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Wormholes & Portals

Passages through interdimensional space that make interstellar travel possible.

“What is a wormhole, anyway?” Corethi asked.   Yathar said, “In a really simplified nutshell, it’s a passage through interstellar space, formed by the gravitational Airts of stars, which runs between the systems. They limit access to Otherplanar contact while you’re in one, so it might limit the amount of food we can conjure—though that does seem unlikely for such a simple prayer. But I’m not a priest so I don’t know for sure. And it takes some skill to sail one. No offense meant, but most of us aren’t rated starhands. I don’t know if we can do that.”  
--from A Few Good Elves by Diane Morrison

Wormholes

When interstellar Airts form a strong enough connection between one star system and another, it becomes possible for a Star-Pilot in contact with a starfaring engine to fold space. The link between the two is called a wormhole. Wormholes make interstellar travel possible.  

Portals

Portals are the openings to wormholes. Unlike Airts, they are visible to the naked eye within a few light-minutes by the warping of background space and their interior illumination. Entering portals is a difficult process of navigating deep whirlpool Gravity Wells so most captains prefer to have a seasoned Star-Pilot at the helm when they make the attempt. It is possible for ships to be torn apart, or to get stuck in the event horizon of a portal's gravity well.

Manifestation

Wormhole Travel

He stared hard out the forward window, which opened on to the fo’c’sle and Queenie’s front view. Shaundar had never seen anything like the churning, nebulous rainbow light that streamed past them in all directions like a water tunnel. It radiated its own incredible luminescence.   Studying it, Shaundar could see eddies of individual colours whirling around each other like river currents. They were following one such current, which was snaking and blue, plunging through the other rainbow swirls.  
--from A Few Good Elves by Diane Morrison
  The experience of travelling through a wormhole is significantly different from the experience of travelling along a typical Airt. It is perceived by starfaring crews as a rapidly-moving tunnel of visible rainbow light, which provides more than enough illumination to operate a ship topside. The keel of a starfaring ship moves beneath the surface of the tunnel wall, which means the ship's rudder is primarily used for steering. However, Airts still blow through the tunnel, and enchanted sails can still make use of them for propulsion and directing the ship through this parallel dimension that exists outside of traditional three-dimensional space.  

Caution: Flammable!

“Go ahead, Lieutenant Sunfall,” the Captain grunted as he and the Exec stared out at their quarry with predatory eyes.   “The explosion was in the chapel, sir,” he reported. “Damage was primarily to the altar, which was destroyed. We got the fire out before it could spread. There was a lot of smoke but I don’t think it’s enough to foul the air. Sorry I wasn’t fast enough on the candles, sir.”   The Captain looked at him and smiled. “Shouldn’t have been your job, Lieutenant. You would have been abow in the helm room; which, to my recollection, is at Queenie’s other end. Actually, we didn’t do too badly for an unplanned wormhole entry. Now I would like you to go around and collect everyone’s flints and matches so we don’t have any more accidents.”   “Aye, sir.”   “Oh yes, and since you are one of the few who currently has nothing to do,” the Captain said with a wry smile, “I would like you to commandeer anyone else who is idle and some spice grinders from the kitchen, and I want you to grind us some tobacco.” He tossed Shaundar his tobacco pouch. “Then I’ll teach you how to take snuff, pollywog!”  
--from A Few Good Elves by Diane Morrison
  For some reason unknown to spacefarers, sparks and explosions in a wormhole are significantly enhanced. The strike of a match could create a localized fireball. Use of any flame or electricity in a wormhole is extremely dangerous. Most seasoned ship captains strictly forbid their use, relying on magical light for illumination belowdecks, preparing cold food, banning smoking, and locking up powder rooms and forbidding all access.  

Interstellar Currents

“Forward weapons, loose!” called Captain Yvoleth. Queenie bucked as all her weapons, save the lower abdomen ballista and the stinger, fired.   Shaundar noticed that and remarked on it. “We’re in a wormhole, lad,” the Captain explained. “The crew on the keel can’t see to fire until we’re in the system because it’s under the surface of the river; which reminds me: Lieutenant Oakheart! Slow to minimum accel!”  
--from A Few Good Elves by Diane Morrison
  Any part of the ship below the surface of the tunnel walls--traditionally, any part below where the "water line" would be on a traditional seafaring vessel--is difficult to operate in a way that it wouldn't be in normal space. Unlike water, the "light" of a tunnel's walls cannot drown or suffocate a sailor, but it is impossible to see anything clearly in the brightness of the light. It's strong enough to damage the eyes, and has been known to cause blindness with prolonged exposure.  

Trapped Between Worlds

The Sword of Courage made the Outer Cloud of the Draconian System in twenty-six days. They would have made it in twenty-four but they were waylaid by inspecting the wreckage of an elven man-o-war. It floated listlessly in the rainbow Airts between portals in three pieces; thorax and head, abdomen, and one wing. The other was nowhere to be seen.  
--from Brothers in Arms by Diane Morrison
  If ships lose their Starfaring Engines or Starfaring Helms while in a wormhole, they may be stranded for quite some time. Starfarers perceive time as passing normally, but sometimes they discover that strange effects have unfolded around them. There have been cases of stranded starfarers in wormholes for years, decades, and sometimes even centuries, although they only carried enough victuals aboard to last a few months.  

Exiting a Wormhole Portal

By this time, the Vengeance was already considerably closer to them. So was the gaping hole of the portal. The colours swirled around it like water spilling into a bathtub drain.
  From the interior of a wormhole, a portal back into normal space looks like a dark hole with a rainbow whirlpool of light swirling into it. When one gets close enough, it's possible to see stars and other bodies on the other side. Exiting a portal is, if anything, more dangerous than entering one. Some Pilots gain the ability to manipulate Airts and gravity wells in such a way that they can temporarily collapse a portal, stranding sailors between worlds. Some of these unfortunates appear thousands of light-years off course. Some are never heard from again. If properly timed, a collapsing portal could tear a ship apart, or disrupt its temporal state. It could even do all of these things at once, scattering ship fragments across the spectrum of space/time.

Localization

Starfarers map the universe through stable wormholes, most of which have been thoroughly charted. But portals have been known to appear and disappear from time to time. It's unknown what happens to a starfaring ship that is in a wormhole when it collapses, because no one has ever returned to tell a tale about such an event.   Wormholes only occur when the gravity well of one stellar object (star, pulsar, white dwarf, black hole, etc.) is linked to another by a powerful concentration of interacting Airts. Their portals usually appear somewhere in or near their Outer Clouds (what we call the "Oort Cloud" in the Sol system,) which represent the outer limits of a stellar object's gravity well.   Scholars have no idea how far the connections of wormholes can reach. They are aware that once starfarers have gone through a wormhole, they might be able to see the star they just left in the sky of the new system -- or they might not. It's evident that some wormhole connections reach quite far indeed. Why, or how that works, is a mystery. As a result, starfaring cultures think of their astrophysical universe as systems interconnected by wormholes, not stars interconnected by galaxies, or galaxies interconnected by gravity.

755590main_Black_Hole_Sim_Still-466.jpg

by NASA

View of a wormhole portal through the eyes of a Star-Pilot at the helm (Airts & gravity well.)

vortex-hyperspace-tunnel-wormhole-time-space-warp-science-fiction-background-3d_75775-382.jpg

Vortex Hyperspace Tunnel Thumbnail by korrakot sittivash

View of the interior of a wormhole from topsides a starfaring ship.
The view inside a wormhole.

A Relativistic Disaster Averted

 
Queenie began to tack and scraped along the edge of the current so that she could approach the portal. Her sails and beams groaned in protest. Things seemed to be moving dangerously fast now as they drew nearer to the system. Shaundar had a moment of doubt as to their ability to maneuver into that dark lens. But then the portal was before them and Shaundar could see stars in it.   “Captain!” Sylria cried out. “The portal is closing, sir!”   Sure enough, the lens was irising shut.   “PUNCH IT, Oakheart!” the Captain roared.   Sylria leaped down the hatch. “Brace the mizzensail!” cried the Sailmaster.   Within a few moments, Queenie leaped forward in a burst of speed Shaundar didn’t know Garan had in him. They skimmed through the collapsing rim just in time, narrowly avoiding a relativistic disaster.   Sylria emerged from the hatchway, breathing hard. “Been saving that spell for emergencies,” she explained with a smile.  
--from A Few Good Elves by Diane Morrison
Type
Metaphysical, Astral

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Special thanks to Elias Redclaw for helping to expand this article!


Cover image: by Ginty

Comments

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25 Dec, 2019 12:58

Okay. First of all i have to say that i am addicted to this world and i have no intentions of going into rehab. I wish i could express in words but the amount of detail, rich "sci fi ness", use of jargon and stuff like that literally sends in a rush of dopamine into my mind with every word i read of this beautiful world. So congratulations! You have officially made me addicted to your world due to how awesome it is!   Now getting to the main article.   First of all, the details are just angelic in terms of beauty. I am a gigantic fan of Details and information ( not infodumps mind you) in fiction and this article was just so amazing to read! I have to admit though that i couldn't have understood much of this article without the linking you did XD. The part about the Airts really confused me at first before i read the short description after hovering over it XD.   Secondly, the quotes are just amazing! I often go a bit overboard with my own quotes trying to sound epic but often miss the entire point of the article. Your quotes are perfectly to the point and yet incredibly interesting! I love it!   Last but not least, the images you use are gorgeous! I really love how you use so many images to depict the wormholes and give the reader an idea of what they look like.   Now onto the feedback part!   1) Are all wormholes stable? Have there been any recorded instances of wormholes collapsing or closing abruptly? Has this ever caused any disasters?   2) Do time and space behave somewhat differently inside a wormhole?   3) Is it possible to create artificial wormholes and portals so that less fuel is wasted travelling to the outer cloud of a star system? How far has research been taken in this direction?   4) Is there a limit to how far away two systems can connect? Lets say that Sol and Alpha Centauri have a wormhole connection. Is it then also possible for Sol to have a connection with a star system on the edge of the milky way?   5) What happens if a ships starfaring engines fail when they are about to enter a wormhole? Do they get sucked in or stay where they are?   6) What are some disasters that happened to a ship whilst entering/inside/ exiting a wormhole?   Overall, these are what my idiotic Indian brain had so far! I am really sorry if the feedback feels kinda copy pasted because i have been accused of that quite a few times. But i just wanted to say that i am absolutely loving and addicted to this world! Looking forward to see more of it! Congrats Saby ( is it okay if i call you saby?) and keep up the amazing work!

30 Dec, 2019 16:12

Hey there Elias, thank you for the complimentary words! These are all great questions.   1. Yes, there are incidences of wormholes collapsing or the portals closing abruptly. One is a bit of a spoiler, but I suppose I should definitely elaborate on this a bit more in the article. 2. Yes, but not visibly so. As of course you know, travelling the relativistic distances we're talking about here should not be possible in the time that the starfarers are accomplishing it. But it's hard for starfarers to tell how much that's affecting them, because they perceive time as passing normally. I think I can dig up a quote from my story that illustrates this, but I didn't think about it when putting this together because it's dealing with travel through normal space. I will do that and add it. Thank you for pointing out I need to clarify this! But note: fuel is not a thing. Starfaring engines are powered by the energy that comes from Pilots, magical or otherwise. That's an article I need to write as well, Starfaring Helms. It will have more information on how that works. 3. Yes. This is something that only the most experienced starfaring archmages should be doing, because it requires strong magical power and a detailed knowledge of how the astrophysics and metaphysics of the universe work. My protagonist will develop this ability later on in the story. And yes, I should mention that somewhere in the article too. 4. No one knows. Unlike us, the people of this universe understand their astrophysical universe by a) what can be observed through a regular telescope from their various worlds, b) what they can travel to in normal space, and c) which worlds are connected by wormhole. So they don't have a clear idea of what galaxies are, or how the stuff of space is structured, like we do. I'll be making this much more clear in the article on Known Space, which we're saving until after WorldEmber because it involves making a map, and right now we're using our time to write. Also, there's no guarantee that we're in the Milky Way, since this is another universe. ;) 5. Good question. I would say it depends how close they are to the event horizon. Thank you for giving me a fiendish idea to torture my characters with at a future date! 6. Well, the ship can be easily torn apart by the gravitational or inertial forces if it enters the gravity well badly. I have a couple of instances of that almost happening, but I think I connected them to my gravity wells article. I will double check and add them if I did not.   Thank you for such detailed and thoughtful commentary! You've given me stuff to work on and think about, and I appreciate it!