slightly over Vermilion's outer wall and spot key buildings such as the Vermilion Cathedral, the Garrison Watchtower, and the Schnee Manor. If it was tall, it was important.
Having taken a long enough rest, Ruby decided that it was time to go home. The sun had begun to set and it wouldn't be long before the bazaar opened up in preparation for the night market.
As the village's outer stone wall came into view, she picked up the pace, eager to show her sister and friends her great accomplishment. Built to completely enclose the city, the outer wall was ten feet tall; its many towers stationed with sentries and its gates made out of steel three inches thick. Each and every time she returned from hunting in Forever Fall, the young Huntress could not help but feel humbled by the magnificent stone walls.
"Ah-excuse me! H-Halt!" a lone sentry called out as Ruby approached the northern gate of the village. "Papers p-please!" the guard asked nervously. He stood about half a foot taller than Ruby and wore a polished cuirass, a type of plate armor that covered only the torso and neck. A cuisse protected the sentry's legs and he wore a full helm that covered his entire head. The man lifted up his halberd and tilted it slightly towards Ruby as a warning.
Ruby smiled and reached into her pouch for her papers. The guard waited patiently, awkwardly readjusting his helmet every few moments. When her hands came out empty-handed, her eyes widened with horror. She had forgotten her papers.
As a form of identification, all villagers were given papers whose authenticity was proven by a seal that identified them as civilians. Whenever they left the city, they were required to show them to the guards to re-enter the village. Visitors and travelers were issued temporary papers, only after having a brief yet thorough background check. Although tedious, the practice was implemented to practice security and to discourage infiltration by unwanted persons. If villagers forgot their papers, they were penalized each time with a fee of twenty Lien, an equivalent of two large loaves of fresh-baked bread. Yang would not be pleased. Her older sister was very stingy with their money, as they weren't exactly well off. Ruby looked at her feet and sighed.
"I'm sorry, I don't have my papers with me today, sir," the huntress said sheepishly as she extended her empty hands towards the guard.
"Ruby, is that you?" the sentry suddenly asked. Leaning his halberd against his shoulder in order to take his helmet off, the polearm slid off and hit the steel gate behind him with a crash. Ignoring it, he began to tear at his helmet. "Stupid thing," he muttered. Once he managed to pull his helmet off, let out a surprised gasp. It was Jaune Arc, one of her friends.
"I can barely see through this dumb thing!" he whined. "How am I supposed to defend the gate if I can't even see who's standing right in front of me?"
Ruby giggled as Jaune began a tirade about his list of complaints about the armor he and the other guards had to wear. Since they were small, she and Yang had been close to Jaune. As Jaune's father was a frequent donor to the church that gave shelter to them, the three of them came to become good friends. When Yang and Jaune turned eighteen, Yang decided to become a blacksmith and Jaune decided to follow in his father's footsteps by joining the garrison. It was his lifelong goal to attain the rank of sentinel, the highest infantry rank in the garrison, but for now, he was a sentry struggling to get his feet wet.
"-but I still enjoy my job!" Jaune exclaimed proudly as he crossed his arms.
"Jaune," Ruby began, not liking that she had to change topics, "I don't have my papers with me."
Jaune let his arms fall to his side and looked at Ruby's empty hands. "That is a problem." He looked back up to her. "You do know the rules Ruby, right?"
"I do Jaune." She stopped, and then twiddled her thumbs. Lowering her voice, she whispered as she kept a watchful eye on the guards above the wall and on the other side of the gate. "Can you please let me go through this one time? I promise it won't happen ever again."
Without a moment's hesitation, Jaune pulled out a small leather pouch and retrieved a bronze twenty-Lien coin. Taking Ruby's hand, he then dropped the coin into her hand and cleared his throat.
"That will be twenty Lien miss," he tried to say in an intimidating voice which only made Ruby snort with laughter. Jaune raised an eyebrow and extended his arm out to her. "AHEM?" Ruby put the coin back into Jaune's hands and then jumped into his arms, hugging him tightly.
"Thank you so much Jaune, really," she said as she let go of him and dropped back to her feet. Jaune ruffled Ruby's hair as he inserted the coin back into his pouch.
"You better remember next time," Jaune said in a hushed tone, "I don't think the other guards are as nice." When Ruby nodded, Jaune smiled at her before walking to the gate and calling into the messenger tube. "Open the gate please!"
"Got it", a tired voice replied.
The steel gate began to lift up and Ruby tightened the ropes around her waist again. When the gate was locked into place, Jaune gave the all clear and Ruby pulled the sled forward into Vermilion.
Jaune watched in awe as Ruby hauled the massive buck carcass away from his post. Just before she disappeared from sight, the two waved goodbye.
"A-hem," said a voice behind him.
Jaune yelped and dropped his helmet to see the commander of Vermillion's garrison right before his eyes, Commander Pyrrha Nikos.
"Pyr…C-Commander Nikos!" Jaune stammered as he saluted quickly. "How did you-?" he managed to say until he saw the rope dangling over the side of the wall. The red-haired woman chuckled tamely and playfully punched Jaune's shoulder, knocking him slightly off-balance.
"Forgetting something?" the commander asked as she bent down to pick up Jaune's helmet. Brushing off the dirt, she then handed it back to him.
"T-Thank you Commander!" Jaune squeaked as he took the helmet and held it tightly with his other arm.
Pyrrha grinned and put her hands on her hips. Her eyes scanned Jaune from head to toe before nodding with approval. "You look quite dashing in your new armor Jaune. Better thank Yang for that."
"Y-Yes! I will be sure to do so!"
Jaune exhaled heavily and turned around to see his commander from the back as she made her way towards the city interior. Even after all this time since she arrived in Vale, in Vermilion, he still felt the upmost respect and admiration for her.
Hailing from the Kingdom of Mistral, the neighboring kingdom to the East, Pyrrha was currently on her third year of pilgrimage. Now twenty-one, she left her kingdom at the age of eighteen. It was a custom for Mistralans to embark on a journey, wherever it may take them, and to return only when they believed that had accomplished something truly remarkable. While the pilgrimage wasn't required, many chose to do so in order to bring honor and pride to their family name and kingdom.
And so, many months later and hundreds of miles away from her kingdom, she finally wound up in Vermilion, the capital of Weischandel. Highly experienced in defensive battle tactics, something that her people excelled at in her homeland, she traveled through Vale using her skills as a mercenary. Her reputation of defending small settlements from hordes of bandits earned her such a reputation, that once she set foot in Vermilion, she was immediately offered a position in the garrison.
Graciously accepting the offer to help with her pilgrimage, Pyrrha dedicated her entire being to serving the Warden and the garrison. Within the next year and a half, she had risen through the ranks faster than anyone before her. From sentry, guardsman, sentinel, and even guardian, she eventually attained the rank of Commander of the Vermilion Garrison. The only individual who wielded more power than her was the Warden himself.
Despite being such a decorated and powerful military commander in the Vermillion Garrison, she continued to wear her traditional Mistralan armor and weaponry. From a reinforced tunic that had a single sheet of metal sewn over it, a circular chain mail around the neck, golden-colored cuisse leg armor that cut off mid-thigh, leather vambraces around her forearms, an arm guard bracelet over her left bicep, and a plated skirt that was wrapped by dark red drapery fell to her ankle, she was clothed by a set of armor that favored mobility and flexibility over stopping power and protection. Even her weapons abided by this military doctrine as she wielded a short sword capable of extending into a spear, and a light circular shield.
Without a helmet, her long red hair was tied into a simple ponytail, held up by a bronze circular headpiece that curved over her ears and pointed downwards on her forehead. The headpiece also had two small tear-shaped emeralds that were suspended by a small gold chain at the sides of her headpiece.
"Jaune," Pyrrha said, bringing Jaune back to attention, "you forgot something else." Jaune looked up to see Pyrrha holding up his halberd, which had fallen on the ground next to the gate. She tossed it to him, which he caught carefully with both arms, dropping his helmet again. "I'm sorry!" she said apologetically. She returned to him, and repeated the process of dusting the helmet off for him.
As she handed the helmet back to him, her tone suddenly turned serious. "Jaune, I know that you let Ruby in without showing you her papers." Jaune's face went blank. He stuttered, eyes shifting between Pyrrha's eyes and his feet. He finally sighed.
"I'm sorry commander. It's just that her family is-" Pyrrha raised her hand to interrupt him.
"I understand their family's situation, but rules are rules. People must learn from their mistakes", she stated solidly. "Understood?"
"Understood", the sentry said quietly.
"As punishment for not collecting the fee, I will have to deduct the fee from your pay."
With a frown, Jaune nodded. "I understand."
"Just kidding", she suddenly said with a quick smile. "The next time however, I will have to resort to disciplinary action. Now go finish your shift."
"Yes, Commander" Jaune answered obediently. He saluted and pivoted to return to his post. "Close the gate" he called into the messenger tube. As he stepped forward, he looked behind him one last time as the steel gate descended. Pyrrha was well on her way back towards the village center, perhaps to meet with the Warden, or perhaps to check on the other guards stationed elsewhere.
Jaune let out a sigh. He was only eighteen years old and held the rank of sentry, the lowest rank in the Vermillion garrison. On the other hand, Pyrrha was twenty-one years old, but had already fought in a successful military conflict in her homeland, traveled extensively as a mercenary, and happened to be the second most powerful person in the village, after the Warden. As if she read his mind, Pyrrha glanced back at him and smiled. Jaune panicked and closed his visor in embarrassment.