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was the first. After the second, Merreck did not go straight into the third move. Instead, as their weapons clashed, he dragged his weapon downward and across Vance's knuckles. Vance cried out and released his right hand's hold on the denn'bok.

Merreck performed the rest of the combination, but now Vance was in no position to defend himself. He leapt over the next low blow and attempted to parry the last move with his arm, but it never came. Again, Merreck improvised his attack, hooking his foot around the Vance's leg. Already unbalanced, Merreck's elbow strike into his sternum knocked Vance to the ground.

Normally this would signal the end of the combat, but intuition told Vance not to drop his guard. It was a wise decision. Merreck struck down at Vance's prone form. Vance managed to grab his denn'bok with both hands once more and held up the shaft to parry. The sound of the ferricite weapons smashing into each other was deafening. Again, Merreck struck down, and Vance parried once more. He could feel his arms quiver. More blows like this would soon leave him completely unable to defend himself. Merreck stood over him so he could not roll away. A kick at Mer-reck's groin would be risky for two reasons: one, the Min-bari was probably expecting it; and two, he was tough. A groin strike would just serve to make him madder.

When the third blow rained down, Vance struck out with one end of his fighting pike, deflecting the blow away to the floor. A cracking sound echoed as Merreck's denn'bok sent chips of cerracrete flying into the air. Vance lashed out with the end of his pike still in the air, catching Merreck across the jaw. The reprieve allowed him to bend his knees and use his denn'bok as a lever to roll backwards.

Merreck's assault did not cease. Vance realised
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