July 26, 2021
Welcome to Week 20 of the Wise Not Withered character showcase!! Today I am ecstatic to present Rabiya, our 47-year-old Tactician Queen! This character and story has so much depth and so much potential. Her original idea is based around one of my favorite video game series, Fire Emblem, where the character/player is often the tactician on the battlefield, commanding and ordering the other units to move certain places and perform different actions.
Rabiya's story is one of a few that I think would make such an excellent, engaging, and beautiful video game. The goal of Wise Not Withered as a whole is to expand representation of middle-aged and elderly women in media—though the original idea was purely on video games. I'm happy that I was able to be flexible with different types of media, as some of the stories in this project are great just as short stories.
I was honestly getting a bit overwhelmed with how much potential this particular story had (and still has). A part of me wanted to—and actually somewhat did—stop the entire project to focus on Rabiya's story and the potential in her narrative, all the characters, and the possible gameplay mechanics. I realized at one point though that I had told many writers on the team that it was okay if their story was more of an excerpt of a larger narrative, and the main purpose is to showcase the kinds of inspiring and impactful stories that women can have into our middle-aged and elderly years. When I look at the big picture, I remember that there are twenty-five characters that all need some love and need to be presented to the world, no matter how incomplete their stories are thus far.
Which is where I will dive into Rabiya's story, and my many ideas! Rabiya has a very particular title, "Tactician Queen". When I first assigned the character to Swelynka (Angolan/Portuguese) and Asra (Indian), I needed to explain what exactly that meant. It is unlike any role I have ever seen before in my admittedly small repertoire knowledge of royalty or war heroes. I envisioned a strong queen who leads council meetings, makes decisions for her people, AND commands the army. While discussing the bare bones of the story and characters with Swelynka and Asra at the beginning, we decided that the Kingdom of Kasheer would be a matriarchal society: power would be held by women and passed down through women. Magic powers awakened naturally only in females.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Rabiya's story and combat ideas are heavily influenced by Fire Emblem. I think her story would make such a great tactical RPG, one that I would love to play! When deciding what weapon Rabiya should have, we at first figured a staff or scepter would be suitable. Part of the story includes searching for a magical gemstone that would fuse into her weapon, and a scepter seemed like a good fit. While the development carried on though, I thought specifically about her role as a tactician and warrior, and I realized that a scepter would be capable of only short-range attacks. One of the key combat features in Fire Emblem is this exact thing: nearly all of the characters can attack from either one square away, or two (there are rare cases of three-square away attacks, or even four or more, but again those are rare). One-square-away warriors include regular sword-wielders, lance-bearers, and axe-carriers, while two-square-away warriors are archers. Mages are special since they can attack from both one and two squares away from their target, making them more versatile in that way. Especially in the latest Fire Emblem game, Three Houses, there are even more possibilities of long and short-range attacks with the introduction of new abilities and combat arts, and in that one and other games there are also long-range swords, lances, and axes. But for those of you that either do not play Fire Emblem or do not care about Fire Emblem, we'll save that discussion for another day!
Our illustrator Swelynka was extremely involved in the creation of the story and characters. She had the brilliant idea that our warriors of the kingdom of Kasheer would fight atop mammoths. She made a gorgeous sketch of Rabiya sitting on one of the giant beasts, and I realized that Rabiya would most ideally be able to give orders and attack from a distance. Thus, the scepterang was born!! We kept the original idea of her scepter but combined it with the movement potential of a boomerang. Here's the sketch, with an excerpt of the story, one of the combat scenes:
“Stop!” Rabiya commanded from atop her mammoth, “Leave her alone, or prepare to
The bandits all looked up at Rabiya with their eyes narrowed, then rushed forward with
their daggers drawn.
“Everyone get down!” Rabiya yelled as she threw her scepterang forward, knocking down
the two bandits closest to the woman and the baby.
“Soldiers, spread out and protect the villagers, and lead them to safety!” Rabiya shouted
as her weapon flew in a circle and landed back in her grasp, “Lueji and Ghaziyan, neutralize as
many bandits as you can! And Aryan, climb aboard and stay close to me. Arrows ready, son!”
Aryan swiftly climbed Rabiya’s mammoth and sat behind her, drawing an arrow and
staying alert. Red Tribe civilians had started running around frantically, screaming and crying.
Rabiya’s soldiers jumped off of their mammoths and rounded up the Tribespeople, urgently
pushing them safely into their huts. The bandits darted around the tribe, trying to steal personal
ornaments from people who had not yet been fast enough to hide.
“Aryan, there! Aim for his feet!” Rabiya pointed to a bandit approaching an old man who
was clutching a gold-plated cane. Aryan nodded, aiming then releasing an arrow that pierced
the bandit’s ankle—the scoundrel fell to the ground, howling in pain.
The first Fire Emblem game I played was Fates, back when it came out in 2016. I was intrigued by the gameplay, support conversations, and dramatic story. Since that game (or I should say, three games if you include Birthright, Conquest, and Revelation), I have played all the way through seven other Fire Emblem titles. Two things that stood out to me that each game had were the lovable characters and crazy intense storylines. Since it is a tactical RPG, it makes sense that each story takes place during a time of war, which automatically means lots of loss and suffering.
I myself am not a fan of the horror genre in general, but I wanted to include super raw and emotional parts in Rabiya's story. The following scene started out as the introduction, but later was moved to a different section.
"A throbbing pain in Rabiya’s head slowly brought her back to what seemed like consciousness. Trying to open her eyes and grabbing her head on one side, Rabiya could feel the pain in her back as well, and her legs felt heavy and sore. All around her lay tattered limbs and headless bodies, armor in pieces and shields cracked on the ground beside shattered swords and splintered spears. Dozens of arrows burrowed indiscriminately into soil and flesh alike. The snow beneath her feet was splattered and painted a deep crimson with splashes of bright red and dark brown. As she began to recognize the soldiers around her, their blank stares and blood dripping down their chins sent a deep sorrow clenching in her gut. She remembered the scene so vividly..."
A huge part of Rabiya's story and character development is her experience witnessing her father being murdered by her uncle, and subsequently her uncle being murdered by her mother. This traumatic series of events happens when she is a young child, and seeing magic being used in such a destructive way impacts her so strongly that her own magic abilities do not develop when they are supposed to. She carries a lot of shame and frustration around that, but throughout the story she is able to work through her trauma blocks and eventually gain control over her magical powers.
Near the beginning of the story, back to the present when she is already a grown adult, Rabiya ends up losing her mother as well. Since the death of my own mother last February, I've been working with a life coach, a therapist, talking through my thoughts and feelings with friends and family, and have journaled almost every single day. I wanted to incorporate parts of my own healing journey into Rabiya's. I wanted to include the sentiment that no matter how much you prepare, you're never truly, fully ready to deal with your mother's death. One of the hardest things I came to terms with as my mother was dying was that even though I wished it had happened later rather than sooner, it is the natural order of things for a mother to die and leave her daughter behind—the alternative would be for the daughter to die first, which is not supposed to happen. I also wanted and am continuing to work toward stepping away from the concept of my mother "leaving" me. No one's mother intentionally dies to leave her daughter behind, although it can certainly feel that way sometimes. There were still many, many things I wanted to learn from my mother, and the pain of never knowing or learning those things I imagine will dissipate with time but never fully go away. And Rabiya is experiencing that, too.
As the new Queen, Rabiya is learning to rule the people (with her husband, children, and council too) in addition to facing her trauma and dormant magic abilities head-on. She is not completely inexperienced though, as she has been the army's tactician for many years already. I wanted to create a character that is strong, brave, and has been through many of life's challenges already, but someone who still has a lot to learn and still has many hardships ahead of her. No matter how old we are, I believe that there is always more to see and experience, more to teach, and more to learn.
I have absolutely fallen in love with the Tactician Queen Rabiya's family. She is closest with her husband Lueji,daughter Kalemba, son Aryan, and head advisor Ghaziyan. Her advisor was also her mother Queen Amara's advisor, and since the death of her own father from a young age, Ghaziyan became somewhat of a father figure to her.
Each person has a different weapon of choice. As mentioned before, Rabiya has a scepterang (scepter + boomerang). Lueji fights with dual axes but is also adept at unarmed, bare-handed combat. Aryan is a skilled archer and weapon-smith. Kalemba has awakened her magic powers and uses bangles to enhance her healing abilities. Ghaziyan is your well-rounded soldier, capable of fighting with lances, swords, and axes.
As for the main antagonist of the story, enter stage left: Dajjal, the dark sorcerer. I mentioned near the beginning that magic powers awaken naturally only in females. Dajjal is one of very few males who have acquired magical abilities by sinister means. It was important to me that though Dajjal is an evil male, we also included many other male characters who support Rabiya. Even though it is a matriarchal society, and the only ones who are supposed to be able to use magic are women, men are not seen as lesser beings or inferior at all.
All right, that's enough from me. Now here is Asra, introducing herself and talking a bit about her participation in the project:
My name is Asra Azad.
I am a mother, an engineer, a teacher , an entrepreneur and have a passion for writing.
I come from a place which is mostly in breaking news and it's all about fight, protests, blood, debates and discussions.
But this place is much more than a breaking news. From the land of fragrances of beautiful gardens, the smell of saffron; from the sweet baked dry fruit cakes to the home made bread; from the snow caped mountains to the fresh water lakes; it is a place you call paradise on earth and I call it home. It is Kashmir!
Such a poignant beauty would make anyone a poet and I am no exception!
I would pen down my feelings and maintained a diary when I was a child but was not an ardent writer. As I grew up I found writing very therapeutic and it became a passion. And recently I have been writing poems and in a middle of compiling a book of my own in sha allah. I would like to read out to you guys one of my favourite poems which I wrote long back and it’s called “The Clown”:
Everyone is a clown,
Some are sad and some happy, with the hair curly and brown.
The children uptown,
Frolicking in their fairy little gowns,
With the faces round and lown.
What you need to know is at the end you are a clown.
With ups and downs, you get the smiles and the frown,
It’s up to you what you choose my dear, the happy bright faces or the ugly scowl.
Nobody wants a breakdown.
Life is a ship, hey you there, listen to me and slow down.
It’s up to you how you drive it as nobody wants to drown.
Wear your big red noses, the real humor, the broad smile and the gown.
The name of the person, place, animal, and thing is the noun,
And certainly everyone wants to be a happy clown!
I am quite inspired by Jk Rowling’s harry potter movies and books and when Juliana first sent me the outline of tactician queen I wasn’t sure how the story would go and after several discussions with Juliana and Swelynka who is the illustrator of this story, it ended up into a magical fictional plot depicting so many emotions and power. Queen Rabiya in this story is depicting a bold and beautiful woman who is a military strategist, a Queen of a kingdom , a proud daughter, a loving mother , a supportive wife and a constant hope for the people of her kingdom despite going through so much tragic in her life.
The name Kasheer in the story is the kingdoms name and it is the other name for Kashmir -my hometown. We have also incorporated traditional kashmiri attire for Rabiya in few illustrations!
The character Rabiya showcases every woman of Kashmir and the world who has been struggling a lot but at the same time being a source of power and happiness for the family.
She is not weak, she is a woman! She is wise and not withered!
Joining wise not Withered project I must say was a very wise decision as the name itself is so powerful and full of enthusiasm. And it's about us the women. It was quite fascinating working in a team of global writers and illustrators. We got to learn a lot from each other Alhmdulilah.
For all the women out there listen to your hear, listen to your inner self it says something and that’s Creative. Don’t keep it there bring it out, step it up and rise!
Thank you so much!"
And now, here is Swelynka!
"Hello! I'm Swelynka, better known as swelynkartist on social media, and I'm an illustrator. I am both Angolan and Portuguese. Technically, I've been an artist since my early teens, but I've only accepted myself as such a couple years ago. I started out as a pencil artist and for ten years, it was all I did. Then I started using more colors, and more materials, and became a watercolor artist, again for a few years. Nowadays, even though I still use a lot of watercolors, I use a lot more materials such as acrylics, markers, and other types of ink.
To be honest, I am so proud of all my artwork, mostly because every single one of them is a step in my journey to become the artist that I aspire to be. I love painting women of all colors and shapes. In my opinion, they are all so beautiful, and so so special.
I really loved working on this project and creating our main character, Queen Rabiya. I had so much fun. When we started coming up with the story around the queen, we immediately thought about mixing African cultures with Kashmiri, and a little bit of the Russian aesthetic. Actually, I've only noticed this right now as I'm talking, but Queen Rabiya reminds me so much of my mother, like she's also dark, short, chubby, and fierce!
I joined the Wise Not Withered project because the description made so much sense to me. Even though I'm not really a gamer, I have noticed this same issue of portraying older women as weaker and pretty much as less than other characters, basically everywhere—from advertising to movies and TV shows and more. So the logical move for me would be to join this project and try to help transform the image of the older women into the mighty warriors they already are in real life.
What I would say to female creatives is that we are all humans trying our best to follow our dreams, and we do not know everyone's stories. So we should always try to encourage, support, and uplift each other. We are all sisters, not enemies. And together, we can right a lot of wrongs in this world by sharing our creative and unique visions. So... Let's do this!"
Queen Rabiya's story means so much to me. I would absolutely love if it one day became a fully-developed book or video game. But that's it for now! Stay tuned for the next character showcase of the Wise Not Withered project!