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elite, ready for whatever challenge they could pit against him.

Before long Vance's turn came, and a black-robed figure suddenly stood before him. Silently, the figure raised an arm, beckoning Vance to walk forward into the darkness. Vance obeyed, fearlessly embracing the darkness. After only ten steps he was suddenly bathed in pale blue light. The surrounding blackness instantly switched to a huge field of stars enclosing him on every side. Then, one after the other, nine more blue lights each illuminated a single shrouded figure, until he was eventually surrounded.

'Who wishes to speak the last words of youth?' It was a woman's voice, stern and clear.

'James Vance,' he replied.

'And what are you, James Vance?' This time the voice was male.

'I am a Ranger,' he said, without hesitation.

One of the figures strode forward, head hidden by a grey hood. In one hand the figure held a staff with an ornate head, and his other was clenched into a fist but held out, palm upward. 'Are you the light that seeks out every place that the shadows might hide?' asked the figure.

'I am a Ranger,' Vance replied.

'Do you come to the place between the candle and the star?'

'I am a Ranger.' Vance realised he was saying the words without thinking, as though he had rehearsed this scene a hundred times, even though he hadn't.

'Will you remain forever true, forever Anla'shok?' asked the figure.

'I am a Ranger,' replied Vance once more.

Slowly the figure dipped the staff and touched it to Vance's forehead. He felt energy suddenly wash through him, like a cleansing of the soul. The figure raised his upturned fist and opened his hand. The Ranger's pin, a stone set in gold and silver, sat there. Vance took it and bowed.

'Welcome, Anla'shok,' said the figure. 'Stride
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