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There is a ritual that allows a mage to steal the soul of another person. This adds their mana to your own, making your magic more powerful. It also extends your lifespan and makes your physical form stronger and more durable. Absorbing mana from numerous victims in this way can make you almost godlike. The downside is that it mutates your form in various ways. Mages will eventually exhibit deformities such as extra limbs, elongated fingers, pot marked or bark - like skin, and other mutations. A dark aura emanates from them that a glamour spell cannot hide. These mages are called crones. This Coven seeks to overthrow the establishment of the mageocracy and take power, and are biding their time for the right moment.

This kind of magic is considered a form of cannibalism, for you are absorbing an individual's soul into yourself. Not only are you stealing his life energy, you are preventing the soul from passing on to the next life. Crones are the scum of this mageocracy and are feared and hated by all. Many have gone on to be powerful threats as the Hitler of this setting.

This coven needs to hide their presence from authorities, or they would be hunted down and killed. Being chased to the fringes of society to hide out in the woods is not conducive to their plans and defeats the purpose of gaining power in the 1st place. They also need to gather more victims to sacrifice in order to add to their strength. How can they operate in society without being discovered?

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  • $\begingroup$ What is the technology level/civilization level of the world? Is it middle ages level advancement, renaissance, pre-WWII, modern? What would be considered a heavy populated city? $\endgroup$ – JGreenwell Oct 24 '18 at 0:42
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I think the simple way is that they have proxies. There are always young and ambitious mages and people who seek power and immortality. Many of them think they know better than their predecessors and many want access to the forbidden arts to achieve their own goals.

Your Crones live in hiding and act through proxies. The proxies seek out crones for their power and in exchange for knowledge, serve the Crones until they themselves become one.

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    $\begingroup$ Proxies plan to consume the crones when they get strong enough. Crones plan to consume proxies when they outlive their usefulness. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Oct 24 '18 at 1:14
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Crones are hated and feared. But they are better than the alternative.

Crones need healthy people. It is not in their interest that people die of disease, or hunger, or from street crimes and that is what routinely happens to people in this world without the crones influence. A person who dies for some reason other than being consumed by a crone is a person wasted. So the crones use their power to reduce sources of disease and keep crops healthy and crop pests at bay. They are ruthless in stamping out criminals in areas under their control. They want people to thrive and have big families. In return they ask only a little.

It is like living with the mafia. If you live there, you know who they are. So too the crones - people living in these areas are not stupid. They know where the crones are and they know what crones do. They know why the crones want them to be healthy. They might even go to see one from time to time, asking a favor, passing on information and the crones are receptive to this. They don't eat everyone who walks through the door!

Turning the crones in to the distant rulers (who really don't care much) means giving up the benefits crones bring. Crones are scary as heck but life is predictable with them around. Better one devil you know than a thousand devils you don't.

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Their best way to exist is by hiding in plain sight, so to speak. Kind of like Mafia figures where the names are known to a few, but there is so many others around that anyone can get lost in the crowd.

So set them up in the middle of the largest cities. Probably where things are run down. Where the neighborhoods are old. You know, the parts of of any city where the origins of the various buildings are lost to the past. There should be boltholes, networks of underground tunnels. Part of the Reasoning behind living in this area is that in run down areas, people may be more practical. Especially where money is concerned. The other part of the Reasoning is that the older parts of town with tunnels allows for ease of movement undetected. If you have the only map of the underside of town, the Authorities can't track or anticipate your movements. If you have the means, you can expand on the network to reach all throughout the town. That equals Power in a very real sense.

On a societal level: Have your Crones be somewhat like Mafia bosses. When they feed, have them feed on only certain groups. These groups would be the marginalized or the hated. That will incline large sections of the city not mind so much when the Crones feed. "Let them feed on those, just as long as they don't feed on us". The other half of the equation is to have them act like Patriarchs, in the classic sense of the word. They can be unofficial judges, arbitrators in the absence of the actual government presence. They can help the poor widows, find trades for orphans. Keeping the streets safe by making examples of the more reckless criminal, by eating them. This is going to make it a lot less likely that the locals are going to rat them out. In general, make them the sort of people that Niccolo Machiavelli would have looked up to.

Add it up and you have a situation where the authorities are going to be frustrated in efforts to hunt these crones down. They will have a hard time finding those who will expose the Crones. Even if they do, the Crones will be able to move very fast to escape. The bulk of the authorities are going to have very little incentive to hunt for the Crones in general because those areas that are under the control of the Crones will be quiet.

Overall, Think along the lines of the Corleones. But the Crones would rather be called "The Godmother".

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  • $\begingroup$ or the cronemother. $\endgroup$ – Incognito Oct 25 '18 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Incognito You got the idea! $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Oct 25 '18 at 19:54

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