Speculation on Wells, the Neath and the Wilderness

This content has been rated S for Spoilers for Fallen London, Sunless Sea, and the pre-production of Sunless Skies.

&quotWells are
Sunless Skies’ version of black holes. Wounds in the world. Fathomless. Hungry. Well-winds, flickering with candle-flames, push unwary captains into their pull. Certain unspoken cults gather at their rim to perform distressing rites. If an enemy is too inconvenient to kill, the courts of the heavens consign them to a well. Do not stray too close. Ignore any voices within.&quot

In a Sunless Skies pre-production blog, this is the description of a more &quotprimal incarnation&quot of wells. There’s a little I believe we can glean from this text, given the right context, and while my hypothesis is most likely entirely wrong, it’s still fun to speculate. As a warning, information from a Fate-locked Destiny will be mentioned tangentially, but if that’s an issue, I’ll be happy to remove all references.

Anyway, to begin, the idea of a &quotwound in the world&quot has appeared in Fallen London before, in a few of the Destinies.

[spoiler]A chuckle in the Correspondence is the crackle of broken light. &quotAnd still, my dear, I do not believe you! I do not. One always becomes fond of one’s travelling-compansions. Why, I have grown very fond even of our new associate here. Lowly origins notwithstanding.&quot You know without employing any of your sense that he gestures at you, and at the wound-in-the-world far, far behind you.

If you choose the (Fate-locked) option to obtain The Road, you gain one more snippet, saying:

The Bazaar, the Sun, the world of your birth, are grains of sand on a beach. Even the Neath is a dark and tiny wound.&quot[/spoiler]

This could very well be a coincidence; the idea of a &quotwound in the world&quot is poetic and compelling, a phrase I’d use again and again because it’s just that good. Failbetter keeps track of the stories it writes, though, and for Sunless Skies, I’d imagine they’ve looked back at read everything they’ve written about the Judgements and the High Wilderness. The Forge of Souls, for instance, is first mentioned in this destiny and again with the Merchant Venturer, and it’s now making its appearance in Sunless Skies. The dragons which consume time have appeared here and in the Seventh Letter, and now they’re making their appearance in Sunless Skies. In short, there is a chance that this is not a coincidence, and that’s the place where this hypothesis nests.

In that case, we can conclude that the Neath is a wound-in-the-world, or in other words, the Neath is a Well. Or, at the very least, something very much like a Well. If an enemy is too inconvenient to kill, the courts of the heavens consign them to a well. It would appear that wells are places where the Judgements hide the dangerous and the powerful, and as wells are black holes, the light of the Judgements will be able to enter but never return.

Perhaps this means they cannot see what lies within the well, and thus they cannot pass judgement or enforce their Law. Perhaps what light that enters gives a measure of order to the well; basic ideas, like semi-linear time, gravity, electromagnetism, nuclear forces, etc. These remnants of the Law remain even when the Judgements are gone because their light hasn’t died; it’s merely been trapped in darkness. And, of course, their rules can be bent; death can be avoided, amalgamy committed, and so on, because that light and Law cannot escape. After all, the Neath is hidden from the eyes of the Judgements, but things are still pretty normal as far as physics and chemistry are concerned. The Neath is more lawless than other places, but it is not entirely without light and law, and this could explain why all that light and law isn’t enforcing the law very well.

They say that the Neath is where the Earth hides its shame. The Mountain of Light was hidden away because of its parentage. The breaking of the Chain. The defiance of the laws of the Judgements. What better place to hide these shames than in a Well, beyond their watching eyes, where they will be trapped, unable to escape the darkness. If you remain in the Neath after sending the Merchant Venturer to the High Wilderness, you have this extra piece of text: &quotAs your eyes recover, far, far, away, in the uttermost South, you glimpse a pulse of ruddy, envious light.&quot The uttermost South is the Mountain, and it is &quotenvious&quot. As if it wants to go to the High Wilderness. If it were truly imprisoned and thrown down a well, that’s understandable. The Neath then is its prison, and it wants out.

One of the key points of a black hole (a non-rotating black hole, just for simplicity’s sake) is the singularity, a point where the curvature of spacetime as caused by gravity becomes infinite, creating a region with a volume of zero containing all of the mass of the black hole. Or, in simpler terms, &quot____ you&quot to science and mathematics as we understand it, at least until general relativity and quantum mechanics finally stop dancing around the topic and finally get together so we can answer these questions and move on to the next level of unanswered questions. But I digress.

In Sunless Sea, passing the Avid Horizon and travelling all the way NORTH takes you to the place that is no place. A place where space is forbidden and time contracts to a single frozen instant. It is a point, a singularity, and beyond it, the entire Neath awaits. It is the High Gate, a law guarding the passageway into the High Wilderness. It’s not precisely a singularity in the scientific sense, but this isn’t precisely a hypothesis in the scientific sense either. Regardless, what I’m proposing is that the High Gate is the singularity of a black hole (a Well), and the Neath is what exists on the other side.

Likewise, this hypothesis posits that when the Masters and the Bazaar depart from the Neath, they leave through the Avid Horizon, just as the Merchant Venturer did, and emerge from the wound-in-the-world and prepare to meet the Sun. They blind the watchers at the gate, who stand to make sure that the Law is followed. The Law states that nothing may escape from beyond the event horizon of a black hole, but if the watchers are distracted for a moment, the Law may be broken, and things may emerge from the black hole, from the wound-in-the-world.

If you want to really go off the rails and into mad speculation, you could say the Deconstruction in the uttermost East represents the (entirely hypothetical) other side of the event horizon, not a singularity but rather a boundary between the Well and what lies beyond. It is probably coincidental, but it should be noted that the NORTH is marked by the Avid Horizon, while the East is often referred to as the last horizon. This, perhaps, is the temptation of Salt (though I’ve not yet finished Seeking, so any speculation on my part could be completely debunked by that): to go where no (star) has gone before, to emerge from the Well not into the sunless skies, but into green-and-gold and glory. And where is the place where the NORTH and the East meet? Irem. The place at the border of Parabola, where time is mutable and strange - one of the weirdest places in the Neath. But this is pretty much baseless speculation at this point, so I’ll just stop there.

To summarize, I’m positing that the Neath is a well - a black hole - or something very similar. Yep. There were all of those paragraphs when it could’ve just been that one sentence. And, in the end, it’s all just speculation, and it’s most likely not even true. There are plenty of holes to poke in the hypothesis. First, it’s really a bit of a stretch. Its fundamental premise is literally one phrase from a pre-production Sunless Skies blog post that happens to match a phrase appearing in one of the Destinies in Fallen London. The rest is just circumstantial evidence; helpful in supporting the case, but useless if the premise is wrong.

Second, in the Destinies, the Masters and the Bazaar have been travelling for fifteen years. Now, there is an older and far likelier piece of speculation that proposes that the &quotMother of Mountains&quot is the Sun. In the pre-release material for Sunless Skies, we’ve seen that Albion exists around the Avid Horizon and that hours are mined in the Reach, indicating that the Mother of Mountains is there. Unless the Bazaar is the cosmic equivalent of a snail, it should not take fifteen years to go from Albion to the Reach, considering how it took London ten years to spread its influence that far. It’s stated in the Conversation on the Road that your entourage has to slow down significantly as it approaches the sun, and maybe with the Liberation of Night, travel ‘between stars’ takes less time, but we simply don’t know enough to say.

Third, even if the Neath is inside a black hole, there’s no reason for it to be connected to the Earth. The Copernican principle is always a good one, and there’s no reason for Earth to be special enough to have its own personal black hole. The Cumaean Canal clearly shows that travel is possible out of the inside, and it appears to just be a marvel of engineering, not a marvel of defying the laws of the Judgements, and the Travertine Spiral is an even more low-technology version. It’s kind of stupid to have a supposedly inescapable black hole that’s so easily escapable. I’m open to the idea that the Neath is more something very similar to a Well - an imitation of sorts. After all, in Sunless Skies, planets are prized as &quotplaces of expression and experimentation for the bright regents of the heavens; warded, prized, inviolate.&quot It’s entirely possible that the Sun tried to create its own black hole in the Earth, and that tiny wound-in-the-world became the Neath. Of course, that’s even more baseless than the rest of my post, so it’s hardly a solution, but it’s fun to speculate nonetheless.

And, credit where credit is due: this train of thought exists because of this. Begin with What if the Neath were a well? and then run with it. I hope you enjoyed the read, if you read it, and again, most of this is probably way off the mark, but speculation is fun and hype even more so. When the well of new lore on the High Wilderness runs dry, one has to grasp onto whatever they can get, and here we are.

Feel free to poke all the holes into this as you want.

I feel like this will not be right for purely mechanic reasons; Failbetter has already said that the Avid Horizon in Sunless Skies is gonna be a hilarious tourist trap. Which means a port.

Whereas other Wells are going to be dangerous hazard zones, from the sound of it. The description doesn’t sound so much like ports to me.

But that’s metagaming, and I could be quite wrong (most obviously if there are going to be LOTS of ports that are wells. Which, uh, would be interesting.)

[quote=Teaspoon]I feel like this will not be right for purely mechanic reasons; Failbetter has already said that the Avid Horizon in Sunless Skies is gonna be a hilarious tourist trap. Which means a port.[/quote]Oh, that sounds fun! :) Make one of the most feared and dangerous ports in the Neath a place for tourists and gawkers. Somehow that just feels right.

I seem to have missed that somewhere, but that does leave a nice little hole in the hypothesis. That makes four now. Not that the boat could float on its own to begin with.

One of the podcasts. There’s a lot of good stuff on there that isn’t recorded in text yet.

(I admit, I will now be very disappointed if my captain doesn’t run into people trying to flog cheap models of the gant gate.)

I’m pretty sure the wound in the world, when referencing the Neath, is talking about either the Nadir or whatever use of the Red Science is being mentioned in Frostfound. (Or both, they could be the same thing after all.)

My interpretation of that line is that the Neath is a more metaphorical prison for Stone. She could physically leave but would probably be melted instantly by sunlight. That or mountains are just bad at travel.

This doesn’t make sense to me, given you can both (try to) go NORTH without going anywhere near the Avid Horizon, and doing so can send you to Frostfound instead. The High Gate doesn’t have to be involved at all.

Also I think it’s relevant that, according to Exaltation, going East beyond the world and climbing the impossible mountains can somehow lead to the High Wilderness. There’s only one way NORTH but there’s multiple ways out of the Neath.

Note that mining hours from the Sun doesn’t necessarily require that it be alive. For all we know it’s an early casualty of the Liberation and reaching it is much faster when a corpse.

10 years‽ That means we’ll be going up to the Wilderness in less than 2 years! Maybe non-Seekers will be able to sail to the Avid Horizon? Anyways, I’ll invest in building a heated house on Avid Horizon.

I’ve avoided reading most of the discussion here to avoid Fallen London spoilers, as I’m relatively new to that part of the universe. But searching the page didn’t come up with anything for this, so here’s my two cents.

If we take the use of “wound in the world” to mean that the Neath and Wells have something in common, then that may include their isolation from the laws of the Judgements. That would seem to be the thing that would most set the Neath apart from the rest of creation, in my mind.

The bonus ambition we unlocked was The Martyr King’s Cup. The descriptions of this I’ve seen, all in the live streams, amounted to the idea that you’re attempting to find and utilize a legend which is entirely fictional. That the Martyr King’s Cup is nothing but a myth, and your goal is genuinely impossible. And yet, if you can get enough people to believe, you may be able to succeed anyways. This strikes me as an ambition that would require you to subvert, break, or escape the will of the Judgements. Given the game’s tagline is “Murder a sun”, this might be fairly straightforward, if difficult. On the other had, if well’s are insulated from the Judgements then a properly prepared traveler might deliberately fall into one so that they can perform critical steps in somehow actualizing their belief.

The Exceptional Story &quotWhere You and I Must Go&quot from the Season of Wrecks involves a non-Seeking journey to Avid Horizon.