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and darted forward. He patted two of the coveralls, but they had nothing in their pockets. As he searched the third, his fingers closed around a rough, hard object. Vance dipped his hand into the pocket and pulled out the glittering piece of ore. While smaller than the gold one he already owned, he hoped it would be enough. One of the showers suddenly cut off, and Vance realised a miner was approaching. Before the miner had time to step out of the shower area, Vance was away and down the corridor without making a sound.

Back in the small hangar the rest of the acolytes waited. Vance was the last to return. William and Jerklenn stood together, beaming at Vance as he appeared. 'Have any trouble?' asked William.

'None to speak of,' Vance replied. 'How did you man age to get hold of yours?' he asked, nodding towards the large nugget William held out on his palm, obviously proud of his acquisition.

'Well,' the smile spread across William's face, 'Jerklenn and I simply asked.'

Vance raised an eyebrow. He found that highly unlikely, but by the way Jerklenn was smiling, he assumed William couldn't be embellishing that much. 'How about you?' William asked.

'Yeah,' Vance forced a smile on his own face, ' I asked too.' He could tell by his friends' expressions that they were not convinced.

* * *

Before breakfast the following morning, each acolyte handed over his gold and silver ore, and the precious materials were taken away. Vance felt slightly aggrieved that he had spent so much time and effort procuring the items and now had to hand them over. It hardly seemed fair.

After their morning lessons, the acolytes gathered in the Chapel, and Sinclair arrived to speak with them. At first his stern face made Vance think that maybe he had some bad news, but his expression
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