One writer puts himself in the shoes of a made-up maester, and takes a wry look at the chances of all those battling for survival as we head into Game of Thrones Season 8.
No need to check your barometer, fellow Winterfellians, after a decent 8000-year run of fun, now shall be the winter of our discontent (and most likely death and creative dismemberment). The incoming info from our (surviving) Night’s Watch meteorologists paints a grim forecast. We’re predicting a slow-moving pressure system of zombies moving south, followed soon after by a 100% chance of dragonfire showers, plus some scattered ice-spear hail.
In short: break out your thickest wolfskin. The weather couldn’t be more dire. It’s gonna be a total Wight-out.
The obvious question on everybody’s frostbitten lips is this: will a higher chance of survival be returning with Jon Snow (King in the North) and his new *ahem* “close ally” Queen Daenerys Targaryen (we’ll skip her titles as this maester has limited parchment space and ink supplies). With an estimated 100,000-strong horde of reanimated wildlings, frost giants, and Night’s Watchmen shambling our way – and presumably grumkins and snarks, too, because hey, anything’s possible now – do we have the means to defend our castle?
Today, we’re going to break down our three greatest defenses as we understand them right now. Namely, fire, Valyrian steel and Dragonglass. These are the elements that are going to give us good-to-great fortune in the wars to come…
FANNING THE DRAGONFLAMES
We’ll begin with the nuclear option first – the (literally) heartwarming approach that is good old-fashioned self-defense by ‘dracarys’. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to thank both the old gods and the new that Queen Daenerys is on our side with her personal airforce of Drogon and Rhaegal. Yes, it’s unfortunate they feast on our local livestock, and the occasional loved one, but that morale-boosting sight of them buzzing the towers and making our lookouts spill their coffee? Man, it’s enough to make you want to update your sigil to incorporate them.
The Queen has already proven the super effectiveness of these Mega Charizards beyond the Wall, when she came to the rescue of our grace and his company of mercs. One tactical fire-vomit was all it took to turn dozens of meat popsicles into footsoldiers à la flambé. Also, one quick bit of trivia for the dragonwatchers out there: each beast has a different coloured dragonflame, which would suggest different temperatures and capabilities (Drogon’s is black fire shot with red, and Rhaegal’s is orange-and-yellow fire shot through with veins of green).
Potential downsides: these beauties are not as invincible as we once thought. The Night King has some serious AA going on with his Olympic-level javelin skills, and early reports suggest he basically one-shotted poor Viserion. It would be disastrous if his necromancer powers were used to turn our greatest aerial defenses into our worst undeath-from-above nightmares. Also, more importantly, The Night King and his White Walker lieutenants appear to be immune to dragonflame – they can effortlessly extinguish it. So forget any hopes of just airstriking these idiots in an opening salvo.
Dragons are strictly for taking down wights only.
A HEART OF DRAGONGLASS
Ah, obsidian – black gold, frozen fire. Much like alcohol, it really is the cause of and solution to all of our problems right now (the Children of the Forest used it in a ritual to create the Night King and now we’ll have to use it to kill his “sons” and their minions). This wonderful stuff is basically wight kryptonite, as a few good stabs with it is all it takes to stop an undead flash mob in its tracks. Even better, using dragonglass on a White Walker will result in their body exploding into ice, and their wight recruits will also drop quicker than you can say “muh-muh-muh-multikill.”
In terms of supply, we’re doing okay, but we could always do with more. In preparation for the coming war against the White Walkers, our King gave orders for every maester in the North to search for dragonglass, so that it could be mined and made into weapons. He also secured and exported a huge cache of the stuff from the island of Dragonstone, once the Queen granted him access. So to speak.
Using the small cache of weapons found at Fist of the First Men by Samwell Tarly as a guide, we’ve started production of some superior dragonglass weaponry. Be sure to speak to the master-at-arms in order to secure your very own obsidian sword, knife, leaf-shaped spearhead or arrowheads today. Stocks are limited. Trade discounts available for Unsullied and pre-approved sellswords.
VALYRIAN STEELING OURSELVES FOR THE WORST
Pro tip: the term ‘Valyrian steel’ isn’t the name of our King’s famous brooding look (apparently that’s ‘Blue Steel’). Valyrian steel is, in fact, the rarest of elements that make up all but a handful of swords in our world. This is a shame, because while White Walkers can destroy any iron sword swung at them, a Valyrian blade will hold its own and the smallest nick from it will turn said beastie into a puff of snow powder.
The bad news is we lack most of the means to forge more of these (requirements: long-forgotten magic, Masamune-level swordsmiths, and dragonflame). Also, you can count how many we do have on Jamie Lannister’s hands.
Currently, this is the most up-to-date list we have of Valyrian blades and their owners. We all know that King Snow wields Longclaw and that the late Lord Stark’s sword Ice has been melted down into a two-for-one deal of Oathkeeper, and Widow’s Wail (owned by Brienne of Tarth and Jamie Lannister, respectively). What you may not have known is that House Tarly’s Heartsbane has been seen on the hip of Jorah Mormont, Westerosi expat and bodyguard of the Queen. Last but not least, Lady Arya is ready to stick shamblers with the pointy end of her Valyrian steel catspaw dagger that has no moniker as yet.
Last but not least, there has been some talk of M.I.A. Valyrian blades (Blackfyre, Lady Forlorn, Brightroar, and Dark Sister) but we don’t give a mummer’s fart about your wild theories of them magically reappearing to be used in our darkest hour. The only way our woeful sword game is going to improve is if Beric Dondarrion starts running DIY workshops entitled: “How to Zhuzh Up Your Blade With R’hllor Brand Fire.” This does not seem likely.
SO, HOW SCREWED ARE WE?
All we can truly rely upon are (fairly rough estimates) of the known pieces on the chessboard. We’re up against freezing temperatures that will not abate, for starters. An estimated 100,000 undead humans who do not tire, require resupply, or feel fear. And that seething mass is sprinkled with an unknown number of zombified giants, polar bears, and mammoth mounts.
They’re all the puppets of White Walker lieutenants who excel at martial arts and may only be killed by exceptional warriors packing dragonglass or Valyrian steel. These will need to be priority targets as eliminating one of them has the potential to wipe thousands of footsoldiers off the playing field in one go. That said, there is some conjecture as to how many exist.
Some say the count could be as low as 11, but Craster boasted to the late Lord Commander Mormont of having sired 99 sons for the Night King to convert. Said monarch is our main problem, too – he has an ice-dragon now and we’ve no way to gauge his other magical abilities.
On our side of things, we have solid castle walls, and a seriously depleted force of 5,000 Winterfellian defenders and Northern bannermen. We have allies in many forms, however, including the 40,000-odd battle-hardened knights of the Vale and (allegedly) some Lannister forces en route to our position (between 10,000 – 20,000).
It has to be said that we’re less enthused about the non-Westerosi footsoldiers being brought to us by Queen Daenerys. Some 8,000 Unsullied and 90,000 Dothraki bloodriders have earned their fierce reputations, but they’ve little experience in sub-zero temperatures. Basically, our hope rests on Westeros’ logistical capacity to turn dragonglass into weaponry, and the scaly shoulders of two dragons. Winged beasts who are incredibly vulnerable to the Night King and could be turned against us…
Will all that be enough to stop the Night King and his megalomanic icecapades? That’s as impossible a question to answer as “can ice defeat fire?” or “will good triumph over evil?” Pending more intel, this humble maester puts our chances at 50/50. Only one thing is certain: when the snow falls and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives. And that’s assuming nobody breaks out the giant ice-spiders…
Game of Thrones Season 8 premieres on April 14.