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Setting

Take this isolated island country, about the size of Ireland. The technology and society can be compared to 17th century Western Europe. The country is densely populated, and the people have lived on that island for as long as they can remember. No other landmasses are known.

A very small portion of these people is able to 'enchant' people. I'm still looking for a right verb, but the weak version of the power is that they can subtly compel people in general to do what they can to please them. By applying their power more forcefully, they can fully possess an individual; take over someone's body for up to a few hours at a time (which the possessed person has no recollection of afterwards).

Here's the thing: for the people who have this gift, power is inversely proportional to age. What that means is that in the population of a couple million, a few dozen to a hundred babies every year will be born with this power. Promptly they will, voluntarily or not, turn their entire environment (the range is a few hundred meters, regardless of walls) into their servants and grow up treated like royals.

This early period has a high mortality rate: some of these toddlers overdose on their magic and die of brain aneurysm, some get over-confident and are slain by someone they cannot enchant (a similar fraction of the populace is immune). A handful perishes simply of the excessive luxury, e.g. from obesity.

Those who survive into childhood tend to grow mature enough to control their power and apply it with more measurement, as it grows weaker. A magician in their teens is at their most 'effective', because although they must take weeks between total possessions and their subtle power only serves to make them generally considered likeable by people in their vicinity, they are now skilled enough that they can go a long way with a few enchantments here and there to clear any obstacles in their way. No magician in their twenties has any meaningful amount of power left.

Problem

So the magic teens are effectively the ruling class; they are organised and through selective magical manipulation of the real power holders in the country they keep their class living in luxury. Every now and then they make other kinds of interventions, like to prevent war or revolution. However, their influence is hidden; the populace would never tolerate being ruled by a society of magicians, especially magical children.

So they have two objectives: firstly, every new magic baby needs to be found as soon as possible; they need to be protected against themselves, and educated not to over-use their power so as not to ruin the masquerade. And the second objective is to provide a reason for this whole situation where extreme social mobility seems to exist for a handful of toddlers each year, who are born peasants but end up in high society by puberty.

Solution?

Because this class of a couple thousand kids and teens has enough power at their disposal to manipulate key figures, a logical path is to focus on the priests. Establish a religious doctrine that explains them and presents their influence as a good thing. My first thought was a dogma that powerful spirits dwell in afterlife, and that every now and then they touch an Earth child and imbue them with their power. But an issue is that this draws attention to the child itself; it sets positive expectations on them (people will wonder how the child or the spirit could help them) as well as negative expectations (because power draws envy and use of this power tends to be for selfish reasons, people would grow to hate the spirits and the children with them).

Enchanting is a relatively nasty form of magic, in that it violates other people's agency. What's more, the general population is be growing more cynical each year; it is age of enlightenment, science is on the rise, and people are getting tired of dogma.

What could the magical teen caste do to help preserve their powerbase, and explain the magic babies that enter their ranks every year, in a manner that does not reveal the true power of the caste nor does it draw unwelcome attention to themselves or their 'fresh recruits'?

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    $\begingroup$ Why the ruling "enchanters" would like to groom the younger generation of enchanters rather than get rid of them? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Oct 15 '20 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander because they would die out otherwise. An enchanter is all but devoid of magic by the time they reach age twenty, they need the class to continue in order to keep their luxurious retirement secure. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Oct 15 '20 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ You could found a school for exceptionally talented children and teach them to use their powers in ways that benefit the ruling class. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Brēza Oct 15 '20 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ For older enchanters, this will be like riding a tiger, because they only can hope the youngsters would do their bidding rather than turn on them. However, I understand that your question is precisely about how the rider can control a tiger. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Oct 15 '20 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ " I'm still looking for a right verb, but the weak version of the power is that they can subtly compel people in general to do what they can to please them." - the usual term among fantasy RPG players (mostly D&D players) is charming. You charm someone, and the charmed person acts in a way to obey or please you. $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Oct 15 '20 at 22:10
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Let me propose a process:

First: Magical babies need to be removed from where they are. Period. Letting them stay public and form incompetent mini mind-control dictatorships will catch public attention and thus these babies need to be trained from a young age. This means they leave their families, their inherited social circles, everything. For all intents and purposes, the baby needs to "die".

Second: Once the baby has been moved to a secure training location, it needs to be reared and trained until it is capable of helping to steer the nation. To do so, I recommend a staff of "immune" people who can socialize the child so that they obey their elders and don't grow up with sociopathic mindsets.

Third: When "of age" (10 y/o or whenever) the magical children become "little brothers/sisters" to older (but still powered) peers in a familial/apprenticeship role. They learn the job, look up to their older "siblings", and are taught to respect the wisdom of the elders with the promise that they too will one day be Elders

Fourth: Teenagers who are declining in power mentor their little "siblings" and prepare to move into a more organizational role or retire into luxury. If depowered magical children are also immune, they help raise the little ones or form an un-influenceable cast of Elders.

This strategy has two big points where they need to interface with the public at large:

  • Finding and then disappearing magical babies as fast as possible

  • Finding and then recruiting people who are immune to the magic

To accomplish the first goal, some heavy indoctrination is going to be required. You need to convince every mother that there is some reason that the government/church needs to take away their baby or excuse the disappearance of their baby. You could do this in several ways:

  • Create a fake disease or curse. Claim that occasionally children are born cursed and need to be given to the church to be "purified" (ritually executed) or whatever. Blame occasional plague or disease outbreaks on parents who didn't give their children to the church, creating societal pressure for parents to feel obligated to give up their children.

  • Simply disappear the baby. In a nation big enough, a couple hundred babies being kidnapped per year isn't even noticed. If it is, maybe set up some false-flag cult or terrorist group for the public to blame for baby-kidnapping. Parents are then given a convenient target to direct their hate towards.

  • Parents are encouraged to snitch on other parents who are hiding their children or don't register them with the govt/church.

The next problem is that you need to find these babies, preferably before they are sentient enough to do more than impart base commands on their parents unconsciously. To do so you could:

  • Similar to baptism, every child needs to attend a religious ceremony X days after birth to be registered by the government and potentially checked to see if they're "cursed". Priests are "immunes" or otherwise trained to recognize the feeling of being charmed by babies and then report it up the chain. They don't even need to be in-the-know and would genuinely believe in "cursed" children

  • In cities where births happen in centralized locations, have the head doctor or hospital-priest be trained to recognize magical babies and report it

  • Have wandering "Plague Inquisitors" who are immune (or ex-magical children) and wander the country looking for hives of mind-controlled people. Given an advanced search strategy, any magical children should be too stupid to avoid being caught (or even know that what they're doing is a bad thing).

To find immune people, you could also use the Plague Inquisitors. Simply have them partner up/"apprentice" with older magical children and locate immunes that way.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thorough answer that covers everything. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Oct 18 '20 at 10:31
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Unpopular king has a >100% marginal estate tax

In your world, a monarch is despised and needs money for his party lifestyle, and decides the best way to take is from the dead - as they can't fight back. He decrees that anyone who dies with more than 10sqm of land gives it all to the king instead of his own children, and the crown has first pickings of anything in an estate over the children - typically stripping them of any precious metals or anything that can be pawned for cash.

Children of nobility end up worse off than peasant children, as the king seizes everything they inherit. They're left homeless and hungry. When the crown sees dead nobility and their heirs in a nice house it is immediately seized and sold, even if the owner "technically" gifted it to his own children the king just ignores that technically.

Because of this, anyone with wealth but failing health is desperate to dispose of their wealth before death, ensuring that their children at least get a roof over their head and a small patch of land rather than lose everything to the king.

The easiest way for the super rich to hide wealth from the king is to gift it to a newborn peasant baby. That child now holds immense wealth. Titles like "knight" and "lady" also have explicit defined value and can be traded as currency, these are gifted to the child to, giving status as well as wealth.

While the benefactor lives, he helps raise the child and teaches the child how to adjust to privilege, and teaches the child this a "screw you" to the crown.

Now you have a system where rich people randomly sponsor poor children, educate them, and teenage upper class have all the power. Perfect to hide you magic teens in.

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    $\begingroup$ Depending on the setting. Whatever monarch decides on taking from the wealthy can expect an immediate civil war after that. If The prince has taught me anything it is that dont do crap like that. People are far more likely to fight you to keep their wealth than to avenge their dead father. Also nobility tended to stick together in this larger context. Machiavelli would say France, of his time, is a perfect example of that type of country. The lord are very autonomous there and their powers and inherited NOT from the monarch. Interesting idea though $\endgroup$ – Seallussus Oct 16 '20 at 2:29
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    $\begingroup$ Slightly unbelievable but very creative, thank you for this idea :D $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Oct 16 '20 at 9:31
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I mean they could just turn it into a dictatorship and force them to relinquish the gifted young ones while they still have power. Soon everyone would just accept this as the way it should be, if there is ever any resistance they could charm people to fight for you or recruit others to the cause. The main reason most people are affected is probably because, at their base, most people want to be controlled.

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