Encyclopaedia Arcana #29: Life Magic

Life magic grants power over the biological systems of living beings, affecting their health, growth, and physiology.  Life mages can both sense and affect other living creatures, and do so extremely effectively.  They tend to be treated with respect or with fear, and often both.  Unusually for mages, the active effects of life magic are limited to touch range.

Sensing and Changing

Life mages typically get their start by learning to sense the presence of other living things.  At lower levels of skill a life mage can simply tell whether there are other people around or not, but as they grow more proficient they can pick up an incredible amount of biological information simply by looking at someone – everything from a person’s general health and physical condition to their fitness level, number of existing injuries, blood pressure, presence or absence of disease, and what sort of food they’ve been eating lately.  A skilled life mage can learn as much with one minute’s study as a team of doctors can learn with a twenty-four-hour medical checkup.

Once they’ve learned to analyse biological systems life mages learn to control them, usually starting with their own bodies.  They can’t completely redesign or transform living systems – that’s the domain of shapeshifting – but they can monitor and adjust their own biological processes, and to a lesser degree those of others.  A life mage falls asleep or wakes up whenever she wants to, and can accelerate or decelerate her internal systems, direct the buildup and breakdown of muscle and fat, alter the growth rate of skin and hair, and perform a variety of other useful tricks.

Medic!

Healing is one of the two iconic abilities of life mages, and they’re very, very good at it.  By strengthening and accelerating the natural regenerative processes of living systems life mages can repair almost any injury – they don’t really do anything that a living body can’t do on its own, but they give it an enormous boost.  It’s very rare for a patient being treated by a life mage to die from their wounds.

The main drawback to healing is that it consumes significant amounts of biological energy.  The more severe the wound, the greater the energy needed – a life mage can heal papercuts all day, but treating serious injuries is draining.  The energy can come from either the life mage or the patient, but the more injured the patient the less they’re likely to have to spare, and life mages who specialise in healing quickly learn to pace themselves to avoid burning themselves out.

All of this probably makes life mages sound quite selfless, but there’s a catch.  While life magic is very good at healing, it’s just as good at doing the opposite.

Don’t Touch Me

When wielded as a weapon against other living beings, life is probably the single most deadly type of magic in existence.  A life mage able to touch a subject can do almost anything she wants to them – everything from putting them to sleep to paralysing them to shutting down their internal organs.  The most feared ability of life mages is their death touch:  a life mage can drain the life essence of another living creature, literally pulling the life energy out of the target’s body and into their own.  Doing so inflicts horrific amounts of damage and is extremely difficult to stop:  while another life mage can counter the spell, for most people the only real defence is to stay out of reach.

The lethality of life magic makes other mages understandably wary of getting close to them.  Life mages are the best healers in the world, but anyone else allowing a life mage to heal them is also placed in an extremely vulnerable position.  Most mages exist in a position of power:  they live privileged lifestyles, and having that power suddenly taken away is not something they enjoy.  Life mages also have a (slightly unfair) reputation for being prone to turn psychopathic, and there are several extremely well-publicised stories about life mages who turned out to be serial killers.

As a result, while life mages are appreciated, it’s rare for them to be entirely welcome anywhere, and their presence tends to make other mages uncomfortable.

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