The Night's Watch is a military retinue which holds and garrisons the Wall, defending it from wildings or whatever else seeks to threaten the realm. The Night's Watch was heavily involved in the Last Ranging, but most do not know what happened during the war.
The Night's Watch is made up of Rangers, Builders and Stewards and all play a critical part in manning and protecting the wall. The current Lord Commander of the Night's Watch is the 1000th of that title.
"Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."
The Night's Watch is one of the oldest orders in the Seven Kingdoms, as it survived the fall of the kingdoms of the First Men, the Andal invasion, and the War of Conquest. It was founded over 8,000 years ago, at the end of the Long Night. Under cover of an endless night that lasted for a generation, the Others invaded from the Lands of Always Winter, laying waste to much of Westeros, until the Others were finally defeated by the Night's Watch at the Battle for the Dawn. After having pushed back the threat, the Wall was allegedly built by Bran the Builder in order to protect the Seven Kingdoms, should the Others ever return. During the Age of Heroes it was also recorded that the children of the forest gave the Night's Watch a hundred obsidian daggers every year.
War of the Five Kings
As their vows declare, the Night's Watch cannot participate in wars. They did, however, benefit from the War of Five Kings, as an influx of men bolstered their ranks, and included in their number one Stannis Baratheon. A skilled tactician and the once-lord of many of the men Renly Baratheon sent to the Wall, he quickly became a force to be reckoned with, his stern manner meshing well with the harsh clime and harsher traditions on the Wall.
The King Beyond the Wall
The Last Ranging
With the wildlings largely defeated, rumors abound of an even greater threat beyond the Wall. Stannis hears of the tales of Others and Wights, and remembering the words of his Red Woman, decides to lead what became known as the mythical Last Ranging.
Not much is known of what occurred, though the wildings and Black Brothers alike have numerous tales. Not one of the Brothers who marched out ever returned, and following the Ranging the wildlings returned to their homes, their contact with the Wall declining to normal levels. Stannis Baratheon was never found, though the newly elected 999th Lord Commander, Jon Snow, sent out several search parties. Over the years, most men have come to believe that Stannis abandoned his post to be King Beyond the Wall, or boarded ships waiting for him on the coast, intent on pressing his claim to the Throne, only to be shipwrecked and perish.
The wildlings, however, speak of a different story. According to them, a Crow King with a flaming sword led an army against the Endless Winter, and drove them back into the night. His blade, though lost, waits for the next to claim it's power, and save the wildlings the next time the Others should emerge.
This is, of course, largely dismissed as fantasy.
After the War
After Stannis Baratheon's disappearance and assumed death, Jon Snow is elected Lord Commander of the Watch. His relationship with his brother, the King in the North, benefits the Watch greatly. Jon Snow lives to a very old age, serving as one of the oldest Lord Commanders on the Wall, before dying in his bed. The Current Lord Commander was elected after him.
When ten thousand wildlings came pouring down south escaping the winter's cold, all castles of the Night's Watch were taken and pillaged. Most watchmen were killed in the fighting, though some managed to escape and the more cowardly ones deserted during the battles. It is not known who of the Watch is still left (save for Danyl Snow), but one things is for certain; the Night's Watch has disbanded for the first time in their recorded history.
Notable Members and Lord Commanders
- 997th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch - Jeor Mormont, died at the Fist of the First Men,
- 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch - Stannis Baratheon, died in the Last Ranging,
- 999th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch - Jon Snow, perished in his sleep,
- 1000th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch - Edric Seaworth, drowned at sea,
- 1001st Lord Commander of the Night's Watch - Theon Stark.
- Mychel Hunter
At Castle Black
- Theon Stark, 1001st Lord Commander
- Ed Rivers, master-at-arms
- Waltyr Manderly, castellan
- Eddard Arryn, steward
- Maester Garrett