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way back to their quarters. Vance waited for Merreck to show his true reaction to his appointment as leader, but it never came.

More silence surrounded them as they ate in the dinner hall. None of the Rangers made eye contact in the all-but-deserted room. It appeared that since their arrival, even more new recruits had been sent out on missions of their own. Afterward, Vance headed off toward the Chapel to see if he could recapture any of the serenity he had previously felt there. The prospect seemed shattered when he heard a deep voice behind him. 'Vance!'

He turned and his heart immediately sank. Here we go, he thought. It was only a matter of time. Merreck stood for some seconds, as though unsure of how to begin. Vance almost spoke himself, wanting to hurry Merreck up and get this all over with. 'Greetings from the earth to the stars,' said Merreck, and Vance recognised the words of the Star Rider ritual immediately. 'As far as you ride may the light guide your way and your mount remain steady.'

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

'Merreck of the Anla'shok.'

'Then kneel, Merreck of the Anla'shok, and tell why you should be honoured thus.'

'I honour as the Star Riders honour,' Merreck began. As he continued, he looked into Vance's eyes, speaking as though he really meant the words and wanted Vance to believe them too. '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.'

When Merreck had finished Vance held out his arm. Merreck grasped it and rose to his feet. 'Now we are as brothers, and
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