Location: Galactic Halo, Orion Arm region
Atmosphere: Water-heavy nitrogen-oxygen mix
Body Type: Terrestrial
The first explorers through the gate to Niflheim thought that they’d stepped through into a cloud or a heavy fog; thick white mist blocking vision more than ten to fifteen meters away, with a particulate haze that disrupted other attempts to penetrate the mist. the best to date is low-end ultraviolet frequencies, which allow clear vision out to about twenty meters and somewhat hazy vision for another sixty or so past that.
Orbital mapping of the planet is difficult for the same reason, with the entire blanket wrapped in a thick white layer of mist; efforts to establish communication networks has proven difficult as well. Several powerful broadcast beacons in place at known locations of interest, rough navigation is possible through triangulation.
The mystery of the planet’s mist was solved when the first of the world’s structures was discovered only a few kilometers away from the gate itself. Apparently made from some durable ceramic that appears to have been printed into place by the planet’s former inhabitants, it might be considered something like a city, save that it seems to only have ever had two purposes.
The first purpose is the most obvious; millions of niches are set in the walls of the structure, each one just a little larger than needed if an average transhuman were to lie down in one. The majority of these niches are sealed with a transparent version of the ceramic of the walls, leaving the occupant of the niche on display – individual skeletons of some unknown race, preserved against time and the effects of the constant mist. Other necropolises have been discovered, each one set just past 110 kilometers apart along the lines that extend from the first city’s vertices; expeditions are exploring out along the vertex lines of those cities as well as the lines from the first city to see if other necropolises can be found. If there are, the dead inhabitants of the world may well number into the tens or hundreds of billions.
The second purposes was discovered when someone compared the results of necropolis explorers with reports of anomalies from seismology teams; boreholes extend beneath the city, some tapping the available subsurface water supplies and others going deep enough to be geothermal power taps. The explorers, meanwhile, had found several tower-like structures venting warm steam, giving an important clue as to how the mist is replenished as well as having a breathable atmosphere maintained on a lifeless world.
It was at this point that the planet was given a long-term name, as someone consulted mythology for places of mist and death. Niflheim came up, and with some people reporting a creeping sense of unease settling in the name stuck without any fanfare. Nothing more pronounced than a sense of unease and dread has appeared yet; the usual array of false alarms and equipment failures are inside what might be expected on a world drowning in particulate-rich fog.
Examination of the skeletons – taken using T-rays and X-rays, as the crew is concerned the seals might serve a secondary purpose of containing pathogens – has resulted in enough information to model the creatures’ rough physiology. Presuming they stood upright, they’d have stood about two and a half meters tall, with a slender build that may indicate Niflheim was a high-gravity environment for them. Two legs with a single ball-joint socket for a knee supported a long, slender body that had four arms; the lower two long and well-developed, the upper two much less developed and thinner, with an extra elbow joint. The skull suggests a narrow face with wide eyes set far apart, a jaw packed with flat grinding surfaces, and a large cavity where the brain likely was housed.
No artifacts have been found so far other than the skeletons and the necropolises themselves; it’s uncertain if there were devices left behind that have crumbled into ruin or if the builders simply took everything when they left – or if they simply have their living spaces elsewhere on the planet.
Thus far, knowledge of Niflheim hasn’t spread very far; when it does, someone is bound to try to come in from another gate location to vandalize or deface the tombs, something the explorers have been careful to avoid to date. Neither Firewall nor Ozma have taken an active interest to date, but if anything unusual is found that may change quickly.
Game Mechanic: Characters can operate normally on Niflheim for a number of 24-hour days equal to their Will divided by ten; after this the constant gloom, impenetrable mist, and crawling sense of unease starts to settle in on them, inflicting a -10 penalty on all tasks as they get worn down by nameless dread. Nothing else happens, but after a week or so people will begin to see phantasmal shapes in the mist. GMs are encouraged to play this up and make the players wonder if there’s something out there, something in their heads with them, or if they’re going mad from the gloom, isolation, and constant chill and damp.