The Absent North

The Cradle of Men, the inner sea...

Most of us believe that this is the place of our creation*. Humanity emerged from the inner sea in an age of myth, though it’s hard to say why we were mothered here, or how. If I were to speculate, it would be ethically inconvenient for my editor.

What we do know is that we cannot return home. The inner sea is unnavigable. All attempts to span it end in failure, and even indirect methods of observation reveal little about our birthplace. No man knows what is at its heart or why we as humans are the only beings estranged from it. For an orphan people struggling to understand their place in the world, this has troubling implications.

And yet no man has ever died during an expedition North. Ships wreck, capsize, or go missing for weeks at a time, but the sea never lays a hand on the crew. There are forces at work here that are known only to the whales and the seabirds, it seems.

*The Brundel traditionally hold that they are children of the ocean black, not the inner sea. This was recently corroborated by the discovery of archaeological sites in the Mercasian Shield, which show signs of human habitation that coincide with the earliest human remains discovered at the Cradle. It does not surprise me to hear that they are made of different seas.

Did you know?

  • “The Absent North” is a common metaphor for nonplaces and nonthings. To “go into the Absent North,” for example, means to go on a fool’s errand or to lose one’s proverbial marbles. The concept is easily confused with and utterly indistinguishable from the Absent North Star, a navigating star that no longer exists. (Or never existed, depending on who you ask.)
  • Many cultures relate the Absent North Star to the Cradle. Some creation stories speculate that there is no North Star simply because it fell to earth, and the Cradle is its impact crater.
  • Because the earth is in the middle of a magnetic reversal, the Cradle of Men was once thought to be true magnetic North. Brundel wayfinders long suspected that the Cradle was not true North, but it wasn’t until recently that Brundel science spread to the global theatre, and the Cradle was widely understood to be a magnetic anomaly. A large deposit of magnetic iron is thought to exist underneath the Cradle, though the properties of the area forbid further study.
  • Many migratory birds and other animals appear to use the Cradle to orient themselves.

Len and Sentin coaxing a caribou into the waters, as they ford a daughter river of the greater Sonderoan. Heavy rain showers them from above.