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Conflict Beyond the Wall

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"When dead men and worse come hunting for us in the night, you think it matters who sits on the Iron Throne?"
Jeor Mormont to Jon Snow[src]

The Conflict Beyond the Wall is 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 White Walkers, a supernatural race of evil beings who emerged during the Long Night. Since then, the Night's Watch has stood guard for about 8,000 years, defending Westeros from the threats that lurk Beyond the Wall. During that time, its initial task has generally been forgotten and instead they have been guarding against the human Free Folk 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; recently, however, their efforts have been concentrated into escaping the threat of the White Walkers of the northernmost Lands of Always Winter and their ever-growing army of reanimated dead, called Wights.

The main events of this three-sided conflict take place in the far North of the Seven Kingdoms and are thus unknown or considered unimportant to the majority of its population, especially with the War of the Five Kings ravaging through the country. As some are beginning to see, however, the events beyond the Wall are the true conflict that will shake the continent, with the growing power of the White Walkers and the insidious Night King threatening to bring about the Long Night once again.



Before Aegon I Targaryen's conquest of Westeros, the Night's Watch boasted nineteen castles along hundred leagues of the Wall, with a strength of over ten thousand men at arms, Castle Black alone quartering five thousand fighting men with all their horses, servants, and equipment. But its manpower has dwindled during the last 300 years to the point that the Watch has only managed to sustain three castles; Castle Black, located in the middle of the Wall with about six hundred men, the Shadow Tower at the far west of the Wall overlooking the mountains, with about two hundred men, and the coastal Eastwatch, on the shores of the Shivering Sea, with even fewer men. A bare third of them are fighting men.

The 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 implemented a random system of patrols, varying the number of patrols and the days of their departure, in order to prevent the wildlings slipping past the guard. At times, the Old Bear would also send a larger force to one of the abandoned castles for a fortnight or a moon's turn as well.

The Great Ranging

After reports of wildlings amassing, rumors of White Walkers being sighted, the disappearance of several rangers, including First Ranger Benjen Stark, and the appearance of wights, a force of nearly 300 men of the Night's Watch embarked on a Great Ranging led by the Lord Commander himself. The purpose of the ranging was to investigate the various rumors: those concerning the wildlings, who, while normally unorganized, were flocking to the call of the King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder, a former Brother of the Night's Watch; and those concerning the recurrence of mythical White Walkers.[1]

While trekking north the ranging party reached Craster's Keep, where Craster confirmed that a vast wildling army was amassing in the Frostfang Mountains, prepared to strike the Wall. Mormont then resolved to march north to attack the wildling host before it could reach the Wall.[2]

His army then erected a base of operations at the Fist of the First Men, an ancient hill-fort. While on the Fist, Mormont's force was reinforced by a group of rangers led by Qhorin Halfhand, a legendary ranger, who proposed to mount a scouting operation into wildling territory to gather information about the enemy. Jon Snow, until then personal steward to the Lord Commander, volunteered to go with them.[3]

However, this mission ended badly when Jon walked into a wildling trap and was captured.[4] Later on, Qhorin was also taken prisoner.[5] Realizing a last minute opportunity, Qhorin ordered Jon to kill him to prove his loyalty to the wildling cause, and so to infiltrate their ranks to gather intelligence for the Watch. Because of his killing of Qhorin and his relation with the wildling girl Ygritte, Jon was accepted into wildling ranks. Meanwhile on the Fist of the First Men, his brothers of the Watch discovered a hidden cache of mysterious Dragonglass.[6]

Battle of the Fist of the First Men

Expecting the return of the scouting mission of Qhorin Halfhand, the base of the Night's Watch was beset by an army of wights, led by the legendary White Walkers themselves. This was the first confrontation between men and White Walkers in thousands of years.[7]

The Watch suffered massive casualties and had to abandon its position. Most of its fighting strength was depleted, and the dead men were later reanimated as more wights for the undead army.[8] Lord Commander Mormont managed to retreat south, but many of his survivors were injured, starving and thoroughly shaken.[9]

Mutiny at Craster's Keep

The ragged remains of the Night's Watch army eventually arrived back at Craster's Keep, where the tensions between host and his guests became increasingly hostile.[10] When Craster refused them food and offered to finish the injured, he was goaded into a rage by the ranger Karl and then stabbed through the throat. Mormont was unable to control the ensuing chaos and was stabbed in the back by the disgruntled Rast. With the Lord Commander dead, the surviving brothers of the Watch started fighting amongst themselves.[11] In the aftermath only a handful of loyal brothers made their way back to Castle Black, while the Mutineers settled in at Craster's Keep, turning it even more into a house of horrors.[12] [13]

Raid on Craster's Keep

The mutineers of the Night's Watch were eventually dealt with and eliminated in an expedition led by Jon Snow, to prevent any information about the weakness of the defenses of the Night's Watch leaking to Mance Rayder's approaching army. With this, the death of Lord Commander Mormont was avenged and Craster's Keep was burned to the ground in the aftermath.[14]

Sack of Mole's Town​​

Weeks after having climbed the Wall, Tormund's warband, including Ygritte, was joined by Styr and his Thenn raiders[15], and started to raid towns in the Gift[16], eventually reaching Mole's Town, a small village close to Castle Black. The wildlings killed everyone in sight.[17]

Battle of Castle Black

Mance Rayder led a siege against the grievously-undermanned Castle Black, signaling the attack by starting a massive conflagration north of the Wall. His attack was two-fold; his main army, composed of wildlings, giants, and mammoths, attacked the north side of the Wall while the smaller garrison that had climbed the Wall launched a surprise attack on Castle Black's southern entrance. Despite being hopelessly outnumbered, the men of the Night's Watch managed to repel the initial invasion, and the small wildling garrison attacking from the south was nearly wiped out, resulting in the deaths of both Styr and Ygritte, and Tormund being taken a prisoner of the Night's Watch. Although the initial invasion was repelled, Castle Black's garrison took a significant number of casualties, Grenn and Pypar among them. Mance was simply testing Castle Black's defenses and planned to launch a much larger counterattack. In hopes of preventing this from happening, Jon Snow decided to venture north of the Wall and assassinate Mance Rayder, in hopes that his death would unravel the unity amongst the wildling clans and end the war, though Jon knew this was likely to be a suicide mission.[18]

While Jon was treating with Mance Rayder the following morning, hundreds of mounted knights led by Stannis Baratheon arrive, taking the Wildling army by surprise. The Wildling camps were quickly overrun, scattering thousands of wildlings into the wilderness while the majority were rounded up and captured by Stannis's troops. Stannis then took up residence in Castle Black alongside his court and the Night's Watch.[19]

Massacre at Hardhome

Having been elected Lord Commander, Jon Snow decided the Night's Watch had to side with the wildlings against the White Walkers, and treated with Tormund in order to reach an agreement.[20][21] Jon Snow and Tormund, along with other members of the Night's Watch, arrived at the ruined wildling settlement of Hardhome with Stannis' fleet in order to convince the rest of the Free Folk to join them in the upcoming war against the White Walkers and their armies of wights.

Though with some difficulty, they reached an agreement with some of the clans, and began taking the Free Folk in boats to the fleet. However, the White Walkers arrived just then, with hundreds of thousands of wights. Though the Free Folk and the Night's Watch resisted, and Jon Snow discovered a White Walker weakness to Valyrian steel, they only succeeded in buying time for those making their way to the fleet. Those not behind Hardhome's gates at the start of the invasion and many defenders were slaughtered, their bodies fresh recruits for the White Walkers' wight army. At the battle's conclusion, the Night King issued a challenge to the survivors by raising the newly-dead for his army.[22]

Mutiny at Castle Black

"My watch is ended."
Jon Snow leaves the Night's Watch after his resurrection.[src]
By bringing wildlings through Castle Black, Lord Commander Jon Snow earned the hatred of most of the Night's Watchmen. Though he believed his actions to be right, he ignored the wishes of his advisors, with First Ranger Alliser Thorne declaring his actions to be foolhardy and reckless. By focusing only on the coming White Walker invasion, Jon could not see the discontent brewing amongst the Night's Watch.[23]

Some time after Jon has sent Sam away to Oldtown to receive maester training with Gilly and Little Sam in tow, Olly appears at Jon's door to deliver news that a Wildling knows of Jon's uncle Benjen, who has been missing for many years now, and who was the subject of a manhunt during a ranging beyond the Wall. Jon frantically scrambles out of his room, across the castle courtyard, and past a group of Night's Watchmen, only to discover a sign with the word "Traitor" scrawled upon it. Upon turning around after realizing that he has been led into a trap, several Night's Watchmen stab Jon and declare, "For the Watch." Jon's body is left in the courtyard to bleed out.[24]

Shortly after Snow's murder, his dead body is found by several Night's Watch brothers still loyal to Jon. Davos SeaworthEddison Tollett and a few of Jon's friends find his body and place it inside his quarters. Upon immediately realizing it was Thorne who led the mutiny, Edd opts to die fighting to kill Thorne and avenge Jon. However, at Davos' suggestion, he eventually leaves to enlist support from the wildlings led by Tormund. Meanwhile, Thorne announces Jon's death to the Watch, not hiding his treason, and manages to win most of the Night's Watch by convincing them that Jon, while doing what he thought was right, was prepared to see the Watch destroyed. Later, Thorne, having prepared men armed with crossbows ready, speaks with Davos through the door of Jon's quarters offering to spare him and the loyalists with the former being allowed to leave with a horse and supplies. Davos, doubting Thorne's sincerity, mockingly asks for mutton. Thorne issues them an ultimatum: surrender by nightfall or die. Realizing that surrender will mean death, Davos and the loyalists decide to wait until nightfall and prepare to fight, waiting for help from Edd and the wildlings. [25]

When this terms are not met, Thorne prepares to break down the door, seconds before Edd returns with the wildlings. After a brief stand-off, the mutineers surrender and Edd orders Thorne, Marsh, Yarwyck and Olly locked in the ice cells for their treachery. Later, Davos persuades Melisandre to resurrect Jon. Having lost her faith in the Lord of Light, she performs a ritual, cleaning Jon's body, cutting some of his hair and beard and reciting the same incantation that Thoros of Myr used to bring Beric Dondarrion back to life six times. After his friends leave the room, Jon awakens, returning from the dead. [26]

After his return from the dead, Jon hangs Thorne, Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwyck and Olly for their role in the mutiny, then relinquishes his position as Lord Commander to Edd and abandons the Night's Watch, as death has freed him of his vows. [27]

Battle at the Cave of the Three-eyed raven

Unknown to almost all, Bran Stark, along with Hodor, Summer, and the Reed twins had made it past the Wall shortly before the Raid on Craster's Keep. The group found their way to the Cave of the three-eyed raven, where the eponymous mystic and the surviving Children of the Forest sought to train Bran to control his Greensight to use against the White Walkers. Over the next several months, the three-eyed raven taught Bran how to use his powers to view the past and learn the truth of historical events. The most important insight was the origin of the White Walkers: they are First Men transformed by the Children to fight for them in their wars. Desiring to know more, Bran views the past again, this time without the three-eyed raven's guidance, and drew the attention of the Night King.

While the three-eyed raven shared what was left of his knowledge with Bran, the Children, Meera, and Summer desperately tried to hold back the tide of wights, but most of the Children and Summer perished in the attempt. The Night King murdered the three-eyed raven himself, while Leaf sacrificed herself shortly thereafter. Hodor held back the wights at a hidden door of the cave, but in the process, Bran accidentally warged into Hodor's past self and destroyed his mind, setting off the chain of events that led to Hodor holding the door in the first place. Meera and Bran, now alone, fled into the night.[28]

See also


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