If you haven’t checked it out, head over to the Saint James site and read the free 8-page mini-adventure I wrote, She Lives, Still Rules. There’s a naked Syrian Goddess turned cursed mermaid and mythological treasure. What’s not to love? After you’ve done that, come back here and read on to delve into the back story.
In case you missed the first part, How She Lives, Still Rules Was Born, take a look now.
Creating a Conflict
So we’ve got an ancient Assyrian goddess, two fortune hunters and a whole mess of treasure between them. Sounds like it should write itself, right? An 8-page fight felt too easy. Plus if ten mermaids came after you while you were wearing 100+ lbs. of 19th century SCUBA gear, you wouldn’t stand a chance. So I went back to the real-life legend I based Atargatis on for inspiration for the plot.
If you remember, she fell in love with a mortal shepherd and killed him, which is the whole reason she’s a mermaid in the first place. It’s fair to say she was probably obsessed with the poor guy – and absence would only make the heart grow fonder.
So I decided to have Atargatis mistake Hollander, the strapping young American, for her long-lost shepherd love, Sevan. This worked nicely because it bought Wakefield and Hollander time to figure out how to escape, and gave Atargatis a reason for capturing, rather than killing, them. It also gave Hollander an advantage, because she was quite smitten with him.
Using and Adding to Mermaid Folklore
If Atargatis was the first and only mermaid, how would she breed? Why would other mermaids follow her around? How could she be killed? These were questions I wanted to answer – and I only had 8 pages.
Again, I hit the internet and did some more research on mermaid legends. One particularly interesting legend was a Japanese myth, that if you ate a piece of a mermaid’s tail, you would become a mermaid. I liked that little detail, and I was beginning to see how that could fit into the overall story.
Maybe Hollander wasn’t the first man she had mistaken for her lover. What if all her warriors were men that reminded her of the shepherd, and she had forced them all to eat some of her tail to bind them to her forever? That upped the danger for Wakefield and Hollander, because now one of them could be trapped in a fate worse than death – doomed to wander the sea floor with Atargatis. I assumed that in Atargatis’ case, mer-people were immortal – giving her nearly 3,000 years to amass her warriors.
Killing a Goddess
Now, there was the problem of how to kill an immortal creature. Tricky, but there’s always a way to do it. A stake for the vampire, if you will. There wasn’t really anything in the current mermaid folklore that interested me, so I decided this was the opportunity to add to it. Since Atargatis was Assyrian, I knew I wanted the story set underwater in the Middle East, potentially near the Straits of Hormuz.
I decided to make mermaids salt-water creatures only, and that was my key to killing her. Freshwater would kill Atargatis, if she was submersed in it or exposed to a large amount of it. Since they were in the middle of the ocean, I had to give the boys a way to poison her in her lair, which was consequently filled with the bodies of dead adventurers she had encountered. Put a canteen filled with fresh drinking water on one of the bodies and now all that was needed was a way of delivering it.
This is where Hollander’s craftiness comes in. Since she thinks he’s her long lost lover, chances are he could get very close to her. And she wants him to eat a piece of her tail. All Hollander would need to do would be to take a mouthful of fresh water and get it into her bloodstream by biting her tail. Intimate and deadly, which felt perfect for the plot so far.
After she was dead, there was the problem of how the other warriors would react. Rather than have them be hostile, I made them the ultimate doomed servants, cursed to serve whoever held power over them. With Atargatis gone, Hollander became the alpha of the group.
Hope you enjoyed the little two-part “behind the scenes.” I’ll probably do the same thing when my next mini-adventure comes out – so stay tuned!