In the Game of Thrones episode "The Winds of Winter", Qyburn uses aid of his "little birds" to assassinate

Grand Maester Pycelle.

The children swarm the victim repeatedly stabbing him with short blades. I didn't really get that scene, he could just stab his target himself or use his knowledge to kill him through other means. Why involve more witnesses?

  • 5
    @ChanandlerBong Stabbinb isn't really warrior-like act. Involving children means the same risk - and witnesses who exchange information for sweets. Jun 28, 2016 at 9:11
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    Question is now showing up in Hot Questions. Title is a spoiler, please amend.
    – chucksmash
    Jun 28, 2016 at 17:00
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    Out of story, because it is creepy. In story... maybe it is a good bonding activity?
    – kleineg
    Jun 28, 2016 at 17:32
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    @chucksmash We can't have every single question titled "Why did this character did that?". The title doesn't spoil any major event of the series. Jun 29, 2016 at 8:34
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    His little birds each have some levels in the Rogue class. As such, they can perform sneak attacks when they are flanking, as seen in the episode.
    – mbomb007
    Jun 29, 2016 at 21:43

2 Answers 2


One word: Training.

An old man trapped in a room won't likely be the last Westerosian that Qyburn wants dead. It's now clear that his approach to scaling his organization is by using destitute children. Which makes sense, (once you get past any moral revulsion you might have): they're malleable, desperate for someone who cares about them, and aren't considered a threat by others.

Qyburn's developing a team, and we know that the teams' goals include:

  • Spying on Qyburn's - or Cercei's - frenemies
  • Killing their enemies, including some that likely can't be dispatched via mass-wildfyre-bombings

So, if you want to turn kids into assassins that can take out real threats someday, you'd likely need to do two things:

  • Let them practice the physical skills involved, and
  • Desensitize them to the natural moral resistance, or their fear of new things

Both of those are achieved by making them start with victims that pose no threat in controlled, supervised environments.

(If he's read the hot management tomes of the era, I assume he's already had them watch a mass stabbing prior to this scene's events, and will encourage them to teach a mass stabbing to the next class of urchins to really lock it in.)

  • Also note that these children are Varys' little birds, so they may already have been used to work as agents. Whether that included murder, we don't know, but it stands to reason that their life on the street will at least have hardened them to some degree.
    – Flater
    Jan 29, 2019 at 9:28

I think it is as simple as Qyburn would never put himself in a position that could cause himself harm. He is a "mad scientist" and every mad scientist needs henchmen. Pycell was known to be crafty and deceitfully spry for his age. If one of the little birds gets injured or killed, it is no great loss.

The witnesses are already in on the Wildfire plot, so using them to kill one more person really is not that big of a deal...

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