Fedran is set at the beginning of the industrial age, when the age of magic is faltering and technology is taking its place. One of the foundations of the world is that (almost) everyone has a magical talent but the power that talent isn't that important. Most of the population doesn't have useful talents, much like the guy in Xanth who only had the ability to change his own urine different colors. Those without magic are considered to be “less than human” or developmentally challenged.
Slight spoiler in the next paragraph if you haven't read Sand and Ash.
Like many aspects in my world, magic is a evolutionary trait. It originally came as something that enhanced survival, which is why the desert folks are typically more powerful than the ones in the more civilized areas. A good example is Pahim, who can grow flowers in his hand, and Rutejìmo who can run thirty-five miles an hour, throw fireballs, always runs on a solid surface, and transfer kinetic energy easily with other members of his clan. In his culture, Rutejìmo is considered the weakest of his clan. Again Pahim, he is far and away more powerful.
The main reason is that survivability in civilized areas is a lot higher. You don't need to create walls of fire, be able to break the sound barrier, or explode people's hearts when the most struggle you have is getting to work on time.
Over time, magical talents weaken. There are powerful ones, Kanéko's father, Ronamar, is very powerful but he is also from a line of mage-knights, but for the most part, the civilized people (which are mostly white because of physical location) actually have weaker talents but sometimes more useful (such as Falkin's ability to see the profit/loss statements over everyone's head).
One way magic is evolutionary is when it manifests. In most cases, this happens during puberty. If someone has a perfectly safe and quiet life, they will manifest some talent usually based on their interests but would be relatively non-powerful. This would be Pahim's ability to grow flowers or Lily's talent to color fabric.
On the other hand, if during that time, a teenager is under duress, the resulting power will be significantly more combat or survival-related. We will see that later in Flight of the Scions.
Related to this is knowing that stress causes manifestation makes it harder to manifest. It is hard to have that “I'm going to die” when you also know “that my near-death experience will give me awesome powers!” The knowledge that you will probably survive means it isn't as life-threatening as you think which means less stress.
You may have noticed that both Rutejimo's and Desòchu's manifestations are very rapid (hours from the moment of being abandoned). This is because the clans are very good at creating powerful manifestations by watching when they were emotionally ready to “pop”, putting them in a high stress environment (abandoning in the middle of the desert happens to be the Shimusògo clan's preferred method), and setting them up to have the most powerful talents they are capable of manifesting.
They are also kept in the dark until then, without any adult even giving a head's up with the events that would happen. Even the dullest kid would realize that powers happen during the rite of passage, which is why most desert children are a bit… surprised it happen. Combine that with a sociey that won't talk about dying or sickness, kills off their elders who drink too much or abuse their spouses, and you have a situation where the children are emotionally and intellectually stunted.
Now, if Kanéko had the potential of a magical talent, this or the previous chapters (in her story) would have been the chapter where she manifested her powers. In a different world, she would have either gained some pretty decent combat powers or water-bending (to use a common phrase). But, she didn't.
Sand and Blood 10: Separation Anxiety
One of the complaints I've had about Rutejìmo as a protagonist is that he isn't the hero. He isn't the one leading the pack or making grand decisions. Instead, he is in the back struggling with guilt and questioning his decision. Of course, that stress is the final capstone of his manifesting and he finally gets to see the clan spirit, Shimusògo.
Of course, he has no clue what is going on, so he gets mocked by those who have not manifested their powers.
Read Sand and Blood 10: Separation Anxiety at https://fedran.com/sand-and-blood/chapter-10/
Flight of the Scions 16: The River
Poor Kanéko. After having her crush betray her for a ten thousand crown reward, she is lost in the middle of the woods with nowhere to go and no ability to defend herself except for her wits. And when she wakes up, she is knee deep in mud next to a river without a clue where her hunters are or how to get back to the Boar Hunt Inn.
In the original version (now in Kin-Killer), Garèo is in full-blown panic trying to find her. There were two chapters of him running back to the inn and realizing that his nemesis (Cobin) was hanging around.
Read Sand and Blood 16: The River at https://fedran.com/flight-of-the-scions/chapter-16/ (subscribers)
For my patrons, I also posted the another chapter of Sand and Bone for their viewing pleasure.
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