Frost-Moths and Dead Men

When SMEN returned I created a character specifically for the purpose of being flung at all speed into the jaws of oblivion. During it’s early days it started the Last Constable story line but didn’t proceed on it. As a result, it’s gotten the opportunity to have Cheery Man style conversations with the constable and during one of them it ran into this interesting tid bit.

This throws into question one of the things that I’ve long thought about Tomb Colonists. Specifically.

[spoiler]From the one &quotemergence&quot event I witnessed I’d assumed that turning into a frost-moth was a kind of natural progression for Tomb Colonists. The colonists certainly treated it that way and seemed to feel it was an almost religious experience.

This would seem to suggest that the colonists are rather badly misinterpreting the event and the frost-moth is, in fact, a parasitic infection that ultimately kills the host.[/spoiler]
Not sure if this is common knowledge or not so I thought I’d share. This friendly little moth in my menagerie just got a lot more morbid.

My understanding is some of the tomb colonists treat it religiously. The rest treat it as you do, like a parasitic infestation. That people are inexplicably looking forward to.

THE PRESBYTER SAITH: you shall harm no thing that flies, for they carry with them the airs of the Garden. No bee, no bird, no bat.

I love the ambiguity. It feels quite Viriconium.

Wait — is viric a sly reference to Viriconium? How have I never thought of that?

I’ve gotten similar vibes from my interactions with the tomb colonists. Questionable what the end result of the moths are though. I decided to put my thoughts on the subject below.

The frost-moths are natives of Parabola and use the bandaged tomb colonists to symbolically enter the world by transforming their “cocooned” forms. Whether or not the tomb colonist is becoming (part of) the frost-moth or being killed to reproduce is questionable but them being an entirely parasitic creature would make sense to me.

I wouldn’t be surprised either if the Last Constable is misinterpreting things. The Neath’s vitality can have some pretty weird effects, so why not causing an eventual transformation?


Remember the First Curator in Sunless Sea? He wants you to bring him seven impossible colors. When you complete the task, this happens:

So… I’m torn. I don’t believe the moths are malign creatures, or the colonists won’t regard them in such a manner. The First Curator seemed to understand how to make the moth grow. He feeded it with the colors.
Maybe they’re not parasites, but their relationship is one of symbiosis. You help them enter this world, and they let some parts of you live in another form.

(Since it’s strongly implied that the Devils are actually bees, could the moths be the angels? I’m wildly speculating here.)

So the Devils as Bees and Frost Moths as Angel’s doesnt…quite work. While Devils are interested in souls and have some qualities ascribed to biblical devils, they’re not of the bible. They inspired it, no doubt. Yhwh god isn’t a thing, probably, but the Judgements are. We’ve no info on angels since the closest thing we have to angels existing would be the Bazaar itself, being a messenger for godlike beings.

Which then leads to a similar question, are the frost moths related in some way to judgements, are they higher than us on the Chain?

But the Bazaar mostly brings messages, right?
Maybe the Frost-moths are the ones that bring the souls of the deceased to the Judgments.

There are clues in several places that the Tomb Colonies specialize in a very melancholy kind of violin playing, and it is a group of violinists who alert you to the transformation of one of their members, if you visit.

In my character’s opinion, the transformation to a swarm of frost moths is aided by a reflective and musical meditation on despair and existence in the Neath.

The transformation is an acknowledgment that - like moths on the Surface - those who have died in the Neath (and perhaps the Bazaar herself?) are inevitably drawn to the Sun - a deep endless longing - but will be destroyed by any contact with it. Like moths to flame.

Frost is another metaphor for that which perishes at the touch of the Sun, and is cold, by distance from it.

They choose to wait that final reunion with the Sun as a swarm of memories, finally free to soar. Lightened. Freed of the weight and pain of the physical body.

Like a song, rising into the air.

All things that fly (birds, bees, moths) have an aspect of the divine, for they are free to soar, and draw closer to all that is Above.

(If you want to discuss specific pieces of supporting lore, feel free to chat with me in character.)

[quote=Zero]But the Bazaar mostly brings messages, right?
Maybe the Frost-moths are the ones that bring the souls of the deceased to the Judgments.[/quote]

Bees are messengers in Egyptian lore. They fall, like tears, from the eye of the Sun god Ra.

edited by Appolonia on 8/4/2016

Well, yes, the Bazaar is just a messenger. Hence the angel comparison, as angels are mostly just messengers.

Also the bees thing, while first I’m hearing of it from Egypt, is fascinating and meshes interestingly with this all

[quote=Zero]So… I’m torn. I don’t believe the moths are malign creatures, or the colonists won’t regard them in such a manner. The First Curator seemed to understand how to make the moth grow. He feeded it with the colors.
Maybe they’re not parasites, but their relationship is one of symbiosis. You help them enter this world, and they let some parts of you live in another form.[/quote]
&quotSpared me the sanatorium.&quot To me, that implies that it’s a direct route to true death for the Tomb Colonists. Quite a bit is made of how long they have to wait while their body collapses around them, and it’s difficult to truly die in Fallen London. Especially when you’re already dead, for all practical purposes. Maybe it’s the preferred method of true suicide for those too far gone for the Black Ribbon. If you’re going to commit suicide, better to bring something to life as your final act than to resort to being chopped into small bits or to self-immolate, I suppose.

I’m also confused. Some clues here, but no certain conclusion:
WARNING: a lot of Sunless Sea spoilers here.

1. In emergence, some of the tomb-colonists will become a flurry of frost-moths, while some of them will become one moth like the Curator. What’s the difference here? The former sounds more like a dissolution while the latter sounds slightly better. But is there any true difference?
2. Both of the moths carry some information, i.e memories and knowledge. For example, if you look into the image, the keeper-moth of First Curator has Mayan characters on its wings, which are his very own memory of a thousand years. &quotAlphabet-winged frost-moths&quot together with &quotbutterflies on flowers&quot and &quotbees alive with red memory&quot, is allowed to enter the Garden, while humans are not. The Garden is the source of immortality, close to the god-like Mountain, somehow similar to Eden, and somehow celestial. And the bees alive with red memory, sounds like something related to red honey. It seems that the moths carry memories back to the Garden, while human are barred from it long ago. I fully agree with the idea of &quotmessenger&quot here. (And a further question here: What is the role of the bees? They can play a similar role as the moths, or there might be something like a process here: butterflies pollinate, or create something initially, the moths bring something back later, and the bees deal with it finally.)
3. In Sunless Sea, if you report the death of the First Curator to the Fathomking, he will tell you about &quotsomething of the movement of moths: their mysteries and evasions&quot, which suggests that the moths may have a special moving pattern, and they are evading something. And the Tyrant-moth, it &quotis a map of unconsenting sky&quot (dunno if it is something’s remains). I’m not sure what it means: the sky does not give consent, or the moth is unwilling. There are two interpretations here: (1) The moths are evading flame, and the tyrant-moth is barred from the sky. (2) The tyrant-moth is suffering from an unwilling call from celestial, and that is the &quotevasions&quot of moths.
4. From the Presbyterate Adventuress, they &quotwill kill nothing that flies. The story is that they carry the airs of the Garden, that permit us to live forever.&quot (Though it maybe a sentiment or a red herring.)

My speculation here: the Emergence of Tomb-colonists to Moths, is similar to the Ascending of Souls, but better, or not. Moths act as messengers, carrying memories back to the Garden. Tomb-colonists may regard it as a way to go back to the Garden, but from the aspect of Garden, it may be simply a process of memory-recollecting, or recycling. And it is probably the way to sustain its own power, or even life. But I am not sure if it devours, or if the moths are willing.
(EDIT: A senseless sudden insight: The Snuffers are Cousins, so by definition they are children of Your Aunt. So your Aunt is the Mountain, a god, undoubtedly. Listen to Your Aunt. Obey her.)
edited by Fadewalker on 8/4/2016
edited by Fadewalker on 8/4/2016

This talk of the Frost-Moths as messengers reminds me of this passage from Winking Isle. Specifically:

If you consume something greater, then you may incorporate it: unless it incorporates you.

The moths devour the colonist. But who incorporates whom?
edited by An Individual on 8/4/2016

Given the context of the most recent Exceptional Story, how does this all fit in?

Also, I’m still not clear on what the Sanatorium is. Is it just a place for Tomb Colonists to be stored when their minds still work but bodies have utterly stopped functioning?

Pretty much.

Yup, it’s about as terrifying as it sounds.

The Most-Moth story in Zubmariner heavily implies that the moth carries some part of the host’s memories; though I think it’s possible to have an ending where the Incomparable Aurelian concludes in disappointment that the moth is just a moth.

The interesting part of that story is that the Nearly Dead Man is someone who went searching for immortality and this was ultimately as close as he got. There’s also the interesting business that he apparently deliberately became host for the Most-Moth as opposed to some random moth. The story never explains what is so special about the Most-Moth aside from its rarity.

In any case - After the Most-Moth emerges, The Aurelian continues to refer to the moth as “Lorenzo” while treating Lorenzo’s remains as a cast-off husk. He seems to feel that the moth is the new incarnation of his friend.

I can understand that. I wonder if giving a bat or two to the Boatman to get back to the world of the living violates the Presbyter’s precept?