A Thousand And One Nights/Scheherazade
"For too long, this monstrous king has slaughtered us for his amusement. I will end it, if it costs me my life. Do not weep, sister, for tonight we still his inhuman heart.
Here is what you must do for me...."
The story of A Thousand and One Nights is the story of one very cruel serial killer being disarmed and distracted by two incredibly brave women, until he finally agrees to stop delighting in murder.
For my steampunk reinterpretation, I decided to turn the tables slightly: rather than go quietly to her death, hoping that her stories may buy her time, one night at a time, Scheherazade agrees to the sham of a wedding just so she can get close enough to the monster to cut his throat. The stories she tells are just a misdirection, to keep Sharyarh's attention elsewhere while she and Dunyazad get close enough to draw the knife on him.
A bit less 'amuse the serial killer with stories', a bit more 'Artimicia Gentileschi's Judith and Holofernes'.
The steampunk aspect ended up leaning a bit more into the magi-tech aesthetic rather than the clockwork-and-steam-engines angle, at least partly because I wanted to veer away from the visuals most closely associated with Victorian England. I drew my costume inspiration from a variety of sources - Sassanid frescoes, 19th century Iranian costume, Ottoman Turkish courtly costumes, some fantastically talented cosplayers of colour, etc., - and blended them all into this.
"make me a doer of this good deed, and let him kill me an he will: I shall only die a ransom for others."
I knew from the start that I wanted to contrast the colours of Scheherazade and her sister, and contrast the colour of the aether/magic with the colour of Scheherazade's costume, so I went for a warm red and orange colour-scheme. Most of my time was spent on her wedding night outfit, but I also made a few variants for what she'd wear on subsequent nights, in case their assassination plan failed.
The aether-stone glove is not merely a decorative piece; it is a source of magic power, which in Scheherazade's case is being used to poison the edge of her knife and the needle in her ring. Her earrings actually has the traditional symbol of the Sassanid dynasty on it, as a nod to the claimed origin of the story.
In the original story, the framework is that king Sharyarh - betrayed by his wife, who is unfaithful to him with a slave - is so enraged and broken-hearted by this that it turns him into a monster; he first slays his wife and the slave, and then slaughters woman after woman, for the crime of being women. Through Scheherazade's tales (which seem to be mostly about deceitful women and the good men they betray), he learns to trust women again, and decides his serial killing days are over.
I decided to be a bit... literal in my interpretation of this. King Sharyarh's broken heart is the catalyst for the entire story, so I gave him a mechanical heart. It is powered by the same kind of aether-magic as Scheherazade's glove, but instead of poison, it pumps through his veins and keeps him alive. As shown in the full illustration, he hooks it up to a machine that replaces the fluid and purifies it
Dark blue to her sister's warm reds, Dunyazad's outfit is less ornate and a bit more restrained, to keep from stealing attention away from her sister. In the original story, she is crucial to the plot - it is her presence that allows Scheherazade the excuse to tell a story, and survive til morning - and in my interpretation, she is the one who smuggles the knife into the bedroom, in case the poison needle fails.
Please let me know what you think! :)