Appearing: Gared, Waymar Royce, Will
Prologue takes place during a “ranging” (if we can call the patrols of three NW man “ranging”) beyond the Wall. Before the first conversation begins, Will has found a group of wildlings, all dead. (Though we do not see that, they’ve been displayed rather dramatically on the show.) Gared and Will try to convince their commander, Ser Waymar Royce, to head back to the wall and report it, as their job is now done and the said wildlings wouldn’t trouble them anymore.
Ser Waymar continuously mocks them about their reluctance to pursue the patrol and hints of unease. Will can see that this hurts Gared’s pride as he’s been a man of the NW for 40 years and wasn’t accustomed to take orders from “green boys.”
“My mother told me that dead men sing no songs,” [Will] put in.
“My wet nurse said the same thing, Will,” Royce replied, “Never believe anything you hear at a woman’s tit. There are things to be learned from the dead.”
However, Will also observes that Gared does indeed feel uneasy, and shares these feelings himself.
Gared had spent forty years in the Night’s Watch, man and boy, and he was not accustomed to being made light of. Yet it was more than that. Under the wounded pride, Will could sense something else in the older man. You could taste it; a nervous tension that came perilous close to fear.
Then the chapter gives us brief information about Ser Waymar of House Royce. He’s the youngest son of an ancient house which apparently has got too many heirs. He’s described as:
Something was different tonight. There was an edge to this darkness that made his hackles rise. Nine days they had been riding, north and northwest and then north again, farther and farther from the Wall, hard on the track of a band of wildling raiders. Each day had been worse than the day that had come before it. Today was the worst of all. A cold wind was blowing out of the north, and it made the trees rustle like living things. All day, Will had felt as though something were watching him, something cold and implacable that loved him not.
Now, this may sound a tad crackpot but bear with me. Can’t say much about “graceful” and “handsome,” but “slender” and “grey eyed” screams Stark look to me. It has been made clear (in ASoS, I think?) that House Royce and House Stark indeed has blood relations through Edwyle Stark and an unnamed lady of House Royce. Furthermore, when Brandon Stark went to King’s Landing, Kyle Royce was a member of his party. And lastly, the words of House Royce is “We Remember.” The North remembers, anyone? Perhaps it’s just a coincidence or perhaps GRRM wanted to hint a connection between Starks (and their relatives) and the Others right from the Prologue. Just something to consider.
Back to the chapter summary…
Waymar Royce asks Will to tell him everything that he saw, with all the details. There we learn that Will was a poacher who was caught in Mallister land, and that it’s claimed no one else can move in the woods as quickly as he can.
a handsome youth of eighteen, grey-eyed and graceful and slender as a knife.
The discussion continues for some time. Gared suggests that the cold must’ve killed those wildlings, and talks about “ice wind howling from the North” and forty foot deep snows. Will sides with Gared at first, but hesitates when Waymar asks him if he drew any watches this week. Will says that he had, and Waymar Royce asks about the state of the Wall during those watches. Will replies with “weeping.”
“The camp is two miles farther on, over that ridge, hard beside a stream,” Will said. “I got close as I dared. There’s eight of them, men and women both. No children I could see. They put up a lean-to against the rock. The snow’s pretty well covered it now, but I could still make it out. No fire burning, but the firepit was still plain as day. No one moving. I watched a long time. No living man ever lay so still.”
They ride into the night, though they dismount after a while and continue on foot. Once again Gared points out his uneasiness, and claims that there’s something wrong there in the darkness. Ser Waymar mocks him again, not taking his warnings seriously. Then Gared requests a fire, but Waymar denies him again, saying it would draw enemies. Of course by “enemies,” the young commander means wildlings, but Gared feels differently.
“They couldn’t have froze. Not if the Wall was weeping. It wasn’t cold enough.”
Correct me if I’m wrong here, but while fire kills wights, it doesn’t do any damage to the Others, am I right? But it’s entirely possible that they would shy away from it.
They reach the campsite afoot, and Will is shocked to see the wildlings’ bodies are gone. This time, it’s him who voices that something is wrong, yet Ser Waymar silences him too, and tells Will to get up and look for a fire.
“There’s some enemies a fire will keep away,” Gared said. “Bears and direwolves and... and other things...”
This is clearly a reference to the Old Gods, even though the tree he was climbing was not a weirwood tree. And, those of you who’ve read the threads about the importance of iron in supernatural elements of ASOIAF will know that they’re somehow linked to keeping the dead in check. Iron swords in the crypts of Winterfell, Old Nan’s claim of the Others not liking iron, later in the books wights not rising after Jon binds them with iron chains… another coincidence or another hint?
Down below, Waymar Royce calls out and asks who goes there. The only sound they hear is the sound of the woods. (Rustling of leaves, an owl hooting…)
He went to the tree, a vaulting grey-green sentinel, and began to climb. Soon his hands were sticky with sap, and he was lost among the needles. Fear filled his gut like a meal he could not digest. He whispered a prayer to the nameless gods of the wood, and slipped his dirk free of its sheath. He put it between his teeth to keep both hands free for climbing. The taste of cold iron in his mouth gave him comfort.
Will notes that he sees something with the corner of his eye;
The Others made no sound.
I find this “white shadows” description interesting because; 1. Mel’s speech about shadows being the servants of R’hllor and how they can’t live in the dark (which I’m sure we’ll discuss later as the thread moves on), 2. Gilly later describes the Others exactly the same. As “white shadows.”
Waymar then calls out for Will and asks him if he sees anything. He also asks “Why is it so cold?” Is it the Others that bring the cold with them, or do they follow the cold? Sam wonders about this later, too. Will doesn’t answer.
Pale shapes gliding through the wood. He turned his head, glimpsed a white shadow in the darkness.
Again, the description includes the word “shadow.” Interesting.
Waymar Royce instructs “it” to come no further. Will notes that he grew afraid now, because his voice cracked like a boy’s. He also observes that the wind had stopped, yet it was very cold.
The Other comes forward, making no sound as he walks. He was holding a queer sword in his hand, which Will thinks that it wasn’t human made.
A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood. It stood in front of Royce. Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took. Will heard the breath go out of Ser Waymar Royce in a long hiss.
Ser Waymar meets the other bravely and they start dueling. Will then sees the Other’s eyes. Blue, too blue to be humanly, “a blue that burned like ice.” More Others emerge from the shadows (at least five of them), and Will thinks that he should call out as it is his duty to do so, but he gets scared, and keeps hiding on the tree silently.
The Other and Ser Waymar keep fighting for a time. Will makes a note of how strange the sound of their blades crashing against each other is.
It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge-on. There was a faint blue shimmer to the thing, a ghost-light that played around its edges, and somehow Will knew it was sharper than any razor.
The sword of the Other is obviously no metal, as Will speculates earlier. I’ve no guess as to what it could be, yet I’ve a crackpot theory about that material (and the armor of the Others) being somewhat of an anti-dragonglass. A sort of material that can only be found in the Lands of Always Winter, perhaps?
The fight continues until Ser Waymar is wounded, and finally, his steel shatters. Right before the blade shattered, though, the Other says something in a language that Will did not know (but he thought the Other sounded mocking.) Is this the tongue of the First Men which some wildlings and giants still speak? Or is it a language unique to the Others?
The “watchers” (the Others who were watching the fight) move forward towards Waymar Royce, who’s now on his knees. The swords rise and fall, all in silence. Will describes this as “cold butchery.” He covers his eyes and keeps hiding. When he looked again, the area was empty.
Will climbs down and finds only the body of Waymar Royce. The Others had vanished. He notes how young he looks in death, and takes his shattered blade, thinking to show it as a proof when he makes back to the Wall.
When the blades met, there was no ring of metal on metal; only a high, thin sound at the edge of hearing, like an animal screaming in pain.
One more crackpot theory of mine. Later on, when Jon kills a wight, they note that the wight knew where to find the Lord Commander. Melisandre goes on and on about how “the bones remember.” Is it possible that when people become wights, they aren’t entirely “gone”? If so, perhaps Waymar Royce was angry at Will for not coming to help him? Just something to think about.
The chapter ends with Waymar-wight reaching out to Will, his fingers closing around Will’s throat. Gloved in the finest moleskin and sticky with blood, yet the touch is still “icy cold.
ETA: This is my very first re-read summary post. Ever. So I hope I did okay. Be nice, you lot.
Will rose. Ser Waymar Royce stood over him.
His fine clothes were a tatter, his face a ruin. A shard from his sword transfixed the blind white pupil of his left eye.
The right eye was open. The pupil burned blue. It saw.
Edited by The Pack Survives, 05 November 2012 - 10:28 AM.