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have liked those odds, but recent experience taught him the Minbari weren't to be trifled with. If Durhan didn't think he could defeat them all, he would certainly not have planned the demonstration.

Reluctantly Vance moved across the fighting circle to position himself behind Durhan, as the rest of the trainees also moved to find a good position from which to attack or, more likely, defend. His mind flashed back to the dark tunnel, where a Minbari who was not there had patted him on the back. What was he getting himself into?

'Denn'tak!' The words echoed across the combat hall.

At first Vance thought it was Durhan who spoke, possibly giving a salute to his trainees before he embarrassed them, but as he looked he saw the smiling face of Merreck. Slowly Vance looked down to find himself standing within the fighting circle.

Durhan frowned. The martial tutor seemed unsure of what to do, and panic gripped Vance. 'The challenge has been made,' said Durhan. Then, as though he felt obliged to explain. 'Anyone entering the circle of combat is open to a challenge. Do you accept?'

Not again, thought Vance, glancing from Durhan to the eager face of Merreck. Merreck obviously knew what he was doing with a denn'bok, and it didn't take a genius to envision how this would end. Nevertheless, Vance was trained in bojutsu, and he doubted the training pike was a vastly different weapon. 'I accept,' he replied, never taking his eyes off Merreck. The Minbari could not hide his look of satisfaction as he strode into the intricate circle.

Durhan retracted his weapon, as did the other four recruits. 'Begin when ready,' he said, watching solemnly.

Merreck crouched into a fighting stance Vance did not recognise. He held his fighting pike low and parallel to the ground. Vance's
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