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Game of Thrones s5e1 Ask the Maester: Why is Daenerys Chilling in Meereen instead of Making for the Seven Kingdoms right away?

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tl;dr It's complicated.


Ask the Maester Prophecies Stake Burnings Meereen and Other Questions From the Game of Thrones Premiere

It’s a great question. With Tywin Lannister off the board; Margaery Tyrell and Cersei Lannister in the midst of a cold war for control of the naive young King Tommen; Dorne roiling in the wake of Oberyn Martell’s legally sanctioned death by skull-crushing; the Riverlands in ruins and being governed by the Freys, whom everyone hates; and the North in a state of open warfare between Stannis, the Boltons, and the White Walkers, it would seem that the time to sail for Westeros is right about fucking now. Why not make for the Seven Kingdoms right away?

Several reasons, which you may or may not find compelling:

1. Dany, naturally, feels a responsibility to the people she freed. If she leaves, they’ll be clapped back in chains by the slaving elite, or slaughtered by the Sons of the Harpy (more on them in a bit), or tossed into the fighting pits before her sails disappear over the horizon. Staying also allows her to hone her statecraft skills and gain experience in the nitty-gritty of governance. You know, the unglamorous stuff like sewage, patronage, unemployment, where does the food come from, etc. Think of it as SimCity: Meereen.

2. Her dragons, once too small, are now uncontrollable and frighteningly huge. Drogon, the largest, is presumably loose in the countryside. Could she take Westeros without dragons? In its current state, maybe, if she could win enough allies to her banners. But it’s not a great look.

3. George R.R. Martin has previously spoken of what he calls the “The Meereenese Knot”: the self-made structural puzzle of how to get the various players who need to be in Meereen to Meereen so everyone can eventually leave Meereen. Making this work is, to hear Martin tell it, a large part of why there was a six-year gap between Books 4 and 5 of the series. In other words, Martin knows this part kind of sucks.

“The Targaryens historically were able to harness dragon power to dominate Westeros, correct? If so, how did they do it?”

No one is really sure. Which makes sense, when you think about it. Dragons were the weapons of mass destruction of their day, so any information pertaining to their handling would have been a state secret. A similarly fiery real-world corollary to this is Greek Fire (which probably inspired Wildfire), an ancient napalm used by the Byzantine Empire that was expelled from flamethrowers and even burned on water. Greek Fire turned the tide of numerous battles in favor of the Byzantines and information about its production was a closely held secret — so much so that the true recipe has been lost to history.

Between the time that dragons went extinct — roughly 150 years before current events — and when Dany managed to birth her brood in a blood-magic funeral pyre, the primary question that vexed many a Targaryen ruler was: How does one even hatch a dragon egg? Nobody knew. A Targaryen civil war known as “The Dance of the Dragons” left only four of the beasts alive at the beginning of the reign of Aegon III. They would not survive to the end of his reign. In a bid to restore the beasts, Aegon and his younger brother Viserys (eventually King Viserys II) had nine sorcerers brought over from Essos to try to hatch the Targaryen collection of eggs. That mission ended in failure, and Aegon III was forever known as “The Dragonbane.”

King Aegon V, a.k.a. “Aegon the Unlikely” — Maester Aemon’s brother and the great-great-grandson of King Viserys II — spent the last years of his reign in a futile search for the answers to dragon breeding, sending missions to the far corners of the world. His quest led to his death when attempts to hatch dragon eggs at Summerhall (the traditional Targaryen vacation castle) claimed his life and the lives of an unknown number of his closest friends, family, and advisers.

What we do know is that those with Targaryen blood seem to have an innate affinity for dragons and vice versa. During the Dance of the Dragons civil war, dragonriders were in such short supply that Prince Jacaerys turned to Targaryen bastards and other various non-Targaryen-blood-having knights and men-at-arms, promising lands and riches to any of those who could master a dragon. Many, many potential riders died in their attempts, including those with Targaryen blood, but some were successful, mostly with dragons that had previously accepted human masters who were now dead. Again, the details of how those riders gained their mounts are scant. Dany’s dragons, of course, have never been mounted.

"So what exactly did the witch tell young Cersei in that flashback scene?”

One of the recurring themes of the Song of Ice and Fire books — both prequel, proper, and compendium — is that there are often many ways to interpret a prophecy. Which is kind of the beauty of the thing, along with the way it worms itself into the desires, fears, and preconceptions of its various supplicants so that they think the prophecy is speaking to them and them alone. Season 5 of Game of Thrones opens with the shriveled, sylvan witch Maggy the Frog telling a teenage Cersei Lannister that she’ll be cast down by a younger queen, who will take everything she has, and that “everybody wants to know their future, until they know their future.”

You can see the difficulty for Cersei, even if she doesn’t. Which young queen is Maggy talking about? Is it Cersei’s new daughter-in-law, Margaery Tyrell, or is it Daenerys Targaryen, of whom Cersei has thus far taken little notice? Similarly, the line about regretting spoilers could apply to Cersei, book readers being spoiled by the show, everyone being spoiled by the first four episodes of Season 5 leaking onto the Internet, or all of the above. It turns out that the Internet is the greatest, most ravenous woods witch, every day drinking more of our blood while ruining everything for us in return. But it also said we were going to be queen, so I guess you take the good with the bad.

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