Chapter 6: Shield Of Arrav
Cassie, Eric and Ilona stopped on the brow of the hill. They smiled and hugged each other, for before them, finally, lay Varrock, the capital of Misthalin and the most populous city in all of Gielinor. Here, they would make their fortune. As adventuring heroes of course, for they had few contacts yet enough diverse skills between them that they could be classed as such. However, aside from rescuing Ilona from cultists and playing a small part in restarting the discipline of Runecrafting, all they had done between them amounted to errand-running, and aiding in small feats of exorcism and detransmogrification. Worthy achievements sure, but Cassie especially had eyes on a bigger prize. Here, in Varrock, she was sure, she would become a true hero whose name would live through the ages.
They had left Finix, Elriss and Aubury at the air altar when passing by, the runecrafters stopping at what did just look like some old ruins in the forest west of Varrock. Seeing them walk inside the ruins to another plane high in the sky, where air runes could be made, Cassie felt tempted to wait for them to be done, for she had enjoyed their company. But they had a job to do, to resupply magicians across the world with air runes, and more, should more talismans be found. Aubury had promised the travellers a discount at his rune store in Varrock city itself should they ever find themselves there and Finix and Elriss told them that at any time they could come back to the Wizard’s Tower and catch up with their latest research, but otherwise, it was goodbye.
That was a few hours ago and it was getting late, dark clouds from Morytania in the east already rising above and beyond Varrock’s skyline. Behind them, the sun’s last fading beams caught one building on the west side of Varrock, so the trio hurried there.
It was the bank, so Cassie initially sighed and turned away, but that was before she saw other people lying down and talking over sleeping sites, in the open plan space of the bank building. It was far bigger than the banks in Lumbridge and Draynor and it seemed far more populated.
“I’ve heard of this,” Eric said. “Varrock’s population is overbloated and many, particularly adventurers, like to sleep in the banks where they can easily keep and access all of their belongings.”
Bank tellers moved behind the dividing lines, themselves showing no sign of going to sleep. Cassie could see occupied beds and dorms near them, indicating the bankers worked and lived in shifts.
“It’s like this place never closes,” she muttered.
“It doesn’t,” called out an adventurer next to them. He was sitting in a group of four, around a camp place in the corner. “Why don’t you guys join us, or aren’t you stopping?”
“No, we’ll be here for the night,” Ilona sat herself down and motioned for Cassie and Eric to join her. “Name’s Ilona, wizard. This here is Eric and Cassie, adventurers.”
“Pleasure,” said the man. “I’m Aelan.” He motioned to the man next to him. “That’s Veles, most agile man I know.”
“And,” he went on, pointing at the two women in his group, “That is Zizi, an amazing survivalist. And that over there is Izzy, her twin sister, she’s an incredibly dangerous one. Don’t get on the wrong side of her.”
Cassie smiled nervously at the four new faces. Veles seemed friendly but the two women looked intimidating.
“What he means to say,” Izzy said, tossing a blade out of nowhere up in the air and catching it with her other hand, “is that I’m just very good at dealing death to monsters who deserve it. Don’t let Aelan scare you.”
“And what are you good at?” Cassie asked Aelan.
“Me?” Aelan said. “Well, I’m good at getting in places. In fact, I hear that the royal library of Varrock is not hard to get into. Shall I show you? Tomorrow?”
“With everyone?” Cassie asked. “Surely the… er… guards will notice.”
“I have connections,” Aelan said. “Don’t worry, no one will bother us.”
“Don’t let him fool you,” Zizi said, leaning over. “The palace is free for all to enter.”
Aelan looked downcast.
“She was new, she might not have known that,” Aelan said, throwing his hands up in exasperation. “She might have been impressed. Anyway, how about looking around there Cassie? If you’re looking for something to do, the palace is definitely the best place to start looking for quests and the sort.”
“It sounds like a good place to start,” Eric said. “Why don’t we all go?”
It was agreed and the group made arrangements to sleep, on the floor of the bank. The doors were shut and it became a warm cosy, expanse, with adventurers packed into every corner.
The following morning, the party, now several members larger, walked into the Varrock palace. Compared to Lumbridge, this castle was many times more opulent, it had greater height, the courtyards were lavishly decorated with banners, fountains and flora, the guards wandering around looked professional and fierce enough to take on anyone who might think of assaulting the castle, and from what Cassie remembered, would look like an imposing barrier above Varrock’s north wall to any creatures looking to assault from the wild lands to the north. It served a defensive purpose as well, it seemed, as a community purpose for the citizens of Varrock, the guards were certainly not alone on this morning and as the adventurers moved into the castle, they had to mind their way between bustling nobles and ambassadors, many lining up to see King Roald.
The palace library was towards the back of the building and was notably quieter. A bookish, bearded man was the only occupant.
“Hey Reldo,” Izzy greeted the librarian with a smile. A look of despair crept over the man’s face as he noticed her, Veles and Zizi walking in like they owned the place.
“What do you want out of me this time?” he moaned. “Every time I give you information about some lost tribe or something I hear of wars and rumours of wars that follow after. I can’t do it anymore.”
“Oh come on,” Veles said, already on top of a bookshelf and thumbing through a book he picked up from the shelf below him. “We’re just here to mess around. There’s some new guys here, I’m sure you could send them in the right way somewhere, like picking up a… I don’t know… a sh-.”
He was silenced as Zizi threw a book at him.
“Yes,” Aelan said. “What’ve you got for us?”
He pointed at himself and Cassie, Eric and Ilona.
Reldo sighed and picked up the book that Zizi had thrown.
“Have a read of this,” he said, wearily. “Then you’ll see what to do.”
Cassie took the book and thumbed through it. It was blue and quite light.
“This is,” she said out loud. “This is about the loss of the Shield of Arrav. It was stolen by the Phoenix Gang, years ago, and hasn’t been seen since.”
She looked at Reldo.
“One of the most priceless artifacts in Varrock,” the librarian sighed. “There’s a gold bounty out on it for anyone who returns it to the museum. Apparently the king decided that this is, a library, is where we should keep it. Because everyone knows that adventurers who could do this hang out in libraries.”
“Looks that way,” Eric said, looking over at Zizi, Izzy and Veles, who had moved into the library and made themselves very comfortable with a book each.
“Anyway,” Reldo said. “If you want to go find the shield, you’ll have to get involved with Varrock’s gangs. It could be dangerous. There’s two of them you see, the Black Arm split from the Phoenixes a while ago, and we don’t know which one has the shield. And only trusted members of the gangs would be able to get a look at their loot houses.”
“And we can’t be a trusted member of both gangs,” Ilona said.
“Perceptive,” Reldo replied. “Indeed not. They are very stringent in their recruitment policies. You’ll need at least two people.”
Izzy and Veles fistbumped. Zizi looked up at the ceiling. Cassie wasn’t sure why.
Aelan looked at the party. “Two and two, I guess,” he said.
“I’ll take Ilona and look for the Phoenix gang,” Cassie said. “Eric, do you want to go with Aelan?”
“I suggest the boys head to the south of the city then,” Reldo said. “My sources tell me a local tramp acts as the recruitment point for the Black Arm.”
“You girls though, you should talk to a fur trader by the name of Baraek. Be careful though, these gangs mean business.”
Izzy, Veles and Zizi waved from the depths of the library as the rest turned to leave.
Cassie took him at his word but as she thought back over the tone of his voice as she followed Ilona out to the town square, she wondered if the librarian had really meant it.
“I don’t know anything about the Phoenixes,” Baraek said, looking around him as if he wanted to change the subject, “Now, phoenix quill feathers mind you, I’m expecting an import of this rare material, I could have a lovely fiery garment made for you ladies.”
Cassie took out some gold and pressed it into his hand.
“I would really like to be able to find it… as soon as possible,” she said, putting a tone of steel into her voice.
“I see,” Baraek’s eyes continued to dart nervously, focusing on the newspaper seller on the next stall over before snapping back to Cassie and Ilona. He lowered his voice and beckoned them closer.
“Head to the southern slums and look for a sign saying VTAM. Varrock Traders and Merchants. I’m supposed to be a member of that organisation. But it’s a front. They’re in the basement of that building. And don’t tell anyone I sent you.”
“That wasn’t too hard,” Ilona laughed, as she and Cassie walked through Varrock’s streets. “I wonder why no one’s gone for the shield before.”
“We’re not in yet,” Cassie reminded her. “Start looking less like a wizard and more like a potential gang member. Changing into something other than those robes would be a start.”
Ilona sighed and brought out a rougher looking garment from her pack, which she wrapped over her robes.
They found the house of the VTAM without much trouble, hidden among the dilapidated slums of southern Varrock. Only the golden sign on the door made it stand out, the house otherwise just looked like all of the poor houses among them. In contrast with the rich northern half of the city, this looked very downtrodden. Cassie began to understand why visiting adventurers would sleep in the banks, Varrock was already overpopulated and that at least was better than finding a gap in the slums.
The door was unlocked and the house was empty, but a sign pointed them down a ladder into a darkened basement.
“Hello,” Cassie called, a little nervously, as she jumped down to the bottom of the ladder.
A torch was burning in front of a desk, and a man with a thin moustache was sitting at it. Behind him, a door blocked off any further advancement into the cellar.
“And what can I do for you?” asked the man, slowly and carefully.
“We’re here to see someone from the Phoenix Gang,” Ilona said.
“The Phoenix Gang?” the man asked, projecting an unflappable aura. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. This is the headquarters of the VTAM Corporation. I am Straven. Do you have any business with them or should I call security?”
“That won’t be necessary,” Cassie said. “We’re looking to join… the Phoenix gang.”
She looked pointedly at Straven.
“Well,” Straven said. “That is unusual. Not many people would try to join a gang by going somewhere that wasn’t the headquarters of the gang.”
Ilona turned to leave.
“We must have the wrong place,” she said. “Come on.”
Cassie stopped her.
“However,” continued Straven, “I don’t know for sure, but if someone were looking to join the… Phoenix gang, was it? I think I might know a way that would impress us, I mean them. They have rivals in the Black Arm, you see, and we know, I’ve heard, that a contact of theirs, Johnny The Beard is supposed to be meeting the Black Arm this afternoon. In the Blue Moon Inn. I would guess that a good way to get the trust of the Phoenix Gang would be to make sure this contact ends up being… quietly disposed of.”
“Now that sounds like something we can take care of,” Cassie said. “I’ll be back to see the Phoenix Gang soon.”
Cassie and Ilona climbed out the ladder.
“Are we killing someone?” Ilona hissed. “Because it sounds like we’re deliberately killing someone.”
“Someone who is a criminal,” Cassie said. “Besides, if we don’t then they are probably going to do it anyway. The beard guy is going to die. We can make sure this helps our cause.”
“In the middle of a crowded bar as well?”
“See that’s where you come in,” Cassie said. “You still have plenty of mind runes, right?”
Ilona nodded, and swallowed a bit.
The Blue Moon Inn was a fairly large and well-dressed building for one in the south of Varrock. A crescent cerulean moon stood on a white background outside and the pub looked busy, the sun was high in the sky and Cassie guessed that it would continue operating even when its namesake rose above it. Inside, the bar was packed.
“This is the most popular bar in Varrock,” Ilona said. “It’s famous even for those from the Wizard’s Tower, and I know it’s Aubury’s favourite spot at least. He’s always complaining about how they’re short on mind bombs.”
“What are mind bombs made of,” Cassie asked. “Is there a mind rune in it? Because it sure feels that way.”
“Special hops from Yanille in Kandarin,” Ilona said. “The soil there has a magical tint to it, giving the extra magical kick we get from the mind bombs. We wouldn’t waste real runes on it. Although some wizards have theories about alcohol…”
She cut herself off and tapped Cassie on the shoulder. Cassie had already seen what she was pointing out. A man with a hugely long beard was sitting by the window, checking his watch and had his eyes darting around.
Cassie walked up to him, nodding to Ilona.
“Jonny the beard?” she asked.
The man looked up. “That’s me,” he said, gruffly.
Ilona reached into her pouch and threw a huge number of mind runes into the air. They turned into dust and the purple light began to emerge, each seeking out someone in the room. Ilona concentrated, making sure her spell didn’t affect Cassie.
It affected everyone else though. Suddenly, as the purple light reached each patron, the midday crowd of the pub turned into what you might expect a late night affair to be. A fight began to break out in middle of the room between a woman who looked to have Fremennik ancestry and a number of Varrockian miners.
Cassie grabbed Jonny, who was confused himself, and ran towards the exit. She and Ilona exited the Blue Moon Inn with no one noticing their leaving.
Running down an alleyway she began punching Jonny, who was still rather delirious.
“We’re going to have to do more than that,” Ilona said sadly, standing by at the entrance to the alley.
Cassie nodded and drew her sword.
“I’m sorry,” she said to the lolling gang member, as she slit his throat.
“Well, my sources tell me you actually did it,” Straven said. “Welcome to the Phoenix gang, both of you. It’s not often we have people joining together, now I think about it. Please go on in and make yourself at home in the hideout. If we have missions for you, we’ll let you know.”
He turned to the door behind his desk and produced a key that he used to unlock.
Once inside, Cassie and Ilona’s minds turned to thoughts of looking for the shield. After being greeted by the members currently present, all of the thieves returned to slouching about on the couches left strewn inside the hideout. It did not look like a particularly professional gang operation. There didn’t seem to be any figures of authority, and Straven had gone back to sitting at his desk.
“Should be easy to look around,” Cassie said to Ilona. “Just be careful they don’t see the new recruits going off into corners of the base together. I’ll head into the back and you follow me in a few minutes.”
Ilona nodded an affirmative and turned to conversation with a thief. Cassie was confident in her ability to stall for a bit.
The back of the Phoenix hideout was dusty and empty, but there only looked to be a few rooms. Cassie looked through several boxes and crates before Ilona joined her, and pointed out a chest that Cassie had passed over before.
“I can’t believe I missed this,” Cassie said, grabbing some grapes from the nearby table and tossing them into her backpack. “Let’s have a look.”
Inside the chest was a blue and white object.
“This looks like the shield,” Cassie said. “But, correct me if I’m wrong, but that only looks like half a shield, right?”
“Reldo said this may have happened,” Ilona said. “I guess we’ll have to hope the other half is with the Black Arm Gang and Eric and Aelan have fared okay. Put that in your pack and let’s get out of here, I’m sure someone will notice we’re back here soon.”
Fortunately, the Phoenix thieves seemed continually lethargic and they weren’t stopped as they walked out of the basement. Straven raised his head as they walked past his desk but didn’t say a word.
As they emerged into the Varrock street. Cassie spotted Eric and Aelan and waved at them.
“Alright boys,” she called. “How goes life with the Black Arm.”
“Awesome,” Eric smiled as he walked over. “Katrine, that’s their leader, sent us to raid out the Phoenix weapon stores and… look what I’ve found.”
He brandished a shiny looking crossbow.
“An excellent addition to my arsenal if I say so myself,” he said.
“Had to kill a Phoenix weaponsmaster though,” Aelan said, “Good thing I brought Eric with me, he turned out quite useful. And we have found… half of the shield.”
“Katrine said it got broken in a fight,” Eric said. “Which sounds pretty expected from these guys, they talk big but they’re just petty criminals. Probably need adventurers to do their killing for them.”
“Well, luckily for you lads,” Cassie said, “We have the other half of the shield. Had to confuse the entire Blue Moon customer base to get at it, but we have it.”
“Do they fit together?” Aelan asked. He brought his half out of his pack and Cassie did the same.
The break lines on the shield matched up almost perfectly.
“Guess the museum can restore this pretty nicely,” Aelan said, looking relieved. “Shall we go and see if we can get our reward from the king?”
“Oh gosh,” Cassie said. “Just think of the queues.”
Many hours later…
“I should have seen you way before now,” King Roald apologised. “My lords keep me busy. What was it I can do for you?”
“We…,” Cassie began, pointing to Eric, Ilona and Aelan behind her, “have found the long-lost Shield Of Arrav.”
“Oh my,” yawned the king, “That’s incredible. My father… yes, yes, my father, was the one who put out the reward, it must have been. It has definitely been many many years since I even heard anyone even mentioning this shield.”
His eyes darted to his advisors, who all nodded.
“I guess you’ll be wanting the bounty then.”
“Yes please,” Cassie said. “Split 4 ways, if you don’t mind.”
“Four?” asked the king, raising an eyebrow. “That’s not usual. You know what, I’m rich, have double the bounty this time. Then you can all have a bit more cash.”
One of the king’s advisors muttered to himself before turning to the table behind him and handing out some small bags of coins to the group.
“Thank you, your majesty,” Cassie bowed and retreated.
“May our next meeting be more interesting,” said the king, as he turned to the next group of adventurers.