Evadna’s mother didn’t make it for the funeral. Evadna told herself it didn’t matter, but her emotions demanded otherwise. She wanted desperately to be a little girl and cry in her mother’s arms. Instead, she stood tall and still while she watched them light Mallory’s funeral pyre, her mind in a fog. She barely even registered Lord Albin by her side.
When the time came, she stepped forward and sang the last rites, performing a little magic in Mallory’s memory. Mallory’s favorite flowers were small and white, called Lace. Evadna called upon the earth to grow Lace around the site of her pyre. It would always grow there now.
Lord Albin guided her to dinner afterwards. She didn’t even recall how she got there. With his watchful eye on her, she forced herself to eat. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she excused herself from the table. Once she was out of sight, she ran to her room, needing desperately to be alone.
And so, when Lord Albin came in unannounced an hour later, he found her curled up on the floor of her room sobbing. He didn’t bother to say anything. He simply sat in a chair and stared out the window, feeling helpless to soothe her but unable to leave her alone.
When exhaustion wore Evadna out, he coaxed her into bed, tucking the sheets in around her.
“I can’t sleep in these clothes,” Evadna stated, her voice raspy, eyes bleary.
“Yes, you can.”
Evadna had no energy to argue. Instead, she closed her eyes and listened as he quietly left the room.
Lord Albin found his father waiting for him in the hallway.
“How is she?” the earl inquired.
Lord Albin shrugged. “I don’t know.”
The earl frowned and gestured for his son to follow him. Together, they wound their way back to the now empty dining room.
“It’s time, Albin, to look more seriously towards Evadna’s future,” the earl began.
In trepidation, Lord Albin said, “What do you mean?”
“I mean it might be time to send Evadna to the Follows.”
“No,” Lord Albin exclaimed. “She just watched Mallory die and now you would send her away from us, from me!”
“Not right away. Of course not. After she’s had time to grieve. They’ll be able to complete her training. You need a witch who can follow you into battle. Times will not allow you, my son, to live a peaceful life. I’ve managed to give you peace thus far, but mark my words, it will not last. I need both of you to be ready.”
Lord Albin could only stare at his father for a moment or two, completely taken aback. “What are you talking of? War?”
“It will come to that, I fear. And you are sorely placed to be in the thick of it, as you are my son.”
“Then Evadna and I will prepare ourselves. But we will prepare together. There’s no sense in separating us. There is no need for her to go the Follows.”
“My son,” the earl said on a sigh. “I fear you care too much for Evadna. I fear that your feelings for her are not purely that of friend or brother.”
Lord Albin’s eyes turned hard. “Say what you will. Fear what you must. You will not take Evadna from me. She’s mine!”
Without giving the earl a chance to respond, Lord Albin turned on his heel and left the room.