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neither flue nor anywhere else for excess smoke or flames to escape. Nevertheless, despite the heat, the room did not seem uncomfortable or lacking in oxygen.

'This is the Crucible Chamber,' said Turval. 'To begin the path of the Anla'shok, you must first pass the test of the Burning Time. It is the first of many tests to become a Ranger, but for most it is the most difficult of all.'

A knot formed in Vance's gut. Several visions flashed in his head, the most horrific showing him needing to thrust an arm, or another even more important appendage, into the flames and holding it there until he was told to do otherwise. He remembered an old holo-vid he'd watched with Randell. Vance couldn't remember the name, but in the opening credits a guy lifted a burning hot brazier with his forearms, searing pictures of animals into his skin. Glancing down, Vance could see that all three of the Minbari had long-sleeved robes on. Did they sport wicked brands marking them as true Anla'shok?

'Cast all your worldly belongings into the flames,' said Turval simply and quietly. Vance gave an almost audible sigh of relief. 'By burning everything precious to you, you show dedication to your training and a willingness to be-gin anew as Anla'shok. Only by doing this now can you proceed.'

Vance struggled to remember what he had brought with him. His dress uniform. No great shakes. He could get another later. A spare set of civvies. No problem either. Wash bag with a razor, comb and various assorted smellies. The Minbari would certainly have equipment that could replace all that. Then again, they obviously weren't into hair care. What the hell, he was here to train, not win a beauty contest. Standard issue combat knife. That could be replaced, but he had grown quite attached to it over
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