In 1863, in a world much like our own, European scientists discovered Osiris serum, a concoction which brought out one’s magic talents. These talents were many and varied. Some people gained ability to command animals, some learned to sense water from miles away, and others suddenly realized they could kill their enemies by generating a burst of lightning between their hands.
Those who took the serum faced one of the three equally likely outcomes: they would die, they would become warped by magic and also soon die, or they could gain magical powers. Despite the dangers, people took the risk.
The Osiris serum spread through the world. It was given to soldiers in hopes of making the military forces more deadly. It was obtained by members of fading aristocracy, desperate to hold on to power. It was bought by the rich, who desired to get richer. Eventually the world realized the consequences of awakening godlike powers in ordinary people. The serum was locked away, but it was too late.
The magic talents passed on from parents to their children and changed the course of human history forever. The future of entire nations changed in the span of a few short decades. Those who previously married for status, money, and power now married for magic, because strong magic would give them everything.
Now, a century and a half later, families with strong hereditary magic have evolved into dynasties. These families— Houses, as they call themselves— own corporations, have their own territories within the cities, and influence politics. They employ private armies, they feud with each other, and their disputes are deadly. It is a world where the more magic you have, the more powerful, the wealthier, and the more prominent you are. Some magic talents are destructive. Some are subtle. But no magic user should be taken lightly.