The Stark problem:
In the prologue chapter we are introduced to three characters departing the wall via the tunnel connected to Castle Black.
These three are Will, Gared and Waymar Royce.
Waymar, being the newest brother to join the Night’s Watch is born of a Noble family from the Vale who have lineage tying them to House Stark of Winterfell.
So as you can see, there has been more than one union between House Royce and House Stark, and even cadet branches of House Royce still bare the classic Stark features of dark hair and Grey eyes.
Lord commander gives command of this ranging party to one Waymar Royce who being born of nobility, but for being the third born son he would have no claim to riches or titles, so he took the black to serve the realm.
Royce insisted that he be given the chance to prove his worth by letting him lead a ranging beyond the wall to locate these missing wildlings who had abandoned their villages.
Once they departed the Wall, they journeyed to Craster’s keep to get any possible information on the whereabouts and possible direction that these wildlings would be heading.
Waymar refuses to sleep under Craster’s roof and they set out immediately to continue their ranging.
All of this seems pretty standard, rangers, go on rangings. Though Waymar was wholly unprepared to handle this type of responsibility we know some pretty relevant things based on the conversations that were happening in this chapter.
When they departed the Wall, it had been unusually warm. “The wall had been weeping” which to them means that it was melting, not at a huge rate, but enough so that the edges were slick.
However, when Will was sent his own way to try to find the Wildlings, he had come back claiming to have found them slaughtered in a circular grove.
Upon hearing this news, Gared and Will both thought it best to head back to the wall which was about 7-9 days ride, and the night was falling. After 40 years in the Watch, Gared became unnerved.
Each day that these rangers had been out in search of the wildlings these feelings had become more stronger and stronger.
Which means, even though they had been experiencing these feelings of dread, they were the strongest this night. Also it brings focus to the fact that this is all together a new feeling while ranging the haunted forest.
It also shows us that they had themselves been marked and tracked by someone or something else.
The seasoned rangers on the ranging wanted to run like the wind back to the safety of the Wall, but Waymar was in command and they could not share this information with him. This is what Waymar is described as.
I find this information vital because Here Waymar is clearly set apart from the other brothers of the Night’s Watch.
From the mount he rides, to the garments he wears. He is dressed more finely than any ranger that the Night’s Watch has ever sent ranging before him.
The following passages describe what Will found in the circular grove.
When Waymar enquired about what may have killed them, Will responded that he believed it was the cold. And that men freezing to death has happened before.
This is when we find out that it has been too warm recently for men to freeze to death.
Now the main purpose of this chapter is to familiarize ourselves with the impending threat to the realms of man, and like most people, I kind of read this chapter because it was in the beginning of the book, but I never realized the significance of it until I began analyzing the books themselves trying to solve the riddle that George has created for us, but has refused to finish in what seems could be my lifetime. :)
It became obvious to me that it was not the intention of the Others to just meaninglessly attack and murder three rangers who, for the most part have been beyond the wall countless times before.
Waymar, had never ranged before and unlike his companions did not know about the threats that have lived beyond the wall.
So, on Waymar’s command they head back in the direction of the circular grove where the bodies of the dead wildlings were discovered.
Gared wanted to light a fire while Will and Waymar went to examine the bodies, but Waymar was convinced that it would alert the wildlings to their proximity.
But Gared thought it would keep away things that would mean them harm, like wolves and bears and “Other things.”
We all know what happened within the circular grove.
The dead wildlings that Will had reported to have found, were nowhere in sight.
This is what happened once Waymar ordered Will up the sentinel tree.
One Other approaches, he is camouflaged in armor which can blend in with it's surroundings, so they could move through the environment unnoticed. Will tells us that they make no sound. They leave no marks on the ground… they would not have known about being tracked by the Others using normal methods, but the evidence suggests that the nine days that they had been ranging in the haunted forest Will and Gared both knew that there was something after them that had no love for them… each day the feeling got more and more intense. This day had been the worst.
So while they may not leave footprints or make a sound, their presence is felt through the weather. Cold; mostly with the rise of the moon.
What stands out here is the clear observations that the Other is making. He was not looking at the man he meant to kill. He already had an idea of what he looked like based on information gained in another chapter and POV. He was, at this point, more interested in Waymar’s sword.
Here we are shown yet again that this was more than just a simple chance meeting between the Others and the rangers.
Instead of moving in for the kill, as we would expect them to, they stand patiently waiting to see what the outcome between this foe and one of their own will be. They did not all converge on him to turn him into a drone for their army of the dead.
It wasn’t until Waymar misstepped that the others began to communicate, proving all along that they not only had been tracking this lordling, they were testing him.
They were not expecting him to become winded, lazy or distracted. They were looking for a hero. A legendary fighter.
Last test, the man was not the hero they were seeking, this was obvious by the way he had been injured. The blade however was still a mystery, so far it had defended this mortal man, but with the injury it became apparent that this man and his sword were not who they were expecting him to be.
At this point, the sword had shattered and the boy had failed. And that was the signal. No need to stand back any longer, this was not who they were looking for. They were looking for someone, just not him.
So who were they looking for, and why did they think that they would find that person with these rangers who had scouted the haunted forest hundreds of times before?
What was different about this ranging party that attracted them to Ser Waymar?
Well, that is a bit of an enigma, and it isn't until ACOK that we get some more information on the matter.
When Jon arrived at the wall, he began training immediately to become a ranger. Shortly after the fact, his uncle Benjen was ordered to go beyond the wall looking for these rangers and or find out what had happened to them.
He was first to travel to Craster’s Keep to see if he had heard from or seen them, and then he was to scout the forest to see if he could find any information that would help him locate them.
So when Lord Commander Mormont takes his men beyond the wall, their first stop was Craster’s keep.
This is what was said when LC Mormont enquired about them.
So even though we know that Ben set off with the intent to seek out Craster, when asked, Craster denies ever seeing him.
Next he admits that he had seen Gared, Will, and even Ser Waymar.
Not only that, but he took note of his clothes and his horse and his mannerisms, and automatically assumed he was highborn… but not just a random highborn.
( I'll get to that in a moment)
The last thing he says is that he hears that Gared has no head…
Well, since Gared was the one who escaped the Others, how would he know that he had his head removed by Ned Stark? Unless someone who had recently been to Winterfell had been through there and had shared that information with him.
Well, the last people through the wall were Benjen, Othor, and Jafer Flowers, and three others who did not return. As it turns out, Benjen was just at Winterfell where he was told about the man who claimed Wight Walkers had come back.
After a bit of conversation about the wildlings having abandoned their villages along with their animals and the King beyond the wall, Craster allows them to stay one night on the basis that Mormont gives him a new Axe, and some Summer Wine. If Mormont agrees then he would tell them where they may be able to find Mance Rayder.
Jon offers to get Sam to make a map, and Mormont agrees and sends Jon to get him, but before Jon departs Craster says this:
Craster seems to know the Stark look very well. But the real question is, how many Starks has he had the pleasure of knowing?
He claims he has not seen Ben for three years. But he remembers Waymar and his two companions quite well.
And the first thing he picked up on was the look of Jon Snow.
But he dismisses it as fast as he thought it because of Jon’s bastard status.
The Stark’s would not father bastards. Especially not the honorable Eddard Stark.
If this was a bastard before him. There was no way he was a Stark.
So now Jon is of no consequence.
But why mention his look at all? Why would it matter what house he belonged to? “Valar Morghulis.”
One is not more important than the other… or are they?
So here we go.
When waymar and the others set off from the wall, they were looking for wildlings.
They stopped by Craster’s to gain information which would send them looking in the right direction.
Craster took a good look at Waymar and noticed immediately that he was not the same as the others. He had a look that is similar to the description of House Stark.
Waymar refused to sleep under Craster’s roof, so they departed that very day.
After Nine days ranging, Will finds a host of wildlings dead in the circular grove, but we are told that they have been feeling the cold follow them for nine days.
Why would the Others follow them and not just kill them and be done with it?
How would the Others know who to follow, or where to find them?
Well there seems to be only one person who can safely live in the haunted forest without fear of the Others and their army of the dead… Craster, who again happens to know the Stark look pretty well for someone who has lived their life beyond the wall.
“These are bad times to dwell alone in the wild. The old winds are rising.”
“Let them rise. My roots are sunk deep.”
When Will and the others reach the circular grove, they did not happen upon a group of dead wildlings, they walked willingly into a well laid trap.
First Will found the bodies which had been left there for them to find, and upon a second look that now included Waymar Royce, they bodies had seemingly vanished.
All but for a double edged axe that Will recalled as being a “valuable weapon.”
Ironically, Craster is in need of a new axe.
Based on this information it is easy to surmise that upon the departure of Waymar and his two companions, Craster called for the Others and told them that a young boy who has strong Stark features is in the haunted forest.
They then laid a trap for him and waited for him to come.
Once he arrived, they converged on him but only so far as they could all observe him.
He was not someone they anticipated would be an easy kill, they were expecting him to be exceptional. Not only with a sword, but they expected his sword to be exceptional as well.
When he turned out to be average, with nothing special about his blade or his fighting style, they all moved in to slaughter him. Once he died, they did not lay in wait for the other two rangers to come out, they just left all together.
The last piece of evidence that Craster is collecting information regarding the Starks beyond the wall, is his denial that Benjen had ever stopped at his keep.
Benjen who he knew was a Stark.
So they were testing Waymar.
They need someone with Stark Blood and a legendary sword. Either to vanquish, or to be their own hero.
Their new night king.
And because the Starks are the ones who built the wall, it would only make sense that their blood is the only thing that can get them through the wall.
I probably missed some things, because I am trying to get this posted. But let me know what you think in the comments. :)