May 14, 2019
The dead gather strength.
EXT. WHITETREE VILLAGE - PRESENT DAY - EVENING
Back in the present day, evening is settling. A thousand cookfires burn as the wildlings prepare to bed down for the night. There's not enough room in the village proper for everyone -- their tents and pop-up huts sprawl chaotically through the surrounding forest.
Panning through the camp, we see the surviving Free Folk up close. A dozen different tribes are represented in their costuming and makeup. Children run and fight each other with stick swords. Mothers nurse their babies. Old folks huddle close to the fires for warmth, bundled in leather and fur, shooing away the hopeful dogs who come sniffing for handouts. There is a notable scarcity of fighting men and women.
Tormund is at the well, doling out water. A long line snakes between the village hovels.
A WILDLING GRANDMOTHER finds him and hurries to speak with him. Her eyes are wild with worry.
Tormund. Tormund, please help me.
You'll need to wait for water.
My daughter hasn't returned from foraging.
Tormund looks up.
It's getting dark. She should have returned by now. Please, I can't find her anywhere. My daughter, my grandson...
She's beginning to tear up, making it difficult for her to continue.
Tormund puts down his bucket, frowning with disquiet.
EXT. FOREST, NEAR WHITETREE VILLAGE - TRAP LINE - NIGHT
Tormund leads a search party for the missing woman. Edd and BERIC accompany him, along with a small handul of WILDLING HUNTERS.
They've been searching for some time. Night has fallen by now, and the torchlight gives a paranoid, claustrophic feeling to the scene, as though a jump scare could come at us any moment from just outside the light.
Tormund sweeps his torch in wide arcs as he searches for signs. The light falls upon a dead rabbit, lying frozen and unharvested in its snare. He peers at it through the underbrush, bringing his torch closer. The flickering light dances in the rabbit's round eye, making it look almost alive.
We found something.
Tormund looks up to see one of his men standing over some small bundle in the snow. He comes over, dreading what he might find, hoping it's not a dead baby.
It's not. Just a game bag, half-full of rabbit carcasses. He pulls one out -- it is frozen rock solid.
Edd is crouching in the snow nearby, and his tone makes clear that whatever he's found, it is Not Good.
Tormund slowly joins him and sees it for himself: a substantial amount of blood, dark and frozen on the cold ground.
Grief comes over his face. As a leader, Tormund takes this woman's likely death to be a personal failure on his part.
No body nearby.
It's an ominous observation, and everyone knows it. Hands tighten uneasily on weapons as the searchers try to see past the glare of the torches into the black woods, feeling suddenly very exposed and conspicuous.
She couldn't have gone far after this. Unless...
Maybe wolves got her?
Do you see any wolf sign, crow?
Tormund's distress is making him testy.
Some thought occurs to Edd.
Did you say she had a baby on her?
Edd frowns pensively.
What does that mean to you?
It means something. Or you wouldn't have asked about it.
Craster used to leave his newborn sons out in the woods.
Tormund's face darkens. He doesn't like Craster, or his implied association with the Free Folk.
Jon followed him one time. Said he saw a White Walker come to take the boy.
What did it do with him?
We never learned.
A chilling silence.
The White Walkers have gone south. With the Night King.
He says it emphatically, as though to force the words to be true.
Perhaps the Night King left a few of his Walkers behind.
There's a way to find out.
Tormund looks at Beric. There's a cold utilitarianism in Beric's one-eyed stare.
If we're wrong, the test won't do any harm. But if we're right, and there's more of them -- here, north of the Wall -- we best find out now. How many of your people might die, otherwise?
Tormund stares at him, trying desperately to think of a retort that will make Beric wrong.
EXT. FOREST, NEAR WHITETREE VILLAGE - TRAP LINE - DAY
Daylight now. A BABY BOY gazes up from Tormund's arms with large trusting eyes -- some poor orphan with nobody to protest for him. Tormund looks down at him, thoroughly hating himself.
The rest of the group has already hidden themselves in the underbrush, near the site of the young mother's disappearance. They're armed with dragonglass weapons and grim purpose.
Tormund smoothes out a patch of snow, out in the relative open. He carefully sets the baby down, bundled up in thick layers of cloth and warm fur.
He joins the others in hiding, readying a dragonglass halberd in his hands. They wait.
For a long time, nothing happens. Through the magic of good directing, this is tense and suspenseful, rather than boring.
The baby begins to fuss. He's hungry, or poopy, or perhaps just tired of being left alone on the ground as monster-bait.
The sound makes Tormund fidgety with angst. Beric turns his head and nails him with a hard, unforgiving look: stay strong. Don't blow this.
They wait some more.
Mystery POV: we slowly push toward the baby from some unknown perspective, out in the woods.
Tormund's group shivers as the air grows colder. Their hands tighten on their weapons. They are still and silent, hardly daring to breathe.
The baby is full-on wailing by now.
Mystery POV: we push even closer, close enough to make out the infant's pink little face, screwed-up and wrinkled as he bawls.
Now, suddenly, the camera pulls backward to reveal what it is that this way comes.
From behind, it appears that we're looking at the Night King, which should confuse us deeply. Then the camera swings around to his front, revealing a MYSTERY WALKER. He has a similar crown of horns, similar strange dark armor, but his facial features are distinctly different.
Tormund's breath stops in his throat as he sees this figure emerging from the gloom beneath the trees. Beric has gone very still and intense, gazing out like a cat watching prey. The baby continues crying, filling what is otherwise a profound silence.
The Mystery Walker halts, gazing down at the offering. He begins to bend down, reaching out toward his prize--
Tormund can't stand it anymore. He charges out from hiding, bellowing a challenge. Beric curses to himself and follows suit, along with the rest of the party.
The Walker's gaze snaps up at the sound of Tormund's charge.
Tormund swings his halberd in a vicious down cut, which the Walker blocks with his ice blade. He catches Tormund with the butt end of his weapon on the pivot. The superhuman strength of the blow throws Tormund clear off his feet. He lands hard on the ground several yards away, dazed and winded.
The rest of the group has closed the gap by now, attacking together. The Walker knocks a few of them to the ground, then shears his ice blade right through a redshirt's bladed club, through his shoulder, and into his chest. Beric ducks in before he can pull it free and buries a dragonglass dagger in the Walker's neck.
The Walker turns, lifts Beric by the throat, and screams into his face. Beric dangles, gasping from the intense cold. He gets a good close look at the monster's face.
Then the Mystery Walker crystallizes to ice, starting from the site of the wound. He cracks apart into fragments and collapses to nothing. Beric falls heavily to the ground.
In the sudden stillness, the fighters look at each other, wild-eyed and shaken. Beric rubs at his neck, frost-burned from the Walker's grip, his breath tight and pained. Edd crouches over Tormund, coaxing him back to lucidity.
Edd, Tormund, and Beric share a look: what the fuck does this mean?
The orphan baby wails into the shocked silence.
EXT. WINTERFELL LANDSCAPE - DAY
A distant landscape shot of Winterfell re-establishes us south of the Wall. We're looking at it from the south, across a wide expanse of open moorland.
EXT. BARROWLANDS - BURIAL MOUNDS - DAY
Now we're a bit farther south, in the barrowlands that lie between Winterfell and Moat Cailin. Gentle mounds rise up from the vast open plain, in endless rows -- too orderly to be natural formations.
We gaze across the snowy, hummocked landscape from ground level. A cold front pushes toward us, bringing wind and snow with it.
From the depths of the storm, the Night King appears -- a lone horseman of the apocalypse.
Night King's POV: A sea of burial mounds stretches before us, as far as the eye can see. Ancient graves, dating back to the days of the First Men.
He rides through them, the mounds passing by in the foreground as we watch him ride past on his dead horse. It is eerily quiet, quiet enough to hear the faint jingle of the horse's bridle. Nothing is happening. Again, the magic of cinematography makes this compellingly disconcerting.
As the Night King rides, a faint sound becomes just barely audible. A sort of muffled scratching. It rises to a low whispery rumble.
A skeletal hand bursts from the ground right in front of our face, jump-scaring us.
The sound is louder now, and muffled growling can be heard within it. The hand flails and claws the air. It wriggles out to the elbow, grabs at the ground, and pulls. A SKELETON WIGHT fights its way out of the burial mound where it had lain for hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of years.
Panning up, we see the same thing happening all across the vast plain. An army of ANCIENT DEAD, clawing their way out of the snow. Tattered scraps of rotted clothing cling to their skeletal frames. Their cold hands grasp strange old weapons, bronze and iron and discolored with corrosion.
The Night King rides on, cool and steady as always.
His new soldiers fall in behind him as they continue to emerge by the hundreds and thousands. We pull out on them, slowly absorbing the horror and scale of it as we ascend to a wide aerial.
And now, from every direction, the Night King's existing army joins the host. WHITE WALKERS and GIANTS and MAMMOTHS and lots and lots of FOOT SOLDIERS. Among them are the Dothraki who fell in the wolfswood, eyes blue, arakhs dangling from their frozen dead hands.
The army masses behind their leader, still riding along at his same unbroken, unhurried pace. Together they march inexorably forward -- south, and south, and south.