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the tunnel, but nothing attacked. The growling stopped. Slowly he stepped backward, his hand held out to find something to brace himself against. As he moved his foot, something crunched beneath it, something metallic. Vance reached down and picked up the rusted metal bracket he had flung so many hours ago.

Vance's first inclination was to throw himself against the wall where he imagined the door was, screaming for Turval to let him out. He'd spent too many hours, or possibly days, trapped down in this forsaken tunnel system with himself and his own nightmares. Things that he couldn't escape. Like the human who had quit earlier. Broken not by a physical activity, but by the stress of being alone with himself. Unable to take the pressure of sitting still with his own thoughts. One's own mind often proved to be a bigger threat than anything an enemy could confront you with.

Everything suddenly became clear to Vance. This was no test of spelunking or orienteering. At best it was a test of endurance, maybe even wisdom. He sat on the uneven rock floor of the cave and closed his eyes, adopting his meditative position. Everything around him disappeared: the hunger, the thirst, the footsteps, the growling, the nagging panic, the beating of his own heart in his ears. Everything went away. Within seconds he heard the telltale grating of the cave door opening.

'Well done,' said Turval. 'The Mark of Darkness is yours.'



Harsh Lessons



Despite the dimness of the light spilling into the underground tunnel, several seconds passed before Vance's eyes adjusted. When he could eventually open his eyes fully and without pain, the smiling face of Turval greeted him. A tall Minbari Ranger draped a black blanket across his shoulders, and Vance pulled it tighter when he realised
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