The Triumvirate shared looks with one another, trying not to appear uncomfortable or worried. Okama could have told them not to bother. They wouldn’t be much in the way of a ruling body if they weren’t worried about these particular set of circumstances.

“Look,” he said. “The One is back. That’s great. Arakis is stolen. That’s bad. I know this. You know this. Everyone in Haven knows this. Soon all of Gund will know this. Now what in the Nine Realms to you want with me? I certainly don’t have the dern thing.”

“The One,” Kendrick said. “The man they call Dominick Hanrahan—”

“Man!?” Honrig, the Dwarven King spat. “He’s just a boy. A pup. He’s no man.”

“Regardless,” Kendrick said, giving the dwarf the kind of look that could topple mountains. “He is not from Gund.”

“He wasn’t raised in Gund, you mean,” said Roberta.

“Quite,” said Kendrick. “His rearing was done in the ancient world. He knows not of our ways.”

“He’s no skill with blade nor bow,” said Honrig. “He’s no warrior.”

“He’s like a babe in the woods,” said Genivene.

“So?” Okama said.

“He has been sent to retrieve the sword,” said Kendrick.

“By himself?” Okama nearly gaped.

“Of course not,” said Honrig. “Each race has sent a representative with him to see the job done.”

“But still,” Kendrick said. “The boy will need protection. Guidance.”

“No one you sent along with him knows how to protect or guide?” Okama said.

“He needs someone who is familiar with the ways of the ancient world,” Kendrick said.

“Oh no,” Okama said, backing away. “Not again. I’ve got a happy life here. A quiet life. Ain’t nothing any one of you can do or say that’s going to make me walk away from it.”

“He needs you,” said Genivene.

Okama laughed. “Well, he ain’t getting me.”

“Come now, old friend,” said Kendrick.

“Don’t ‘old friend’ me, Ken. I’m done with his kinda crap. I’m too old to be going off on some damn fool adventure. You got warriors with him. Your best, most likely. You don’t need me. He doesn’t need me. And I don’t need any of this. I’m going back to my room.”

Okama turned and strode away.

“Do you recall the first time we met?” Genivene asked. “I was only a girl, not yet seven.”

The old man stopped, but did not turn around. “Yeah, I remember.”

“I needed you then. I begged for your aid, your protection. And what did you tell me?”

Okama didn’t respond.

“I’m surprised you can’t recall,” she said. Then she stood and stepped down from the dais. “It was nearly the same drivel you throw at us now. Too old? You will never be too old, Okama. Never.”

She walked as she spoke. Moving slowly toward the story teller.

“Do not try and fool us with your white hair and stooped look. We know the truth about you, Okama. Only us.”

Approaching the old man, Genivene reached a hand out and placed it on his shoulder. He stiffened.

“We know why it is you hesitate. But you cannot continue to blame yourself. What happened was so long ago that you are the only one alive who chooses to remember it, and your guilt has tainted your memory.”

“Don’t,” Okama said, his head down.

“The boy needs your skill, your wisdom.” She moved around to stand in front of the old story teller and took his chin in her hand, lifting her head to look into his tear-filled eyes. “He needs your heart.”

“I can’t,” his voice was nearly a whisper. “How could you, of all people, ask me to do this?”

“I ask because I know you can do it.”

“You nearly died, Gen. I got cocky and you almost lost your life.”

“But I didn’t. Look at me, old man. I am very much alive and I owe every year of my life, from that day forward, to you.”

“I can’t do it anymore. I don’t know how.”

This time it was Genivene’s turn to laugh. “Don’t know how?” She smiled and took his face in her hands. “Dear man. The day you forget how to help someone is the day the Nine Realms fall to the shadow.”

He looked at her, really looked at her. He could see a weariness in her eyes, fatigue. But he could also see life, happiness, love.

“You’ve grown, Gen,” he said. “I blinked and you went and grew up.”

She smiled.

“Will you help Dominick? Will you help the people of Gund. Will you help me?”

“Ah, Gen,” he said. “I never could say no to you.”

“Then it is settled,” the voice of Kendrick boomed from directly behind him, nearly knocking him over.

“You can’t go sneaking up on a guy like that, Ken,” Okama said. “That can get a troll shot.”

“What do you need from us?” Genivene asked.

“A horse,” said Okama. “Some supplies.”

“That is all you require?” Uto asked. “What of weapons?”

“Weapons I have,” Okama said. He opened his coat to reveal a pair of ancient revolvers slung low on each hip.

Here ends Chapter Twelve.

Steeven R. Orr is the author of Holliday's Gold which you can get for free now by clicking on one of the following online retailers:

Kobo - iBooks - Smashwords - Google Play - Barnes & Noble - Gumroad

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