In my setting (which is roughly early-medieval in terms of technology), magic comes from the Life-energy of all living beings. There are several factors that affect how much of this energy each being possesses:
- The age of a being. Older creatures have accumulated more 'Life' over their years.
- A being's sense of self, i.e. How much it knows it is alive, so to speak. A 20-year-old man has more life-energy than a 100 year old turtle, for instance, simply because the man recognizes that he is an individual living being, while the turtle simply tries hard not to die. Sentience, I suppose.
- The emotional state of a being. Someone with more will to live has more 'Life' than a merely apathetic one, while a depressed person may have little to no 'Life' energy at all.
There are three more important things to note about life energy:
- Your life energy will slowly replenish itself to your 'Current Maximum' after being used, which is determined by the above factors. As long as you don't completely use up your life energy, you won't die.
- You will, however, feel extremely depressed. At the above section, I stated how the emotional state of being determines their Life-Energy. The reverse is also true.
- When anything dies, it releases what remains of its life energy out, back 'into the Cycle'.
So, all that magi-babble having been said, some clever clogs magister came up with a method to trap the 'Final Breath' of the dying in little bottles, ready to be used. This was very controversial at first, but the magister managed to escape with his technique and began selling it to less 'ethically oriented' peoples, who eventually 'persuaded' him to part with his techniques and allow them to start producing more. Edit: This was roughly 50-ish earth years ago.
Edit: The amount of Final Breath released by a person would be their current amount of Life Energy possessed upon death.
In short, my question is - what would be the social and economical implications that would arise from bottled life? How would society be affected if death could potentially be a beneficial thing?
Edit: After receiving some answers and useful comments, I decided to clarify a few more things:
- 'Drinking' a bottle of life does not grant a permanent increase in magical energy. It merely gives you a temporary boost. Most magi prefer to use it once they feel 'used up', rather than before casting any spells.
- A bottle of Life is quite valuable, yet not so valuable as to be 'rare'. Sort of like gold, I suppose. You see it all over the place, and yet somehow its still quite expensive.
- Life does increase over time, due to birth. A mother splits off a bit of her life to her child as it resides within her. After she gives birth, she will slowly recover her Life back to her own maximum, while the child now produces his own Life.