Chapter 4: Rune Mysteries
Cassie emerged from the catacombs, fresh from an afternoon of slaughtering some of the large insects that made up the first wave of Dragith Nurn’s armies. She would go back for more another time, of course, they would all still be there. A collection of spider silk and thread from the corpse spiders was building up in her backpack, this would be useful later. Eric had opted to take Ilona out to help the Lumbridge guard thin down some goblin numbers over on the east side of the river, not that they would make much of a difference. Ilona’s air magic would make a difference against the weak goblin hordes but there were many and from what Eric said, it seemed that the guard had already decided East Lumbridge was lost for resettlement purposes.
She could not see them so she decided to walk back to the mine and gather some more materials for weapons making. An hour later, and after slaving over the forge, she had made a pair of maces, many helms and a nice pair of shortswords. Some of this was good enough to sell to the store, although Cassie had already found out that the general store would take nearly anything, and always have enough money to reward her for whatever she brought in, no matter how unlikely it would seem that it would sell.
She could see Eric and Ilona coming over now, so she waved at them. They did look tired. Cassie expected they would be off to the Wizard’s Tower tomorrow now, as the shadows were beginning to lengthen above the ground.
“How’d it go?” she said as they came up. Eric was panting and while Cassie had expected Ilona to look a bit scared, she had a more confident smile than before, while rescuing. She also didn’t look tired at all.
“I feel a lot more confident with my magic after using it against real foes,” Ilona said. “Those goblins are nursing some large bumps after I blew them back against the buildings.”
“I.. I’m okay too,” Eric said. “But listen, Cassie. Ilona says we need to get to the Wizard’s Tower immediately. We need to leave. It’ll have to be through the swamp. That’s the quickest way.”
“Yes,” Ilona said. “One of the goblins was carrying this.”
She held up a small stone object with white markings on it.
“It’s something my professors have theorised about but have always said has been lost,” she said. “We need to show them this. It could be the breakthrough we’ve been looking for.”
“And I just wanted to show you guys my new swords,” Cassie sighed. “I’m getting really into this new weapon-making thing.”
After depositing items they didn’t need into the bank chest on the green, the trio headed on their way, heading back out into the Lumbridge swamp. Eric walked ahead, to test the ground for stable mud, while the girls walked behind, in conversation.
“So what sort of breakthrough could this thing mean?” Cassie asked. “It doesn’t look like much.”
“We are very close to re-unlocking the secrets of runecrafting,” Ilona said. “The only thing that is missing is the altars of the elements, the ones that convert runestones into useable magic vessels.”
She pointed to her pouch and continued.
“These are stones that are needed to channel magic, as I’m sure you know…or perhaps don’t,” she said, noting Cassie’s blank face.
“Oh, I have found a few of those today,” Cassie said. “There are some with a water droplet on them, they feel moist. I know what you’re talking about.”
“We have a limited number of them,” Ilona continued. “Some have fallen into the hands of monsters but there’s only a certain number left – and once they’ve been used for magic, they’re gone. We can get around some uses by using special staffs like Caitlin’s one but we’re still very limited. And we even have a place to get more blank rune stones, that’s the frustrating thing. We just can’t access any of the altars ever since the Fremennik destroyed the old Lunar temples, and for most of them, their location has been lost. We had been searching to find some way of re-entering the temples. The Fremennik only destroyed the outside and access point and despite the work of our best mages, we could not find a way to reopen them. Some scholars had suggested some item related to the element the temple was dedicated to would open it. But runes and spells would not work so we gave up that line of thinking.”
“And now you think what we found could open up that possibility for us again?” Cassie asked.
“Why yes of course,” Ilona said. “I think that what we have here is an access key for the air altar. You can see these wind lines in the centre. That’s the symbol that’s on these air runes here.”
She showed a couple of air runes from her pocket.
“These keys, or talismans, hundreds were made when the temples were set up, but they were kept by the entrance to the altars for convenience, so when the Fremennik warriors sacked the temples, they took the talismans and carried them into battle, so essentially the wizards estimate they’ve been scattered all across Gielinor by now. This goblin tribe could have been carrying them because the air altar is somewhere in the woods of Misthalin.”
“We’ve lost that knowledge too. The old runecrafters are gone and these altars are so remote that no modern wizards kept track of the exact location. But records of air runes all coming from Misthalin are mostly overwhelming. There’s some conflict of origins that say air runes come from Asgarnia but that’s not that important and I won’t bore you with the details.
“Anyway,” Ilona went on, “this thing should show us the way. They were programmed, magically, to do that.”
She pressed the air symbol in the centre of the talisman and it spun to point to the north.
“So the altar is to the north of us, so probably nearer Varrock than us,” she said. “Though we’d better get to the Wizard’s Tower first. The Archmage needs to see this to confirm what I’ve just told you.”
She hurried along to catch up with Eric. Cassie followed, struggling to absorb all of the information she’d just been told. She knew of magic but this talk of runes and crafting them was all new to her. She now owned some but she had no idea what to do with them, although her experience of controlling the air staff was fresh in her memory.
Maybe I do have some magical talent, she thought.
The swamp journey passed without incident up until sundown. The light was fading and according to Eric it was still many miles to the Wizard’s Tower. As the swamplands gave way to forest, the trio decided to make camp for the night.
Cassie pulled a tent out of her bag, Eric did the same, while Ilona went to gather some wood. Soon a fire was going and Cassie shared out some of the sardines she had got from the Cook, still fresh from bank storage.
“Hey, look,” Cassie said, pointing out in to the woods. “Can you see that?”
A wave of pale blue light fell over the camp.
“Huh?” Eric said, looking up from his meal.
“A blue light, or something like it. It’s beautiful.”
“Oh,” Ilona said, “Those are the wisps. You can see them all throughout the woods south of Draynor. They’re very beautiful on summer nights. In fact I’ve had several social outings with fellow students from the Tower out here, it’s one of the most convenient places to get some space from the tower.”
“I’ve heard some people say some of the wizards study them too,” Eric said. “Apparently it’s something the magic world keeps close to their chest.”
He looked pointedly at Ilona.
“I..I,” the young mage stammered, “I do know a few of the basics. It’s one of the five schools of magic so I have been instructed in it a little.”
“The five schools?” Cassie as usual had the questions.
“You don’t even know the five schools?” Ilona said. “Well, firstly, there’s what most people refer to as magic, power activated through runes. That has further subdisciplines like alchemy and teleportation and is what we, the wizards, mostly study. Then there’s the herblorists and the summoners. Most of them are in Taverley but the wizards are instructed in the basics of both and you can study them if you have the time. Some even go to Taverley for a placement with the druids. Then there’s runecrafting as I said earlier, which is the school we’re going to revitalise with this. And then there’s drawing power from the life force of the world, like this, which we call divination.”
“Here, I’ll show you.”
She strode up to a cluster of wisps, who ignored her presence, and raised her arms, looking like she was in a trance. Some light jumped from the wisps into her arms.
“See, I’ve got some energy from the wisp,” she said, presenting two balls of pale light in each hand, one lilac and spinning, the other dark blue and dormant. “And a memory of the soul it once was a part of.”
“I didn’t know they were once people,” Cassie looked very curious. “Can we access the memory?”
“It’s to do with the gnomish philosophy of Anima Mundi, so it’s not that they were once people, just that they hold memories of the past. It’s rather hard to research and it’s something some diviners spend a lifetime studying. When you release a memory, like so,” she said as she let the dark blue ball fly out of her hand and away into the forest, “it imprints itself in your brain. I’m getting an image of someone fishing. But that’s all. I should report it to the divination bigwigs, they’re always eager for any wisp memory knowledge but it won’t be significant. It rarely ever is.”
She spoke as if she’d done this several times before, with similar results.
“However, what is interesting is the energy we can get from the wisps,” she said, holding out the energetic vibrant ball. “Some theorise it could be a power source for something in the future, but I’ve never heard any ideas that make sense. But we know of a few uses. Hand me some crayfish, I caught some from the Lum earlier today.”
Eric handed over the small crustaceans from Ilona’s backpack.
Ilona took the crayfish in the hand with the energy and put a look of intense concentration on her face. Cassie assumed she was working some magic but couldn’t say for sure if that was the case. But before she could voice this the energy surrounded the crayfish in what appeared to be water and floated away from Ilona’s hands. The mage kept calm but Cassie and Eric looked shocked, and then impressed.
“That’s not all,” Ilona said happily. “You can pick out many more of what you put in. Put your hands in, and grab some crayfish!”
Eric and Cassie both did so and came out with piles and piles of crayfish, alive and moving.
“Perfect for travelling supplies,” Ilona said. “It’s not difficult, I could teach you.”
“I may take you up on that,” Cassie looked very impressed. Eric looked like he was about to say something but remained silent and returned to his tent smiling as Cassie and Ilona stood together talking near the wisps as they danced about in the dying firelight.
The group slept well and only awoke once the sun started peeking into their tents. It only took a short time of packing up before they were on the road again and the sun had only just reached midday when they saw the bridge to the island that led to the Wizard’s Tower. The tower itself had been visible for an hour or two, its vast height lending it extra visibility. Indeed Cassie had been rather disappointed after Eric had told her that there was still a long way to go. But while the tower claimed Draynor as its closest settlement, and they were quite close to that village now, a large forest and a long causeway out to the island on which the tower stood lay in the way of student mages seeking respite from magical study.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and as they finally reached the base of the tower, they took a look at the breathtaking structure. Rising up into where clouds would be if the weather had provided any, the bright stone shone with a sheen in the sunlight that just seemed the tiniest bit unnatural. Fountains ran in the courtyards, the weather was bright and sunny, it was idyllic in every sense of the word.
Ilona tapped Cassie on the shoulder and pointed towards a pair of robed figures walking in the garden off to the side of the tower.
“That’s the Archmage,” she said. “We need to go talk to him.”
“So we don’t get to go in the tower?” said Eric.
“Well you can if you want,” Cassie said. “Look at this place, I don’t think they’d object.”
They had been walking up to the Archmage and his companion and Ilona called out a greeting.
“Ilona!” the Archmage called. “You’re back safe, thank goodness. Everyone at the tower was so worried when Ariane told us the news.”
“Cultists can’t keep me down,” Ilona said, smiling. “These guys saved me. Archmage Sedridor, Eric and Cassie, two young adventurers.”
“Pleasure,” the kindly old man said. There was wisdom and experience written all over his face. Cassie felt sure that if she asked him any question about the world he would answer confidently.
“This is my esteemed colleague, visiting from Varrock, Layte Aubury, and one of the foremost experts on runenology in Gielinor,” he continued, pointing to the other elderly man next to him. In contrast to Sedridor, Aubury was dressed in a grey, rather than blue, cloak and had neater, less white hair. While Sedridor looked very much like the quintessential classical wizard that Cassie had learned about through stories, Aubury seemed far more business like but did not seem entirely humourless either.
Aubury nodded politely. Cassie moved to shake the hands of the two old men.
“That’s fantastic,” Ilona said. “This concerns Aubury too.” She held up the talisman and smiled as she watched the elderly duo’s eyes pop out of their stalks.
“That, that’s one of the talismans for the runecrafting altars,” Sedridor stammered. “We had thought them all lost to us. This is most excellent news. We can reopen production of…”
He looked at the talisman a bit more closely. “Air runes, it is,” he said. “That’s one of the more important ones. And we have a good idea where that altar is as well.”
Sedridor was suddenly a blur of activity. Cassie, Eric and Ilona stood transfixed.
“Ilona, go into the Tower and tell Valina that air runes are as of now free to take for all novices at all levels of training. Grab young Elriss and Finix if you can find them and tell them to organise a scouting expedition to properly locate the air altar. If they can find other talismans while they’re out doing that, so much the better. And while you’re at it, tell Borann to break out the mind bombs and get someone cooking something good. This is a cause for celebration.”
“And,” he stammered, taking a look at Ilona properly, “we can celebrate your safe return of course.”
Ilona nodded and walked briskly off towards the tower.
He turned to his colleague.
“Aubury, do you still keep that spell for the essence mine in your head somewhere?”
“Senventior disthine molenko?” Aubury said.
Cassie, standing closest to him, suddenly had the world change before her eyes, as if the reality of the frantic Sedridor giving orders had been replaced by a rocky landscape, cold and grey. A large pile of small stones, shimmering with a quality reminiscent of starlight, stood in front of her. She felt incredibly hazy and disoriented. Before she had time to take in her new surroundings any further, the image was gone and she was back by the Wizard’s Tower.
“Gets them every time,” Aubury was grinning wide, like he had told his favourite joke. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to have an excuse to teleport someone out there.”
“Layte, that’s not very courteous.” But Sedridor was smiling too, clearly sharing in the merriment with his friend. “Are you okay there, Cassie?”
“I’m okay,” Cassie still felt woozy. “No, no harm done. Did I actually teleport?”
“You saw a cold barren landscape with just shiny rocks, right?” Eric asked. “That’s what I’ve heard it looks like.”
“You saw the rune essence mine,” Sedridor confirmed. “It’s empty right now but once I organise all wizards who have any skill in mining, it’ll be packed exporting new blank runes to be converted into airs, and more, I’m sure.”
“And this is important?” Cassie said.
“My dear, this talisman you’ve found is probably the most important rediscovery in the Fifth Age,” Aubury said. “We can now properly help people with our magic and fight the forces of evil without having to worry that our runes will run out. As soon as we find the other ones, but you bringing this here helps us immensely and raises hope we can find more.”
“Aye,” Sedridor said. “Each one found will enable us to access a new rune, and maybe make more of these keys so we never lose access again. Why don’t you and your friend come on in and sit down for the tower’s midday meal and join in the celebration. As I said, we’re breaking out the mind bombs for this one.”
Sedridor had looked excited ever since he’d first mentioned the mind bombs. Cassie thought it was sweet, although from what she had heard on Ashdale, mind bombs were quite the concoction and she wasn’t sure whether she wanted to risk it.
Nevertheless, while she wasn’t sure if she had done anything in particular, today seemed to have been a success, apparently for the wider world. She turned and followed Eric and the two wizards into the Tower.
side note: I actually did want to get an air talisman for this quest, as I’m losing out on the free one the updated Rune Mysteries gives you until a later date but after a while of killing goblins it didn’t turn up. So I’ll just have them leave the talisman with the wizards and will describe talismans in the story as they come to me.
NEXT: Ernest The Chicken