What If – Magic-Killers had their own Masquerade?

One writing exercise I’ve used for the longest time is to take fifteen or thirty minutes after every novel I read to cobble together some thoughts on how I’d write something with similar ideas. For instance…

Picture a young witch– a common protagonist in urban fantasy, sure. In this case it would be a world like ours where magicians were rare, not that powerful, and well-hidden among the ordinary humans (aka a “Masquerade” pretending that there is no magic; I wrote about that a while ago). Magic has its uses on a small scale, but not enough to change the world, so they’d rather keep themselves under the radar.

The witch’s mother is dying, of injuries from a nasty, senseless mugging. Our heroine tracks down the muggers, but she finds there’s no point in revenge because the event was just that random. She tries to heal her mother with magic… and only makes her condition worse before it ends. At her lowest ebb, she reveals what she is to her boyfriend, and his pity pushes her to the edge of suicide. Before she decides instead to run.

She fakes her death, and makes her way to a large city to start a new life. It’s an awkward process at first, cutting ties with her past and deciding if magic deserves to be any part of her life at all. Her friends are mostly the ones she makes at work; she avoids what other witches she knows are in the city. Some of them do find her, and see she’s not interested in being a real part of their community.

Then one of the witches dies. Then another.

The first time it’s someone she knows enough to take a look at, and to discover it’s a lover’s quarrel gone bad. The second time it’s an accident… until she sees the connection to the first. There was a moment when both witches used their magic in public, well hidden but still giving some clue of what they’d done. Of course there’s nobody in either victim’s life that actually caused those tragedies… and no way those people knew each other…

Can you call it a conspiracy if there’s only a handful of people at the core? and the people in each witch’s life never realize they’re being sought out and encouraged to fear, and to find some quiet way to remove that witch? Witches can’t fight back if they–and their killers–never know there’s anything more behind it.

It would be an interesting slow burn of a book to write. A protagonist trying to immerse herself in her own life, ready to put that ahead of any identity connecting herself with the others. Layers of doubt about what might be going on, who might believe her, and if there’s any way to reach the source. A few questions about how unreliable and dangerous the kind of magic is, to make her wonder if it’s worth defending. Probably a shock or two with the idea that if witches are so well hidden, how many non-witches have been killed for some incident in the news that the silent killers can’t distinguish from real magic. A story of victims and resistance, with real questions about what’s part of the everyday world and what deserves to be.

–No, it’s not the backstory for any character in Shadowed, though the books after that will go into some of the same territory. Magic in The High Road and the rest of the Spellkeeper Flight books has its own “masquerade” issues that are a bit different.

And no, I won’t say which exact book inspired the odd little half-hour it took to tinker that idea together. I’m not sure how Jim Butcher would reply.


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