Samwell Tarly: Nobody really knows how the Wall was built. Yes, every child hears how in the days of the First Men, Brandon the Builder raised the Wall with magic and giants and set the Night's Watch to guard it. But nobody thought to write down the story until thousands of years later, and the septons who did it weren't much for accuracy. I mean, they have knights bumbling thousands of years around before there were knights! Sorry, bad habit. But even if magic and giants built the Wall, it is the Night's Watch who have held it.
Our order of Builders repairs the keeps and towers, digs tunnels, crushes stone for roads and footpaths, and clears away trees wherever the forest presses too close to the Wall. Or at least they would, if they had the men... and the tools... and the time. Long ago, when the Night's Watch was at full strength, the Builders would quarry blocks of ice from the frozen lakes of the Haunted Forest, dragging them south on sledges to add to the Wall. Now all they can do is watch for cracks or signs of melt and make all the repairs they can, without men, or tools, or time.
The order of Rangers is the fighting heart of the Night's Watch. They ride beyond the Wall fighting and trading with wildlings, surviving shadowcats and snow leopards. The Rangers are meant to scout out threats to the Wall and return to report. And they did, back in the days when men could go north and come back alive. Now they just come back.
The orders of Stewards keeps the Watch alive. We hunt and farm, tend the horses, milk the cows, gather firewood, cook the meals and bring supplies from the south. Not so "heroic", I know, but since the Night's Watch does not starve or freeze, I guess we are the only order that still does everything it is supposed to.
Without all of us guarding the Wall together, well, it probably still would not have ever fallen. Solid ice rising hundreds of feet into the air and running hundreds of miles to the sea. No army is smashing it any time soon. Which is why our enemies have never tried, well, not directly.
The brothers Gendel and Gorne, Kings-Beyond-the-Wall, went under the Wall through ancient caves buried deep in the Earth. But on the way back they took a wrong turn and were lost in in the darkness. People say that their children's children's children are still down there... looking for a way up, or for more food to find its way down.
When our Rangers found Arson Iceaxe picking away at the Wall, he was almost halfway through. The Rangers decided not to disturb him and seal the way behind him with ice and stone and snow. Some say if you place your ear flat to the Wall, you can still hear Arson chipping away with his axe.
A hundred years ago, another King-Beyond-the-Wall, Raymun Redbeard, realised the Wall's size is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. He waited for our patrols to pass and then sent climbers to the now unguarded stretch of the Wall. When they reached the top, they dropped ropes and ladders for thousands more wildlings to clamber up. The Night's Watch didn't even know his army had crossed until after Starks and Umbers had cornered and destroyed him, and that was a hundred years ago, when the Watch had many more men than now.
Lucky for the Night's Watch, the Wall isn't without its own defenses. Besides being incredibly tall and thick, the Wall is also treacherous. Many times a patrol will find the broken corpses of wildlings who have tried to climb the Wall, only for a piece of it to break off mid-climb or to have their hold slip as the sun melted the ice just enough. When the light strikes the Wall just right, it can even look like it is weeping.
A thousand years ago, the Night's Watch could have lined up shoulder to shoulder along the Wall, all the way from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea to the Shadow Tower, to meet Mance Rayder and his army. But now Mance is not bothering to find tunnels under the Wall or climb over it. He was a Sworn Brother once. He knows that the glory of the Night's Watch is behind them. Mance is going to try what no man ever has: he is going to come through the Wall. One day, I hope Maesters write stories about how we beat him back, because if we don't... there may not be any more stories to write.
- Brandon Stark, the "Builder" (mentioned)
- Samwell Tarly
- Arson Iceaxe
- Raymun Redbeard
- Mance Rayder (mentioned)