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.
* In Valyrian text, I have replaced the macron by a circumflex, to keep all symbols within the symbol number range 0 to 255, to keep all the symbols 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 long Targaryen voyage, are taken from "Vologda Mapping"'s series of 10 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 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 keeps Daenerys and Jon Snow/Targaryen and the dragon Rhaegal alive.
* 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.

War reaches King's Landing

During a somewhat confused situation which had ended the rule of King Brandon, the current King's Landing regime (the Baratheon dynasty continuing in an interregnum after King Joffrey died, without a clear next king) sent a big army to make an end of Jon Targaryen's separate kingdom in the North. It had got past the two castles called the Twins and forced passage of the Neck, and had crossed the Barrowlands and was before the walls of Winterfell. By then Danaerys Targaryen's dragon Drogon had reached Jon, 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 had to be wary; but in the process learned well what scorpions can do and what they look like, and thus how to avoid their line-of-fire. After that, newly-imported weapons arrived there, and Jon's army with them unexpectedly caused huge losses on the southern army, and began a long re-advance south, through the Neck and past the Twins, and continuing south.

Circei Lannister's army held on to King's Landing against the returning Targaryen army, which advanced to the city walls. Circei in her irrational 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 saw in time what might happen and by all-too-familiar routine moved all valuables and precious manuscripts into fireproof storage in time.

The Targaryen army broke in in force. By Circei's order the wildfire was set off. The two armies still fought each other for a while, but more and more of the Lannister men saw or heard of Circei's hysterical behavior and saw no purpose and joined the Targaryen men in trying to maintain order and rescue people; and all around them buildings burned. Circei, careless of her safety in her excited state, was crushed under a falling wall, and thus after many centuries ended the direct line of the Lannisters. Many of her army quit and broke up and left a trail of looting and robbery on their way home. The rest had more sense and put themselves under Targaryen command, and turned their numbers and strength to trying to put fires out and stopping fires from spreading, and 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 escape 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 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 have 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 partway up. Dany on Drogon took off again and flew back over the wall for another load. 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 cut the package open 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 somewhat smaller 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 hot 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 Rhaegal's tail 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 foodstuffs 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 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, and after the short flight was helped off his back, and before Rhaegal landed there after, she had a new baby in her arms. After she had been laid on a stretcher, 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 else could learn how.

Drogon and Rhaegal had proved reliable at standing quietly when left untethered for a while, 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. 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 in an outside-the-wall street area knew this, and from his house 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, and wanting me to wait and wait and see what happens, but I know the mare won't heal. 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, and her last filly's old enough to take over from her. All right, someone, do what needs to be done.". He hugged the mare's head for a while and said last comforting words, and then backed away. A sword ended the mare's pain, and the 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 the hard palate bone and the 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.

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 Dany 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 was later 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 lovers dying together in the Doom of Valyria. Dragons kept in the Dragonpit 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 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. She for a long time much regretted the loss of life caused directly and by the political disruption that her ambition and access to dragon-power had caused while getting her three dragons from Qarth port through Astapor and Meereen to Essos's west coast and at last to ships and to Westeros, evading hazards including a big fleet of Ironmen who were trying to sieze the eggs or dragons, a journey long enough for her dragons to grow much: when she came from the Red Waste to Qarth in 299 AC Drogon rode on her shoulder; when escaping from Meereen she rode on Drogon's back.


After the war

Jon Snow, brought up in the North with the North's "bastard surname" to keep him safe from assassins, for a long time a commander of the Watchers on the Wall, but now knowing himself at last to be an heir to the throne of Westeros, and widely accepted as such, Jon Targaryen, son of Rhaegar Targaryen, son of King Aerys II Targaryen, was at last in power after the Robert and Joffrey usurpation. He, and Daenerys, youngest child of Aerys II and also an heir to the throne, sat in two chairs taken from a storeroom and used as temporary thrones. They did not use the Iron Throne, as he had cut or pricked himself badly a few times trying to sit on it, and it had only one place for an occupant to sit. (Later he found the right way to climb it and sit in it.) There had been guesses and jokes about the former king Brandon's wheelchair becoming the new throne, but that did not happen. He was back home after an absence in Essos and was attending to callers and petitioners and sorting out current matters, such as catching up with arrears of removing trees and tall vegetation alongside main roads to try to prevent ambushes by robbers. He already ruled the North; the other six kingdoms, including thankfully Dorne, were submitting back under his rule, having found again the hard way that freedom for each component kingdom too often causes frequent destructive internecine wars starting over petty matters and escalating, and starting cycles of revenge and counter-revenge, as happened often down the centuries before King Aegon I's family moved from Valyria to Dragonstone and took over Westeros.

Before the Rhoynar arrived in Dorne, their mentality had been much affected by an endless list of war and loss, from Valyria driving and dragon-burning them out of their old lands around the river Rhoyne in southwest Essos, and their disastrous attempt to settle in the infested infected dangerous-animal-plagued "green hell" of the Sothoryos jungle, until they last they came to Dorne in Westeros. That is why their motto words became "Unbowed, unbent, unbroken". But Dorne had changed since by a dynastic wedding in the reign of Daeron II Dorne had at last found a face-saving way to become part of the kingdom of Westeros. Some people had moved out of Dorne to get away from drought and sand and sandstorms and sand-flies and horned vipers and dry heat; some old wealthy Westerosi with stiff painful joints that hurt more in cold weather had moved to Dorne because its winters are warmer, bringing servants of childbearing age with them. Many Dornish now had routine trade contacts with the rest of Westeros and did not want war, or trouble among clans in the border mountains and too likely escalating to raids on nearby non-Dornish land and causing retaliation.

There were reports that, when in Dorne recently there was talk of another war, many Dornish smallfolk and smallscale property-owners 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. In earlier more recent wars Dorne's then prince or princess and his/her ruling servants had tried to clamp down on means of spreading news and so to hide the increasing refusals to obey, and of people pretending to destroy all standing crops and livestock but actually leaving some further from main roads, particularly in areas not invaded in the previous war, but so far they had kept a lid on matters. But when recently it looked like happening again, some smallfolk and local small-area lords, ordered to cut down orange and lemon trees and to go into hiding to deny supplies to an expected invader, remembered previous occasions, remembering many evacuation refugee columns going into dry hills and meeting supposed promised help that proved to be bandits who took everything, saw ahead quick death or years of loss and hunger until new trees came into fruit, and families dying of starvation, and from older wars remembered cases of desperation cannibalism, and refused. They took up weapons that they had brought back from wars, and fought off attempts by enforcement squads to take over the area and do the job for them. Refusals spread fast. The old passive-resistance method, always a complicated process and relying on everybody doing his part to keep everybody alive, fell to pieces. And it was known that Westeros now had dragons again. Religion helped; the Old Gods did not prosper in areas too dry for weirwood trees; Andals did not like aridity either, but some had setted along permanent rivers. 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; for her, the various short and often summer-dry rivers of Dorne were not good replacements. The "old guard" in Sunspear tried to call up the spirit of previous resistance, but got little good 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. With the same king ruling on both sides of the Red Mountains, hill bandits could no longer curry favour by saying that they were acting for Dorne against the rest of Westeros.

Jon had been wondering what practical would happen from news that Arya Stark of Winterfell had sailed far west across the Sunset Sea and had found there not only a few small islets but a large land mass, and had come back; people had called it Aryos after her; but recently in a battle at Winterfell he had found out all too clearly what it brought.

Jon announced a date to wed Daenerys. Men in person or sending messages started arguments and offered their swords to sort out which of the two was the rightful monarch, but Jon had no patience with such talk. 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 to start yet another battle for the throne!? 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 killed in battle?! Or fight each other sword to sword!? No! We will rule together, husband and wife, king and queen, both in their own right, what maesters call a `diarchy', and we have chosen a King's Hand for us. Each of us have things to teach the other. Agreed that 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 thus your dispute will be settled with your all-too-eager swords reddened only with metal-polish. Some mages have examined Daenerys, and they say they have cleared out any remaining magical mischief that that Mirri Maz Duur left in her.".

The matter of dragons surfaced again. Jon said: "Much has happened since Daenerys sat uninjured in Khal Drogo's funeral pyre in the Dothraki Sea far from home until it burnt out around her, and there she was covered in soot but alive and well with a newly-hatched dragonlet held in each arm and a third on her shoulders. The Dothraki called her Osavvirsak, the Unburnt. It is said: `ZaldrÓzes dohaeriros iksos daor.', that's Valyrian for `a dragon is not a slave', but Drogon and Rhaegal both obey me and also Daenerys. Claiming three hatchlings at once, like Daenerys did, away near Vaes Dothrak, 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. To make things more different from the usual, the hatchlings thought that she was their mother, like happens sometimes on farms with goose hatchlings. The Seven 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 next morning when the pyre had burnt itself out around 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.

"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 were taken to Essos and sold 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. Last time the inbreeding would have taken longer to show up if there'd not been that "Dance of the Dragons" war killing so much breeding stock, but the inbreeding effects would likely have come, but later, and that riot started by that agitator called "The Shepherd" killed the last four. This time, Drogon and Rhaegal are only two, and that's a fearsomely small start stock to breed from. And on top of that, if they were all from Dreamfyre's eggs, they are half siblings or likeliest full siblings even at the start. The Dance of the Dragons killed so many. Their mother 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 in to me and any children we 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 that war 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 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 use. 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 Valyrians around to choose from. But out here, 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, and Balerion was the youngest, but when Aegon I invaded Westeros they were down to three, unless they had small young or unhatched eggs also. That's why some say `Even Balerion was once a hatchling that could sit on a man's shoulder.' about something big that started small. 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. 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 breeding stock, the quicker that inbreeding effects tend to show. All right, I know of maesters' theories that each animal or plant somehow 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. And behind all this is how many the first Valyrians caught, or found as eggs, among their Fourteen Flames volcanoes and bred from them. 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 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, 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 Drogon to deliver and collect messages I found the armies of two of those west-Essos cities marching against each other in one of those 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 Drogon 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.'.

"We'll have to find a time to try a long list of Lannister army men for robbery and murder and torture and in general acting like bandits. Arya Stark sent me a list of accused; so have some others.

"I understand how Brandon felt. 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. Sometimes I wish I had a way to travel long distances quick, that did not scare people so much. Books say the western areas, or at least their cities, speak Valyrian left by their old empire, but their Valyrian's changed so much from what's in the textbooks that it's become a separate new language for each area.

"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 was very small, as if the scribe had used a hen quill instead of a goose quill. And, wherever the same letter occurred in the text, it had been written exactly the same. I'd never seen such small and precise writing, with none of the little differences in strokes that happen in 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. Very strange.".

(Afterwards, those two armies' leaders, with the weapons that they had, saw no point in doing anything except going back home to base and sending the levied troops home. The news spread (news finds ways to spread, even if it is not meant to), and many of their wives, conceiving after their husbands' returns, babies that might not have existed if Jon had not interfered, decided, even before the births, to thankfully give them names meaning "Gift of the Dragon" or similar. This often caused rows between husband (who disliked reminnders of being called off the campaign in the last few minutes) and wife (who was glad to see him back alive and well), and a strong spreading anti-war movement developed, without Jon interfering any more. And there was meeting at Vaes Dothrak, and it led to the Treaty of Gheledys, and the grassland was shared out peaceably.)

One of those at the meeting said: "You 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 Jaehaerys I's or his wife Alysanne's 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 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. But he had cut his arm (not seriously) on a sharp piece of cut weirwood root, and 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 cyan back-ridge and wings sitting on his shoulder like he was some old Valyrian dragonlord. He had some Valyrian ancestry via two 'dragonseeds', that's 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 the egg hatching, 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.' he 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. As it was unwitting, the Mother Above'll know that you intended no harm. But you shouldn't poke about in things.'. 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's grown since and it's about as big as a mastiff now, but it's still growing. Its egg was magenta with blue swirls. He named it Bluewings. Best if people don't overfeed it: there is a useful size for dragons for riding; I 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. If he stays among us, he'll need a master-at-arms to teach him sword-skill and suchlike ‐ and reading and writing and arithmetic and suchlike. I've told him that he'll be able to send messages back to his family.".

Brandon while king had rebuilt the destroyed Sept of Baelor. There on the chosen day Jon and Daenerys were wed to each other before the adjacent images of the Father and the Mother, and crowned. As both were rulers in their own right, a second crown was needed. The royal treasury still contained several crowns which the old kings of various parts of Westeros had surrendered to Aegon I, and of these Dany chose the former crown of the Kings of Mountain and Vale, the Arryn dynasty which had ruled the Kingdom of Mountain and Vale from the Eyrie before Aegon I came. Both were thankful that there was plenty of space there; on Dragonstone due to cramped space and the amount of spectators Jaehaerys I and Alysanne had wed in the open with the royal couple's dragons standing close behind the congregation.

{Later, Dany became with child, and without complications gave birth. It was twins, first a boy and then a girl, both completely human and healthy, and the succession was assured.}

The old returns and the new comes

Jon soon later led a thorough search of Dragonstone and the palace 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. 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 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 what conditions; that time had passed since the rescue flights and the recent layings. Jon chose six of these various 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. (During this search, an intact complete copy of Dragons, Wyrms, and Wyverns: Their Unnatural History by Septon Barth was found, and quickly sent to be copied.)

When the time came, he took with him 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 joined in among the clamour of seagulls; and more waiting and chanting, and fear that the 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 where its hatchling was pulled out from; it was cyan (that is, between blue and green) with blue back-ridge. This much widened the parent stock as it was in early Targaryen times, but it did not widen the parent stock as it was when the Targaryens left Valyria. There were stories about Valyria getting dragon eggs from the East, likely for the same reason as Jan was 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. The riders had chosen names for their dragons, with advice about what was suitable. 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 he caught up with 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 do that sort of personal job. The shedding had to be 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.

Gangs of organized aggressive beggars, many of them better described as 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 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.

All the shocks that had affected Brandon were now on Jon's mind were on top of the amount of people killed by order of the Night King in the wight invasion, many not as opponents but merely to make corpses for the Night King's foul magic to turn them into more wights. Jon well remembered the thud of axes felling cold northern pine forest, and men stacking pyres, and what funeral ceremony they had time for, as big hastily-made sledges towed by horses 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, and the fallen body of Viserion the dragon, all victims of the Night King's centuries-built-up plans and ambition; their relatives would feel better knowing that wightdom would not reawake in them. Heavy clouds threatened more snow, while a septon prayed in turn to the gods of each people who were among the dead, as well to his own gods, to accept the souls, 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 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.

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 by Ironmen from some island called Comevaa gods-alone-knew-where at the far east-or-west-or-both end of the world, that 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 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. This had happened after the death of the Night King and before the recent battle and rescue in King's Landing. It had let Jon's army in the North defeat a much larger army sent from areas to the south.

Brandon had acted on his prophetic dreams, 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 the current war, suddenly 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 Brandon 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 ‐ after many centuries an end had been put at last to wights by Arya's skill with a Valyrian-steel dagger at Winterfell killing the Night King ‐ some said that the magic that made wights had arisen long ago from an unwise attempt to stop an old invasion, gone badly wrong. It was generally held by mages and maesters that there was no risk of any more wights arising. 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 (when not locked in by ice or storm) became a trade port trading with Braavos and Ib and around. 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?" one of them 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 causing violent painful muscle cramps in any fisherman who picks it up, and some have died of it. But between these four there 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 said "Some want me to send the army against that store of 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 Drogon to quickly melt down all the weapons. But that I cannot risk doing. I don't trust men not to send 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 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 a second it was ready to shoot again. 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'll need doing is to take over the Stepstones, or at least the west end of them, and hold them, those rocky islands 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 have a war. It's time those three 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 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.".

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 his men with those weapons.".

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 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 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 workers making sodium carbonate by the old Leblanc process had to work gagged for long periods, to protect their lungs. Sodium carbonate powder is caustic.]

"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 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. 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 they'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. I know they're also Valyrian eggs, but there's a good chance they'll be reasonably different 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 putting a new fresh egg in with them.".

The 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 measurement technique is called `limits and fits'; the new shooting weapons are called `guns' and the both-hands-held long sort that you used is called a `rifle'; 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. There is no magic in how they work, except sometimes the aiming magic, and some of your crossbows have that already. And, you have known for a long time the `Myrish tube' 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, 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.

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.

Later, various news came from further east in Essos. When Daenerys Targaryen was travelling with some Dothraki, after she hatched the three dragonlets, she went to Qarth as part of 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 was 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: News that the Dothraki that Daenerys had unwisely brought in ships to Westeros, had all died (many in the battle against the Night King, and the rest because they started systematically attacking Westerosi villages), had found its way to Essos, including to the remaining Dothraki there. That 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 inform everybody first-hand properly about what had happened, and to encourage unity. This was done, but wine loosened tongues, and orders and information that should only have been remembered were also written down. 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 [= neutered male sheep] grazing quietly and a 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-selling 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.

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 of Ghedelys being built in the former Dothraki lands, 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, which did not come in across the ocean until later.)

The later 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, about long-distance traders, particularly those who did not go there every year, having difficulty in finding the new route when switching from Vaes Dothrak to the new city of Gheledys as the usual trading-point. 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 growing old and the hatchlings from the four Ghedelys 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'll be able to 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, 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 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 where 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 some centuries 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, 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, after a sort of forest spider, and it also means `forest walker', it's not their own name for themselves.".

Events settle down

Time passed. 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 (apart from old written records) were the only two people there who had experience of training dragons and dragon-riders.

Jon went to the Citadel to see the newly recovered Valyrian books and scrolls. A library scribe 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 ‐ remembering Septon Barth's description of Princess Aerea's ending was enough to explain why the scribe was still being 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. But all dragon-related Valyrian books and scrolls had to be copied, often by someone reading the text out at handwriting speed to ten scribes.

Some of the dragons' riding harnesses were fitted with a big pocket where a scent-tracking dog could ride, and the dog and the dragon had to be taught to work together. When the dragons were big enough to carry two men each (the rider, and a mage to quickly tell if people confronted on the ground were knowingly telling untruth), they could be used on duty, 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 a 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, before they let any more flying patrols start to operate.

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.

A gang was 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 Bluewings blow a flame straight upwards, as a signal, and knew to go there. 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 local writing letter and number system and nothing exotic. The gang saw sense and came out at the first warning roar and small fire-blast 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 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. Niculi 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 forwards, and did something to it. While Niculi's startled 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. Niculi sometimes among this heard what he thought were fast insects whirring past, but were not. No projectile remained to be seen sticking out of any of the wounds. A long-lasting local fear was over. 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 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. Niculi now knew how the North won the recent battle near Winterfell.

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. Niculi mounted Bluewings and flew to Castle Rosby and there told what had happened, then flew back to base.

After this and other incidents, people were more willing to provide relief for the 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.

Niculi a few days later on a lookout tower saw smoke, mounted Bluewings, 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 nearby villages and lords' holdfasts to get and 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 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 by now dismounted, and quickly looked and grabbed into the bracken to find what his dog had found, and extracted a small girl with something furry in her hand. The rabbit's front leg held in her hand was an obvious pre-planned "dog bribe": 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 risk 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. "If you `went 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 busy chasing two cats out of the kitchen that were trying to get at milk.", and turned to lead his daughter away, 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 man remounted his horse, told Niculi to put his small daughter 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 there were plenty of country smallfolk and lords' men behind the planned firebreak. Niculi flew the backburn line again, in checking mode again; then the burning run. The assembled men let the fire run north, but stopped it southwards. Other 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, which sent horsemen, who caught them; they were recognized as two persistent nuisance local vagrants, who soon had to admit that the fire had spread from a carelessly managed cooking fire, and 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.

The long voyage

Several years before, Jon had 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, so that by importing them directly they could be cheaper. But it went much further. 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 contradictory stories indirectly carried from afar including stories about Winged Men. Some stories said that they wore imitation leather or cloth wings on their backs, some that they could genuinely fly; some that the wings were detachable and powered, likeliest by magic, some that the wings were parts of their bodies. Many such stories 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. So the ship set off eastwards, avoided war zones, kept as close as it could to the midline between the hazards of Sothoryos and Valyria, passed Great Moraq, and reached Yi Ti, and traded there, and then went on to Asshai, And as Derrick reported:-

"But then a sea fight between pirates and someone's navy brewed up to the west behind us, and we had to carry on east into the Saffron Strait, which was unknown except its west end. We went on, into the strait and past its rocky forested coast and islands, and at the end of our supplies reached the city of Koroshai. There we re-supplied again. Among the crowd on the quay were many who had on their backs some strange-looking kit which we first thought were folding tents. But one of them opened his back-apparatus out, and flew up, and we realized that the rumored Winged Men were real and we were seeing them. Their wings were parts of their bodies, and were like the wings of bats or dragons. I realised that, as with dragons, the Winged Men certainly would have had some sort of magic in their bodies, to allow flying at their size and weight and shape. To my surprise, when by habit of routine I talked to them in Dothraki, a few of them understood me. They told me that more-or-less-similar languages were spoken by some peoples, some farming and some nomadic, who lived in drier lands further north; one of these peoples was the Wovaq, which we already had heard of. We traded and restocked. We went east. Past Koroshai 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 dark and misty. The Winged Men lived around it and had seven cities on its coasts. They sometimes went to Asshai and to a land called Lassenia which the ship had not reached yet. Derrick wondered if they had arisen by chances of the 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. He later found that their old legends speak of an origin far to the west, too long ago for the Doom to be the cause, but near a volcanic area with dragons about; their origin is likely from a Valyrian magical accident or experiment.

Their ability to fly helped them much, and their stories told 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. They told him that halfbreeds between them and ordinary humans have wings and can fly and are infertile. The Common Speech of Westeros and Valyrian were unknown there. They said that further north beyond the area of "Dothrakic languages" was Mossovy, a large 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. Westeros had long known via stories from Sarnor, of Mossovy as a land at the east edge of knowledge, and he knew of Comevaa from recent events. They told him of recent local indirect stories about men from across the wide eastern ocean trading with Comevaa. He guessed that Mossovy likely puts on an outward face of mysticism and magic to cover its technological activities. He was a long time exploring the Gulf, as there was much to see and chart; and in return the Winged Men wanted good first-hand information about remote indirectly-known far-western lands such as Westeros and western Essos. Some of them rode on his ship or flew over it, warning about dangers.

They warned him about a dangerous sea animal which he recognized as the origin of the legends about sea dragons which he knew of from home. It grows from seal-sized to as long as a ship or a leviathan or a whale and usually swims not with its tail but with two pairs of diamond-shaped side fins. 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 with its side fins folded in. It has no blubber, and so must stay in warm water. Its head is like a snake's on a long flexible neck which can reach over the sides of boats and ships and then down inside. It is not known if the ironmen's Nagga was one of this species. A big one can quickly swallow a man whole with its double-jointed jaws, and can empty in short order a pearling boat or sea-houseboat which has unwisely intruded through the strait from the seas off Yi Ti. They are a reason why the Winged prefer to fly when crossing open sea, but sailing is needed to carry heavy cargoes, and they had plenty of work for him to earn his 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 in the air as lookout, ready to warn the fishing crew to all fly up if danger in the sea comes near.

At last he sailed out of the northeast end of the Gulf of the Winged, past a coastal land called Lassenia, where he restocked, inhabited by ordinary-looking people, who the Winged contacted sometimes. He sailed east across open sea, through the Ringer Straits past the south end of Comevaa in the Mossovian islands, known of by events at Winterfell, and in 343 AC the long eastwards ocean crossing to Lannisport in Westeros, the first known ship to sail round that world.


FUTURE EVENTS

{Dany became with child, and without complications gave birth. It was twins, first a boy and then a girl, both completely human and healthy and strong, and the succession was assured.}


This story is under development. It may in the future be lengthened at the end, or existing text may be changed.
Last edited 22 November 2019