A Ranma 1/2 - Wheel Of Time Crossover

By Louis-Philippe Giroux 
[dragon@fanfic.net]

Let me know what you think of this! C&C welcome!!!

The Wheel Of Time is a series created by Robert Jordan. Read it at any
cost (or you won't understand a lot of this)!

Ranma 1/2 belongs to Rumiko Takahashi.  Suing me would be pointless, as I
have no money whatsoever. I do this for fun, not profit!

The latest versions of the previous chapters are always the ones on my
WWW page at http://www.fanfic.net/~dragon/dp/power.html

The Wheel Of Time - 9 books so far and still going! (Published by Tor
Books)

1 - The Eye of the World 
2 - The Great Hunt 
3 - The Dragon Reborn 
4 - The Shadow Rising 
5 - The Fires Of Heaven 
6 - The Lord Of Chaos 
7 - A Crown Of Swords 
8 - The Path Of Daggers 
9 - Winter's Heart


* * * * * * * * * * * * *

*Sometimes, I _really_ hate my life,* Ranma thought.  "Ummm . . ." the
currently female martial artist stammered.  "Didn't know you were here,"
she finally said nervously.  She quickly looked around the room, looking
for some means of escape.  The only thing she saw was the window behind
Lan.  Ranma was confident that she could bowl him down if it came down to
it, but everyone else's presence made things a bit more problematic.

Someone started banging on the door behind Ranma.  "I know you're in
there!  Open up!" came Min's voice.  The red-haired martial artist
sweated when she saw that Lan was already moving towards her and everyone
else save Akane and Ukyou showed some degree of confusion.

Ranma gave herself a mental slap and an idea suddenly came to her. "Sorry
'bout this!" she blurted and opened the door to flee back out. She spun
around, facing a surprised Min and was about to slip past her when she
felt something brush her mind, causing her to lose consciousness before
she even hit the floor.

Min narrowly dodged the tip of the staff as it came crashing down along
with Ranma. "What . . .?" she said, puzzled and looked in the room only
to see "Mistress Alys" glaring at the unconscious form of the redhead.
Realization suddenly settled in.  *I thought they couldn't hurt people
with the Power . . .* she wondered absently.

Everyone began speaking at the same time, at least until Moiraine's voice
cut through the noise like a whip.  "Everyone, be quiet!"  The chatter
died instantly, and even Akane and Ukyou, who had begun moving towards
Ranma's fallen form, stopped in their tracks.  "Is there a problem, Min?"
asked Moiraine smoothly.

"Ah . . . well . . ." Min hedged, suddenly unsure about the whole thing.
She shook her head and bulled on ahead.  "Mistress Alys," she began,
making sure to use the fake name, "I don't know who this girl is, but
I've seen her . . . before and she has something to do with the
black-haired boy who was in your party."

The Aes Sedai looked steadily at Min for a moment.  "A vision?" she
inquired after a moment.

Min briefly considered the others who were present in the room, then
nodded.  "Yes.  I know it sounds foolish, but she and the boy are . . .
well . . . one and the same!"

Strangled sounds emanated from Akane and Ukyou. Ryouga, silent until now,
began to sweat.  Moiraine did not miss the reactions and decided to find
out what this was all about.  It seemed as though they had been
withholding secrets from her, although she had been expecting _that_ all
along.

"Egwene, Nynaeve, please leave the room for a while," Moiraine ordered,
not giving anyone a chance to discuss the matter. "Lan, go make sure the
young men do not interrupt us when they come back.  This may take a
while."  The Warder looked at the unconscious redhead and and his eyes
narrowed, but he eventually nodded.

"Aes Sedai", Nynaeve suddenly said in a low, warning tone, "You and I are
not finished yet!"

"Indeed we are not," Moiraine agreed pleasently, as though there wasn't
someone lying out cold on the floor.  "But still, why don't you take the
opportunity to talk to Rand and the others when they return?  Perhaps you
will discover why we had to leave Emond's Field the way we did."  Letting
her loose with the young ones was probably not the safest thing to do at
the moment, but she had already guessed that the Wisdom would do
everything possible to force the young men to return to Emond's Field.
Better to let her speak with them now than to let her form even more
suspicions.

Nynaeve suddenly tugged her braid, then stalked out of the room, followed
by Lan.  Moiraine then turned back to her guests.  Min looked even more
nervous than before, but the other two girls looked angry and Ryouga
looked lost.

"Well," she asked with a touch of impatience, while looking at Akane and
Ukyou, "will you explain this to me willingly?  I notice that the girl
bears a striking resemblance to Ranma, but that doesn't explain why she
is here or why she is dressed in Ranma's clothes."

Akane and Ukyou both glanced at each other nervously, before looking at
Ranma's still unmoving form.  Ryouga was also getting nervous, but for a
very different reason.  Neither of them really took into account
Moiraine's unsaid implication that she could or would force an answer out
of them, unwillingly if necessary.  Ukyou was the first to retort. "First
off, what did you do to Ranchan?  He shouldn't have passed out so easily
from just a fall!"

Moiraine and Min both blinked at that.  "Ranchan?" Moiraine repeated
slowly, just a little confused.  "Is that the girl's name?  Why do you
say 'he'?"

"Ah . . . yeah, about that . . .  I . . ." Ukyou thought furiously.  She
suddenly smiled.  "Okay, I'll explain everything once I make sure that
Ranchan wakes up all right."

Moiraine affected a slightly annoyed expression.  "Whoever this girl is,
she's fine.  The weave I used merely put her to sleep unharmed," she
said, as though that was of no concern. "Now explain yourselves!  I will
not have my mission jeopardized because of unknown elements!  Even Min
knows better than to even think of lying to me."

Right now, Min was presently torn between the desire to see this
particular puzzle solved and the need to run away from an Aes Sedai who
was looking angrier every second.  A tiny part of her mind observed that
the other two girls seemed unaware of the dangers inherent in aggravating
an Aes Sedai, although she had yet to decide if that was a good or a bad
thing.  At least, now she knew how Moiraine had managed to disable the
girl.

Akane looked at her rival with a small degree of admiration.  *Well, that
could solve some problems,* she thought, but when she remembered
Moiraine's attitude towards the unusual (particularly regarding Ranma),
there might be other problems to worry about.  "We didn't lie about
anything!  We just didn't tell you everything about us," she protested
towards the Aes Sedai.  "But I agree with Ukyou," she continued
undaunted.  "Wake Ranma up first." Moiraine, who was now openly scowling,
narrowed her eyes and Akane belatedly realized that she might have gone a
bit too far.

"Ranma?" Moiraine whispered dangerously.  She quickly glanced at the
still redhead and took a step towards Akane, oblivious to Ryouga's
narrowing eyes.  The Aes Sedai seemed intent on wringing an answer out of
her when she suddenly lost her balance and fell flat on her back.  Dazed,
she saw the small redhead kneeling with her staff extended low between
Moiraine's feet.

"If you wanna get'em, you'll have to go through me, first!" the girl
warned ominously.  She got no further as the room's door burst open and
Lan barged in, sword drawn.


* * *

In the common room of the Stag and Lion, Rand, Perrin and Mat, had
finally come back with Thom.  The gleeman was immediately whisked away to
the common room, while the young men confronted Nynaeve.  Thanks to
Perrin's warning, Mat and Rand were ready for the Wisdom's presence, but
got some other surprises.

"A red-haired girl?" both Rand and Mat chorused when Nynaeve griped about
'the Aes Sedai throwing them out of the room for no good reason.'

"Yes," said Nynaeve impatiently.  She noticed the look the two young men
gave each other.  "What is it, you two?  You know that girl?"

"Maybe," Rand allowed.  "We saw a redhead like you describe in the city
earlier.  She might be the same one."

Nynaeve frowned, wondering just what Moiraine was going to do with the
girl.  "You still haven't told me why you ran away with . . . _her_." she
added, her distate for Moiraine clear.  Why ever would you want to travel
with someone like that?"

Perrin, who knew where this was leading, promptly disappeared, leaving
Nynaeve to chew out Mat and Rand for running away with the Aes Sedai. A
heated discussion had followed, ending with Mat leaving to find Perrin,
leaving the Wisdom alone with an uncomfortable Rand.

"How did you know to find us here, anyway?" asked Rand after a while.

Nynaeve frowned.  "Don't be a woolhead.  It's not as if you had many
places to go.  You surely wouldn't have been heading for the Mountains of
Mist.  Besides, she's an Aes Sedai - where else would she go but to Tar
Valon?"

Rand nodded, feeling a bit foolish.  "Did you meet Ryouga on the way? Lan
couldn't find him after the third day . . ." he trailed when he saw
Nynaeve's troubled expression.  "What?"

Nynaeve shuddered slightly as she remembered her encounter with Ryouga.
"It was an accident," she began . . .

[Flashback]

It had been fairly hard to track the whole group, but Nynaeve could track
as well as any in Emond's Field.  She was not going to let an Aes Sedai
make off with four village youths, one of them her apprentice. There were
those foreign . . . channelers to worry about as well.  She hadn't
witnessed the battle firsthand, but the villagers had been loud enough in
their comments. Nynaeve wasn't sure who she should believe, but the Aes
Sedai had apparently convinced most of the villagers that the outlander
children were not channelers.  Still, caution wouldn't hurt, especially
since . . .

"WHERE THE HELL AM I NOW?" an angry voice suddenly bellowed, ripping her
from her musings.

Her horse suddenly tried to throw her off. She managed to hold on through
sheer stubbornness and when her mount finally calmed down, she found
herself face to face with an apologetic Ryouga.

"Ahh . . .   Sorry about that," Ryouga apologized.  "I didn't know you
were so close.  Are you all right?".  He blinked.  "Hey, I recognize you!
You're that lady from the village.  Nynaeve, right?"

She bristled, recognizing him, but momentarily forgetting that he was one
of the rumored channelers.  "I am not one of those useless nobles, you
fool.  I am a woman and I am the Wisdom of Emond's Field!  And what were
you thinking, bellowing like that in the forest?"

Ryouga seemed mostly unfazed by most of her tirade.  "Does that mean I'm
back in Emond's Field?" he asked, disappointment evident in his voice. "I
don't want to be here!  I have to get back to Akane-san's side!  Who
knows what that idiot Ranma might do if he's left alone for too long!"

Nynaeve blinked and frowned.  "_What_ are you talking about, you witless
woolhead?  I heard you and your little friends had left with the Aes
Sedai and the others.  Shouldn't you be with them?"  And why was he on
foot, anyway?

Ryouga reddened slightly.  "I . . . got separated from them," he mumbled.
"I've been trying to find them again, though.  Moiraine said the group
was headed to Baerlon, but I don't know where that is . . . not that it
would change anything if I did know . . ." he finished in a nearly
unintelligble mutter.

Nynaeve's eyes narrowed.  *I knew it,* she thought, *they _are_ headed to
Baerlon!"  She thought for a few seconds then looked at Ryouga.  "Is
everyone all right?  Egwene, Rand, Mat and Perrin?"

Ryouga nodded.  "Yeah, I suppose so.  From what I could tell, only Egwene
seemed really happy to go.  The guys grumbled a bit about it early on,
but it stopped soon afterwards.  Why?  Are you looking for them too?"

Nynaeve nodded absently, concerned about Egwene.  "I have to get them
away from the Aes Sedai before she puts foolish ideas in their heads,"
she paused.  "Not that it would be a hard task, especially with Matrim in
the group."

Ryouga shrugged.  "The guys seemed pretty sensible about this stuff.  A
bit nave, perhaps, but they're not that bad.  Ranma and me taught them a
few self-defense moves and Egwene's been taking lessons in that Power
thingie from Moiraine."

Nynaeve started.  Egwene?  She shook her head.  "This just makes it more
important for me to get to them."  She redirected her horse towards the
path.

"Wait!" Ryouga cried out.  "Can I come with you then?  If you're going to
meet them, then I won't have to wander this forsaken forest anymore!"

The Wisdom twitched, suddenly remembering something.  "Why should I? Many
villagers are still convinced that you and your little friends are
channelers, especially you and  the other boy, Ranma."

Ryouga frowned in remembrance.  Ranma had told him about the villagers'
reluctance to accept explanations in regards to Ki manipulation.  "It's
not our fault you people tend to think of anything unusual as something
made from the Power.  Besides, Moiraine tried to shield us and couldn't
do it.  What we do, nearly anyone can do with sufficient training."

Nynaeve looked at Ryouga for a while.  She _could_ use his observations
on the Aes Sedai and he truly didn't seem that dangerous.  "Fine," she
decided.  "You can come with me, but you're on foot and I have a horse. I
don't want to spend all my time waiting for you to catch up with me.  I
mean to get to Baerlon as quickly as possible."

Ryouga nodded confidently.  "Don't worry about me.  I've been keeping up
with the others all this time, even though they've got horses and Ranma
and I were on foot.  As long as I can see you, I'll be all right."

Nynaeve raised an eyebrow in doubt, but shrugged.  If he could keep up,
fine, if he couldn't, well . . . then he wouldn't be a bother.  Her
priority was to get the young ones away from that Aes Sedai's
machinations and back to Emond's Field . . .

[end flashback]

"I was surprised at many things, namely that he could keep up with me and
that I have never seen anyone with such a bad sense of direction.  I
thought he was mocking me in the beginning, always going the wrong way,
but he really does seem to get lost easily," Nynaeve said slowly, shaking
her head.  "Even turning around is nearly beyond him.  Frankly, I'm
surprised he managed to stay with your group as long as he did.  When we
finally made it to Baerlon, he was still pretending he had no problems
getting around.  Just like a fool man to make more work for a woman." She
sniffed.  "He should be tied to his mother's apron strings. Literally."

There was something in Nynaeve's tone that ticked Rand's interest.  She
had sounded . . . off.  There had definitely been _something_ else.  "Did
he do anything to offend you?" he hazarded, trying to find out the
problem.

Nynaeve looked up in surprise at Rand.  "Offend me?  No, not really. . .
I mean, he was very forthcoming about anything I asked of him and he even
tried to explain some of his . . . tricks to me," at that, she couldn't
help a shiver, "but he did nothing that truly bothered me."

Rand looked somewhat suspiciously at Nynaeve.  There was something she
wasn't telling him, but trying to confront the Wisdom about it would not
probably get him anywhere except in an argument he'd have no chance to
win.  Besides, if Ryouga _had_ bothered her, she probably would have
skinned him alive.

* * *

Unbeknownst to the others in the common room, a stand-off was occuring in
a room upstairs.  Moiraine had already gotten back on her feet with Lan's
help, mustering as much poise as someone could after being
unceremoniously tripped to the floor.  Lan looked like the slightest
movement was going to send him lunging at the young redhead who was, for
the moment, just standing there warily.

Akane and Ukyou had stepped back a bit and stayed still, if not calm, not
wanting to trigger something unpleasant.  Ryouga was waiting for Ranma to
put her foot in her mouth as usual.  Min was almost cowering, not
believing someone had had the audacity to _trip_ an Aes Sedai.

"Lan, do no attack her," Moiraine said in a deceptively mild tone, though
an undercurrent of irritation could be heard.  Lan looked about ready to
protest when Moiraine gave him a small, mysterious smile.  Lan blinked,
but said nothing, though he kept glaring at the redhead.  Moiraine turned
to Ranma.  "I must admit this is the first time anyone has ever
successfully done that to me."  Her eyes narrowed fractionally, her voice
becoming just a tad sharper.  "You were awake, weren't you?"

Ranma smirked, despite the gravity of the situation.  "I woke up when Lan
went out of the room."  The smirk became a frown.  "I don't know exactly
what you did to make me pass out like that, but I can tell you right now
that it won't work twice."

"Who are you?" asked Moiraine simply.  Gone was the anger she had
displayed towards the two girls.  Only calm and a slight air of curiosity
remained.    Everything was going as she'd predicted.  Well, almost
everything.  Lan still looked like a wolf about to do murder.

Ranma kept the staff in a defensive position between her and the Aes
Sedai.  She glanced behind her at Ukyou and Akane.  "Are you two all
right?" she asked in Japanese.  Both girls nodded.  Ranma turned to look
at Ryouga.  "I see you found your way back.  That was faster than usual
for you."

Ryouga was frowning at both Moiraine and Ranma.  "I met Nynaeve-san in
the forest and she agreed to guide me here."  He suddenly smirked. "Looks
like your luck didn't hold out very long."

Ranma glared at Ryouga then turned back to Moiraine and Lan.  "I'd prefer
if we could just forget this all happened, but I don't think you're the
type to do that."

Moiraine nodded.  Lan looked ready to pounce at the suggestion.

Ranma looked at Moiraine for a few more moments, the sighed, lowering the
staff.  "I'm Ranma."  Behind her Akane, Ukyou and Ryouga tensed up.

Min's eyes widened again as she looked just above Ranma's head.
Moiraine's eyes narrowed as she looked at the buxom redhead in front of
her.  "I do hope you can explain a little better than this?" she said
frostily.  Beside her, Lan was frowning even more, but he was also
squinting slightly as though he was trying to discern something he
couldn't quite see.

Ranma sighed.  "Remember what I said about a curse back in Emond's
Field?" she asked.  Moiraine nodded.  "This is it.  The short story is
that a little over a year ago, I was travelling in China with my father
on a training trip.  At the end of the trip, we wound up in a place
called Jusenkyou,  the Pools of Sorrow.  All we saw were a collection of
small pools with bamboo poles sticking out of them.  We thought it was
nothing more than a balance exercise - you know, fight on the poles
without falling in the water?"

She snorted.  "We should've listened to the guide.  His Japanese was
pretty bad and he kept babbling about 'cursed springs', but we went ahead
anyway.  I managed to knock my father into a pool, what what came out
wasn't him - it was a panda bear."  She smirked a Moiraine's puzzled
expression.  "Of course, I was so surprised that I didn't react in time
and he tossed me in another spring and this is the result," she finished
waving a hand at herself.

"A . . . spring . . . did that?" asked Moiraine slowly.  Of all the
explanations she had anticipated, this wasn't one of them.  "How?"

Ranma shrugged.  "The way it works is that when you fall in a spring, you
take the form of whoever or whatever last drowned in that spring.  My
father fell in the Shonmaoniichuan, the Spring of Drowned Panda and I
fell in the Nyanniichuan, the Spring of Drowned Girl."

Min's eyes widened as one of Ranma's images suddenly began to make sense.

Ignoring the headache she was getting just trying to contemplate the
workings of such a place using the One Power, Moiraine bulled on.  "But
you were male until recently.  It couldn't have been a disguise; you're
clearly smaller than you were before and . . ."

"The curse isn't permanent," Ranma interrupted.  "Cold water turns me
into a girl.  I turn back into a guy with hot water."

Moiraine looked at him incredulously, then glanced at Min, who nodded.

"I did see a set of pools with poles sticking out in one of her . . . his
images.  I'm guessing it's that 'Jusenkyou' place."

Ranma nodded at Min, annoyed.  "I didn't know you were going to be able
to see through the curse."  She frowned.  "And by the way, I'm still a
guy inside, no matter what I look like outside."

Min smiled weakly and shrugged.  "Fine, fine!  You know, I didn't ask for
my talent, but at least the double image makes so much more sense now."
She shook her head.  "But still, how is this possible?  Is this a thing
of the Power?  And just where is China, anyway?  I've never heard of that
country before."

Moiraine, who had wandered over to her table, answered before any of the
Nerimians could.  "China is beyond any land you've ever heard of, Min.
That is all you need to know."  She looked pensive for a moment, as she
lifted a pewter cup on the desk.  "As for how, I do not know either.
These children are touched by something other than the Power." She
approached Ranma with the cup and looked her in the eye.  "There is hot
water in this cup.  Show me this transformation," she ordered, giving the
cup to the redhead.

Ranma took the cup with a shake of the head and upended it on herself.
Moiraine and Min watched in fascination as Ranma's form blurred slightly,
then grew, red hair blackening, until the martial artist was male once
more.

Ranma gave the cup to a stunned Moiraine.  "Happy now?" he said
sarcastically.

"I . . ." Moiraine started slowly, "and you say that your father turns
into a bear?"  Lan had finally lowered his sword, and was now simply
glaring at Ranma.

Ranma nodded.  "I suppose I was lucky to fall in human spring.  Others
fell in and became ducks and c-c-cats, too," he said, stuttering on the
last part.  He carefully avoided looking at Ryouga, whose expression had
darkened.

Moiraine made a gesture with her hands and suddenly, all the water seeped
out of Ranma's clothes and gathered in a small ball that hovered above
the martial artist.  Ranma only had time to blink before the water ball
suddenly splashed back down, turning him into a girl once more.

"Hey!", the redhead protested.  "What's the idea?"

Moiraine's expression curved in a small smile.  "Just making sure you
told me the truth about your . . . curse."  The smile became steely. "We
_will_ talk about this."  She turned to Akane, Ukyou and Ryouga.  "Do you
have one of these . . . curses as well?"  Akane and Ukyou, both still on
edge, shook their heads, though Moiraine noted that Ryouga's denial
seemed far too nervous.  Moiraine's smile smile slowly became a frown.
Things had just become far too complicated for her liking and Ranma's
transformation, which was far too easy to trigger, she realized, was only
one of the problems weighing in her mind.  But she could still use them.

She came to a decision.  "Ryouga and Ranma will both stay in this room
for now. Akane, Ukyou, gather the others and bring them here.  I will
have to explain Ranma's condition to them, lest it provoke panic if
revealed in an untimely fashion."

"Hey!" Ranma protested loudly.  "Why should I tell the others?  They
don't need to know about my curse!  It's embarrassing enough as it is!"
An idea suddenly appeared in her mind.  "I know! Can't you use that Power
of yours to block the curse?"

Moiraine shook her head.  "I could try a ward, but given the . . .
abilities you displayed before, I wish to be more careful before doing so
and yes, the others need to know.  Your curse is too easily activated and
I will not have the others panic in a crucial moment because they cannot
understand it."

Ranma frowned and snorted disdainfully.

"Um . . . What about me?" asked Min timidly.

Moiraine looked at her for a moment, then gestured her to come closer.
"Akane, Ukyou, I have given you instructions already."  The girls looked
at Ranma, who nodded slowly.  They then reluctantly left the room after
making sure Ranma was all right.  As Min approached, Moiraine wove a ward
against listening around the two of them alone.

"You do understand that you cannot speak of any of this to anyone, don't
you?" said Moiraine flatly to the young girl.

Min nodded nervously.  "Yes, of course, but there's something else you
might want to know," she added in a whisper, glancing at Ranma, who was
talking with Ryouga.  Lan was watching the two like a hawk.

"They cannot hear us," the Aes Sedai said, noticing Min's concern.  "What
is it?"

Min whispered something in Moiraine's ear. For a brief moment, the Aes
Sedai's expression suddenly turned to shock, then turned back to normal.
"He was _what_?" the Aes Sedai whispered quickly.  "Are you absolutely
sure that is what you saw?"

Min nodded, uncertain and a little scare by the Aes Sedai's sudden
concern.  "I don't know what . . . it is, but he was definitely defending
it. There was something else important, though, but I couldn't tell what
it was."

Moiraine just stared at Min for a moment, then shook her head.  "You and
I must talk again before I leave.  We must.  Now go back before Master
Fitch wonders where you disappeared to.  Min nodded and moved back
towards the door.  "Heed my warning, Min!" she warned.  "Do not speak of
this to anyone!"

"It's not as if they'd believe me," the girl muttered.  "I saw it with my
own eyes and I'm still not sure I believe it."  She left, looking at
Ranma one last time and shaking her head.

While Moiraine and Min had been discussing things, outside the ward, Lan
was still glaring at Ranma.  "What possessed you to trip her, boy?" he
nearly snarled.  Normally, he could have cowed almost anyone with such a
look, but unfortunately, Ranma received such looks almost daily, so most
of the effect was lost.

Ranma snorted and refused to back down.  "I'll tell you why.  She was
threatening Akane and Ucchan."  He glared at the Warder.  "Nobody does
that in front of me."  Ryouga, standing behind Ranma, grunted in
agreement.

Lan impatiently waved the matter aside, still frowning.  "She wouldn't
have hurt them.  Scared them, maybe, that's all.  The Oaths would have
prevented her."  He paused.  "She could have used the Power to defend
herself.  You should feel lucky she didn't."

"And _I_ could have caved her face in just as easily," Ranma retorted.
"_She_ should feel lucky all I did was trip her."

* * *

In the common room, Ukyou and Akane had quickly rounded up every stray
member of their little group, save the gleeman, whom everyone expected to
stay in Baerlon or travel elsewhere.

As everyone went to the room, Min, who was temporarily helping wait the
tables, watched them go up, sympathy in her eyes, and went back to work.
She honestly tried to ignore the shriek that wafted down the stairs, but
got slightly worried when Thom, who had been in the middle of a recital,
glanced up, frowning slightly.  She still couldn't believe Ranma had . .
. manhandled an Aes Sedai.  The fool had no idea what he'd done.

It was only about fifteen minutes later that the group came back down.
Min couldn't help being on the lookout for their expressions.  An
aggravated (and male) Ranma and a nervous Ryouga were first, followed by
the sullen Akane and Ukyou.  As Ukyou passed near Min, the latter could
have sworn she'd heard something along the lines of "close-minded bakas",
whatever that meant.

Rand, Mat and Perrin were the next ones down.  They were trying so hard
not to stare at Ranma it was almost painfully obvious.  Min noticed that
Rand seemed to favoring his right foot for some reason and Mat had what
looked like a large bruise on his left cheek and a scowl on his face.
Perrin looked poleaxed.

Nynaeve and Egwene came down next.  Nynaeve looked like she was trying
very hard to forget something, but could not quite do so.  She glanced at
Ranma once, then shuddered.  She seemed to be giving Mat the hairy
eyeball for some reason, though.  Egwene looked like she'd seen the Dark
One and lived to tell about it.  She was also studiously avoiding any
look in Ranma's direction.

Moiraine and Lan closed the procession, coming down the stairs together.
The Aes Sedai looked as though there was nothing wrong, but the way Lan
was looking at Ranma reminded Min of a hawk glaring at some strange bird
that had just wandered in its territory.

Min shook her head and went back to work, enjoying Thom's recitals, for
as long as they would last.  The gleeman told tales of The Great Hunt of
The Horn for all to enjoy and Min soon got in the spirit of things, but a
glance told her that not everyone was of the same opinion.

The three tall boys had quickly gotten into the spirit of things and so
had the girls, even "Mistress Alys" and "Master Andra", for that matter.
All except Ranma.  As far as she could tell, he seemed to be brooding
about something.  A quick glance was insufficient to locate Ryouga.

She saw Ranma say something to the two outlander girls and leave the
common room.  The Aes Sedai looked at him for a moment, then spoke to the
Warder, who protested, apparently futilely, before following him outside.
Min hoped Ranma wouldn't be stupid enough to pick a fight with her this
time.  What he'd done was bad enough already.

* * *

Ranma exited the Stag and Lion in a pensive mood.  After revealing the
curse to the other Emond's Fielders, he wasn't in the mood for the
singing and the dancing going on in the inn right now.  The cool evening
air and space to think were what he needed right now

*Stupid curse,* he thought glumly.  *Bad enough I have to reveal my curse
to these people, but they didn't have to react like I'm a monster or
something.*  Egwene had been the worst of the group, screaming like that.

Gazing at the starry sky, he couldn't help but think about the situation
he was in right now.  *I'm stuck in what might as well be a completely
different world, I manage to get Akane, Ucchan and Ryouga stuck with me
and we're stuck with a woman who seems to think that people are chess
pieces on a board.*

Ranma was often clueless about social behavior, but if there was
something he knew about, that was fighting, and the Aes Sedai was
beginning to be one hell of an opponent.  Despite the short time he'd
known her, Moiraine reminded Ranma of what a young Cologne could have
been like, only with a worse attitude and none of the few good points the
old ghoul _did_ have.

It had been galling, to be taken out like that.  By doing that, Moiraine
had earned a very special place in Ranma's mind.  The young martial
artist was beginning to seriously hate her attitude.  Getting a rise out
of her was proving to be the only satisfaction he could get out of his
encounters with the Aes Sedai.  Tripping her had rattled her, but not
anywhere as much as Ranma had hoped.  Even revealing the curse hadn't
fazed her too badly.

She also didn't seem capable of leaving him alone, either.

"Whaddya want, Moiraine?" he suddenly said out loud, still staring at the
evening sky.  "You've been staring at me for a while and it's getting on
my nerves.  Want me to trip you _again_?" he asked, the last word said
scornfully.

The Aes Sedai stopped from where she was approaching behind him.
"Mistress Alys," she corrected softly.  "What are you doing out here?"
she asked in a tone that was almost a whisper.

Ranma looked at her, frowning slightly and wondering what she was up to
now.  He'd expected her to still be angry at what had happened in the
room, but she _looked_ like she'd forgotten it.  He wasn't quite stupid
enough to believe that was the case.  He turned his gaze back towards the
sky.  "I'm looking at the stars, hoping I'll spot something familiar in
this messed up place," he replied in a tired tone.  He leaned against a
wall.  "You know what?  If I'd been the only one to be sucked here, it
wouldn't have been so bad, but Akane and Ucchan got dragged here.  Heck,
I even feel a bit sorry about Ryouga, even though he's got his share of
the blame for all this.  Now, we're all stuck here," he said glumly,
tossing a pebble down the deserted street.  "Wherever 'here' is, anyway."

"What are these girls to you, Ranma?" asked Moiraine curiously.

Ranma blinked.  "They haven't told you?"

Moiraine shook her head.  "To tell the truth, I never asked.  At the
time, it didn't seem that important."

"And it is now?"

Moiraine sighed, her expression growing fractionally tired, something
which surprised Ranma.  "I don't know what to make of any of you.  First,
I thought you were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time and then,
when the Trollocs attacked, you suddenly became a threat, then an ally.
Your ignorance of many things we take for granted, this Ki of yours, your
physical abilities, your curse . . .  even what you did in the room!
Every time I thought I had you and your friends figured out, you pulled
another surprise on me.  I do _not_ like surprises, least of all now,"
she finished in a harsh tone.

"So why are you dumping all this on _me_ for?" Ranma nearly snapped.  "I
got my own problems, lady!  It's bad enough I had to reveal my curse to a
bunch of strangers who're scared of me now, but what's more, we're stuck
travelling with _you_ and that paranoid bodyguard of yours.  I don't know
what game you're playing, but I am _not_ a pawn."  He looked at her with
narrowed eyes.  "I told Lan and I'll tell you too: if you _ever_ hurt
Akane or Ucchan, I'll make you regret you were ever born."

Moiraine looked at him pensively, as though she was considering the
threat, but did not particularly feel affected by it.  "Perhaps you are
not a pawn," she said slowly.  "At any rate, I would still like to know
what the girls mean to you."

"Why ask me that now?" he asked suspiciously, not quite understanding why
the Aes Sedai kept openly ignoring any warning or threat he made.

"They are both curious young women and their actions and abilities
sometimes take me by surprise.  Ukyou has the spark and will channel
eventually, yet she has never heard anything about channelers.  Not only
that, she displays a talent for fighting that is that is unusual for any
girl her age, but then again, the same could be said of all of you.  She
is apparently an accomplished cook and from our discussions, I learned
that she operates a tavern of sorts on her own.  Impressive, for one so
young."

"Akane, on the other hand, has apparently no talent for channeling, but
she possesses some ability that plays tricks with the Power.  I am
beginning to have suspicions as to what it is that she can do, but I need
to be sure before saying.  She also displays a quick temper and that
unusual talent for fighting."  Moiraine paused again.  "And yet, both of
them seem very attached to you, despite your curse.  Each time I mention
you, they tense up.  Why?"

Ranma tilted his head and looked at Moiraine.  "You don't give up, do
you?" he asked rhetorically.

"I've come too far to give up," she said simply.

The martial artist looked at her for a few more instants, then sighed.
Maybe if he explained, she'd go away. "They're my fiancees."  Ranma saw
her puzzled look. "Betrothed, if you like."

Moiraine blinked.  "Both of them?"

Ranma rolled his eyes and explained the matter to the Aes Sedai.  When he
was done, Moiraine looked at him intently.  Ranma frowned.  "What?"

The Aes Sedai sighed.  "Just more proof of my theory."  She glanced at
Ranma again.  "When are you expected to marry?"

Ranma shrugged.  "Depends on who you ask.  The answer goes from right now
to never."

Moiraine raised an eyebrow.  "What about you?  Do you _want_ to marry
either of them?"

Ranma sweated a bit.  "Doesn't matter whether I want to or not.  I _have_
to.  It's a matter of honor."  He paused.  "Why do you care anyway?"

The Aes Sedai's lips curved slightly.  "Call it personal interest.  I
wonder what someone with your type of skills plans to do to make a
living."

Ranma snorted and looked at the sky, as though he was looking for the
answers in its expanse.  "I want to be the best damn martial artist ever.
That's what I want.  That's what I am.  I fight and I keep fighting until
I win.  Right now, I fight to keep them safe."  Ranma paused.  "I suppose
I always thought I'd become a teacher of martial arts, but sometimes I
wonder . . .  If the insanity that follows me never ends, how will I ever
settle down enough to do anything?" He shook his head sadly. "First, we
need to return home.  That's the only reason we're travelling with you.
Once that's done, you'll never hear from us again and you'll be relieved
of your biggest headache," he finished with a smirk.

"If you says so," Moiraine said with an elegant shrug.  "What would you
do if you could not find a way back?"

Ranma frowned.  "That door put us here.  It can take us back.  All we
have to do is find it again or another one like it."

"And if you do not or cannot find this door?" Moiraine insisted.

Ranma scowled.  "We _will_ find that stupid door and go back, because"
and his voice was now oozing arrogance, "Ranma Saotome doesn't lose. 
People have tried to kill me, poison me, maim me, and probably everything
else under the sun, but I _always_ win in the end."

Moiraine's eyes narrrowed at that declaration.

Ranma continued: "I don't plan on staying here any longer than necessary.
Around here, everyone thinks everything has to do with this One Power of
yours.  Besides," he added in a disgusted tone, "you see how they reacted
to my curse!  Egwene and Nynaeve act like I'm a walking plague and the
other three can't stop staring at me.  That and the fact that as soon as
Ryouga and I use Ki, we run the risk of being on the end of a lynch mob .
. ." he snorted. "Pardon me if I don't act particularly happy while I'm
here."

"You have to admit that it _is_ unusual to see someone spontaneously
change genders as you do," the Aes Sedai said reprovingly.  "This . . .
magic is particularly vexing in its operation.  It could have been worse.
Imagine the commotion this would have produced in Emond's Field."  She
paused.  "I am curious about something else.  You said you are a martial
artist, yes?"  Ranma nodded.  "What exactly does a martial artist do in
your homeland?"

Ranma raised an eyebrow.  *Great, now what's she up to?*, he thought
"Some teach martial arts, some fight in competitions, others are simply
wanderers who seek to perfect their Art.  'A martial artist's duty is to
protect those weaker than himself'," he quoted.  He glanced back at the
sky.  "That's what Ryouga and I did in Emond's Field.  Even Akane and
Ukyou participated, even though they're not as good as we are."

Moiraine looked perplexed for a moment, something that puzzled Ranma a
bit.  "I . . . see."

Ranma looked at the Aes Sedai pensively.  "What about you, 'Mistress
Alys'?"  The last was said a bit mockingly.

Moiraine raised an eyebrow.  "What about me?"

"Why are you doing this?  Why would you help us?  Why help those other
guys?" Ranma asked.  "You look like someone who's always got an angle on
something.  What's in it for you?  I see the way you look at me and
Ryouga.  Like you said earlier: half the time, we're the enemy, the other
half, you wonder how you can use us.  Why should you care if we go our
own way?  Why do you care if farmers are killed by Trollocs?"

For a fraction of a second, Ranma thought Moiraine was going to shout at
him, but her cool expression came back so fast he decided he'd imagined
it. She turned around and looked at the inn where sounds of singing and
dancing could be heard.

"I am doing this because that is what I have devoted my life to doing,"
Moiraine said in a quiet voice that somehow rang like steel in the air.
"Those three young men are hunted by the Dark One because they have the
potential to shake the world and I will do everything in my power to keep
them safe."

Ranma raised an eyebrow.  That almost sounded like a manga storyline.
"Dark One?  Mmph.  Sounds like a big wuss.  Bet I could take him on with
my eyes closed," he said with a large smirk.

That statement actually caused Moiraine to twitch again, something that
did not escape Ranma's notice.  He smirked.

Moiraine very slowly turned back to him and raised an eyebrow.  Slowly.
"Is that so?"  The tone was so bland you could practically taste the
sarcasm. She shook her head.  "As for you, I have let you come along so
far because your abilities are unlike any I have ever seen and now for .
. . other reasons as well."  She glanced at Ranma, looking for a
reaction.

"What other reasons?" Ranma asked bluntly.

Moiraine gave a tight smile.  "If you must know, Min's viewings."

Ranma's eyes narrowed.  "What about'em?"

Moiraine turned around, as though she hadn't heard the question.  Before
Ranma could ask again, she said: "Not everything in life goes the way you
want it to, Ranma.  That goes for your plans as well as mine, for the
Pattern ignores the plans of men and women.  You are an unpredictable
element and I wonder how the Wheel will weave you in.  I would give much
to find out."

"Huh?" Ranma said eloquently.

Moiraine gave the martial artist a backwards glance.  "If the Light wills
it, we will both find out, and we may even stand to gain from the
answers." With that, she headed back to the inn.

Ranma's pride would not let the Aes Sedai get the last shot in.  "You're
not _letting_ us come along, you practically _forced_ us to come with
you.  We can leave anytime we want, you know!  We can find our own way to
Tar Valon!"  The Aes Sedai did not answer Ranma, though, closing the inn
door behind her.

When she entered the common room, Lan immediately spotted her and moved
towards her. Moiraine could tell through the bond that he was somewhat
annoyed with her.

"So?" he grumbled  "Did you learn anything?"

Moiraine's look became momentarily distant.  "Oh, I learned many things
about him, Lan.  I made a very dangerous gamble and it paid off very
well." She smiled.  Had Ranma seen that smile, he would have regretted
ever meeting Moiraine Damodred, Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah. "Rest easy,
Lan Gaidin.  Our task may have become much easier."  She felt her
Warder's doubts through the bond they shared.  "Do not worry, he is
arrogant beyond belief, but if nothing else, he could be an useful
distraction in Tar Valon," she finished confidently.

The Warder raised an eyebrow, but stayed silent.

* * *

Elsewhere in the common room of the Stag and Lion, Akane and Ukyou had
finished their third dance and were taking a break, along with Nynaeve
and Egwene.

Ukyou noticed Egwene shying away from something and leaned over to see
what.  A frown crossed her face when she saw Ranma come back inside the
inn.  She turned to the other girl.  "What's wrong with you, anyway?" she
said a touch more venomously than intended. Beside her, Akane also
glanced at Egwene.

Egwene started and faced Ukyou, recoiling a bit.  "Well . . . I mean . .
. Ranma . . ." she floundered helplessly.

"So what?" Ukyou nearly snapped.  "I don't believe you two and the way
you acted upstairs!  And you, Egwene!  Ranchan helped save your life back
in the village and you repay him by acting as if he's a monster?"  She
snorted.  "Grow up.  Just because something or someone's different
doesn't give you the right to scream like that."

Sitting besides Egwene, Nynaeve scowled at Ukyou.  "Different? Your . . .
friend is downright unnatural!  It's bad enough he was almost immune to
injury in Emond's Field, but changing like that . . ."

Akane snorted.  "It's a curse.  Of course it's not natural," she said
just loudly enough to be heard.

Egwene was shocked at the vehemence of Ukyou's accusation.  "Now hold on
a moment!  I admit I was shocked at what Mo . . . Mistress Alys showed
us, but wouldn't _you_ have been?  I heard stories about what Aes Sedai
could do with the Power, but Ranma's transformation is . . .  well, not
even gleemen's tales mention things like that!"  Her eyes lowered.  "He
did help my father and me in the village, though, so perhaps he isn't all
that bad, but," she continued, her voice picking up strength, "what is it
that you see in him?  He doesn't seem to be able to think past the end of
his fists!"

Ukyou shrugged, a bit calmer.  "Your point being?  Ranchan acts . . .
impulsively because that's how his father raised him.  Even then, you
haven't met Genma.  It's a miracle that Ranchan isn't a complete jackass
like his father.  He probably learned to act by doing the opposite of
what Genma-baka did."

"You call how he acts good?" Nynaeve said doubtfully.  "I remember how
disrespectful he was to me in Emond's Field and from what the boys told
me, he hasn't improved a single bit.   He still has a rough tongue and
absolutely no respect for authority."

"Ranchan's father is a coward, a sneak, a glutton and an all-around
fool," Ukyou ranted.  "Ranchan is brave, handsome and probably everything
his father isn't."  Behind her, Akane couldn't help rolling her eyes.

Egwene and Nynaeve looked at Ukyou with lidded eyes.  "I don't think I've
seen a girl mooning so badly over a boy before," Nynaeve said, shaking
her head.

"What about you, Akane?  What do you think of Ranma?" Egwened added
curiously.

Akane blushed a bit and kept her eyes down.  "Most of the time, he's an
arrogant, loud-mouthed jerk, but . . ." she trailed off, looking at Ranma
who was in a corner talking to Ryouga, "sometimes, he can be nice, I
suppose." The last was said in a whisper.

Ukyou looked at Akane neutrally.  "Then why not let him go?  Why not let
someone who loves him marry him?"

Akane had to suppress a stab of jealousy at the suggestion.  She looked
at Ukyou, a frown forming on her face.  "You're one to talk.  You hunted
him for ten years to get revenge."

"It was Genma who stole the yattai, not Ranma!" Ukyou retorted.  "I
didn't know it then, but I know it now.  My claim is legitimate, anyway."

By then both girls were completely ignoring Nynaeve and Egwene, who were
watching the byplay with interest.

"What about my family's honor?  Is it to be thrown out of the window
because you want to marry him?" Akane replied angrily.

"You still have your dowry, if I remember correctly.  Genma stole mine.
That means my engagement to him takes priority."

"The pact between the Tendo and Saotome families was made before either
of us were born, so it takes priority.  Ranma is engaged to me!" Akane
said, upset.

Egwene and Nynaeve both gasped, but were ignored.

"You never let him explain anything and you tend to harp on him for
really stupid things.  It's rather obvious you don't like him, so why are
you pushing the engagement on instead of trying to get out of it?" Ukyou
asked triumphantly.

"Our fathers keep pushing us together!" Akane protested nervously, waving
her hands in denial.

"They aren't here right now, aren't they?" said Ukyou mockingly.  "You
know what?  When Ranchan comes to my restaurant, he speaks to me, and I
_listen_ to him.  How often have you done that, huh?  How often do the
both of you simply speak together?  Ranchan speaks to ME because he knows
I won't punch him through a wall of beat him with a shinai because he
says something wrong."

Akane looked at Ukyou in disbelief.  "What? . . .  I'll have you know . .
."

"Answer me this, Akane," Ukyou said, cutting Akane off, "If you hate
Ranchan, then let me have him.  If you like him, why don't you try and
prove it?"  If there was one thing Ukyou was sure of, it was that Akane
would never have the guts to do just that.

"But he keeps being a jerk!  What am I supposed to do?  Let him insult
me?" Akane protested.  The conversation was taking, in the youngest
Tendo's opinion, an unwelcome turn.

"He acts like a jerk because you're no less of one!" Ukyou returned with
a smirk.  "Do you sincerely expect him to stay there and take the abuse
you dish out without fighting back?  How long will his sense of honor
hold him a slave to your parents' promise?  One day, he'll be fed up with
the insults and come to me, and honor will _still_ be satisfied because
he's my fiance, too.  You'll have only yourself to blame because of that
temper of yours."

Akane simply stared at Ukyou with an unreadable expression, then got up
and left for her room upstairs, ignoring everyone else.

Ukyou watched her go with mixed feelings.  Perhaps it hadn't been the
best way to bring that up, but something had made the okonomiyaki chef
snap.  *Besides,* she mused, *if she follows her usual pattern, she'll go
berserk the next time Ranchan insults her.  And since Ryouga is here,
maybe I can get him to work up enough courage to speak to Akane while I
snatch Ranchan!* she thought triumphantly.  *So there was a lie or two in
what I said; anything for Ranchan!*  If they could get married before
they got back to Nerima, then it would be even better.  She just hoped
her restaurant would still be there when they got back.

"Did I hear this right?  Are you BOTH betrothed to that irresponsible
lout?" Nynaeve asked slowly, as if trying to make sure of something.

Ukyou squeaked in fright and turned around to find Nynaeve peering at
her.  Egwene had just gotten up and was trying to catch up to Akane. "Uh,
yeah, but it's a long story."

Nynaeve frowned.  "Why don't you explain it to me, then?  I had thought
you two were friends, but the way you just behaved makes me wonder about
that."

Ukyou sighed.  "We usually get along, but things get tense whenever we
get to the subject of who gets Ranchan."  She looked at Nynaeve. "Ranchan
has his faults, I admit.  He tends to talk or act before he thinks and he
doesn't have much in the way of social skills, but that's because he was
raised on the road with his father as his only parental figure.  On the
other hand, he's a hell of a lot more honorable than his father, he can
be really loyal when he makes up his mind and. . . he's really handsome,
too," she added as an afterthought.

Nynaeve looked thoughtful for a moment.  "If he has to choose between the
two of you, then why hasn't he made a choice yet?"

Ukyou shrugged.  "The way I understand it is that he's trying to satisfy
everyone's honor, but frankly, I'm wondering if that's even possible.  He
has two legitimate engagements, perhaps more, a Chinese bimbo who thinks
she's his wife because he defeated her by accident and a loon who's
convinced Ranma loves her, even though a blind fool could tell that it's
the complete opposite that's actually true."

Nynaeve blinked slowly, trying to process everything.  A thought flitted
in her head for a moment: *Perhaps I should have kept quiet . . .*

* * *

Eventually, the dances ended and people either left the inn to go back to
their homes or walked up to their rooms.  Thom tried to corner one of the
Emond's Fielders to find out what had happened, but had barely approached
Rand before he was cornered by Moiraine and Lan.  The others, seeing
this, left them alone.  Ranma had inquired where Akane had gone and
Nynaeve had briskly told him that the girl had gone to bed because she
was tired.  He missed the warning look she gave Ukyou, though.

Lan then advised everyone to get as much sleep as they could, because
they would be leaving early.  He also added that everyone be on guard for
danger.  Everyone agreed, except Ranma and Ryouga on the last part, who
thought Lan was being overly paranoid again.

Rand found out he wouldn't be able to sleep correctly without some help,
so he went to the kitchen to get a mug of milk.

When he reached his destination, he got a surprise, as Ranma was already
there, though he seemed to be unaware of Rand's presence, as his back was
towards the sheepherder.  Embarrassment momentarily surged through Rand
as he thought about the revelations earlier in the day.  The Aes Sedai
had forced Ranma to reveal a secret and Rand had to admit that their
reactions couldn't have inspired much confidence in the younger fighter.

It was a shame, too, since he rather liked Ranma.  There was a sort of
confident irreverence to him that Rand envied.  The martial artist was
younger than him and yet, he could hold himself in combat better than any
of them.  Rand likened it to a cross between Mat and Lan.  Even the
Warder, whom Rand had the utmost respect for, seemed wary around Ranma.
The Warder intimidated Rand, but Ranma was far more approachable.

Rannd's mind flashed back to what Min had told Ranma upon their arrival.
'Are you a red-haired girl?'  She'd seen it right away and it had taken
Ranma by surprise.  And what a redhead Ranma's cursed form was.  Rand
knew he was a redhead himself, but the shade of his female hair was
nearly ridiculous.  A part of his mind took perverse pleasure in pointing
out that fact to him, especially since Rand's conversation with Nynaeve
in which she had let it slip that he hadn't been born in Emond's Field.
*I am my father's son!* another part cried.  Hmmm . . .  His mother, Kari
Al'Thor, had had red hair too.  Maybe there was a link.  He'd have to
remember to ask Ranma about it.

Ranma's curse was an enigma to Rand.  The youth briefly wondered what it
was like to switch genders all the time, then gave a slight shudder.
Maybe not.  He had a hard enough time figuring out Egwene, after all.
Ranma had made sure to point out that while his body might sometimes be
female, his mind never was.  He himself still had a bruised foot to show
for his big mouth and Mat hadn't fared any better.  Why _had_ the
woolhead just gone up and poked _there_ anyway?  Ranma hadn't reacted
immediately, but Nynaeve sure had.

The whole "Ki" business still gave Rand a few shivers, but Rand didn't
really believe Ranma was a channeler anymore.  Mat still pretended
sometimes, but Rand was fairly sure his friend was only kidding. Besides,
all male channelers were supposed to be mad and Rand had heard enough
tales from other villagers to know that all four outlanders had helped
repel the Trollocs from Emond's Field.  The fact that the wizened old
gleeman didn't seem all that scared of the youth comforted Rand. Maybe it
was because of his explanations or because none of his friends feared
him, but .

Rand had observed that nothing seemed to really scare Ranma, not even
Moiraine.  The youth knew that he himself didn't have much of a backbone
when it came to arguing with the Aes Sedai, but Ranma did it as if it was
the most natural thing in the world.  He was either a brave man or a
complete fool, which exactly, Rand wasn't sure of.  The shepherd
sometimes wondered about the tales Ranma had told them about his
training.  He personally thought some of them would belong better in a
gleeman's tale, training, that supposed fear of cats and the ability to
harness one's own life. Rand would never have believed such things
possible before meeting the young outlanders.

"Looking at something in particular, al'Thor?" Ranma suddenly said,
without turning his back around.

Rand started, jolted out of his musings.  "You couldn't sleep either?" he
asked after a while.

Ranma looked at him for a moment, then nodded.  "Been having damn weird
dreams lately.  I can't get any sleep.  Maybe some food'll help tonight."

Rand started.  "Dreams?  What kind of dreams?"  He wondered if Ranma had
experienced the same dreams he, Mat and Perrin had.  Dreams about a man
with a face wreathed in flames, foretelling awful things about his
future.

Ranma merely shrugged.  "I don't understand most of'em.  It's like
watching a movie through someone else's eyes.  I see people and places I
don't know, but . . ." he trailed off slowly, eyes defocusing.  "It's . .
.  it's like I _should_ know.  They're all on the back of my mind and
they feel so real, but I can't make any sense of it!" The last part was
almost growled out.

Rand blinked in confusion.  "You see people?  What kind of people?  And
what's a movie?"

Ranma threw his hands up in the air.  "I don't know who they are! They're
definitely not dressed like you or me.  The only recognizable feature
some of them have a symbol that kinda looks like the yin-yang sign.  That
and the fact that half the dreams look like they take place during some
kind of war."

"Yin-yang sign?" Rand asked in confusion.  "What's that?  Is that a word
from the Old Tongue?"

Ranma blinked.  "You don't know?  Um . . . well, the yin-yang sign is
like a circle divided in two teardrop-haped halves: one black, one white,
with a dot in the middle of each teardrop," he said, tracing the sign in
some unidentified leftover powder on the table.

Rand experienced a sinking feeling for no reason he could tell.  There
was something about the symbol that tickled his mind, but he couldn't
remember what for the life of.  He automatically followed Ranma out of
the kitchen.  "Hey, you still haven't told me what a movie . . . is . .
."  Rand trailed off, as he noticed Ranma had stopped in his tracks,
staring at something in the hall.

At first glance, it _looked_ like a man advancing towards them, but Rand
recognized the eyeless gaze, that pasty white skin and the black cloak
that didn't move along with the man's . . .  no, the creature's movement.

A Myrddraal.

Rand discovered he couldn't run, that he couldn't take his eyes off the
Myrddraal.  He should have called for help, but his throat was frozen in
fear.  The Myrddraal, on the other hand, was slithering towards the two
young men as if it had all the time in the world.

"You are one of them, boy," it suddenly said in its terrible voice,
looking at Rand and ignoring his companion.  It was gliding closer to a
terrified Rand, apparently intent on questioning the youth, when it
apparently made a small mistake.

* * *

Ranma tried to shake off the effects of the terror, but couldn't.  He
could have sworn only cats affected him that way, but the eyeless figure
in front of them nearly produced the same results.  His mind managed to
tell him one thing: that _thing_ wasn't human.  Nothing human could
produce a terror aura like that (cats weren't human either, so there). He
was just beginning to take control of himself when the creature decided
that concentrating its efforts on Rand was more important than dividing
it between Rand and Ranma.

Big mistake.

Ranma Saotome usually proceeded to handle threats in a casual manner
until they revealed themselves to be more dangerous.  Scaring him witless
with just a look certainly fit in the last category.  There was also the
fact that this young martial artist's ego was not something easily
trampled on and left behind.

The lessening of the fear aura was just enough for Ranma to take control
of himself.  Red-hot anger immediately took the place of fear and Ranma
acted almost instinctively.  *Must get behind it,* a small part of him
reasoned.  He jumped over the Myrddraal, who was momentarily distracted
by the maneuver.  As soon as he was over the Myrddraal, he hooked his
legs around its neck and angled himself so he would fall hands first.
Once his hands made contact with the floor, dragging the Myrddraal
backwards, he straightened his legs and flipped his opponent over him,
sending it crashing at the end of the hall.

As he flipped back up, Ranma considered what had just happened.  It could
have killed him.  Easily.  All it would have had to do was move a bit
faster and . . .  He shook his head.  Act now, wonder later.  He spared a
glance behind and saw that Rand was just beginning to shake off the
effects of the gaze and was trying to get his sword out.  Ranma dashed
towards his enemy, intent on embedding its face into the floor, but the
Myrddraal was faster than he had anticipated.

As if the throw had not really affected it, the Myrddraal got back on its
legs and was ready for Ranma's charge.  It's gaze, now focused on the
martial artist, made Ranma hesitate just enough for it to act.

Ranma very nearly did not avoid the slash from the Myrddraal's black
blade.  He managed to duck and roll under it, then mule-kicked the
Myrddraal in the face again, sending it sprawling against the wall.
Again, it didn't seem too hurt, but it glanced towards the staircase,
where someone could be heard running, then made for the door, at Ranma's
surprise.

The Myrddraal reached the door first, but managed to slam the heavy door
in Ranma's face just as he was catching up to it.  Ranma cursed and
opened the door, dashing in the street in pursuit, heedless of Lan's
shouts.


[Chapter 3 ends] -----------------

Author's Notes:

Some people who read this told me I left important conversations slip.
That is absolutely true.  Some conversations and tidbits I've
deliberately left some conversations secret because in the original WoT
books, not everyone's thoughts are exposed for the world to see.  I broke
that rule with Moiraine in the first and second chapters for necessity's
sake, but you'll notice a growing tendency to hide her thoughts.  I'm
being very careful with her.

I'm trying a new style in this chapter  whenever someone is the focus of
a scene, I try not to peek too much into the heads of other characters.
Let me know how you think it goes.

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm cutting a lot of scenes that were present
in the book.  The reason for this is simple.  Right now, almost
everything on the Randlander side is going according to the original
book, so I wanna skip those parts.  I also wanna get to the good stuff
more quickly, so use your imagination, people!  There is also the matter
of character development.  A lot is necessary to launch things, and that
means a lot of talking and talking and talking . . .

Also, remember that Ryouga isn't quite as murderously intent on Ranma's
life at this point in the manga (vol. 30).  Annoyed, yes.  Angry, lotsa
times, but not murderous.  He gets more screen time in the next part.

If Ranma seemed a bit odd, behaviour-wise, in this chapter, it's part of
the story.  Just keep your pants on.  So far, every character has a
reason for acting the way s/he does, even Ukyou.  Moiraine, especially.

As I've had drilled to me for the last few weeks, canon Ukyou isn't quite
all sugary nice when it comes to getting Ranma.  She's quite capable of
plotting nasty things.

[sigh]  Damn chapter wasn't supposed to be over 30 KB, either.  Oh well

Next: Shadar Logoth, Caemlyn, Royalty and Aes Sedai are a recipe for
trouble! - If I get that far.