This fanfic came about after watching Dungeons and Dragons, playing Final Fantasy 7, 8, and 9 back to back as well as Chrono Cross, and watching The Slayers, Slayers Next, Slayers Try, Record of Lodoss war, Dragoon ... I think you get the idea. It's Ranma 1/2 set in a fantasy world, using the characters but not the story line. This will replace Ranma Xero, mostly because I went back and read it and was far from satisfied from what I saw. I may do a rewrite of that fic someday, but not for a while.
The story itself was written to orchestrated music mostly. The D&D soundtrack, All the Star Wars films, The Indiana Jones Trilogy, Escaflowne, Slayers. I could go on for a while, but these are the major musical influences in this tale.

The first part is a bit dark, so you've been warned.

The Dragon Ghost.

Prologue


Deep in the mountains near the ancient kingdom of Joketsuko...

He had been running through the dark forest all through the night. Somehow they had found him despite his best efforts over the past few months. Twin moons lit the sky over his head; one a gigantic orb of golden yellow that looked as if it would scrape the mountaintops in it's passing as it slowly rolled across the night sky. The other was a light red, it's orbit much higher in the sky above, and it seemed as small as a mere coin in the starlit night. Mist rolled across the valley as he struggled through the brush, shoving wiry branches out of his way as he passed, somehow not disturbing the young boy who lay sleeping on his back. A small ponytail lay draped across the eight year old's shoulder as he slept.

He looked back at the innocent face of the child and smiled slightly. "Just stay quiet boy, I won't allow them to find us."

Howling pierced the silence of the night as his pursuers closed the ever-shortening gap between them. The pound of horse's hooves floated through the fog towards him and he quickened his desperate pace.

Finally he broke from the thick growth around him and pushed his way into a clearing. He paused with a sudden fear welling up inside him as he saw the valley below him. Various pools of water dotted the land and he swallowed as the mist only allowed a few of them to be seen. "Where?" He turned towards the sounds of his pursuers and moved forward with determination on his features again. Without a moment's thought he vanished into the thick fog.


"Blast this cursed fog!" snarled the dark figure as he rode through the forest. He was clad in the black armor of the samurai. A golden mask covered his face and a single gold blade protruded from the front of his helmet curving to almost a foot above his head, the cape across his shoulders was a deep purple and draped down the horses side reaching the animal's knees. In his hand was a long serrated pike that remained tucked under his arm as he rode in search of his prey. His giant jet-black steed wore similar armor as well, and had a great red flag with a black dragon embroidered in its center within a great circle.

All around him men in similar armor, if a little less flamboyant, glanced around nervously as they combed the forest for the man who had eluded them for so long.

Another figure rode up on a reptilian steed that almost looked like a horse itself. A dark power seemed to radiate from him and an arrogant smirk rested on his lips as he turned to face the dark warrior. His long white hair seemed to drape down his back with a splotch of color in his bangs. He was dressed in brown cloak with the hood pulled down. His clothing was expensive looking with a gold and purple woven pattern featuring a coiling dragon, he sported light armor and shoulder guards with teeth like spikes jutting from them.

"This man is elusive, but hardly a threat."

"That is not for us to decide," snapped the armored warrior sternly without giving the man a glance. "The Emperor want's him dead, that is enough for me."

"As you say," commented the man lazily.

The armored figure snorted distastefully. "We must kill him and the boy, he cannot be allowed to live."

"The Emperor's greed knows no bounds, he will see all of them destroyed?" The white haired man seemed almost amused by this. "Conquering them would not be enough it seems."

"Damn you Herb. Don't just sit there! Do something about this blasted fog!" snarled the armored man angrily.

"No. No doubt it hinders him much more than us. He is on foot, with a child in his care. I am not here to give you and your men comfort, merely to see that the job is done. The Emperor does not trust you completely with this task."

"As well he shouldn't," commented the warlord as he rode forward again.

Herb smiled and narrowed his eyes. His pupils slimmed down to two small slits in the center of his golden irises. A small cry of alarm floated out through the air. "We have them!"


The fugitive fell onto his face and stumbled onto the ground roughly as his foot caught a root on the mud-covered ground. The boy on his back cried out in alarm as he was thrown from his back and slid across the ground jarring him awake suddenly. The man heard a small splash and struggled to his knees. He crawled forward and pulled the boy's half-submerged body from the small spring where he had landed. The child was shaking with fear, but remained silent.

"Ranma, you must keep silent, the enemy is near!"

"No, the enemy is here Saotome."

Genma turned slowly around and his eyes went wide with terror as he saw the imposing figure standing before him. His eyes searched around for an escape and saw men all around him on horseback.

"I am sorry old friend, it is over. You and your son will die."

"Tendo," growled Genma angrily.

"It is not my wish, but I will allow you to die like a man at least. Stand and face me."

Genma balled his fists up and took up a stance in front of his son's prone form, the boy had passed out again from exhaustion.

"Finish him quickly Tendo," said Herb as he rode up from behind the pair.

"Silence!" commanded Soun as he gave his companion a passing glance.

"You have betrayed me Tendo. We have fought together many times, our children were to be married one day, and now you have betrayed everything we stood for!"

"Genma, when will you understand? I have a family to worry about."

"What do you think that is Soun?" snarled Genma angrily as he pointed back at his son.

"I take no pleasure in your death," said Soun calmly as he rushed forward and thrust his pike forward. It went deep into Genma's belly sending the man to the ground as he screamed in pain. Somehow the words did not make him feel any better. He twisted the spear and backed away leaving it in place. Finally he withdrew a small kodachi from his back and stalked towards the sleeping child. He raised the blade over his head and paused. "What is this?"

He lifted the child up by his neck and stared into his face. After a moment he pulled the loose silk pants down in a single motion and dropped him on the ground with a look of shock on his face. He turned towards his men and screamed in anger.

"This is not Saotome's son!"

Herb dismounted from his steed and frowned. "What are you talking about? Are you trying to betray our Emperor Tendo? To save some part of your so called friend?" He walked over to the child and fell silent, an angry glare fell upon the exposed child's crotch and he snorted. "Clever."

A golden light appeared in his hand and he pulled the spear from Genma's belly before placing his hands on the wound, the man had passed out long before from his injuries. It healed instantly and he stepped away from the fallen man. Soun walked over to his side and frowned.

"Pick him up and bring some rope."


Ranma Saotome woke up and shielded his eyes from the light of the sun above him. He glanced around and saw a blue sky. He staggered to his feet and shook off the annoying pain in his head. He felt weak and nauseous. He staggered around for a moment taking in his surroundings. "Where am I? Pop?" After a moment, his vision cleared up and he noticed the pools of water around him, he frowned and noticed his pants were around his ankles and pulled them up allowing himself to walk again. The chutes of some kind of plant rose from the water high into the air above him. He frowned and glanced around in search of his father. He ambled off in a random direction and came to the edge of the spring, drawn by a small murmuring noise that had caught his attention. His eyes went wide with shocked fear at the sight he found.

Between two small scraggly dead trees hung his father. His arms and legs were spread and his old dogi hung off of him in tatters. He was bleeding freely from the hundreds of scars that covered his body and face. It looked as if he had been sliced to pieces almost. The man glanced up painfully and looked at the small child before him from his suspension. "My son."

"Pop!" screamed the boy as he rushed forward and pulled desperately at the ropes.

"No son. I am already dead."

"No Pop! We can get help! Don't leave me!"

"Silence boy!" The words had been meant to sound forceful, but came as a mere whisper. "I am not long for this world, but I have much to tell you."

"Pop?" muttered the boy sadly.

"You have a great destiny boy, never forget that. Inside my gi is a scroll. I want you to take it; it will help you survive to fulfill that destiny. Never forget the art, or your training boy. I will be watching you from the hall of the gods." Genma coughed and a trickle of blood fell from his lips and poured onto the ground. "Listen, never forget what I have taught you my son. Now leave this cursed place boy."

"Pop! Who did this?" screamed the boy as a sudden rage filled him. He stared into his father's eyes pleading with him. All that met him was a dead stare. "Pop? Pop no. No! NOOOOOOOO!"

Ranma Saotome's cries echoed through the valley for many hours after that. He screamed and pleaded with his father's dead body until his throat was raw and he could no longer speak.


Herb frowned as he rode along side Soun. "Your friend was far stronger than I had anticipated."

"Genma always was stubborn, and foolish."

Herb turned to face the men. "We've got a lot of work to do. I want every male child in our path dead. Anywhere Saotome could have hidden him!"

Soun looked at him for a moment and said nothing. He slowly turned to face the soldiers and sighed deeply. "You heard him," he said with a sudden icy chill to his voice.


As the moons rose into the sky again, Ranma stood before the pile of stones that marked his father's grave and stared at the scroll in his hands. He had been taught to read from the time he uttered his first words, but his father's handwriting made things more difficult despite his age. "Father, I will master this. I will make you proud, and I will avenge your death, as well as mother's." His tears fell to the freshly dug ground and he hung his head as sadness swept over him again, weakening his legs and forcing him down again. After a time he rose from his knees and started walking towards the west.


The Dragon Ghost

Part 1

The Horse and the Dragon


Eight years later...

Ranma walked through the crowded streets of the large city and smirked to himself as he casually tossed a small bag of coins into the air. He had just lifted the purse off of a well off merchant a few hundred yards back and was feeling quite smug with himself. He paused for a moment and looked towards the sky with a contented smile on his face before continuing on is way.

His clothing was drastically different from that of his youth. The loose black pants were similar enough, but the white shirt and brown leather vest were a drastic change for him that he acquired after traveling to the city when he was only nine. He made a decent living at his trade and rarely used the simple katana that was strapped across his back. In fact, he couldn't remember a single time he had ever needed to draw it in battle.

The city's name was Alura. It was typical of the western side of the continent. Dirty hovels and alleyways, large busy marketplaces full of street merchants; peasants wandered through with the occasional mercenary passing through with the traders. They liked to work security for fast easy money as the richer merchants traveled across the country selling their wares. Most of the men in the city were armed with a broadsword or a dagger at least, many of the women carried knives as well.

Ranma wandered through the market street and gazed up at the castle that rested in the center of the city. It rose far into the sky above seeming to scrape the bottom of the clouds, in fact, he could remember days where the top of the tall tower in the center could not be seen because of the clouds. He smiled as he passed a gruff looking dwarf pedaling an assortment of pots and pans in a small booth. Dwarves and Elves were rare in the city, but occasionally one would see them running a booth in the market. The portly dwarf snorted at him in disgust and ignored him in favor of a customer that walked up. He continued on his way and frowned as a cloaked figure stood in his way.

"I see much turmoil in your soul young man," commented a feminine voice from within the shadows of the cloak.

"Not today all right?" muttered the boy halfheartedly as he attempted to pass by.

"You are tainted by the stench of magic boy. Are you a mage?"

Ranma paused and looked at the woman with a small frown. "I don't need no stupid magic."

"I see. We'll meet again soon boy," said the woman with a hint of amusement in her voice.

"Go sell your fortunes to someone else elf," snorted the boy as he continued on his way.

The figure within the cloak paused and looked up from the shadows of her hood. Her youthful features contorted slightly and she frowned. "He has a good eye to see that past all of this clothing."


Ranma turned into a dark alley and stopped cold in his tracks. "Are you going to quit following me or what?"

All at once a pile of refuse seemed to burst to life as a shadowy figure emerged and charged him. Ranma sidestepped the skillful punch and smirked as he sent his knee up towards the attacker's abdomen. It was easily blocked and the pair jumped away from each other and faced off for a long moment without moving an inch.

"You're mine!" screamed the man as he rushed forward again and kicked.

Ranma pushed himself over the man's leg and landed behind him. He turned to attack, but the man was already gone. "You're getting better. Are you done fooling around Kumon? We've got to get back soon."

The boy stepped from the shadows and snorted. He was dressed in light brown pants and a dark blue shirt, a heavy looking broadsword hung off of his hip as he strolled up to Ranma casually. "Right, I saw you take that guy's wallet, took your sweet time getting here too. What the hell do you call that?"

"Buying dinner," replied Ranma with a shrug. "Come on, we've got to get to the guild and unload some of this junk."

"Which you left me to carry!" said the boy as he picked up a sack from the ground.

"Fine, I'll pay for you too," said the pigtailed boy as he started walking again.

"You'd better!"


The inside of the guild was rather like a cross between a bar and a market. Men ate and drank at tables around the room and several booths lined the walls along one side of the room. Two large heavy doors stood atop a small staircase that led to the guild master's quarters. Several of the men and women inside turned to face the pair as they entered, but quickly turned away as nothing of interest could be seen.

"Come on, let's get rid of this stuff now. It's heavy," snorted Kumon as he shifted the load on his shoulder uncomfortably.

"I guess we can eat afterwards," commented Ranma. His face told that he wasn't too pleased with the idea.

The pair walked up to one of the shadier and smaller looking booths. A small old man leered at them as they put the bag on the counter. He stroked his long beard lazily as he greeted them. "Ah, Ranma and Ryu, it has been some time! How have you been? Out of town again?"

"That's right, Myuten this time," said Ranma cheerfully. Ryu remained silent and turned away from the conversation.

"Oh, they have a nice magic guild there!"

"Why do you think we went?" said Ranma lazily.

"What have you got for me then?" said the old man with a chuckle.

"Couple of elemental rods, a crystal ball with a seal on it, some black dust, a few bottles of potions, and a dagger with a light enchantment on it."

"No dragons teeth?" The man gave a heavy sigh.

"They aren't in season," commented Ryu casually.

"That's why I want them so badly," said the man cheerfully as he poked through the bag.

"Don't think you're getting this stuff any cheaper cause we don't have any either. I know a few shops that would kill to get some of this stuff." Ranma crossed his arms and smiled at the man looking confident as usual.

"I wouldn't think of it," said the old man with a nervous laugh. It was obvious that he was going to attempt to bargain down because of it.

"I can give you six," said the old man with a serious look suddenly crossing his features.

"Ten thousand," said Ryu.

"Well..." started the old man carefully.

"Ten thousand or we leave right now." Ryu's voice was as calm as ever.

"All right," said the old man as he gave in. He chuckled inwardly; ten thousand was a steal for some of the things they had brought back. He had been doing business with them for some time now. It seemed as if they either didn't know or didn't care how much the stuff was really worth. Probably the latter considering how much the pair traveled around. They would often visit the cities in the surrounding country, but they always ended up back in Alura. It was funny really; two of the most wanted men on the continent, and no one even had a clue what they looked like.

Ranma collected the money and turned towards his partner. "Come on, let's eat."

Ryu merely grunted and nodded his head in response.


She entered the small dark hole inside of the alley and smiled at what she found. She wasn't really surprised, after all, most thieve's guilds were notoriously lavish inside. After a moment she removed her hood letting her long violet hair flow down her back. She pushed her way through the crowd and smiled as she walked around several tables. A young red haired girl was having a rather physical argument with a large gruff looking man beside her. Her companion was sitting back and drinking a mug of ale with a calm and board look about him. Nearby another group was swapping stories about death defying escapes from various adventures they claimed to have had. Men spoke loudly about trolls they'd killed and ogres as well. A few goblins roamed about the room serving tables with some of the rougher looking women. Hanging from the rafters whores waved at the men who entered lazily and hung off of their patrons. "Disgusting."

"Hey little elf girl, how much for a night with you?" slurred an oversized and drunken oaf as he lumbered towards her.

The woman narrowed her eyes and pushed past him without a single word. She made her way to the bar and leaned on the counter knocking her hand on the dirty wood surface. A middle aged man turned towards her with a look of disinterest, until he noticed how she looked. Elves were prized as whores and wives; they didn't age much in the course of a human life.

"Looking for a job cutie?"

"Stop being foolish. I'm looking for someone," said the woman impatiently.

"That'll cost you," said the man with a shrug. He backed off a little bit when he noticed the armor under her cloak. Most elves were pretty passive and easygoing, but crossing one wearing armor was not a good idea.

"I'll decide that on my own thank you. I understand a man named Dragon Ghost operates within this city."

The man looked at her blankly and shrugged his shoulders. She placed a single gold coin on the table and he took it. "Yeah, I've heard rumors. He's not a member of the guild. If he is, it's a big secret to be kept away from me."

"I need to speak with the guild master then."

"What do you want with the likes of him anyway? If you're looking to hire a thief, there's lots of able men here. If you're a bounty hunter, I'm afraid this place is more dangerous than you think. Not that many of 'em care about that; most of 'em don't walk out of here though. "

"How do I get in touch with the guild master?" said the woman as she placed down another coin.

"I'll tell him you want to speak with him," said the man as he pocketed the money and walked into a door behind the bar.

After a few moments he returned and nodded to her casually. "Go through those two doors up there." He pointed towards the large heavy doors that took up most of one of the far walls.

She nodded and walked away.


Ranma grumbled as she ate her meal lazily. The large dumb oaf sprawled out across the floor unconscious had spilled a sizable amount of his ale on her. Now she smelled. Ryu pretty much ignored the situation; it was all too familiar. Ranma had never spoken about where he picked up the unusual curse and he didn't press the information. He didn't really care anyway.

The redhead tore at the large leg of meat in her hands with a small amount of anger. "Sometimes I hate this stupid curse."

"You should relax more," commented Kumon as he kicked his feet up on top of the table.

"Yeah, whatever," said the girl as she tore into another portion of meat.

A small lizard like creature with tiny leathery wings landed on the edge of the table and hissed. It glanced at the pair for a moment before turning to Ranma. "The guild master wishes to speak with you."

"Now?" she said with surprise on her face.

"Yes." The creature fluttered away.

"Well, looks like we're getting a little extra work again," said Ryu as he watched her stand and walk away.


The guild master smiled to himself as he fingered his curly beard. He wore a rather loudly colored shirt and an odd looking round hat on his head. "I am Guild King. What do you want the Dragon Ghost for anyway?"

"To the point are we?" I wish to hire his services. Can you allow me to speak with him?"

"No."

"Why not?" said the woman with her eyebrow arching slightly.

"I do not allow anyone to speak with him. Tell me what it is you want and I'll tell him, then you can come and pick up whatever it is you want from me later."

The elven girl smiled and pulled out a small medallion from the folds of her cloak. "I really think I should speak with him personally."

The Guild King's eyes narrowed at the sight of the necklace. He sighed and shook his head. "I shall allow it."


Ranma entered the room and frowned when she saw a young elf sitting on the Guild King's throne. The man was nowhere to be seen.

"Who are you? What do you want?"

The girl stared at her for a moment and giggled to herself. "This is the famed Dragon Ghost? I heard he was a man!"

Ranma narrowed her eyes at this and snorted. "He is."

This got the elf a little more than surprised. "Who are you then?"

"I'm his manager."

"I see."

"What do you want?"

"I have a job for him," said the woman as she pushed back her hair lazily.

"What is it that you want?" snorted the redhead lazily.

The girl on the throne paused slightly and leaned forward. "You!?"

Ranma backed away with a cautious look about her. "What?"

"An elf? You're an elf? How odd," the girl leaned back in her chair and smiled. "I suppose that will make this easier."

"What of it?"

"If you weren't I couldn't show this to you."

Ranma narrowed her eyes at the small crystal the woman pulled from her cloak. She held it in her palm and an image appeared above it, the image of a golden staff with a red crystal above it. It's design was simple and it had almost no ornamentation at all, save the two dragon wings that held the crystal in place at the tip of the staff.

"Is that?"

"Yes, the staff of the elders. I want it." The elf girl's eyes narrowed carefully as she watched the girl's reaction.

Ranma shrugged her shoulders. "That will cost you."

"I can pay," replied the girl with a shrug. She tossed a huge bag of gold at Ranma's feet. "The other half when you get me the staff."

"That staff is one of the most guarded secrets of the elven tribes. It won't be easy to get."

"No, but if you want to steal from a wizard, everyone knows that you must summon the Dragon Ghost. He must have powerful magic in order to steal from such men. Even the most powerful of wizards have fallen prey to him. They are unable to understand how he does it. Do you know?"

"It's a secret." Ranma turned away with the bag of gold in her hands. A light smile crossed her lips as she exited the room.

The woman paused as the redhead opened the door. "Aren't you going to ask who I am? Or why I want it?"

"Why? It's just a stupid staff. I don't recall it having any powerful spells on it from legends, so I don't really need to know what you need it for do I?"

Ranma walked out and chuckled as she slung the bag over her shoulder. "Ryu's gonna love this one."


To be continued...

C&C to Carrotglace@juno.com