The Others, also known as the White Walkers, are a group of mystical and evil creatures from the Land of Always Winter, who seem to want only one thing: to wipe out all life. The Others emerged during The Longest Night, pouring south from the frozen lands far to the north and waging war upon the living. Descending from some unknown source many hundreds of leagues north of the Wall, marching across the frozen terrain on tireless legs, ice spiders, and deathless destriers, the White Walkers poured into the lands of men. They made no efforts to demand surrender or concessions; they never paused to regroup or to resupply. They simply poured southward sowing death with every stride.
The weapons and armor carried by the Walkers is said to resemble enchanted ice, glowing as if with moonlight from within. Swords that clash with the weapon of a White Walker are said to shatter on contact, and they have been reported to be blindingly quick and skilled swordsmen, capable of defeating even the greatest warriors of men in single combat.
If the Others were not sufficiently terrifying in their capacity for slaughter, then potentially even more frightening is that which they left in their wake. Every living thing killed by the weapon or the touch of a White Walker is doomed to rise as a wight, an undead abomination devoid of intellect or mercy. Wights are quite simply weapons of flesh for the Others. They move in a straight path towards the nearest living thing, and kill it before turning to the next. Not only men may be raised as wights, but also wolves, bears, horses, and giants. One account told amongst the men of House Umber details how a wight-giant slew three score men as it came upon their camp in the night, until finally the tree trunk it wielded as a club caught fire in one of the raging bonfires around which men huddled, and the abomination itself burned along with its weapon.
Only action from The King of Winter, Gaven Stark seems to have saved the world of men from being lost forever to endless winter and death, as he ventured into The Wolfswood in search of aid with only his sons to accompany him. If legends are to be believed, King Stark sought out and was able to meet with the Children of the Forest who still lived in the Wolfswood, and there struck a terrible bargain that bought a last chance for mankind. Whatever the truth of King Stark’s journey into the Wolfswood, these facts are known: Gaven Stark ventured into the wood with no clue how to defeat the Others or their wights, with five sons and daughters at his heels, and he returned with none of his children and a weapon that would defeat the foe of mankind.
Only two things are known to have the power to slay one of the White Walkers. One is Valyrian steel. Some believe that the creation of the metal involves some magics of fire that stay alive within the blades, making them the perfect foe for a magical creature borne of ice. None truly know why Valyrian arms and armor are death to the Others, in truth, but it is known to be true. The other is Dragonglass, also called obsidian by scholars. Again, no one seems to know why this material seems to spell instant death for the Walkers, but it is certainly so. King Gaven brought back not only the secret of Dragonglass, but a sled that he towed across the snow himself, bearing scores of weapons made from that substance. Arrowheads, spearheads, and daggers by the score, and a rare few swords carved entirely of the shining black stone came back with him from the depths of the wood, and word spread like wildfire that any scrap of the stone must be shipped north with all haste.
It is said by men that dragon’s fire may also kill the Others, but how anyone would know this is beyond the reckoning of men. No dragons are known to have been involved in the fight against the Others during the Longest Night, and one assumes that such an occurrence would have been memorable to say the least. Most believe that it is assumed to be so due to the name Dragonglass given to the one substance that IS known to kill a Walker, but given the dawning of a long-awaited spring and the construction of the Wall, it is likely that we shall never have to know.