Among all of Fallen London’s myriad stories, there is one that stands out as an influence on this Election: the Affair of the Box. I believe this winding tale of a locked box is the key to understanding Virginia’s plan and why it is good for London, not just in public health and economic equality via public works and exercise, but in living up to what Failbetter themselves named Virginia: The Heroine of London.
Heroine? Really? It’s a strange choice of words for a deviless, but the writers have given us all the information we need to understand why Virginia is running for mayor, what her plan is, and how she plans on addressing the looming threats that face London.
(Spoilers ahead for new text from candidate cards available in the second week)
[quote=Virginia]"Is London in safe hands with me? Of course not. I am, after all, a devil. More relevantly, I’m me. But, look around! Can you say that London is in the best of health? London is filled with corruption, degeneracy, paucity of ambition." She wipes her mouth delicately on a pressed napkin. "London’s reserves in the only currency that matters are almost spent. I mean to give the city a fighting chance. Call me a good sportswoman." She pays the bill when it comes.[/quote]First, there is the question of the nature of this currency, and the most telling point is that it’s "the only currency that matters" and "almost spent". Souls are not this currency - they are not in short supply, and they are in constant production rather than being kept in "reserves". Remember that Victorian London had the highest population of any city on Earth, and couple that with the Neath’s unnatural vitality.
The answer is clear: the secret currencies in the Bazaar’s vaults. Those "Fragments of a primal power, locked away in the Masters’ vaults since the deal that bought the First City." Virginia is a player of the Marvellous, where the Masters gamble with this ancient currency. Now, lore surroundings these currencies is sparse, to say the least, but the fact that they’re "almost spent" brings us to the basic point of supply and demand: those who want them will have a vested interest in obtaining and keeping them.
Wandering the Forgotten Quarter alongside Virginia gives us a very telling piece of information about her thoughts on the fate that befell the previous city.
There are those who want to see London destroyed, and they too are the natural enemies of Virginia. The enemy of my enemy is perhaps not my friend, but an ally nonetheless. What Virginia wants is to strengthen London: not just its health but its resolve and ambition. We’re now embarking into deeper lore territory and spoilers for the Affair of the Box, so those who prefer not to read those can depart with my final claim that Virginia does not seek power for power’s sake; she does not seek power for Hell’s sake; she seeks power for her own sake, and for London’s sake, because she intends to bring new life - a second wind - to a London that has forgotten what it means to make a stand and live.
[spoiler]We know what happened to the Fourth City. The Masters burned it to the ground. They destroyed it. Those Correspondence sigils didn’t save them. When the last Khan rose in rebellion, they obliterated the city and then left to find the Fifth. The lacre wasn’t low; the Stone Pigs weren’t stirring. They simply destroyed the city and moved on. This is the lesson they learned from the Fourth: the Fall of a new city can be accelerated, and there are those who scheme to do the same again, notably one revealed in the Affair of the Box, the owner of the box: Mr Stones.
Stones planned to pay an exiled devil captain and his army to destroy London and bring about the fall of the Sixth City; the loss of the box meant that Stones had lost one means of payment, but Stones is still around and scheming, and these devils never left the Forgotten Quarter. Virginia is a hero of the Season of Revolutions and instrumental in bringing down the old aristocracy: she is a natural enemy of the exiles who could destroy London. And by her reckoning, London doesn’t stand a chance. That’s what she wants to change. She wants to give London a fighting chance. London might not be strong enough. All her efforts might go to waste. But she’s made an effort. She’s studied the protective wards that failed, and she’s made her own adjustments. Her key public work is one that can be built on those very same protective wards, one that aims to invigorate the entire city. The pieces fit together: her platform is the defense and revitalization of London.
And, if we’re being more speculative, the threat may be more imminent than it seems. It’s like Pandora’s box: once it’s opened, what was within can’t be locked away again. The timeline of the Bazaar’s acquisition of cities is increasing: the Masters are already scheming for the fall of the Sixth City when the Fifth hasn’t even been around for half a decade. We see this when Wines is hearing offers from the Empress’ Shadow. We see this in a future lost in reflections, when Paris is on the verge of falling less than a decade into the 20th century. The destruction of the Fourth left little for the Stone Pigs; they hunger, and they stir. Why not repeat this for the Fifth? Virginia’s plan is to give London a fighting chance against this destruction: to not go like a lamb to slaughter but to fight back against those who would preordain its demise.
Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Now, I will admit this is not the strongest of hypotheses. It leans too heavily on circumstantial evidence for my liking, and there are many ways to interpret the text; this is just one among them. That’s why I want this to be a discussion.
This isn’t random, though. We’re talking about Failbetter here: writers, editors, and directors with a knack for cryptic but coherent writing, a deep understanding of the lore, and frankly good storytelling. They won’t name Virginia the "Heroine of London" for nothing. They won’t let the text we spend real currency (via Fate) on simply be a wall of text unrelated to the Election at hand. For me, this interpretation of Virginia’s plans binds her entire campaign together in a story rooted in the foundational lore of Fallen London while staying true to her character, and it’s this that solidifies my support for Virginia: because this is a plan that might just actually work.
EDIT, 13 August 2019: With the release of Virginia’s "Lord Mayor" card, quite a few interesting possibilities have opened up (particularly with regards to our Rubbery friends and factionalism within Hell), but the above line of reasoning regarding the Sixth City doesn’t really fit, unfortunately. Still, I rather enjoyed this particular interpretation of Virginia’s Election text, and so it’ll be preserved as it is.
edited by Azothi on 8/13/2019