Amid new threats and unsettling discoveries, hope still perseveres.
The Hybrid Magic Chronicles Book 3
by Cristy L. Bowlin
Genre: YA Fantasy
Theo was the last to enter the tavern, hanging back as they had agreed. Pipe smoke permeated throughout the open dining area and mingled with the scents of alcohol and sweat. Theo stood next to the wall, trying not to cough, while his friends walked to the bar. Elara bought a drink and sat on a stool. Aaron and Lilith continued walking until they reached a piano in the corner of the room.
Theo furrowed his brow when Aaron took a seat on the piano bench and started playing. He didn’t realize Aaron knew how to play an instrument. However, Theo’s jaw nearly dropped open when Lilith started singing. Her voice was a melodic soprano reminiscent of birdsong. It shouldn’t have surprised Theo, yet he stood there awestruck at the performance. He soon realized he wasn’t the only one in awe. The whole room quieted as people turned their attention to Aaron and Lilith. This wasn’t part of the plan they discussed, but it would set the stage for Lilith’s speech.
When Lilith finished singing, everyone in the room applauded as if they were at a concert hall rather than a tavern. Lilith dipped into a curtsy as Aaron played the final chords in the song. Then Lilith stood on top of the piano bench and cleared her throat. “Thank you all for listening to our song.”
“Play another one!” someone shouted.
Lilith smiled. “We would be happy to, but first my friend and I have something to tell you all.”
Elara made eye contact with Theo across the room. She looked nervous, and Theo imagined he wore a similar expression on his face. He wanted to be there beside Lilith and Aaron in case anything bad happened, but they insisted that they had to introduce themselves first on their own. As the youngest and smallest among them, Lilith was the least threatening and most likely to garner sympathy. And with Aaron’s fame, people would quickly recognize his name if not his appearance, so he would be of the most interest. Elara and Theo could be introduced a bit later if the crowd reacted positively to the presence of hybrid mages. If not, Elara and Theo could remain anonymous and cause some type of distraction, allowing Aaron and Lilith to slip out of the building.
“My name is Lilith Brouning, and this is my good friend Aaron Ztrong. We are both hybrid mages.” She paused as people started murmuring amongst themselves, and then she held up the Defender pamphlet Aaron grabbed earlier. “Some people like to call us dark mages. I’m sure you are all familiar with the Defenders of the True Four. Maybe some of you have even read their pamphlets and agreed with some of the things they had to say. But I’m here to tell you the ugly truth about them. They tried to kill Aaron, and they succeeded in murdering my parents. They would get rid of every last hybrid mage if they could.
“I understand why they have their concerns about us because Florella Jacobsen was a hybrid mage, and she did unspeakable things during the Jacobsen Conflict. She was responsible for far more deaths than the Defenders, but now she herself is dead. She will cause no more harm to any of us, and I can promise you that Aaron and I are nothing like her.”
Aaron stood up next to Lilith. He gestured to the piano behind them. “We enjoy the same pastimes as all of you. We have families we care about deeply. We make mistakes sometimes, but that’s part of what makes us human. All we want is to be able to live our lives without constant fear of being hunted down.”
“That’s why we are here today,” Lilith said. “We’ve been hiding ourselves away for more than a year, and we simply cannot do it anymore. How free has the Deravine Commonwealth really become if there are still some mages who can’t be true to themselves?”
A few hisses rose up from the crowd as people cursed the commonwealth, but twice as many people shushed the critics. When the room quieted again, Lilith held up her hands in a placating gesture. “Politics aside, I hope we all can agree that what the Defenders have been doing is outright persecution. Their crusade must come to an end. I hope the next time you see one of these pamphlets, you will tear it down and throw it away.” She crumpled the pamphlet in her hand and threw it on the ground. Some people clapped, which Theo considered a small victory at least.
A man and woman abruptly stood, scraping their chairs across the wood floor. “That’s a nice speech, to be sure,” the woman said, “but actions speak louder than words. We know you fought alongside Florella the day she died.”
Lilith scowled. “We were fighting for our own lives because a group of Defenders attacked us. Florella happened to be with us because we had captured her.”
“So you say,” the man mumbled. “Doesn’t mean we can trust your word for it.” He raised both his hands and threw balls of fire directly at Lilith and Aaron.
The Hybrid Magic Chronicles Book 1
The Hybrid Magic Chronicles Book 2
Cristy L. Bowlin is an English professor at Oxnard College and author of The Temple Dancer’s Diary and The Hybrid Magic Chronicles, set in the fantasy realm of the Deravine Commonwealth. She currently lives in Southern California with her husband, daughter, and pet cat. When she isn’t reading or writing, she is most likely dancing, hiking, or getting invested in (another) TV series.
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