Battle beneath the Wall

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Battle beneath the Wall
Battle of Castle Black by Giliberti.jpg
© 2005 M. Luisa Giliberti
Conflict Conflict beyond the Wall
War of the Five Kings
Date 300 AC
Place Castle Black
Result Night's Watch / House Baratheon of Dragonstone victory
Combatants
Free folk[1]

Giants

Night's Watch.svg Night's Watch

Late battle:

Stannis sigil coat.png House Baratheon of Dragonstone:

The Reach

Crownlands

Stormlands

Commanders
King Mance Rayder
Tormund
Harma
Varamyr
The Lord of Bones
Mag Mar Tun Doh Weg
Night's Watch.svg Donal Noye
Night's Watch.svg Jon Snow
Night's Watch.svg Cotter Pyke
Stannis sigil coat.png King Stannis Baratheon
Strength
100,000 (Satin's estimation)[1]
30,000 - 40,000 (Jon Snow's estimation)[2]

Hundreds of giants[3]

100+ mammoths[1]
Night's Watch:
  • ~34 Sworn Brothers at Castle Black
  • Unknown reinforcements from Eastwatch

Stannis' army:

  • 1,500 knights, mounted soldiers, heavy horse, mounted bowmen, men-at-arms.
Casualties
200 wildlings, a dozen giants, some giants[4][2]
1,000 wildlings killed and 1,000 captured (by Stannis's forces)[5]
Red Alyn of the Rosewood
Light losses to Stannis's host

The battle beneath the Wall[6][7][8] (also called the battle for the Wall[9] and the battle by the Wall[10]) is between the forces of the Night's Watch residing at Castle Black and Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, the main host of Mance Rayder, and the forces of Stannis Baratheon.

Prelude

Aemon, the maester at Castle Black, sends ravens seeking aid for the Night's Watch after the disastrous fight at the Fist, and Lord Davos Seaworth informs King Stannis Baratheon at Dragonstone.[11]

Having learned that the bulk of the Watch's fighting force has been wiped out at the Fist by Others and their wights, Mance Rayder plans to lead his main host of free folk through the gate in the Wall at Castle Black. He lures the main strength still remaining at the castle away by having smaller raiding parties show up at multiple places at the Wall, leaving Castle Black to be weakly defended.[12] Next, Mance sends Styr, the Magnar of Thenn, and Jarl as joint commanders with a force of a hundred Thenns and twenty of Jarl's raiders to scale the Wall and take Castle Black unaware from the south.[13] Jarl dies during the ascent,[14] however, and the survivors descend using the abandoned castle of Greyguard.[1] They travel through the Gift to Castle Black.[15] While at Queenscrown, Jon Snow, a black brother who had pretended to have deserted the Night's Watch, escapes the raiding party.[15] He travels back to Castle Black by the way of Mole's Town in time to warn the remaining brothers of the Watch of the on-coming attack from the south.[12]

Donal Noye and Jon Snow repel the attack on Castle Black led by Styr.[16] Since the Thenns failed to capture the castle and open the gate for the King-Beyond-the-Wall's main host, Mance is forced to attack the Wall in an attempt to breach the gate.[1]

Meanwhile, the fleet of Salladhor Saan transports Stannis's army north to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.[17] Cotter Pyke leads Stannis's knights west on ranger's roads close to the Wall.[6]

Battle

Battle for the gate

Mance has his host encamped half a mile north from the Wall.[4] The host is first noticed in the black of the night, when the sentries of the Night's Watch at Castle Black blow their horns two times to alert the brothers of the presence of the free folk. Per the command of Donal Noye, barrels of burning pitch are thrown down the Wall by trebuchet in order to get a view of the enemy. Next, the brothers set ablaze a dozen jars of lamp oil, which they shove over the edge one by one, followed by a barrel of pitch.[1]

Donal takes two archers and two spearmen with him down the Wall to hold the gate from within the tunnel, leaving Jon Snow in command of the forces above. From atop the Wall, the brothers blindly loose arrows and throw rocks with small catapults. After several hours, one of the trebuchets breaks down, while the free folk down below learn to avoid the places the rocks of the other trebuchet land. They fight blindly all throughout the night.[1]

When the sun has come up, the free folk bring in a ram. The wildling line is centered by a hundred or more mammoths with giants on their backs, and more giants beside them. Horsemen, archers, and men with spears, slings, clubs, and leathern shields march on either side of the giants, and bone chariots from the Frozen Shore make up the flanks. Once they are within range, the black brothers on the Wall rain down arrows and spiked steel caltrops upon them, until the giants who had been carrying the ram are dead or unable to go on. With fire arrows and barrels of burning oil the advancing host is scared into retreating, giving the day's victory to the Night's Watch.[1]

Despite the successful defense of the Night's Watch, the giants below manage to break the outer door of studded oak of the gate. Mag Mar Tun Doh Weg crawls through, withstanding the arrows and reaching the iron gate behind the men of the Night's Watch were standing. Of the five below, Donal is the last defender to die, either killing or mortally wounding Mag in the process by stabbing him in the throat with his sword. Donal dies when the giant crushes his spine.[1]

Jon, Pypar, Maester Aemon, and Clydas enter the tunnel after the battle is over, finding the five dead brothers and the dead giant. Beyond the tunnel, they find the carcass of a dead mammoth partially blocking the entrance, and three more dead giants outside. Jon suggests blocking up the tunnel up to the second gate with rubble, ice, and anything else they can find. However, when he proclaims that Ser Wynton Stout, the last knight remaining at Castle Black, should take over command, Aemon informs him that Wynton is no longer able to do so, and that command has passed to Jon himself.[1]

The turtle

The struggle continues for many days afterwards.[N 1] During that time, the Night's Watch runs low of supplies. They have no more oil or barrels of pitch, and are soon to run out of arrows as well. When they receive news from Ser Denys Mallister about the fight at the Bridge of Skulls, Jon dispatches Zei to Mole's Town to plead with the villagers to aid the black brothers at the Wall. When she fails to return, Jon sends Mully after her, who returns to tell them that the entire village has been deserted.[4]

During that time, the free folk construct a “turtle” to breach the gate. Its layers protect the turtle from fire arrows shot down by the Watch, making Jon realize that they can only stop it by crushing it once it is close enough. Together with Grenn, Owen the Oaf, and Kegs, Jon pushes four of the dozen stout oaken barrels full of crushed rock submerged in frozen water off of the Wall as the wildlings begin to clear away the dead giants. They succeed in splintering the front of the turtle, and the free folk beneath it flee.[4]

Jon's arrest and parley

Ser Alliser Thorne, who had been sent to King's Landing by Jeor Mormont, the late Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, returns to Castle Black from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, bringing with him Janos Slynt and some reinforcements from Eastwatch. Janos takes over command at Castle Black and has Jon taken into custody, accusing him of desertion. Janos and Alliser bring forth Rattleshirt,[4] who had been taken captive by Cotter Pyke at Long Barrow.[2] Rattleshirt confirms Jon had taken up arms against his brothers when he killed Qhorin Halfhand in the Frostfangs, and neither Janos nor Alliser accept Jon's explanation. Only Maester Aemon comes to Jon's aid, explaining how Jon has held the Wall against Mance Rayder during the struggle thus far. Regardless, Janos orders Jon confined to an ice cell,[4] where he sits for four days.[2] Although Janos wishes to hang Jon, Aemon protests and writes to Cotter at Eastwatch, preventing Janos from being able to perform the execution.[2]

Janos has Jon taken out of the ice cell four days later, proclaiming that Mance requested a parley, asking the Night's Watch to send him an envoy. Alliser and Janos select Jon, with the secret command of killing Mance once Jon has reached the camp. Jon is brought beyond the Wall by the use of the winch cage, and is met by Tormund on his slow way to Mance's tent. Mance waits outside his tent, attended by Harma and Varamyr Sixskins, but agrees to speak with Jon privately in his tent. He reveals that Varamyr, through Orell's eagle, has seen how few men of the Night's Watch remain, and he shows Jon the Horn of Winter, admitting that it is not his desire to sound the horn and have the Wall fall, as he wishes to use the Wall to protect his people from the Others. In the presence of his wife Dalla and her sister Val, Mance informs Jon that he will give the Night's Watch the horn if he and his people are allowed to pass through the gate, but insists that his people will not yield to the laws of the south. If the Night's Watch refuses the offer, Mance will have Tormund sound the horn at dawn three days later.[2]

Battle beneath the Wall

The southron knights of Stannis Baratheon sweep down upon the wildlings.© FFG

While contemplating whether to kill Mance now or return to the Wall to bring his offer before his superiors, Jon and Mance are interrupted by the sound of a warhorn, alerting them of something coming towards them, first only from the east, but later also from the north. Mance immediately orders their defenses up, but a combined force of rangers from Eastwatch and the southron knights of Stannis Baratheon sweep down upon the camp.

Stannis's knights wash over the wildlings. The red priestess Melisandre burns Varamyr's eagle, taking out the skinchanger as he falls to the ground in pain. As battle is joined, Dalla goes into labor, with only Val and Jon to assist her. Harma Dogshead is killed in battle,[2] while Dormund is slain by a knight with moths on his shield,[9] possibly Ser Richard Horpe. When Mance's horse is slain in battle, the wildlings break, with only the giants still holding.[2] Ser Godry Farring kills an escaping giant, earning himself the nickname Giantslayer.[7]

Aftermath

Mance Rayder is captured and imprisoned by the forces of Stannis Baratheon,[5] alongside of another thousand of the free folk,[7] including Mance's newborn son and his sister-in-law, Val.[5] Stannis remains at Castle Black, where he occupies the King's Tower.[6] Stannis offers to legitimize Jon Snow and name him Lord of Winterfell in exchange for Jon's help in winning the north to his side. He additionally plans to wed Val to his new Lord of Winterfell in order to assure the loyalty of his new subjects. Jon is given time to think about the offer.[5]

The Night's Watch, having been without a lord commander since the death of Jeor Mormont during the mutiny at Craster's Keep, start the vote for Jeor's successor.[6] Stannis, desiring to negotiate with the lord commander over possession of the Gift and all castles but Castle Black, the Shadow Tower, and Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, is displeased by the fact that after ten days of voting the black brothers still have not yet chosen a new commander. He threatens to several of the higher ranking black brothers that he will choose a lord commander for them if they do not come to a decision that same day.[18] Samwell Tarly, realizing that of the three main contesters, Janos Slynt is coming dangerously close to being elected,[6] convinces the two other contenders, Ser Denys Mallister and Cotter Pyke, the commanders of the Shadow Tower and Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, respectively, to give their support to Jon instead.[18] Jon is elected as lord commander later that day.[19]

Stannis sends word to Ser Rolland Storm, his castellan at Dragonstone, to begin mining dragonglass for use in fighting the Others.[18] Stannis is willing to allow free folk through the Wall and settle them on the Gift if they swear to R'hllor, including the Lord of Bones and Sigorn, the new leader of the Thenns.[5] Stannis burns Mance for treason,[20] but this is actually a glamoured Rattleshirt.[10]

The wildlings who escaped capture flee into the haunted forest.[21] Many follow a rider who leads them to the Milkwater, while hundreds more follow a dour warrior to Thenn.[21] Even more follow Mother Mole to Hardhome; Varamyr Sixskins believes the number to have been hundreds,[21] but Bowen Marsh later reports that more than six thousand wildlings are at Hardhome with Mother Mole.[9] Another three thousand follow Tormund.[9][8] Lord Commander Snow sends Val into the forest as an envoy to find Tormund.[22]

Quotes

The Wall was too big to be stormed by any conventional means; too high for ladders or siege towers, too thick for battering rams. No catapult could throw a stone large enough to breach it, and if you tried to set it on fire, the icemelt would quench the flames. You could climb over, as the raiders did near Greyguard, but only if you were strong and fit and sure-handed, and even then you might end up like Jarl, impaled on a tree. They must take the gate, or they cannot pass.[1]

—thoughts of Jon Snow


The Wall will stop them. The Wall will stop them. The Wall defends itself. Mance wants to unman us with his numbers. Does he think we're stupid? The chariots, the horsemen, all those fools on foot ... what are they going to do to us up here? Any of you ever see a mammoth climb a wall? They're nothing, they're less use than our straw brothers here, they can't reach us, they can't hurt us, and they don't frighten us, do they?[1]


And through the smoke another wedge of armored riders came, on barded horses. Floating above them were the largest banners yet, royal standards as big as sheets; a yellow one with long pointed tongues that showed a flaming heart, and another like a sheet of beaten gold, with a black stag prancing and rippling in the wind. Robert, Jon thought for one mad moment, remembering poor Owen, but when the trumpets blew again and the knights charged, the name they cried was "Stannis! Stannis! STANNIS!"[2]

—thoughts of Jon Snow

Notes

  1. Although the amount of days is unknown, A Storm of Swords, Jon XI starts at least four days later, if not more.

References