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Ser Waymar Royce’s “cold butchery”


Nadden
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Waymar's "cold butchery" might yet be significantly less gruesome than what Will seems to realize.

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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.

The sequence of events surrounding Waymar’s butchery doesn’t make sense. The passage above begins with,

>The watchers moved forward together, as if some signal had been given.

Then,

>Swords rose and fell, all in a deathly silence

Supposedly,

>It was cold butchery

And,

>The pale blades sliced through ringmail as if it were silk.

And then,

>Will closed his eyes.

Then lastly,

>Far beneath him, he heard their voices and laughter sharp as icicles.

Why doesn’t Waymar scream and shriek or call out when swords rise and fall? Why “all in a deathly silence” during the “cold butchery”? And why does ‘Will close his eyes’ after “the pale blades sliced through his ringmail as if it were silk”? It doesn’t make sense, right?

Strangely, Waymar, who previously screamed and shrieked in pain when injured, remains silent during his ‘cold butcherng’. This drastic change in the behavior of his reaction may suggest a contradiction worth examining.

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A scream echoed through the forest night, and the longsword shivered into a hundred brittle pieces, the shards scattering like a rain of needles. Royce went to his knees, shrieking, and covered his eyes. Blood welled between his fingers.

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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.

Following the butchering, why does Will close his eyes? He does this same thing another time…

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The broken sword fell from nerveless fingers. Will closed his eyes to pray. 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.

In this passage, it’s presumed by most that Will dies. But we are never truly given that explicitly. We never see him die and we never see his cold dead body later. It’s a cold icy touch and….....

…..nothing. It begs the question, what ultimately happens with Will?

He could have fainted for all we know. The point is Will keeps closing his eyes and we're kept in the dark about many details. These details are especially crucial since Waymar rose again. We need more assurance about what Will truly witnessed. As the narrator, Will has proven to be unreliable throughout the entire prologue. For example, he loses his dirk and never tells us because he doesn’t realize it.

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Will turned away, wordless. There was no use to argue. 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.

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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?

Did you notice? The dirk is gone.

Furthermore, from the passage above… he failed to call down a warning to Waymar, his voice seemingly failing him? It appears he has a tendency to freeze under stress. Following the loss of his dirk and his voice, he begins doubting his own senses after seeing the "white shadow". And so, considering that Will doesn't actually check Waymar's pulse, should we just assume that he's dead?

 

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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.

Again here, there are some other things that beg questions. How does lying facedown in the snow, one arm outflung, with his cloak splayed out over him displaying a dozen slashes make him look young? The fetal position? Child pose? To my mind, I wonder if questioning the contradiction between slicing through ringmail as if it were silk and the concept of a "cold butchery" is merely a matter of semantics. The two seem to contrast sharply. One suggests a smooth, effortless, and quiet cut, while the other implies a noisy, brutal, savage act. It's almost as if they butchered him first “all in a deathly silence”, then quietly sliced him up as if preparing lunch meat -. This depiction strikes me as somewhat artificial and another contradiction worth examining.

And looking at the scene again, there’s a hundred brittle pieces of a sword scattered around everywhere, spread out like it was raining needles, tiny, not too deadly, land mines set for anyone approaching.

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A scream echoed through the forest night, and the longsword shivered into a hundred brittle pieces, the shards scattering like a rain of needles. Royce went to his knees, shrieking, and covered his eyes. Blood welled between his fingers.

Lastly, here’s another question: Could the sword hilt that fell from Will's nerveless fingers, be the very same one that later made its way through the Wall at Castle Black, the one produced by a man and tossed into one of the carts arranged by the stewards? Jon appears to take particular notice of the hilt. The one adorned with three sapphire jewels.

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As they passed, each warrior stripped off his treasures and tossed them into one of the carts that the stewards had placed before the gate. Amber pendants, golden torques, jeweled daggers, silver brooches set with gemstones, bracelets, rings, niello cups and golden goblets, warhorns and drinking horns, a green jade comb, a necklace of freshwater pearls … all yielded up and noted down by Bowen Marsh. One man surrendered a shirt of silver scales that had surely been made for some great lord. Another produced a broken sword with three sapphires in the hilt.(ADWD, Jon XII, chapter 58)

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>"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.

Who is the man with the broken hilt?

Imagine if Will's memories are nothing more than illusions created by his own mind. He had shut his eyes even before the haunting voices reached his ears. The cold butchering, which never truly occurred, unfolded solely within the depths of his imagination. His cloak, already torn before reaching the ridge, remained unchanged, while his ringmail in reality remains unscathed. And what if Waymar was is alive, his resurrection merely a metaphorical rebirth as he stands tall once more?

So first,

>Will closed his eyes

Then Will hears the voices as the watchers move forward,

>The watchers moved forward** together, as if some signal had been given.

He hears the broken shards, not voices, sharpe as icicles, being stepped on by the watchers,

>Far beneath him, he heard their voices and laughter sharp as icicles.

And he never sees or hears anything more,

>It was cold butchery.

>The pale blades sliced through ringmail as if it were silk.

>Swords rose and fell, all in a deathly silence

Waymar rises! And his fine cloak is torn, his face is a bloody mess because of the shard in his left eye.

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His fine clothes were a tatter, his face a ruin. A shard from his sword transfixed the blind white pupil of his left eye.

His cloak had been torn just before he reaches the top of the ridge by the freshly sharpened branches reaching and tugging on his splendid sable cloak.

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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. Under the thin crust of snow, the ground was damp and muddy, slick footing, with rocks and hidden roots to trip you up. Will made no sound as he climbed. Behind him, he heard the soft metallic 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.

What about the burning blue pupil, right? It's simpleB)Will, known for his tendency to freeze under stress, is clutching it in his nerveless fingers while observing it, Waymar come into his view.

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The right eye was open. The pupil burned blue. It saw.

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Will rose. Ser Waymar Royce stood over him.

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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. 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.

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The broken sword fell from nerveless fingers. Will closed his eyes to pray. 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.

The sword hilt had a sapphire in its pommel. Will, paralyzed in fear, is holding it with the pommel pointing upward. As Will rose and Waymar comes into view, the gem and Waymar's good eye align perfectly in Will's sight, creating an illusion of an Othered icy blue eye.

These things all seem possible considering Will’s mental state. Likely the fiery gem brings to mind a chilling resemblance to the white shadow’s piercing blue gaze from just previously. And after spending an entire night perched high in a tree, he finds himself, mentall, not very sharpe. A mixture of anxiety and immobilizing fear arrests, his subconscious, rendering his cramping arm rigid and frozen as he stands up. The sight of Waymar triggers a surge of intrusive thoughts and haunting memories of the commander, whom he had abandoned in a moment of panick. These thoughts rush in, intensifying the anguish already burdening his fragile state. Within the theater of his mind, he envisions the eerie revival of his deceased leader, causing his joints to remain frozen and shattering his sanity.

More thoughts,

Was the man at Castle Black Waymar? Possibly…

…but a better question might be, why was Waymar laying there in child pose for so long?

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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.

Or….what about the watchers?

Edited by Nadden
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