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rolled onto his back, hooked his leg beneath Vance and kicked upwards. Vance was in the air for only a split second, long enough for Merreck to rise to a crouch and smash his denn'bok into Vance's face.

The force of the blow flung Vance through the air. He landed hard, and from the tightness of his jaw he was sure it was broken. He could hear nothing as he raised a hand to his face. Blood was pouring from one ear, probably a burst eardrum. His head was nodding and he could hardly raise it; lord knew where his denn'bok was.

Then echoing footsteps. Vance managed to focus his vision for a moment and saw the advancing form. Mer-reck's boots reverberated like they were inside a massive cave and the floor was made of glass. Merreck's face was grim, showing no pity, no remorse. He was about to finish Vance off. Even if he had a clear head and the ability to run, Vance doubted he could have escaped the combat circle in time. He simply stared at Merreck as he approached, awaiting the inevitable strike.

The footsteps stopped three feet away. Vance raised his head as much as he could; he wanted to look Merreck in the eyes as the final blow came. The Minbari raised his denn'bok high with two hands.

Vance tried his best to keep watching as the weapon came hurtling toward him, but at the last second an inner reflex forced his eyes closed. He heard the clash but strangely felt no pain, consciousness staying with him. When he opened his eyes, he saw Merreck's weapon had been blocked by another denn'bok. Maybe Durhan decided to break with tradition after all.

But it was not Durhan standing within the combat circle. At first Vance thought he was seeing things, maybe the blow to his head had done something to his vision. Jerklenn had come to his defence.

Vance raised a hand,
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