Disclaimer

Planescape and Dungeons and Dragons are not owned by me. Neither is Ranma. They are owned by rich, talented people. I'm a nobody. Please don't sue me.

"There are three rules to endings. First, Good always wins. Second, Evil always returns. Third, the first rule isn't always true."

-- Tarsheva Longreach, a Planewalker

Endings and Beginnings

Long, long ago...

In the deepest reaches of the Abyss, under an eternally black sky filled with dull, ashen clouds, there lies a vast desert of powdered bone, inhabited only by the restless dead. Howls and shrieks of the pained damned are carried on its endlessly swirling wind, scratching at the unfortunate wanderer's nerves as surely as the ever shifting white dust.

At the heart of this fell desert lies a great fortress made of countless bones. Within its heart, on a throne of human ivory, once ruled one of the cruelest tyrants in all the planes of existence. Over an eternity of unchallenged rule, the master of Oblivion's End slowly grew fat and lazy, his once hard edge dulled with the finest things a demon lord of his stature could desire. In time, the realm came to reflect its lord. And then she struck.

She stood now in destroyed chamber, wearily surveying the work she and her greatest followers had perpetuated. She was cruelly beautiful, like a razor sharp blade made by an artisan smith. Her red eyes held no hint of compassion, simply malice and cruelty, and now, triumph. Her black skin and white hair were spattered with blood and ichor from the battle she had just waged, somehow not detracting from her inhuman beauty. For she was a goddess, a Power, even if a minor one. As had been her foe, whose fat, maggot white corpse was still bleeding its black ichors at her feet. Finally, her foe breathed his last, and his body began to fade away, leaving nothing behind but fetid pools of blood.

With a grin crueler than any shark, she spoke, and her Words held Power. "Know that now and forevermore, he who once claimed Thanatos is no more. The past master of this place is gone and shall not return. I, Kiaransalee, Mother of Vengeance and Mistress of Unlife, rule here now and shall into infinity. My will is law in Thanatos, for it is now my realm.

"Let no soul, mortal or otherwise, speak of the former ruler again. Let no written word, anywhere in all existance, past or present, record his misbegotten appellation. Let this be the last moment any creatures ever hear the name fall upon their ears. The last voice to speak the name shall be that of his executioner, and I say it now for the final time:

"ORCUS!"

Many years later...

The Astral, an endless, silvery void, that is both everywhere and nowhere all at once. It is the space between, a realm of absence, a lack of reality. Stretching from the far reaches of the Outer Planes, to touch all of the worlds of the Prime Material, filling the gap between every atom, to the unimaginable infinities between every star. However, the true nature of the Astral is that it is the domain of pure thought. Ideas are born and ideas die, and the greatest ideas find their home in the Astral forever, even when forgotten.

And what are gods but ideas given sublime form?

Within this void float many vast, rocky islands of substance. Those who dwell in the Astral use the promontories to build their homes, ignoring always the nature of what they dwell upon. For who wants to remember that one's home is built upon the great crystallized chest of an ancient god, long dead and mostly forgotten?

Within this cruel archipelago floats an island upon which no one dwells. All who have ever set foot upon it have felt great unease, for the figure in question does not easily sleep that dream of death. Intimate with endings and that which lie beyond, this figure ever stirs in its sleep, dreaming dreams more active than that of other dead gods. Finally, whether by fate, its own dark will, or some confluence of events occurring on far off planes, the figure, while in the midst of a restless dream, awoke. For the first time in years uncounted the power awakened, and, into that great silver void of nothing, spoke a single word. "Vengeance." Then the dead god disappeared.

Into the hole of its absence stepped a great figure, appearing as though pulling back the curtain of reality to show where he had been. The figure was immense, wearing a simple wrap about its hips, and bearing only a plain staff. The jackal headed figure looked out into the space where one of its tenants had once been.

And Anubis, Guardian of the Dead Gods, stared for a long moment at the place left empty by the god who was his charge no longer. "Most ominous," he muttered gruffly, before fading away.

Many years later...

In all of the planes of existence, few beings are stranger than the modrons. The epitome of absolute Law, the modrons have a strictly hierarchal society, composed of an exact number of modrons per level, from the lowliest monodrone, strange spherical amalgams of flesh and metal, seemingly driven by clockwork limbs, to the mighty Primus, the One and the Prime, supreme master of the modrons. Each caste is filled with promoted members of lower ranks, each hole in the hierarchy being instantly filled from below without a single pause.

The modrons dwell upon the plane of Mechanus, an endless expanse of interlocking, impossible gears upon which dwell the plane's inhabitants. On a single large gear at the heart of the plane lies Regulus, home of the modrons. At its precise center is the Great Modron Cathedral, and in its heart dwells Primus himself. From here Primus directs his people, through a long and precise chain of command, to carry out his orderly bidding, maintaining the gears of Mechanus, and collecting all knowledge of the planes.

It was because of this habit that a small army of shadowed figures entered the home of Primus. Glancing up in surprise, the One and the Prime observed the beings as they quickly stepped forward. After of moment of shock, as he had not foreseen such an event disrupting his schedule, Primus attempted to call his followers to defend him, but found himself, for the first time, cut off from his people.

Even alone, the great silvery figure gazed upon the shadowed beasts and knew no fear, for, despite having overcome the defenses of Regulus, and having some as yet unknown power to disrupt his communications, he was unconcerned. He was the One and the Prime, a god, and as such beyond all powers that lesser beings could command.

The figures quickly spread out throughout the room, carrying out deeds beyond the ability of Primus to guess, for in his orderly manner guessing was not his strong point. Finally, the remaining creatures parted, revealing one last being.

It stepped forward, allowing Primus to see it fully. "You know me, do you not, modron?" the creature spat.

"Yes," Primus spoke, his voice carrying the faintest hint of shock. "But obviously, an elaborate deception is at work here. You are dead."

"Yes, I am. But I've no time for your short sighted observations. Do you know where my talisman lies?"

After a moment of consideration, Primus answered, "No." A moment later he reeled in pain under the cruel touch the shadow's mind, before the contact withdrew.

"Yes, of course you're telling the truth.... Simpleton. But there's a way you can find out where it lies – you and your little automatons." The figure approached Primus. "Of course, I can't let word of my existence be revealed yet, and I don't actually need you alive to accomplish what must be done here."

With a cold smile the shadow spoke the Last Word, and Primus, the One and the Prime, died. He was to neither be the first, nor the last....

Time passes...

"Come on, boy," the fat man, wearing a bandanna and a dirty gi, called. "It looks like its going to start raining in a minute."

"Stupid old man," a pigtailed teenager wearing red and black Chinese clothes muttered. "Wouldn't even have to worry about a little rain if it weren't for you."

"What was that boy? Oh, why must I be stuck with such a dishonorable son who does nothing but whine like a little girl?"

The teenager gritted his teeth. Finally, after a moment he reached the end of his rope, and with a shout, he leaped forward towards his father, connecting with a powerful jump kick. "Stop calling me that!"

The older man, Saotome Genma, flew forwards, flipping in mid air to land his feet on the hillside he had previously been flying towards head first. His plan fell through, however, as the hillside gave way under his feet, sending him into a hidden chamber in the hill.

Saotome Ranma stood in shock for a moment at his father's sudden disappearance, before running to the newly revealed cave mouth, where he found Genma examining an obviously artificial stone hallway. Torch sconces decorated the walls, one of which Genma quickly grabbed and lit.

"This is more like it," he said gruffly. "A dry place to stay, and maybe a bit of treasure."

Ranma rolled his eyes. Quests for treasure never ended well in his experience. Still, he followed his father, feeling the familiar stirrings of curiosity beginning.

The passageway soon opened into a large chamber, which appeared to have once been a well-made living room. Dusty tables and chairs sat covered in dust, with several thick books sitting about. Most were written in Chinese, though several were in Japanese. "Hey, pops, these books look old, and some are in Japanese."

"Foolish boy, this is no time to read. Just look for treasure."

Ranma set down his backpack and grabbed a torch of his own and began to look around. After a few minutes he entered a large chamber, which was covered in jars and beakers of every description. Some of the clear ones revealed oddly colored liquids, while others had strange things preserved in them, from animal parts to unidentifiable masses. Ranma moved on quickly, arriving at a large work table, upon which was a thick book, with the words "Lab Notes" written in clear Japanese in a precise hand.

Ranma flipped through it, and at once found himself intrigued and amused. The author apparently was obsessed with the idea of traveling beyond reality into other worlds. He had perused every scrap of magical lore that he could find, trying to learn of a way to travel beyond. Ranma stopped smiling when the author mentioned Jusenkyo. After his recent experiences there, and with the Dragon's Whisker, Ranma suddenly became far less amused by the idea of magic. The journal ended with the authors apparent success at finding out how to open a way to another world.

"Boy, what did I tell you about reading? Did you find anything useful?"

"No."

"What about through that door?"

Ranma looked up and noticed a large, reinforced door on the far side of the lab. "Fine, I'll check it out. Stupid old man."

The door was made of stout wood and bound with iron, but it opened easily. From the torchlight Ranma could see a large, dusty chamber, with a single clear spot at the center of the floor. It was a circular device covered in intricate markings and from the way it reflected the torchlight, made of solid gold.

Normally, Ranma wasn't a greedy young man. He had seen often enough the consequences of his father's greed, and had long ago decided to never be like him. However, confronted with such obvious wealth he started to step forward, before suddenly his danger sense flared like never before. He froze, dropping the torch, bringing himself into a fighting stance. Immediately he knew something was wrong in the room before him.

Genma stepped up behind him. "What is it... GOLD!!" Not even pausing to think he started to move forward, shoving his son ahead of him into the room.

"No, wait..." Ranma began... too late.

As soon as Ranma was pushed across the threshold he felt his body seize up, paralyzed completely. A warm breeze began to stir, revealing that the golden markings covered the entire floor, completely filling the room. Glowing golden markings.

Genma, finally realizing the danger, managed to leap away in time to watch his meal ticket son be engulfed in a bright golden glow, which swiftly filled the chamber. The blown dust blurred his vision, until, with a great flash and a blast of air, Ranma was gone.

"Ranma!" His voice echoed. "Why oh why have I been cursed with such a lazy and dishonerable son? Killed in a trap by his own greed. Oh the shame! Hmm, maybe I can pry up the gold without entering the room?" Quickly he set upon his task, his first strike breaking the circle, ending its magic forever.

"Look at all of this gold! Still, I should do something about the boy. Otherwise Nodoka will kill me. Hmm... perhaps Soun has some ideas."

Elsewhere

With a groan, Ranma came back to his senses. "Stupid old man. I've had it with him. When I see him I'm going to give him a piece of my mind it'll take him weeks to recover from."

Standing up, Ranma noticed he was in a large stone chamber, seemingly carved from rough black rock. Etched on its floor was an exact duplicate of the symbol that had been engraved in gold upon the floor in the chamber he had previously been in. Sighting a door, he walked outside.

The first thing that he noticed as he neared the door was the smell, a thick miasma reeking like a combination of a foundry and a charnel house. Next was the sweltering heat, like standing before an open kiln. Finally, stepping outside, he received the shock of his life.

The sky was deep red like dried blood. As far as the eye could see was an endless expanse of jagged black rock, rising and falling in serrated, yet strangely organic shapes that only passingly resembled hills. Great fireballs fell from the heavens, striking the ground in the distance with great bursts of light and flame, destroying further the already barren landscape.

Ranma gulped. "This isn't good."

Author's Notes

This story was created out of my love of the Planescape setting, and the epic adventure Great Modron March/Dead Gods. The plot of this story will follow these adventures, along with side adventures from the Well of Worlds Planescape book. Anyone familiar with these modules should recognize the setup from both Dead Gods and Great Modron March, as well as Ranma taking his first step into the planes via "To Baator and Back" from Well of Worlds.

Knowledge of Planescape shouldn't be necessary to understand this story, although I'm going to do my best to make it as lovingly accurate to the setting as possible. For those who are unaware of it, Planescape deals with adventures occurring mostly in the Outer Planes, which includes locations such as Mount Celestia (i.e. Heaven) and Baator (i.e. Hell). These impossible places provide a rich backdrop for unusual story telling, with things like Belief being one of the mightiest forces in the planes. In Planescape, the Pen is truly mightier than the Sword. Although only a fool doesn't carry at a few weapons with them wherever they go...

Kiaransalee's speech is taken verbatim from Dead Gods, as is the introductory quote, and the spoken conversation between Primus and his attacker.