Prologue

“Weshouldstartback,” Garedurged asthewoodsbegantogrowdarkaroundthem. “Thewildlingsaredead.”  

“Dothedeadfrightenyou?” SerWaymarRoyceasked withjustthehintofasmile.  

Gareddidnotrisetothebait. Hewasanoldman,pastfifty, andhehadseenthelordlingscomeandgo. “Deadisdead,”hesaid. “Wehavenobusinesswiththedead.”  

“Aretheydead?”Royceaskedsoftly. “Whatproofhavewe?”  

“Willsawthem,”Garedsaid. “Ifhesaystheyaredead, that’sproofenoughforme.”  

Willhadknown theywoulddraghimintothequarrelsoonerorlater. Hewishedithadbeenlaterratherthansooner. “Mymothertoldmethatdeadmensingnosongs,” heputin.  

“Mywetnursesaidthesamething,Will,”Roycereplied. “Neverbelieveanythingyouhearatawoman’stit. Therearethingstobelearnedevenfromthedead.” Hisvoiceechoed,tooloudinthetwilitforest.  

“Wehavealongridebeforeus,” Garedpointedout. “Eightdays,maybenine. Andnightisfalling.”  

SerWaymarRoyceglancedattheskywithdisinterest. “Itdoesthateverydayaboutthistime. Areyouunmannedbythedark,Gared?”  

WillcouldseethetightnessaroundGared’smouth, thebarelysuppressedangerinhiseyes underthethickblackhoodofhiscloak. GaredhadspentfortyyearsintheNight’sWatch,manandboy, andhewasnotaccustomedtobeingmadelightof. Yetitwasmorethanthat. Underthewoundedpride,Willcouldsensesomethingelseintheolderman. 

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