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deeply as he approached the combat circle. Merreck ignored him, perfectly executing the complex moves. Vance finally reached the edge of the circle, careful not to step beyond its intricate boundary. He began to speak in flawless Warrior Caste Minbari.

'Greetings from the earth to the stars. As far as you ride may the light guide your way and your mount remain steady.' Vance levelled a gaze at the Minbari and waited for the requisite reply.

At these words, Merreck stopped dead mid-strike. Vance saw he recognised the words and did not like them one bit. Vance hoped Merreck remembered - and cared - that failing to reply would mean losing face and dishonouring the clan.

Merreck had his back to Vance, his fist wrapped tightly around the denn'bok. Vance could not fail to see the whiteness of the knuckles and the slight trembling. Slowly he turned, his eyes flaming in fury but his jaw clamped firmly shut. The expletives he wanted to express must have been burning in his throat.

'Fire burns for my clan,' he began. 'Rain slakes our thirst and we prosper. Who wishes to share the fortunes of the Star Riders?'

'James Vance.' The reply was without hesitation. Vance wasn't about to waste any time.

'Then kneel, James Vance, and tell why you should be honoured thus.'

Vance quickly fell to one knee, making sure he kept his eyes on Merreck's feet. This was a crucial part of the ritual and to hold any kind of eye contact would show a lack of respect. 'I honour as the Star Riders honour. I fight as the Star Riders fight. I worship as the Star Riders worship. Together we can roam the plains and watch the stars, and you will know my friendship is unmatched. Our joining makes us stronger until I sunder it.'

Vance slowly looked up. Merreck's face was resigned to what had
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