Conflict Beyond the Wall

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War Beyond the Wall
Date 296 AC-Ongoing
Location Beyond the Wall
Battles Fist of the First Men | Bridge of Skulls | Castle Black
1. Night's Watch
2. Others
3. Wildlings

The Conflict Beyond the Wall, refering to an ongoing conflict taking place Beyond the Wall; the mightiest and oldest defensive structure constructed by men. Its main purpose was to shield the realms of men against the return of the Others, an evil presense who emerged during the Long Night. Since then, the Night's Watch has stood guard for about 8000 years, defending Westeros from threats from Beyond the Wall. During that time, its initial task has generally been forgotten and instead they have been guarding against the human Wildlings who hold the lands beyond. Occasionally forming raiding parties, the Wildlings consistently try to cross the Wall into the richer and warmer lands to the south or to escape the unknown terrors of the Far North.

The main events of this three-sided conflict that take place in the far North of the Seven Kingdoms and thus unknown or considered unimportant to the majority of its population, especially with the War of the Five Kings ravaging through the country. It is not surprising that this war has not been given an official name in the books. However, this conflict seems to be the corner stone that would determine the fate of the whole continent.

Night's Watch Decline

See also: Night's Watch, and The Wall

Before the time of Aegon I conquered Westeros, the Night's Watch boasted nineteen castles along the hundred leagues of the Wall, accounting over ten thousand men at arms with Castle Black quartering five thousand fighting men with all their horses, servants, and equipment. But it's power has dwindled during the last 300 years and during the events of A Game of Thrones, the Watch has only managed to sustain three castles; Castle Black, located in the middle of the wall with about six hundred men, Shadow Tower at the far west of the Wall overlooking the mountains, with about two hundred men, and the coastal Eastwatch with even fewer men. A bare third of them are fighting men.

997th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch Jeor Mormont, was deeply concerned by the declining power of the Watch, and the rising threat of the wildlings beyond the Wall, whose raids have increased on the people south of the wall in recent years. He tried to make it more difficult for the wildlings to know their comings and goings by using a more random system, varying the number of patrols and the days of their departure. Sometimes sending a larger force to one of the abandoned castles for a fortnight or a moon's turn as well.

The King Beyond the Wall and The Great Ranging

See also: Mance Rayder, and The Great Ranging

Even before the beginning of Robert's Rebellion, Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, was gathering wildling forces around him in an attempt to stave off attacks from the Others and recover the Horn of Winter. The Horn was needed as a fail-safe against the Night's Watch, as it was reputed in legend to be able to bring down the entire Wall with a single sounding. While most thought that the Horn was just a myth, Mance believed not only that it was real but that he could find it, deep in the frozen mountains known as the Frostfangs.

After the disappearance of a group of rangers led by Ser Waymar Royce,[1] a second group led by First Ranger Benjen Stark went north to find their missing Brothers and discover what was becoming of all the wildlings. After the subsequent disappearance of this second group, and the continued realignment of known wildling population centers, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont organized an expedition of over 300 Brothers and personally led them north to an ancient settlement near the Skirling Pass, east of the Frostfangs, called the Fist of the First Men.[2][3]

While Lord Commander Mormont led his small army north, several groups were dispatched by the Watch to scout ahead. One of these groups was led by Qhorin Halfhand, a senior ranger and the second in command of the Night's Watch western most castle, the Shadow Tower. Accompanied by 3 other rangers, and Jon Snow, a bastard of House Stark, the Halfhand discovered a vast wildling host deep in the Frostfangs. The group was trapped by wildling forces and either killed or went missing one by one until only the Halfhand and Jon Snow remained. At this point, to ensure that someone survived to bring word back to the Lord Commander, Qhorin Halfhand allowed Snow to slay him in a duel, thereby earning Snow the trust of the wildlings. With the destruction of the Halfhand's party, and Snow's inability to escape in time, the Lord Commander would receive no warning of the wildling host's purpose or composition, now numbering over a hundred thousand.

The Half-Hand and the Battle of the Fist of First Men

Main article: Battle of the Fist of the First Men

After the Night's Watch encamped on the Fist, a debate ensued among the Watch's leadership as to what the best course of action was to deal with the Wildling threat. Some, such as Thoren Smallwood, advocated attacking the wildling host along its line of march. The argument was decided to be the best course of action by the lord commander who proceeded to convince his men to the plan, however it proved useless as the following night the group was attacked by a force of wights and others. The Watch had some initial success with flaming arrows and spear walls, but the massive waves of wights and the deadly Others overcame the Watch's defenses. Realizing that his position was untenable and remaining on the Fist would result in the overrunning and ultimate destruction of his forces, Lord Commander Mormont ordered the Brothers to attempt a breakout of their encircled position. Once mounted, the Brothers formed a wedge and managed to fight their way off the Fist.

Mormont's savaged forces managed to make a long march through the snow-covered wilderness to Craster's Keep, a Wildling estate known to the Brothers to be friendly to the Watch. The Watch was harried and harassed all through the night as they made their retreat, and by the time that they reached Craster's Keep less than one hundred Brothers remained of the original force. It was here, desperate and angry at their situation, that a group of Brothers rebelled and murdered not only Craster but Lord Commander Mormont as well. A small group of loyalists managed to escape the carnage and make their way back to the Wall, bringing news of the disastrous expedition's fate.

The Battles of Castle Black and The Gap

King Stannis Baratheon's soldiers taking Mance Rayder's army in the flank - by Tomasz Jedruszek. © Fantasy Flight Games
Main articles: Battle of Castle Black, and Battle of the Bridge of Skulls

Mance Rayder, now knowing that the bulk of The Watch's fighting forces had been wiped out on the Fist by their mutual enemy, made his way out of the Frostfangs and started his march toward the Wall. Mance formed a plan to divert the remaining fighting men from both Castle Black and the Shadow Tower to the far west so he could send a team to scale the Wall and take the unwalled Castle Black from behind by surprise. With his diversionary force riding hard for the west, Lord Steward Bowen Marsh marshaled his forces and took the bait leaving only the old, the green, and the sickly behind to defend Castle Black.

After Mance attempt to take Castle Black from behind by surprise failed. Mance assembled his host and assaulted the wall for several days, until King Stannis Baratheon who had landed at Eastwatch-by-the-sea, arrived taking Mance Rayder's army in the flank as it besieged Castle Black, routing it utterly and capturing Mance himself.

New Beginnings and Peace

The Free Folk march to the Wall - by Marc Fishman ©

With King Stannis on the Wall, Mance in irons and the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch dead, along with most of the senior Brothers killed at the Fist or the Gap, the Watch was left in a precarious position of having to not only elect a new Lord Commander but also preserve their political neutrality. After a contested election between Lord Denys Mallister, commander of the Shadow Tower, Cotter Pyke, commander of East-Watch and Lord Janos Slynt, Jon Snow's name was placed as a compromise that both Mallister and Pyke could agree upon. The political maneuvers of Samwell Tarly securing Mallister's and Pyke's support (to prevent Janos Slynt, who both agreed would make a bad Lord Commander, from being voted in) and some fortunate election night events resulted in Jon Snow becoming the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. Jon Snow attempts to make an alliance between the watch and the wildlings so they can fight there common enemy the Others.

998th Lord commander of the Night's Watch, Jon Snow, must have realized that if the strength of The Night's Watch was in-sufficient to hold the Wall against the wildling raiders, after the disaster at Battle of the Fist of the First Men, it was incapable of holding the Wall against the ever growing threats of the Others.

Jon Snow means to garrison all the abandoned way castles, restore patrols on the wall and establish a line of beacon towers along the top of the Wall, until they have more maesters and more birds.

Allowing thousands of wildlings north of the Wall.

According to a letter sent to the wall by Ramsay Snow the army of Stannis was defeated, and Stannis killed. It is unknown however if the letter (or certain parts of it) were a lie or not. When the letter was received at the wall, Jon Snow decided to ride south to meet the Bastard of Bolton in the field of battle, several wildlings agreed to join him. Bowen Marsh and several of his followers however, fearing that the neutrality of the Night's Watch was being threatened by their Lord Commander's actions, stabbed Jon several times. It is unknown if he has survived.[4]

References and Notes

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