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Prologue

A Ranma ½ multi-crossover
by Shade

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.

Rowan Phoenix, Shadow (this one anyway), the Guardian, and the Bard are mine.


In the Multiverse, there were worlds beyond measure, universes beyond the count of even a god's lifetime. And spanning the boundaries between these infinite realities were waystations, places of rest for those who knew where to find them.

The "Lucky Duck" was one such nexus point. The inn had been around since anyone could remember, a haven for those rogues and scoundrels with just enough principles to get themselves into trouble. Worn and battered, the large structure of wood and stone had come to bear no small resemblance to the features of some great giant of ages past. Its formidable outer appearance was usually enough to discourage the curiosity of those who were not the place's trade. It was not a place where the respectable came to call.

But it did not dissuade the three cloaked and hooded figures that approached under the glaring noon sun.

They were the three who were one. Shadow of the Black; deadly assassin, thief, and necromancer. Guardian of the Light; holy paladin and white cleric. And Rowan; perhaps the most unusual of the three, whose simple cloak of grey on green revealed as little of the ranger as he himself did.

The three had seen much, and all knew more of battle then peace. There were few who would offer them trouble, even in this place.

And they had business here today.


"I still think this is a bad idea." Shadow pulled the hood of his black cloak further down over his head, wanting this business over and done with as soon as possible. He disliked having to come out during the day, especially at the request of that half-elven idiot. Although no longer as vulnerable to sunlight since forming the truce with his other parts, he still found the experience to be quite unpleasant.

"The Bard asked us to meet him here. Why don't you complain to him?" The Guardian drew back his white hood to shoot an irritated look at his counterpart, annoyed as always by his childish behavior. Even more then two thousand years later, their dark side still managed to get under his skin.

"Enough, both of you." The pair fell silent as their third counterpart studied the building in front of them with a slight frown on his face. {Strange, I wouldn't think this place to be one that the Bard would frequent.} The other two nodded in unspoken agreement to his shared thought. Normally, the pervert stuck to places where the waitresses were pretty and easy to grab, fondle, and otherwise make a nuisance of himself with. It was one of the half-elf's more disreputable and yet also consistent character traits.

"Should we reunite?"

Rowan considered the Guardian's suggestion for a long moment, but then finally shook his head. "No, I want us to have some flexibility should things turn out to be not be what they seem." He ignored the half-amused snort from his right. "Guardian, take point. Shadow, cover the flanks."

"On it."

"Hmmph."

The trio pushed their way through the front doors.

"Hey, guys! What kept you?"

It was a near thing, but they managed to resist the urge to facefault.

"Over here! Isn't this place great! All the booze you can drink!!" The Bard waved at them with a half-full mug in each hand from a booth in the far corner. It was obvious from looking at him that he'd already had more then a few of the house specials. The fair-haired minstrel was already flush in the cheeks, and his normal hyperness was now reaching Tasmanian devil levels.

Rowan covered his face with his right hand, suddenly feeling the beginnings of a headache. It was suddenly quite tempting to pretend that they didn't know who the Bard was.

"Too bad about the service though. No pretty ladies to have fun with!"

Very tempting, indeed.

"How many have you had already?"

"Uh…" The Bard's green eyes briefly lost focus as he tried to find a brain cell that wasn't sloshed to the gills yet. "I think I lost count after the sixth keg."

The Guardian winced in spite of himself. Even knowing the Bard's almost legendary capacity for alcohol, that level of drinking was nothing to take lightly.

"So why'd ya want me to come here anyway? Did your wives spook you out again?"

Shadow suddenly developed a twitch in his right eye. "We don't spook," He growled, "Especially not from a bunch of--"

Rowan's upraised hand cut him off. "Wait a second, I thought you set the place to meet us."

"Nope," The Bard wobbled, "I got my invitation from you guys."

"Shadow! Guardian!"

Both realized the danger at the same time Rowan did. All three began searching the area, looking for something, anything out of place.

The half-elf looked puzzled. "What? Was it something I said?"

Then Shadow pointed toward the base of the Bard's table. "There!"

Rowan wasted no time; he simply slammed down the heels of his palms against the wood. The boards fell apart with an audible groan, revealing a sinister black metallic device buried inside. A faint hum could be heard from coming from somewhere inside it.

There was no mistaking the lethal design.

"It's a dimensional mine!!"

Screams and panicked yelling erupted from the other patrons as they ran for the exits, a general scuffle breaking out as each person struggled to escape first. To be caught in such a blast would mean an almost certain and terrible death.

Or worse.

"Bard, D-hop out of here, now!" The Guardian was busy trying to bring up a magical containment field around the table.

The device's humming was building to an almost painful intensity.

"Wha??"

"Damn it! There's no time!" Rowan grabbed their friend by the scruff of his outfit with one hand, the other already working on a teleport to get them both out of here. They'd been caught flatfooted by such an unexpected attack, and now he cursed himself for not having been prepared.

It was simply his misfortune to miss the fact that the Bard, still drunk as a skunk, was also trying to initiate a dimensional jump-- as he'd been told to-- at the same time.

Shadow alone was the one to spot the discrepancy in the chaos. The innkeeper behind the counter of wine and ale neither panicked nor fled. Instead his beady eyes were staring at the four with what could only be called a sense of anticipation.

"Bastard." The dark assassin flexed his wrist once. A throwing knife slid out of his long sleeve to come to rest comfortably in his hand.

The innkeeper realized his peril too late.

With a quick overhand toss Shadow sent the blade spinning straight into the man's left eye and the soft brain matter that lay behind it.

Without even a groan, the corpse slumped forward, its head striking the counter with a dull thud.

Shadow's piercing violet eyes gleamed briefly with a muted sense of satisfaction as he started to finally make his own escape. "Too clean a death for the likes of--"

And then the mine detonated.

 

To be continued.

Arc 1, Act 1
Layout, design, & site revisions 2005

Webmaster: Larry F
Last revision: May 21, 2007

Old Gray Wolf