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 Post subject: Zamorak's Bane IV: Life Unknown, by Jaron
PostPosted: December 24th, 2014, 4:44 pm 
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Zamorak's Bane IV: Life Unknown
by Jaron (2007)


Foreword: Not Twenty Two Thousand, At Least

Hey there! Well, it's come to this. As far as I know, Zamorak's Bane IV: Life Unknown will be the last of the Zamorak's Bane series. I'm still thinking about writing something original in the future, though, so for those who care, don't fret. Anyway, this new story, shorter than all the others, revolves around an entirely new character named Syne, yet still takes place in the same timeline as the rest of the stories. (I've provided a crude timeline below this paragraph. Perhaps the more avid fans of the series can recognize at what events the lines intersect. :P ) Also, this was my first attempt at first-person perspective in a literary work. You know, the style of writing with the main character as the narrator. It seemed to work out pretty well, so we'll just have to see where it takes me in the future. Anyway, enough of all this...enjoy ZB4!

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Prologue: Setting the Timeline

"How did you get so strong?" Bebitwinnie groaned from the ground of Camelot castle's courtyard. CrazyArcher simply cackled back at her, feeling very smug at the moment. "Don't you recall our last encounter? Oh wait, I guess not. Reaching into his robes, he pulled out a green vial and held it up. "Here's the antidote to that memory-suppressing potion, by the way. Not that any of you will ever get it! Heh heh heh!!" At that moment, the vial decided to levitate out of CrazyArcher's hand and float towards the courtyard entrance, leaving CrazyArcher standing there, shocked. "No! You idiot, grab it!" Zamorak yelled from his seat. He was situtated in his comfortable little cavern, sitting on his throne, watching the action unfold from a scrying crystal ball in the palm of his hand. "Look out, he's got a bow!" But, of course, CrazyArcher couldn't hear Zamorak's screams, and took the full force of Jaron's lethal shot.

A short while later, Zamorak was still sitting there on his throne, albeit now fuming. Needless to say, he was nowhere near pleased. "He always was a bit too cocky," he mused about the now-late CrazyArcher. "Even on his second chance. What I need is a new plan. Something original. I can't go around granting loyal followers great power anymore, it just never works out in my favor. Something new. Or someone new, at least." For a long while, Zamorak did nothing but sit and think. But eventually, he came up with a rather splendid (and evil, of course,) idea. "Oh yeah. This is going to be rich," he laughed to himself.

Part 141: A New Perspective

Library...library...library...ah, here we are! Huh, Varrock Palace is slightly bigger than I remember. Anyway, I walked in and--wait a second, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start over. ...Hi there, my name's Syne! I'm just your average Runescaper. Well...not quite. When you think of 'Runescaper' you think of 'adventurer', right? That's not me. Not at all. Adventurers these days are tough, combat-seeking people that know a thing or two about mining and a bit more than that about thieving. Like an all-around type of person, jack of all trades, master of none, you know what I mean. I'm...more of a specialist, when you get right down to it. I really like to fletch. You know, make bows, arrows, sell them, buy nifty little Christmas-themed hats, chop or buy a few logs, make more bows, and so on. It may sound boring, but to me, it's lots of fun in and of itself. As for combat, I couldn't care less if I tried. I've had maybe one or two days of combat training in my life, so if there was a stampede of cows, chickens, or some other farm animal rampage, I could probably defend myself enough to make it through. It may sound a bit sad, but it's the truth. I won't go into that stupid wilderness area, and I don't visit the Duel Arena, so why bother? More time to fletch! Anyway, that's exactly what I'm doing today. I've come down to the Varrock Palace Library to ask Reldo for a book on Fletching. Most people think it's just make a bow, sell a bow, but it gets a lot more intricate than that when you really get into it. I easily found Reldo in the library, since he rarely goes elsewhere. He pointed me towards one of the library's aisles, and I strolled down it, browsing the titles of nearby books. How to Avoid Gas Explosions When Mining. I've heard that was pretty dangerous work. Ten Ways to Kill a Dragon? I could tell you ten ways to run away, only three of which involve living to tell the tale. Things You Don't Want to Add Snape Grass To? Heh, I've heard stories from the citizens of Draynor about getting that one published.

Meanwhile, Reldo was organizing books on a tall, nearby bookshelf, when he saw a bright red flash out of the corner of his eye. Turning his head to see what direction it came from, he recognized it as the aisle he had sent the young fletcher down just a moment before. He descended the ladder and walked over.

How to Infiltrate the Black Knight's Fortress...yeah, right. Ah, here we are! The Intricacies of Fletching. What'd I say? Fletching gets to be very intricate. There you go. At the moment I pulled the book off the shelf, Reldo appeared around the corner at the end of the aisle. "What happened?" he asked. Confused, I turned around to see if there was someone behind me he was addressing. Nope, it was just me here. "Uh...I found my book," I responded. "But you didn't see...?" he trailed off. I had no idea what he was getting at, so I shrugged. He shook his head and went back the way he had come. Poor guy, he works way too much. He probably needs more sleep.

Part 142: The Cost of Magic Logs

I went over to Reldo's desk and checked my book out. He still seemed a bit shaken, and asked me if I was sure I hadn't seen any bright flashes of light. "Uh...not that I'm aware of," I responded, still wondering what he was getting at. Maybe I'll go talk to the king about getting him some vacation time.

I walked out of Varrock Palace with a new destination in mind. Guess where? Seers' Village, of course! Now that I've got my book, it's time to get back to Fletching. Here's where being not-so-good at combat becomes unfortunate. I'm referring to the art of magic, of course. I practice the teleport spells, but I can never get them down just right. I always end up a few feet from where I started, or don't go anywhere at all. Once, though, I tried to teleport from Varrock to Falador, and I ended up in the farthest corner of the Dwarven Mines without a light. Although it wasn't the most fun experience I've had, it was the closest I've come to finishing a teleport correctly. Luckily for me, the wizarding community of Runescape recently announced the arrival of Teleother spells. They were apparently going to keep it secret a little while longer, but some battle in Camelot changed their mind. Now you can find people sitting around in banks, teleporting people around the world for a small fee. I found one such person in the west bank of Varrock, and took advantage of his offer to teleport me to Camelot for 1,000 coins.

Seers' Village is only a short distance from Camelot castle. Some adventurers dubbed it 'Woodcutting Central' for the amount of logs traded there daily, but I mainly go there just to fletch whatever I've got. And now, with my newly-checked out book in hand, I have even more new things to try out than I have had in quite a while! Even from halfway down the road, though, I could tell that the Seers' bank was certainly crowded today. There were tons of people standing around outside, trading logs. And the only reason people ever stand around outside is because there's not enough room inside. I walked in and pushed my way through the crowd. Yeah, I won't be staying in here to fletch--it's packed. Might as well grab my materials, though! "Hi," I said to the Banker of an open window. "My name's Syne. Can I have my knife and fifty noted magic logs, please?" The Banker handed me my knife, but responded by saying I only had three magic logs left in my account. Three? ...Oh yeah, I used the rest two days ago. Supposing I'd have to buy some, I withdrew a large sum of coins, instead. A nearby call of "Selling magic logs" turned my head. I waved over the crowd at the seller, which got his attention. He pointed outside, and I nodded.

I pushed my way back through the crowd, left the bank, and met the log seller outside. "It's crazy in there," he remarked. "Tell me about it," I replied. "Magic logs, right? How many do you have?" "Eighty-four," he answered, pulling out a bank note for 84 magic logs. I counted out 84,000 coins (since the going rate for these logs are a thousand coins apiece) and handed him the money. And then, all of a sudden, I blacked out! Just fainted, right there on the spot. The last thing I remembered before I hit the ground were the gasps of the people around me.

Part 143: More Questions Than Answers

Ugh...what just happened? I sat up in bed and looked around. ...Wait, bed? Have I been dreaming? Nah, no way, it seemed too real. At any rate, I was now in one of the Seers' humble abodes. I've been in a few of their houses before, and this one looked like all the others. "Good, you're up," a white-robed Seer said to me as he walked into the room. Now I recall--I blacked out in the middle of the road. Which is a really odd thing in itself, actually. What could cause me to just faint like that? I heard the desert-made Blackjacks knock people out, but who would be stupid enough to whack me in the middle of a crowded village? Too many witnesses. Besides, I didn't have a headache, so that theory was out of the question. The Seer handed me a half-eaten pie, which startled me. To tell the truth, I had momentarily forgotten he was even there. "Eat up, you've been asleep for a few hours now." "Thanks," I stammered, taking the pie. Mmm, apple! The Seer left to let me eat in peace, and the room suddenly became very quiet. Almost too quiet. Where was everyone? I spotted a window next to my bed, and I pulled the curtain away. It was evening, almost dark outside! All the traders had left for the day, and the bank was nearly empty. I ate the rest of the pie and got out of bed. How'd I get in here, anyway? Probably by the aid of some of the Seers, and now they're feeding me as well...it kind of makes me feel guilty to accept their hospitality. Nevertheless, I'm fine now. I walked into the next room, but the Seer wasn't there. Someone else was, though. He was sleeping on a bed similar to the one I had been on. I took a closer look to see who it was--and stumbled backwards in shock. It...can't...he's...what's going on here?! I cautiously took a few steps forward and looked again. The light from outside was getting dimmer, but there was no mistaking it. He was me. I was sleeping in that bed.

My head started spinning. Granted, staring at my sleeping self was something I'd never done before. Just then, the Seer walked back in. "Ah. We found that one with you. Trust me, he won't be waking up anytime soon." I turned and stared at the Seer. "What? Why not?" He simply shrugged. "I don't know. We can't tell the future that well. We could tell that you'd wake up soon enough, but it could be a loooong time for him." ...That didn't make any sense at all. Why didn't the Seer even notice that he was me? I shook my head, and in doing so, spotted a mirror out of the corner of my eye. I walked over to it, but I still wasn't prepared for what came next. I saw the reflection of the magic log seller. I raised my hand, so did his reflection. I tilted my head, so did he. So what if...what if I was him, now? I'm in the log seller's body...is he in mine? Why is my body still asleep? WHY DOESN'T ANY OF THIS MAKE SENSE? The Seer seemed to sense my discomfort. "You know, you don't owe us anything, or have to stay. You can leave, I'm sure you've got important business to attend to." He was right, but I didn't want to leave myself here. What if I woke up? ...Boy, that sounded odd. I turned away from the mirror and towards the Seer. "I...well, thank you so much for your hospitality. But are you sure he won't be waking up," I asked, pointing to my body, "even in a day or two?" The Seer shook his head. "Not for a long time. I have a feeling you'll know when." Thanks, Mr. Cryptic. I might as well make the most of this situation, then. I smiled, did a half-nod, and kind of turned and left, still too confused to do anything more.

Yeah, the bank was much less crowded now that it was pretty dark. About six people inside at the most. I sluggishly moved over to an empty bank window. You have no idea how much stuff was running through my head right now, how many unanswered questions. What exactly did happen here? Had it happened before in Runescape? Is it treatable? It wasn't permanent...right? If I have to be this person, I might as well see what he's like. "I'd like to view an inventory of my bank account, please," I told the Bank Teller. He handed me a slip of paper with an itemized list of the account. I sat down at a nearby table and looked through it. Not, of course, like I'd steal any of his possessions, but it's fun to see how other people live their lives. Hey, this guy has more holiday-themed items than I do! And look at this, twelve hundred yew logs, four sets of Rune armor, several million coins...this guy must be quite the merchanter or something. "Hey, does anyone know how much Rune Plate Legs cost brand-new in the store?" came a female voice from across the bank. "Sixty-four thousand coins," I called back. "Thanks!" she replied. ...Wait a minute, since when have I known that?

Part 144: The Catherby Incident

64,000 gp. I've never even been to a store that sells Rune Plate Legs. How would I know how much they cost there? Great, now I've got another unanswered question. Sigh. This is still all too much. Now I'm the one that needs some sleep.

I awoke the next morning in the Seers' Village Inn and promptly looked in the mirror. The reflection staring back at me still wasn't my own. I suppose this wasn't just a dream after all. The innkeeper had recognized me as the one that fainted that day and given me a room for free. Even if he hadn't, it's not like the magic log seller would have missed such a little amount of money anyway. It suddenly dawned on me, out of nowhere, that perhaps I should ask Reldo about my little predicament. I don't really know what inspired me to think of that, but hey, since when has asking Reldo ever been a bad thing? That guy's like the knowledge source of Runescape or something. ...Of course, he spends almost all of his time in a library. I looked around the Seers' Village Bank, but there were no teleotherers to be seen. ...Teleotherers. You know, the people that teleother other people. (Heh, I made that up myself.) ...Nevermind, I suppose I'll walk. I've got enough things to think about before barging into Reldo's place, anyway. And on the way out of town, I think I'll stop and see how my actual body's doing.

"He's still sleeping," the Seer explained. Yeah, I could see that. "You still don't know when he'll wake up?" I asked. To which the Seer shook his head, and said, "Not really. I think it may be even a longer time than I first thought." Great. Well, at least my body won't be wandering around without me knowing. Which is, of course, exactly what I'm doing in the log seller's body...

First stop on the way to Varrock: Catherby. Catherby's not that far away from Seers' Village, even if you use the road. But of course, most people just walk southeast through the trees. It's quicker, there's nothing dangerous lurking in or behind the trees, and...it's quicker. Speed's the priority, really. Catherby is a major fishing zone, so as soon as I left the tree line, the scent of freshly caught fish filled the air. Blech. I've never liked that smell. Luckily, I won't have to stay here long. Just go over White Wolf Mountain, head east, and I'm done. It's a long way to walk, but it's not really tough terrain. Except for the mountain part. That area's got tons of wolves, but there's always enough adventurer-type people to slay them while I simply waltz past. Anyway, as I was waltzing, er, just walking, really, past the Catherby bank, I heard a call inside of "Will anyone fletch these magic bows for me?" Ooh, free fletching opportunity! Obviously, I stopped dead in my tracks and looked inside. I can stand the fish smell a little longer, I think.

"One hundred twelve magic longbows," I said, handing the notes back to the ranger that traded the materials to me. It's a common practice in Runescape, but not so common to find. See, if there's a fledging fletcher (hey, that sounds funny) that can't make certain bows, he or she can just give someone else the materials and have that person fletch the bows instead. The fletcher gains just that much more bow-making experience, and the trader has a completed bow, which is worth a lot more money than a log and a bowstring. All in a day's work for a fletcher like me! "Thanks," the ranger replied, adding, "Here's a little something for your trouble" as he handed me a couple thousand gold coins. I was going to say something about how he didn't have to pay me, or how fletching the bows was a reward in itself, or that it wasn't any trouble at all. But unfortunately, I couldn't get a word out before I collasped to the floor.

Part 145: A Dangerous Mountain at Any Time

I woke up in another bed with the scent of fish still in my head. Let me guess, I fainted again and I'm still in Catherby? I sat up and looked around. There was no one else in this tiny house, save for someone sleeping in a bed across the room. Who, upon closer inspection, was the magic log seller! Incredible! Was I back to normal then? I jumped out of bed and ran over to a mirror on the wall. Guess who I saw staring back in disbelief? Yep, the ranger I fletched for from the bank. Black dragonhide armor, magic shortbow, quiver full of mithril arrows, and everything. Perfect. I look like a well-trained ranger, but of course, that couldn't have been further from the truth. I'm more like the most novice ranger there ever was. I hope no one asks me to shoot anything--that'd be disastrous. I was contemplating how I was going to pull this one off when I heard the magic log seller guy groan. Turning my head, I watched him sit up in bed. "...Where am I?" he groggily asked. "Catherby, I'm guessing," I replied. "Oh, so you don't own this house?" "No, I--wait, you don't remember me?" He shook his head. "I don't remember anything...I just recall being in Seers' Village. How'd I get here?" "I...uh...don't know," I lied, sitting down on my own bed. So he doesn't recall anything when I was in his body. I guess the ranger wouldn't know what was going on right now, either. The owner of the house chose that exact moment to step inside. I could see through the open door that it was evening already. Another day wasted. "Ah, you guys are up. I just wanted to let you know that you can use this house for the night if you need it. I've got some business in Ardougne I need to attend to," he said. "Wow, thanks," I said, still slightly worn out. "I'll reimburse you," the log seller added, to which the owner shook his head. "There's no need for that. Just get a good night's sleep. See ya." What a nice guy. I think he teleported out after that. I was really too tired to tell.

Several things weighed on my mind as I started my trek up White Wolf Mountain the very next morning. One of them was why I kept switching bodies with people. Is it random? Is it related to something? Both times were during a trade...that's odd, but it's something I might be able to go on. As I approached the top of the mountain, I saw a few adventurers slaying wolves. That's good--that's real good. I don't want to take on a wolf myself. The thought suddenly occurred to me, though, that they might think I was a really good ranger and leave a wolf for me. So with that, I quickened my pace and jogged down the other side of the mountain, still thinking about my strange situation. And what happens to the person whose body I'm in? My body's still sleeping, so it's not a simple swap. The magic log seller had no recollection of what happened, so maybe...it's a suppression kind of thing? Like I take over for them? That notion doesn't exactly please me, but I don't really have a choice in the matter anyway. It's not like I want--what was that? I whirled around to see a wolf growling at me from ten feet away. Uh, heh, that's not good...at all. He suddenly charged! I turned back around and ran away at full speed, but he was too quick and headbutted me. I was sent sprawling across the icy landscape, tumbling down the slope a little bit. Landing in a heap at the bottom, I flipped over onto my back to take another look. He's still coming, albeit at a walking pace now. And it looks like he's closing in for the kill! The ranger's bow and quiver was on the ground beside me where I landed. Seizing my only opportunity, I grabbed the bow and an arrow and took aim. Before now, all of my arrows flew wildly in some other direction, or didn't even shoot right and went about three feet. But this time, my arrow flew straight and true. It pierced the wolf right through the chest, yet he still stumbled forward at me. I snatched another arrow and shot it right in the same place. This time, the wolf took one last step and collasped. Still a little scared and now quite a bit shocked, I ran the rest of the way to Taverly.

Part 146: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Okay, okay, I get it now. When I switch places with someone (or rather, just take over) I inherit some of that person's abilities as well. The magic log seller was a merchanter--that's why I knew how much certain armors cost in stores. And now that I've switched bodies with a ranger, and I made two dead-on shots to defeat that wolf! While this would normally pose many possibilities to the average adventurer, I just want my simple life back! I'm not a combatant, never have been, and never will be. My name is Syne, I'm a master fletcher, and that's all there is to it. As I approached a gate, I suddenly realized I had already ran the whole distance from White Wolf Mountain to the other end of Taverly. This next road will take me the long path to Varrock, and then, to Reldo. I really hope he'll be able to help me out with this. Not wasting any time, I got on the road and started heading east. It wasn't long, however, before something I saw stopped me dead in my tracks--a flood of Black Knights, pouring out of their castle to the north. I hid behind a nearby rockfall, stretching out my neck to get a better view without being seen myself. They weren't even doing anything or traveling somewhere! All the Black Knights were just standing around, mainly blocking the road. What were they up to? The last time I remember this many Black Knights outside the castle was in the Falador siege a year or so ago. And even then, I heard they were looking for someone. Now, walking past a Black Knight or two, though mildly frightening, usually isn't much of an occurrence. But this many--the sheer magnitude--hmm. You know what? I think I'll just take the long way around. It's not worth it to head through that crowd. South through Falador, then east, then back up to Varrock...I can make it. Not a problem.

Although, now that I have to walk that extra distance, I might as well rest my feet before I continue on. My ankle's a little bit sore from getting knocked down the hill by that wolf earlier, and I was running on it even after that. Why not take a leisurely walk around Falador? It's a nice area, all pristine and white. I don't visit here often since I still spend most of my time in Seers' Village, but it's always a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of Woodcutting Central. There's a mace shop, barber shop, gem shop, chain mail shop ('Wayne's Chains'...heh), shield shop, regular general shop, and so on. There's even a furnace, garden, two banks, and the Dwarven Mining Guild has an entrance in town as well. I was particularly walking past the gardens when I decided to venture into the furnace building across the street to see what was going on. There were four people inside, two of which seemed to know each other. One of them had a heavy Rune two-handed sword at his side, the other a runesack. It's pretty easy to tell what someone's profession of choice is by what kind of weapon they carry. "This is going to take forever," the mage said. "Then ask someone to help us," the swordsman replied. "What's up?" I asked, for lack of something better to do, and an opportunity to help. The warrior turned his head and smiled. "Hiya. We're just smelting these ores into steel bars. Going to take a while, though, with how many we've got." "Need help, then?" I mused. "Well, they're his, not mine. It depends if my acquaintance is okay with it." Still smelting ores, the mage frowned and replied, "I dunno, I'm not used to handing things over to people and waiting for the end product. Someone said they'd cut my diamond for me once, and then ran off with it." I grimaced. "Well, I can understand that." "You can help if you want, though," the mage interjected, backing away from the hot furnace. The warrior turned to his friend in semi-surprise. The mage finally grinned, saying, "You're right, we've got too many. And he seems trustworthy enough. We might finish by sunset if we hurry."

We returned to the bank to get new supplies, where the warrior withdrew a few hundred noted ores. At that point, I suddenly recalled that every time I switched bodies, it was during a trade. What a time to remember that! In my hesitation to decide what to do, he gave me the ores--and nothing happened. He seemed to notice my uneasiness, though. "Are you okay? You look a little pale." I nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine...just kind of...got dizzy for a moment there. Let's go smelt some ores!"

Splitting a workload between three people definitely makes the job go faster than with two. The job took quite a while as expected, and by the time we were finished, it was already dark out. We chatted for a while, and as it turned out, the warrior was helping his friend smelt the bars for the sheer experience of doing so. Then they were going to make arrowheads or something tomorrow. Seemed odd to me, but to each his own. The mage left, teleporting to some other town for the night, leaving the warrior and I alone in the Falador bank. "Here you are," I said, handing him my finished share of the steel bars. "Thanks," he said, adding, "just a moment." Now, see, I'm used to offering my services for free, so when he pulled a couple thousand gold coins out of his account, I got flustered. "This is for all your help," he said. I shook my head. "No, I couldn't take it. I enjoyed talking with you guys, and I really had nothing to do anyway." "Nothing to do or not, you were seriously a great help, and we'd still be toiling away right now if it wasn't for you. Seriously, here," he replied, dropping the coins into my hands. I heard the coins hitting the ground and rolling all over the floor, but I really don't recall anything else as I blacked out yet again.

Part 147: He Has a Name

It was already morning when I woke up in bed with a burst of anger. "Not AGAIN!" I cried out. (Although, the fact that I was in a bed somewhat surprised me. People sure are nice to let strangers into their homes so much around here.) I got up and walked over to the mirror in my room. Yep, now I was the warrior smelter guy. I grabbed my (or his, really) two-handed sword leaning against the wall and walked out into the hallway. Looking both left and right, I realized this house was pretty vast. I looked out a window at the end of the hall and recognized the area as the eastern outskirts of Falador, where all the mansions are. I had looked at some of them on my walk around town yesterday. Now, where's the front door? I'm falling behind on my trek to find Reldo now, so I better get going. I'd leave something as a thank-you gift, but I don't have anything on me except my sword and some armor, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to give that away. Perhaps I'll come back later and repay whoever lives here for his or her kindness.

The mansion was bigger than I had first thought, and now I was slightly lost. Peeking into one room, I noticed the ranger (who I had been, yesterday.) As I was about to leave, I heard him groan and sit up. Why does there seem to be a delay between me and the other guy always waking up? I popped my head in again. "You okay?" I asked. He jumped at my voice. "I...uh...dunno. Where am I?" "Falador. One of the big mansions to the east," I replied. "Falador? I was in Catherby the last I recall. How'd I get here?" "Beats me," I lied. I didn't feel like explaining my whole story to someone else right now. Worse yet, he probably wouldn't be too happy with me for it, although it wasn't my fault. I left, and turning another hall corner, found the back door. Meh, this'll do.

So now, as I was walking towards Falador's south gate, I was pondering the system of trades that always seemed to make me switch. This last one didn't happen when I traded noted ores or bars, but afterwards, when he paid me--when he paid me! The answer is money! Gold coins! The first time, I was buying logs with my own money. The second time, the ranger gave me money for helping him. Basically, same for the third. Of course, this brings up some other unanswered questions about exceptions to the rule. I heard the coins scatter everywhere after this last trade. Surely someone had to pick them all up. Why didn't I switch with that person? ...Perhaps I have to already be conscious and in close proximity to switch with someone. Sure, let's go with that. But now that I think I know what the problem is, I can avoid it in the future! A big grin crossed my face as I left Falador.

Following the road south, I saw four adventurers coming the other way. I wouldn't have paid them any notice had one of them not pointed at me and flagged me down. "Hey, it's Magicana!" he said. I stopped, and a ranger of the group spoke up. "Hey, what's up? Did you help your friend out?" I had no clue what they were going on about. "W...what?" I stammered. "Your friend. You said you couldn't come to the party earlier because you were going to go help him out." I realized for the first time, with a shock, another consequence of me inhabiting someone else's body. All of his friends expect me to know who they are. But what are the chances I'd actually come across somebody? At any rate, I realized they were all still staring at me. They must mean 'my friend' as the mage guy at the furnace the other day. "I...yeah...he's fine. ...I gotta go." I rushed past them before they could ask me about anything else I wouldn't know about. I think they might have stared after me, but I didn't dare look back.

Part 148: More Average Than the First Time, at Least

It's not fair, really. Why would this happen to me, of all people? Unless, of course, it's happening to others, and I just don't know yet because I haven't talked to Reldo. I just need to stay away from gold coins until I reach Varrock. Actually, I should keep away from them even after I reach Varrock. As far as I can tell, coins are the only activation thingy to make me switch bodies. Of course, I could tell that to myself over and over and still not avoid it. And even if I can avoid it, who knows when things might suddenly change. All my expectations have gone out the window by now. I turned the corner on the road, diverting my direction towards Draynor Village. A few moments later, some masked guy in a suit and a crossbow came out of nowhere and ran over. "Stop right there!" he yelled, pointing his crossbow at me. Perfect. I didn't feel like getting impaled today, so I halted. "Hand over all your money and possessions," he declared upon reaching me. "Why, is this a robbery or something?" I inquired. "Ha ha, my good sir, ha ha. Of course it's a robbery, you twit." I looked around. There was no one to be seen. I suppose this was a good place for highway robbery after all. "Yeah, well, handing over my money's not going to be an option," I told the guy, knowing exactly what would happen if I did so. "You dare oppose me?" he laughed, putting his hands on his hips in a sort of I'm-going-to-own-you fashion. "I think the problem is that you dare oppose me," I replied, instinctively drawing my big Rune sword and impaling the man on the spot. Which, moments later, rather surprised me. Where did that come from? I mean, robbers get killed all the time for being the scum they are, but...I dispatched an evil minion guy on my own! Yay for me! Jeez, at this rate, I could stand up to more than just a stampede of farm animals. Trying my best to shrug it off, I kept heading towards Draynor Village.

As I entered the Draynor Village vicinity, I thought to myself, "Hey, me?" "Yes?" "I could probably use some food in case I almost get robbed again." "Well, that's a great idea!" "Why, thank me." "I'm welcome." Chuckling to myself at how easily amused I am, I stepped into the bank. On the wall was a large poster about the recent publication of Things You Don't Want to Add Snape Grass To, but it was otherwise a normal bank. I headed over to an empty booth and asked for an account list. Taking the piece of paper from the banker, I did a once-over. Ooh, lots of lobsters, let's go with that. "Ten lobsters, please," I said. The Banker handed me my ten orange crustaceans, and I turned to leave. Only, of course, to come face-to-face with a Dark Wizard. Well, I suppose it didn't have to be a Dark Wizard, but you know, greyish robes, greyish hat, evil smile, no weapon...yeah, that guy. "Can I...help you?" I asked. "Yes, actually," he said, grabbing my hand and thrusting something into it. I can only assume it was a coin, because moments later I was on the floor.

I woke up, yet again, in Draynor. Still in the bank this time, actually, but propped up against the back wall. Last time I woke up in anger, but I heard that there's a pattern to this sort of thing. Anger is apparently followed by acceptance. I never thought it'd be true, but sure enough, I woke up with more of a "Perfect. Let's get a move on," feeling than a "CRUD! Not AGAIN!!" feeling. Remembering I'm a Dark Wizard now, I figured that's why no one took me into their home this time around. Who wants an evil guy lurking around his house, anyway? Sighing in self-pity, I left the village and headed east again. It didn't seem like more than a couple of hours had passed, judging from the sun's position in the sky. Reaching into my robe pocket just to see what was there, I pulled out a small, glowing red orb. The orb seemed to pulsate rather quickly, and little else. I wonder what weird purpose the Dark Wizard was using it for.

Part 149: A Farmer's Grudge

I stared at the pulsating red orb a little while longer and then pocketed it again. It didn't seem to have any purpose. Of course, I'm sure it had one, or why else would someone carry it around all day? It wasn't a purpose I could probably figure out, though, at any rate. A short way into my journey down the roads east of Draynor, I heard someone (probably a farmer) shout "Go back to your tower!" I looked around to see who he was yelling at, but all I saw was an old guy on a farmer's front porch shaking his fist at me. So obviously, he was yelling at me. Real safe neighborhood we've got here, eh? I've never really heard any reports of trouble in this area, but I usually try to get teleported about. At least the farmer didn't run out to me and hand me money, I thought, chuckling. I am so tired of switching places, although it's just more annoying than anything. Trying to fit in doing something you've never done before is hard enough, but then there's always the thought in the back of my mind now that I might come across someone's friends, like near Falador. I continued on for a couple minutes, and then, speaking of farmers running out into the street--one did. He didn't have money, though, luckily. Rather, he was carrying a big pitchfork. "You're the one that killed my chickens! Get outta here!" he snarled at me. "Me? I think you've got me confused with someone else, sir," I replied. "You're not going to fool me! I know you did it, I watched you! Now leave, or I'll get my revenge!" he growled back, waving his pitchfork back and forth. "Really, I don't want any trouble. I'm just heading to Varrock." "No, you're not! You're not getting past me!" "Yes, I am, because I'm going to Varrock," I repeated. "You killed my chickens, you're going nowhere!" I was wasting my time with this guy! "Enough is enough! Get out of my way!" I yelled, casting Curse on him, shoving him aside, and continuing on.

Jeez, the nerve of people like that! I didn't kill his chickens, and even if the guy I'm inhabiting did...they're just chickens. They outnumber humans on the planet or something, just go get more and don't be an idiot. Adventurers kill them all the time, I hear, and yet I'm the one he picks a bone with? I spent the rest of my trek to Varrock mainly brooding about the farmer's audacity. It was already dark when I arrived in town, but I kept making my way to the palace. Or I headed in the direction I thought the palace was in, anyway. It was so dark by now that I couldn't tell one street from another. I might've walked down an alley, but I wouldn't have been able to tell since all the darkened streets looked the same. I also might've gotten clubbed on the head, or maybe just collapsed from exhaustion, but either way, I fainted again in the now-quiet city.

I woke up with the sun on the other side of the sky. I'm guessing it's morning. To the right of me laid an unconscious Dark Wizard. Can anyone guess what happened? Ooh, pick me, pick me! Examining my rugged and darkened attire, I immediately found myself to be one of those muggers in the Varrock alleys I hear so much about. He must have secretly stolen some money from my robe pocket, and we both blacked out from it. So he didn't actually knock me out, but rather I knocked him out, heh. ...This is getting ridiculous. Actually, it was ridiculous long ago--now it's just insane. I got up, brushed myself off, regained my sense of direction, and started walking towards the palace again.

Part 150: Unsafe

I left the darkened alleys of Varrock and neared the palace, a place I had been to just a few days before. At that time, of course, I was simply looking for a book. Now I was searching for something completely different. Well, sort of. Meh. Coming up to the palace door, I reached for the doorknob--and felt a hand on my shoulder. Turning around, I came face to face with one of the many guards of Varrock. "Just where do you think you're going?" he asked me with a cold stare. Confused, I pointed behind me towards the door. "I need to talk to Reldo. He's here today, right?" "Of course. He never leaves. But I believe you've forgotten that we don't allow your kind into the palace." "My...kind?" The guard shook his head in disgust, just as I realized what he was going on about. "Oh--oh, my kind. You mean muggers?" "That's right, my money-hungry citizen, muggers. Wouldn't want you mugging the king, eh?" I laughed out loud at that. Switching money with people was, obviously, the last thing I wanted to do. "Ha ha! Man, you've got it all wrong. I would never steal money from the king of Varrock. I just really need to talk to Reldo." "Well, too bad, I guess. He's not here today," the guard responded with a strange smile on his face. "Wh--what? You just said he never leaves." "You must have misheard me before, I suppose. He's gone, and you can't come in, so shoo." I could feel my temper rising higher than it normally would. "How dare you treat me this way?" I exploded, wanting to hurt this guy somehow. (Not mug him, of course--I didn't want his money, that is. How ironic.) "You cause any trouble, and I'll have fifteen guards carry you off to jail in thirty seconds. Now leave, you filthy low-life." I was going to blurt some sort of comeback, but deep down, I knew he was right. Nothing I could do would've let me into that castle.

With no other leads, I decided to head back towards Seers' Village. No one would teleother me to Camelot, probably because of my 'mugger' status. Come to think of it, I probably could've handed the guard some money, assumed his position, and gotten in anyway. ...But I don't care anymore. In the long run, I'm sure it wouldn't have helped. And so, leaving town, I glumly followed the road west.

The Black Knight Gregor stopped for a moment and stared at the orb in the palm of his hand. It was a tiny thing, with a bright yellow glow to it. "It...it turned yellow..." he mumbled. He continued walking east, passing the Barbarian's Village. "What luck...blue for so long, and now it's yellow. Today's the day." Several minutes later, the orb turned from yellow to red. Gregor looked down the path and spotted three people in the distance, walking towards him but otherwise not paying attention to their surroundings. They weren't exactly all walking together, but they weren't far enough apart, either. He looked down and noticed the orb had started to pulsate, very slowly. "Forget 'today's the day.' The end hour is here." Gregor hid behind a tree and waited for all three people to pass him. Looking at his orb as they continued on, he noticed it was pulsating really quickly. One of the three... About ten seconds later, he walked back onto the path, unnoticed by the others since he was at their backs. "Hey, Syne!" Gregor yelled out. Two of the people ahead continued walking, while one of the three--a mugger--stopped and turned around. It was all he needed.

So there I was, thinking about what I could do to get back in my own body, when someone called my name. I turned around to see this Black Knight down the path walking towards me. In retrospect, not being in my own body, I shouldn't have responded to 'Syne'. Anyway, the Black Knight drew a longsword and started running full-speed at me! Realizing that he wasn't here to chat and that I was going to be impaled at any moment, I did a side-jump into the nearby forest and ran as far from the path as I could.

Five minutes later, I sat down against a tree, gasping for breath. Remember what I said about it not being wise to move through a crowd of Black Knights alone? That's because you never know when you'll find maniacs like this one that want your head on a silver platter. "It doesn't even make sense," I gasped aloud. "Why would he be after me? And how did he even find what body I was in...?" Again, in hindsight, talking to myself wasn't a smart idea. I heard rustling noises not far away! Getting up, I sprinted through the woods, hearing the rustling continue behind me. I turned my head to see if the Black Knight was the one following me--and tripped over a tree root, tumbling to the ground. I heard an odd snapping sound, and suddenly felt an immense pain in my right leg. The rustling came closer. I was hoping it would be a bear or something, but to my disdain, the Black Knight had indeed caught up with me. I was lying on my stomach, but I could turn my head to see him. He was looking back at me, with his longsword raised high. "What are you doing?" I growled at him, knowing I couldn't run away because my leg was most likely broken. "My duty," he simply replied, bringing his sword crashing down and impaling me right through my lower back! I yelled out in pain, knowing it wasn't only my leg I now had to worry about. Great. Now I was going to die. How about that, eh? Killed by a Black Knight, impaled with a sword. There ought to be laws against this sort of thing. It might have been lack of blood (actually, it was most likely lack of blood) but I realized I had had my eyes closed. I opened them to realize the Black Knight had left me. "Just like that?! You kill me and leave?!" I yelled out into the forest, which lapsed into a coughing fit. I put my head down on the ground, gently crying to myself. It just...isn't fair. None of it. I minded my own business, I didn't do anything wrong, and now I'm...I'm dead. And that's when I saw it. A shiny gold coin, lying on the ground, inches from my face. It hadn't been there when I tripped over the tree root, I know it. The Black Knight must have left it there. But...was it some sort of trap? Did I even have a choice? I felt near my stomach and winced in pain, drawing back a bloodied hand. No. I didn't have a choice, I decided, grabbing the coin and blacking out for good.

Part 151: Infiltration's Easy When You Look Like an Employee

I could somehow tell that it wasn't much later when I awoke. Perhaps knowing I was about to black out helped me regain consciousness sooner, or maybe I simply became faster with experience. And Saradomin knows I've gotten plenty of experience. The first thing I realized was that my legs hurt, the second was that I was sitting cross-legged on the ground. Apparently, the Black Knight had already been expecting me to switch with him. Of course, he did set the coin there, but how did he know about me, and about what's going on? I reached into my pocket and found some coins, a black dagger (in addition to the sword at my side)--and a glowing, pulsating red orb. That's it. That's how he found me. I didn't think much about it when the Dark Wizard had one, but now that I know there's more than one, it's no coincidence. The Dark Wizard swapped with me against my will, and so did the Black Knight. This must be some sort of tracking device, tuned to me. ...Well, that stinks. Attempting to get the feeling back in my legs, I got up and started walking back towards the edge of the forest. It dawned on me once again...I'm a Black Knight. Possibly the very last thing I would have wanted to happen to me, and yet here I am. It made me think of the Mugger that just got his body back. Unfortunately, he'll be dead before he ever wakes up. Poor guy. And then I figured...who cares? It wasn't really my fault, and I couldn't do anything for him now even if I wanted to. Why worry about it? I reached the end of the trees and turned onto the path, heading west. I suppose I should head back to my own body, and see if there's anything I can do for myself yet.

So there I was, trudging down the path, absorbed in self-pity. And mad at the world, really, but that had been there through the last couple of switches. It occurred to me that, now, as a Black Knight, my options of what I could do were extremely limited. Falador wouldn't let me inside its city gates, surely. Would Taverly? How in the world would I get to Seers' Village if I can't go through Taverly? And no one's going to teleother a Black Knight to Camelot. I doubt I could even get anyone's attention long enough to talk before they ran away in fear. And also--my reverie was cut short by a call of "Hey, Gregor!" I really hope that call wasn't for me. I looked up anyway, and realized I was walking towards the crowd of Black Knights standing around just south of their castle. Duh! I forgot! That's the whole reason I went through Falador in the first place, to avoid them! One Black Knight broke away from the crowd and ran up to me. "Where have you been?" he asked. "Um...doing reconnaissance," I replied, not able to think of any other excuses that might make sense. "Oh, reconnaissance, good! Learn anything?" I merely stood there, at a loss for words. Luckily, he piped up again: "I get it, classified, whatever. I'll go tell the boss you're ready for debriefing." "Oh, wait, you don't have to--" I started, but he had already run off, heading towards the large castle to the north. Perfect.

I cautiously entered the dark castle, hoping no one would notice me. The Black Knight from outside walked up as I entered. "The boss can see you now." "Perfect," I replied, rather sarcastically, adding, "By the way, what is everyone doing outside?" The other guy shrugged. "Beats me, we were basically told to stay out there. But it doesn't matter now. Go on, don't make the boss wait." I sighed and left the room, returning a couple of moments later. "...Upstairs, right?" I hesitantly asked. "Uh, yeah, he hasn't moved," came my colleague's reply, eyebrow raised. I nodded and left.

I went upstairs, walked down the hall, and knocked on the door at the end. "Come in," came the reply. Good, the right room. Well, sort of good. Okay, not so good. I entered anyway, coming to a rather large room with a rather large desk in the middle and a rather old-yet-experienced looking Black Knight sitting at it. "Ah, Gregor! Welcome back." "Er...hi," I managed to say. "Have a seat," the boss said, motioning towards a chair in front of his desk. I walked over to the chair and sat down like he told me to. Oh, please don't start asking me questions about where I was! "So, Gregor," he started, looking straight at me, "have you completed your mission?" "My...mission?" I repeated. "Give me the orb," he replied. I suddenly felt sick as I handed over the glowing red orb. The boss seemed pleased. Did he know it was really me? "Good. Well, Gregor, I'm sure you'll want to be paid for doing such a good job." "Actually, I don't need any money, sir," I quickly replied. "Nonsense! Now let's see, the mission was worth two thousand gold coins. Subtract six hundred for sword rental, eight hundred for the orb equipment, four hundred paid to you in advance (which I believe you're carrying now,) and one hundred ninety-nine coins for Black Knight taxes. That leaves your day's wages at...one coin," he said, setting a single coin on the desk in front of me.

Part 152: The Roles We Play

I stared at the coin the leader of the Black Knights had just set in front of me. No way was I touching that. "You're kidding, right?" I asked. The boss grinned (it might have been an evil type of grin, I don't really know) and shook his head. "I'm very serious. Your day's wages are a single coin today, Gregor." There was no doubt in my mind that this had to be a trap just like the previous one. I kept staring at the coin, and finally stood up from the chair I was sitting in. "You know, I could go slay a Dwarf and get a couple of coins. I think I'll pass on today's pay," I said. The boss stood up as well. "Gregor, you're going to take that coin. If not, I'll simply order your co-workers to kill you on the spot when you leave. They don't ask many questions, you know. It wouldn't be hard to explain." Perfect, another take-it-or-die kind of thing. But now, obviously, he knew who I was, and what was going to happen. "You have no idea what you're getting into," I said. The boss smiled again, placed his hands on his desk, leaned forward, and in a slightly menacing tone, said, "No, Syne. You have no idea what you're getting into." Out of options, I sighed and sat down, reaching for the shiny gold piece.

I think I was only out for a few minutes, twenty tops. I forgot to check the clock when I grabbed the coin. Regardless, I was prepared for the switch, and I'm still thinking that's a factor in how long it takes me to wake up. The boss must have fallen back into his chair, because that's where I was. Gregor sat opposite me, sleeping away. Remember when I said being a Black Knight was one of the very last things I would have wanted to happen? Well, now I'm the boss of the Black Knights. Way to go, Syne. Go kill something and make yourself seem important. I reached into the boss'/my pockets, mainly to see if he had an orb like the Dark Wizard and Gregor did. Apparently not. All he had was a bunch of money and a really sharp black dagger. I suppose the boss was simply bright enough to know Gregor had completed his mission and that I was him. Suddenly, there was a banging on the door. "Sir, are you busy?" someone yelled. Oh, great...I don't want to have to make any decisions on behalf of the Black Knights! "Um...kind of," I called back. "Well, come anyway, boss. We got the guy you wanted." I heard footsteps descending the stairs outside the door. I suppose I'll leave Gregor here, I mused as I opened the door and went downstairs as well.

I looked around the castle for whoever called me, but I couldn't find them. Finally, I found a passage to some sort of underground basement, where a few people were gathered. It was a darkened type of place, with stone walls and a faint smell of death. Odd. "What took you, sir?" one asked. "I...uh...didn't know where you had gone. What is this about again?" He pointed over to the stone wall, where someone was in chains. Whoever it was, his wrists were shackled apart near the ceiling, and his feet were tied together. Way to get yourself captured, man. "This is him," the knight near me announced. "...Who?" I inquired. "Have you forgotten, boss?" "It may have slipped my mind, I've been quite busy lately." "He's a spy for the White Knights of Falador. You ordered that should he be found, to capture him and bring him here for execution." My eyebrows raised at that. The death smell probably should have tipped me off. "Execution...right. Well...go ahead, then," I said, trying to keep the pity out of my voice. In response, the knight grabbed a nearby sword and handed it to me. I tried to hide the surprise in my voice as my eyes widened. "Oh, me. Right. Of course." "You did request that he be kept alive for you to kill personally," the knight replied. I slowly nodded. Jeez, if I killed him, I'd feel bad. Then again, in the role I'm playing, it's my job. And if I didn't kill him, the other Black Knights would know I was an imposter, and then I'd be in even deeper trouble. As such, I walked over to the wall where the man was standing silent. The look in his eyes pleaded with me to let him go. The look in my eyes probably told him I would. But in a single fluid motion, I thrust my sword into his chest, impaling him and forcing him to take his final breath. He kind of grunted, and then his head dropped. And do you want to know what the scary thing is? I liked it.

Part 153: The Missing Factor

I pulled out the now-bloodied sword and took a step back. Suddenly I wanted to kill something else, anything else. This must be what they call Bloodlust. Or had I simply gone insane? Obviously, I couldn't kill the Black Knight behind me, or I'd be in big trouble. But nothing was stopping me from going out into the world...I let that thought trail off as a new one formed in my mind. I went back upstairs, nodding to the nearby knight as I passed him. I looked around for a while, but finally I found it on the second floor, near my office--the armory. You see, there was one question still on my mind: do I keep the skills I obtain? Am I still a experienced ranger, a well-trained mage? To answer this, I picked up a bow, an arrow, and some runes. I lit the arrow on a nearby wall torch, aimed at a spot on the wall maybe twelve feet away, pulled the bowstring back, and fired it at the wall. It shot perfectly. I couldn't have missed the spot I was aiming at by more than an inch or two. Of course, I'd only swapped with one ranger, and I seriously doubt he was one of the best there ever was. By now, of course, the flaming arrow had started to burn a nearby tapestry, so I shot a Water Strike at it. Again, success. Water gushed from my hands and immediately put out the fire. I don't think the spell contained out my full potential, but then again, I'm wearing full black plate armor.

So I keep all my skills. I even still knew the prices of several rune items from my very first switch. It occurred to me at that moment that I could very well become the best combatant in the country. No, the world, even. In history. What could even stop me? If anyone thought he or she was better than me, I'd just switch with 'em. It would be as simple as that. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt that I was missing something. Combat isn't all plain skill, is it? Of course, I wouldn't know, having not been in the field for very long. Still, I knew there had to be more to it than that. Back, oh, a week or so ago, I said I could probably barely withstand some sort of farm animal stampede. What makes a stampede so much scarier than a cow grazing in the field? Besides the speed that they're moving, of course. I thought on it for a few seconds before the answer came to me: rage. Rage is the other part of combat. When you infringe on a wolf's territory, it gets mad at you, and that makes the fight against it just that much harder. When the Black Knights capture a White Knight spy, everyone is blind with rage, and the spy has very little chance or surviving. When a Lesser Demon--actually, Lesser Demons are pretty much mad all the time. Perhaps that's why they hit so hard. They're not very accurate, but they hurt. The same with Dragons. ...So that settles it, my mind is made up. If I want to be the world's fiercest combatant, I need to absorb all the rage I can. And this time, that means swapping...with monsters.

I walked out of the Black Knight's Fortress and started towards Falador. Obviously, in this body, I can't enter the city. I'll just have to swap with someone else before I go in--it shouldn't be that hard. As I continued on, looking for a suitable candidate, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, half-expecting a Black Knight to ask where I was going. Instead, I came face to face with an obviously unskilled adventurer in Bronze armor. "Can I have some money?" he simply asked. I grinned. No, it shouldn't be that hard at all.

Part 154: Out-rage-ous

Ten minutes later, I strolled my Bronze-armored self straight into Falador. The ironic thing is that I gave the beggar exactly what he wanted. It kind of gives more meaning to "Be careful what you wish for." I briefly took in the sights of Falador for the first time since I had helped those two people smelt their steel bars, but on this occasion, I wasn't here to dawdle. I didn't feel like wasting any time--I was on a mission. A quest for rage. Unfortunately, the rage I was seeking couldn't be found here in town. I was really heading for the Lesser Demon cave under Karamja. It's just a short walk and a simple boat ride awa--oh, shoot. The boat ride costs money! Customs officers don't get any freedom, and they're rather unskilled, so I wouldn't want to become one. I've got a better idea: get an Amulet of Glory from someone. I entered the west Falador bank and took a quick glance around. In the corner, high-alching some papers, was a mage wearing an Amulet of Glory. "Getting rich quick?" I asked, walking up to him. He took one glance at me and my dingy armor and muttered a simple "Not really." Ah, that's it, he thinks I'm going to beg him for some of his money. Rather quickly, I responded, "I don't want your money, if that's what you're thinking. I was simply wondering if you'd like some of mine." He raised an eyebrow at me, obviously now wondering I even had more than five coins. "And what would the catch be?" he inquired. "There's no catch at all," I lied. "I simply have a friend that gives me thousands of coins a day, and I sort of feel like I should share the wealth." He sighed and stopped his alching for a moment, proving to me that I had his attention. "If you're so rich, why don't you have better armor?" "All of the other armors are rather heavy, so I tend to like this stuff more. It's easier to move around in, yet still provides a small bit of protection. Anyway, if you're interested, come outside with me so we can talk in private," I said, leaving the room and going behind the bank.

I believe the other saying is that "A fool and his money are soon parted." That...well, that doesn't actually apply here, since I was the one parting with money, so forget I said anything. But either way, I was now the proud owner of an Amulet of Glory and learned several new spells to boot. This wizard guy is quite good at what he does, and I could now feel the ability to cast Wave Spells somewhere inside of me. That's a big step up from the lowly Dark Wizard I overshadowed before. And so, leaving the bronze-armored guy on the ground behind the bank, I teleported to Karamja with my new amulet.

No sooner was I in Karamja and heading toward the volcano than a monk walked up to me. Not one of those Zamorakian monks with the strange red robes, but instead a Saradominist with the brownish tan ones. "Don't do it," he said aloud. "...What?" I asked, looking around to see if he was talking to someone else. There wasn't anyone around, though, so I added, "Who are you?" "My name is Stip. And yes, I mean you, Syne. You don't need to have any part in his plan." "What plan?" I demanded. The monk suddenly seemed taken aback and baffled. "You don't know? Well...um...technically, I don't know either. I was kind of hoping you'd tell me." "GAH! You're wasting my time," I yelled, casting a Teleother Falador spell on the monk and sending him away.

I didn't dwell on what the monk had said. It seemed that he didn't even know what he was talking about anyway, so why bother? I trudged up the side of the Karamja volcano and lowered myself through its vent into the cavern below. There, snorting with rage and fighting off several other adventurers, were a handful of Lesser Demons. Perrrrrfect. I avoided the lava on the floor and made my way around to them, where one suddenly turned around and noticed me. It gave out a low growl and swiped its arm at me, but at just the right moment in mid-attack, I grabbed its arm, held it there, and thrust a single coin into the demon's palm.

Part 155: Shattering the meaning of NPC

When I stood up and looked around, the first thing I noticed was that I was much taller than normal. The second, that everything around me seemed to have a slight red tint. And the third, that I didn't care what I did next, as long as someone died as a result of it. As if to accentuate my point, I felt a sharp pain in my back and turned to see a ranger jump behind a stalagmite. I yelled at him, but all that came out of my mouth was a loud growl. And without skipping a beat, he shot another arrow from the safety of his little pointy rock. Who was he kidding? When he shot the third arrow, I stepped out from behind the stalagmite and came face to face with him. He dropped his bow in shock, but it didn't matter. With a few swipes of my gigantic claws, he died soon enough. Every ranger and mage in the place gave a yelp and ran out or teleported. All the warriors, however, came up and tried to finish me off, but not a one of them succeeded. The last one actually ran out before he befell the same fate as all the others. But now there was no one left to kill, and I was still angry as heck. That's when I looked down and saw the wizard I had overshadowed not twenty minutes ago. He was still asleep, but also--he was still wearing his Amulet of Glory. I bent down and snatched it off of him.

Several moments later, I was in Edgeville. I can't believe that worked, to tell the truth. I gave out an enormous growl-slash-roar thing, and people in the bank started filing out to see what was going on. How unlucky for them, I thought, as I turned towards the group and slashed out with my claws.

And then, it was all over. I don't know how much time passed, really, it was all a blur to me. It was probably the largest, if only, massacre Edgeville bank had ever known. Unfortunately for me, one of the warriors had some sort of whip-like thing, and got in a few good hits before I took him down. Now, although I was alone, I was injured and needed to find someone (or something) else to overshadow. Thinking seemed to be slightly harder in this body for some reason. The only thing I felt like doing was attacking. But as I looked to the north, I thought about the King Black Dragon and the power it controlled. Surely the KBD had to be one of the most raging beasts in the world, was it not? It looks like I've got one last objective. But how am I going to get all the way out there in my injured condition? Suddenly, as if to answer, I heard a wolf howl come from the mountain to the west.

I opened my mouth and let out an enormous growl. There I was, running north at full speed through the wilderness. The wolves had been afraid of me, but it didn't matter. I cornered one of them in one of Ice Mountain's crevices and somehow forced it to take the coin. The same coin, actually, that I had used on the Lesser Demon when I had been the wizard. I could see more clearly--the wolf's rage level didn't even compare to the demon's, but the speed at which I was crossing the darkened terrain more than made up for it. It was now only a matter of time...

As a lone white wolf, I bounded into the hole of the King Black Dragon's entrance hall. A quick snarl at the nearby spiders sent them scuttling away. This was all too easy. I leapt up and grabbed the lever I had heard about long ago, and a moment later stood dragon-face to wolf-face with the KBD. Two of its three heads tilted in surprise at the non-human visitor. The other head was sleeping. As I burst forward, the KBD snapped out of its reverie and blew a gigantic fireball at me, which I evaded by jumping to the right. By now the third head had woken up, and all three put their flames together for the full flamethrower-type effect. I ran quick circles around the dragon, the flames at my heels the entire way. When the KBD finally stopped for a moment to charge up another attack, I rushed in and forced the coin into one of its gigantic talons.

Part 156: A New Path

I woke up in the King Black Dragon's body, oddly looking in three different directions at once. It gave me a headache, really. I blew a gigantic fireball at the wall, pleased with myself. But where was the rage? Everything seemed oddly peaceful, actually. Suddenly, an adventurer teleported into my cavern, probably here to try to slay me. I was weighing my attack options when everything turned red and I lost control.

Kill...

...

Another one...

Kill...

No, don't kill...

The coin...

...

That was insane. I'm not the King Black Dragon anymore--I'm the person that tried to slay him. The second person, actually. All I remember at first was blind, pure rage that stopped me from thinking about anything else and led to the death of the first guy. Then as I tried to automatically kill the second intruder that followed him in, I was able to muster up enough strength to prevent his demise and toss the coin at him. He must have caught it, because here I am now. Looking over, I saw the KBD sleeping peacefully. It kind of scared me, because if I ever swapped with the KBD again, I might not be able to escape through the rage. It really is a powerful tool. Shrugging off that sinking feeling, I pulled the nearby lever and left the lair.

It's hard to explain how I felt at this point. Although I left the lair, it's kind of like the lair didn't leave me. I felt like I had activated my rage somehow, like I had woken it up. Only my next battle would tell me for sure. As I walked south through the wilderness, there was suddenly a flash of bright flames in front of me. A figure emerged from the flames and called my name. I stood there, stunned, but ready to retaliate if need be. The flames subsided, and what looked to be a Greater Demon, yet greater still in every way, stood before me. "It seems like you've done well for yourself already, Syne," he said. "Who are you?" I snapped back, unsheathing a sword at my side. The demon grinned. "I'm Zamorak."

"You've done exactly as I expected you would, given the circumstances. You've realized your potential, and, I'm assuming, set out to become the greatest fighter in history. What an unlikely choice you are, Syne, and yet you've made it so far." I put away my sword, half because it seemed he wasn't going to fight me, and half because I didn't really want to do battle with one of the gods of Runescape. "It sounds like you had this all planned since the beginning," I observed. Zamorak smiled. At least, I thought it was a smile. "Yes, well, I did, actually. I'm the one that granted you the power to switch bodies and gain others' abilities. I've got great plans for you, Syne." Great plans? Okay, it piqued my interest. "Go on," I said, still simply standing there. "I bestowed great powers on one of my worshippers, a former monk named CrazyArcher. He failed me and got himself killed. So I gave him a second chance, and he lost that one as well. I've given you these powers because you have great promise, Syne. Join me, and you will rule by my side over all of Runescape. You'll have free reign over the entire land, to do with as you please." He stopped speaking, probably to give me time to mull it over and reply. But I didn't need that sort of time. With a grin reserved for the former Black Knight leader, I nodded. "Sounds good. What do you need me to do?"

Part 157: Should You Choose to Accept It

Zamorak mirrored my own evil grin, obviously pleased at my quick acceptance. "Your first mission will be to take out your main force of opposition, the White Knights of Falador. They won't let shifty people into their castle, but as a small child, you'll be able to stroll on in and take them down from the inside. I've found the perfect child, fully capable and quite athletic. He lives in the village of Rimmington, south of Falador. Overshadow him, and then infiltrate the White Knights' castle." I knew Rimmington, but it was very far away from here. "How will I--how do you want me to get there?" I asked. "Normally, I wouldn't care. But in this initial case, I want you to walk, Syne." "Walk?" "Yes. Walk all the way to Rimmington, and leave a trail of fainted bodies in your wake. I want you to switch with as many people as you come across, and gain as many skills as possible before your first assualt. Just don't draw so much attention to yourself that they discover our plan before it's executed." A small fire started around Zamorak, burning the already-charred wilderness landscape. "You have your orders. Don't let me down," he finished, vanishing in another flash of fire and smoke.

I calmly continued south through the wilderness, thinking about my new occupation the entire way. Syne, ruler of Runescape, right-hand-man to Zamorak. This new mission sounded somewhat fun, even. I couldn't wait to see what else I'd be doing. Eventually, my reverie was interrupted by the arrival of another warrior. I think he meant to charge me with his sword, but from a distance, I threw one of my coins at him. With a confused expression on his face, he jumped up and caught it.

Five minutes later, I continued on. True to Zamorak's orders, I switched with as many people as I could, learning and mastering many new things along the way.

A wizard who increased my power over Wave Spells.
A ranger who improved my aim.
A mage who gave me the ability to turn bones into peaches.
A warrior who taught me how to parry others' attacks.
A warrior from whom I learned how to deliver blows with increased strength.
A ranger who gave me the ability to draw arrows from my quiver lightning-fast.

And this was only the tip of the iceberg. Who knows how many people I'd eventually switch with? As many as Zamorak required, came my own reply. As Rimmington came into view, I found a lone boy running around the village. He had set up animal feed bags, and crafting supplies as hurdles, and was basically jumping to and fro. This must be the agile, athletic child Zamorak had mentioned. "Hey," I called to him, walking closer. He stopped his agility training and looked for whoever had called him, settling his eyes on me. "You're pretty good. Keep it up, and you'll go far someday," I said, setting a few coins on the feed bag beside him and continuing on. "Thanks, mister!" the excited child responded, snatching up the money and fainting over his agility hurdle.

Part 158: The Warrior and the Hybrid

Jaron, Omegaman, and Ultima Cow emerged again in the Castle Wars lobby, each with two tickets in hand. "This is the highest amount of tickets I've ever won," Jaron remarked enthusiastically, dropping two more tickets into the nearby bank chest. "That could be because this is the most Castle Wars you've ever played," Omega replied with a grin. The three were about to step into the Saradomin portal for the next game when a Saradominist Monk magically appeared before them. "I'm glad I caught you!" he exclaimed. "...Excuse me?" Jaron asked, wondering if his Castle Warring was about to be cut short. "My name is Stip, the new head monk of the Ardougne Church. A young Fletcher by the name of Syne is under Zamorak's influence, with the ability to switch bodies and obtain other people's abilities by exchanging gold coins with them." Stip caught his breath for a slight moment and continued, "He's a good person, but I believe Zamorak's power has corrupted him. I think he's trying to take over the world! You have to stop him!" Before Jaron could reply, Stip had teleothered him out of the lobby, and then left himself. Omega and Ultima just stood there, baffled. "I guess we aren't invited," Omega said, shrugging. Ultima grimaced. "Sounds like we've got a new CrazyArcher on our hands. I'd go help if I only knew where they went..."

Jaron appeared, alone, in Rimmington. (Where'd Stip go? He just stuck me here and left me? Well, it's a good thing I've got all my best armor on from Castle Warring, I suppose.) Looking around, he saw a small child with a crossbow in hand walking north out of town. (Stip said young man, but...he's a lot younger than I predicted. There's no one else around, though, so I wonder...) "Syne?" Jaron called out.

I had woken up as the child, and collected all of the weaponry I had brought with me up to this point. A steel short sword, a runesack full of the runes needed for Wave Spells, and a Mithril crossbow. Finally, I could launch my infiltration attack on the White Knight's castle! But before I had fully left town, someone called my name. I turned toward the voice, but immediately afterward, cursed at myself once again for responding to a name that didn't belong to this body. Way to go. The voice had come from an adventurer in Rune and Rockshell armor. "So that is you," he said. "Who are you?" I asked, only wanting to know if he was a friend or foe to Zamorak's plans. "My name is Jaron. Whatever your connection is to Zamorak, Syne, you need to let it go." Obviously, he wasn't here to praise my skills. ...No matter. Raising my crossbow, I fired off a shot at the intruder. He pretty much dodged it, but the bolt glanced off of the arm of his armor. "You're a pretty good ranger," he said, putting himself in a stance to dodge any more oncoming shots. "Did you make those bolts yourself? I hear you're a good Fletcher as well." "Those days are over," I replied, shooting another bolt at him. He was able to dodge it, so I cast a simple Fire Strike instead. The look on his face before the spell hit its mark was priceless. Jaron was sent sprawling to the ground, as I unsheathed my steel short sword and approached him. "Not a bad mage, either, it seems," he said, getting up. He then eyed my blade as I stepped ever closer.

(I probably should have expected this,) Jaron thought as Syne closed in. (Stip told me he obtains the skills of others, but I didn't even stop to think what that might have meant combat-wise. He's small, agile, experienced; he doesn't even seem to have a weakness. Well then...I'll just have to create one, won't I?)

Part 159: It Was the Best of Plans, It Was the Worst of Plans

Jaron and I had started pretty far apart, but I had cut our distance in half by now. Then the fool started talking into his hand. What the heck was he doing? All I saw was some sort of green ring on his hand. But it wasn't an Emerald gemstone...was it Jade? He started backing up as I came closer, still yakking away. Enough of this. I pulled my crossbow back out and shot a bolt at his ring hand, which he immediately lowered to avoid the shot. The bolt missed its mark, but I believe any connection he might have had was cut. "So what do you want? Are you after the weapon, or what? Leave me alone," he yelled at me. "...What?" I asked. "You know, the White Knight's new weapon," he replied, instinctively placing his hand on his own runesack. Was this some sort of trick? Wasn't he the one that came here? Then again, I didn't see him arrive, so maybe he was forced to meet me. Perhaps that rambling about Zamorak was said to save his own skin. And a new White Knight weapon? That might be perfectly useful for my coming attack on their castle. "Telekinetic grab!" I called, forcing his runesack to float over to me. Jaron lunged for it back as soon as he realized what was happening, but pitifully missed. "Let's see what kind of weapon they've got now," I said, opening the runesack and reaching inside. Perhaps it was one of those fabled CommOrbs. Maybe a new type of Chaos/Death combination rune. It wasn't until my senses started fading that I realized I'd been tricked, and that he'd had money in the sack the whole time.

Omegaman and Ultima Cow appeared about fifty feet away, closer to the village. "What?! Why haven't you ever told me there was a Rimmington Teleport spell?" Omega demanded. "Shush, it's supposed to be a secret. For emergencies only," Ultima replied in a hushed voice. They ran a short distance north, coming upon Jaron (with his back turned to them.) Striding closer, Omegaman noticed a child unconscious on the ground nearby. "We're here. What the--you didn't kill the kid, did you?" Omega asked. "That child is the least of your worries," Jaron replied, asserting the other two's fears. "This guy's a Temple Knight. I can infiltrate deeper into the White Knights than I had even thought possible." "We can't let you do that, Syne," Omega said, readying his bow. Jaron brandished his Abyssal Whip and slowly turned around. "You'd really fight your own friend?" he asked, head tilted and an evil grin on his face. "If it meant stopping evil, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't object," Ultima said, Staff of Guthix in hand. With that said, Omegaman shot an Adamantite arrow straight at Jaron/Syne, who dodged it. "Adamantite. So you are holding back," Syne sneered. Omega grimaced and pulled a Rune arrow out of his quiver. Before he could fire it, however, Syne had already pulled out a small crossbow and fired a quick bolt back at Omega. "Whoa, you're fast," he said, barely dodging the shot in time. While Omega and Syne both reloaded their bows to shoot each other, Ultima took advantage of the lull in battle to cast a strong Fire Wave against Syne. "I haven't forgotten I'm fighting two people, fool," Syne said as he sidestepped the blast. Omega and Ultima glanced at each other in slight fear, and then smiled.

What were they up to? I loaded another Diamond bolt into my crossbow and aimed it at the ranger. He had his bow aimed straight at me as well. How long was it going to take these idiots to realize I can just sidestep their shots? Such a simple move wasn't only effective in avoiding their attacks, it also mocked them in that 'You idiots are so easy to evade' kind of way. As he fired his Rune arrow at me (ooh, he means business now) I simply stepped to the right, as I had done before. What I wasn't prepared for, however, was the flaming heat of the Fire Wave that then struck me. I had dodged the arrow, carelessly walking right into the path of the mage's spell! The next thing I recall was being on the ground, feeling like my armor was burning all around me. And probably, it was. I had totally forgotten that fire spells heat metal armors like there's no tomorrow. "I do need to work on my team attack defenses, however," I grunted as the other two closed in on me. I reached for my short sword hilted at my side, but before I could grab it, the freaking mage hit me with another Fire Wave! I don't think I screamed, but the blaze hurt so bad...along with my superheated armor burning my skin..."Do you think he can take another?" I heard the mage say. "One more," the ranger replied. And then it happened all over again. That's when I stopped struggling to reach my sword. I realized right then that they were going to kill their own friend. He'd die at their own hands with me inhabiting his body. They would succeed in stopping me, but at a heavy price. If I've done anything, I've at least stopped the one that wanted to stop me.

"Just a gold piece, Stip said?" Ultima asked, reaching into his robe pockets for a coin. "Yeah. Run this plan over with me again?" Omega asked. Ultima shook his head. "There's no time. He might regain his strength if we wait any longer." Ultima kneeled down, placed the coin in Jaron's hand, and then slumped over. "I just don't like how this is seemingly all up to me," Omega sighed.

Part 160: The Life to Live For

Omegaman stood ten feet away, Rune arrow aimed perfectly at his target. About five minutes later, Ultima Cow finally grumbled. (It's about time, Syne. My arms were getting tired,) Omega thought, his eyes narrowing. As soon as Ultima came to his senses and stood up, Omega wasted no time and shot the Rune arrow right into his arm.

As soon as I got up, the ranger shot me with his stupid arrow. It pierced my arm and stuck there. He was probably still holding back, for as experienced a ranger as he was, the arrow didn't go clean through my arm like it should have. I yanked it out, grimacing at the pain. As he readied his next arrow, I had the perfect opportunity. The perfect chance to roast the guy with a superb Fire Wave. Could've torched him. It would have been all over. But as I raised my staff, I just held it there. I hesitated. I don't even know why I hesitated, but I did, and it was my own undoing. I gave him another perfect chance, and he took it. Magical robes don't defend against piercing arrows at all, you know.

Upon getting hit with the second arrow, Syne dropped Ultima's Staff of Guthix. Granted, it wouldn't stop him from casting spells, but it greatly hindered his strength and energy. "You can give up any time now," Omega said. Syne looked straight at him. "And why would I do that?" he countered. "Because you're not this type of person, Syne. Despicably evil, I mean. You didn't even blast me when you had the chance just a moment ago." Syne frowned. (I'm getting somewhere after all,) Omega thought to himself. "I...just, don't get in my way," Syne replied, stuttering for a split-second. In response, Omega dropped his bow to the ground and didn't budge an inch. "You won't get past me, and I'm not moving."

The fool just stood there, waiting for me to hit him with a Fire Wave or something. Even the best ranger (and by that I mean me, of course) couldn't pick up his bow and shoot a perfect arrow in the time it would take for me to cast my spell. ...Yet...for some reason, I didn't want to fight him. I was going crazy inside my own head. Half of me wanted to just stop everything and return to my old life, and the other half wanted to follow Zamorak's orders and destroy all who stood in my way. It was a fight for dominance at the very core of my mind, the strangest thing I had ever experienced. And Zamorak won. I reached into the mage's runesack at my side, attempting to grab the runes required for a Fire Wave. Instead, I came up with a handful of golden coins.

Jaron groaned and sat up. (Ow ow ow, sunburn! Or...something. Ultima must have cast a fire spell on me. Or two. Or three. Oh jeez, I hope it wasn't three.) He weakly turned his head, surveying the area. Both Omegaman and Ultima Cow were passed out on the ground. (I hope that means everything went according to plan,) he thought, getting up very slowly. The plan had been hatched pretty quickly over a Ring of Talking, but Omega was supposed to put some of his own coins into Ultima's runesack. Then Ultima would switch with Syne/Jaron, and Omega would switch with Syne/Ultima when Syne tried to cast a spell. So hopefully..."Hey, Ultima, wake up," Jaron said, shaking the sleeping mage. A few moments later, Ultima's eyes opened, followed by an exclamation of "Agh, my arm!!" "Did it work?" Jaron asked him. Ultima's eyes focused on Jaron's face as he realized what was going on. "Oh...uh, I think so," he said, getting up as well. "Let's finish this up then," Jaron replied. Ultima nodded. "Teleother Monastery!" he exclaimed as Omegaman's body vanished in a purple flash. He then teleported Jaron and himself there as well.

Syne woke up as Omegaman a short time later, and was promptly forced to switch bodies with a monk from the Monastery. And as soon as that one woke up, another monk. And another. And another. And another...

"I suppose that battle went pretty well, all things considered," Ultima said, his arm in a makeshift sling. The three adventurers were standing around the Monastery as well, waiting to hear word from the monks as to Syne's condition. "Yeah, nice plan," Omega said, patting Jaron on the back. "Ow," Jaron uttered, wincing. Ykye, the Monastery's head monk, approached them. "That's all of us. Pretty sure he's back to normal, too." "That's great," Jaron said. One of the monks hesitantly approached the group, looking a bit shy. "Um...hi, guys," he said. "...Syne?" Omega asked. "Yeah, it's me. I'm sorry for what I've put you all through." He sighed, then added, "...I just want my old life back." Taking that to be his cue, Ultima teleported the four of them to Camelot.

Omega and Syne recounted the events of the battle to the other two as they all walked west towards Seers' Village. "It was really weird," Syne said, referring to his duel with Omega. "It was like I was being pulled in two different directions, not knowing what to do. And how did you guys put together a working plan so fast?" Jaron smiled. "Stip said he felt the power had corrupted you somehow. I took that to mean that you didn't only gain abilities, but personalities as well. Did you switch bodies with any really evil people, perchance?" Syne laughed, responding, "Just the leader of the Black Knights!" "Well, there you go. We figured that would work in reverse, too. If you were originally a good person like Stip said, switching with Saradominist monks would hopefully cancel out all the evil you'd inherited." (Thank goodness it worked, too,) Syne thought as they neared the village.

The four of us arrived in Seers' Village and headed straight for that one guy's house. You know, the Seer that was watching over my actual body. He was there when we entered, so I decided to pose my question once again. "Is...um...he going to wake up anytime soon?" I asked, pointing to myself over on the bed. "He might as well," the Seer said, leaving the room. ...Wait, what? The Seer came back with a green potion. "Drop your coin in here," he said. I reached into my robe pocket and found the coin that had passed from monk to monk. I dropped it into the vial of green liquid, which then turned yellow. "Drink up," the Seer instructed, with a small smile on his face. Dang it, these guys always know more than they let on. I wanted to ask him how long he'd known about my condition, but instead I just drank the potion without question simply because I didn't feel like waiting any longer.

Upon waking, I shot straight up in bed. The Saradominist monk I had been overshadowing was in another bed, and in a nearby mirror's reflection I could see myself staring back. "It's...it's finally over," I breathed. "Um...it is, right?" "Only one way to find out," Jaron said from a few feet away, tossing me a gold coin. I caught the coin and stared at it, a smile slowly crossing my face. Oh yeah. Happiest moment of my life, right there.

Epilogue: Fletching's Still More Fun

Jaron walked into the Seers' Village bank and spotted Syne over in a corner, fletching as usual. "Nice job," he said, surveying the expertly-crafted Magic Longbow. Syne looked up from his work and grinned. "Hey there! Yeah, I've spent the entire day on it. That 'Intricacies of Fletching' book is pretty useful. So, what's up?" Jaron sighed. "Oh, Omega's bugging me about playing a game of Castle Wars again. I just stopped by first to see if you wanted to join us."

"Another point for our team!" Omegaman exclaimed, running up the Saradomin castle steps to meet Jaron and Syne. "How's our defense measures going?" he asked them. A Zamorakian foe charged up the steps, only to tumble back down upon being hit by Syne's Water Wave. Jaron grinned. "Ever heard the saying 'Best of both worlds'? Syne's the best of all three." Syne smiled in reply and fired off an perfect arrow shot at the next intruder. A moment later, they all reappeared back in the Castle Wars lobby, two tickets each in hand. "Sweet. Another game?" Omega inquired. Syne shook his head and withdrew a few runes from the nearby bank chest. "Nah, thanks anyway, but I think I'll head back to Seers' Village. Combat's okay, but for me, fletching's still more fun," he said with a wink, vanishing in a violet flash of light.

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