The Boy And His Witch: Ep. 23

The gong sounded, signaling the end of their meal. Everyone rose to their feet and filed out. Riki and Evadna parted ways as Evadna headed to her private session with her superior. He was one of the few at the Follows who was a witch too and the only one who stayed at the camp to instruct. The others were always out and about on missions. Still feeling like she’d been trampled by a team of horses, she wasn’t sure how she’d get through the next training session.

They were supposed to be working with weapons this time, so she entered the training arena and found her superior going through his exercises with a pair of swords. She liked to watch him move. He was so good it looked like a moving piece of art. She could only imagine how many years it would take to be able to move like him.

They weren’t the only ones using the training arena. The noise of combat filled the room interspersed with the shouts of other trainers trying to be heard above the din. This was one of her favorite places to work. However terrified she was in the beginning of her combat training, she found it exhilarating now.

Her superior finished his exercises and lowered his weapons to turn his sharp gaze on her. “How are you feeling?”

Evadna shrugged in answer. Smiling, he approached her. “That bad, eh?”

Evadna said nothing, watching as he scrutinized her face, eyebrows furrowed. “Every witch has their limits. But every muscle can grow stronger and our magic is the same. We found your limit today, but with exercise, we can change that. You’ll find you can do more.”

“Yes, sir.”

“For now, so that your body can recover, we won’t do any more magic today.”

He handed her the hilt of one of his swords. As she grasped the hilt, he said, “Are you entering the tournament?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

Without another word, he swung his sword and she reacted instinctively to block him. They practiced with swords, knives, daggers, and the staff for the next couple of hours. At the end of it, covered in sweat and exhausted, he grabbed her shoulder.

“Well done today. You almost got the better of me a couple of times.”

“Only because you were taking it easy on me.”

“But I wasn’t.”

Skeptical, Evadna stared up at him. Reading her expression, he grinned. “Perhaps you will believe me when you win the tournament.”

Evadna held back a disbelieving scoff. Instead, she said, “I appreciate your confidence in me.”

“Always so serious with you.”

Uncomfortable, she asked if she was dismissed.

“Certainly,” he replied, an unfathomable expression in his eyes. “I will see you tomorrow.”

Feeling puzzled, Evadna turned to leave. She was halfway out of the arena when Jack appeared, walking alongside her.

“Methinks you have an admirer.”

Frowning at him, Evadna said, “You Jack? I’m flattered, but it’ll never do.”

Jack feigned a wounded expression. “As heartbroken as I am to hear that and I think you are making a mistake, I was talking about Superior Blue Eyes. I swear he was attempting to flirt with you. You, however, were cold and oblivious, as usual.”

“You’re delusional. Superior Ranis would never flirt with the students.”

“Well, I did say that he was ‘attempting’ to flirt. He doesn’t seem to be very good at it, but I give him full marks for effort.”

Evadna shook her head at him, a lopsided smile on her face. “You’re ridiculous.”

“You know very well all the girls who would be fainting in their boots to have him look twice at them. You are to be envied.

Uncomfortable, she attempted to change the subject. “What did Superior Tanor have you working on today? Still trying to master the mysteries of the axe?”

“You jest, but the axe has many nuances. It isn’t as simple as you think.”

“Sure it does.”

Jack’s response was to launch into a detailed description of the several techniques used in wielding the axe. Evadna let him ramble on as her mind carried her to the upcoming tournament.

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The Boy And His Witch: Ep. 22

“Concentrate.”

The sharp crack of her superior’s voice assaulted her ears. Focusing, Evadna held her barrier of air up despite the barrage of arrows assaulting it. She could feel the drain caused by every arrow that came in contact with the barrier, as if they were piercing her. She was tiring.

“Send the first line through.”

Shock threatened her concentration. They’d never sent people against her barrier before. She didn’t know what to expect. And she was already waning.

Closing her eyes, she sank herself into the song thrumming throughout her body. It felt as if her very heartbeat danced to the song’s rhythm.

Even with her eyes closed, she felt the impact as the first line of Follows soldiers attempted to crash through her barrier. She stumbled, gasping for air. Squeezing her eyes shut even tighter, she began singing the song aloud. The song was her lifeline. If she paid any attention to the noise, to the drain on her energy, she had no hope of holding up her barrier.

Another attempt to break her barrier sent her onto her knees. She cried out in pain, but kept singing.

A voice whispered in her ear. “Hold the barrier, Evadna. You can do it. You are stronger than you know.”

It was her superior whispering in her ear. Another crash into her barrier and she shouted, curling in on herself. Everything hurt. Her bones ached. Her blood felt sluggish with its song. Her brain felt woozy.

Something dripped from her nose.

“Halt.”

Despite the words, Evadna huddled on the floor, mumbling her song with what strength she had left, waiting for the next blow. She dared not open her eyes, sure her barrier would fall if she did.

A hand on her shoulder. “Enough, Evadna. Let go of the spell. You did well.”

Evadna looked up into her superior’s face, his blue eyes intent on hers. She released the song, the spell holding the barrier up. Slowly, she rose to her feet, wiping the wetness on her face. Her hand came away bloody. She was bleeding?

“Take a break. It’s time for the noon meal. I’ll see you afterwards,” he told her. Evadna saluted and turned on her heel, following the rest of the soldiers to the food tent. Riki immediately stepped in to walk beside her.

“That was very impressive.”

“Was it?” Evadna said, not looking at her.

Riki nodded. “Especially when the blood started pouring from your nostrils. Now that’s sexy. All the men were in a dither.”

Evadna glanced at her, not sure how to respond to such a comment. Riki smiled winningly at her.

“Do you always bleed?” Riki said, her tone serious.

Evadna shook her head. “This was a first.”

Riki made a sound in the back of her throat in reply.

They entered the food tent and immediately took their spots in line.

“Impressive job, Lips,” said a man ahead of them in line. He was blond, with a single roguish dimple. “ You’ve got something right…there.”

Evadna evaded his reaching hand. “Yes, yes, I know there’s blood on my face. Leave it be, Jack.”

Jack chuckled unrepentantly. “Seriously, though, I’ve never seen the like.” Turning to Riki, he said, “And who’s your new partner?”

Noticing Riki’s dumbstruck expression, Evadna introduced her. Jack shook Riki’s hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Riki. You’re a lucky girl to have Evadna as your partner. What I would give to sleep beside her each night.”

Evadna slapped him in the back of his head and Riki came out of her stupor enough to guffaw. “Right. Good luck with that,” Riki commented, smirking.

Jack rubbed his head, giving Evadna a wounded look that she rolled her eyes at. “Be gentle, love. Be gentle.”

When they’d been served their food, they chose seats together at one of the tables and were joined by a few of Jack’s and Evadna’s friends. Jack and Evadna introduced Riki to them all and then everyone dug in. It was eat first, talk later. No one wanted to miss out on filling their stomachs because they were too busy chatting to eat.

Once they’d eaten enough, talk turned towards the tournament coming up in a couple of months. Evadna listened quietly, remembering the letter she’d read this morning from Alby, encouraging her to enter. Soldiers entered the tournament for a number of reasons, some for the competition alone and others to be noticed and considered for advancement in some form or other. The seasoned soldiers entered to stay sharp, they didn’t need advancement anymore. Evadna wanted to go on a mission. She needed them to acknowledge that she was ready for such a step. She needed real life experience. She needed to be able to protect Alby.

“What do you need to do to enter?” Riki asked.

“Easy. Sign up,” said Misha, a tall, burly blonde.

“Where do you sign up?”

Jack winked at her. “Eager to prove yourself, are you? Would it not be better to be an observer first time round? Better informed is better prepared.”

“He’s right,” Evadna pitched in. “As much as the tournament is useful for moving up in the ranks and making a name for yourself, it is also a great way to get a bad reputation as well. Wait a little. Watch it first.”

Riki shrugged dismissively. “I was just asking.”

Jack eyed Evadna speculatively. “Has your time come around, Lips? Are you finally going to give it a go?”

Riki and Misha perked up, listening for her response. Evadna grimaced at him, not deigning to answer.

Chuckling, he shouldered her companionably. “This is going to be epic.”

“Your entering?” Riki clarified.

Evadna looked down at her empty plate, uncomfortable.

“Looks like it,” Misha mumbled.

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The Boy And His Witch: Ep. 21

“So tell me about this prince?”

“Prince?”

“Yes. The one who broke your heart.”

“Am I that easy to read?”

“No. Not at all. I just happen to be able to see more than others.”

“He’s not a prince.”

“Of course not. I didn’t mean that literally.”

“He’s my best friend.”

“Unrequited, huh?”

Evadna didn’t reply.

“So what happened? What did he do to you?”

“He did nothing to me.”

She gave a disbelieving scoff.

Evadna shook her head. “I assumed too much is all.” As Riki opened her mouth to reply, Evadna cut her off. “And that’s enough talk about my feelings.”

“Whatever you say, princess.”

Evadna curled her lip in disgust, making Riki chuckle.

“Nighty night.”

As Riki lied back onto her bed, wrapping herself in blankets, Evadna contemplated her new partner. Riki had wavy, short-cropped brown hair and a pale, freckled face. Scrappy. That was how Evadna would describe her. Scrappy and strangely insightful.

Evadna’s last partner had left on a mission, leaving her with an empty spot for her superiors to fill. Most people at the Follows worked in pairs. After two years living and working at the Follows, Evadna had been entrusted with a new recruit. If she did well, and Riki excelled, Evadna might be able to convince her superiors to let her go on a mission. She needed the experience.

Hearing Riki snore, Evadna smiled softly to herself and pulled out today’s letter. Her best friend, Lord Albin, or Alby as she preferred to call him, wrote to her on a frequent basis. She hadn’t had the time to read his latest correspondence yet, and after Riki’s unusual show of insight, the last thing she wanted was for Riki to see the evidence on her face as she read his letter.

Dear Eva,

My mother charges me to give you her love and to tell you that she misses you and enjoys your letters. I told her she could say so herself when next she writes, but she demanded it of me even so. And now, my duty done, I have leave to say what I like. Stateshead Manor prospers, you’d be glad to hear. As I frequently complain to you, it’s frightfully boring without you here. Jaxon is no fun to play with. He frowns so and speaks ‘logic’ as to why a thing should not be done, as if that’s important. And don’t go telling me I’m a grown man and must behave like one. You know if you were home with me, we’d go on a mad romp of one kind or another. I miss you, Eva. I know why you’re there and why you insisted on leaving. I know, but most times, I don’t care. Please don’t ask me again not to tell you how I feel. I’ll go mad if I keep it to myself. You’re my witch, Eva. You promised.

Father is still frequently away, on his political campaign. Running things in his place, though it keeps me busy, is dull work. I think your life at the Follows is far more interesting. My days are filled with meetings, paperwork, negotiations, etc… Jaxon takes pity on me sometimes and lets me beat him up, though he’d call it practicing. His swordplay is improving. He might be able to give you a workout when you return.

I am sorry to hear your partner has left you. I know you two got along really well. Maybe your next partner will be even easier to get along with. Must hope for good things. When is the next tournament? You must enter this time. You’re ready. I know you are. Show them all how amazing you are. I know, I know. I haven’t seen you in two years, how could I possibly know anything? But don’t forget, I know you. You, Eva, can do anything you set your mind to. Always have.

Keep me posted.

Sincerely,

Lord Albin

With a sigh, Evadna folded up the letter and put it away. She’d write him back in the morning.

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The Boy And His Witch: Ep. 20

The next few days were strange. The entire household seemed to be going through an adjustment of some kind. Lord Albin was so often either with his father or out and about helping to run the place, that Evadna only saw him at mealtimes, if even that. One time, during the morning meal, they were left abruptly alone when his father was called away on business. His mother was still taking her meals in her room. After a long stretch of Lord Albin asking her questions about the Follows and her answering, she finally managed to insert a question into the conversation.

“Why were you absent that day she was attacked?

“Father said some things to me which needed investigating,” he began, setting down his fork. “I took Jaxon with me and together we explored the surrounding cities and villages to find the truth of Father’s allegations.”

“What did he say?” she said, after he’d been silent for awhile, staring down at his plate but not really seeing it.

“The king seeks to erase magic from this world.”

“The king?”

“Yes, the king. And I’m the best person positioned to challenge him for the throne.”

Speechless, Evadna only stared at him.

“Father is right. Jaxon and I saw the proof of it with our own eyes and ears. Not only are there witch hunts going on, but there is widespread fear and terror at the hint of magic. Such fear and terror incites horrific, inhuman acts. As you experienced so brutally the day I met you.”

“Why are you best positioned to challenge the king for his throne?” Evadna said quietly.

“Because of who my mother is. The king has no heirs. He blames magic for his inability to procreate. His parents have long since left this world, and he only had one sister. My mother is her daughter.”

“And the right to rule is only given to men,” Evadna stated.

Smiling slightly at the bitterness in Evadna’s voice, Lord Albin said, “For now, that is the law.”

“And the right to rule is only given to blood relations,” she continued.

Lord Albin nodded in answer.

“What will you do?”

Lord Albin finally looked at her. “I will fight. I will fight for a world with magic. I will fight so people like you are not hunted down and killed because of the talents they were born with.”

“Even if you must become king?”

A determined set to his chin, Lord Albin replied, “Even if I must become king.”

Evadna stared at him long in the face, before saying, “I am with you.”

Taking a deep breath, Lord Albin said, “I am glad.”

“Has your father figured out who attacked Lady Elsinor?” said Evadna, changing the subject.

“The man was a ghost. Besides Mother, no else saw or heard anything. But according to her descriptions of him, Father thinks he knows who it is.”

“What will he do? Can your father bring him to justice?”

Frowning, he said, “He doesn’t think it’s likely. He believes the attack was ordered by the king. But he’ll do what he can.”

Reaching across the table, Evadna laid a comforting hand over his. Eyes flying up to meet hers at the contact, he squeezed her hand and then released it.

Standing up from the table, he said, “I better get started. I have much to accomplish today. I’ll see you at dinner.”

He left without waiting for a reply. Puzzled, Evadna watched him disappear from the room.

Her associations with Lord Albin did not improve in the coming weeks. If anything, they deteriorated more. She tried to talk to him about it, wondering if she’d done something to push him away, but whenever she tried to bring it up he made his exit.

She turned to Jaxon for help one day, asking him if he’d noticed the way Lord Albin had been avoiding her. They were walking through the garden, on their way to the stables.

“Yes, I’d noticed,” Jaxon eventually replied.

“Do you know why? Have I done something to anger him?”

“That is something you have to ask him about.”

“I’ve tried. He won’t let me. He practically runs away whenever I try to talk to him.”

“I don’t know how to help you. I cannot tell you, why he’s been acting strangely around you and I cannot force him to talk to you.”

“But you know why,” she stated, searching his face and finding her answer there. “You do know. Tell me.”

“I can’t,” he said.

“You can! You-”

Something had distracted Evadna. She stood beside him in a transfixed manner. Feeling somewhat relieved, Jaxon looked to see what had caught her attention.

They stood at an entryway between the hedges leading to a fountain, with flowers and benches surrounding it. Leaning up against the fountain was Lord Albin, his arms around a woman. They were kissing. The sight was not shocking to Jaxon, but then he remembered who else was witnessing the scene and he felt his body turn to stone.

“Evadna,” he managed to croak out, but didn’t find the power to say anything more. He watched as Evadna broke out of her trance, running the opposite way. Jaxon noticed she left in her wake a trail of footprints covered in blood red flowers.

When he glanced back in Lord Albin’s direction, it was to find Lord Albin watching him, the woman in his arms content to lay her head on his shoulders. Anger and disgust filled his chest. Shaking his head, he turned back the way he’d come.

*********

Evadna slowed to a walk once she was far enough away. Her inner turmoil causing her to walk blindly. She just knew she had to get as far from the manor, from the garden, from Lord Albin as possible. Tears streamed down her face. She did not see the plant life that sprang up when each tear fell to the floor. All she saw was Lord Albin holding another woman in his arms.

When she reached the forest trees she delved inside their comforting presence, feeling as if they could hide her from the world. She started to run again, trying to escape the suffocating feeling pounding upon her chest. Rain started to fall. And as each drop fell upon her, she felt the dam building up within her break.

She cried. She ran. She broke apart.

Falling to her knees by a stream. She peered into the water and stared at her reflection.

“Fool. You’re a fool. How could he ever love you? Look at you. You’re not even pretty.”

Digging her hands into the grass, she turned her face into the rain. She heard the music in her heart, in her blood, and she gave voice to it. Singing and humming and crying at intervals, she worked some strange magic of grief and pain and a promise.

*********

Jaxon was there waiting for her when Evadna returned from the forest. He was soaked through. Evadna thanked him for the horse and after mounting, they rode back to the manor. Jaxon could think of nothing to say to her. Upon leaving the stables, she asked him how long he’d waited for her.

“I don’t know. A while. I wasn’t keeping track.”

She gazed at him with a lifeless expression that troubled him deeply. “Thank you,” was all she said, and she went ahead of him into the manor.

The next day she left for the Follows.

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The Boy And His Witch: Ep. 19

The earl burst into Evadna’s tent at the Follows, waking her from a disturbing dream. His face was white, a fearful expression she’d never seen before evident in his eyes. He held a crumpled letter in his fist.

“Get your things. Get dressed. We’re leaving now.”

Evadna did not question him, immediately rolling off her sleeping mat. Satisfied, he went out, giving her privacy.

Fully dressed, her things gathered in a rucksack, she found him waiting outside her tent.

“Follow me.”

At a brisk pace, he marched her through the camp to where the horses were gathered. The earl’s men were already there, ready to leave. A couple of the Follows leaders were also there, looking grave.

“I thank you for your hospitality this past week and regret to be taking leave of you in such a state,” the earl said to the Follows leaders.

“We understand your need for haste. Do not stand upon ceremony with us. We wish only to see you on your way,” the shorter of the two Follows leaders said, bowing his head in respect.

“I am grateful,” the earl replied. “Come Evadna, mount up.”

Evadna mounted, as did the earl. With a farewell gesture, the earl dug his heels into his horse’s sides and lead their party away. Evadna was hard put to feel any enthusiasm for returning home in the face of her anxiety over what would cause such fear in the earl’s heart. She tried to ask one of the earl’s men as his horse ran beside hers, but he shook his head at her. She’d have to content herself to wait until she could question the earl about the matter.

When they finally halted to rest the horses and get some food and water, Evadna asked the earl what was wrong.

“We’ve been attacked,” he said heavily, handing her the crumpled letter he’d stashed into his breast pocket.

He seemed unable to say more, so she opened the letter, immediately recognizing Lord Albin’s hand.

Father. It’s mother. Come home now. She’s been hurt. I’m sorry I didn’t protect her. – your Son.

For a moment, Evadna couldn’t find her voice. “H-how…? Attacked? It doesn’t say…”

“The king has made veiled threats. He has decided to act upon them.”

Evadna thought the letter too vague to come to such a conclusion, but decided not to argue. She opened her mouth to ask another question, but the earl spoke first.

“I’ve sheltered the both of you for far too long. And look what’s come of it,” he said darkly, snatching the letter back and returning to the horses.

It was a long journey home, despite their great haste. The anxiety and tension of not knowing what they’d find upon their return made each passing day unbearably slow. When they finally did arrive, Lord Albin met them at the gate.

He rode towards them shouting, “She’s alive, Father. She’ll be okay.”

The relief was visible on the earl. He collided with his son in a rough, long hug. “She’s going to be okay,” Lord Albin kept repeating softly. Then, pulling apart, Lord Albin led his father to her.

Torn between wanting to follow and wanting to give them their privacy, Evadna chose to join them later, following the earl’s men to the stables. It was there that she heard from one of the stable boys some of what had happened in their absence. She learned that Lord Albin and Jaxon had left the manor for a period of time. While they had been gone, someone had attacked the earl’s wife, Lady Elsinor. She was discovered in the morning by her maids. They entered her room to light the fire and found her tied and gagged on the bed, bloody and unconscious. They’d searched the entire place, but the attacker was nowhere to be found. Lord Albin and Jaxon returned the next day and took charge of the manor’s affairs, while trying to keep Lady Elsinor alive.

“Evadna, why are you still here?” It was Jaxon. “Lord Albin is asking for you. Sent me to find you.”

At the sound of his voice, she turned to him. Jaxon took one look at her face and strode over to envelop her in a strong embrace. She clung to him, not even sure what it was she was feeling so strongly.

“She’s okay. She’ll be okay,” he said, stroking her hair.

“That’s what Alby said,” she countered, her voice shaky.

“It’s what matters.”

Nodding, she stepped away. “Lead me to them.”

After an assessing search of her face, Jaxon did as she asked, taking her to Lady Elsinor. They’d moved here to another bedroom on a different floor. Evadna found the earl and his son sitting by the bed. Lady Elsinor was sitting up, the pillows bunched up to support her. All three of them turned to look as Evadna and Jaxon entered the room.

Lady Elsinor smiled and Evadna tried to contain her shock. There was a patch over one of Lady Elsinor’s eyes and her face was a maze of stitches and bruises.

“Don’t smile on my account,” Evadna said, doing her best to keep a blank face. “That has to be painful.”

Lady Elsinor winced. “You’re not wrong. It’s good to see you are home safe.”

“Thank you,” Evadna replied. “I am glad to see you too.”

There was a strained silence then. Finally, Evadna said, “What happened?”

The earl and his son both shook their heads at her, their bodies going tense. Lady Elsinor took a deep breath, then, ignoring the men, said, “I might as well go over it in detail now, with my dearest loved ones around me. The doctor says it can be cathartic.”

“You don’t have to tell us anything right now, dear,” the earl assured her, squeezing her hand. “It can wait.”

“I want to,” she said in a steely tone. “I’ve waited long enough to tell the whole.”

She went on to describe exactly what had happened to her in awful detail. It was hard on all of them, both for her to relive it and for them to hear what she had gone through, with them powerless to help. The earl interrupted a couple times in anger and grief. Lord Albin remained frozen in place, his eyes glued to the bedsheets, his hands in fists. Evadna held tight to the bedpost, crying silently with Lady Elsinor.

“I thought I was going to die in that bed, all alone.”

The earl gathered Lady Elsinor to his chest, slowly and gently. “I’m so sorry,” he cried quietly. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t here.”

“I’m not,” she said into his shoulder, resolutely. “I mean I am sorry I was alone, but I am not sorry to know that the only reason you weren’t with me was because you were fighting to dethrone the man who ordered this. A man like that needs to be stopped.”

Lord Albin exchanged a look with Evadna, one she could not read. She put a hand to his shoulder, needing to offer what small comfort she could. He laid a hand on top of hers in response and addressed his parents.

“I have decided that I will take up your cause, Father. I agree that the king should not be on the throne.”

Surprised, Evadna squeezed his shoulder. He squeezed back.

“Are you certain?” the earl asked.

“Yes.”

“Very well,” he said. “We’ll talk more on this later. For now, I must ask you and Evadna to leave us. I want some time alone with my wife.”

Quietly, Evadna and Lord Albin left the room. In the hallway, they turned to face each other. At a loss for words, Evadna opened her arms to him and he stepped into her embrace.

“I missed you,” was all he said.

“I missed you too.”

Stepping away, he tried to smile. “I’ll see you at dinner.”

“See you at dinner,” she corroborated, and watched him as he turned down the hallway and around the corner out of view.

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The Boy And His Witch: Ep. 18

It was only two days after Evadna and the Earl had left for the Follows that Lord Albin accosted Jaxon while he’d been enjoying his morning ride. Jaxon watched in mild alarm as Lord Albin thundered towards him astride his stallion.

“I need your help,” he said forcefully, eyes wild, hair askew.

Jaxon reined in his horse. “Whatever is the matter? Is it your mother?”

“No. It’s nothing to do with her. Everyone is well. I have to do some research into a matter and I require your assistance. Do I have it?”

Scoffing, Jaxon said, “Do I get to know what help you would ask of me? What matter needs to be researched?”

Lord Albin frowned in frustration. “Get off your high horse. I assure you this is of great import.”

“Assurances aside, I would like to know what you need of me before I agree to anything. I know you too well, I fear. Need I remind you about the time you ‘required my assistance’ with the farmer’s pigs?”

“Jaxon, this is no game of silliness. My father said some things to me before leaving and I would like to search out the truth of them. This could very well affect my future and yours.”

Finally, Jaxon believed in Lord Albin’s urgency. “You may count on me then.”

“I thank you. Now listen closely, you and I need to be able to travel incognito. We’ll go as far as necessary to search the truth out and we mustn’t be recognized as anything more than commoners. It would be much quicker, and much more effective this way.”

“What truth are we searching out?”

Jaxon thought Lord Albin had never looked so serious in his life when he replied, “If the king is trying to eradicate magic from our world, committing mass genocide in the process.”

“This is about Evadna and your father’s hopes for you.”

Lord Albin met Jaxon’s gaze with a steely expression. “Of course it’s about Evadna.”

Taking a deep breath, Jaxon pointed his horse towards the stables. “Let’s get a move on then. If we’re fortunate, we could leave as early as tomorrow.”

With a grateful nod, Lord Albin turned his mount and they both rode home.

Getting their affairs in order went quickly enough, and they were able to head out first thing the following morning as hoped. The servants loyally didn’t comment upon their common garb, nor upon their ample provisions, upon their leaving and Lord Albin left his mother with a note that he was going out with Jaxon to stay some weeks at a friend’s place. “Don’t trouble yourself about me,” he wrote to her. “Jaxon will take good care of me, as he always does. I should be back before father and Evadna come home.”

The story was the same with every village, town, or city they passed through. People with magic were being hunted and killed. The king was blaming witches and warlocks for anything that went wrong, such as famine, flooding, the death of babies, etc. Lord Albin had believed the situation he had saved Evadna from had been more of an isolated event. Peasants tended towards superstition and could be exceedingly fearful. It was too easy for them to pin the blame of any ill fortune on the malice of a magical person. It was easier to find a controllable factor amidst an uncontrollable situation, then to accept the inevitability of life.

Lord Albin quickly realized what a sheltered life he’d been living, how out of touch he’d been with the world around him. This world the king was creating would kill Evadna, or make her an ever hunted outcast, constantly afraid for her life, needing to hide her magic.

His father was right. The king was laying the groundwork for declaring all out war against magic. He was setting things up expertly to win the people’s approval for his new, non-magical world. His father had always told him how magic was tied to the land, that you could not harm one without damaging the other. Mallory’s teachings corroborated that fact. Lord Albin could not fathom the untold harm destroying magic would do to the very land they lived upon.

Of sober mind and heavy heart, Lord Albin and Jaxon set their course for home, having learned much in their journeying.  

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The Boy And His Witch: Ep. 17

Another year passed in which Evadna received no new tutor and try as the earl might, he could not convince her to train at the Follows. But patience was no longer a luxury that the earl had and he devised a new plan.

“I am not asking for permission. You seem to have forgotten that not only am I your father, but I am also the Earl,” he said, standing across from his son. “I am not sending her to the Follows against her will, but I am giving her a chance to see it for herself, experience it a little so she might be more informed and more able to make a decision.”

Lord Albin, his fists clenched at his sides, replied, “And you saw fit to spring this knowledge upon me the night before you leave? Making sure that I am otherwise engaged and unable to follow?”

The earl eyed his son stonily. “Some space and time away from each other might do you some good. Clear your head.”

“My head is clear.”

“No, it’s not.” The earl’s voice was harsh. “You care too much for that girl. Do you honestly think you can wed her? She cannot give you children and your life is not your own to live as you please. You must have heirs.”

Turning his back on his father, Lord Albin sought to control himself. “I don’t care if I don’t have heirs. I can choose to wed whomever I please.”

“You are my only heir. When this war becomes official, you are the one who will be best positioned to challenge the king for the right to rule. You must be able to give those who follow you the confidence your rule will be secure and security means a posterity.”

“I don’t care about the war!” he exclaimed, turning back to face his father. “It’s your war, not mine. I will not take part in it.”

To his surprise, the earl laughed. “That’s incredibly naive, my son. You cannot escape this war. The king would wipe out all magic from this kingdom. He will kill all those who wield it. It’s already begun, or have you forgotten what so nearly happened to Evadna when you found her? I do not think our world would be better without magic nor do I support a king who would commit genocide. If you love Evadna, you will fight to give her a world where she can live in safety, without fear for her life and without the need to hide her magic. Is this not a cause worth fighting for?”

The earl watched the battle in his son’s eyes. Then continued, “And would you ask her to love you even if you could not wed her, but must in fact wed another and watch you make a family with another woman? Would you ask that of her?”

“No,” Lord Albin said quietly.

The earl put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “I am sorry that being our son places such a weight and burden upon your shoulders. I am sorry you cannot simply seek your own happiness but must put others before yourself. But I trust you will be a good and wise ruler. I trust you will be a far better king than the one we have now.”

“I don’t want this,” Lord Albin pleaded. “There must be someone else.”

“No one as good as you. And it is still your choice. You don’t have to choose this course.”

A crack of thunder disturbed the quiet, bringing them both to an awareness of their surroundings.

“I will give your words their due consideration,” Lord Albin said.

“Thank you, son.”

Bowing, Lord Albin left his father’s study. His thoughts and feelings too turbulent to process, he made his way to Evadna’s room, seeking her company. But she wasn’t there. A servant suggested he might find her at the stables so he made his way there, walking through the rain as if in a daze. He found her brushing down her horse, humming as she worked. The sound of the rain and thunder had kept her from hearing his approach and he watched her unawares, as he kept hearing his father’s words reverberate in his head. Eventually, she looked up and saw him with a start of surprise. Then her whole body went still as she took him in.

Silently, he walked towards her, invading her space until they were inches apart and she looked up at him with an unfathomable expression. “How long did you know?”

“Since this morning.” She knew to what he was referring, his father’s plan to take her to visit the Follows personally.

“Why didn’t you say something?”

She remained silent. Staring into his eyes solemnly.

Wrapping his hands around her shoulders, he gave her a little shake. “Do you want to leave me?”

Evadna responded by placing a hand on his cheek. “Do not fear so. How can you doubt me? Have all these years together taught you nothing? I am your witch. That will never change.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

With only a slight hesitation, he lowered his lips onto hers. He was gentle at first, feeling her breath of surprise. But soon she responded and he deepened the kiss.

When he pulled away, they were both a little out of breath.

“Something to remember me by when all those men at the Follows start flirting with you.”

A myriad of emotions crossed her face. Amusement, confusion, irritation, settling on an expression he could not decipher but took his breath away.

Feeling suddenly uncomfortable under her gaze, he smiled winsomely. “Come. Let’s get back. We’ll both need our rest for tomorrow.”

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