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.