Dark elves, a vampire-like species, exist on a plane known as the fae-realm and must feed on other creatures to survive. Their souls are constantly being drained of mana by their deity, who ironically despises them. This makes them old and decrepit, and slowly drives them mad with starvation. To avoid this, they must replenish their mana by releasing it from other sentient species and absorbing it. They do this through suffering. Other races constantly replenish their own mana naturally, and the dark elves have developed techniques and technologies to keep their prey alive for centuries or even millennia to get the maximum amount out of them.

These elves occasionally raid the mortal realm in an event known as "The Wild Hunt", in which they capture alive as many different sentient species as possible and drag them back to the fae world to become slaves or to be tortured. These raids are often successful, as they are unpredictable and far more advanced as a civilization than others. Elves do not reproduce naturally, and must use artificial wombs to grow new children. They do this to replenish their own numbers and their slave stock. It is a cheap and inexpensive method, and people are grown in batches to save time.

Since they have the technology to literally grow new slaves, it stands to reason that they would be able to use this method to avoid having to risk their lives in raids to bring back people to torture. Why would this not be the case?

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    Why don't they just domesticate and breed people like cattle? Dystopian, but seems simple enough. No need for advanced technology. – Tyler S. Loeper Sep 11 at 13:14
  • @TylerS.Loeper because that would take too long and breeding is a hit or miss. – Incognito Sep 11 at 13:23
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    The "Wild Hunt" does not seem that wild to me. It seems very pragmatic and purpose directed. I think to really be a wild hunt the hunters need to be liquored up, decide to go 5 minutes before they do, with any weapons at hand, hunting whatever gets in your way including their dogs and inanimate objects. If you can have your Dark Elves do that instead of the old prolonged torture thing you have my upvote. – Willk Sep 11 at 13:43
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    You have pretty much described the dark eldar of warhammer 40k. Think their reasons are - they like to hunt is the core driving factor, but also I think L.Dutch answer is important. 'Farmed' slaves just do not suffer the same as people who have been captured and lost so much. – Windlepon Sep 11 at 14:44
  • Speaking of dark eldar i asked a similar question a while back on them scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/182991/… might be helpful – Ummdustry Sep 11 at 15:08

14 Answers 14

Clearly babies from artificial wombs do not replenish mana.

The humans born to artificial wombs have therefore very little mana throughout their life, compared to "infinite" from the self replenishing humans born naturally. It can also be cost ineffective for the same reason. - But they are still useful as slaves.

Which also explain why the elves don't naturally replenish mana themselves. Since they are all born from artificial wombs.

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    I like this idea. Say that Mana is critical during the babies development to develop the ability to naturally absorb it, so being born in a mother who is absorbing mana causes the baby to develop the same ability by being exposed to mana in the womb through the umbilical cord. Artificial wombs don't have mana absorption capabilities, so the baby never gets mana and thus can't develop the ability. Once born, its too late. – Ryan Sep 11 at 15:53
  • Birth in their realm could automatically establish the same parasitic relationship that the Dark Elder have. If proximity and attention by the Claimed can result in transferring the curse, farms would be very difficult to monitor, for fear of ruining the supply of mana. If the realm of the Dark Eldar make that more likely, farms must be maintained outside. That could mean that farms are tricky and rare, but it could also mean that, as far as the Dark Eldar are concerned, multiple kingdoms of humans are considered to be farms. – The Nate Sep 12 at 17:10
  • @TheNate: question seem to indicate there are other beings in the far realm who replenish mana naturally; and the second part of your comment seems contradictory to how they can have the humans under torture for millenia without the curse spreading to them. – Spoki0 Sep 12 at 18:18
  • If even adults are susceptible to picking up the curse at some rate, some of the captives will need to be replaced at a rate dependent on that frequency. That's a good thing for the scenario posed because it increases replacement requirements and explains the demand. If certain developmental milestones must be met to develop a level of resistance, you have a very strong incentive against farming. A women gestating a kid might always produce a cursed child, say, and in fairyland, that could lead to a horror that's better at eating mana than the elves. – The Nate Sep 12 at 19:53

they must replenish their mana by releasing it from other sentient species and absorbing it. They do this through suffering

For the same reason that game meat is not the same as industrial poultry: flavor and texture.

A human captured from their free state produces an agony and a pain which are far more nutritious than those produced by a human grown in captivity and used to assist to the atrocities committed by these elves. How many murders does one have to see before becoming insensitive to death? Hint: not too many.

The effort needed to raise a captive adult is not worth the net result.

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    And yet most meat we eat is farmed, by an astronomical margin. And your comparison is off, anyway: factory farmed poultry in particular is a perversion due to optimising the wrong variables. It’s entirely feasible (and done) to factory-farm tasty meat. It’s just not done in on a larger scale because, frankly, most consumers don’t care. — If anything, your answer is a very compelling reason for factory-farmed mana, not against it. – Konrad Rudolph Sep 12 at 12:54
  • The benefit ratio of wild vs domesticated suffering could be completely different from real life wild vs domesticated meat. If one wild cow produced meat equivalent to 100 domestic cows, we'd create more hunting preserves. – elstevenson Sep 13 at 19:27

Since they have the technology to literally grow new slaves, it stands to reason that they would be able to use this method to avoid having to risk their lives in raids to bring back people to torture. Why would this not be the case?

Because then you have to raise them to adulthood (or at least late teenagers) before you can start feeding on them, and that's more hassle than it's worth.

Besides, the dark elves like the Wild Hunt.

Given that they only occasionally go on the wild-hunt it's possible that they DO clone the majority of mana-slaves but need regular influxes of new human D.N.A. in order to prevent the D.N.A. they use from becoming degraded. Think of it like a photo, The vampires need photo's of David Hasselhof, lot's of them. They could simply take photos of the ones they already have (and they do, cloning the clones) but everytime they do that the quality drops (random mutations in the clones D.N.A.) so every so often they need an orignal photo so they go and papparazi david hasselhof, knowing they risk getting punched in the face (going on raids.)

This then begs the question "why don't they just ask politely for some D.N.A." a question that I can't really answer.

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    This was my first thought too. Perhaps their DNA extraction techniques involve the messy and painful deaths of the subject which would explain why they don't "just ask"? – Tim B Sep 11 at 16:15
  • maybe, but humans TODAY have painless DNA extraction. Possibly humans don't want to comply with the mana-vampires programs of mass cloned slaves? – Ummdustry Sep 11 at 16:20
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    I know I wouldn't be keen on being cloned just so my clones can be used as some sort of freaky foodstuff for alien vampires. – Tim B Sep 11 at 16:25
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    Ask? Being polite? To Prey?!? Really now. – Stig Hemmer Sep 12 at 8:17

Slaves don't need souls, mana sources (read torture victims) do. A creature that generates mana does so because they have a soul that is fed by their passions and their pain. To borrow an idea from Unknown Armies IVF babies have no souls; apparently because they are conceived in a process that is without any passion. Therefore, in this case, artificially created creatures can be used for slave labour but not for mana generation.

  • I think Louise Brown and the many thousands of IVF children since, would beg to differ on the "soul" idea. YMMV, but for me this would be immediate suspension of disbelief, and rather offensive into the bargain. If the OP is looking for ideas and is not writing fanatical-Christian-fantasy (sadly yes, that's a genre, mainly populated by Rapture-obsessed loonies), then I strongly suggest not going there. – Graham Sep 11 at 17:30
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    @Graham 1. the point at which someone's mana or their soul, or lack of said, becomes in any way important to the work it's pure fantasy and, for my money, you can play the meta-physics however you need to for the story to work. 2. Unknown Armies tends to go out of its way to piss people (especially Christians) off, so offensive yes almost certainly and that's kind of the point. – Ash Sep 11 at 17:40
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    Sure, it's fantasy. Given that soul and identity are generally linked though, it's going to take some heavy lifting to arrive at a fully functioning normal human being, with emotions and empathy and everything, but without a soul. Not saying it's impossible, but I suspect anyone with the chops to pull it off is probably not going to be asking for help on here. :) – Graham Sep 11 at 20:25
  • @Graham That's one interpretation of the role of the soul another is that one's soul doesn't do much of anything when it comes to being alive; it's just kind of a "recorder" that carries on after the body is gone, it serves no purpose while you're alive. That soul you'd never notice the lack of. – Ash Sep 14 at 15:35

Humans need to know love and comfort to create enough mana output to feed the elves.

The dark elves are born and grow up in the fae-realm, but do they suffer? Not by their own standards. Humans (and slaves) that are born there are so used to the basic level of torment in the fae-realm that it is simply "normal" for them. To get enough mana output from them, the elves have to torture and injure them so much that they cannot survive for long.

"Free" humans, on the other hand, know the loving arms of their mothers, the proud smiles of their fathers, the security and safety of their families and the warmth of the sun. Bring them into the fae-realm and they start suffering enough to feed an elf on their own. Add a little poking and prodding and they realiably create huge amounts of mana for a very long time. You don't even have to injure them, a little reminder of "I killed the rest of your family" is enough for a delicious elven meal.

"Mana" is the new oxygen.

Living beings do not actually generate it, it is harvested from the environment and stays in their system (for a short time, until death, until they receive pain...). A creature can survive without mana only for a short time, and will suffer the effects you described otherwise. Cloning new creatures in your oxygen/mana-starved environment is just going to make your situation worse, because your finite amount of mana now needs to suffice for more of them.

Capturing creatures from other, mana-rich realms, is a way of using the captives as mana containers to move the energy from A to B, instead of creating a source of mana in your own realm. Dead matter might release its mana only if converted by plants, buried in sacred grounds, shone on by sunlight..., which is a condition not present in the fae realm. They might've not realized this causality, or they might've found out that it's impossible to replicate there.

As to why you can keep organisms for a long time to tickle more mana out of their pain ridden bodies: a creature's body will convert some of their muscle mass/caloric intake/emotions/faith/whatever fits your story into mana, to meet its mana needs. This is of inferior quality though, and takes its toll on the body. Mana-starved creatures might suffer from something like scurvy.

Mana replenishes slowly.

Animals and humans start off life with hardly any mana. As they grow, the mana increases. However, the mana also decreases slowly. When the Dark Elves feed off of slaves, the mana slowly drains, which is why the elves have to return to the human realm every so often- because the mana of the people and animals they brought last time is depleted.

Mana is not restored in the dark realm

In the dark realm, mana is not restored, which means growing slaves there will not provide mana.

Genetic Degredation

Artificial wombs still need a "parent" to provide DNA/lifeforce/spark-of-life etc. However, the artificial womb also results in an inferior specimen that what was used to fertilize it. So after multiple generations, the new stock becomes crippled, pathetic and useless. They need fresh blood (lines) to replenish the bredding/cloning stock regularly.

This could apply to Dark Elves too, and be an additional cause for their numerous issues. Or because they're naturally inclined to artificial wombs, the negative impacts don't apply to them.

Their deity drains mana from the fae realm, leaving the mortal realm as their only source, and they can't survive there very long. Only beings born and raised in the mortal realm have mana to drain. Their cloning process is too involved to run in the mortal realm given their inability to stay there for very long. Even something as quick as the Wild Hunt is difficult due to the cross realm issues.

Entropy

Since they have the technology to literally grow new slaves, it stands to reason that they would be able to use this method to avoid having to risk their lives in raids to bring back people to torture. Why would this not be the case?

Entropy (and associated concepts like conservation of energy; the concept of theoretical Heat Machines and such) works just the same in your universe as in ours. This means that to grow dark elf babies into full-grown, real adults (not just slaves) would require to put mana in.

That is, to create a full-fledged elf, you'd need to make the trivial, cheap baby cocoon, and then add mana from whatever source. The elf parents have none to spare, and it doesn't appear out of thin air in their fae realm, so they need to get it from external suppliers (in terms of science, they'd need to cross the system border).

This entails a further need for explanation: why does mana appear in the non-fae world? I wouldn't bother with any too technical explanation here. You can do a lot with the usual dark-light ying-yang concept; i.e., the real world (the "light" world) is the source of all mana, and all mana eventually passes on into the dark world, and from there into their deity, which quite literally sucks the life energy out of both universes, in the whole process.

Add a deity of the light world (some Gaia type of "source"), which can provide limitless mana to the inhabitants of the light side, especially to babies, and you have a very natural tension between light and dark, and natural mortal enemies, the need to balance everything out, and so on. Add a crisis which somehow limits the rate of mana infusion; an evil master plan of the dark deity to kill the light deity (without noticing that that would eventually starve/kill the dark deity as well); a wicked way to circumvent the light world and beam the mana from Gaia directly to the dark deity; ... and you have many nice plot points at hand.

Good luck with your story!

Too expensive to raise a human and grow its food.

There isn't enough of a resource to grow food for growing humans. Open space, healthy Earth dirt, water, light, oxygen, heat, etc. The dark elves do have an unhealthy liquid that will barely keep a human alive, but has no nutrients for growth or repair.

Humans take two decades to produce mana in an efficient manner!

Imagine wanting paper, where a single tree costs millions and takes 20 years. And also there a large natural forest nearby with 7.6 billion trees that will naturally reproduce and are fun to cut down. The tress are not fun to raise.

Who'd be crazy enough to make a tree farm when the trees make, manage, and pay for themselves in the forest for you? In fact you might want to influence that forest to reproduce faster...

Fear of getting diposed of by their own deity

The soul of any sentient being born to the fae-realm will be owned by the dark elf deity. Human's natural mana replenishment, shorter lifespan (the humans simply die sooner than drained completely) and higher population would make them much better worshipers than the dark elves could ever be.
Even though their deity did never drained humans directly and humans kept worshiping their petty god, the possibility -and fear- is still there. What would happen if the deity just chose adopt humans and get rid of the dark elves?

Hence the raids of sentient creatures of realms which souls cannot claimed by the deity and strict breeding regulations of non-elves.

Your dark elves are saddist. Who knows if they were saddist to begin with, or became saddists because their deity forced them to feed on other creatures through torture ?

The result is all the same, by now your dark elves have learned to take pleasure from making others suffer, it is not only their main mean of survival, they just can't help it. Hurting others is what makes them happy.

You might think this is good to torture clones, created exclusively to suffer but how could such a pitiful creature know true despair ? How could a creature born in capitivity understand everything it will never have, like freedom, a family, friends, belongings, happiness and so on ?

On the other hand... capturing living creatures that used to be free is much more fun for such deviant elves. Shattering them is what they like, seeing them drowning little by little into madness and despair as their mana is slowly eaten and regenerated, keeping them alive far longer than their usual lifespawn just to suffer endless physical and psychological pain.

There are not many fates that are more horrible, than being a tortured slave in the hands of such horrible and saddistic torturers.

All in all, cloned creatures can't suffer as much as naturally bred ones.

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