GAME OF THRONES: MANY CHANGES (WITH RESCUE), by Anthony Appleyard

A possible continuation of the Game of Thrones television series, with change to Series 8. (There are several other such possible continuations on Youtube, written by various people.) See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_of_Thrones.
Acknowledgements of sources etc
* In Valyrian text, I have replaced the macrons by circumflexes, to keep all letters within the symbol number range 0 to 255, to keep all the letters as one byte each, to avoid Unicode text file mode complications and excess file size.
* Some of the ideas, including about the items brought from Comevaa and the peoples met on the long Targaryen voyage, are taken from "Vologda Mapping"'s series of Youtube videos "The Future of Game of Thrones" (which is an alternative follow-on from Game of Thrones Series 8) at this link.
* The situation at start of story, and the idea of Dany on Drogon rescuing trapped civilians, were taken from the Youtube videos How Game of Thrones Should Have Ended (Season 8 Rewrite) Part 1 and How Game of Thrones Should Have Ended (Season 8 Rewrite) Part 2, both written by "Flick Fanatics".

* This version, for continuity, includes matter summarized from the canon G.R.R.Martin stories.
* This version keeps Daenerys and Jon Snow/Targaryen and the dragon Rhaegal alive; also two others (read on to find who).
* The idea about a stray unexpected dragon-binding in the Reach, was adapted from a short fan-fiction story which I found once, and never found again despite much web-searching.
* Text in {curly brackets} is matter which happens in the further future. As the story is extended at its end, this future matter may be interleaved with the added matter, if it happens at the same time.
* Queries and suggestions etc please email to a.appleyard__a_t__bt.internet.com
* Last edited 22 September 2020. This story is under development. More text may in the future be added in the middle or at the end, or existing text may be changed.

* There is another fan-fiction text remaking of Game of Thrones Series 8, at Game of Thrones season 8 redone: The Great War, by rivaanpat, in 26 sections so far, but I have not taken any ideas from it.


Mid-level technology: The telescope occurs (called the "Myrish tube") in canon stories written by G.R.R.Martin. I have included mentions of other (non-canon) mid-level technology items or ideas here; one of them is in a idea got from another fan-fiction author mentioned above. I welcome attempts to spot them.

War reaches King's Landing

From the persistent fog of ignorable contradictory waterfront and inland rumors and scares and stories from afar, had gradually emerged more and more easily believable threatening news from places in Essos steadily coming nearer. This added to a confused war of several claimants for the throne, including King Robert of the usurping Baratheon line being killed by a wild boar in a hunt and being succeded by King Joffrey, who executed Eddard Stark lord of The North, whereupon Robb Stark, Eddard's successor, inheriting as Lord of the North, seceded as King of the North. On his order was made for him a copy of the iron-and-bronze crown which his ancestors the Kings of the North wore until their King Torrhen Stark surrendered it to Aegon I Targaryen. Robb was succeeded as king by Brandon Stark, who had to reign from a wheelchair due to paralysis caused by a broken back caused by a high fall in childhood. Brandon later died because of effects of excess warging activity neglecting his job as king, leaving dispute over the succession in Winterfell and no clear authority in that time of crisis. In King's Landing King Joffrey Baratheon died of apparent choking (later found to be poisoning) at his wedding feast to Cersei Lannister, starting there also an unsettled situation with no undisputed next king. Jon Snow, an officer in the Watchers on the Wall, took power in The North, a situation at first thought to be usurpation, but it soon transpired that through his mother he was an heir to The North. But Jon was also found to be by through his father Jon Targaryen, son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, a claimant to the legitimate Targaryen line of Kings of Westeros, hidden in the North under a false bastard-type surname safely away from any assassins sent by the usurping Baratheon dynasty's King's Landing regime. This claim, if accepted, would unexpectedly end the new freedom of the North, by uniting the titles of Lord (or rebelliously King) of the Stark line of the North and Targaryen King of Westeros. At the Wall, he lost patience with lengthy time-wasting decision procedure, and commanded the Wall garrison directly by order. During this, wildling attacks on the Wall changed from ordinary looting attacks to serious attempts to get a group through complete with families and livestock. Jon cointacted them and let them through, under guard to list who they were and and keep track of where they were and establish commanders over them. The wildlings, who called themselves the Freefolk, by then had lost so many killed and made into wights by the Night King, that they were very thankful for this utter and unheard-of-before change of policy. They were reminded of south-of-the wall laws and customs about property. This caused controversy, and during this, in a castle on the Wall someone stabbed him in the back with a dagger in a dispute about policy, and rumours got about that he was dead, and it got into some scribes' annals, but he survived, some say with supernatural help from Melisandre.

Queries continued about who was Joffrey's biological father. War started between claimants to the throne. The Lannisters of Casterley Rock became dominant and wanted to be the power behind the throne. King Robert's younger brother Stannis tried to gain the throne, and aided by Melisandre persuaded his army to abandon the Faith of the Seven and change to worshipping the Essosi fire-god Red R'hllor, on promise of god-aided victory. But fire was against him, and his fleet, when it attacked King's Landing, was burnt by wildfire, and his army, trying to win back The North, lost most of its strength in snow fathoms deep and intense frost as it approached Winterfell, and the survivors were captured. Jon supported his relative Sansa Stark as ruler in Winterfell while he used his efforts on supporting the Targaryens.

The alarm emerged from rumour into solidity as, for the first time in about 170 years, a large winged shadow flew over King's Landing. It was Daenerys Targaryen (also known as Dany) riding her dragon Drogon, one of three which she had hatched in her Dothraki late husband Khal Drogo's funeral pyre far away east in the central grassland of Essos near Vaes Dothrak; her two other dragons Rhaegal and Viserion followed her riderless. Drogo had given her the three dragon eggs as a wedding gift, stated to have come from the far east, but some spoke of other origins for them. After a desperate thirsty desert trek she and a small group of Dothraki and some others found an abandoned city with water springs and grazing and fruit trees, recuperated there, continued across the desert, and after losses of people and horses were found by a camel-riding patrol from Qarth and were guided there. There they recuperated and rested.

Then they had to get back westwards along the south coast of Essos, while her dragons, who due to hatching imprinting thought that she was their mother, gradually grew to ridable size and she found how to ride on Drogon. Adventures and involvements followed in Essos politics centering on violently overthrowing traditional slave-owning ruling groups and freeing their slaves, who often then were the majority of the city's people, and became her new army. On the way she had to cope with a fearsomely massive epidemic of dysentery (called the Bloody Flux and the Pale Mare) in the city of Astapor, and it killed three out of every four who caught it. She escaped from an arena show in Meereen when Drogon, who at last had grown from a cat-sized hatchling to be big enough to be ridden, landed and let her board him. For a while during adventures Dany and Drogon denned in a cave in a rocky hill in the Dothraki grassland; he flew about and hunted, and she ate from his kills and also lived on vegetation and flowing water that she found there. She named the hill Dragonstone, in memory of Dragonstone in Westeros where she was born. These events are described much more fully elsewhere.

At last she flew riding on Drogon over the Narrow Sea to Westeros, bringing with her in many ships a big army including many Dothraki and the now-freed Essos slave soldiers called the Unsullied, and others. Rhaegal and Viserion followed her riderless. On the Goldroad near Highgarden in the Reach she defeated a Lannister army who were escorting a gold shipment from the Westerlands goldmines to King's Landing, and she took the gold; she reflected that thankfully that gold was taken from the usurping dynasty and had not been extorted by torture and threat in many small amounts from smallfolk and traders and lower titled folk along armies' routes of march. That started another war for the throne.

During this, as a shocking intrusion into the course of this war, the ancient undead Night King of Beyond-the-Wall, long rarely heard of or believed in except in old legends, and a convenient bogeyman to name to scare children into quiet and obedience, showed to everybody that he existed. He broke through the Wall with a huge army of undead wights, strengthened by giants and other dangerous creatures of the far north. The Westerosi armies remaining after previous conflicts had to face this threat first, in a great battle at the Wall and at Winterfell, where many famed deeds were done, as is told in detail elsewhere. The Night King killed the dragon Viserion with a spear, and with his magic revived Viserion as a wight bound to his will, and rode him against the armies of living men who came against him, blasting no longer fire but killing frost. Very many of Dany's Dothraki died charging the horde of wights, because they were not accustomed to an enemy where each enemy man did not die from one sword or arrow wound but fought on until he had been cut into many pieces. Any short lull gave the Night King time to wield his hostile magic and make all fresh dead into more wights controlled by him. But at last, millennia after the Children of the Forest had used their magic to the limit of their power to try to stop the First Men from invading Westeros from the southwest corner of Essos to Dorne over a land-bridge, and it sank the land-bridge but did not keep the First Men out, and something went badly wrong and a side-effect made the magic that made wights and the Night King, Arya Stark's skill and valour with a Valyrian-steel dagger killed the Night King, and after thousands of years his magic ended, and he fell broken into splinters of ice, and his wights became ordinary inert dead.

And afterwards, the cleanup. A huge amount of north-of-the-wall wildlings (who called themselves the Freefolk) had been killed by order of the Night King in the wight invasion, not as opponents, but merely to make corpses for the Night King's foul magic to turn them into more wights, so many that, as had never happened before, many wildlings had left their ancient hostility and asked to join the Watchers on the Wall. The area resounded to the thud of axes felling cold northern pine forest, and men stacking pyres, and what funeral ceremony they had time for. Big hastily-made sledges towed by horses or oxen or tamed mammoths brought in endless tragic loads of dead Westerosi, and dead Unsullied, and dead Dothraki and their dead horses, and many others, nearly all bearing marks of unclean revival as wights and of being made to continue fighting as wights, all victims of the Night King's centuries-built-up plans and ambition. Their relatives would feel better knowing that could not become wights again. Among the people and cold-hardy trees and needle-shaped leaves and snowdrifts and emotions he did not see where Viserion's body was taken. Heavy clouds threatened more snow. A septon prayed in turn to the gods of each people who were among the dead, as well to his own seven gods, or seven faces of one god, to accept the souls of the dead, feeling that he should fill in as he could for the priests of other religions who should have been there but could not get there. Among it came unwanted interruptions such as a Freefolk man who knew such things, ordering one of the mammoths to be sent at once back to its stable after his nose had detected from it the start of the dangerous musth condition, and chasing off scavenging wolves and northern thick-furred white foxes. "... And I pray to the Great Stallion to receive the souls of the Dothraki who died here." the septon chanted, finishing at last, and let those attending watch the pyres burn down and at last go out.

And some told of the deeds there of The Old Dothraki, a man with a bald head and stray tufts of white hair around it, and his red-haired Dothraki companion; they slew very many including at least four advancing giants, and changed many undead wights back into harmless ordinary dead even before the Night King died, and helped Arya and her dagger to reach the Night King; afterwards the two were sought for rewarding, but were not found.

The previous Westerosi civil war restarted, as many, wearied of misrule and non-rule under Robert and Joffrey and the following interregnum of warring claimants, sided with the Targaryens. The King's Landing regime sent a big army to make an end of the new seceding separate kingdom in the North. It got past the two frontier castles called the Twins and forced passage of the Neck, and crossed the Barrowlands and was before the walls of Winterfell. In that battle Dany arrived at Winterfell riding Drogon and got ahead of the armies and reached Jon in time before battle started. But the enemy were well provided with the powerful giant crossbows called "scorpions". Drogon achieved some success, but after several near misses from scorpion bolts learned to be wary; but in the process he learned well what scorpions can do and what they look like, and thus how to keep out of their aim. After that, strange weapons newly imported by ironmen from some unknown land west across the Sunset Sea arrived there. Jon's army armed with them unexpectedly caused huge losses on the King's Landing army, and began a long re-advance south, through the Neck and past the Twins, and continuing far south as more and more men joined him, some with Targaryen three-headed-dragon banners quickly made from anything available. They got a crucial extra amount of supplies and men from the Sunkland lordship area, on the east coast of The Neck; formerly it was shallow sea.

Cersei Lannister's army held King's Landing against the returning Targaryen army, which advanced to the city walls. Cersei in her fury against being thwarted had decided "If I'm not allowed to keep King's Landing, nobody's having it!" and had ordered large charges of wildfire to be laid about in the city, and ordered them all to be set alight if the command was given. Men high and low yet again routinely had sen in time what might happen, and by all-too-familiar routine had moved all valuables and precious manuscripts into fireproof hidden storage in time.

The Targaryen army broke in in force. By Cersei's order the wildfire was set off and the fires spread fast. The two armies fought each other for a while, but more and more of the Lannister men saw or heard of Cersei's hysterical behavior and knew the wider situation and saw no purpose and stopped fighting against the Targaryen men, but helped them in trying to maintain order and rescue people; and around them buildings burned. Cersei, careless of her safety in her excited hysterical state, was crushed under a falling wall, and thus after many centuries ended the direct line of the Lannisters of Casterley Rock. Many of her remaining army quit and broke up and left a trail of looting and robbery on their way home to the Westerlands. The rest had more sense and humanity and turned their numbers and strength to trying to put fires out and stop fires from spreading, and to stopping the usual looting and robbery that comes with disorder. Civilians fled here and there from the fires. Many reached a wall-gate or an area where there was nothing burnable, and escaped to safety, but some were trapped.

Some army men tried to use a wall-storming scaling-ladder to get trapped civilians out up to the wall-top walk, and another ladder to get them down to the ground outside; but King's Landing's walls are high, and frightened civilians, many of them old or children, often had no skill at climbing tall swaying ladders in a hurry. Someone froze rigid partway up from fright at the height, blocking the ladder. In the emergency an arrow made him let go and fall, unblocking the ladder; but soon after, someone else froze rigid from fright partway up the ladder.

Daenerys on Drogon saw what was happening. Her fire-ridden passage west across south Essos had killed many slave-owning rulers and changed and upset much in politics and freed many slaves, but here below her were many victims of fires which she had not started or caused. Something calmer and more peaceable arose in her mind as a reminder of guilt like a bucketful of water thrown on the fiery excesses of her recent actions. She remembered how her brother Viserys had acted and its end-result. Here below here was a chance for atonement and something else that Drogon could do, without risk to life. She landed in a small open space near a crowd of fire-trapped civilians. Army men overcame their fear and shouted at her directly and aggressively to fly back up out of the way. She called out: "Get some of these civilians on my dragon's back, I'll fly them out!". It was realized that she was being useful. In the last two moon-turns Drogon had been fitted with a harness with many loose rope-ends, where loads could be strapped down, and human riders could hold on. Fear of nearby building fires overcame fear of approaching a live dragon, and as many people as Dany judged could be carried climbed up or were lifted up, and she found places for them. Dany commanded. Drogon took off, raising dust and scattering ash and embers and trash with the wind of his wings. His passengers reacted variously to being in the air for the first time. As they flew over the wall and saw beyond it plenty of open space, and flew down, Dany noticed that Drogon was flying heavily and rear-heavy, and feared that he was injured; but as he touched ground outside the city, Drogon suddenly felt less overloaded as four children ran away from under him: as he had started to fly up, they had quickly run under him and grabbed his back feet. Some men remarked angrily that some of the passengers were tied on round their waists.

A man in sea-waterproofs ran up and told them in a Braavosi accent that "The big butterfly[-shaped] knots are slip-knots. Pull an end, not a loop, and the knot falls apart easily. Don't cut.".

An army leader complained that "I can't go near a port without some sailor knowalling at me about ropes and knots, such as when we pack our baggage animals.", but passed the order on. Some of the passengers, as Dany had told them to, had already freed themselves by pulling one of their rope-ends until the opposite bow-loop shrank and vanished inside the knot and the knot fell apart; others now imitated. Men (some feeling scared at being so near a live dragon) stood ready to break their falls and catch them as they slid down Drogon's sides.

Dany on Drogon took off again and flew back over the wall to rescue more trapped people. Arguments arose about evacuees bringing bulky or heavy packages with them. One such was clearly books, and its owner said that it was important old Valyrian manuscripts which could not be touched, but someone opened the package regardless, and all its contents proved to be a trading firm's current and recent accounts.

As Dany flew up from the city for the third time, a green and bronze dragon landed where she had been: Rhaegal, ridden by Jon Targaryen. There was no time to explain why Rhaegal was there after being reported dead; a scorpion bolt had indeed made a small hole in a wing; and a second bolt had gone into his mouth, but had hit hard palate bone and stopped. "Dracarys!" and flame-blast: this was from Rhaegal, and its only victims were a horde of rats that ran out where a wall weakened by neglect and original bad building work fell when something bumped it. The glare of it showed three men with sacks poking about in dark corners in the building, and there was chasing and arresting. The burning smell blew away, showing a stink of decay from several sorts of food in the building, now rotted and rat-eaten and rat-fouled to uselessness, and from that came more accusation and upset, because it showed that someone supposed very reputable had taken advantage of news of coming war to hoard food to push its price up.

Many times Drogon and Rhaegal each landed where the other had taken off, as quick as a taking piece replacing a taken piece in a cyvasse game, until all the trapped civilians in that area had been safely flown out. Some seeing this at a distance said "Those dragons are dancing."; but "Dance of the Dragons" has a much more serious and tragic and older meaning in the history of Westeros, when after King Jaehaerys I died leaving no living sons, some of his heirs fell to blows over the succession in 129 AC, and two rival armed factions formed, and large destructive armies developed, and war continued by its own momentum with much death and destruction until 131 AC. As evening drew on, some feared that one of the dragons might flame to make light to see by, but dragons can see well at night. A woman, in fear of the fires around, despite urgent happenings inside her body, climbed onto Drogon. The flight, including dodging round fires and buildings, took some minutes, and after landing outside the wall, one more rider landed than had taken off, as mother and newborn baby were helped off his back. Two men had tied two strong blankets across two long spears, to make a stretcher; they laid her and her baby on it. She asked in thanks for the rescuer's name; the baby was a boy and Daenerys is a woman's name, so she named her baby Drogon.

Dany and Jon flew about, landed awkwardly in over-narrow streets and dirty places, and flew more trapped people out to safety, as many as they could. They flew back to the army's area and dismounted, and reported what they had seen and done; and its command thanked them. Someone among the rescued started an angry speech, and hands went to weapons; but the anger was against some visiting mummers who several times a year had charged high prices for a show that showed similar ways of untying knots, describing it as needing strong magic to perform; but now the former spectators knew that any good sailor could do it, and that anyone could learn how.

Drogon and Rhaegal had proved reliable at standing quietly when left riderless untethered for a while, as long as Dany was near, but now they suddenly flew up. People in dismay saw them attack each other. But when each struck like a snake with its head, it stopped its lunge and shut its jaws short of its target, or merely let its teeth touch the skin and did not bite in. They flamed, but not straight at each other. They struck with back feet, but always with the toes rolled up tight and no claw penetrated. Men were reminded of practice fighting with blunt weapons. The two landed and grappled on the ground, twisted around each other, and separated, and after that stood quietly, as if from weariness they had agreed a truce.

Many landings and takeoffs close together tire a dragon faster than steady flying. A man living nearby outside the wall realized this, and from his house's stable he led an old unshod cob-type mare, which walked jerkily on three legs and did not use its left hindleg. He said: "My wife keeps saying that my mare's leg'll heal, she wants me to wait and wait and see what happens, but I know the mare won't heal: horses don't heal when they've got bad joints like that. Time to put an end to her pain. She's given me seven lovely foals, and carried and hauled loads and me and my family all over the area; her leg gradually went bad as she was carrying her seventh foal. When I took her to the stallion last time, she was only going a bit uneven. Some cruel idiot told me two days ago to get an eighth foal out of her!!, but she's suffered enough. Her last filly's old enough and has taken over her work.". He hugged the mare's head for a while and said last comforting words, and then backed away, saying: "All right, someone, do what must be done.". A sword ended the mare's pain, and the two dragons were fed after their tiring life-saving flights. Rhaegal's food had to be cut up for the next few days, as the second scorpion bolt had jarred the sliding joint between his hard palate bone and his braincase. Meanwhile a little distance away, some unconcerned children were "playing at dragons", running about with their arms out sideways to represent wings, making appropriate noises. As she saw them, someone told her a guess at how many lives she had saved that day. Realizing this, she shuddered at how much and how long she had been on or beyond the edge of madness before this and for how long, pushed by needing and also being able to use the great powers that were at her call, and as soon as possible she found a sept and in there thanked the Seven Gods for pulling her out of it, and resolved to pray to them again every day.

Next morning showed that Rhaegal's wing hole was well started to close up and heal. The morning after that, Jon came back from looking after Rhaegal, and Daenerys asked him "How is he?". Jon answered: "She's recovering well", and showed her in his hands a fresh dragon egg, still warm and with natural slippery stuff still in the grooves of its shell scale pattern. Rhaegal laid another egg on each of the five following mornings. They had seen something few had seen, a "dance of the dragons" by its old original meaning, the tournament-like mating flight to prove to each other that they had strength and ability that they could pass on to their offspring. The name earlier had been misapplied ironically by a writer or singer to the destructive dragon-killing war now so named. The name was also the title of a set of ballads about two Valyrian lovers dying together in the Doom of Valyria. Dragons kept in the Dragonpit had had no room for a mating flight to test each other's abilities, but had to stay on the ground and go directly to mating. Being involved in the long difficult risky rescue had helped much to push Daenerys's mind back to normal from some of the extreme ways that she had been starting to think since she set off back west from central Essos. She for a long time much regretted the loss of life that her ambition and access to dragon-power had caused, although many said that it was time that the old long-lasting slave-owning and slave-trading regimes were put to an end, while getting her three dragons from Qarth port through Astapor and Meereen and past the remains of Valyria and the former Rhoynar lands to Essos's west coast and at last to ships and to Westeros, a journey long enough for her dragons to grow much: when she came from the Red Waste to Qarth Drogon rode on her shoulder; when escaping from the arena in Meereen she rode on Drogon's back. She found later that she had evaded a big fleet of Ironmen who, setting off from the Iron Islands trying to sieze the eggs or the dragons, had rounded the rocks of Dorne and the volcanic and magical hazards of the remains of Valyria. On their way, Daenerys on Drogon flew over some ships venturing to sail between the islands and volcanoes and leftover dangerous magics of the remains of the Valyrian peninsula and saw city ruins there, but they all got away from it.


Sunkland

Here to tell about the Sunkland family. In and around the Neck of Westeros is dangerous swamp and tidal sand and mud that, legend said, had once been forested land, but in ancient time the Children of the Forest had sunk it by great magic to try to keep invading Men out of the north, and men in the area called this the Sunk Lands. Wilmi, a farmer, and his men, lived on the south shore of the west end of The Bite on the east shore of the Neck in the Kingdom of Mountain and Vale. He bred many horses grazing on safer parts of the marshes of the Neck. Riding their horses, he and his people routinely chased off or killed or caught wandering thieving bands instead of losing crop or money to them.

Sailors brought tales from afar in Essos about the Dothraki; this gave him the idea to develop skill in horseback archery. This was an unusual skill in Westeros, and it was useful against wandering suspect bands. Some men who had been inland in Essos and seen Dothraki nicknamed him Khal Wilmi. After a while he found what "Khal" meant, but he was too busy to bother chasing after such exotica and foreign customs. Having the resources, he built, instead of a castle, a long seawall of earth faced with big stones, enclosing much tidal foreshore and dangerous seaside swamp. As well as oxcarts, he could afford to use a family connection to buy three mammoths and their handlers from the far North and use them to haul matchingly big wagons, to carry more earth and stones.

At last the wall was finished, and the water behind drained out through tidal sluices that automatically opened at low tide and shut at high tide; the enclosed land gradually dried out. He called the result a seafortfield. Rain gradually washed the salt out, and he found how to reinforce shallow water-bed with "sink-mesh" of interlaced willow branches weighted down with large stones. His men harvested tall reeds and threshed them for their seeds, which they sowed all over the new land. Their roots gradually sucked the water out of the airless stinking sea-mud and turned it into fertile land soil. After five years in a great fire he burnt off the reeds when they were tall and dry. Next year he and his men ploughed the land (often with a mammoth on the plough to break up the close network of tough reed rhizomes), and sowed, and at last harvested a first salt-stunted crop of wheat from land which had long been sunken. In later years he reaped better crops, and made more seafortfields, and more men came to settle on them under his authority. And none of this land was taken from other men. His motto words were "The sunken is reclaimed" or "We again have that which the sea took". They followed the Faith of the Seven.

Time passed. A winter ended. As spring warm came, his mammoths shed their long winter hair. Men collected it, and span and wove it into strong cloth, used for tents, and local sea-fishermen tarred it and used it as sea-clothes. One of his mammoths calved. At ten months old its calf shed its milk tusks as the tips of its permanent tusks came through. When darkness prevented outside work, he carved the milk tusks into seal-stamps, one with his wife's seal sigil on; and the other with his seal sigil on, a rearing horse (presumedly, and later in painted images actually, chestnut-coloured after his first horse), half-emerged from wavy water, as he still had struggles against the fury of the sea; some said that the Ironmen's Drowned God was trying to get back land that he had stolen from the sea. He built a holdfast to keep crops and valuables safe in on a rock that stood up in his reclaimed land by his harbour. Soon after, the current King of Mountain and Vale accepted his family as a Great House, since they now owned much reclaimed land. He made a start at enlarging his holdfast into Castle Wilmi, in case enemies attacked.

Aegon the Conqueror came soon after, and Walitar Sunkland, the current lord in Castle Wilmi, saw Aegon confront Torrhen, last king and first lord of the North. Walitar and his folk accepted the change in rule, and bent the knee accordingly. His descendants remained skilled in land-reclamation, and their services were sometimes called for, on Westeros and occasionally elsewhere.

In the reign of King Jaehaerys I, on a somewhat chilly morning with the grass still wet after a day's rain, the people at Castle Wilmi were startled and alarmed to see one of the king's dragons flying in and landing nearby. It was Caraxes, also called the Blood Wyrm, large and red. But its rider, the king's son Aemon, merely called out instruction that one of the Sunkland family who was skilled at land reclamation was needed urgently at King's Landing. Stefin Sunkland, the current lord there, put on a warm winter coat and a big backpack that he kept packed for journeys, and with some dread approached the dragon's ominous bulk, and touched it. Aemon told Stefin which protrusions to use for handhold or footrest to climb up the dragon's left shoulder, and he sat behind its rider Aemon. As it took off, he had the usual shock at first seeing land from high above. Over much of a day, it carried them over the mountainous wilderness around the Vale of Arryn, high above the heads and weapons of the dangerous mountain clans, over the Trident river, and had landing and night rest and food at Harrenhal. Next day they flew over the big lake called the God's Eye, and then along the kingsroad through the Crownlands. The king had organized routine horseback patrols to protect road travellers against gangs, which were escalating to bigger gangs gathering to try to stop bigger better-armed road convoys. In one place Stefin and Aemon both recognised from above something not easily seen from the ground, a large bandit gang spread out waylaying a section of the road. Aemon told Stefin to hold on tight, and swooped Caraxes along the road and flamed out the lurking gang; and travelling in the area for lords and merchants and smallfolk was much safer for a long time after.

As they came in to land, he saw so much damage to King's Landing that he asked "Who attacked?", but Aemon told him that the cause was severe weather; it was later found that a heavy thunderstorm had developed over the Westerlands, while a line of heavy squally rain of the sort that brings cold winds in after it swept in from the endlessly wide Sunset Sea, and over the mountains of the Westerlands the rain strip shovelled up the thunderstorm in a huge cloudburst which caused violent flash floods in the headwaters of every river that flowed out including the Blackwater Rush, which carried it east to King's Landing. Over the harbour as Caraxes came down to land by the Red Keep, Stefin saw men struggling to clear the harbour channel of huge piles of boulders and trees and pieces of bridges and watermills that the flood had brought down. They landed, and he followed them into the Red Keep as Caraxes was led back to his stall in the high-domed Dragonpit. An attendant said "Excuse." and grabbed Stefin's left arm, seeing that Stefin was struggling against the urge, common in the Sunkland line, to strip off his lordly robes, revealing underlying work clothes, and rush off to help a nearby group of workmen and carthorses and yoked oxen who were trying to disentangle a jumble of uprooted trees.

He was led before the King. As they consulted, a raven, delayed by bad weather, flew in with news about severe flood and storm damage to Lannisport. They discussed. Stefin advised about anti-flood defences. He was called on to help to reclaim and drain a nearby patch of marsh that outlaws had been lurking in; that was done. He advised about a possible system for much better drainage of the city's runoff and foulwater, but this advice was filed and gradually forgotten, as laying it would have disturbed too many rich people's property. Later, after his business there was finished, he went home on a horse, along with a large official party which was going in the same direction.


After the war

We return to the present time. Jon Snow, brought up in the North with the North's "bastard surname" to keep him safe from assassins sent by King Robert's regime, for a long time a commander of the Watchers on the Wall, but known at last to be a possible heir to the throne of Westeros, and widely accepted as such, Jon Targaryen, son of Rhaegar Targaryen, son of King Aerys II Targaryen, after the battle was at last in power in King's Landing after the Robert and Joffrey usurpation. King Robert had died in a boar-hunting accident, and King Joffrey of poisoning, and the next claimant Renly by Melisandre's sorcery. Queen Cersei (née Lannister) was much discredited when the rulers of the Faith of the Seven proved serious suspicions about who was father of her children, and she was now dead. Wildfire at King's Landing and snow several yards deep at Winterfell stopped Stannis's attempt on the throne; most of his men who survived abandoned his destructive Essosi fire-god Red R'hllor and returned to the Seven. Stannis bent the knee to Jon, and what was left of his army with him, leaving Jon to decide how much to trust him and them. And Jon did not forgive Stannis for leaving Kings Landing harbour massively choked with ship wreckage and unusable by anything bigger than inshore fishing boats, or for some killings in Winterfell, or for smashing the oldest sept in Westeros and burning its sacred images, which were made on Dragonstone long before by landing Andals, who carved its seven images from masts of some of their ships which had wrecked. Jon and Daenerys had it rebuilt as it was before, for they needed it for events soon to come.

Jon, and Daenerys (youngest child of Aerys II and also a possible heir to the throne of Westeros), sat in two suitably ornate chairs taken from a storeroom and used as temporary thrones; they did not use the Iron Throne, as both had cut themselves badly a few times trying to sit on it, and it had only one place for an occupant to sit. Jon, back home after an absence in Essos trying to sort out disputes, was attending to callers and petitioners and sorting out current Westeros matters, such as organizing recovery where land had been damaged or depopulated by passage of armies, and having trees and other tall or dense vegetation removed near main roads to try to prevent ambushes by robbers.

Jon announced a date to wed Daenerys. Men in person or sending messages had started arguments and had offered their swords to sort out which of the two was the rightful ruler of Westeros, but Jon had no patience with such talk. The subject arose again, and he answered angrily: "We have had a fill of war and war and its destruction and death and losses and treacheries and violence, and you want yet another battle for the throne!? When Robert Baratheon usurped from King Aerys II Targaryen, men thought that that would be the end of it, but rival claimants and more rival claimants for the throne appeared, and war went on. I suppose you want Daenerys and me to fly Drogon and Rhaegal against each other, like in the Dance of the Dragons back before Aegon II ruled, and likely get both of us and two good dragons and many other people killed in battle?! Or fight each other sword to sword!? No! We will rule together, husband and wife, king and queen, I in my right and she in her right, what maesters call a `diarchy', and we have chosen a King's Hand for us, or each of us can be King's Hand of the other. Each of us have things to teach the other. We agree with what people and maesters say, that a kingdom with two kings is like a man with two heads, but for one reign we'll have to cope, and then our son (if the Mother Above grants us one) will inherit both claims to the throne, and unite them, and thus your dispute will be settled with your all-too-eager swords reddened only with metal-polish. We don't want wars between different faiths: the Seven be thanked that Stannis's fleet being destroyed by fire in that battle at King's Landing made an end of claims that that Essosi fire-god Red R'hllor that Melisandre has been preaching about, is all-powerful. I don't hold with that teaching of theirs that beautiful and precious things must be burnt as sacrifices to him to get his favour. The best mages that we have have examined Daenerys, and they say they have cleared out all the magical damage that Mirri Maz Duur left in her, except perhaps a few stray harmless remnants.".

The new Commander of the Wall, realizing the circumstances, sent a message that suspended Jon's vows as a Watcher on the Wall, and let him marry and raise heirs, and let him go on leave as long as desired.

Someone said in the audience room: "I had a real right fight about that fire-god. A man near me in Rosby had a big walnut tree, it had made tons and tons of nuts down the years to pay his dues to his lord or sell to pay bills, but its crown started steadily dying off – some call it `going stag-headed' – its crown had got too big for its root run, some sorts of trees get like that sometimes. So he felled it, and his son made some of it into a lovely walnut sideboard and dresser. There's still plenty of its wood left. And along came some of Stannis's men wanting to burn it as an offering to help get a battle won. So we sat on it and I told them straight: "That destructive Essosi fire-devil Red Ruluru or Roller or Ruler or however it's pronounced, he's not having my good walnut furniture that my son made. Try respecting the Smith Above, he's one of the Seven, he gave my son the skill to make that sort of thing, as well as for metalwork and suchlike. If we need divine fire, there's plenty in the Smith Above's forge, without having to send oversea to Essos for it. If that furniture must go, it goes to someone with good coin, when I need the coin badly, or give to a trustable body that helps deserving poor, not merely encouraging nuisance wandering gangs of aggressive beggars who gradually become fullscale outlaws. So one of them went for me, and I won the fight, and they left me alone. If the new king and queen want enough of the rest of that tree to make new thrones, they can have it, if they send the transport for it.".

Lord Rosby was there, and heard this, and accepted the offer. Cart axles with wheels were put under the trunk, and oxen hauled it to a place where there was a big saw powered watermill-fashion by a river running out of hills. There it was sawn lengthwise into long thick planks, and carted to Maegor's Holdfast, and left stacked while it dried out and in the process warped as much as it was going to. [In Britain this is called "seasoning" the timber.] The tree left many descendants, for squirrels as well as people buried its nuts and left them to grow.

In the Starry Sept at Oldtown on the chosen day Jon and Daenerys were wed to each other between the adjacent images of the Father and the Mother, and crowned. As Daenerys had been wed before, to Khal Drogo, she did not have to formally explain to the Maiden Above via her image about why she was surrendering her maidenhead. As both were rulers in their own right, a second crown was needed. The royal treasury in the Citadel still contained several crowns which the old kings of various parts of Westeros had surrendered to Aegon I. Of these Dany chose the former crown of the Kings of Mountain and Vale, the Arryn dynasty which had ruled from the Eyrie until Aegon I came. They were thankful that there was plenty of space there; on Dragonstone due to cramped space and the congregation being too big for the Dragonstone sept Jaehaerys I and Alysanne had wed in the open, and the officiating septon saw the dangerous-looking heads of the royal couple's dragons Vermithor and Silverwing looking over and standing close behind the congregation. Afterwards, returning to our own time, Jon and Daenerys mounted Rhaegal and Drogon and flew home, and then about over the city, to much public acclaim, a sight not seen there since the Dance of the Dragons.

Jon had already ruled the North, inherited from his mother; the other six kingdoms, including thankfully Dorne, were acknowledging his rule, having found again the hard way that freedom for each component kingdom too often caused frequent destructive internecine wars starting over petty matters and escalating, and starting cycles of revenge and counter-revenge, and bandits joining armies for the opportunity to loot, as happened often in Westeros down the centuries until King Aegon I's family moved from Valyria to Dragonstone and after about a century took over Westeros, except Dorne. He wondered what the people of the North would do, after losing their new seceded independence so soon, not to war or threat but to the chances of wedding and birth and death and inheritance among royal and noble families; but they accepted it. He let the survivors from Dany's Dothraki settle in an area of the northern Reach depopulated by recent wars, but they were restless confined to a small area, and trouble came from that.

He set to work finding what was happening in his realm. Many areas had been spoiled by repeated passage of armies. For the mass killing of civilians around the Gods Eye he had no intention of forgiving the Lannisters and their men; but their line had díed out with Círsei, and it was unlikely that the lion flag would fly again over Casterly Rock. He still had to choose a new family to live there. Drogon and Rhaegal would have many long flights: he had too much to do to waste time on journeys, particularly on a horse at the trot, unwearying to a good horse, but not to its rider, who much quicker than needed be often developed leg arthritis from the trot's constant bumping, unless his horse ambled instead of trotting. Arya's list of accusations had proved useful, but it would have needed a hundred of her to list all the harm done by marauding armies, including the Lannisters arming the Vale of Arryn mountain clans and encouraging them to raid.

Jon had been wondering what practical would happen from news that Arya Stark of Winterfell had earlier sailed far west across the Sunset Sea and had found beyond it not only a few islets but a large land mass, and had come back; people had called that land Aryos after her; but recently in the latest battle at Winterfell men had found out all too clearly what she had brought back from there, turning the tide of battle and also causing big effects afterwards. Daenerys proved to be with child, and all concerned thanked the Mother Above and prayed.

The endless-looking job of clearing Kings Landing harbour of wreckage from Stannis's attack was going on as it could, between delays caused by storms and tide. Everything that could get to site and pull was there. Cheering and trumpeting announced arrival of five mammoths and their riders brought by Lord Annun Sunkland from his land by The Bite, to haul, and work went on faster after that. Once at extreme low spring tide, everybody was cleared well back away while Nikuli on Bluewings flew over and burnt up a big tangle of wreckage: the only safe way to get to site in time across much foul sinking mud and get rid of several unexploded big sunken pots of wildfire that were trapped in it. Green wildfire flames followed Bluewings all too closely as he flew his fastest to get away, but the flames in the end went out, and work carried on.


Dorne

There was still threat that Dorne would cause trouble. The First Men had entered Dorne from Essos from where Tyrosh is now, dry-shod on the Arm of Dorne before it was broken, walking or riding on seabed which then was land, between the Stepstones which then were inland rocky hills. They reached higher land and moved on west through red and white desert sands, getting water where streams ran down from the Red Mountains, and food by hunting. Some stayed, but most of them found what later was named the Prince's Pass and crossed it to wetter wider lands further north. A short-stature magical people called the Children of the Forest who lived in Westeros before had tried to keep them out with strong magic called the Hammer of the Waters, which broke and sank the Arm, leaving the Stepstones as remnants. Later it nearly sank part of Westeros further north, leaving the narrow marshy isthmus called the Neck. Also, in that haste of emergency, by mistake it made the magic that makes wights and made the Night King, a peril that lurked for ages in the cold wilderness of pine and birch and tundra and rock and ice north of the Wall of Westeros; and recently it had woken and grown large.

Andals, driven out of their homehand in northwest Essos by the expanding Valyrian empire, landed later, but most sailed across the Narrow Sea further north. Later came the Rhoynar from the area drained by the river Rhoyne in southwest Essos. Their mentality had been much affected by an endless list of war and loss, after Valyria in several wars destroyed the Ghis empire and later drove and dragon-burned the Rhoynar out of their old lands around the Rhoyne. In Jon and Daenerys's time, around the Rhoyne a mixed people still dwelt, plagued by leftover magics and outlaws and river pirates and intruding raiding Dothraki, but they have no one single central authority or set of traditions. The Rhoynar had fled in every ship and boat that they could get, and first had disastrously tried to settle in the coastal area of the infested infected dangerous-animal-plagued "green hell" of the endless tangled steaming Sothoryos jungle and the mysterious abandoned city of Yeen. There, on sheltered or half-sheltered coast, salt-hardy variants of jungle trees even spread across beaches and shore rocks into the sea, where their roots caught and held mud and sand and so gradually built up land. It had taken centuries or more for many gangs and armies of landing pirates and slavers and assorted adventurers from Westeros and Essos, or their over-driven slaves, to cut back what they could of the jungle as far as they could before the lethal hazards of the land killed them or drove them back into their ships and away.

In the end, the Rhoynar's queen Nymeria called the remnant of her people back into their ships and away from Sothoryos. They looked at Naath and the Summer Isles and the Stepstones, but sailed on. Some deserted her and stayed on the Stepstones and turned to piracy for a living. In all this ordeal, their morals of what is right and wrong in war had been overwritten by desperate need to survive. At last they came to the mouth of a permanent river in the east end of Dorne in the south end of Westeros, and landed. Their ships, hopelessly battered by much travelling, and much of their woodwork eaten to flimsy spongework by wood-eating sea creatures, could not be repaired to fitness to sail further. They broke their ships up and used re-usable wood to build huts, and the rest as firewood, and took their chances among the First Men and Andals and wild animals that they found there. Their motto words became "Unbowed, unbent, unbroken" as they tried to settle in desert and semi-desert after their ordeals. Ocean storms and many dangerous shore and offshore rocks lay in wait for any new ships that they tried to build.

Trouble between Dorne and other kingdoms of Westeros went back long. Long before Aegon I landed, droughts sometimes drove Dornishmen to raid over the mountains into more fertile lands in the Reach and the Stormlands, which sometimes in retaliation raided back. The Ironmen sea-raiders became a big power on land in the Riverlands and around, and caused trouble in Dorne. The Doom of Valyria sent ashfall and near-darkness and a Hammer of the Waters, as men named a large tsunami which destroyed Planky Town and Sunspear as their old enemy lashed at them one last time as its sudden violent fiery end came.

But Dorne found that some Valyrians had escaped earlier and had set up in force with dragons on a volcanic offshore island in a sea inlet some way away to the northeast, and they knew that old danger was not dead after all. From time to time ridden dragons flew over, at first five of them; the smallest of these was black, at first not long grown to ridable size, but over time it became much bigger and mightier and a mount to be sought by kings. The other four one by one stopped being seen, and two new small young dragons started to fly about and gradually grew. Nearby, the fishing and sea-trading village of Blackwatermouth by three small hills, each with the remains of old forts on top, led its small-scale career, for a century more. Then the Dragonstone Valyrians burst out and landed on the mainland, and the Westerosi had to face armies who had dragons, as some Essos nations had had to before. This drew Westeros's nearby kings' armies away to defend against Aegon I, letting Dornishmen raid in force into The Reach and the Stormlands, where they had raided earlier many times; but Aegon I hit back, and wars came afterwards; those wars and deeds and reigns of kings are well described elsewhere.

A dynastic wedding between Aegon's descendant King Daeron II and a Dornish princess at last gave Dorne a face-saving way to become part of the kingdom of Westeros, and the wedding's first son would have inherited both realms. But war arose again, and Robert Baratheon overthrew King Aerys II, and the Dornish princess died in that war. But now many Dornish had routine trade contacts with the rest of Westeros and did not want war, or trouble with outlaw leaders such as the two Vulture Kings in the Red Mountains that Jaehaerys I had had to take up arms against, and too likely escalating to raids on nearby non-Dornish land and causing retaliation.

During these wars and successions, some lords in Sunspear and elsewhere in Dorne heard of events and thought it likely that Westeros would again try to take power over Dorne. The Martell family circulated the usual plans for passive resistance in case of invasion, and this time got a poor response. In more recent wars or threats of war, Dorne's ruling prince or princess and his/her ruling servants had tried to clamp down on means of spreading news, to hide the increasing overt and furtive reluctances and refusals to obey. By various means, some furtive and involving loss of life, they had kept a lid on matters and kept the passive resistance on its usual track. Information leaks and people who contradicted or spoke against Sunspear's laws and orders were throroughly chased up, and people disappeared, and some said that Hellholt castle merited its name. Dissentions had developed between the four sections of the Dornish: Salty Dornishmen, Sandy Dornishmen, Stony Dornishmen, Orphans of the Greenblood (who lived on boats on a big river and still spoke the Rhoynish language). In older invasion alarms, some evacuee columns going into dry hills had met supposed promised escort guides that proved instead to be hill bandits who took everything and left their victims to die; and even official escort Dorne army units were often over-thorough in siezing supplies and coin and valuables on excuses or making the evacuees abandon "unnecessary burdens" living or otherwise, ignoring pleas that this or that item had emotive memories or was an heirloom. Such happenings were remembered in private, but were kept secret, with official denials and severe punishments for talking about them, and "things tended to happen" to people who spoke out against official policy or about things that the ruling group wanted to be kept quiet, as the princely family kept up a face of solid resistance by the whole population.

The state of Dorne had had to be tightly organized to support its passive resistance and war effort, because aridity and sand deserts much reduced food production and thus tax income; Dornish raiding north into greener areas tended to be destructive in anger seeing so much green abundance, and so much rain-bearing wind blow from the north towards Dorne, only for the Red Mountains to block it and make it dump most of its water as rain to flow to waste into the river Mander and reach the sea far away, leaving much of Dorne as red sands and white sands and dry rocky valleys with little growing naturally except tough thorny poisonous scrub and dry scanty desert grass and small summer-dry rivers. Water had to be tightly rationed between irrigatable areas. To pay for the war effort, all export trade had to go through a few authorized merchants through the Princes' Pass and by ship through a few authorized ports.

But that did not stop smuggling and furtive free discussing and complaining, and, like the long-restrained earth-fire under Valyria that had burst out and caused the Doom, people talking to people talking to people now at last inflamed into massive public anger, and then riots, and demands to know why over time ever more people had had to die or disappear to uphold a stated fixed principle, until revelation blew its top off in an unstoppable fury far too great for any series of assassinations and arrests and suchlike to stop it in time and restore the old obedience and order. It came out that in recent years mountain patrols run by Yronwood castle at the back end of the Sea of Dorne, supposed to be stopping smuggling, were taking coin to let smugglers pass, and then were smuggling on their own account. They remembered that Yronwood's rule had collected much of Dorne, as Westeros including Dorne gradually united from about a hundred petty kingdoms to seven, but Sunspear managed to get power over Yronwood in the end. A group of men from the Reach came with wains over a high difficult pass more fit for goats than ox-wagons to buy oranges and lemons and were negotiating to trade, and were suddenly imprisoned on an excuse, but were released two days later with their property intact and an explanation that a government patrol had been around. They knew that many Dornish smallfolk and smallscale property-owners for some time had found furtive ways to avoid handing all their trade profits to the Martells away east in Sunspear. Many more now did so openly, and now they refused to suffer the expense and loss and mass deaths from starvation of taking part in the scorched-earth-and-hide tactics that Aegon I and Jaehaerys I had run into earlier. The trading visitors' hosts, and many other smallfolk and local small-area lords, were ordered to cut down orange and lemon trees and other crops and to go into hiding to deny supplies to an expected invader, but they saw ahead years of loss and hunger until new trees came into fruit, and families dying of starvation, and remembered previous cases of desperation cannibalism, and plainly directly publicly refused, and refusal spread.

Very many took up weapons that they had brought back from wars, and fought off attempts by enforcement squads to take over their area and destroy crops and scorch the area's earth for them. Refusals spread fast. The old once-reliable passive resistance, complicated, relying on everybody trusting and doing his part to keep as many as possible alive and all supplies away from the enemy, was quickly faling to pieces. The rulers in Sunspear called in vain in face of this "rebellion against the rebellion" for the old solid resistance, but their undercover coercers were hopelessly swamped and could not even begin to stop Dornish farmers and fruit growers saying "Enough; now no more!" and staying and continuing to grow crops and welcoming and cooperating with Westerosi. The rulers might have enforced the old rule in time, but they had not enough time. They knew that many Westerosi had horses descended from mares and stallions of the Dornish desert-hardy light fast horse breed called Sand Steeds taken in previous wars, and so that monopoly of supply was lost. Many now knew that Westeros had dragons again, allowing search from the air, high above all ground obstacles. Religion helped: the Old Gods of the North did not prosper in areas too hot and dry for weirwood trees. Andals arriving had not liked the hot sand-blasting drought either, showing it by placenames such as Scourge and Hellholt and Brimstone; but some had settled along permanent rivers. Those who went from Sunspear northeast for help came only to rocky jagged storm-wave-beaten ends of the land, called the Broken Arm, and pirate-ridden dangerous rocky islands called the Stepstones, separating them from any help that they could have got from the port-city of Tyrosh on an island at the far northeast end of the Stepstones. The longer that the Dornish descendants of the Rhoynar were sundered by the sea from Mother Rhoyne, the more they changed over to the religion of the Seven, and let the Mother of the Seven take over her role. The various short and often summer-dry rivers of Dorne were not good replacements for Mother Rhoyne. The "old guard" in Sunspear had tried to call up the spirit of previous resistances, but got far less good than needed from it, and many of the smallfolk decided rather not to bow or bend or break to the orders to carry out the feared death-famine-causing scorched-earth tactic. A dispute over the succession within Dorne's Martell princely family did not help. People knew that when the same king ruled on both sides of the Red Mountains, hill bandits would no longer be able to curry favour by saying that they were acting for either side against the other.

The matter finally snapped when the Commander of Records in Hellholt castle heard that a woman thus furtively routinely disposed of was a friend's in-law relative. This broke down the last of any will by him to support the old system. He poisoned his castle's guards' drinking water supply, leaving him free to act. He carted out a load of his records of hundreds of years of furtive suppressive actions and became public evidence. Septons and others read it and spread the information. The Martells shut themselves in Sunspear, besieged by rebel lords and a big army of violently rebelling smallfolk, and awaited events. They tried to divert the general public anger away from themselves to some of their servants, until dispute over policy became dispute over who was mentally fit to reign as Prince, and several princely family members died in a violent civil war over the succession. Many people forswore loyalty to the Martells, and attacked the palace area in Sunspear, and the Martells' power ended. Jon realized that it would not help his family's reputation to be known as the wiper-out of the Martells, even if the deed was done only by inaction and letting events run their course. Jon on Rhaegal and Dany on Drogon and Nikuli on Bluewings at much risk flew in from northeast over narrow sea and swooped low in Sunspear through a storm of arrows and managed to rescue the Martell family, knowing them by their clothes and jewels and faces. They got away from arrow-shot, and as soon as they could, landed on farmland. Two of the rescued freed themselves from Rhaegal's back feet and climbed on its back. There was some exchange of passengers and loads, to even out loads in proportion to the strength of who they were riding on, or to bring family members together. Jon and Dany and Nikuli looked over them and pulled or cut four arrows out of them. Wounds started to fester, but some maesters know how to sometimes stop festering, and in Storm's End castle they recovered. Later they moved to King's Landing. The Martells were thankful for the rescue, and were in a state of shock at finding so suddenly how popular dissention had grown so violent, after the princely family's surveillance and control bodies had persistently reassured them that everything was under control and safe.

The Yronwood family, backed by families in big citrus growing areas in the west of Dorne and near to smugglers' tracks over the Red Mountains, gathered much support and bent the knee to Daenerys. She and Jon appointed their family head as Lord of Dorne and Guardian of the Sands under the rule of the Iron Throne. The young adults of the rescued Martells later found Dornish spouses and had children by them, but knew that they had lost their political powerbase. Adults who had fought for the old system were not pleased at their children "playing at dragons" re-enacting the evacuation, or at finding how the Martells had enforced their policies and stopped dissent.


Dothraki

Of the Dothraki that Daenerys had unwisely but unavoidably brought in ships to Westeros to help her to get her throne back from Robert's usurping line, many had died in the battle against the Night King. The rest, settled in a war-emptied country area in the Reach, felt confined and became restless and started galloping about on horses and systematically attacking nearby Westerosi farms and villages and a town, and killed many, and were all killed when Westerosi lords and their armies fought back. News of all this found its way to Essos, including to the remaining Dothraki there. That, plus the loss against the Night King, was a massive loss, their biggest loss since Valyria had its former power, more even than their losses in the great battle when they attacked Qohor during the Century of Blood. Their remaining khals met and decided to use a forthcoming holy-day to call all Dothraki to meet at Vaes Dothrak to decide matters and tell everybody first-hand properly about what had happened, and to encourage unity. This was done, but wine loosened tongues, and older men wrote down orders and information that should only have been remembered. The Lhazareen and Meereen and others heard of it and formed an alliance. The Lhazareen and the Meereen for a long time had been secretly training their men in sword fighting and horse riding and Dothraki-type horseback archery. As the appointed leader of the Lhazareen said: "We'll see if from now on, the `Lamb Men' when attacked do no more than bleat. That lot of murderers and enslavers will soon see the difference between a wether [= gelded male sheep] grazing quietly and an entire ram with horns charging. This plan better work, or we all will be for it when they hit back.". They knew that the Dothraki had a strict custom to never bring any weapon into Vaes Dothrak. The allies' hastily-drawn-up plan to use this once-in-centuries opportunity and throw all their armed men together and attack the meeting, went into action, driven to hard anger and action by memory of many incidents including the killing attack by Dothraki on Lhazareen that Daenerys saw, and many death-marches of captives across hot dry distance to the south coast slave-trading ports, and destruction of other peoples' culture and written records, and many betrayals of trust when they had agreed to help one group against another, and many other wrong-doings.

It was a long march from the nearest edge of Lhazareen territory to Vaes Dothrak, and the allies needed to carry much water and food with them, and avoid making noise or raising dust as they marched. As they advanced they found ever more fresh horse droppings as the Dothraki converged and moved away ahead of them, to reach their meeting place at the day chosen. A horse dropping can tell a fair amount, such as how fast the horse was moving and which direction and how recently, and what and how much the horse had been eating.

But the allies got there unnoticed. Under a waning crescent moon before dawn the allies went round Vaes Dothrak in a wide circle, and then charged in. Unshod hooves made less noise on the grass. They reached the places on the perimeter where those attending the meeting had left their weapons and many of their horses. Arrows and short fights made an end of the Dothraki guarding the weapons, as many of them were asleep or early-morning sleepy, and the allies got many weapons there, and horses for those not already mounted or who were riding two on a horse. But the alarm had been raised, and stealth was over, and quickly they mounted and charged and attacked the huge gathering with swords and spears and arrows. Many Dothraki died in their sleep or as they woke, expecting a long day of religious ceremony and information. Swords and knives cut tents, which collapsed, entangling their occupants and often catching fire from cooking fires.

The rest of the Dothraki realized that they were being attacked, but many could not break quickly or at all from the long-drummed-in rule not to be armed or to fight in the sacred place. Some regretted their long-overconfident dominating-minded carelessness in the matter of posting guards, and resisted with meat-roasting spits and burning sticks and tentpoles and stones and whatever they had. What perimeter guards were there and had survived, galloped in to attack the attackers. Many on both sides died in the desperate fighting which eddied back and forth and around and in and out of buildings for most of the day, but it was the allies who had men alive at the end. A Lhazareen who had got away at the attack that Daenerys saw, angry and vengeful, pulled down and stabbed a Dothraki who had climbed one of the Two Stallions statues, and looked round for more targets in vain, for there were none. The Dothraki realm and its ambitions of expansion were no more, at huge cost in casualties among the allies, but it was done. An era was over. People living around were safe from them at last. Qohor could in future use for itself the money that it got from selling its famed carpets, instead of handing it over to keep Dothraki in luxuries and weapons and supplies, and likewise anywhere else that had had to buy them off.

They thanked the gods of all the peoples involved. They set fire to the grass around, and the fire ran and ran and destroyed the grazing for horses until the next rains, in case any Dothraki had stayed away from the meeting. For once they did not fear reprisal for that tactic. They laid out a burial ground, outside the city area, and buried their dead. They took all weapons away, to avoid weapon-traders from rummaging about and profiting from it. They led or drove back all horses that they could, but many escaped and became wild breeding herds.

It remained to keep a garrison at Vaes Dothrak, if only to regulate the long-distance traders' market that often happened there, and to guard in case any Jogos Nhai came in through the eastern mountains to fill the void. Lhazareen and Meereen got the job, as they were nearer than Omber or Saath, and the hairy stocky Ibbenese on the cold north coast behind Ifeqevron were cold-water sailors and not accustomed to hot dry inland distance. The traders slept well away from the city area and were not caught up in the battle.

In future years, a big painting of this battle was painted on a wall in the new city being built around the former Vaes Dothrak, and its artist showed some of the Lhazareen and Meereen men using the new `Comevaa weapons', guessing that only with such weapons could they have won; but they won without such weapons.


Back home

To return to current events, Dany on Drogon and her followers had left along the coasts of southwest Essos new city regimes without slaves and freeing all slaves; these regimes had been hoped to lead to a new era of peace, but while Dany was there a ferocious epidemic of dysentery in Astapor killed three out of every four who caught it, and afterwards excuses for war among them continued to arise endlessly destructively like weeds and intruding wild animals in a crop field. Reorganizing matters and repairing war damage in Westeros, which already took time, was complicated by these continuing upsets in west Essos, which caused yet another Essos ship-war that interfered with trade and fishing. By now the walnut timber brought to Maegor's Holdfast had dried and shrunk and warped as much as it ever would, and so some of it was made into new suitable thrones for the royal family. The Iron Bank of Braavos called for Westeros to pay interest payments earlier than scheduled so that the coin could be lent on to Essos cities who were adventuring in the power void caused by the end of the Dothraki. Jon, with as many men as Rhaegal at his current size and flying-power could carry that far, had had to pack supplies and fly east over the Narrow Sea to try to sort matters out; but now he and they were back. During a discussion in the Red Keep, a horse-rider brought in a letter, which said:

"Your Grace and others were getting worried about dragons and ability to ride them getting into the hands of people who are not royalty. It's happened. In the Reach, a dragon on one of the early Targaryens' long royal progress flights, laid astray, and someone buried the egg under the roots of a weirwood tree to keep it safe, on the land of one of those old Houses that still worships the old gods. But someone saw the digging and guessed and a story about buried treasure got about, but not about what the treasure was. Recently in Aspen Bank village near Ivy Hall in the Reach, a farm boy called Niculi had time on his hands, and dug for the treasure. He found no gold or silver or jewels, only a big scale-patterned egg a bit more than one-and-a-half times as long as a big man's hand. He accidentally cut his arm (not seriously) on a sharp piece of cut weirwood root, and named something as he swore at the shock and the pain as he bled on the egg, and it broke open and hatched, and a strange scaly animal came out. He petted it, and went home with a bonded reddish-blue dragon hatchling with blue-green back-ridge and blue-green wings sitting on his shoulder like he was some old Valyrian dragonlord's son. He had some Valyrian ancestry via two 'dragonseeds', that is children from a Targaryen or Velaryon or Celtigar man catching a quick night with a country woman. Likely being for so long under a weirwood tree that was being used for somewhat-magical worship had gradually weakened the magical barrier against life waking in the egg, until it only needed some shed Valyrian blood to hatch it. He took it home, and told his mother, all afraid-sorry about breaking something valuable, as children do, and asked her what sort of animal the hatchling was and if he could keep it. His father asked the local septon about it. The septon knew in alarm what the creature was, and saw the boy's Valyrian-looking eyes, and his bandaged arm and the shed blood on the broken eggshell, and knew what had happened.
`That was blood-magic.' the septon said, `Something that you said or thought, added to the blood shed, was enough to set it off. That's no part of the faith of the Seven, but you did it. Pray to them to say sorry to them. As it was unwitting, the Mother Above'll know that you intended no harm. But you shouldn't poke about in things. And keep away from magic.'.
The septon had access to ravens and sent a letter to `His Grace the King', not knowing who was king right then in the muddle of travel-delayed rumors of battles and deaths here and there. A raven flew across the distance. Daenerys received it and sent for Niculi, and he and his dragon are here. It has grown since and it is about as big as a mastiff now, but it is still growing. Its egg was magenta with blue swirls. He named it Bluewings. The septon mended the hatched eggshell and has kept it as a memento.".

Jon advised: "Best if people don't overfeed it: there is a useful size for dragons for riding; we don't want a stableful of Balerions and the cost of feeding them and the dangers of handling them at that size. A while ago I got someone to look into what needs to be got hold of and done to repair the Dragonpit: dragons that were kept in there did not get excessively big too quickly. Balerion got too big. Time passes. There is no complete return to old times. Families kept pure-blooded become inbred and everybody's blood in the family becomes the same, and that's bad for their later generations. Valyrian blood gets mixed and dispersed as people wed outside the family, as septons and septas say that we should, but we need Valyrian blood to be able to bond to dragons. Such things happen. And jobs such as getting knights' horses accustomed to staying steady when a dragon is in the sky over them. If Niculi stays among us, he'll need a master-at-arms to teach him sword-skill and suchlike, and a maester to teach him reading and writing and arithmetic and suchlike. I'll tell him that he can send messages back to his family.

"Another matter: By my mother I am by inheritance Lord, or by rebellion King, in the North, and also I (by my father) and my wife Daenerys are the two best current claimants to be King of Westeros, if we ignore the waterfront inn stories about babe-swapping and Aegon VI being alive and well and working as a sellsword in Essos. There is no purpose in rebelling against myself, and those two conflicting titles have now united. But I cannot be here and at Winterfell at the same time, to do both jobs adequately, even with Rhaegal to carry me between the two quickly. I now hereby pass my position as lord of Winterfell on to its heir, my half-sister Sansa Stark, to rule there under me as Lord of the North. And I take it that there is still no news about finding The Old Dothraki and his red-haired companion? They are much to be honoured.".

Soon after, a guard saw a flying object become too big to be a bird, and coming nearer, and saw that it was a dragon flying in, and ran in and called. "It's not Drogon or Rhaegal: it has cream and gold scales and red-orange wings. Two people riding it." he said. It landed. A tall man slid off its back, then an older-looking man, both in Dothraki-type desert clothes. "It's The Old Dothraki and his companion!" several people exclaimed, indentifying them correctly. But those two removed their Dothraki-type desert clothing, revealing a woman in a red dress and a Valyrian-looking man with a badly scarred nearly-bald head. Some there recognized the mage Melisandre and knew her long-known reputation, for she was born and raised and schooled in the feared shadow-city of Asshai, beyond Yi Ti, at the east end of the world as the Westerosi knew it then.

"That dragon's Viserion! What's the Red Woman been doing now!?" someone said in shock. Melisandre gave an order to Viserion. The fire-blast was aimed aside onto open ground and did no harm, but was clearly hot fire, and not frost-blast any more. "Looks like she brought him back to life. I've heard stray stories about her doing such things." someone said.

Jon asked: "As she has done a few times before, reviving dead people, or so stories say. She is known for doing that. Not as a wight, but properly alive. Some say that she revived me after someone stabbed me in a castle on the Wall. I may remember something of that sort happening, or it may have been a dream; I dreamed that the Stranger came for me, he's one of the Seven that the southron worship in septs, the one that collects the souls of the dead. Now who has died to let her apparently bring back a life!?".

"Only two big bulls in their prime, she killed both at once with a sacred knife in each hand." the nearly-bald man said, "He's properly alive and healed of the Night King's spear wound, he isn't a wight any more."'

"She is properly alive." Melisandre corrected, "I know how to control a dragon without being permanently bonded to it. In the shadow-realm of Asshai far to the east beyond Yi Ti and the Jade Sea I went through many ordeals in my mage-schooling when young, but it was worth it. Many armies have marched or ridden or sailed against Asshai; none ever came back away out.".

"Now the three are complete again." said Daenerys, who was there. Viserion, hearing her voice, gave forth a loud roar, which was answered in full force at the reunion by Drogon and Rhaegal, who were nearby in a part of the Dragonpit which had been repaired and re-roofed. Viserion, as Drogon had before, walked up to Daenerys, and then stood forwards around her on the wrists of her wings that on the ground served her as front feet. Again, as sometimes with dragons, Viserion gave an impression that, as well as understanding specific command words, she was listening hard to all the varied odd noises that humans made, and sometimes extracted bits of meaning from them, but again found frustratedly that her vocal apparatus did not let her imitate those noises to try to communicate back.

Daenerys looked at the bald man. His head and the back of his neck were bald and heavily scarred, but some trails of long silvery Valyrian-type hair hung off on parts of its edges, and his eye irises were purple. "The Seven be praised, that's my brother Viserys! How did you escape?! I thought you were killed at Vaes Dothrak!" Daenerys exclaimed.

Melisandre answered "There are currents in the magic that we mages can feel. That is how I could tell that those three dragon eggs were being handled and carried about by someone who could bond to dragons. We Asshai mages have ways to travel quickly. I reached Vaes Dothrak too late to stop those Dothraki from pouring that molten gold over his head. When they threw his body outside and carried on with their festivities, he was in agony and on his last few heartbeats, but still faintly alive and I did not have to start with a dead body. I healed him, as well as I could, using my powers, and his heart started beating properly, and he stood. I dressed him and myself in Dothraki-type clothes that some of that horse-minded destructive lot had taken off and left about. We followed Daenerys to Qarth, pretending to be two of her Dothraki. The gold that had been poured over his head: I knocked it off his head as quickly as I could with magic and a stick, and it quickly became cold and hard, and later I made it into coins with Meereen's mint stamp impressions on to help to buy for Dany and her followers passage from Qarth to here, so that we two could come over here. Some may call it forgery, but I made each coin from the true amount of gold that Meereen's law orders. Meereen's coin is one of the coinages which is `on standard', that is, its value as used for trading is the same as its scrap value. I would have rescued Mirri Maz Duur, but I did not reach her in time, and I can do nothing with ash and burnt bones. I realized that Daenerys had been compelled by a power that she and most people, and even I, cannot always defeat, namely, love and the chances of who falls in love with who, and that is why she fell so deeply in love for Khal Drogo.".

Daenerys knelt to Viserys and said: "Your Grace, this has changed matters very much. With many apologies, but we all thought that you were dead. I named this one of my three dragon hatchlings Viserion in memorial of you. You are older than me, so ...".

Viserys knelt back to Dany and Jon and answered: "No, Your Graces. The agony that those Dothraki put me through cleared my mind about what matters and what does not. Several times since, I have had bad flashbacks to what those Dothraki did. I realise that in a stressed situation with power and men and weapons available, I would be too ready to lose my temper and lash out, and then someone fights back to oppose me, and yet another destructive war starts. I will not risk ruling as king; the same bad flashback will likeliest come again, whenever a crown is on my head or anywhere near me; Jon is much better to be trusted as king, after his years as a Wall commander. And, me claiming a dragon will have to wait, unless several years show that I can control myself securely at all times. Above all, I will not risk starting yet another war for the throne. I remain under your orders. And I need to get back to date about knowing the current situation. My main want now is a suitable wife, to add more numbers and fresh blood to our royal family; Robert's usurpers and time have killed so many of us. Aemon the maester at Castle Black is Aemon Targaryen, third son of King Maekar I Targaryen, but he is around a hundred years old and blind; a mage could help if necessary if he weds and he and his wife want a child, but as a Watcher on the Wall he is sworn to celibacy; I contacted him, but he is not interested. Someone said that you have worked out a new law about who is the rightful heir to your throne; I hereby request for it to specify that I am not to inherit, and that I am to be treated as being a year younger than you when considering the succession of any children that I may beget, and I will countersign it on the law parchment; that should get rid of much risk of war for the succession to the throne.". Dany and Viserys left off formality and hugged each other in thankful reunion. Next year Aemon the maester died of old age without issue.

Jon said: "Much has happened since Daenerys sat or stood uninjured for several hours in Khal Drogo's funeral pyre near Vaes Dothrak in the Dothraki Sea far from home with the three dragon hatchlings and their hatched eggshells, until it burnt out around her, and there she was covered in soot and her clothes and hair burnt off, but she was alive and well and unhurt with the three newly-hatched living dragonlets clinging to her. The Dothraki had called her `Osavvirsak', which means `Unburnt' in their language. Claiming three hatchlings at once, like Daenerys did, is not good practice, but it had to be done, and the Seven be thanked that it has worked out as well as it has; her claim to Drogon held, but her control on the other two only went as far as getting them to follow her. To make things more different from the usual, the three hatchlings think that she is their mother, like happens sometimes on farms when goose hatchlings first see a man rather than the sitting goose; the maesters call it "imprinting". I suspect that to some extent those three think of humans and dragons as one species that comes in two forms. This is as well as ordinary "claiming a dragon". That complication is likely why Drogon and Rhaegal both obey me and also Daenerys, instead of each obeying only one, and why Daenerys found it easy to learn to ride Drogon without training: most times a dragon will only obey one person, until that person dies.

"When Dany first taught me how to ride Rhaegal, up north near Winterfell with snow about, I had an impression that Drogon and Rhaegal watching us were thinking "Who's that kissing our mother?". I know that plenty of times in the old days people saw dragon eggs hatch, but they did not go through what Dany went through. But it is said: `Zaldrîzes dohaeriros iksos daor.', that's High Valyrian for `a dragon is not a slave'. The gods be praised, that was a risk!! her walking into the pyre like that, even though before doing it she waited until the hatching explosions; likely the hatchlings had a magic that fireproofed themselves and anything else alive in there with them. And she and the hatchlings were still unhurt among the ash and cinders next morning when the pyre had burnt itself out around them. Anyway, later near Winterfell, I had to walk right up to the right side of the base of Rhaegal's neck and climb up, and quickly learn which spikes and rough bits on its neck skin can be used as climbing handholds and footrests. I just had time to lie on my belly along its midline back ridge before it flew up. In the North I had got used to high views from the Wall and Winterfell's ramparts and from mountains, but it was still strange. I held on to whatever I could reach as they flew carrying us through rocky snowy gorges and over high bare top-lands. Dragons grow fast. Dany told me about the three when newly hatched climbing up her as three men climb a tall tree: Rhaegal and Viserion reached her hips and were content with that, but Drogon pushed on much further and displayed his wings in triumph standing on her right shoulder. But now their riders climb up onto them.

"We need dragons to get around quickly, for long-range patrolling and to carry bulks of messages and important people quickly over the heads of risks and delays of land and sea travel ‐ if you can control it properly. And going oversea fast without the risks of the sea to the ports in the west end of Essos: there's already been too many fights about sharing out the former Dothraki lands, on top of continuing older wars between them, and risk of blood feuds starting about people killed in those fights. I apologise for the amount of time I have spent away from here flying, but Drogon and Rhaegal will only obey me and Daenerys. And I have here a copy that I and Dany have worked out of a much longer and more detailed law about who is the rightful heir in many circumstances if the king dies leaving no suitable legitimate sons, to try to avoid wars for the throne; I'll welcome discussion about it as scheduled later. And I'll have to get used to worshipping in septs and naming the seven named gods that they have down here: I was brought up in the North on worshipping a crowd of nameless gods through a heart tree.

"If Daenerys's three eggs were the three that Dreamfyre laid and Elissa Farman stole them from Dragonstone in 54 AC during Jaehaerys I's reign and took them to Essos and sold them to buy ships, and not from the far east as the man that sold them to Khal Drogo said, then our stock of dragons will get more and more inbred. I wonder how long it'll be this time before the stock dies out from inbreeding like it did last time: eggs dead-in-shell, stunted young never grown big enough to be ridden, eggs hatching into deformed eyeless wyrm-type creatures, with the effects of magic on top of the normal animal-breeding rules; maesters say that dragons need magic to make them light enough to fly. They also talk about a "pedigree bottleneck"; if you trace an ancestry back, it usually spreads out up like a tree; but with us and our dragons the pedigree keeps on narrowing off upwards to only a few ancestors for many descendants. Last time the inbreeding would have taken longer to show up without that "Dance of the Dragons" war killing so much breeding stock, but the inbreeding effects would likely have come, but later. That riot started by that agitator called "The Shepherd" killed the last four, else they might have bred back to numbers. After the Dance, Princess Rhaena Targaryen had three dragon eggs, and one hatched, and she named the hatchling Morning, as if it was a restart to dragon-riding, and it grew and she rode on it routinely, but nothing much came from that. This time, we have only three, and that's a riskily small start stock to breed from. And on top of that, if they were all from Dreamfyre's eggs, they are half siblings or likely full siblings even at the start. The Dance of the Dragons killed so many. Dreamfyre's skull still lies, the best part of 200 years dusty and cobwebby, with many others in a storeroom near here, since that unnecessary civil war for the throne when men set dragons against dragons and each killed the other and destroyed much else, in a frenzy of battle not caring what was risked and lost.

"Inbreeding is trouble for humans also. My mother is Lyanna Stark from Winterfell, which thankfully brings fresh blood to me and any children we two may have, after Aegon II went mad. I never knew her: she died soon after I was born. But Aegon II as a prince had to live in the ruling family through the Dance of the Dragons and its havoc ‐ that sort of upbringing could have unhinged many people, not only inbred people. The septons are correct in mistrusting sibling weddings, but Aegon I and kings after had to keep plenty of Valyrian blood in the family, so they could bond to a dragon each. A way may be needed to unbond someone from his dragon if he shows to be unsuitable, or if he gets old and wants to retire and to free up his dragon for someone else to ride. Back home in Valyria before the Doom, choosing a wife outside the family once in a while did not matter so much, with such a large population of dragon-bondable Valyrians around to choose from. But out here after the Doom, there's far fewer Valyrians about, but we still need fresh blood in once in a while. We'll have to keep track of all relatives to find who can claim a dragon or not. The mages'll have to come up with a way to find who can, without him ending up with a dragon bonded to him whether he wants one or not.

"The Targaryens brought five dragons from Valyria, but when Aegon I invaded Westeros they were down to Balerion, he was the youngest of them, plus Vhagar and Meraxes who were hatched on Dragonstone, only, and perhaps some eggs or young too small to ride. Some say `Even Balerion once could sit on a man's shoulder.' about something big that started small. I once saw a drawing of Daenys the Dreamer, who warned the Targaryens to evacuate from Valyria before the Doom, of her dreaming sleeping in an armchair with a black dragon hatchling sleeping on her shoulder, but I don't know if it happened like that. I've been on the North Wall long enough to see how the Wall-watchers' horses breed, and once I had to get noisy before they bothered to go get a fresh breeding stallion from outside, although I sometimes managed to cadge a few matings when someone visited on business or delivering supplies riding or driving a suitable stallion when we had mares on heat. It is useful having a dragon to ride, but I still miss the shaggy-coated cold-adapted horse stallion that I rode as a commander on the Wall. Men and their horses get fond of each other. In terms of stopping inbreeding effects from accumulating over time, those three eggs hatching set the clock back to Jaehaerys I's time, but no further. The smaller the starting breeding stock, the quicker their descendants tend to show inbreeding effects. All right, I know of maesters' theories that each animal or plant somehow, perhaps by magic or perhaps not, keeps two sets of instructions how to make more of itself, one copy from its mother and another from its father, and suchlike. Valyria kept its dragon stock going and seems to have been bred only with each other for so long because they had far more dragons, enough to send 300 against the Rhoynar that time, although some Valyrians may have brought in eggs from elsewhere down the centuries.

"We may perhaps bypass the Drogon-Rhaegal-Viserion pedigree bottleneck if we find and hatch any old eggs here in Westeros or in Essos, but behind that is the bottleneck of the three that Aegon I started with, and behind that is the bottleneck of the five that he brought from Valyria, unless each time there were also any eggs or hatchlings or young too small to ride that we don't know of. And way back behind all this is the bottleneck of how many the first Valyrians caught, or found as eggs, among their Fourteen Flames volcanoes and bred from them and found how to tame the hatchlings — but some say that say that the Valyrians got their first trained dragons and dragon-magical ability from Asshai.

"Some time someone'll have to go to the Vaes Dothrak long-distance trade market, or wherever it'll have moved to, and try to buy more dragon eggs, this time genuinely from Asshai and the far East, or get some from somewhere else that has and breeds wild or ridden dragons, even if we or someone must go way east beyond Asshai, and the expense of sending a reasonably strong fleet to Asshai ourselves, to negotiate, not to attack, and risk dodging south of Great Moraq island and then straight east to Asshai, and further. Qarth charges too much toll for passage of the Jade Gates.

"While I was in Essos flying on Rhaegal to deliver and collect messages I found the armies of Lys and Volantis, they're two of those west-Essos cities, marching against each other in one of their quarrels; the armies were evenly matched, and both sides had been whipped up to a determined eager state by rhetoric by officers, and the battle was expected to be bloody rather than decisive. I flew low level over each army once, and each time, I got Rhaegal to flame safely up over the heads of the army, and nobody was hurt, but they felt its heat and saw its glare and it scared them into listening to me. Afterwards, I landed between the armies, and the leaders of the army came to me and complained that `We did no harm to you.',
and I told them that `And I did not kill or injure any of your men. And tonight, many of their wives will still have their husbands, and many of their children will still have their fathers, who likely would not have had them if I had stayed away and let your planned battle happen. And, you need all your men fit and undamaged to break-in the grassland and rebuild farms and villages and towns where the Dothraki were, and not throwing them away in an unnecessary war. Take your quarrel to a discussion room. Try to bring the other cities and countries involved to the meeting also. I've seen far too much blood and death and crippled men already. And about `did no harm', what about the endless amount of times your sea-wars interfered with shipping belonging to Westeros or other realms which were nothing to do with your quarrel?'.

"I was about to turn back west, but I overheard some of them talking about another army further east. They talked in that distorted colonial Valyrian of theirs, but I understood enough of it. I flew away east. I caught up with the other army after four days. They had been systematically driving the Lhazar out ahead of them. The Lhazar had lost so many men cleaning out the Dothraki that they could not resist well, and likely some thought that the Lhazar would not need so much land after that, or some such excuse to steal land. Again I got Rhaegal to flame up over the heads of the army. They shot arrows, but the fire scared their horses and they had to stop. I landed and challenged them, in Dothraki and High Valyrian and the Common Tongue, hoping that between those three languages there would be enough who could translate it to the rest of them.

"He said: 'Our Archon ordered us. He wants the coastal land cleared right up to the Bone Mountains. His word is law.'.
I said: 'It isn't your Archon's land for him to pass laws about. It's the Lhazar's, and they've had so much mistreatment from the Dothraki that you should have left them alone. I thought you knew that there's a big meeting being planned to sort all this out..'. In the Dothraki version I translated 'Archon' as 'Khal': I was too angry to waste time thinking for an exact right word.
He said: 'The Archon ordered us to advance to the Bone Mountains. That is absolute.' he insisted.
'I don't care.' I said, and got Rhaegal to flame close up above their heads again, 'Right now, get back west out of Lhazar land right back to the border and then fifteen miles further back. Leave your baggage train and all your supplies and valuables here: not for me but to compensate the Lhazar for the damage that your invasion caused. And leave fifty of your men who are skilled in building work, to help them to repair damage..'
They got the message and went away back west. Some Lhazar approached me, and I told them what had happened. They took the baggage train away with them. I later heard that the Free Cities' northern army heard of this and backed out of all old Kingdom of Sarnor territory.".

(Afterwards, those armies' leaders, with the weapons that they had, saw no point in doing anything except going back home and sending the levied troops home. But yet, likely not all the men got back home, because diseases always go about with armies; but likely many lived who would have died of disease as well as in battle later if Jon had not interfered. The news spread, as news finds ways to spread even if it is not meant to. The men, returning alive and without war-booty, worked off their frustrations in bed, as men will, conceiving babies who might not have existed if Jon had not interfered. Their wives and mothers and sisters, even before the births, knew why the fathers came home, and in thanks gave some of the babies names meaning "Gift of the Dragon" or similar. This often caused rows between husband (who disliked reminders of being called off a campaign that much success had been promised for) and wife (who was glad to see him back alive and well).

In Myr, on the edge of the waterfront area, left over from the old Valyrian rule, were two big carvings of dragons symmetrically placed in a head-down swooping pose on the upper corners of a big wall. As a dragon had been used to stop those planned battles, groups of women whose menfolk had been marched off to war, not wanting to go to an established temple for risk of attracting unwelcome action from men who organize war, began to gather there and treat the two dragon carvings as religious images, and to pray to them to make the same happen again, to send something to get their husbands' or sons' armies home sooner than planned and without battle, with as many as possible of the men alive and intact, and without killing enemy, and after as little time as possible being marched about catching or passing on the fatal diseases that follow armies about. News of this found its way by ship to Westeros. In Essos a strong spreading anti-war movement developed, starting among women, without Jon or Dany needing to interfere any more. Some women spoke of refusing conjugal access, being weary of the expense and work of raising babies to the gate of adulthood and a promise of wedding, only for those young men to die in battle, and often back home a crying mother or betrothed nursing a piece of army kit, or a horse that "came back without him", instead of a son or husband or a hoped-for first baby – or sometimes still hope if "half of his blood" is alive in the bereaved betrothed's womb. This "Two Dragons Movement" also started a strong feeling and then call for action against the west Essos cities' various notorious hired assassins and poisoners and poison-sellers, whose actions had often caused violent retaliations. And there was meeting at Vaes Dothrak, and it led to a treaty, and the grassland was shared out peaceably. Names in High Valyrian arose for the two carved dragons, meaning "He who turns the army back without fighting" and "She who causes the swords not to be drawn", and a mythology developed about their origin. Some said that it was strange that dangerous mighty dragons became symbols of a peace movement, but it happened, and the Essos south and west coast cities gradually made lasting peace among each other at last.

Jon continued: "We must find time to try a long list of Lannister army men for robbery and murder and torture and in general acting like bandits. For example, they largely depopulated an area around the Gods Eye. Arya Stark brought me a list of accused; so have some others, but it'd need a hundred Aryas with lists that would each need a backpack to carry, to make a good start to finding all the war-crimimals. And we must find a new family to take over at Casterley Rock. The depopulated north of the Riverlands: the idea of settling those surviving Dothraki there didn't work, they raided about and wanted to make a new Dothraki Sea depopulated grassland round there. Jaehaerys I resettled a war-depopulated area by settling in landholding men's second and later sons from areas around, and likely I'll have do the same %ndash; but not bring westermen in: that'd cause too much bad feeling after what the Lannisters did. War, war, war, on and on. For those who do not know the whole of what has happened, I will explain quickly:

"KIng Aerys II Targaryen went mad, and Robert Baratheon usurped: to be expected, perhaps. Cersei Lannister was after the throne and got someone to set up a boar-hunting accident that kílled Robert, and Robert's son Joffrey took over. Joffrey was suspected (and later was proved) not to be Robert's son, and Robert's brother Renly got an army and went for the throne, and was killed by sorcery. Robb Stark declared full independence as King of the North. Stannis, another brother of Robert, took over Renly's army and went for the throne. Balon Greyjoy tried to break free as King of the Iron Islands, and then went for land on the mainland and took Winterfell while its army was elsewhere. He gathered a big fleet, but he fell to his death from a bridge in a storm. Someone poisoned Joffrey. Stannis lost his army and ships. That lot fought against each other, and armies marched here and there and took and destroyed whatever they wanted to. Daenerys brought her army and her three dragons from Essos, and many joined her. Circei died.

"Then the Night King interrupted and showed himself, and there was war along the Wall and at Winterfell, and the Night King died. Then what was left of the Baratheon factions united and marched north, still a big army, and reached and tried to take Winterfell, and were stopped by the new weapons that Arya had brought from Aryos, and Drogon helped also. That at last left only me and Daenerys, and we have wed each other, and our son (if the Mother Above grants us one) will inherit and unite our claims. And will leave us with a huge mess of death and destruction to sort out.

"And we should watch what the politics settle to in the parts of the Essos coast where Daenerys changed the regimes when she freed so many slaves there, and properly settle all the disputes there. In Astapor I had plenty use for Rhaegal's fire that I did not want to have to do: `the pale mare' [= severe epidemic dysentery] had about stopped at last, but I had to do what I could to help clean up afterwards, including huge funeral pyres of people who had died of it, and that was more than two-thirds of the population, while priests chanted funeral for the dead. Daenerys before me had done good work trying to keep the sick and dead away from the apparently healthy, on top of governing the place and getting through to a port to cross to Westeros, but the job was beyond her, and often a week or so later she merely found the previously sick now dead, and the previously healthy now sick: she rode on Drogon's one pair of wings, but `the pale mare' rode on the wings of millions of dung-bred flies. Afterwards I had to get some men to help me to wash Rhaegal down thoroughly: I didn't want to carry 'the pale mare' about any further.

"Next stage will be to get every ruler involved to meet - Vaes Dothrak's the handiest place right now - and sort out properly who gets what land. Without uprooting settlers who are already settling-in. Without uprooting the Lhazar. And they'll need plenty of settlers in the east close up to the three passes, to provide and support plenty of army to face off any more destructive nomads who want to come in from east through the passes - those Jogos Nhai for a start, who ride those strange striped horses. Talking to people over there: in the back country, not so many know our language as they do in Essos's western ports, but plenty know Dothraki, to understand when that lot came endlessly demanding money or supplies or slaves or else. I reckon I've spoken more Dothraki after the Dothraki were gone, than while they were there. We can't tell the whole East what to do, and I'm not going to try. The western areas, or at least their cities, speak Valyrian left by their old empire, but their Valyrian's changed so much from the form that maesters teach that it's become more like a separate new language for each area. Sometimes I wish I had a way to travel long distances quick, that did not scare people so much. Having several young dragons coming along at last gives us a way to carry copies of laws about over the heads of ground risks when they're too heavy for ravens.

"In Myr's market I bought a Dothraki to Common Speech dictionary and grammar book. Surprisingly cheap. Something strange about it: the writing in it is very small, as if the scribe used a hen quill instead of a goose quill. And, wherever the same letter occurs again in the text, it is exactly the same. I'd never seen such small and precise writing, with none of the little differences in strokes that happen in even the neatest writing. And the same in another copy of it that I bought, it was exactly the same including where on each page each line began and ended, and where in each line each word began and ended. Very strange.".

Something else happened then. An old arch-maester had come in; he looked quickly in the drawer that Jon opened to put the book back away, and saw in a back corner a shiny partly-cylindrical metal device a few inches long with a handle and other parts, some movable, sticking out; there were Asshai'i markings on it. He asked what it was, not quite quickly enough suppressing severe shock and alarm.
Jon said: "It's something that a ship brought back from Yi Ti or somewhere away east thereabouts. Ships based that far east away from us can sail to and bring stuff back from all sorts of places that our ships can't reach. One of the ship's men found it dropped on a floor in a corner in a room. He said it had fallen out of a package labelled `Steel Fang' in Asshai'i writing. I've heard of swords and daggers named after this and that sort of fang.".
"Of a viper or suchlike, this time, likelist." the maester said, sounding dismayed, "Likely someone there dissected a viper's head to find how its fangs work, and what he saw in it gave him ideas, and he designed this. I can see all too clearly what it was designed to do. I hope that people responsible or sensible in Asshai don't let this type of device out in a hurry. Poisoners have too many arts and devices and skills and kit already. Keeping important people safe would be a big step more difficult with these around, if it is what I think it is. Keep it tightly out of sight. We don't want more new risk and upset on top of what Arya brought back from Comevaa. But if one has escaped, others may escape.".

The Night's Watch had gone back north to the Wall to await events and decisions. Its current commander had pardoned Jon for any accusation of desertion from the Watch that may be laid against him.

The old returns and the new comes

Jon soon after led a thorough search of Dragonstone and the palace area at King's Landing, including tunnelling into all suspected hidden hollows, and four mages with him who had magic to find hidden objects. That found eleven dragon eggs hidden in corners and holes and under floors. (This search also found an intact complete copy of Dragons, Wyrms, and Wyverns: Their Unnatural History by Septon Barth, and copies of other books that he wrote. They were quickly sent to be copied.) That showed that in an earlier search Lord Regent Kevan Lannister had been correct in not believing Lord Mace Tyrell's son Ser Loras Tyrell's report that a search had found no eggs. Dragon eggs, like much else that is valuable because of beauty, all too often encourage dishonesty and furtiveness and theft and trouble, and people not wanting that beauty to be spoilt by hatching. The colors and patterns on some of them matched an old record that a scribe had made, of dragon eggs that he knew of and some of them that had disappeared. Noble houses up and down the kingdom admitted to having stray eggs which they had hidden, some from ridden dragons laying astray during overnight rests on long journeys. A Valyrian scroll in the Citadel said how long was the embryo development time of dragon eggs before they were ready to hatch, under various conditions; that time had passed since the rescue flights and the recent layings. Jon chose six of the found eggs, and added one of Rhaegal's new eggs, and, remembering Daenerys's hatching success, at first took them about with him and slept among them, and then put them in a hot zone around a volcanic vent on Dragonmont hill on Dragonstone, where in the old times wild dragons had laid and hatched eggs and raised young without help from humans.

When the time came, Jon and Dany took with them three mages, and seven men appointed to be riders, and several guards. At Dragonstone's ferry's mainland quay they had the troublesome job of loading a big live bull in its prime into the ferryboat, and much fuel wood. They climbed from the island quay to a hot volcanic vent, leading the bull. They laid the fire, and the seven eggs in it, and natural volcanic heat lit it. Natural fire-magic lurking around the vent worked; the mages chanted; at the right time the bull met its fate; there was waiting, and more chanting, which Jon and Dany joined in among the clamour of seagulls; and more waiting and chanting, and fear that the six eggs were too old and had been cold too long, and two men started to go down to the sea to search for driftwood to feed the fire; but at last an explosion in the flames echoed off rocks and threw sparks and embers about and set seagulls screeching, and six more times soon after as the effect spread and old obdurate magic preventing hatching broke down at last. Shielded with wet ox-hides against the heat, they felt about with long iron hooked tools with wood handles, and out of the fire into the cold sea wind and spitting light rain they pulled seven active squealing hissing living dragonlets. From the colors of the ejected pieces of eggshell they could see that the Rhaegal egg had hatched first and which was its hatchling by where it was pulled out from; it was cyan (that is, between blue and green) with blue back-ridge. This widened the parent stock as it was in early-middle Targaryen times, but it did not widen the parent stock as it was when the Targaryens left Valyria. There were stories that Valyria had got dragon eggs from the East, likely for the same reason as some here were looking for fresh blood, but among so many dragonlord families in Valyria, it was far from certain that the Targaryens got any of those Eastern eggs or their descendants before they moved to Dragonstone.

The riders had been carefully chosen after interview and examining their records. Each intended rider chose one hatchling, finding thankfully that it was hand-warm and not fire-hot, and held it in his arms and petted it and let it bond to him and wind itself round his arms and neck. Four bonded naturally; in the other three a mage had to set up the bonding link. Some of the bull's flesh was found cooked but not burnt; they showed it to the dragonlets, as a wild mother dragon would have done, and the seven hatchlings had their first meal, and the men ate some of it. Jon and Dany named some of the dragons after and in memorial of some of the seven who had died in the Dance of the Dragons in 129-131 AC, as a reminder of the wastage that war causes. Some books say that dragons are hermaphrodite or can change sex; some including a book by Septon Barth say not. They watched the fire until it went out, for safety, as they loaded everything needed into the boat. They smothered any remaining embers with wet seaweed, and boarded, and rowed back to the mainland, thanked their horse-keepers, and rode back to the palace; their horses could smell dragon and were restless. Jon decided for now to use them, when their mounts were big enough to ride on, for routine patrolling rather than for anything destructive; routine flying patrols, able to see many things from the air that could hide from a man in the ground, should make the roads and life for isolated smallfolk safer.

He stayed there for a while to answer any queries that arose, while attending to another job that had arisen: Drogon was shedding. Some reptiles, including snakes and dragons, from time to time shed the outer part of the outer dead layer of their skins. (This is not the same as full-thickness skinning.) It was better to take the whole shedding off in one act, rather than letting it come off untidily in tatters over two or so days while the dragon claws and bites at it and rubs against things, or risks letting the irritation and annoyance get it into the undesirable habit of flaming itself. The shedding came off semi-transparent, like a snake's shedding, but much thicker, and tough like parchment. He had to help in a few places where the shedding stuck where an old skin injury had healed; Drogon let only Jon or Daenerys do that sort of personal job. The shedding was laid out flat and weighted down so that it dried out flat. Parasite eggs and dirt came off with the shedding, and Drogon was thankful to be rid of them. Jon changed back to his royal clothes and went back to his royal duties. A servant scraped and washed the shedding to clean it. It proved useful to make wet-weather overcoats, and he and Jon each had a kit-belt with tool pouches made from Drogon's previous shedding.

As the new dragons grew, it was shown why a sort of native songbird, the Crownlands warbler, with a red lightning-like line along each side, was sometimes called the dragonbird, although there was nothing dragonish about it. It frequented the dragons' enclosures, cleaning parasites and bits off them, and was even allowed in and out of the dragons' mouths to remove parasites and bits of food. Old scrolls said that they were common in Valyria before the Doom, and praised the beauty of their song. There had been a few on Dragonstone from the start, and more after Aegon I came, until the Dance of the Dragons. Now they were back again.

Gangs of organized aggressive beggars, made bold by numbers and on the way to become full-fledged robbers, added to by smallfolk set adrift by food shortage and general damage caused by passage of armies, and by the inevitable army deserters who become robbers, had again become too common and a serious threat to public law and order and safety of property. Recently he had heard of and seen too many isolated farms and small villages deserted and their people gone to a nearby village big enough for numbers to guard the place against such gangs, and defences round villages. Once he had flown over a pitched battle underway with wounded on both sides between villagers and a large attacking gang of determined beggars, made bold by numbers, who did not like being refused; there was a solid-looking palisade round the village. That time, Drogon's speed let him quickly reach a minor House's holdfast and come back in time with the area's local lord leading a locally-raised horse-mounted squad whose members knew who was who in the area. After a horseback chase they asked everybody there what was going on; one of the squad was a mage (dressed the same as the rest) who could distinguish truth from untruth, and show it by a hand signal. The gang, finding that lying and cadging did not work, cursed violently and foully and ran away. The squad, who had learned horseback archery, chased and made a quick end of the gang. The size and vicious appearance of some of the village's dogs was also evidence that the people there thought it best to keep them despite the cost of feeding them. Two of the squad's horses were an unfamiliar breed and had Dothraki-type harness; they had been found wandering riderless, but they reminded him of the recent danger caused by Daenerys unwisely bringing Dothraki into Westeros, repeating the mistake made by the Sarnor people in Essos who in the Century of Blood had called in Dothraki to support one side in an internecine feud.

One of many orders that Jon and Daenerys made was for all private hoards of old manuscripts and scrolls to be listed and copied, and the copies kept away from the originals, so that one mishap or hostile act would not destroy both.

Much property in land and buildings and valuables had been siezed, or outright stolen, and used to reward followers in the wars of rival kings, and much of it had to be found and reurned to original owners.

A tension between the Crown and the Starry Sept had to be sorted out, about travelling preachers, under their latest reincarnation as Poor Preachers, being arrested and tried for theft. A recent case brought up by Lord Rykker of Duskendale was being treated as an example, about a group who, asking for donations to give to poor people, like many groups had down the years and centuries, made bold by numbers, had starting ignoring refusals and pushing past and taking things, or coming when unwatched and taking things. Lord Duskendale had brought the group before the king directly, as it was in the Crownlands. An angry argument developed.

"Twelve duck's eggs, and the hen which was sitting them." the lord said, "You bunch took them from a nest in a farmyard without asking and without looking for the owner. The farm had its own use for them: for breeding. After the recent wars there are many shortages and the roads are full of vagrants taking stuff and everybody's sick of it.".

A man claiming to speak for the travelling preachers said: "We are not common vagrants. There is a poor family, needs food, has no coin or other pay coming in, can't find work, no land to grow food on or graze a few animals on, their only fit man was picked up by some army and died of one of the diseases that follow armies about. A farm can spare a few eggs.".

Lord Rykker said: "Those eggs were expensive and were bought for hatching, the breeder had had to watch which drakes trod the ducks and that no other ducks laid astray in the nests. You know next to nothing. That village had had no ducks since before King Aerys died. They need ducks to feed in ponds and ditches where hens don't go, to make more food, and they need ducks and their eggs to breed more ducks. Feeding the people first needs safety for the means of producing food.".

"There was nobody there to ask. The poor are in urgent need. The Seven do not like ingenious excuse-finders and their endless excuses such as claiming that this is needed by this and that that is an important part of such-and-such. They were only a few eggs, and the farm had plenty other eggs, and hens to lay plenty more.".

"But not duck eggs, and they need to restart keeping ducks. Which poor family? One of my men looked in your camp waste and found evidence that you cooked and ate the eggs yourselves.".

"We need donations. All we get is `no', `no', `hoppit', `go away', and dogs set on us. Be content with what you've got. Hens are enough, but people want to go into ducks, and geese, and then those Sothoryosi fancies called peacocks, and more and more. As regards people wanting exotic things, what about the amount of ordinary horses that have been given names more suitable for dragons? And back to these ever-so-important eggs, what proof?".

"I and my men know what a duck eggshell looks like, and can tell it from a hen eggshell, even if both are white." said Lord Rykker, "Often things are needed. You know the law. The first `no' means `no', no asking again, no following people about, no pestering, no bringing a bunch with you, no bringing two and then two more and then two more and so on with an interesting lying tale, or suchlike, no taking without asking even if the owner isn't there. Men shouldn't have to leave work to guard things. It's got to the stage where when men working in fields near my castle need their daily work food, one of my family must get on a hunter [= a hunting horse] to carry the food to them, and many times I've had to ride down a gang that were hanging about to cadge or take the men's food, and a hunter costs to feed and run. As a dragon is to Your Grace, now dragons are back at last, so a fast heavy horse is to us, costs to keep it but we need it. Time was when a farmer's wife could send a boy on foot with the men's food, but not now. I've hanged eleven vagrants caught stealing or falsely claiming authority this year so far, and they are starting to become fewer at last. Three of them were a bunch that were about to kill a plough-ox that was needed to help to pull a plough to help to grow food. That sort of wandering rogue takes anything. I'm the lowest [in my part of the tables of who is liege lord of who] round here with [right of] pit and gallows. Three moon's turns ago near Edgerton I was huntsman of a hunting party. We found a bunch of roughs blocking a road. Our horses can't fly, but I've seen plenty of hedges and gates from above, when jumping them. We went into fields and found farm men getting ready to round up sheep. We had our own food with us, so we weren't wanting theirs. The farm men had plenty of big sticks. I split them and ourselves each into two groups and we went back onto the road in two places and went at the gang from both sides. Plenty of work for our swords and bows and sticks. We caught or killed all of the gang. Those we caught, we loaded them onto a cart that was there and took them to my castle. My kitchen had some pheasants, a fowler had netted them, so I gave two of them to the cart man and let him take his cart back home. Next the job of forcing out of the prisoners where they had stolen what and who they had been selling stolen goods to and suchlike. Some had Westerland accents, yet more Lannister army men gone outlaw instead of going home and back to farm work. Their leader was brown-faced and had a strange accent and spoke the Common Speech badly; the rest called him `Khal' sometimes. He had a sword, it was more like a sickle."

King Jon knew what that word meant and what language it was, and that it was not a name but a title. "Another of those still around." he said, "Poor sort of khalasar he had collected for himself, a bunch of Westerosi vagrants gone outlaw, and all on foot. Now back to current matters and the bunch that stole the duck eggs. I've sent for the nearest septon, he'll find how much you know of [the book called] the Seven Pointed Star and if you are what you say you are.".

Five of them proved to be genuinely authorized preachers; the rest were not. Jon sent telling the High Septon enforcing rules and not letting preachers beg or take supplies, and not letting beggars travel around with preachers. Some of the members of the band or gang, despite rules, had been casually recruited on the road, and had no authorization signed in the Starry Sept. It was clear that yet another attempt at starting a system of travelling preachers was going the way of previous attempts and gradually changing into merely vagrants gradually becoming more persistent and aggressive, and because a serious tightening-up had not come in time, he thereby forbad wandering preachers.

Nor was Jon's peace of mind helped by the total upset in the rules of war made by the strange new apparently-magical weapons brought in Brandon's reign in Winterfell by Ironmen from some island called Comevaa gods-alone-knew-where at the far east-or-west-or-some-say-that-it-is-both end of the world, that at Winterfell had let each man slay many in close succession from afar, not needing time-consuming resetting each time like a crossbow, or some persistently thought that they were magical, however much the maesters and the mages told them that there was no magic in the weapons, except sometimes a small add-on that helped in quick aiming, but only the normal properties of matter, and that their power was only an extreme form of quick burning.

King Brandon had acted on his prophetic dreams while the North was independent for a while, but his ban on such voyages had been bypassed by men determined to explore, and Ironmen little respect laws. He had sent agents to destroy ships and execute men that had broken this ban, but that had brought another cause of war, suddenly violently ending a new much-thanked-for period of peaceful trade. Those strange weapons from the far side of the world had crossed the widest ocean and showed their power not where they were made on Comevaa (wherever on earth that was, if to men in Westeros it was anywhere on Earth at all) but in his own land at Winterfell, whose high walls had looked down on many battles, but all with usual natural weapons, except the long-known-of strange swords used by the ice-men commonly known of as the Others.

Jon's title as king now included "of the seven kingdoms" again, but some said that it should now be eight, for the Freefolk were unwilling to subordinate themselves to Winterfell. It was generally held by mages and maesters that after the Night King died anyone who died would stay dead and not become a wight. The Night King had killed so many Freefolk to make their bodies into more wights, that in the end the surviving Freefolk had decided that their only recourse was, after ages of hating the Watchers on the Wall and calling them "crows" after their black clothes, and of treating dwellers south of the Wall as merely raid-targets to take what they liked from, to seek alliance with the Watchers on the Wall and to help to garrison the Wall and to evacuate their families to south of the Wall and to obey the King's realm's laws about property and suchlike. A leader of those Freefolk who had escaped the Night King's killing campaign accepted a grant of the lordship of Hardhome on Storrold's Point in Beyond-the-Wall, and ruled there under the king, (under the condition that he and his people respected other people's property and did not keep on thinking that everything was free for the taking,) as a separate area and not as an appendage of The North, and the king's power now reached to the high white edge of the great northern permanent ice, beyond which no-one rules and there is no point in anyone trying to rule, the Land of Always Winter.

{In later years Hardhome, refounded on a new site nearby, when not locked in by ice or storm, became a fishing and trade port trading with Braavos and Ib and around. About 400 years before Aegon I's coming, Hardhome had suffered a Doom by fire-blast and ashfall alarmingly like that of Valyria but on a small scale. The Freefolk, largely isolated from other men since the Wall was built, by Aegon's time had evolved a considerably greater tolerance to cold and ability to stay active and alert when hypothermic.}

The mages and the maesters realized with shock that one of the things that that they had kept secret for centuries as it was too likely to cause too much harm and change too much, had been revealed by the new weapons, and words for it were now known widely. "What else will this new far travel bring?" a maester said at their next meeting, "For example, there are four things, that the world knows of, separately, varied things: That amber if rubbed, picks up fluff and bits. The lightning that comes with rain, and farmers hard-pressed by drought are thankful to see it and to hear its thunder. The lodestone that tells sailors where north is, for when bad weather hides the stars. And the strange flat fish of the far-away Summer Sea that defends itself by suddenly causing violent painful muscle cramps in any fisherman who picks it up, and some have died of it. But between these four is a link that we do not reveal. It is to be feared that that will come out, and that men will not control what can be made or done using it.".

Jon, who was there, said "Some want me to send the army against all stores of those new weapons to try to destroy them and all men who know about them and put everything back to like it was before they came, and bring Rhaegal, or get Daenerys to bring Drogon, to quickly melt all the weapons. But that I cannot risk doing. I don't trust men not to have sent supplies of those weapons also to other powers. And they have brought knowledge about how to make more of them. There is much iron ore in many places for men to make their own supply of those weapons from. I do not intend to have to use only spear and sword and arrow and horse and ballista against someone else's army armed with those new weapons. Near Winterfell I commanded an army who used those weapons. I used one myself, and I heard its noise, and I smelled the smoke that it made, and I felt its back-end punch like a fist into my shoulder as it shot like a crossbow but far more powerfully and without bow or string, and parts moved about inside it, and in two heartbeats it was ready to shoot again. I suspect that not even dragons are safe against them. The door back to the times when there was only the usual style of war, has been locked behind us.

"And another thing that needs doing is to take over the Stepstones, or at least the west end of them, and hold them, properly with fortified garrisons, those rocky islands across the strait between Essos and the end of Dorne, and put a stop to pirates there, and easier when we've got plenty of dragons again at last. Then it'll be easier to get our ships through the west end of them between the Narrow Sea and the Summer Sea without people charging tolls from us or a complete blockage there every time Myr and Lys and Tyrosh and the rest have a war. It's time those three and the rest made peace among themselves properly and not go back to war after a few years every time. And, Jaehaerys I's wife Alysanne lost all her circle of women friends because Lys was (and is) too fond of selling that poison `the tears of Lys' to all buyers that have the coin, down the centuries, such as to that Androw Farman. And I hereby ban the Poor Preachers: despite warnings, I've heard so many reports of them stealing stuff and casually recruiting allsorts. If the Starry Sept can't or won't keep control of what that lot do, then I must.".

A messenger brought in a report that an outlaw gang had been tracked to a cave in hills near Rosby. House Rosby's security squad men, who he had contacted on the way in and also were looking for the gang, saw something blow a flame straight upwards, as a signal, and knew to go there, as the flame was magenta (because a particular mineral was put in it as it came out). Niculi landed as they arrived and surrounded the cave. They were all each carrying over his shoulder an odd-shaped iron object with side projections, about as long as a man's arm, which Niculi thought was likeliest perhaps a signalling device, or at least something just then irrelevant. One that he looked at close had maker's marks in the Westeros writing letter and number system and nothing exotic. The gang saw sense and came out at the first warning roar and small fire-blast from Bluewings into the cave mouth. The squad were tired and angry at gangs persistently targeting weddings, nearly every wedding, to take the wedding presents being brought in, despite the distress caused to the couple, and produce being carried to market, and more so in the disruptions caused by frequent wars, and interfering with trade, and the gang's methods to get information about possible targets, and not believing people who pleaded that they had brought no presents because of robbery risk, or merely had little or no money on them. And targeting men coming back from market with coin to pay expense and making travel impossible except in large well-armed convoys, and taking food and warm clothes leaving people to starve or die of cold. The squad knew that hardened criminals are incorrigible, however much septons and septas plead for another chance for such people, and the rule was to make a quick end of them, and thus also to discourage any others. One of the squad made a slight hand gesture, which they before had taught to Niculi: it meant "Beware: they are skilled with weapons and may have hidden weapons." or similar; if so, the squad had no way to safely restrain them all to bring them in to be interrogated, without a serious fight, and they could not put all the gang to the sword fast enough to stop some from scattering or pulling out weapons. Dany had noticed that the squad had no bows or arrows.

At a slight order, the squad suddenly quickly jumped three steps back away and somewhat apart from each other, as each unslung his arm-long object, held it up in both hands horizontally aimed forwards, and did something to it. While Niculi's heart pulsed six times, as the gang started to scatter sideways, there was a fast succession of crack noises somewhat like thin hardwood breaking, and metal clicks inside the objects, and each of the gang men started bleeding from a small hole in the head or over the heart, staggered, and fell and lay still, starting at the edges with the fastest scatterers and working towards the middle. Nikuli sometimes among this heard what he thought were fast insects whirring past, but were not. No projectile was seen sticking out of any of the wounds. A long-lasting local fear was over, until another gang came or formed. Law and order now had new weapons, and times had changed. The squad's leader said (and later reported back) that the new weapons had performed satisfactorily. It was a very long way from Comevaa island across the wide Sunset Sea and then via the Iron Islands and Winterfell to hills near Rosby, but new equipment had been carried across all that distance and had been locally copied.

And another sort of device had been used there, as Nikuli found when he looked around to find what had made the long vertical magenta flame, and found no other dragon there, and he reported so when back at Rosby. There the base commander told Niculi about a beacon fire, but the commander alarmedly suspected another device from Mossovy or Comevaa or Asshai, likelier than anything like the Guild of Pyromancers' attempt in 174 AC (ordered by King Aegon IV) to "make dragons" (as the history-recording scribe had called it) for use in an invasion of Dorne.

They went to check the dead. One of the bodies, which had fallen against a rock, moved and lunged with a long knife, but they were wary about men shamming dead. Niculi saw it and pushed the man down and stamped on the knife hand. That did not make Lord Rosby or his men any more compassionate to highway gangs. They jumped on and secured the man and checked all the other fallen men. The prisoner needed eight strokes of whip before he started crying and, between pleading about poverty and hard circumstances, at last said where missing valuable wedding presents and other stolen goods were. They searched the bodies for identification and found none, and buried them. In the back of the cave they found an oxcart with oxen and used it to carry the recovered goods back to Castle Rosby to be held until owners were found. Nikuli mounted Bluewings and flew to Castle Rosby and there told what had happened, then flew back home.

Someone said: "I've read one of the books that came with those weapons. A man there had translated it. It talks about routinely shaping metal parts accurate to a thousandth of an inch, so that any part can replace that part in any other of the same type of weapon without re-fitting, and the way to do it. Three locksmiths at Harrenhal are already setting up to make that sort of very accurate metal part, and chasing up where to get the new metals needed, and a lot of strange words in Comevaa language. The lord at Harrenhal protects and helps them and plans to arm men with those weapons.".

At the meeting that these events were reported to, a maester said resignedly: "And of three of the teachings that we think should be keep secret, the only thing that has not escaped in all this is our names for them. The new very-accurate-shaping technique is called `limits and fits'. The substance that made the bridge fall at The Twins is called an `explosive', and it was not merely wildfire, instead of you having to use those Comevaa language words. The new shooting weapons are called `guns' and the both-hands-held long sort with spiral grooves down inside it that you used is called a `rifle'; There is no magic in how they work, except sometimes the aiming magic, and some of your bows and crossbows have that already. They shoot by a very fast form of ordinary non-magical burning. And, you have known for a long time the `Myrish tube' or `far-eye' that lets ships' lookouts see faraway things much bigger and clearer; but recently someone playing about with their lenses and some glass blebs and solidified drips left over from glassblowing has found a way to see very near things much bigger, and see things that were too small to see, some call it a `small-eye', too late for anyone to suppress it, and that's likely to cause much change.". And Jon remembered the two books that he had bought in Myr.

News from afar

Jon said: "As I know already. Let them keep at it. It's the best of what options there are. But keep the place well guarded and keep track of everybody who's making them and everybody who's got any of them: I don't want all sorts getting hold of them. Even if traders want to make profits selling them. But being unarmed does not make anyone weapon-proof. And there's news back from what's left of Valyria: I sent some men to see what they could find there.".

"And to disappear without trace." someone said, "That always happens if a ship goes into the Smoking Sea.".

"Depends on what he goes with, and where. After the Doom of Valyria, that man Aurion went there from Qohor with a dragon and 30,000 men and full of self-importance, and that was the end of him and them. I went with men in a ship that dropped them off safely away in four rowing boats, and nothing else, hopefully not enough to upset whatever the big eruption changed the Valyrians' magic into, and they're back here. We kept well away fom the Smoking Sea. I know there's that law of Jaehaerys I's against going to Valyria or letting in anything from Valyria, but it had to be done.

"We got away safely and the ship picked them up. We landed safely here. All our food and water was boated in. We wore special clothes to keep small eggs and bits off ourselves. We dug about in the volcanic ash that lay thick over everything, on the biggest of the islands south of the Smoking Sea. Luckily there were plenty of rain showers to wash dust and bits off things. We had a `gagging order': outside in a volcanic ashfall, always to wear goggles and a good thick solid mouth-and-nose cloth gag, to keep the ash (and in Valyria, worse) out of our eyes and lungs: volcanic ash particles have sharp edges and corners and can do much damage, they get jammed against each other and can't be got out easily, not like ordinary wood ash. And there's worse stuff likely there: small eggs and spores that would hatch and grow, that you won't want getting into you, really dangerous horrible stuff from old strong magic gone wild and out of human control, like happened to Princess Aerea, and Septon Barth wrote about it. Gag and goggles and free hands are a strange-looking combination, but we needed it to keep those creatures out of us, and it worked. Thank the Seven, we ran into none of the big dangerous stuff that injured Balerion, but we kept away from old and new eruption sites.

[Author's note: In the real world, in the early 19th century workmen making sodium carbonate by the old Leblanc process in England had to work gagged for long periods, to protect their lungs from caustic sodium carbonate powder.]

"We found someone's dragonhouse - four dead dragons in there, only bones left, likely suffocated by ashfall. We had one scare, but it was only a common rat snake, some of the men had picked it up in Volantis to keep the rats and mice down onboard. We broke into a locked room in a buried house: everything was still dry, books, books, books, and scrolls: old stories, poems, old history – and everything possible about breeding and training dragons, including how to hatch old gone-to-stone eggs. So we've got some of that information back at last, and no more wild guesses such as trying to hatch a dragon egg by praying over it in a sept. And we found fifteen dragon eggs, but gods alone know if any of them'll hatch after so long, and they may have been already old when the Doom came, and the Doom was about 400 years ago. While they were there, a small volcano vent went off, blew ash and it settled everywhere. They're also Valyrian eggs, but there's a good chance they'll be different-enough blood from the dragons and eggs that the Targaryens brought. Reading the recovered scrolls taught many things, including what had been recently found by hope and guess on Dragonstone: to make a batch of old stale "gone to stone" dragon eggs hatch, try fire and magic and putting a new fresh dragon egg in with them.".

Other matters intruded, such as ridding Kings Landing of more and more determinedly organized gangs of aggressive beggars which, as elsewhere, had developed while the attention of authority was elsewhere. Here, as elsewhere, useful was a mage in the security squad, chosen to be able to undetectably 'read' whether the suspect when interrogated was telling truth; using a mage made extracting information much easier on the suspect. It was not always totally comfortable for the mage, who was often physically not the best after a bookish upbringing, now ordered to dress like the other squad men and to charge and grapple with resisting suspects like the other men. But then, if the mage found "not true", someone had to distinguish deliberate lies from being forced by threat to hide the truth, and to accept that this method reported as "true" what the subject thought was true but came from him relying on an inaccurate source of information.

Various news came from further east in Essos. When Daenerys Targaryen was travelling with some Dothraki, after she hatched the three dragonlets, she had gone to Qarth as the first step in finding a way home. That needed crossing the Red Waste, where Dothraki did not usually go, because there is no grazing for horses there. On the way they found a ruined city, unknown to them. There were grass and abandoned fruit plantation there, fed by an oozing water spring. And human bones. Nearby was the skeleton of an enormous dragon. Fearing ghosts, they named the place Vaes Tolorro, Dothraki for "City of Bones". They rested there and left. Latterly, men wanted to rename it back to its old name, but that old name was not known.

The first news was this: When the Dothraki were gone, a group travelled from Qarth to Vaes Tolorro, with camels rather than horses. They found the cause of the recent abandonment easily: it was a recent re-settlement, and a message scratched on rock in Qarth language said that: "Do not settle here. Water taken from the spring is not being replaced from underground. We have cut and dug the spring's outlet as deep as we can. It soon will dry up, as the old pictures warn.".

The "old pictures" were many old scratched pictures carved into inside walls where sandblasting wind could not remove them. In dry walled-in hollows away from desert mice and very rare showers, and scratching clawed feet of desert lizards which lived off insects which lived off old dry seeds, they found old scrolls. The scrolls spoke of many things. The old settlement had at first flourished, and there was plenty of spring water to grow crops to feed many people, and they had chosen a king, and life went on prosperously. Remains showed that they had lived partly by making ornamented carpets, as good as the famed Qohor carpets, as generations passed. There were no desert nomads around yet.

Then the earthquake came, not there, but a distance away. No shake damage happened in the city, but the spring water no longer came up to replace what was drawn. The king had to control water use more and more tightly as men dug deeper and deeper for water, and at last to restrict it to drinking only, and all food had to be bought in by trading. Desert vagrants became a threat and cohered into tribes of nomads. The city had plenty of treasure, but men cannot eat money. Desperation drove them to buy a dragon and its rider from Valyria, to guard and guide people crossing the desert, in return for payment ‐ a scroll said that the dragon had been taught to make a particular noise and then to make a short flame, when ordered, to tell men to go in that direction, and thus often travellers were led away from waylaying robbers.

"The dragon is different sizes in different pictures compared to the people:" someone had said, "either drawn out of scale, or it was there a long time gradually getting bigger. In this picture it lands loaded with many packages of food strapped on behind its driver. By then it had got big like Balerion and could carry a big load. It had become the city's lifeline. Looks like they fed it by letting it catch desert gazelles and wild onagers and suchlike that need no water and are too fast for much else to catch. Oh dear ‐ this one looks like an emergency evacuation: a lot of babies and small children on its back behind its driver. What's that in front of its head? ‐ may be a symbol to say where it's going to? ‐ hard choice having to send their children away to save them ‐ oh, it's Qarth, likeliest ‐ if it worked, likely they were adopted there, or their parents got there later, and likely there's still descendants of them there now.

"And this picture's the dragon lying dead, like its skeleton is now, and people standing around it ‐ it likely died of natural causes, the effects of growing too big, like Balerion ‐ those people, gods be merciful with their souls, their bones are here still. I wonder how many did get away after that? Here's them skinning the dead dragon, likely to try to sell the skin for someone to make it into thick leather armour, as fee to get passing traders to transport out as many of them as they could."

So the place was abandoned. The water came back, very slowly. The Dothraki came in from east through the mountains, pushed by overcrowding and by attacks by settled kingdoms who did not want them around any more, and by desire to conquer and raid. Settlers came to the city again, hoping that it was too remote for Dothraki to find them, but the water got low as before, and the last of the new settlers left their bones there.

The same man brought back more news from the area, including setting up a new authority to control and defend the long-distance traders' market at Vaes Dothrak. And he brought back four dragon eggs, this time knowing that the traders had told truth that the eggs were from the far east, as one of his companions was a mage. That again brought hope to bring some "fresh blood" into dragon-breeding, to cure inbreeding which in former reigns had caused stunted and deformed hatchlings. (The recent books and scrolls from Valyria had spoken of each dragonlord family there keeping a bloodline pure, but from time to time on ceremonial days exchanging dragon eggs as gifts, to give and get fresh blood.)

{In later years, to their dismay, signs of inbreeding among the Westeros dragons showed again, and it was a race between their current stock getting stale and the hatchlings from the four far-eastern eggs growing to breeding age; but the signs of inbreeding faded out as the new four bred with the existing stock.}

Later, during a meeting, the palace guard was on routine parade outside. But the noise included bursts of clicking noises, and some of the orders were unfamiliar, but in the usual voice. Someone at the meeting asked what the noises were. King Jon Targaryen explained: "They're drilling with those new weapons. The Harrenhal locksmithery's being rebuilt much bigger and they're making those weapons already, and the little projectile-and-fuel packages that they use to shoot, and nobody can merely wait until what's been brought from Comevaa's been used up and for the weapons to go back into old stories, and for people a few generations later to think that the whole thing was old magic-tale stuff. As I've said before, we can't get rid of those weapons: who knows where else those Ironborn have taken some of them or copies of their plans. I've made sure the place is well guarded, including where its workmen live. The only source of sulphur that we've got that I know of is Dragonstone, but likely it can be got in various places oversea.

"Comevaa seems to be some islands in a big area of islands which they call Near Mossovy, likeliest in the sea off the far east end of what we call Far Mossovy. I know we went west to get these, but the world is round like a ball. Long ago they found how to make the fire-dust, and at first they used it merely to make a noise and a show for the sake of it, or to impress in ceremonies, but it was not far from that to the first crude form of those weapons. Then their priests got into a track of getting the people to use their spare energy and devotion to design the best design of those weapons, including being able to shoot several times without having to reload, for their gods to use against the forces of evil, including in the great battle at the end of the world, and suchlike beliefs that some religions have, instead of getting into trouble and forming gangs through having nothing to do. There on islands where outsiders were not likely to spy about or interfere and get away alive, they got on with the job down the generations, and at each improvement a priest left one of the new weapon and a copy of its plans on their relevant god's altar overnight for their gods to copy. So it went for a long time. Then a few years ago our Ironborn came from their east, despite King Brandon trying to stop them, from across so uncrossably wide a sea that someone there thought that their gods had sent them into the world of men through the door that the sun rises through, as they believe, they think that the world is flat, to collect the weapons, and so the Ironmen got full help loading up and translating.

"It seems that we can't keep away from Dothraki language. Comevaa knows a nation called Wovaq, who speak a similar language, not nomads but settled people, in what we call Far Mossovy, to buy the ore of a very hard metal to use in tool heads that can cut iron on a lathe like we cut wood: hard to believe, but I've seen it done. An alchemist here recognized what is it and it can be mined in several places in Westeros. Dothraki and Wovaqi is how the Ironborn talked with the Comevaa weapon store staff, didn't take long to learn the differences. Some Ironborn needed to know foreign languages to contact people where they sail about. Wovaqi has the word `khal', but meaning `foreman of a work gang'. Comevaa contacts the islands around from time to time to keep track of what's happening around them over the sea. They say that very long ago, before how to make fire-dust was found, some Wovaqi got too fond of wanting to ride horses all the time making trouble, and started a new religion centred on horses, and they galloped and raided about until they were chased off away west into some empty grassland and later further away over some mountains, and after some centuries you know how that ended, and Essos is thankful to be rid of them.".

Another said "Some of the recent trouble came because the Sarnor people in Saath wanted the land around all the northwestern `Vaeses' that used to be Sarnor cities, but it would take a century or two at least for the Sarnor to increase until they can properly resettle the area, and other peoples wanted land now. They've started holding a yearly ceremony lamenting the literature that they lost burnt by Dothraki at Sallosh, the Dothraki renamed it as Vaes Athjikhari, that means `City of Sickness', as if book-learning was a sickness. They could rebuild Sallosh, including its library building, but no mage or maester can get back the books and scrolls that were in it. They can only hope that parts of the area have been so dry so long that some books and scrolls have survived buried, like were found at Vaes Tolorro, or that copies of them have been kept at Saath. And there are no more Ifeqevron people any more to resettle their old land, unless like some say they've magically hidden themselves like the Children of the Forest in Westeros did; Ifeqevron's a creepy area, and it's too wet there to preserve old scrolls that long easily. Ifeqevron's a Dothraki name for them, it also means a sort of forest spider, and also `forest walker', it's not their own name for themselves.".

The long voyage

Years before, before King Robert usurped, the Targaryens sent a ship east to the Jade Sea, captained by Ser Derrick Reynold, to contact the distant empire of Yi Ti, where some expensive luxuries came from such as silk and saffron, so that by importing them directly they could be cheaper. But it went much further. The ship set off eastwards, avoided war zones, kept to the midline between piracy hazards from Sothoryos's coast and islands and volcanic blowoff and air-carried dangerous magical leftovers from Valyria, passed south of Great Moraq island at avoid Qarth's tolls, and reached Yi Ti, and landed and traded there. They found that Yi Ti was at last trying to reunite itself after a long interregnum of local governers and army-leaders ruling independently. They found that silk is unwound from the cocoons of a sort of moth caterpillar that eats mulberry leaves; it is not combed from the leaves of certain bushes as was often told in misleading stories sent to the west. With more direct contact with Yi Ti, there would be more chances to smuggle out saffron crocus corms and silkworm eggs and the secrets about how to make the fine white pottery known as porcelain, and suchlike. About porcelain, one of the crew saw a buffalo-drawn wagon going to and from a porcelain factory; on the way out, its load was porcelain, and on the way in its load was fine white pottery clay ‐ and also a butchery-type smell which to him was likeliest animal bones ‐ the captain wondered if they powder the bones and mix them into the clay before shaping and baking it.

As we travelled, we asked for anything known about unicorns. They had been traditionally been drawn and described somethat horse-like with one white spiral-grooved forehead horn, which had strong supposed curative property, until someone pointed out that narwhal tusks got from Ibbenese whalers looked the same, and men wondered if the legend had been invented or changed so that merchants got a better price for narwhal tusks. The further we got, the more each area's description of unicorns changed. Some old Valyrian scrolls also described unicorns very differently.

Past Yi Ti is the feared shadowed sorcery-famed city of Asshai, at the east limit of knowledge as it was then, at the east end of the Jade Sea, beside an east-leading sea passage between the continents of Essos and Ulthos, called the Saffron Strait, which led out of knowledge into stories indirectly carried to Westeros from afar, including hard-to-believe stories about assorted things such as Winged Men and Bloodless Men. On our travels we asked about the local versions of widespread legends such as those about various strange animals and plants and trees. Some people guessed that actually the so-called Winged Men wore imitation leather or cloth wings on their backs for some fashion or religious reason. Some stories said that they could genuinely fly. Some said that the wings were detachable and powered, likeliest by magic. Some said that the wings were parts of their bodies. Many such stories of varying unlikeliness from unreached distance have down the centuries been passed about in waterfront wine-shops and such places and retold and embroidered and carried on further. Derrick felt that he needed to keep up contact with Asshai, while he was that far east, so he went there, past the east end of Yi Ti and further, and anchored by the huge ancient dark buildings under the shadow that always hung over the city and the sea and mountains around. A big ominously-dark river flowed through it. Somewhere near, perhaps upstream that river, there must be better-lit lands where food is grown and shipped or boated to the city. And as Derrick reported:-

"They breed dragons in Asshai: we saw some flying about with riders. Some say that Valyria learned dragon-riding from Asshai. We contacted quietly about such things as whether Westeros and they could swap a few dragon hatchlings or eggs as breeding stock so that we and they both get fresh blood. In return for information and trade goods and as a diplomatic gift they gave things to me, including three large blue locked hardwood boxes. They showed me what was in them and how to use it. My men knew enough about magic to feel it wise not to try to open the boxes. There was use for one of them afterwards, back home in Westeros. I do not know whether they are the cause of any of the stories about flying men.

"While we were there, the port authority warned us that, as part of the re-unification of Yi Ti, a big sea war between pirates and Yi Ti's navy had brewed up to the west behind us and that we better stay there or leave eastwards. They gave us a device more useful at sea, perhaps magical, perhaps not; if one end of it is filled with sea water and put in a fire, the sea water boils off, leaving salt, and the other end of the device fills itself with fresh water. We had stayed in Asshai as long as we felt was wise, so we carried on east into the Saffron Strait, which I knew only as a short stub going off the east edges of maps; the rest was outside the limit of the world as we know it then.

"We went on through it, past rocky forested coast and islands, away from the shadow area, into unknown narrow sea, and human settlement now and then, with Essos on the north and Ultros the alien and unknown on the south. Ultros is far bigger than its small intrusion into the southeast corner of maps of the Known World. From childhood on we knew "beyond Asshai" as slang for "lost, destroyed, you won't get it back"; but now we were there. Near the end of our supplies we reached the city of Koroshai, with its hot-climate-type buildings and houses and port, and its own style of religious buildings. Again it was a shock being alive in the body in a place which we had only known of as an unreachable Fairyland or Other-realm. Stories had talked about Bloodless Men there. Some people there looked grey and pale, to us too much like dead bodies, but one of us saw one of them in a ship repair yard accidentally cut himself at his work, and he bled the same color and amount as we would have. Likely they have a white coloring in their skin, and likely Mossovians have similar to make their skins grey, or some say that it is. There we landed, to re-supply again and trade.

"Among the crowd on the quay were a few who (as well as ordinary arms) had on their backs some strange-looking kit of skin or leather over jointed rods, which we first thought were folding tents carried backpack. But to our amazement one of them unfolded his back-apparatus into wings like those of bats or dragons, and flew up, and we realized with a hard shock that the fabulous Winged Men who lived far beyond the furthest known distance, were real and that we were seeing them. Their wings are parts of their bodies. As with dragons, the Winged Men certainly would have a natural "do not fall" magic in their bodies, to allow flying at their size and weight and shape. Targaryen history records include a deformed stillbirth with deformities including wings, and for it people had blamed inbreeding, and the same happened to Daenerys's son by Khal Drogo (named in hope Rhaego before he was born); but there to make us shudder were many of the same thing alive and fullgrown. Still, we were among them and we had to live with them.

"I talked to some of them in various languages that I know, by force of habit including Dothraki, and to some surprise a few of them understood it. They told me that similar languages were spoken by some peoples, some farming and some nomadic, who lived in drier lands further north; the farthest east of these peoples, up to the sea, was the Wovaq, who we already had heard of.

"In their land I saw heavily-built animals weighing a ton or two each, skin grey like an elephant's and so thick that it was in overlapping plates like armour, legs thick like an elephant's but shorter and with more distinct toes, one tapering horn on its nose. The horn had no spiral grooves and was not white, but I knew that, beyond all expectations, I was seeing unicorns, or much more accurately, the reality which by many indirect fancy-ridden passings-on over time and distance had gradually changed into the stories about unicorns as it travelled and came at last to Westeros, including distortions added by Ibbenese whalers or their merchants trying to get a better price for narwhal tusks. We traded and restocked, and went east.

"Soon after, the strait opens into the southwest corner of a roughly rectangular sea called the Gulf of the Winged, about 1000 miles long from north to south and 500 miles wide from west to east. The sea was often misty. The Winged Men lived around it and had seven cities on its coasts. They sometimes went to Asshai and Koroshai and east to a land called Lassenia which the ship had not reached yet. They grow tropical-type crops and fruits. I wondered if they had arisen by chances of uncontrolled wild magic left in Valyria after the Doom, and had bred in the wild and escaped eastwards, and proved stable-minded and stable-breeding enough to organize into a nation. Their old legends speak of an origin in the west, too long ago for the Doom of Valyria to be the cause, but near a volcanic area with dragons about; they likely came from an old Valyrian magical accident or experiment. Tropical wild animals such as tigers and elephants live in the back-country there. An elephant is like a mammoth but has no hair, grey skin, tusks shorter and much straighter.

"The Winged Men's flying helped them much, and their stories tell of many dangerous fights against wild animals that came out of the dense jungles that they had cut back to make room to live in and grow food. Many of their buildings have high-doors that made us shudder because they reminded us too much of the feared Moon Door in the Eyrie by the Vale of Arryn in Westeros, and we had to remind themselves that the Winged can fly and so can use such doors safely; but there are many large high-doors much nearer near home used unremarkably for craning furniture and goods in and out of. Them being able to fly means that trespassers can't be kept out of areas by ordinary fences or hedges. They told us that halfbreeds between them and ordinary humans have wings and can fly and are infertile. Nobody knew the Common Speech of Westeros there. Their language includes a few words of Valyrian. They told us that further north beyond the area of "Dothrakic languages", up to the cold sea and the great icewall, was Mossovy, a big nation whose west part was part of the continent, and whose east part was various large groups of islands including Comevaa in an eastern ocean. We had long known about the west of Mossovy via stories passed on by Sarnor as a land at the east edge of knowledge, and we knew of Comevaa from recent events. That told us that our ship was at last near the east end of Essos. They told us of recent local indirect stories about men sailing in from somewhere unknown beyond the wide eastern ocean and trading with Comevaa. I suspect that Mossovy puts on an outward face of mysticism and magic to cover what its skill with fancy mechanical stuff can do, and that their alchemists know much that ours don't. The Winged Men know that the earth is a sphere, because they can fly high enough to see the horizon a degree or two below horizontal and slightly curved and at night to see stars which can't be seen from the ground there at that time and date.

"We were a long time exploring the Gulf of the Winged, as we had much to see and chart, and strange animals and strange plants and strange birdsong. In return the Winged Men wanted good first-hand information about remote legendary indirectly-known far-western lands such as Westeros and western Essos. Some of them rode on our ship or flew over it, warning about dangers. We gradually learned their language. They warned us about a dangerous sea animal, which may have been the sea dragons heard about in old stories. It is not a serpent, but has a wide deep streamlined body with a tapering tail and thin neck. It grows, or comes in varieties, from seal-sized to as long as a ship or a leviathan or a whale. It usually swims not with its tail but with two pairs of big diamond-shaped side flppers. The end part of its tail is flattened side-to-side, used for steering, and for swimming when it has to go through a narrow gap or close alongside something with its side fins folded in. It has not much blubber, and so cannot stay in cold water in the winter. Its head is like a snake's but longer, on a long flexible neck which can reach over the sides of boats and ships and then down inside. I don't know if the ironmen's Nagga was one of them. A big one with its double-jointed jaws can quickly turn a man endways and swallow him whole. The left and right halves of its palate bone can slide front and back separately to turn prey endways for swallowing much quicker than it often takes a duck with its single unsplit palate bone to turn headfirst and swallow a frog which it has dredged out and is holding by a back leg or sideways or tail-end-first. It can empty in short order a pearling boat or a houseboat which has unwisely intruded from the Jade Sea or the eastern ocean or a river and pump its crew one after another down its throat as a series of bulges. They are a reason why the Winged prefer to fly when crossing open sea, but sailing is needed to carry heavy cargoes, and for sea-fishing, and they had plenty of work for our ship to earn its supplies. Winged Men when sea-fishing prefer to sail in a close group of boats, with always a man on a tall mast-top or flying as lookout, ready to warn the fishing crew to all fly up if danger in the sea comes near.

"On the north coast of the Gulf of the Winged we found another people. They were darkish-skinned, because the sun is so bright there. They seemed a strange mixture: each one had an epicene face, was muscular like a man, but had wide childbearing hips, and breasts. The Winged called them by a name that translates as "They who are both" or similar. We passed a pair of them, which were suckling a baby each. There is a type of rare strange births in Westeros, which are considered to be omens. But there a whole population is like that. It made us shiver. How did it arise? By uncontrolled wild magic with no people to direct it? Valyrian experiments? Or how? Enough to say here, that of that pair, likely each was the father of one of the babies and also the mother of the other baby, and similarly everyone in that area. Their love poetry and songs say much about male and female feelings conflicting in the same brain. They spoke a strange language with a few Valyrian and Dothrakic words in it. We re-embarked and left them.

"At last we sailed out of the northeast end of the Gulf of the Winged, to a coastal land called Lassenia on the Ultros coast, inhabited by ordinary-looking people, who the Winged contacted sometimes. There we restocked. Ultros is out of range of anyone who spoke any Dothrakic language, but we could communicate in the Winged language. They told us much about the lands and seas and peoples around. We haven't seen all the world; there's still strange tales that we've heard, such as about Lizard Men who are supposed to live on the back side of Ultros, and suchlike. We sailed east across open sea, through the Ringer Straits past the south end of Comevaa in the Mossovian islands, which we knew of from information that came with the new weapons, and away into open sea, too far north to see the Cursed Land which we were warned about in Lassenia, across endless landless distance as our stored food steadily got less, and at last to Lannisport in Westeros. We were the first known ship to sail round the world, unless what the Sea Snake saw in Asshai in Jaehaerys I's reign was Alys Westhill's Sun Chaser.".

Events settle down

The ship restocked at Lannisport, which with Casterly Rock was under a royal steward while the Lannisters' succession was being sorted out. At last it sailed into the royal dock in King's Landing with its news and cargo, and its crew came back from faraway strange beings and hot lands to the mundane practicalities of Westeros. Ser Derrick Reynold reported what he had seen and received and handed over what should be handed over, and King Jon and Queen Daenerys Targaryen appointed uses for what had been brought back. Within the year his discoveries about porcelain led to profit; a rich mine of the white clay was already known of near Maidenpool in the northern Crownlands, and the guess about ground animal bone proved correct, and, after experimentation to get mixtures right, Westeros was soon making porcelain as good as any that came from Yi Ti.

Ser Derrick had also found that one of his men, while in Yi Ti, had furtively taken some crocus corms from a roadside field. He and the ship's cat had kept them safe from all hazards of rat and mouse, and when they sprouted far from land he had found a way to plant them and keep them growing, and they flowered, and they proved to be the sort of crocus whose stamens make saffron. They were landed at last at King's Landing.

We return to the present. Dragons promised a return to patrolling from above and action against outlaws hidden behind roadless areas and water, but they are not a grand solution to everything. Stopping a wandering band of beggars may not seem much, but many such a band, if left alone, gradually grew into a big dangerous gang. Farming had to be restarted in areas devastated or depopulated by war such as around the God's Eye, more important than rebuilding in King's Landing. Lannister armies had done a fearsome amount of damage and killing in the Riverlands, so that a Riverland army, rather than seeing their smallfolk starve, had at risk invaded Lannister lands and driven off many thousand cattle and sheep to replace the Riverlands' driven-off or killed-and-eaten farm livestock, and also took cart-horses and carts and such necessities. It can take many years for an area of farmland to recover from the passage of armies. In part of the Stormlands, nearly all the young and youngish fit men had been swept up by their area's lord's army and most had died in battle or by disease, leaving none to work the land, and, as Jaehaerys I before had had to do, Jon had to call for another and less-damaged area's landholders' second sons and such who had little hope of inheriting land in their own area, to come in and stay and help to work the land and wed the widows. To the list that Arya Stark said to Jon, people added many other lists of war-criminals, who had to be caught and tried, to discourage such offences from happening again next time.

The problem had be sorted out of such as the Watchers on the Wall and the Kingsguard, where service is tradionally for life, but, as Jon knew from his time as Jon Snow, Wall commander, no commander had yet been found who could train or discipline away the effects of advancing old age. Some commanders had stretched a point and had invalided men out for "incapacitating wound" when the real cause was progressive slowness and stiffness or stiff painful joints, or the inertia and/or forgetfulness that sometimes comes on the old. After a flood of wildlings fled from the Night King's growing power and many of them were allowed to join the Wall garrison, Jon once found that Hoarfrost Hill's rack was in use, but found that its occupant was merely an oldish man who had heard that a period of mild stretching, of the back only, and not of any limb joints, alleviated his chronic lower back pain for a while afterwards. Jon once had raised query about a Wall man who had been put onto light duty because of age-related stiffness and slowness, and later allegedly "showed his thanks for that, largely by persistently lazily ignoring and muddling orders."; four increasingly severe punishments had not stopped that, until it came to Jon's ears. Jon, asking the sentencing records man for the circumstances, had to ask four times increasingly angrily including letting his hand stray to his dagger, before the records man waded through arithmetic based on how old successive kings and nearby lords and a particular Wall horse had been when they began work or died, and at last coughed up the culprit's age — which was 83. That started a shouting row among the men there. Jon spoke his mind about people who do not consider the widely-known effects of old age on the mind, and issued a sharp order that all records must be written and accurately dated and timed, and not lazily trusted to memory, and dropped all charges and sent the old man to an infirmary at White Harbour, where the weather was much warmer and better than at the Wall, to live his remaining years in sound and sight and news of the harbour and ships.

A king is said to reign from a throne, but Jon and Dany and their Hand often had to sit on lesser seats that could be placed at a table to work on papers and sort out matters. And he had to travel to find what had happened, in thick leather over thick fleece and a leather hood in all weathers high above any sheltering trees, since now he had the means to, high above ambush risks, wearing goggles to keep insects and bits out of his eyes at that speed, rather than wasting time travelling at foot or horse speed. Often his dragon Rhaegal's back was his office seat and pouches in Rhaegal's harness were his office table drawers.

Jon flew for a day over the Mountains of the Moon surveying. The mountain clans had heard about him. Those mountain clans had been there from before recorded history and had always been as they are now. He saw a line of armed men on their small sure-footed horses of the type called garrons, coming down from mountains into a flatter lower farmed area. As he flew down at them, they turned round and went back up into their mountains in a way that showed that their journey had been for no good purpose. He flew to the Eyrie, built on top of the Giant's Lance mountain, the main castle of the Arryn family, whose family head was the lord of the Vale of Arryn, and of mountains around and of long sea-headlands called the Fingers. He flow over its defences and cliffs and way-towers, tethered Rhaegal in the Eyrie's courtyard, and entered Lord Arryn's throne room. To one side he saw the dreaded Moon Door, where many had been thrown to their deaths far below down the centuries.

After the usual courtesy apology for intruding, he mentioned warnings to pass to the mountain clans about what dragons can do and what may happen if the clans raided farmland or robbed travellers any more. Jon started to discuss with him about how letting men from his mountain clans join his army every time that he was called on to supply an army, and thus get more fighting experience, did not fully match with his promises to ensure safety for property and people travelling. He pointed out that raising sheep and goats and selling woollen garments, and digging metal ores, and felling and selling wood, would give the clans enough income without raiding and stealing and killing. The lord and his men kept changing the subject and seemed very eager to host him with a long succession of time-wasting elaborate entertainments. Jon stonewalled against persistent attempts to ply him with many varied types of wines and ales and distilled liquors, because he knew that soberness keeps the head clearer. The meeting gradually became very tense. Lord Arryn was not normally evasive and shifty like that: clearly something was wrong. Something was said among his servants that was suspiciously like a codeword. Then to their shock Jon ran to the Moon Door and quickly unlatched it and opened it and jumped out of it, still wearing his big backpack. Many criminals, and many victims of hostility including Ronnel Arryn, last king and first lord of the Vale of Arryn, had been thrown to their deaths there. But looking down through it they saw that Jon's fast fall from the dread door was suddenly hidden by something large which appeared and hid him and fell much slower than a natural fall.

Seeing from directly above in the shadow of the Giant's Lance mountain as he fell, the lord and his men did not have the best view of the working of that which saved Jon, which had been in his backpack, made far away out of enough of the costly silk of Yi Ti to clothe many rich ladies, and much light cordage, to a design which few even in the fabled far east knew enough of; but there was no magic in it. But some people looking through other windows or outside on the mountain saw much clearer what happened. Rhaegal in the courtyard flew away. As news reached Lord Robert Arryn of the Eyrie, his thankfulness that questioning had not been pushed further, changed into scared prayers to the Seven for defence against the supernatural. One of the men there said: "Wouldn't drink except plain water, and then witchcraft. That didn't work. And a raven's come with a message that a ship brought back stuff to him from Asshai, what do you expect!? I don't trust anyone or anything that's been there. That red witch Melisandre came from there.". A guard came in from a courtyard and called Lord Arryn to come out, and there outside to his shock was Jon, unhurt, and another man, and Rhaegal.

In his much-slowed silent fall Jon had had plenty of time to look around and see from outside that something needed further discussion. On a mountainside 600 feet below, Jon landed safely silently, gathered up what had come out of his pack, re-packed it into his pack, called out, and Rhaegal flew to him, and he mounted, thankful to again have the large solid body of a flying dragon under him instead of dangling from what he had been using, although the first needed magic to work and the second did not. Rhaegal flew up with him and landed again in the Eyrie's courtyard, where Aegon I's sister-and-wife Visenya on her dragon Vhagar had landed long before. This time he called for his personal guard man who had ridden with him, to come with him, and went to an Eyrie guard, and told him send in for the lord to come out.

Ignoring Lord Robert's shocked startled look at him, Jon said: "I and Queen Daenerys ordered you to put outside walls or safety window bars in those `sky cells'. You have not, although you have had plenty of time to do it. We forbad such types of prison, but I saw five prisoners in them, and there may have been others. We know how some Lannister men were treated in them, under Jon Arryn in King Robert's reign, and about what that dungeon-keeper named Mord did to them, when they came hoping for a night's good lodging and a meal. I know that you had a suspicion about them, including that the Lannisters sent a hired [assassin with a] knife to kill Bran Stark. But there are standards about how prisoners are treated, including that prisoners are not to be locked up indefinitely and forgotten. Let me see all your prisoners and tell me what they are being held for and what sort of cell in. Disputes between high lords' families must be referred to their kingdom's top lord, or to the king, not settled by force of arms. Some of my men are coming; they will help me to see to this. I now know what King Jaehaerys I had to sort out when he had his predecessor King Maegor's Black Cells emptied. I know that death is the only thing that stops many hard persistent thieves, but from now on, a full record will be kept about who is sent through that Door and why, and what offence he was executed for, and a record of the judgement proceedings, and a copy sent to me at the Red Keep.".

Lord Robert Arryn was in total shock. His attempts to balance the appearance of authority against handling threats from the clans and others had fallen apart. Message-ravens and other birds, but nothing else, had left and come safely through the Moon Door and the sky cells, down the ages as in Westeros about a hundred kingdoms became seven became one, but now that rule had been broken. Any immediate clear clue to Robert Arryn about what had happened was now folded away out of sight in Jon's backpack, and before had been made in a secret building in the feared shadow-realm of Asshai far away. He had to obey.

Written records about the Eyrie's present and past prisoners proved to be few and scrappy, while kings and lords and powers changed around them. Many of the prisoners were insane. What could be reconstructed from the prison staff's memory was vague or none, and scrawled misspelled badly-worded short notes left by such as the thickheaded bully chief warder Mord did not help much. Jon found that Mord was dead: a bit over a year before, Mord had thought that a group of new garrison men were new prisoners, and he bullied them, and a fight started, and they jumped on him, breaking his neck: it is said that "the bigger they are, the harder they fall". Jon Targaryen sorted the records as he could, and copied what he could copy, as Robert went into a scared confessing state: "All right, Your Grace, first ever who went out of the Moon Door and lived, and unhurt at that, and that dragon with you. Nobody's here or in earshot, so I'll speak freely. I'm under tight orders from the clans, the Milk Snakes and the Moon Brothers and the rest, that since they lost several men a year ago when they attacked a bunch of men who proved to be high lords with sword skill to match, I must make no more sweeps against them and I must give them weapons and supplies as they tell me, and no excuses, or they won't let any more supplies through to me and they'll starve me out. They told me that `I'll put it that, you better check very carefully who comes as a servant and all food and drink that comes in.': I don't like veiled threats. Sorry about how I acted, but two of those that I arrested when they called were Lannisters and the Lannisters a bit before sent a hired knife to try to kill Bran Stark. Recently a man came to meet me from the port, he said to trade, and I overheard his two servants talking in Rhoynish language, which likeliest meant that they were Stepstones pirates descended from some of Nymeria's people who deserted on their way to Dorne. They hoped that I'd think it was merely gibberish, but I'd learned Rhoynish from an old scroll that I've got, and I understood things that I wasn't meant to. Those clans in league with sea pirates would be the end for my rule here. At least until now people have been able to get in and out of here safely by sea. Now that nobody's in earshot except us, I'll speak my mind. Time something was done about that lot in the mountains. From way back when there were thirty or so kingdoms in Westeros, we around here have come to arrangement after arrangement after arrangement with that lot, a fixed amount to pay to them each year instead of them raiding and robbing, marriages between us and them, sworn signed treaties with a septon there, and all sorts, but always they made some excuse, that the oath was in the name of something non-binding, or that we did something petty that was wrong, and they raid and kill again, and they insist on joining my army when the king or lord or someone calls for it, and they steal from houses that they pass or from other men in the army, and I end up blamed for it, and two clans fight against each other instead of against the enemy, and they turn aside from orders and go robbing and looting, and I get blamed, and so it goes on.". Jon found out what he could and went back to Rhaegal and left the place, working out what to do. He got through other calls and went home for a badly-needed rest for himself and Rhaegal. The sky cells were evacuated, but they left alone a breeding pair of wild eagles and their two young that had nested in one sky cell. One sky cell was later given an outside wall and window and converted into a message ravenry.

During this, complications arose, including a claimed unexpected return. Before Robert's Rebellion, King Aerys II Targaryen, the Mad King, ruled. His first son was Rhaegar Targaryen, who wedded Princess Elia Martell of Dorne; their children were Rhaenys (a girl) and then Aegon (a boy). This Aegon would have inherited as King Aegon VI of Westeros and also as Prince of Dorne, at last uniting those two realms. But all died by various means in Robert's Rebellion. But later it was claimed, and was so recorded by some scribes, that Varys, King's Spymaster, at Robert's Rebellion became anxious about the safety of the baby prince Aegon, and swopped him for a baseborn orphan baby found in a slum area called Pisswater Bend in King's Landing, and that it was that changeling that King Robert's men killed. It was said that later the real baby prince was found safely far away, now grown to man, as the Golden Company sellsword Griff's adopted son Young Griff onboard a poleboat on the river Rhoyne in southwest Essos. [This bit is GRRM canon: see this link.]

Young Griff and a group with him came to King's Landing. He stated his story to Jon and Daenerys, with a mage surveilling: a process decidedly uncomfortable, but knowing the truth was vital. The mage found that he told truth about what he had experienced, and that he had repeated accurately what had been told to him — by sources who by then were dead or otherwise out of reach of checkup. He had little experience of Westeros. He had been in action plenty, but in Essos, and he had never had authority over men, and knew little about how to be a kíng. His stated heirship to the Martells of Dorne was irrelevant after the recent violent revolution in Dorne. He went back to the Golden Company.

The Mountains of the Moon clan cleanout came when enough reliable men had been armed and assembled and ordered, and action plans made. By then they knew much about the Mountains of the Moon and where the peaks and gorges and slopes and gangs' lairs were. Dragons made the difference, letting their riders spot from the air and fly above all ground obstructions. Robert remembered becoming Lord of the Vale of Arryn much too young when his father and many men with him died when they pursued some raiding mountain clan men too far and were ambushed. Records of the old Dornish wars and of King Jaehaerys I's cleanout against the second Vulture King in the Red Mountains taught what risks to look for. Men fought men on roads and on mountains and in caves. Remote bases were found and flamed, destroying stores. Flames caught clansmen on the march and as they set up to roll rocks down on the King's army. Clans' cultivation and flocks in remote hill corners were destroyed. The clans sought supplies and revenge and tried to stop the king's men from attacking and getting supplies, by maximum-force raids into the lowlands of the Vale. Both sides became pitiless, and at least three times hostages taken from the Vale burnt along with their holders in clan-holds in the mountains. Two dragons were injured by the heavy mounted crossbows called scorpions, but not seriously. One was grounded by a wing injury, and in a safe area of the Vale local lowland-dwellers willingly in thankfulness gave all help and supplies needed to nurse it until it could fly again. It was a long complicated messy war and lasted three years. Food to feed the army was shipped in by the Vale's coast, to avoid eating the area bare as we hunted them through and in and out of every den in the mountains. The Stepstones pirates proved faithless as usual and dropped out of their side of their arrangement at the first serious resistance by the King's fleet. Attempts by clansmen to leak away and set up elsewhere did not work.

The clans were said to be descended from some of the First Men who came long before the Andals, but captured clansmen proved to be low-minded criminal types who knew little or nothing about any old ancestral gods or old language or customs or history, only of robbery and killing going back from clear new memory of an endlessly long list of robbery and vain appeals by their victims through muddled old memory to the vague distance haze called "in old times", and "We lived as we do now from time out of mind, for so long that we have a right to.", and an endlessly long list of robbery and being chased away. Much of their female ancestry came from women captured and used as camp-slaves. Only a few words, used by them as thieves' jargon, matched words of the First Men's language as still used by the Freefolk beyond the North Wall. They had no written records. Some maesters guessed that in the time of the First Men the area may have worshipped a moon god or moon goddess, whence the name of the mountains, but captured interrogated clansmen knew of no such belief. They had survived thousands of years because warring local kings were each unwilling to commit all his men to action against the clans, leaving none to meanwhile defend against stab-in-the-back attacks by other local kings; but now Westeros was under one king and the end had an opportunity to come, and after three years that war was over, and the mountains were empty, and at last after so long the Vale's inhabitants were safe. Lord Robert Arryn in the Eyrie now ruled a much more peaceful lordship area, where travellers could pass through safely, and in the mountains miners could safely look for useful mineral ores and woodmen fell trees for timber.

Men searched in clan lairs for hidden stolen valuables. Under the ashes of the main lair of the Painted Dogs clan, after bodies and human bones had been removed and buried with a septon officiating, men found the remains of a large building with carved stonework, built so long ago that it seemed that the builders did not know the stone-chisel but had done all stone-shaping and ornamental stone carving with pickaxes, or by holding a separated pickaxe-head by its ends in both hands and carefully scraping with an edge or corner. At what seemed to be the building's back end, they found a platform, and on it scattered remains of a large image of a woman, clothes decorated with many stars, riding on a large crescent moon shape. The lost goddess of the mountains had been found, but not her name or anything that her worshippers had believed about her.

When a final and much-thanked end of those clans had been made, Jon and Dany on a royal progress flew in to see the area's yearly celebration of this liberation, and wanted to see how they were represented on stage, as the events included a mummer-type re-enacting of the events, to help to keep the area in memory of what had happened. All action was live, not with puppets. The play proceeded. At the right time in the action, instead of a cloth-and-stick "mummer's dragon", a big village man ran in with his arms out sideways representing wings, and a village maiden rode on his back, presumably acting Daenerys riding on Drogon; she called out "Dracarys! Fire be on you lot who keep coming robbing!". Another such man was ridden by a village lad: presumably he represented Rhaegal ridden by Jon. The actors representing the mountain clansmen fled before them or fell and acted dead. After, there was music and triumphal parade, as well as the area could manage. The real Jon and Daenerys watching saw thankfully that their roles of king and queen were treated with respect without clowning or sillyness or accusations.


Over time, the damaged areas of Kings Landing were rebuilt, this time with plenty of covered channels to lead foul-water out of built areas and away, and people gradually stopped using stink-related slang names for the city. Niculi's Bluewings, and then the seven new Dragonstone hatchlings, became big enough to ride, and sometimes Jon had to leave official duties to help to train their riders, as he and Dany and old written records were the only authorities there with experience of training dragons and dragon-riders.

In the Citadel Jon had seen the newly recovered Valyrian books and scrolls, where a maester came out with a writing quill in one hand and looked at Jon through his goggles and tried to talk through his cloth mouth-and-nose gag ‐ Septon Barth's description of Princess Aerea's end was enough to explain why the maester was still so nervous about keeping bits out of his eyes and lungs and mouth so long after the scrolls had been unrolled and dusted out and the dustings burnt. All dragon-related Valyrian books and scrolls had to be copied, often by someone reading the text out at handwriting speed to several scribes.

Some of the dragons had riding-harnesses, sometimes with a big pocket where a scent-tracking dog could ride, and the dog and the dragon had been taught to work together. When the dragons were big enough to carry two men each (the rider, and a mage who could quickly tell if people confronted on the ground were knowingly telling untruth), they could be used for routine flying patrol as planned. As each flyer spotted a suspicious group and called in the area's local lord's armed men, an endless succession of road wanderers who could not truthfully and satisfactorily explain their business were caught, and carted to where they could do useful work, such as in quarries digging and shaping stone for rebuilding Kings Landing.

Searching from the air made tracking bandit gangs much easier, as with Jaeherys I's actions against the second Vulture King in the mountains of the Dornish Marches. Gangs were gradually tracked down and disposed of. Often the dog, or the dragon's own acute sense of smell while ground-walking with its head down, tracked a gang into a cave. Sometimes the gang came out and surrendered. Niculi, by then older and based near Rosby in the Crownlands, was the first of the new eight dragonriders to go on such an action; his Bluewings was hatched before the new Dragonstone seven and reached riding size first, and he was the test-run for the flying patrol system.

People were still getting accustomed to seeing dragons about again, after knowing them long only in old tales. Of images of them for people to know them by: There were stone and wood carvings. The Targaryen banner and seal were markedly stylized. The coin called a "golden dragon" was too high-value for many smallfolk to have much chance to see one. The board game called cyvasse had a piece called a dragon, but in cheap sets for ordinary people the pieces were wooden and simply carved and very stylized; naturalistically carved sets of durable (and often precious) materials were out of most people's reach.

After the Rosby cleanout and other incidents, people were more willing to provide relief for deserving poor when the truthfulness of the person wanting relief could be checked easily and quickly, and that the roads were much safer, and that now there was an easy way to detect and put an end to bandits who joined an army at start of war and went back to banditry afterwards [as bandits often did in former times in real-world China: Author]., Over the years after, many found it safe to move from large defended villages to isolated farms. The system was expensive to keep, but worth the cost, and travelling became much safer. Someone compared it to the benefit in parts of the North where there were still mammoths: in the winter to find grazing they brushed snow off vegetation with their long curved tusks, and thus smaller animals could reach grazing easier, and sometimes its tusks would break open a small mammal's snow burrow and a hawk or eagle following the mammoth would catch the mammal; and in the spring many birds lined their nests with mammoths' shed long winter hair.

Niculi a few days later on a lookout tower saw smoke, mounted Bluewings, with a tracker dog in his harness's dog bag, flew towards the smoke, and saw that it was a forest fire, pushed by a north wind. He knew the area from maps; he flew round and landed at nearby villages and lords' holdfasts to organize help fighting the fire, by cutting firebreaks, and beating fire out where it could be done. Downwind from the fire, a small river alongside a road promised to be a start of a good firebreak, and he and those who he contacted sent men there. One of the local lord's sons was a thin man and light enough and daring enough to ride behind Niculi, to advise and help. Starting a back-burn was advised. He flew the line first, checking. Near a small village called Long Millton, flying slow and low enough to catch ground scents, Bluewings reacted to something in tall bracken. Niculi landed and sent his dog in. The dog went into the bracken and barked and hesitated. Niculi had dismounted, and quickly looked and grabbed into the bracken to find what his dog had found, and extracted a small girl holding a rabbit's front leg in one hand.

"She knows about bribing dogs already." he thought annoyedly; thankfully his dog had been taught firmly not to accept food from strangers. He did not trust her at her age to obey and stick to orders to keep clear of risks and go home, so he thought first to fly with her to the village, where her parents would likely be. A man of the village who had seen him flying in, was cantering up on one of the many stray ex-Dothraki horses left after recent events; he galloped to the place and dismounted, and he was her father. He took hold of her hand firmly and was not pleased: "Over a mile and a half from home! Your promises two days ago didn't last long!". Niculi listened through the inevitable sharp slap and crying and angry reprimand for running off and for ignoring several orders to come back at once and getting into danger and causing delay. "Going equipped to try to get past a dog, you're trying to go somewhere you're not allowed! I told you to keep right away from work and fires! Never mind wanting to see things close up! It must be serious, for that man to land his dragon here, and dragons and fire are dangerous, keep right away from them!". He said to Niculi: "I'm sorry about the delay she's caused, ser, she ran out when her mother was chasing two cats out of the kitchen that were trying to get at milk.", and turned to lead his daughter back home, holding her hand firmly by one hand and leading his horse by his other hand, angrily cancelling promised treats and ordering her to be kept on a tether from then on when outdoors, while she still wailed about "You never let me see things properly close-up.". Niculi was thankful that he had checked well along the line first. Later she realized that she had had a narrow escape, and was more thankful.

"It's a forest fire, coming from the north." Niculi explained, although the area already knew that from the smoke and the smell, "I'm going to make a back-burn, along the road and the river.", and pointed, "Beat it out when it spreads south, but let it spread north. Tell the other men that.". The horse rider told Niculi to hold his daughter's hand firmly, remounted his horse, told Niculi to put her on his saddle pommel, and rode carefully back to the village. Niculi remounted Bluewings and got back into the air after the distressing delay. The main fire advanced, preceded by flying bits of burning matter, as an army in battle is preceded by flights of arrows. By then plenty of country smallfolk and lords' men were behind the planned firebreak. Niculi flew the backburn line again, to check; then "Dracarys" and the burning run. The assembled men let the fire run north, but stopped it southwards. Men were in place to control the ends of the burn line. Once, Niculi had to tell his back-seat rider to get off so that he could airlift three beaters one at a time over a big patch of bramble and dog-rose too dense to get through. They had never expected to be on dragonback, even for a short time, and they were telling about it in the inn for many years after.

Deer and wild boar and a bear and an aurochs bull and cow fled as the two fires advanced towards each other, met, and died out for lack of fresh fuel. The destruction was over. Two men had run out from a patch of bush as the fire came near. They tried to stroll away casually, but had to run. Niculi flew, herding the two towards the lords' group, and then up and away to avoid scaring horses as the lords rode after and caught the two. They were recognized as two persistent nuisance local vagrants. After two strokes of whip each, the two admitted that they had lit the fire and carelessly let it spread. "Fire: to cook what!?": and a hand reached for a whip: the two admitted pilfering in a cottage garden. They got no good from sorrying about the destruction of good standing timber. Niculi took out a piece of paper and ink and a quill and recorded the event while his memory was fresh, and remembered and added `the fire', which this time meant a small stylized drawing of flames used, as ordered, to mark any description of use of flame. He told the lords what had happened; one of them said that he would have words with his forester about letting undergrowth become impenetrable. One of them wrote a separate message about the two arrested vagrants, and Niculi carried it back to base with him.

Soon after, Dany flew Drogon over the mountains of the Westerlands in cold weather on her way between various calls including trying to help to sort out the succession in Casterly Rock after the close kin of the Lannister lordly family had died in or during the recent war. Wars leave messes that need tidying up. On the way, Drogon ignored order to fly straight on, and turned off to the right into snowy mountains, and landed, and flamed into a recess in a cliff until it started to melt and glow red. Dany remembered events at Harrenhal in Aegon I's time, but no people had been in the recess. Afterwards, Dany was shocked to see about 25 people, with no packs or supplies and next to no clothes, come out of a hole in rocks and huddle as close to the hot red-glowing rock as they safely could. They clearly were victims of robbers who had taken all their property and clothes and left them to die, presuming that wolves and shadowcats would clean up the remains and leave no evidence. Dany again saw that Drogon, naturally imprinted to think that she was his mother, as a result sometimes acted as if he thought that humans and dragons were two forms of the same species. The robbery victims told her which way the robbers had gone. Drogon had been taught to follow scents on the ground with his head down, and so Dany tracked the robbers and found them on the march. She took off and swooped on them, and she got Drogon to swing his tail at them, rather than flaming, while from her seat on the base of his neck she made good use of Dothraki-type mounted archery which she had been practicing. That killed or made helpless most of the robbers.

Some of the robbers got frightened and started confessing, including admitting to being some of the Lannister army men who had killed many of the local population around the Gods Eye to stop information from getting away. Like some, she had no patience with outlaws who join an army at start of war and go back to outlawry after the war. She loaded up the load-strapping-on points on Drogon's harness with all the gang's clothes, plus spare clothes from their packs and packhorse loads, that he could carry, and flew back to the robbery victims that she had found, and re-clothed them. She led them to the nearest good shelter, the robbers' lair, now nearly empty of living men, and made a quick end of a few remaining guards. There they found plenty of supplies and were fed and warned and rested. Fortunately Drogon could walk far enough on the ground. The firewood was damp, but Drogon got it alight. Eight women were there, kept by the robbers as camp-servants and bed-warmers; they willingly told much of what had happened. There were enough horses (mostly garron-type and randomly-breds) and ox-carts in there to mount all who were not the best walkers. Next morning she set off with them to the nearest good town, Sarsfield on the road northeast from Lannisport over the pass by the Golden Tooth to Wayfarer's Rest in the Riverlands. With the victims now safe, she recorded another step in the long job of making the roads safe, and went back to what she had been doing before. By now Drogon and Rhaegal were big enough to carry three people each, Dany or Jon, and a bodyguard, and another.


During this, Dany became with child. Some fragment of Mirri Maz Duur's magic seemed to remain, because Dany and Jon both had an ominous dream, in which a voice said that "None of their hands and feet will have five digits.". But without complications she gave birth, to twins, first a boy and then a girl, both completely human and healthy and strong, and the succession was assured, and they were named Aegon and Daenys. As a thankful anticlimax, each hand and foot had six digits, which showed an effect later when a finger per string gave extra quality when playing a harp or a 6-stringed musical instrument. Other children followed, all with the extra digit all round, and the new law about succession eliminated many risks of dispute over the throne, including what was to happen if a possible heir was alleged to be mentally unfit. Aegon did not want to reign as Aegon VI, but preferred that number to be reserved as memory for the child prince who was killed with shocking damage to his body at the Baratheon usurpation in 283 AC. Viserys still kept well away from crowns, and was thankful when each family birth pushed him further from the risk of having to wear one, because seeing one still gave him bad flashbacks about what the Dothraki did to him; after a while he learned to tolerate coins and similar with an image of a crown on. Prince Aegon when old enough claimed Viserion, and rode her.


Their reign was long and prosperous, but the Stranger could not be kept away for ever, nor his forerunners, the maladies of advancing age. They had to give up dragon-riding as they became unsteady. They had to scale down the size and strength of hoofed mounts that they rode. They had to walk with help of a stick each and then of two sticks each, and ride on wheels behind a horse rather than on a horse. They kept on as they could. Jon's right shoe, of whatever pair, started pinching painfully in the afternoons, until each afternoon he had to take it off and leave the foot shoeless or put a bigger shoe on it; he explained to all concerned that it was not the fault of the shoemaker. He had made for him and Dany each a wheeled chair like Bran Stark of Winterfell had sometimes used after his fall which broke his back. Sometimes they went, or later, were carried, into the dragon-house and talked to Drogon and Rhaegal, who seemed to understand somewhat. Jon and Dany often talked about old times, including about the start of their long love, when Dany flew Drogon to Winterfell, with Rhaegal following riderless, and about how she met Jon there in his thick northern winter furs; and how after the dragons had been fed, when Dany persuaded Jon to mount Rhaegal, he checked every handhold and footrest as if climbing a tree, and how they flew together over the snowy rocky countryside and scanty sheep and reindeer grazing around. Of those and other things they talked, between matters of state and rule, which Aegon helped in more as years passed.

The unavoidable came. One winter morning, Daenerys woke beside Jon, noticed something wrong, tried in vain to wake him, and pulled an alarm cord and also called by voice for help. The Kingsguard and the royal maester came and saw and told her what had happened. The long diarchy was over, uniting the two claims to the throne. Their family were called. Jon was moved to a large hall for three days' lying in state, and the realm was told what had happened. Their children and grandchildren comforted Daenerys as they could, but her loss showed after so long together, and it was difficult to persuade her to eat anything, even when one of them cooked and served the food in person, or to get her to talk about anything more cheerful than listing large and small items of her property and Jon's former property and who each item was to be given to, and pleas such as "Don't burn my and Jon's sticks, or any weapons or ornaments or valuables: someone else can use them. Don't waste things burning them like that Red Ruluru's priests wanted people to.". Sometimes in those last days Daenerys talked to people in High Valyrian, and a few times in Dothraki, rather than in the Common Speech, and an interpreter had to stay with her. Once on her second day of widowhood when Lord Rosby came in from the foul weather in a sailor's oilskin and in his hurry did not leave it in the cloakroom, Dany, confused by the garment, addressed him as Ko Jhaqo and asked him in Dothraki to go fetch Khal Drogo to discuss something, but the interpreter reminded her where and when she now was, and she corrected herself and apologized. She was clearly all too aware that the empty space beside her in the royal bed would never be filled again, unlike in the times before when she slept alone when Jon had had to go away for a while. Once Jon was beside her, talking about adventures north of the Wall — but he evaporated in her arms as she woke from the dream. On the third day, mid-morning while going through incoming messages and reports, Aegon to his distress was addressed not by his princely title as expected but as "Your Grace King Aegon, Seventh of that Name" and the usual titles, and he knew what that meant: as sometimes happens when the end comes to one of an old loving couple which has been so close to each other for so long. In mid-morning on a couch while two of Daenerys's younger children were telling her that she should eat some honey cakes that they had, to keep her strength up, her heart had stopped, and the Stranger came for her, as the Father Above had appointed to be the fate of all mankind, high and middle and low.

Rule and events had to go on. The lying-in-state was lengthened by two days. Then Jon and Dany went on their last sea journey, and were laid before the image of the Stranger in the Dragonstone sept, and its septon went through the funeral ceremony. Viserion ridden by King Aegon VII lit Jon and Daenerys's funeral pyre. Anti-dragon weapons were kept to hand but out of sight, in case death of their imprinting-mother should drive Drogon and Rhaegal to uncontrollable destructive rampage, as some had feared might happen; but thankfully they were not needed, and the two merely roared loudly. When going through the formal coronation oath to rule justly and rightly, Aegon VII could not avoid inserting expressions of sadness, but he got over it. Aegon VII on Viserion, and Nikuli on Bluewings, flew about over cheering crowds, for the first time since the 'Dance of the Dragons'. The celebrations attracted record crowds — and the goldcloaks and their temporary auxiliaries arrested a record amount of pickpockets and cutpurses and people stealing from pack-animals' loads during the distraction, which may explain why a street magic-show put on by some travelling mages stopped quickly, unlike the magic-show that Dany saw in Qarth during her travels with her three hatchlings, where Qarth's authorities let cutpurses operate. Aegon VII waited a decent time before letting anyone else claim Drogon and Rhaegal. Life and rule went on.