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Acting Lord Commander Alliser Thorne talks about the purpose of the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, how he is chosen, and recalls some of the more noteworthy Lord Commanders, who made history through their folly.
Alliser Thorne: Each brother of the Night's Watch swears a sacred oath to protect the realms of men. That doesn't mean pissing about, waiting for the cold to put an end to you. It means bleeding. It means fighting. It means going beyond the Wall and hunting down those who mean harm to the realm.
So how do you get a thousand rapists and thieves to fight together, to bleed together? That's the burden of the Lord Commander. He keeps the builders building, the rangers ranging, and the stewards stewarding - or else it all falls apart.
Each Lord Commander is chosen from and by his fellow brothers, and he serves for life. A long time ago, you may have had men from Queensgate and Long Barrow, and the other sixteen castles of the Wall come to Castle Black for an election. These days, you'd be lucky to scrape a few dozen from Eastwatch and the Shadow Tower, or however many they can spare, who cast votes in their stead. All the same, the brothers are allowed to name whomever they think worthy of the title. Then, we vote until one man receives a majority - however long it takes. Some elections have lasted an hour, some have lasted weeks. One even lasted two years.
Maester Aemon says there have been nine hundred and ninety-seven Lord Commanders since the Night's Watch was founded. Back then, we had true soldiers - men of honor and strength. Now, look who mans the wall. Bastards, peasants who stole a sheep to bugger, and fat little nobles who weren't worthy of their lord father's land. But the Lord Commander must find a place for them all, and turn these walking piles of horse dung into soldiers of the Night's Watch.
Though, we haven't always been so lucky to have such men lead us. We've had cowards and fools as well, our tyrants and our madmen. Runcel Hightower tried to bequeath the Watch to his bastard. Rodrik Flint thought to make himself King-Beyond-the-Wall. Tristan Mudd, Mad Marq Rankenfell, Robin Hill, each nearly destroyed us with their foolishness. Six hundred years ago, the commanders at Snowgate and the Nightfort even went to war against each other. The simpering Lord Commander asked them politely to lay aside their quarrel, and incredibly, they did - because they joined forces to murder him. The Stark in Winterfell had to intervene, and take both their heads to save the Night's Watch.
Now, we've got more mouths than we can feed, a southern king in our castle, and cells full of wildlings - and no Lord Commander, since the last was betrayed by his own men. We need a new leader, a man respected enough to hold the Watch together in this dark hour. A leader strong enough to make sure the Night's Watch survives the coming winter - no matter the cost.
- Maester Aemon (mentioned)
- Lord Commander Osric Stark (mentioned)
- Samwell Tarly (unnamed)
- Lord Commander Runcel Hightower
- Lord Commander Rodrik Flint
- Lord Commander Tristan Mudd
- Lord Commander Marq Rankenfell (mentioned)
- Lord Commander Robin Hill (mentioned)
- King Stannis Baratheon (indirectly mentioned)
- The Wall