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|Location||Westeros, Beyond the Wall|
|Destroyed||600 years ago.|
Hardhome sits on a sheltered bay and has natural harbour deep enough for the biggest ships afloat. Wood and stone are plentiful near there. 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.
Nowadays there is no shelter there for people but for the caves, dubbed the screaming caves by the men of the Night's Watch.
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.
One night, 600 years ago (about 300 years before Aegon's Landing), Hardhome was destroyed. Something terrible happened that night; the details are uncertain. Its 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 believe.
The homes of the inhabitants of Hardhome were said to have burned with flames so high and hot that the watchers on the Wall far to the south 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.
Traders and a ship sent by the Night's Watch to investigate reported only nightmarish devastation where Hardhome had stood, a landscape of charred trees and burned bones, waters choked with swollen corpses and blood-chilling shrieks echoing from the cave mouths that pock the great cliff that looms above the settlement, a cliff where no living man or woman could be found.
After that Hardhome was shunned. The wildlings never settled the site again, and rangers roaming north of the Wall told tales of the overgrown ruins of Hardhome being haunted by ghouls, demons, and burning ghosts with an unhealthy taste for blood.
A Dance with Dragons
Mother Mole leads thousands of free folk or wildlings to Hardhome 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 preaches to the free folk that they will find salvation where they once found damnation and she had a vision of ships coming to Hardhome to sail them south.
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.
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 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.
Hardhome is an unholy place, it’s said. Cursed.