By now, we've learned to look for clues and connections to Game of Thrones in George R.R. Martin's histories of Westeros. So we are on the hunt for whatever we can find in a new excerpt from his upcoming House Targaryen history about a momentous occasion in the the Seven Kingdoms' past, when a famous queen traveled north on the backs of her dragons. And while the connection may be clear, there are plenty of questions to explore: Is this trip a good sign for Daenerys Targaryen, or an omen of why it will fail in the show's final season?
On his website, Martin shared a piece from his upcoming history of House Targaryen, "Fire and Blood." The excerpt tells the story of Queen Alysanne, the wife of King Jaehaerys, and her famous visit to the North in 58 AC (roughly 250 years before Game of Thrones). We already knew the beloved monarch's visit to help bring the Realm together was a huge success—the holdfast Queenscrow and the Night's Watch castle Queensgate are still named after her—but now we know just how differently her journey could have gone if she had not been both charming and resolute.
Massive crowds of adoring common folk greeted her at White Harbor, where she was met with warmth, wonder, and a little fear (a dragon will do that). However, when she visited Winterfell, the stern Lord Alaric Stark met her accompanied only by his sons. At first he lived up to his reputation for being cold, cheap, uninviting, and joyless. But rather than demand a better welcome or respond with anger, Alysanne remained calm and full of resolve. When Alaric refused her offer to arrange marriages for his sons because the North did not follow the new gods, she had a response he could not dispute.
"Alysanne Targaryen did not yield easily, however. The lords of the south honored the old gods as well as the new, she told Lord Alaric; most every castle that she knew had a godswood as well as a sept. And there were still certain houses that had never accepted the Seven, no more than the northmen had, the Blackwoods in the riverlands chief amongst them, and mayhaps as many as a dozen more. Even a lord as stern and flinty as Alaric Stark found himself helpless before Queen Alysanne’s stubborn charm. He allowed that he would think on what she said, and raise the matter with his sons."
The longer the Dragon Queen stayed, the more her "stubborn charm" melted Alaric's icy demeanor. She found his tough reputation was not fairly earned, and her visit to Winterfell proved as successful as it was at Winterfell. The North learned to love Alysanne, just like they did at the Wall when she visited.
Daenerys Targaryen has already won over the leader of the North, but convincing the rest of its tough lords and ladies will be another matter. They just named Jon Snow King in the North after years of civil war and unrest, and he will return having bent the knee to the daughter of the Mad King, the man who killed their Lord and son, the king the North helped overthrow. The Mother of Dragons has a much harder task than Alysanne ever did. Will Daenerys remain calm and resolute long enough to let her charm and determination win them over the way it did Jon? Or will her short fuse make them refuse to obey? Sansa Stark is Ned's trueborn daughter, and if Jon won't be King she can be their Queen.
The stakes couldn't be any bigger, because her ability to unite the North behind her could determine if the living can stop the dead. Alysanne won over the North and it strengthened the Realm for decades. If Daenerys doesn't do the same the Realm will no longer exist.
Which brings us to the last bit of potential foreshadowing in this excerpt, Alysanne's visit to Castle Black. Her dragon Silverwing refused to fly past the Wall.
"The men of the Night’s Watch were as thunderstruck by the queen’s dragon as the people of White Harbor had been, though the queen herself noted that Silverwing 'does not like this Wall.' Though it was summer and the Wall was weeping, the chill of the ice could still be felt whenever the wind blew, and every gust would make the dragon hiss and snap. 'Thrice I flew Silverwing high above Castle Black, and thrice I tried to take her north beyond the Wall,' Alysanne wrote to Jaehaerys, 'but every time she veered back south again and refused to go. Never before has she refused to take me where I wished to go. I laughed about it when I came down again, so the black brothers would not realize anything was amiss, but it troubled me then and it troubles me still.'"
Dragonriders have an intimate, unique bond with their mounts, and Alysanne seemed to know something else was wrong. Daenerys took her three dragons around the Wall to save Jon's expedition; maybe Silverwing just hated the cold, or maybe an old legend about the Wall is true. There are tales about the Wall not just being a way to keep dangers out, but to keep dangers locked up. Did Silverwing shy away from it because locked inside is an ice dragon, one that could help the Night King even the numbers of dragons in the Great War?
We don't know yet, but we do know George R.R. Martin's histories often tell us what will happen on Game of Thrones.
What do you think this excerpt tells us about the show's final season? Tell us in the comments what clues you think it contains. And if you're interested in finding clues in other of George R. R. Martin's histories, check out our pieces on how the Dunk and Egg novellas introduced the man who became the Three-Eyed Raven; how the Dragonpit, which Maegor the Cruel built after a violent war with the Faith Militant, proved a warning to Daenerys about locking up her dragons; and how the Field of Fire presaged the Loot Train Attack.