You know, I wrote this down as a topic with no idea what I was thinking. I’ve never used magical parasites. Not in my books either. Still, someone said the idea sounded really interesting and that’s all my needy ass required to stick with it . . . I can’t even think of examples for some reason.
I mean, I know of parasites from science fiction like the worms above, xenomorphs, and the Venom symbiote. That’s a very powerful set piece when dealing with aliens. Fantasy doesn’t have a tradition of magical parasites. It kind of sticks to the usual kind, but altered by nature instead of magic. A tapeworm that goes all the way up to the brain sounds gross, but it might be doing it through physical abilities instead of spells. So, what is required for a ‘magical’ parasite?
Clearly, it needs to be connected to magic. Being in a fantasy world doesn’t count since there are non-magical creatures there. This parasite needs to be either born from, killed by, or the giver of magic. Otherwise, the paladin ate a bad sandwich and his muscles are being slowly devoured by a tick that was minding its own business before its home got ingested. Food does seem to be a common delivery system, but parasites can get in through any orifice. I’ll give everyone a few moments to get the squirming discomfort out of their system due to the visuals they had . . . All good?
Keep in mind that a parasite doesn’t always mean full bad. Look at the examples I used two paragraphs ago. Xenomorphs are bad due to bursting out of their host. Futurama worms are good because they made Fry smart and strong. The Venom symbiote depends on the person wearing it because it does like eating people, but the host can find alternatives. So, you can go with a beneficial or debilitating parasite depending on your need. Basically, the can work as a challenge for the host because they weaken or a boon because they grant strength. I know the urge to make parasites bad is strong since it involves invading a body, but an author should leave all possibilities open.
A big aspect of the magical parasite should be that it needs to have an impact. You can’t just drop one into the story and have it gone a few pages later. Any other monster can be used for that. The parasite needs to infect a host in order to show how dangerous or useful it is. Telling the audience that the leech would have reverted the thief into a baby has less impact than actually having that happen. It creates a problem for the hero to solve either by getting rid of the parasite or finding a way to work with it. Character growth is inevitable here.
Again, that can be done with any type of parasite, so you don’t have to make it magical if you only want to temporarily screw with your characters. That’s why you have to make it special by using one of those three mentioned additions:
- Born of Magic– This is similar to a curse, but it has sentience. The parasite was created either intentionally or by accident through magic. It might not have magic powers, but it’s origin isn’t entirely natural. For example, a parasite created by a fire and ice spell clashing can get into the skin. It simply eats away that body and steals nutrients, but it was born from magic.
- Killed by Magic– Regardless of how the parasite was created, it can only be purged and destroyed by magic. Regular medicines don’t work. Surgery doesn’t work. You need a potion, artifact, or spell. This can be combined with the other two since it’s all about how it’s destroyed. You can also get away with not giving the parasite an origin at all here. These tend to be harmful too.
- Grants Magic– Typically a beneficial parasite, it gives the host a magical ability. It can and usually does come at a cost. The host may be able to use magic now or gets a single ability. Not much else to this one. You can reveal the cost down the road, which has them question if they should keep the parasite. Other people may want it for their own purposes, which tend to be evil. I think this is where you can have the most amount of fun with the concept.
So, that’s all I can think of about magical parasites. Maybe I’ll work hard to create one for another story. Darwin will need some magical creatures in one story. Got time to figure that one out.