The Shade Academy Initiation is a process that all first-year students go through upon arrival at Shade Academy. The same process is used for the first Shade re-initiation after Headmaster Theodore with the goal of the formation of new teams.
Instructors do not intervene in any way, par to pick up students in designated land zones.
In RWBY: Before the Dawn, Headmaster Theodore announces that the Shade is to repeat its initiation process to shuffle new teams so that they can find new teams.
As the initiation starts, students are told to board armed Air Buses, which take them over the Vacuan desert. The cadets then receive individual coordinates which they have to reach, and they are informed their Scroll connections will be blocked. They are also told they have exactly three objectives:
- Survive the desert.
- Find your way to an airbus which will take you back to Shade Academy.
- Locate and retrieve a golden trinket in the desert.
After reaching several thousand feet of height, the floor of the aircraft suddenly flings open, dropping all students into the desert below. The students are forced to find their own landing strategies to safely reach the soft sand.
To the northeast of the desert, students can reach an abandoned city with buildings half covered with sand.
Another area includes a rocky area less obscured by the sand, but pockmarked with holes. These were all that was left of the underground mines called the Drylands, the site of the old Paradise Oasis long since dried up following the Dust mining and the Great War. Jackelope Grimm inhabit these mines.
Past the Drylands is a giant, constantly shifting chasm; an old Dust quarry that is so deep the sand can’t fill it. Inside the chasm, the golden palm tree trinket is hidden inside the branch of a scraggly acacia tree. The chasm also has a colony of Ravager Grimm, who are able to shift the area with their sonic screams.
The initiation lasts several hours at the minimum.
It is unknown what happens to individuals who do not recover trinkets or how teams are selected. However, Velvet Scarlatina and Octavia Ember recover the golden palm tree and are placed together in Team NOVA, though partnerships are not mandatory, as the test is meant to prove individual strength. Scarlet David mentions he feels as though the selection of teams is random, based on how Sage Ayana was made leader of Team SSEA.
There is no celebration after teams are assigned, unlike in Haven Academy.
Once Theodore announces the new teams being formed, he begins the re-initiation. Velvet gets on an airbus with Sun Wukong and Scarlet. As the floor of the airbus begins to open, Scarlet salutes the two and leaps off, using his Semblance to safely glide to the floor. Velvet and Sun manage to take two parachutes from the bus in order to survive the fall, though they are separated from one another on their descent.
Scarlet spent his time in the initiation in an underground Dust mine, facing Jackalopes for hours.
Velvet is saved from a rough landing in the desert's chasm by Octavia Ember, who uses her Semblance to traverse the terrain. The two begrudgingly partner up, in which Octavia explains how the Dust quarries drained Vacuo of its resources, leaving the citizens to fend for themselves. She also tells Velvet about her past experiences in Vacuo, of how part of her clan died to Blind Worm Grimm.
In the chasm, the two find the golden palm tree trinket, and recover it. Velvet and Octavia are attacked by a colony of Ravagers, and are saved by Sun with an airbus, as the two had been the last to collect their trinkets. The Ravagers' sonic screams reshape the terrain as they escape.