Ionia/Eduard Santangelo's Vastaya Field Journal
Simply extraordinary! Unbeknownst to the civilized world, strange and exotic creatures bearing resemblance to both man and beast - a historic encounter, to be sure. What more shall this expedition reveal of that most magical and fantastic land, Ionia? One can only wonder... and wander deeper.
Journey to the Mysterious Continent
EDUARD SANTANGELO'S VASTAYA FIELD JOURNAL
Chimeras with human blood? Spiritual magic from an ancient race? In my humble inquiries I have stumbled upon far greater questions... this shall make for quite the chronicle. A best-seller, in fact.
'Eduard Santangelo, gentleman of Piltover, explorer of Ionia, who discovered the wondrous vastaya in the wilds of Ionia.' I can already hear them clamoring for the first edition.
(Being a journal of the observations, theories, and ruminations of the chimeric creatures of northern Ionia as recorded by the esteemed EDUARD SANTANGELO: Gentleman, Explorer, Chronicler)
I first became acquainted with the chimeric creatures known as the vastaya upon landing on the fertile shores of Ionia. There, I had hoped, would I find a cure for a uniquely Piltovan malady known as the doldrums – a soft boredom for the ins and outs of everyday life in the dependably shining City of Progress where I make my living as an author of some renown.
Within Ionia’s soft and magical bosom – a bosom generally unexplored by cartographers who were not born upon its vast shores – I endeavored to find something utterly beyond my scope of expertise. Something wondrous, and magical, and beautiful, and terrifying.
Once I discovered the vastaya, I knew I had found that which I sought.
I met my first vastayan creature in the dead of night, as it rummaged through my camp for something it could stuff down its gullet. Though it nearly sprinted away in fear upon my waking, a handful of sweetcakes and the sonorous delivery of a soothing bedtime melody taught to me by my mother (I am a soprano, and thus uniquely well-equipped to serenade others with songs of relaxation) convinced it to stay awhile in my camp.
Though it walked on two legs like a human, its features were a chimeric combination of several other creatures I had seen either in books, or on my myriad travels: it had the long whiskers and pointed nose of a cat, the scales of a snake all over its body, and the physical strength of a Bilgewatrian salt beast (which I discovered when, upon finishing his sweetcakes, the creature lifted me above his head with the same effort I might expend to scratch my nose, and held me aloft until it determined I was not hiding more candies in my bedroll).
The creature fled into the darkness shortly thereafter, and I knew what I had to do: I resolved to learn more about these vastaya (as the locals refer to them).
What follows are my notes on the varieties of vastaya I encountered in my travels across the mysterious continent.
Were I to hypothesize about the origins of these beings – and being a learned gentleman of the physical sciences, I consider myself more than qualified to do so – I would theorize that the vastaya are not an individual species, but a taxonomic classification more on par with a larger order, or a phylum.
Simply put, while many vastaya look similar to one another (as I discovered after following the cat-snake-ape boy back to his village and being rudely chased away by his identically hybridized brethren. Presumably they had confused me for some sort of nefarious spy or apex predator, which explains why they followed me back to my camp and subsequently relieved me of my foodstuffs), the different tribes and familial groupings often look and act in drastically dissimilar ways.
Days after my encounter with the vastaya, I – by following the Whispering River (so named by myself because it was infuriatingly loud, and, like many sophisticates, I have a penchant for irony) near their village, and knowing others would certainly be drawn to such a water source – discovered an entirely different tribe. These vastaya had the squeezable, furry faces of otters, but the lower girth of seals.
After I unsuccessfully attempted to give them my glasses as a peace offering (many of the creatures carried packs full of knickknacks and shiny bits and bobs – perhaps they were a mercantile society), I began an impromptu “I come in peace and will do you no harm” interpretive dance (this particular jig was all about knee placement, and my patellas are positively pristine), which inspired my companions to take me in and feed me a warm supper of a meal I can only describe as slightly unraw not-quite-fish.
Though they said not a word while I performed my ritualistic gyrations, they later revealed, upon politely requesting I pass them a cup of yellowish powder that smelled of salt and fire, that they spoke my language fluently. Their various dialects and colloquialisms were unfamiliar to me, but I could, with very little effort, understand exactly what they said. As hungry for knowledge as I had previously been for food, I hurriedly queried them about the history of their kind.
I learned that the vastaya’s origins could be traced back long, long ago, to a hidden corner of Ionia where a group of humans fled to escape the myriad horrors of the Great Void War (a subject upon which I have written numerous tomes, all of which can be found at the better Piltovan booksellers for more-than-reasonable prices). These refugees came into contact with a tribe of intelligent, shapeshifting creatures who were greatly in tune with Ionia’s natural magicks. The pairing of these two groups produced the creatures I eventually learned to refer to as vastaya. Over time, the offspring of these pairings settled into a variety of regions and therefore adopted diverse forms, from the winged humanoids of Ionia or the sporadically-limbed sandshufflers of Shurima, to the Freljordian scaled manatee with a look of perpetual discomfort on its face.
I wished to stay and ask more of the otterfolk, but one of my questions seemed to cause great offense, and I was unceremoniously ejected from the village and the creatures’ good graces in one fell swoop. My question, for those looking to avoid the same mistake, regarded whether the pairing of the two species was purely magical or more (shall we say) physical in nature.
Relieved of both my supplies and my calm, but never my thirst for adventure, I again struck out in a different direction with nothing to protect me save my gumption and multisyllabic vocabulary. Months passed as I availed myself of Ionia’s plentiful fruits and vegetables, picking them from the ground and trees as easily as one might procure an item from a stall in the Boundary Markets.
I marked time only by the rising and setting of the sun, and happily forgot all those cumbersome Piltovan habits to which I had become accustomed. To wit, after many days spent ambling across Ionia, I had developed something of a stench.
I paused, disrobed (after checking to make sure I was alone – a gentleman never forces his own nudity upon others) and stepped into a nearby lake that smelled of berries and grass.
It was there that I saw the most wondrous thing I had ever seen in my entire life, and will ever see should I live to be a thousand.
Far more human than any vastaya I had yet seen, this creature, bathing on the opposite shore, had the ears and tail(s) of a fox, but she was unclothed – and I shall leave my descriptions vague so as not to offend my younger or more sensitive readers – and otherwise very, very much like a female human.
I caught but a glimpse of her as I soaked in the pond; my mouth agape, rivulets of water streaming down my gaunt frame as I attempted to come up with the perfect words of greeting. Mayhaps I would introduce myself as a writer of some renown, quoting her some of my more effusive reviews. Or, I might serenade her with one of the many romantic ballads I had composed and memorized for situations such as this.
Soon however, a rustling in the brush behind me gave me a start. I turned to confront the rustling out of instinct, but with no threat brave enough to show itself, I turned back to find the glorious fox woman was gone, leaving me with nothing but questions, the first few bars to “Oh, My Love, My Dream, My Prospective Bedfellow” bouncing around my head, and a decidedly embarrassed look on my face.
The rustler, whom I was determined to beat into bloody unconsciousness for scaring the love of my life away, turned out to be a human merchant from a distant village who specialized in selling gingerfruit – an apparent delicacy I chose not to taste as I was uncertain I’d resist the temptation to smash one into his smiling face.
Shai – for this was his name – chastised me for bathing in the pond, informing me that it, and the fox woman who was sometimes known to bathe there, would be hazardous to my health. I informed him that sneaking up on naked, enamored men would be far more hazardous to his, but he merely laughed.
After I dressed, the merchant agreed to lead me back to human civilization and answer a few of my questions in exchange for my hat (Jeanreaux’s Haberdashery, retail price fifty-three gears).
He informed me that his family had known of the strange woman for generations – that she, like the other vastaya, have far longer lives than we humans. Some have been said to live for thousands of years, while others, rumors and legends say, might well be immortal. It was Shai who informed me of Ionia’s name for these creatures – up until this point I had referred to them as “phantasma,” until the merchant scoffed at my nomenclature. I have retroactively changed all mentions of “phantasma” to “vastaya” purely out of cultural empathy, as my vocabulary is matched only by my humility.
We walked together for several days. Occasionally, he would stop and sniff the air like a starved bloodhound. When I asked him to explain his behavior, he would merely smile and inform me that he was looking for treasures. Though I found his vague demeanor a very special flavor of infuriating, his doglike sniffing led me to a thought which I immediately shared with him: if vastaya were the amalgamation of humans and ancient, shapeshifting ancestors, then what would happen if that blood were to become extremely diluted through reproductive diaspora? What if, say, one had vastayan blood, but not quite enough to take chimeric, animalian form? What would happen then?
It was then that he stopped sniffing and his eyes widened. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Well, they’d be able to change their shape, wouldn’t they?” before the bastard turned into a pig and unearthed a silktruffle.
As utterly shocked as I was to meet a shapeshifter – to have, what’s more, met THREE different varieties of vastaya in only a few months is beyond lucky, even for a deserved scholar such as myself. I couldn’t help but note, however, that “transforming pig man” was a considerable step down from “voluptuous fox woman.”
At this rate, the next vastayan creature I see could likely resemble a walking roach.
I spent the last several months scouring Ionia for any and all information that I could collect on the various vastaya species in an attempt to create an all-encompassing taxonomic guide to Runeterra and its fauna.
Though I have accumulated an incredible amount of information on the vastaya, there is much left to be discovered – I suspect that in limiting my search to Ionia, I have uncovered a mere fraction of the overall diversity to be found within this classification.
Still, for now, it is time to move on – I have merely opened the door on vastaya, and it will be the job of another journalist to step through it. Today, I draw my attention to the other creatures of Runeterra whose stories have yet to be told: Those horrifying, sentient weapons known as Darkin. The corrupting creatures of the Void. Those illusive fae creatures of legend, the yordles. These stories mustn’t go untold, and on my word, I shall be the explorer to do it. Indeed, I may well be the only one who can.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Only two weeks after submitting this manuscript, Mr. Santangelo embarked on an unofficial return trip to Ionia to, in his words, “Ask further questions of the foxlike woman – purely for the purposes of a second edition.”
Several weeks later, we received a letter from Mr. Santangelo reading as follows:
“I’ve experienced the grand misfortune of being kidnapped. My captors – a surly lot who call themselves the Navori Brotherhood – suspect I am a Piltovan spy. Naturally, being a man of the world with varied intellectual, athletic, and romantic skills such as [edited for brevity], I was insulted at the accusation.
Still, I convinced them to hold me for ransom rather than execute me outright. If you could, then, send some precious minerals, or food, or weapons in an amount befitting my abstract worth to you as a writer, it would be most appreciated. It is, of course, YOUR choice as to how much to spend on my return, but I imagine you will have to bankrupt the publishing house and all of its investors, at a minimum. Still, the price will obviously be well worth it.”
Upon receiving this ransom note, we subsequently sent Mr. Santangelo the projected profits of his new book: a handful of pocket change and a spoiled sweetcake.
We have not heard back from him since.
The seafaring Marai, the tribal Kiilash - incredible! How many more varieties may yet be discovered?
No doubt there is more to be discovered concerning the enigmatic and chimeric vastaya - might you pursue their secrets in my stead?