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from the darkness, safe in the knowledge he was fully hidden.

When the Night Walkers finished the ceremony, half of them began to drill. Their ventars flashed as they practiced. At first they simply smashed their blades together like the Germanic duelists of Earth, but the strikes came faster and faster. Vance could see that many bore facial scars, and it didn't take a genius to imagine how they got them. As the striking blades reached a crescendo of blurred, whirling danger, the warriors instantly retreated from their partners, walking back ceremoniously, then advancing once more and starting over again.

Vance didn't know how long he stood observing the Night Walkers, but it could have been hours. He would have stood there for hours more had he not heard the deep voice from behind him. 'Spellbinding, isn't it?'

Vance spun to see the shadow-shrouded form of Turval, who had somehow managed to find him despite Vance's skill in concealing himself. Not only that, but the old man also managed to advance silently on Vance's position without revealing himself.

'It is,' replied Vance. 'Their skill with the ventar must be unparalleled.'

'Yes, its use is a dying art. Much like the denn'bok's was some years ago. But that wrong has recently been righted.'

Vance suddenly thought back to his battle with Mer-reck. Watching the Night Walkers had taken his mind off it, but now the bitterness crept back in. 'And some of us are better with it than others.' Vance found it difficult to disguise the venom in his voice, even through the croaky sound his damaged throat made.

'One cannot expect to excel at everything,' said Turval. Vance had no answer. If he admitted it to himself, he would have had to say that sometimes that's exactly what he expected. 'You must put aside your
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