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Now Mancuso spoke for the first time keeping an eye on all who closed in on him, “This old man drew blood before your grandfather drew the breath of life.”  He spoke with a thick accent – with a stiff upper lip and rolled his R’s -- an accent no one could quite place.

“Face facts, old man.  The days of the Firesmyth clan are over.”

“Over?  Do you not remember the prophecy?

When fire brands the smith of old,

            The stories shall then be retold,

The robber shall forfeit his gold

            And time will once again refold.”

He waited, allowing the words to sink in.  “No, the days of the Firesmyths are not yet over, but yours is at hand.”

He saw them flinch a little in reaction, but not quite giving in to this insult.  Their training would not allow them to give in.  Instead, they resumed the walk around him drawing in the circle, burning in outward anger and inward fear.

 Mancuso looked at Consus eye to eye and asked, “What would you have of me?”

“We will have what you came for.  What’s that you have in the chest, old man?  Let’s take a look.”

“Who sent you?” asked Mancuso without showing emotion.

“Sent us?”  Consus acted stunned, unconvincingly.  “No one sent us, we was just out for a little loot.  Come on, did you find some for us?”  All the while advancing, the others now jeering and mock jabbing at him with their swords when his back was turned.

Mancuso shook his head slowly.  “The false-hearted always lie: a treasure seeker declares himself an explorer; a bandit claims to be a treasure seeker; but only an assassin or worse would admit to being a thief.”  He gently placed the chest down with stiff back and bended knee, never taking his eyes off of Consus.  Patting the small chest with his free hand he replied, “Now, why not come and take a look, little children?”

Training or no, this was just the push they needed.  At once, Consus and the others rushed at Mancuso.

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Last updated: March 06, 2001.