“What’s west of Westeros?” No one knows, but Arya Stark won’t be the first person to try and find out. Others, including another fearless woman with her an amazing story, have sailed past where all the maps end in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire lore. Those who keep going never come back, but that doesn’t mean Arya Stark’s journey isn’t completely hopeless, even if it is incredibly dangerous.
What We Know is Out There
Along the Realm’s western shore lies the Sunset Sea, a vast, seemingly endless ocean rich with fish, whales, and other sea life. In the northern waters sailors tell stories of krakens and giant sea monsters, possibly even sea dragons. But a seaman is far more likely to be struck down by the Iron Born than any leviathan.
The eight Iron Islands are the most famous lands in those waters, and the farthest–eight days west of the rest–is the smallest, known as the Last Light, home to House Farwynd. Thirteen smaller islands full of seals and sea lions surround it, and for thousands of years they were the last known lands in the western world.
Legends say the Iron Born are descendant of an unknown people who came from the west during a period lost to time. We’ll likely never learn if those tales hold any merit, but no one knows where the ancient Iron Born seat of power, the Seastone Chair comes from. It is made of a mysterious, oily black stone, and it’s among the oldest objects in the world.
A Sea Without End
“Any port in a storm” is a good motto for any sailor, but when you head out into unknown waters you are at the whims of the sea without a safety net (or safety land). Other ships have set sail on the same journey as Arya, and some have come back telling stories of huge storms and terrifying creatures, or of near starvation as they exhausted their resources on a futile, brutal journey west. They’re the lucky ones.
Thousands of years ago, Brandon the Shipbuilder of House Stark took his family’s fleet and sailed west to explore those uncharted waters. He never returned. It’s a fate that has befell many who stubbornly did the same until they were consumed by raging winds, gigantic waves, monsters of the deep, or some other unknown terror.
But we know some lands lie further than the Last Light, because a fearless woman of the sea wouldn’t stop looking.
The Dragon Egg Thief Who Kept Going
Elissa of House Farman (“The Winds Our Steed”) of Fair Isle was born with the sea in her veins and a fierceness in her blood. She was an accomplished seafarer by 20, and she also scared off two different betrothed before she was 16. Elissa also became the close friend, and almost certainly the lover, of Rhaena Targaryen after the princess moved to Faircastle and married Elissa’s brother Androw Farman. The two were inseparable, and Elissa left with Rhaena against her other brother’s wishes after he became Lord and told Rhaena to leave Fair Isle.
Eventually they ended up on Dragonstone, but Elissa grew restless. After Rhaena refused her request to leave, Elissa asked again, and also for gold to build a ship to sail the world. An unhappy Rhaena let her leave, but without the gold. To make her dream come true, Elissa stole three dragon eggs and sold them to the Sealord of Braavos, using the funds to build her dream vessel the Sun Chaser. A fugitive of the Iron Throne, she changed her name to Alys Westhill and evaded capture as she sailed around Westeros to Oldtown.
There she gained the support of an adventurous crew and two other ships, Lady Meredith and Autumn Moon, to sail farther west than anyone ever had before. They made it out to sea right before Elissa could be captured by the crown, and the three ships headed south by southwest. Three years later Lady Meredith returned to Oldtown, and its captain said the Autumn Moon had been lost to a massive storm, though some crew members said it was taken down by a kraken.
The Sun Chaser had also towed the damaged Lady Meredith to three all new islands farther west than any land ever found before, several weeks away from Oldtown. Elissa named them Aegon, Rhaenys, and Visenya, after Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters.
Elissa and the Sun Chaser never returned though. She was determined to keep going west, and she was never seen again. But her ship might have been.
The Other Side of the World
Decades later one of the greatest seafarers ever, the Sea Snake Corlys Velaryon, said he saw an old, battered Sun Chaser in Asshai, the most eastern port in the world. If that really was Elissa’s ship it’s possible she sailed around the world until she emerged on the other side of the world. The maesters know the world is round, so if anyone survived the uncharted waters of the Sunset Sea they would eventually hit Asshai, a city with buildings made of the same strange, oily black stone of the Seastone Chair.
If Arya keeps going west she might die at sea like so many others, or she might find unknown lands no one has ever returned from. Or she might find what everyone does when they sell west: the east.
But wherever she ends up, if she ever does return to the North, she’ll have an amazing story to tell.