User:Mediggo/A Warrior's Heart

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2009 August Shiverpeaks.jpg

Prologue[edit]

Steamspur Mountains.

Eadwyn Fjordrunner did not come to this region of Shiverpeak Mountains often. Before the rise of the Elder Dragons, it had been like the rest of the vast mountain range; cold, snowy, frozen. Wild, even, regardless of the now-gone dwarven civilization that once inhabited the southern Shiverpeaks. In recent generations, thanks to increase in volcanic activity and general warming of Tyria, the frozen ground had melted and previously snow-bent pine forests finally saw seasons other than everlasting winter.

As such, only a few species of honorable, wild beasts remained here, and those which did had grown weaker, unhardened by harsh climate that had ravaged these mountains in past. The region had since then been inhabited by more dangerous creatures; dredge, grawl, undead. However, that sort of prey was more fit for bold warriors than patient hunters, and while Eadwyn was one of the latter, her daughter Eadgyth was definitely the former kind of norn.

Eadwyn's parents had been born in Far Shiverpeaks, the original home of their people. They had known nothing but a generation of defeat, driven from their homestead by the icebrood of Jormag, all the way to ancient dwarven lands... like all the rest of the norn, eventually. The Far Shiverpeaks were now the most dangerous place in all of Tyria, save for Arah, perhaps, but there was little reason to venture there. The city and its people had been dead since its sinking. Nobody who lived could possibly have a longing for their homes in Orr.

Home. For some that word meant a mighty lodge, or a homestead inherited from their ancestors, decorated with trophies, smell of mead, sound of firewood crackling and light flickering from the hearth itself. Or perhaps the sound of smith's hammer pounding a warrior's blade against ages-old anvil or laughter of youthlings. Or a wolf's howl or bear's roar, or a freezing breeze of winter storm or the view of glacier's melting off the way of summer's warmth.

Home is where the heart is, and for many a norn, that meant many of these things. A skaald once said: "Even the greatest of hunters must one day put down their arms and take refuge from merciless nature of the mountains they call their home", though Eadwyn did not know whether the skaald had referred to quiet solace offered by the more comforting side of their home, or the peace of death while knowing that their legend had come to a glorious end.

Hunter's Path[edit]

Eadwyn pressed her ear against a small plot of earth uncovered in snow, listening to underground activity.

"No dredge, no lava flows." determined the ranger. "But there is an uneven echo of continuous tunneling."

"So the wurm is near. Do you think father is still here?" asked Eadgyth. "None of the steaders had heard of him coming here."

The women were north of Krongar Pass, a stone's throw away from Kyesjard, traveling after Eadwyn's mate, Hod, who had come to Steamspur Mountains to seeka great wurm rumored to nest and prey in the southern mountains. His goal was to track down and force the monster back northwards, where it might be used for the year's upcoming Great Hunt. But nobody had heard of Hod for several weeks, and her spouse and daughter had decided to go look for him. Being a champion of the Great Hunt several years earlier, no wurm had ever proven too strong for Hod Frostcleaver to handle, but it was unexpected to not hear of his travels anywhere near the few settlements and homesteads in the southern Shiverpeaks.

"It's hard to say. He might have avoided unnecessary attention on purpose. A crowd sticking to a renown hero does not further the hunt." replied Eadwyn, lifting herself up from the ground to strech, then laid down to listen more.

"Why? I'm sure many would willingly join his side, and wouldn't they have easier time of reining it back north?" asked the warrior again, climbing on a small boulder to better view their surroundings.

"Yes, but stealth is necessary to lull the beast into false sense of security, and to prey on surface. That is not likely to happen if we keep noise, and even if it does, the wurm might just swallow you or your companions instead if it hears you." Eadwyn explained patiently.

Eadgyth was a promising hunter and fighter, but her eagerness to prove herself often set on the way of true prodigy. Not many wild animals populated the area, however, and the terrain was rather rocky, making for an unideal hunting ground for even a hatchling, yet alone for a full-grown behemoth of a wurm. If the beast truly was nearby, it would soon run out of suitable ground; further south to Steamspur Mountains, the climate would turn volcanic and become rid with destroyer activity, while eastern portion of the mountain range was mostly populated by dredge and their machines, which would similiarly cause even a large wurm turn away from the never-ending drilling and sonic sounds employed by the moles. However, if they wouldn't find Hod and his game soon, they'd have to hunt for food and set up a camp for rest. Wurms are most active during nighttime, so daylight was their chance for some rest. They could have stayed at Kyesjard, but this was Eadgyth's first real hunt, and she'd need to learn to take care of herself and survive in harsh, wild mountains as any a norn.

"Sounds like it's heading east. It's possible that it's not afraid of dredge or their drilling." Eadwyn said as she rose up. Her white wolf, Snowfang, who had been laying quietly still near her lifted its head as well, as if to listen for its master's next command.

"I don't mind cutting down a few moles." Eadgyth replied.

Eadwyn shook her head. "Unlike those close to Hoelbrak, these dredge are well-supplied and equipped, and very disciplined. We'd be outnumbered in moments in open battle." she said. "Besides, we still haven't heard of Hod. His tracks would seem to lead southwards as well, and by the sound of tunneling, that is not where the wurm is heading."

"Then what do you want us to do?" Eadgyth asked with a tone of great impatience and frustration, crossing her arms and taking a stand. "If dad is hunting it, he must have noticed the same as you."

Eadwyn gazed southwards to the river dale. "I'm afraid he might strain himself too much. He's been reckless ever since that battle with the icebrood."

Icebrood were not a common sight near Hoelbrak during that time, but the rise of the Dragonspawn had changed all that. Hod was one of the first to battle the dragon champion, and one of the few to survive. He never told anyone what exactly happened, though, and the only proof he had of the encounter with the Dragonspawn was that his axe had frozen in its hand when he had struck to beast; he was forced to flee and cut his way through scores of icebrood with the axe still frozen in his arm. It took a week's effort of the havrouns to beseech the Spirits of the Wild to lift the curse and melt the ice off his hand. Many suspected that he had never recovered fully, and had indeed been acting with much less self-care ever since.

"He'll be fine. There isn't much more to the south except a few tribes of grawl and ettins. He's probably already chased the wurm and forced it turn northwards again." Eadgyth insisted.

Her mother sighed. "Very well. It is your first hunt after all. We shall see if your instincs are right." She then gestured for her wolf to stay, and lifted her left arm up to signal for a raven to land. "Fly south," she said to the grey bird. "And tell me if you see a lonely hunter or a great wurm." and set the raven off to the morning skies.