Mermaid Monday #11: Mermaid Mystic Apprentice with Light Green Tunic and White Tail

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Sometimes, a mystic will take on an apprentice. It’s tremendously dangerous to be a mystic’s pupil; the discipline is inherently hazardous to one’s health and sanity, and callous mystics often use their apprentices as guinea pigs. In addition to that, the apprentice shaves his or her head, shuns all family and friends, usually makes some form of offering to the mystic and wears a light green tunic to signify the death of his or her old life. This mermaid, with her bald head, light green tunic and white tail, would be a creepy figure to most regular mermaids, but she spends all of her time studying alone anyways, trying to avoid the fate of the apprentice she inherited her tunic from. She gave up the natural color of her tail (a brilliant ultramarine) to study under her master, so she is guaranteed not to skip out and establish her own reputation as a mystic until she has the ability to replace it. (Temporarily changing the color of a tail is not that hard, but permanent color is a tricky proposition.)

Tomorrow starts the Wiki Dress parade. Expect dinosaurs.

Mermaid Monday #11: White Mermaid Ball Gown with Embroidered Choli Top and Aquamarine Overskirt

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Mermaids are not universally welcome at human balls. In most kingdoms near the sea their presence is unremarkable, but the further inland one goes the less mermaids visit, and the appearance of one at a ball can be a serious disruption. It’s not surprising that they cause annoyance and envy among the human women and prompt duels and inconvenient attachments among the human men, but besides that they are difficult to feed, not always aware of proper deportment and their air of superiority and condescension is often a little hard to take for humans of either sex. One insecure queen went so far as to ban them from all events given during her reign. (Mermaids mostly stay out of human politics, but stung by this, the equally insecure empress of the nearest mermaid empire ensured that said reign would be a short one by secretly inciting treason and eventually civil war in that kingdom. The loss of life and damage to the kingdom was incalculable, but the mermaids got their dances back.)

A mermaid choosing a gown for a ball thrown by humans generally wants to outdo every other woman there, human and mermaid alike, because the most common fault among them is vanity, followed closely by pride. Some of them do it by going with human fashions, thereby beating the human women at their own game, and some prefer to go with gowns designed for mermaids, which tend to evoke the sea, be less formal and hide the legs. (Most mermaids are self-conscious about having legs, as the vast majority of cheap mystics really don’t have the skill or knowledge of anatomy to form perfect ones for very long, so mermaid skirts are inevitably long and loose. The mermaid wearing a miniskirt is the one who gave up her firstborn.) This dress is definitely a mermaid gown; the human women at the ball where this will be worn will all be wearing more elaborate gowns, closer to what I think of as stereotypical princess gowns: tight bodices, poofy skirts. (Although some human women near the sea, where mermaids are more likely to show up to balls, have taken to wearing things mermaids can’t: shorter dresses, gowns slit up the side, tight skirts.) The choli-style top, the lotus and wave pattern, the fluttery aquamarine overskirt all make this gown arresting and otherworldly: just the thing for toying with the hearts of humans, leaving them crushed like a shellfish dropped onto a rock by a seagull. Later the human women will gossip about how revealing and tacky the top was, how unfashionable the whole savage getup was compared to their gowns, but the target of their ire will be already safely back under the sea with new stories to tell.

Mermaid Monday #10: Mermaid Mystic with Purple and Gold Top and Skirt with Orange Tail

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It’s been such a long time since Mermaid Monday, how very cruel of me… in penance, I’ll reveal some more of their world.

I often think about how, in my paperdollverse, the mermaids interact with the humans, but that is because I myself happen to be human and have that particular bias. Frankly, the majority of mermaids don’t give it as much thought as I do. I’ve come to think of mermaid excursions to the human world as something like American college kids studying abroad. Not everyone is going to be interested in the first place, and some might like to but have other priorities under the seas. Of the ones who do, most might spend only a season of their life exploring the new culture, some might enter into it to some extent but always consider themselves mermaids first and foremost, and a minority, like my bitter crimson mermaid, become permanent expats. Generally, mermaids consider themselves slightly superior to humans, and for the most part there aren’t oodles of mermaids longing to escape to land and legs.

My mom wondered how the switch between tails and legs is actually affected. There are mermaid mystics, with varying amounts of experience and power, who can control such things for a price. Surely we’re all now thinking of Ariel sacrificing her voice? It’s not often so serious; curious young mermaids attending their first human balls usually do so on wobbly legs not shaped quite right (which is why most mermaids favor long ballgowns), thanks to a friend’s crazy old grandmother who will perform the necessary magic for a string of pearls. (The accompanying rite of passage is for excitable mermaids to forget how long the magic lasts and transform back right there on the dance floor. If the girl is lucky, her gallant dance partner will help her back into the water; if she’s not so lucky a couple of already overworked servants will do it, talking maliciously about seared mermaid fillets with lemon sauce over a bed of wild rice.) The longer the magic lasts, the more skillfully the legs are formed and the more control the mermaid has over switching back and forth, the more it will cost. At a certain point, a desperate mermaid switches from grandmothers paid off with pearls to dangerous creatures who demand voices, lifespans, firstborn children and so on. Today’s mermaid is one of these mystics, exceptionally long-lived because she’s always happy to trade legs or looks and so on for a portion of the petitioner’s lifespan. (She isn’t at all ashamed about the price she asks: the study of mermaid mysticism is dangerous, and she sees it as a fair deal given the years she’s devoted to her craft and the scarcity of competitors.) In the face of her present problems, your average impetuous young mermaid couldn’t care less about five or ten years that come off the end of her life anyways. Between the sharks, nets and mystics offering one’s heart’s desire with a price to be paid much later, it is only very smart mermaids who live to be old.

Mermaid Monday #9: Arctic Mermaid with Deep Blue Tail and White and Blue Top Trimmed with Pearls and Sapphires

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I was going to do an unfortunate light-green colored mermaid this week, but it is the first of the month. You may remember from last week’s installment that mermaids associate light green with death, and even if it is a superstition I created with no basis in mythology or reality, it still seems inauspicious to start one’s month with an ill omen. Instead, since it’s getting snowy here, I thought I’d do a wintery-looking mermaid.

Now, mermaids tolerate cold temperatures very well; their clothes are almost entirely ornamental and they can swim around entirely naked if they choose, although for obvious reasons I end up focusing on the ones who opt for shirts and shells. So even the mermaids who live further to the north in colder waters, like this one, don’t have to do much covering up. Don’t be fooled by her sleeves, they provide about as much warmth as the average silk scarf and their only purpose is to swish fetchingly around her wrists as she chats animatedly with her friends.