the calming voice of Turval. Vance stood and followed his tutor out of the meditation hall. He noticed that half the trainees were no longer present.
They walked to a section of the academy Vance had never seen, through several doors that, had Turval not revealed, would have been completely hidden. The passageway dipped suddenly, taking them into the depths beneath the black-walled building. Gradually the smooth walls be came rougher, the light from the wall braziers growing dim until they were walking along a dark subterranean tunnel. Soon they came to a wide-open cave, where two Anla'shok stood as stern sentinels. As they saw Turval approach, both bowed reverentially and opened a door in the cave wall.
Vance could see nothing but darkness beyond. Turval stopped and turned, fixing Vance with a harsh glare, very uncharacteristic for the soft-featured Minbari.
'The Mark of Darkness is one of the most dangerous tests you will face during your training. It offers no special accolades, no medals or rewards. Should you fail, you will not be dismissed from the Anla'shok. If you succeed, though, you will join those who have succeeded, and you will earn the right to try for the other Marks.' Vance glanced over Turval's shoulder. The darkness seemed oppressive, taunting him, drawing him in, daring him to approach. 'All you need do is find the way out,' said Turval.
'How long do I have?' asked Vance, his dry throat croaking slightly.
'As long as it takes,' answered Turval, turning to one side and motioning toward the door. Vance strode forward as confidently as he could. He passed through the open doorway and stopped a few feet inside. The light that shone in failed to illuminate the cave. He turned. Turval watched as the two Anla'shok swung the door closed. The dull