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This is a follow-up question to this: How can crones minimize risks of exposure in a human trafficking enterprise?

Mana is life energy of the soul used in conducting spells. Crones are renegade witches that steal mana from other human beings through a ritual that ends up killing the subject. Through this method, the crone increases their internal supply and grows in strength. Unfortunately, this turns them into an addict. The more they use this method, the more they want. Now you would think that with a planet of billions, it would be easy to secure a victim to steal mana from. Poverty stricken neighborhoods and war torn places would be prime hunting grounds for people that won't be missed. However, the situation is more complicated. Stealing mana from any random individual results in a low payoff, as the crone cannot feed on most of that mana. Even a person born with an immense amount of mana would not be able to sustain a crone due to its minimal return.

A seasoned witch, who has had training and practice in the use of mana, would be of much higher stock and value, a prime target for a crone. Although a witch may have a very low amount of mana available to feed off of, it would sustain a crone far better than a non-mage. These candidates are usually well-known and established individuals in their profession, or have received some form of recognition in the world. This makes them difficult to secure due to their public standing, and puts the crone in more danger due to their potential victim's ability to fight back with magic.

Why would extracting mana from a magic user be more successful for a crone?

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  • $\begingroup$ How would what be the case? Your title talks about the higher success of extracting mana from a mage vs muggle. But your ending question "Why would this be the case?" is after a couple lines about how witches (are these the same as mages?) are harder to kidnap and murder due to their social standing and combat abilities. I'm finding the organization rather confusing. Mostly because you've answered both potential questions in the body of the question. What is it you want input from us about? $\endgroup$ – Cyn Apr 18 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Cyn I edited it. $\endgroup$ – Incognito Apr 19 at 10:42
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For the same reason you fill your car up at a gas station rather than an oil field.

Sure, you could go out to an oil field with a drill, fill up some barrels, process it to separate all of stuff you don't need, and finally put the gasoline in your car and head off to work. Or, you can spend 5 minutes filling it up at a gas station. Mages have much more refined and usable mana than muggles and are thus better targets for the insatiable crones.

In your other question you mentioned that people are born with a certain amount of mana and it must be refined with practice in order to do anything productive. Well, ripping unrefined mana out of a person doesn't magically refine it inside the crone, they still need to separate the wheat from the chaff. The crone must refine that stolen mana just like their original mana, and although they are better at doing so than the average muggle it still takes time and energy which lowers their mana profit margins.

However, using a mage filled with already refined and concentrated mana makes that process much easier. Instead of scouring the body to soak up all the dispersed mana the crone can just rip the mana out in one go, and they've done the dark deed enough times that they know how to best use refined mana without much effort.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this. Opens up some different strategies to use. Do you risk going after other magic users who might be better able to defend themselves, or slog through dozens of normies? Would also allow for some real Dr Mengele-style villains 'processing' muggles on an industrial scale... $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith Apr 18 at 14:32
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Building on the other answers... If everyone is born with mana, then it must serve a purpose beyond what mages use it for. Based on the fact that removing mana kills people (though that could also be the methods), it must have something to do with sustaining lifeforce. You say it's "life energy of the soul," which is similar. But draining mana could leave someone as a husk of a person. The fact that it kills them means it's required for life.

It's likely that mana serves more complex purposes as well. Perhaps it is the "muse" that inspires an artist. The drive that gets an athlete into practice every day and sustains her/him during sport. Or the creativity of a writer spinning fanciful tales.

Each person would use her/his mana in different ways. Whether it's to endure drudgery, to manage to keep going even under unbearable conditions, or even just to find joy and purpose in an otherwise mundane life.

Mages would scoff at the idea that any use of mana aside from the high calling of witchcraft could change the mana in any meaningful way. But it does. Mana aligns itself within the person, so it can better serve its purpose. It alters it in a way we might describe as being on a molecular level, if it had molecules.

When a crone rips the mana from a person s/he has 3 choices:

  1. Take it from a fellow mage. The mana will not be right for the crone, because it is aligned to someone else, but most of it will be useable. This is why there are side effects to using it.
  2. Take it from someone who has not yet altered their mana (a young child, for instance), but there are reasons this wouldn't be useable to a crone either.
  3. Take it from an adult who isn't a mage. This person will have good mana, but it's strongly aligned to the person it is a part of. Because the person does not use it for magic, very little of the mana is something the crone can make use of.

The risks of using a fellow mage are much higher, but the payoff is exponentially greater than it is with using a muggle.

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Mana orifices are open in magic users.

As a muggle, I might be full of mana but I do nothing with it. It is stuck in there. I cannot get it out and nothing moves in.

A magic user cultivates channels for smooth movement of mana into and out of the body. Depleting the body of mana via egress points and then repleting it through ingress points is key to the practice of magic. These access points might be placed in a mage's body via spells or rituals. They might be physical or intangible or both. They are kept fluid and open with practice and use.

Those egress points are what the crone uses to drain mana from a magic user. Flow is already possible through these cultivated channels and the crone takes advantage of the egress points that the witch was using to do her magic. This is perfect for horrible crones because there is horrible rape connotation to the forcible hijacking of another human's bodily access points.

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It's not about the mana it's about the mystical structures built into it. Raw mana is like a forest, plentiful but hard to use. Part of being a witch is taking that forest, cutting it down and building nice things out of it.

It's a long, difficult, painful process to take the very essence of your soul and who you are and forcing it into an artificial form. And that's when you are using your own soul, which you know intimately. Doing that with the energy of someone else's soul is like cutting down a forest and building a house while blindfolded.

So much easier and less painful to just take the finished product.

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Have the act of stealing mana be a discrete action, which takes effort and resources from the crone. Thus it's better to steal 100 mana from one person rather than 10 mana each from 10 people, because you only have to spend the energy to steal once in the former case, while you have to spend 10 times that to steal from 10 people.

Make the rules be that stealing mana steals one coherent unit of mana. Think of it like chipping a diamond out of a rock -- you always get one diamond, because it's got one coherent crystaline structure. If it's not coherent, it has a fracture plane, breaks off, and you only get part of the diamond. Or think of it like slurping a piece of spaghetti. If the spaghetti was poorly made, it will have lumps that aren't homogeneous, and the spaghetti will break off when you try to slurp past the lump.

An untrained person may have a large amount of mana, but it's not coherent. The crone would have to suck up a little, then go back and suck up a little more. They couldn't get all of it in one go because it isn't one amalgamated body of mana. (Try focusing on exactly one thing for more than 15 seconds... and you'll see what I mean about how we aren't always amalgamated -- we're fractured and easily distracted)

A trained mage is going to have to have learned how to make their mana coherent in order to cast bigger spells. They'd probably leave it that way so that they can cast those spells on a whim, without having to prepare their mana for days. But it also leaves them vulnerable to one well-placed mana steal.

This would also open the door for mages who intentionally train to have their mana broken into a small number of coherent elements, so that if the crone steals one of them, the others are still available to combat the crone with.

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