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Maybe then he could gain some hint of what was to come that might have set his mind at ease. The winding corridors led them down to the lower levels of the academy. By now, Vance knew the building well enough to recognise they approached the landing pad where he had first arrived.

Turval silently led him out of a small side exit and onto the wide platform. No spacecraft occupied the vast landing pad. Fanning out in a line across the centre was what seemed to Vance the entire contingent of fully trained Anla'shok. Some of them were breathing heavily, one seemed to show the beginnings of a black eye, and they all stared directly at Vance.

His quick glance at Turval was not returned. Instead the Minbari marched to one end of the platform and turned to face the line of black-garbed Rangers. Vance followed, turning to face them as well, standing shoulder to shoulder with his tutor. They stood for several seconds, watching the impassive wall of Minbari Anla'shok stare back at them. The night was clear, and if the floodlights on the walls had not illuminated the platform, the array of glittering stars would have done just as well.

'You must pass to the other side,' said Turval. Vance continued to stare at the seemingly impregnable wall barring his way. Turval reached into his robes and produced two cylindrical items. The first was instantly recognisable as a denn'bok, but not the training version Vance already owned; this was a genuine fighting pike. The second was much longer and had a switch on one side. 'Once you begin the test, you may neither speak to nor strike out at those who would stop you reaching your goal.'

Vance frowned at Turval. 'Then what's the point in having weapons?'

Turval regarded Vance with his grim look. 'Neither speak nor strike out,' he

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