The great ranging is an expedition organised by the 997th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Jeor Mormont, in 299 AC. Lord Commander Mormont leads three hundred sworn brothers of the Night's Watch north beyond the Wall. It includes two hundred men from Castle Black and another hundred from the Shadow Tower. It is the biggest ranging in living memory, consisting of near a third of the Night's Watch's strength.
The great ranging's goals are:
- To discover why the wildlings who lived close to the Wall were leaving their villages;
- Learn more about the so-called King-Beyond-The-Wall, Mance Rayder;
- Find First Ranger Benjen Stark, Ser Waymar Royce and the other rangers who have recently disappeared;
- To discover further information on what caused the corpses of Jafer Flowers and Othor to rise from the dead.
Expedition North and New Discoveries
The expedition passes seven deserted wildling villages, the fourth of which is Whitetree, before arriving at Craster's Keep. The expedition camps for the night at Craster's Keep. There they learn that the villages are empty because Mance Rayder is gathering all the free folk in the Frostfangs with the intent to strike at the Wall as the wildlings chieftains have done in the past. It is the stated that the most recent invasion was led by Raymun Redbeard.
Lord Commander Mormont decides they will camp at the Fist of the First Men and await Qhorin Halfhand and the men from the Shadow Tower. Qhorin's party arrives late after running into a wildling scouting party led by Alfyn Crowkiller. They were successful in stopping the wildlings from reporting back to Mance, at the cost of four men and a dozen wounded. A prisoner taken in the battle revealed that Mance is searching for some magic to bring down the Wall.
After Qhorin finally makes it to the rendezvous point, it is decided to send three scouting parties into the Frostfang mountains to discover the size of the host and what Mance is looking for, led by Jarmen Buckwell, Thoren Smallwood, and Qhorin Halfhand himself.
Disaster at the Fist and Retreat
- Main article: Battle of the Fist of the First Men
Shortly after the return of Thoren Smallwood's team, the expedition is attacked at the Fist of the First Men by wights. After an unsuccessful counterattack, due to being caught unaware and ill-prepared to fight an unfamiliar foe, Lord Commander Mormont rallies about fifty brothers onto horseback to break out of the Fist in a tactical retreat. It is assumed that the brothers who were unable to form up with Mormont's retreat were all slaughtered by the wights.
As the horses become more tired and the weather worsens, the Lord Commander organizes the injured to be put on horseback and sets the able men walking with torches to guard the flanks and rear. Fortunately the wights do not give an effective pursuit, only nibbling at the stragglers. It is during this march south that the Watch rediscovers the effect of dragonglass on the Others; Samwell Tarly, Small Paul and Grenn are among the stragglers and in self defence, Samwell stabs an Other by mistake, causing the entire creature to dissolve.
Mutiny at Craster's Keep
- Main article: Mutiny at Craster's Keep
Forty-four brothers, twelve of them seriously injured, survive the wight and Other attacks and are able to reach Craster's Keep. However, morale is low and food is scarce. Although Craster offers them some food, many of the disgruntled members of the group claim Craster is holding out on them, and they eventually draw their weapons. Craster tries to fight them but is killed by Dirk. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, who tries to intervene, is killed as well by Ollo Lophand, which leads to a brawl between the mutineers and the loyalists. About a dozen loyalists decide to retreat and manage to return to Castle Black; Samwell Tarly and Gilly also manage to escape.
Nearly a third of the Night's Watch's strength, including most of its command and experienced fighting force, are lost. With less than thirty brothers to return to the Wall after the disaster at the Fist of the First Men, the mission is considered a failure. With tens of thousands of wildlings still marching on the Wall, the depleted force must rely on ingenuity and new leadership to survive any further engagements with hostiles beyond the Wall.
- Lord Commander Jeor Mormont.
- Thoren Smallwood, commander of the rangers
- Jarmen Buckwell, commander of the scouts
- Ser Mallador Locke, commander of the baggage
- Ser Ottyn Wythers, commander of the rearguard
- Qhorin Halfhand, commander of the Brothers from Shadow Tower
- Blane, Qhorin's second-in-command.
- Squire Dalbridge
- Byam Flint
- Bedwyck known as Giant
- Ollo Lophand
- Brown Bernarr
- Black Bernarr
- Tim Stone
- Ulmer of the Kingswood
- Garth Greyfeather
- Garth of Greenaway
- Garth of Oldtown
- Alan of Rosby
- Ronnel Harclay
- Kedge Whiteye
- Eddison Tollett, Lark, Rolley of Sisterton, Clubfoot Karl, Maslyn, Small Paul, Sawwood, Left Hand Lew, Orphan Oss, Muttering Bill.
References and Notes
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Prologue.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 19, Jon.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 52, Jon.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 23, Jon.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Prologue.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 18, Samwell.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 33, Samwell.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 48, Jon.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 46, Samwell.