Elara rubbed her arms as a chill in the air brushed over her. She pulled her light brown cloak tighter around her shoulders and undid the knots in the ribbon that tied up her wavy, wheat-colored hair, letting the tresses fall around her neck. Her father used to tease her whenever she stayed out working with the crops until dusk, claiming she was just another corn stalk blending in. She was tall and thin, with tanned skin that almost matched the color of her cloak.
It was just recently that Bennet Wynstrom had taught her to blend in with the trees of the forest. She always knew she was good with plants, but it wasn’t until Bennet found her that she understood the true extent of her powers. She could do more than just heal the plants she worked with—she could become one of them. So far, she had only managed it twice with any success, but she was getting better at it. Like a wood nymph straight out of a fairytale, her limbs and torso turned a sinewy dark green, and her hair became a cascade of leaves dotted with tiny yellow flowers.
Despite the thrill she experienced in her transformation, she sometimes regretted that Bennet found her. She would still be with her family now if it weren’t for him. But if Bennet hadn’t found her first, one of the Defenders of the True Four might have.
Elara never would have guessed that she was a hybrid mage. How could she be when no one else in her family even possessed any of the usual magical faculties? It was only after Bennet contacted her parents six months ago that she learned the truth. Her birth parents had died when she was two years old, and the father she could no longer remember was a combat mage. A fire burned down their house. Elara only survived because of her abilities. Her aunt and uncle found her in a mud pit surrounded by charred vine tendrils. Somehow, Elara had reached into the earth with her magic and guided the vines to the surface, opening up a wellspring in the middle of the family’s kitchen.
Elara’s aunt and uncle didn’t have any children of their own at that time, and they adopted her. Her brother and sisters were really her three younger cousins. She frequently reminded herself that she left before others discovered her abilities in order to keep her family safe. Anyone who didn’t know of Elara’s adoption would assume Rylan, Adaline, and Bella were also hybrid mages. Hybrid magic was the genetic outcome of a specific and rare family lineage traced back through four generations, and siblings with that lineage would all be hybrid mages. Her family’s luck with farming had always caused rumors, which made it better for Elara to get far away from prying eyes.