'The Killing Word' -- A Re-examination of the Prologue

ravenous reader
By ravenous reader in General (ASoIaF),
The title of this thread -- 'The Killing Word' -- takes its name from Frank Herbert's Dune, upon which the movie adaptation is based in which we are introduced to a form of unconventional warfare called the 'weirding way' whereby a word can assume the power of 'magical thinking,' exacting its embodied intention materially in devastating fashion.  Basically, a weaponized thought; a materialized fantasy.  GRRM has his own version of this language, which I will be tentatively exploring here via a re-examination of the Prologue, stimulated by recent threads by @Crowfood's Daughter and @GloubieBoulga, who have both insinuated that some archetypal struggle may be at work, and that accordingly the Prologue ought to be read as an allegory; in addition to @Seams whose 'words'-'swords' wordplay has been pivotal.  To be honest, the conclusions I've drawn are a bit unbelievable -- even for me -- but as I've said before, I'll go wherever the language takes me!  And this is where I've arrived. Paul:   'Some thoughts have a certain sound, that being the equivalent to a form.  Through sound and motion, you will be able to paralyze nerves, shatter bones, set fires, suffocate an enemy or burst his organs. We will kill until no Harkonnen breathes Arakeen air.'  'My own name is a killing word.  Will it be a healing word as well?' This is Bran's dilemma, as I understand it.  Will he use his greenseer power -- once he's mastered 'the True Tongue ' (which is basically ASOIAF's equivalent of Dune's 'killing word') -- for good or evil?  Will he choose to stand idly by while his brother (Jon) dies; or will he rather die himself for the sake of another? Let's talk about someone who doesn't have this dilemma: As @OtherFromAnotherMother notes, 'Euron's crow compares with LF's mockingbird. Both killed a king while keeping their hands clean.'  As I've mentioned before,  the three prologue 'brothers' can be interpreted as an allegory for an archetypal struggle at the heart of the saga.  What I'm finding is that the tricksy crow brother, naughty Shakespearean greenseer Will, not only failed to call out a warning, but did something far worse than that.  The language implies that he was the one responsible for calling, basically summoning, the Others with his sorcerous words -- the treacherous prayer he 'whispered' to the nameless gods of the wood (i.e. the Others) --  in effect leading to the death of his brother when those 'nameless gods' appeared on cue, while 'keeping his hands clean.'  Indeed, it was 'cold butchery'!  He stayed up the tree silently observing the action from a distance (the way his grey-green brother-in-arms LF did with Joffrey).  The telltale sign that he is tainted, however, is the 'sticky sap' like blood against his cheek -- and on his hands.   While we're on the subject of 'mocking' as in 'Mocking bird', consider that an awful lot of mocking goes on in the Prologue, with condescending, supercilious, all florid adjectives apply, Ser Waymar as the main perpetrator.  @Pain killer Jane and I were recently having a fruitful discussion on the subject of moths and mocking (yes, there is a connection!) which made me realize that those who mock inevitably find themselves mocked in turn, in line with the theme of the 'hunters becoming the hunted' classic GRRM switcheroo.  Littlefinger is one of the greatest mockers: A Game of Thrones - Eddard XV I failed you, Robert, Ned thought. He could not say the words. I lied to you, hid the truth. I let them kill you. Cracks ran down his face, fissures opening in the flesh, and he reached up and ripped the mask away. It was not Robert at all; it was Littlefinger, grinning, mocking him. When he opened his mouth to speak, his lies turned to pale grey moths and took wing.The king heard him. "You stiff-necked fool," he muttered, "too proud to listen. Can you eat pride, Stark? Will honor shield your children?" Then there's this interesting quote about what happens to one when one mocks a warlock: A Clash of Kings - Daenerys V Dany had laughed when he told her. "Was it not you who told me warlocks were no more than old soldiers, vainly boasting of forgotten deeds and lost prowess?" Xaro looked troubled. "And so it was, then. But now? I am less certain. It is said that the glass candles are burning in the house of Urrathon Night-Walker, that have not burned in a hundred years. Ghost grass grows in the Garden of Gehane, phantom tortoises have been seen carrying messages between the windowless houses on Warlock's Way, and all the rats in the city are chewing off their tails. The wife of Mathos Mallarawan, who once mocked a warlock's drab moth-eaten robe, has gone mad and will wear no clothes at all. Even fresh-washed silks make her feel as though a thousand insects were crawling on her skin. And Blind Sybassion the Eater of Eyes can see again, or so his slaves do swear. A man must wonder." He sighed. "These are strange times in Qarth. And strange times are bad for trade. It grieves me to say so, yet it might be best if you left Qarth entirely, and sooner rather than later." Xaro stroked her fingers reassuringly. "You need not go alone, though. You have seen dark visions in the Palace of Dust, but Xaro has dreamed brighter dreams. I see you happily abed, with our child at your breast. Sail with me around the Jade Sea, and we can yet make it so! It is not too late. Give me a son, my sweet song of joy!" Give you a dragon, you mean. "I will not wed you, Xaro." A warlock does not forget (nor forgive) a slight -- elsewhere this is confirmed: A Storm of Swords - Daenerys I "Hear my voice then, Your Grace," the exile said. "This Arstan Whitebeard is playing you false. He is too old to be a squire, and too well spoken to be serving that oaf of a eunuch." Dany could not say.Was she an enemy too, or only a dangerous friend? Most of the Dothraki would be against her as well. Khal Drogo's kos led khalasars of their own now, and none of them would hesitate to attack her own little band on sight, to slay and slave her people and drag Dany herself back to Vaes Dothrak to take her proper place among the withered crones of the dosh khaleen. She hoped that Xaro Xhoan Daxos was not an enemy, but the Quartheen merchant had coveted her dragons. And there was Quaithe of the Shadow, that strange woman in the red lacquer mask with all her cryptic counsel. the warlock Pyat Pree had sent a Sorrowful Man after her to avenge the Undying she'd burned in their House of Dust. Warlocks never forgot a wrong, it was said, and the Sorrowful Men never failed to kill. That does seem queer, Dany had to admit. Strong Belwas was an ex-slave, bred and trained in the fighting pits of Meereen. Magister Illyrio had sent him to guard her, or so Belwas claimed, and it was true that she needed guarding. The Usurper on his Iron Throne had offered land and lordship to any man who killed her. One attempt had been made already, with a cup of poisoned wine. The closer she came to Westeros, the more likely another attack became. Back in Qarth, In both of these two examples, in response to having been mocked, the 'warlock' acts out his murderous revenge fantasies via an intermediary -- the 'moths taking wing' sent by Littlefinger (mocked from his perspective by Brandon Stark in the duel, by Catelyn Tully for rejecting him, and by both their families for basically lording it over him) , and the Sorrowful Men sent by Pyat Pree (mocked by Dany who burnt the House of the Undying and its putrid heart).  Analogously, I'm maintaining that Will -- the warlock equivalent -- 'sent' the Others against his own brother.  Think of the sorcerous invocation involved as hiring a Faceless Man assassin in order to effect a desired kin(g)slaying!  As Dany muses above, sometimes it's difficult to tell ones enemies from 'dangerous friends'... In terms of the first example, the mocked warlock got his revenge on the mocking woman via a sinister mirroring of what she had inflicted on him by her mockery.  So, for example, because she mocked his drab, moth-eaten clothes, he 'counter-mocked' her by making it impossible for her to wear any clothes at all, reducing her to humiliating nudity, and cursing her with the excruciating tactile sensation of moths crawling all over her body, with the added suggestion they may be consuming her. Turning again to the prologue, let's parse some of the important 'mocking' with its corresponding mirror'counter-mocking': "We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The wildlings are dead.”

“Do the dead frighten you?” Ser Waymar Royce asked with just the hint of a smile.  Waymar mocks Gared.  -- >>>  The ironic 'counter-mocking' revenge will involve Waymar being very frightened by the dead indeed! Gared did not rise to the bait. He was an old man, past fifty, and he had seen the lordlings come and go. “Dead is dead,” he said. “We have no business with the dead.”

“Are they dead?” Royce asked softly. “What proof have we?”

“Will saw them,” Gared said. “If he says they are dead, that’s proof enough for me.”

Will had known they would drag him into the quarrel sooner or later. He wished it had been later rather than sooner. “My mother told me that dead men sing no songs,” he 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 even from the dead.” His voice echoed, too loud in the twilit forest. In a reversal of fortune -- >>> by the end, Waymar will lose his voice.  In fact, he'll be mercilessly silenced.  The mocking will end. “We have a long ride before us,” Gared pointed out. “Eight days, maybe nine. And night is falling.” It's dusk, liminal time prefacing night; in symbolic terms, prefacing the Long Night.  Accordingly, the Prologue with the bickering Night's Watch 'brothers' can be read as an allegory for the quarrel between actual brothers which was instrumental in ushering in the Long Night.  In line with @LmL's moon meteor hypothesis, which posits that night fell as a consequence of falling objects from the heavens above, 'falling' is a good word choice here!  It also evokes 'Winterfell' and that whole equivocal debate surrounding its origins, implying that the brothers responsible for the Long Night are likely to have been Stark progenitors.  It's important to note that 'Winter fell' may refer to the Stark responsibility both for bringing on the Long Night, as well as bringing it to a close -- employing Winter as a weapon against ones enemies (and brothers!) versus also defeating that same out-of-control weapon, ultimately. Ser Waymar Royce glanced at the sky with disinterest. “It does that every day about this time. Are you unmanned by the dark, Gared?” More mocking by the annoying Ser Waymar.  He's really beginning to remind me of Renly (the upstart 'green boy') taunting Stannis (the stern 'grey beard') with that peach! In response to the aspersions cast at his manhood -->>> Waymar will be literally 'unmanned by the [forces of the] dark' -- first he will be killed by the Others, and then rise as an undead wight, so he will no longer be a man, strictly speaking! Will could see the tightness around Gared’s mouth, the barely suppressed anger in his eyes under the thick black hood of his cloak. 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.

Will shared his unease. He had been four years on the Wall.The first time he had been sent beyond, all the old stories had come rushing back, and his bowels had turned to water. He had laughed about it afterward. He was a veteran of a hundred rangings by now, and the endless dark wilderness that the southron called the haunted forest had no more terrors for him.

Until tonight. 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. Gared had felt it too. Will wanted nothing so much as to ride hellbent for the safety of the Wall, but that was not a feeling to share with your commander.

Especially not a commander like this one.

Ser Waymar Royce was the youngest son of an ancient house with too many heirs. He was a handsome youth of eighteen, grey-eyed and graceful and slender as a knife. Mounted on his huge black destrier, the knight towered above Will and Gared on their smaller garrons. He wore black leather boots, black woolen pants, black moleskin gloves, and a fine supple coat of gleaming black ringmail over layers of black wool and boiled leather. Ser Waymar had been a Sworn Brother of the Night’s Watch for less than half a year, but no one could say he had not prepared for his vocation. At least insofar as his wardrobe was concerned. Snappy dresser playing at being king -- definitely a kind of Renly!

His cloak was his crowning glory; sable, thick and black and soft as sin. “Bet he killed them all himself, he did,” Gared told the barracks over wine, “twisted their little heads off, our mighty warrior.” They had all shared the laugh. Here the brothers are being uncharitable and mocking their commander.  Ironically, he will end up having the last laugh on them when he twists one of their heads off!

It is hard to take orders from a man you laughed at in your cups, Will reflected as he sat shivering atop his garron. Gared must have felt the same. The other brothers are resentful of being mocked and ordered around by this ingenue.

“Mormont said as we should track them, and we did,” Gared said. “They’re dead. They shan’t trouble us no more. There’s hard riding before us. I don’t like this weather. If it snows, we could be a fortnight getting back, and snow’s the best we can hope for. Ever seen an ice storm, my lord?” Waymar's about to find out what an 'ice storm' looks and feels like!

The lordling seemed not to hear him. He studied the deepening twilight in that half-bored, half-distracted way he had. Will had ridden with the knight long enough to understand that it was best not to interrupt him when he looked like that. “Tell me again what you saw, Will. All the details. Leave nothing out.”

Will had been a hunter before he joined the Night’s Watch. Well, a poacher in truth. Mallister freeriders had caught him red-handed in the Mallisters’ own woods, skinning one of the Mallisters’ own bucks, and it had been a choice of putting on the black or losing a hand. No one could move through the woods as silent as Will, and it had not taken the black brothers long to discover his talent. Will is the greenseer or warlock equivalent.  Like a greenseer, he is 'silent', a 'watcher', almost one of the trees.  But he's not a harmless 'tree hugger', an innocent, nature-loving bystander necessarily.  He's a hunter, a poacher, a thief, caught 'red-handed skinning a buck' on the eagle's estate (so he's a Promethean highflyer, hubristic overreacher, like the Red Wanderer or Thief who dares to veer off orbit, encroaching where he's 'not 'sposed to be,' and move 'in to the Moonmaid' )  Note, GRRM's clever little line 'No one could move through the woods as silent as Will'.  Ha ha.  In other words, there is someone with whom Will is identified -- the nameless, faceless gods of the wood, or Others.  It breaks down like this:  The greenseer-orchestrator sits in the central control hub of the tree's 'engine room' (that's the interconnecting root system of the 'weirnet') from which the Others -- the intermediary assassins -- are dispatched!  The greenseer is the king and the Others are his Hands.  That's why the leaves of the weirwood are described as 'bloodstained hands.'  The greenseer orders the murder, keeping his hands clean like LF and Euron, while the faceless assassins, the Others, get their hands dirty! 'He wants the head that spoke the words, not just the hand that swung the sword.' -Tyrion IX, aSoS That's the greenseer: 'The head that speaks the words.'  That's the Others:  'the hand that swings the sword.' These words of a greenseer or warlock can be treacherous.  In fact, I've recently discovered that etymologically the word 'warlock' at base means 'oathbreaker' or 'one in league with the devil' trafficking in poisonous words: warlock (n.)  Old English wærloga "traitor, liar, enemy, devil," from wær "faith, fidelity; a compact, agreement, covenant," from Proto-Germanic *wera- (source also of Old High German wara "truth," Old Norse varar "solemn promise, vow"), from PIE *were-o- "true, trustworthy" (see very, also Varangian). Second element is an agent noun related to leogan "to lie" (see lie (v.1); and compare Old English wordloga "deceiver, liar"). 

Original primary sense seems to have been "oath-breaker;" given special application to the devil (c. 1000), but also used of giants and cannibals. Meaning "one in league with the devil" is recorded from c. 1300. Ending in -ck (1680s) and meaning "male equivalent of a witch" (1560s) are from Scottish. Related: Warlockery As we've mentioned, warlocks, basically greenseers, have a penchant to seek revenge on those who have 'mocked' them.  For example, the first thing Bran our budding greenseer does on emerging from the crypts together with his 'woodswitchy' sidekick Osha is curse those who have sacked and burned Winterfell, by appealing to the Others with the idiom 'the Others take them' -- which now in retrospect may not be so figurative after all! A Clash of Kings - Bran VII Osha called softly through the blowing smoke as they went, but no one answered. They saw one dog worrying at a corpse, but he ran when he caught the scents of the direwolves; the rest had been slain in the kennels. The maester's ravens were paying court to some of the corpses, while the crows from the broken tower attended others. Bran recognized Poxy Tym, even though someone had taken an axe to his face. One charred corpse, outside the ashen shell of Mother's sept, sat with his arms drawn up and his hands balled into hard black fists, as if to punch anyone who dared approach him. "If the gods are good," Osha said in a low angry voice, "the Others will take them that did this work." "It was Theon," Bran said blackly.  [watch out Theon...Words are wind, and ...the Cold winds are rising...Winter is coming for you!] "No. Look." She pointed across the yard with her spear. "That's one of his ironmen. And there. And that's Greyjoy's warhorse, see? The black one with the arrows in him." She moved among the dead, frowning. "And here's Black Lorren." He had been hacked and cut so badly that his beard looked a reddish-brown now. "Took a few with him, he did." Osha turned over one of the other corpses with her foot. "There's a badge. A little man, all red." [watch out Boltons...Winter is coming for you too!]
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.”:

“Did you see any blood?”

“Well, no,” Will admitted.

“Did you see any weapons?”

“Some swords, a few bows. One man had an axe. Heavy-looking, double-bladed, a cruel piece of iron. It was on the ground beside him, right by his hand.”

“Did you make note of the position of the bodies?”

Will shrugged. “A couple are sitting up against the rock. Most of them on the ground. Fallen, like.”

“Or sleeping,” Royce suggested.

“Fallen,” Will insisted. “There’s one woman up an ironwood, halfhid in the branches. A far-eyes.” He smiled thinly. “I took care she never saw me. When I got closer, I saw that she wasn’t moving neither.” Despite himself, he shivered.

“You have a chill?” Royce asked.

“Some,” Will muttered. “The wind, m’lord.”

The young knight turned back to his grizzled man-at-arms. Frostfallen leaves whispered past them, and Royce’s destrier moved restlessly. “What do you think might have killed these men, Gared?” Ser Waymar asked casually. He adjusted the drape of his long sable cloak.

“It was the cold,” Gared said with iron certainty. “I saw men freeze last winter, and the one before, when I was half a boy.Everyone talks about snows forty foot deep, and how the ice wind comes howling out of the north, but the real enemy is the cold. It steals up on you quieter than Will, and at first you shiver and your teeth chatter and you stamp your feet and dream of mulled wine and nice hot fires. It burns, it does. Nothing burns like the cold. But only for a while. Then it gets inside you and starts to fill you up, and after a while you don’t have the strength to fight it. It’s easier just to sit down or go to sleep. They say you don’t feel any pain toward the end. First you go weak and drowsy, and everything starts to fade, and then it’s like sinking into a sea of warm milk. Peaceful, like.”

“Such eloquence, Gared,” Ser Waymar observed. “I never suspected you had it in you.” More mocking from Waymar, making light of how men are killed by the cold (particularly insensitive considering Gared has already lost several body parts to frostbite).  In response -->>> Waymar will be killed by the cold (Others) and lose his eye! Waymar mocks the other ranger for his 'eloquent words' -->>> Later he will be undone by Will's whispered prayer -- i.e. 'eloquence' he will not suspect Will had in him!

“I’ve had the cold in me too, lordling.” Gared pulled back his hood, giving Ser Waymar a good long look at the stumps where his ears had been. “Two ears, three toes, and the little finger off my left hand. I got off light. We found my brother frozen at his watch, with a smile on his face.”

Ser Waymar shrugged. “You ought dress more warmly, Gared.” Waymar's callous mocking continues.  -- >>> Soon he will literally 'have the cold in him' too!

Gared glared at the lordling, the scars around his ear holes flushed red with anger where Maester Aemon had cut the ears away. “We’ll see how warm you can dress when the winter comes.” He pulled up his hood and hunched over his garron, silent and sullen. Gared's pretty upset with the 'lordling' here.  Maybe I'm mistakenly saddling Will with all the responsibility for the curse.  Perhaps his brother Gared also said a 'silent prayer' of his own, releasing all that pent-up anger and frustration (release the 'Id' from the tree, I say...)!

“If Gared said it was the cold . . .” Will began.

“Have you drawn any watches this past week, Will?”

“Yes, m’lord.” There never was a week when he did not draw a dozen bloody watches. What was the man driving at?

“And how did you find the Wall?”

“Weeping,” Will said, frowning. He saw it clear enough, now that the lordling had pointed it out. “They couldn’t have froze. Not if the Wall was weeping. It wasn’t cold enough.”

Royce nodded. “Bright lad. We’ve had a few light frosts this past week, and a quick flurry of snow now and then, but surely no cold fierce enough to kill eight grown men. Men clad in fur and leather, let me remind you, with shelter near at hand, and the means of making fire.” The knight’s smile was cocksure. “Will, lead us there. I would see these dead men for myself.” You betcha boss; you want to see these (un)dead men -- >>> That can be arranged!

And then there was nothing to be done for it. The order had been given, and honor bound them to obey.

Will went in front, his shaggy little garron picking the way carefully through the undergrowth. A light snow had fallen the night before, and there were stones and roots and hidden sinks lying just under its crust, waiting for the careless and the unwary. Ser Waymar Royce came next, his great black destrier snorting impatiently. The warhorse was the wrong mount for ranging, but try and tell that to the lordling. Gared brought up the rear. The old man-at-arms muttered to himself as he rode. Could those be 'curses' Gared is muttering..? Also note 'the horse was the wrong mount for ranging.'  Yes, indeed -- the right mount would be something you can skinchange, e.g. a wolf, a bird, or a tree!  I've repeatedly heard from multiple sources that 'grey-green sentinels' are particularly suited to the task, as are weirwoods...

Twilight deepened. The cloudless sky turned a deep purple, the color of an old bruise, then faded to black. The stars began to come out. A half-moon rose. Will was grateful for the light. A whole slew of Long Night references.

“We can make a better pace than this, surely,” Royce said when the moon was full risen.

“Not with this horse,” Will said. Fear had made him insolent. “Perhaps my lord would care to take the lead?” The tension is mounting, folks.  This lordling is insufferable.  Methinks there's a rebellion -- bro vs. bro -- in the works...

Ser Waymar Royce did not deign to reply.

Somewhere off in the wood a wolf howled. Could there be a warg about?

Will pulled his garron over beneath an ancient gnarled ironwood and dismounted.

“Why are you stopping?” Ser Waymar asked.

“Best go the rest of the way on foot, m’lord. It’s just over that ridge.” It's possible Will is leading his brother into a trap.

Royce paused a moment, staring off into the distance, his face reflective. A cold wind whispered through the trees. His great sable cloak stirred behind like something half alive. We have our answer:  'wind whispering' through personified trees could be an indication of a greenseer/skinchanger gathering his powers.  The cloak seems 'half alive'-->>> soon in a turnaround of poetic justice, Waymar will be 'half-alive' too!

“There’s something wrong here,” Gared muttered.

The young knight gave him a disdainful smile. “Is there?”

“Can’t you feel it?” Gared asked. “Listen to the darkness.”

Will could feel it. Four years in the Night’s Watch, and he had never been so afraid. What was it? Maybe what he's sensing are his own murderous intentions!

“Wind. Trees rustling. A wolf. Which sound is it that unmans you so, Gared?” When Gared did not answer, Royce slid gracefully from his saddle. He tied the destrier securely to a low-hanging limb, well away from the other horses, and drew his longsword from its sheath. Jewels glittered in its hilt, and the moonlight ran down the shining steel. It was a splendid weapon, castle-forged, and new-made from the look of it. Will doubted it had ever been swung in anger.

“The trees press close here,” Will warned. “That sword will tangle you up, m’lord. Better a knife.” More foreshadowing of Waymar's fate.  He pays no heed to Will's advice; in response -- >>> he will find his sword ineffective against the Other's weapons.  The right weapon to carry is a knife and Will is the one with the dagger... Moreover -- >>> the trees will 'come alive' to entrap Waymar -- that's what the Others are, after all; they're basically vengeful spirits conjured from trees using spells made of Words.

“If I need instruction, I will ask for it,” the young lord said. “Gared, stay here. Guard the horses.” Oops.  Waymar always gives the wrong answer.  The brotherly excursion, or shall we call it 'Wild Hunt', is not going to end well.

Gared dismounted. “We need a fire. I’ll see to it.”

“How big a fool are you, old man? If there are enemies in this wood, a fire is the last thing we want.”

“There’s some enemies a fire will keep away,” Gared said. “Bears and direwolves and . . . and other things . . .”

Ser Waymar’s mouth became a hard line. “No fire.” In response for unleashing this latest mocking onslaught centred around his rejection of fire -- >>> Waymar will be struck by lightning and cold-freezed into what the 'heretics' would term a 'popsicle'!

Gared’s hood shadowed his face, but Will could see the hard glitter in his eyes as he stared at the knight.  Ooh -- 'glittering' or 'glimmering' eyes is never a good sign -- and smacks of a greenseer, another undead creature, or other such person versed in dark sorcery getting ready to target his victim.  If looks could kill... For a moment, he was afraid the older man would go for his sword. It was a short, ugly thing, its grip discolored by sweat, its edge nicked from hard use, but Will would not have given an iron bob for the lordling’s life if Gared pulled it from its scabbard. Despite tensions running high, no weapons were drawn...However, there are other 'weapons' -- less conventional weapons...i.e. Others conjured by magical greenseer speech.  I call it 'the song of the earth' sung by 'those who sing' --- the song of stone, water and wood...the True Tongue.  It's a deadly tongue-lashing -- the counter-mocking directed at the mocker, as a last resort.  The kind of words that grow wings, reaching out for a moon (e.g. by singing the song of stone), to strike at a remove. This is @Seams' crucial WORDS/SWORDS or @GloubieBoulga's LAUGHTER/SLAUGHTER pun in action.
Finally, Gared looked down. “No fire,” he muttered, low under his
breath.

Royce took it for acquiescence and turned away. “Lead on,” he said
to Will. Oh, but it isn't actually acquiescence -- he only 'took' it for acquiescence, so it's defiance from the grey beard and the other brother.  The green boy is not the boss in the woods, although he's pretending to be.  

Will threaded their way through a thicket, then started up the slope to the low ridge where he had found his vantage point under a sentinel tree. Will threading his way through the thicket is like threading a needle -- and reminds me of Arya's connotation of 'needlework' and the following quote, which I think obliquely references the dark business of a greenseer: A Dance with Dragons - The Ugly Little Girl One time, the girl remembered, the Sailor's Wife had walked her rounds with her and told her tales of the city's stranger gods. "That is the house of the Great Shepherd. Three-headed Trios has that tower with three turrets. The first head devours the dying, and the reborn emerge from the third. I don't know what the middle head's supposed to do. Those are the Stones of the Silent God, and there the entrance to the Patternmaker's Maze. Only those who learn to walk it properly will ever find their way to wisdom, the priests of the Pattern say. Beyond it, by the canal, that's the temple of Aquan the Red Bull. Every thirteenth day, his priests slit the throat of a pure white calf, and offer bowls of blood to beggars." I think our guide in the woods, our treacherous 'far-eyes,' is taking Waymar for a merry fool's dance through the 'patternmaker's maze' -- making Will 'a priest of the pattern' with his knowledge of the woods, as well as a kind of seamstress, weaver or 'volva' figure, considering weaving a way through the maze is like threading a way through the woods, and a patternmaker is a seamstress who sews up various garments or patchwork quilts according to a pattern of her fancy. Under the thin crust of snow, the ground was damp and muddy, slick footing, with rocks and hidden roots to trip you up. Indeed.  'Hidden roots to trip you up' like a nest of swarming weirwood roots compared to an underground cavern of 'milk snakes' and 'grave worms'. Will made no sound as he climbed.  Regardless of whether Gared is implicated, Will is definitely the leader here.  And it's significant that he's a proficient climber -- making us think of Bran who began his greenseeing career by climbing.  The greenseer figure who climbs -- later he will also climb up a tree, becoming indistinguishable from the tree ('lost among the needles' cleaving to the tree via 'sticky sap' like blood or glue) reinforcing the greenseer image -- is also a Ratatoskr figure, the meddling squirrel who runs between the dragon and the eagle, stirring discontent and ushering in the end of the world, Ragnarok (aka in our context, the Long Night). Behind him, he heard the soft metalic slither of the lordling’s ringmail, the rustle of leaves, and muttered curses as reaching branches grabbed at his longsword and tugged on his splendid sable cloak. The landscape is becoming more and more threatening towards the impudent lordling, as reflected in the personification of the trees which 'counter-mock' him, reaching out to grab his weapon and tugging on his sable cloak, as if to undress him (the wind does the same thing to Euron's sable cloak when he's prancing about half-naked in front of his brother Victarion, broadcasting his devious plans). Considering Waymar's ringmail is described as 'soft metallic slithering', this might be an allusion to Waymar as a snake or dragon figure; or perhaps alternatively it's a sinister indication of something that ought to be protecting him, like his armor or his brothers-in-arms, failing him, and instead turning on him like a snake (like those weirwood roots). Please take note of my favorite ambiguity in the description, based on the way GRRM deliberately constructs the sentence, from which its unclear who or what is the subject of the 'muttered curses.'  This raises the question, who cursed whom?  From a certain perspective, one could make the case that the trees are cursing Waymar, and not the other way around.  Or , more accurately, perhaps it's a case of 'curse and counter-curse' as I've been intimating.  To every action, an equal and opposite reaction, as Mr Newton and @Voice might say (the latter in his 'Miasma' theory of the forest protecting itself against the humans).  Where I diverge from Voice, is in this being a contest between human and the environment; whereas I see it more as a contest between humans, specifically brother vs. brother, in which the inhuman forces of nature were diabolically harnessed in order to get even with the other human vying for dominance.  The original sin was the sin of Cain vs. Abel who envied and resented his brother and therefore desired to usurp his position.  Therefore, I speculate the Others are humanoid -- a projection of man's basest instincts towards each other -- a weapon which got out of control.  The mocker is counter-mocked -- 'hoisted by his own petard'.  As it so happens, this is a quotation from the Bard himself, William Shakespeare (yes, I like Shakespeare...and so does GRRM, considering the warlockian greenseer in the Prologue is named after him): A bit of trivia regarding the origin of the expression: Hoist with your own petard The phrase 'hoist with one's own petard' is often cited as 'hoist by one's own petard'. In the USA, 'hoisted' is preferred so the alternative forms there are 'hoisted with one's own petard' is often cited as 'hoisted by one's own petard'.All the variants mean the same thing, although the 'with' form is strictly a more accurate version of the original source. A petard is, or rather was, as they have long since fallen out of use, a small engine of war used to blow breaches in gates or walls. They were originally metallic and bell-shaped but later cubical wooden boxes. Whatever the shape, the significant feature was that they were full of gunpowder - basically what we would now call a bomb. The device was used by the military forces of all the major European fighting nations by the 16th century. In French and English - petar or petard, and in Spanish and Italian - petardo. The dictionary maker John Florio defined them like this in 1598: "Petardo - a squib or petard of gun powder vsed to burst vp gates or doores with." The French have the word 'péter' - to fart, which it's hard to imagine is unrelated. [Can you believe this, @Lost Melnibonean..?!] Petar was part of the everyday language around that time, as in this rather colourful line from Zackary Coke in his work Logick, 1654: "The prayers of the Saints ascending with you, will Petarr your entrances through heavens Portcullis". Once the word is known, 'hoist by your own petard' is easy to fathom. It's nice also to have a definitive source - no less than Shakespeare, who gives the line to Hamlet, 1602: "For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar". Note: engineers were originally constructors of military engines. See other phrases and sayings from Shakespeare From:  http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/hoist-by-your-own-petard.html So, the engineer, smith or bard suffers a plan which backfires on him -- a 'counter-fart' according to the piece above! His own swords and words come back to haunt him -- and this is exactly what happens in the Prologue when Waymar rises as a wight to take his revenge on his treacherous brother. 

The great sentinel was right there at the top of the ridge, where Will had known it would be, its lowest branches a bare foot off the ground. Will slid in underneath, flat on his belly in the snow and the mud, and looked down on the empty clearing below. Will 'slides in beneath the tree' -- a graphic representation of the greenseer going into, or merging with, the tree.  I think he's probably the snake in the garden, considering he 'slides in  underneath flat on his belly'.  Yip original sin scenario with greenseer as snake, ushering in the Fall from Paradise (analogous to Long Night).
His heart stopped in his chest. For a moment he dared not breathe. Moonlight shone down on the clearing, the ashes of the firepit, the snow-covered lean-to, the great rock, the little half-frozen stream. Everything was just as it had been a few hours ago.

They were gone. All the bodies were gone.

“Gods!” he heard behind him. Perhaps Waymar summoned the Others himself, with a little help from his friends! A sword slashed at a branch as Ser Waymar Royce gained the ridge. It's probably not a good idea to hurt a tree when the tree gods are around... He stood there beside the sentinel, longsword in hand, his cloak billowing behind him as the wind came up, outlined nobly against the stars for all to see.

“Get down!” Will whispered urgently. “Something’s wrong.”

Royce did not move. He looked down at the empty clearing and laughed. “Your dead men seem to have moved camp, Will.” More mocking.  This is becoming a rather tedious affair.  -- >>> Prepare to be counter-mocked!

Will’s voice abandoned him. He groped for words that did not come. It was not possible. His eyes swept back and forth over the abandoned campsite, stopped on the axe. A huge double-bladed battle-axe, still lying where he had seen it last, untouched. A valuable weapon . . . It's interesting his words failing him, just as my argument for the greenseer's words being so instrumental in the whole affair was gathering momentum!  As a possible explanation, there might be a correlate to the Lightbringer forging, which was only successful on the third attempt.  Accordingly, one might expect his words to fail him twice before he gets the spell right.

“On your feet, Will,” Ser Waymar commanded. “There’s no one here. I won’t have you hiding under a bush.” More imperious mocking, Waymar?  But your instinct is correct -- it's never advisable to allow a greenseer to 'hide under a bush'.  It could prove fatal to you!

Reluctantly, Will obeyed.

Ser Waymar looked him over with open disapproval. “I am not going back to Castle Black a failure on my first ranging. We will find these men.” He glanced around. “Up the tree. Be quick about it. Look for a fire.” No!  You were doing so well, Waymar...Prohibiting him from hiding in the bush was the right move, which you've now gone and undone by giving him free reign up the tree?!  But of course you don't know that -- just like no-one ever suspects the mockingbird.

Will turned away, wordless. There was no use to argue. This is the second instance of Will's wordlessness (GRRM's having a ball taking the words out of Shakespeare's mouth, isn't he!)  So, that can be understood as the second forging attempt of Lightbringer.  You guys get what I'm saying here -- Lightbringer is forged using a spell.  A SWORD IS BORN OF A WORD The wind was moving. It cut right through him. 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. There's a lot to unpack in this paragraph.  Importantly, up the tree Will finally recovers his voice; therefore, we can say that the 'whispered prayer to the nameless gods of the wood' constitutes the third and this-time successful forging of Lightbringer. The sentinel is a sentry; a cent-tree and a sin-tree, a penny-tree, a star-tree (compliments @hiemal , @Pain killer Janeand @LmL for the associations, respectively).  Most of all I love Hiemal's 'sin-tree' -- because this is the tale of the Long Night which befell humanity and the sin committed by the fell greenseer of Winterfell who literally brought down this calamity upon the planet, in his petty urge to fell his own brother (who admittedly was a bit of an annoying showoff, but surely didn't deserve to be murdered!).  As I've highlighted before, the tree is described as 'vaulting,' thus conveying the idea of the greenseer's hubris, overreaching, reaching for the fire of the gods and all that goes with it; but also the idea of the magical leap afforded the greenseer who uses the tree as a pole-vaulter uses his pole to launch himself into the sky and clear the beam (sometimes this is unsuccessful) -- and fly for a moment.  Additionally, 'vault' has the opposite connotation of a movement underground (think of a bank vault or a crypt, so the sense of the greenseer simultaneously imprisoning himself in a tomb of his own making as he leaps into the sky).  Shadowy goings-on, in any case. His 'hands are sticky with sap' -- translation: he has blood on his hands (reinforced at the end by the mirroring when the injured, bleeding Waymar comes to kill him with 'sticky hands') -->>> this is an example of the complexity of the vicious cycle of revenge which goes on ad infinitum.  Will counter-mocked Waymar's mocking -- >>> Waymar in turning rising to counter-counter mock the counter-mocking.  You get the idea.  This is why GRRM says we are all puppets dancing on the strings of our forbears; and that human beings with their treacherous hearts caught up in conflict with their own hearts, and those of others, who are similarly in conflict with their own hearts and those of others,  just can't stop 'plucking the same string on the harp' for eternity.  (Where is the redemption, GRRM?)  And it all stems from a quintessential oathbreaking -- a broken promise -- a broken word: A Dance with Dragons - Daenerys VI "The Yunkai'i resumed their slaving before I was two leagues from their city. Did I turn back? King Cleon begged me to join with him against them, and I turned a deaf ear to his pleas. I want no war with Yunkai. How many times must I say it? What promises do they require?" "Ah, there is the thorn in the bower, my queen," said Hizdahr zo Loraq. "Sad to say, Yunkai has no faith in your promises. They keep plucking the same string on the harp, about some envoy that your dragons set on fire." "Only his tokar was burned," said Dany scornfully. Back to Will -- 'the thorn in the [current] bower' -- up amongst the needles -- >>> These needles are later manifested as a weapon when the sword shatters into a storm of needles.  This is a visual representation of the tree being weaponised as a consequence I believe of Will's verbal intervention. After saying the lethal prayer, Will unsheaths his dagger -- that's symbolic of his treacherous motives.  Recall 'daggers in the dark' surrounding the imagery of Jon's assassination by his mutinous brothers.  Also, recall Littlefinger's dagger that led to so much trouble for the Starks and the Lannisters.  That dagger and the lie told about it by Littlefinger, more than any other action, caused the most damage.  It's significant that he puts the dagger between his teeth, which renders him incapable of speaking.   @Pain killer Jane this is a further example of the 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' hypocrisy you've identified as one of GRRM's concerns.  Finally, the far-eyes betrays his brother, first with his treacherous prayer and then by keeping silent, failing to alert his brother to the danger.  But why would he want to alert his brother -- when his brother's death is what he secretly desired?  Why would he report what he'd seen when he'd envisioned (using his 'third-eye' capacity) what transpired to begin with?

Down below, the lordling called out suddenly, “Who goes there?” Will heard uncertainty in the challenge. He stopped climbing; he listened; he watched. Notice how soon following the prayer the Others appear -- because the prayer summoned them!

The woods gave answer: the rustle of leaves, the icy rush of the stream, a distant hoot of a snow owl.  This is Waymar's comeuppance for mocking a warlock.  In response to his question, the greenseer answers in mocking tones -- >>> If you hadn't realized it by now, 'rustle of leaves'  is code for greenseer alert.  Likewise, the 'icy rush' will be mirrored in the icy ambush about to befall him.  The 'hoot of a snow owl' also somehow has mocking connotations (to 'hoot with laughter' at someone might be construed as derisive).

The Others made no sound. Yip.  They're as silent as Will -- who conjured them.

Will saw movement from the corner of his eye. Pale shapes gliding through the wood. He turned his head, glimpsed a white shadow in the darkness. Then it was gone. Branches stirred gently in the wind, scratching at one another with wooden fingers. Will opened his mouth to call down a warning, and the words seemed to freeze in his throat. Perhaps he was wrong. Perhaps it had only been a bird, a reflection on the snow, some trick of the moonlight. What had he seen, after all? More greenseer imagery: 'branches stirring...scratching with wooden fingers'.   Why do the words freeze in his throat again, when his prayer was whispered successfully just a moment ago?  Perhaps the Others took his breath away?  I'm not sure.  According to the current hypothesis of Will himself as the perpetrator, I'd venture that Will is making excuses for why he didn't call out.  I think he's in denial about what he did!  (ETA:  It's also subsequently occurred to me that this might be foreshadowing of Will receiving his own comeuppance, when the wighted Waymar returns to throttle him at the close of the Prologue).

“Will, where are you?” Ser Waymar called up. “Can you see anything?” He was turning in a slow circle, suddenly wary, his sword in hand. He must have felt them, as Will felt them. There was nothing to see. “Answer me! Why is it so cold?”

It was cold. Shivering, Will clung more tightly to his perch. His face pressed hard against the trunk of the sentinel. He could feel the sweet, sticky sap on his cheek. To his brother's entreaties for help, Will keeps his silence.  He abandons him to his fate.  The greenseer as well as mockingbird imagery is there with Will clinging to his 'perch', tainted by the 'sweet, sticky sap on his cheek.'  Like 'summerwine' or blood.

A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood. The Others come from the wood.  They've been conjured from the wood.  The shadow in question is a reflection of Will's dark soul. 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. The tree imagery is obvious.  The Other is tall like the sentinel from which it was conjured.  It's 'gaunt and hard as old bones', like a weirwood.  The bones retain the memories.  A weirwood 'remembers' -- remembers the insults, the mocking; and gets its revenge.  The deep 'grey-green of the trees' betrays the greenseer presence, and symbolically the taint of treachery always inherent in the murky 'grey-green' -- the color of Littlefinger's eyes (hardly a coincidence).

Will heard the breath go out of Ser Waymar Royce in a long hiss. The one who at the start had the loudest voice -- >>> now loses his voice.  There's the 'hissing' though, perhaps foreshadowing that he is also a snake like his brother who will end up having the last word? “Come no farther,” the lordling warned. His voice cracked like a boy’s. The ranger who had scorned the other men, emasculated them with disrespectful talk of being 'unmanned' -- >>> now finds himself likewise 'unmanned' and cut down to size.  He becomes a child again, rendered strangely vulnerable, just like Renly, when all the pompous puff went out of him, after being shadow-ambushed (analogous to what's happening in the Prologue with the Others conjured by his brother).  You might counter, but Stannis sent the shadow assassin with the help of Melisandre, so who is the Melisandre-figure in the context of the prologue?  Correspondingly, a greenseer gives birth to an Other with the help of the weirwood-incubator (Melisandre has weirwood coloring and frequently stands with her pale hands aloft beckoning the heavens like a tree to drive home this point for the reader). Another observation on the 'cracking of the voice'.  This echoes the voices of the Others which sound like 'ice cracking'.  In effect, the greenseer analog Will has cursed his brother who was so keen to silence him at the beginning of the Prologue, basically telling the others to shut up at every opportunity and/or dismissing their advice and opinions.  Now, however, the tables are turned.  The mocker becomes the counter-mocked -- >>> loses his voice.  In an eerie mirroring of Will holding the iron dagger between his teeth -- >>> It's as if Will has cut out Waymar's tongue (as a king like Aerys or Joffrey, or a Hand like Tyrion, would do...the singer who mocked Tyrion, following which Tyrion cut out his tongue by turning him into singer's stew, courtesy of Bronn). He threw the long sable cloak back over his shoulders, to free his arms for battle, and took his sword in both hands. The wind had stopped. It was very cold. If anyone can tell me why symbolically ‘the night was windless,’ I’d be most grateful!

The Other slid forward on silent feet. Kind of like their creator, Will. In its hand was a longsword like none that Will had ever seen. No human metal had gone into the forging of that blade. 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.

Ser Waymar met him bravely. “Dance with me then.” He lifted his sword high over his head, defiant. His hands trembled from the weight of it, or perhaps from the cold. Yet in that moment, Will thought, he was a boy no longer, but a man of the Night’s Watch.

The Other halted. Will saw its eyes; blue, deeper and bluer than any human eyes, a blue that burned like ice. They fixed on the longsword trembling on high, watched the moonlight running cold along the metal. For a heartbeat he dared to hope.

They emerged silently from the shadows, twins to the first. Three of them . . . four . . . five . . . Ser Waymar may have felt the cold that came with them, but he never saw them, never heard them. Will had to call out. It was his duty. And his death, if he did. He shivered, and hugged the tree, and kept the silence.

The pale sword came shivering through the air.

Ser Waymar met it with steel. 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. Royce checked a second blow, and a third, then fell back a step. Another flurry of blows, and he fell back again.

Behind him, to right, to left, all around him, the watchers stood patient, faceless, silent, the shifting patterns of their delicate armor making them all but invisible in the wood. Yet they made no move to interfere.

Again and again the swords met, until Will wanted to cover his ears against the strange anguished keening of their clash. Ser Waymar was panting from the effort now, his breath steaming in the moonlight. His blade was white with frost; the Other’s danced with pale blue light.

Then Royce’s parry came a beat too late. The pale sword bit through the ringmail beneath his arm. The young lord cried out in pain. Blood welled between the rings. It steamed in the cold, and the droplets seemed red as fire where they touched the snow. Ser Waymar’s fingers brushed his side. His moleskin glove came away soaked with red.

The Other said something in a language that Will did not know, his voice was like the cracking of ice on a winter lake, and the words were mocking. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.  As ye mock, so shall ye be mocked.

Ser Waymar Royce found his fury. “For Robert!” he shouted, and he came up snarling, lifting the frost-covered longsword with both hands and swinging it around in a flat sidearm slash with all his weight behind it. The Other’s parry was almost lazy.

When the blades touched, the steel shattered.

A scream echoed through the forest night, and the longsword shivered into a hundred brittle pieces, the shards scattering like a rain of needles. The needles are a physical manifestation of the tree’s needles, as I mentioned earlier.  ETA:  'a storm of (s)words'! Royce went to his knees, shrieking, and covered his eyes. Blood welled between his fingers.

The watchers moved forward together, as if some signal had been given. Swords rose and fell, all in a deathly silence. It was cold butchery. The pale blades sliced through ringmail as if it were silk. Will closed his eyes. Far beneath him, he heard their voices and laughter sharp as icicles.

When he found the courage to look again, a long time had passed, and the ridge below was empty.

He stayed in the tree, scarce daring to breathe, while the moon crept slowly across the black sky. Finally, his muscles cramping and his fingers numb with cold, he climbed down. Following his treachery, Will climbs down to retrieve the spoils of war – specifically the sword and likely the sable coat, had the wighted Waymar not interfered.  By the way, there is literary precedent for brothers and kinsmen making off with the sable following someone’s death.  For one, Euron purloined a sable coat off Aenys Blackfyre after he’d killed him (tricked him into thinking he’d granted him safe passage to the kingsmoot).  Another example has been provided by @Crowfood's Daughter of Thoren Smallwood snapping up Ser Jaremy Rykker’s sable-trimmed coat after he’s been ‘wighted’ The implication of wearing a coat is that it may just as easily be removed and appropriated by another, reversing the roles – just as one actor may step out of one role and instead play a different role, accompanied by a wardrobe change in his assigned costume!  In a sense, a coat like this never truly belongs to one person.  That is the nature of clothing, passing from person to person, especially following someones death.  Perhaps it ‘runs in the family’ and Ser Waymar, despite being a fool in some respects, has inherited the coat as a legacy of his family House Royce, arguably a ‘giant’ among the First Men clans.  A priori, there is also an undeniable taint inherent in the coat, considering that its existence is built upon stripping off the coats of a multitude of sables, who have in effect had their fur coats – and their lives -- stolen from them to begin with.  Ultimately, also, the coat should remind us of the magical power of the greenseers, particularly skinchanging, a mystical communion with the ‘host’ at its best, and an abominable rape and/or murder at its worst.  In summary, given that the sable coat always signals a purloined identity, and a source of ensuing envy and resentment, we have a younger sibling (‘Waymar’) who is already predicated as a thief, from whom the others in turn would like to steal power!

Royce’s body lay facedown in the snow, one arm outflung. The thick sable cloak had been slashed in a dozen places. Lying dead like that, you saw how young he was. A boy. A reference to Bran Stark fallen from the tower.
He found what was left of the sword a few feet away, the end splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning. Will knelt, looked around warily, and snatched it up. The broken sword would be his proof.  Another reference to Bran.  Bran is the broken sword struck by lightning. Gared would know what to make of it, and if not him, then surely that old bear Mormont or Maester Aemon. Would Gared still be waiting with the horses? He had to hurry.

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. The glance the wighted Waymar gives his brother is accusing.  It’s reminiscent of an almost identical phrase used for the wighted spearwife Thistle after Varamyr has attempted to steal her body.

The broken sword fell from nerveless fingers. Will closed his eyes to pray. His ‘prayers’ have backfired on him! Long, elegant hands brushed his cheek, then tightened around his throat. They were gloved in the finest moleskin and sticky with blood, yet the touch was icy cold.
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