A land is reigned by a circle of powerful men who control every aspect of the citizen's life. This cabal changes members often. In reality, the spectres of a small necromantic covent possess and control the people in power. Since they simply possess the bodies, they can leave when old age overcomes their shells and possess a new up-and-coming noble.
Certain trees have sap that is filled with magical potential. Their sap is harvested and distilled down to produce various types of potions, much like maple syrup is collected in some areas. The magical effects of these syrupy potions are often fairly trivial; perhaps they simply cause the imbiber to grow hair more quickly, summon butterflies, or walk a few inches above the floor. People enjoy the syrup as a flavoring, instead of imbibing it for its magical powers.