The Wolves of Rome

3rd Journal Entry of Dr. P. Westcroft, Practicing Metaphysicist

Journal of Dr. P. Westcroft
March 15th, 2030

Continuing my research into matters of magic and its understanding has caused me to seek the advice of another expert in the field. The current area of my interest is in the propagation and sustainment of magical bloodlines. Much has been said on the matter of bloodlines and I wished to make more of it clear for those who might be curious. The subject of magic and its origins is very much the stuff of mystery to the modern layman despite its impact on their daily life. Part of this, I have reason to believe, is deliberate obfuscation on the part of magical society, but it is also simply a lack of practical knowledge. With its unmasked presence now a fact of life, even the non-magically capable should know basic facts of magical nature and understanding.

My previous expert, Abigail White, has politely declined to continue as she believes her knowledge on the subject may be insufficient for my needs, due to being a first-generation mage like many others in the city. As a result, she has recommended to me another established mage, Mister Renard Aestling, a Senior Professor of Alchemy at the Mage’s Academy and lifetime practicing mage.

[After greetings, Mister Aestling is seated across from me. He is joined by his bodyguard and attendant who I have reason to suspect is a Homunculus]

Me: Thank you again for agreeing to speak with me, Professor Aestling.

Renard: No trouble at all, I’ve heard about your work from Abi and I’m quite intrigued, so when you asked me to come down I thought ‘why not?’.

M: [Gestures to Homunculus] And this is your…assistant?

R: Elisa, yes. She thought she might be able to offer some words of her own, so she offered to come by. She’s not usually my bodyguard anymore, but old habits die hard I suppose.

M: I see, thank you for joining us, Elisa.

Elisa: My pleasure, Doctor.

M: Westcroft is fine.

R: So you want to know about bloodlines, yes?

M: That’s correct. What light can you shed on the matter? Assume I know almost nothing.

R: Well it’s pretty simple in summation. The older the magical bloodline, the stronger it becomes.

M: And why is that?

R: Heh, you can always figure out who are the smart ones by who asks that question, most just blindly accept it. As for why… well for one magical talent can be inherited directly. A mage is almost infinitely more likely to have magically-capable children than a non-mage.

M: So it’s partially genetic?

R: You’d think that but genes have nothing to do with it. There’s no “Magic gene” that marks a mage as different from a non-mage. The ability to perform magic is a function of the soul, and to a limited extent, it is present in every last human being.

M: I cannot say I’ve ever performed magic.

R: Oh you probably have, but that’s because people tend to think of magic as shooting fireballs or making rabbits disappear.

M: You’re saying it’s something else?

R: You ever met someone you always saw as being really lucky? Always draws good cards, always seems to find money on the ground, dice always come up sevens? I’m sure you do everyone does.

M: Yes, I can think of a few.

R: Now you know why. It’s not luck.

M: Fascinating.

R: Of course that’s just humans. Most animals aren’t magic unless they become spirits, and Elisa here is a homunculus and has zero magical potential. Though she can still kill you in five seconds if need be.

E: With all due respect, sir, I can do it in three.

R: My mistake.

M: We’re getting off point, Professor Aestling.

R: Right, right, now magic is inherited as I said. However, because it’s not genetic it has a certain…Lamarckian effect.

[Inserted note: Noted early Biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed that acquired traits could be inherited (i.e. the offspring of an athlete would be naturally athletic). Though instrumental in laying foundations of Pre-Darwinian evolutionary theory, this subset of Lamarckian theory was proven to be biologically false]

M: Do go on.

R: Well, simply stated, much of the research and advancement done in a single Mage’s lifetime can be inherited by their offspring. Not so much the knowledge, but a new technique or spell invented before the child’s conception will come quite naturally to the offspring in a matter of weeks, whereas it took years of study to discover. This is why most Mages prefer to make their discoveries relatively early in their career, then focus their efforts on either theory or perfecting their craft after having children.

M: So children of mages are born with an inherent advantage over their predecessors?

R: Precisely. And as the generations go on, the potential power expands almost exponentially.

M: So all mages are now the most powerful their line has ever been.

R: That’s where it gets a bit tricky. See, technique and capability is inherited, raw power is not.

M: Could you expand on that?

R: Well, every mage has their limit. Some spells take more out of you than others. And sometimes all the technique and finesse in the world isn’t enough if you don’t have the fuel to back it up.

M: Is this ‘raw power’ random?

R: For the most part yes. However it tends to follow trends in how magic the rest of the world is. Fifteen years ago the average mage was paltry, nowadays most mages are the strongest their lines have been in centuries. By the look of things, mages are more powerful now than they have been in centuries, the most powerful since the last time the world was like this.

M: Which was when, precisely?

R: Classical antiquity.

M: This certainly is quite a leap then.

R: Virtually unprecedented.

M: Now, I’ve heard certain bloodlines are more significant, divine bloodlines in particular. Can you elaborate?

R: Ah yes, well, that’s only natural. A divine bloodline means that mage has a god or powerful spirit somewhere in their family tree.

M: I can imagine that would be quite the boost in power then.

R: You’d be surprised really. Once the generations start piling on, that divine blood gets pretty thin. It doesn’t always give a direct advantage to Western Thaumaturgy, but it tends to bestow unique abilities even to the non-magically capable. Generally with divine blood, you want to take it on a case-by-case basis.

M: I see. Now Professor Aestling, how old is your line?

R: Not terribly old. Four centuries. Which means, to the more pretentious, we’re still a ‘young’ line.

M: That hardly sounds young at all.

R: Well to them, you’re nobody unless you hit seven.

M: I struggle to imagine what they think of all the first generation magic-users today…

R: Well, thankfully, most of them are dead. The oldest in the city is the young Catarina. Her family, the Addobrandinis, are over nine hundred years old.

M: I see. So would you say those with a long family bloodline have an inherent advantage over the younger generations?

R: Absolutely, and it’s not just inheriting techniques. If you’re from a long line, you have centuries of research notes and tutelage to back up what you can do. Any new first-generation mage needs to start almost from scratch. It’s why we started the academy, but a professor can only do so much when not even the student is fully aware of their potential.

M: Could you give me an example?

R: I have a perfect one right here. Elisa is the apotheosis of homunculus design that has been meticulously advanced over the course of three centuries. She’s what you would call a very advanced model. Most of our first-generation alchemists can’t even create homunculi that are capable of thought let alone something as advanced as Elisa.

M: Ah, so Elisa, would you say you have your own family line in a way?

E: It could be seen that way, yes. I am the result of over eight hundred completed designs, if you include the designs that were scrapped in various stages, that number reaches several thousand, each one improving on the flaws on the previous generation.

M: You’ve both spoken of advancement. Is there an ultimate goal for Magecraft?

R: Western Thaumaturgy is a science. The goal is complete understanding. Though obviously that’s a bit ambitious for one line, so we specialize. If I had to pick a prominent one then I’d say the Aestling line is interested in creating an immortal Homunculus. That might prove useful for expanding human lifetime in the long run.

M: How long is your lifespan, Elisa? If you don’t mind me asking.

E: Well I’m seventeen now, and while I expect I’ll die by violence before then I hope to live to two hundred. 

M: That’s quite impressive!

R: It’s still a long way from eternity.

M: Still this has been quite enlightening for me, and I hope it will be for others as well. Thank you.

R: My pleasure.

 

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The Cities Eternal©2016, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa
(( JP Link: https://www.jukepop.com/home/read/9042?chapter=33&sl=199 ))

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  1. Pingback: The Wolves of Rome | The Cities Eternal

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