|------------A New Epic---------|
|Death has never looked so cute.|
|Official Characters||RWBY and co.|
Description: When the world goes mad and people go bad, it's up to four girls to team up and kick ass.
WARNING! Contains mild profanity, curses, and random violence. Read at your own risk.
Description: For every legend, comes a beginning. Comes in two parts:
Part I: Brown: A Common Thread (OC Character), IN PROGRESS
Part II: RWBY (Characters from the show), NOT YET STARTED
Hello! This is a short preface by the author, Hallucinia (you can see my profile here ( http://rwbyfanon.wikia.com/wiki/User:Hallucinia ). I'll be talking about why I decided to write it, what's going to happen next, yadda yadda. If you want action, skip right to PART I.
I discovered Monty Oum's awesome new series just a few days ago, coinciding with the release of the Yellow Trailer (how cool is that)! I have to say, I got addicted to the concept but was frustrated by the lack of content available, with the release still a month away. So, I decided to fill in the universe with my own thoughts and so began writing my second ever fanfic. Cheers!
I wanted to write this fiction because I fell in love with the main characters, Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang. I wanted to make them into real, breathing people and have them interact with each other and the world! The thing was, I didn't have a clue on how to begin the thing (due to the lack of content...) and didn't have quite a good handle on each of the characters: so then, I created an OC character, dropped him into a wholly unknown world, and sent him off exploring. As he goes along, I make up the world and the plot marches on, so by the time all the main RWBY characters are introduced, the plot is set, the world is right, and then we can all focus on what we came here to read: TEAM RWBY!
By PART II, our good old smuggler friend will no longer be a main character. But no worries: good ol' Jackson will always have special place in my heart.
) PART I: BROWN: A Common Thread
Chapter 1: Luck of the Devil
THE branch next to Jackson’s head shattered as a bullet struck it, sending tiny pieces of bark into his face.
Jackson was not a man one could easily forget. His line of work didn’t allow it. Conning people was an art; it was lying to their faces and expecting them to swallow it. A timid man would find it hard to pull off. To Jackson, it was, of course, natural.
With his brown coat, brown pants, brown hair and brown eyes, Jackson resembled a piece of walking leather. Called by those who knew him a “lost cause” or “bad egg,” he was completely unrepentant and had broken the law more times than he could count, despite his status as a young adult. It was his personal point of view that if people were stupid enough to fall for his tricks, they completely deserved whatever they got. As a result, he had made few friends and moved towns every few weeks to save his neck.
Recoiling, he lost grip of the reins of his horse as he attempted to navigate blind through the autumn forest. For a brief, terrifying second, it seemed as if he was about to lose control, but he caught the reins again in the nick of time and ducked under another branch. Turning, he called back at his pursuers.
“What’s the big idea, sheriff? Is this how you treat folk trying to make a living?”
The leader of the mob of very angry men chasing him raised his pistol and took another shot. This time, Jackson was prepared and weaved.
“You damn ass, Jackson, I told you that if you ever showed your face in town after that stunt you pulled, you were going to the rope! I’m gonna take your heartstrings for my banjo when I blow you stone dead!”
Amazing, Jackson mused. It looked as if the sheriff had taken a bag of peanuts to the head, so red was his face.
“Not my fault those fat aristocrats lost it, sheriff! I did tell them not to overdose on the goods!”
“Shut it! When I get my hands around your pale flabby neck, Jackson, I’ll—”
The rest of his words were swallowed away as a well-aimed bottle exploded against the sheriff’s head, knocking him out. Jackson cackled as the sheriff slumped off his horse.
“Told the bastard my stuff would knock’em stone cold.”
He leaned forward, leaving his pursuers in a storm of dust and leaves.
It was night when Jackson began to slow. It had been a long day, and even under the threat of impending death, he needed a rest. Leaping off his stolen horse, he began to survey his surroundings.
He turned over to his four-legged companion.
“You wouldn’t betray me in my sleep, would you?”
He petted the horse on the head.
“There, that’s a good girl.”
He began setting up for the night.
JACKSON was awoken by the sound of twigs snapping. He jerked up, but it was too late.
“Gotcha, you lowlife!"
His head exploded in white stars as something heavy connected with it.
“This is your last run, Jackson! After today, you will answer to the law!”
A red-haired tough planted a boot on his chest. Behind him, three other policemen stood, their hands on their sidearms.
“Got any last words?”
“God have mercy…”
The redhead laughed.
“He will. That is, after I’ve finished with you!”
“No, I mean on you!”
Jackson reached up and grabbed the squealing idiot by the crotch, and pulled the fool down over himself. Scrambling up, he held the redhead as a living shield.
“Lord, they get dumber every time.”
He drew out his own sidearm.
“Look, gentleman of the law: we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the fun way. As in, fun for me.”
Jackson pointed the gun at his prisoner.
“So, how about this: you give me a 10 minute head start, and as compensation, I’ll leave this twit alive. Good?”
One policeman hissed.
“How will we know the second you’re out of sight, you won’t just blow his brains out anyways?”
Jackson paused. This one was smart. He then sighed dramatically.
“Fine: I’ll leave my horse here. There’s no way in hell that I’ll be able to escape you guys on foot, so you’ll know whether to add the crime of manslaughter to my head or not. Deal?”
The men hesitated. Jackson hissed. He did not have time for this.
He fired his gun over their heads.
"Yes? Or no?”
The policemen as one, nodded hesitantly. Jackson smirked, and began backing away.
"Knew you were gentleman.”
Of course, right when he was out of sight, he clubbed the twit unconscious. It only took him about two or three tries, but after he had knocked the idiot out, and clubbed him again for good measure, Jackson began to run. Sure, he had gotten out of a bind—but it was a stopgap measure at best. As he saw it, this time, there was no easy way out; at least, until he almost fell into a large pit.
Swiftly, he began to uncover it. It was a wide pit, around two meters in diameter, and as far as Jackson could tell, very, very deep. He looked back, and sighed.
“Screw this, I ain’t got a chance otherwise.”
Feeling as if this was going to be a momentous event in his life, he leapt into the void.
THE first feeling was one of overwhelming darkness. Then, there was rushing wind. Then sheer utter terror, as he kept on going.
“OHHHH MY GAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWDDDDD!!”
Jackson screamed for what felt like eternity before abruptly banging on the surprisingly soft ground. He looked up, at the tiny circle of light that was the entrance, and started laughing nervously at his lucky break.
“Blockheads never gonna figure that out.”
He began to blindly feel his coat for his matches. After a minute or two, he finally located them. The sudden light blinded him for a second, but as he transferred it to a wooden stick he had found, his eyes began to adjust. Jackson looked at the vast cave system, and sighed.
“Now, to get out of here with my ass intact…”
As far as Jackson could tell, the tunnel seemed to have formed from some sort of ancient underground river—it was a tubular thing. The air was damp, and there where stalactites and stalagmites everywhere. Jackson began walking down the lower end, where the river would have led to if it had still been active. By his reasoning, it was more likely to have an exit; and it would be easier to walk down, anyways.
It was dark, it was dank, it was boring. So Jackson began whistling a few old tunes he had picked over the years to pass the time. So preoccupied was he that it took him a minute or two to notice the atmosphere get drier and drier.
This was it, he thought. This was the exit. After the all the time spent in the infernal damp darkness, he was almost tempted to try and run for the damn opening. But his years of living where the light of law did not exist had taught him that it was better to be careful: the exit wasn’t going to move anytime soon, after all. It would suck royally for him to trip and impale himself on a stalagmite now, when he had finally extricated himself from the law’s eager fingers. As he mused on where the tunnel was leading him, he noticed his breath was beginning to mist.
He shrugged. It was probably just the effects of the cave. But as he continued forward, his unease began to mount—slowly by slowly, he began to feel the temperature drop.
“Just what the hell is this?”
He began to shiver. The atmosphere was taking a toll on his imagination, he reasoned. It was impossible…
A drop of water fell on his head.
He looked up—and stopped, flabbergasted. It was a huge icicle! With dawning horror, he began to look around him. All the stalactites and stalagmites he had been walking across the past few minutes were entirely made of ice. Jackson stopped whistling. His unease spiked.
“Something’s not right here…”
He began to run. After a few minutes, there was finally a change in light. Desperate by now, he began sprinting, dodging the icicles, in an effort to reach the mouth.
The sight that greeted him left Jackson utterly dumbfounded.
IT was a silver, snowy forest. Gone was the sight of autumn, with its orange leaves and piney scent. Now, the air was crisp with cold and everything was covered by a pristine white.
Jackson, terrified, confused, slumped down to his knees.
“How…this…this is impossible!”
He looked around wildly. This had to be some sort of dream. Or...
He looked at the bottles tucked away in his overcoat. Surely he broke a couple in the fall, and the alcohol fumes were messing in his brain, right? He gave a weak laughed, and retrieved one to take a swig.
“It’s the old booze dream again…”
Then he heard a growl.
JACKSON froze. Slowly, careful not to make any sudden movements, he turned around…
Face to face with a giant wolf. There was a second of silence, as Jackson’s mind tried to process what it was seeing. Then it opened its maw wide, wider than Jackson imagined possible, and howled. Jackson stood, screamed, and fell back, scrabbling for his sidearm.
The wolf snapped its teeth and stood on two legs. Jackson’s wits fled him completely at this point and it was all he could do to avoid voiding his bladder in sheer, utter terror.
He sobbed in mindless fear, and tried to run, his body fueled by superstitious dread. A burst of pain tore through his back as the beast lashed out, trying to bisect the man. Jackson was sent flying, his elixirs and bottles shattered, the glass digging into his flesh—but he payed it no heed. All that he was focused on was getting the hell away. As the wolf lunged a second time, Jackson rolled over, enduring the searing agony as the glass pieces dug deeper into his skin. Stumbling back, his hand closed around something cold and metal. The werewolf lunged a third time and Jackson held up the piece of metal to defend himself.
His pistol discharged. The werewolf stumbled back, reeling from the unexpected pain. The shock of the blast broke Jackson from his terror-induced stupor, and moving faster than he had ever had, he stood up, aimed, and fired.
The werewolf stumbled back another step, recoiling instinctively from the roar of the pistol. Jackson began to grin manically.
"How’d you like that! And THAT! AND THAT!”
BANG! BANG! BANG!
He began pouring bullet after bullet onto the nightmare before him, advancing all the while, running on pure bravado. The werewolf, having enough, began to turn tail and run.
“That’s right, you pup! Go back to your mama before I take your guts for my shoestrings!”
Jackson began to whoop, firing his pistol after the werewolf’s retreating figure. He stood for a second, then slumped down, utterly drained.
“It’s going to be a long night.”
IT took Jackson perhaps an hour to get larger of the glass pieces out and finish treating the largest wounds with what little medicine he had left. Although exultant in the beginning, running off the initial high of beating a creature from legend, a werewolf no less; after the high, he was left with only bleak facts. He was stranded in an area he had no idea about, no equipment, no proper clothing and worse of all, he was bleeding all over the ground in an area where werewolves were running around. He would be lucky to survive this first night. A fire would keep him warm for the time being, but when the matches ran out…
Jackson shook his head. He would keep walking. He would continue on. He had been in worst situations. There was the time, for example, when he was trapped in the gaol with the noose waiting for him, and against all odds, he had escaped! There had been the time when the circus he was in had been set on fire, but he had escaped that, too! All of that was just as bad…right?
The realization of just how utterly screwed he was hit him.
Sighing, Jackson began to compose an epitaph for his grave.
The wind blew on.
AFTER the third verse, Jackson decided that moping was going to be a horrible way to die. As one of his old smuggler friends said before the noose got him, ‘a man never dies till the devil’s got his balls.’ Jackson swore wouldn’t die. He would survive, as he always did, and he would make a profit out of it. Who knew? He might actually keep the money this time. Jackson grinned. Werewolves and demons. He knew some rich nobles who would give their left arms to go on a hunt in a place like this. Now, if only he had a clue on where to go…
With a jerk, he realized, despite the darkness, he could actually still see perfectly. Curse the damn mutt! Jackson realized he was suffering from the effects of blood loss, and his most potent weapon, his mind, was not working at its full capacity. He should have noticed a fact like that much sooner.
“So, them eggheads said the moon and the sun rises from the east and sets in the west, right? I’ll be able to figure out the directio…”
His voice trailed off as he looked up.
The moon was broken. A full half of it had shattered off, leaving a crescent.
“…Oh boy, am I far from home.”
Resigning himself, he picked a random direction, and began to walk.
LEFT, right. Left foot, right foot. Left, right. Left, right. The cold winds ate at his body, sapping his strength. Still, Jackson refused to stop, for he knew it was certain death to hesitate in a land like this. So tired was he, that it took his numbed mind a few minutes to realized that the landscape around him had changed.
He was in a clearing. There were no trees around here, and the whole ground was covered in black, white, and red.
As dull surprise registered in his mind, he began to take notice of the land around him.
It was a scene of devastation. Wolf pelts were scattered everywhere. Deep scratches covered the ground. Rose petals floated and tumbled between the skins, disturbingly like blood. And, between the petals and the skins, were the largest caliber shells Jackson had ever seen. He hurried towards the shells, anxious to see what he could salvage.
The shells were huge. As in, ‘barely able to hold in a hand’ big. What did they use, a cannon? Judging from whatever it was that fired the rounds, it was blatant overkill. The clearing was liberally scattered with wolf pelts everywhere. Most of them were so mutilated that it would be lucky if he had enough material to use as a handkerchief. He walked over to one of the larger skins, and picked it up.
This one showed no signs of burns. It was, instead, sliced cleanly in half. Slowly but surely, a picture of the assailant grew in his mind, as Jackson mentally reconstructed the events that led to the death of an entire werewolf pack.
THE assailant was huge, well over two meters in height. Bald, his face was covered in scars and tattoos. Two cruel blue eyes grinned from their sockets. When he moved, his muscles rippled obscenely like waves. In one hand, he held an arm cannon. In the other, he was armed with an enormous claymore. He gave off such an aura of killing power that even the werewolves who faced him hesitated slightly before committing to attack. The largest of the wolves, the alpha, bristled at this blatant challenge to his supremacy. He gave a howl, and charged the man.
The Wolfcrusher (yes, Jackson thought, that name suited the mental picture of the man completely) laughed, and fired his arm cannon right in the werewolf’s face, blowing his head clean off. As the alpha’s headless body flew back, the other werewolves were already charging. The Wolfcrusher laughed, and with a single sweep, bisected three. He raised his arm cannon again, and blasted off three shots of such killing power that he was pushed back, leaving deep gouges in the snow. Laughing evilly all the while, the brutal Wolfslayer commenced the slaughter of the entire werewolf pack with extreme, ruthless efficiency.
It was here that Jackson’s imagination faltered. The Wolfcrusher had killed all the werewolves, yes. Then...
He started scattering rose petals, cleans all the wolf pelts and…just leaves them there?
His mind was suddenly interrupted by a ridiculous image of Little Red Riding Hood prancing around with her basket throwing roses and bullets in the air. He allowed himself two seconds to laugh at the preposterous mental image and shook his head.
“Well, whoever that mean bastard was, his loss is my gain.”
Whistling to himself, he began to pick up the wolf pelts. As he did so, his right foot stepped on something that went crunch.
He leaned down, and picked up…a red canteen?
If it was indeed one, it was the strangest canteen he had ever seen. Made of red metal, the canteen was totally open on the top.
“How the hell does someone try to drink out of this?”
He shrugged. Perhaps the Wolfslayer had a big mouth. He mentally added a mouthful of filed teeth to his mental image, just to be on the safe side. Sticking the thing into his ragged coat, he went back to work collecting the pelts.
It took the rest of the day, but by then, he had managed to make a decent cloak with the pelts. To his surprise, the ones that weren’t mutilated beyond belief proved to be surprisingly high-quality insulators, and for the first time he had gotten here, he had had a decent night’s sleep.
The next day, he stood up, yawning, and began stretching until a flash of pain swept over his body.
His hands flew reflexively to the side where the glass shards had penetrated, and came away with dark, red blood. Jackson ground his teeth with frustration. Apparently, his careless stretching had reopened the wounds. Well, he knew the perfect cure for that; he reached into his pocket and pulled out a bottle of alcohol. Toasting it to the sky, he called out.
“God above, you have a cruel sense of humor, but at least you knew not to touch the booze."
Jackson took a deep swig, and immediately spat out the liquid. It was cod liver oil.
“Damn the Trinity!”
If he wasn’t awake before, he certainly was now. Grumbling, he began to pack up.
OVERNIGHT, the snowfall had ceased entirely. He could clearly see the tracks he had made yesterday, and it only took a couple of minutes to find all of his possessions. With a clear head, he began to take stock of his situation.
It was better than before, but things were still balanced on a knife’s edge. He was hurt: not bad enough to hamper his movement, but given time, it could develop into a real problem, especially if it got infected. He was lost, in the middle of nowhere, with limited food: but at least he had found a way to conserve heat, and now that he thought about it, the werewolf hide would most probably mask his own scent and prevent him from becoming dog food. And, of course, he had discovered that, at the very least, humans (if crazed and homicidal) lived around here.
At the very least, he was no longer in danger from the noose. That was always a plus.
“Well, it’s day now. Let’s hope old father sun’s up there, watching down on us.”
He looked up, hoping against hope that the sky would, just once, be normal.
“…You gotta be kidding me.”
A bright round object hung in the sky, serenely. It was big, it was yellow.
But it wasn’t a sun. It was the moon. But in a different color.
“Shame bout the weather.”
Jackson continued across the unforgiving landscape.
JACKSON had been trudging aimlessly for perhaps an hour before he saw the single pair of tracks. They were deep, heavy things, clearly the mark of some large load.
Blood roared into his head, and he felt his mind crystallizing, focusing. This was a tremendous stroke of luck. Judging from the way the snow had been freshly plowed, they were perhaps less than an hour away. For a group to travel alone in this deserted land, they must have brought supplies, food, medicine! Judging by the heavy load, they might even have an extra horse for him to steal, which would drastically improve his chances.
Jackson grinned. Fortune, it seemed, had finally seen fit to bless him. As his body began to run, so did his mind begin to race with the warmth of trepidation.
EVEN from a distance, the carriage looked imperious. Large enough to hold perhaps ten men and all their belongings, it was pure white and had a twelve-pronged snowflake sigil stamped onto its side. In the front, an elderly man with a long ponytail stood, strong despite his age, dressed in an elegant suit. He was guiding the eight gunmetal-grey horses that pulled the carriage across the snow.
Clearly, it belonged to someone rich or important. Hopefully, Jackson thought, it was both. From his hiding spot, he squinted, trying to make out the presence of any guards.
None. Just an old man, and whoever was inside. The rich idiots probably relied on their status to protect them around here.
From his vantage point, Jackson grinned, and pulled the cloak around him tighter, obscuring his features. It wouldn’t do for him to rob the nitwits and be caught the first time he stepped into a town store because his face was plastered on wanted posters. No, he was far too smart for that. Readying his pistol under the cloak, he began to stroll over to the caravan. Jackson called out.
The old man glanced at him, eyes cold and unreadable. The horses, however, did not slow down.
“Excuse me, kind master, but I am a lost and tired traveler. Plea—”
With a hand, the old man cut Jackson off. Turning his eyes away, he replied curtly.
“This is Schnee family business. No—”
Jackson fired his pistol right in front of the old man’s face. Instantly, the manservant stiffened, then turned his icy gaze upon Jackson. As the gunshot echoed through the forest, the eight horses came to a stop. Jackson whistled at the mechanical precision with which they had halted—they hadn’t even flinched at the gunshot! He really needed one of these. Well, it seemed his wish was coming true. Meeting the manservant’s eyes, Jackson spoke. He tried to keep his voice controlled, but failed miserably as finally, a day’s worth of stress uncorked itself.
“This is a robbery—nothing personal. We can do this the nice way, or we can do this the not-so-nice way; and when I say not-so-nice, I mean for you."
Jackson gestured with the gun. By this time, Jackson was grinning like an idiot. He couldn’t help himself.
“Now, just tell everyone inside the carriage to get out, hands raised, and stand in a nice straight line while I flip through the back. I promise, I’ll be careful not to track mud on your silken bedsheets, or break some three thousand dollar vase. In fact, I’ll leave everything except for your pride intact. Oh, and untie the horse.”
Jackson gestured at the one closest to him.
“I’ll be taking this one.”
For a second, there was silence, as the old man examined him. Jackson was actually slightly worried that he might have to shoot the manservant somewhere painful before he complied with his demands. Before he reached that point however, he was interrupted.
“Walter, what’s wrong?”
A light, melodious voice wafted from inside the carriage. Jackson was surprised. He hadn't expected the carriage to be carrying a young girl. In his mind, it was more likely some fat merchant or pompous noble was inside. Still, his heart hardened at what he had to do. Whoever the girl was, she was probably some kind of spoiled brat. She wasn’t going to die from a couple missed meals anyway, whereas he, Jackson, was in a position where there really was a danger of dying.
For the first time in the entire conversation, a flash of emotion flickered across Walter’s face as he looked at the carriage.
“Nothing, Lady Weiss. Just a small inconvenience.”
For a second, Jackson was utterly flabbergasted. When he realized the old man was not joking, he began to giggle.
Jackson spoke in a mock respectful tone.
“I don’t know if you’ve gone senile, but this piece of very fine metal I am holding in my hand is called a pistol. It is a gun, as in a device that shoots tiny pieces of metal at very high speeds. If I wanted to kill you, there is literally no force in the world that could possibly save you.”
He indicated a bump in the snow.
“Pretend my foot is the metal piece, and that bump your head. Observe.”
Jackson stepped on the bump, sending snow scattering everywhere. He raised an eyebrow at the old man.
“I think you get the point.”
Whatever reply Walter was going to give was cut off by a shuffling sound.
“Walter, I’m coming out now. Let me take care of this.”
A stunningly beautiful girl stepped out of the carriage. For a second, Jackson was thrown: it almost seemed like an ethereal winter spirit had descended to earth. Delicate, she was clothed in a dress of purest white that gradually tapered off into blue around the edges, with a highlight of red around the inside of the collar. Around her neck was a simple but elegant pendant of dark jade. She was wearing clipped steel-grey rectangular earrings, and her hair was done in an off-center ponytail, upon which was set a silver tiara. Hanging off of her left hip was an incredibly ornate ceremonial rapier, and her legs were bare, despite the cold; she wore white mid-calf wedge-heeled boots. What jumped out to him however were her soft, light blue eyes, which across the left ran an old scar. They spoke of hidden depths and deep yearnings. Despite the aura of a shrinking violet she seemed to give off, however, Jackson was not fooled for an instant. There was steel in this one, hidden under a layer of velvet. Still, despite everything, he was confident he could take this brat on. Jackson grinned under his hood, and gave a mock bow. Today then, would be her first test.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, mademoiselle. I am truly sorry that we could not meet under better circumstances, but fate compels me to go down this road. It saddens me, but I have no choice but to speak these words.”
Jackson intentionally drew out the pause.
“Your money or your life!”
Even the girl—Weiss, was that her name? could hear the sarcasm, and the threat, in Jackson’s voice. Her eyes hardened. Behind her, the manservant positively bristled at the tone Jackson was using. Still, she gave no indication of any insult given or any threat offered. She met Jackson’s eyes coolly.
“Traveler, we have no quarrel with you. If something my manservant or I have done has offended you, then accept my apology and go. If it is supplies you need, we can provide for you. Let none speak of the Schnee family as misers or tyrants.”
Begrudgingly, Jackson allowed himself to feel the tiniest sliver of respect for the girl. This one had guts, and a way with words too. He thought about it for a second, and sighed. He pointed his pistol down towards the ground.
“Look, if you had said that in the beginning, we could have avoided all the unpleasantness.”
Jackson gave a very pointed glance to Walter. Walter did not deign to respond to the barbed comment. Weiss ignored the exchange, focusing on Jackson.
“I’m just a lost traveler, seeking some things to make his life a little better. I’ll need a map, some medicine, a little food, a warm set of clothing, and couple hundred dollars. Really, not a lot for people like you.”
Weiss nodded, and spoke to her manservant, never taking her eyes off Jackson.
“Walter, please, bring the traveler what he requests.”
Walter glanced, almost disbelievingly, at his mistress.
“Lady, are you sure? There is no—”
“What harm would it do to bring a weary traveler items that would aid him in his travails? Is not the Schnee family famed for their kindness and generosity?”
Jackson, by now, could hardly keep himself from laughing. Oh, this girl was a professional, all right. When her butler had challenged her, she had told him in the politest of terms to shut up and do as she commanded and totally flopped the situation from a humiliating robbery by a lone gunman to an event of charity from the ‘generous’ Schnee family to an unfortunate soul. This one was going to be a power player when she grew up, all right.
From the way Walter’s eyebrows came together, Jackson could tell he understood the full force behind the rebuke. Still, without betraying any other sign of emotion, he gave a short bow and began walking towards the carriage. Just before he entered however, Jackson spoke up again.
“Oh yes, and I almost forgot; I’ll need transportation too. Untie that horse. I’ll be taking it.”
For a second, Jackson thought Walter was going to say something, but he restrained himself and entered the carriage. Weiss closed her eyes for a second then looked at him again, this time with a different expression. Jackson couldn’t quite place a finger on it, but it did not bode well.
“You are welcome to it, traveler.”
Jackson hesitated. There was a trick here, but he wasn’t getting it. There was no way he could back down now, however, least of all because one) he had attempted to mug them, and two) there just wasn’t anywhere else he could go. He met her challenge.
“Then thank you for your understanding, mademoiselle.”
In saying that, he fired his pistol directly at the rope tethering one of the horses, severing it, hoping to at least draw a reaction that might give light to what she was planning. Weiss didn’t even budge. She merely gave him a look that screamed, “I know something you don’t” and gestured to the horse. Jackson shrugged. Well, it was worth a try. He sauntered over the horse, trying to look unconcerned even as his heart was racing. He reached out his hand, and petted it.
“Who’s a good boy?”
The horse ignored him. Jackson frowned. He mounted himself on the horse and patted its rear.
The horse didn't move. Jackson was growing desperate. Even if he had all the supplies he needed, without a mode of transportation, he would be done for. He threw caution to the wind—with sharp blow he whacked his horse on the head.
His fist crunched against it with a metallic clang. The horse still didn’t budge.
Jackson screamed at the unexpected pain. He fell off the horse, landing in an unceremonious heap. Gritting his teeth, he glared at the girl.
“You! What did you—”
She was no longer paying him any attention, however, as a series of howls filled the air. Her hands had flown to her rapier and she was focused intensely on the dark forms approaching from the forest. Jackson’s eyes bulged out of their sockets as a formation of jet-black werewolves loped out, snarling. He had been so preoccupied robbing the carriage blind he had forgotten to keep a sharp lookout. Jackson screamed at her and began gesticulating wildly towards the other side.
“We’re going to die! Every man for himself! RUN!!!”
Saying so, he began to run away from the werewolves as fast as he could, not checking back to see if the others were following. If they were smart, they would be. If they weren’t, well, it was tough luck. For a second, he felt a flare of hope as he reached the edge of the clearing they were in, only to have it brutally crushed as four more werewolves loped out.
He turned tail and immediately began running back. By this time, the carriage had been completed surrounded by a circle of incredibly hungry werewolves and Jackson resolved himself to dying a horribly humiliating death, emphasis on horrible. At the very least, he was going to have some company in his misery. He began to giggle. Hahaha, misery loves company. He picked up his pistol and turned back to the girl, who, amazingly, had not moved a step, and had drawn out her rapier assuming a defensive stance. Well, Jackson was right about her having guts—too bad she wasn’t going to keep them for long. The ridiculousness of the sight of a delicate teenage girl shorter than him preparing to go toe-to-toe with a thirty something pack of 400-pound muscle-bound werewolves armed with a flimsy rapier combined with the bubbling hysteria in Jackson’s mind and caused him to start laughing shakily. If he was going to die, well, he was going to follow the girl’s example and do it in style. He spun his pistol, like a real gunslinger would, and withdrew a knife with his left hand. His hands were shaking.
“Well, Lady! Let’s hope that toothpick of yours chokes at least one of them to death before they swallow us whole! I’d like to say it was nice knowing you, but hey! We’re all going to the same hell together. Better luck the next life, eh?”
For a second there was silence. Then, a clear huffing sound filled the air. Jackson looked back, incredulously, as he realized the girl was giggling, hiding her face under her sleeve as she laughed. Jackson shook his head, and aligned the sights of his trembling pistol with the head of the largest werewolf. He took a deep breath, and steadied his hand.
“Girl’s gone mad.”
Saying so, he fired.
The bullet gouged a bloody furrow in the werewolf’s face, forcing it back a step. But even as Jackson fired, three other werewolves charged him from all directions. By now, any rational instinct had fled from Jackson’s mind. Any higher thought was blotted out as his mind shut down and he drew upon millions of years of evolutionary fight-or-flight response. He was running on pure survival instinct and adrenaline, and as the werewolves’ drew close, he answered the werewolves’ howls with a roar on his lips and countercharged. With power born of desperation, he stabbed his knife deep into the side of the first werewolf’s head, gritting his teeth as he heard the crunch of steel against bone. His momentum kept him going, and he body-slammed the beast and sent them tumbling across the snow. Jackson was spitting in blind fury. He stabbed the knife through the werewolf’s ear and into the ground, pinning it in place, and shoved his pistol into the werewolf’s face and began firing, point-blank, screaming all the while. He didn’t notice the black essence streaming out. He didn’t notice the werewolf’s frantic jerks. He didn’t even notice the pistol running out of ammunition as the werewolf gave a final shudder and died.
A burst of pain lit up Jackson’s world. Grunting, he flopped over, blood streaming from his side as a second werewolf bowled him over, frothing at the mouth in rage at what Jackson had done to its kin. Flecks of fetid drool splattered upon Jackson’s face and he screamed as the werewolf crushed his gun arm against the ground. As the werewolf dived for his throat, Jackson stabbed it through the mouth, skewering it shut. The monster backpedaled frantically, squealing in agonized fury, then turned tail and ran. Jackson stumbled up. His vision tunneled, focusing only on the last werewolf. It snarled. He snarled. It charged. Jackson charged.
Sound stopped. Time slowed. All that existed was Jackson and the wolf. The entire world looked like some sort of rose-tinted glass. Jackson was moving faster than he had ever moved, but to him, it was as if everything was moving as slow as molasses. The werewolf opened its jaws. Jackson narrowed his eyes, pivoted, and swung his left hand with all his power.
With a sickening crunch, his hand connected with the werewolf’s face. Waves of agony traveled down his arm as his bones broke, the momentum behind the two fighters so great. Jackson’s feet dug deep into the snow. The wolfman tumbled back, bleeding from its jaws, and lay still in the snow. It was out cold.
Jackson stood for a second, trembling. Was it over? Had he won? He began to laugh.
There was a growl behind him.
Turning, unable to believe this horrendous turn of fate, he looked upon the twisted visage of the first werewolf he had wounded. Jackson moaned.
“Oh no no no no no no no no no no!”
It sprang, hanging in the air with the yellow moon behind it, as if in slow motion. Jackson could see every individual scar on the werewolf, could count the number of its teeth, could see every inch of its lethal claws, but his body could not move.
There was a white blur.
The werewolf shattered into a million pieces of crystalline ice. Behind it, was Weiss.
She landed elegantly, like a dancer, rapier in hand. The crystal pieces rained softly down around her, like snow. Jackson stared stupefied. Behind her, the werewolf that Jackson had stabbed through the mouth keeled over suddenly, its whole body punctured with needles. Jackson turned over and looked at where the needles had come from. It was Walter, standing on top of the carriage, bag in one hand, needles betwixt his fingers in the other. He almost looked bored. Almost.
Jackson looked behind him. The thirty werewolves were gone. The ground was filled with pieces of shattered ice. Jackson put two and two together and concluded he was in deep shit. He looked at Weiss, and began to smile nervously.
Her face was dead serious. Whatever mirth was there before was totally, completely gone. She took a step forward. Jackson took a step back. She took another step forwards. Jackson tripped over a rock and fell back in a tattered mess. He could only watch impotently as she raised her rapier and placed the very tip at his throat. Wind blew. Blood dripped. Their eyes met.
Jackson gurgled as something ice-cold penetrated his throat. Numbness spread rapidly from the point to the rest of his limbs. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. As he keeled over, he heard distantly, a girl’s voice speak.
Then there was darkness.
“Lady, are you sure?”
“He attempted to rob us on Guild lands. Let him be dealt with under Guild law.”
Chapter 2: Wit and Cunning
THERE was only darkness.
Time was at a crawl here.
But Jackson didn’t mind. He was at peace now. In the inky blackness, he floated and danced.
So, this was death. If this was it, then dying wasn’t all it was hyped up to be, Jackson thought. It was like going to sleep, really. A nice nap, after a really, really, really horrible day.
But he was peaceful. He didn’t mind.
Or wouldn’t, except for one thing.
That damned girl had stabbed him in the throat, he fumed. Jackson wasn’t quite sure what he was more pissed off about, the fact that he was dead or the fact that he had been killed by a little girl. He had always knew he was going to die, but he had always imagined himself somehow going out in an epic bang that would secure his legend for the next generation of smugglers and con men, not stabbed to death by a little girl while he was on his knees. Sure, this side of the grave was much nicer than the other, but that didn’t mean he had to forgive his murderer. Jackson had held grudges for things way pettier than being murdered. He had been killed by some sort of crazy ballerina sorceress, and by the cursed toenails of Satan, he was going to stew in the afterlife for eternity for it. For the first time, he realized the meaning of unfinished business.
There was a light in the distance.
It was so faint that Jackson, even in the infinite darkness, didn’t see it at first. Or smell it. Or hear it. Well, he was dead right? He had no idea how he was receiving all this sensory detail. But he knew it, instinctively.
Damned right, he thought. I got unfinished business.
The light began to fade. Jackson began to panic.
Jackson began to head towards the light. He was closing on it, but not fast enough. Not. Fast. Ennnnnooooouuuuuughhhhhhhh...
“I’m gonna live through this even if it kills me dead!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Jackson screamed, and opened his eyes.
The sudden light blinded him. He staggered back, disoriented, and instinctively shot out his left arm to right himself. His arm did not respond, and he fell onto the floor with a soft thump.
“What the? What’s going on? Hey! Someone!”
His unfocused eyes looked around rapidly. Everything seemed like a series of white blurs. One however, stood out to him more than the rest.
It was the girl! The Weiss girl that had stabbed him through the throat! What in the world was she doing here with him in hell?
“You! You damned bit—arrrgh!”
He was cut off as he felt a wave of freezing pain spread across his body. His muscles involuntarily stiffened and he began seizing up.
“AHHH! GIRL! STOP IT! I TAKE IT BACK! AGHHHHHHH!!!!”
The pain suddenly stopped, and Jackson flopped onto the ground, powerless. He moaned. Weiss walked over and sat down on a couch by his side. To his surprise, for a second, she looked slightly…worried. Then it passed, and her face was expressionless.
“Shhh. Stay calm. Don’t move. Your body has taken a lot of trauma from your fight with the beowolves. If you continue, even my expertise in healing will not be able to save you from death.”
From death? He wasn’t dead? For the first time, Jackson took a clear view of his surroundings. He was in a large, airy room, lying on a soft fur carpet. The room rocked slightly, as if moving, and he realized he could hear the crunch of treads on snow. Was he in the carriage? He looked down. His injured arms had been frozen in some sort of clear, hard substance that numbed the pain and prevented movement, doubling as both a cast and handcuffs. His myriad other wounds had also been dressed, albeit in more conventional materials like bandages and gauze. Jackson was a smart man. He knew they were saving his life. But he had just attempted to rob them. There was a catch, and Jackson was sure he wasn’t going to like it.
Weiss spoke quietly.
“You attempted rob our delegation. Under law in our lands, the penalty is death.”
Jackson shivered, and not from the cold.
“…but, we are not in Schnee lands. You attempted to commit robbery in Cthonian Guild territory. In Cthonian Guild lands, you broke the law, and it is under Cthonian Guild law, that you will be punished.”
Jackson groaned. Wherever he went, it seemed, even in fantasyland, the dogs of the law were never far behind. Hoping against hope, he looked Weiss in the eye.
“And what does the Cthonian Guild do with criminals?”
Weiss met his gaze and stared back, eyes penetrating into his soul.
“You will discover soon enough.”
She stood abruptly.
“It will still take a few days before we reach our destination. You should use this time to recover, if you plan to survive the judgment of the Cthonian Guild.”
With that cheery note, she turned heel and left, leaving Jackson feeling very, very alone. He sighed.
JACKSON lost consciousness again, soon after. It seemed his mental struggle had jerked him briefly into consciousness, but after his mind realized nothing was about to dispose of him in some obscenely graphic manner, the toll of the past few days caught up with him and he nodded off. Not even the threat of imminent death could stop his body from taking a break.
So it was with great annoyance did he awaken when he was unceremoniously dragged from the carriage and dumped onto the cold, snowy floor. He snarled.
“What the hell is the big—”
Jackson immediately stopped cursing when he saw the killing glare Walter, the manservant, gave him. Weiss walked out from behind the old man. Her eyes softened slightly.
“Do you need help getting up?”
Jackson frowned. He tried wiggling his arms. They didn’t respond. Walter sighed, knelt to one knee, and hauled him up.
Jackson glared at the man. He was surprisingly strong. Walter, in return, gave him a thin smile.
“Thief; this is the last source of free-flowing water before we reach our destination in the city.”
Jackson grunted. He glanced around, and saw that they were at a bank of a stream. The carriage continued on behind him, in an upstream direction, even though there was no one inside. Jackson was confused.
“And? So? I don’t get what that has to do with...”
His voice trailed off as he saw Walter produce his clothes in one hand, bloody and torn. In the other hand, he was holding rectangular block of something yellow.
Jackson’s eyes narrowed.
“What’s the meaning of this?”
The old man didn’t smile, but Jackson could feel the smugness emanating off him. Weiss stood behind Walter, arms crossed. She remained motionless, but Jackson knew she had a hand in this. He hissed. He would not be taken for a fool.
Walter spoke, slowly and deliberately.
“As a lowlife and parasite, we can understand your lack of better wear. However…”
Walter grinned. It was not a good smile.
“Even the most ragged mutt understands the importance of cleanliness.”
Jackson’s mouth dropped open. And stayed open.
“The first few days, understandable. You had taken great wounds, and needed recovery. However, by now…”
Weiss gestured with her right hand. The hard covering on Jackson’s limbs shattered. He stumbled back, slightly shocked at this unexpected display of power, landing again on his ass in the snow. To his surprise, his arms no longer throbbed with pain. He glanced at his arms in amazement then looked back at Weiss, who by now had walked past him and was clambering back into the carriage, which continued on forwards, following the side of the streambank. Walter’s voice broke Jackson from his reverie.
“…Your hygiene is atrocious. Should you want to continue to benefit from our protection, you will clean yourself.”
Walter pointed one finger at the ice-cold stream. Jackson was completely and utterly flabbergasted. Sure, this was a world where werewolves stalked the land. Check. There was a young teenage girl here who was also a sorceress, and in the time it had taken for him to beat three werewolves, she had killed thirty. Check. Swords now beat guns. Check.
But. A bath? In this time? In this place?
“Are you mad?”
Jackson blurted out, incredulous. He began to laugh, long and hard.
“You aren’t seriously expecting me to take a bath? Right?”
He doubled over in the snow, tears falling from his eyes.
“Oh god! A bath! Really! In the winter snow, surrounded by werewolves and demons! A bath!”
He wiped the tears from his eyes and slowly got up, giggling at himself. He pointed at Walter.
“I’ve always thought you were a serious man, but now I see you’ve got a sense of humor, alright! A bath! Seriously! Hahahaha!”
For a second Walter stood very still. Then he smiled, slowly and nastily. With one smooth move, he tossed Jackson’s clothes into the river. Then, for good measure, he tossed in the bar of soap. Jackson could only watch in utter disbelief as they began to float away. Walter whistled.
“What a shame. It seems as if I’ve accidentally dropped your clothes in the stream, thief. Well, well…”
Walter clapped his hands together, and began walking away, following after Weiss.
“It wasn’t as if they were worth very much anyways.”
There was a splash as Jackson leapt into the ice-cold stream.
IT was night by the time Jackson had finished scrubbing himself and his clothes free of dirt and grime in the ice-cold stream. By then, he was tired out of his mind, and had developed a severe cold to boot. He sneezed. The carriage never stopped for him, continuing at a steady pace, forcing Jackson to continually pick everything up and run after it and begin the process anew of washing. Hell, he had thought about running a couple of times (it wouldn’t be hard) but without any supplies? In this wilderness? They couldn’t have more effectively trapped him than if they had tossed him into a prison. No, scratch that. He would take the threat of being knifed over being killed and eaten by werewolves. In the end, he ran as far as he could in front of the carriage to avoid having to relocate, and began cleaning furiously. Hours passed until he had every inch of his clothing and body clean.
Completely pissed, Jackson walked slowly over to the carriage, wincing in pain at the soreness of his muscles. He had spent too much time out of it, and his body was paying the price now. As he approached however, the carriage slowed, and Walter stepped down from the front of the carriage. Jackson hissed.
Walter bowed, and pointed to within the carriage.
“The Lady awaits your presence.”
Jackson snarled at him.
Walter only tsked after the retreating figure.
THE first thing Jackson noticed as he entered through the back of the carriage was just how warm and comfy it was. The second thing he noticed was that Weiss was sitting at her desk, back to him, mug of something hot and fragrant beside her as she skimmed through some documents. The third was that he was standing on a gigantic glowing snowflake sigil on the floor that was most assuredly not there before.
A single word was all he managed to say before his limbs seized up and he fell to the floor on his knees, arms hanging loosely from his side. Weiss swiveled around, a mug of steaming tea in her hands. Jackson tried to stand up. He tried to shake his leg. He tried to move his pinky. When he failed at all three, he began to curse obscenely at Weiss, until his exertions ended in a terrible bout of sneezing. Snot flowed down his nose, and he both looked and felt like a complete mess. He glared at the girl, calmly sitting at her desk, drinking tea; the being who had been both the bane and savior of his life in the past few days, humiliating him. Wasn’t she a mighty high and stuck-up bitch!
He sneezed again, his vision blurred. As his eyes watered, there was an unexpected feeling of softness on his face. It was so surprising, Jackson almost flinched back, until, of course, he realized he couldn’t. It went across his face, wiping his snot and tears off. As his eyes cleared, he realized it was Weiss. She was kneeling, helping him wipe off his face with a handkerchief.
There was a brief silence, as Jackson struggled to think of something to say. When nothing (other than more obscene curses) came to mind, he shut his mouth and attempted to kneel in dignity, and let her finish. Weiss got up gently, and tossed the now-used handkerchief into a wastebasket. She sat back on her chair.
There was a moment of silence as neither said anything and they both stared at each other.
It was Weiss who first broke the silence, surprisingly. She spoke quietly, so quietly that Jackson didn’t quite get the first part.
Jackson shivered. Between the sniffles and general misery he was suffering from the cold, he could barely hear what she was saying. Seeing his confusion, she leaned forward, and repeated in a slightly more audible volume, still in that musical, gentle voice.
“What’s your name?”
Jackson stared, mind flying through possibilities. Well, he couldn’t give her his real name right? Especially not now, when he was to be turned over to be punished by some kind of Guild: they’d keep his name in their records and even if he escaped he’d have to change his name to keep out of their clutches, which would be inconvenient. His mind whirred and clicked and he settled on the first thing that came to his mind. He answered confidently, showing no trace of deceit whatsoever.
Even as he gave his answer, he realized how ridiculous it sounded. Despite this however, Weiss seemed satisfied. Hmm, Jackson mused. At least his conning skills were still sharp. The girl had sat back, as if in deep thought. She had brought up her mug, and took a long, slow sip. The silence, though slightly less strained, persisted. Minutes passed, both content to just sit (or in Jackson’s case, kneel). Jackson found that surprisingly, he was feeling better now. As unbelievable as it seemed, the position was rather comfortable. He didn’t know whether it was because of magic or the carpeting or whatever other shenanigans this world was up to, but he was getting rather acclimated to kneeling. He figured that if he stayed like this long enough, he could actually manage to fall asleep. Jackson began to relax.
“Why did you attempt to rob our delegation?”
The question came out of nowhere. Weiss had maintained her quiet, even tone, mug in her hands, but Jackson could feel the deadly intent behind her words. Jackson began to sweat. It was never a good thing when someone in authority was using that tone, especially when you were kneeling in their carriage, helpless, mystically bound by some sort of crazy ice magic. Jackson had a feeling that his future comfort and safety would rely on his responses in the next few minutes. He glanced nervously at the sharpness of the rapier on her side and answered truthfully.
“I wanted to get some cash and hightail outta here, before a pack of werewolves showed up and decided I’d make a good appetizer.”
Her piercing answer was sharp, clean and precise, just like her bladework. It resounded like a peal of doom in Jackson’s ears. She didn’t believe him! She was still in a relaxed position, hands on mug, leaning back, but the atmosphere had changed. Literally. Jackson realized, to his awe and terror, that the temperature in the carriage had just lowered by ten degrees. He began to shiver.
“Your goals, even if they are true, leave far too many questions unanswered. How did you come to be in the middle of the forest in winter, dressed in summer wear? Why, if you did not want to become prey to the beowolves, did you wander out with no protection? Thus, I suspect your motives are far more nefarious then you claim.”
Her eyes narrowed. She spoke in a half-whisper, and it seemed she was almost struggling with something.
“Could it be…”
Then the moment passed, and she was back to her normal self. She gave a sigh and stood up. Her mug lay on her desk beside her.
“In any case, the facts are undeniable. You are a thief, someone who makes profit on the suffering of others. Not only is your occupation despicable, you have also attempted to rob an ambassadorial delegation, disrupting the ties between a Guild and a House. There is no question with what is to be done with you.”
She looked Jackson square in the eye.
“I called for you here, so you may receive your judgment formally. That much, you deserve. The last time we spoke on this, you were half-delirious. Now, with you fully conscious, I read to you your crime and judgment.”
She took a deep breath, and clasped her hands behind her back. It would have looked almost ridiculous, if she had not been speaking with anything less than total conviction. As it was, Jackson’s heart sank lower and lower as she spoke.
“You, Erasmus Brown, are guilty of attempting to commit armed robbery in the Hinterlands Forest. You attempted to rob an ambassadorial delegation of the Schnee family on Cthonian Guild soil. In good faith to our partners, the Cthonian Guild, we will stay our verdict of execution and deliver you to the Guild so that you may formally receive your sentence from them. Until then, you are my prisoner, and am to obey me in all matters. As is my right as judge, so do I, Weiss Schnee, Heir to the Schnee family and Contestant to the Throne, deliver your verdict.”
The snowflake sigil beneath Jackson pulsed once, and dissipated. He tumbled back, unbalanced. Weiss sighed, again.
“As a courtesy, I have decided to remove your bindings for the duration of this trip. Spirits alone know what you will suffer at the hands of the Guild. Your final days should, at least, pass with some dignity. You will not keep your belongings. You will not attempt to escape, or harm, or damage, or otherwise inconvenience me, or my manservant. If you do…”
Her voice suddenly hardened, and her eyes flashed dangerously.
“I will carry out your sentence myself…and it is one without mercy.”
TIME passed swiftly.
Jackson gave a groan. He flopped over again on his bed and looked straight up at the ceiling. His mood was dark.
The past three days had been hellish torture for Jackson. Sure, he had been treated…reasonably. He had been fed and clothed, hadn’t been tied up like an animal, could walk around outside on his own two feet, and Weiss and Walter even answered some of his questions, should he ask about something innocuous.
Still, the threat of imminent doom hanging over his head had cast a dark pall over his mood that even all the concessions he had received (which he grudgingly had to admit, were many; much more than he would’ve received in “the old world”, anyways), and Jackson had taken to brooding ceaselessly, plotting and scheming to escape, despite Weiss’s threats. Hey, if he didn’t try, he was dead anyways, right?
All his plans however, when taken to their logical extremes, ended in failure.
For one, he seriously considered running out into the wilderness and taking his chances. At least he would have some control over his fate. He dismissed that idea, however, as 1) he had seen Weiss move, 2) he had seen Walter shoot, 3) he had seen way too many werewolves in the past few days, though none had been so bold to actually attack again. He then considered ambushing Weiss and Walter. Sure, he didn’t like killing people, but it wasn’t like he hadn’t done it before. He grew up in hard places in a hard time, and sometimes, violence simply couldn’t be avoided, especially if one wanted to survive.
Then he remembered the incident with the thirty-and-three werewolves, and swiftly scrapped the idea.
The main problem, he mused, was that he simply had nowhere else to go. He was like a man adrift in the ocean, holding on a plank of wood with a snake perched on it, sleeping. If he attempted to swim with the plank, the snake would wake up and bite him. If he didn’t, the waterfall up ahead would kill him. If he let go of the plank entirely, well, let’s just say he had seen a couple of shark fins circling out in the distance.
He covered his face with his hands and groaned, again. Never had his future looked so bleak. He was so absorbed in his self-pity that it took him a few seconds to realize Weiss was calling him. The horn next to the bed sounded. Jackson had never realized how it worked, but it allowed people in totally different rooms to communicate with each other. That was most inconvenient for Jackson, as it meant he could never play the ‘oh woops, I didn’t hear you’ trick.
He instantly recognized the voice. Well, at least the assholes that captured him still didn’t know his real name. He took a few seconds to snicker softly at his small victory and then scrambled off the hard cot to walk over to Weiss’s section of the carriage. Hey, he was pissed, he was trapped, and he was most likely doomed, but there was no point in antagonizing his captors when he had a pretty sweet deal going on. He whistled a tune to himself absent-mindedly as the he unlocked the door of the room he had been staying in. As he did, his idle mind wandered to think about the sheer opulence of his current impromptu “jail”.
Weiss’s carriage was huge. Jackson had long ago realized that his earlier estimate of its carrying capacity being that of ten fully-grown men and their belongings was severely underwhelming. It could easily hold twice that. Of course, out of all that carrying capacity, over 75% belonged to Weiss, alone. Her room was large enough to be divided into subsections, such as a storage room, a bedroom, a workroom, a dining room, and most preposterous of all, a bathroom with warm water. It positively boggled Jackson’s mind just how a little girl could use all that space. The sheer unfairness of it all!
The other rooms, in contrast, were spartan, compared to Weiss’s. Then again, the average mansion from where Jackson was from would have been considered spartan, compared to Weiss’s room. Walter, the manservant, had a room twice the size of Jackson’s, though he barely spent any time in it. Jackson could honestly swear that in the three days they had been together, he had never seen Walter sleep. Then again, he probably was Weiss’s bodyguard (though why the girl needed a bodyguard in the first place was beyond Jackson), and with Jackson hanging around, he most likely had more work to do. Still, the manservant hadn’t complained, only giving Jackson a couple of evil glares whenever he messed something up. Jackson could roll with that.
The three other rooms (one of which Jackson was currently staying in) weren’t doing much better in the humbleness department. Sure, their sizes were more on par to what Jackson expected, but they were still huge, by his standards. Back in the “old” days, he would have considered a room with a bed a luxury. Not only did this room contain a bed, it had a desk, a closet, a toilet, a huge tub for bathing and a sink with running water! The sheer…excess…of it all had utterly shocked Jackson, even more than the werewolves out in the forest or Weiss’s sorcerous abilities. Mankind had always been exposed to things they couldn’t explain; hauntings, demons, women in general, whatever-you-have, so werewolves, magic, that was something Jackson could take in stride. But human nature and human stupidity…Jackson shook his head. Truly, those were one of the few things in the world that were infinite by nature. Running water? On a carriage? What in the world were these people thinking? Who needed running water on a carriage? Come to think of it, who the hell needed a toilet on a carriage? They were in the wild, for God’s sake! If they needed to do their business, they could just do it outside! Not even the nobles from where he was from had ever reached such heights of excess.
It was madness. It was madness, unadulterated insanity, pure and simple.
Jackson had felt spiritually soiled the first day, when Weiss had shown him his quarters and he had used the sink for the first time. It was a most remarkable feeling for the jaded trickster, to feel spiritually soiled. He had looked on in an almost catatonic horror when water he had used but once to clean his hands flowed away down the drain, never to be reused. It had clashed with his conservative side, the side that had taught to him take and never give back.
Still, his natural greed had won out, and by the second day, he was going through water with an almost gleeful abandon. He taken three hot baths that day, washed his face, brushed his teeth, shaved the light fuzz that had grown while he was unconscious and generally indulged as much as he could. Looking back, he only tsked at his own foolishness. After his third bath, Walter had knocked on the room, and beckoned for Jackson to follow him outside. They stood out on the back porch of the carriage, overlooking the darkening landscape.
“Sir Erasmus”, Walter had begun.
Jackson had been tense. He was in no hurry for another dip in an ice-cold river.
“There seems to have been a…shortage in our water supply.”
“Oh. And? So?”
Walter had handed him a bucket and a shovel, then pointed to the snow around them.
“Since you enjoy it so much, it is only fitting that you be the one that supplies it.”
It was then Jackson prayed that the manservant would die a horrible death. Well, at the very least, he had gotten plenty of physical exercise that day. God only knows how much muscle mass he had lost while out—at least this went partway to restoring him to full fitness; for what had at first seemed like an easy task turned out to be incredibly annoying and time-consuming. He had no idea just how space-inefficient snow was! That for one measly bucket of water, he had needed—
The locked clicked open. Ah, there.
To his utter lack of surprise, the room he was staying in could be locked from both the outside and inside. To his complete surprise however, Weiss had shown him the courtesy of free access in and out of his room. Well, then again, she had probably figured there was no way in heaven or hell he was gonna escape. Still…it was a nice gesture on her part. Jackson resolved that if they ever crossed paths again and he had the rise on her (not that it was likely, he realized, to his consternation) instead of breaking every bone in her body and stealing everything she had, he would simply break her nose and steal everything…but…but…but her underwear. Leave them with some dignity, hah! Her own line, right back in her face!
He ceased his bloody thoughts of petty vengeance when he reached Weiss’s room proper, however. He didn’t know whether she could read minds or emotions or whatever, but he wasn’t taking any chances. Daydreaming about beating the stuffing out of someone while they were talking to you generally distracted the mind, and he was going to need every ounce of his intelligence if he was to survive. He sighed again, at the totally unfair situation he was in (whatever had he done to deserve it, anyways?) and knocked on the door.
Jackson opened the door.
Yup, Weiss’s room was huge. The part that most visitors would ever see, however, was this part, the workroom, where Weiss dealt with guests and matters of great importance. She herself was sitting at a large desk, on a huge, imperious (and decidedly uncomfortable, Jackson was sure) metal gilded chair, that lent the young, otherwise almost fragile-seeming girl an air of authority. There were couches at the side, for guests to lounge in, and small desks and tables that held sweetmeats and refreshments. Behind her, one could see a door, which led to other sections of her room, but for people like Jackson; well, this was it. Jackson gave a small bow
“Lady? Did you send for me?”
Jackson almost choked on the words coming out of his mouth. As uncomfortable as it was to admit, staying around with this anachronistic duo had left an impact on him. Whereas before, he spoke simply and directly, now he had begun picking up some of their florid and overwrought speech patterns. God, he thought, where’s a country boy when you needed one? He almost missed the way diarrhea seemed to spill out of their mouths.
Weiss looked up, from a couple of documents she was reviewing. No emotion could be gleaned from those ice-blue eyes.
It galled him to be so polite, but that couldn’t be helped. So Jackson composed himself, and gave a bow. Weiss’s next words would shatter that composure.
“We are now only a few hours away from Sankine, our destination. In preparation to meet with the representatives of the Cthonian Guild, Walter and I have a lot to take care of. I’d like to ask you if you would stay in your room for the next day, the better so that each can take care of their own business more readily.”
It was not a question. Jackson could hear the steel in her words. But that wasn’t the part he was interested in! He had thought…
“W-wait! I thought—you said we were still a day, or even two, away from the city!”
Jackson was frantic. He figured he had just a little more time to figure out a way to escape this bind, before the cages of the law fully closed around him. Weiss answered coolly.
“It seems the good weather has cut short my estimate by a day or so. Nevertheless—”
Bollocks! Jackson realized just how totally he had been outmaneuvered. When he had looked into those cool, intelligent eyes the first day and recognized the potential that lay within, he knew that this girl was going to be formidable. What he hadn’t expected was being on the receiving end. The girl must have lied to him, to keep him complacent and docile. Well, screw that! Jackson had it. From now on, he was going to show some backbone.
“Wait wait wait wait wait! You and Walter would have lot to do, but with a third hand, sure you’d be able to finish much faster! How about—”
Weiss raised her hand, halting his speech. Her tone brooked no disagreement.
“I’m sorry, Erasmus. At this point, there is nothing you can do to help. You have neither the expertise, nor the magical aptitude to do so. At this point, it would be for the best if you stayed somewhere out of the place, where you will not be accidentally put in harm’s way. Walter will escort you to you room now.”
As if by magic, the manservant walked in behind Jackson. He bowed.
“Master Erasmus, if you please…”
Jackson, almost numbed by shock, could only follow the tall centenarian as he opened the door for him.
JACKSON kicked the door again. It didn’t budge. Groaning, he flopped onto his bed. Things had never seemed so bleak for him. After Walter had escorted him back to his room, Jackson realized that he had run out of time. There was nothing to it.
He had to escape, or he was dead.
So, when Walter’s footsteps had receded into the distance, he immediately tried to open the door.
Only to find, of course, it had been locked. Damn it. Weiss, as always, was one step ahead.
Hours had passed since then. Jackson had tried everything he could think of. There were no windows in his room, so he couldn’t escape that way. But…there was the sink, and the toilet. Could they lead to the outside? After a few minutes of fiddling, he discovered it was fruitless: in any case, the pipes were too small for him to climb through. At the end of his tether, he had tried to break the door down. He tried to do it silently at first, to see if he could pick the lock, or at least selectively break portions of it off, to better not alert his captors. When his efforts failed, he went berserk. He began punching it, beating it, and at one point, he had taken up body slamming. The door solidly refused to budge. Nursing an injured shoulder, Jackson glared at it. Damn it! Damn it all!
He looked up at the ceiling again. He was hurt, tired, sweaty, and worse of all, he was miserable. Where had it all gone wrong? He covered his face with his hands, and groaned, again.
Then he hissed. If the assholes weren’t going to let him escape, well, he was going to spite them for the hell of it.
He ran over the sink, and did the pettiest thing he could. He opened the sink, and let all the water flow out. Jackson began gloat evilly. He was going to wreck this place.
The water cut off. The remaining water in the sink flowed down the drain in a taunting gurgle. Jackson stood, speechless, in apoplectic rage.
Water dripped. Blood roared. A red haze descended over him. Helpless, he did the only thing he could. He threw his head back.
Jackson screamed, long and hard and wild. He poured all his hatred and rage bitterness into that one name.
JACKSON sat in utter darkness.
Hours had passed since his outbreak of rage. Since that time, he had realized there was no way of escape from the room. A lesser man might have given up, and waited for his fate. Jackson, for all his dastardly schemes and pettiness, was not the average lesser man.
He waited. It had taken hours, but he had a surprise ready. Weiss, as smart as she would, would have expected something like this. A desperate man like Jackson had nothing to loose. But there was something she didn’t know.
Jackson had the luck of the devil himself. He would get through this, no matter what. Of it, he was confident. He couldn’t let himself think anything otherwise.
Now, all that was left was for his captors to open the door. A deep thump-thump of footprints resounded outside. Jackson tensed. He was ready.
There was a click as whoever was outside unlocked the door.
There was a pause. Then, whoever was outside tried to pull open the door.
It was stuck fast. The man beyond began pulling harder, to try to get it free.
Jackson, timing it, pulled the blankets which he had used as ropes free just the man readied for a third pull.
BANG! He pulled too hard and stumbled back, unbalanced by the sudden lack of resistance. Jackson, screaming, charged forwards at the black silhouette, crashing into it, slamming the bathtub over its head.
His cry was cut off as he collided very hard with something that gave a metallic clang! Jackson bounced off, head spinning. The man hadn’t even flinched! What was he made of, iron? Jackson wasn’t exactly a big guy, but his opponent had just taken a full-frontal body-slam like it was nothing. Jackson wasn’t going to stay to mess with a man like that. He got up, and took off running.
A harsh, distorted voice echoed behind him. Jackson daren’t look back. What the fuck had happened to the guy? His voice sounded as if his throat had been mutilated! Jackson rounded a corner, and turned. He saw light ahead.
Jackson ran. He ran as fast as he could, as fast as he ever run. The brutally heavy thumps of footprints echoed behind him, spurring him on.
This was it! He was free! Jackson was elated as he sprinted off, out of the carriage.
Pain shot through Jackson. Red light swirled through his vision. He bounced, and tumbled across the hard, black ground. It took him a few seconds to realize he had just run face-first into a wall. He groaned, holding his broken nose, blood pouring out.
“PRISONER. CEASE, OR DIE.”
It took another few seconds for his eyes to focus on the black, looming silhouette before him. It took yet more seconds to recognize what he was seeing.
It wasn’t a wall. It was a huge, looming man, entirely made of metal. It was black, and gave off an aura of uncompromising brutality. Most importantly, it was also holding up a hand that looked disturbingly like a machine gun, and was pointing in directly in Jackson’s face. It spoke in a deep, monotone voice.
“PRISONER. YOU ARE NOW THE PROPERTY OF THE CTHONIAN GUILD. SURRENDER. OR DIE.”
Jackson took a third option: he fainted.
And, that's the second chapter up! Whew! Took much longer than I expected! >.<
Sorry about making you guys wait for so long! Agh, with all the stuff I've been going through (what, with journeying around the world and stuff--well, can't say I didn't enjoy that, to be honest!) I've really been unable to meet my thousand-word-per-day quota. I'd meant to at the very least upload Chapter Two immediately when I got back, but I had just came down with a flu so I kind of forgot about it...silly me. Reading your comments has really inspired to go back and write when I got writer's block, so thank you all! You guys have really inspired me to continue and persevere! In fact, I don't I'd have the strength or motivation to continue if I didn't know that out there, there was at least one guy who was interested in the weird blatherings I upload on the web!
Ahhhh, but I feel kind of bad too though, as I've been unable to devote as much time to the fanfiction as I could've. Well, I had planned to at least get started on the RWBY section before, well, RWBY was actually released but...as they say, no plan survives contact with the enemy, as the whole reason I wrote this fic was to bridge the gap between the trailers and the actual release, so I guess with the release less than a week away, that function's done. That said, writing it has surprisingly been quite fun, so I'll probably update sporadically in the future, though looking from new official information released, my fanfiction is probably going to differ in major ways.
The bad news though, is that my summer's quite busy and starting tomorrow, I'm off to help in another volunteer program, (this one 24 days long) so it'll be a longer delay until the next update (not that this was short :( ...). Then again, by then, RWBY will officially be out, so have fun! You guys will be seeing it earlier than me, in any case! This page will be a bit dull for the next month, so go off and enjoy a happy summer holidays! I'll be back!
) TO BE CONTINUED
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