Mermaid Queen – CASSIKA

Listen to the Podcast episode on Podbean:

Hello and welcome to Week 25 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! Today I am thrilled to present the LAST character of the project: Cassika, our 86-year-old Mermaid Queen!! Cassika’s writer is Jumleni, from New York, and her illustrator is Marina, from Egypt!

I found Jumleni on Instagram, while searching for some kind of hashtags about poetry. Her words grabbed at me and I was so excited when she responded positively to my cold DM inviting her onto the project.

And Marina was one of the very first people I recruited onto the project, after finding her on UpWork! It’s very fitting that both of these artists’ names are Marina (the illustrator’s first name and the writer’s middle name), and they both gravitated toward the Mermaid Queen character. I’m not sure how I thought of the name Cassika, but it came to me somehow, and it stuck!

Cassika’s story’s plot came to me all at once one night. I had been sending emails back and forth with the illustrator Marina, trying to come up with some ideas, and this whole thing just poured out of me:

“Our 86-year-old Mermaid Queen Cassika’s realm is in the Arabian Sea. They have connections with mer-people of the Gulf of Aden, and have scout fish keeping track of the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. A futuristic mer-people story, Queen Cassika’s fish scouts recovered discarded robotic parts from the shore of Egypt, and they were able to figure out the machinery and created swimming drones/robotic scouts that could patrol the ocean as well as parts of the land. The drones look exactly like the real animals, because they are, or were—a slightly criminal/dark secret could be that our Queen killed a lot of these animals in order to install hidden cameras and robotic accessories to make them move.

Queen Cassika’s two daughters are kidnapped from their kingdom and held for random and would be released in exchange for the highly advanced patrolling technology they possess. The Queen refuses their offer, and the villains kill her elder daughter. They threaten that unless the Queen gives them the blueprints for their drones, they will force her younger daughter to marry their leader and fight her for the throne of her kingdom. They say she has 38 days to decide her daughter’s fate.

What the villains don’t know is that Queen Cassika knows where they are holding her daughter captive. With her advanced technology and many marine creature connections, she is able to pinpoint her daughter’s location in the Mediterranean Sea. She spends three days and three nights recruiting capable sea creatures to execute a complicated plan to rescue her daughter and return her safely back home. It won’t be a regular “rescue the princess” story, as her daughter will also be involved in the planning—one of their drones is able to make its way to her daughter and they are in contact via headset/bluetooth during the operation.

Intricate plan is executed, but on the way back home, Queen’s army is confronted by another army from the other side. Epic battle ensues!

Queen Cassika’s kingdom wins, woo hoo! This won’t be the end though: there’s still war aftermath, kingdom rebuilding, grieving over the death of her elder daughter, and now bonding with her younger daughter and teaching her the ways of ruling the kingdom. Daughter strongly encourages her mother to stop using the drones altogether, for they are causing more chaos and conflict than good. Queen Cassika is reluctant but respects her daughter’s idea and comes to agree. All drones are destroyed and all evidence that they ever existed is completely obliterated as well.

A sacred underwater burning ceremony takes place, where they have magical air bubbles in which they place the drones, magically set them on fire, then slowly fill the bubbles with water until it becomes one with the ocean again. The ashes disperse into the water. Queen Cassika’s daughter (the next queen) expresses gratitude and pride in her mother’s decision to dispose of the drones. This can show that teachers are always students too—a daughter can teach a mother things, even into the later stages of their relationship.”

One of the main points of the Mermaid Queen’s story would be that everything would take place underwater. I feel like most mer-people stories include some kind of interest or conflict with humans on land, and I thought it would be more interesting if the entire story happened strictly in the ocean, with no interaction with the dry world above, other than the usage of human technology for their fish drones.

Jumleni did some great research into different types of coral and fish that inhabit the Arabian Sea. She named the kingdom that Cassika rules Dendrone, after coral called Dendronephthya.

She had the kidnappers from a kingdom called Millepora, a bright red “fire coral” that can be found in the Red Sea.

And their leader’s name is Scorpaen, named after the poisonous fish Scorpaenopsis.

Please forgive me if I mispronounced any of those names…! 😛

Cassika’s story and illustrations are not complete, but as usual I would like to end the episode by reading an excerpt from her story, written by Jumleni:

The Arabian Sea. Queen Cassika rules over the kingdom of Dendrone. Her skin fair, her hair flowing flawlessly, her eyes fierce. Eyes that show she has seen more than one can imagine. Eyes that hold the secret to her power. Eyes that keep one loyal, for you do not know what the mind behind them has in store for your disobedience. Eyes that demand respect without having to ask for it. The embodiment of the Goddess Anahita, she rules with wisdom and divine strength. Beside her stand her two daughters, inside a clear quartz palace that only magnifies the power they possess. She comes forward, shoulders back, head held high, to address her court.

“Grand Rising to you all, I have great news to share. We have successfully placed our fish drones in all the surrounding kingdoms. With the bright minds of my daughters and all your hard work in assembly and diplomacy, we were able to carry this out efficiently and peacefully. You should all be very proud of yourselves.”

Queen Cassika begins giving the court a round of applause and they begin clapping after her. 

“Please do remember that the technology that we use is not to be shared with anyone that is not part of this court. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“Thank you, that is all. You are dismissed.”

The elder daughter of Queen Cassika, Ara, is the spitting image of the Queen when she was her age. She is an entity of her own, far from hiding behind the shadow of her mother. Ara’s capability brought her as high as one of her mother’s trusted advisors, right next to her younger sister, Darya. Darya is the younger of the two but age means nothing to these women as they are beyond the years that they have been earthside. They are able to channel their highest selves and use their virtue to establish their influence over the kingdom their mother rules.

As the court exits the room, Ara and Darya approach their mother with a poised posture, only to hide the concern in their minds.

“Mother…” Ara begins, “There was something that Darya and I wanted to show you.”

“What is it?” Cassika asks. The queen mastered her poker face but she lets a sliver of apprehension through in her voice.

“It’s about the drones in the Red Sea… We’ve seen something and we wanted to bring it to you before deciding on anything, of course.”

Darya leads them to the surveillance room. Hundreds of screens cover the walls, each one connected to the camera inside the drones that the Queen has guarding not only the palace but the surrounding kingdoms in the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Gulf of Aden.

Thanks for tuning in to the last episode of Season 2, the Character Showcase. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to everyone! I will be back next year with Season 3 of the Wise Not Withered Podcast, bringing you a more free-flowing style to challenge myself. I’ll be talking about tons of behind-the-scenes experiences to give you all some insight into this monster of a project that I began a little over three years ago, that I plan to continue for as long as I live.

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