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 Post subject: Legends of RuneVillage, by PacoTaco
PostPosted: December 16th, 2014, 1:12 am 
The Original Legend
Village Legend
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Joined: June 14th, 2003, 4:19 am
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Location: North Carolina, USA
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Donor: Wizard (2004)
Friend of Hiker
Legends of RuneVillage
by PacoTaco (2004)

Librarian's note: This story accompanied the promotion of the first-ever batch of Village Legends.

Chapter 1 - The Lost Village

Dragonbreath. Aughh! I hate dragonbreath! That putrid smell of rotting flesh, the heat from the flames scorching my shield and my sword arm, the rancid smoke making my eyes water until I could hardly see. This dragon had to die soon, either him or me, and that dragonbreath was just making me mad. I went on the offensive with my battleaxe, swinging for the massive middle head of this monster. His devilish eyes laughed at me as he swiped again, nearly taking me down. I could see the king black was weakening and he would go down soon, unless he hit me with a lucky one. I, myself, was near the end and I hoped that he didn't sense my fears.

What a man will do for money these days. I come here often now, seeking the treasures that these monsters hoard. His hide fetches a goodly sum also, but all at the risk of my life. My chums hide in the corner and are no help. They are paralyzed into inaction but they cheer me on. I fear this monster no less than they but I let have fear for my life drive my actions this day.

I sink my axe into the monster's jaw and wedge it out quickly before he turns on me. I pray diligently to the gods and I think that prayer maybe all that saves me as the king of all dragons stumbles and then falls before me. I go to my knees in agony and I am close to death. The cave goes silent around me, but then I hear my mates trying to decide if they should let me die or help me. They know that without me, they will only have what lay before them, and they may die in the wilderness and never see the Village again. But before them now lies a great treasure and they are sorely tempted. Friends indeed.

My best mate, Dizzle, comes to me and gives me food. I rest while they skin out the dragon. We will share in the rewards, but I don't know why. I guess because fighting is in my blood and that I live for the battle. The rewards only make the next battle possible.

We slip out under cover of darkness and race southward, out of the wild lands. Even with our numbers, the fools that roam these badlands would attack us immediately. We reach the protection of the monastery as the sun begins to tint the sky in the East. We rest there for the first time. I venture into the chapel and give thanks, but I'm not sure for what. The gods of these lands don't seem real to me, but who am I to reject the local customs. Maybe within the confines of this land, theses so-called gods afford us some semblance of protection.

Well rested, we move on to Falador. People step aside from the path as we go, they recognize us as legends and heroes and champions of the land, our white and blue capes billowing as we go. If they only knew that we barely survive day to day in protecting this land from the demons that attack from all quarters.

In Falador, we head straight for the Rising Sun pub. We sit downstairs because the barmaid there is prettier and we take our favorite seats overlooking the square. In all the time we have been coming here, the barmaid has never told us her name. I have promised her a great tip if only she would tell us, but she fears something awful would happen to her if she would tell a bunch of drunken warriors her name. Women. Go figure.

We order up pitchers of Asgarnian Ale and while away the time watching the stupid guards being pickpocketed by scroungy thieves. On occasion, we let loose an arrow for fun, but the guards never come to us. They know better than to attack this crowd.

I look around at my friends and realize that I don't know them very well, but they make up a crew that brings fear to the monsters that roam this land.

Hanging over the rail there, whistling at the girls, are Neo_Kyo and Deneagle. These crazy fellows came from unknown parts, but are loyal to a fault. I know I can count on them to be there when the chips are down and they are the greatest archers that I have ever met. Sitting off to the side, staring at the sun, is Applequest, our philosopher and resident magician, the man with the answer to everything. Playing cards in the corner are Juaninzze, Bladetip, Thunder Jinx, and Dizzle, all strong warriors in battle. I am proud to travel with these battle-hardened soldiers and I trust them with my life, as they do me. Me? My name is PacoTaco and I am just a wandering soul, helping where I can.

I turn back towards the rail and see my friend Berserk running towards the square. He sees me and waves and runs into the pub. As he enters the upper floor, I see he is out of breath from his run. He has some new job in the kingdom that I don't quite understand and he is always running to and fro, but he always has the latest news.

"Paco! Did you hear the news?" yells Berserk as he slides across the floor. All heads turn for the news.

"Something awful is happening at Runevillage!"

A jumble of chairs and yelling confuse the air as the men jump up and gather around. Runevillage is our home and I feel a great sinking inside of me. The Village is well-protected, guarded and patrolled by many fierce and diligent warriors. Led by Sir Hiker, the leader of Runevillage, these protectors roam day and night, safeguarding the Village. But, there is always a weak spot in any defense and treachery can always find it.

"Quiet! Quiet!" I yell, "Let's hear what he has to say! OK, Berserk, tell me what's going on."

"Well, I just came from a meeting of the kings, they were all there - Arthur, Lathas, Roald, Andrew - everybody was there. They don't know what to do, they can't even figure out what is going on at Runevillage - it seems to have just disappeared!"

"Disappeared!? How does an entire village disappear!?"

"That's the problem, no one knows what happened, no one knows what to do. That is why the kings have sent for you. Everyone is out looking for you, but I knew I would find you here. What are you going to do?"

Applequest stepped up, "Berserk, how do we know it is gone? What information do we have?"

"To start with," Berserk said, "No one can teleport there. Some people thought maybe the teleporter was broken, but the high level magicians say that isn't possible."

Applequest replied, "That's right. It isn't a mechanical thing, it is magic. Magic doesn't just 'not work'. Let me try it."

He reached into his pack and pulled out a few runes. He held them in front of his body and rubbed them together, like anyone would to teleport. And nothing happened. Not even a spark. He tried again, rubbing harder, with the same result.

"What do you think Applequest?" said Dizzle.

"Hmm. The only thing I can guess is that Runevillage is gone, just like Berserk said."

I look around at my crew. What would we do? The village is gone? What could we do, other than set off to find it.

"Go tell the Kings that we are on the way to Camelot. We will meet with the Seers there to learn what we can."

Berserk takes my shoulder and stops me, "Paco, but tell me what are you going to do?"

I look at him; I look around at the men surrounding me. Tears fill many of their eyes, knowing nothing of what is before us and only that our Village may not exist any longer. And I say, "Well, son, we are going to find the Village of course! It must be hiding out there somewhere!"

The men roar in approval, raising their weapons to the sky, sloshing ale all over the place.

"Go, Berserk, go tell the kings that we are off. We will take care of things. We will find Runevillage and set to death those that have brought misfortune to her door. They will rue the day that they ever came near Runevillage."

Chapter 2 - The Legend of Hiker

That night, as we traveled over White Wolf Mountain, we camped on the peak near the gnome pilot station. Around the fire, we talked and thought about Runevillage.

We each remembered the first time we came to Runevillage and why. We were looking for something, information while on a quest, answers about our life in this world, different things of course, but always looking for information. And we found it at Runevillage. But we found something more, a freedom and friends, enough to have us stay there and call it home. We roamed because we were warriors, but the Village is what we called home.

As we talked, the gnome pilot stepped up to the fire, poured himself a cup of coffee and quietly sat down on a rock. We listened as wolves cried in the night, not far away, but we had no fear of wolves. Our fear was for the Village and the unknown that lay before us.

The gnome pilot cleared his throat and began to speak. "Did you know that I was with Hiker when he discovered the Village?" Exclamations of doubt flew from the mouths of the warriors, "What? No way!". Some men laughed at the old gnome, but I saw in the firelight reflecting in his eyes that he had a story to tell us. "Quiet down," I said, "Let the gnome speak."

"Yeah," he began, "I remember that day perfectly. I was warming myself on a rock near my glider; I was stationed in Al Kharid way back then. I was near asleep when I heard a fella come up on me. I looked up and he looked like any normal warrior, a bit worn at the edges maybe, but a warrior still. I jumped up and said 'Where to, sir?' as I climbed in the glider. He said was off to the Gnome Village to meet with King Bolren. I was hauling a lot of warriors there in those days, I think the King was having some troubles with some rogue gnomes. Whatever the case, this fella Hiker needed a ride and that was my job. We were just south of Rimmington, coming up on Karamja when a fierce wind came out of the north. I was having trouble staying on course and I was afraid we were going to have to ditch. In those days, south of Karamja was unexplored and I sure didn't want to be caught down there. But before I knew it, the wind became like a jetstream, running south. There was nothing I could do and we were soon over water again, the water south of the unknown lands of Karamja. I yelled to Hiker that we would have to ditch in the water and try to catch a current north, but when I looked at him, he was just smiling. He yelled back at me over the wind, 'Let it ride, my gnome friend, let's see where it takes us. It smells of the fresh wind of discovery.' Well, who was I do argue with such a brave warrior, so I held on and kept us aloft."

"After the longest time, all over water mind you, the wind began to die down and I was struggling to keep us in the air. Hiker yelled, pointing to the east a bit, 'There! An island! Take us there!' I leaned in for a turn to the right and the island came in full sight. It was a glorious site for me and I aimed the glider to an open field in the middle of the island. We landed there safely in the grass and I was happy to be on solid ground. Unknown and maybe dangerous solid ground, but ground is always better than water for landing. I was very afraid, but Hiker seemed confident of himself. I ask him 'Young man, what are you thinking?' And he just stood there looking around. Then he looked at me, and he said that he had been looking for a place just like this. A place where he could build something from scratch, a place to serve the people of the lands of Runescape, a place they could come to relax, be with friends. We built up a fire and cooked some fish that he had and he went on about his vision. Rooms where people could gather to talk and to chat, other places where people could find out anything they needed to know. A place of peace, where everyone would be welcome. And I remember saying, 'That's a great idea, except we don't even know where we are' and that is when Hiker stood up and stretched out his arms as he looked all around, and he said, 'Gnome friend, sure we know where we are - we are in Runevillage!'

Around our fire, every warrior sat quietly. We had heard the story many times, but never from one that was there in the beginning. We knew how Hiker had built a boat and sailed north with the gnome, landing at Port Sarim long after everyone had thought him dead. We knew how Hiker gathered up friends and materials and more boats and headed back into uncharted territory to found and build up Runevillage. And we all knew, because we each considered Runevillage our home, that Hiker had achieved his dream in Runevillage and that we had all become a part of that.

As we sat there, under the stars, the gnome said quietly, "There's more."

"What?" I replied, "More what?"

"More to the story, there is more to the story of Runevillage that I have never told anyone. It didn't seem important at all, kind of trivial you know, but now it is weighing on my mind. But maybe now is the time, eh?"

"Yeah, Gnome friend, I suppose now is the time."

And the Gnome started off again, "Well, after we landed, Hiker wanted to explore around a bit. He told me to figure out what heading we needed to be on to get back to a known port, and I told him it would take a few days of watching the stars. Navigation was never my strong point. He said it would take a while for us to build a boat, that I would have plenty of time. In the mornings, we cut trees, and in the evening, we prepared them for the boat. During the middle of the day, I would nap, but Hiker would never rest. He explored, he walked over the land that would become Runevillage. I think he was laying out in his mind what would be needed to achieve his dream."

The gnome went on with his story, "One afternoon, he came running back into camp and I could tell something had happened. He was agitated and it was obvious he had been in battle.

'Hiker! What happened!?'

'I ran into something unexpected,' he said.

'Unexpected!? What was it!? Where is it!?' I was sorely worried and looked about, expecting an attack at any time.

'Don't worry,' he said, 'I killed it.'

'Hiker! What was it?'

'It was a bug, gnome friend, just a bug. But trust me; it was a really big bug, a really big and vicious bug. I killed it though, or at least I think I did. As we battled, it seemed to weaken, but I didn't think it was close to dying, when it just disappeared. Vanished. I searched all around, through all the trees and the bushes, and there was no sign of it. The only thing I found was this little shiny disc.'"

"Hiker held up a small disc and the sun glinted from it. It was very beautiful and looked valuable. Hiker put it away in his pack that day and I never thought about it again. We went on with the boat building and then sailed away north and west. We sailed for many days, but the morning that Port Sarim came into sight, I knew our adventure was over. Hiker walked up to me, reached into his pack and pulled out the shiny disc. He handed it to me and said, 'You have been a good friend Gnome, and a wonderful helper. I don't have much, so I can't reward you for your help, but take this disc as a reminder of our journey. But I ask you to keep it forever, not to sell it or trade it. If you ever have a need, come to me and I will help you out with anything you need. But take care of this disc for me. One day, I may come to retrieve it.'"

"I took the disc, of course. I stored it away safely in the mines under the Grand Tree. It was safe there, I know."

I looked up from the fire, right at the gnome pilot, "What do you mean 'was'?"

The gnome pilot began to tremble, "I was in Gnome Village just 2 days ago, visiting with my friend, Toberta, and we went for a walk. We wanted to be alone and made our way into the caves under the Grand Tree. I thought it a good time to check on the disc, I do occasionally when I am there, and we went down to the secret part of the cave, the part that only gnomes know about. There is a special rock there, more rare than runite, and it has never been mined. It is part of the gnome lore and it is a protected rock. I had hidden the disc there, knowing that all things there were under the protection of the gnomes, but I knew immediately that something was wrong. The rock had been mined. And the disc was missing. The king's guards were there and told me that all of the treasures kept there for safekeeping were missing. No one knew what had happened, but they were keeping it quiet until they had more information. Toberta and I left. I was devastated and left the gnome village on my way to see Hiker. That is when I heard about Runevillage disappearing. And I didn't know what to do; I think this is all my fault."

"Gnome friend, it is not your fault. Take care friend, evil is about and there is nothing you could have done to stop it."

"I knew I had to tell you Paco, you and your crew. I am afraid for my life if people find out I am responsible for the disappearance of Runevillage, but I want to help any way I can."

"You have been a great help, Gnome friend, but we will handle it from here." Heads around the fire shook in agreement. "I will ask, though, that you tell that story to no one else, because you never know when you are face to face with your enemy."

The pink sky to the East belied the oncoming sun. The crew gathered up their gear and we bid goodbye to the gnome pilot as we headed down from White Wolf Mountain.

Chapter 3 - The Seer

We provisioned up as we passed through Catherby. We had no idea what we were going to be confronting, so I told the men to buy everything they could find. I listened to the fishermen jabber on about Runevillage, everybody with their own theories about what had happened. I hired a few fishermen to stock up for us and a few more to tote along our supplies. We were beginning to look like a small army, but I was worried about what lay ahead.

We headed up to Seer's Village to see what we could find out. The men headed straight for The Forester's Arms pub and I told them to keep their wits about them while I went looking for a Seer. I have never found the Seer's to be of much value - they don't seem to live up to their name, but it was a place to start.

I went from Seer to Seer with no luck, they wouldn't talk to me. I was frustrated and ready to pull out my battle axe to show them I was serious, but I saw a ladder in the corner leading upstairs. Upstairs I found a Seer in a small room and I questioned him, "Seer friend, can you tell me anything about Runevillage?" I was surprised when the Seer turned towards me - for he was blind.

"Young son, evil reigns in the Village, it is right before your eyes, but you will never see it, unless you have the light."

"Eh? What the heck does that mean? Seer friend, please be more clear to me. Runevillage is gone and I don't understand your mumbo-jumbo. Just tell me what you know!"

"The only other thing I can tell you, my son, is that the flight of the feather must be true, the eye must be sure, and the bow must be strong. You will only have one chance. Take what you find along the way, leave nothing behind."

"Eh? Listen, you old Seer coot, I don't understand a thing you said. Speak English, please!," but the Seer turned back towards the wall and wouldn't utter another word. I was so angry, I stomped around the room, looking for something to break. On the wall of the room was a display case with two amazing looking bows - I had never seen a bow like these before. With the handle of my battle axe, I broke out the glass and grabbed one of the bows. "There, old man, what do you think of that!?" I yelled at the Seer. He turned his blind eyes slowly towards me and smiled, "Leave nothing behind." I looked into the case at the second bow and looked back at the smiling Seer. As he turned away, I reach into the cabinet for the second bow and headed down the stairs.

As I crossed the road to the pub, I noticed Neo_Kyo and Deneagle dickering with a fletcher in front of the pub. They saw me coming with the bows and turned from the fletcher.

"Woah!" exclaimed Neo_Kyo, "Where did you get that bow?"

Deneagle chimed in "Spiffy, what are these made of?" as he took one of the bows and began examining it. "I have never seen a bow like this before. What is this made of - bone?"

Neo_Kyo sniffed the bow, "Dragon bone. I have heard of these, but I thought it was just a story. Dragon bone bows, the most powerful and magical bow ever made."

"Where did you get these!?" exclaimed Deneagle.

"A Seer gave them to me, I think we will need them. Here, you guys take care of these."

Deneagle took a dragon bone bow and strung it. The bow was made from thin layers of bone sealed together with some type of glue. It looked powerful, and Deneagle pulled a rune arrow from his quiver and notched it in the bow. He drew back, aiming at a large and old oak tree about 50 meters away. I could see the strain on his face and the strength in his arms. I don't know if I could even draw such a bow, but Deneagle was an extraordinary archer. As he loosed the arrow, I didn't even see the flight it was so fast, but I heard a distant "thump". Neo_Kyo and Deneagle ran down towards the tree and I turned towards the pub. I heard them yell, "Woot!" and I turned back. I saw Neo_Kyo with his foot up on the tree trying to pull something out. I ran down to the tree to find both of them working on the arrow. It was imbedded up the feathers, with the point extending out the other side.

"Look at this! Amazing!" Neo_Kyo yells out.

"Such power!" says Deneagle.

We look at each other and I shrug, "I guess we can use those bows, eh?"

"Oh, yeah, we can use them alright," exclaimed Deneagle, "but I wonder if we have the best arrows for them. The wood of our shafts won't handle this kind of power for more than one shot. We will need something stronger if we want to get the most out of this bow."

Neo_Kyo shakes his head, "The fletcher."

Deneagle chimes in "Yeah, the fletcher!" as they both turn back towards the pub.

"Hey, what about the fletcher," I ask as we walk back towards Seers Village.

"He said he had a new arrow shaft, a stronger arrow shaft than we have ever seen. He said that he had learned how to make shafts from the wood of a magic tree, that he was the only one that knows how. We know most of the big time fletchers and we had never seen this guy before," said Neo_Kyo.

Deneagle added, "We asked to test one but he said he only had shafts, so we figured it was a scam."

"Hey, you guys find him and buy all he has," I say.

"All he has!?"

"Yeah," I reply, "leave nothing behind, OK?"

Neo_Kyo and Deneagle look at each other then take off in a jog to find the fletcher.

As I turned into the Forester Arms, I heard my name, "Paco! Wait up Paco!" I turned to see Berserk running up. He was decked out in full armor and carried a full pack.

"Berserk! What's up?"

"I'm going with you."

"Going where with us?"

"Runevillage, or wherever you are off to find Runevillage."

"It's going to be pretty rough, you sure you want to go? We may not come back, you know."

"Yeah, I know, but Runevillage is a big part of my life. I need to help, and you know that I am good in a battle, better than you probably."

He had a point, I was getting old and slowing down a bit. We could use every sword arm that we can find. "The rest of the guys are in the pub, we will be leaving soon enough."

He smiled as he walked through the door and I could tell that he was committed to whatever it may take to find and save Runevillage.

I asked around and everybody seemed to be ready to go. We were fully provisioned, and we had extra men as mules to tote our extra gear. I took Bladetip to the side, ready to send him out on a quest of his own. I told him to head straight to Ardougne and arrange for a boat from Holgart. The boat had to be ready for battle and provisioned well because we didn't know what we might run into or how long we would be gone. Bladetip said "I will take all the fishermen and mules along to keep them out of your way. We will fish along the way until we have more food than the mules can carry. I remember old Holgart and I will make sure we are ready to go when you get there. Take care, Paco."

"Bladetip, you keep a watchful eye out on your travels, I think that there is a lot of evil loose in this world today and we will need you when we reach Runevillage," I replied. With that, Bladetip, the fishermen, and the mules headed off to the south.

I saw the crew picking up their packs and getting ready to go. Neo_Kyo and Deneagle came back in. "We got all he had, Paco," said Deneagle, "but we may have a problem."

"Problem?" I said.

"We had some tips and feathers, and the fletcher tried to attach them, but he couldn't make them work. He was obviously very skilled, but he said it just wasn't going to work. The wood is super strong, I can't even flex it with my hands, but it is very light. Adding a tip just unbalanced it, even the feathers were too heavy. I don't know if this is of any use as an arrow," said Neo_Kyo, "but we bought all he had, like you said."

"OK, good, we will figure it out. Keep those shafts with you and we will try to figure it out. Juaninzze is a pretty good fletcher, talk to him about it."

Everbody was packed up and we headed out. As we turned south, Thunder Jinx hollered out, "Hey Paco - where we headed?"

"Gentlemen," I hollered back down the line, "We are headed to the Grand Tree of the Gnomes, where I think all of this began."

Chapter 4 - The Gnome Connection

As we headed south and then west from Seers Village, we ran into Milo88 outside the Fishing Guild. He had his armor and packs, ready to help out. He was a master fisherman and a superb cook and quite capable with a dragon long sword. I was glad to see him and happy for him to join our crew.

We continued on and crossed the river just north of Ardougne. The archers and fletchers stopped off by the Ranging Guild to check with other high level ranging warriors about the new arrow shafts. I told them to meet us in the port of Ardougne by the next morning.

We soon arrived at the Gnome Village and were escorted to the Grand Tree to meet with King Narnode Shareen. He already knew of our task and the gnome pilot from White Wolf Mountain was there. I ask of they could show us the special gnome rock that we had been told of. The king got a bit huffy, since we had so many warriors, and I told him only a few of us would go. I told the rest of the army to head upstairs in the tree to get some food and some rest. Applequest took charge of the crew. "Keep them out of the Blueberry Bar, Applequest, we are working now - you never know when we will have to fight," I said.

"Gotcha, Paco, we will be ready when the time comes, you can count on it," he replied.

I took Dizzle and Berserk and we followed the king and the gnome pilot down into the Grand Tree caves. We headed into a maze of tunnels, generally south and east. As we walked, the king went on and on about the security of the caves - "I have 20 guards down here all the time. No one comes into or

goes out of this cave without us knowing it. It must have been some magical creature that robbed us, because we let no one in or out of our caves that night."

We came into a large room at the end of the tunnels. I recognized the Daconia rocks there from a quest I had done for the gnomes long ago. I also noticed a broken ladder leading out.

"Where does this ladder go to?" asked Dizzle.

The king replied, "Umm, nowhere, can't you see it's broken, you can't go up it."

Berserk spoke up, "It may be broken, but it still goes somewhere."

"No, it doesn't go anywhere. Forget about that ladder, it doesn't mean anything."

He led us to the south side of the room to a small opening, gnome sized. If you weren't looking for it, you would have never seen it hidden behind the Daconia rocks. We got down on our hands and knees and followed the gnomes through the opening. It was a long tunnel, and a long crawl, the agility it required was amazing. I was lucky to make it through, but Dizzle and Berserk had no trouble. Dizzle chuckled, "Looks like you could stand to lose a bit of weight there Paco."

The small tunnel ended in another large room, with an extraordinary stone that filled the center of the room. The walls surrounding the room were cut into small niches, like cubbyholes, all empty.

The stone was amazing. It glowed from within, a dull golden light that cast long shadows around the room. "What is this rock?" I asked.

The king replied, "We call this the gnome rock, but we really don't know what it is. It is harder than anything we have encountered and we have never been able to chip off even the slightest piece. We protect it, as our forefathers - What the!?"

As the king was talking, Berserk had wandered near the rock. As he got close to it, the rock began to glow brighter and when he was beside the rock, it was glowing bright as the sun, all colors of the rainbow projecting around the room. The king had stopped talking and had fallen to his knees, as did the gnome pilot and the few gnome guards that had been in the room.

"What's going on?" Dizzle yelled. Berserk stepped back from the rock and the light faded. He stepped closer and the light grew again. The gnome guards began making chanting sounds and were flat on the ground.

The king spoke up, "He is the special one. Thank you for coming, special one."

Berserk looked around the room, and pointed his finger at his chest. "Me?" he said, "What did I do?"

"You have the power," the king replied, his face buried on the ground.

Berserk looked at me and I shrugged, I certainly didn't know what was going on here.

"What power? Get up please, King Shareen, I'm nothing special."

"No, you are," he replied, "we have heard that one will come to bring the stone alive, we were told this by our fathers who were told by their fathers. It is this prophecy that we see here today."

I wasn't sure what to do, so I asked the king, "Tell us the story of this rock, please, so that we can understand." Berserk stepped back from the rock and the light dimmed.

The king rose from the ground and began to speak, "Before time was recorded, the gnomes moved to this land from far away. We know not why, nor do we care, since this is our home now. This Grand Tree has served us well for generations, providing us much in the way of what we need to survive. As you know, our mines are found under the tree and we gnomes have been mining this area for many, many generations. As the mine expanded, our ancestors reached this point and came upon this rock, and it could not be moved, so they dug around it and formed this room that we stand in. The stone seemed to afford them protection and so they turned this room into a vault. Every gnome family has a niche here to store their most precious belongings, and nothing has ever been disturbed, until now. Through the years, we became a bit paranoid and began having guards stationed here, because the protection of the rock was just a story and we never saw it do anything. Until today."

The king went on, "Legend has it that many years ago, long before my time, long before my father's time, a man visited the gnome king and asked to see the gnome rock. The king was surprised because no one other than a gnome knew of the rock. He didn't want to admit there was a stone, much less let the man see it. The man grabbed the king's daughter and put a knife to her neck and demanded to see the stone. The king had no choice other than to bring him down here. As they came into this room, the man tossed the king's daughter to the side and approached the stone. The king drew his knife, ready to kill the man for his impertinence, but he was stopped short. As the man came close to the stone, the stone began to glow brightly, just as we saw today! The king was frightened and grabbed his daughter and tried to hide near the wall there."

"The story goes on that the man pulled out an arrow shaft that was fletched with bright red feathers and held it close to the rock. At that point, the rock shone so brightly that the king was blinded. He huddled with his daughter in the corner, covering her eyes. He heard what sounded like a pick hitting rock. Just two hits was all, then silence. He sat there a long time, holding his daughter, until she said, 'Papa, the man is gone. We are alone.' The king began to cry and told his daughter that he was blind. She replied, 'Maybe not Papa, it is dark in here, even the stone isn't glowing.' The old king looked around the room and thought maybe she was right. He told his daughter to crawl towards the opening, to see if she could see light. They found the opening and crawled through the tunnel, the king beginning to see some light as they came to the end. He was delighted to not be blind, but he had no idea what had happened."

"The king called some guards with torches to go back into the room with the stone. As they entered the room, they saw the stone was glowing again, but not as brightly. The king studied the stone and found that two chunks had been hacked out. Two chunks with only two strokes of the pick. One small chunk wasn't large enough to do anything with, maybe make a few arrowheads or something. The other chunk was oddly shaped, round and thin, like a small disc. There was nothing that the king could do at that point because the man was gone and no one knew who he was or where he went. That is the legend that is told. But we have been taught that someday, another will come to make the rock glow like the sun, as we have seen here today. Your friend here is that one," the king said as he looked at Berserk.

Berserk stepped closer to the stone and it began to light up again. He said, "So, Kingy, what exactly is this special one supposed to do when he makes the rock glow, eh? Are you supposed to give him bunches of free stuff, please?"

"Well," said the king, "Actually, our legend has it that the special one that makes the rock glow will be the one to restore that which is lost. We never understood what that meant, but now I think it must mean that you are the one to recover all of our precious lost items. So, no free stuff, sorry."

Berserk looked a little down about that news, but we weren't here on a treasure hunt. He dropped his pack and began poking around in the holes around the wall, hoping to find a bit of left behind treasure I suppose. Dizzle said to the king, "So all of these cubbyholes were filled with cool stuff, but now they are all empty?" As we looked around, I noticed Berserk pull an arrow shaft out of his pack to reach back into one of the holes. Dizzle and I looked at each other, the same thought on our mind.

"Hey, Berserk, let me see that arrow. Is that one of the new shafts that Neo_Kyo and Deneagle were working with?" said Dizzle.

"Yeah, it is, and it is about as useless as this rock," he said as he turned and smacked the rock with the arrow shaft. As the shaft swung through the air, the stone grew amazingly bright, so bright we had to cover our eyes as the arrow shaft hit the stone.

"Hey, what do you know?" said Berserk as he waved the arrow shaft back and forth across the stone, the light growing bright and dim as he moved the arrow around.

Dizzle walked over and took the arrow shaft and did the same thing, with the same result.

"Oh well, I didn't want to be special anyway," said Berserk, "too many expectations." We all laughed as a bit of our puzzle came together, but maybe just enough to reveal how complicated a puzzle that we were dealing with.

Dizzle said, "I have an idea. Berserk, hold that shaft near the rock. Everybody cover your eyes!" which we did quickly as the rock became as bright as the sun. I heard a pick hit rock, just one time, then the room went dim. I dropped my hands to see Dizzle standing with a bronze pick in one hand and a good-sized chunk of rock in the other. Berserk was waving the shaft near the rock, but it wouldn't grow any brighter. It was much dimmer than it had been before.

I said, "Hit it again!" and Dizzle raised the pick. It came crashing down on the rock and the pick smashed into many pieces.

"My pick! Man, that was my lucky bronze pick, dang it. Now it is useless," he said as he tossed the handle to the floor.

The king held out his hand to Dizzle, "Give me that stone." Dizzle looked at me and I shook my head. Dizzle stepped back and slipped the stone into his pack.

"King, I think we better keep the stone. It may help us in some way find Runevillage and your treasures. If it doesn't, we will bring it back to you."

The king thought about it and said, "Fair enough." He questioned us about the arrow shaft and we told him what we knew. I didn't want to give him the one shaft we had with us but told him I would send some to him. I thought I might send him some after we figured out what was going on, but not now because the Seer's words were winding through my mind, "Leave nothing behind."

As we crawled out of the small tunnel and came back into the large room, the king headed straight out of the room and we began to follow. I noticed that Dizzle and Berserk had turned the other way, towards the east end of the room and the broken ladder. Berserk asked, "Where did you say this went to?"

The king stopped and turned, looking nervously around the room. "I didn't," he replied.

Dizzle spoke up, "Come on, King, we are trying to help you. Don't hold back on us."

"Fine, fine, I will tell you what I know," the king said as he looked at the gnome pilot. The pilot looked embarrassed and I could guess a bit of what was coming.

"We think someone or something slipped down this ladder, killed the guards that were here, and stole all of our goods. As you can see, this ladder may be broken up, but it is pretty new. It actually wasn't here until a few days ago. If you go up this ladder, you come out in the trees, at the home of a gnome named Clough. There is a trapdoor in his place leading down here. We had sealed it off long ago, but someone knew about it and opened it back up. You can't go up that way, but you can come down. We haven't figured out how the thief got out of here."

Berserk said, "Well, let's go have a look at this Clough's place, see what we can find."

The king replied, "It is no use. Our forensic gnomes have been all over that place and they didn't find much. No one has lived there since we threw Clough in jail some time ago."

Dizzle spoke up, "Didn't find much? What did they find?"

"Almost nothing, no tracks, no prints, just this," the king replied as he held up something small in his hand. We moved closer to look and it appeared like a small insect shell, the shell of a cicada.

"It couldn't mean anything, it is just the shell of an bug. No bug could have robbed us," said the king.

"Then you won't mind if we take this shell with us, do you?" I said.

"No, take it, please. I hope you guys know what you are doing but you don't give me much confidence. If it wasn't for this fella here being the special one that we were told will come, I would have kicked you out of here long ago."

I replied, "Well, we will be out of your hair soon, King. Let's go guys, we have work to do." We headed into the tunnels to find our way out of the caves.

The gnome pilot ran up beside me as we walked. "Please forgive the king, Paco. He is very embarrassed over the whole thing as you can see, and his detectives don't have a clue as to what happened. I believe in you, I know you can find Runevillage and help the gnomes find their treasures."

"Thanks, gnome friend. I understand the king; it is nothing to worry about. We will do the best we can, but finding Runevillage is the only thing we care about. If we find the gnome's treasures, we will return it to you."

Berserk spoke up at my shoulder, "If we find the treasure, I suppose there would be a reward, eh?" I turned and glared at him and he gave a little smirk. I was fully aware of the danger behind that smile and decided to drop the issue for now.

We came back to the surface and I sent Dizzle up to gather the troops and we made for travel and headed off to the east, towards Ardougne.

Chapter 5 - The Ship

We trooped into Ardougne at dusk. Applequest headed to Lord Haldelmort's Castle to arrange quarter for the warriors that couldn't stay at the Legends Guild. Thunder Jinx and the rest of the Legends warriors headed for the guild. I told everyone to be at the docks at dawn, ready to travel.

Milo88 and myself headed down to the docks to find Bladetip. As we walked through the marketplace, Milo88 asked, "Paco, why are we going to old Holgart for a boat instead of to Captain Barnaby? I have only seen Holgart have little rotten rowboats."

"Oh, I think you will be surprised. There is more to old Holgart than meets the eye. Have you ever been out fishing with him?"

He replied, "Often, and it is never a fun trip."

We were coming into the dock area at Ardougne and over the buildings I could see the masts of a new ship that usually wasn't harbored in Ardougne. As we rounded the building, Milo88 exclaimed, "Wow! What a boat! Is that our ship you think?"

His question was answered by Bladetip who came running up to us, "Yep, that's our ship. Holgart came through nicely with this 3-masted man-o-war. I didn't even ask where he got it, but it certainly is seaworthy. It is almost brand new! I hired more men from nearby and we almost have the ship ready to go. We can sail with the tide in the morning."

"Great job, Bladetip. This is just what we were looking for. Is Holgart sailing with us?"

"Yeah, and he has a full crew. We can bunk about 25 to 30 warriors and gear, so we should have plenty of room."

"Excellent. I have a few more people to see now and it looks like you have everything in order here. See you at dawn, OK?" With that Milo88 and I turned back into town and headed towards King Lathas' castle in West Ardougne.

We entered the castle and met King Lathas in his throne room on the second floor. There were many warriors milling around the courtyard and the throne room. Lathas came up to meet us, "Paco, Milo88, how are things going? I see you have a ship ready to travel, is there anything else I can help you with before you go?"

"Well," I replied, "I was wondering if there is any news of Runevillage."

"I just had a runner come up from the watchtower, the wizards have been trying to re-align their machines to look down towards the village. It's a long shot of course, but we thought it was worth a try. The report is that they are seeing nothing at all. It is as if Runevillage has simply disappeared," said the King.

Milo88 replied, "Did the wizards have any ideas?"

"Well, they say it is either totally gone or something much huger than they have ever encountered is standing between the machine and the village. That makes no sense to me," said Lathas.

"What choice do we have other than to sail? We will be leaving in the morning. Wish us luck," I said as we turned to go.

"One moment, please, Paco," said the king. "There are many warriors that have volunteered to go with you. They have been showing up here all day long. I have asked them to wait for you to arrive, then you can decide what help is needed. Look around, these are all good warriors. Some legends, some heroes, some champions. Some are quite young, but have proven themselves. All will do as you ask and are at your command."

"Thank you, King Lathas. I will talk to these warriors because we may certainly need the help," I replied.

Milo88 and I looked around the room, and then headed downstairs, all of the warriors trailing us into the courtyard. I studied them over and noticed a small group near the gate. Milo88 and I walked up to them smiling. "Beerkiller, you old dog, where have you been keeping yourself," I said to the obvious leader of the group.

Beerkiller, a wizened warrior with many battle scars on his armor, smiled back "Oh, we have been here and there. Lots to keep us busy in the world today you know. We hear you are off to Runevillage and we offer our services. Runevillage means a lot to each one of us and you know our skills, we can help in anyway."

I looked at the small group with admiration. There was Cpuk, the sorcerer, and The_Thing_6, the craftsman. Both were excellent warriors in their own right. Nintendodude, a great miner. Zohm, a high level smithy. Matt258 the woodcutter and renowned arsonist. I had fought with each of these men and trusted them with my life. I guess I would again.

"Welcome aboard," I said. "We leave at dawn on that new ship in the harbor. Be prepared to do battle."

Beerkiller spoke up, "We will do you better than that my friend, we will come prepared to win battles. We will be on the boat in the morning."

With that, Milo88 and myself headed back into Ardougne. We stopped by Haldelmort's Castle to check on the men, and then I went on alone to the Legends Guild. It would be a short, sleepless night not knowing what we faced.

Chapter 6 - The Journey

The next morning came quickly. I left the guild with the other Legend warriors and headed to the port, we were the last to show up. All together, we had 16 warriors with a total of 25 bodies counting the fishermen and the mules, each capable of caring for themselves in a battle. As we walked, I talked to Zohm and Dizzle showed him the gnome rock.

"This is certainly strange looking stuff. Where did it come?" Zohm asked.

"We can talk about that later, my question is do you think you can smith this?"

"Well, if anyone can, I can," Zohm replied. "I will certainly try. But I thought we were sailing?"

"We can rig up a small forge on the fantail of the ship. I will go take care of that, you gather what you need. I will send some men to help you," said Dizzle as he took off in one direction and Zohm took off in the other.

As I approached the ship, I saw the gnome pilot from White Wolf Mountain standing nearby and I approached him. "Come to see us off, gnome friend?"

"Actually, Paco, I would like to go along. I have my glider packed in that crate in case we need it."

"Gnome friend, we don't know what we are facing here. I would worry for your life because you are not a warrior. I can't let you go." I shook his hand and headed to the boat.

Berserk was at my side and said, "What was it that the Seer told you - leave nothing behind?" I stopped in my tracks and turned back to the gnome pilot. I looked at Berserk who just shrugged his shoulders.

"Gnome! Get that crate loaded and climb on board. Just know that you are risking your life on your own account, not mine!" The gnome did a little gnome jig around his crate, "You won't be sorry Paco, I promise, I feel that I will be very helpful to you!" he said.

Before the sun was up, we are packed out and ready. The docks were empty, as if everyone knew that they didn't want to watch us go off, maybe never to see us again. It didn't matter, there was a job to do and I told Holgart that we were ready. I heard him yell out over the din of his crew, "Cast off, you swabbys! Set course for Runevillage!"

It was an uneventful trip to say the least. The warriors became quickly bored. We knew it was many days travel by ship. The magic of teleporting was much quicker, but not possible, so this was our only choice.

On the second day out, I made my way to the fantail, where we had placed a small smelter and an anvil. Zohm was there, together with Matt258, The_Thing_6, and Nintendodude. They were hunched around a table, looking at the stone. It looked just like the stone Dizzle had given them.

"Hey, how's it going?" I said. They looked around and I was surprised to find them smiling.

Nintendodude spoke up, "We have tried about everything and nothing worked. Matt258 is giving us the hottest fires that we have ever worked with and we can't smelt this stone. But The_Thing_6 was just telling us some tricks about crafting precious ores and they sound good. We are going to try some things with gold and silver combined with this rock to see what we get. It is just going to take us some time."

I reminded them that we only had that small piece of stone and that I was sure it was a major piece to the puzzle that we were in.

Matt258 and I went back on deck to find a group of warriors gathered around Neo_Kyo and Deneagle. They were showing off the new arrow shafts. I told them the story from the gnome rock and how the shaft affected the rock and how the rock had only been mined once before, but generations ago. I told them that the smithers were working with the one small piece of stone that we had. Juaninzze spoke up, "We have tried everything with these shafts. They may be strong, but they are useless as arrows. We can't get any feathers to attach and every arrowhead we try just unbalances the shaft."

I had an idea right then and asked Bladetip to take one of the shafts back to the smithers to see if it affected the stone.

Dizzle spoke up, "Paco! Didn't the gnome king say that in the legend, the thief pulled a shaft from his bag that had feathers?"

"That's right!" said Berserk, "I remember him saying the shaft was fletched with bright red feathers!"

The warriors looked at each other, shrugging their shoulders, mumbling about bright red feathers.

"Firebirds," I heard Thunder Jinx say quietly. "The firebirds of Entrana have red feathers."

"That's right! Firebirds!," said Milo88, "but how could you fletch an arrow with firebird feathers. They would burn up the shaft."

"Maybe not this shaft," said Juaninzze as he pulled one of the magic wood shafts from his pack. The warriors passed it around and it became a game trying to break the shaft, with no one even being able to bend it in the slightest. Matt258, the woodcutter, laid the shaft on the ship's floor and pulled out his rune axe. He is an extraordinary wood cutter, but the only thing he accomplished was breaking his axe.

"Wow, that is a serious piece of wood. I can cut magic trees, but this arrow shaft is something special," he said as he studied the shaft.

"Juaninzze, do you think you could fletch firebird feathers to these shafts?" asked Deneagle.

"I don't know, we won't know until we try," he replied.

Everyone looked around at each other, then at me. Decision time. Do we turn back to Entrana or keep on towards Runevillage? The answer popped up in front of me in the shape of a gnome.

"Paco, I can launch my glider from this ship. I can take you back to get firebird feathers. The return will be risky, since I don't know exactly where you will be, but I am willing to try."

Beerkiller stepped up, "I will go. I know the monks of Entrana and I have ice gloves in the bank. Besides, I have lived plenty long if the gnome here misses the ship when we return."

The warriors gathered around, clapping him on the back. Neo_Kyo encouraged him to get as many as he could carry, we had plenty of shafts. With that, the gnome unpacked his glider and set it up. Beerkiller and the gnome climbed aboard and they launched over the side of the ship to cheers from the warriors. They dipped down low towards the water before catching a small air current and lifted up into the sky. Beerkiller turned and waved and I wondered if I would ever see my old friend again.

Nothing changed on the boat during the next day. We knew we were getting close to where Runevillage would be and the warriors hung around the ship's rails keeping a lookout. The captain said that we should be right at Runevillage with the rising of the morning sun as we continued south and east.

Chapter 7 - The Wall

No one slept that night. I could hear warriors sharpening their swords and battle axes. The archers and fletchers were counting arrows and working up more arrows. The magicians were laying out runes in piles, shining up their staffs. The air was heavy and tense on the ship.

As we saw the eastern sky begin to lighten with the morning sun, every warrior took to the rails, studying the blank ocean before us. Nothing. There was nothing there, just ocean. I stepped up to the ship's wheel beside Holgart. "What do you think?" I asked.

"Well, any moment now, we should be at the edge of Runevillage, but it obviously isn't there. What would you have me do?" he replied.

"I'm not sure. Are you certain we are in the right place?" I said.

Cpuk was there and he said, "Yes, this is the right place. I have watched the stars as we traveled. We are just now where Runevillage should be."

Holgart began calling his men to take in sail and I felt the ship begin to slow. The feeling was eerie. Cpuk said, "There is nothing here, but it just feels like we are not alone."

The boat came to a virtual standstill in the calm water, nothing moving anywhere. I was at a loss.

Bladetip and Milo88 approached us. "Paco, it may not be the right time, but since we are stopped, I think the fisherman should top off our stores," said Bladetip.

"Good thinking," I replied, "Go ahead with it. We seem to have nothing else to do."

The fishermen took their places at the rails, many of the warriors also pulling out rods or harpoons. Milo88 went to the bow of the boat, preparing a long fishing rod as he went. I stood there watching him, wondering what we should do. We would have to wait here at least until Beerkiller returned with the gnome glider. If we missed him in passing, he wouldn't have anywhere to land but the water.

Milo88 prepared his first cast and I could see that he was a master fisherman. He leaned back and cast with all his might, I could see his baited line flying through the air. But then, as if gravity turned sideways, the bait stopped dead in the air. And it just hung there. It had made a little "splat" noise and many of the warriors were looking his way. He looked around at us, and shrugged his shoulders and gave the line a little tug. The bait immediately fell straight into the water.

Everyone ran to the front of the boat as he reeled in his bait. He lifted it from the water and inspected it. "Looks like bait," Milo88 said. All eyes turned to the front, but there was nothing to see.

Thunder Jinx yelled out, "Cast it again!" Milo88 turned and cast again, this time a bit to the left, and the same thing happened - the bait just gave a "splat" and hung in the air.

The boat had been drifting a bit, not really dead in the water. As Milo88 was pulling up his bait and others were getting ready to cast towards the unknown and unseen thing, the boat came to a rapid dead stop and I stumbled to the ground. I noticed Bladetip on the gunwale losing his balance, waving his arms to keep from falling in the water. He put out his hands and hit something solid in front of him - but the only thing there was the air! Solid air! Warriors began to reach out with their fishing poles, tapping on the solid air that now ran along one side of the boat. The boat scraped against it and was stopped as solid as if tied to a dock.

Nintendodude had pulled out his pickaxe. He felt the solidness in front of him and then gave it a hard whack with his pick. Nothing but noise. He was a high level miner and had the strength of a bear. He drew back with all of his strength for another hit. "Bang!" it landed, but nothing more. He turned to me and shook his head. "This is some seriously hard air we have here Paco."

We stepped back and looked, but we saw nothing. Where Runevillage had been, we saw nothing. But there was something there. We could touch it, we could hit it, but we couldn't see it.

Just about then, Berserk yelled out, "There's the glider!" We all turned to the north and, sure enough, there was Beerkiller and the gnome pilot setting up for a landing. It looked like they were going to swing around and approach from the south, give a little flyby before they landed.

The warriors and crew began yelling and waving their arms, "Stop! No! Stop!" Beerkiller waved back with a big smile on his face. Just about that time the glider hit the solid wall that couldn't be seen! It crumpled up in front and the gnome pilot went head first into the wall. Beerkiller kind of twisted around and slowly slid down through the air. It was amazing to watch, like he was being let down on a rope from heaven.

The captain was already launching a life boat. He gathered up Beerkiller and the gnome pilot into safety. Another boat was pulling the glider wreckage out of the water.

As we lifted them into the ship, Beerkiller mumbled "What hit me?" He seemed to be OK, but the gnome pilot had a big knot on his head and was knocked out. Applequest and The_Thing_6 leaned over him to work some healing magic while everyone stepped back.

Beerkiller held up his pack - "At least I got the firebird feathers. Who wants them?" Juaninzze stepped up and took the pack.

We gathered back at the side of the boat, everyone reaching out to touch that which we couldn't see. I was at a loss, I wasn't sure what we should do now. Runevillage wasn't here, but something was here and we needed to figure out what it was.

We spent the day discussing what we should do. Everybody had an opinion and we gave everybody a chance to try their hand at breaking the unseen wall.

First, the archers gathered up their best arrows and lined up. Neo_Kyo and Deneagle had the dragon bows, Thunder Jinx and others had magic or yew bows. Many of us considered ourselves to be good archers and were in the line. Neo_Kyo picked a spot between two poles on the side of the boat and told everyone to aim there. We let loose a flight of arrows on his command, and did nothing more than break some arrows.

The miners wanted another shot at it. Nintendodude and Zohm setup to pound the same spot in sequence. Thunder Jinx and myself were fair miners and setup next to them. We began hammering at the same spot for about 30 minutes. Normally with that much pick swinging, we would have a nice load of ore, but today we had nothing.

Applequest and Cpuk stepped up with their magic staffs in hand. They cast runes and mumbo-jumboed for a few minutes, threw some fire bolts and such, but to no effect.

Matt258 and Milo88 had the last idea of the day. They had constructed a metal pan to hold fire and built a huge fire over the side of the ship, next to the invisible wall. Zohm pulled out his smithing bellows and helped stoke the fire up. We let this go on until dark and it looked like they might catch the ship on fire, so they stopped and dumped the fire into the sea.

Eveyone felt depressed, as if we had come so far and yet achieved so little. This was no simple quest we were on and we were out of ideas. I told everyone to get some food and some rest, we would have fresh ideas come morning. No one seemed to believe me, but what else could they do?

Later that night, I wandered up to the deck and looked around. A few warriors were gathered around chatting about what they would do now that it looked like Runevillage was gone for good. I was glad to hear that most would just carry on. I was afraid they may decide to leave Runescape itself or maybe find a new place to live and hang out, but no. These were some fine loyal warriors.

I heard murmuring down the deck and turned that way. A small group was there pointing into the sky. Applequest was talking, "That star just doesn't belong there!"

The_Thing_6 said, "I don't see it, point it out to me."

Cpuk pointed just ahead of the boat, but kind of high in the sky, "There, follow my finger. It is kind of a dullish red color, not yellow like most stars."

"Ahh, I see it," The_Thing_6 replied.

"So what is it," asked Matt258.

"We don't know, but it isn't a star," replied Cpuk.

As I walked up, Applequest turned to me, "Paco, there is something strange there in the sky."

"Sky?" I asked. "It is hard to tell what is sky and what is not anymore, eh?"

"Good point, Paco, but what could it be? We should check it out." said Matt258.

I thought that was a great idea and I called Holgart to get the ship underway. He called his crew to raise the sails and the boat gently began to move away from the unseen wall.

"Look!" cried Cpuk. "It moves when we move, but the other stars stay in place."

He was right. I looked towards where they were pointing and saw a dull red light in the sky. The other stars were fixed in place, but this light seemed to move as quickly as we did. Holgart had the boat pointed north and east and I thought we were sailing in the direction that would be around Runevillage.

The light continued to move as we did. After a bit, the light was directly south of us and then, as we continued, it moved to the west. All of the ship's crew and even the warriors knew we were watching a light that wasn't far away from us. Holgart turned the ship and headed right for the light. I started to caution him about the unseen wall and he looked at me like I was stupid. "I know the wall is there, I will not hit it again," he said. He gently turned the boat so that the light was high in the sky south of us and had the crew drop the sails and drop anchor. I heard the massive anchor chains fall away as the anchors crashed into the sea. We came to a stop with the dull red light hovering well above the water some distance to our south.

There was nothing more we could do other than watch the light. I dozed off watching a dull red light glowing over the ocean. My last thought before sleep was that we had found another part of the very complex puzzle that was now our life.

Chapter 8 - The Light

Morning came to find the entire warrior crew on deck, staring to the south. In the light of day, there was nothing to see, just ocean. I noticed Applequest cupping his hands over his eyes and nodding his head.

Applequest dropped his hands and said, "If you know where to look, you can just barely see it this morning. Look for just a slight red discoloration in the sky, right there," as he pointed his hand towards the sky.

Everyone stared, some nodding their heads in confirmation, others shaking their heads in doubt. I called out, "Neo_Kyo, can you tell me how far we are from the wall?" He smiled as he pulled his bow off his back. He strung up a steel arrow and let fly. After a short flight, the arrow stopped dead and fell into the water.

Deneagle yelled out, "You hit about 2 meters above the water! I would guess about 150 meters out, eh?"

"Sounds about right," replied Neo_Kyo as other archers nodded their heads.

"Applequest! If that light is about 150 meters away, how far above the water is it? Can you tell?"

Applequest stared off to the south and I could see him calculating in his head. "I would guess that the light is maybe 250 meters high. What do you think Cpuk?"

Cpuk, standing beside him, replied "That's sounds about right. Maybe a bit less."

"Well, it's just a guess, isn't it now?" said Applequest.

Berserk spoke up, "OK, so we know exactly where the little red light is in the sky. What good does it do us? We can't get there."

Beerkiller stepped forward, "But I think we can get close. Gnome friend, how's your head this morning?"

The gnome pilot was sitting on the deck holding his head, "I'm alive, that's about it. I thought I was recovering well enough until I ate some of Milo88 's stew this morning." Milo88, standing beside him, smacked him in the head with a spoon.

"But how do you think the glider is? Will it fly?" asked Beerkiller.

"Gliders always fly. It may just need a little touch-up," replied the gnome. He got up and walked towards the pile of glider that had been dropped on the deck. "We can be ready to go in 30 minutes, maybe sooner."

I thought he was being optimistic, but then he began moving in a whirlwind. Before our eyes, the glider came together, as if by magic. "Little is known about gnome magic," said Cpuk, "but there it is in action. Amazing."

After a few minutes, the sweat covered gnome stood before me, "Ready for action, Captain! What's the plan?"

Good question. I looked around at Beerkiller, it was his idea.

"I was thinking that we could possibly fly close to the light, get a better look. It's just an idea," said Beerkiller. I thought it was a good idea.

"Gnome friend, we want to fly as close to that light as we can without running into the wall. I know that will be difficult, since we can't see the wall. What do you think?"

"I guarantee you that I won't fly into that wall again. I will want to take the lightest warrior you have, no armor, so we can have the best maneuverability. It shouldn't be too difficult," replied the gnome. Everyone was looking around, judging size, and all eyes came to rest on Berserk. He looked around, hoping someone small was standing behind him.

"Me! You think I am the smallest one here!? No way, look at these muscles!" he screamed. Even so, it was obvious he was the smallest one on board, next to the gnome of course.

"Hey," I said, "You OK to try this?"

"What, flying in this little paper plane? No problem. It's just I think you all are crazy if you think I'm just some noob. Gnome boy - you fly into that wall and mess up my hair or something, I will hurt you. You got me?"

The gnome nodded his head rapidly, not sure if he would be safe with Berserk. I told the gnome that he was all bark and that he was a solid warrior. He took off his armor and climbed into the glider behind the gnome.

"Berserk, get a good look," I said. "I'm counting on you to help us figure this puzzle out - and whatever we can learn about that little light will be important. And be careful."

"No worries, PacoTaco. Have I ever let you down?" he replied. Before I could answer, the glider slid over the side and away they went. Like before, they swooped towards the water and then lifted on a current. The gnome guided the plane in wide circles as he gained altitude and I could tell he was wary of the wall. From on the ship, I couldn't tell anything about how high they were or how close they may be to the wall.

As the glider was swinging south of the ship, in the direction of the wall, I saw the glider shudder all of the sudden and start to drop from the sky. The warriors gasped in unison and Holgart screamed for the launch of the rescue boats. Before the words were even out of his mouth, the glider righted itself and was in a steep dive towards the water. At the last second, the nose came up and the plane skirted the tops of the waves and pulled up in a climb over the ship. I heard Berserk yelling at the pilot as they passed overhead, "You crazy little green man, you almost killed me!"

The crew began to laugh and point as the glider turned and approached for a landing. As soon as the glider landed, the pilot hopped out and away, out of reach of Berserk.

"Come here you little gnome, let me show you what I can do to you!" Dizzle and Beerkiller grabbed him before he could get to the gnome pilot, who was hiding behind some men.

"Hey, settle down Berserk, he didn't mean to hit the wall," said Beerkiller.

"I know," he laughed, "I just wanted to give him a little scare."

"Well, I think you did. Now what did you see?" I asked.

"On that last pass, which was close enough to touch the darn thing," he sneered at the gnome, "I saw all there was to see. There is a small yellow circle, maybe as wide as my hand surrounded by a narrow band of red light that is glowing. There may be another band of blue outside the red, but I couldn't really tell because it all looks like the sky pretty much."

All around a yell went up - "Target!" Of course! The archers figured it first, but Berserk had just described a target. The archers were heading off in all directions, pulling out bows and arrows. Before I could open my mouth, they were loosing arrows toward the faint light. Arrows were hitting the unseen wall and sliding into the sea. They were getting their range and arrows were climbing closer to the light.

I noticed Neo_Kyo and Deneagle taking their time, pulling out the dragon bows. Then it hit me.

"Woah!!! Stop!!! Stop firing!!!" I screamed. The men, all warriors and knowing a command when they hear one, stopped immediately. Neo_Kyo and Deneagle looked a bit disappointed because they hadn't loosed a single arrow yet. I doubt there was hardly any chance of someone hitting the target from here, but I wasn't going to take a chance.

"Warriors! Remember what I said!? Remember what the Seer told me!? One chance, that is all we have. Let's think this through and get it right and be ready for whatever may follow!"

"Tell us again, Paco, what the Seer said," said Milo88.

"Well, the best I can remember, first he said 'Evil reigns in the Village, it is right before your eyes, but you will never see it, unless you have the light.' And after that he said 'the flight of the feather must be true, the eye must be sure, and the bow must be strong. You will only have one chance. Take what you find along the way, leave nothing behind.'"

"So Runevillage must be right here, but we can't see it," said Dizzle.

"Unless we have the light," added Neo_Kyo.

"Well, that must be the light right up there," said Applequest.

And then coming up behind me I heard, "Unless this is the light, eh?"

I turned to see Zohm holding an arrowshaft with a blinding ball of light on the end and flaming red feathers fletched on. Juaninzze stood beside him with a handful of arrowshafts fletched with flaming feathers. Odd that the feathers didn't burn up. Zohm held out his hand to show me a dozen arrowheads. They didn't look like anything special though.

"Wow! How did you do this!?" I asked.

"Trial and error," said Zohm. "Once Bladetip brought that shaft to us, we could see the effect it had on the stone. After that, we could do anything to the stone that we wanted to. The stone just turns back into this when the shaft is moved away."

"And the feathers?" Beerkiller asked.

"Well", said Juaninzze, "they were actually pretty easy. I wasn't sure how to attach them. As hot as they are; they would burn through all my fletching materials. But as I was fitting up the first feather, which was kind of clumsy using the ice gloves, it just stuck in place. I couldn't tear it back off after it was attached. I have never seen anything like it."

The consensus was that the arrow was the light and the light in the sky was just a target for it. So we had the light, we had the bow, and we had the best archers around. Now, what did the Seer mean by only one chance?

We sat through the rest of the morning discussing all the possibilities and decided that we didn't have a clue as to the meaning. We can only shoot one time at the target? That didn't make any sense since we launched a dozen arrows in that direction already. Maybe it meant that the first time that we hit the target, something would happen and wouldn't happen again. If that was the case, we had to be prepared.

Thinking further on it, we decided that if anything happened, it would be a door opening or something happening to the invisible wall. The Seer clue would be meaningless if the wall just disappeared completely, so we decided that we had to be near the wall when the target was hit in case a door opened and closed quickly. But there was no way to hit the target unless we were far from it.

"Unless," said Berserk, "you were right beside it."

"You mean shoot at it from the glider?" asked Thunder Jinx.

The_Thing_6 added, "I think that is the only way."

Everyone concurred and we put together a plan. Neo_Kyo was the best archer we had. He would strip off his battle armor and go in the lightweight dragon armor. The gnome would glide him up to where he thought he could hit the target and he would shoot the magic arrows into the target with the dragon bow.

The ship would be right by the wall, directly under the target. That was the most likely place for a door. We would wait there to see what came next.

Chapter 9 - The Others

As we were organizing for whatever was to come, Thunder Jinx yelled out, "Sail on the horizon!" Everyone stopped what they were doing, looking towards the north at a small sail. Tension filled the air - we had never done battle on board a ship before - and we had no clue who or what was in that ship. I told Holgart to pull the ship around to whatever he thought was our best battle posture. Anchors came up and we scooted into the wind. Holgart decided a direct approach was best, away from the unseen wall.

We came upon the other ship quickly, most of the warriors ready with their bow if we needed to attack. We saw men in armor lined up on the other ship, but we couldn't tell if they were friend or foe. At least it was just men, something we could easily handle.

As we came closer, I could see someone waving at us from the bow. It looked like my old friend Majik PK, and I yelled for the men to stand down. As we pulled alongside, I began to recognize the men aboard - all excellent warriors and friends from Runevillage.

Manning a large cannon that was pointed right at us were Da Master and Maynard. TrendyHaz, Agent Orange, and Some Weaklin were loaded down with arrows. I saw Faabio move up to the bow beside Majik PK.

Baconmasta was there and yelled out, "Ahoy! Is that you Paco?" I saw Jayman there beside him.

"Ahoy, Baconmasta! It is good to see you! We were afraid you might be an enemy," I yelled back.

y0shi19 was there on the other ship and hollered, "Any enemy would be a fool to take on a noobish crew like you have there!"

Holgart continued on past the ship and turned, bringing us back alongside. Dustin and Draco Dun began throwing ropes over from the other ship and we grabbed them, lashing the ships together. The men from the other ship climbed over to join our crew.

"What brings you into these fair waters so far from Runescape?" asked Thunder Jinx.

13Eric13 replied, "We heard that you left Ardougne to search for Runevillage. We didn't know if we would find you in this part of the ocean or not, but Runevillage is our home too and we came to help."

Majik PK broke in, "We didn't know what to expect, but we came anyway. Lucky we ran into you, eh?"

Juaninzze said, "Well, you are lucky you ran into us instead of that wall."

"Wall? What wall?"

"Well, we have a story," I said, "and a plan. Have a seat gentlemen and let me tell you what we have found."

Chapter 10 - The Battle

We sat for a while and I briefed to new arrivals on our plan. They all agreed we had a good plan and we all agreed that we were happy they showed up. Every one of them was an awesome warrior and we still had no clue as to what we were facing. We only knew that our bones told us we would soon be in battle.

We sat together and had a quick meal, knowing it might be our last but feeling like we would need all of our strength. Everyone put on their strongest armor and prepared for serious battle. We untied from the other ship and left the fishermen and mules to care for it. The warriors finished battle preparations as Holgart brought us to the wall under the dull red light. We lined up on the gunwale against the wall, waiting.

Neo_Kyo and the gnome climbed into the glider. They saluted us and then launched over the side. We watched them circle and gain altitude. After a few rounds, we saw Neo_Kyo stand up in the glider and lift his bow. The tip of the arrow was brighter than the sun and I don't know how he was able to aim. We watched the arrow fly straight and true through the air and then stop right above us with a loud explosion. The arrow stuck there and did not fall.

All of the sudden, the wall in front of us turned to grey stone, like iron ore. That was frightening enough, but then it began to slide down into the ocean, scraping along the side of the boat. I looked up to see the gray wall extend as high as I could see, but after a few seconds, I saw the blue sky again and realized I was seeing the top of the wall come down.

I yelled, "Get ready warriors! Look up! There is top of the wall!"

As the top reached us, it slid on down into the sea. We were right on the beach of Runevillage and I froze with fear at what I saw.

Ahead of us lay the village. The forest had been burned away and the village was under siege by a legion of bugs. Huge bugs, flying bugs, small bugs, fire bugs. Enormous bugs larger than our ship. We stood there flabbergasted at the sight.

The boat shifted and Beerkiller yelled, "The wall! It's coming back up! Warriors! Jump to land! Jump now!"

Luckily, warriors are trained to react, not think, and we all leapt off the boat into the sand of the beach. I glanced up and saw the glider swing over the wall before it continued its climb into the sky. I noticed that the wall stayed gray from this side as I turned towards the village. We were sealed in here now, nothing to do but fight.

There was no time to think really. We just reacted to the battle that was before us. The bugs had gotten very close to the village and nearly had the main gate breeched. I could see movement on the other side of the village wall, lending encouragement that we were not too late. Sir Hiker and his crew of merry mods had been doing serious battle against these bugs for days now. And only we could help them now.

The bugs had noticed us, of course, and an entire regiment was starting a full attack. To my left, Beerkiller's crew had encountered a towering, fire-breathing monster. Nintendodude and Zohm had large Rune two-handed swords, chopping at the monsters legs. Matt258 and The_Thing_6 were protecting them from melee battle with vicious smaller bugs that were attacking in hordes. Their battle axes were cutting swathes through the oncoming army. Cpuk was standing back, casting magic on the large monster with great effect.

To the left of Beerkiller's group, I saw Majik PK with group of strong warriors. They had drawn up a double battle line as archers. Dustin, y0shi19, Draco Dun and 13Eric13 were knocking flying bugs out of the sky, but the sky was still black with bugs. I saw Da Master, Maynard, and Majik PK drop their bows and wade into battle with a horde of fire-breathing bugs moving across the ground. Between Beerkiller's group and them, they had that flank well covered.

To my right was most of my crew in a battle just as ferocious. There were about a dozen huge black flying bugs attacking from all quarters. Neo_Kyo and Deneagle were on the ground, moving quickly, loosing arrows as quickly as they could notch them. The ugly monsters were falling from the sky from those arrows. Dizzle and Bladetip were in melee battle with a giant spider like creature. They hacked away with dragon axes while Juaninzze loosed arrows into the monster's body.

Further beyond them I saw a group of warriors under attack from some monsters that looked like worms. TrendyHaz and Agent Orange were back to back, chopping with two-handers at vicious worms around their legs. Some Weaklin, Faabio, and Baconmasta were in a line, loosing arrows into a stampede of ugly worms. Jayman was swinging a mace around his head, worms flying in every direction around him.

Beside me was Berserk and Thunder Jinx and Milo88, preparing for a frontal attack by what looked like a wave. I heard Applequest behind me casting spells at the wave as I watched fireballs fly over my head towards the bugs. We took the wave head on and only then did I realize that it was thousands of small bugs, acting as one body. A branch of bugs formed out of the wave like a sword and came for my head, only to be chopped off by Berserk. We hacked away, holding our ground, for what seemed like hours. We were wearing down and the bugs were relentless.

Juaninzze called for a regroup and everybody fell back a bit, forming a circle. The bugs attacked us hard, but each warrior stood his ground. We took turns stepping into the center of the circle for a bit of rest and to gain some strength. After a bit, the bugs had us surrounded and I saw a group of large bugs on the periphery, larger than greater demons, moving through the small bugs towards our circle.

I screamed at the crew - "We have to take out those big guys. We have to do it now. Everybody take one and take him down! Now!" With that, our circle broke open and we waded towards the oncoming beasts. There was an equal number of them and each warrior was in intense battle, fighting for their life against the giant bugs, straining to be free the small ones that were sapping our strength.

These huge bugs were nasty. No matter where we struck them, they seemed to grow it back immediately. They would not die. Milo88 was at my side and swung his axe and missed the beast. The beast leaned over towards Milo88 with a swipe of his pincer, which he blocked with his shield, and he came back with an awesome back swing into the beast's neck. He lopped of his head and the beast fell to ground and began to smolder.

He turned towards me as I struggled with my foe and he took a mighty swing at his head. Off came his head and fell to the ground dead. He screamed out above the noise, "Go for the head! Cut off the head and you will kill them!" He moved off to the right, me to the left. Applequest was driving his beast backwards when I reached in with my dragon axe and chopped the monster in the neck. The middle was open now and Applequest moved off to help Thunder Jinx. I looked around and noticed that the small bugs were retreating, headed back in the way that they came. All around me, the heads of the large bugs were being chopped off and they lay on the ground, smoking as if they were burned.

Berserk let out a violent scream and a whirlwind swing of his axe as he took down the last monster. "OWNED!" I heard him yell and a cheer went up from the warriors.

Everyone gathered round, pulling food and water from their packs quickly. We may have won the battle, but the war was far from over.

Chapter 11 - The Beast

The ground shook beneath us. And again. We looked towards the village and saw a huge 8-legged monster stomping towards us. Its movements were slow and ungainly, but the monster could crush us with a single foot.

"Battle line!" I yelled. "Close up warriors! Archers and magicians to the rear! We will scatter and surround him when he gets close! Find the weak spot - everything has one!" The monster moved closer and began to swing its legs at us, swiping for us.

"I have one bottle of Asgarnian Ale to whoever finds the weak spot! Go NOW!" The warriors scattered, a primal yell coming from their throats. We surrounded the beast, hacking at the only thing we could reach - his feet. The creature was more nimble than I first thought and we hardly touched him at all. He would certainly wear us down before we did him. We needed a plan.

I spun around, swinging my axe at a passing leg. It was then I noticed the glider in the air, slowly circling out of reach of the monster. I ran back from the monster to see what was happening.

I saw Neo_Kyo and Deneagle both stand up in the back of the glider. They both notched a magic arrow of light with flaming red feathers in their dragon bows. The looked at each other and nodded, then loosed the arrows at the beast. The arrows flew true and sure, of course, one arrow for each eye of the beast. The arrows impacted with an explosion and the beast screamed a sound I never want to hear again.

The warriors ran from under the beast as he began to fall. His legs gave out and he crashed to the ground. At the same time, a loud rumble began from behind us. The gray wall was sliding away again, the sky as blue as I remembered it. Silence surrounded us, not even a whisper of wind.

It was then I heard the whimpering. It sounded like a young child, hurt and crying. It was coming from within the beast. Beerkiller walked over and tapped the body of the beast with his sword. It sounded hollow. Thunder Jinx walked up with his huge battle axe and drove it deep into the body of the beast, cleaving it open with one swing.

Inside, there sat a young child crying. He was sitting in front of a shiny machine like I had never seen before. Cpuk reached into help him.

"Get away from me, you noob!" he screamed. "You tore down my firewall. You stopped my bugs. I was just having some fun!"

We looked at each other, not really understanding what the lad was talking about. Dizzle ran his finger in a circle beside his temple, giving his opinion of the young man.

"Lad," I said, "what exactly are you doing?"

"None of your business, leave me alone you bunch of noobs," he replied. I motioned for Applequest and Juaninzze to pull him out, which caused him to start kicking and screaming. I stepped inside the beast and looked at his machine. Berserk stepped inside also and started touching things. Just as I said "Stop," he pushed a button and a little drawer popped out. In the drawer was a small shiny disc. From over my shoulder, the gnome whispered, "That's it. That's the disc Hiker gave me long ago." I slipped it into my pocket.

Berserk had wandered into the belly of the beast and I heard him yell "Woot! Treasure!"

The gnome scampered by me and I heard Berserk screech "Awww! All of it! Are you sure this all belongs to the gnomes!?" He came stomping out, with a grimace on his face. "No free stuff please! Not in there at least."

We all stepped back from the beast to see a small crowd moving across the field towards us. They had come from the village. It was easy to tell who they were.

"Sir Hiker!" I exclaimed, "At last! We thought you and your Runevillage were lost to the world. We wanted to pop in for some cookies but you were no where to be found."

Sir Hiker laughed as he entered the circle of warriors. He appeared battle weary, as did all of his compatriots. They were all there with him, every admin and every mod of Runevillage. They had fought a great battle to save Runevillage.

Hiker held up his hands for quiet. "Warriors! I thank you! Runevillage thanks you! We have been under siege from these malignant bugs and worms for many days now. It was obvious that we were cut off from the world and we did not know if we would survive. But we did! With your help, we did! From this day forward, I pronounce each of you a Legend of Runevillage! Come my friends, let's celebrate!"

The noise following that pronouncement hurt my ears worse than the sounds of battle. We headed towards the village, a crowd of happy warriors glad to be of help. I stepped up beside Sir Hiker as we walked and slipped the disc out of my pocket.

"Sir Hiker, I believe this is yours," I said as I dropped the disc into his hand. He studied the disc closely and then said, "I think you are right, Paco. Thank you, I will make sure that this bug never gets loose again." He slipped the disc into his pocket as we walked through the gate into Runevillage.



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