Waymar Royce+ Nights Watch/Wight Walkers= Stark Problem

Image credit : J.Michek

Image credit : J.Michek

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.

The Royce Family Tree.

The Royce Family Tree.

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.

Waymar is handsome, graceful and slender, with grey eyes. He wears fine clothes and displays a sense of entitlement as well as arrogance towards more experienced members of the Night’s watch

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.

 

Will could sense something else in the older man. You could taste it; a nervous tension that came perilously close to fear.”
— Prologue AGOT

Also…

Will 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 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.
— Prologue AGOT

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.

All day, Will had felt as though something were watching him, something cold and implacable that loved him not.”
— Prologue AGOT

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.
 

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 small 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.
His cloak was his crowning glory; sable, thick, black, and soft as sin.
— Prologue AGOT

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.
 

The camp was two miles farther on, over that ridge, hard beside a stream, 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 so well.
Did you see blood?- Royce
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. Fallen, like.
Or sleeping. Royce suggested.
Fallen, there’s a woman up in an Ironwood, half hid in the branches. A far eyes. I took care she never saw me. When I got closer, I saw that she was’t moving neither.
— Prologue AGOT

 

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.

 

Down below the lordling called out suddenly, who goes there?
Will heard uncertainty in the challenge. He stopped climbing; he listened; he watched. The woods gave answer: The rustle of leaves, the icy rush of the stream, a distant hoot of a snow owl.
The Others make no sound.
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 moonlight. What had he seen after all?
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.
A shadow emerged from the dark wood. It stood in front of Royce. Tall, it was and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. It’s armor seemed to change color as it moved; here is 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 the water with every step it took.
— Prologue AGOT

 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.

Will heard the breath go out of Ser Waymar in a long hiss. Come no farther, the lordling warned. His voice cracked like a boy’s. 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.
The Other slid forward on silent feet. In its hand was a longsword line 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 to vanish when seen edge-on. There was a faint blue glimmer to the thing, a ghost-light that played around it’s edges, and somehow Will knew that 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 than any human eyes. but 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.
— Prologue AGOT

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.
 

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 with the 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 seconf blow and a third, and then fell back a step. Another of blows, and he fell back again.
Behind him, to right, to left, all around him, the watchers 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.
— Prologue AGOT

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.

 

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 Others 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.
— Prologue AGOT

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.

 

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. 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 ring-mail as if it were silk. WIll closed his eyes. Far beneath him, he heard their voices and their laughter, sharp as icicles. When he found the courage to look again, a long time had passed, and the ridge below was empty.
— Prologue AGOT

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.


 

I’ve not seen Benjen Stark for three years, and if truth be told, I never once missed him. Craster said.

He ought to have passed here last year, said Thorren Smallwood.
Ben was searching for Ser Waymar Royce, who’d vanished with Gared and Young Will, said Mormont.

Aye, those three I recall. The lordling no older than one of these pups. Too proud to sleep under my roof, him and his sable cloak and black steel. My wives give him big cow eyes all the same, said Craster.
He turned his squint on the nearest of the woman. “Gared says they were chasing raiders. I told him, with a commander that green, best not catch ‘em. Gared wasn’t half that bad, for a crow. Had less ears than me, that one. The bite took ‘em same as mine. Now I hear he got no head neither. The ‘bite do that too?
— ACOK Jon III

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.

But who?

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:

 

Who’s this one now? He has the look of a Stark.”
My new steward and squire. Jon Snow.
A bastard is it? Craster looked Jon up and down. Man wants to bed a woman, seems he ought to take her to wife. That’s what I do. He shooed Jon off with a wave. “Well, run and do your service, bastard, and see that axe is good and sharp now. I’ve no use for dull steel.
— ACOK Jon III

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.  :)

Cheers!