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I am Josephine Mengalus, an alchemist on the path to immortality by becoming a lich. Alchemy is the study of combining magic with science, to create a higher form of study that surpasses both. Souls are power sources that possess large amounts of energy, and can be used for spells or rituals, or to power certain machinery based on magic principles. The souls id made up of two parts. The first contains the memories and personalities of the individual, everything that makes them "them". The second contains the life force of the person, that is immortal and remains after death. I plan to harvest a large number of souls for my soul forge, a specialized container built to hold spirits. Through the use of a dark ritual, I plan to use this soul forge to elevate my to lichdom and make me a god among men. Of course, the devil is in the details, and I must arrange to collect a large number of souls in a short amount of time as well as remain inconspicuous from prying eyes.

My first thought was to raise the souls of the recently deceased. However, souls maintain strong connections to their bodies after death, making it almost impossible to remove. That connection fades the longer a person is dead, bringing me to my second idea of raising the souls of the long departed who died centuries ago. These souls are "blank slates" who have lost all memories from life and have no remaining connection to their physical forms. However, the longer a person is dead, the harder they are to raise. It would take a massive amount of time and power to harvest. Which brings me to my last idea: harvesting the souls of unborn children.

It takes 9 months for a child's physical body to be created, during which time the soul develops last in the third trimester. These are the Goldilocks souls: blank slates that lack any attachments or memories, and new enough to be easily harvested. I cast a powerful spell that magically harvested ( or "murdered", for the politically correct crowd) the souls of millions of children across the country, drawing their souls into my forge. There are a few alchemists of my craft who would protest this on the grounds that casting such a spell in the name of science violates certain "moral" principles. As idiotic as these excuses may seem to you, they have highlighted a problem.

The spirits of these children are known as half-souls. These undeveloped souls, while malleable and easily taken, do not possess only half the volume of energy as a full soul. Logically, I assume that stitching and combining a number of half-souls together would increase their volume and provide for a higher energy output. However, this is not the case, as the quantity of energy that the souls output remain the same. How can this be the case?

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    $\begingroup$ Mixing half a liter of water with half a liter of alcohol results in 0.96 liters of solution. Dissolving 5 grams of salt in one liter of water results in 0.97 liters of solution -- that's why sea water is denser than fresh water. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 27 '19 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ The body of the question expands the question to be very broad, in light of this questions asking "How" tend to be too broad and get closed as such. $\endgroup$ – Bitter dreggs. Jun 27 '19 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ What is the density of a soul or a half-soul? Is there a conservation of souls law? How is the energy of a soul measured? Is there a range of soul output? How much does it vary? What happens when a soul no longer has energy? Can a soul be depleted? I'm not asking to get answers, but to encourage you to build out your magic system a bit more. $\endgroup$ – kleer001 Jun 27 '19 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ There's an enormous amount of irrelevant backstory here which does not give any actual information about how souls are stored or carried or what they're made from or other physical properties. You asked about a physical property but supply no physical information that's relevant. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Jun 28 '19 at 0:16
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Decay magic. (As in nuclear decay, not rotting away.)

Since you can't touch the soul directly, you can only measure it by its energy output: how much magic you can do with it at any one time.

These "half" souls are already fully formed. Combining them does not increase the energy density because the space in the aether where they exist is already filled up. I.e., if you pour two gallons of water into a one gallon bucket, you still only have one gallon of water in that bucket. They don't look like they're fully formed to you only because you can't see them directly.

Now, as a soul is used, which normally happens by animating a body, part of that pure soul energy breaks down into a less pure, more tangible form. This exercised bit of soul energy continues to release more and more magic until it gets all used up over a couple of decades. Once a bit of soul starts emitting magic, it doesn't stop; it takes a long time to release that energy.

This is why a freshly harvested soul from an adult is so easy to manipulate; it's full of energy that will take a long time to dissipate back down to background levels... but because the person using that soul has exercised bits of that soul in certain ways with certain habits and routines, the most energetic parts of the soul match those habits and routines as well... A caretaker's soul could be used to cure wounds, a warrior's soul can be used to cast fireballs and magic missiles.

An infant soul, though, has very little of its soul exercised; no habits or routines yet, and it's "cold" -- not emitting any residual magic yet. Necromancers of the past have been unable to jump-start the reactions, and haven't had the patience to let the soul "warm up" before discarding them as failed experiments.

Careful about getting too many infant souls together in one place, though. Once they start emitting magic, they won't stop for many decades to come. You need to keep using the magic so that it doesn't accumulate in dangerous ways...

This is similar to uranium in a power plant, which is fairly non-radioactive outside of the reactor. The uranium produces prompt radiation with its initial fision due to being close to other uranium (and several other factors that I'll handwave for brevity)... then going on to produce additional heat through delayed radiation, as the daughter products are still highly radioactive themselves, but take hours, months, and years to decay into stable lead, all the while releasing energy long after that first prompt reaction.

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Because souls are like stars

If you combine enough stars together, you would get a black hole, one that is significantly smaller in volume but more massive than any of its constituent components. Also, the black hole emits far less energy than a star.

This is just an effect of a physical law of nature, gravity. If magic or alchemy or whatever laws govern souls in your world have an attractive inverse square law with distance, then you would get the same effect. Tinker with the value of the universal constant of soul attraction and combining as few as two souls could give you a black soul-holes. Or something.

Whereas 10 souls might output 10$x$ units of soul-energy, one black soul outputs nothing. Unless black souls also have soul-Hawking radiation or soul-accretion disks. Or something.

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  • $\begingroup$ Soul-Hawking radiation could be some really tiny output of "pure" soul-energy with lack of any previous usage similar to one child have. $\endgroup$ – val says Reinstate Monica Jun 28 '19 at 14:13
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Souls don't increase in volume because volume is a property of matter, something which souls, which are demonstrably not made of matter, do not possess. Souls have altogether different properties, and the additive property isn't one of them.

Simply put, soul arithmetic doesn't follow the laws of normal arithmetic.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like this. The souls form in a lattice. It is about the count, not the volume. A lattice of half souls possesses less energy, but requires the same container. $\endgroup$ – Jammin4CO Jun 28 '19 at 15:06
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How many fetuses does it take to change a light bulb?

None, fetuses lack the basic motor skills to change a light bulb and therefore are useless to all such goals. Adding more fetuses isn't going to make the job more probable of happening, it's just going to cover the floor with more mess that your janitor is going to have to clean up.

No, you need souls that have basic competence, but not attachment.

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Let's follow your logic

Adding more souls doesn't increase the volume:

  • that must mean it increases the pressure.

Adding more souls doesn't increase the output:

  • output isn't pressure dependent, it's volume dependent, so surface area must be your key to power output.

What that means is that all the additional souls you've compressed into this system doesn't increase your power output, but instead increases the usable lifespan. Not entirely a loss as your new Duracell soul powered bunny lasts ten times as long as ordinary soul powered bunnies.

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    $\begingroup$ "Durasoul - no body is stronger, longer" $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Jun 28 '19 at 13:33
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Fresh souls lack the resilience of experienced ones.

An old soul, one that belonged to a person who had lived a long and varied life, has become strong and resilient to the ravaging effects of being detached from a vessel. Fresh souls however, are barely formed and gossamer.

When you harvested so many fresh souls, you expected a certain volume. However, by the time they'd been drawn in and housed in your forge, they'd lost much of their material to the inevitable degradation inherent in the exposure of a soul to the space between.

Note: For further reading on the principles of soul erosion, please refer to chapter sixteen of Thurixarion's Treatise on the Harvesting of Incorporeal Anima.

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They are not actually souls. Soul is associated with the "breath of life" and children receive it with their first breath in after birth.

What develops with the last trimester and what your alchemist is collecting is the receptacle for the soul that contains the soul after the child receives it at birth.

Combining several receptacles into one leaves you with one receptacle and hence one soul.

What you want to do is find a way to sustain the receptacles separately and let each separately gain a soul which you then suck the energy of. You then combine the energy. The order in which you do things matters here.

It might be simpler to find a way to suck the energy of a soul without killing or breaking the vessel and then use a ritual to open the vessel so it can receive a new soul which you can then also harvest. You could in theory repeat this several times per vessel as long as you leave time for the vessel to heal between operations. Potentially without killing anyone too.

You can also just harvest a portion of the energy. Harvesting one third of soul energy of triple the people should give the same result without permanent negative effects.

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The "life energy" of a soul is actually a one-way portal to another dimension from which energy flows. The size of the portal determines the amount of energy. Newborn souls haven't dilated the portal to full size yet, and so give out a bit less energy.

Normally, a soul is tied to the body and so the location of the portals don't overlap in physical space. When you use necromancy to detach the soul from its body, overlapping of souls become possible. When you place two souls in the same location, their energy-portals also overlap the same physical space. Now they are drawing from the same location in the energy-dimension, and there's a limited energy flow for each area - so you get the same energy output as from one soul.

The solution, then, is to not have the souls in the exact same location. Create a magical soul-holding framework, keeping each soul at least a portal diameters distance from each other. Not a simple thing, of course - but who said becoming a lich was easy?

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