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The Icefalls

Thanie wrapped her arms under her heavy woolen greatcoat and shivered. They were inside a large inn built with logs and sealed with bitumen, with a roaring fire in the hearth, but the bitter cold outside seemed inescapable anywhere in the village. Magistrate Haideri was in his ordinary longcoat, but seemed to be utterly indifferent to the cold, though the skin on his neck was unusually pale.    The Magistrate shook his head. "While I am here on Magisterial business, I am here merely to request rooms for the night. I do not intend to interfere with your affairs or establish Principality authority."    The thickset man he was talking to spat into the fire. "Your very presence is Principality authority. We are a free town and I cannot countenance a blackcoat here. I cannot stop you from coming and going, but you will not find shelter under my roof tonight."   "Be reasonable, Innkeeper." Haideri folded his arms. "My apprentice and I only require a warm spot for the evening and some food, and I have enough funding to pay any rate you'd want to charge. As I've acknowledged, we are outside the bounds of Etoile, and I have no status here. I simply am dressed in black as to my preference."   The Innkeeper glanced at Thanie, then looked back. "I require assurance as to what you are actually doing here in the Icefalls. If you're doing nothing that affects our independent status or impacts any local resident, I can find myself permitting your stay."   "I cannot divulge that information." The Magistrate frowned. "It is privileged to the Magistrates of Etoile."   "Then it is my privilege to turn you out into the elements." The Innkeeper turned away. "You will find no succor here. The power-sail is leaving tonight, and I suggest you and your girl be aboard. I wouldn't look forward to digging her corpse out from a snowdrift."

Demographics

The Icefalls are inhabited by the former members of an Etoilean deep-frontier exploration team, and those who chose to join them in the years after the settlement was established. Notably, while there are relatively close frontier villages and peoples, the inhabitants of the Icefalls are all Etoilean.

Government

The Icefalls are a non-Principality of Etoile settlement and outside the jurisdiction of the Princeps. This circumstance permits a radical form of communal government that has been only theorized by philosophers at The Academy of Etoile - a people's government, where all actions are done through collective agreement and there is neither a leader or a political assembly that concentrates power. Every week, a village-wide assembly is held and all propositions put forth by all villagers are evaluated, discussed, and voted on. Notably, propositions that incur some kind of cost are to be borne by the person who proposed it; there is no fundamental tax levied in the village.   While outside Principality rule, the system of government here is of interest to the Academy, and researchers regularly visit the settlement, much to the chagrin of the local villagers.

Industry & Trade

The inhabitants of the Icefalls practice a type of radical survivalism that most resembles what is known of societies in prehistory, prior to the era of the petty kingdoms - each and every person in the settlement is responsible for their own welfare, and trades for services and goods in kind. Most in the settlement hunt and fish for food, with woodcutters sailing to warmer islands to harvest and stockpile firewood for the winters. The one source of hard currency is tourism; the Icefalls are the starting point for expeditions deeper into The Whitecaps as well as itself a destination spot for 'extreme' tourism.

Infrastructure

While there is a catchment system under the waterfall in the town to impound glacial freshwater and a power recharge wheel on the local pier, these are all private constructions run by specific villagers. None of the infrastructure in the Icefalls is provided by any authority and none of it is freely accessible or usable.

History

Late in the third season of 702, The Grand Cartographic Journal issued a challenge to its readers, to join the first group of pioneers to settle the closest tip of the island chain that leads to the southern icecap, deep in eastern Saibh. The idea was to permanently establish a Principality foothold at The Whitecaps and survey the area for resources, as well as potentially mount expeditions into the southern icecap itself. To that end, the best survivalists, hunters, and mercenaries were assembled into a large, hundred-strong pioneer team, carrying a year's worth of supplies to establish a self-sufficient colony in the uninhabited frozen wastes, at the northern tip of the Whitecaps, at a site chosen for its freshwater availability and proximity to open ocean.   The fourth season of 702 proved to be especially cold, however, and the pioneer expedition had to overwinter without additional supply; the ocean had managed to freeze, but not enough to permit over-ice travel, instead resulting in a dangerous icy 'slush' that was impassable to ships or caravans. Once the pack ice retreated in the second season of 703, the first resupply expedition found a disaster site. Quarrels between the members of the expedition had resulted in a mutiny, the destruction of the stored food supply, and the slow death of the colony, as those unskilled in hunting in frozen tundra succumbed to starvation. The survivors were evacuated back to the Etoile Capital City and the settlement was abandoned.   Many of these survivors, however, found the pace of life back in the Principality to be unsuitable, due to the relative ease of life (as Etoilean state ministries attempt to ensure that all have access to some sort of food and shelter). In 704, another expedition to the abandoned settlement was made, but this time funded purely by private Florin, and populated solely by survivalists able to live off the land, fend for themselves, and not rely on others or outside resupply. The Icefalls was established in the last weeks of the second season of 704, and persists to this day as a hardy frontier town, where, as the locals put it, 'everyone knows what they're getting into', with no discussions of authority, hierarchy, or resource distribution. The town pays no tax to the Principality, though this has been a minor subject of contention in the Ministry Halls.

Points of interest

The Icefalls is a small village nestled on a small shoreline, underneath a large glacier coming down from the mountains, situated in a small deep-water bay that is a natural port. A glacial waterfall pours from the top of the glacier and flows through the town, draining into the bay over a rocky shoreline. The waterfall itself is said to resemble The Patino Falls in miniature, though the climate is too cold to see much in the way of birdlife. Chunks of glacial ice occasionally descend from the falls; the falls are much noisier than ordinary waterfalls of the same size.   Other than the waterfall, the power generation station (which, notably, is not networked; flywheels are manually carried to the station and recharged), and the port dock, the largest point of interest is the Icefall Inn, the largest building in the village, run by someone known only as the 'Innkeeper'. The inn is, while not luxurious by the standards of travel accomodation in the Principality, large, warm, and comfortable by all reports, though the rates charged for a stay here are exorbitant. Virtually all travelers new to the area and the cold stay at the Inn; camping in the open can lead to frostbite for the unprepared.

Tourism

The Icefalls are a featured destination in the relatively new Etoilean field of 'extreme' tourism. Western Saibh, while subject to ordinary heat and cold, is relatively comfortable and mild compared to the extremes of heat and cold to be found at the farthest regions of the Eastern Saibh archipelago. Those looking to challenge themselves gravitate towards a seasonal power-sail trip to the Icefalls to spend a few days in the freezing cold, hunting their own food, or trading their skills in service for food and shelter. Particularly brave individuals will attempt to overwinter in the Icefalls, risking supply cutoff - should the season be colder than usual, the town will be again cut-off from external resupply, leaving the tourist essentially at the mercy of the locals being willing to share food and supply.   More serious than the tourists are the expeditions into the Whitecaps for various reasons - Cartography, attempts at resource surveying, and the like. All set off and return to the Icefalls as a convenient resupply point, though most of these expeditions do not make it particularly far into the Whitecaps.

Climate

The Icefalls is a bitterly cold settlement. While the daytimes during second season can be merely considered chilly, the depths of a fourth season night cause all liquids to freeze and a person's breath to sear in the lungs, as the air is cold enough to freeze the moisture in one's mouth and nose. Unlike The Tulhermaa, however, the local glacier insulates the settlement from wind, allowing the local stuctures to exist as actual buildings and not simply desperate burrows.   While dangerous, the Icefalls are comparatively pleasant compared to the freezing winds of the peaks and valleys of the Whitecaps, which have been known to freeze travelers to death in the upright position, once they're dug out from the snow and ice.

Natural Resources

Prospectors regularly attempt to venture into the Whitecaps to look for resources, but none have yet found anything worth the hazardous conditions. The site of the Icefalls itself has plenty of freshwater and a power recharge wheel, but no suitable agriculture or mineral resourcing; the Innkeeper coordinates the trade of hunting pelts for vegetables and fruit.
Founding Date
704
Alternative Name(s)
Whitecap Base Camp
Type
Outpost / Base
Population
50
Location under

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