Chasing the Dragon, Part 1: Analyzing an Alchemist

Foreword

the_dragon_and_the_crow_by_risachantag-d65cow6

Artwork by Lisa Rye

So many readers were reading the books with so much attention that they were throwing up some theories and while some of those theories were amusing bulls—and creative, some of the theories are right. At least one or two readers had put together the extremely subtle and obscure clues that I’d planted in the books and came to the right solution. (George R. R. Martin, Vanity Fair Interview, 2014)

George R. R. Martin’s books are filled with clues that, when put together properly, can give us a much deeper understanding of the story. Some of his mysteries are easy to solve, because they only require combining a handful of clues. Examples like “What’s the secret ingredient in Wyman Manderly’s meat pies?”

But the solutions to simple mysteries can become clues themselves, and form a complex network of connections that’s much more difficult to untangle.

In this series, we’ll dive deep and find out what we can about the creatures that make up half the equation of A Song of Ice and Fire: Dragons. Which clues have we been missing, and what can they tell us about their ultimate role in the story?

If we want to solve the big questions, then we need to start small. One wrong conclusion can lead to the next, and before we know it, we’re speculating about the story based on completely false assumptions.

So we’re going to try a fragmented approach and explore various issues, one at a time. We’ll take the text as basis, and only draw conclusions that we can be reasonably certain of. If we can not find an answer to a question that’s well-supported by the text, then we won’t try to force a solution. Instead, we’ll put these questions aside, in hope that we can answer them at a later point. In future parts, we’ll need to be ready to revisit our previous conclusions, whenever they don’t line up with the new evidence.

In time, we will try to find answers to questions like these:

  • Which characters are shaping up to become more imporant?
  • Who wants Dany’s dragons, and for what purpose?
  • Can prophecy ever be trusted?
  • Why is the Sphinx not the riddler?
  • What glory awaits Victarion Greyjoy?
  • Do the brightest flames cast the darkest shadows?
  • What is the Song of Ice and Fire?

I’m not yet sure which twists and turns this journey is going to take. But let’s get started with our first topic and see where it leads us.

Introduction

Ever since his appearance in A Feast for Crows, the mysterious Alchemist has been a popular subject of fan speculation. While fans have put together some of the clues that George has scattered through his books, there’s still no consensus about the Alchemist’s intentions and how he ties into the larger story.

In this essay we’re going to focus on the Prologue of A Feast for Crows. We’ll see if we can find any themes and connections that could tell us more about who the Alchemist is, what he’s doing, and who he’s working with.

A solid theory needs solid legs to stand on, so first we’ll re-establish some facts from the Prologue that we might have forgotten about.

Then we will see which conclusions we can draw, and determine if they tell a story that’s consistent within the larger narrative, as well as being supported by evidence from the text.

Finally, we will evaluate our theory and come up with some ideas about where to go next.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 11: An Alliance With God

Introduction

https://i2.wp.com/awoiaf.westeros.org/images/2/2e/Marc_Fishman_High_Sparrow.jpg

Artwork by Marc Fishman

From Visenya’s Hill, the call went out to the faithful that Maegor’s Laws were undone; the Faith of the Militant had been reborn. Granted extraordinary powers by the crown, knights flocked the banner of the Warrior’s Sons while smallfolk men and women gathered under the Poor Fellows. Meanwhile on Aegon’s High Hill, Cersei Lannister began her preparations to undercut the growing power of Highgarden and bring about the downfall of Margaery Tyrell. None of these parallel political movements and conspiracies accounted for the wildcard of Aegon’s coming.

Across the Narrow Sea, Prince Aegon and his party made their final preparations for their invasion of Westeros. Prince Aegon had a strong force in the Golden Company, but he also had another weapon in his arsenal: ideology. Aegon had been shaped for rule since his youth, and part of his royal instruction included a strong religious education. When the young dragon landed in Westeros, he would bring his army of sellswords to bear against the might of Highgarden and Casterly Rock, but he would also present a striking ideological alternative to the ruling elite of King’s Landing. To the High Sparrow, this would present a difficult choice on whether to back Aegon, but to the young dragon, if he were to stand a chance at taking King’s Landing, he would need the support of the High Sparrow.

Meanwhile, with the Tyrells and Lannisters in near open conflict with each other, the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant were quickly becoming power players in Westeros, and their growing power in the capital itself made the them the most powerful political actors within the city itself in advance of Aegon’s final approach to the city.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 10: A Plague of Sparrows

Introduction

Artwork by Nicole Cardiff

The Seven Gods who made us all, are listening if we should call. So close your eyes, you shall not fall, they see you, little children. (ASOS, Samwell III)

Opposite the Red Keep stands Baelor’s Sept. Within the walls of this massive cathedral lay the beating heart of Westerosi religion: the Faith of the Seven. Governing the form and functions of millions of adherents, the Faith of the Seven was one of the few Westerosi institutions whose reach extended from Dorne to White Harbor. At the pinnacle of this continent-spanning religion was a man known as the High Septon. Serving as Westeros’ version of a medieval pope, the High Septon was a powerful leader of this religion and was seen as the literal avatar of the gods themselves. However theoretically powerful this man was in though, he had practical limits imposed on him by Westeros’ history. A bloody war and the reforms of a Targaryen king had restrained the High Septon and curbed the power that the Faith of the Seven once held. By the start of A Game of Thrones, the Faith of the Seven had morphed into a placid, peaceful religion with a fat, corrupt religious elite presiding over the faithful, but this was about to change.

Within the span of two years, the country had seen its relative stability and peace evaporate into chaotic warfare. The War of the Five Kings had devastated the country, and it was not the warfighters who suffered. The smallfolk had borne the brunt of this war, and the brutalities inflicted on them upended the social fabric of Westeros. One of the chief victims of this upending of the social fabric of Westeros was the Faith of the Seven

Where once the Faith of the Seven had been a conservative, milquetoast part of society, the War of the Five Kings radicalized the religion. Standing atop this new movement was a man who would become known as the High Sparrow. And he was looking at the historical structure of the Faith of the Seven and seeing the power that the Faith once wielded.  

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 9: Dragon or War?

This essay contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter

Introduction

Aegon VI Sigil by Thasiloron

Artwork by Thasiloron

A dragon has returned to Westeros, but not the dragon my father was expecting. Nowhere in the words was there a mention of Daenerys Stormborn… nor of Prince Quentyn, her brother, who had been sent to seek the dragon queen. (TWOW, Arianne I)

A Dance with Dragons closes Dorne with Doran Martell believing that his Targaryen Restoration Conspiracy was nigh close to success, but when we meet Doran Martell in The Winds of Winter, we see a man beginning to realize that everything has gone wrong. Daenerys Targaryen and Quentyn Martell had not arrived from Essos. Instead, Jon Connington had purportedly returned with Aegon Targaryen and ten thousand Golden Company sellswords with no word of Quentyn.

But who was this Aegon? Was he truly the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia of Dorne? Or was a sellsword’s ploy? Was the lord who accompanied him actually Jon Connington? And even if the boy was indeed Aegon Targaryen and the man, Jon Connington, did they possess any hope of winning against the power of the Lannisters and Tyrells? These questions have dominated fan-discussion over Aegon, but they were also questions that Doran Martell was asking.

Prince Doran needed to send someone into the Stormlands to provide him a clear picture of what was happening to his north. Unfortunately for the Prince of Dorne, there were few people he could send. He could not send someone who was unfamiliar with his secret machinations to restore the Targaryens to the Iron Throne, and most of those individuals who knew of the plot were dead, missing or incapacitated. In fact, Doran Martell had only one person he could send who was alive, present, able of body and read in on his plan: Arianne Martell.

Reluctantly, Doran Martell prepared to dispatch his only daughter into a chaotic war zone to gather intelligence on this dragon. Armed with seven ravens, Arianne’s orders were to head north and dispatch a raven back to Doran telling him of all she saw. At the end of her journey lay two men who desperately needed Dorne to side with them against the Iron Throne. Arianne’s job was to determine whether these men were who said they were and whether they had a chance against the Iron Throne. Her final raven would contain only one word: “dragon” or “war”.

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Smoke on the Water

An analysis of the prospective Euron vs Redwyne Fleets in “The Winds of Winter”

The fan theorists have spoken; Euron is a diabolical magical third act villain and may be the greatest threat to Westeros. I must admit that when reading Asha’s, Damphair and Victarion’s  A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons  chapters, I found Euron to merely be  a manipulative politician with competent battlefield skills. As Euron sails out to meet the Redwyne fleet in “The Forsaken” I came to the realization that Euron was much more complex than my original conception of him — that Euron’s military strength may be metaphysical instead of conventional. While others have done excellent analysis of the Aeron’s dreams and the Lovecraftian themes that GRRM has tied to Euron; I believe that we can also look at the tactics Euron could use in his showdown with the Redwyne’s to anticipate that Euron is expecting more than a naval battle to occur on the Sunset Sea and that the rest of the Ironborn are in for a surprise.

Details of naval tactics in Planetos are scarce and if I had an opportunity to ask GRRM a question it would be “What are your sources and inspiration of naval warfare?” Naval tactics rely greatly on the ship (referred also as a platform) used and Planetos contains a variety of platforms that all must use specific tactics to guarantee victory. The dromonds of the Redwyne fleet and the longboats of the Iron Islands would use different tactics, and it’s my intent to discuss both the capabilities that these forces would bring to the battle and how the battle might play out.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 8: To The Spears

This essay contains minor spoilers for The Winds of Winter

Introduction

House Martell

Artwork by Narwen Illustrations

“It is an easy thing for a prince to call the spears, but in the end the children pay the price. For their sake, the wise prince will wage no war without good cause, nor any war he cannot hope to win.” (ADWD, The Watcher)

From his vantage point overlooking the Water Gardens, Doran Martell looked at the children at play in the pool below. To his side lay a letter from King’s Landing informing the Prince of Dorne that his brother was dead at the hands of Gregor Clegane. All around him, overripe blood oranges ominously fell from trees, giving off a sickly-sweet odor as they split open upon impact. While Doran watched, Dorne was angry — angry at the recent death of Oberyn Martell, angry at the murders of Elia Martell and her children at the end of Robert’s RebellionDoran Martell knew all this, and yet from all appearances, he did nothing. 

The reality, though, could not have been more different. Doran Martell was doing something to avenge his lost loved ones, but the prince could not seek the immediate vengeance that his family and countrymen wanted. The Prince knew that if Dorne went to war against the Iron Throne, they would lose, and if they lost, it would be the children who would suffer.

However, events had finally shaped up to the point where Doran Martell felt that he had his chance to truly strike a blow for vengeance all the while avoiding deaths like those of his sister and her children so many years before.

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The Ultimate Winds of Winter Resource

Introduction

A year and a half ago, I wrote the complete Winds of Winter resource and updated occasionally since that time. My last update was back in September 2015 and since then, there’s been enough new information about the book for a brand new post.

So, welcome to the ultimate Winds of Winter resource! The intent is to create the most thorough and complete resource of everything that George RR Martin, his editors and those in the know have said or written about The Winds of Winter. Further, my intent is to have something that stands in contrast to the mountain of clickbait news articles about The Winds of Winter. 

To better organize all of the information, I’ve categorized things as follows:

  • Writing Progress
  • Released Sample Chapters (and where to find them)
  • Winds of Winter chapters that GRRM has read at conventions/appearances
  • Winds of Winter chapters that are known to exist but have not been released or read at conventions
  • Unconfirmed but probable POV characters
  • Plot Points that GRRM or his editors have confirmed
  • Miscellaneous information

So, buckle in, this is going to be a lot of information!

Spoiler Warning: Everything past this point will contain spoilers for The Winds of Winter.

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