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Dur-han finished his sentence, Vance met the Minbari's levelled gaze. His expression was still neutral, but Vance was sure he knew Durhan's subtext. The odds were against him; he was fatigued and he had never handled a fighting pike before, but this just made him even more determined to prove his mettle.

The past few days showed him the Minbari used many enigmatic, and ultimately challenging, methods of weeding out the weak and unsuitable. Vance had to keep his wits about him if he was to stay in this seemingly exclusive class.

'Some of you may already be familiar with the denn'bok.' At that he moved his wrist. The subtle gesture was noticeable only to those focusing their full attention. Five feet of metallic alloy suddenly appeared in Durhan's palm. 'It is a rare and ancient weapon. Though I will teach you how to use the denn'bok, you will not be guaranteed ownership of one until you prove yourselves in combat.'

A door at the side of the combat hall opened and a white-robed figure entered bearing a wooden tray. As he drew closer, Vance could see the tray bore small metal tubes, around six inches long.

'These are training pikes,' said Durhan, 'not as heavy or lethal as the real thing but weighted similarly, and they will suffice for training purposes.'

For the first time Vance noticed a change in the expression on Merreck's face. He looked suddenly annoyed and could not hide his displeasure. 'As long as you are being trained in the denn'bok, you will wield these weapons and keep them with you at all times.'

One by one the trainees were offered the tray. Once they all held their training pikes, the white-robed figure left. Durhan flicked his wrist once more and his denn'bok collapsed back into his palm. He stood to attention before the row of trainees,
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