Book Excerpt
Amanda Ross

Amanda Ross

Black speculative fiction author and campy fantasy heaux.

To Ilaris, In Desperation: Excerpt

I’m currently working on book two of my Witchkind series, and I’m excited about where it’s going. In this book, Mercury and his friends are dealing with the aftermath of their actions and the actions of others in book one. If you haven’t read To Astera, With Love – why are you here? This blog has spoilers, so if you haven’t read book one or if you have but want to wait to learn more about book two until its release, then check out some of my older blogs. For those who are dying to find out what happens to Mercury and his crew, here is a quick and dirty excerpt:

 


 

“Mercury stood on the makeshift stage, bullhorn in one hand and the other a fist, thrust high into the air. It was only noon in the middle of May, but already the heat caused sweat to trickle down his back. His hair fell in tight coils over his eyes. He was so tired and thirsty from talking, but there was still so much more to say. 

The crowd’s cheers died down. Everyone was looking at him, waiting for him to speak. Butterflies raged in his belly, making his stomach churn. His heartbeat raced so loud it reverberated in his ears and he wondered if his friends standing beside him on the platform could hear it, too. He opened his mouth but nothing came out.

He looked at Sloane. He looked at Ellis. He turned the other way to Griffin and Joelle, who nodded at him and smiled.

“How many of you have struggled at your job or your school since the Identity Act was passed?” Several people in the crowd shouted. “How many of you have been abused or bullied or have feared for your lives?” 

More cheers this time, including several children and teenagers in the crowd. The butterflies in Mercury’s stomach flapped harder. Across the sea of people, he could see raised signs with the words “separate is not equal” and “reparations not restoration.” 

Mercury took a deep breath and brought the bullhorn back to his mouth.

“Today is the day that American witches stand up from our desks, step out from behind the machinery. Our shouts will ring so loud they stretch all the way to the Council house in New York City. They will ring to the summer home of Councilwoman Oliana Murtaza in the Amalfi Coast, where she no doubt sits now, sipping an Aperol spritzers and planning her inauguration as President of Kinheld rather than dealing with the very real issues that our community faces today.” 

The crowd cheered.

“And to Oliana, to every Witchhaven supporter, to the Dhampires, and to Harvey fucking Vael himself, I say this — my brother Troian died at the hands of bloodthirsty vampires who saw his life as inconsequential. I will not be silent – we will not be silent, until our people are safe, equal, and respected!” 

There was more clapping and cheering. Mercury began to chant the message he communicated to the world when he first decided to protest. 

“Separate is not equal! Separate is not equal!” 

The crowd followed suit. He looked to his friends and nodded, and they turned and began to walk. They took the crowd alongside the pathway of Venice Beach, where the muscle bound trainers stood in leggings and tight tank tops and stared at them in awe. All the while Mercury held the bullhorn to his face. All the while he kept his fist pumping up in the air. All the while he kept shouting. By now his voice was hoarse, but he refused to stop. These people came because they believed in a common cause, because they believed in him. He would not let them down, so despite the soreness in his throat and the finger cramps, he kept marching and shouting. 

They stopped in front of the Iron Bird, the burned down shop sitting in mid-construction. It smelled like fresh wood and paint, and though Mercury was happy that the only home he’d known was being rebuilt, he knew it would never feel the same without Troian. 

Mercury stepped on top of a wood beam and stared back at the crowd. 

“Here is the spot where my brother was murdered. From the awning that hung just here, he swung, burning. He was scared, and he was alone. And I’ll never forgive myself for that,” Mercury said. His voice cracked. Sloane and Joelle flanked him, each of them placing a hand on his shoulder. He felt that grief again – the kind that made it hard for him to stand, made it hard for him to focus. He felt his brother’s presence here, and Mercury wished with all his heart that his element was Water so he could conjure his brother at will. “I’ll never forgive myself. And I can only hope that my actions at Astera could help avenge his death. And I know that Troian would want us to do whatever it took to ensure our equality. If he were here, he’d be right by my side calling for the same things. Calling for the Witches’ Council to stop their stupid plan for a witch reserve and affect the change we need to achieve real equality.” 

Mercury looked over at Sloane, who stood with her head bowed. He could see tears falling from her eyes onto her Reeboks. Ellis stood beside her, eyes covered with Ray Bans and arms crossed against himself. 

“Thank you all for coming and for your commitment to the revolution, which will not be what?” 

“Televised!” the crowd shouted. 

“It will what?” 

“Not be televised!” 

Mercury smiled. 

“Our next protest is in two weeks at the Santa Monica Pier. I hope to see all of you there so our cause can stay visible. And between now and then do whatever you can to help – tweet about it, put it on the ‘Gram, TikTok, even Facebook for those of you still on it. Text your friends, your family, anyone who you think would be receptive. But don’t forget – the threats to our lives are real. If you’re in a situation or see someone, it is vital that you record it, or take a picture, or whatever. We have to look out for ourselves and each other because we’re family. Blessed be.”

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