The Histories of the Realm of Beardsgaard by Beardsgaard | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil
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The Quest for Hearthstone

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The temperate southern reaches of Midgard make up the southmost map edge of the kingdom of Beardenheim, home of the men of the realm of Beardsgaard.

When Haeredion was a child, too young to remember this story from aught but his mother’s telling, he left home, setting out beyond the hill at the edge of their village. When he was returned a week later by a fisherman, he told his mother how he had been studying his father’s maps and had wondered what lay beyond the edge of the page.

Their village was lettered near the bottom right edge, and in his young mind, if he walked southeast, he could walk right to the edge of the world, which he imagined ended in a square corner, like a piece of parchment. It had not, it had simply ended in the Southern Sea, as did the south of Shavehalla, it’s spectacular sights detailed well on his father’s maps.

His father had been a mapmaker, and while he had had a hand in bringing Haeredion into the world, he had been with his family for little else. Instead, he traveled the world, charting its forms and features, and returning home every year to redraw his evolving masterpiece, a master map of the known world, bigger and wider and with more detail than the year before.

The year young Haeredion had set off exploring had reminded his father that he still needed to flesh out the southeast, and he did, despite there being little of note there, save for the rolling hills and filament-fine streams and ponds that flowed through the tranquil landscape.

As Haeredion grew, he explored the nearby edges of his father’s maps, setting out to the east to find great mountains interspersed with wide plains, and small villages much like his own. He would leave those dull parts to his father to explore, he decided. He had his eye set toward more exciting places.

After he had traveled the south and east, Haeredion set out north through the massive mountain ranges of Nidavellir, and eventually close to Jotunheim, before he was turned back as much by the brutal cold and hard terrain that he had not prepared for adequately as because of the fact that his father’s yearly homecoming was nigh.

So he returned to his village, but when he did, his father had not yet. So he and his mother waited, for days, then weeks that stretched into months. The previous year, Haeredion’s father had told him of the northwestern forests of the elves that seemed to go on forever, and of the wild northern reaches where even the elves and animals were scarce.

These forests were cold and dark, but no matter the time of year, summer never came, nor did winter or spring. Instead they rested in a bleak waning autumn, sprouting leaves and grasses that were new one moment before coming ablaze with color, and returning to crisp, dry browns again and falling. The forests there in the far northwest of the realm held mysteries, indeed, and Haeredion’s father had intended to reveal them. Or at least map them.

Whether he had been distracted, waylaid, hurt or killed along the way, Haeredion and his mother had no way to know, and very likely no way to find him in the uncharted lands he was hard bent to chart. So it was not precisely in search of his father that Haeredion left home that spring, but to continue the journey.

Perhaps he would find his father along the way, but Haeredion’s mother had long prepared them both for the possibility that the man would not return from one of his adventures. More than anything, Haeredion burned to find the edge of the map and peek beyond it. He wanted to see the ends of the earth.

And so he traveled along the rocky spine of the Maegorod Mountains that separated Beardenheim from Shavehalla, before crossing the great river Sírphen into Manegard, the land of the elves. He lost himself in the deep forests of Alfheim, which gave way to shimmering cities among the trees that seemed made of moonlight.

He hunted the plentiful woodland game, and foraged berries, roots and mushrooms. He spoke to the light elves, a few of whom had crossed paths with a human cartographer, but remembered little else of such a simple creature.

After a time traveling east, he turned north to pass in the direction the elves told him his father had gone, between the dark elves of Svartalfheim and the Vanir of Vanaheim. To his east he saw gleaming yellow eyes of either the dark elves or the night creatures, flashing in the darkness.

But neither the eyes, the elves, nor the night creatures set in him a sense of unease as did the deafening quiet, deep, inky green boughs and velvet blackness that lay to the west.

The nights he spent in that place were hardly distinguishable from the days. When he set camp and made fire, the light seemed penned in by the encircling dark, save for the flames dancing in eyes watching from the east. The crackle of fire on wood popped and hissed in short sputters before being eaten by the enveloping silence of the west.

But as Haeredion crept ever on, and his supplies of food and water dwindled, the peering eyes fell away from his path, and he finally felt alone. The dead silence of the western woods gave way to crunchy leaves, and rustling winds again, and he realized how much he had missed sounds that carried on without his help.

The game had disappeared in this part of the forest, and autumn had taken hold of the land here long enough that there was nothing growing to be eaten. The ground was hard and dry. Rain had not fallen here for some time, and he had found no brooks, streams or rivers along his path.

But as night drew near again, Haeredion came to a clear spot among the trees at the edge of a weathered cliff where they opened their branches to present their guest with a view of the valley below. Night was spreading out its blanket over the wilds as he built another fire - just a small one this night for warmth, as he had nothing left to cook.

As he rubbed his stiff, cold hands together, preparing to strike flint to make his fire, the corner of his eye caught a fleck of copper far off in the distance. The gleaming light across the valley danced softly, and Haeredion was certain it was fire.

After having seen nothing and no one for days in this forgotten part of the world, his heart leapt. But the flame shone its light from many dark leagues away, and he knew he could not make it to its source at night.

So he struck his flint, made a fire that cast its light high and far, and slept a fitful sleep until the sun rose behind the slate grey cloud cover. There was no sun to be seen, but it was light, and he struck our at a faster pace than he had his entire journey, gnawing belly pains and parched throat not slowing his anticipation.

It was nearing dark again by the time he reached the source of the flame. As he neared the bright spot in the endless woods, he saw the first signs of life that he had seen since the shining elven cities and the eyes in the darkness. But it was not life, not anymore.

Great stone walls with broken rooms, threaded by petrified tree roots stood sentinel among the surround forests structures so old that they were crumbling ruins even in this young time of the world. He followed the bright edges around the maze of tall stone walls until his path dumped him out in the open glade in the center of the ruins.

On a short rocky pedestal rested a perfectly round and smooth orb. It could have been a fire opal, had the flames inside not been dancing for him.

And if precious stones the size of horse's heads were abundant in the realm, surely he would have heard tell of such a thing in his travels.

Haeredion stepped into the glade toward the stone, and had he not known better, he would have sworn he had smelled bread baking for a moment. Then the scent left him with just the crisp dryness of the leaves passing his nose.

He stepped forward and felt the warmth of the flame reaching out toward him, carrying with it the warm sweetness of the rolled beeswax candles his mother made and burned back home. Haeredion kept moving toward the stone until he was right beside it. He set down his empty pack and perched himself upon a log near the wonderful warmth of the enchanting stone.

His eyes swam in the flames, contained within the stone like a world unto itself. The scents kept passing by him before disappearing again, sweet fruit stewed with spices, coffee, pepper, tobacco from his father’s pipe.

He hadn’t noticed his hand reaching for his pack until his fingers touched something soft and warm. He looked down and moved aside the cloth wrapping around what turned out to be a loaf of deep brown rye bread.

Before he had even torn a piece off the loaf, his rumbling belly quieted and filled. He was warm. The log felt softer than logs have any business being. A quiet thought passed through his head that his father was surely nearby.

Haeredion decided he would just wait here, his father would return shortly, and then together they would head home. Easy as pie. Or rye bread. Just head inside, mother was waiting. He sipped at the cool mug of ale on the upended log next to him, and packed a pipe of tobacco. He was quite looking forward to the stewed fruits for desert.

Morning broke, dim and grey as it always was here. A doormouse popped its head out between a hollow in the ruined stones. Its eyes blinked wide and it scurried over near the quietly flickering orb to snatch the few crumbs that scattered the ground. It slurped up drops of the bitter but somehow delicious wetness spilt on a flat stone.

The tiny rodent peeked into the hardcloth sack that had been left tipped over on the ground, and found a few more crumbs. Satisfied that it had just started off the day in an excellent manner, the doormouse scampered back to its hole in the wall, ate a few crumbs, tucked some away for later, and fell fast asleep.

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