One of these days I want to see a druid whose element is truly related to life. Not the four classical (and inorganic) elements of Western magic, but electricity.
Electricity can be generated by completely inorganic means. Lightning, sparks from flint, batteries. But where there is life as we know it, there is electricity. Some of it’s obvious. Electric eels, nerve twitches, a platypus probing with its snout through the mud. Some of it is… not so obvious. Mitochondria, creating a proton gradient so eukaryotic cells can make ATP. Other chemical gradients created by archaea and bacteria for the same purpose. And the electrical twitches of a Venus flytrap snatching its prey.
The hairs inside their leafy traps have the same kind of action potential – burst of electrical energy – as found in animal nervous systems, and apparently for much the same reason. To tell part of the plant when to move.
Interesting thing about this is, we don’t yet know how many other plants might do the same thing. The motion of a Venus flytrap is fast, predatory, and visible; all things that attract human attention, and thus research. Scientists have poked other plants electrically, mostly to try to sort out more efficient power production, but if electricity also triggered more subtle movements in plants, we might easily have missed it.
Currently the same researchers who poked Venus flytraps with atomic magnetometers to measure their electrically-generated magnetic fields are gearing up to check other plants as well. Magnetic personalities; not just for humans anymore.
If plants commonly generate electricity, we need to know. On Earth it might not matter much, swamped by the background signal of everything else alive. But in the controlled environment of a spaceship, station in freefall, or underwater city? It might make a difference.
What if the life-energy clerics and druids manipulate is actually electrical energy? Properly applied membrane potentials are fuel for growth, even in the absence of food. We eat food for cellular materials and to make electricity, in tiny controlled doses. Could spells that strengthen or enervate function by bolstering or draining bioelectricity? Might confusion spells be a blast of brain static, as in epilepsy? Does a druid summon predatory creatures by manipulating energy to look like there’s tasty prey just waiting?
And of course, what every writer and player wants to know: just what does it take to cast a lightning bolt?
Someone will do it, and we’ll all be shocked.