Arx Rapax was a typical stronghold of evil. The walls were thick and hewn of smooth black stone. The towers rose evily from the earth, cruel splinters of stone buried into the flesh of the earth. The catacombs and dungeons under the keep were easily the size of the keep, if not larger. It was a place of great and terrible evil for a time.
But all things end, and all things change, this is the way of the world. A storied band of heroes penetrated the defences of the hoary old fortress, and in a desperate pitched battle they were able to slay the dark master of Arx Rapax, Fortress of the Predator. In the fairy tales, when the villian is defeated, his fortress crumbles around him. All to often it becomes his eternal tomb.
But it was not a fairly tale. Upon the Dark Master’s death, Arx Rapax didn’t fall. In fact, not a single slate shingle slipped from it’s lofty spires when the old wizard fell dead at the feet of the noble heroes. The fortress was made of sterner stuff than blood and bone.
The fact remained that the fortress was an unwholesome place, and it should not fall into the wrong hands again. The king of the realm set a guard about it, and ensured that none dared to penetrate it’s subterranean depths. There was no inventory made of the keep, and it was closed to the world.
It was some time later when the king was approached by the Upright Society of Civic Wizards who wished to renovate the establishment and take over it’s stewardship. Understandably, the king was concerned. It had only been one wizard in the keep before and he had terrorized the kingdom for over two decades before a lucky band of heroes had defeated him. The thought of an entire society of magi moving into such a place made his blood run cold.
The wizards of the Society expressed their understanding. They worked to assure the king that no such evil would come from the fortress again, and pledged magical oaths to that same effect. The wizards had an idea for the fortress, that place of strength that had resisted band after band of heroes, had thwarted many a thief, and cost the life of more than one curious mage who had gone to see the Dark Master of Arx Rapax.
The king approved their ownership of the fortress, so long as it was never used for acts of war, or for clandstine magical research. The mages willingly agreed, and took possession of the Fortress. With various magics, the keep was cleaned out, and many of the less controllable monsters, sentient slimes and oozes and such, were destroyed ro relocated for study elsewhere.
The manifold strong rooms and arsenals of the keep were altered by sorcery, and given wizard locks. The massive and elaborate set of runes and wards that protected the keep from scrying and teleportation were repaired, and for a time there was an uneasy period where the populace was concerned over the doings of the magi. But it was laid to rest as the black stone cracked, and peeled away like sunburnt skin, revealing shining marble walls. The tangled forest of brambles and thorns was razed, and large gardens were cultivated around the fortress.
Several inns, restaurants and other service industries grew around it’s massive feet, where villagers had once toiled under the black mailed fist of the old master. Thet had escaped when he was slain, and none would return for years after the mages had restored the fortress.
But despite all of these changes, the fortress remained an inpenetrable keep. A place that defied sorcerous intrusion and the wiles of thieves and warriors alike. The towers still struck at the sky like jagged teeth, and there was still an aura of brooding menace.
The wizards used the keep, now titled the Wizard’s Cache as a storehouse of knowledge. Vast libraries were placed into it, along with relics and artifacts to dangerous to keep, and even more dangerous to destroy. Restricted sorceries were locked away in the depths of the catacombs. Some of the Civic Wizards lobbied for such knowledge to be destroyed, lest its temptation corrupt them all. The side of prudence and caution won out and the knowledge was locked away, should it ever be needed, say to oppose a mighty Necromancer King, or other such propability.
Yet many of these things remained secret outside the Upright Society of Civic Wizards. Wizard’s business is Wizard’s business after all. But there was one more function that the wizards desired the fortress for. It was to become a repository of gold and wealth to rival the grand coffers of the Kingdom itself. It was common knowledge that wizards are seldom if ever poor and most are quite wealthy, making them favored if dangerous targets for thieves of all stripes.
The answer became to create a cache (ever wonder the root of the word cash?) for the storage of their collective wealth. Many collaborated and came up with the plan, and within ten years, the black keep of Arx Rapax had been replaced with the Wizard’s Cache.
The New Currency
The wizards grew tired of dealing in transactions of gold and heaps of silver coin. Minting tiny coins of platinum and other ultra-precious metals simply made their wealth too mobile, to easy to steal. To this end, the wizards created documents of wealth, letters of credit to trade among one another for such things as concerned them. This signatory currency was for the shuffling of heaps of gold from one vault to another.
Now the wizards, ever ones to dole out responcibility to others, created positions of administration within the WC. These were selected from the merchant class, the best educated for the manipulation of wealth and the use of numbers. Now some of these caught on to the idea of the signatory currency, and desired to create a form of wealth that was safe from thieves, but could still be used for the large transactions between guilds and merchants, suppliers and kingdoms.
It was the third Director-General of the Wizard’s Cache, a guildmaster of the Usurer’s Guild who crafted the idea. The new currency was released, with limited market to those members of society who dealt in gold measured in thousands of pieces. Loans were made, and speculation grew as the new currency grew in popularity. Thus the Wizard’s Cache soon became a finacial organization, backing King and Kingdom, merchant lords and the like.
The Straight Dope
The Wizard’s Cache is a massive bank. The restored Arx Rapax is it’s primary office and gold reserve. People who have a large amount of gold can deposit there safely away from thieves. The administrators are often magicaly geased to properly run the bank, and are elected, or reelected by the standing tribunal of the Upright Society of Civic Wizards. If the wizard’s are sure their bling-bling is safe, the King can rest assured that his money is also safe. Noew, the king would likely only keep half of his wealth in the bank, too keep all of it from being in one group of people’s control.
Why would an aspiring wizard want to waste his life working in a fortress bank making Letters of Signatory Currency? For one, he is paid in educational services, secondly he is quite safe within the bulk of the fortress, and third the pay is excellent. On the down side, there is that little matter of the thou shalt not steal geas that has be taken.
Letters of Signatory Currency
Like a money order, these are magically scribed letters of credit tha correspond to large amounts of gold or silver. It is safer to carry than bags and bags of heavy gold coins, and easier to conceal than same said bags. The wizards (usually a young wizard adverse to adventuring, there have to be some out there) creates the LoSC at the behest of a client, scribing the name of the payer, the payee and other arcane information, making the letter unique and all but impossible to steal.
Now not everyone will trust the Wizards, cuz you cain’t always trust them magicky types boy. There will still be plenty of lucre wandering around in bag form.
Taking a Loan - Many a starting character has been strapped for cash. It wouldn’t be too difficult for such a character, demonstrating their ability to make good on debts to get a materials loan. Imagine getting a 1000 gold piece loan, but having to repay it in a year or five at a decent interest rate, say 10% to keep the math simple. No problem so long as the PC, or PC party in question pays the debt back in a timely fashion.
Ultimate Heist - The thief PCs have the challenge of breaking into the most secure location likely in the kingdom to steal the McGuffin. Can they emulate the heroes of old (whose stories might contain nuggets of infor on how to defeat the defences of the keep) and penetrate the defences?
Verboten - The PCs have been enlisted by a shadowy figure to penetrate the Cache and find some of the books and scrolls of magic forbidden by the USoCM. Can they find the books of magic, do they turn over such evil works or do they question why such information would be restricted by the Society?
Guard Duty - Sometimes the gold has to be moved, and hired muscle is more feasible that using layer upon layer of tempermental magic to protect a shipment. The PCs have to guard a gold shipment, or even stand guard on the Keep itself as a show of ability on the side of the Cache.
Just a Deposit - The PCs, high level and rich, decide to use their wealth to speculate on the market, or want somewhere better than a rickety old tower to keep it in. They can keep their money at the Cache for a modest return on interest.
A Wolf among the Sheep - someone in the Administration has found a way to bypass the geas, and has been stealing money from the Cache, large amounts of it. Is it a local noble whom owes the Cache alot of gold to repay his debts, or an evil magi secretly funding his own twisted schemes? Or is it a money-grubbing Thief Guildmaster who just wants more shiny shiny? The PCs must investigate and try to recover the stolen funds.