(Plus one bonus contagonist and a few other people.)
Today I’ll be discussing the two main antagonists in Black Dog of the Sea, Captain Shadrake and Morrighan, as well as their son, Shadrake Jr. the contagonist. I considered writing about them separately as I’ve done with my protagonists, but since the power struggle between the two antagonists cause the majority of the obstacles my protagonists face, it makes more sense to discuss them as a group. For the benefit of those of you who haven’t read the novel yet, I’ll be referring to Captain Shadrake and Morrighan’s son as Shadrake Jr, because spoilers.
Captain Shadrake, like most of the mer-folk left in Caladavan, is a mixed blood, roughly 75% percent human. He retains some mer features, such as silvery-greenish skin, and translucent needle-like teeth, but cannot change form into what we would know as a merman.
As with many others of his kind, his ancestry has barred him from participating in Caladavan’s social and economic structure, and over the years most merfolk either turned to illicit means of survival or have left. The strange goings-on in Caladvan’s gulf have both proved to be an attractant for the more sinister members of the merfolk, and helped to deter humans from attempting to annex their territories in the gulf.
Captain Shadrake’s power-hungry personality, and privileged social position allowed him to consolidate power in the gulf over his career, which by the novel’s beginning spanned nearly two centuries. He owns, directly or indirectly, dozens of ships and employs hundreds of other pirates who prey on the shipping lanes running between North and South Caladavan. Many of the strategically located ports in the Gulf of Caladavan are under his control.
Some hundred years prior to the beginning of the novel, when he was in the midst of seizing power in the gulf, he married Morrighan, a full-blooded boggle, or Black Dog.
Morrighan is the daughter of the most prominent boggle clan’s matriarch. Boggles are powerful in the gulf, mainly for their unique shape-shifting and ability to control the perceptions of others. They tend to prefer mates who are full-blooded Black Dog’s, or nearly, and so have kept their abilities and blood lines from being diluted the way most other fae people groups have.
The alliance of social powers proved satisfactory for both parties. Captain Shadrake loved Morrighan for her guile, and Morrighan was attracted to his ruthless nature. This didn’t prevent him from finding enjoyment in tormenting her. For instance, antagonizing her jealous side by fathering a child with a sea-elf (mermaid/elf hybrid) sorceress, who prior to this had been a close friend of Morrighan. The discord this action sowed was great and persisted for a long time, but Captain Shadrake kept it from getting out of hand by his obvious favoritism of Morrighan’s son, Shadrake Jr.
Shadrake Jr, being a human/mer/boggle hybrid, is what some might call a sea-dog. Proportionally less human than his father, he is able to shape-shift into a fae form, something between a black wolf and a sea otter, if you want a mental picture. Otherwise, he resembles his father in most respects, inheriting his silvery skin. But he inherited cat-like verticle pupils, a classic boggle trait.
For a long time the family went on this way. Captain Shadrake groomed Shadrake Jr for leadership within his growing empire, while occasionally tormenting Morrighan with the elf-child’s existence. Morrighan, in turn tormented Shadrake’s mistress and her child, but was otherwise mollified by Captain Shadrake’s growing empire. Meanwhile the half-brothers managed to scrape out an uneasy tolerance and even affection for each other, which they hardly dared show in front of anybody lest someone’s mother find out.
Everything went on in great dysfunction but relative peace, until Captain Shadrake’s lust for power eventually led him into necromancy, and the Inner Circle, much to the chagrin of the rest of his family. Both Morrighan and Shadrake’s mistress objected to the Inner Circle on principle, because it involved alliances with humans and because of the Inner Circle’s intention to harness the strange energies at work in the Gulf. Most disturbingly, one of the Inner Circle’s chief aims was a great enlightenment which could only take place by sacrificing the children of prominent Inner Circle members. Moreover, as Captain Shadrake became consumed with this new pursuit of arcane power, he became increasingly impossible to live with.
Eventually Shadrake Jr became fed up, relinquished his claim on the Shadrake family name and the power that came with it, and set off to make his fortune on the high seas on his own. This upset Captain Shadrake, but as Shadrake Jr was growing in influence in the family business, Captain Shadrake was beginning to feel he might be a future threat to the Captain’s dominion, so it wasn’t as troubling as it otherwise might have been. Morrighan, on the other hand, was devastated. She spent several years pleading, threatening, and arguing failed to convince Captain Shadrake to give up necromancy so Shadrake Jr might come home. After this failed, Morrighan killed Shadrake’s mistress in a fit of jealous rage, and “adopted” her son.
Thus Captain Shadrake was able to concentrate on his work again, the sea-elf’s life became a living hell, and Morrighan, even if she wasn’t actually happy, at least didn’t have to put up with a rival anymore.
Meanwhile, Shadrake Jr. quickly worked his way up to the rank of captain on an independent pirate ship, and within a few dozen years had a small empire of his own. Miniscule compared to his father, but it was his.
Shadrake Jr’s hijinks included taking a human lover and fathering his own child, which sowed the seeds for change within the Shadrake family, and everyone else within their sphere of influence.
Sensing an opportunity to manipulate Shadrake Jr into coming home, Morrighan changed her tune, and joined the Inner Circle. Lending her influence to the pursuit of the enlightenment eventually changed the overall sentiment in the Inner Circle about the sacrificial ritual, and allowed plans for the ritual to slowly go forward.
Captain Shadrake was thrilled about this development, but at the same time, he resented her ability to shift sentiments in the Inner Circle, when he hadn’t been able to, especially as he suspected she still thought it was all nonsense. As the time for the ritual draws closer, our protagonists are caught in the the power struggle between Morrighan and Captain Shadrake, and so the Black Dog of the Sea begins.
*Here’s some terminology for anyone who may be confused.
Protagonist: the good guy, often the veiwpoint character
Antagonist: the bad guy, directly and intentionally makes life difficult for the protagonist and causes most of the conflict in the story, or makes it worse.
Contagonist: has a complicated agenda that flip-flops between helping and hindering the protagonist. Example: Loki in most Marvel movies.
There are actually two contagonists in Black Dog of the Seas. The other one, Jabal, will likely get his own blog post later.