A person is born with a certain amount of mana, which increases with age and peaks at a certain point. Individuals are born with all the mana they will ever have, but it can be refined with practice and training. This will determine how well it can be controlled and used to perform spells.

However, there is a way to cheat this process. Mana is transferable through a dark ritual that involves torturing and killing a host. Through this process, a renegade witch can absorb the mana of others, making themselves stronger. These witches are called crones. Mana that has been honed with training gives crones the most power, making competent witches the most sought after targets. At a certain point, a witch would achieve apotheosis and evolve into a higher life form.

However, absorbing mana from others leads to physical changes in a crone, eventually losing all resemblance to humanity. Therefore, crones must operate away from society, and use proxies to obtain victims for them. The major problem here is secrecy. Criminal enterprises are most successful in limited numbers. The smaller the circle, the less risk with exposure, the more likely anonymity can be maintained. Large enterprises such as human trafficking is a momentous undertaking. This is a huge operation that involves many people, any one of which can alert the authorities or make a mistake, bringing the whole thing down. In addition, keeping the disappearances of prominent witches a secret without raising suspicion in a community is difficult.

While crones are powerful, they don't want to deal with entire bands of trained mages after them while their goal is incomplete. How can a crone reduce the risk of being caught with all these variables in place?

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    $\begingroup$ "A person is born with a certain amount of mana, which increases with age and peaks at a certain point. Individuals are born with all the mana they will ever have (...)" You contradicted yourself in the second sentence of the post. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ How is this different from your other crone question worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/128353/…? And when are you going to link up some of your freaky fiction for your fans here to read?? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Willk this question is more specific to how a complex enterprise can be kept running while minimizing risks. you think its freaky? $\endgroup$
    – Incognito
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Incognito - the world I see thru your questions is freaky with weird magic etc. This particular question no more freaky than most. I want to read some fiction! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ I do not mean in the Rick James sense. I mean in the way that bizarre magic rituals to extract magic energy / dead ghost baby / sorcery family sort of thing is freaky. Not what you find at Disneyland. But the creative stuff of fantastic fiction. And if a little Rick James sense too I am cool with that. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 21:15

3 Answers 3


Slavery So the same way people have gotten disposable people since the dawn of time. Depending on time period this can be legal and easy or might involve contacting existing human traffickers. Assuming that magic can be used to do useful things the crones can make money and buy slaves the same as everyone else. In this case even if they are untrained in magic they can make up for it by quantity of lesser slaves.

Start a cult Use your magic to help the members a little and train them in magic, then make the most talented/successful of your members higher ranked in the cult. Steal the mana from the less talented and/or disobedient. Make it high risk, high reward. Leave the lowest level members alone so they keep breeding new members for the cult.

Basically as long as you are only targeting people that no one cares about or that volunteered you can probably exist somewhat openly, more so if you use your magic to help the general public in some way.

The Aztec empire sacrificed people for absolutely no real gain and had people consider it an honor, you should be able to do at least that much with actual magic power.


A few ideas:

They can start a company.

As seen in: Great Old Ones Limited, or Why does Cthulhu need a Company?

Ritual logistics are complex enough to impact on how you fill your taxes. But on the bright side, corporations can do literally anything with impunity once they've got enough cash. We've seen them poisoning water supplies, taking ancestral lands, trafficking people... Vanishing some individuals here and there should be easy peasy. Plus having the personnel do the victim acquisition, sorting and storage for you makes them work for their salaries.

They can take a page from manhunter species

As seen in: How could a species survive on just luring in and eating humans?

Plenty of contexts where living in humans could be done, with or without consent. Plenty of people go missing without inviting many questions in our world already.

They can use a Vanilla Sky alternative

Your world allows for magic, so it can allow for a magic version of the Matrix. You can create a virtual, magical heaven for people where their minds/souls can go to live happily everafter - in exchange for their bodies. See How to monetize uploaded consciousness?


How do human traffickers avoid being caught now? Presumably by using cutouts for the actual illegal work. The bosses don't touch anything illegal.

Have your crones live on an island in international waters. But have them do their sacrificing on a different island. The large, potentially vulnerable organization only knows where the sacrifice island is. Or add a third island. Then even if compromised, the organization can't lead authorities to the crones' residence. They don't know where it is. Each time the meeting island is compromised, find a new one.

Presumably the organization will be compromised somewhat regularly. But the relationship with the crones will continue.

This is especially effective if your magic includes traceless teleportation. They just pop over to the island. If something goes wrong, they disappear. Without that, they can use proxies at the meeting. The proxies move the sacrifices from the meeting island to the sacrifice island. If worst comes to worst, the crones abandon (or even kill; I presume your magic system allows remote killing) their proxies and find a new sacrifice island. More commonly though they would simply lose that team of human traffickers.

If it's a just a small law enforcement group, they might even just take it. More sacrifices.


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