Broken Powers: History of Magic

The first two things every student should know about magic:

1. Either you have a Power, or you don’t. You cannot change or remove yours.

2. Power is as much body as it is mind, but also as much mind as body.

Remedial Powers: Your Basic Guide to Using Your Magic
(Kelly’s textbook)


Magic is located in pockets beneath the Earth’s surface, much like natural gas, from which it trickles to the surface, losing much of its potency. While all living creatures are touched by it, magic reacts to will, and only humans have sufficient will to tame it.

The ability to draw in magic is a genetic inclination not everyone has. While humans have developed genes to allow magic manipulation, how each person with the ability can manipulate magic is limited. Through natural genetic mutations the forms of manipulation have diversified in both the amount of magic that can be affected at a given time and the ways it can be affected. The various ways are known as Powers, while the amounts are divided into classes, with sixth class being the smallest (or the “weakest”) and first class being the largest (or the “strongest”).


First Powers: strength and telekinetic

The oldest known Power is the strength Power. While evidence suggests strength Powers may have been (and likely was) present throughout prehistory, the first definitive recognition of the magic appeared in Mesopotamia, when those with this advantage used it to establish themselves as warrior-kings.

Every now and then, through natural genetic mutation, a new Power would emerge. Strength Power causes muscles to grow faster, but has no effect on bones, ligaments, skin, or other tissues. The next Power to emerge was the telekinetic Power, which allowed the movement of objects by will.

The fall from grace of strength Powers came during Ancient Greece, with the fall of the city of Sparta, wherein only strength Powers were allowed to be citizens. Due to the physical limitations of strength magic–particularly the lack of invulnerability to damage and the high caloric intake necessary to sustain each strength Power–the population of citizens was not large enough to sustain political power over the entire Spartan territory. The Spartans utilized more and more extreme brutality to keep their rule, and unsurprisingly this led to more and more revolts. The aftermath found surrounding city-states forbidding strength Powers from being allowed positions of political power.

This new status quo entrenched first strength Powers, and then others, in positions of servitude. While kings could take on magical bodyguards and employ magical servants, the magic-users themselves could only obtain political, cultural, or economic influence by the grace of another. Those who attempted to obtain influence for themselves were discreetly–or publicly and with great fanfare–killed. This culture encouraged magic-users to devote extreme loyalty to non-magical personas, and left a social legacy of magic being viewed as servile.

Worthy of note is the presence of super-warriors in early Native American cultures. Although by European discovery of America strength Powers were fully established, uncertainty persists as to whether this was due to the interactions with the Norse peoples in the tenth century, at which point the earth Power genes appeared, or if American strength Powers emerged parallel to Eurasian Powers. Records and artwork related to the local Powers were purged by the Native Americans during European imperial occupation to protect the individuals, and most of the surviving records systematically destroyed during American expansionism.  The influence of the (now thought to be extinct) electric Power, a uniquely American gene, also confuses this issue, as the noted traits of the super-warriors focused on skill instead of raw physical strength. It is also possible that the American strength Power diverged or emerged with different original attributes from the Eurasian strength Powers. 


Emergence of regeneration Powers

Regeneration Powers branched off strength Powers with the emergence of bone healing, around five hundred years after the fall Sparta. Although this new ability led to a brief rebellion among strength and telekinetic Powers, the rebellion was put down in short order and the healers inducted (involuntarily) into temples, where they and their descendants were trained to use magic for royalty.

Skin regeneration appeared in the 8th century AD, by lore thought to emerged from a family from a leper colony in India. For a couple hundred years, skin regeneration bloodlines were only permitted to treat individuals with leprosy, themselves developing an immunity to the disease but, due to prolonged contact, capable of transmitting it to healthy individuals. Legend has that after a young healer woman saved a renowned priest who had been attacked by bandits, she and her siblings were isolated, healthy spouses found, and eventually their children allowed to re-integrate into society as general healers, and spread out as their services were requested in neighboring towns and cities.

(Other theories include a small village hiding out in the Himalayas for a couple of generations, and then the descendants moving outward along trade caravans to make better lives in foreign countries. Without the fear of contracting the disease through exposure, the general public accepted them as craftsmen and healers, and descendants returning to India were accepted as such, while those remaining were eventually offered the choice of isolation for a couple of generations or continuation of dedicating their lives to healing people of leprosy.)


Emergence of earth and travel powers

While earth Powers have been documented since Minoan Crete, it is believed the first documented cases were actually telekinetic Powers, as the ability to sense flaws in metal was never included in descriptions of earth-shaking. By early Roman times, however, the link between metalworking and earth Powers was clearly established, and this is considered to signify the birth of the actual earth Power. Until the Industrial Revolution, earth Powers had special status as craftsman and weapon makers.

Their ability to sense metals is also of much use in exploring for valuable resources, as it can aid in establishing the presence and depth of metal deposits. As such, earth Powers were often sent as members of exploration parties, and the gene therefore became particularly widespread. Exactly which nationality originally produced the earth Power gene is unknown, although most theories point towards Egypt. However, a second school of thought has the Egyptian history taking second place to nomadic Sarmatians, later acquired as prisoners of war by Egypt as slaves via the Mongols; genetic tests tracing mitochondrial DNA so far support this theory, but whether the common ancestor of the earth Powers was an earth Power, or simply a telekinetic Power, is unclear.

By the Roman theory, the modern form of earth Power, with the ability to sense surroundings, evolved approximately concurrently with the Roman line of travel Powers. The Native American line of travel Powers is thought to have emerged after contact with the Norse peoples, and the earth power re-emerged within a few generations, where they were revered similar to the electric Powers.

Electric Powers, documented only in Native American populations, could produce and sense electrical currents. The strongest Powers could sense most forms of life within miles without looking, and could produce bolts of lightning; lower classes could produce high levels of static, magnetic charge, sense oncoming weather, and sense life forms (especially in water). However, as far as the public knows, the last known electric Powers died out after a plague that wiped out much of the population of the Americas. Speculation that the genes survive in American populations, and even spread to Norse populations, have not been proven, and many discount the Norse rumors to be confusion due to aspects of the deity Thor. As far as the public knows, there are no current bloodlines with electric Powers.

The earth Power of the aboriginal Australians, thought to have been established through contact with the Malaysian societies, differed notably from that of the Eurasian earth Powers, despite remaining similar enough to be categorized as the same Power type. In addition to the ability to sense metals in the earth, aboriginal Australian earth Powers possessed the ability to sense water deposits, and the ability to detect certain abiological contaminants within water supplies. However, the ability to sense flaws in metals mostly disappeared from the main earth Power lines. No more than 10% of aboriginal Australian earth Powers retained this ability by the 1800s.

However, with the dwindling of traditional lifestyles and integration into Western lifestyles, the majority modern Australian registered earth Powers have the flaw-sensing ability, with half those registered who are of at least partial aboriginal descent having water-sensing abilities instead. A minority, at around 5% of earth Powers of partial aboriginal descent currently registered in Australia, have both water and flaw-sensing abilities. Since the 1940s, many of those with the dual ability have moved out of the country to take up residence in foreign countries, often having been offered significant incentives to do so, either in direct financial, legal, or land-grant form, often benefiting the originating families as much or more than the Powered individuals.


Emergence of cold and heat Powers

Cold Powers first appeared in ancient Egypt during the Late Period (around 600 BC). Like strength and telekinetic Powers, cold Powers were a primary Power, meaning they did not split off another major Power. Those with the genes for this Power flourished in the heat of northern Africa, and further migrated south at a quicker pace than most, often acting as forerunners to major migrations. Easily adapting to the hot weather, cold Powers flourished in deserts and in jungles alike. Because cold Powers can maintain a comfortable body temperature without sweating, they could survive on reduced amounts of fresh water. Furthermore, existing civilizations were quick to incorporate them (peacefully or by force), their abilities to keep others cool bringing them quick popularity in hot regions and in wide-ranging expeditions alike.

Separate heat Power bloodlines branched off at several different intervals, independent of each other, as families migrated north in exploratory, missionary, mercantile, and hostile expeditions. The first bloodline came from an early Roman-German trading town in the first century BC, where the family settled, with most descendants returning to main Roman Empire but a few becoming established within Germanic settlements. An unrelated bloodline began around 430 AD from a family of heat Powers whose ancestors migrated into the area in the second century AD. Two more independent lines also emerged during the Viking era, one in England and another in Iceland.

In 1647 a child of a heat Power and an earth Power living in Cairo developed into a cold Power. His descendants mostly bore either cold or earth Power abilities, with two of seventeen Powered grandchildren developing into heat Powers, making the first and only known clear genetic reversal back to cold Power.


Emergence of flight Powers

Flight Powers split off from telekinetic Powers during the Tang Dynasty in 620 AD, from a girl who had lost a leg to infection in her young childhood. Flight Powers, as all Powers in early China, were technically considered property of the imperial family, and as a particularly unique new ability the girl was brought the imperial city to serve the family there and assigned a husband. Empress Wu Zetian, during her establishment of the Zhou Dynasty in 684, used several members of the growing family of flight Powers in her secret police.

While the family was at first loyal to all members of the imperial household,  the politics of Wu Zetian (who would become the first and only woman emperor) divided the family, and those whom she felt were loyal to her sons Ruizong or Zhongzong were kept under house arrest with Ruizong as his attendants. However, after Ruizong’s formal surrender of the throne to his mother, two of his most concerned attendants conspired to remove Wu Zetian. She learned of this and had their only unPowered child (out of four girls and two boys), a sixteen-year-old boy, beaten to death. This had the lasting effect of alienating her from the family members in the secret police, and the flight Powered family played a significant role in the coup of 705. Afterwards they were rewarded with imperial favor, and flourished with expanded responsibilities and opportunities.

Although until the fall of the Qing Dynasty flight Powers were not officially permitted outside the boundaries of the country, during the Taiping Rebellion three young children of the family, after the violent death of their caretaker, ran to hide (as instructed). When the imperial forces found the caretaker dead, it was assumed the children had also died, and the contingent moved on without them. Left to wander and not yet come into their magic, they joined the throngs of orphan children, wound up behind Taiping lines, and, at the instructions of the oldest, age 6, hid who they were until they could find imperial forces.

However, the youngest, a girl, was separated from her cousins, both boys, due to the Taiping separation of the sexes. Through luck, the boys were able toe escape and came across a British officer (at the time officially allied with government forces to put down the rebellion) and demanded to be returned to their family. Unfortunately they had the wrong kind of luck, and the officer smuggled the children on a boat to be sent to England with the instructions to keep their abduction secret.

During the trip to England, many of the crew fell to cholera. The boys, kept in isolation as prisoners, survived. On landing, they escaped their captors and, now distrusting authority, joined in with the local orphans. After two years, and hearing about the growing Chinese population in America, they booked passage to America. However they found difficulty gaining passage to the West due to American prejudices, and eventually settled in New York. When the older child began showing signs of being a flight Power, they were brought to Washington and, although their presence kept hidden, served as cultural advisers to the president. To smooth over international relations after the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed in 1882, the boys, now in their early 20s, were sent back home, where they (and a Chinese wife and young daughter) were well received, their life story becoming a popular adventure that remains famous. A few years after their departure, the first of several children grew into a flight Power.

Meanwhile, the youngest of the cousins, the girl, settled into the countryside. Unlike the boys, she spent three years in a city under the Taiping forces. At age seven, she smuggled herself out and into the countryside, where she joined a farming family. Her time with the Taiping army, and her youth, left her uncertain about how she felt towards the various factions. At twelve she began to show signs of being a flight Power, but begged her host family not to reveal it, and hid her abilities. Eventually, at age eighteen she married the youngest son of the family, and bore him several children. Three became flight Powers, but with the general chaos of the time, the family chose to migrate to Taiwan, where they settled in the mountains.

When the rise of the People’s Republic of China left many of the imperial flight Powers under confinement, executed, or removed from their families to be raised by others, the Taiwanese flight Powers maintained a level of independence, using their flight abilities to harvest hard-to-reach tea, and forming a world-renowned tea plantation owned by the unPowered members of the family.

Eventually, the trade relations between Taiwan and the West let to emmigration of flight Powers.

During the Sino-Japanese war, one of the older children was captured and taken to Japan. She was married at sixteen to a telekinetic Power, who was said to have become very fond and protective of her, and asked his sponsor to grow tea so that she might feel more at home. The tea plantation in the mountains, similar to the one in Taiwan, became renowned for its teas, picked by hand from otherwise impossible-to-reach locations. Her descendants, a mix of flight and telekinetic Powers, were engaged in mechanical projects in the modernizing Japan. As Japan westernized after WWII, they also spread to other countries with the expansion of business, eventually reuniting with various cousins.


Emergence of music, illusion, and dream Powers