After publishing my insights on the bloody diary's talk page, I thought afterward that how interesting it would be if I managed to get in touch with the other competition winners, and perhaps get them to put out something similar.
I've managed to get in touch with Rallis, the author of the Stained Journal; the following is an exclusive insight from herself.
Dragons and stories are two very important things to me, both in and out of Gielinor. I love the creatures and I love seeing what stories do with them. Runescape is not exempt from this. I love the stories about the dragonkin and all their creatures, which is likely why Dragon Slayer 2 is one of my favorite quests, and looking back it’s probably what led to the creation of the Stained Journal. That quest gave further importance to a famous figure in the Runescape world: Elvarg the dragon. She became something greater than free-to-play’s final challenge. She gained a purpose and a story, and that led to an even greater story that I fell in love with.
When the announcement came out for a writing competition for OldSchool, I wanted to participate so badly. As an artist and writer, and as someone who grew up with this game since I was a young child, it had always been my dream to submit something to the game. I even tried submitting art to the old player’s gallery back in the day, but with no success. I spend a lot of my time writing stories and drawing pieces for Runescape, and when this competition was advertised, I had recently finished a nearly year-long writing project about Runescape. It was like I was meant to participate in this competition, to give it the best try I could give, even if my story didn’t make it into the game. All I had to do was determine what to write about.
I try to know as much lore as possible from the game. This means I could easily make a list of pieces of content that have yet to be explained. First, I narrowed down some places I had in mind that I wanted to write about, such as the elven lands or Zeah or Fossil Island. Seeing as how the competition was going to be related to the elven lands with the release of Song of the Elves, I decided writing a story that took place in or near those lands would be a good idea. As I looked at the world map near the elven lands for ideas, Zul-Andra really stuck out to me. It was near Tirannwn, which is where I wanted the setting of the story to stay near, and there really isn’t any lore with the place. There’s a few cryptic pieces of dialogue and interesting inferences you could make, but there’s very little definitive lore, especially about Zulrah. That was when the question formed in my head.
Where did Zulrah come from?
I took this question and combined it with my love for the dragons of this game and the tales of the dragonkin and attempted to create a plausible explanation for the origin of Zulrah. Just like how one quest gave such a simple but important monster as Elvarg a story and purpose, I wanted to do the same to the famous hooded serpent of Zul-Andra.
Creating the Tale[edit source]
Creating the origin of Zulrah was intimidating at first. Zulrah is such an iconic monster and well-known and loved across the community. I felt like I had to be careful with this so I wouldn’t ruin such a beloved beast in Runescape’s bestiary. I immediately knew I wanted to go the route of having Zulrah be a dragonkin creation. Where else would such a unique reptilian beast come from after all? Once I determined that, I created a simple succinct outline to follow, which I still have here!
Origin of Zulrah Dragonkin dumped a failed experiment into the poison wastes. Instead of dying, it mutated. It grew huge and venomous. Dragonkin dumped it to die, goes back later to dump more failures, finds his failure turned into Zulrah. In the middle of him taking notes, Zulrah eats him. (Journal ends abruptly to show such) Dragonkin uses the poison of the swamp or other surrounding things to influence his creations and when he needs to discard a failure, he can always dump it into the poison to die.
That was all I wrote to go off of. I didn’t have a rough draft either. I just wrote and tweaked the story slightly over the course of a few days. I knew I wanted this tale to be dragonkin related, which brought about the first question. If a dragonkin had made Zulrah, why has no one ever seen him running around the swamp? That led to my decision to have the story end with the dragonkin getting eaten, filling that plothole easily enough. As I wrote, another question arose. What could have caused Zulrah to mutate in such a drastic way to begin with? How could I use what is around the area of the poison wastes to my advantage? Although not present in OldSchool, I fondly remember a quest from when I was younger called The Path of Glouphrie. In that quest, it is revealed that there is a laboratory hidden within the swamp that creates warped creatures and pumps out waste that twists and rots the life around it. This was a perfect explanation for Zulrah’s creation, as well as a good justification for a dragonkin to have the ability to have a lab in that area in the first place. Perhaps there was a part of the lab that had been abandoned and the dragonkin took over. Perhaps the dragonkin raided the lab and killed or kicked out the former residents so he could use the place for himself. Or perhaps he even created the lab himself and it was taken over by the gnome from that quest later. Either way, the environment was working in my favor. With those issues solved, the Stained Journal came into being.
Fun fact, the original title was actually Swamp-Stained Journal, but it was shortened for being too long. I also created the examine text!
The Story Continues[edit source]
The day I learned I had won the competition, I did not find out myself. Friends of mine were watching the Q&A for the week and the mods announced the winners. Immediately my Discord notifications blew up with congratulations and a clip of the contest winners’ names being said, with mine as the very last one. I was at work when I saw and I broke down crying. I was just so happy. When the update went live, I raced to finish Song of the Elves and snatched my book the moment I stepped foot in Prifddinas. It now sits proudly in my bank. Even when some of my friends eventually finished the quest, they went to the library and got the book to put in their bank as well. I’d never felt more happy and honored. And then something else happened that made me feel even more honored. People were talking about my story! It sparked discussions on Reddit! People were talking about the implications and all these things, and I even got to answer some of the questions people had! It was such a surreal feeling, seeing people talk about something I created with such interest in a game where I always thought most of the community didn’t really care for lore. The whole experience, from writing the tale to seeing people talk about it afterwards, was so beyond heartwarming and made me the happiest I’ve been in a very long time and I have everyone involved to thank for that.
My lovely little trophy now sits on my desk with a LEGO figure of Zulrah my friend made for me curled around it.
Questions Left Unanswered[edit source]
Once the story was released and people started to read it, a rather big concern popped up. If Zulrah was a dragonkin creation, why did dragonbane not work on it? People argued that it was because Zulrah is a snake and not a dragon, and that’s a perfectly plausible explanation. Truth is, I didn’t want to explain that in this story. This little journal is only a small glimpse into the giant world of dragonkin science, a tiny segment of something much bigger. Not everything about Zulrah needs to be told in one little book, and I wanted that question to have many possible answers. Maybe Zulrah is immune to dragonbane because of the properties of the swamp that warped it. Maybe it’s because the base creature was a non-draconic creature. Or maybe it’s because of something else entirely. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get more lore in the future that can set the answer in stone. Wouldn’t that be something!