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In one swift motion, Mancuso flung his cloak at those just behind him and lunged at those before him.  His blade grew hot with a bright amber edge.  LaSor was no ordinary blade; it had a heritage older than Cah Bel and came from unknown origins.  It could slice through steal and stone as easily as through flesh.

The first Shadow Knight to come toward him must have known of LaSor’s history, for as soon as he saw the amber edge he dodged rather than parried Mancuso’s first slice.  Mancuso’s jab glanced to the side, but using this momentum he ducked to one knee swung around with other leg outstretched and tripped this knight.  As the knight fell back he tried to balance his fall with a stone bench.  Mancuso sliced up through the bench leg.  It crumbled and Mancuso kicked it on top of the knight ... one knight down, for the moment.

With no time to rest, another knight used a bench to jump high into the air and landed right behind Mancuso.  He did not land right, and in the moment it took him to catch his balance, Mancuso, still low to the ground, kicked up.  The blow landed squarely in the knight’s gullet.  The man’s hands went to his chest gasping for air.  He stumbled back and fell over the bench he had just jumped over.  The dull thud of his head hitting the stone pavement told Mancuso he would not have to worry about this one ... two down.

Mancuso had to remind himself that his goal was to repel, disarm, and question these men, not kill them.

He jumped up seeing two more coming at him swords ready.  Apparently they had not heard about LaSor.  Mancuso took full advantage of this ignorance as the two knights took up a dual ambush position, a standard tactic of the Shadow Knights.  They depended upon out-numbering and out-maneuvering their prey taking every dirty opportunity they could to claim a victory.  “Not very honorable,” Mancuso mumbled.  “I have no qualms teaching you a lesson in manners.”

As LaSor came down across the first man’s blade they locked for a split second.  LaSor instantly glowed white hot as if in anger.  Then, to the astonishment of the Shadow Knight, his blade split asunder into a shower of a thousand sparks.  The shock of the blast blinded the unprepared knight who dropped the blackened hilt and stepped back holding his eyes in pain.

Not wasting the momentum, Mancuso continued to swing around and catch the other knight unprepared.  Instead of bringing the full force of the still white hot edge against his opponent’s blade, he used the flat side of LaSor to deliver a shocking blow.  This with a twisting flick of his wrist ripped the knight’s sword from his numbed hand and sent it flying into the air.  The knight watched it as it flipped end over end and started its way back down again.  He did not remember seeing it hit the ground but saw only darkness and would wake hours later with a welt the size of LaSor’s ruby on his left temple ... three and four down.

The next knight held back a little further seeing what just happened to his comrades. 

“You’re ... you’re a real Firesmyth,” he sputtered. 

Firesmyth Mancuso just smiled and bowed gracefully.

Seeing that he was alone ... the knight ran.

Alone?  What about six?  Mancuso turned and looked.  No one else around except for the ones he already vanquished.  “But I saw six,” he muttered.  “Where is the leader and,” he wondered with dread, “where is the chest.”

Gone. 

With a moan the blinded Shadow Knight blinked and started to regain sight only to see a blur of Mancuso rushing him.  The knight shifted his weight to a ready stance but it was too late and he felt his legs sweep out from under him.  The ground impacted with a thud that knocked his breath out.  He opened his eyes only to look down at a glowing blade beneath his chin.

“Who sent you?” asked Mancuso pressing the flat tip against his chin. 

Despite his pain the fallen knight replied only with a look of silent defiance.

“It must be someone who you fear more than death.  Who?”

The knight looked at him through narrowed eyes and hissed, “Someone you should fear.”

 “No,” Mancuso replied shaking his head, “someone I pity.  Now how did you know of my coming?”

“Don’t you think my master would know the hour and place of your return?”

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