Lord Albin managed to keep Evadna with him for several more months. His father had broached the subject of sending her to the Follows a couple more times, and each time was soundly rebuffed. When the earl realized how unlikely he was to sway his son, he approached Evadna directly.
“What is the Follows?” she asked him while they sat together in Bhare’s workshop one day.
“A place where you may receive more training. There are others with magic who live there and spend much of their time teaching others with magic how to use their abilities.”
“Is that all?” she said, incredulously. “There must be more to it than that.”
The earl sighed. “Yes, there is more. It is a place where magic sympathizers have gathered to join together in defiance of the king who believes magic is evil and should be stamped out.”
“Rebels,” Evadna whispered.
“Sort of. The king has not yet made his beliefs into law, but that outcome is fast approaching.”
“What’s slowing the king down?”
The earl shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. Fear? He must know how such an edict could divide the country. There’d be uprisings. There’d be chaos. There’d be war. He might be biding his time until he knows he is sure to win.”
Evadna eyed the earl speculatively. “What will you do? Will you follow the king?”
The earl met Evadna’s searching gaze with determination. “I will fight for the old ways of magic to remain alive and respected. I will fight for you and others like you, Evadna. What the king would have would be genocide. I will not stand by the king in such an action.”
Bowing her head and feeling humbled, Evadna whispered, “Thank you.”
In acknowledgement, the earl squeezed her shoulder. “The Follows is the ideal place for you to complete your training. I want you to seriously consider this. I know you and my son would hate to be parted, but it would not be for forever. What you might learn at the Follows could save your life and my son’s life in the future.”
“I will consider this,” Evadna assured him.
“That’s all I ask,” the earl said, rising to his feet. “Thank you for listening to an old man. I must tend to my other duties. Good day to you, my dear. I’ll see you at dinner.”
Quietly, Evadna watched him leave the room. Her mind was a jumble. As much as she would like to learn from those with so much more knowledge and experience than her short years, she was loathe to leave. But she could see too how it might be necessary. The thought of war frightened her and she wanted to be able to protect this family should war come to them.
“My father is mistaken.”
Startled out of her thoughts, Evadna exclaimed, “You were listening?”
Lord Albin sauntered further into the room, keeping his eyes fixed on her. “Unashamedly.”
His gaze was so intense, so murky, she felt herself freeze up in response. She was not used to seeing him this way. She felt almost scared of him. “Your father is no fool. And he is right to think I would need the help of those at the Follows in order to become the weapon you need me to be. I would keep you safe. Keep this family safe.”
“There is no need to go to the Follows to become a weapon. You may do that here just as well. Besides, I don’t want you in harm’s way. I do not want you to protect me or my family.”
Evadna rose to her feet, squaring up to him. “Well, Alby, it’s not always about you and what you want. If I want this, then I’ll go.”
Lord Albin closed the gap between them, towering over her as if he could intimidate her with his mere presence alone. Evadna refused to back down, raising her chin and glowering back with all her might. After what seemed like minutes, Lord Albin’s shoulders slumped and a vulnerability suffused his eyes. “Do you wish to go? Do you wish to leave?”
Shaking her head, Evadna said, “I wish to stay. I don’t know how I would -” Sighing, she continued, “I wish to stay.”
“Then stay. We’ll figure the rest out.”