Vestasis

rating: +10

10 votes (+10, -0) 5★

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Difficulty 5/5 Lest one is prepared, survival in Vestasis is unlikely. The imposing structures that line the barren valley are plentiful in resources, but none of them contain nutritious substances. The land has no fruit to bear due to the frequent, freezing snowstorms — even if the whiteout were to clear, one would be hard pressed to find greenery sprouting from the gravel.
Entity Count 1/5 The valley is not entirely devoid of life. Barring common beasts (which are sparse in their own regards), the stone towers house only a handful of lone vagrants, spread out across the snowy expanse. Much like with other creatures in Niflheim, exert caution should you decide to approach their ranks: amicability is not necessarily a given.
Chaos Gradient 4/5 Harsh blizzards, the likes of which are all-too-common near the outer reaches of Niflheim, ravage the landscape. The towers provide substandard but sufficient shelter; those stranded in Vestasis are encouraged to immediately seek them should the winds begin gusting a bit too strongly.
Basset-Fraizier Index 3.3333/5 Even in these desolate cloughs, life can still go on. Be not haughty or presumptuous and do not underestimate the environment, lest you wish to meet an untimely end.


VESTASIS


Minimalist towers soar high into the sky. These towers are moored to the icy wastes, but jut out the ground like stalagmites from an icy cave floor, deep into the unreachable heavens above. Viewing the uninviting terrain, it seems unbelievable that many moons ago Vestasis harbored a mighty civilization and not just runaway vagrants.

Situated in the Kirassian mountain range in the southern parts of Niflheim, Vestasis is by far the largest of the three regions that occupy the rocky sierra. Composed primarily of spiky rhyolite, the terrain on Vestasis is anything but welcoming. Mountains in Vestasis are steep, jagged, and difficult to traverse without experience and a handy set of tools. The valley floors and various softer ridges in the area provide paths through the precarious terrain, though even these trails can be rife with danger. Regardless, pilgrimaging across safer paths is always preferable to having to face unneeded peril on the ridged saddles of the mountaintops and steep cliffs they run along. If luck gives you the chance to do so, always choose the less hazardous path.

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Pathway through the mountains. A snowstorm is brewing.

An uncommon but very real hazard found in Vestasis are its deep crevasses, formed by aeons of frost shattering. These natural booby-traps can sometimes seem to open up and swallow people whole, as if the ground itself is hungry for the lost souls that brave Vestasis unprepared. Travellers are encouraged to be on high alert at all times despite the crevasses' rarity — perishing in a cooped-up crevice is not a noble way to go.

A thin, misty fog encompasses the lower reaches of Vestasis, impairing vision ever-so slightly. Fog does not normally form in such cold conditions so its origin remains unknown to this day; nevertheless, the mist remains an additional hazard one is to be wary of. It is impossible to know what may be waiting for you just out of sight.

Weather in Vestasis is as odd as it is deadly. Pressure fluctuates rapidly and without warning, causing sudden snowstorms to flare up, sweeping up anyone or anything unlucky enough to be caught in the flurry. Winds average violent speeds of approximately 83.6 knots, with the highest recorded speed being around 187.2 knots, formidable forces that rival even some of the strongest hurricanes back in baseline reality. Temperatures go as high as −14 °C (6.8 °F) on warm days, though a typical day in Vestasis sees a mean temperature of -32 °C (-25.6 °F) and whopping low-points of around -68 °C (-90.4 °F) during blizzards. Surviving the downpour without shelter is highly unlikely without proper preparation and planning. The frostbitten corpses in the snow are evidence of this.

The only areas spared from the violent gusts are the mountain peaks, high up in the heavens. Although even getting near them is practically infeasible, the highest points in Vestasis provide a warped form of sanctuary. They are not viable as a practical means to ensure safety however.

Vestasis is easily distinguishable from the rest of the Kirassian mountain range due to the abundance of stone rotundas that are scattered around it. The grey towers are brutalist and strict, each identical to the last. Yet despite their immaculate architecture and make, their placement across the land appears random and without reason, constructed in wild locations without any tactical military capacity. Sometimes they jut out of the sides of mountains, tilted drastically in an almost comedic fashion. Other times they are built on seemingly unstable terrain which gives the impression that the towers could topple over at a moment's notice. Most of the time, the towers are built on relatively flat terrain near the valley floor. In all cases the structures have remained stiff, robust, and unweathered by the elements, owing to the architectonic expertise of those who built them (but perhaps not to their organizational skills).

The purpose of the rotundas' construction remains not precisely determined, though it is generally believed that they all served different purposes despite their similar nature. Living spaces, work places, storage rooms, and so on, have all been found within the confines of the towers in varying degrees of disrepair due to their old age. All the furniture and commodities found in the rooms are simple, lacking in ornate designs — in other words, bleak — much like the drab insides of the towers. No vibrant colours, no artistic additions, no sign of creativity. Even the layout of the rooms is uninviting; some towers lack windows entirely.

Do not let this appearance deter you from exploring however. Tools, utensils, arms, and armour can all be commonly found in said rooms, long abandoned though not so much unused. One must not expect them to hold out for eternity considering they were forged aeons ago, though they provide at least a thin line of defence between you and threats that may come your way.

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A rendition of a restored room. The scene below roughly shows what these spaces were like in their prime. Some artistic liberties taken.

Should chance have it, you may encounter rotundas that are left nearly untouched and ready to be used once more for the purposes of mankind. Many have kitchens and sleeping quarters. Others yet may sport blacksmithing tools. Often, though, these rooms are left in disarray, having received the unkind end of the passage of time. Incidents have been reported wherein the equipment was not appropriately checked for damages, each of which result in mass catastrophe and destruction of salvageable commodities. Whilst it cannot be enforced, it is highly advised not to handle more dangerous equipment lest you have the relevant qualifications to do so or a dire need to make use of them.

Climbing up a tower is done via a spiral staircase which ascends from the centre of the base. Rooms are found laid out in a circular fashion around the staircase, and continuing to climb it to the very top leads to the roof if it is present. A short array of brick railings line the edges of each roof. Tread warily should you approach them, for falling down from such great heights is fatal every single time.

The towers are of no particular interest to the average traveller save for their purpose as a shelter and a means to gather resources, though historians from the Hyperborea Delegacy frequently study heirlooms and artifacts from the towers that have not decayed with time in order to learn more about Vestasis' past. Interesting finds of jewelry, scripture (untranslated), clothing, and cutlery have been made, all belonging to a period in time very far away from ours. Due to their mundane nature, it is impossible to attach relevance to them, though they offer a wistful glimpse into life as it once was. Alas, today only ruins remain, leaving the intricacies of the past long lost to time.


POPULATIONS


Life struggles to thrive in Vestasis, but the well-prepared and the well-adapted have made a home out of it. Sparse populations of Hyperborean Wayfarers and Vulture Tegus wander Vestasis searching for meals buried in the snow, rarely attacking still-living beings to preserve energy and focus on survival instead. Travellers and local populations alike inhabit some of the towers, with the latter often doing so because of exile rather than a desire to actually be in Vestasis. None of these creatures can exactly be considered as being on top of Vestasis' poor ecosystem: there is not exactly much to dominate, and there is no species that is faring any better than the other. All those who inhabit Vestasis know they are in the same boat regardless of who or what they are.

Despite how barren the landscape is, a population made home out of Vestasis at some point. A few historians have taken an interest in the society, and though they cannot narrow down specifics, they have uncovered some important details regarding the former inhabitants.

The abundant housing leads researchers to believe that approximately two million people could have lived in Vestasis at a time with the available infrastructure, a formidable amount when compared to modern-day numbers in Niflheim. Carbon tracing of more recently created appliances has deduced that members of the society had to have lived at some point before 7300 B.C, long before the first advanced human empires. Their lifestyles are theorized to have been cordial and strict in nature due to how religiously the constructions of identical rotundas and appliances was adhered to, a possible indication of totalitarian rule. Judging by the lack of more modern technologies and the presence of ones used more commonly in the relatively recent past (e.g whetting stones, washing basins, anvils), historians theorize that the society never surpassed more than a medieval standard of technology.

To this day, what caused the disappearance of the society is unknown. Extinction due to various different factors (such as invasion or mass famine) has been suggested and is generally accepted as the most plausible explanation. Some insist however that the society never died, but rather, it evolved into another species. It is most commonly suggested that they evolved into the Stejhens, who also inhabit the Kirassian mountain range not too far away from Vestasis. Unfortunately, due to said faction's hostility and the fact that the finds made in Vestasis do not clearly hint at this possibility, it is impossible to lend credence to this theory. Until then, the demise of these people shall remain shrouded in mystery.

Efforts have been made to translate the scripture found in Vestasis to reveal more about the lives of its inhabitants, but the process has proven to be stupendously taxing. There is no other scripture close to it in calligraphy, and no cooperative being who has knowledge on the scripture is currently contactable. Hopes for decoding the language lie almost entirely on finding a sort of Rosetta Stone to allow translation efforts to commence, but until something akin to that is found, the possibility of deciphering the language remains entirely out of reach.


ADVICE


  • Keep yourself warm

Whilst all areas in Niflheim are subject to this rule, it is especially emphasized in Vestasis. Frostbite could very well be the end of you as you scurry from one tower to another in the middle of a blizzard. Wear multiple layers of clothing and always keep your insides warm with a hot drink or a flask of alcohol.

  • Never let your guard down

There may always be something or someone lurking close by despite how empty Vestasis may seem. Goodwill is never to be assumed in a place where no sane man dares to tread, so you must always be prepared to act in a life or death scenario.

  • Don't be greedy

Don't take too much of a certain utility or resource. Be mindful of others travelling the powdered wastes, for your choice to take an extra tool or two can make a difference in another traveller's journey. You never know when you may find yourself on the short end of the stick.

  • Make sure you're never too far away from shelter

Large expanses of open land or difficult to traverse mountains without a cave or tower in sight are to be avoided at all costs. No man is a juggernaut, especially when faced with unearthly winds. Exposing yourself directly to the middle of a blizzard is much akin to suicide, so always have a backup plan should worst come to pass.

  • Prepare and ration

Good nutrition in Vestasis is a commodity you could buy someone's soul with. Make sure that first and foremost, you bring with you an adequate amount. Ration it out for your stay and estimate how long you'll last. Limiting yourself can go a long way in the fight for survival.

  • Understand the situation

Unfortunately, not every trip to Vestasis will end positively. You may never come out after you go in, and that is a risk you take the moment the foggy clouds begin to circle you. Stay vigilant, never stop fighting against the cold, but if you realize that you have little time left in this mortal plane, make peace with yourself and accept your own passing. The process of moving on becomes much easier when you aren't actively resisting it.


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