"What did you do?!"
Skuld didn’t like the idea that Urd was yelling at her. It wasn’t like it was her fault anyway. The bug that had appeared in the system had surprised her and made her drop her chocolate shake onto one of the relay stations.
The results were pretty obvious.
Now they were scrambling, amidst the claxons and wailing alarms, to ensure that reality as the universe knew it didn’t buckle or fold in on itself. Urd had divided herself, and a score of Skuld’s special helpers were online and working furiously to reroute the data into a secure backup.
Daddy was going to be really upset if they were forced to reboot again…
Okay… Um… Urd cursing — while in Heaven, no less — was a bad sign.
"We lost three pivotal nodes!"
It seemed the appropriate thing to do under the circumstances. She felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. Pivotal nodes were centers of Change… emphasis on the capital "C". They were like… well… pivotal nodes. The best way that Skuld could describe their function was to liken it to a rock that is tossed into a pond.
When a node was born, all of reality felt it. When they died… all of reality felt it. Take a look at Jesus, Confucius, Caesar, Arthur, Joan of Arc, and Elvis… not to mention Lennon, Norma Jean, and Spuds McKenzie. When a node was born, something special was brought into the world — a power for change. Father liked to call this "Unlimited Potential". Toss in the concept of Free Agency and you have a really interesting setup.
A node, like any person, could swing one way or the other on the great cosmic scales. Attila and Genghis Khan demonstrated that fact quite well. But for the most part, nodes were benign — a heavenly gift to mankind. So when one died, they took with them their special something, leaving the world a little duller than it had been.
To lose three nodes at once… Well, Skuld shivered… a lot.
"Are they dead?" The thought of how unbalanced things were about to become started to hit her.
Urd shook her head and bit her lip as she typed frantically.
"I’ve isolated them. I’m routing a new subroutine to contain them."
The young goddess wiped her brow and sighed. She didn’t want to think what would happen if three nodes had suddenly up and died at the same time. The last time anything remotely similar happened, a man rose to power and wiped out six million souls.
"CRAP!" Skuld jumped at the vehemence in Urd’s voice. At least she was trying to control her tongue this time. "SAOTOME! You stupid little S.O.B.! Get back here!"
Skuld winced and bit her lip as she scrambled over to look over her sister’s shoulder. What she saw amazed her. As the Goddess of the future, Skuld could whip up new software in the blink of an eye, but this… this was out of her league. She had never seen anything like it before, and though she was loath to admit it, no one could make code dance like her big sister. This type of manipulation only came with years of experience. Urd lashed out on multiple levels of reality with every Law of Probability, every little loophole that she could possibly exploit to restrain the nodes from slipping out of their grasp.
"DAMN IT, TSUKINO! Not you too!"
Skuld winced as demonic profanities screamed through the air. It was one thing to hear it on Midgard, but quite something else to hear it at the core of the Celestial Kingdom. Skuld just knew that Urd was going to get it this time. She grimaced internally, knowing that Urd wouldn’t be alone in her punishment either.
"They’re not in our Root any more! I’ve started a probability trace to check drives Alpha through Theta." Urd peeked at Skuld, who simply nodded and began aligning the new code.
"I’m initiating emergency protocol Morpheus." The Goddess of the Future sighed and bit her lip as she watched two profiles come online.
"The Sleepers are waking. Their dreams are coming online."
A pair of chimes sounded, marking the advent of two "Backup Nodes".
"Sakura’s online." Skuld watched the data stream carefully. "The cards have been released. Rerouting the magical chaos from Juuban to compensate."
Urd nodded and watched her own monitor. "The Masaki kid’s just released Ryoko. The bookmarks are in place."
Both goddesses slumped bonelessly into their chairs, heaving a sigh of relief; yet neither could shake the feeling that they had missed something.
"Where did they end up?" Skuld asked after a moment of silence. It should be noted that Skuld, being who she was, tended to be really good at math. She went over the numbers in her head, and noticed that there was indeed something missing.
"Wait a minute… didn’t you say that there were three nodes missing?"
Urd growled and began typing anew. As the World Ash, Mark VI, spat out the requested information, her tanned skin went deathly pale.
Skuld looked over her sister’s shoulder and immediately burst into tears. They were going to blame this on her, she just knew it! And that wasn’t the worst of it! How were they supposed to explain this to Belldandy? —Sorry ‘nee-chan. I didn’t mean to send your boyfriend to the ends of Creation. It was the Bug’s fault. Really!—
Both Urd and Skuld heard a sniff from behind them, and slowly turned to face the bedraggled, tearful face of their sister. Skuld borrowed a few terms from Urd’s earlier harangue — it seemed entirely appropriate considering the circumstances. Belldandy wasn’t supposed to come home like this!
Urd cursed again and went back to work, followed closely by the other two. A third sleeper was awakened, causing all three sisters to shiver. Hopefully Naru would keep that Keitaro kid on track, at least until the original nodes were back in their rightful places. When the dust settled, Urd vowed to personally help him ace his entrance exam, and find love at last!
Just not necessarily in that order.
With the damage contained, the files saved, and reality back on track, the three Norns set down to work on retrieving what they had lost.
An Aah! Megami-sama / Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon / Ranma ½ crossover story
by Jeffrey Vasquez
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these really recognizable characters. They belong to some really talented people that well, make a heck of a lot more money than I am. Since there’d be no real point in suing me (since I’m broke), I’ll go ahead and start writing now. Aah! Megami-sama ("Oh My Goddess!") was created by Fujishima Kousuke, and is licensed to Kodansha and AnimEigo. Ranma ½ was created by Takahashi Rumiko, and is licensed to Shogakukan Inc., Kitty, Fuji TV, and Viz Communications Inc. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon was created by Takeuchi Naoko, and is licensed to Koudansha, TV Asahi, Toei Douga, and DIC Entertainment. The Forgotten Realms setting is property of Wizards of the Coast.
Author’s Note: I need a break from Progeny and Heirs, so I thought that I would do something short and sweet to appease my wounded Muse. Enjoy!
A lot can happen in life.
You could end up tossed into a pit of cats at the age of six; you could be sold like a chunk of cheap meat to anyone stupid or desperate enough to be swindled by a very irresponsible father. You could fall into a spring that robs you of your gender, fight insane martial artists, become engaged to a rather cute, if not backward, tomboy, spar with a bunch of perverts and weirdoes, only to end up fighting and killing a god.
You could wake up and find a talking cat on the way to school, have her convince you to become a superheroine, and find out that you’re the reincarnated princess of a kingdom that lived on the moon. You might even watch your friends die a few times over, only to be brought back time and again to fight the good fight on behalf of Love and Justice.
You could make an accidental phone call to Heaven, meet a goddess, and then be granted the most amazing opportunity of a lifetime! This meant that you would have to deal with demons, mythic creatures, and last but not least, more beautiful goddesses. One would consider this to be incredibly lucky…
"Son of a…" If the air friction hadn’t been warming him, the air at this altitude might have actually been cold…. Ranma sleepily rubbed the knot that was forming on his scalp, and grimaced as he passed through a cloudbank.
Life was supposed to get easier as you grew older. At least that’s what Hiroshi and Daisuke kept telling him. Fat lot they knew. The stupid bastards weren’t engaged to marry a sadist.
As he exited the clouds, he noticed that his masculine body had shrunk noticeably. The redheaded aquatransexual grabbed her now-loose boxers and growled. Her sleeveless t-shirt fluttered noisily in her ears, as she cursed Shampoo and Akane. Neither one of them would listen like reasonable people!
It wasn’t like she wanted Shampoo using him as a pillow! He’d installed forty-seven different traps on his doors and window this week alone! Not that Akane had cared about that! Oh, no! All that she saw was a very naked, purple-haired hormone snoozing on his chest.
The least that Akane could have done was wait until dawn before beating the crap out of him! It was still dark out, damn it! He was losing valuable sleep!
She jerked at the drawstring that Kasumi had thoughtfully sewn into the elastic, cinching the waist tight, and braced herself for impact. Ranma’s trajectory would have taken her somewhere near Mrs. Humori’s bakery this morning. The thought of all that wonderful bread was a slight pick-me-up.
At least she could get some bagels or doughnuts before going home again.
Well, she could have, had she still been on Earth…
"WHAT THE HELL?!"
The nasty battle beneath her looked like something from Lodoss War. Elves with black skin and white hair were beating the snot out of some really disorganized men and women. A flash drew her attention to a flaming explosion on her right. Body parts and disrupted earth flew everywhere, causing her stomach to lurch.
She knew what war was supposed to look like, but it was quite a different experience seeing a life-and-death struggle playing out before her in vivid reality. Just what the hell was going on?
The red haired martial artist would know soon enough. At the rate that the ground was rushing up to meet her, she would land deep behind the lines of the black-skinned elves. From the way that they were slaughtering the others, Ranma knew that she wasn’t going to be greeted with open arms.
Another battle for her life… just what she needed for her eighteenth birthday.
Dreams came naturally to the past and future princess of the moon. They were the only things that kept her sane in her chaotic war against waking nightmares. Thus sweet dreams, when they came to her, were meant to be savored for all of their worth.
Luna thought that Usagi was lazy, but in truth the poor girl was simply trying to survive one of the nastiest emotional winepresses a human had ever experienced. It wasn’t easy to be responsible for saving the world, nor was it easy trying to prepare yourself to rule it one day in the future — which is exactly why Usagi found herself celebrating as much as she could. She knew that her innocence would be ripped from her completely soon enough, and she wanted nothing more than to hoard what little she had left.
So she often found herself dreaming, both day and night, about the normal things that every flighty teenaged girl dreamt about: boys. Well, one boy at least… if you could call him that.
"Mmmm. Mamo-chan. You feel so warm." Usagi giggled naughtily, snuggling even closer to the comfortable heat source. The blonde-haired girl sighed. She could almost hear her love’s heart beating rapidly as her hands danced across his chest. It sounded so very strong!
Usagi’s smile beamed as she basked in the radiance of love’s sweet embrace. She couldn’t wait until they were married, then at the very least she could do this, and that, and maybe some of…
Usagi giggled again as her dream continued to heat up. She was certain that Luna would say that the Moon Princess wouldn’t have such torrid thoughts… heh… if only she knew!
A sudden light filtered through her closed eyelids, causing Usagi to grumble and squint.
"Luna, close the blinds!" When the light did not abate, the blonde haired girl growled and rolled herself further beneath the warm blankets. It wasn’t fair! Every time she got to the good parts, the stupid sun would rise and ruin the whole thing! Well, DARN IT! She wasn’t going to just give into this! She was going to finish her dream and thoroughly enjoy it, even if it made her late!
"Luuuuna! Kill the lights!"
When the brightness did not lessen Usagi found herself twitching and fidgeting restlessly, until she could finally take no more.
"DANG IT, LUNA! I’m just asking for five more minutes! Why can’t… you… jus…."
Usagi blinked at the very gangly, very naked balding man that had somehow come to occupy her bed. His owlish eyes and rather large nose would have given him a fairly wise demeanor had he not been in so much shock. Usagi thought that he looked almost cute with the way his hair was all ruffled and mussed.
Wait a minute. What was a middle-aged man doing sleeping naked in her bed?
Usagi checked the state of her dress and was relieved to find that her white silk pajamas were still intact. She turned her attention back to the man before her and smiled weakly. He tentatively returned the gesture.
The rest of the occupants of the Harpell Estate were rudely woken a moment later by twin screams — save, of course, for Hevig Harpell, who had been known to sleep through dragon raids on multiple occasions due to a rather lingering side-effect from a potion that he had accidentally imbibed. The screams slowly became the sounds of gratuitous property damage. All in all, it was a typical night for the Harpells.
"Moon Spiral Heart Attack!"
Heaven — Asgard:
"I’VE GOT HIM! I’VE GOT HIM!" Urd screamed drawing Belldandy to her terminal rapidly. Skuld looked up from her computations hopefully. The Norns of the Past and the Present slipped their hands into thin air and yanked for all they were worth. A loud ripping sound echoed through the room, and Urd squawked indignantly as she fell on her rump.
"STUPID LITTLE #!%^&*$$!" Urd growled as she stomped around the main systems center of Yggdrasil waving a pair of pajama bottoms in one hand and a pair of boxers decorated with little angels in the other. Belldandy sat heavily on a small floating pillow nearby, clutching Keiichi’s pajama top to her chest.
They had been so close.
"I almost had him Bell!" The Norn of the Past looked at her forlorn sister in frustration. "He was still in transit, and I thought we could isolate and retrieve him before he slipped away." Urd hung her head and flopped tiredly into her own hovering chair with a sigh.
"I’m sorry." Had it been anyone else, Urd could have felt some sense of professional detachment. But this was Keiichi — the selfless young man who had captured her sister’s heart. The same man that had opened his home and life to all the insanity that went along with loving a goddess. He had even received Urd with open arms and no strings attached… something that only her Father had ever done.
She wasn’t surprised by the tears that ran down her cheeks, nor by the feel of Belldandy’s arms encircling her. She was however, surprised to feel her Father’s presence enter the room.
"Father?" Belldandy sniffled as Urd attempted to wipe her eyes and stand.
The Almighty gave the elder daughters a comforting smile before passing them by. Both goddesses blinked in confusion as He slowly walked up behind his third daughter, who sat before a large terminal, typing feverishly. Belldandy and Urd stood and started to move closer, only to find themselves halted by their Father’s upraised hand.
He woke to the sounds of chanting, and noted three things immediately. One: He wasn’t in the same bed that he fell asleep in. Two: He wasn’t home, since the rather startled young woman looking down on him wasn’t Belldandy, or any of the other girls that he had come to know. Third (and probably the most important fact, in his opinion): The room felt really drafty for some reason.
After cataloguing all of these initial reactions, Keiichi’s sharp mind set to work trying to solve the problems that they represented. First things first; where was he? The room was rather large, and looking over the young woman’s shoulder, he could see about twelve to fifteen young men and women staring at him. The shaved heads, combined with the chanting, marked this as some sort of monastery.
Okay. This was good. A little Divine intervention was a good thing, right? Keiichi immediately thought of Urd and Skuld and started questioning that path of logic. He hadn’t remembered doing anything bad yesterday. And since both Skuld and Urd were in Heaven, that left them off the hook. Maybe Mara had snuck him a mickey at the party last night while he wasn’t looking. That would be just about par for the course….
One problem at a time, Morisato! he chided himself.
Problem number two: Intimately tied to number one. If he wasn’t at home in his room, maybe these people might know a god or goddess that could help him out. This was a temple, and they were worshipping, after all, which meant that surely he could contact said Deity… who in turn could contact Belldandy.
Whoohoo! Things were looking up!
Okay, problem three! Drafty = Chills. Chills = Cold. Cold is normally associated with cold or wintry weather. Spring mornings were often chilly, so the thought of the cold didn’t bother him as much as it should have.
A cold breeze caused Keiichi’s skin to prickle, which in turn made Keiichi look down. He noted that the young woman standing over him was following his gaze and blushing terribly; after a moment he understood why.
One would think that that he’d have grown used to things like this by now.
Okay, so what do you do when you wake up naked in front of an attractive priestess, in the middle of a temple during services? Keiichi wracked his brain for a good long minute before he gave up. What could you do? Cover yourself and hope for mercy…?
He smiled up at the young woman and sighed. The inevitable would happen, just as it always did. All he had to do was wait for it. He even tried speeding things up a bit by counting down out loud. The sooner he was unconscious, the better.
He got to seven before the woman screamed and brained him with the ornamental staff that she was carrying. The last thing that he heard before succumbing to the darkness was the clatter of metal and wood against stone, and the sound of rustling cloth.
What did happen to his clothes, anyway?
Heaven — Asgard:
Skuld tried to ignore the Supreme Divinity behind her. She could feel His love, His peace, and most of all His forgiveness… things that she didn’t feel worthy of. She refused to acknowledge the Almighty in favor of trying to track the rapidly diminishing trail of Keiichi’s code. If she could isolate just a few more variables, then she would have his final destination….
The young Goddess of the Future tried her best to focus on the readout, but for some reason, her vision kept blurring. She growled and squinted her eyes angrily. She wasn’t about to give up! She would create a tracer program and piggyback a Level Twelve Angelic Rescue and Reclamation Team. That would be a good start. If it failed, then she would divine a new solution. Maybe she could scrape together a few unclaimed wishes… seven would do, and then bind them into… yes, that would work nicely. All she would need then is an Ultimate Circle of Warding, and then everything would be fine.
"SKULD." His voice came to her again, filled with the same calm acceptance, accompanied by her Father’s gentle hand on her shoulder.
Her fingers trembled as they flew across her keyboard for a moment more before slowly coming to a halt. She shook with the need to continue, but there was no way that she could disobey His command. She bit her lip at the unfairness of it all and watched as Keiichi’s signature silently faded into nothing.
Darn it! Why did this have to happen? Why did Keiichi need to screw everything up all the time?! Bell was going to be heartbroken, and it was all his fault! She angrily wiped the back of her hand over her eyes and sighed. Who was she kidding? It wasn’t Keiichi’s fault. It was hers.
Belldandy would… would hate her!
Skuld felt a universe of guilt and shame settle on her shoulders. She felt the incredible loss — a void so complete that it consumed her. Keiichi was gone, and she wept for him.
"Wh-why?" Her voice was choked and already raw.
Father smiled down at her with that warm, all-knowing smile as he bent and kissed her forehead.
"I CREATED MY CHILDREN TO EXPERIENCE JOY, DAUGHTER."
Skuld’s brow furrowed in frustration.
"But Bell’s joy is Keiichi! And… and Keiichi’s joy is Bell!" She clenched her hands tightly. "How can they be separated and still experience true joy?"
The Almighty’s gentle smile grew.
"SKULD…" He turned his gaze slightly so that He could take in Belldandy and Urd as well.
"…THERE IS A SEASON TO ALL THINGS."
"But we PROMISED!" Skuld challenged. "His wish was approved!"
"AND IT SHALL BE FULFILLED." The Almighty’s voice never changed pitch. It remained calm, cool, and loving, as he stroked his daughter’s raven hair. "I HAVE SPOKEN, AND IT SHALL BE SO."
"But… but…" Skuld’s brow furrowed in confusion. "Why?" The question sounded lame, even to her ears. The Almighty simply smiled.
"SO THAT THE TERMS OF THE CONTRACT ARE FULFILLED."
Belldandy’s eyes grew wide and began to tear up. He couldn’t have meant what he was implying! He couldn’t! The thought of such an event seemed so far-fetched, so insanely improbable that she had never thought to even dream of it. And yet, here Father stood with a twinkle in His all-knowing eyes. It was all the evidence that she needed.
The Norn of the Present, squealed girlishly and threw herself into the waiting arms of her Father. And she laughed — loud, long, and free. It was the sound of true joy, and it confused the hell out of her sisters.
Her voice was hoarse from singing and spellcasting. Smoke from the wildfires that had sprung up from the magical combat between the two forces threatened to strangle her between breaths. And yet, somehow, the bard’s voice still managed to resonate above the continued cacophony of clashing blades and magical explosions. The moon hung above the battlefield, illuminating the garish conflict with an eerie, unnatural light.
She motioned sharply to the surviving archers to lay down cover fire, so the remainder of her men could fall back and regroup. Flight after flight of death rained down into the enemy, causing a large no-man’s land to develop between the two forces.
"GROUP TO ME!"
She tried her best to hide the desperation in her voice behind a wall of gruff command. By some divine providence she managed the feat, in spite of all the bad luck that her troops had endured. The drow had taken them to task, and had all but overwhelmed the Dalesmen.
"GROUP TO ME!"
Her voice croaked at the end of her barked command and she knew that if she survived the conflict, she wouldn’t be singing again for at least a fortnight. If that were the least of her worries in the days ahead, she would be happy. Storm cast a worried glance at her dear friend Brailen Roseveil at her right. The Archmage, a former apprentice to Elminster, had been a godsend.
"Erect your globe around us when the men are in position. Send Dorn and Olma to treat those that need it most along the line." Brailen nodded and motioned the dwarf and human clerics into action. And then, with a steely glint, the Archmage pulled forth a scroll and began to chant.
Storm watched the wounded and the exhausted defenders slowly give ground and back into a moderate sized half circle. Men, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings and Gnomes situated themselves carefully, packing themselves four and five people deep, while dispatching the few drow that had been cut off from the main force of their contingent. The veritable wall of steel that was soon created against the black sea of drow on the slope of Maigan’s Hill was an impressive sight. Blood, sweat, and steel framed the solid determination on the faces of the defenders. It was enough to give even the infamous drow pause.
As soon as the last men were in place, Brailen completed her spell and an impenetrable wall of force shimmered into existence around the company. Nearly sixty feet in diameter, the magical shield was an amazing creation that had earned Brailen her title as Archmage a decade earlier. No magic or physical attack could hope to penetrate the wall of force. Such a boon did not come without a cost however. Brailen slumped to the ground, spent from the effort of crafting the invisible fortress.
The dark horde took the opportunity to regroup and test the integrity of the mystic shield. Arrows lanced from the back of the dark elven host, only to strike the impassable wall of magic that had been erected by the Archmage. Spells of great power hammered the dome ineffectually, further testing its strength and allowing Storm’s warriors a brief respite. Storm worriedly glanced down to her friend and wondered how long the spell would last.
Sadly, it did not last long enough. Less than a half hour passed before the air was filled with the sound of a musical chime, and then the dome shattered like a window of glass. Both forces were prepared for the event, and missiles magical and mundane blotted out the moon for a time, as both sides did their level best to slaughter each other.
The noise was deafening as the two forces clashed. Man and elf alike screamed, either caught up in the rage of battle or damning the cause of their deaths. The death toll was catastrophic for both sides, but Storm could readily tell that the defenders of Shadowdale were suffering more than their black-skinned opponents. It would only be a matter of time before they were overrun.
"We need the sun!" Storm growled, cutting three arrows from the air in quick succession. Brailen, awaked by the renewed battle, looked grim as she gazed skyward, marking the stars in their heavenly vault.
"We’ve four hours yet, Storm!" She yelled over the noise.
"We can’t last that long!"
She needn’t have said it; both she and the wizard knew that their time was limited. They had been fighting nonstop since just after dusk, waiting in vain for reinforcements to arrive from Ashabenford, and the drow had vastly outnumbered them five to one even then. The veteran Harpers and the stubborn Dalesfolk spat in death’s eye, and whittled the enemy's numbers down to less than half what they had been. Sadly, the defenders had lost over half of their contingent to accomplish the feat.
"What shall we do now, Archmage?" Storm’s voice was tired, immeasurably so. They had given up all the ground that they possibly could, and had their backs already pressing against Codwyhn’s bluff. If they didn’t make a move soon, their ragtag band of defenders would be pinned against the craggy limestone walls of the bluff. Storm offered up a silent prayer to Mystra and Tymora that her men at least would be lucky enough to escape the battle.
Brailen’s frown deepened in thought. They were outnumbered, and too many of their warriors were still caught in the line of fire of her spellcasting. There was a way… but the risks outweighed the potential rewards. She needed time to think.
Storm looked to the sky and studied the moon for a moment, hoping that the stars would inspire her on a course of action. By chance, she noted a radiant shape falling from the glow of the full moon that sat just above the treetops. The aura of power that surrounded the small figure flared, followed by a battlecry that echoed above the savage noises of battle. The cry heralded the arrival of hope, and renewed the flagging spirits of Shadowdale’s defenders.
The Archmage watched in puzzlement as the figure fell behind the enemy. Her confusion soon turned to surprise as the bodies of many drow mages began taking to the air with loud cries of surprise and wonderment. Brailen and Storm grinned and walked forward, selecting three veteran Harpers.
"HAA!" Ranma’s fist crushed another black-skinned elf’s nose, summarily knocking the robed elf unconscious. Her followup danced around a rapid two-blade combo that came in from her left. As she spun, a volley of small crossbow bolts buzzed past her, imbedding themselves in her previous attacker. She was surprised to note that the elf suddenly turned rigid and fell over comatose.
Great. Poisoned. Kodachi would love these guys!
Another blinding combo streaked at her, again from the left, tearing her sleeveless t-shirt as it flared up just beneath her ribcage. No blood was drawn, for which Ranma was extremely grateful. These guys were fast — almost as fast as she was — and incredibly skilled with their weapons of choice. She had been pressed since the very beginning of this battle, and there was no doubt that she had been lucky so far. She wasn’t dead, and neither were her enemies; for her, that was a plus.
She knew that she couldn’t keep this pace going forever. It was hard enough pulling her punches and regulating her kicks to keep them non-lethal that the longer that she kept going, the sloppier she’d become. Sooner or later they would force her to up the ante, and it would come down to them or her. Well, damn it! There was no way in hell that she was going to die here. And while the thought of killing again chilled her, she still had to give Akane a piece of her mind.
Ranma back flipped atop a dark elf’s extended sword that aimed to puncture her back. The look of surprise on her opponent’s face was evident, even in the low light cast by the moon. She smirked before violently introducing him to her foot. As the dark elf fell to the muddy earth at her feet, Ranma heaved a sigh. One down, six more charging her from every angle… not exactly the best sign, but she had seen worse in her lifetime.
Not much worse though.
Her opponents were getting smarter and more coordinated the longer that she fought, while she simply got tired. It took great skill and even greater restraint not to kill these guys, and the effort was exhausting her. From the looks of things, it was time to break out the big guns.
Zuieez V’heron had heard a number of spells cast in his two hundred and fifteen year lifespan, and he had survived numerous confrontations against drow mages and the spider-kissing clerics of Lloth. He had even waged war on the surface against his fair-skinned cousins and their allies. And yet, in all that time, he had never encountered anything quite like the attack that blasted his fellows from their feet.
There were no flames from the concussive blast, but the force from its detonation alone tossed the drow about like chaff in the wind. There was something else about the attack, something that tickled at the edge of his awareness.
The air itself was thick with arrogant confidence, and the glowing human girl — if that truly was what she was — continued to lash out at his brethren with a ferocity that was both graceful and vicious. She held no weapon; she had no need of one. Her fists and feet blurred at speeds too fast for the naked eye to follow, leaving broken bodies littered in her wake. She had overwhelmed half of their magical battery in less than two minutes. Clerics and magic users alike lay crippled and insensate as she literally cut through the drow contingent.
She was a fiery goddess of pain and passion, fallen from the moon to do battle with the forces of House Jaerle. And like a goddess, none seemed able to stand against her. She danced around every blade, oft times robbing her enemy of the weapon before breaking a bone or obliterating a joint.
Zuieez had to wonder at her methodology. From what he could see, she had not taken a life. Each and every foe she had faced was very much alive; in an excruciating amount of pain, and most likely crippled for life, but alive nonetheless. And she continued to make certain that her opponents would not be getting up to fight anew.
It was terribly efficient, and considering the drow outlook on conservation of utility, extremely cruel. Broken hands and jaws couldn’t cast spells, and many of those bones looked like so much powder considering the way that they hung from their owner’s bodies. To be sure, many of his brethren would return to the field to fight anew, but the majority would be killed like the useless Rothe they were.
Truly, she was a masterpiece. Graceful and vicious, not only in body, but in mind as well.
Zuieez smiled wickedly at the busty redheaded whirlwind and noted something else. She seemed to be ignoring the fodder and seeking out only the most powerful. Mages and sorcerers… or anyone that showed any ability to cast a spell… fell to her hand. She was a wonder of nature.
"I will make you mine."
The Ivy Mansion, Longsaddle:
DelRoy Harpell sighed and rubbed his wrinkled forehead with his thumb. He was decidedly too old for any of this. All that he had asked for in life was to see some of the world, work some serious magic, and retire in one piece. So far he had made good on all three of those goals, but it seemed that the gods were intent to make that retirement as hectic as possible.
His nieces and nephews were making themselves excellent accomplices in this endeavor. Tonight it seemed that Hevig had somehow gated in a rather delicate, if not beautiful, denizen from another plane. If he had been sixty years younger, he might have tried to do the same thing. In fact, come to think of it, he had done the same thing… or at least tried to. Hevig had succeeded grandly, where DelRoy had summoned a talking pig.
"THAT MAN IS A PERVERT!" The statement struck the elder Harpell as extremely ironic, considering the skimpy costume that the young woman was wearing.
Poor Hevig flinched as the blonde girl waved her ridiculous heart-capped scepter at him. The balding man wrapped his robes tighter about his shivering body and desperately tried to suppress his fear. DelRoy could sympathize with his distant nephew. The entire estate had heard the young woman’s screaming, and after a hasty translation spell, all were in agreement that the acts she had intended to unleash upon poor Hevig were both unnatural and unquestionably painful. Which is why DelRoy chose to save his nephew from this irate Outsider, before Hevig’s branch of the family tree was pruned… for good.
"Mistress Usagi." He thumbed a generous pinch of tobacco into his favorite pipe, and to the young woman’s amazement lit it with a snap of his fingers. "While the circumstances of your arrival were highly improper, I must defend my poor, cowering nephew from accusations of indecency."
Usagi’s eyes, wide and staring at the old wizard’s pipe, narrowed dangerously. "He was naked."
"In his own bed, might I remind you," DelRoy countered.
Usagi grumped and crossed her arms beneath her breasts. This caused Hevig to stare at her chest for an instant longer than he should have. Usagi ground her teeth severely, and her eyebrow started to twitch. "He leered at me."
"I… I did not!" Hevig sputtered primly. Usagi, who had been around Rei long enough to pick up some rather nasty habits, growled at the man, causing him to whimper. She just needed one viable excuse, and then she could blast him!
Seeing that the situation was about to get further out of hand, DelRoy chose to try and lighten the mood. Children were too uptight nowadays.
"Mistress Usagi, surely you must admit that that is not truly a crime." DelRoy weathered her withering stare calmly. "You are a highly attractive young woman…"
Usagi couldn’t help but blush and shuffle her feet at the compliment.
"…and were you to suddenly appear in my bed in the middle of the night, I must admit that I would have a hard time not staring."
Usagi bit her lip.
"Take into account the rather…" He coughed into his fist. "…ahem… revealing attire…." DelRoy simply finished the statement with a wave of his hand. Usagi’s blush deepened, and she quickly settled herself onto a divan across from DelRoy. The magic sustaining her Senshi form slowly reverted her back to her silky white pajamas. The elder Harpell simply allowed his comments settle into the woman’s mind, while his curiosity immediately set about deciphering the magical processes that had allowed for the transformation.
Damn fascinating, that! Damn fascinating.
After a few moments of fruitless puzzling, DelRoy returned his attention to the more pressing problem at hand. He wasn’t as scatterbrained as some of his relatives, but that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t come back to the problem at a later date.
"Ahem! I believe we have had a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, wouldn’t you say?" Usagi nodded her head. Hevig sighed audibly, sounding very much like a dying bellows than a relieved man. DelRoy smiled beneath his thick white beard and puffed generously on his pipe.
"Now, then. It is late, and I believe that it would be prudent to sort out the rest of your mystery after a good night’s rest."
Usagi smiled wearily, as the effects of her adrenaline rapidly wore off. She nodded and looked between Hevig and DelRoy nervously, eliciting a hearty chuckle from the older man.
"Come, dear. I doubt that poor Hevig would survive the night if you were to bed with him." Usagi frowned at the man, again doing her best to imitate Rei’s worst scowl. DelRoy shook his head and patted the girl’s knee. "Come, I will have one of my nieces show you to a guestroom."
Hevig Harpell sat in the room for quite some time after his uncle and the Mansion’s newest occupant left. He, along with many others, had felt the power that the young woman casually wielded… even without the aid of detection spells! He had never come so close to death as he had this evening, and he prayed to Mystra that he would never come so close again!
He somehow made it back to his bed an hour before sunrise, and for the duration of Usagi’s stay at the Ivy Mansion, he made every effort to remain out of sight and out of mind.
A beautiful, dark-haired woman stared into a large, elevated pool of water that glowed with a silvery luminescence. Her dark blue dress shimmered like silk, but upon closer inspection one could readily see that the cloth was actually a web of energy. Within the pool, an image of a pretty blonde-haired girl slept.
"She is beautiful, is she not?" The dark-haired woman turned from the pool to look at her silver-haired companion. "She could have been Elue’s twin, rather than her daughter."
"I dared not hope that she would return." The dark-haired woman frowned slightly. "I must admit that I am not totally certain how to feel about this."
The silver-haired beauty smiled sadly. "How should a mother feel when her daughter is returned to her?"
"That is the dilemma, Selune. This…" She gestured with her hand to the sleeping girl. "…is the daughter of my predecessor."
Selune wrapped a gentle arm around the dark-haired woman and drew her close.
"Do not dally in semantics. Midnight is as much a part of you as Mystra. You are a complete and unified whole, and as such, this magnificent child is as much your daughter as you are mine, regardless of the changes that you have undergone."
For a long moment the Goddess of Magic stared into the depths of the pool, watching the young woman. After a time, a smile slowly grew on her lips.
"She will be a handful."
"True." Selune sighed thoughtfully. "She will need to be tempered."
Mystra’s smile deepened.
"And loved. Who best to fill the void in her heart and guide her, I wonder?"
"It would be best to remember Lord Ao’s decree concerning the three. We will have them for a season, and no more. Choose someone that will prepare her for her return."
Mystra leaned forward, out of Selune’s embrace, supporting herself against the lip of the well. Her smile slowly vanished, leaving a furrowed brow in its place. Selune held her peace and allowed the Goddess of Magic her time.
"Alustriel," She said finally. "Yes, I will send her to Alustriel. There can be no other."
Selune nodded her approval and moved to sit in a large, soft chair near the pool. Mystra turned to face the Goddess of the Moon ponderously.
"She is tied to you through her affiliation to the moon?"
"Will you do anything to influence her path?"
The Moon Goddess steepled her fingers thoughtfully, but shook her head in the end.
"My interests lie elsewhere. Although she would be a valuable weapon, it is the Saotome child that may prove an interesting advocate against Shar’s interests, in time."
Mystra allowed her surprise to show openly. Selune smirked behind her fingers.
"The Dark Moon has ever been a thorn in my side. Shar is becoming increasingly bold in her use of the sect. How many of your own worshippers have fallen at their hands? I believe that with proper guidance, the child will bring them low."
"And what of Serenity?" Mystra questioned. "She bears the mark of the Crescent Moon, which will ultimately tie her to you despite your indifference. Shar will mark her for that alone."
The Moon Goddess pondered the dilemma for a time, until finally a quiet, secretive smile danced across her pale lips. As she outlined her plan to the Lady of Mysteries, the smile grew further. Mystra looked skeptical, but intrigued.
"And the third?"
Selune simply turned her attentions back to the scrying pool.
"He is his own, and may come and go as he pleases. He belongs to one that only a fool would cross. No, we shall leave the third to his Fate. Should he involve himself in our plans, then and only then will we intervene."
Mystra looked deeply into the pool, dancing along the threads of time and shook her head. "They will surely shake the foundations of Toril."
To be continued.
|Layout, design, & site revisions © 2005||
Webmaster: Larry F