The Legend of Arrav
Childhood of a Hero
Legend tells us that a mighty hero was born near the town we now call Varrock, but no record of his birth or parents were ever found. A wandering group of travellers seeking sanctuary from the goblins and ogres that infested the land found a human child while following a river on a day when both sun and moon were mingled in the sky.
The child was unusually tall for one so young, with dark eyes and a fierce countenance, yet fair hair and skin, and a kind smile. The elders of the tribe saw this child as a good omen, and decided that they should set up camp at this place, and named their camp Avarrocka. The child was brought into the camp and raised as their own child, and they taught him how to hunt, and how to farm, and how to kill, for the times of legend were harsh and cruel.
And the tribe's greatest hunter taught the young men of the tribe the skills of hunting. He taught them the skill of silence, and of the parts of animals that caused sickness and should be removed before eating, and where to stand in wind and streams so that animals could not detect the hunter's presence, and of tracking the prey in the forests through which they moved. And the child was more gifted than the rest of the young adults, as well as standing a head taller. When the time came for the young men to hunt their first animals alone, the child brought back to the camp a large stag, with fair white skin and deep red eyes, and the elders saw this as a good omen.
And the tribe's greatest farmer taught the young men the importance of farming well, and of the times of the calendar that seeds would grow best, and of the changes in the clouds that showed how crops would grow, and of growing certain crops together to prevent the sprouting crops from being consumed by the birds, and by the pests of the land. And when it came for the crops to be harvested, all were awed by the height of the child's grain, and the succulence of his fruits, and the elders saw that this was a good omen for the village.
And when the tribe's mightiest warrior taught the young men how to fight, all were amazed at the prowess of the child, for he moved as though he had been born with a sword drawn, and his strength and speed were equal to men twice his size and age. And the elders of the village saw how fortunate they were that such a mighty warrior should have been delivered unto them.
So came the tenth year after finding the child, and by all reckonings they took the child to be around twelve years old, yet the child was still unnamed. So the elders decided to send the child on a quest to find a name, for they would not be able to call the young man 'Child' for much longer. And they said to him, "Go forth and bring back a name that your people may know you." So the child left the lands around the village for the first time since he had been found.
And the child wandered far, following the rivers and hills and clouds and stars to find his name. After a number of days, he did come upon an encampment of goblins who had discovered the village of Avarrocka, and did plan to make it their own with a nightfall attack. And as the goblins saw him, they screamed at him in their own language "arrav" as they attacked him. And they screamed "arrav" louder as he bested them, by individuals and by groups, until they all lay dead or defeated.
So the child returned to Avarrocka, and the elders asked him if he had found his name yet. And the child recounted the tale of the goblin camp, and how their murderous plans had been thwarted by his luck in finding them, and his skill in fighting them. And one of the wisemen said to him:
"Your name, Child, is now Arrav, for that is the name the fates have given you. It is a curse word in the goblin tongue. The fates have decided your true name to be a curse upon goblins, for that is what you truly are." All agreed that it was a good name, and much rejoicing was had for the village had been spared the sword and the flame.
And as Arrav grew, so did the village of Avarrocka, for it was situated on fertile land, and it became prosperous. As the tales of Arrav's defeat of the goblins spread among both humans and goblins the village grew larger, as humans came to live there in peace, and Goblins stayed away, for they were fearful of Arrav, the Curse of Goblins.
A Curse in the Land of Dreams
And one night, as Arrav visited the Land of Dreams, he encountered a man dressed all in black, with pale skin, and of dark countenance. And although Arrav knew himself to be in the Land of Dreams, where things cannot be trusted to be what they appear, this man was different from the other travellers he had encountered, and spoke to him by name:
"I know you, Arrav of Avarrocka, Curse of Goblins, Hunter of the White Stag, Child of Sun and Moon. I know you, and I do not fear you. I am Zemouregal of the Mahjarrat tribe, and this land is mine for the taking. I have seen our futures, for they are entwined together, and it ends with your utter defeat at my hand. You will serve me eternally as a slave, and the town you love so much will be destroyed at your own hand."
And when Arrav awoke, he was much afraid, for he knew not how he could face an enemy that could challenge him in the Land of Dreams, and make him remember the events of dreams, that normally passed with the hours of awakening, so Arrav went to consult the elders.
The elders of the tribe could not explain to Arrav how such a man could appear to him in the Land of Dreams, and were sorely troubled.
For seven days and nights the elders discussed Arrav's encounter in the Land of Dreams, and all agreed that it was a bad omen and that Arrav could not remain in Avarrocka for fear of woe befalling the town that it had now become. So they decided that Arrav must be sent on a quest that he could never complete so as to spare their town the wrath of the ominous and terrible man. Yet Arrav's strength and wisdom meant that any normal quest could not be given, as he could easily defeat any enemy and fetch any item.
Then on the seventh night, the eldest of the elders spoke up. He had a dimly remembered memory from his youth of tales of a fabulous shield that did not belong to this world, and that was strong against nearly every attack, but whose whereabouts were unknown. When the other elders heard of this tale they were puzzled, for none of them had ever heard such a tale, and they wondered how the old man could remember such a distant memory so clearly. In truth, the elder himself could not explain how this memory had come to him so clearly while he had slept, yet all agreed that this was the perfect quest to remove Arrav from Avarrocka and protect it from the portent they feared.
An Encounter Most Strange
So it came to pass that the elders of Avarrocka told Arrav of this shield, and that it would be necessary for the protection of the town, and Arrav agreed, and began to make ready his equipment for the quest. Along with the sword he had been given when training as a child, he brought enough bread and cooked meat to last him seven days in the lands outside of Avarrocka, where men feared to venture, and set out of the confines of the town and into the lands beyond.
Arrav had not travelled far west when he came upon a strange house, surrounded by mist. Wondering what kind of being would abide in such a place, yet unafraid, he entered the house to meet three men inside sitting arguing at a table. The argument was a passionate one, and they took no notice of Arrav as he entered their house.
The language they spoke was strange and unfamiliar, yet somehow he could understand what they were arguing about, and it seemed to be about the ownership of the house they were standing in. The argument did not make much sense to him, but the first man was apparently complaining how the others had crept in while he was asleep, and that they had stolen the house he had made for himself.
Arrav wondered what the man meant by the others, but noticed a number of smaller figures, almost too small to notice, huddled around the shadows of the table chittering to each other almost below his hearing. The noises and speech of the place concerned Arrav, and he decided to continue on his way leaving this strange house behind him, for the things he had seen did trouble him greatly. Arrav headed west again, with the sounds of argument continuing behind him until he could hear them no longer.
A Meeting with the Imcando
The journey continued for many miles as Arrav wandered through the countryside seeking those who knew of the shield he sought, across a mighty river that flowed seemingly entirely from the north to the south as far as he could see and close to a towering and icebound mountain. At the foot of this icy peak Arrav did encounter a race he had never seen before; they looked like men, yet were far shorter, and they seemed unafraid of Arrav as he approached them.
He spoke to them of the shield he sought, and although they denied any knowledge of such an item, he could see in their eyes a guardedness that made him doubt the truth of their claims. Arrav stood tall and asked them who they were, and they spoke to him, "We are of the clan Imcando, known far and wide for our skills with weaponry," and seemed puzzled that he had no recognition of them.
Sure that the dwarves knew more of the shield he sought than they admitted, Arrav decided to stay with them and gain their trust, and perhaps learn more of the whereabouts of the shield he had pledged to find.
Many moons passed as Arrav stayed amongst the dwarves, and eventually the leader of the Imcando summoned Arrav to him.
"Your ways are strange to us, Arrav of Avarrocka, yet we see the honour with which you carry yourself. When first you came amongst us you spoke of a mighty shield. We know you suspect us of having knowledge of such an item, and that is why you have remained here. We have offered you our hospitality, and as we have come to know you we have seen you to be a man of honour, so speak now why you search for this item, for it is one of our greatest treasures and we cannot allow it to fall into the hands of the undeserving."
Arrav spoke of his encounter with the darkly dressed man in the Land of Dreams, and at the mention of the name Zemouregal he saw a dark shadow fall across the countenance of the elder.
"We know of this being who calls himself Zemouregal. For many years he has attempted to gain control of this shield, for it is a mighty artefact that will bring him great power against all races should he gain possession of it. Long ago we vowed that this must never happen, for we dwarves have memories of the time when gods walked this land, and do not wish to see such devastation return. Although we know you to be a man of great honour and courage, you cannot defeat Zemouregal, and we must never allow him the chance to gain control of such a powerful object. I fear that he has manipulated you and those you obey, and must ask you to leave as your continued presence here serves only to alert him to our settlement."
Arrav's heart was filled with sadness at these words, for he had become accustomed to spending time with the Imcando and learning their ways of mining and smithing, yet he knew the wisdom of these words. As the dwarf spoke them to him, he realised why the elders of Avarrocka had sent him on this quest, for their fears were the same as the Imcando's: that Arrav could bring nothing but woe and lamentations to them while staying in such a place. With a weariness in his heart, Arrav continued on his quest, for he knew that he must find the shield his elders sought whether he had the assistance of the Imcando or not.
A Battle of the Soul
Arrav wandered long through the fields and forests. He walked from the peaks in the West to the northern valleys, and at each town or village or camp he came to, he asked those he met of the shield in his dreams. Though the Imcando had welcomed him and told him that they held the shield, he could do nothing but hope that the shield might instead be found elsewhere.
Each place he went he found few who knew of the shield, and of those that would speak with him, all paled and shrank from his presence when he would mention Zemouregal. So it was that Arrav became a Wanderer: a man with no home he could return to, a doom upon his heels, and the name of an outcast.
It was during this time that Arrav's spirits sunk low, and in his sadness he came upon a cave in which he thought he might live, away from those races that might suffer from his curse, and away from those that cast him out for his curse. There, crouched in the shadows like a hermit, he watched the grasses grow and the beasts of the field go by, oblivious to his presence.
But this cave was not empty. Deep in the cave, as old as the shadows that hid it, a beast was stirring. The smell of sweat and hunger was on Arrav, and the beast that had not woken for a thousand years flicked a single eyelid open. A silhouette against the dim light of the cave's entrance, the beast looked at Arrav as men look at cattle. As silent as sleep, it uncoiled itself from its slumber, remembering the power in its limbs and the fire in its soul. Arrav, oblivious, watched the world go by with misery.
The beast, standing upright now, moved like darkness towards Arrav, long talons straining forwards in anticipation. But the beast had no conception of Arrav's senses, nor his reflexes, nor his strength, and as it came to lay a chill hand on his shoulder, Arrav spun with a blade already in his hand.
The two battled for two days and a night, each as strong and fast as the other, each fighting for survival against the only worthy foe either had faced. Then, as the sun reached the horizon on the second day, Arrav's sword caught the last ray of light and blinded the beast long enough to plunge his sword deep into its chest. A hellish scream broke from the beast's throat, the echo in the cave lasting long after it had fallen dead.
Gasping from the long battle, Arrav pulled the beast into the twilight to better see its face. Wiping the grime of centuries of sleep from its face, Arrav looked down at a creature so like himself he wept.
'I am on the wrong path,' Arrav thought to himself. 'Had I stayed here, in this cave, I should in the fullness of time become this beast - all hate and rage and hunger. I have my destiny, and I must confront it regardless of what the gods might throw in my path.'
Thus energised, Arrav went from the cave to return to his people, knowing that though they feared his curse, they also must miss his strength.
As Arrav came across the fields to the south of Avarrocka he saw over the trees a column of black smoke. It was a windless day, and this column - climbing straight and true into the sky - looked to Arrav like the finger of an angry god. He hastened his pace, racing through the forests beyond which lay Avarrocka. A few beasts lunged at him from the surrounding vegetation, but he paid them no heed, swatting claws and teeth back with swift flicks of his powerful hands.
As he broke from the forest, he saw that which he feared: Avarrocka was burnt to the ground. A few sturdy posts still stood, though they were charred and splintered. And there, in the midst of the scorched earth and smouldering remains of Avarrocka's fields, Arrav saw that goblins had done this. There were short arrows scattered about, and mismatched plates of armour and rusted mail.
Finding the few survivors hidden in the tribe's sacred place to the east, Arrav took the strongest of the men and the swiftest of the boys, and set forth west, to the land that the goblins had claimed dominion over.
The men of Avarrocka came upon the village late in the evening, while the goblins were resting after their victory feast. A few were bickering over ownership of a farmer's scythe, several were lying asleep near to the fires. There were few guards, for which Arrav meant to make the goblins suffer.
As the men swept out into a wide semicircle about the entrance to the village, lurking beneath the cover of the rocks, Arrav saw from the corner of his eye a glimmer as of steel in the moonlight. He looked across at one of Avarrocka's men who had come with him. The man's eyes were hard and determined, and his teeth were set in a snarl. He was hunched beneath a hanging rock and in his hand he held a dagger taken from the ruins of their town. Through the liquid darkness that stood between them, Arrav saw both man and beast in that body, and his heart fell.
Arrav knew that though his people had been wronged, he could not lead an attack on an enemy unaware. He had been raised with honour and pride, and he saw that it would be a slaughter more than a battle. Then, thinking hard on it, he realised that goblins and men had been killing each other needlessly for the length of history.
Motioning to bring his men back to him, he stood tall and raised his voice to the night:
'Goblins, hear me! We came upon you this night to take a blood revenge for what you have done to our homes and families. But I see now that we are like brothers who have fought for our father's attention.'
He paused a moment, waiting for the goblins to quiet themselves from their shock. Three of the largest goblins came forth from the village gates and walked towards Arrav and his men, stopping only a few yards away. In the tongue of men, broken by the harsh goblin accent, one of them spoke.
'We listen, man. What you say? Speak! Or kill you like your families.'
'I suggest peace, brother,' Arrav said. His men looked at him with shock and a few curses, but a single glance from Arrav was enough to silence them. No man of Avarrocka could deny their greatest hero's honour or compassion, and even in those days were those virtues among men. 'If you will agree to never again attack our human settlements, we shall never again attack yours. We shall share these lands like brothers under the sky.'
The goblins bickered then, and as Arrav stood and waited he watched them bicker as the sun rose, and still bicker as the sun reached its peak. Finally, the smallest of the three goblins stepped forward and spoke.
'We take your peace, man. We goblin are weak against men, and you men are few against our goblin warriors. Peace is only end to war. Come to our village to trade and we go to yours. Now leave, we have heads to crack to make peace stick.'
With that, the goblin turned about and kicked his companions sharply on the shins. As they hopped about, the goblin who had just spoken walked back down to the village and started yelling and waving his fist at those goblins hidden behind fences and clustering in the shade of the buildings.
And so it was that men and goblins came to live in peace, with no wars ever again scarring their relationship. In my days it is not uncommon to see humans go to visit the goblins, and some few goblins come to the market to trade.
Despite his victory over savagery and barbarism, Arrav returned to Avarrocka to rebuild with a weight in his heart, for he knew that his curse was not yet lifted and that Zemouregal was still out in the world, plotting the destruction of Avarrocka. And he knew that Zemouregal would accept no peace.
The Curse Renewed
Avarrocka was rebuilt, and before three summers had passed it was again a bustling town. Merchants - no longer afraid of goblin raids - brought three times as many goods to the markets, and bards came from across the human lands to see the man who had brought peace with the goblins.
Arrav, for his part, was restless. Each night he would look to the sky for portents; signs that his doom was upon him. He knew that should he see those signs, he must flee from his home to save it. Each night he would watch the skies and the stars, noting movements in the darkness, comets, the flight of birds.
Then, just as he was forgetting his fate with time, two years since the peace was struck with the goblins, Arrav dreamt again of the dark and sinister figure.
In the middle of a field of dream-black wheat, beside a river of ghostly water Zemouregal came to him. Once more the mahjarrat was clad in black, black greaves upon his legs and black gauntlets covering his hands.
'You have failed, Arrav,' Zemouregal spoke with a voice made of a thousand whispering blades, 'I will come to Avarrocka and destroy it. There will be no tears for this town, for I shall lay waste to all mankind - you upstarts will see the elder race return to claim its dominion. My legions shall blot out the horizon on all sides, and you shall be the last to see the light. This I promise you.'
Arrav opened his mouth to speak, but only spiders came out. They ran across his face, biting, scuttled down his chest and over his arms. The mute horror consumed him and he woke with a scream.
Those few of the elders that had escaped the destruction of old Avarrocka heard the scream and knew that Arrav would leave them. In the morning all rose to seek him out, but his hut was empty. He took nothing with him save his armour and his weapons. His home was as if Arrav had merely gone out to hunt.
The elders were afraid now, and talked among themselves about the danger of Arrav's destiny, of the need to find help from old allies. They sent out their scouts to seek the counsel of the dwarves and the men of far-flung towns.
The Shield Given
For Arrav, though, the path was clear. He ran for six days, resting only for moments to drink water and eat hard bread, turning his course to the Imcando. There, he knew, was the only hope he and Avarrocka could dream for. At the end of the sixth day he stood before the Imcando chief, close to collapse and asking for their help.
'Wise friend, I have again dreamt of Zemouregal, and now he promises to destroy not only my home, but all my people wherever they may be.'
The chief raised his hand to silence Arrav. 'Arrav, we know of your fate, and we know that the Enemy is rising. Our sages have felt the emanation of darkness from the north. In the flames of the sacred forge they have seen the futures, and only a single path is open to us. Once the Enemy is done with man, he will turn his gaze on the dwarves and we shall be swept aside and completely annihilated. The shield shall be yours, for you are the only one who can stop his evil.'
With that, Arrav straightened himself and rose to his full height. The dwarves saw his nobility and brought forth the shield. Though it looked to Arrav like any other, the Imcando could see the mingled metals and the enchantment it held. Arrav held it before him and hoped to see what the dwarves could see.
The Imcando chief stepped forward, barely up to Arrav's waist, and explained, 'The spells of this shield shall protect you from any magicks the Mahjarrat can summon. This is why Zemouregal wants it: if he could possess it he could defeat any of his tribe. The Mahjarrat are a solitary and jealous race and always desire to topple each other, to enslave one another. Take this shield with you and Zemouregal shall have no power over you.'
Arrav hefted the shield onto his arm, bowed and left.
Arrav's Fate Fulfilled
Knowing the fate of his home was in the air, Arrav sped as quickly as he could to return. The people of Avarrocka had not been quiet in this time, and when he arrived at the gates he saw a hundred soldiers from across the human lands. Within the walls two dozen dwarves clad in thick armour waited, hefting axes and hammers. All about him work was underway to fortify the town.
Arrav went straight to the Hall of the Elders and came to them with the shield before him.
'I am returned with the shield of the Imcando, which shall be the undoing of Zemouregal,' he said, 'his spells shall be destroyed by it, and I shall bring the wrath of my sword to his throat! Man need not fear, for where I tread shall be a waste to our foe and a paradise to our people.'
The elders clustered a moment, talking in whispers they did not wish Arrav to hear. In time the eldest raised his head to speak:
'Arrav of Avarrocka, we see that you have faith in our gods and in the strength of your arm, but what descends upon us is greater than any army any of our histories tells us of. Just this morning our scouts returned to speak of the horde in the north. Numberless, the dead have risen and march this way. They scar the soil and burn the forests, and by the morning their plague will be upon the walls of Avarrocka. We trust in you, but you must make haste to prepare for war.'
Arrav was tired from his journeys, but he knew that his elders spoke the truth. Taking only the briefest of rests, he took all the men and women of Avarrocka and armed them in what ways he could. Pitchforks, sticks and spades became the swords and spears of his defence. The soldiers that had come from afar knew their duties, and archers were lined upon the walls. The dwarves dug ditches beyond the walls and erected hasty obstacles to slow the undead army.
All night the town prepared, but as the sun rose all hearts fell.
From horizon to horizon stretched a shadow, moving and writhing like a living beast. Arrav could see at the head the tall, dark shape of Zemouregal. His eyes were pits of smouldering coal, and black smoke and snakes of blood twisted in the air about him.
Not a hundred yards from the walls, the shuffling skeletons and zombies stopped in their advance. Zemouregal stepped forward and raised his eyes to where Arrav stood and laughed. In the skies above nightmares of flame and dust took shape, spinning about in the air before swooping down upon the defenders. A hundred arrows shot into the air only the pass through the phantoms charred and broken.
As they struck, a dozen men fell dead. They tumbled from their posts with ashen faces and gashes across their flesh. Where they struck at Arrav, though, they screamed and faded, settling into the air like ash on a breeze. Arrav roared his defiance across the field and leapt down to face the mahjarrat's army.
As one, the undead lurched forwards, arrows falling upon them like rain. Nothing could slow its advance, though, and as the defenders watched, their comrades rose from the ground to strike at those who were once their friends. Each man who fell rose again, swinging twisted blades and shattered limbs. Arrav stood among the walking dead as a warrior of the gods. Nothing could come close to him without being cut down. Those that he struck with his blade did not rise again, and soon the bodies were piled high around him.
He leapt forward into the midst of Zemouregal's army, hacking a path to the sorcerer. Behind him, Avarrocka put up a bold defence, but the edges of the town were already alight, and mobs of the dead were roaming the streets unhindered. Only at blockades and fortified houses were the humans and dwarves slowing the advance.
Arrav finally broke from the army and looked upon Zemouregal. The mahjarrat was not as tall as Arrav, but in his hand held a sword made of shadow and smoke.
'Your doom is upon you, foolish weakling,' Zemouregal said then, 'your shield may save you from my magicks, but your home will drown in blood. Even now, your people are being slaughtered and shall rise again as my slaves. And now, standing before me like a belligerent child, you shall feel the might of my arm.'
With that, Zemouregal leapt forwards with a speed that Arrav had never before seen. Though Zemouregal's body was thin, each time he parried a blow Arrav felt a superhuman strength behind it. It was all he could do to defend himself, and Arrav had not the time to think of launching his own attacks. Behind them, in the distance, Avarrocka was falling.
Realising the fate of his people was not entwined in his own fate, Arrav paused. The sorcerer's sword slipped behind his guard and cut deep into Arrav's thigh. Zemouregal laughed all the louder then, and threw his hood back. A skull with burning sockets looked out upon the wasted fields and where his gaze fell there was nothing but death and evil magicks. Arrav looked down upon his shield - unblemished from any blow - and saw the truth of his path.
Running back towards the town, he took the edge of the shield into his hand and threw it as a man might throw a stone to skim upon the water. It flew through the air and landed in the midst of the burning buildings. For a moment, nothing seemed to happen. Then, with a sigh, all the dead within the walls crumbled to dust. Fires dulled and the nightmares of the air screamed their last. A few men looked out from behind barricades and the dwarves rose from a crater of bodies to see what had happened. A young man, not more than sixteen, was stood in the street holding the shield.
Arrav recognised the man immediately: it was the grandson of the elder who had spoken to him the night before, a man of honour and compassion. Before he could think further, a blast of sorcerous energy struck Arrav in the back.
Zemouregal stood over him as he crawled through the dust and mud, crippled with pain.
'Fool!' The mahjarrat said in a hiss. 'You have surrendered yourself to save your home, but nothing can protect it from me. In time I shall return. The decades pass like moments for those of my tribe, and nothing can defy our will for all time. But when I return, you shall lead my armies. You shall be my greatest champion; you shall suffer with the knowledge that though you hoped to save your people, you shall instead be their doom.'
Tendrils of oily smoke crept from Zemouregal's hands and twisted over the broken ground to Arrav, clutching him tight in their grip. For a few moments he struggled against their power, but finally he was still. Pale and quiet, Arrav, the greatest hero of men, was dead.
We remember Arrav for his sacrifice. We remember that his fate was not of his choosing, and we remember him as an example to all of us; for though he was stronger and faster than any other mortal, his strength of spirit and his compassion can be that of any man. We remember Arrav, too, because we must always be prepared for his return, sad though it shall be.
Author: Luke Milner
Released: September 2008 (part 1 - 3), October 2008 (part 4)