There used to be Groves everywhere. They wer easily accessible and free for anyone to explore without supervision. They were the hallmark, some say, of an easier time. A time before those giant rusting islands that floated just offshore of almost every nation.
The Groves represented the idea of magic and the women who tended to them – always women; the men who were raised in these communes had their own, separate, duties to the Groves – were beholden to this idea.
Historically, magic was a sign of status. The bigger the Grove you tended and the more people who came to your Grove just to see it, the higher your status.
Then came the others. Those who didn't respect the Groves. Those who came from places where the idea of magic wasn't as revered. Wasn't as common. These were the places that had to use other methods to live their lives. They developed mechanical aids and machines to do their bidding.
For a long time, these two ways of life existed separately. To each their own, as the saying goes.
There have always been naysayers on both sides of any debate. No single issue is entirely black and white, and the more you discuss it, the more grey it becomes. But when someone created a way to merge the two things together – use mechanical means to enhance magic use – there was outcry from all corners.
How dare someone try to force magic where it won't go. Why would anyone want to use magic where these machines were more efficient?
But in the end, efficiency won out, accelerated when someone used this hybrid technology to discover untapped sources of magic. Almost overnight magic was available to everyone. People started to install taps and plumbing into their houses to access an always available source of power around the home.
The more the demand grew – once people understood just how much easier magic made their lives – the more work was needed to access those untapped sources. Fortunately for everyone, more and more of them were found around the world. It was a golden age of magic availability.
The Groves were status symbols. Groves existed through the tending and manipulation of naturally flowing magic. Pools of it would condense in certain areas and those attuned to it would be able to work with it to create small pockets of greenery and life. The bigger and more vibrant these places became, the more importance your coven had.
The new paradigm changed this. Magic was now everywhere. The Groves went from being a tourist attraction to nothing. No one outside of the covens cared anymore. The ability of the women was tossed aside. Everyone could manipulate magic now. All of that education and skill was now publicly available.
But this change in technology, this hybridisation of magic and mechanics, began to have unexpected flow on effects. The most disastrous – not that anyone knew it at the time – was the disruption the giant rigs that had been developed to mine the untapped sources of magic under the ocean floor had on the natural flow-ways of magic.
It went like this: Deep underground, large pools of raw magic coalesced over many millennia. As time went on, some of this raw magic made its way through the cracks and crevices of the Earth, filtering it, cleaning it and, in a sense, refining it. It would naturally flow through as much rock and dirt as it could, eventually emerging into the atmosphere at high points on the planet; mountains and the like. As a side note, if you mapped schools of magic against these high points, you would find a not coincidental correlation.
Once the magic, now clean and safe, entered the atmosphere, some of it would evaporate and head into the sky, creating aurora and other celestial effects, but some of it would flow, like water, down the mountain, after all, magic is not immune to physical forces.
As this magic meandered towards equilibrium, it would collect in dips and holes, swirling around, merging with other flows, mixing, and splitting again to continue on its journey. In this way, it changed, became something else. Always dynamic.
These pools where it collected were the places where a Grove could be made. Each coven – the name for the group of women who did the actual work – would tend several Groves, following the flow-way of their stream of magic back uphill to its source. Any given flow-way could have several Groves established on it. However, the further down the hill, the weaker the concentration of magic. The real power of the Covens, and the Groves, came from the combination and recombination of the different flow-ways as they came down the hill.
It was not unusual for there to be three or four Covens all with their own Groves on a single mountain, or even a single flow-way.
The machines that sat offshore and pumped out gallon after gallon of raw magic changed the dynamic of these flow-ways.
They prevented a lot of the raw magic from flowing through the Earth, and less and less of it would reach the peaks where it would start its journey back down. The Groves started to die, and no amount of work from the covens changed anything. Then the covens split and suddenly there were witches among everyone else. Single women who used to be in a coven. Untrustworthy. After all, why would you be here, by yourself, if you're famous for being a team worker?
Only the strongest of flow-ways, and the most powerful of covens, escaped this. Nations whose governments were founded on ideals that respected magic were less impacted by the changes. Their flow-ways remained almost untouched. But magic isn't discrete. The magic that runs your vehicles is the same that grows your crops. The magic that allows you to assist your family to create buildings and villages is the same magic that is used to make weapons.
The increased consumption of raw magic across the world weakened magic everywhere. The covens, and the Coven of Covens grew angry. They pulled back from the world and defended their remaining flow-ways with vitriol and power.
The world had grown closer than ever. The less fortunate had been lifted out of poverty and those who had grown used to being on top had to wrestle with the idea that the playing field no longer gave them their advantages. Magic had been the great equaliser, but there had been a dramatic cost.
The debt must be settled and no one could predict how it would be collected.