There were some still left in the world who had not forgotten the use of magic, and one among them, a wizard and smith named Maxwell Osgood, took up his great silver hammer, and using the magic of fire and earth, created the three great swords of power. Arakis the Black. Brachiel the White. And Nachan the Red. These he gave to the three greatest heroes of Gund to do battle with the Nowhere Man and his dread host.
The Black Wizard’s armies were legion, made up of the most foul and evil creatures in Gund. Goblins, ogres, demons, even dragons. But none fought as fiercely, or were more feared, then the barbarian hordes from the north.
The Northmen were led by a man named Rangvald who’s face had never known the touch of a razor. So voluminous was his beard that he would tie it about his waist before going into battle. To friends and enemy alike, he looked a wild beast. He was a fearsome creature who fought with the ferocity of ten men, a whirling dervish of blade and hair. It was he they called the Beard That Walks.
“IT WAS HE THEY called the Beard That Walks,” Okama said.
The room was silent. Every eye in attendance transfixed on the old man. The fire blazed away behind him, silhouetting his frame in crimson and orange.
“So,” the little girl said. “The Beard That Walks was a man?”
“If you could call him that,” said Okama, smiling. “Never before has such a man walked the earth. It was said that even the Black Wizard himself stepped lightly around the Beard That Walks.”
“Why was he so scary?”
“Well,” said Okama, scratching at his chin. “The stories tell us that the Beard That Walks killed indiscriminately. No one near him was safe from his wrath. Death walked alongside the Beard That Walks, and everywhere he went blood, pain, and horror wasn’t far behind. Why, the tales talk of him decimating villages, torturing people for sport, and eating children.”
In one of those coincidences that only seem to happen when it is convenient for the narrative, a clap of thunder exploded outside at that very moment. The people in the common room gasped in one voice and the little girl cried out before clutching at her mother for safety.
Okama smiled and made his way swiftly to the girl, crouching before her so that they could see eye to eye.
“Fear not, darlin’,” said Okama, his voice soft like a spring breeze. “Rangvald can’t hurt you. He died hundreds of years ago. Besides, were he still kicking, I’d be the first in line to put a handful of bullets into him.”
“What’s a bullet?”
Okama just smiled and ruffled her hair.
“But what about the sword?” A voice called out.
“Yes,” Okama said, rising. “You wish to hear about the sword.” He took a mug of beer from the bar top, gulped it down in four swallows, and then returned to his chair before the fire. “It was near the end of the war. What we now call the War of the Swords. The war to defeat The Nowhere Man and rid the world of his evil. Each of the three swords, as I have said, was given to Gund’s greatest champions. Arakis went to Harold the Impressive…”
ARAKIS WENT TO HAROLD the Impressive, a human warrior from eastern city of Penn.
Harold was known throughout the land for his wondrous feats of strength. When the good people of the world began to unite against the Black Wizard’s evil, Harold had been one of the first to answer the call. Tales of his victories were told in every corner of the world.
When Talissee, the Great Red Dragon, invaded the dwarven mountain home of Irongate and subjugated its peoples, forcing them to forge weapons for the Black Wizard’s army, it was Harold who pounded upon the famed iron gates until they were no more, found the dreaded worm deep within the mountain’s depths, and broke the foul creature’s back, ending its reign and freeing the dwarves.
But when Harold attempted to use the power of Arakis for the first time, when he stood against the Beard That Walks on the field of battle, the sword failed him. He was struck down and Arakis was taken.
It was a dark time for the people of Gund. One of their most celebrated heroes had fallen. One of the three swords of power taken. Many thought it a sign to give in and surrender.
To be continued . . .