The Beard That Walks held aloft Arakis to call down its mighty power so that it might slay his enemies.
The army of Gund cringed in terror; some few fled the battlefield entirely.
Yet, nothing happened.
He tried again, holding Arakis on high and screaming out his hatred. But once more, nothing happened. Never known as one to give up, the Beard That Walks tired a third time only to be rebuffed yet again. In his disdain he cast the sword aside and rejoined the battle.
Despite the failure of the Beard That Walks to summon the power of the blade, the day looked to be lost for the good people of Gund.
But then something astonishing happened. A soldier, a woman from the infantry who had fought valiantly against the barbarian horde, lost her weapon.
So she ran, but in the confusion of the battle, became separated from her Unit and retreated in the wrong direction. A small group of barbarians gave chase. The soldier tripped, hitting the ground hard. She tried to rise, but it was too late. The barbarian warriors were on her.
They stood over her, shouting taunts and laughing.
The soldier, on her back among the dirt and blood, would not give up. She searched blindly about her, looking for something. A stick, a rock, anything she could use to defend herself. Then, as if it had been placed in her hand, her fingers wrapped around the hilt of a sword. The solider raised the sword before her, showing the warriors that she would not be taken so easily. Thunder rumbled in the sky above.
The barbarian warriors grew wary and stepped back, allowing the soldier to pull herself to her feet. The warrior’s fear, however, was short-lived, and they attacked.
The soldier, who was a pikeman, and not trained in the use of the sword, found herself flowing through the forms like a natural. And though the warriors numbered five, she held them back with ease.
Yet, regardless of her newfound skills with a sword, there were too many to fight, and they soon overwhelmed her.
And so, as the barbarian warriors gained the upper hand and the soldier was about to fall, lightening fell from the sky and struck down each of her opponents.
“AND SO, AS THE barbarian warriors gained the upper hand and the soldier was about to fall, lightening fell from the sky and struck down each of her opponents.” Okama smiled the sort of smile that told people he knew the punchline to a joke that they were unaware of.
Then he continued. “Well, after that, the tide somewhat turned, I can tell you.” And with that, he fell back into his chair, and resumed staring in to the fire.
Silence followed. Then . . .
“So, what does that mean?” Asked the little girl.
“Why, it means what it means,” said Okama.
Again there was silence.
“What does that mean?” Asked a man by the bar.
“Did no one listen to the story?” Okama frowned. “Arakis was lost, just like now. Then it was found, and the battle won.”
“So, who will find it this time?” A woman in the back called out.
“How am I supposed to know?” Okama continued to frown. “You wanted the story, I gave you the story. What more do you expect?”
“What happened to the Beard That Walks?” Asked the little girl. “And the Nowhere Man?”
“Well,” Okama said. “They were defeated, weren’t they. Everyone knows that.”
“What if Lord Hob is the Nowhere Man?” Asked the girl.
“That’s not possible,” said Okama. He cleared his throat and recited: “’The Nowhere Man is forever imprisoned in the skein of both worlds, never to be freed lest the threads unravel’, everyone knows that as well.”
“But what if Lord Hob unravels the thread?” Someone shouted. “They say that the One would only return in our darkest hour. What else could that mean?”
“Do you know what it would take to unravel the skein of one world? Not to mention two? This is all a bunch of panic talk if you ask me. I believe in the One. I suggest the rest of you put your trust in him as well.”
“But he lost the sword!” Another patron shouted.
“So?” Okama then sighed before continuing. “Do you deny the prophecy?”
There was a vigorous shaking of heads among everyone in attendance.
“Well, neither do I. A thing that is lost can be found again. It’s happened before.”
“But—” someone began, but Okama cut him off.
“But nothing! Y’all are making an old man sick to his stomach to be in the presence of you.” He did not continue. Instead, he rose from his seat, and left the Inn. Not to return again that night.
The woman with the fiery hair and bundle-wrapped sword, who, it turns out, might yet have a part to play in our story, smiled as the old man left before she too, took her leave.
Here ends Chapter Eight