A Thousand Leagues of Inspiration: Turning Sea Creatures into a Princess' Magical Heritage
The Church of Myrcnia is one half of the magical equation that exists within the world of The Resurrectionist of Caligo. With ancient blood rites, rituals in chapels, and royal blood kept within monstrances to perform blessings and anointments, the archbishop, as head of the church, wields the royal blood in order to strengthen the divine rulership of the monarchy in the eyes of its people. However, the monarchy’s magic has a much more watery origin—one as deep as the sea and as long-standing as an ancient microbe. When I was creating the magic in The Resurrectionist of Caligo, I knew I wanted to blend a fairy-tale like origin that would allow fantastical feats with the real and fascinating scientific world of the oceans, seas, and rivers.
It was important when creating the magic of our world that there be a strong origin—in our case a water sprite and certain fisherman get it on—and that it not be solely seen as a means of oppression. The magic-infused monarchy and the religion of the people are very much one and the same in Myrcnia, and within Myrcnia, our characters have as wide and varied a relationship with this religion as one would expect to see in society. A myth to one person is a concrete fact to another, and not everyone holds to the majority’s view of things. One thing can be certain, though. The history (or facetious myths depending on who you ask) about our previous kings and queens are not so much about using their magic gifts to put down an army of rioting peasants as they are about saving a lost mountain party with the incandescent midnight glow of a jellyfish.
Like the sea creatures who provided inspiration for the magic in our world, our lead magical protagonist, a rebellious princess named Sibylla, generally uses her magic in the same way as the creatures who inspired her talents—to defend, distract, or simply get around in the dark.
Despite the fantastical nature of the royal family’s magic, each of their gifts originated within the aquatic ecosystem. Afterward, those underwater abilities received a wondrous lift, performing above sea level in similar ways to how they would underwater, and further benefiting from an extra dose of sprightliness thanks to the royal family’s water sprite ancestor. From predator-evading mechanics to bubbly mood expressions, the nobles in our story have a lot of fishy qualities. So here’s a small selection of the wonderful creatures (and one microorganism) whose amazing traits became magical feats in The Resurrectionist of Caligo.
Sibylla, our novel’s recalcitrant princess, has a penchant for flinging black ink from her fingertips to “float” upon the air, and it’s no happenstance that her father calls her a little cuttlefish since cephalopods – cuttlefish, squid, and octopi – are the basis of her inky reputation. She often uses her ink to avoid conflicts much the same way that cephalopods have a smokescreen-like escape method that scientists have fancily named the “blanch-ink-jet manoeuvre”. This predator-evading technique is just one of a variety of cephalopod inking behaviors, which include the creation of pseudomorphs, ink ropes, clouds, and diffuse puffs. While the underwater squid can create a pseudomorph, or inky decoy, of itself to throw off the hungry dolphin, a princess, with enough years of practice, is able to manipulate the ink into whatever forms she wishes.
Rusticles & Their Bacterial Mates
Crown Prince Elfred is known to rust away a pastille tin or two, and unfortunately the royal family’s silver collection has been tarnished so many times that magic during dinnertime has been forbidden. Similarly, H. titanicae, a rusticle-loving bacteria, gained its own negative reputation when researchers discovered this new microorganism quickening the demise of the undersea Titanic wreck. While rusticles are icicle or stalactite shaped structures made of rust that attach themselves to any number of sunken treasures, their bacterial buddies are capable of hurrying along the structure’s corrosion. Still, it should come as no surprise that what takes hungry microbes decades to accomplish undersea only takes a crown prince seconds.
Prince Henry not only doles out cute nicknames, but also shares an extraordinary talent for tracking down wayward children. His inherent sense of direction isn’t unlike that of the salmon. There’s a cool name for the salmon’s ability to find its way back to its stream of birth: magnetoreception. By using the poles of the planet, salmon are able to return to the location from whence they spawned. Combine this internal migration system with the salmon’s keen sense of smell – they can and do smell the difference in waters – and we come upon the Muir family’s magical version of homing beacons for one’s familial relations. Olfactory memories not only take humans back to a certain time and place, but salmon as well, and in the case of Prince Henry he’s able to find his daughter whenever she’s trying to hide.
Cranky Lady Esther isn’t half as charming as a beluga whale, but she does share an affinity for blowing bubbles. Beluga whales are well known as moody bubble blowers. Their bubbly behavior comes in a variety of forms, from bubble rings to blowhole bursts to bubble streams. Whether a playful response to a good day, or a startled reaction to an external stimulus, Lady Esther and the beluga whales both express their emotions through the expelling of bubbles, though Lady Esther’s terrestrial bubbles have a thin watery-mucus to distinguish them in the air and a magic boost to defy gravity.
Her royal majesty the queen shares the epically named phenomena of bioelectrogenesis with aquarium favorites: the electric (not-an-eel) eel. By curling up to concentrate their charge, electric eels can produce an incredibly powerful shock. Their voltage comes from the alignment of electrocytes, muscle like cells, within a specialized electric organ, that produce a resplendent electrical discharge. It’s no wonder the queen’s spark-show is such a hit with the populace. After all, scientists aren’t the only ones fascinated with witnessing the electric eel’s impressive shock. Plus, water sprite descendants don’t have to worry about the conductivity of air being less appealing than water thanks to their magical lineage.
So while this is just a taste of what various traits have been passed down through the generations, you can be sure the church keeps careful records of whether a noble has a touch of lanterneye fish or a bit of prawn in their blood. Our royal family might not be able to defeat an incoming cannonball, but they are quite capable of inspiring awe amongst their subjects. A more cynical body-snatching commoner might even call it illusionary propaganda. Still, when a princess whistle-clicks and shatters a glass vial, imagine her tongue is the snapping claw of the miraculous pistol shrimp, and when she needs a late night snack from the royal pantry, there’s always the jellyfish’s terribilita glow.
Derby, Charles D. (2014, May 12). Cephalopod Ink: Production, Chemistry, Functions and Applications. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4052311/
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Giller, Geoffrey. (2014, February 7). Salmon Use Magnetic Field – Based Internal Maps to Find Their Way. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/salmon-use-magnetic-fieldbased-internal-maps-to-find-their-way/
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Canisius College. (2015, December 7). Belugas blow bubbles based on mood. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151207115317.htm#:~:text=Summary%3A&text=These%20bubbles%20are%20produced%20by,be%20primarily%20playful%20in%20nature.
Sergeant, Chris. (2015, April). Electrical Fishes: Putting a Spark Into Fishkeeping. Retrieved from http://www.tfhmagazine.com/details/articles/electrical-fishes-putting-a-spark-into-fishkeeping-full-article.htm