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for meditation and found himself relaxing. His previous excitement at the thought of a real test disappeared in an instant, as did the strange juxtaposition of pride and humility he had felt at hearing the Creed.

Only minutes seemed to pass before Vance's name was called, but when he opened his eyes almost half the recruits were gone. The rest were sitting silently at their meditations. Sech Turval stood over him, a grim expression on his face. Vance noticed the regal figure of the statue of Valen looming past Turval's shoulder. Turval led Vance from the hall, and as he followed, Vance found it difficult to take his eyes off the statue. The alien face with such faintly familiar features was spellbinding.

As Turval led Vance through the corridors of the Anla'shok academy, he noticed the absence of other bodies. No Anla'shok carried on their business, no other recruits milled around enthusiastically. There was no sign of anyone who had left the hall before him to take the Mark of Fire. Vance hoped for a glimpse of someone who had already undergone the trial.

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