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Long ago a great wizard was born with magic in his very blood.  He lived for
thousands of years and went by many names, but the one we know best is Merlin.

Merlin passed his magic down through his offspring, and the power made his
children rulers.  Some inherited more magic than others, and eventually titles
reflected their gifts.  In Britain, kings and queens held the strongest power.  After
the royals, dukes had the greatest magical abilities in that they could change
matter.  Marquesses could cast spells and illusions and transfer objects but not
change them.  Earls mastered illusions, while viscounts dabbled in charms and
potions.  Barons had a magical gift, which could be as simple as making flowers
grow or as complicated as seeing into the future.

And then there were the baronets.  Part man, part animal, the shape-shifters were
Merlin's greatest enchantment...and eventually his greatest bane.  For out of all
mankind, they were immune to his magic.

Merlin created thirteen magical relics from the gems of the earth, a focus for
some of his greatest spells.  After Merlin's disappearance, his children tried to find
the relics, since they held the only magic stronger than their own.  The relics
proved to be elusive until his children discovered that the shape-shifters they so
despised could sniff out the power of a relic.

Over the centuries the relics faded to legend.  But the most powerful of Merlin's
descendants did not forget, and shape-shifters became the secret spies of many
rulers.
  The History of the
RELICS OF MERLIN