"I know I broke my oath. I know I'm a deserter."
Ned Stark

Will is executed for deserting and breaking his oath.

Desertion takes place when a man abandons his post, particularly in times of war. It is a serious crime in the Seven Kingdoms; deserters are considered outlaws and thus are marked for death.

Within the ranks of the Night's Watch, desertion is considered a form of oathbreaking. Deserters are not only hunted down by sworn brothers of the Night's Watch but also by lords should a deserter enter his lands.

Instances of desertion

  • {Mance Rayder}, a ranger who deserted his post at the Night's Watch.
  • {Will}, a ranger of the Night's Watch, who fled south after witnessing White Walkers kill his sworn brothers Gared and Waymar Royce. Captured by men of House Stark and executed by Lord Eddard Stark, Warden of the North.
  • Jon Snow briefly deserts the Night's Watch upon learning of his father's execution, intending to join his brother Robb Stark's army. He is convinced to turn back by Samwell, Edd, and Grenn. Jeor Mormont pardons the indiscretion, remarking that if he executed every man who contemplated deserting, they would have no men left.
  • Gared Tuttle, {Cotter}, and optionally Finn desert the Night's Watch before Gared is to be executed for killing fellow brother Britt Warrick and to find the North Grove. Finn is killed by wights if he deserts, Cotter is mortally wounded on the way to the North Grove and Gared either mercy kills him or uses him in a blood sacrifice.
  • Sandor Clegane dismisses several members of the Brotherhood Without Banners as deserters from House Baratheon and House Stark. He is not entirely accurate, as the Brotherhood is initially formed by survivors of the Battle at the Mummer's Ford, in which a host including Baratheon and Stark men clashed with Ser Gregor Clegane.
  • {Rast}, {Karl}, and several other black brothers desert the Watch and mutiny against Lord Commander Jeor Mormont while taking refuge at the homestead of the wildling Craster. All were slain during the Raid on Craster's Keep.
  • Jaime Lannister deserted Cersei following the Parley at the Dragon Pit when Cersei revealed she intended to betray her 'new' allies against the White Walkers, in order to rule the Seven Kingdoms. It should also be noted that Euron Greyjoy pretended to desert her but was in-fact sailing to Esso's in order to bring the Golden Company to Westeros. Note both of these events occurred in the TV series, though Jaime refused to come to Cersei's aid, thus abandoning her in her hour during a Dance with Dragons. 

See also