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Then he directed his light beam on the wall carving just to his left.  There, in detailed relief, the life size image of a knight slaying a dragon-like creature called a korax had been carved into the stone.  The korax, similar to the tyrannosaurs rex on our world, ran on two large, powerful hind legs with an oversized, retractable claw with which to slash at its victims.  It used a huge tail for balance and two smaller forelegs or arms for grasping.  These forearms looked small compared to the rest of the massive body, but were actually larger and stronger than a human arm.  And just like a t-rex, the mouth contained large, serrated teeth, some longer than a human hand.  The korax had nearly been brought to extinction centuries ago, but now they were coming back especially in the winter when the snow forced them out of the frontier and into villages looking for food.  Years before, some looter had even tried desperately to chisel this image from the walls.  Pit marks could be seen along its border.  The thief was barely able to chip away at the wall itself, but the carving lay unmarred.  Apparently, the carving must have been made of tougher material than even the mountain bedrock was.  Despite its toughness, the image was intricate and extremely lifelike.  One could see the fierce determination in the knight’s face that contrasted with the look of lingering defiance in the korax’s.  Long ago the stonemason inscribed the knight’s name in ancient runes, Firesmyth Mancuso the Golden Lion.  

The cloaked man stood back and remembered the scene.  Only one commander had his quarters decorated this elaborately, but it wasn’t by his own volition.  The former resident of these quarters, Firesmyth Mancuso, had lead his men so well that one of them, a skilled stone cutter who was injured in battle dedicated this work in his commander’s honor after he retired.  Hundreds of years ago Firesmyth Mancuso had gone into retirement with all the other Firesmyths after the establishment of the Laws of Separation and hadn’t been heard of since.  In the stone relief, Firesmyth Mancuso wore the armor of old with a craftsmanship that could not be duplicated today.  It fitted his slim build well with just enough plastisteel to protect him but not too much to get in the way.  The sword – lighter and of finer steel than its contemporary version – also looked like it had been crafted by a lost skill.  Unlike the heavy broadsword variety now in use, this sword could easily be wielded with one hand.  True the larger, heavier swords could crack armor and deal a brutal blow when used correctly.  But in the time it took a warrior to land one blow with the larger sword, his opponent wielding the older, lighter sword could make two possibly three stabs, and all it took was one well placed jab.

The cloaked man leaned toward the wall carving and applied the flat portion of his signet ring again, this time to the jewel on the hilt of the carved sword.  Without a sound, the stone hand turned plastic, releasing its grip on the sword.  The color of life breathed into the sword turning it from a dull gray to the luster of polished metal, ivory, and a large ruby at the base of its hilt. 

He gently took hold of the now released sword and it awoke a flood of memories in his mind.  Yes, it was his.  The cold steel glistened in the white light.  The ivory handle still held its luster.  And there, above the ruby, lay his engraved initials, still legible after over 501 years.  He turned, letting the light run along its blade.  “Good morning, LaSor.” he whispered the sword’s name.  “Time to awake from your slumber.  We have work ahead of us again, old friend.  Hmm.  That’s odd,” he said as he balanced it in his old weathered hand.  “You feel heavier than I remember.”  A faint smirk drew across his lips.  He guided the sword into the scabbard with a sound pleasing to his ears.

He took an extra moment to stand and remember himself in the korax scene.  “History always looks different after the fact,” he muttered, “so much more ... stylized.”

And then he heard a noise out on the other end of the hall, or at least thought he did, the sound of something suddenly sliding along the floor until it came to rest under the resistance of its own friction, like someone accidentally kicking a stone shard as they walked.  In that instant, Mancuso knew he was not alone and rebuked himself for wallowing in self-gratifying nostalgia.

Satisfied that he could not be seen by someone in the hall, Mancuso moved the sofa aside a little.  Squatting down to where the sofa had been he whispered a word of command to the light cylinder.  The light changed from white to red.  When he directed the red light on the floor, ancient characters and symbols appeared.  He touched five of these symbols in what appeared to be a random sequence.  Stale air escaped with a hiss through cracks before unseen on the stone floor.  He quickly lifted the slab loose and pushed it to the side.  Nothing but a small wooden chest with tarnished brass bands lay underneath.  Removing the chest and carrying it under his left arm he returned to the entrance.

He neither heard nor saw movement outside, but he knew better.  That rock didn’t fall.  It was kicked. 

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Copyright 2000 by Darrell A. Newton, All Rights Reserved.
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Last updated: March 06, 2001.