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as he learned how far the conspiracy had spread and how little they actually knew of the Shadows' intentions. A small clue here and a disappearance there were the only trails the Rangers had to follow. The collation of their evidence showed considerable Shadow activity but provided too little intelligence to plan any kind of counter assault. If the Anla'shok were not brought back to full strength soon, the Shadows would be able to attack with impunity. There would be no advance warning.

Now, more than ever, Vance realised the importance of his job here. He knew his father had been right - if he had explained all this to him initially, there would have been no question of him joining the Anla'shok. But he also understood his father's secrecy. As the revelation of the Shadow threat brought cold sweat to his hands, Vance felt for the first time that he and his father now shared some kind of bond, although the two were hundreds of light years apart.

* * *

It finally happened. After weeks of trying to avoid it - or had he, had he simply been waiting for it? - Merreck stood opposite him in the fighting circle. He did not know if Dur-han engineered this, whether he wanted them apart until Vance felt ready to take on the powerful Minbari or whether it was sheer luck. Regardless of Durhan's role in the circumstances, the moment had arrived.

They didn't have to say it. Both knew this would be a "no quarter" battle. Vance could see a smouldering hatred in Merreck's eyes. Since the night of the party, Merreck always avoided Vance's gaze. Any attempt at communication was met with a turned back or a blank, thousand-yard stare.

Now they were in the fighting circle once more for what Vance hoped would be a more even match. He and Durhan had trained religiously over the past
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