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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Mermaids

Ylaine (of Princess of Undersea, by Leslie Conzatti)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a mermaid princess, desperately trying to avert war — even if it means transitioning into a human.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

This might come as a shock to most people who haven’t met me, but I wasn’t always a land-walking human. I used to be a Mermaid, living in the Channel between Overcliff and the mainland. The mer-kingdom is called Undersea, and it was once much shallower, I’m told, back when the humans, the fairies, and the Merfolk all engaged in trade with one another. That ended, and instead of building taller as the years went on, the Merfolk dug deeper to build their towers, until the “floor” of our city lay deep in the shadows of the ocean. We didn’t venture much higher than the tallest Watchtower at the center of the city, and the only humans we ever saw were the drowned ones that fell with their wrecked ships. It was only by a miracle that I was ever able to not only reach the surface, but be able to exchange my tail for legs and walk among the humans, to breathe air and live as they do.

Do you have any cherished memories from your childhood? What was the one thing you wanted more than anything else when you were young?

Well, I suppose the two are sort of related; they both have to do with my mother. You see, when I was still very young, my mother disappeared, tangled in the net of a fishing boat passing through the Channel–at least, that’s as much as anyone knows. I have vague memories of her, looking up into her kind face as she held me in her arms, sitting in her throne next to the King, my father. More than anything else, I would want to see her again. Her disappearance is what stoked my father’s anger against the humans, such that he would use my magical Gift of Song to sway the minds of his councilors to bend to his will. More than anything I just want my family to be whole again, so that I don’t have to be afraid of what might happen as a result of too many rash decisions!

What do you mean by “Gift of Song”?

I mentioned before about the humans, the Merfolk, and the fairies living in harmony with one another. Back in the days of old, the Merfolk and the humans would trade with one another, and every Great Moon, the fairies would come and bestow gifts upon humans and merfolk alike. They chose infants to gift, since each fairy only had one Gift to give, and there weren’t as many of them. That ended when the human King seemed to arbitrarily decide that the fairies were no longer welcome among them, and they set up gates of iron and other repellants to drive the fairies away and ensure that they couldn’t ever come back. (I have since learned that the human King’s decision was not arbitrary, but borne of great tragedy, similar to my father’s own decision to go to war) At the next Great Moon Rising, a few fairies came to bestow Gifts on some Mer-children, and to tell us that this would be the last time they would come. I was the last infant born before that time, so I received the last fairy Gift: the Gift of Song.

According to my godmother, the fairy who gave the Gift spoke thus: “May the music of your voice bring comfort to the heavy heart, courage to the fearful heart, wisdom to the foolish one, and truth to the hearts darkened by falsehood. May those whose hearts are noble be drawn by the sound of your Gift.”

It followed that whenever I sang or even spoke, my voice would compel all who heard it to listen. Unfortunately, after my mother disappeared, my songs would only remind my father of her disappearance, and he constantly refused to listen to me, barely letting me speak in his presence, much less sing at all, except on the anniversary of my mother’s disappearance, when he would be too distraught to protest. When he decided that he wanted war against the humans, though, he met opposition from several wiser councilors–so instead of heeding them, he found a use for me, bidding me to sing for the councils, so that they would comply with whatever he said. My “Gift” became something horrible to me, something that others used for their own purposes, because I could never use it for the purpose I really wanted: to comfort my father, and help him see reason in all the hurt and bitterness he carried.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, I became human because I wanted to prove to my father that they weren’t malicious and just biding their time, waiting for a chance to send down their best divers with giant nets and sweep us all up for food like so many sturgeon. Honestly, when I first learned about the potion that would make me human for a day, the first thing I wanted to do was acquire two doses of it, so that my father could come with me and we could just be humans for a day and find out what they were really like. I suppose a part of me thought that sharing a moment like that could pave the way for more of a discussion between us of the best course of action, rather than letting him shove me in front of the council and then ignore me when he got what he wanted. 

Well, imagine my surprise when the very next day, a human suddenly drops from the surface right next to me! I caved to my first instinct and pulled him back to the surface–but after that moment, I just wanted to find him again. I didn’t even care that only one dose of potion was ready. 

Little did I know, the situation on the surface would change my life forever.

Continue reading “Ylaine (of Princess of Undersea, by Leslie Conzatti)”

Benji Fisher (of Mermaids Are Real, by Bo Wu)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a young boy who grew up by the sea. Used to surfing with dolphins and some odd things encountered underwater, he’s come here to tell us about how his life changes following a recruitment speech from an octopus the night before his thirteenth birthday.


What was it like growing up in Beech Mill?

I liked the town much more than the growing up part. It’s hard when you stick out and all everyone else is trying to do is conform. I think no matter where you are in the world, that’s a problem for kids.

Having said that, Beech Mill was a great place to grow up. I was in or on the water whenever I wanted for as long as I wanted. My dad had a boat. What else can you ask for, right?

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

I wasn’t a toy kid. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just gravitated toward the outdoors. A part of me always knew I belonged outdoors and, more specifically, in the water. I just didn’t know how much I really did belong until Octavius showed up and told me about my real home in Sanjowqua.

But, I guess my surfboard could be considered a toy. I had plenty of fun on it. That’s for sure. It was on my surfboard that I had my first run-in with Eeke, Zeeke, and Mai, the dolphins that kept watch over me.

What do you do now?

I’m still thirteen, so no matter what, I get to still be a kid, but now I get to be a merman kid with an ocean full of creatures to play with and unexplored territory, at least for me, that I get to call my home.

I think for the meantime, I’m going to be helping prepare for the next full moon party in a few weeks which, by the way, is the first one Sanjowqua has celebrated in thirteen years. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have my hands full for the foreseeable future.

I’ll spend my free time working on honing my Mystiq powers. I see another visit to my dad’s lair again pretty soon, as well. Continue reading “Benji Fisher (of Mermaids Are Real, by Bo Wu)”

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