An Excerpt from A Brief History of Magic, by Anonymous
Magic began when the earth did, if not before. As evolution began to form new beings, magic flowed along the fossil record, weaving randomly to create new beings. These generations of change progressed far too quickly, as is always the case when an imbalance threatens. By the dawn of human civilization the world of magic was heavily populated and powerful, much more powerful than the world of the rational. But existence will always seek balance, and as the pendulum began to swing the other way, magic ceased to advance in this world. The simple creatures who existed of magical energy only – the spirits of the woods, the seas, and the sands – began to die away. They could no longer reproduce. Meanwhile, the human brain evolved.
Then the relationship between the rational and the magical finally evened out, becoming part of the flow of energy in the world. Ever unpredictable, it also adhered itself to a metal, silver, and two evolutionary lines – a class of plants, the nightshades, and a small percentage of human beings, who evolved the ability to manipulate the magic around them, the flow of energy. These conduits used focuses and spells to cast magic where they wanted it to go, and began to build power.
Some of these gifted ones choose to continue to live as humans, hiding their abilities, and their power eventually began to fade, and then stabilize. Others became spectacularly powerful. Their blood, the essence of life, sang with this magic. Many of these conduits craved power, and discovered that they could cast spells to take it away from each other by stealing blood. From fear of one another these greedy ones also began to experiment with the line between the living and the dead, trying to find a way to bring themselves back if needed. Meanwhile, another group of conduits rejected their kind, wanting nothing to do with power struggles and death magics, and took to the wilderness,. They began using their magic to transform themselves into eagles and bears and wolves, predators who loved to run and fly and hunt. That is when the speciation happened: the powerful conduits evolved into two groups, each with the ability to reproduce themselves through blood contact.
The shapeshifters, who loved the wild, found that the more things they shifted into, the more magic they had to use, and the harder it became to return to humanity. Soon it hurt them to become men and women again. The magic also began to affect their aging, so that those who used the magic frequently seemed nearly immortal. A few of the wild ones embraced this. They simply went into the wilderness and didn’t return. But there were also those who wished to retain their humanity. At first they tried to give up shifting, but the call from the wild was too great. So they went to the few humans who had retained their ability to manipulate magic: those who came to be called witches. The witches cast a great spell to restrict the shifters to a dual nature, man and beast. They choose wolves because of those animals’ solidarity and nobility. When the spell was cast, the shapeshifters discovered that they retained some of the wolves’ speed and power, even in human form, but the pain of staying human never left them. After generations of trial and error, they discovered that the best balance of humanity and magic was to Change for a few nights each month. They began to organize, to time their Changes to the schedule of the moon. Eventually, their bodies adapted to the pattern and the Change happened at that time with or without their consent. The powerful ones could Change between moons, but it drained their strength. Their aging stabilized as well: their lifespan was longer than a human’s, but they were no longer immortal.
This was all that remained of their magic.
The other kind of conduits, the greedy ones, set themselves apart from the werewolves and the witches, retreating into the shadows. Nature does not abide toying with the line between living and dead, and the greedy ones’ obsession backfired: eventually they wound up neither entirely alive nor entirely dead. During the day they turned into corpses, while at night their magic returned and they came back to life…but they had become dependent on stealing life essences, blood, from others. They evolved ways to control their prey, and became careful about reproducing themselves. This became the limit of their magic, too. Eventually they would become known as vampires.
For many centuries these three groups – the vampires, the wolves, and the witches – were scattered peacefully across the globe, each disregarding the others. But then the witches, who by nature did the most interacting with normal humans, were discovered by the fearful humans. They began to be persecuted, and tortured, and murdered. Their leaders went to the vampires and the wolves and begged for help, but both groups turned away – the vampires from apathy and the wolves from fear of meeting the same fate.
So the witches did the only thing they could: they looked to strengthen their magic. And during this research they stumbled about the group of plants known as nightshades: belladonna, mandragora, Lycium barbarum (which also became known as wolfberry), Tomatillo, cape gooseberry flower, capsicum, and solanum. This entire subspecies was saturated with magic. The latter four plants could be used in hundreds of charms and potions, many of which helped the witches to deter the humans. But the former three plants were unique: they interacted with the remaining magical beings in mystifying ways. Belladonna was poisonous to vampires – it took unbelievable amounts to actually kill them, but even a sprinkle of the plant would work as a paralytic. Ingesting wolfberry caused the shifters to lose control, painfully unable to stop from Changing, again and again. And mandragora, also called mandrake, was the key ingredient in a spell that could grant a very powerful witch the ability to cross the line between living and dead.
A small group of witches, furious that the other two groups had abandoned them during their darkest time, began to use wolfberry and belladonna against the vampires and the wolves. The balance of power shifted once again, and the witches’ discovery spawned thousands of skirmishes, minor battles breaking out between the three major factions. As these tensions built to a breaking point, the New World was discovered, which led to the fall of the vampire’s consortium, their group of leaders. The world of magic was in chaos.
Then evolution stepped in once again, and a new creature appeared on the scene: rare humans with the power to disconnect beings from their own magics, within a given space. These humans became known as nulls, and their arrival, coupled with botanists’ efforts to breed the magic out of the nightshades in the twentieth century, led to a grumbling, resentful peace among the factions. For now.