Hillemør's Riddle - A Union Of Earth Legend

Discussion in 'Player Stories' started by MrsCripple, Nov 17, 2021.

  1. MrsCripple

    MrsCripple Fiber Viber Supremium

    Sep 25, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Hillemør's Riddle
    A Velheim legend, traditionally passed down through spoken word
    Transcribed and translated by Valsung Sivrid Sorenvik


    It had been twenty days since Julva had last seen another person. From the first step out of the small village that sat at the base of this forested mountain, it had been her alone with the trees. Each mile, each hour, each day, had been characterized by the crunching of autumn leaves under her boots, and wind in the branches overhead, and birdsongs that began to grow softer and softer as the dropping temperature forced any sensible animals South. But Julva, against the recommendation of the village, continued North.

    She did not suffer for her lack of distractions. In the young woman’s mind, a thousand stories played out, verbatim from the orators she’d originally adopted them from. The ruddy color of the leaves reminded her of the hair of the Valsung of Stilleskog, and how she had sung to sleep an army of wandering draugr. The sting of the wind reminded her of the ballad of Raserivinter, a Winter so cold that it was thought even Maersjel struggled to quell Basjtur’s heart for a time, though ultimately prevailed with the coming of the greenest Spring known to the world. Story after story, legend after legend, ran through her mind in prose and poetry, keeping her spirit lifted.

    But there was one story, which caused her to suffer for this damp and dreary forest. A recent legend, if there was such a thing, that she thought she might be the only orator to discover the ending to, if she could find her goal: the grave of Hillemør the Wise.

    Hillemør was known to be a great scholar, and a traveler in his youth, as Julva was now. But he was maddened, so the story goes, when his intellect failed to support his dreams. As the legend says, Hillemør was seeking a tomb of ancient secrets, but was stopped by a vengeful gaudr, who wanted to keep the secrets for itself. Hillemør convinced the spirit to play a game of riddles, and should he prove the greater wit, the gaudr would cease guarding the crypt. When the riddle was spoken, it was said that the scholar spent days beside the tomb, thinking of what he might learn, yearning to become the keeper of once-forbidden knowledge. But, as the days passed by, he could not answer the spectre’s riddle. His supplies ran out, and he was forced to retreat back to his estate.

    When Hillemør returned to the tomb, however, there was no gaudr. He tread within the tomb, anxious that any step might be his last. But he found the tomb only empty. No secrets, no truths. Only a cavernous room, devoid of answers.

    Hillemør was said to have gone so mad over the riddle that he never spoke it to another, for fear that it might bring another once-wisened mind to ruin, as it had ruined his own. His every thought and question were cursed with the knowledge that he had truth within his grasp, and failed to hold it. How could one study, when in their mind, they knew that no truth could be discovered, that was not already pre-written, eager to be read? How could he go on with the doubt of knowing, deep in his mind, that the secrets of the world had been discovered, and he might follow the wrong path, and be only the fool for wasting his years?

    Julva breathed a sharp and bitter breath of the mountain air, deciding not to dwell on the darkness of a story which had no ending. Hillemør’s legend was the story of a man gone mad in his quest for truth; her legend, she had decided, would be to discover what had driven him to madness, and to solve the puzzle of the story. That, she knew, was a tale worth remembering.

    When she reached the crest of the mountain, however, it was not a grave that Julva found, but a hut. Thick furs draped over the door and covered the cracks of the wooden sides, but what perplexed her the most, was that smoke was pouring from the angled roof. Her mouth felt dry, and her eyes stung in the lash of the wind. She moved for the hut, and entered it. Sitting on the dirt floor, before a modest fire, shrouded in the skin of a sheep, was an old man.

    “I have travelled a long way,” her words were hoarse, “And I am seeking…”

    “And you are young and unmannered,” croaked the voice, “To come into my home, and make demands.”

    “I did not make demands,” the argumentative girl replied, “What kind of man lives on such a mountain, and is so cruel to weary guests?”

    “My hospitality is what you travelled to find, is it?” came his voice again, though he did not look up from the fire.

    “No!” Julva grew frustrated.

    “Close the door, you are letting out the heat, girl.”

    “No, I am not-!” she paused, before relenting, and shutting the door behind herself.

    “You seek the grave of the mad old fool, then?”

    “No, I seek the-!” Julva caught her breath, “I mean, yes. Yes, I seek the grave of Hillemør the Wise.”

    “You have found it.”

    The man came to stand. He was not the withered soul she had expected from his voice and his age. He was healthy for his advanced age, and his posture was good. But in his face, and in his eyes, were the years of lonesomeness that had stolen the light from his spirit. There was no lightness in him, only heavy footfalls upon the earthen floor.

    Julva only stood, for some time, watching him. Her mind knew immediately who he was, though her sense told her that it could not be so.

    “Are you… Hillemør?” she asked.

    “There is nothing so useless in this world,” the old man grumbled, as he moved to place a pot over his fire, “Than to ask a question which one already knows the answer to.” From his fingers came a sprinkle of dried leaves, falling into the water. “You have come to seek the riddle which I could not solve,” he continued, “You will turn back. Like every other. And you will tell of my grave, and let my story fade from memory. From existence, in this world.”

    “No,” Julva stood firmly.

    “The Winter here is cruel, child,” his voice sounded more frail, “The wind bites like a thousand wolves. The trees groan and ache under the weight of snow that does not cease. The animals abandon us, as does the sun.”

    But Julva didn’t move from her place, except to move to Hillemør’s cabinets, and begin to rummage through them. She found an earthenware cup, and sat beside him, while he brewed his tea.

    This was the way of things. Hillemør would threaten, he would chide, he would say anything to convince the girl to go. But as days passed by, the nights grew longer, and the air grew colder. And still, Julva remained. With time she began to learn of his routines. Eventually there came a day, when before Hillemør could arise, Julva was mixing herbs to brew his tea, and tending his fire with dutiful hands. The winter continued on, through storm and bellow, until the days stopped changing altogether. It was night, for hours and hours, days and days. In the throws of this dark and gruesome winter, Julva did not relent in her insistence for Hillemør’s riddle.

    By this time, it had become clear that she could not leave the hut, even to travel to the village at the foot of the mountain. The chores became harder, but Hillemør had begun commanding her to do them. To haul wood in the darkness, when clouds covered the moon. To grind herbs and chase bugs from the straw of their beds. To mend, with frigid cold fingers, and with hands that could hardly be washed lest they grow wet and freeze. But Julva, instead of growing resentful of the man, began to feel a softness in her heart.

    What a hard life it must be, she thought, to have to live in this place alone. To know that winter would mean likely death, and to pray only to be forgotten, as one suffered in the endless silence. There was even a time when Hillemør grew sick, and she treated him by soaking his preserved foods in hot water to make soup, and layed extra blankets across his feet, until he recovered.

    And he was not poor for conversation. He began to look forward to Julva’s tales from the world, stories old and new. The sound of her voice was a welcome reprieve from the endless howl of the winds, and the groaning of the forest. He began to tell her jokes. Then, stories of his own life. And finally, the legends and tales he had gathered, over a lifetime of study.

    Daybreak began to shine, again. The nights were able to end. And when the gentle song of birds finally began to utter past the walls of the hut, the winter came to end.

    “You, my girl, dear girl, are clever,” Hillemør’s words came now with a softness in his tone. He was fond, and gentle to her. “You know more stories in your youth than many could bear to remember, even at my age.”

    “I have room for one more, at least,” she smiled in turn. Hillemør, however, lost his smile. His weathered hand stroked her hair, doting over how it had grown darker through the long night.

    “I have decided to tell you, long ago,” he muttered, “but I kept it from you.” Julva’s face showed her betrayal.

    “Why would you torture me?” she asked, “Why did you torment me with an answer out of reach, even if you knew I was worthy of it?”

    “I knew that you would stay, so long as I held the secret you sought. I knew you would not abandon your quest. But I know, too, the will of the young. Once a goal is achieved, it is no longer satisfying. And blessed girl, I cared too much for you, to let you leave this place with your answers, never to return to me.” The old man looked away from her, in shame. “But I will release you, now. Give you your legend, and give you back to the world, to brighten it. Here is your riddle, my dearest girl:

    “What lies within is not a crown
    Nor axe, nor bones, nor script.
    Only one thing, beyond reason,
    Out of reach, out of touch, beyond wit.”

    Julva thought for some time, and when she spoke, so clearly came the answer from her lips that Hillemør felt the air exit his chest in a single moment. But this moment passed, as did the next, until he had sat for so long in silence that Julva had to rouse him by the shoulder.

    “Do you think I have solved it?” she asked, her voice hardly a murmur.

    “Yes, child,” Hillemør replied gravely, “But it is not the answer, anymore.”

    Editorial note: Discourse of this tale

    The legend of Hillemør’s Riddle is perhaps the most perplexing of the ancient tales, for which no ending is given beyond ambiguity and the implication of a parable. What is known is that Julva did leave Hillemør’s mountain and continue on her journeys, collecting stories, and sharing the wisdom she’d gained in his company. But, to the surprise of the old man, she was not lost to him. Often she would return to his mountain, to be in his company and to share new legends she had learned. And when he became so old and weary that he could not endure another winter, he had even descended the mountain with her, to live his remaining years in warmth and happy company again, once more orating for bright-eyed children and nostalgic elderly listeners.

    So the discussion among faithfuls who listen to this legend as a tale of the Union of Earth is, naturally, about the nature of the riddle. They debate whether a riddle can have two answers, or if an answer can change over time. If so, how? Through the perspective of youth, or the wisdom of old age? It is discussed what may have lied beyond Hillemør’s reach, in the tomb, and why it had vanished when he returned.

    Hillemør’s reluctance to share the truth is also considered philosophical for scholars among the Velheim. From his search for it, his obsession with it, to his unwillingness to share it with others. And ultimately, the joy and peace he found, when his younger companion was able to solve the mystery that may have died with him. Julva is, in this way, not only a guide for scholars to be clever and persistent, but also to be the force of sharing knowledge with others.

    In the end, perhaps only the Maarda of Handrin will know what the answer to his riddle was, if there was any answer at all.
    • Powerful Powerful x 17
    • Winner Winner x 3
    • Like Like x 2
    • Creative Creative x 1
    #1 MrsCripple, Nov 17, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2022
  2. MrsCripple

    MrsCripple Fiber Viber Supremium

    Sep 25, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Thank you for reading! I really enjoy writing these legends for the Old Gods, and please feel free to reference them IC or ponder over them IC with Siv sometime if your character is a fan of musty old tales with ambiguous endings. This one's probably the longest so far, but I still have another to go! If you enjoyed this, I'll link the other finished legends below.

    Union of Water Legend
    Union of Air Legend
    Union of Fire Legend
    • Powerful Powerful x 3
    • Immersive Immersive x 1
    #2 MrsCripple, Nov 17, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2022

Share This Page