“Who will stand witness?” Master Archell asked, and his voice hung longer than it should have in the perfect silence of the hall. He held ten feet of empty space at the front, but men and women stood shoulder to shoulder and elbow to rib through the rest of it, packed as tightly as kinship allowed. They said nothing in deference for the line of initiates just ahead of them, waiting.
Haiden held her place in the line, waiting as well, though she knew the question had already been posed. She glanced to either side of her, at Det, and Ornai, and Verre, and Farram, watching them. It had been four years since any of them had spoken, and this was their invitation, and still they held their silence.
They could hold it as long as they wanted. No one behind them would answer. Master Archell would never repeat the question.
Because this was the last time the world would do them the courtesy of asking if they were willing to watch what happened next. It was the only time.
Haiden did not want to be the first to speak, though she didn’t expect the extra moments of thought to change her mind. She simply wasn’t prepared to make this moment pass more quickly. It was too heavy, too kind to be pushed aside as if it were nothing.