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you for the rest of your time as a Ranger.' Here Sinclair paused, as if at a loss for what to say. He almost seemed angry. 'Before you begin, there are two things you have to know. The first is that I am opposed to this test.'

There was a slight murmur around the main hall. If the Anla'shok Na was opposed to this test, then it must be serious indeed. Vance began to think that maybe real peril accompanied this one. This thought made him more eager to begin.

'There are dangers involved in this test that I do not believe all of you are ready for. As such, any of you who do not want to take the Mark of Fire can skip it without fear of shame or reprisal.' None of the recruits said a word. Vance was sure that even those who had come from civilian backgrounds, which was practically all of them, would not want to back out before knowing what the challenge was.

'You do not have to give your answer now. You will each take the Mark of Fire alone. When it is explained, then you can make your decision. The second thing you must at least hear before you take the test is the Creed of the Anla'shok. It is a long litany, and I do not expect you to remember it verbatim after the first hearing. But I feel you should all at least hear it before this test.'

Sinclair's features softened. 'I know you have learned the three basic tenets I wanted you to know: delight, respect and compassion, but for this you may need a little bit more time. Please, bow your heads.'

As one, the trainees obeyed. In the darkness that settled over the room, Vance could hear the quick, harried breathing of some of the recruits. Sinclair's words must have unnerved them. Being a Ranger was no longer a novel exercise in Minbari etiquette and false tests of courage. It was suddenly serious. Vance wasn't worried
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