Background Notes on the World of the Seaborn

I have been creating and compiling background notes for some friends of mine who are interested in building out Role Playing Game rules (e.g, D&D, BESM, GURPS, etc.) around the world of the seaborn--from the books, Saltwater Witch, Seaborn, and Sea Throne. Consider this a "living" page that will grow as I post new questions, answers, notes, and other interesting game-focused considerations that come up. If you're interested in creating rules around the seaborn world, I'd love to hear about it, and I'd love to share my notes, drawings, and just about anything else that can help make gameplay work! Please email me with any questions: chrishoward.author@gmail.com

Table of Contents

A timeline of the Seaborn books
Notes on underwater world mechanics...
Notes on “bleeds of power” among the seaborn...
Notes on the differences between Corina/Aleximor and King Tharsaleos...
Notes on RPG races, classes...
The Seaborn and food
Seaborn character name lists
Character List for the Seaborn Books
Seaborn armor examples
The Journals of Michael Augustus Henderson
How do Mermaids Hear? (FFF, 2008)
The Nine-Cities of the Thalassogeneis
Kassandra's Family Tree


Beginning with a timeline and a really quick summary

As you can see in the timeline below, most of this is "Kassandra's Story", following her through Saltwater Witch to the conclusion in Sea Throne. Saltwater Witch is a self-discovery story, Kassandra trying to figure who she is, why she's in the middle of nowhere, far from any ocean. In Seaborn, which starts about five years after Saltwater Witch, she knows who she is, and she doesn't like it. Seaborn is about the loss of freedom. There are two heroines. One, Corina Lairsey has just lost all physical control, and her story is about how she fights, convinces, bargains with the evil inside in order to get her self back. The other is Kassandra, who is from the sea, but has grown up in Nebraska in exile. She has the opposite problem Corina has. Kassandra’s one of the most powerful things from the sea, but she’s the product of others’ manipulations, following a path to the throne she’s not sure she wants to take, struggling to be certain that any motive in her head is really her own. In Sea Throne, Kassandra completes her journey, but has to go through stronger enemies, lose more ground, and give up more of herself and her power than she would ever have anticipated.

Teller is set shortly after the events in Sea Throne, and although it's a new series with a bunch of new characters, the seaborn show up, Kassandra makes an intimidating appearance, and Corina and Thennas browse for magic supplies in chapter 3.

Winterdim is part of the Rootworld series along with Teller and two more books. Kassandra's daughter has a whole chapter, and you learn a lot more about the naiads, especially why they're here. Helodes from Saltwater Witch and Sea Throne is a prominant character in Winterdim.

Nanowhere is more of an SF thriller with computer hacking and nanotech, but Kassandra and her sisters make a couple appearances, and, more importantly, the two principal characters in Nanowhere, Alex Shoaler and Kaffia Lang, are strong characters in Sea Throne.

Notes on underwater world mechanics, sword swinging in saltwater, and how the seaborn live in the sea

It’s not just about swinging a sword in the heaviness of water. I wanted to reduce drag on the bodies of all seaborn in the water.  They have to be able to swim extremely quickly underwater—not just Olympic swimmer fast.  I wanted a typical seaborn man or woman to be able to swim four or five times faster than the fastest of Olympic swimmers.

Some of my first worldbuilding decisions for Saltwater Witch, Seaborn, and Sea Throne: they are human, they do not have tails—no mermaids (unless you wanted to do some sort of body modification, which was fairly common a long time ago among the Telkhines.  e.g., mermaids, tentacles, sea-dragons, which are not actually a different animal with a separate evolutionary chain, but Telkhines sorcerers who had the power to become dragons—with all the benefits and disadvantages that go along with it). 

I’ve always thought of it is as a “curse” that included a slipperiness in the water that transferred to everything they came in contact with, including their armor and swords.  The curse also took care of the immense pressure, acted as a buffer against temperature extremes, and a bunch of other physical details like hearing (anatomical changes to the jaw, middle ear, soft tissue surrounding the ear, double the number of cochlear fibers, etc.), enhanced sight, neutral or slightly negative buoyancy.

Just being seaborn gives you a great reduction in fluid resistance that is passed to everything you touch—within reason (for example Kassandra cannot touch an oil tanker and make it move faster in the water (well, she might be able to, but she’s sui generis). Most seaborn cannot).  I didn’t get down to the level of how it actually works beyond imagining far-fetched possibilities with magnetic fields that acted on the surrounding fluid to push or pull a thin film of seawater along with the person through the non-effected seawater beyond the field.  Electromagnetic propulsion—that sort of thing. I also imagined that the same mechanisms that allow seaborn to swim faster can also be used to change the shape of  the field in the water—stretching out in front of them into something sharper (but invisible) that allows for smoother flow.  This also allows for very quick changes in direction.  This field or whatever it is can compress down to a very thin film to allow for the sense of touch and pressure when pushing against something. I have no idea if any of this makes sense or would even work.  

In the books there is a lot going on around physical contact—information, magic, and other powers working or moving through tactile transfer.

Whether it’s some kind of field, force, skin, the curse is invisible to the normal eye, although there are physiological changes to enhance hearing, sight, taste underwater. Some of these would certainly show up in an MRI or x-ray.

Breathing underwater was another difficult problem to solve—or even think about solving.  There is nowhere near enough dissolved oxygen in seawater to support a human. I imagined something involving electrolysis to break up water and other molecules into components that can be combined into a breathable air mixture.  I didn’t even attempt to solve problems like nitrogen narcosis, or any other effect of gaseous elements in the blood, brain, or other tissues.  The assumption is that whatever makes up the “seaborn curse” makes all of this work—for all the seaborn. At a basic physical level—before any kind of enhancements or attributes--all of the seaborn are fairly equal when it comes to swimming, breathing underwater, seeing, hearing.

Finally, I required anyone who was seaborn to have the ability to live, breathe, eat, and live on the surface, with some minor difficulties—too bright, too loud, things taste different.  But they appear human in almost all respects. This will make it easy for some seaborn to come ashore and live among surfacers without being noticed. 

On the types of swords: I know Kassandra carries a katana-like sword, but I imagine there are several different styles depending on taste, House policy, the sword making tradition in certain houses.  Most swords are single-edged, some have straight blades, others slightly curved. Most swords have some way of staying with their owner—tethered with a cord or magic.  Knives are also very popular.
 

Notes on “bleeds of power” among the seaborn, how magical skills might work, the nine great houses, “immortals”, and unique aristocratic families like the Kirkêlatides

Here’s how I would break it down: there are the Great Houses, nine of them—Telkhines, Alkimides, Rexenor, Aktaios, Dosianax, Lykos, Damnameneos, Megalesios, and Demonax.  There are lesser houses, which aren’t really named. And then there are individual aristocratic families, some of which have unique powers.  The Kirkêlatides are the latter. They claim descent from the goddess Circe (Kirke is how it’s spelled and pronounced in Greek).   Another one of the individual families with power are the Ostologoi, of which Aleximor is one—Corina in effect absorbed all of his power without being a blood relative.  The boy Thennas, who by the third book has been adopted by Corina, is the last of that line.  And then there are the Wreath-wearers, who are powerful but also carry some or all of their descendants in their heads, and can allow them to take control. The wreath-wearer can know everything the past wearers knew (“fifteen years old and a thousand year sold at the same time”), but along with this there is the actual “Wreath” which in modern or future terms would be like an artificial intelligence that has a lot of influence over the wreath-wearer.

Most seaborn are not going to be related to one of the special families, and so they won’t have any of their special abilities.  For example, the Kirkêlatides have a special focus on sound and music and they are extremely powerful.  I think in Sea Throne Nikasia says they have 20% (or some small fraction) of Circe’s power, and it appears they have lost so much over the millennia, but the Kirkêlatides with a full bleed can destroy cities with a song. They are very dangerous, and have to be treated carefully.  Hated as much as they are loved—if they’re on your side.  As enemies, there are few—even among immortals—that can take them on.

Think of the bleeds among the seaborn as a generic fluid power that is passed from a parent (rarely a grandparent) to a child after that child reaches a certain age.  Until then the power is kept by the parent.  I use this to account for the relatively low population of the Nine-cities (~150,000) and the entire seaborn population on the planet—in and out of the sea at somewhere between 250,000 and a million.  It’s entirely plausible for seaborn with a “full bleed” to decide not to have children—or to have children very late in life—because having a child would mean giving up their power fifteen or so years later (or more accurately, a slow siphoning off of their power to one of their children starting around fifteen years).  It would also encourage smaller families. There are well-known cases among the seaborn of one sibling killing another over the possibility of receiving a parent’s bleed—especially where only one parent has a bleed.  Eliminate the competition so to speak.

With the exception of the Telkhines, there are no particular abilities associated with any house’s bleed. Think of it as some number of skill points (skills in the GURPS sense)  that you can use to buy a particular skill or focus (communicating detailed messages through facial expressions, telepathy, control animals, etc.).  Skills have different costs.

What has happened over the years is that some houses have focused on teaching certain skills, or they have something like military and trade secrets that they share in a tightly controlled manner among themselves, but are reluctant to reveal any of it to other houses.  The way I would put it is that there is no single general catalogue of all skills (magic and non-magic) that any seaborn with a bleed can choose from, given enough points.  There definitely is a single catalogue with many of the skills shared by and readily available to all seaborn, and then there are House-specific catalogues with privately controlled sets of skills.  Then there is experimentation.  House Rexenor is probably the most famous for having their enormous own catalogue of unique skills because they have spent many years outside the Nine-cites culture. They’re an exiled house, and they have always had more contact with the surface than any other house.  After the Telkhines, House Rexenor is also the most imaginative of the seaborn houses, with whole schools devoted to experimenting with their powers. (House Dosianax is probably the least imaginative).

Also keep in mind that the skills are always evolving. The Telkhines were famous for doing dangerous experiments, some of which killed or turned them into horrible things. Some of the experiments ended up having extraordinary results like the ability to host two bleeds and the ability to reproduce your bleed—pass it on to more than one child while keeping a full bleed for yourself.  In the generally accepted view among the seaborn this is what ultimately caused the Telkhines’ downfall. They became too powerful. They were almost like gods among the non-Telkhines seaborn.  Many of them were arrogant and power hungry. House Telkhines ruled over everyone else. This drove the hatred for them. (And this is why House Alkimides—specifically Kassandra’s own family—overthrew them and hunted them nearly to extinction).

There are also differences among the Houses in the rate a parent’s power bleeds to their child.  The Megalesios line bleeds very slowly.  Rexenor’s bleed faster—by the time Seaborn (the book) starts Kassandra—at around 20 years old—has nearly all of her father’s bleed.  When a parent dies with all or some portion of the bleed, all of it is transferred to the child in one push.  If a child dies with half the bleed, that power is lost forever (the parent doesn’t get it back).  In this case if there is another child, he or she will most likely begin to receive what is left of the parent’s bleed. What has happened over the years is that some families have no bleeds, some have less that a full bleed to share—down to tiny fractions of the original store.

With the Seaborn and bleeds it’s not as clear cut as a switch or a battery. It is somewhat like that in that it’s a power that flows from parents (sometimes grandparents) to their children, but it’s not just a battery or a store of power that a sorcerer can employ to make things happen. It is that to some extent. But a bleed also has a bent, some level of direction it wants to flow. The bleed isn’t intelligent but it sometimes seems like it has a mind of its own, with preferences and goals. A bleed may want to do specific things, favor certain children—or ignore them and jump a generation, especially when you get down to the dregs—families with very little left of a once full bleed. It’s almost as if over the millennia certain kinds of actions have been imprinted on the bleed, and in families where there isn’t much left (e.g., Zypheria) that imprinting, or fixed ability is all there is. In this case the bleed manifests itself as behaviors and abilities that just seem to come naturally to the one possessing the bleed. With some of these cases we might say “He has good luck” because he just has a better sense of making things work, of seeing patterns in the world others do not see. In Zypheria’s case she has an uncanny ability to communicate complex messages just through her facial expressions. It’s not that she twists her face into all kinds of funny arrangements, but that the tiny amount of bleed remaining in her line can push what she’s thinking to others and it’s triggered by the expression. And they get a real sense of understanding in her expression.

If I understand what a Bleed is, in English, it means you can do 'magic' - like cast a spell to stop a bullet or a stone or take away the 'curse'.  The only way to get a bleed is to inherit it, right?  Not all Seaborn have bleeds - if you don't have one you're just a 'mundane' (muggle) Seaborn, right?

All the Seaborn have—or at one time had—bleeds, and I would say all do to some degree, but with many cases where the amount is so tiny that it’s almost non-existent. There have to be rare cases where the bleed is entirely gone, but since it’s an organic mechanism working outside the people it’s tied to it can behave in strange ways.  The bleed isn’t innate.  It’s connected to a person.  It isn’t keyed off some chunk of genetic code (muggle or wizard, yes or no), except maybe as an identifier for the mechanism—to determine things like who is the child of my current connection, etc.  Also because it’s a system that operates outside any seaborn it’s possible—by someone who is very powerful—to manipulate or direct in different ways (e.g., Kassandra dividing her bleeds among her sisters). But keep this in mind: Kassandra isn’t powerful enough to restore or give her father a completely new bleed—or reverse the flow.

What if I have a bleed and die child-less?  Does the bleed end?  Does my corpse explode because the energy of the bleed has nowhere to go? ;-)

The bleed ends. Actually it withers and dies.  Think of a bleed as one stalk in a garden of power growing in the Rootworld. It winds its way like a vine through the doors into this world and feeds that particular seaborn person.  The being we and the seaborn call Poseidon created the source “garden” and one by one threaded the stalks into this world and placed them in each of the first seaborn.  The seaborn were “cursed” to live at the bottom of the sea, but Poseidon, one of the powerful old Rootworlders favored them, and although he couldn’t remove the curse, he could make their lives richer and more powerful under the waves.  So he gave them bleeds.  The “seaborn curse” is itself a (different) garden of growing shoots running into this world from the Root, feeding each of the seaborn with the power to live and breathe underwater. Kassandra can literally take away that connection. She does this toward the end of Sea Throne—and the immense pressure crushes the King’s guard into nothing (the guy who uses fire).  She can also create branches in her own bleeds and feed them to others. This is what she does with Jill and Nicole in Seaborn.  This is what the Telkhines can do.

Are there ever children born WITH a bleed to mundane parents?  In other words, are there ever new bleeds?

It can’t happen unless a grandparent still has a bleed that has decided not to flow to a child, but instead goes to the grandchild.  Otherwise, once that vine has withered and died it’s not coming back.  It isn't genetic.  There isn't some recessive trait that, given the right circumstances, can show up without warning in succeeding generations.

If the only way to get a bleed is to inherit one, where did bleeds originally come from?  Does everyone with a bleed have some common magical ancestor (Kirke?)? How did they get it?

Hope I covered this in the prior answers.  Kirke had her own bleed, similar to the source created by Poseidon, but much stronger.

Can a Seaborn learn magic by studying under a mage, or does one need the bleed to do it? 

You must have a bleed and it must come from a parent (or both if you’re Telkhines). 

And lastly, “Immortals” — these are what I would call demigods, along with a few full gods and goddesses.  Akastê is an immortal.  Poseidon is an immortal.  Bachoris and his sister Agenika. Ephoros, Ochleros, and all of the sea-demons. There are many of them around, but they don’t really interfere with the lives of anyone—on the surface or the under the sea.

 

Notes on the differences between Corina/Aleximor and King Tharsaleos when it comes to dealing with raising the dead, binding the dead in the Olethren, and Aleximor’s personal army.

Corina/Aleximor (their power is shared) can actually draw people back from the dead, even if they’ve been dead for a long while.  The ostologoi have made a deal with the immortal, Akastê,  who has controlled access to the drowned dead for almost two thousand years--after the old god Poseidon left the world (to go who knows where). The ostologoi bargained their lives away to gain more and more access over the years, and Aleximor at his height had the deepest relationship with Akastê. 

King Tharsaleos on the other hand doesn’t have much of a relationship with Akastê, or it’s very tenuous.  She’s really just using the king to get at Kassandra. King Tharsaleos has two bleeds, which makes him fairly unique and powerful, and it also gives him the ability to do the binding thing, but not draw anyone from the dead.  He can, however, do things with the recently dead. For instance, this allowed him to  add the original Oktoloi (The King’s Eight—including Theoxena’s husband Epandros) to the army of the dead—because he killed them himself.   

When the dead are bound to the king, it means they can be given something that identifies an individual enemy and the dead will march and will not stop until that person has been killed.  Then they march home to their fortress south of the Nine-cities.  They are as dangerous to the seaborn in the Nine-cities as they are to their enemies, and when the dead army is deployed the King’s own army has to hold back and wait for the dead to go home before they can proceed.  You can contrast this with the much smaller army Aleximor created, which are much more powerful, smarter, and able to take real commands—unlike the Olethren, the King’s dead army.

Aleximor/Corina also has the power to cut through the walls of this world into other worlds—into Poseidon’s mansion, into the prisons. And even into death. King Tharsaleos cannot do these things—no one else can either, including most of the ostologoi themselves.  Aleximor is a unique character.


Notes on races, classes, game play with powerful characters

A game with characters made up of regular seaborn from any of the nine great houses with a moderate bleed that grows over time shouldn’t produce super powerful characters that make game play difficult. It’s only if you allow some players to be the Kirkêlatides or the Wreath-wearer that you may run into problems, because they can be too powerful for the game.

As far as RPG races, the Telkhines would be one in themselves. They are just that different. It’s like all the seaborn are humans and the Telkhines are high elves.  The ostologoi could also be a different race, one with a focus on necromancy, naturally very pale, and access to skills that no other group has.  Many of the classes would apply—fighters, wizards, bards, etc. Some might be called something else (the seaborn never refer to themselves as “wizards”), but how the classes are defined still apply.

 

How do you eat underwater?

Food wasn’t high on the list of difficulties to tackle for a series of books about people from the sea, with at least half the action taking place deep underwater. If I divided up my world-building time for the Seaborn books more than half of it would go to undersea combat and the kinds of powers, “bleeds”, magic, breathing, as well as sorting out their limitations, how they are passed to children, and other details. Most of the other half was in cultural development, cities, history, interaction with the surface, social structure, why a people who are apparently successful have such a low population—in the millions.

But food proved to be more difficult than combat. Even if there’s magic involved in making things work in a fight, it can be applied to the weapon once. Everyone in battle-space doesn’t need to perform something crazy three times a day in order to sustain their strength and stop their tummies rumbling. Right off the bat I imagined—given their technology and powers—you could reduce friction and drag in the water for edged weapons and bolts from crossbows, and spearguns, so that battles didn’t look like thousands of free-falling astronauts spinning and fumbling in slow motion, taking mad swings at each other. And everyone looking stupid rather than dangerous or fierce.

Food wasn’t as easy to figure out. On the surface, Kassandra—the main character—can go to Starbucks or stop in for sushi and sashimi at Shizuko’s in Hampton. She was raised on the surface, but when she gets underwater and sees what the seaborn have out for what appears to be an edible arrangement, she’s disgusted by it. No potato chips, no bagels, no coffee. Just these little lumps or wrapped packages of something she has no need to try.

Raw fish, sliced and presented neatly, was an obvious choice because it didn’t require cooking and you could eat it with fingers—it worked underwater. But it was too obvious, too simple, and they can’t live on raw fish alone. In a typical surface kitchen you turn on the stove, you heat water, you make some pasta. In another pot you’re making a sauce. You serve it onto plates and you eat with forks, spoons, knives, chopsticks, sporks, fingers. Easy. In the deep ocean where the seaborn live I was looking at extreme temperatures, complete darkness, with most of the abyss cold, and water around hydrothermal vents reaching 800 F/426 C and NOT boiling because of the immense pressure. I had plumbing in seaborn cities to pipe this water and heat anywhere I wanted, but how do you cook with it? Food wrapped in ceramic containers, leaves? Where do those come from? Firing and glazing clay sounds difficult underwater. The seaborn have light—can make it—and so they can grow seaweeds, hundred-foot tall macrocystis—the large kelp forests you always see in video off the coast of California. Leaves were in, and they’re entirely plausible because that’s a common enough method for cooking on the surface, with food wrapped and steamed inside cabbage leaves, grape leaves, and others. Fish was clearly a center course—cooked or not, with many options for vegetable-like dishes.

I didn’t take eating much further than this in the three books because food didn’t play enough of a role in the plot, but it surprised me how much trouble it caused—more than breathing underwater, pressure, darkness, and combat, all of which could be handled with sufficient technology—or magic. Looking back, I wish I had given eating—especially the social aspect of gathering around food and drink—more thought. My logic went something like dolphins don’t know thirst and they don’t drink anything their entire lives, so why would the seaborn? I went with a limited approach to developing their eating conventions and left it at that—with some jabs by Kassandra and others about how unappealing their food was.

Overall it was the complexity around something as simple as what do you eat underwater that got me. The ocean’s a complex environment made up of many layered environments, and many are radically different meters apart. And stories set there have to deal with the environment. Even with something as complex as underwater acoustics, with negative thermoclines and capacity for changing over long distances I just had to do my research and let it play. Sound travels almost five times faster underwater than it does through the air, but apparently there’s no fast food in the deep. At least I didn’t find any.

 

Who's who in Saltwater Witch, Seaborn and Sea Throne

Abrulla (Ah-broo-lah)

Naiad, lives along the Mississippi River, probably one of the governesses

Adraios (Ah-dry-ohs)

acquaintance of Nikasia

 

 

Agatha Vilnious (Agathameria)

Naiad, governess of the Merrimack River, former teacher, widower. (Her late husband was a fisherman in Mass.)

Agathe (Ah-gah-thay)

married into ostologoi, wife of Sopheas, one daughter, Phaustine.

Aischyline (Ai-ske-leen-ah)

A noble of House Dosianax, married Sameramis of Alkimides at King's command, one son, Stasenor

Akaste (Ah-kahs-tay)

An Okeanis, immortal, her name means, "unstable."

 

 

Aleximoros (Ah-lex-i-mor-os)

Ostologos (Bone-gatherer). Imprisoned by House Rexenor (Strates Unwinder) in 1822 for treason, murder, nekuomantis, also called Melanthos

Alfred Harvey

Intimidating second officer of the Maria Draughn, British

Alois (Ah-lo-iss)

Spanish soldier, drowned off the coast of California in the 1500's

 

 

Ampharete (Amph-air-e-tay)

Kassandra's mother, daughter of King Tharsaleos, Wreath-wearer, married Gregor Lord Rexenor, died in battle with Olethren at Rexenor fortress.

Andromache (An-drom-uh-key)

Wreath-wearer, Queen, ~1560 AD, named after the wife of Hektor prince of Ilios (Troy).

 

 

Aristaion (Ah-rees-tie-own)

well-known cook with a restaurant in Deimis market

Art Ramirez

Deputy, Monterey County Sheriff's Department

Bitinna

Alkimides

Bryanthis (Bri-ahn-thees)

House Rexenor, zoarches, commander of a team of orcas

Chenandros (Ken-andros)

Soldier, House Rexenor

Corina Lairsey

College student from Coyote, California (south of San Jose).

Damo (Dah-mo)

House Rexenor, zoarches, commander of a team of orcas

Daniel McHutcheon

Maria Draughn's third officer with medical training, British

Daphne (Dahff-nay)

Noble woman, married by arrangement to Eupheron, Queen of the Seaborn.

Dardanis (Dar-dah-nees)

House Rexenor, strategos (general)

Deinarete

Alkimides

Demarchos (dem-ark-os)

son of the cook, Aristaion

Ephoros (Eff-or-os)

One of the daimones thalassai, King, descendent of Poseidon, "son of Periklymenos and the Nereid, Eione." Ephoros is one of many names he had taken.

Eupheron (You-fair-own)

King Eupheron, great grandson of Praxinos, son of Alkimides Queen Kleonike and a lord of the Telkhines, Timasitheos. The only Wreath-wearer with two bleeds. Called "The Liar."

 

 

Gabriel Pinnet

Trouble maker, third on the engineer's crew of the Maria Draughn.

Gregor Lord Rexenor

A lord of House Rexenor, son of Lady Kallixene and Lord Nausikrates, married the Alkimides princess Ampharete, father of Kassandra. Spent twelve years in the Lithotombs, a prisoner of King Tharsaleos, spent at least a year as one of the porthmeus slaves for northeast U.S.

Helodes (Hel-o-deez)

Naiad, One of the Potameides

Herakon (Heh-rah-kown)

 

Imeria

House Rexenor, zoarches, commander of a team of orcas

Isanoreia

Polemakles' daughter of Dosianax.

Isothemis (Ee-so-them-ees)

Queen, second wife of Tharsaleos, sister of Pythias, has two children by Tharsaleos.

Jillian Crosse

"Jill," adopted sister of Kassandra

Kallixene (Kah-lix-uh-nee)

Lady of House Rexenor, mother of Gregor

Kassandra Alkimides

The Wreath-wearer, granddaughter of King Tharsaleos

Kleariste (Klay-a-rees-tay)

acquaintance of Nikasia

Kleonike (Klay-o-nee-kay)

Queen and Wreath-wearer, Praxinos' granddaughter.

Klodia (Klo-dee-ah)

acquaintance of Nikasia

Korthys (Kor-thus)

Music teacher

Limnoria (Lim-nor-ia)

Naiad, One of the Potameides

Martim Teixeira (Teh-shay-rah)

Captain of the cargo ship Maria Draughn, Brazilian national from Azores.

Menophon (Men-o-fon)

Commander of Lady Kallixene's Guard, died in battle with Olethren in Nebraska

Michael Augustus Henderson

Marine biologist, science teacher, St. Clement's Education Center

Mr. Fenhals

Agent of King Tharsaleos, the "king's terrier," first name Archibald (not his given name).

Ms. Matrothy

Governess of the girl's department of St. Clement's Education Center

Mrs. Lindsey

Keeper of records, St. Clement's Education Center

Nausikrates (Now-seek-rah-teez)

Lord of House Rexenor, father of Gregor

Nereus (Neh-re-us)

Youngest son of Menophon, a lord, but not from the ruling house of Rexenor.

Nicolette Garcia

"Nicole," adopted sister of Kassandra, "Nikoletta"

Ochleros (Oh-klair-os)

One of the daimones thalassai, King

Olivia

Naiad, One of the Potameides

Parresia (Par-reezia)

Naiad, One of the Potameides

Phaidra (Fie-drah)

Daughter of Kallixene and Nausikrates, a Lady of Rexenor, Kassandra's aunt.

Pheronika

 

Polemachos (Po-lem-ah-kos)

First Wreath-wearer, King, Alkimides

Polemakles (Po-lem-ah-kleez)

First of the King's Eight (oktoloi), gained rank when Sameramis was promoted to general of all the King's army in the North.

Praxinos (Prahx-ee-nos)

Third Wreath-wearer, King, Alkimides

Pythias (Pith-ee-as)

Kassandra's grandmother, queen, first wife of Tharsaleos

Sameramis (Sah-mair-ah-mees)

House Alkimides, first of the oktoloi (the King's trusted Eight), married (by arrangement) Aischyline of Dosianax .

Shizuko (Shee-zu-ko)

Japanese restaurateur, North Hampton, New Hampshire

Skyllias (Skill-ias)

Younger brother of Sopheas, ostologoi, married Agathe

Sopheas (So-fay-ahs)

Last patriarch of Bone-gatherers (ostologoi), brother of Skyllias, two sons, Pleistonax and Thennas.

Strates (Strah-teez)

Called "Unwinder," abyss mage of House Rexenor, father of Polemachos, had relationship with Alkimides princess,

Stratolaos (Strat-o-lah-os)

House Dosianax, cousin of King Tharsaleos

 

 

Thares (Thar-ace)

acquaintance of Nikasia

Tharsaleos (Thar-sah-lay-os)

Lord of House Dosianax, King of the Seaborn

 

 

Theoxena (Thay-ox-enna)

War-bard to King Tharsaleos, one of the Kirkelatides (descendents of Circe), married one of the king's trusted Eight, Epandros. Three daughters, Melinna, Airesis, Nikasia.

Thennas

 

Theudas (Th-you-das)

House Aktaios, Roll Seep Gate guard

Theupheides (Th-you-fay-deez)

Naiad, One of the Potameides, loves trains, train museums.

Zypheria (Zif-air-ia)

Sister, soldier, maid to Lady Ampharete, Kassandra's bodyguard.

 

Seaborn name list—1000’s of them, broken up into male and female names.

These are the lists I used for character names in the books. Most of the seaborn have traditional Greek names with Greek spellings (e.g., no soft “C”). Each PDF includes a Greek alphabet list with pronunciation.

www.saltwaterwitch.com/files/SeabornNamesMale.pdf
www.saltwaterwitch.com/files/SeabornNamesFemale.pdf

 

Scale armor styles among the seaborn

Here are some examples of seaborn armor. These images can be tiled. Click on each for the full view.

Kassandra's armor
Telkhines armor example
Dosianax armor
House Rexenor armor

Journals within Journals

There's a character in all three books, Michael Henderson, who's a minor character with a background in science, and I've sort of left it up to him to try to explain how people can live and breathe under the sea.  He has the "curse" himself, all the abilities the Seaborn have.  He writes pages of notes, sketches the things he sees in the deep, imagines why things work the way they do with the Seaborn--all with a scientific mind.

I've written and drawn a bunch of stuff in the character of Michael Henderson, which started out as part of my worldbuilding exercises, and just kept going.  I wrote the chapter headings in Seaborn from Henderson's perspective, taken from his notes, his journal, his "conversations" with various notable characters. 

Here are some samples from my journal--part of the "interview" process a writer goes through with some characters:

Seaborn Notes

Michael Henderson's writing and drawing,

I have been to the deep ocean, the Very Deep, and I have set my feet down in billion year old sand.  I have kicked through the dark with blind animals that change shape with their moods, with fish ten meters long that glide through the deep sea without fear--and only eat microscopic food, with arthropods made of glass, and creatures that defy classification, I have touched the bioluminescent lures of fanged ambush predators in the abyss, and I still have all of my fingers.   I have done all of this without equipment, without SCUBA, without feeling the pressure, or need for air.  I am no longer a surface human--or as the Seaborn, say--a surfacer, a Thinling.  I have become one of them.

I have experienced, l'ivresse des grandes profondeurs, Jacques Cousteau's "rapture of the deep," but not as the nitrogen narcosis that Cousteau described in Silent World.  Say, rather, that I have experienced the rapture of the unexpectedly normal in the most unexpected place on earth: the deep sea.

The Seaborn do not suffer from any of the affects of breathing compressed gases, for example the squeeze of barotrauma on descent, because presumably, these do not exist in effective amounts in their bodies.

SCUBA, as most people probably know, stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.  This is a device enabling surface-living humans to recreate, as near as possible, and within well-defined limits, everything the human respiratory system needs above the ocean surface, in the air.  While in the water, it appears that the Seaborn do not--or even need to--breathe in the same manner, possessing a different, possibly more advanced system for taking in the same gases and nutrients directly from seawater.  Out of the water, the lungs of a Seaborn human appear to function the same way as the lungs of any surface human. 

Lungs:  Alveoli are the small grape-bunch like structures that line the lungs and take up oxygen, CO2, Nitrogen--gases the human body needs to survive, with oxygen fueling so many of the processes.  The Alveoli are highly susceptible to damage from heavy substances like seawater, which really shouldn't be in the lungs.  Damage then leads to low blood oxygen levels (hypoxemia) , low tissue oxygen levels (hypoxia), and then death.  The alveolar-capillary membrane is a delicate, one cell thick membrane through which the gases we breathe are exchanged.  It appears to be the case that the Seaborn possess a more rigid surfactact--a sort of stiffening coat for the alveoli to prevent them from collapsing under the weight of heavier substances like water in the lungs.


How Do Mermaids Hear?

Originally published in the urban fantasy journal, Fangs, Fur, and Fey (August, 2008)

Here's a slice of worldbuilding for your characters who live in water.  I've completed a few novels and short stories with whole cultures that live, breathe, and function well under the surface of the ocean.  So, I'm going to take a quick look at the sense of hearing in an aquatic environment, pulling from my own worldbuilding notes, as well as online science resources. (A few listed at the end).

There are things about every story's world that a fantasy author must consider and make real, because we can't expect our readers to throw all physical laws out when they hit page one. We can expect them to set some details aside for a while, but in general, gravity still works, summer's warm, winter's cold, and Kevlar stops bullets better than the three layers of human skin (Epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous fat do not sound bullet stopping). This doesn't mean our readers won't accept the notion of bullet proof skin, but that we need to back that up with some explanation, and it has to seem real. (No, mermaids are not bullet proof--not any of the ones I know at any rate).

One more thing, just to make things clear: I'm not writing science fiction. Seaborn and the others are fantasy in a contemporary setting, using roughly the same set of rules across stories, using our world's physics, but with some cool enhancements.

So, if you're planning to write about mermaids, naiads, sirens, people from the sea, here are some things you may want to consider when they talk or sing or listen under the waves.

What are your requirements as an author, what does your world impose on your characters?

I wanted characters to have the ability to live above the water as well as below it without any special physical changes. That's a lot for a reader to accept.

This is fantasy, so I can get away with saying something like, "living off the power of the sea" if I say it with enough solemnity, but that doesn't mean it's simply a hand wave and everything works.

Let's dive in:

Sound travels five times faster under the water than above it. Well and good, but it turns out that volume doesn't depend on the speed of sound, but rather on two things: what's called the "amplitude of sound waves" and--very importantly--on the capabilities of the listener. (Amplitude is basically the height of the sound wave, but let's don't get into that. Acoustics gets very technical and way past me very fast).

We're humans and we have ears on the sides of our heads, a sort of cone to focus the sound waves, and then we have eardrums and special bones in the middle ear that do the hearing.   This works well in the air.

In the ocean, mammals like dolphins have evolved over millions of years to rely on sound conduction through tissue and bone. It turns out that humans can do this as well--just not as well. As you know, we cannot hear an underwater sound while above the water--through the surface, but if we step into the waves up to our knees, suddenly we can. Not like cetaceans, but we have a limited ability to hear through our tissue and bones right out of the box. 

For hearing to really work--as good or better than cetaceans--for my Seaborn characters, they had to have some simple modifications to the jaw bone, a couple skull enhancements, but nothing that you or me would notice from the outside. Radiologists would freak! Readers can easily deal with minor mods.

Other weirdness in the water.

I have solutions for some of these, but if your characters are living in the sea, this is what they're going to have to deal with every day:

How far sound travels in water doesn't depend on how loud the sound is, but on tonality. Higher tonality sounds travel farther than lower tonality sounds. Pressure plays a significant role in speaking, singing, making noises underwater.

Navigating by sound is also a problem. Above the sea, you can close your eyes and find your way fairly easily just by listening--think of the Marco Polo game. You're blindfolded. You say "Marco." Players shout "Polo" off to your right. You turn in that direction to catch them. This works because sound travels slow enough in the air for your sense perception processing to calculate the difference between sound waves hitting your right ear before your left.

Underwater, things get a little fuzzy. Sound's traveling at five times the velocity of sound in air, and you can't tell where it's coming from simply by the difference in the rate it hits your ears. I do think having highly developed bone and tissue audio conductivity helps with this, but not certain.

Let's pretend that you can live underwater. Everything works--lungs, sight, hearing--and it's all going along swimmingly. The oceans are complex environments, with uniformity extending only so far. You won't be living on a plane--the surface of the earth, but in 3D space, hydrospace, and you could find yourself swimming between different sea consistencies, along currents, into water colder than ice, hotter than boiling water. It's a wild world down there.

And interfaces make listening a bitch. Sound bounces off the surface above you if you're in shallow water, reflecting it back at you, producing echoes, dead spots, and other anomalies. Then there are thermoclines, layers of differing temperature in the sea that also affect the way sound travels. Colder water is denser, which changes sound behavior when it hits or passes through one layer to another. In some cases the layer of warmer and colder water can be as audibly distinct as the interface between the sea's surface and the air. The ocean itself is a world of separate layered worlds.

I hope this enough to get things going.

Hearing seemed the clear one to start with, but there are many underwater paths to swim down after hearing. There are obvious ones, like seeing in total darkness--how does that work?-- and breathing a medium as thick as seawater, and not so obvious ones like eating or handling ingrained things like circadian rhythm. Next time!


What does the Nine-Cities look like?

The Nine-Cities of the Thalassogeneis (Seaborn), view from the northwest

Map of the Nine-Cities of the Thalassogeneis (Seaborn) from the House Rexenor archives

Kassandra's detailed drawing of the various locations, House fortresses,
and other important points of interest in and around the Nine-Cities.


Kassandra's Family Tree