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|Westeros, Beyond the Wall
|600 years ago
Hardhome is located beneath a great cliff pocketed with cave mouths. It sits on a sheltered bay and has a natural harbor deep enough for large ships.
Wood and stone are plentiful. The waters teem with fish, and there are colonies of seals and sea cows close at hand. A great cliff looms above the settlement, pocked with cave mouths.
Hardhome was close to becoming the only true town north of the Wall. Before its destruction, Maester Wyllis journeyed to Hardhome aboard a Pentoshi trader and established himself as a healer and counselor under the protection of Gorm the Wolf, one of the four chieftains who controlled the settlement, so that he may write of the local customs. However, Gorm was murdered and Wyllis, in mortal danger, fled back to Oldtown, where he wrote Hardhome: An Account of Three Years Spent Beyond-the-Wall among Savages, Raiders, and Woods-witches.
Hardhome was abruptly destroyed six centuries ago. Something terrible happened that night, though the details are uncertain. The homes of the inhabitants of Hardhome are said to have burned with flames so high and hot that the Night's Watch on the Wall thought that the sun was rising in from the north. Afterwards, ashes rained down on the haunted forest and the Shivering Sea alike for almost half a year. Hardhome's people are said to have been carried off into slavery by slavers from across the narrow sea or slaughtered for meat by cannibals out of Skagos, depending on the tale one chooses to believe.
Traders investigating Hardhome reported a landscape of charred trees and burned bones, waters choked with swollen corpses, and shrieks echoing from the cave mouths. A ship sent by the Night's Watch also reported the strange screams.
The free folk never again settled the site, which became overgrown by wilderness. Rangers roaming north of the Wall told tales of Hardhome being haunted by ghouls, demons, and burning ghosts with an unhealthy taste for blood.
A Dance with Dragons
After Mance Rayder's force trying to get south of the Wall is defeated by Stannis Baratheon and the Night's Watch in the battle beneath the Wall, Mother Mole leads thousands of free folk to Hardhome. Mother Mole preaches to the free folk that they will find salvation where they once found damnation, and she claims to have had a vision of ships coming to Hardhome to sail them south.
Lord Commander Jon Snow sends Cotter Pyke with eleven ships from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea to bring the wildlings south from Hardhome. Many ships are wrecked by storms during the voyage. When Cotter arrives at Hardhome with six ships left, the situation has grown very bad. Wildlings are eating their own dead and there are presumably wights in the forest and in the sea. Slavers have already taken some of the wildlings to Braavos, and the wildlings try to take Storm Crow by force which costs Cotter six of his crew. Cotter sends a raven to plead for help via land from Jon, since traveling by the sea is far too dangerous.
In Braavos, Arya Stark tells the kindly man that she knows why the Sealord of Braavos seized the Goodheart and that the slaves on the ship are wildlings from Hardhome. She tells him that it is an old ruined place, accursed. Arya remembers Old Nan's tales of Hardhome.
While Selyse Florent and Bowen Marsh advocate letting those at Hardhome die, Jon intends to lead a ranging by land. After Jon receives a letter, Tormund instead receives command of the planned ranging.
Snowflakes swirled from a dark sky and ashes rose to meet them, the grey and the white whirling around each other as flaming arrows arced above a wooden wall and dead things shambled silent through the cold, beneath a great grey cliff where fires burned inside a hundred caves. Then the wind rose and the white mist came sweeping in, impossibly cold, and one by one the fires went out. Afterward only the skulls remained.—thoughts of Melisandre
Hardhome is an unholy place, it's said. Cursed.
References and Notes
- A Storm of Swords, Map of Beyond the Wall
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 39, Jon VIII.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Wall and Beyond: The Wildlings.
- Fire & Blood, Heirs of the Dragon - A Question of Succession.
- A Dance with Dragons, Prologue.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 31, Melisandre I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 45, The Blind Girl.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 69, Jon XIII.