Hela - The Frozen Lands
It's a great place if you are looking to freeze to death.A cold, unforgiving land, Hēla lies to the far south of the known Surface world. It is a land of snow, ice and stone, with mountains of ice and calderas of bubbling tar.
Like many parts of Araea, Hēla is barely explored. Between the lethal cold and the lurking threat of Blight, no one really know how far the unbroken expanse of ice truly stretch. Once passed the tundra that encircle much of the region, travel becomes difficult and few who have ventured into the glacial plains have returned.
I think the Phtangi just call it "cold place".Despite the cold, the tundras that surround the interior of Hēla is where most of its life is. It is a craggy domain of rock-strewn plains and withered hills, with a few ice-covered mountains. Snowfall is infrequent, but it is matched by the slow rate of melting and thawing even in the warmer months. Boulders or even hills of ice dot the landscape, sculpted by the winds and by wild animals. The beasts and monsters that live here have adapted to the cold, either with shaggy coats of fur, insulating layers of blubber or more exotic means. Nothing is safe from freeze and even the creatures who grow up in the tundra sometimes simply freeze to death.
In the cold months, we've seen bats freeze to death, mid flight. It's so cold your thoughts turn to crystals in your head.
The IcePast the tundras, the ice begins. Ancient glaciers here cover the land and the ground itself it little more than snow-covered ice. The most common form of life here is the red algae that grows on top of snow or on ice. Some creatures from the tundras like the Goa Strider venture here to feed on the algae, while others make their nests burrowed into the glaciers. There are vast mountains here, but they have never been scaled or crossed. Some consist entirely out of ice, enormous glaciers that have been in place since time immemorial.
Among the Phtangi, the far reaches of the Ice aren't just a physical place but a spirit realm of hungry demons and cruel punishment. The very worst criminals among them are sentenced to 'walk the Ice', never to return. It is a hell, with no great battles to fight and no terrors to overcome - just endless ice.
Ṭhaṇḍu LakesSpread across both the Ice and the tundra of Hēla, the Ṭhaṇḍu Lakes are the collective name given to all the waters of the Hēla region. These range from small ponds to large lakes covered by glacier. Immense fissures that carve the glaciers are filled with the frigid waters. The lakes are smaller and more shallow in the tundra, with a few being little more than shallow pools covered by a thick slab of ice. In the Ice, no one is sure how deep the water is or what manner of creatures that lurk there. The Phtangi sometime venture to the Fissures to hunt seal, sea lion or other aquatic creatures for food, hide and bone. Doing so is risky, as the waters are cold enough to very quickly kill anyone who falls in.
Flora & Fauna
The Phtangi have a saying: Hēla is a land that hates humans, but love the creatures that eat us.Like all regions on the Surface, it is an environment hostile to humans. Life native to Hēla have adapted to temperatures that would freeze an unprotected man solid in hours and learned to find nourishment in a landscape of unbroken ice and snow. Some, like the wandering Goa Strider, are sometimes tamed and used by the few tribes of Phtangi who live here or the expeditions of those who visit. However, most wild animals in Hēla see humans as remarkably convenient sources of meat. The most common plant is the red algae on both tundra and on the Ice. The shrubs and grass that grow in small patches, while stubborn moss and lichen grow on every surface that support them. In the warm seasons when the snow slowly melt on the tundra, there are even flowering bushes and herbs. Like everything here, they have adapted to the cold, with shallow roots and fuzzy coverings. Plants can even grow under the snow, sending tendrils burrowing through so they can reach the sunlight.
Beyond the Phtangi, Hēla sometimes see hunters, prospectors and ice-miners. There are no permanent settlements here, only temporary camps established to harvest something of value during the months. Blocks of ice, tar, tusks and blubber from lake-beasts and so on all have their draw. When the winds turn and the chill hardens the ground, the wise make sure they have returned to the caves. That is not an option for the Phtangi, who suffer through the brutal winters.
Ever since contact between the Phtangi and the denizens of the caves was established, trade and generosity have done much to help the nomads. A few especially bad winters and not all are sure the Phtangi would remain in Hēla - a concern for the city-states with cave-entries close to them.Much of the region is surrounded by the Shrouded Lands with only a few reliable paths out. Most who visit for either exploration or greed come through the caverns. Hēla may yet hold many secrets that wait to be found in the ice and snow.
The Surface The Surface of Araea is a barren wasteland of continent-spanning storms and terrible radiation. The frozen lands of Hēla embody the Surface at one of its most extreme, with cold rock tundras and mountains of ice. Read more about the Surface
The NomadsDespite the dangers and the freezing cold, there is one group of people who live in Hēla - the Phtantgi nomads. Forced out of the safety of caverns blow by some ancient accident, they have been forced to eke out an existance on the frozen plains of Hēla for as long as they can remember. Always on the move from the backs of the Goa Strider native to Hēla, they criss-cross the frozen lands looking for food and shelter. Read more about the Phtangi Nomads
Like everywhere on the Surface, Blight haunts the frozen lands. The levels are tolerable across most Hēla with a few areas known to be lethally blighted. Others are less predictable, like rare but violent blizzards with blight tainting the snow.
Ice and FireThe tundra of Hēla is not entirely devoid of warmth. There are several geysers, boiling springs and small volcanoes scattered across the vast land. Pools of bubbling tar can be found here and there, with some expeditions from both Phtangi and the caves going to them specifically to harvest the tar.
The Fissures The canyons of ice in the glaciers are commonly referred to as "the Fissures". Some are dry, but most are flooded and are part of Ṭhaṇḍu Lakes. These canyons range in depth from a few meter to the deepest recorded one of an entire mile, so far down into the ice that the sun can only barely be seen.