The Hielo People are a mystery to most of even the most learned scholars and mages. Some consider them to be a type of naiad that has somehow adapted to the cold of the artic wastes; others think that they are somehow linked to the Greater Elementals of Water. They live and make their homes on the freezing plains and within the mountain caverns of the far northern and southern regions, and normally shun the temperate regions. As for the hot places of the world, only a handful of them have ever explored those regions and survived to tell the tale, and most of them are mystified as to why the explorers put themselves through much hardship.
It was the lure of gold and of large amethyst deposits that lead to Rear Admiral Coloman, back in the days when he was a relatively lowly captain instead of high up the Company ladder, to be sent with a three master to the frozen wastes to see if the prospectors were right. If the tales were true then they could not risk a large store of amethyst falling into the wrong hands and leading to the possible formation of another rival power-they already had enough trouble with those dammed Krakens and the people who dared to break the god-given rights of the Company, under Kraken protection. He was not looking forward to this particular assignment but it was his duty to obey all reasonable orders and were he to be successful, it would possibly open the door to further promotion.
The voyage was long and at first was not too unpleasant, with only the normal hazards of the Acquan oceans to face. The further north they went the colder it became, until the crew had to wear coats and hoods and scarves of thick fur. One evening the cry came from the lookout’s tower, where each man spent only an hour at a time unless he was being punished by some maritime misdemeanour, that he could see the land, and that it was occupied as well. Large ice canoes were surrounding the ship, with strange looking people within. The journals of the mission have survived.
“Land ho, and to my surprise it was not terra nullis as I had been led to believe, but occupied by a people unlike those that I had ever seen before. They wore only loincloths although the temperature outside was minus twenty-five degrees, and instead of hands they had long tentacles. They appeared from what I saw to be made of ice and to be armed with spears and bows of bone. Lieutenant De Rudio wanted me to open fire with the muskets and crossbows of the Marines but I ordered him not to, and told my men that any of them who opened fire without orders would be chucked overboard on the spot.”
“I ordered the ship’s wizard to make a translation spell and my men to lower a ladder. I wanted peace, not war, and had a gut feeling that how I acted now would decide how they reacted to the Company in the future. The spell worked and I was able to speak to them. I assured them that I was no threat to them or their land and offered them ice picks and other items to trade for their gold and amethyst. They tested the picks out and found them to be far more effective then their bone items and were happy to trade.”
“I found them to be stronger then humans, strong enough to smash through the permafrost with their new metal picks. Their ruler assured me that they would not have to fear anything from the polar horrors or the other tribes because of us. It is sad to think that the very treasures that they are trading with us might mean their doom once a fleet is sent to the region.”
The Hielo people look very much like humans with skins of clear ice within which their organs and bones, made of an opaque ice, can be easily seen. Their tentacles contain rows of sensitive suckers and they have great strength, enough to chip even through solid permafrost given the right tools. To them, minus temperatures are like plus temperatures are to us, so whilst minus 25C may be balmy, minus 50C and below is too *hot* for them, whilst plus 1C and above can cause a nasty case of “heatbite”.
They feed on seals, polar bears, and other animals and upon microscopic plants contained in the snow itself, and have little fear or knowledge of humans, although this might soon change for the worse if the Company decides that it is worth attacking and enslaving them. They know no magic of their own except for one spell that they use to make Coldfire to light their way with, and according to their myths and legends the first of them sprung from the Coldfire Urn.
Each female may only have up to four eggs in a lifetime, which are kept in caves and tunnels in the mountains. The temperature that they are kept at decides what gender they will be. Below minus twenty means they will be male, whilst anything higher then that but below zero means that they will be born female. They are very protective of their eggs to the point that when the tribes war with each other over hunting rights or feuds they will normally agree not to break each other’s eggs-to do so deliberately is regarded as a major war crime.
Whilst those tribes that have gained metal weapons and tools and cloaks of sailcloth through trade may be powerful in the short term, they may well end up bitterly regretting it later when the Company admirals realize the treasures to be found in the north and decide that it would be economically worthwhile to try and take them by force. For now however they are enjoying a golden age.