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of. 'I believe his father was killed in the war with the humans. Since you are the person here who most closely represents the military of Earth, Merreck has taken it on himself to prove he can best you. That way he believes he can regain the honour lost through the death of his father.'

'Great,' breathed Vance. 'I don't suppose explaining to him that I was only a teenager when the war ended will help any.'

'It matters not to Merreck. Only that you are defeated.'

'Oh well,' William cut in. 'Could be worse.'

'How?' asked Vance.

'Well, you've me to watch your back,' William smiled.

'Great,' said Vance. 'A wandering minstrel as my backup. What are you going to do, philosophise him away from me? Thanks for the offer, but this one I think I can handle.'

'I would advise caution,' said Jerklenn. 'Merreck is the nephew of Neroon himself. After Merreck's father died, Neroon took it upon himself to teach the boy as much as he could of the Warrior Caste's traditions and martial skills. Despite his youth, Merreck is a deadly combatant. No matter how skilled a warrior you are, Merreck could certainly best you in any form of martial combat.'

'I'd like to see him in action,' said William.

Vance looked at him in disbelief. William realised his jovial remark did not help matters. 'Just stick around,' said Vance, glancing over to Merreck's table. 'You might get a chance sooner than you think.'

After eating, the trainees moved straight to a large open hall that contained various simulated corridors, ladders, ropes and other obstacles. After everyone filed in, the lights dimmed.

'Here you will learn the Code of Tuvor.' The deep and echoing voice emanated from more than one of the shadowy recesses secreted across the hall. 'There are several lessons I will teach
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