Oldtown has the key to defeating the White Walkers on Game of Thrones


John Bradley.

photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site.

Healing links! Bug infested scrolls! Does the Citadel hold all the answers to defeating the White Walkers and stopping the Night’s King in his frosty tracks?

Samwell Tarly just might end up being the true hero of Game of Thrones. In his short time training to be a maester at the Citadel, he’s already cured greyscale and sent his buddy Jon Snow some vital information concerning dragonglass. What did you do in your first semester at college? Basically Sam is better than all of us.

Even though he’s studying to be a maester, Sam knows that an army of the dead is marching on Westeros, and he’s doing everything in his power to fight those buggers. He’s experienced the impossible, and he’s not giving up the fight. And, like any true nerd, Sam’s weapons are books and knowledge. Good thing he likes to read.

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While Sam buries his nose in books over in Oldtown, the rest of the series seems to be focusing more on the coming war with Cersei Lannister. To be fair, Queen Cersei doesn’t know about the threat to the North, but something tells me that if she did, she wouldn’t care. Just like Littlefinger, Cersei would (did!) see the world burn (or freeze) if she could be ruler of the ashes.

But the White Walkers are coming. And while Samwell Tarly’s daddy plays at the queen’s war, Sam himself is doing great work at the Citadel in Old Town.

Sam’s studies of dragonglass – an important weapon against the White Walkers – led him to find the cure for greyscale, which involved ancient and forbidden techniques. When he learned about Sam’s treatment initiative, archmaester Ebrose (Jim Broadbent) initially disapproved of the incident, stating that a failed attempt could have infected the entire Citadel. Yeek. He’s right. Ebrose reminds Sam that he has yet to earn his”healing links”, and Westerosi healthcare doesn’t cover him without a link policy or whatever.

Interesting. As someone who hasn’t read the books, my ears perked up at the words “healing links”. So thaaaaaaaat’s what those various chains are. Makes total sense.

John Bradley as Samwell Tarly and Jim Broadbent as Archmaester Ebrose – Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO via HBO Media Relations.

Upon looking into healing links a bit further, I uncovered some info. According to A Wiki of Ice and Fire, in the books there are fourteen fields of study that correspond with links of varying metals. For example: silver for medicine, black iron for ravenry, and yellow gold for mathematics. But one of the most notable – and controversial – links is the rare Valyrian steel link. To earn one, the maester must have achieved a level of study in the area of magic which, presumably, includes knowledge of the White Walkers and the Long Night.

Apparently only one in one hundred maesters study for the Valyrian steel link because the practice is frowned upon. In fact, our beloved Maester Luwin – the Stark’s loyal maester in Seasons 1 and 2 – was one of the few living maesters who possessed one. Well… before he was killed. (Damn you, Theon.)

Even though only a handful of maesters study for the link, all the materials are there at the ready. So while most of the world no longer believes in the undead, the maesters of the Citadel are holding on to this precious info for just the right time. Well, that time is now and, just like Ebrose said when we first met him, the Citadel is, “this world’s memories.” And yes, that includes memories of how to defeat the Night’s King.

Curiously enough, right after Ebrose mentions these links, he presents Sam with his reward for curing an incurable disease. Tah dah! A pile of musty, mite eaten scrolls that Sam must now transcribe. Honestly, it’s better than cleaning bedpans all day, so to me, this looks like a mini-promotion. However, to viewers around the world, this seemed more like a punishment than anything. Transcription? Of bug infested scrolls? No thanks. So either the archmaester Ebron is more withholding than Lucille Bluth… or he’s actually giving Sam a super secret present.

So what have we learned?

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  1. Ebrose knows that Sam is looking for information on defeating the White Walkers.
  2. For those who wish to study for the Valyrian steel healing links, there’s ancient information lying around the Citadel, likely decaying with age.
  3. Sam has just been given a pile of ancient information to transcribe that likely would have been off-limits to him otherwise as a first year med student.

You sly fox, Ebrose.

With any luck, Sam will discover a treasure trove of information in those scrolls and save the day for Westeros. His new friend Jorah has the Queen of Dragon’s ear, and she has both dragons and dragonglass, both known to be potent weapons against the White Walkers. What are the odds that their paths will cross again before the end of Season 7? Pretty high I’d wager.

So get to learnin’, Sam! With great musty scrolls comes great responsibility.

‘Game of Thrones’ airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.