Here’s some new artwork for Merren showing one of the central POV characters – Niah.
I made it with photoshop using a mixture of photo editing and digital drawing with a Wacom tablet (and sometimes just my mouse). In recent imaginings the merren have taken on a slightly more human appearance than they had originally. In the book there are times when they have to disguise themselves as regular humans so their features have become a bit less seal-like. I’ve allowed them to retain the large seal-like eyes and features including their colouring and speckles. In this picture the speckles were actually taken from photos of wild dolphins and some of the other skin textures are from grey seals.
I’m really enjoying bringing my characters to life and can’t wait to do more.
About the Character
Niah is the main merren character of the book who is trying to find a way to cure the kelp forest (the merren’s home) of a poisonous energy which entered the water after a drowning gone wrong. Due to the merren’s sensitivity to energies carried in the water, it’s too dangerous for the oldest and most vulnerable members of the commune to remain, so they migrate for the ancient banks. Niah is left behind and cut off from the vital shared energies of the commune (the worst punishment in merren society) and is forbidden from rejoining until the forestwaters have been cured. The extract below might give some sense of Niah’s character and situation, and explain why the task to cure the waters of the poisonous energy seems so impossible.
Extract from one of Niah’s POV chapters in the book
‘I swim as fast as I can towards the sound of the surface rider until I see the shadow of it through the rain on the surface. Chasing, I hope it’s the one I’m looking for. I don’t know if their drowning light will cure the waters, but I don’t know what else I can try, what I can do to show the commune that I have been trying. I’m desperate and I dread what I’ll have to do when I catch them, but I’m running out of options. I doubt I’ll be able to set off the drowning light properly, I haven’t tried since the child, but if I couldn’t do it then, why would I be able to now? Just thinking of what happened starts to panic me. If this really is the one who brought the sickness, maybe simply killing them will end it.
The surface rider is fast, I can’t catch it. But I see the circles it makes, the marks above where it’s gone around and around. I stop and watch it go but before it turns at the end of its circle I swim down to the bottom and find two rocks, as big as I can hold in each hand, one of them sharp. I can’t believe what I’m planning. Rocks. So undignified and primitive. I feel a disgrace to all the powers I inherited at my birth, but if I can’t set off the light, I’ll need a backup plan. The roaring sound gets louder. I steady myself as the surface rider nears and when it passes over me I launch the blunt rock into the part of it that sucks the water. It crunches and I clutch the sharp rock in my hand as the roaring sound stops. The surface rider spins and I follow as it moves in unpredictable directions. Then it tips over. The dry-walker comes down and I stop to watch for a moment, making sure I am behind them. The surface rider has landed on top of them and they can’t swim. They’re floating below the surface and holding their hip through their suit that looks like our skin. I know the dry-walkers wear them to stop the warmth of their bodies from leaving into the water. But the suits don’t stop fear and panic from spilling through, or the pain of a broken hip. Not broken, just hurt I correct myself. I feel it all immediately and I have to stop myself from leaping out of the water onto the upturned surface rider just to get a way from it. Amidst the pain and panic I can’t tell if this dry-walker is the one or not, but their fear hurts worse than what I can feel of their injury. It’s like the stinging of a thousand electric eels in the water getting rapidly worse, spreading and multiplying on every wave and current faster than I could swim out of its range. I have to stop it quickly before my body goes into shock.
I float behind the dry-walker and reach for the drowning light inside them, but I don’t know if it’ll work. I can’t doubt myself or it won’t work, but isn’t that why I’m holding this rock? Because I doubted myself from the beginning? Still I have to try. I know they’ve breathed the water but I still have to get through their panic and pull the light from inside them. It feels like reaching into water that’s been boiled by the heat beneath bed of the deep ocean. I try as hard as I can, focusing my energies on the place where they keep their light, deep inside, but I can’t reach it. I know this dry-walker isn’t the one now I’ve felt enough of them, but I can’t let them fill me with any more of their awful fear, and I know their drowning light might still help me. If I can absorb it I’ll be stronger. I will it to burst out of them and make them calm. I want to give them a blissful passing, to feel their drowning light and be filled with euphoria, the kind that makes the sea swell with pride for my people and our history. I want to know that I can do what I’m supposed to, that what happened to that child was just a horrible mistake I can fix.
I can’t concentrate with so much fear in the water and my panic that I can’t do it only makes it worse. Ebda’s voice is in my head saying I should turn them around and look in their eyes, to reach the light more easily, but I’m afraid. I almost died before, when the child drowned without the light and looked right at me with her fearful dying-eyes, water burning her lungs as she tried to call for her parents above the surface, sinking into the dark with all her heart begging for it not to happen until the last moment. If it happens to me again I won’t survive it.
I can’t feel any trace of the light. But I don’t have time, their awful fear is poisoning me. I have to end it. I go to strike with the rock but the dry-walker is pulled by something else and I miss. Something above pulls them up and out of the water. More dry-walkers have come. I’m shocked that I didn’t notice the boat while I was reaching so deep for the light. I don’t think they’ve seen me but I can’t risk staying where I am. I drop the rock and dive down, taking cover behind some weeds as the horrible pounding of the dry-walker’s fear dissolves into the vastness of he sea. A few moments after it stops it’s just another bad-tasting memory in these waves beyond the forestwaters, dirty with millions more just like it. I can’t believe I failed to set off the drowning light again. There’s something definitely wrong with me. How in all the sea am I supposed to fix our forestwaters, when I can’t evoke the one thing that might work?’