Three men walk into a dark, scary forest …
Ser Waymar Royce is in
command of two other members of the Night’s Watch; the three have been
tracking a group of wildlings for nine days. This section is told from
the point of view of Will, the younger of the two men under Waymar’s
command. Apparently, Will has been to a village where everyone looked
like they’d frozen to death, even though it hasn’t been extra-extra cold
yet. Gared, the older dude, suggests that, as night is falling, they
might want to head back home.
Waymar Royce is eighteen and a
nobleman and has all the arrogance of a privileged teenager so he
ignores Will’s and Gared’s sensible observations and wants to make sure
that the wildlings are really, truly dead. As they draw closer to the
village, Will notes that he forest seems to be getting colder and
creepier by the minute. (OK, I’m a totally urban person and even the
“wilderness” of Central Park used to freak me the hell out, so by this
point, I was completely sure that something horrible was going to
happen, and I was in fact correct.)
The growing cold and
scariness cause Gared to come close to mutiny (and if he had, he
probably would have saved at least two lives!) but he finally obeys his
commander. When they get to the village, there are no bodies on the
ground at all, and Waymar decides that Will was mistaken in his earlier
assumption that the wildings were dead. He orders Will up a tree so
just in time for Will to have a ringside seat for the upcoming carnage.
enough, the creepy factor goes up by about one million when a shadow
emerges from the woods. ”Tall it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones,
with flesh pale as milk.” In short, not someone you’d want to meet on a
dark cold night nine days from civilization. Actually, not someone
you’d ever want to meet anywhere under any circumstances at all.
shows lots of courage in his sword duel with the Other, but is clearly
doomed, since he is not a supernatural being with an aura of liquid
nitrogen about him. Waymar’s sword is shattered then more of the Others
come along to join in the butchering. Finally, the merry pranksters
move along and after a long break to collect his shattered nerves Will
comes down from the tree to collect the broken sword as proof that he didn’t
kill the young lord, who’s lying face down with about a million wounds.
(And his lovely sable cloak is probably ruined as well! Woe!)
Will turns around, the remains of the sword in his hand, Waymar Royce
is standing 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.”
oh! Aaaand just like that, poor Will is dead too, because cold scary
walking zombie types rarely just want to sit down and have a cup of tea.
But cheer up, Will, no other POV character from a prologue makes it
out alive either.
In terms of my own reaction, I was hooked
right from the prologue; I had to know more about what was going on, and
who these weird supernatural beings were and whether anyone could face
them. In a few short pages, I got to like the Night’s Watch men (making
their deaths all that much more horrible) and the sense of cold and fear
are still palpable after multiple reads. Fantastic stuff!! (Warning:
I may sound a lot like Austin Stevens while
discussing this series and use the words “fantastic” and “incredible” a
lot. Don’t watch that video if you’re afraid of snakes by the way!)