A possible continuation of the Game of Thrones television series, with change to Series 8. (There are many other such possible continuations, including several on Youtube, written by various people.) See
Acknowledgements of sources etc
* In Valyrian text, I replace the macrons by circumflexes, to keep all letters within the symbol number range 0 to 255, to keep all letters as one byte each, to avoid Unicode text file mode complications and excess file size.
* The events in this story outside the Known World of GRRM's canon stories, use the map at this link.
* This story, for continuity, includes matter summarized from the canon G.R.R.Martin stories.
* This version keeps Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow/Targaryen and the dragon Rhaegal alive; also two others (read on to find who).
* The idea about a stray unexpected dragon-binding in the Reach, was adapted from a short fan-fiction story which I found once, and never found again despite much web-searching.
* Text in {curly brackets} is matter which happens in the further future. As the story is extended at its end, this future matter may be interleaved with the added matter according to fictional-world time order.
* I welcome all comments and queries and suggestions etc. Please email them to (Note spam-block: __a_t__ should be @   ) (Correction: no fullstop after "bt")
* Last edited 10 February 2022. This story is under development. More text may in the future be added in the middle or at the end, or existing text may be changed or expanded.
* Some of the ideas are taken from Youtube videos by other people, which are linked to below:
  * The items brought from Comevaa, and some of the peoples met on the long Targaryen voyage: from the series of Youtube videos by Vologda Mapping.
  * Remains of a type of steam engine [likeliest stationary and fired by volcanic heat] found in the ruins of Valyria: from part 17 ("Sothoryos") of the series of Youtube videos by Vologda Mapping.
  * The situation at start of story, and the idea of Daenerys on Drogon rescuing trapped civilians: from the series of Youtube videos by Flick Fanatics.
* There are more Game of Thrones series 8 fan-fiction rewritings, but I have not taken any ideas from them, except as listed hereinabove:-
Other alternate endings to the Game of Thrones series:-
Youtube videos:-
* An alternative follow-on from Game of Thrones Series 8, in 20 episodes; each video automatically links to the next, and the first is:-
  * The Future of Game of Thrones, playlist of all 20 episodes, run time about 2 hours, by Vologda Mapping.
  * List of links to all 20 videos in this series, by Vologda Mapping.
* How Game of Thrones Should Have Ended (Season 8 Rewrite) Part 1, by Flick Fanatics, 22min 14sec
* How Game of Thrones Should Have Ended (Season 8 Rewrite) Part 2, by Flick Fanatics, 18min 27sec
* How Game of Thrones Should Have Ended, by Think Story, 16min 32sec
* How Game of Thrones Should Have Ended? (Complete Version) - Game of Thrones Season 8, text story read out, by Talking Thrones, 2hr 6min 29sec
* Let's Rewrite the End of Game of Thrones [Part 1 of 2], by Hello Future Me, 30min 05sec
* Let's Rewrite the End of Game of Thrones [Part 2 of 2], by Hello Future Me, 26min 30sec
* Let's Rewrite the Battle of Winterfell [Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3], by Hello Future Me, 31min 52sec
* Game of Thrones Rewrite: playlist of 21 episodes, by Macabre Storytelling, about 12 hours.
* header page of "Virtual Final Season", in 6 episodes, with links to the 6 sections of the script, as text files, by butv10.
  * "Virtual Final Season", read out from scripts, by butv10, reading out each episode takes about an hour:-
  * section 1 at Game of Thrones: The Virtual Final Season Episodes 801-803, by butv10, 3hr 25min 4sec
  * section 2 at Game of Thrones: The Virtual Final Season Episodes 804-806, by butv10, 3hr 43min
* Game of Thrones Season 9 Episode 1 - A New Awakening: The Opening Scene! (My Version), by Talking Thrones, 10min 19sec
* Game of Thrones Season 9 Episode 1 - A New Awakening (Full Episode), by Talking Thrones, 32min 4sec
* Page with links to all Youtube videos by Talking Thrones
* Game of Thrones Season 9 Videos: links to 8 videos "Game of Thrones Season 9 Episodes 1 to 8", "It's what could happen if the series continued...", by Talking Thrones, total time 3hr 42min 3sec
  * Game of Thrones Season 9 Episode 1 - A New Awakening, by Talking Thrones, 32min 5sec
  * Game of Thrones Season 9 Episode 2 - The Weirwoods of Westeros, by Talking Thrones, 27min 35sec
  * Game of Thrones Season 9 Episode 3 - The One True King, by Talking Thrones, 44min 7sec
  * Game of Thrones Season 9 Episode 4 - The Raven, by Talking Thrones, 32min 15sec
  * Game of Thrones Season 9 Episode 5 - The Old Gods, by Talking Thrones, 29min 20sec
  * Game of Thrones Season 9 Episode 6 - The Kingsguard, by Talking Thrones, 28min 45sec
  * Game of Thrones Season 9 Episode 7 - A Dragon Reborn!, by Talking Thrones, 30min 55sec
  * Game of Thrones Season 9 Episode 8 - Burn Them All, by Talking Thrones, 28min 59sec
 *The Best Way To End The Game of Thrones Series? - Top 10 End Game Theories! Game of Thrones Season 8, by Talking Thrones, 8min 39sec
* A New Game of Thrones Ending! (Complete Season) - Game of Thrones Season 9, with timestamps splitting it into 9 episodes and an epilogue, uploaded 15 Oct 2021, by Talking Thrones, total time 4hr 34min 10sec
* This Is How The Game Of Thrones Cast Should Really Look, by Grunge, 18min 59sec
* Game of Thrones: How Bad Writing Used The Dragons Against Us, by Savage Books, 38min 47sec, criticism and some changed story lines
Text stories:-
* Game of Thrones season 8 redone: The Great War, by rivaanpat, story at, in 31 sections
* Game of Thrones: The Next Generation (sequel to previous), by rivaanpat, story at, in 7 sections as at 6 December 2021
* A Song of Guns Germs and Steel, by stannisthemannis1993, in Song of Ice and Fire in Robert I's reign a 2-way stargate-type window between the Crownlands in Westeros and southeast Australia appears, story at, in 68 sections
  * A Song of Guns Germs and Steel, part 2, by stannisthemannis1993, story at, in 23 sections as at 6 December 2021
*The Winter Portal, by hydra523 , 21 sections as at 6 December 2012, as previous but the window is between the Stony Shore in The North in Westeros and the Dutch/German border on Earth.
*Game of Thrones: The Next Generation (Sequel to GOT s8 redone), by An0nis , 20 sections as at 20 September 2012, the Six Kingdoms have almost recovered from the Long Night under the guidance of King Aegon Tarstark(Formerly Jon Snow) when a chain reaction of political events threaten to plunge the barely recovered Realm right back into another War of Five Kings.
*Game of Thrones season 8 redone: War Ultimis, by An0nis, 32 sections as at 20 November 2012, Daenerys and Jon Snow's boat is caught in a storm, along with the whole Unsullied fleet, causing them to be late for the Battle of Winterfell, which the Night King wins. The Golden Company arrives to fight for Queen Cersei, while the dead march south.
*Game of Thrones role-playing game: for information see Gotrp Wiki. Created in December 2013. The events of the sub-reddit take place in the universe of George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books, 200 years after the conclusion of the series. In that scenario it is currently Spring in the year 515 A.C. One living dragon remains, living wild north of the Wall.
See also:-
Youtube videos:-
* A Critique of Game of Thrones Season 8 (Part 1), by moneymedia, 1hr 41min 52sec
* A Critique of Game of Thrones Season 8 (Part 2), by moneymedia, 1hr 40min 19sec
Text stories on , written by various people, set in these scenarios (sorry about the intruded advertisements):-
*set in book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" by GRR Martin, as a list of links, about 6500 stories as at 7 September 2021
*crossover stories between "A Song of Ice and Fire" and other scenarios, as a list of links to lists of links to stories, according to what the other scenario is, 454 stories as at 7 September 2021
*set in television series "Game of Thrones", as a list of links, about 5700 stories as at 7 September 2021
*crossover stories between "Game of Thrones" and other scenarios, as a list of links to lists of links to stories, according to what the other scenario is, 831 stories as at 7 September 2021
*crossover stories between "Game of Thrones" and "A Song of Ice and Fire" (and perhaps also other scenarios), as a list of links, 168 stories as at 7 September 2021

Mid-level technology: The telescope occurs (called the "Myrish tube") in canon stories written by G.R.R.Martin. I have mentioned other (non-canon) mid-level technology items or ideas here. One of them is in a idea got from another fan-fiction author mentioned above. I welcome attempts to spot them.
CONTENTS: chapters
 0 start
 1 News of war
 2 The dragons reach the city
 3 Back from the beyond
 4 Sunkland
 5 Dorne
 6 Into the cold
 7 Battle in the blizzard
 8 After the war
 9 Peace at last
10 The old returns and the new comes
11 News from afar
12 From distant lands
13 Dothraki
14 Conflict over the empty land
15 Sarnor
16 The long voyage
17 Cider Hall
18 Events settle down
19 Mountains of the Moon
20 Back to normality
21 New reign
News of war

From the persistent fog of ignorable contradictory waterfront and inland rumors and scares and stories from afar, had gradually emerged more and more easily believable threatening news from places in Essos steadily coming nearer. This added to a confused destructive war of several claimants for the throne of Westeros, including King Robert of the usurping Baratheon line being killed by a wild boar in a hunt and being succeded by King Joffrey, who executed Eddard Stark lord of The North, whereupon Robb Stark, Eddard's successor, inheriting as Lord of the North, seceded as King of the North. On his order was made for him a copy of the iron-and-bronze crown which his ancestors the Kings of the North wore until their King Torrhen Stark surrendered it to Aegon I Targaryen. Robb was succeeded as king by Brandon Stark, who had to reign from a wheelchair due to paralysis caused by a broken back caused by a high fall in childhood. Brandon later died because of effects of excess warging activity neglecting his job as king, leaving dispute over the succession in Winterfell and no clear authority in that time of crisis. In King's Landing King Joffrey Baratheon died of apparent choking (later found to be poisoning) at his wedding feast to Cersei Lannister, starting there also an unsettled situation with no undisputed next king. Jon Snow, an officer in the Watchers on the Wall, took power in The North, a situation at first thought to be usurpation, but it was found that through his mother he was an heir to The North. But Jon was also found to be through his father Jon Targaryen, son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, a claimant to the Targaryen line of Kings of Westeros, hidden in the North under a false bastard-type surname safely away from any assassins sent by the usurping Baratheon dynasty's King's Landing regime. But it was said that he was a bastard, and that complicated matters. This claim, if accepted, would unexpectedly end the new freedom of the North, by uniting the titles of Lord (or rebelliously King) of the Stark line of the North and Targaryen King of Westeros. At the Wall, he lost patience with the Wall-guards' traditional lengthy time-wasting decision procedure, and started deciding such disputes quickly by order.

During this, wildling attacks on the Wall changed from ordinary looting climb-over gangs to serious attempts to get large groups through complete with families and livestock despite risk, as if a greater danger in the icy far North threatened their rear. The wildlings and the men ruled from Winterfell were of the same origin, the First Men, and worship the same gods, but were separated when the Wall was built.

And there was still no news about two ship-borne explorations that had gone off into the far distance: one sent by one of the Targaryen kings, east to find an easier way to Yi Ti and its exotic goods, but it had gone away past Asshai, and everybody knew what that means; and a westwards exploration by Arya Stark, and talk about strange weapons that she or men with her were said to have found in a far western land beyond the Sunset Sea.

Jon contacted the wildlings and let them through under guard, and listed them and controlled where they were and what they did and established commanders over them. He enlisted the willing as auxiliaries to help to guard the Wall. The wildlings, who called themselves the Freefolk, by then had lost so many killed and made into wights by the Others, that they were very thankful for this utter and unheard-of-before change of policy. They were reminded of south-of-the wall laws and customs about property. This caused controversy, and during this, in a castle on the Wall someone stabbed Jon in the back with a dagger in a dispute about policy, and rumours got about that he was dead, and it got into some scribes' annals, but he survived, some say with magical help from the Red Mage, Melisandre.

Queries continued about who was actually King Joffrey's father. War started between claimants to the throne. The Lannisters of Casterley Rock became dominant and wanted to be the power behind the throne. King Robert's younger brothers Renly and Stannis both wanted the throne. Melisandre killed Renly by sorcery. Stannis and Melisandre persuaded his army to abandon the Faith of the Seven and change to worshipping the Essosi fire-god Red R'hllor, on promise of god-aided victory. But fire was against him; his fleet, attacking King's Landing, was burnt by wildfire projectiles shot by trebuchets, and his army, trying to win back The North, lost most of its horses and much of its strength in snow deeper than a man's height and intense frost as it approached Winterfell, with little food except horses that died and what they could scavenge in the endless white northern forest, whose wild game animals had long ago fled south or gone into hibernation – and there were cases of desperation cannibalism. The distance marched lessened each day, until the army had to stop.

During this, Daenerys arrived there riding Drogon. Jon met her, and under her teaching, Jon claimed and mounted and rode Rhaegal successfully, showing that he had enough Valyrian ancestry. Under her teaching he became a good dragonrider. They had taken the precaution of showing the dragons what the powerful giant crossbows called "scorpions" were and what they could do, and thus tell them how to spot them and avoid them.

Approaching hooves and feet picking a path through snowdrifts across an area too exposed and windy for snow to settle too deep, proved to be not attackers or imagination, but Jon Snow leading a large mounted force of Wall garrison men, and with him a large force of wildlings, who well knew how to move about in deep snow and with what sort of horses and garments, and footwear such as snowshoes. The wildlings were now not stray gangs of marauders, but whole peoples, including the far-northern copper-mining-and-smithing Thenn from their deep valley well heated by volcanic hot springs, with never-melting snow and ice on many of the mountains around, fleeing south with their families and property and stores and cold-hardy horses and long-haired cattle and goats and sheep and other livestock. They knew that behind the wildlings pressed the great army of undead wights from their deep dens dug into the edge of the great northern ice beyond Thenn, led by the Others, of who many tales told, but few had seen. They found Stannis's army, who by then knew that in their condition and the weather they had no hope of taking Winterfell, but only of death from starvation when they had eaten their remaining horses, while snow deepened around them. Twice only, they had found a hibernating bear, and a savage battle of swung mighty clawed forepaws against sword and spear and arrow before it died and could be cut up and thankfully shared round and roasted in campfires. [Here in the real world ended what of the book story had been published by year 2020.]

Stannis and his men saw with the oncoming northern force huge forms seen as ghost-like shadows through the swirling blinding snow, one of the rumoured mighty beasts of the far cold icy north. They had heard the stories about hairy giants about twice the height of a man, huge white bears, giant ice-spiders, and ice-dragons, and suchlike that mothers in the cold lands told about to scare children into quiet and obedience, but the shapes, wading easily through deep snow impassible to men, came near enough to show that they were real and four-legged, and then into full view. They were the fabled mammoths, akin to elephants but cold-hardy and with dense long hair; and thick fat under their skin, amd small ears. In very old times they roamed all over the north, and their bones and tusks are found in many bogs and peat-diggings, but now they were fewer. Jon, riding on one of them behind its wildling mahout who sat on the back of its hairy neck, approached Stannis and explained the situation.

All involved were in a degree of shock that the Others, down the millennia a name to invoke to scare young children into quiet and obedience, and becoming laughable as puberty neared, had arisen in might to threaten nations and force even the most hostile grours of men into alliance. Next they had to help to organize defence against the long-assembled army of wights and Others, and to try to contact what other living armies remained in Westeros. Stannis realized that there was now no course except to join the Winterfell garrison and the men of The North and the Wall men and the wildlings in one big alliance and not to risk treachery, but for all men there to make what defence they could against the weather and the Others. Stannis sheathed his sword and so did his men. Some of Stannis's men who could walk no further were put on some of the big supplies sledges pulled by some of the mammoths. He and what was left of his army followed the strange huge hairy animals which swung their heads from side to side pushing snow aside with their long curled tusks making ways through deep snowdrifts and looking for vegetation to eat. At last Stannis entered the great castle of Winterfell, but not as a conqueror as he had planned. In their cold ordeal his men had abandoned the Essosi fire-god Red Rh'llor and gone back to the Seven, or to the old many unnamed gods of the north who were contacted through weirwood trees. And around and overhead, snow-shower clouds sailed over in endless succession, and the frost held, and ice bridged all waters.

The dragons reach the city

In Essos, Khal Drogo, leader of the Dothraki horse-nomads, as a wedding gift had given Daenerys three dragon eggs, stated to have come from the little-known exotic far east, but some spoke of other origins for them: it is recorded that about 250 years before, in King Jaehaerys I's reign, Elissa Farman stole three dragon eggs and sold them in Essos to buy a ship. In storage a magic seemed to have turned them into stone, as tends to happen with old dragon eggs, and it needs fire and strong or very strong counter-magic to turn them back to living eggs for long enough to hatch. Khal Drogo had accomplished his plan to unite all the Dothraki into one mighty khalasar; but his aim of then having sons by a bride of Valyrian stock to breed a far-conquering world leader ended when he died without issue from a festering arrow wound received in battle against a Lhazar walled city. Thus. a while before the events described above, his hopes and his men scattered. His main kos (sub-leaders) seceded as new khals, each leading apart his splinter of what had been Drogo's one mighty khalasar. In Drogo's funeral pyre far away east in the central grassland of Essos near Vaes Dothrak in a desperate effort aided by fire and by what magic still was about with no living dragons in those lands any more, but only with what magic power came from uncontrolled fire-wyrms in the deep fire-passages of ruined Valyria, the effort only just made it and cost the helping Lhazar mage her life, and kept the three eggs unpetrified for barely long enough for each to hatch in an explosion of its thwarted old long-term turn-to-stone-and-keep-as-stone magic collapsing. Their hatchlings saw the sun of a day when none still lived who had lived when the eggs were fertilized and laid, freeing another magic which kept Daenerys and the hatchlings alive and unhurt within the pyre until after some hours it burnt out and went cold around them.

After a desperate thirsty desert trek with losses of people and horses, she and her dragon hatchlings, and a small group of Dothraki as a tiny khalasar who respected her as their khaleesi, and some others, found an abandoned city with water springs and grazing and fruit trees. They named it Vaes Tolorro, the City of Bones, and recuperated there. She sent three men to search across the desert. Two came back alone. The one of them who went southeast found a camel-riding patrol from the fabled remote far-east south coast port city of Qarth, and came back with them to Vaes Tolorro. They guided Dany and her followers to Qarth, where they recuperated and rested.

Then they had to get back westwards along the south coast of Essos, while her dragon hatchlings, who due to hatching imprinting thought that she was their mother, gradually grew from thin-cat-sized to ridable size. Adventures followed and involvements in Essos politics centering on overthrowing traditional slave-owning ruling groups and freeing their slaves, who often then were the majority of the city's people; some of them became her new army. Then she and her army had to find a way west back to Westeros. On their way along the coast of Slaver's Bay east of Valyria, in the city of Astapor she found another enemy: a fearsomely massive lethal epidemic of dysentery (called the Bloody Flux and the Pale Mare), which killed three out of every four who caught it. In Meereen she had to abandon luxury and a queen's throne when Drogon, who at last was big enough to be ridden, landed in the arena, and she ran up to him, desperately calling to him, and he knew her and let her board him and ride on his back as he flew away. Rhaegal and Viserion were still captive in one of the city's pyramid-shaped buildings, and so did not grow as quickly as Drogon, but someone freed them from captivity, and they later found and met Dany and Drogon.

For a while Dany and Drogon denned in a cave in a rocky hill in the Dothraki grassland. By day she rode on him as he flew about and hunted, and she ate from his kills and also ate from vegetation and drank flowing water that she found. She named the hill Dragonstone, in memory of Dragonstone in Westeros where she was born. At night as she slept under one of Drogon's wings in the cave, she knew that, after leaving the Slavers' Bay cities, she had to face worse dangers. Daenerys knew other stories from Essos. King Aerys II Targaryen, the Mad King, was the last king before Robert's Rebellion. His first son was Rhaegar Targaryen, who wedded Princess Elia Martell of Dorne; their children were Rhaenys (a girl) and then Aegon (a boy). This Aegon would have inherited as King Aegon VI of Westeros and also as Prince of Dorne, at last uniting those two often-warring realms. But all were generally known to have died by various means in Robert's Rebellion. But stories told that Varys, King's Spymaster, at Robert's Rebellion became anxious about the safety of the babe prince Aegon, and swopped him for a baseborn orphan babe found in a dirty slum street called Pisswater Bend in King's Landing, and that King Robert's men killed and displayed that changeling and not Aegon. It said that the real babe prince was smuggled to Essos and adopted as son by the Golden Company sellsword Griff, and grew to a man, known as Young Griff, who was once found with the Golden Company onboard a poleboat on the river Rhoyne in southwest Essos, and that Griff was Jon Connington, exiled Lord of Griffin's Roost in the Stormlands. [This bit is GRRM canon: see this link.]

But between her and the Golden Company and Young Griff was more danger. To south were the storm and rock-shipwreck hazards of taking a big army by sea. To north was the feared haunted Demon Road through Mantarys in the Land of the Long Summer, which before the Doom, well irrigated by water led in canals down from rainy mountains, had grown much food for Valyria. In the middle were the lethal uncontrolled-magic-ridden volcano-racked wasteland and fire-blasted feared sea inlets and straits of the ruins of Valyria. She had to get past these before she could try to meet Young Griff and then come to a port on the west coast of Essos, if she could find enough ships there.

But near Daenerys's cave came Dothraki tribal leader Khal Jhaqo and his khalasar, who was earlier a ko under Khal Drogo. Jhaqo found her, and would have enslaved and sold her, but Drogon threat-displayed in defence of her, for due to imprinting as he hatched he thought that she was his mother. Dany and Jhaqo challenged each other and came to alliance. She rode Drogon above Jhaqo's khalasar, and Rhaegal and Viserion, who by now had escaped from caging in Meereen and found her, flew riderless after her, west through Dothraki grassland, safely far from the magical and volcanic hazards around the ruins of Valyria, into the former Rhoynar lands, where she found the Golden Company and Young Griff and Jon.

Griff and Young Griff told their stories to Daenerys. With them was a mage, who surveilled, a process decidedly uncomfortable, but knowing the truth was vital. The mage found that Young Griff told truth about what he had experienced, and that he had repeated accurately what had been told to him – some of it by sources who by then were dead or otherwise out of reach of checkup. Young Griff had been in action plenty, but mostly in Essos, and he had not had much authority over men, and would have to live among royalty for long enough to learn how to rule, before he could be a king. He had been given as good an education as could be provided, by a maester and a septa who had personal reasons to run away from Westeros and had been picked up by the Golden Company. He stated that he wanted to be after Jon and Daenerys in succession order, to avoid further war and disruption: "Please, I don't aim for men to start another Dance of the Dragons over me.", he declared. {Later he married a woman of largely Valyrian ancestry, from Myr, who later would bring useful fresh blood into the Westerosi royal family while keeping them able to claim and master dragons.} They continued west through the dangers of the Rhoyne lands, including old magics left by old war between the Rhoynar and Valyria, until Daenerys after the endless distances of Essos at last came with them to Myr port on the Narrow Sea. There the Dothraki with her saw one of the few things that they feared, the "poison water", as they called the undrinkable salt sea, where their horses could not go, unless in "wooden horses", as they called ships. But they had to get themselves and their horses onboard. They finished embarking and set off west, with undrinkable sea and un-graze-able seaweed around and below them, and the ships rolling in waves, standing about in unenthusiastic groups suffering the unfamiliar ordeal of seasickness, with many anxious prayers appealing for help to their horse-god the Great Stallion.

At King's Landing alarm emerged from old grandfather-tales and waterfront rumours into solidity as, for the first time in about 170 years, large winged shadows flew over, as at last Daenerys flew riding on Drogon over the Narrow Sea to Westeros, bringing with her in many ships a big army including many Dothraki, and the now-freed Essos slave soldiers called the Unsullied, and others, many very thankful that the up-and-down movememt had stoppped; Rhaegal and Viserion flew after her riderless. She saw that landing and quickly taking over the Red Keep and Maegor's Holdfast would secure the area but would not be enough to take over all the realm of Westeros, as the usurping Baratheon line's armies were elsewhere and some time would have to be found and fought. Thus started another war for the throne of Westeros, as some local forces came over to her side. Westeros was still not re-united, as the Lannisters and some others opposed Stannis.

Jon supported his relative Sansa Stark as ruler in Winterfell while he used his efforts on supporting the Targaryens. Young Griff and his men landed in the stormlands and, aided by Black Balaq and his archers from the Summer Islands, and by carelessness both long-term and immediate of the garrison, took Griffin's Roost castle losing very few men.

Near King's Landing Daenerys defeated a Lannister army who were escorting a gold shipment from the Westerlands goldmines to King's Landing, and she took the gold; she reflected that thankfully that gold was taken from the usurping dynasty and had not been extorted by torture and threat in many small amounts from smallfolk and traders and lower titled folk along armies' routes of march. Many, but not all, men of the rival kings' armies, weary of misrule and non-rule under Robert and Joffrey and the following confused interregnum of warring claimants, sided with the Targaryens, and marched north. They got in sight of the two frontier castles called the Twins in the Neck, and met the snow; and also a raven who had reached the place three days before from Winterfell carrying a message about the weather further north. They went back south.

They had been wondering what practical would happen from news that Arya Stark had earlier sailed far west across the Sunset Sea and had found beyond it not only a few islets but a large land mass, and had come back; people in Westeros had called that land Aryos after her; but now he found out all too clearly what some Ironmen, following up her discovery, had brought back from there. It was strange weapons newly imported by those ironmen from some unknown land called Comevaa, an island nation offshore of Aryos. Jon's army armed with them had unexpectedly caused huge losses in an army of wights, and began a long re-advance south, through the Neck and past the Twins, and continuing far south as more and more men joined him, some with Targaryen three-headed-dragon banners quickly made from anything available. They got a crucial extra amount of supplies and men from the Sunkland lordship area, on the east coast of The Neck; formerly it had been shallow sea, and it could be quickly returned to the sea if an enemy army invaded it. His army included some wildlings, and one of their haulage animals found a stray opportune mating, bringing useful "fresh blood" into Sunkland's small herd of mammoths. Snow chased them south, but they reached King's Landing at last.

Many of the Baratheon army defending King's Landing tried to welcome the Targaryen army in, but a hardcore group led by Cersei Lannister in her ambition to use the situation to get great power held and shut the gates and held out. Cersei in her fury against being thwarted had decided "If I can't 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 and if she was opposed; her public humiliation by the septons had not lasted. Men high and low yet again routinely had seen in time what might happen, and by all-too-familiar routine had moved all valuables and precious manuscripts and suchlike into fireproof hidden storage in time.

Someone who did not want to see any more killing or war-damage opened a gate and let the Targaryen army in in force. By Cersei's order wildfire was set off and fires spread fast. The two armies fought each other for a while, but more and more of the Lannister men saw or heard of Cersei's hysterical behavior and knew the wider situation and saw no purpose and stopped fighting against the Targaryen army, but helped them trying to maintain order and rescue people; around them buildings burned. Cersei, careless of her safety in her excited hysterical state, was crushed under a falling wall, and thus after many centuries ended the direct line of the Lannisters of Casterley Rock. Some of her remaining army quit and broke up and left a trail of looting and robbery going home to the Westerlands. The rest had more sense and humanity and turned their numbers and strength to trying to put fires out and stop fires from spreading, and to stopping the usual looting and robbery that comes with disorder. Civilians fled here and there from the fires. Many reached a wall-gate or an area where there was nothing burnable, and escaped to safety, but some were trapped.

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

Daenerys on Drogon saw what was happening. She was of largely Valyrian ancestry, and her genetics were suitable for controlling dragons, whether by magic, or by making sound of particular pitches that dragons' brains responded to. Her fire-ridden passage west across south Essos had killed many slave-owning rulers and changed and upset much in politics and freed many slaves, but here below her were many victims of fires which she had not started or caused. Something calmer and more peaceable arose in her mind as a reminder of guilt like a bucketful of water thrown on the fiery excesses of her recent actions. She remembered how her brother Viserys had acted and its end-result. Here below here was a chance for atonement and something else that Drogon could do, without risk to life. She landed in a small open space near a crowd of fire-trapped civilians. Army men overcame their fear and shouted at her directly and aggressively to fly back up out of the way. She called out: "Get some of these civilians on my dragon's back, I'll fly them out!". It was realized that she was being useful.

In the last two moon-turns Drogon had been fitted with a harness with many loose rope-ends, where loads could be strapped down, and human riders could hold on. Fear of nearby building fires overcame fear of approaching a live dragon, and as many people as Dany judged could be carried climbed up or were lifted up, and she found places for them. Dany commanded. Drogon took off, raising dust and scattering ash and embers and trash with the wind of his wings. His passengers reacted variously to being aloft for the first time. As they flew over the wall and saw beyond it enough open space, and flew down, Dany noticed that Drogon was flying heavily and rear-heavy, and feared that he was injured; but as he landed outside the city, he suddenly felt less overloaded as four small children ran away from under him: as he had started to fly up, dread of fire had forced them to overcome fear and run under him and grab his back feet. Some men remarked angrily that some of the passengers were tied on round their waists.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early nexr morning, Jon came back from looking after Rhaegal, and Daenerys asked him "How is he?".
Jon answered: "She's well recoveed after her efforts yesterday.", 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. The day before, they saw something that few had seen, a "dance of the dragons" by its old original meaning, the tournament-like mating flight to prove to each other that they had strength and ability that they could pass on to their offspring. The name earlier had been misapplied ironically by a writer or singer to the destructive dragon-killing war now so named. (The name was also the title of a set of ballads about two Valyrian lovers dying together in the Doom of Valyria.) Dragons kept in the Dragonpit had had no room for a mating flight to test each other's abilities, but had to stay on the ground and go directly to mating. The long difficult risky rescue had helped much to push Daenerys's mind back to normal from some of the extreme ways that she had been starting to think since she set off back west from central Essos. She for a long time much regretted the loss of life that her ambition and access to dragon-power had caused, although many said that it was time that the old long-lasting slave-owning and slave-trading regimes were put to an end, while getting her three dragons from Qarth port through Astapor and Meereen and past the remains of Valyria and the former Rhoynar lands to Essos's west coast and at last to ships and to Westeros, a journey long enough for her dragons to grow much: when she came from the Red Waste to Qarth Drogon sometimes rode on her shoulder; when escaping from Meereen she rode on Drogon's back. She found later that she had evaded a big fleet of Ironmen who, setting off from the Iron Islands trying to sieze the eggs or the dragons, had rounded the rock-ridden nearly harbourless coast of Dorne and the volcanic and magical hazards of the remains of Valyria. And people living around or sailing on the Summer Sea would be safer from slavers if there was nowhere where slavers could sell slaves.

Back from the beyond

At King's Landing a warning horn was blown and a sentry called reporting an alarm, as a coded abbreviation that meant. "Unexpected ridden dragon approaching from east, seems to be coming in to land.". People looked up scaredly: to most of them, dragons routinely flew in and out only in old stories. When it was nearer, he said: "Unknown dragon. I thought we had lists and descriptions of them all.". An armed party assembled. Two heavy mounted crossbows called "scorpions" were manned and loaded. People remembered grandfather-tales of sudden attacks in the now thankfully long-ago `Dance of the Dragons', and before that in Aegon I's conquest. But the dragon, with tawny scales and wings with black lengthwise streaks and blue back-ridge, landed on a grass field near Maegor's Holdfast. It had one rider. Ends of long Valyrian-type hair trailed out from under his leather head-cover and around his transparent eye-covers. These last caused comment.

"Once in a while someone makes a glass eye-shield to keep insects and wind and rain and bits out of his eyes, and soon afterwards re-learns that glass breaks." said someone watching.

"I was in a ship on the Qarth run," said another, "and there I met a Meereen crew who had been to Asshai. One of them said that, when he was there, an Astapori ship was in dock and its company got drunk onboard and landed and made trouble and threw stones and shot arrows about and tried to loot buildings. A squad of Port Watch or whatever they are called there, came out with a helmet and a pickaxe handle with a wrist strap each to sort them out. How some of the crew laughed at their glass visors – and big glass shields too! But that glass refused to break, and anything that hit it bounced off with a strange noise a bit like it had hit a big drum. The laughter stopped as in one converging charge the squad caught all the troublemakers, like a dragonbird swallowing one of those big spidery scale-ticks that infest dragons in the Dragonpit, and took them into a building, and they and their ship were never seen again. None of the arrows got through the squad's clothes.".

"No point wondering what happened." someone else said, "That place is full of magic and much of it strange and dangerous. That stuff could have been magicked glass, or some strange non-magical stuff. That Melisandre was born there. If I go there, I'm sticking to the dock area, like their laws say.".

"I am Kannawa, from Asshai." the dragon's rider said in an Asshai'i accent, "I am riding Poyakku. And my eye-covers are not glass.". A mage among the crowd made a sign that the rider was telling truth. "I am a great-great grandson of Rhaena Targaryen, daughter of Daemon Targaryen and Laena Velaryon, who lived here in Westeros, and you likely know of them, if you keep track of your royal families. Poyakku's egg was laid by Zulaqqu, who by then was big and old, and her egg was laid by Morning, who Rhaena rode: your old records should tell of those two. Rhaena had decided that there was no more point hanging about here after that war, men and dragons killing each other, and the fires they set. People didn't want dragons about after the damage that that war did. So she climbed on Morning's back and, before anyone could stop her, she flew up out over the sea. A long journey, east away to Essos, and on and on. They had to hunt for food, and she had to sleep under one of Morning's wings wherever they could rest the night, all the way. And dodging bunches of Dothraki. They slept one night in a shallow cave in a rocky hill in the Dothraki land, and rested a day there.".

"That sounds like the cave that Daenerys and Drogon laired in for a while." someone interrupted.

"And on and on, past Vaes Dothrak, past the Mother of Mountains, and the Bone Mountains got ever bigger and clearer ahead as they came nearer to the far end of that grass plain, to lands that even the stories say little about. High and spiky with jagged rock spikes, and a volcano.". To the Westerosi listeners there the name `Bone Mountains' echoed with ultimate remote distance and dread. "They found a high narrow gap with dry-looking bushes scattered about. Morning suddenly dived into a gully and caught two big male mountain goats, one with each back foot, which solved one immediate problem. Big hairy smelly billygoats they were, too busy fighting over who was boss to watch the sky. Rhaena cut them up and Morning flamed them enough, and they ate, and she mounted, and flew on. They were thrown about like a dead leaf in gales crossing the top of a high notch. Then down and down over rivers at the bottoms of huge steep-sided jungle-choked gorges to better country, and sodden jungle that Morning could never have set afire, and several sorts of monkeys and parrots screeching.

"That was the start of Yi Ti, which they then had to get across. After the mountainous jungle, it's mostly flat crowded green countryside with towns and wide rivers full of boats and many villages and strange temples and strange big writing on them, and wooded hills here and there. Much of Yi Ti is very flat. Its big rivers build up their beds with silt washed down from mountains and from the Jogos Nhai's sandy grassland far away north, so its water rises higher, and they must build the river levees higher, and each foot higher it's more work to add another foot height because the levees get wider, until they can't keep up, and next heavy rain year or next time a cyclone from a warm sea blows inland that far, they can't stop a flood, and when a dry season comes, sometimes the levees are so badly damaged that the river can't be got back into its bed, and it flows where it wants to and meanders about and makes tangles of channels wherever it wants to where fields and villages had been, they call that "the dragon's got loose", until over several dry seasons they at last get the river back into one bed. sometimes a long way from its old bed, and they can start to rebuild around it.

"They say that each big river and its floods has a dragon-shaped god, but more snake-shaped and coily-twisty and with four legs, somewhat like a sort of big lizard that lives near water around there, not fiery but watery in nature, no wings but it can fly. Thay say that in droughts these river dragon gods hide in wells, and in wet years they fly about in the sky and make not fire but rain, and the Yi-Tish often make pictures of their gods riding them to fly. A few times one of their emperors got a dragon from Valyria or Asshai, to keep in court to show his power, until he found that it was not as watery in nature as in his legends.

"Then Rhaena and Morning got out of the far side of Yi Ti and turned south down the Ghost Grass Coast where inland to their left were the mountains where the great shadow sat on the land. They went into the shadow where it met the sea, and at last they came to Asshai among dark-rock mountains by the start of the Saffron Strait, near the edge of the known world, and they were allowed to land there.

"Plenty of passing ships dock and trade there, but their crew are not allowed outside the port area. Most buildings are made of that black oily stone. It was strange to Rhaena, knowing that all the Jade Sea was west of her. She was allowed to stay there. She brought much news from Westeros. Morning found a mate there, and she laid plenty of eggs; Asshai's dragon-breeders were glad of Morning as "fresh blood" after too much inbreeding. Rhaena also settled, and found a Valyrian husband who was looking for a wife, and they raised a large family.

"I'm four generations down from Rhaena. Asshai heard that the Targaryens were back and had dragons again. They knew in Asshai that something had happened, when magic suddenly became much stronger and easier. They sent me here, to renew contact. Same journey but backwards. They had to wait for a safe time for me to travel: there is land and sea war around, Yi Ti has started to try to keep order again around. Many petty rulers around have started to bend the knee to their emperor. Poyakku got mated in those border mountains on the way here, there's still wild dragons there. Thankfully: at first I thought it was going to be a fight to the death. I have six eggs that Poyakku laid after that on the way across. She started to look for somewhere to lair with them and brood them, but she realized that they were safe stored in her saddlebags When you have been with dragons for a long time, you can tell when they are going to lay an egg.".

"The later Targaryens also had trouble with inbreeding, it caused stunted and deformed hatchlings." someone told Kannawa, "Books and scrolls that we found in Valyria recently spoke 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. We're trying to get things orderly on the trade-way east, and that includes trying to settle quarrels among all those new small khalasars along the long-distance traders' route to their big market at Vaes Dothrak.".

This time people knew that the eggs were from the far east; earlier, Khal Drogo's three eggs were alleged to be from the far east but likeliest were the three that Elissa Farman stole. Kannawa was found a suitable set of rooms to live in, and Poyakku was found a stall in the now-repaired Dragonpit. It was found that Asshai used the same dragon-command language as Valyria did before the Doom, but the North wildlings' mammoth command language did not match it and did not match the Essosi elephant command language. But the weather still became unseasonably colder and colder, and after the distractions they had to get back to news of the cold enemy threatening from the north.


Here to tell about the Sunkland family. In and around the Neck of Westeros is dangerous swamp and tidal sand and mud that, legend said, had once been forested land, but in ancient time the Children of the Forest had sunk it by great magic to try to keep invading Men out of the north, and men in the area called this the Sunk Lands.

Wilmi, a farmer, and his men, lived on the south shore of the west end of The Bite on the east shore of the Neck in the Kingdom of Mountain and Vale. He bred many horses grazing on safer parts of the marshes of the Neck. Riding their horses, he and his people routinely chased off or killed or caught wandering thieving bands instead of losing crop or money to them.

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

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

Time passed. When each winter ended, as spring warm came, his mammoths shed their long winter hair; they had been trained to stand still on order while men combed the sheddings out. It was spun and woven into strong cloth. Some local sea-fishermen tarred such cloth and used it as sea-clothes, as much as could be made. Birds collected loose shed hairs of it and lined nests with it. One of his mammoths calved. At ten months old its calf shed its milk tusks as the tips of its permanent tusks came through. When dark prevented outside work, he carved the milk tusks into the ivory tips of seal-stamps, one with his wife's seal sigil on; and the other with his seal sigil on, a rearing horse (presumedly, and later in painted images actually, chestnut-coloured after his first horse), half-emerged from wavy water, as he still had struggles against the fury of the sea; some said that the Ironmen's Drowned God was trying to get back land that he had stolen from the sea. He built a holdfast to keep crops and valuables safe in on a rock that stood up in his reclaimed land by his harbour. Soon after, the current King of Mountain and Vale accepted his family as a Great House, since they now owned much reclaimed land. He made a start at enlarging his holdfast into a castle, which men called Castle Wilmi, in case enemies attacked.

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

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

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

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


There was still threat that Dorne would cause trouble. The First Men had entered Dorne from Essos from where Tyrosh is now, dry-shod on the Arm of Dorne before it was broken, walking or riding on seabed which then was land, between the Stepstones which then were inland rocky hill areas, and at last reached higher land. Many of them went straight north from there to the east end of the Stormlands, along a firm sand beach formed by waves along the seaward edge of much low marshy land which is now sea, around an inland lake which is now part of the Sea of Dorne, and avoided a long hot thirsty trek. The rest moved on west through red and white desert sands, getting water where streams ran down from the Red Mountains, and food by hunting. Some stayed there, and lived as they could in the dry land infested with scorpions and vipers. The rest found what later was named the Prince's Pass and crossed it to wetter wider lands further north. A short-stature magical people called the Children of the Forest who lived in Westeros before the First Men came had tried to keep them out with strong magic called the Hammer of the Waters, which broke and sank the Arm, leaving the Stepstones as remnants, but plenty of First Men had already crossed. Later the Children of the Forest tried to use their magic to sink a gap in Westeros further north, but left the narrow marshy isthmus called the Neck. Also, in haste of emergency, by mistake it made a magic that made the Others, a peril that lurked for ages little heeded or little known in the cold wilderness of pine and birch and tundra and rock and ice north of the Wall of Westeros. Rare events had showed that something dangerous laired there in the cold waste north of the far-north deep valley of Thenn heated by underground volcanic hot water coming up as springs. There were a few sightings. King Jaehaerys I Targaryen's wife Alysanne had gone to The North to keep in touch with her subjects there, and there her dragon Silverwing refused three times when she tried to fly it north across the Wall to explore – and it needs very much to scare off an adult dragon. But recently, in current times, whatever dwelt there had at last come out of hiding and showed itself and men saw that it had grown large and threatening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very many took up weapons that they had brought back from wars, and fought off attempts by enforcement squads to take over their area and destroy crops and scorch the area's earth for them. Refusals spread fast. The old once-reliable passive resistance, complicated, relying on everybody trusting and doing his part to keep as many as possible alive and all supplies away from the enemy, was quickly falling to pieces. The rulers in Sunspear called in vain in face of this "rebellion against the rebellion" for the old solid resistance, but their undercover coercers were hopelessly swamped and could not even begin to stop Dornish farmers and fruit growers saying "Enough; now no more!" and staying and continuing to grow crops and welcoming and cooperating with Westerosi. The rulers might have enforced the old rule in time, but they had not enough time. They knew that many Westerosi had horses descended from mares and stallions of the Dornish desert-hardy light fast horse breed called Sand Steeds taken in previous wars, and so that monopoly of supply was lost. Many now knew that Westeros had dragons again, allowing search from the air, high above all ground obstacles. Religion helped: the Old Gods of the North did not prosper in areas too hot and dry for weirwood trees. Nor had the Andals arriving liked the hot sand-blasting droughts, and they had shown it by placenames such as Scourge and Hellholt and Brimstone; but some had settled along permanent rivers. Those who went from Sunspear northeast for help came only to rocky jagged storm-wave-beaten ends of the land, called the Broken Arm, and the Stepstones, dangerous rocky islands now become pirate lairs. separating them from any help that they could have got from the port-city of Tyrosh on an island at the far northeast end of the Stepstones. The longer that the Dornish descendants of the Rhoynar were sundered by the sea from Mother Rhoyne, the more they changed over to the religion of the Seven, and let the Mother of the Seven take over her role. The various short and often summer-dry rivers of Dorne were not good replacements for Mother Rhoyne. The "old guard" in Sunspear had tried to call up the spirit of previous resistances, but got far less good than needed from it, and many of the smallfolk decided rather not to bow or bend or break to the orders to carry out the feared death-famine-causing scorched-earth tactic. A dispute over the succession within Dorne's Martell princely family did not help. People knew that when the same king ruled on both sides of the Red Mountains, hill bandits would no longer be able to curry favour by saying that they were acting for one side against the other.

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

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

Into the cold

Back to the main events. In the Summer Sea, Victarion, fleet-leader of the Ironmen, found, after much raiding and piracy leading the whole Iron Fleet far from its base in the Iron Islands in that time of danger, that Daenerys's three dragons which he had sought far were hatched and well grown and airborne, and had masters, and she with them on one of their backs, far faster than any of his ships could sail or be rowed, including over land where his ships could not go. He did not trust how far away his dragonhorn would be effective, or what a summoned dragon would do to a claimer who was not Valyrian. He ordered his fleet west back towards Westeros, watching his supplies and if necessary preying on any shipping that he could. Along the long south coast of Essos, keeping well south away from the magical and other hazards of the remains of Valyria, as vengeful fleets assembled and chased him and came out after him. Past the Stepstones islands across the south end of the Narrow Sea. Past the long dangerous nearly harbourless rock-ridden south coast of Dorne, thanking his Drowned God for the cold north wind which pushed him away from risks of wrecking on the many offshore rocks. Past the Arbor, a handy marker to show him where he was, but he could not stop for its famed wines. There he turned north along the Westerlands coast, straight into the gale, and saw that the waves were smaller than they should have been in that place and weather. At first he was thankful for that, as his ships zigzagged northwest and northeast to make headway against the north gale; that is called "tacking". But he realized that that meant that something must have much shortened the distance that the gale could blow across open sea to raise those waves – and he did not like what the unlit back corners of his brain guessed about what that might have been. Past Crakehall, into more shelter of land, and he turned west of north to avoid Lannisport and its bay, which were too well guarded for him to risk attacking; in there were many warships built from timber grown rooted into the Westerlands' layers of ore which yielded gold which was used to pay the best shipwrights. After that, the north gale continued, and the snow fell thicker, with intense cold, and the waves ominously smaller than they should be, but he was gradually nearing the Iron Islands and promise of unloading much plunder at his own harbour, as he kept away from rocks while rounding the prominent Feastfires headland, from shelter of land into the full blast of the north gale and its waves, and then, while watching out for Fair Isle and the rocks around it, he saw what he had been dreading.

Frozen sea! So far south! So early! Drifting snow blew across slabs of pack-ice over a foot thick which ground against each other, and at distance everywhere ahead merged into the mist and snow showers and overcast sky of a full far-north-type whiteout. As never before that far south except in the oldest tales. Ice filled Ironman's Bay and blockaded his home Iron Islands with hard cold white and solidly joined them to the facing coasts of The North and the Westerlands, such was the mighty cold-magic of the Others. Cold-hardy men in thick furs walked, or skidded on two planks wildling-fashion, across dry-shod where his ships should have sailed on their last miles to their home after long far raiding. [Note: this way of going fast over snow has been known in the real world for thousands of years in Scandinavia and the cold north of Europe and Asia.] He knew enough about dragons to know that the cold and gale would not let them come even into distant reach of his horn, or whether he or his horn could summon them there. Between him and home was cold white unsailable solid expanse, and the howl of wind over snow, and blown powder snow scudding over ice and piling into the hard miniature dunes which some call sastrugi, disliked as liable to break men's snow-skidplanks, and the heaving and creaking of deep sea solid-frozen. What was ahead of him? Riches? Mere survival? Or would his lungs, which he had wanted to blow their breath into a dragon-horn and so rieve by air as well as by sea, over-soon breathe water in the halls of his Drowned God? Some of the seals which lived round there had found how to fish under the ice and keep diving-holes open by gnawing their edges to stop them from freezing over.

A ship came after him from south, with the Lannister red lion on its sails, and a flag signal that meant "I want to parley". Victarion ordered the signal back "You one only." and "No attacks." and let the lion ship come alongside, and spoke to its captain. Each told the other what he knew about was what had happened and was ahead, and Victarion heard about many events and the Others and their oncoming hordes of undead wights. Both saw the dangers of what the extreme cold had made. Victarion still had some ravens, and he released one with a message and hoped that in the weather it could cross the waveless white waste against the gale and reach his family on Great Wyk with its message. He and his fleet followed the message ship back round the headland into shelter and to Lannisport, and docked there. With no way to reach his base, and so many landsmen's guards about, he knew that he would have to pay the gold price for anything wanted, not the iron price. In that time of common danger he and the landsmen's fleet and army saw no course except to ally with each other. More things totally against an ironman's honour and custom, but what to do when his own home sea had committed the ultimate treachery and let its surface water become solid hard unsailable white which land-men could walk across? He knew that if the Others and their army won, there likely would be no living people left in sailing range for his fleet to raid or to trade with: to his hearing a literal `difference to a T' between paying the iron price and paying the gold price, whether or not the cold enemy caught and wightified him and his people.. That night in his hammock he had an unwanted dream of bending the knee to the King of Westeros and of his fleet becoming Westeros's king's navy, and no more free rieving, but only as ordered – would this drastic restricting change be the only way out? East of north Westeros, Ib was ice-locked, and the Shivering Sea was frozen down to the north coast of Essos, and men in Braavos fitted masts and sails to a big sledge and on it crossed to Longbow Hall in the Vale of Arryn in Westeros. Further east, the horses of the Dothraki had to learn how to scrape through deepening snow to find grass. And on the west coast, the ice still spread southwards.

At Winterfell a few men coming in from around found King-claimant Stannis, and the seceding North Kingdom's army including the Winterfell garrison, and north-of-the-wall wildlings, and Wall garrison men, all in alliance, and heard in dread of what was due to invade from the northern ice, nursery-tale bogeymen of their childhoods now become dread reality of their adulthoods. Some had learned from wildlings how to plank-skid over deep snow. By now the country smallfolk of The North had gathered themslves and their stuff in large wintertowns, the biggest near Winterfell, to wait out the winter, because one big fire uses much less wood than many small fires in proportion to how many people can shelter in warm around it. But angry quarrels developed between the various groups of men involved, and blades were drawn, and in a short violent fight the usurping Dreadfort Boltons, who had taken over by force from previously-usurping ironmen, were driven out of Winterfell's throne room and replaced by its legitimate owners, the Starks, with Jon acting as their head. The Boltons' unattractive "flayed man" sigil was pulled down wherever it was shown and replaced by the Starks' running grey direwolf sigil, and Winterfell's staff cheered mightily.

In the far north, as a shocking intrusion into the war between king-claimants, the ancient enemy in Beyond-the-Wall, the strange magic-powerful ice-men known as the Others, long rarely heard of or believed in except in old legends, and a convenient dread to name and describe to scare children into quiet and obedience, had shown to everybody that they existed. They had come out of their ice-fort in the great permanent high ice-wilderness north of Thenn, crossed the wildlings' abandoned land, reached the Wall, and with their power and magic broke a gap in it, and went through it into the lands of men with a huge army of wights and giants and other dangerous creatures of the far north. They were faced with the delaying job of getting theur large army across the snowbound barren length of the North before they could reach anything worth attacking and holding, and many in that army were not wights and thus needed feeding. They left a force to contain Winterfell, and continued south. Each next place on the road on his map approached far slower than he would have liked. He envied the migrating wild geese, those far fast high flyers. But at last he reached the Neck, and ice still bridged all marshes and waters.

Battle in the blizzard

There at last, Westerosi armies had gathered during the delay while he was crossing the wide thinly-populated distances of the North, and they confronted him. The two armies collided. A fierce battle began around The Neck in the north gale and swirling snow. All disputes between one faction of Westerosi living men and another, ended or went into abeyance in the common danger. The Dothraki that Dany had brought charged the horde of wights endlessly until few of themselves were left alive and able to ride; but they were not accustomed to war where each enemy man did not die from one sword or arrow wound but fought on until he had been cut into many pieces. Any short lull gave the Others time to wield their hostile magic and make all fresh dead of both sides into more wights controlled by him.

After the Others' main force had passed, the garrison of Winterfell started to sally out on skidplanks and attack the rear of the undead containing force and harass its communications and supplies transports. They met very disorganized resistance, because the main force had gone south and had not chosen and trained an adequate subordinate, because they did not trust a second-man to stay loyal rather than to plot an overthrow, and there was a limit to how many things could be kept track of at once. Enough of the containing force of wights quickly fled or hid, for the siege to be incomplete. Important messages back north to the home base in the ice north of Thenn were lost near Last Hearth when some of Stannis's men brought down an ex-Dothraki wight and his over-driven undead horse and captured a big post-bag full of messages written on dried animal skins in angular letters with the "rune" style wth no curves and no horizontal strokes, so formed because such texts were often cut with a knife or a point lengthways into a split piece of wood, avoiding horizontal strokes because they got lost in the grain of the split wood. More orders by and information for the Night King were lost when ironmen and sallying Winterfell garrison, helped by the new weapons, and by extra speed and mobility on skidplanks, shot four guarding giants in the gap broken in the Wall and at risk went through it into the feared haunted cold wastes beyond, and destroyed a big command relay post and aided by wildfire killed all its staff on the upstanding four-knuckled hilltop called the Fist of the First Men, between the Haunted Forest and the Frostfangs mountains by the cold river coming south from Thenn. That was a serious loss to the Others, who had difficulty getting hold of men who could read and write and handle papers, to force them to obey him still living or to turn them into wights obedient to his will.

Most of the messages were in a wildling language, but an old scroll listing its words and grammar was to hand. One message complained about something that men long knew and were thankful for, that wights smell of death, which on land attracts scavenging animals such as wolves and direwolves and shadowcats, and lesser attackers such as crows and ravens, and in the sea attracts krakens and big biting fish, which attack them and bite parts off them and make a quick end of them, and also a wight in water tends to get soaked and come apart fairly quickly. That is why the Others had long-term-preserved their wights frozen into the deep ancient ice beyond Thenn away from animals as they had slowly steadily added to their numbers. They knew to use wights quickly after they had been unfrozen, before they deteriorated badly and were of no more use. . But the scroll also ominously spoke of a new countermeasure to this vulnerability to scavenging animals and submersion. It also reminded its intended readers that wights can survive without air to breathe, but for heavy exertion need air and food.

Jon and Daenerys, who had been organizing matters in the Trident and Reach areas, flew north on Rhaegal and Drogon into the cold gale over white land and leafless forests, keeping near the ground and in shelter on the south side of hills and evegreen trees as much as they could, as their dragons got less and less controllable and less and less able to fly in the intense cold and frost. They landed at the Neck to help to coordinate matters and to help generally.

From west in came a strong force of ironmen, from all their islands united in their need, who had marched, or skidded on planks taken from their shipyards and cut down into foot-skids, dry-shod over their ship-roads, far over thick solid ice that had changed their far-raiding ships' familiar sea into hard white, making their homes and ship-haulout ramps and beaches suddenly in effect far inland, seeing no recourse except to ally themselves with other men who worshipped muddy-footed farm gods and suchlike. They man-hauled heavy sledges of supplies and weapons, straight from their islands to the Westerlands cliffs standing above the ice, where hills and rocks made haulage much harder, and wildlings had mammoths with mahouts to help haul them. Someone mentioned Arya Stark's long voyage west-over-sea to Comevaa in the far east end of Essos, and the weapons that she and they had brought back from what men now called Aryos, and the world thus proved to be round. Westermen and others came with them, all quarrels between peoples and families forgotten in the danger of the great cold dread, and often they wished for help which they could not have, from family members who had died in fighting or in executions between families.

Some of the ironmen took out of their sledge boxes odd-shaped short iron weapons with side-mounted blades on their front ends. The weapons seemed magic, because enemy men fell dead surprisingly far away in front of them, if in line with one of them. The weapons made strange noises somewhat like hard wood breaking and had no bow-part like a crossbow has; a hit from one of them seemed to damage a wight much more than an arrow would and to much more effectively stop or hinder it.

"Handy that Arya found where these were made and how to get them, and how to make more of them, that place Comevaa, in Mossovy, she went west to get them, but they say it's at the far east end of Essos, hard to understand, to patch it up they say the world's round like a bubble.", an ironman said, "No ship's or landsmen's guards 'll stand against us armed with these.".

"At any other time, and we could set up at home to make more of them." Victarion said, "But even with these we can't stand alone against what the Others have got, and a wight takes a bloody lot of shot to properly stop it, from what I've heard, and we can't get home to our iron-ore-mine for all this ice. It's no good. We're going to have to do what we've never done before: team up with the other living men who are around, the direwolves [= the Starks] and the lions [= the Lannisters] and the roses [= the Tyrells] and the rest, and let them have and know about these new Comevaa weapons, for any sort of men to have a hope of living through this lot.". There was much angry arguing, but circumstances forced it, and a blizzard of cold powder snow gale-driven across the endless hard waveless ice where they should have been sailing home, started and reminded them of those circumstances. They agreed.

The wildlings' mammoths, with thick insulating fat under their heavily hairy skins against the cold snow-laden north gale, stood against the wights, wading through the undead hordes, trampling them and treading on them and pulling them apart with trunks and tusks, and a superior force to the Others' giants, each with as many armed men as would fit in its howdah shooting arrows and slashing down with swords and thrusting long spears down. A mage risked the dreaded back of a bull mammoth in its tormented fury of full musth, an ancient natural evil which has caused violent madness in the elephant-kin from before Man or organized magic arose, using his power to stay on its neck and stop it from throwing him off while making it in its fury make mighty havoc pulling wights by dozens to pieces thrown far and wide. The wights did not find how to kill them until late in the battle, and thus the living army faced wighted mammoths far less than feared.

Huge animals, ridden by wights, charged at them, nearly as big as elephants, but longer and lower, with shorter thick legs with more distinct toes, heavily hairy against the cold of the far north, with a midline horn on its nose, ready to thrust it upwards into a mammoth's belly. "Snow unicorns!", some called in alarm, knowing old stories, and kept away, until commanders called them back to order. They were not horses with narwhal tusks for horns as told of in stories and shown on a few shields and banners and pictures. Each had long thick hair, and a long nose horn, tapering from a wide base, curving forward, without spiral grooving, dark-coloured and not white, and a smaller shorter horn behind it. They trampled men down, until the allies' Comevaa weapons started felling them, and the rest, or their riders, were not so eager to attack after that and kept away from the allies and forces and orders which their animal minds could not understand, and went back to lone wandering in the cold wilderness sweeping snow aside with their front horns looking for grazing. [The battle description needs to be longer]

More and more wights came from the far north as more armies of living men came from the further parts of Westeros. A thrust by wights and their allies southwest across the frozen three forks of the Trident to Fairmarket and Riverrun, and High Heart to get the high view to scan about, met little opposition, for Lord Hoster Tully could see that it was a feint to draw defending living men away from Harrenhal, where smiths with new kit and skills were working at maximum pace to make weapons, including the new weapons. A mage who had the skill to detect wights and deactivate them was found and was useful. The other part of that split enemy force ran into more living men than it expected and ended up hewn into many still-twitching pieces along and around the road from Lord Harroway's Town, and their farthest onset was strewn cut to scraps preyed on by wolves and ravens and eagles over the north defences of Harrenhal. The armies fought endlessly as the lying snow thickened and each day what light there was moved to the west. Lord Tully himself quickly hacked to pieces an armed wight which seemed to have been put together by hasty magic from usable pieces of at least three dead bodies. 'Others' appeared here and there, killing many, commanding the wights and turning dead into wights, but when several men attacked an Other at once, one skilled with a blade of dragonglass (also called obsidian) stabbed the Other, who broke into many splinters of ice, and that continued until all the Others were dead. Having to heavily guard the fleet in Lannisport against some sort of attackers from the sea that damaged ships and stores and cut mooring ropes, had distracted men from the front; the attackers when confronted always jumped off the quay into the water and sank, and none were caught or found dead. Men cursed waterfront thieves that have no heed for the needs of war for the lives of men. Ravens arrived occasionally with news.

The ironmen's thralls, who did for them jobs considered not fit for seamen to do, such as mining iron-ore and growing farmed food, saw a once-in-centuries desperate chance and organized and escaped over the ice to the mainland, towing supplies on sledges made from what they could find. Rarely was such a desperate crossing by unaided smallfolk in frigid hardihood and risk. So they crossed, from the further islands to Pike and Harlaw, and from there southeast across the endless shelterless frozen hard white, which sometimes creaked when raised and lowered by tide, to the goal of their longings, the nearest mainland, the cape which is the northwest corner of the Westerlands. Their group's sigil which they chose on the way was the Banefort castle, high on the cape, ever looked for through wind-driven snow and ice-fog and distance, until at last they saw it and came nearer to it and with a feeling of unreality at sudden freedom at last climbed onto the mainland.

The Winterfell men killed so many wights that the wight force had not enough to spare to send across the ice to attack the Ironmen's families, who were in a bad way, and were subsisting largely on fish and seals caught through holes in ice, as taught to them by wildlings who had plank-skidded to the islands easily, cursing the sastrugi as a hindrance and a skidplank-breaker – but help called for reward, as some men who had left rock-wives or salt-wives behind found nine months later; one compensation was that many half-wildlings, like pure wildlings, could withstand the cold and chronic hypothermia of the far north much better.

The theft and damage, and ships cut loose to drift, and needed stores thrown in the water, by something coming out of the water, anywhere where ships were docked, continued. One moonless light, a sentry mage warned of wight attack. But this time also, two boats were nearby pair-fishing with a long net guided by lanterns to help to feed the men, trapping fish in a big semicircle of net against a beach. The net started lagging as if things bigger than most fish were caught in it. They hauled it on shore. Someone brought a lantern. In its light the entangled creatures were roughly man-shaped and -sized but shiny darkish grey and had feet shaped for swimming like frogs. They had no skin openings except two eyes. They tried to stand, and fought back with knives, but the net entangled them. Men remembered stories about mer-people, and saw that in the exertion of the fight the creatures' chests were heaving like a man's, as if in their exertions they were getting air from somewhere, but there were no air holes in their grey skins. In the fight the grey skins of some of them were cut or opened. The men and the mage knew the smell that came out: "They're wights! That strange extra skin on them's why they didn't smell in the water and so didn't attract anything to eat at them and why they didn't come apart in the water." said one of the net-haulers. A port maester, woken by the fight, arrived, and recognized something: "That grey stuff is an all-over close-fitting garment, a falseskin, not its skin. I've no idea what it was made from. The frog-feet aren't their own, they're made of the same stuff as the falseskin.". The mage was luckily one who had been to Asshai and there learned the power to quickly destroy the un-life in wights and make them into the Stranger's natural dead, and the attackers quickly died and were landed on the beach. Men found how to open their grey slippery casings and uncovered the attackers' heads, showing the unnaturally piercingly blue eyes that the Others' wights had, and with some effort withstood the smell, for they stank of death and rot.

"Yes, they're wights." said the maester, shuddering at having to poke about in the Others' work, "Two of them look as if they used to be Dothraki:: I heard that Daenerys brought some to help her - alive - and they charged an enemy which was beyond them and were killed and wighted and taken over. The rest look as if they used to be Freefolk. I wonder if the Night King's been sending wights about in this kit for a long time and caused some of the stories about mer-people.". The maester knew that wights can live without air to breathe for a long time, but can work and fight better if they get air. That new enemy tactic threatened to be much danger for ships and ports. In the urgency dragons as well as ravens flew spreading warnings about that attack tactic, but that was the end of that enemy `special force', and after that there were no such known attacks from under the sea on the living in that war, except one – because fortunately a skidplank-equipped raid party of Winterfell men had attacked and stopped an enemy goods transport on big snow sledges coming south between Castle Cerwyn and Moat Cailin in the long cold distances of The North, past many wayside direction signs written in the a version of some angular far-north wildling writing system, and found that much of its load was strange one-piece all-over thick elastic cold-feeling garments. They had brought it the rest of the way to the two border castles called The Twins, in the Neck, where a Westerosi attack backed up by Jon on Rhaegal had met them, and much of the load had proved to be over 500 wights' swimming falseskins.

Again, men had to tidy up after the attacks and list what was destroyed or missing. Much important kit had been thrown in water too deep to merely wait until the tide was out. A loss of weapons and kit that may well let the Others win. Men were wondering what to do, when the fear came back: two more man-like figures in all-over wet shiny dark grey with no holes or openings except for eyes climbed from under the water up a boat-ladder and walked dripping and foot-flapping over the dockside paving stones. Men went for weapons. But the two uncovered their heads and showed the known living faces and voices of Matti and Tammu, two of their sailors. Minstrels have written many songs about those two, who in the kingdom's great need risked their living bodies and minds in the unclean death-smelling death-magicked Other-made sea-wight-garb. In the water the two had enough air to breathe, for some magic hatched by the Others and only known by them, kept the air good in the small face-compartments of their falseskins. Four more men were willing to each wear one of the falseskins and go below and help the two, and are also famed in songs. The six enclosed themselves in a falseskin each and in them prayed hard to the Seven and walked down into the water and swam searching about below. Something in them seemed to be probing at their minds to coerce them to keep to the ordered mission to attack ships, but it was designed to link to an enslaved wight's magic-remade mind and did not work properly on a natural living free mind. They tied ropes to all lost goods found, so men could haul them back onto land or into boats. The mage found that their breathing air self-renewed by a risky type of enemy magic and not by any natural process that alchemists and maesters and the like could copy then or later. But all the army kit thrown in the sea by wights attacking from the sea was recovered, and the war and Westeros were saved. The six thankfully divested themselves of their falseskins, and stank of wighted dead until the smell aired off themselves. The falseskins were washed thoroughly inside and stored securely. A maester and a mage working together found in each of their headpieces a pad of strange material that may have been where the falseskin's magic dwelled. Their air-renewing magic still worked — but few men ever dared to go into water wearing one of them, and the six said that each of their falseskins was haunted by the ghost of the man who became the wight who had used the falseskin before him.

Matti said decided comments: "After I ventured under the waves in that thing that something undead had been in before, when I shut my eyes, I saw things that weren't there. I didn't have that before. Much of it was riding with Dothraki, galloping about and their battles and killings and robbing. Also, nameless goings-on in the Others' back works behind Thenn. I reckon that the wight that was in my falseskin before me used to be a Dothraki and followed Daenerys across the sea to the battle here, and got killed and wighted. I reckon most of my dreams'll be like that from now on.".

Tammu said "Same with me. With me it's being a peasant near the Wolfswood in The North, way back when Westeros was in 34 small kingdoms, not 7, until raiding wildlings caught me and I was taken north of the Wall and given to an `Other' as a worship sacrifice, and the Others did things to me. Also, I was having mind compulsions, but only when I was in the falseskin. One of them, was to keep on breathing in and out and never hold my breath.".

The maester told him: "Sounds like after he was wighted, the Others had him in frozen storage for centuries or over a thousand years. The Others have been planning their attack over a very long time.".

The six sat on things to rest, but not for long, for dragons landed again, a sign of ultimate important urgency and speed, and a cold ride on their backs with their kit packed through the dreaded high ways of the air to Gulltown in Mountain and Vale, where goods had to be salvaged from under dock water after a similar enemy raid, and then again at Old Anchor and Runestone and elsewhere. So that job was got through, but back along the west coast a raven flew in, cold and weary, with news that Lannisport was now frozen in.

The enemy gradually became less coherent as the Others became few, until the last was killed, a quick deed, but it had waited thousands of years to be done. They and their magic and their plans ended. They fell broken into splinters of ice. Their wights no longer followed their will, and over the next days deteriorated and rotted and became ordinary inert dead or were attacked and eaten by wolves and shadowcats and suchlike. The pursuit north found big armies of them, long slowly accumulated made from wildlings killed, or dead of natural causes, down the millennia, now all now returned or returning to being the Stranger Above's natural dead, and their dead steeds. The remaining hairy cold-hardy "snow unicorns" wandered off, interested only in pushing snow aside with their noses and front horns to find grazing. Such of the living as had followed and obeyed the Othersrealized quickly that defeat had come, and surrendered. News came from south that Crakehall harbour was now blocked with wedged-in thick pack-ice and that loose patches of sea ice had formed around the Shield Islands.

With the Others dead, the cold brewing-vat of ice and snow and gales in the north gradually dispersed, and over weeks the weather went to late-winter normal, and the sea-ice melted back to its usual limits in the far north. There were great floods at the melting of the snow, and spring came, and summer birds flying back from Sothoryos found weather that they could breed in. The ironmen coming back to Lannisport found their ships guarded against them: it was clear that, if they were due rewards, then those rewards would not include permission to keep on raiding onshore and siezing ships. Jon went there to confront them, and said to them: "We thank you very much and heartily for realizing that all men needed to stand together and help each other, and for supplying those new weapons, and for your help in the battles. But we also need this: bring back the women and children that you took off Lord Hewett's Town on Oakenshield island in the Shield Islands. They belong there, not in Lys's slave auction market or in rich Essosis' pillowhouses. They are people with rights like you and me, not trade goods. After that is done, you will be paid well, and allowed to sail to your home islands.". Back to fishing and sealing and lawful trading and iron-ore-mining as their main living, it seemed. But it would not be as easy as that. Victarion had sold the Oakenshield abductees in Lys on the west slave coast of Essos, and likeliest by then they would have been bought and dispersed beyond hope of being recovered. The escape of the ironmen's thralls had wrecked the economy of the Iron Islands, leaving no source of farmed food to victual their ships or of iron-ore to sell or to make tools and weapons from, unless ironmen themselves did the work, which was against their custom, and it took many of their men away from sailing. The escaped thralls were eagerly let settle in a war-depopulated area in the warm south of mainland Westeros and had no intention of returning to the cold sea-scoured Iron Islands and the harsh rule of ironmen; they had never been allowed onboard the ironmen's ships and boats and thus had no sailing or fishing skill. The ironmen were let sail back home, and found that with their thralls gone that they had to grow their own food and their capabilities were now much less — unless they bent the knee to the crown of Westeros and became part of Westeros's navy. But they still nursed hopes of King's Landing's authority weakening and letting them go back to their Old Way. They found that the Others had sent a strong force of greyskin sea-wights against Great Wyk, from boats because the ice had not spread so far out from land yet, but at its harbour they could not break through the ice to get on land, and were trapped when it froze thicker and wider, and died. The ironmen coming back saw them and dragged or netted them out, and took their falseskins, which were useful to use them to find things in the sea, and they planned to attack ports under the waves in them when the Old Way became possible again. They wondered what their Drowned God would think of them entering his halls while still living, and where else in the past such kit had been used and perhaps had started some of the old tales about mer-people. The six were called to King's Landing, where they were thanked, and were found a building to live in and keep their kit in, and such port salvaging became their new job; some of their falseskins deteriorated and started splitting and their magic air-renewal weakened, and they were replaced from the big haul brought back by the Winterfell garrison road-ambush party. The deeds of the six were kept as secret as possible, and what became public knowledge went back into legend and got mixed with other stories and old magic-tales, while the six remembered their time of easy access to the underwater realm. The falseskins gathered dust in a store, while some men strove with non-magical natural materials to try to make equipment which did the same job and had no bad effects on a living wearer's mind. A mage eventually found again how to provide the air-renewing magic used, and later new falseskins were made, of better-lasting material, but many people do not trust magic, and mages say that the power of magic depends on the existence of dragons, and thus was much weaker from the Dance of the Dragons until Mirri Maz Duur sarificed herself to hatch Daenerys's three eggs in Khal Drogo's funeral pyre at Vaes Dothrak, and will be at risk again if dragons are ever at risk again. Meanwhile most men carry on with what they know well and trust. Matti's visions and dreams of being in the Others' base behind Thenn included overhearing talk about the falseskins being made from a sort of Sothoryosi tree sap and where it grew and how it was being got to the Others' realm, and he said so. This matched a waterfront story that some men in New Ghis already knew of that tree sap or something like it, but not men from anywhere else. Jon and Daenerys had more to think about than the rights and wrongs of blowing a trade secrecy wide open, and later Westerosi men found the Sothoryosi tree species, and brought seeds of it to Westeros, and it grew well in the Summer Isles, and thus men could make better rain waterproofs, and other things.

King Jon and Queen Daenerys flew to Great Wyk and pointed out to the ironmen that: "We realize that you treasure a traditional culture, but after what we have gone through with the Others' war, that is enough loss on top of the wars of succession before and after Robert took over, and we are not going to put up with any more ship losses or land-raiding from piracy, whether from the Stepstones or from here or from anywhere, or complaints from nearly every part of Essos accusing us of habouring you and demanding compensation for losses. We don't care who or what you worship, but from now on you will stick to our laws about property and slavery and abducting people. Then you and we and Essos can live at peace. But just before we took off to come here, we heard some good news: the magisters of Lys had heard we've got dragons again, and they got cold feet and put all the Shield Islands people that you took, on a Lannisport ship that was there to trade, and they're back home on the Shield Islands. I saw them there, so that's true.".

This was millennia after the Children of the Forest had used their magic to the limit of their power to try to stop the First Men from invading Westeros from the southwest corner of Essos to the east end of Dorne over a land-bridge, and it sank the land-bridge, leaving its hills as the Stepstones islands, and it sank a big low marshy plain with a freshwater lake in it between the Stormlands and the east end of Dorne and made it into the Sea of Dorne, but that did not keep the First Men out, and something went badly wrong and a side-effect made the magic that made wights and the Others.

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

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

After the war

Peacetime rule came back. Jon Snow, brought up in the North with the North's "bastard surname" to keep him safe from assassins sent by King Robert's regime, for a long time a commander of the Watchers on the Wall, but known at last to be a possible heir to the throne of Westeros, and widely accepted as such, Jon Targaryen, son of Rhaegar Targaryen, son of King Aerys II Targaryen, after the battle was at last in power in King's Landing after the Robert and Joffrey usurpation. King Robert had died in a boar-hunting accident, and King Joffrey of poisoning, and the next claimant Renly by Melisandre's sorcery. Queen Cersei (née Lannister) was much discredited when the rulers of the Faith of the Seven proved serious suspicions about who was father of her children, and she was now dead. Wildfire at King's Landing and snow several yards deep at Winterfell stopped Stannis's attempt on the throne; most of his men who survived abandoned his destructive Essosi fire-god Red R'hllor and returned to the Seven. Stannis bent the knee to Jon, and what was left of his army with him, leaving Jon to decide how much to trust him and them. Jon did not forgive Stannis for leaving King's Landing harbour massively choked with ship wreckage and unusable by anything bigger than inshore fishing boats, or for some killings in Winterfell, or for destroying what seemed to be the ancient magical recovered Horn of Joramun, which might have been a strong magical aid against the wight army, or for smashing the oldest sept in Westeros and burning its sacred images, which were made on Dragonstone long before by the first landing Andals, who carved its seven images from masts of some of their ships which had wrecked. Jon and Daenerys had it rebuilt with everything as closely as could be as it was before, and its images from unburnt masts of Stannis's ships, for they wanted to undo the sacrilege and remake an ancient treasure; soon some men and septons said that the new images were the old images which had been there for so long. A few hangings for inciting a mob to steal things and destroy them by fire gradually discouraged cases of burning valuable property to try to please Red R'hllor, and Jon thought about whether to forbid the Red R'hllor cult. The smallfolk of The North came out of their wintertowns and went home to rebuild their lives.

The wildlings went back home north, herding their livestock back with them, and set to work reconstructing their lives. At Hardhome men found a place where greyskin sea-wights had been equipped and trained. Hardhome was rebuilt and became a fishing and trading port. Beyond-the-Wall developed a steady trade in furs from the local wild animals and from herded reindeer. The ice on the Frostfangs and the Frozen Shore and around Thenn melted back further than it had for a very long time, uncovering plentiful beds of metal ores. In future years, with the ice-lands rid of ice-magic-hazard, cold-hardy men found a summer trade-way through Thenn north on ice across the pole to far-eastern Essos.

Jon, and Daenerys (youngest child of Aerys II and also a possible heir to the throne of Westeros), sat in two suitably ornate chairs taken from a storeroom and used as temporary thrones; they did not use the Iron Throne, as both had cut themselves badly a few times trying to sit on it, and it had only one place for an occupant to sit. Jon, back home after an absence in Essos trying to sort out disputes, was attending to callers and petitioners and sorting out current Westeros matters, such as organizing recovery where land had been damaged or depopulated by passage of armies, and having trees and other tall or dense vegetation removed near main roads to try to prevent ambushes by robbers. In that time of general shortage of livestock caused by passage of armies, they had to order the lords not to offer lavish tables despite the general shortage and not to kill livestock or poultry to get meat to entertain guests or for festive or celebratory feasting. At feasts the wine was scanty and would be for years, for the long ceaseless months of north gale straight from the ice-lands had reached the Arbor and frost-blasted its grape vines, and after replanting and multiplying their planting stock, good wine takes time to brew well. The white caps on the Red Mountains spoke of a long battle between warm and cold, not a battle of men, but as long and hard as many battles of men that heroic poets sing of, and Dorne's vineyards and crops were now safe.

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

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

A man from the Tully family who rules The Reach said: "Your Grace and others were getting worried about dragons and ability to ride them getting into the hands of people who are not royalty. It's happened. In the Reach, a dragon on one of the early Targaryens' long royal progress flights, laid astray, and someone buried the egg under the roots of a weirwood tree to keep it safe, on the land of one of those old Houses that still keeps the old gods. But someone saw the digging and guessed and a story about buried treasure got about, but not about what the treasure was. Recently in Aspen Bank village near Ivy Hall in the Reach, a farm boy called Nikuli had time on his hands, and dug for the treasure. He found no gold or silver or jewels, only a big scale-patterned egg a bit more than one-and-a-half times as long as a big man's hand. As he dug he accidentally cut his arm (not seriously) on a sharp piece of cut weirwood root, and named something as he swore at the shock and the pain as he bled on the egg, and it broke open and hatched. A strange serpentine scaly animal whose torso was the size of a 7-week-old kitten's came out. He petted it, and went home with a bonded reddish-blue dragon hatchling with blue-green back-ridge and blue-green wings sitting on his shoulder like he was some old Valyrian dragonlord's son. He had some Valyrian ancestry via two 'dragonseeds', that'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 life waking in the egg, until it only needed some shed Valyrian blood to hatch it. He took it home, and told his mother, all afraid-sorry about breaking something valuable, as children do, and asked her what sort of animal the hatchling was and if he could keep it. His father asked the local septon about it. The septon knew in alarm what the creature was, and saw the boy's Valyrian-looking eyes, and his bandaged arm, and the shed blood on the broken eggshell, and knew what had happened.
`You performed blood-magic.' the septon said, `What you said, and what you thought, and your blood shed on it, was enough to set it off. That's no part of the faith of the Seven, but you did it. Pray to them to say sorry to them. As it was unwitting, the Mother Above'll know that you intended no harm. But you shouldn't poke about in things. And keep away from magic.'.
The septon had access to ravens and sent a letter to `His Grace the King', not knowing who was king right then in the muddle of travel-delayed rumors of battles and deaths here and there. A raven flew across the distance to Daenerys, who received it and flew on Drogon to Aspen Bank and picked up Nikuli and his hatchling, and they 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. The septon mended the hatched eggshell and has kept it as a memento.".

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

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

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

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

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

He set to work finding what was happening in his realm. Many areas had been spoiled by repeated passage of armies, scouring the land ever more thoroughly empty of food and other supplies and leaving smallfolk to starve. For the mass killing of civilians around the Gods Eye he had no intention of forgiving the Lannisters and their men, for he needed some way to discourage that sort of thing from happening again. The direct legitimate Lannister line had díed out with Cirsei, but in and around Lannisport there were likely various collateral lines, and allegedly-unrelated families with surnames such as Lann and Lannell and even some Lannisters. How much searching around and proving would be needed for the lion flag to fly again over Casterly Rock? If not, he would have to choose a new family to live there. Drogon and Rhaegal would have many long flights: Jon and Daenerys were much too busy to waste time on journeys, particularly on a horse at the trot, unwearying to a good horse but not to its rider, who much quicker than in other ways of travelling often developed leg arthritis from the trot's constant bumping, unless his horse ambled instead of trotting. Arya Stark's list of accusations had proved useful, but it would have needed a hundred of her, each with a backpackful of notebooks, to list all the harm done by marauding armies, including the Lannisters arming the Vale of Arryn mountain clans and encouraging them to raid. Daenerys proved to be with child, despite Mirri Maz Duur's curse, and all concerned thanked the Mother Above and prayed.

The endless-looking job of clearing King's Landing harbour of wreckage from Stannis's attack was going on as it could, between delays caused by storms and tide. Everybody and everything that could get to site and pull was there. Cheering and trumpeting announced arrival of five mammoths and their riders brought by Lord Annun Sunkland from his land by The Bite, to help to haul heavy wreckage out of the water, and Annun rode on the first mammoth's hairy neck; he hoped that nobody would feel disrespected by him riding higher above the ground than a royal dragonrider would on the base of his steed's neck walking on the ground on the wrists of its wings and its back feet. Work went on faster after that. Once at extreme low spring tide, everybody was cleared well back away while Nikuli on Bluewings flew over and burnt up a big tangle of wreckage: the only safe way to get to site in time across much foul sinking mud and destroy several unexploded big pots of wildfire that were trapped in it. An explosion of green wildfire flames followed Bluewings all too close as he flew his fastest to get away, but the flames in the end went out, and work carried on. The mammoths made a few noises but proved steady when Nikuli on Bluewings flew near them to drop a rope to men working away from shore on tidal mud, so they could tie it to wreckage to haul it out. Someone said that safer would have been a trebuchet throwing a weight trailing the rope, but none could be found near enough. Nesting birds including Crownlands warblers ventured onto the work site and made good use of shed mammoth hair to line nests.

During thanks afterwards, Queen Daenerys asked Lord Annun: "What happened to Tormundik Seventeeth, that big old mammoth with the long tusks that you were on when we called on you that time? He looked real impressive.".

Annun answered: "Tormund is a famous mighty leader among the wildlings, and that mammoth was very big and strong also, so we named it after him. A strange thing happened to it. In mammoths and elephants, always, each side of each jaw has six back teeth which follow each other: one is in place at a time, and the next tooth slowly pushes it forwards and out as it wears away over the years with much chewing. The first, which it has as a small calf, is small; the other five are full-sized. Tormundik was on his sixth and last back teeth, and we waited for the usual when his last teeth wore out. Killing a mammoth is too easy if you know how, with one of those heavy mounted crossbows that they call a scorpion. It is still a better end than watching it slowly starving to death because it can't chew its food any more because nothing of its last back teeth is left except a few last surfacing flat-topped remnants of roots.

"But I looked in his mouth (we train them to let us do that), and the jawbone behind the back teeth was not shrinking down and rounding off as it does after the last tooth – and I saw a crack where the start of another tooth was coming! In both sides of both jaws! That made seven all round! Even after I checked back down his records: he was born with us; he was on his sixth and last back teeth, but yet, another was coming all round. I surnamed him Seventeeth, and he lived on with us. Our maester said the cause may be magic: we are important enough for king's people to call on us from time to time riding on dragons, which sometimes drop magical bits: skin sheddings, droppings, their blood in the guts of scale-ticks which lose hold, shed teeth: dragons keep on replacing their teeth. So Tormundik lived on, and fathered at least two more calves. But over time the seventh teeth grew their number of chewing ridges, and no more, and they wore out from front to back, and the bone behind them shrank, and no eighth teeth came. The inevitable had happened. We led the other mammoths away for the day. Tormundik was already showing signs of half-starvation because he could not chew properly. (Back in King Viserys I's time we kept an old mammoth with worn-out back teeth alive on cooked food to complete a pregnancy after her last teeth wore out, to save her calf, but that was too expensive to keep on doing it.) We keep the Seven here, but we've got a weirwood tree in our godswood for any northeners who call. The usual sad day. We choose the best names for them, we care for them, we get their blood on our hands from ticks bursting as we pull them off, at least dragon-keepers don't have to ferret through hair to find scale-ticks – and in the end a few ounces more of back tooth wear away, and he has to go where an old horse goes. That job had arisen again. We led him to the weirwood tree and called on its gods to receive his spirit. The "scorpion" did its job. Tormundik fell dead, and we cut up the body and found uses for the meat and skin and ivory. We keep their skulls in a room as a memorial, same as the Dragonpit does. I am riding his oldest daughter.".

Back to normality

We return to current events. Dany on Drogon and her followers had left along the coasts of southwest Essos new city regimes without slaves and freeing all slaves; these regimes had been hoped to lead to a new era of peace, but while Dany was there a ferocious epidemic of dysentery in Astapor killed three out of every four who caught it, and afterwards excuses for war among them continued to arise endlessly destructively like weeds and intruding wild animals in a crop field. Reorganizing matters and repairing war damage in Westeros, which already took time, was complicated by these continuing upsets in west Essos, which caused yet another Essos ship-war that interfered with trade and fishing. The war among the Westerosi for the throne of Westeros had not ended in a climactic big battle, but by tailing off into exhaustion and lack of men and supplies when the cold enemy attacked and all living men had to unite in defence.

By now the walnut timber brought to Maegor's Holdfast had dried and shrunk and warped as much as it ever would, and so some of it was made into new suitable official chairs for the royal family, making good use of wood which contained ornamental figure where walnut cambium, reacting to unexpected situations such as being in a crotch, had made new damage-repair wood strengthened with dark-coloured deposits of a natural polymer resin. Jon, with as many men as Rhaegal at his current size and flying-power could carry that far, had had to pack supplies and fly east over the Narrow Sea to try to sort matters out, avoiding the delays of sea travel and the risks from pirates and slavers; but now he and they were back. During a discussion in the Red Keep, Jon said:

"A matter that may arise: By my mother I am by inheritance Lord, or by rebellion King, in the North, and also I (by my father) and my wife Daenerys are two among the best current claimants to be King of Westeros. Those two conflicting titles have now united, or if you query that, they will unite when our heir succeeds us, and there is no purpose in us being in rebellion against ourselves or each other. I have heard the waterfront inn stories about babe-swapping and Aegon VI being alive and well and working as a sellsword in the Rhoyne lands in Essos, and it now seems that that story is true; I will have to face it when he comes here, and I hereby completely forbid anyone from trying to solve it by assassination: assassination encourages more assassination in revenge, and so on for ever. As Khal Drogo would have said: 'Rek nem nesae.' ['That is known.']. But I cannot be here and at Winterfell at the same time, to do both jobs adequately, even with Rhaegal to carry me between the two quickly. I now hereby pass my position as Lord of Winterfell on to its heir, my half-sister Sansa Stark, to rule there under me as Lord of the North. And I take it that there is still no news about finding The Old Dothraki and his red-haired companion? They are much to be honoured.

"And as well as resettling depopulated areas, the lords will have a big job cleaning up bunches of outlaws and broken men. Beric Dondarrion and his men made a mighty start to the job, including catching and hanging that big camp of broken men and outlaws who committed that slaughter at Saltpans at the mouth of the Trident. He should have had plenty reward; but after he had a fatal wound, the mage Thoros of Myr tried to revive him, but Thoros isn't Melisandre and he revived Beric as an undead wight, but thankfully not enslaved to some evil power but trying to keep to his old principles and his old job. That was an ordeal which Beric had to endure through six more magical revivals by Thoros, until he decided that 'the seventh is for the Stranger' and he let himself die and become true dead, for him a thankful relief.". [This detail is GRRM canon.]

Sansa Stark and men under her had plenty to do: restoring Winterfell, and finding who of the folk of the land had survived the long hard winter and the wars. A horseback charge of armoured knights captured quickly before anyone could start fire there, a new large shipyard on the Wolfswood coast and in it many longships at various stages of being built by Ironmen before the monster-winter interrupted them and chased them back to their islands. Men of The North who had been ordered by Ironmen to work as shipbuilders there, had stayed there and stopped departing Ironmen from setting fire to anything there, and, when spring came at last, helped to complete unfinished ships, to be manned by men loyal to the Lord of the North and the King.

A few weeks after at King's Landing, a guard saw a flying object become too big to be a bird or a fruit-bat as it came nearer, and saw that it was a dragon flying in, and ran in and called, somewhat in alarm, as he was still not quite accustomed to dragons being around visible alive and not only in old stories and as stone carvings. "It's none that I know of: it has cream and gold scales and red-orange wings. Two people riding it." he said. It landed. A tall man slid off its back, then an older-looking man, both in Dothraki-type desert clothes. "It's The Old Dothraki and his companion!" several people exclaimed, indentifying them correctly. But those two removed their Dothraki-type desert clothing, revealing a woman in a red dress and a Valyrian-looking man with a nearly-bald head largely covered with scar tissue with untidy seam joints with many stitch holes. Some there recognized the mage Melisandre and knew her long-known reputation, for she was born and raised and schooled in the feared shadow-city of Asshai, beyond Yi Ti, at the east end of the world as the Westerosi knew it then.

"That dragon's Viserion! What's the Red Woman been doing now!?" someone said in shock, "She knows plenty fire-magic, but that doesn't mean that that destructive Essosi fire-god Red Rh'llor that she preaches, exists.". Melisandre gave an order to Viserion. The fire-blast was aimed aside onto open ground and did no harm, but was clearly hot fire, and not frost-blast. "Looks like she brought him back to life, or the stuff about the Others killing him was a rumour. There are so many waterfront rumours about. I've heard stray stories about so many strange things happening." someone said, "At least she brings them properly back to life, not as undead wights like happens when some other mages try it, like Thoros of Myr with Beric Dondarrion.".

Jon said: "As Melisandre has done a few times before, reviving dead people, or so stories say. Some say that she revived me after someone stabbed me in a castle on the Wall. I may remember something of that sort happening, or it may have been a dream; I thought that the Stranger came for me, he's one of the Seven that the southron worship in septs, the one that collects the souls of the dead. Now who has died to let her apparently bring back a life!?".

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"In the harbour I met a man from Qarth with some decorated carpet samples which he said came to Qarth from Mossovy avoiding the Dothraki by a roundabout route through unknown far-eastern lands and back west through the Saffron Strait and the Jade Sea, and with them the usual strange tales about sea monsters and winged men and bloodless men. Before the Doom [of Valyria], Valyria watched over those trade tracks: even back then there were odd bunches of nomads around and we had to keep up skill with swords and horseback archery, and we were thankful to see a dragon above us. I appreciate that carpet-making, like other ways of making pictures, has limitations from exact realism, but — I saw one that was a battle scene, and it had the same blatant mistake several times – crossbowmen, but the carpet-maker left out the bows of the crossbows, only put in the stocks, that's the front-to-back middle part, but the scene on the carpet showed them as working without the bow part. He said that's happened a few times since the Mossovy trade route was rediscovered and re-opened for the first time since the Doom.

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

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

"If Daenerys's three eggs were the three that Dreamfyre laid and Elissa Farman stole them from Dragonstone in 54 AC during Jaehaerys I's reign and took them to Essos and sold them to buy ships, and not from the far east as the man that sold them to Khal Drogo said, then our stock of dragons will get more and more inbred. I wonder how long it'll be this time before the stock dies out from inbreeding like it looked like going to last time: eggs dead-in-shell, stunted young never growing 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 have a magic that makes them light enough to fly. They talk about a "pedigree bottleneck"; if you trace a man's or animal's ancestry back, it usually spreads out up like a tree; but with us and our dragons the pedigree keeps on narrowing off upwards to only a few ancestors for many descendants. Last time the inbreeding would have taken longer to show up without that "Dance of the Dragons" war killing so much breeding stock, but the inbreeding effects would likely have come, but later. That riot started by that agitator called "The Shepherd" killed the last four, else they might have bred back to numbers. After the Dance, Princess Rhaena Targaryen, daughter of Daemon Targaryen and Laena Velaryon, had three dragon eggs, and one hatched, and she named the hatchling Morning, as if it was the start of a new day of dragon-riding, and it grew and she rode on it routinely, but it and she disappeared from history. This time, we have only these three, and that's a riskily small start stock to breed from. And on top of that, if they were all from Dreamfyre's eggs, then they are half siblings or likely full siblings even at the start. The Dance of the Dragons killed so many. Dreamfyre's skull still lies, the best part of 200 years dusty and cobwebby, with many others in a storeroom near here, since that unnecessary civil war for the throne when men set dragons against dragons and each killed the other and destroyed much else, in a frenzy of battle not caring what was risked and lost.

"Inbreeding is trouble for humans also. My mother is Lyanna Stark from Winterfell, which thankfully brings fresh blood to me and any children we two may have, after Aegon II went mad. I never knew her: she died when I was born, on Dragonstone island in a sea storm, thankfully on a hard rock island and not in a ship: that's why people call me Stormborn. But Aegon II as a prince had to live in the ruling family through the Dance of the Dragons and its havoc ‐ that sort of upbringing could have unhinged many people, not only inbred people. Septons and maesters mistrust sibling weddings, but Aegon I and kings after had to keep plenty of Valyrian blood in the family, so they could bond to a dragon each. A way is 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 his dragon for someone else to ride. Feeding an unriddden dragon costs much for no return. Back home in Valyria before the Doom, choosing a wife outside the family once in a while did not matter so much, with such a large population of dragon-bondable Valyrians around to choose from. But out here after the Doom, there's far fewer Valyrians about, but we still need fresh blood in once in a while. We'll have to keep track of all relatives to find who can claim a dragon or not. The mages'll have to come up with a way to find who can, without him ending up with a dragon bonded to him whether he wants one or not.

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

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

"Some time someone'll have to go to the Vaes Dothrak long-distance trade market, or wherever it'll have moved to or be called, and try to buy more dragon eggs, this time genuinely from Asshai and the far East, or get some from somewhere else that has and breeds wild or ridden dragons, even if we or someone must go way east beyond Asshai, and the expense of sending a reasonably strong fleet to Asshai ourselves, to negotiate, not to attack, and risk dodging south of Great Moraq island and then straight east to Asshai, and further. Qarth charges too much toll for passage of the Jade Gates. Or explore round the backs of Sothoryos and Ulthos and anywhere else where we have no knowledge of, if we can have built a ship that can carry enough stores for the crew to go so far.

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

"King Aerys II Targaryen went mad, some say from inbreeding, and Robert Baratheon usurped: to be expected, perhaps. Robert wedded Cersei Lannister, who was after the throne and got someone to set up a boar-hunting accident that kílled Robert, and Robert's son Joffrey took over. Joffrey was suspected, and later was proved, not to be Robert's son by blood, and Robert's brother Renly got an army and went for the throne, and was killed by sorcery. Robb Stark declared full independence as King of the North. Stannis, another brother of Robert, took over Renly's army and went for the throne. Balon Greyjoy tried to break free as King of the Iron Islands, and then went to take over land on the mainland and took a big area, including Winterfell by sailors skilled at climbing ship's rigging sneak climbing-in while its army was elsewhere. He gathered a big fleet, but he fell to his death from a bridge in a storm. Someone poisoned Joffrey. Stannis lost his army and his ships. That lot fought against each other, and armies marched here and there and took and destroyed whatever they wanted to. Daenerys brought her army and her three dragons from Essos, and many joined her. Circei died. Uncoordinated with us, the throne claimant Aegon Griff, with the Golden Company and a large force of skilled archers from the Summer Isles, sailed from Volon Therys in the old Rhoynar lands and landed on Cape Wrath in the Stormlands, and thus Jon Connington, who came with them, got back his ancestral castle named Griffin's Roost.

"Then the Others, who had been commanding from the rear in the farthest coldest north in the great ice highland behind Thenn, came south and showed themselves with a big army of wights and all sorts There was war along the Wall and at Winterfell. In it, all the factions had to unite against them; they were stopped thanks to the new weapons that Arya and some Ironmen had brought from Aryos, and our dragons helped also. That as best claimants at last left only me and Daenerys, and we have wed each other, and our son (if the Mother Above grants us one) will inherit and unite our claims. It'll leave us with a huge mess of death and destruction to sort out. Including, we hope, this time for once, trying seriously to send "broken men" back home to their relatives and friends to find if they'll mend, instead of killing them on sight.

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

"And another complication: there I saw people bringing out furniture and books to the pyres, as ordered by some fire-god's priest, it turned out to be that `Red Roller' again; but some objected to that. I told them to stop that and put the valuable stuff back in store.
"'We've had the wettest wet season since my grandfather was born.' a priest said, 'Look, all the fuel-wood standing outside is soaked, and also we need plenty valuable stuff to burn to offer to our god, as well as that we can't find suitable dry fuel to make the pyres fitting for the bereavements.'.
"'No, you're not going to destroy all that valuable old stuff and records of old times, and good furniture, for a short-term need, or to try to bribe a god. My gods respect the records of old learning. I've another way to do it. Put it all back away in store.'.
"They obeyed. When that was done, Rhaegal set the pyres alight, as was done at Targaryen royal funeral pyres. A huge cloud of sulphur-smelling steam and smoke hid everything as a blast of dragonfire drove the water out of the brushwood and other fuel, and blew away as the pyres settled to ordinary dry fire, as priests chanted funeral hymns.".

He saw a petty reminder in that tidying after loss and tragedy. A previous ruler's widow was helping him, and was surprisingly unafraid of coming near Rhaegal and even of climbing onto him to reach and return papers and tools. She saw a darkish-red object on grass and thought that it might be a lost ornament, but it proved to be a red fluffytail, two inches wide and eight inches long, attached to nothing. It told her all too well of a small woodland life scampering prettily among and up trees collecting and storing nuts, until some predatory hawk or marten or street cat had killed to feed itself, one more death after so many. She stroked it for a while, combed out some rumpling in its hair, and left it, but soon afterwards someone else picked it up and kept it because it was pretty.

"Next stage will be to get every ruler involved to meet somewhere. 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 come endlessly demanding money or supplies or slaves or else. We can't tell the whole East what to do, and I'm not going to try. The western areas, or at least their cities, speak Valyrian left by their old empire, but their Valyrian's changed so much from the form that maesters teach that it's getting more like a separate new language for each area. Sometimes I wish I had a way to travel long distances quick, that did not scare people so much. Having several young dragons coming along at last gives us a way to carry copies of laws and current reports of events about over the heads of ground risks when they're too heavy for ravens.

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

Something else happened then. An old arch-maester had come in; he looked quickly in the drawer that Jon opened to put the book back away, and saw in a back corner a shiny partly-cylindrical metal device a few inches long, with a handle, and a push-and-pull mechanism, and an end-tube, and a glass window, and other parts; there were Asshai'i markings on it. He asked what it was, not quite quickly enough suppressing severe shock and alarm.

"A ship brought it back from Yi Ti or somewhere away east thereabouts. Ships based that far east away from us can sail to and bring stuff back from many places too far away for Westerosi ships to reach. One of the ship's men found it dropped on a floor in a corner in a room. Its box is labelled `Steel Fang' in Asshai'i writing. I've heard of swords and daggers and knives named after this and that sort of fang.".

"I can see what sort of fang it's named after." the maester said dismayedly, "Likely someone there dissected a viper's head to find how its venomous fangs work, and to imitate it he made a small copy of a firewatch-man's hand pump, and changed things, and added things, and had ideas, and so he designed this. I see all too clearly what it's designed to do. I hope that people responsible or sensible in Asshai don't let this sort of small easily-hidden device out to all and sundry in a hurry. Poisoners have too many arts and devices and skills and kit already. Keeping important people safe would be a big step more difficult with these around, if it is what I think it is. Keep it tightly out of sight. We don't want more new risk and upset on top of what Arya brought back from Comevaa. But if one has escaped, others may escape.".

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

The old returns and the new comes

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

When the time came, Jon and Dany took with them three mages, and seven men appointed to be riders, and several guards. At Dragonstone's ferry's mainland quay they had the troublesome job of loading a big live bull in its prime into the ferryboat, and much fuel wood. They climbed from the island quay to a hot volcanic vent, leading the bull. They laid the fire, and the six eggs in it, and the new egg near the fire, and natural volcanic heat lit the fire. Natural fire-magic lurking around the vent worked; the mages chanted; at the right time the bull met its fate; there was waiting, and more chanting, which Jon and Dany joined in among the clamour of seagulls; and more waiting and chanting, and fear that the six eggs were too old and had been cold too long, and that the place's magic had got weakened while the land was without dragons so long. Two men started to go down to the sea to search for driftwood to feed the fire. The new egg hatched with a crunch of breaking as its eggshell yielded to a natural miniature battering-ram of bone in the front of the hatchling's nose, wielded by its neck muscles. Someone picked up the hatchling to keep it from straying and to make sure who it imprinted to. Time passed while gulls swooped and screamed and mages chanted; but at last an explosion in the flames echoed off rocks and threw sparks and embers about and set gulls screeching, and five more times soon after as the effect spread and old obdurate magic stopping the old eggs from hatching broke down at last.

With three full-grown dragons now in that part of the world, the magic worked easier than in the desperate struggle at Vaes Dothrak to stir the world's fading waning magic, aided by Khal Drogo's funeral pyre, barely enough to turn the three eggs back from stone to live eggs for long enough to let them hatch. 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 six active squealing hissing living dragonlets. Daenerys remembered when injured flesh in Drogon, healing itself after a fight, emitted enough heat to partly melt an embedded iron spearhead, but remained natural living flesh in its place in Drogon and did not suffer much pain if any. They were back to the old state where fresh dragon eggs would stay fresh and could routinely hatch after incubation in warmth tolerable by man.

The Rhaegal egg had hatched first; the hatchling was cyan (that is, between blue and green) with blue back-ridge. This and the other six widened the parent stock to as it was in early-middle Targaryen times, but not to as it was when the Targaryens left Valyria. There were stories that Valyria had got dragon eggs from the East, likely for the same reason as some here were looking for fresh blood, but among so many dragonlord families in Valyria, it was far from certain that the Targaryens got any of those Eastern eggs or their descendants before they moved to Dragonstone.

The riders had been carefully chosen after interview and examining their records. Each intended rider chose one hatchling, found thankfully that it was hand-warm and not fire-hot, and held it in his arms and petted it and let it bond to him and wind itself round his arms and neck. Four bonded naturally; in the other three a mage had to set up the bonding link. Some of the bull's flesh was found cooked but not burnt; they showed it to the dragonlets, as a wild mother dragon would have done, and the seven hatchlings had their first meal, and the men ate some of it. Jon and Daenerys wanted to name some of the hatchlings after and in memorial of some of those who had died in the Dance of the Dragons in 129-131 AC, as a reminder of the wastage that war causes, but that might have caused confusion. Some books say that dragons are hermaphrodite or can change sex; some including Septon Barth's book 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 sailed back to the mainland, for the wind was suitable.

The man in charge of the boat dock said: "It'll be like old stories, having dragons about again. There's one place where they could do all the flaming about that they want. When I was on a trader ship when I was younger, I was on a sugar run to the Summer Isles and back, that sweet brown crystally stuff that the rich use, it can be purified to clear white ..."

A boatman interrupted: "They say that it comes from a sort of reed that makes honey without bees.".

"That's called sugarcane. Sounds unlikely, but they often set the standing crop on fire before they harvest it.".

"Too much of that was done here in the wars for the throne, to stop the enemy from having the crop." Jon said angrily, "By the law now, death sentence for doing that.".

"Not the same. In ripe sugarcane, the hollow cane is full of water with the sugar dissolved in it, can't burn. The fire only burns the dry dead leaves and the seedheads, saves having to cut them off, and kills or chases off the cane rats and the venomous snakes. Unlike in wheat, there is little use for sugarcane seeds.".

"If you say so. All sorts of tales come in through the waterfront.".

They thanked their horse-keepers, and rode back to the palace; their horses could smell dragon and were restless. Jon decided for now to use the new riders, when their mounts had grown big enough to ride on, for routine patrolling rather than for anything destructive; routine flying patrols, able to see many things from the air that could hide from a man in the ground, should make the roads and life for isolated smallfolk safer. He stayed there for a while to answer any queries that arose, while attending to another job that had arisen: Drogon was shedding. Some reptiles, including snakes and dragons, from time to time shed the outer part of the outer dead layer of their skins. (This is not the same as full-thickness skinning.) It was better to take the whole shedding off in one act, rather than letting it come off untidily in tatters over two or so days while the dragon claws and bites at it and rubs against things, or risks letting the irritation and annoyance get it into the undesirable habit of flaming itself. The shedding came off semi-transparent, like a snake's shedding, but much thicker, and tough like parchment. He had to help in a few places where the shedding stuck where an old skin injury had healed; Drogon let only Jon or Daenerys do that sort of personal job. The shedding was laid out flat and weighted down so that it dried out flat. Parasite eggs and dirt came off with the shedding, and Drogon was thankful to be rid of them. Jon changed back to his royal clothes and went back to his royal duties. A servant scraped and washed the shedding to clean it. It proved useful to make wet-weather overcoats, and he and Jon each had a kit-belt with tool pouches made from one of Rhaegal's sheddings.

They went into a storeroom where were the skulls of the dragons who had died in the Dance of the Dragons, and those who had died of natural causes, including Balerion and the other four who had flown from Valyria to Dragonstone. Men unfurled two versions of the Targaryen dragon banner: one of the usual red-on-black version, and one of the color-reversed version used by the rebel faction in the Dance of the Dragons. A septon brought in a rolled tapestry image of the Stranger, as is sometimes done in funerals and memorials of the dead when away from a sept, and held a memorial service for all who had died in that old war, and urged all to strive to prevent a repeat of the disastrous loss of human and dragon life that it had caused, and appealed to the Mother Above to bring peace and an end to men's hostile urges, and urged all present to settle disputes peaceably.

One of the newly re-formed order of Dragon-keepers was there. He said: "We've got dragonbirds back, some call them Crownlands warblers. A red lightning-like line along each side. Nothing dragonish about them. They nest and hunt around the dragons' enclosures. They clean parasites and bits off them, and eat insects that breed in their droppings. They're even allowed in and out of the dragons' mouths to remove parasites and old bits of food. Old scrolls say that they were common in Valyria before the Doom, and praised the beauty of their song and their faithfulness to their young. There've always been a few on Dragonstone, and more after Aegon I came, until the Dance of the Dragons. Now they're back again.".

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

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

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

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

"Twelve duck's eggs, and the hen which was sitting them." the lord said, "You bunch took them from a nest in a farmyard without asking and without looking for the owner. The farm had its own use for them: for breeding. After the recent wars there are many shortages and the roads are full of vagrants taking stuff and everybody's sick of it. To many of us, these Poor Preachers are merely the Sparrows again, trying to hide under yet another new name, and they are the same sorts of nuisance as before, same as sparrows, the birds, stuffing themselves with wheat seeds during harvest.".

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

Lord Rykker said: "Those eggs were expensive and were bought for hatching, the breeder had had to watch which drakes trod the ducks and that no other ducks laid astray in the nests. You know next to nothing. That village had had no ducks since before King Aerys died. They need ducks to feed in ponds and ditches where hens don't go, to make more food, and they need ducks and their eggs to breed more ducks. Feeding the people first needs safety for the means of producing food. Those Poor Preachers have been using that supposed family's name as a tearjerking boohoo word all around the area cadging donations from people.".

"There was nobody there to ask. The poor are in urgent need. The Seven do not like ingenious excuse-finders and their endless excuses such as claiming that this is needed by this and that that is an important part of such-and-such. They were only a few eggs, and the farm had plenty other eggs, and hens to lay plenty more. You should have fed them, given them better clothes, warned them that gentry were about looking for them; instead, you beat them up.".

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

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

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

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

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

Nor was Jon's peace of mind helped by the total upset in the rules of war made by the strange new apparently-magical weapons brought in Brandon's reign in Winterfell by Ironmen from some island called Comevaa gods-alone-knew-where at the far east-or-west-or-some-say-that-it-is-both end of the world, that had let each man slay many in close succession from afar, not needing time-consuming resetting each time like a crossbow, or some persistently thought that they were magical, however much the maesters and the mages told them that there was no magic in the weapons, except sometimes a small add-on that helped in quick aiming, but only the normal properties of matter, and that their power was only an extreme form of quick burning. Those strange weapons from the far side of the world had crossed the widest ocean and showed their power not where they were made on Comevaa (wherever on earth that was, if to men in Westeros it was anywhere on Earth at all), but home in Westeros, where there had been many battles, but all with usual natural weapons, except the long-known-of strange swords used by the ice-men known of as the Others.

Jon's title as king now included "of the seven kingdoms" again, but some said that it should now be eight, for the Freefolk were unwilling to subordinate themselves to Winterfell. It was generally held by mages and maesters that, after the Others died, anyone who died would stay dead and not become a wight. The cold enemy had killed so many Freefolk to make their bodies into more wights, that in the end the surviving Freefolk had decided that their only recourse was, after ages of hating the Watchers on the Wall and calling them "crows" after their black clothes, and of treating dwellers south of the Wall as merely raid-targets to take what they liked from, to seek alliance with the Watchers on the Wall and to help to garrison the Wall and to evacuate their families to south of the Wall and to obey the King's realm's laws about property and suchlike. A leader of those Freefolk who had escaped the Others' 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. The king's power now reached to the high white edge of the great northern permanent ice, beyond which no-one rules and there is no point in anyone trying to rule, the Land of Always Winter.

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

The mages and the maesters realized with shock that one of the things that that they had kept secret for centuries as it was too likely to cause too much harm and change too much, had been revealed by the new weapons, and words for it were now known widely. "What else will this new far travel bring?" a maester said at their next meeting, "For example, there are four things, that the world knows of, separately, varied things: Amber, which 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, a skate- or ray-type fish, not a plaice-type fish, that defends itself by suddenly causing violent painful muscle cramps in any fisherman who picks it up, and some have died of it. But between these four is a link that we do not reveal. It is to be feared that that will come out, and that men will not control what can be made or done using it.".

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

"And another thing that needs doing is to take over the Stepstones, or at least the west end of them, and hold them, properly with fortified garrisons, those rocky islands across the strait between Essos and the end of Dorne, and put a stop to pirates there, and easier now we've got dragons again at last. If the Stepstoners still speak Rhoynish and are descended from Nymeria deserters, take them away from their pirate ships and use them to repopulate the old Rhoynar lands, and teach them their old religion if they don't still know it. Then it'll be easier to get our ships through the west end of them between the Narrow Sea and the Summer Sea without people charging tolls from us or a complete blockage there every time Myr and Lys and Tyrosh and the rest have a war. It's time those three and the rest made peace among themselves properly and not go back to war after a few years every time. And, Jaehaerys I's wife Alysanne lost all her circle of women friends because Lys was (and is) too fond of selling that poison called `the tears of Lys' to all buyers that have the coin, down the centuries, such as to that Androw Farman. And, I hereby ban the Poor Preachers: despite warnings, I've heard so many reports of them stealing and giving orders and taking stuff and casually recruiting allsorts, and despite their assurances it is clear that in great part they are the Sparrows renamed and persistent thieves. If the Starry Sept can't or won't keep control of what that lot do, then I must.".

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

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

Another sort of device had been used there, as Nikuli found clues about when he looked around to find what had made the long vertical magenta flame, since he had found no other dragon there, nor sign of one, and he reported so when back at Rosby. There the commander told Nikuli that it was a beacon fire, but the long narrow hard-blasted flame was not like anything that a common wood-fire could make. Nikuli saw there something sheeted-over with bedding, a few feet long, hot at one end, but saw enough of its shape for him to alarmedly suspect that it was a device of tubes and a container, that one man could carry on his back and use. He wondered what else was being designed, by magic or ingenuity or both together, in Mossovy or Comevaa or Asshai and furtively brought here. He had guessed right — except that it was designed and made nearby in Harrenhal, not magical, far better designed and far more compact than the Guild of Pyromancers' attempt in 174 AC (ordered by King Aegon IV) to "make dragons" (as a history-recording scribe had called it) for use to attack in an invasion of Dorne.

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

Someone said: "I've read one of the books that came with those weapons. A man there had translated it: Arya had also brought back a Wovaqi to/from Comevaa-ese dictionary and grammar, and Wovaqi is near enough like Dothraki to understand it. The book 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 making that sort of very accurate metal part, and know where to get the metals needed, and a lot of strange words in Comevaa language. The lord at Harrenhal protects and helps them to make those weapons.".

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

News from afar

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

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

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

"I saw them come in. Strange sigil they chose for themselves." someone said.

"We got away safely and the ship picked us 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. In that dangerous infested infected waste of ruins and volcanic blowout had been for many centuries many rich families living in luxury, and power got from underground heat, and armies and a navy kept in training, and hundreds of trained ridden dragons. We had a copy of a Valyrian manuscript map of Valyria that was made before the Doom; trying to work from it was confusing – many roads marked on the map led over edges of clíffs. We had a `gagging order': always wear goggles and a good thick solid mouth-and-nose cloth gag, to keep the ash and dirt, and in Valyria worse, out of our eyes and lungs. Volcanic ash particles have sharp edges and corners and can do much damage, they get jammed against each other and can't be got out easily, not like ordinary wood ash. And there's worse stuff likely there: small eggs and spores that would hatch and grow, that you won't want getting into you, really dangerous horrible stuff from old strong magic gone wild and out of human control, like happened to Princess Aerea back in Jaehaerys I's time, and Septon Barth wrote about it. Gag and goggles and free hands are a strange combination, but we needed them to keep those creatures out of us while we worked, and they kept us safe. That's why a picture of a gagged man's head and face (and in the bottom corners, his hands and wrists, to show that they were free) got into use as that expedition's sigil, before anyone official had got around to choosing a sigil. That sort of frivolity happens when people let rank-and-file men choose names and symbols and sigils. We should have chosen a more appropriate symbol first. Thank the Seven, we ran into none of the big dangerous stuff that injured Balerion the huge black dragon when Aerea ran away on him, but we kept away from old and new eruption sites. Some think that that sigil represents us keeping secret about what we found. (Before anyone asks, a gaggle is a flock of geese, but I don't know what a gog is.)" [Author's note: In the real world, in the early 19th century workmen making sodium carbonate by the old Leblanc process around Runcorn in Cheshire in England had to work gagged for long periods, to keep caustic sodium carbonate powder out of their lungs.]

"We found someone's dragonhouse - four dead dragons in there, only bones left, likely suffocated by ashfall. We had a scare, but it was only a common rat snake, some of the men had picked it up in Volantis to keep the rats and mice down onboard. We broke into a locked room in a buried house: everything was still dry, books, books, books, and scrolls: old stories, poems, old history – and everything possible about breeding and training dragons, including how to hatch old gone-to-stone dragon eggs. So we've got some of that information back at last, and some of it likely had got lost in the Dance of the Dragons, and no more wild guesses such as trying to hatch a dragon egg by praying over it in a sept. And we found fifteen dragon eggs, but gods alone know if any of them'll hatch after so long, and they may have been already old when the Doom came, and the Doom was about 400 years ago. While they were there, a small volcano vent went off, blew ash and it started to settle everywhere: the order came: `Gags!', which we obeyed quickly! They're also Valyrian eggs, but if they hatch there's a good chance they'll be different-enough blood from what the Targaryens brought. I reckon that that attempt to hatch the three eggs at Vaes Dothrak only just scraped through, the powers used, the risk that Dany took, as the world's magic kept on fading with no dragons about, even with Mirri Maz Duur giving up her life to add her power to what there was, to get revenge on the Dothraki. Now that we have the three, it's been easier hatching more old eggs.

"We found a strange device with a high-pressure steel water boiler, that's a sort of giant kettle, heated by volcanic heat. The steam was led off into pipes and valves and ended in giant-tube-shaped things with a steel shaft pushing in and out, and a big wheel, and rods coming back from it to control valves, and driving a giant forge hammer. Those old Valyrians knew a lot. Noisy thing it'd have been. Much more complicated than that steam-boiler-powered thing hidden in the Black Goat of Qohor's temple that makes its main door open when its altar-fire is lit. Likely it's one of the many ideas that people say that the maesters know about and keep secret, like that maester complained about them leaking when ideas were brought in with the Comevaa weapons.

"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, as well as magic, try fire and putting a new fresh dragon egg with them; that was lucky, the new egg was already fireproof, or we got it fireproof in time. We also found very much about taming and training dragons, that's been lost since the Dance of the Dragons, including how to make horns to control dragons, and how to make Valyrian steel. Daenerys chose the High Valyrian word `Dracarys' to make her dragons breathe fire, but that word would not have been so used back home in Valyria before the Doom, it means "dragon fire"; most people spoke High Valyrian there, and if dragons were commanded in High Valyrian, and if also men talked about dragons and their fire nearby in High Valyrian, there was too much risk of confusion. That's why in old Valyria there was a special language used only to command dragons, and we found scrolls listing its words and grammar. For the same reason, people in parts of Essos have special words to command trained elephants, and beyond-the-Wall wildlings have special words to command trained mammoths.".

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

Various news came from further east in Essos. When Daenerys Targaryen was travelling with her small group of Dothraki, after she hatched the three dragonlets, she had gone to Qarth as the first step in finding a way home. That needed crossing the Red Waste, where Dothraki did not usually go, because there is no grazing for horses there. On the way they found a ruined city, unknown to them. There were grass and abandoned fruit plantations 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 a while 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: Travelling with some long-distance merchants, a group travelled from Qarth to Vaes Tolorro, with camels, not horses. They found easily why it was abandoned recently: it was a recent re-settlement, and a message scratched on rock in Qarth language said: "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 ate insects which ate old dry seeds, they found old scrolls, which spoke of many things. They and the old pictures said that 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. 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 babes 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, to get the fee to get passing traders to transport out as many of them as they could."

So the place was abandoned. Water came back, very slowly. The Dothraki came in from east, perhaps getting past one of the sea-ends of the Bone Mountains to avoid the three cities, pushed by overcrowding and by attacks by settled kingdoms who didn't want them around any more, and by desire to conquer and raid. They were then only a small group which had broken away from a settled realm. They spread as fast as they and their horses could breed into the power void left by the Doom of Valyria. 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.".

From distant lands

Later, during a meeting, the palace guard was on routine parade outside. But the noise included bursts of clicking noises, and some of the orders were unfamiliar, but in the usual voice. Someone at the meeting asked what the noises were. King Jon Targaryen explained: "They're drilling with those new weapons. The Harrenhal locksmithery's being rebuilt much bigger and they're making those weapons already, and the little projectile-and-fuel packages that they use to shoot, and nobody can merely wait until what's been brought from Comevaa's been used up and for the weapons to go back into old stories, and for people a few generations later to think that the whole thing was old magic-tale stuff. As I've said before, we can't get rid of those weapons: who knows where else those Ironborn or some lot 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 or north of the Wall.

"Come vaa 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 a land far away east along the Shivering Sea that we call Far Mossovy. I know we went west to get these, but the world is round like a ball. Long ago they found how to make the fire-dust, and at first they used it merely to make a noise and a show for the sake of it, or to impress in ceremonies, but it was not far from that to the first crude form of those weapons. Then their priests got into a track of getting the people to use their spare energy and devotion to design the best design of those weapons, including being able to shoot several times without having to reload, for their gods to use against the forces of evil, including in the great battle at the end of the world, and suchlike beliefs that some religions have, instead of getting into trouble and forming gangs and conspiracies through having nothing better 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 kings trying to stop them, from across so uncrossably wide a sea that someone there thought their gods had sent them into the world of men through the door that the sun rises through, as they believe, they think the world is flat, to collect the weapons, and so the Ironmen got full help loading and translating. This time the Ironmen had to put up with paying the gold price for everything they needed; trying to pay the iron price against such weapons would have brought a quick end on them from those weapons.

"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.".


Of the Dothraki that Daenerys had unwisely but unavoidably brought in ships to Westeros to help her to get her throne back from Robert's usurping line, very many had died in the battle against the Others. The rest, settled in a war-emptied country area in the Reach, felt confined and over time became restless and started galloping about on their horses and systematically attacking nearby Westerosi farms and villages and a town, and killed many, and were all killed when Westerosi lords and their armies fought back, but those armies also lost many men. News of this found its way to Essos, including to the remaining Dothraki there. Those two losses were massive, their biggest loss since Valyria had its former power and could patrol over the grassland on their dragons, more even than their losses when Khal Temmo set them to attack Qohor during the Century of Blood. Their khals met and decided to use a forthcoming holy-day to call all Dothraki to meet at Vaes Dothrak to decide matters and tell everybody first-hand properly about what had happened, and to encourage unity. This was done, but wine loosened tongues, and older literate men wrote down orders and information that should only have been remembered. The Lhazareen and Meereen and others heard of it and formed an alliance. A force of Westerosi for a long time had been secretly training Lhazareen and Meereen men in sword fighting and horseback fighting and Dothraki-type horseback archery – and in other things, and they were thankful for Arya Stark for finding Aryos far west across the Sunset Sea and for what she found there in the island-nation of Comevaa, and some Ironmen, following her up, had brought back. The Lhazareen and Meereeni, and their Harrenhal Westerosi trainers, had hastily planned to use this once-in-centuries opportunity and throw all their armed men together and attack the meeting, and went into action, driven to hard anger and action by memory of many incidents including the killing attack by Dothraki on Lhazareen that Daenerys saw, and many death-marches of captives across hot dry distance to the south coast slave-trading ports, and destruction of other peoples' culture and written records, and many betrayals of trust when they had agreed to help one group against another, or when they had agreed not to attack, and many other disliked deeds. The appointed leader of the Lhazareen said: "We'll see if from now on, the `Lamb Men' when attacked merely bleat. That lot of murderers and enslavers will soon see the difference between a wether [= gelded male sheep] grazing quietly and an entire ram with horns charging. This plan better work, or we all will be for it when they hit back.".

They knew that the Dothraki had a strict custom to never bring any weapon into Vaes Dothrak. 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 had converged and moved away ahead of them, to reach their meeting place at the day chosen. A horse dropping can tell a fair amount to the skilled, such as how fast the horse was moving and which direction and how recently, and what and how much the horse had been eating. Such as: a pile means the horse was standing, and a trail means the horse was moving, and how much the trail is spread out tells speed.

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 ground. 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. 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 gathering with swords and spears and arrows – and many with other weapons that they had. 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. Many among the allies ran in on foot or rode two on a horse, but jumped on horses which had been left tethered beside tents.

The rest of the Dothraki realized that they were being attacked, but many could not break quickly or at all from the long-enforced 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 men were there and could reach horses and weapons, galloped in to attack the attackers. The large unit of Westerosis who were with them got adverse comment for their odd-shaped ineffective-looking iron weapons, and were cursed for cowardice when they fell to their knees and then lay on the ground, well scattered, heads towards the oncoming enemy. A dense mass of mounted Dothraki charged at them, screaming, swinging arakhs and drawing bows, sure of victory, as before, but most of their arrows hit only earth or strongly helmeted heads, as their targets were end-on to them. The often-feared Dothraki mass mounted charge fast thinned out and crumpled as the Westerosis' Comevaa weapons, which they aimed and used under themselves as they lay, made noises somewhat like thick brittle wood breaking or woodpeckers drumming, aiming first at the horses. Horses fell or lurched sideways spouting blood from skin holes in the fronts of their chests in the massed charge. Other horses collided with them and staggered sideways or stumbled over them and fell, obstructing more. The new weapons could also throw from their front ends a handful-sized hard object that exploded like a thunderbolt when it hit, wounding men and horses, and throwing the charging horses into more disorder. Many Dothraki extricated themselves and, screaming in anger and blaming magic, charged on foot, and became targets and fell, and men and horses stumbled on them, and the Westerosis kept on shooting at them as the Dothraki war-screaming was echoed by the horrible din of horses screaming in pain. Other Dothraki tried to attack them from the back, but the Westerosis quickly got up on hands and knees and turned and lay down again and shot at the new attack. A Westerosi died by a stray arrow in his head, and a Dothraki grabbed his weapon and fumbled it trying to find how to operate it, and another Westerosi shot him and recovered the weapon; similar happened several times. The Westerosis judged correctly when the Dothraki ran low on arrows and so knew when it was safe to stand to shoot. Many on both sides died in the desperate fighting which eddied back and forth and around and in and out of tents and buildings for most of the day, but it was the allies who had men alive at the end.

Men patrolled the battle area, having no reason for mercy on any Dothraki trapped by a leg under his fallen horse or trying to stand with a leg broken and a knee wrenched in a collision of horses, but finished him off, sometimes with the shot-saving blade on the side of the end of his Comevaa weapon. A Lhazar man 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 heavy cost in casualties among the allies, but it was gone.

An era was over. People living around were safe from Dothraki at last, for the first time since Valyria stood and had its dragons to patrol with over the area. Pentos's prince signed an order siezing Khal Drogo's mansion. 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. And with trade routes to the far northeast now safer, trade ventures sent by the carpet makers could restart chasing rumours of new realistic cloth dye colours from Far Mossovy or somewhere even beyond that. And war had changed.

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, and buried their own dead. The eagles and ravens and wolves and hrakkars could do the rest; the job was far beyond hope of being done with what natural wood fuel was around; the area was already stripped of wood to feed campfires and Khal Drogo's funeral pyre. They searched all bodies and took all weapons and valuables and usable garments and loose arrows 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, wandering and grazing where they would, like man-less ghosts of the raiding khalasars who they had belonged to. Surviving Dothraki who had been captured and disarmed and secured, shocked and angry about how they had been defeated, said "While they grovelled on the ground as if dead or surrendering, they shot us with weapons from the smithy of Hell.", and in bitter sarcasm named those weapons' users in Dothraki language 'Lajasar fini arthaso', "the Army of the Fallen". The noncombatants of the Dothraki had perforce to accept the authority of the new rulers of the area including how to plough and dig and sow to grow food like most other peoples, and they knew that their time as horse-lords was over.

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, or between their north end and the sea, 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 called Ghedelys being built at and around the former Vaes Dothrak, and its artist showed the victory against the long-dreaded horse-lords made by some of the Lhazareen and Meereen men, helped by Westerosi men who were using the new `Comevaa weapons', and thanking Arya Stark and the Ironmen who had found them and brought them across a sea that had seemed endlessly wide.

The Westerosi force came back from the Dothraki War to King's Landing. It included many Ironmen, who were not quite pleased with having to march and fight so far from their sea, but it was another victory that they could boast of and sing songs about. And they had found so many non-Ironmen with them with the new weapons and drawings of how to make them, that it was clear that those weapons had spread too far to be all weeded out or to remain an Ironman monopoly.

Conflict over the empty land

The Iron Bank of Braavos called for Westeros to pay interest payments earlier than scheduled so that the coin could be lent on to Essos cities who were adventuring in the power void caused by the end of the Dothraki. While Jon again was in Essos on Rhaegal delivering and collecting messages, he found the armies of Lys and Volantis (two of the west-Essos port cities) marching against each other in a dispute thus resulting. They did not have the new weapons. 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. He flew low level over each army once, and each time, he got Rhaegal to flame safely up over the heads of the army, and nobody was hurt, but they felt its heat and saw its glare and it scared them into listening to him. Afterwards, he landed between the armies, and the leaders of the army came to him and complained that `We did no harm to you.'.

Jon 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. 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 what was Sarnor land is for the Sarnor. And there needs to be 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. Try to bring the other cities and countries involved to the meeting also. I've seen far too much blood and death and crippled men already. And about `did no harm', what about the endless amount of times your sea-wars interfered with shipping belonging to Westeros or other realms which were nothing to do with your quarrel?".

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

The Lys man said: "Our Archon ordered us. He wants the coastal land cleared right up to the Bone Mountains. His word is law.".

Jon said: "It isn't your Archon's land for him to pass laws about. It's the Lhazar's, and they'd had so much mistreatment from the Dothraki for so long that you should have left them alone. I thought you knew that there's a big meeting being planned to sort all this out.". In the Dothraki version he translated 'Archon' as 'Khal': he was too angry to waste time thinking for an exact right word.

The Lys man said: "The Archon ordered us to advance to the Bone Mountains. That is absolute." he insisted.

"I don't care." Jon said, and got Rhaegal to flame close up above their heads again, "Right now, get back west out of Lhazar land right back to the border and then fifteen miles further back. Leave your baggage train and all your supplies and valuables here: not for me but to compensate the Lhazar for the damage that your invasion caused. And leave fifty of your men who are skilled in building work, to help them to repair damage.". Afterwards, those armies' leaders, with the weapons that they had, saw no point in doing anything except going back home and sending the levied troops home. Not all the men got back home, because diseases nearly always go about with armies; but many lived who would have died of disease as well as in battle later if Jon had not interfered. The news spread, as news finds ways to spread even if it is not meant to. The men, returning alive and unwounded and without war-booty, worked off their frustrations in bed, as men will, conceiving babes who might not have existed if Jon had not interfered. Their wives and mothers and sisters, and children old enough, even before the births, knew why the fathers came home early, and in thanks gave some of the babes names meaning "Gift of the Dragon" or similar. This often caused rows between husband (who disliked reminders of being called off a campaign that much success had been promised for) and wife (who was glad to see him back alive and well).

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


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

Rid at last of the Dothraki threat, what was left of the Tall Men of Sarnor, now all under one king in their remaining home around Saath and and northward to the coast facing Ib, gradually spread back into all their old area, increasing as fast as they could breed. After re-establishing growing food and law and order in their recovered area, they turned their attention to learning. Memorial ceremonies in the ruins of destroyed library cities happened but recovered no lost records. Of historical information and suchlike, some survived in Saath, and some among the Ib, and plenty in Asshai, and bits here and there, much oral and thus distorted; and badly-remembered pieces among minstrels and mummers. But so much was missing – so many gaps. Writers started filling gaps as they could. Sarnor had had rival warring kingdoms, and each had a history which men wanted to recover or reconstruct. Scholars cursed the Dothraki and all their deeds, and wept at the many gaps, some long, in even their plain bare king-lists, and cursed the Dothraki renames for destroyed cities, "Vaes" and some contempt word. One of them broke with the frustration and invented names and births and marriages and deaths and events, to fill a gap. That broke a dam, and many others filled in long detailed royal and noble family histories from their imaginations. Battles were expanded from bare single statements to details of the action, sometimes as an epic poem. Poetic styles and meters were invented, and names and careers of poets. One often-sung children's short four-liner about a king's time-wasting on music and ale, relegated to nurseries, was expanded into a long detailed epic poem of rule and dynasty and war, which over time was treated as history and became a school standard text, carefully written in Sarnori language as it was spoken by a supposed old chronicler at the time and area of the events. It was later much discussed, often in much detail, by language and literature scholars. Men discussed at length details about how features of the scansion fitted the nature of events described; and there were other such books. After Sarnori literary men had checked these works over thoroughly, they was released for bulk copying, and men turned eagerly to these books, for lack of true record of those times, and retold them to their children, until in later generations most believed them to be true, as a fill-in up to known true recent and current events. Even so Sarnor got its land and its pride of history back.

Some tell of the Eighteen Dothraki, unfortunate prisoners held in Saath after the war when Essos was thankfully rid of the Dothraki nomad hordes. They were renamed after eighteen old Sarnori writers of histories and philosophies, who had written much now-lost old literature that men wanted back. They were ordered, and not gently when they objected, to use only those changed names for themselves, and to learn to read and write, and to talk and write only in Sarnori, old forms as well as the current form, and to compose and copy out this matter, and to iron out inconsistencies, and to add details and matter and poems as suitable, and thus to help to remake the literature which their old namesakes had written, including keeping track of how Sarnori language had changed in each area as centuries passed. Stories, theatre plays, scientific writings, philosophies, several sorts of writings flowed from their and other pens, all with official authorship allocated to various authors spread through Sarnor's history. The style and mentality of all this ordered to be done was contrary to all that Dothraki had been brought up in childhood to use, and in an unfamiliar language, by men who had not read or written until a long way into adulthood. And a native Sarnorian astronomy had to be reconstructed – the remnant around Saath had gone over to using the Ib sailors' astronomy. They complained, and were ordered to "Replace what you destroyed!!", and they had to obey if they were to eat. The Dothraki system was gone, and occasional furtive plans to get hold of enough horses and set up a new khalasar came to nothing.

One of them was wearying of having to be the returned ghost of the old Sarnori writer and poet Kangawan-i-lagh. Once he had been Khal Jhaqo, leading a khalasar of horsemen on fierce raids across wide lands, and for a while Daenerys Targaryen and her dragon Drogon had been allied with him. But in the recent cleanout war he had not died fairly by edge or point or shot, to ride (so their priests said) a stallion of fire or smoke and ash across the night sky, but been stunned with a club and captured, and later led to Saath, and there was taught languages and ideas that he did not want to know. Recently he had even started to dream in Sarnori. His mind was whip-driven endlessly in tracks that he had not been brought up to know. News had reached them of the doings of the Gagged Men, or for short the Gags, as the recent risky expedition to Valyria were sometimes called, after their head-gear often worn to avoid breathing in harmful ash and dust and magical wyrm-egglets and suchlike when digging in the dangerous ruins of Valyria, and thence their expedition's sigil hastily chosen by a few rank-and-file members. Among many things, they had found in Valyria remains of iron or steel devices powered by steam raised by volcanic heat from underground, and found how they worked. He knew that after his writings left his hands, others would check it for inconsistencies, and for deliberate inappropriate matter inserted by the disgruntled. But he had to do something.

He knew of men who had managed to make the strange Asshai'i black oily stone release its oil, so that men could burn it. Jhaqo, as he again despite consequences for a while went back to his birth name as a far-galloping horse-lord, thought of a last ride to likely defeat, but mounted on what? To carry himself and loads, he had been allowed to use, as he called it, "that shrunken mockery of a horse", a donkey. He needed better. He had had use of a copy of the report of the Valyrian discoveries. With it were copies of several old Valyrian scrolls found long buried, speculating about other possible sources of power. All were in High Valyrian, with scrawly writing and strange new words and many abbreviations. Several of those designs needed the "lodestone and lightning and rubbed amber" secret branch of magic, and none of the Eighteen trusted magic or were mages. But one design did not need it. It said that air compressed suddenly and tightly enough may become for a moment hot enough to start a small fire or explosion in oil-mist. It reminded him of the ages-long-known skill of drilling with a piece of wood in a hole in another piece of wood fast and long until they became hot enough for the two pieces of wood to be the two parents of Fire, the ancient and often-reborn, who at once fed greedily on dry stuff piled around; men called it a firedrill. But doing it this new way seemed unlikely enough for him to include it in his work as an ink-and-time-waster, and he remembered what could be distilled from the oil got from the Asshai'i black oily stone. His mind writhed in captivity and came up with many possible changes. What about lubricating moving parts? The old Valyrian drawings were detailed and clear and well-annotated. The common expression "putting the cart before the horse" for getting things wrong, came to his mind and affected his thinking. In the end he turned it into something that looked as if it may convince someone. He wrote in detail about it, and how it would or should work, intending to spoil his work with silly unlikely matter. But practicality returned, and he realized that a checker-over would routinely spot and remove this matter, so he hid it instead and carried on with the work that he had been told to do, the endless complications of helping to remake a lost literature and tradition, as he struggled against his distaste at petty prettiness to re-complete a set of lyrical poems written in four-centuries-before western Sarnori about flowers and bees and butterflies, and now known only as a few half-burnt scraps. And to relieve the sameness he sometimes played about with his description of what to him was an unrealistic fictional device.

Later, he and two palace workmen had use of a workshop. Still having the mind of a proud Dothraki, desperate for revenge at long horseless captivity and constraint, not caring for the punitive conseqences, or for having to work as a smith, he with their help made the device, with much casting and working and shaping of steel, aided by the information that Arya had brought from Comevaa across the endlessly wide Sunset Sea to Deepwood Motte and from there overland to Harrenhal including about measuring in thousandths of an inch. And how to rotate it fast enough with a big angled handle to make it start running. But the thing worked, and the part around where its internal fire was got too hot to touch, and its inside parts span under its own power, making a noise and a smell of burnt oil, if fed with the oil got from the black oily stone that mages and others had told and still told so many strange stories about.

Now to make it do something useful. He put it on a handcart so he could move it about, and slept, and dreamed that it was moving the cart while still resting on it. He woke, and worked out how to add parts to make it do that. He thought, made models in wood and string, had second thoughts, slept, dreamed irrelevantly that he was riding a stallion at the head of a khalasar on a raid, woke, had third thoughts, ate, and the same again many times, with the dream stallion gradually changing into his cart driven by the device that he had been working on, sometimes with the cart in front, returning often although on waking he vigorously shook his head to rid it of such dream fuzz, over months of being ordered about. He realized that he was developing a mind of iron and wheels and oil and books and forgetting the open wind and the grasses and a fast horse under him. At last he found a design that looked as if it would work, if he also made its cart from iron.

He and his fellows made it. The old Valyrians had been clever and skilled, and to much surprise, his strange unattractive steel mount worked. It vibrated as it carried him on a seat fastened to a four-wheeled steel frame with its load in an emptyable hinged skip in front of him. It steered by turning its two back wheels. He soon stopped bothering about the endless pulses of hot burnt-smelling and often smoky wind that its live part, close beside him and soon too hot to touch, noisily blew off to his right as he sat. Someone found how to put padding round the wheels and springs in the axle mountings to stop excessive bumping and vibration. A long-distance trader from Westeros said that it made the workshop smell like a windless day on Dragonstone. By then the Sothoryosi jungle tree and its sap and what could be made from it were well known of, and that improved things, and he settled for the while to a design.

Reality blew fantasy away as he realized flatly that he was one against many, as he rode it about in and near Saath carrying loads as ordered, and people stared at him, and horses and haulage oxen acted nervous at it, and he saw sense and did not attack anyone with it. He found how to somewhat quieten the endless succession of small explosion noises that it made. But men saw uses for it, and copied his crude device and gradually improved it. Fame for that invention went not to that captive Dothraki's real name or official rename, but to a slang name for him chosen by palace workmen. The port authority at Ibbish was the first to want one of his powered steel carts, to carry loads. Men guessed connection with the inventions which had come from Comevaa, on an island a long way away to the west over land and then sea, or a long way to the east across Sarnor and the wide cold distances of Mossovy. But he had begun a new age in Essos and Westeros.

The long voyage

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

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

A long way east past Yi Ti is the feared shadowed sorcery-famed city of Asshai, at the east limit of knowledge as it was then, at the east end of the Jade Sea, beside an east-leading sea passage between the continents of Essos and Ulthos, called the Saffron Strait, which led out of knowledge into stories indirectly carried to Westeros from afar, including hard-to-believe stories about assorted things such as Winged Men and Bloodless Men. On their travels they asked about the local versions of widespread legends such as those about various strange animals and plants and trees. Some people guessed that actually the so-called Winged Men wore imitation leather or cloth wings on their backs for some fashion or religious reason. Some stories said that they could genuinely fly. Some said that the wings were detachable and powered, likeliest by magic. Some said that the wings were parts of their bodies. Many such stories of varying unlikeliness from unreached distance had down the centuries been passed about in waterfront wine-shops and such places and retold and embroidered and carried on further. Derrick felt that he needed to keep up contact with Asshai, while he was that far east, so he went there, past the east end of Yi Ti and further, and anchored by the huge ancient dark buildings under the shadow that always hung over the city and the sea and mountains around. A big ominously-dark river flowed through it. He guessed that somewhere near, perhaps upstream that river, perhaps not, there must be better-lit lands where food was grown and shipped or boated to the city. And as Derrick reported:-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We were a long time exploring the Gulf of the Winged, as we had much to see and chart, and strange animals and strange plants and strange birdsong. In return the Winged Men wanted good first-hand information about remote legendary indirectly-known far-western lands such as Westeros and western Essos. Some of them rode on our ship or flew over it, warning about dangers. We gradually learned their language. They warned us about a dangerous sea animal called a tepwan, which may have been the sea dragons heard about in old stories. It is not a serpent. It has a wide deep streamlined body tapering both ways with a tapering tail and a long thin neck. It grows, or it comes in varieties, from seal-sized to as long as a ship or a leviathan or a whale. It usually swims not with its tail but with two pairs of big diamond-shaped side flippers. The end part of its tail is flattened side-to-side, used for steering, and for swimming when it has to go through a narrow gap or close alongside something with its side fins folded in. It has not much blubber, and so it can't stay in cold water in the winter. Its head is like a snake's but longer, on a long flexible neck which can reach over the sides of boats and ships and then down inside. I don't know if the ironmen's Nagga was one of them. A big tepwan with its double-jointed jaws can quickly turn a man endways and swallow him whole. Its palate is a separate bone split into left and right halves which can slide front and back separately, much easier to turn prey endways for swallowing, much quicker than it often takes a duck with its single unsplit sliding palate bone to turn headfirst and swallow a frog which it has dredged out and is holding by a back leg or sideways or back-end-first. A big tepwan can empty in short order a pearling boat or a houseboat which has unwisely intruded from the Jade Sea or the eastern ocean or a river and pump its crew one after another down its throat as a succession of bulges. If a river has flooded or a cyclone has come inland, there are no survivors to rescue or dead to bury if tepwans turn up. They can easily stop and stove-in and sink a big ship. Five years ago a cyclone came inland and a pack of tepwans came inland on the flood and found a big oar-and-sail raft trying to reach Koroshai, and they broke the raft up, and over 300 bulges went down their throats. None escaped. If people are stranded on a small island, the smaller younger tepwans can come onshore like seals can: no safety even out of water. And more when they break up flooded buildings that people are on upper floors of. Tepwans move about with the seasons as open-sea fish move about, else there's be next to no sea-sailing at all there. We Westerosi are lucky with only wolves and lions and suchlike, and nowadays a few dragons, about. They are a reason why the Winged prefer to fly when crossing open sea, but sailing is needed to carry heavy cargoes, and for sea-fishing, and they had plenty of work for our ship to earn its supplies. Winged Men when sea-fishing prefer to sail in a close group of boats, with always a man on a tall mast-top or flying as lookout, ready to warn the fishing crew to all fly up if danger in the sea comes near.

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

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

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

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

Events settle down

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

The problem had be sorted out of such as the Watchers on the Wall and the Kingsguard, where service is tradionally for life, but, as Jon knew from his time as Jon Snow, Wall commander, no commander had yet been found who could train or discipline away the effects of advancing old age. Some commanders had stretched a point and had invalided men out for "incapacitating wound" when the real cause was progressive slowness and stiffness or stiff painful joints, or the severe ever-worsening inertia and/or forgetfulness that sometimes comes on the old. And he was having to cope with a flood of wildlings fleeing from the cold enemy's growing power; many of them were allowed to join the Wall garrison and the rest to settle south of the Wall.

At Hoarfrost Hill wall-fort Jon once found that a rack was in use, and investigated what was happening. He readied himself for sharp disciplinary action against unnecessarily cruelty, but saw that the rack was unusually set up, with the two upper ropes joined to a well-padded harness round the chest, and the two lower ropes joined to a well-padded harness round the hips, leaving the hands and feet free, stretching only the lower back. Its occupant was operating it himself by reaching an arm out to the rack-wheel. He was an old Wall storekeeper who had heard that a period of moderate stretching, of the back only, sometimes alleviated chronic lower back pain for a while afterwards, tried it, and it worked.

Jon read a recent report that a Wall man "had been put on light duty because of age-related stiffness and slowness, and later showed his thanks for that largely by persistently lazily ignoring and muddling orders.", and that four increasingly severe punishments had not stopped that. Jon, asking the sentencing records man for the circumstances, had to ask four times increasingly angrily including letting his hand stray to his dagger, before the records man, aided by much disorderly side-tracky discussion, waded through arithmetic based on how old successive kings and nearby lords and a particular Wall riding horse had been when they began work or died, and at last coughed up the culprit's age — which was 83. That started a shouting row among the men there. Jon spoke his mind about people who do not consider the widely-known unavoidable effects of old age on the body and mind, and sharply ordered that such consideration must be made. He also sharply reminded everybody that all records must be written and accurately dated and timed, and not lazily trusted to memory. He dropped all charges and sent the old man to an infirmary at White Harbour, where the weather was much warmer and better than at the Wall, to live his remaining years in sound and sight and news of the harbour and ships.

A king is said to reign from a throne, but Jon and Daenerys and their Hand often had to sit on lesser seats that could be placed at a table to work on papers and sort out matters. And he had to travel to find what had happened, in thick leather over thick fleece and a leather hood in all weathers high above any sheltering trees, since now he had the means to, high above ambush risks, wearing goggles to keep insects and bits out of his eyes at that speed, rather than wasting time travelling at foot or horse speed. Often his dragon Rhaegal's back was his office seat and pouches in Rhaegal's harness were his office desk drawers. Men digging in the remains of Valyria, working gagged (and thus explaining their expedition's sigil) to protect their lungs from the magical and volcanic hazards of the area's feared ash deposits, had found Valyrian dragon-controlling horns and scrolls about how to make and use them. Training and controlling dragons was now much more certain, now that men knew what those "sorcerous horns" did, to make musical notes of pitches and pitch-patterns that had effects on dragons hearing them, and how to make such horns.

Cider Hall

Jon rode on Rhaegal over the southern Riverlands in late summer. One of his Kingsguard rode with him, in dread at seeing the ground so far below him. By then, smallfolk were accustomed to seeing ridden dragons flying over, high above the dangers and delays of roads and the ground. They flew over the depopulated area round the God's Eye lake, where in recent years those (far too few) who had survived by hiding from invading westermen armies were trying to keep small areas of it in crop and from falling back through scrub to forest, and to keep alive the memory of local placenames. He crossed a border into the Reach and neared Cider Hall, where he was expected. As he came near some harvesters that he had seen, other men came out at them on fast horses from the castle, and there was activity. He told Rhaegal to stop flapping and to glide, and in the resulting quiet he heard argument and pleading from below and ahead. He flew on. He saw horses and hounds in a courtyard in Cider Hall castle being made ready for a deer hunt. He landed in another courtyard and tethered Rhaegal there. He, and the Kingsguard man who had ridden with him and was thankful to be walking on the ground again, went in, expecting a battle of wills between people wanting to entertain him at length and him wanting to discuss matters at once instead of after delay caused by entertainments.

Lord Kemmah Fossoway welcomed him, apologizing that the food was workman-type, with coarse bread and strong pickle and suchlike, and not entertainment-quality. He told six men to carry Jon's packages, and offered a deer hunt.
Jon remarked on what he had seen as he was flying in.
Kemmah said: "Your Grace came with little warning. I had to ...".
Jon was not in the habit of brusque interrupting, but this time he had to. "I sent round eleven days ago telling everybody that, as haymaking and harvest are the most important work in the farming year, and as the best part of the land's food comes from the harvest, and as hay is so important as feed for livestock, harvest and haymaking work are absolutely privileged and come before anything else, and that men must not be taken off harvest or haymaking for anything which is not both essential and very urgent, and that men busy with harvest and haymaking need their food to keep up their strength up for the long heavy harvest work and that that food must not be requisitioned off them. And a law is still in force, passed by King Jaehaerys I, ordering that there must be no horseback hunting for pleasure when and where crops are liable to damage. Particularly since both need plenty of dry and sun and are such a hurry and a gamble with the weather.".
Kemmah, apprehensively knowing that the king's dragon Rhaegal was tethered nearby, admitted that the offered food was packed lunches commandeered from harvesters, to save kitchen time preparing food, and that the six men had been taken off the harvest.

Jon, not pleased, told Kemmah: "Give all the food back and let the six men go back to their harvest. I passed an order about three months ago reminding people about the laws about harvests and harvesters. That order should have been copied and distributed by now, and you all should have received and read it by now. And saying that lords must not casually push into events and houses and take food, or casually order people met on the way to hand over food, because the workers need their food to keep their strength up for important work. I had that when I was a Wall commander: a lord from away south visited Castle Black, and I had to head him and his men off from pushing into the Wall men's rest-and-eating room demanding my men's food. I can take four of them back to the harvest behind me on Rhaegal, not far and it'll save their time and their legs. And another thing that's come from having dragons again: As I was flying in, I was high enough to see over those hills to the west, far farther than you on the ground can. I saw a big storm brewing up west of those hills, and you'll need every man and horse and work ox to get the rest of the harvest to the barns in time.".

Jon knew of three cases where gentry took over a village wedding and ate all the food, and claimed privacy and ordered the guests out, and took all the leftovers away with them, leaving the bride weeping and the groom shocked and angry, and later people scraped food together to give what replacement feast they could, and gentry came again and pushed in and took and ate all that also. After that, around there, they wedded without feasts, and had a feast later when the weather was too bad for gentry to want to travel or hunt. He knew that that sort of petty misdeed adds up and sets smallfolk against gentry and they join the next rebellion that comes, and that encourages outlaws to become rebels, and it costs in coin and lives to restore order.

"Seven hells!" exclaimed Lord Kemmah, "My maester said the weather looked set fair! Thank the Seven there's nothing else to be got in this year for a month, except cider apples, and they don't mind getting wet or being windfalls. All right, all right. Like that septon said, food matters first. The dry spell's over. All of you get out and help the harvesters! Get the hounds back in kennels, hunt staff to help with the harvest. And I'll have to chase up Highgarden again about why they aren't copying-and-sending laws and news on to us like they said they would, all this chase-about starting, and the King here and all. Household and armed retainers stampeded out of the castle to riding horses and carts and wagons, and each found a pitchfork, or failing that, a forked cut sapling or a spear, and got to the field and helped to load sheaves. Men saw the unsettling winged sight of Jon on Rhaegal flying out and back bringing to the work what people they could find who overcame fear and risked a dragonback ride, a memory which people would tell children about for generations. They reached the work fields and work became faster. Yoke-oxen bellowed and wagon wheels creaked as they were goaded on from a walk to a canter. "Thanks, but please, Your Grace need not ..." Lord Kemmah said to King Jon, who himself was frantically throwing sheaves of wheat with a spear up onto an ox-wagon, but Jon knew that one man more could make a critical difference. So knew the kítchen staff, who had barricaded the kitchen area against dogs and cats and then run out also, bringing plenty of food out with them and then helping to load the ox-wagon. Lord Kemmah realized that he and his household should join in the work. The extra hands got the crop moving faster. Work continued as the first dismaying distant rumbles, and advance-guard of trails of mares'-tails clouds showing over the hills, showed that the King was right and told of need for haste. An occasional dragonhorn note that meant "Daor!" (High Valyrian for "Not" or "Don't") from Jon was enough to discourage Rhaegal from developing the pointless habit of arguing back against thunder, which became steadíly and ominously louder, resounding under the huge dome of heaven. Each thunder was fewer heart-beats after its lightning as the storm's white anvil-shaped tops rose above the hills and then the sky darkened over from the west. Three men passing by tethered their horses and joined in, running carrying armfuls of sheaves. In a field shelter Jon noticed six seven-week-old kittens struggling to overpower two big rats which had come out for seeds in the wheat; he managed to spear both rats while missing the kittens. The kittens soon found two more rats and jumped on them, sinking sharp little milk-teeth through dirty flea-ridden fur into flesh in earnest already, and dragged them aside away from feet and hooves, and thus the six had their own harvest victory feast, as their mother cat came in carrying another rat. Men remembered which cats they were, because a cat is worth far more if it is a proven rat-killer. As the first drops fell, the last cart left with the last of the crop, and went into a barn to unload as the sprinkling turned into a peltdown as in the barns men tidied up the sheaves which had been hastily dumped off carts and wagons.

There, long before in a winter under King Viserys I, a squirrel's long wide abundant red fluffytail lifted spread up its back as it sat up eating a hazelnut did not fully hide the squirrel from an earlier Lord Fossoway's son's trained goshawk. The son kept the fluffytail as a trophy. Thus, a walnut that the squirrel had buried was not remembered and dug up and eaten, but grew into a tree. In King Jon's time, lightning from the storm struck the tree and left a long wide burn down one side. One of the men helping with the harvest was the lord's carpenter, who saw the lightning strike and realízed that in later years much of the tree's cambium growing over the dead strip would go into "strengthen a damage repair" mode and make many dense patches of reinforcing resin in the new wood, making a spectacular amount of figure, which would become prized ornament in some piece of walnut furniture made by some future successor of his.

Lord Kemmah ordered to be brought out an old work ox which had become hopelessly lame. Men found while it was being cut up that its left front hoof's outer toe was full of festering which had eaten away much of its toe-bones. The rest of its meat was sound, but old and tough. Rhaegal was given as much of its meat as she wanted. In the castle the lord's kitchen staff handed round the food that they had made and brought out. Outside, the rain sometimes turned to hail, and the thunderstorm continued for hours, but finally went away east over the Crownlands, but left behind long heavy ordinary steady rain from a featureless weeping grey sky.

Next day Jon and his guard mounted Rhaegal and flew to the Tyrell's castle at Highgarden, and there, when he had managed to push business to the front of the agenda past offers of entertainments, asked why new laws and orders had not been copied and sent on. He, like many kings and their agents before him raising this point, got the usual pleas about not enough scribes being available, and pressure of other work, and the great number of copies that would have to be made, and suchlike. He had heard similar from big area lords about them not copying on and passing on new laws and news to all their subordinate lords as they should have, and wondered what was to be done. He remembered Cider Hall's household galloping to action "with whip and spur like a bunch of Dothraki" – and his mind jumped east over sea to the Dothraki grassland – and he remembered the two Common-Speech-to-Dothraki grammar-and-dictionary books which he had bought in Myr for an unexpectedly low price, and strange things in them such as every letter of the same sort being exactly the same – "like all the impressions from my great seal are the same" — and he realized. Much designing and experimentation, including how to harden cast lead without making its melting point too high, followed. The weather went colder and stayed wet or variable for several weeks after. Work and time passed. By that time next year hundreds of copies of new laws and suchlike could be made quickly and easily for distribution, by an art which was no longer Myr's secret alone.

Mountains of the Moon

Jon flew on Rhaegal for a day over the Mountains of the Moon surveying. The mountain clans had heard about him. Those mountain clans had been there from before recorded history and had always been as they were now. He saw a line of armed men on their small sure-footed horses of the type called garrons, coming down from mountains into a flatter lower farmed area. As he flew down at them, they turned round and went back up into their mountains in a way that showed that their journey had been for no good purpose.

He flew to the Eyrie, built on top of the Giant's Lance mountain, the main castle of the Arryn family, whose family head was the lord of the Vale of Arryn, and of mountains around and of long sea-headlands called the Fingers. He flew over its defences and cliffs and way-towers, landed, tethered Rhaegal in the Eyrie's courtyard, and entered Lord Arryn's throne room. To one side he saw the dreaded Moon Door, where many had been thrown to their deaths far below down the centuries.

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

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

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

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

Lord Robert Arryn was in total shock. His attempts to balance the appearance of authority against handling threats from the clans and others had fallen apart. Message-ravens and other birds, and nothing else, had left and come safely through the Moon Door and the sky cells, down the ages as in Westeros about a hundred kingdoms became seven became one, but now that rule had been broken. Any immediate clear clue to Robert Arryn about what had happened was now folded away out of sight in Jon's backpack, and before had been made in a secret building in the feared shadow-realm of Asshai far away. He had to obey. Written records about the Eyrie's present and past prisoners proved to be few and scrappy, while kings and lords and powers changed around them. Many of the prisoners were insane. What could be reconstructed from the prison staff's memory was vague or none, and scrawled misspelled badly-worded short notes left by such as the thickheaded bully chief warder Mord did not help much. Jon found that Mord was dead: a bit over a year before, Mord had thought that a group of new garrison men were new prisoners, and he bullied them, and a fight started, and they jumped on him, breaking his neck: it is said that "the bigger they are, the harder they fall".

Jon sorted the records as he could, and copied what he could copy, as Robert went into a scared confessing state: "All right, Your Grace, first ever who went out of the Moon Door and lived, and unhurt at that, some sorcery or another, and coming on that dragon. Nobody's here or in earshot, so I'll speak freely. I'm under tight orders from the clans, the Milk Snakes and the Moon Brothers and the rest, that since they lost several men a year ago when they attacked a bunch of men who proved to be high lords with sword skill to match, I must make no more sweeps against them and I must give them weapons and supplies as they tell me, and no excuses, or they won't let any more supplies through to me and they'll starve me out. They told me that `I'll put it that, you better check very carefully who comes as a servant and all food and drink that comes in.': I don't like veiled threats. Sorry about how I acted, but two of those that I arrested when they called were Lannisters and the Lannisters a bit before sent a hired knife to try to kill Bran Stark. Recently a man came to meet me from the port, he said to trade, and I overheard his two servants talking in Rhoynish language, which likeliest meant that they were Stepstones pirates descended from some of Nymeria's people who deserted on their way to Dorne. They hoped that I'd think it was merely gibberish, but I'd learned Rhoynish from an old scroll that I've got, and I understood things that I wasn't meant to. Those clans in league with sea pirates would be the end for my rule here. At least until now people have been able to get in and out of here safely by sea. Now that nobody's in earshot except us, I'll speak my mind. Time something was done about those gangs in the mountains. From way back when there were thirty or so kingdoms in Westeros, we around here have come to arrangement after arrangement after arrangement with that lot, a fixed amount to pay to them each year instead of them raiding and robbing, marriages between us and them, sworn signed treaties with a septon there, and all sorts, but always they made some excuse, that the oath was in the name of something non-binding, or that we did something petty that was wrong, and they raid and kill again, and they insist on joining my army when the king or lord or someone calls for it, and they steal from houses that they pass or from other men in the army, and I end up blamed for it, and two clans fight against each other instead of against the enemy, and they turn aside from orders and go robbing and looting, and I get blamed, and so it goes on. And a recent case: a bunch of them came down ten miles into the Vale and cleaned out a village, took all the women and every scrap of grain, killed half the men, and likely sold many of the women to Stepstones pirates who sneaked in. Mountain and Vale has so much mountainous rocky coastline with narrow deep hidden inlets that pirate ships can sneak into.".

Jon found out what he could and went back to Rhaegal and left the place, working out what to do. He got through other calls and went home for a badly-needed rest, fed and cleaned Rhaegal and then himself. The time spent cleaning and feeding Rhaegal let his mind rest and settle. He went to his private room and caught up with office work. Soon after, one useful thing happened: the sky cells were evacuated, left occupied only by a breeding pair of wild eagles that had nested there and their two young. One sky cell was later given an outside wall and window and converted into a message ravenry.

The Mountains of the Moon clan cleanout came when enough reliable men had been armed and assembled and ordered, and action plans made. By then they knew much about the Mountains of the Moon and where the peaks and gorges and slopes and clan gangs' lairs were. Dragons made the difference, letting their riders spot from the air and fly above all ground obstructions, and able to see in the night as well as cats and owls can. Prince Aegon, formerly Young Griff, now known as Aegon Griff when there was need to distinguish, took part in this war, on foot, and during lulls in the fighting he claimed and learned to ride Viserion. Robert remembered becoming Lord of the Vale of Arryn much too young when his father and many men with him died when they pursued raiding mountain clan men too far and were ambushed. Records of the old Dornish wars and of King Jaehaerys I's cleanout against the second Vulture King in the Red Mountains taught what risks to look for. Men fought men on roads and on mountains and in caves. Remote bases were found and flamed, destroying stores. Flames caught clansmen on the march and as they set up to roll rocks down on the King's army. Clans' cultivation and flocks in remote hill corners were destroyed. The clans sought supplies and revenge and tried to stop the king's men from attacking and getting supplies, by maximum-force raids into the lowlands of the Vale. Both sides became pitiless, and at least three times hostages taken from the Vale burnt along with their holders in clan-holds in the mountains. Men led convoys of poisoned food about, and clans robbed it and ate it and died. Two dragons were injured by the heavy mounted crossbows called scorpions, but not seriously. One was grounded by a wing injury, and in a safe area of the Vale local lowland-dwellers willingly in thankfulness gave all help and supplies needed to nurse it until it could fly again. A full account of the Mountain and Vale Clan Cleanout War would be too much for a one-volume book without it being unwieldy or likely to come apart at its binding. Many songs are sung about it. It was a long complicated messy war and lasted three years. Food to feed the army was shipped in by the Vale's coast, to avoid eating the area bare as the king's and queen's men, retaliating at last after centuries of murderous robbery, hunted the clans through and in and out of every den in the mountains. The Stepstones pirates proved faithless as usual and dropped out of their side of their arrangement at the first serious resistance by the King's fleet. Attempts by clansmen to leak away and set up elsewhere did not work. At last the area was safe.

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

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

After a final and much-thanked end of those clans had been made, Jon and Dany during a royal progress flew in to see the area's yearly celebration of this liberation, and wanted to see how they were represented on stage, as the events included a mummer-type re-enacting of the events, to help to keep the area in memory of what had happened. The royal dragons Rhaegal and Drogon attracted curiosity and also fear. Some rich enough to have a "golden dragon" coin on them, looked at it and compared the depiction on it with the reality that had long been merely old stories. All action was live, not with puppets. The play started. The villagers had to represent participants by what they had: a man rode in, and said who he was acting, and the minds of those watching had to enlarge him into the King and his armour, and his country garron into a royal destrier. The play proceeded. At the right time in the action, instead of a cloth-and-stick "mummer's dragon", a big village man ran in with his arms out sideways representing wings, and a young village maid rode on his back, presumably acting Daenerys riding on Drogon; she called out "Dracarys! Fire be on you lot who keep coming robbing!". Another such big man was ridden by a village boy, representing Rhaegal ridden by Jon. The actors representing the mountain clansmen fled before them or fell and acted dead. Jon and Daenerys when not flying were played by adults.

Among much action, a barn on a nearby mound for a while became the Sons of the Mist's feared clan lair on a hidden mountain, as some of the king's army actors attacked it and cleaned it out. Rhaegal's actor ran in, arms spread sideways, showing those watching that Rhaegal was flying. Jon-flying's actor jumped off him down behind a bush, where Jon-walking's adult actor ran out and joined his men attacking the trapped outlaws until none were left. Thus the last outlaws died or were captured, and their loot and captives were recovered, and the play was over, apart for thankful reunions. The real Jon and Daenerys watching saw thankfully that their roles of king and queen were treated with respect without clowning or sillyness or accusations. The actors returned to being ordinary village smallfolk. Mariette Longton and her crude inaccurate green-willow bow and her stick came back from being Queen Daenerys and her dragonbone bow and Valyrian-steel sword. Alfred Ravenhill, hardy at much heavy work at haymaking and harvest, came back from being Drogon the mighty sky-flying dragon with her on his back. After, there was music and triumphal parade, as well as the area could manage. "I can see what some of the people are thankful for, to help to bring about the millennia-awaited deliverance." said a septon, "In the sept's list of thank-for-birth services [held at the Mother Above's altar], those born since the war against the clans started include: Rhaegal Bakerson, Viserion Cragside, Rhaegal Millbridge, Bluewings Rickison, and several Jons and Daeneryses.". Jon and Dany and those with them packed and left; the special day was over and went back into old memory, and ordinary work awaited those who lived there.

Peace at last

Over time, the damaged areas of Kings Landing were rebuilt, this time with plenty of covered channels to lead foul-water out of built areas and away, and people gradually stopped using stink-related slang names for the city. Nikuli's Bluewings, and then the seven new Dragonstone hatchlings, became big enough to ride, and sometimes Jon had to leave official duties to help to train their riders, as he and Dany and old written records were the only authorities there with experience of training dragons and dragon-riders, among the long job of finding what still worked where and listing the countless amount of damage done by battles and repeated passage of armies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"She knows about bribing dogs already." he thought annoyedly; thankfully his dog had been taught firmly not to accept food from strangers. He did not trust her at her age to obey and stick to orders to keep clear of risks and go home, so he thought first to fly with her to the village, where her parents would likely be. A man of the village who had seen him flying in, was cantering up on one of the many stray ex-Dothraki horses left after recent events; he galloped to the place and dismounted, and he was her father. He took hold of her hand firmly and was not pleased: "Over a mile and a half from home! Your promises two days ago didn't last long!". Nikuli 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 for getting into danger and causing delay. "Going equipped to try to get past a dog, you're trying to go somewhere you're not allowed! I told you to keep right away from work and fires! Never mind wanting to see things close up! It must be serious, for that man to land his dragon here, and dragons and fire are dangerous, keep right away from them!". He said to Nikuli: "I'm sorry about the delay she's caused, ser, she ran out when her mother was chasing two cats out of the kitchen that were trying to get at milk.", and turned to lead his daughter back home, holding her hand firmly by one hand and leading his horse by his other hand, angrily cancelling promised treats and ordering her to be kept on a tether from then on when outdoors, while she still wailed about "You never let me see things properly close-up.". Nikuli 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." Nikuli explained, although the area already knew that from the smoke and the smell and the noise, "I'm going to make a back-burn, along the road and the river.", and pointed, while some looked apprehensively at his dragon, "Beat it out when it spreads south, but let it spread north. Tell the other men that.". The horse rider told Nikuli to hold his daughter's hand firmly, remounted his horse, told Nikuli to put her on his saddle pommel, and rode carefully back to the village. Nikuli remounted Bluewings and got back into the air after the distressing delay. The main fire advanced, preceded by flying bits of burning stuff, as an army in battle is preceded by flights of arrows. By then plenty of country smallfolk and lords' men were behind the planned firebreak. Nikuli flew the backburn line again, to check; then "Dracarys" and the burning run. The assembled men let the fire run north, but stopped it southwards. Men were in place to control the ends of the burn line. Once, Nikuli 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. Nikuli on Bluewings flew, herding the two towards the lords' group, and then up and away to avoid scaring horses as the lords rode after and caught the two. They were recognized as two persistent nuisance local vagrants. After two strokes of whip each, the two admitted that they had lit the fire and carelessly let it spread. "Fire: to cook what!?": and a hand reached for a whip: the two admitted pilfering in a cottage garden. They got no good from sorrying about the destruction of good standing timber. Nikuli 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 Nikuli carried it back to base with him.

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

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

Dany became with child. A fragment of the Lhazar maegi Mirri Maz Duur's magic seemed to remain, because Dany and Jon both had ominous dreams, where a voice said that "None of their hands and feet will have five fingers or toes.", and quoting Mirri Maz Duur's curse that "[impossible things will happen before] her womb will quicken and bear a living child.", as nine months and the seasons gradually and ominously passed. But without complications Dany gave birth, to twins, first a boy and then a girl, both completely human and healthy and strong, and the succession was assured, and they were named Aegon and Daenys. They feared what the dream might presage as disabling hand deformities, until as a thankful anticlimax at the birth, each hand was very wide and had an extra finger, somewhat rotated on its mountings, between the thumb and the index, and each foot had the equivalent – which showed an effect later when the sixth fingers gave extra quality when playing a harp or a six-stringed musical instrument. Someone said: "Mirri said: `a living child': singular. I don't know if Lhazar or Asshai'i is one of those languages that has the same word for 'a (something)' and 'one (something)', but thank the Seven that it was enough for two babes born together to make a gap in the curse.". Other pairs of children followed, all with the extra digit all round, and the new law about succession eliminated many risks of dispute over the throne, including what was to happen if a possible heir was alleged to be mentally unfit. But Mirri's aim in stopping Daenerys from bearing a son was to stop Khal Drogo from being succeeded by a son and starting a dynasty whose empire would spread across much of Essos and Westeros, and Drogo was now safely dead without issue. Viserys still kept well away from crowns, and was thankful when each family birth pushed him further from the risk of having to wear one, because seeing one still gave him bad flashbacks about what the Dothraki did to him; after a while he learned to tolerate coins and similar with an image of a crown on. Prince Aegon when old enough claimed Windfyre, a recent hatchling from an egg laid by Poyakku mated by Drogon, and it rode on his shoulder when small, and he rode it when it was big enough.

A query arose: Aegon Griff may have been in theory king after Aerys II was killed in the Battle of the Trident, but he said that to avoid a war, or at least complications and arguments, he would let the matter go, and that Jon should inherit, so that the claimant Daenerys could wed him and also inherit and reign beside him as queen instead of the two also disputing the throne. But Aegon Griff got plenty of work helping the king and queen with state matters; and Viserys did also, as much as did not make him see or think of crowns more than he could tolerate.

Their reign was long and prosperous, but the Stranger could not be kept away for ever, nor his forerunners, the maladies of advancing age. They had to give up dragon-riding as their legs became unsteady. They had to scale down the size and strength of hoofed mounts that they rode. They had to walk with help of a stick each and then of two sticks each, and ride on wheels together behind a horse rather than on a horse each. They kept on as they could. Jon's right shoe, of whatever pair, started pinching painfully in the afternoons as the foot swelled, until each afternoon he had to take it off and leave the foot shoeless or put a bigger shoe on it. To get all concerned to accept that it was not the fault of the shoemaker, he once had to push into an interrogation room and sit on the edge of a rack as the easiest thing to reach and sit on in the haste of annoyance, and explain the facts of the matter lengthily and insistently and that "It's - not - his - fault.".

A ship sailed from a royal quay in King's Landing, out into the Narrow Sea. As it neared the Stepstones, pirates came out of hidden creeks and boarded it. Fight started, but did not last long before two dragons ridden by Nikuli and Daenys flew from a new dragonhouse on Cape Wrath, the exposed east end of the Rainwood peninsula in the Stormlands. On each, as well as its handler, was a man skilled at archery from a moving mount, and they quickly found many targets, as did the dragons' fire and clawed back feet, and the ship was saved. A few of the pirates were rescued, but wished that they had drowned, as all means were used to force information out of them, as all authorities concerned had had a long exasperation of piracy. Some of the prisoners called down some Essosi goat-headed god's vengeance on all mages and cursed whatever sorcery had carried the call for help so unnaturally quickly across sea and land, making useless the pirates' reliance on enough archers good enough to bring down all messsage ravens — somewhere in an out-of-the-way hilly forested area of Westeros where wolves and bears and shadowcats kept casual travellers out, a rogue maester's long lone furtive work had spawned a new unseen non-magical messenger, swifter than ravens or dragons. The secret link, long kept secret by maesters, between lightning, and rubbed amber picking up bits, and sailors' lodestones, and the crampfish of the Summer Sea, and a recent discovery by jewellers, had escaped, and he had reached King's Landing with it, and Westeros's Master of Ships had it, and the ship's captain and a man in the sea-lookout house on an exposed point on Cape Wrath were using it..

The tenth anniversary of their crowning and wedding came. To commemorate this, special adorned tableware was being made, and was being silver-plated. Jon and Dany went to check on progress of work. They had seen objects such as tableware being silver-plated before, but this time it surprised Jon when he pushed past a guard and went in. There was no sign that anyone had worked silver foil with hand-tools over the pieces. The silver plating on some of the tableware seemed exceptionally even and smooth. Jon saw and looked closely at a piece of the tableware and a thick cut piece of silver hanging into what looked like water in a large glass container, which had warning labels on. Small bubbles rose from the two submerged workpieces. A wire led from each and disappeared under thick cloth that hid some mechanism. There was a smell of acid. A palace maester came in and made worried remarks in Asshai language, which few in Westeros knew and was a sign of secrecy, about unauthorized possession or use of secret knowledge. Jon knew that acid could eat the surface off metals, as in etching, but here men were forcing the opposite to happen – without magic. He left them to their work.

Years passed. At last, old age forced Jon to have made for himself and Daenerys each a wheeled chair like Bran Stark of Winterfell had sometimes used after his fall which broke his back. Sometimes they went, or later, were carried, into the Dragonpit and talked to Drogon and Rhaegal, who seemed to understand somewhat. Sometimes Aegon Griff, who also was old, went in with them and talked to Viserion. Jon and Dany often talked about old times, including about the start of their long love, when Dany flew Drogon north, with Rhaegal following riderless, and about how she met Jon there in his thick long northern winter furs; and how after the dragons had been fed, when Dany persuaded Jon to mount Rhaegal, he checked every handhold and footrest as if climbing steep rock or a tree, and how they flew together over the snowy rocky countryside and scanty sheep and reindeer grazing around. Of those and other things they talked, between matters of state and rule, which Prince Aegon helped in more as years passed.

Years passed, and at length came what always comes. One winter morning, Daenerys woke beside Jon, noticed something wrong, tried in vain to wake him, and pulled an alarm cord and also called by voice for help. The Kingsguard and a royal maester came and saw. The maester examined Jon and told the people there what had happened. The long diarchy was over, uniting the two claims to the throne. Their family were called. Jon was moved to a large hall for three days' lying in state, and the realm was told what had happened. Their children and grandchildren comforted Daenerys as they could, but her loss showed after so long together, and it was difficult to persuade her to eat anything, even when one of them cooked and served the food in person, or to get her to talk about anything more cheerful than long lists of her property and Jon's former property and who each item was to be given to, and pleas such as "Don't burn my and Jon's sticks, or any weapons or ornaments or valuables or valuable clothes: someone else can use them. Don't waste things burning them like that Red R'hllor's priests wanted people to.". Sometimes in those last days Daenerys talked to people in High Valyrian, and a few times in Dothraki, rather than in the Common Speech, and an interpreter had to stay with her. Once on her second day of widowhood Lord Rosby came in from pelting rain and gale in a sailor's oilskin and in his hurry did not leave it in the cloakroom, and Daenerys, confused by the garment, addressed him as Ko Jhaqo and asked him in Dothraki to go fetch Khal Drogo to discuss something; the interpreter reminded her where and when she now was, and she corrected herself and apologized. She clearly all too well knew that the empty space beside her in the royal bed would never be filled again, unlike before when she slept alone when Jon had had to go away on business for a while. Once Jon was beside her, talking about adventures north of the Wall — but he evaporated in her arms as she woke from the dream. On the third day, mid-morning while going through incoming messages and reports, Aegon was addressed not by a short form of his familiar princely title, but as something starting "Your Gra...", and he knew what that meant without needing to listen to any more, as through a fog of shock and relentlessness of fate he heard the rest: "...ce King Aegon, Seventh of that Name" and the usual titles. Both of his parents had gone in a few days. People consoled him with "They were old." and such platitudes. Thus it is sometimes after the end has come to one of an old loving couple which has been so close to each other for so long. In mid-morning on a couch while two of Daenerys's younger children were telling her that she should eat some honey cakes that they had made, to keep her strength up, her heart had stopped, and the Stranger came for her, as the Father Above had appointed to be the fate of all mankind, high and middle and low.

New reign

Rule and events had to go on. The lying-in-state was lengthened by two days. Then Jon and Dany went on their last sea journey, and were laid before the image of the Stranger in the Dragonstone sept, and its septon went through the funeral ceremony. Windfyre ridden by King Aegon VII lit Jon's and Daenerys's funeral pyre, which included branchwood and offcuts of a scented wood called sandalwood which can be had from from Yi Ti and southeast Essos, to hide unwelcome burn smells. Anti-dragon weapons were kept to hand but out of sight, in case death of their imprinting-mother should drive Drogon and Rhaegal to uncontrollable destructive rampage, as some had feared might happen; but thankfully they were not needed, and the two merely roared loudly. When going through the formal coronation oath to rule justly and rightly, King Aegon VII could not avoid inserting expressions of sadness, but he got over it. Aegon VII on Windfyre, and Nikuli on Bluewings, flew about over cheering crowds, for the first time since the 'Dance of the Dragons'. The celebrations attracted record crowds — and the goldcloaks and their temporary auxiliaries arrested a record amount of pickpockets and cutpurses and people stealing from pack-animals' loads during the distractions, which may explain why a street magic-show put on by some travelling mages stopped quickly, unlike the magic-show that Daenerys saw in Qarth during her travels with her three hatchlings, where Qarth's authorities let cutpurses operate, allegedly because they could not stop it. Aegon VII waited a decent time before letting anyone claim Drogon and Rhaegal. Viserys had found a largely-Valyrian wife from Lys. Poyakku, granddaughter of Rhaena's Morning, ridden from Asshai by Kannawa descendant of Rhaena, had brought badly-needed "fresh blood" to Westeros's dragon-breeding. In the next generation, the Jon and Viserys and Aegon Griff lines intermarried, to avoid future wars over the succession, by uniting any opposing claims to the throne that might arise. Life and rule went on.

Many years passed. This time, men remembered what had come from hastily starting fights and wars, and king succeeded king peaceably. New designed devices became public knowledge, and uses were found for them. Men began to search into the nature of matter and sought what caused magical effects.

Dragons proved useful for patrolling from above, and were an effective countermeasure for outlaws hiding in hills. Their keepers learned how to control their food to stop them from growing into "a stableful of Balerions". Time passed. Now and then two dragons "danced", by the proper old original use of the expression, and life produced more life, and the female laid eggs, and eggs hatched.

The expected three losses came. Rhaegal, now grown very big, and too sluggish from age to be any use any more for useful riding, was found dead in his lair, and next year Drogon and Viserion followed him, and the nation was told of the passing of the Three Refounders. Men had to dispose of their bodies: the Stranger comes for all of us. Dragonbone and dragonhide have their uses. Their skulls were laid with the skulls of those who had died before. But they had bred plenty, and there were enough new hatchlings. Life went on.