A Song of Ice and Fire (Series) | Study Guide

George R.R. Martin

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A Song of Ice and Fire (Series) | A Feast for Crows | Summary

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About the Title

A Feast for Crows is a metaphor for the situation in the Seven Kingdoms after the War of the Five Kings. Lord Rodrik Harlaw, uncle of Asha Greyjoy, says, "We had one king, then five. Now ... I see ... crows, squabbling over the corpse of Westeros." Jaime Lannister also sees the emptiness of a battle for power, pointing out that the crows dine on the bodies of winners and losers alike and asking, "How much can a crown be worth, when a crow can dine upon a king?"

Summary

The Aftermath

With Renly Baratheon, Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy, and Joffrey Baratheon all dead, the War of the Five Kings would appear to be near its end. But around the kingdom, a host of players are still angling for power, and the country is even more fragmented than before. As new intrigues begin to take shape, Brienne of Tarth continues her search for the Stark girls, Sansa Stark receives an education in politics from Petyr Baelish, and Samwell Tarly leaves Castle Black with Gilly and her baby. And across the narrow sea, on the continent of Essos, Arya Stark shows the coin given her by Jaqen H'ghar and enters the House of Black and White.

In Dorne

News of Oberyn Martell's death in his battle with Ser Gregor Clegane has reached Dorne. Oberyn's daughters, fierce warriors known as the Sand Snakes, want to avenge their father's death. They approach their uncle Prince Doran Martell, demanding that he support their plans, which include the assassination of Cersei Lannister, Jaime Lannister, Lord Tywin Lannister, and King Tommen Baratheon. Instead, Doran Martell has the Sand Snakes imprisoned to prevent an uprising. Afterward, he sends word of his actions to the Lannisters, hoping they will see his actions as proof that his fealty to them is still intact.

The prince's eldest child and heir, Arianne Martell, is ashamed by what she perceives as her father's weakness. She also fears that her father is secretly planning to make her brother Quentyn heir in place of her, even though Dornish law allows an older sister to inherit both titles and property. To avenge her uncle, free her cousins, and protect her own claim to Dorne, Arianne develops a scheme involving King Tommen's older sister, Myrcella Lannister. Myrcella is already in Dorne as the promised bride of Trystane Martell. Arianne plans to push the marriage forward, which would make Myrcella queen and, according to the same Dornish law that would allow Arianne to inherit, give Myrcella and her new husband a claim to the Iron Throne. This, Arianne hopes, will reignite the war and unseat the powerful Lannisters.

Unfortunately for Arianne, spies are everywhere. When Myrcella is brought to where Arianne is waiting for her, Prince Doran's guardsmen appear, and Arianne realizes she has been betrayed. In the skirmish that follows, Myrcella's bodyguard is killed, and Myrcella herself is wounded, receiving a horrible gash across her face and losing an ear. Arianne is arrested, and she, her followers, and Myrcella are escorted back to Dorne.

After weeks of imprisonment, Arianne is finally brought before her father. A member of Tommen's Kingsguard is on his way to Dorne, and Prince Doran Martell will need Arianne's help in convincing Myrcella to lie about what has happened. Furious, Arianne refuses. But then Prince Doran reveals that his apparent inaction is, in reality, part of a larger scheme meant to destroy House Lannister—a plan that originally involved Arianne's marriage to Viserys Targaryen, who would then ascend the Iron Throne. But, he says, "We princes make our careful plans and the gods smash them all awry." With Viserys's death, Doran's original strategy was thwarted. However, Arianne's brother Quentyn has been sent to Essos to obtain what they all want: revenge. To do this, he will find Daenerys Targaryen and escort her back to Westeros. As for Arianne—she will indeed inherit Dorne.

On the Iron Islands

With the death of Balon Greyjoy, the Iron Islands lack a king. Balon's brother Euron Greyjoy has claimed the throne and is now demanding that everyone swear fealty to him. But Balon's youngest brother, Aeron Damphair, a powerful and revered prophet for the Drowned God of the Iron Islands, believes that only a godly man may sit on the Seastone Chair and that the only thing Euron worships is himself. He also believes that Balon's daughter, Asha Greyjoy, is unfit for the role, as no woman has ever ruled the Iron Islands. And because Theon Greyjoy is a prisoner of the Boltons, Aeron has concluded the only other viable candidate is Balon's brother Victarion.

To resolve the conflict, Aeron calls for a "Kingsmoot," a traditional meeting of all the longship captains, held for the purpose of choosing a new king. When the captains gather, Asha, Euron, and Victarion all garner strong support, and the vote appears to be deadlocked. Then one of Euron's men blows a powerful note on a dragon horn. Euron tells the suddenly silent crowd that the horn can control dragons, including three that are known to have been born in Essos. He promises to win those dragons, along with Daenerys Targaryen, in order to conquer all of Westeros. At that point, support shifts to Euron, and he is elected the new Iron King.

In King's Landing

After the murder of her son Joffrey and her father, Tywin, Cersei Lannister has become increasingly paranoid and dangerously irrational. She has dreams that she rules Westeros but that the Iron Throne is ripping her apart. She is also haunted by images of Tyrion Lannister, whom she envisions as a rat crawling through the passageways of the castle. Cersei Lannister's fears are heightened by memories of prophecies made by a witch she remembers as Maggy the Frog. As a young girl, Cersei was told she would marry a king and bear three children but that "gold shall be their crowns ... the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your ... throat and choke ... you." The unfamiliar word, she learned, meant "little brother."

Cersei does what she can to protect both herself and her remaining children from the prophecies. She sends word throughout the Seven Kingdoms and the Free Cities of Essos that she will grant a lordship to whoever brings her Tyrion's head. Her proclamation results in the deaths of innocents—both dwarves and children—but she is reluctant to diminish the zeal of the bounty hunters. She then begins the task of rebuilding the small council.

Mace Tyrell suggests himself for the position of Hand, hoping to fill more of the seats with Tyrells. Cersei dismisses him and orders him instead to lead another attack against Stannis Baratheon at Storm's End, hoping he will die in the attempt. She then asks her uncle Kevan to serve as Hand to young King Tommen, but Kevan says he will agree only if Cersei steps down as Queen Regent and returns to Casterly Rock. Furious, she refuses. Kevan leaves King's Landing, but not before telling Cersei he knows about her incestuous relationship with her brother Jaime.

Cersei then asks Jaime to serve as Hand, sharing with him that Kevan knows the truth about them. But Jaime, too, rejects her, raising the golden hand crafted for him as a prosthetic and saying, "A Hand without a hand? A bad jape, sister." Cersei turns on him, saying she was a fool for ever loving him. Jaime cautions her that neither he nor Kevan is her enemy and that she is "seeing dwarfs in every shadow and making foes of friends." But Cersei is deaf to his warnings and orders him to Riverrun to put an end to the siege there. Jaime is more than willing to obey.

Cersei is also threatened by Margaery Tyrell, who has been betrothed to Tommen Baratheon since Joffrey's death. Yet another of Maggy's prophecies foretold that Cersei would rule "until there comes another ... to cast you down and take all that you hold dear." When the Tyrells force the marriage between Tommen and Margaery to take place, Cersei worries that the young queen is the woman of the prophecy and that she and her family will try to seize control of the kingdom. She considers how to prevent the prophecy from coming true and eventually hatches a scheme to show that Margaery has taken lovers, acts for which she can be accused of treason and executed.

Cersei continues in her role as Queen Regent and rebuilds the small council with weak or ambitious men who do whatever she asks of them. Without strong advisers, she makes a series of bad decisions, including a refusal to honor debts owed by the Crown to the Iron Bank of Braavos and the Faith of the Seven. This sends the country into financial chaos, and the Faith refuses to acknowledge Tommen's governance. Cersei "solves" these problems by allowing the new High Septon to revive the Faith Militant, the religion's military arm. She also agrees that Tommen will convert to the Faith in exchange for the church blessing his rule and forgiving the Crown's debts. Her conditions are accepted.

Newly confident after her success, Cersei steps up her plan to implicate Margaery, coercing several men of the court to admit they slept with the young queen. Margaery is arrested for high treason, thrown in a cell, and asked hourly to admit to her sins. Cersei visits Margaery to comfort her, but the girl sees through the charade, calling her a "vile, scheming, evil bitch." Cersei, pleased, begins to leave but is stopped by the High Sparrow. While investigating Margaery's supposed infidelity, he has learned about Cersei's own crimes, which included her own infidelities and the murder of the previous High Septon. Cersei is stripped of her robes and thrown in a cell to await judgment. Terrified, she sends word to Jaime, begging him to come rescue her.

At Riverrun

Jaime, unaware of these developments, travels to Riverrun, where Brynden Tully continues to hold the castle against the Lannister and Frey armies. Edmure Tully, a captive of the Freys since the Red Wedding, has been brought to the site of the siege. In an attempt to break Brynden's resolve, Emmon Frey forces Edmure to stand on a platform each day with a noose around his neck, threatening to hang him if Brynden does not surrender. Brynden, however, holds firm.

Finally, Jaime devises a different strategy, negotiating a surrender with Edmure himself, because he is the true lord of Riverrun. After attempting a more reasonable approach and failing, Jaime finally tells Edmure that if he does not comply with his demands—to give up the castle and return to Casterly Rock as prisoner—Riverrun will be sacked and burned, its people killed, and the baby about to be born to Edmure and his wife returned to him by catapult. Edmure agrees to yield the castle and returns to Riverrun to arrange the surrender. But in a final act of defiance, he delays the transfer of power by a day, allowing his uncle Brynden to escape.

As the siege ends, Jaime receives Cersei's desperate plea for him to return. He orders the message be burned.

On the Quest for the Starks

Brienne of Tarth continues her search for the two Stark girls, determined to fulfill her vows to both Catelyn and Jaime. She is accompanied by an old acquaintance, Ser Hyle Hunt, and Podrick Payne, the earnest boy who was once Tyrion's squire and who saved him at the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Neither he nor Brienne, of course, are aware that Sansa Stark is sequestered in the Eyrie under the name Alayne, pretending to be Petyr Baelish's daughter.

Following various leads and rumors, Brienne eventually encounters Nimble Dick Crabb, a former soldier who tells her of duping a fool who was being accompanied by two girls. Brienne thinks the fool might be Ser Dontos, a disgraced knight whom Joffrey Baratheon had turned into a jester and who later arranged for Sansa's escape from King's Landing. She warily joins forces with Dick, but the "fool" turns out to be a member of the Brave Companions, violent sellswords who rape and murder their way through the country. Dick is killed, and Brienne cuts down the rest.

The next rumor takes Brienne to the Saltpans, a town in the riverlands, where she heard that Sandor Clegane has been seen with a girl whose description matches Sansa's. When she arrives, she learns that Sandor is dead and the girl (who was actually Arya) is gone. But knowing both Stark girls are alive only renews Brienne's determination to find them.

Brienne continues her travels and meets yet another remnant of the Brave Companions. Outnumbered, she is grievously wounded but is then "rescued" by members of the Brotherhood Without Banners, Beric Dondarrion's renegade group. Beric is rumored to be dead, but the brotherhood has a new leader—Catelyn Stark.

Catelyn, now known to her followers as Lady Stoneheart, is a hideous perversion of her former self. Her flesh is mottled, her hair is white and brittle, and her throat is still slit open. After the Red Wedding, Catelyn's mutilated corpse had been pulled from the river by a direwolf—an image seen by Arya Stark as she psychically inhabited the body of her wolf, Nymeria. Catelyn had been brought back to life by Beric Dondarrion, who died after bestowing his final "gift." She is now consumed by a need to avenge her family, hanging anyone associated with the Freys, the Boltons, or the Lannisters.

Catelyn sees that Brienne carries Jaime Lannister's sword and does not believe the terrified knight's protestations that she is searching for the Stark girls. Instead, Catelyn accuses Brienne of betraying her vows and working as a spy for the Lannisters. She gives Brienne the option of "sword or noose"—kill Jaime Lannister or hang. When Brienne refuses to choose, saying that Jaime has changed, she, Podrick, and Hyle Hunt are sentenced to death. But as the ropes tighten around their necks and the three are pulled into the air, Brienne screams out a word.

At the Eyrie

In the Vale, Sansa Stark is living in the guise of Petyr Baelish's illegitimate daughter, Alayne Stone. After Lysa Arryn's death, Sansa has, for all intents and purposes, become the Lady of the Eyrie, serving as her cousin Robert Arryn's surrogate mother. She is at first worried she will be discovered, but even when she encounters others who should know her, she is not recognized. As Petyr says, "Men see what they expect to see."

Sansa becomes Petyr's pupil, learning from him the subtleties of political intrigue and the art of manipulating people. She performs her first task as his protégé by supporting his explanation of her aunt Lysa's death, telling the lords of the Vale that Lysa was murdered by the court singer, Marillion, desperately in love with Lysa Arryn and furious that she had married Petyr.

Sansa then observes Littlefinger's machinations as he convinces the lords to allow him to serve as regent over the Vale until Robert is older and better able to lead. Once the suggestion is approved, Petyr reveals to Sansa that if something were to happen to her sickly cousin Robert, the well-liked Harrold Hardyng would be heir to the Vale of Arryn. If and when that happens, Petyr's plan is for Sansa to become Harrold's wife. He paints an attractive picture for her, saying that when the lords come together for the wedding and Sansa appears, "clad in a maiden's cloak of white and grey with a direwolf emblazoned on the back," then every knight will know that she is Sansa Stark and pledge his sword to win her back her birthright: Winterfell.

In Braavos

While her sister trades in her old romantic notions of courtly life for a more pragmatic view of how the world works, Arya Stark is sailing to Essos and the Free City of Braavos. When she arrives, Arya begins showing the coin she received from Jaqen H'ghar and repeating the phrase valor morghulis.

Soon Arya is taken to the House of Black and White, so named because of the colors of its doors. A priest she refers to only as "the Kindly Man" introduces her to the guild of the Faceless Men, a religious society of trained assassins who worship the god of death and believe their actions to be holy. The Kindly Man tells Arya she may join the guild as a novice but that she must relinquish not only her possessions, but also her identity. Arya willingly gives up what she owns—with the exception of her sword, Needle, which she hides beneath a stone outside the temple.

Relinquishing her identity proves more difficult. Whenever the Kindly Man asks her who she is, she dutifully replies, "No one." His response to this is always, "You lie." But he continues her training, at one point, telling her she must go to live among the Braavosi, learn their language, and return periodically to tell him three things she has learned. She follows his orders, now calling herself "Cat of the Canals" and living with the family of a fishmonger whom the Kindly Man has told her to board with.

During one of her visits to the city, "Cat" encounters a man named Dareon, whom she discovers is a deserter from the Night's Watch. She kills him for being a traitor and later tells the Kindly Man that Arya, not she, committed the murder. The next morning, she wakes up blind.

At the Wall

After the capture of Mance Rayder, the situation at the Wall becomes increasingly precarious. Stannis Baratheon's presence, too, threatens the neutrality with which the Night's Watch has always operated. To head off any reaction from King's Landing, Jon Snow directs Samwell Tarly to send a letter to King Tommen Baratheon, saying that although Stannis is at the Wall, the Night's Watch is not aligned with him. More troubling, however, is that Melisandre may be planning to use Mance Rayder's blood, or that of his newborn son, to advance Stannis's goals of forging an alliance between the northmen and the wildlings.

At this sensitive time, Jon inexplicably gives Samwell Tarly a new mission: to take Maester Aemon back to Oldtown, the location of the Citadel and headquarters to the order of the maesters. Jon orders Samwell to continue his training under Maester Aemon and to research the Others in the Citadel's archives. He tells Samwell the wildling Gilly and her baby will accompany them as well. Gilly becomes hysterical at the order.

As the small group travels by sea to Braavos where they will then board a ship to Old Town, Aemon reveals that Gilly had been forced to swap her baby with Mance Rayder's, whom Melisandre was going to sacrifice to the red god R'hllor. Samwell is horrified and realizes the depth of the sacrifice Gilly had made by accompanying him. Once in Braavos, Aemon's health begins to fail, and the group misses their ship. While stranded, they hear rumors of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons. For Aemon, the news brings an epiphany. "No one ever looked for a girl," he whispers, "It was a prince that was promised ... The error crept in from the translation." He says that Melisandre, too, misread the signs and that Daenerys, not Stannis, "is the one, born amidst salt and smoke."

Aemon tells Samwell he must inform the maesters at the Citadel what he has realized and tell them to send a maester to Daenerys, who must be "counseled, taught, protected." The old maester dies, and Gilly says she will name her child Aemon. She and Samwell continue toward Oldtown, and on the way they become lovers.

Analysis

Competing Religions

Throughout A Song of Ice and Fire, readers are introduced to a variety of religions, from the old gods of the forest to the red god R'hllor. None of these religions is presented as the one true faith, but each has a group of followers who firmly believe it is. Depending on how the religions are interpreted by their followers, they provide a touchstone for morality, guidelines for how to live, or a means of making something happen, almost synonymous with magic. Religion also becomes the justification for war and conflict and a means of wielding terrible power.

At the beginning of the series, the religions of Westeros are presented in a relatively benign fashion, as details that help define characters. Ned Stark worships the old gods of the forest, which helps portray him as a man of simple traditional faith. His wife, Catelyn, is devoted to the Faith of the Seven, a more structured, highly organized religion that bears some resemblance to the Catholic Church.

As the story line evolves, readers begin to see how believers can subvert religion and use it for their own purposes. R'hllor, for example, is the god of light, heat, and life, the antithesis of the Great Other, the god of ice and death. Yet R'hllor's followers have twisted him into something much darker and more frightening, to the point where readers think of R'hllor as almost demonic. Melisandre, for example, uses her interpretations of what she sees in R'hllor's flames to control the actions of people such as Stannis Baratheon. Priests and priestesses also have learned to use dark magic and blood magic to both kill and resurrect. Readers have seen evidence of the dark magic earlier, when Melisandre birthed shadows that assassinated Renly Baratheon and brought down Dragonstone. In A Feast for Crows, Thoros of Myr is responsible for Beric Dondarrion's multiple resurrections, and Beric himself used his last "gift" from the red god to complete the hideous transformation of Catelyn Stark into Lady Stoneheart.

A Feast for Crows also shows religion being used in political contexts. When the Iron Islands are unable to elect a new king, the task of ending the stalemate falls to Aeron Damphair, a revered priest of the Drowned God who also considers himself a prophet. It is Aeron who calls the Kingsmoot to decide who the new king will be, not any of the lords of the islands, nor the captains of the ships. But his powers are limited, and the successor is his brother Euron Greyjoy, whom he feels is least qualified for the role.

Much more powerful, though, is the Faith of the Seven, the dominant religion of Westeros and the one practiced by the royal dynasties. Its beliefs are woven into the laws and traditions of the land—for example, trials by combat are supposedly decided by the gods. In A Feast for Crows, the church has gained even more power. The War of the Five Kings has resulted in an army of displaced believers who call themselves the sparrows. Thousands strong, they have descended on King's Landing. After the former High Septon is slain—an assassination planned by Cersei Lannister—they manage to take control of the selection process to ensure that one of their own is elected. This new "High Sparrow," an especially pious man, is able to convince Cersei to revive the Faith Militant, a military arm of the religion. These two shifts make the Faith of the Seven a force as powerful as the king and his supporters and lead to Cersei's downfall.

Cersei's Path to Self-Destruction

A Feast for Crows traces Cersei Lannister's descent into paranoia and madness. The dramatic shift from a cold, calculating, but intelligent queen into a rash, deranged castoff is unsettling but not surprising. Cersei has been frustrated for years by her inability to attain the power she feels destined for. She is certain she is overlooked only because of her gender and is blind to the fact that her actions, decisions, and strategies have often been ill-advised and, ultimately, disastrous.

But the deaths of her son and her father trigger a new kind of hysteria. This may be because of her love for them, but it is more likely because, as the ultimate narcissist, she sees them all as extensions of herself, and an attack on them is an attack on her. (It's worth noting that the person she loves most, Jaime Lannister, is her twin.) To protect her father's legacy, and therefore her own, Cersei has the body of the whore Shae moved from his bed and secretly buried. She then executes the two knights stationed outside Tywin Lannister's chamber—both for not "protecting" Tywin and for what they may have seen. She burns down the Tower of the Hand and sends word throughout Westeros and Essos that she will give a lordship to whoever brings her Tyrion's head. This results in a slaughter of innocents, but Cersei leaves her edict in place—further proof of her madness and narcissism.

Cersei also begins drinking heavily, obsesses over the threats of real and imagined enemies, and is tormented by nightmares in which the Iron Throne is ripping her to shreds. As her exhaustion and instability increase, the actions of every member of the court seems, to her, to be calculated to harm her family—every event appears to be part of a larger conspiracy. She even arranges the death of the High Septon, to whom Ser Lancel Lannister once confessed the sins of sleeping with Cersei and helping orchestrate Robert Baratheon's death.

Cersei's growing madness, however, is more likely the result of seeds planted years before with the prophecies of Maggy the Frog, a witch whom Cersei had visited when she was a young girl. George R.R. Martin has stated that all prophecies are, to some extent, self-fulfilling—that is, once the prophecy is revealed, the subject of the prophecy inadvertently takes steps that cause it to become true, even if the actual goal is to prevent its fulfillment. In Cersei's case, this seems to be particularly true.

The witch told Cersei she would marry a king, not Prince Rhaegar Baratheon, to whom she had been promised. The prophecy is fulfilled when she marries Robert Baratheon after his brother's death. But the accuracy of the prediction meant that the remaining prophecies began to carry much more weight. One of those prophecies involved Cersei's three children. Maggy had foreseen that while all would be crowned, all three would die—as would Cersei: "Gold shall be their crowns ... the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your ... throat and choke ... you."

When Joffrey is killed, this prophecy takes on a frightening immediacy, and Cersei frantically begins doing what she can to prevent Maggie's prophecy from coming true. She dismisses or alienates the people who could help her, taking their advice as criticism or as a desire to harm her or her remaining children. This leaves her with weak advisers who could destroy her and her children. As for the valonqar, she learned long ago that the term meant "little brother" and assumed it was Tyrion Lannister. But she does not stop to consider there are other "little brothers" in Westeros and Essos or that the brother could also be Jaime. Although he is Cersei's twin, he is the younger of the two, and both have alluded to the fact they will die together, as they were born together.

Finally, Maggy told Cersei she would be queen "until there comes another ... to cast [her] down and take all that [she] hold[s] dear." It is this prophecy, and Cersei's attempts to avoid it, that drives the queen to her most desperate and self-destructive act. The most obvious candidate for the younger queen is Margaery Tyrell, who is now married to Tommen Baratheon and is beginning to wield more influence over him. But just as Cersei focused only on one meaning for the valonqar, she does not stop to think that Margaery may not be the young queen of the prophecy at all. The queen could be Daenerys Targaryen, Asha Greyjoy, or even Sansa Stark, whom Petyr Baelish is grooming to be a queen and who certainly has a reason for wanting Cersei dead.

Cersei does everything in her power to destroy Margaery, devising a plan to frame her for treason and fornication, but one involving many of the weak and untrustworthy people she has been surrounding herself with. So when Margaery is arrested, Cersei's own crimes are discovered by the High Sparrow—a man whose rise to power she made possible when she had the former High Septon killed. Cersei is now trapped in the web she has spun for the young queen—stripped of her power, title, and children and cast into a cell to await judgment.

The Power of the Dragon

The mysterious prophetess Quaithe shared these words with Daenerys Targaryen as she escorted the young queen to Qarth soon after Daenerys's arrival. And although Daenerys and her dragons do not appear in A Feast for Crows, the truth of Quaithe's words becomes exceptionally clear. Throughout Westeros, Daenerys has become the missing game piece on whom almost everyone's plans for the throne depend. Now an almost mythical figure, she is considered by many to be the key to victory and power and the sole means of achieving the Iron Throne. In addition to Daenerys's ancestral ties to the throne, there is one key reason people are seeking her: her dragons.

Less than two centuries prior to the events in A Song of Ice and Fire, dragons filled the skies and were thought to be tied to magic and the seasons. This gave House Targaryen a tremendous advantage over other Houses—they were the only family of Dragonlords to survive an apocalyptic event known as the Doom of Valyria. The dragons, to which their riders were spiritually bonded, made them almost invincible.

It was Aegon II Targaryen and his two sister-wives who rode their dragons into battle against the seven lords in Westeros, conquering all but Dorne and making Aegon first king of the Westeros. The Targaryens would remain on the Iron Throne for over 300 years. But by the end of a civil war called the Dance of the Dragons, only four dragons remained, and later they, too, died. All that was left of the species were skulls and a few precious dragon eggs, thought to have become no more than petrified stone. Without their dragons, the Targaryens began losing power. People also believed that when the dragons became extinct, the power of magic began to fade, the summers grew shorter, and the winters became longer, colder, and crueler.

Daenerys's three hatchling dragons are, therefore, an event that shakes the known world. Some see them heralding the return of magic. Most, however, view them as a means of conquest and a way to obtain power, just as Aegon did. During the Kingsmoot on the Iron Islands, for example, Euron Greyjoy wins the support of the sea captains by unveiling a dragon horn, once used to control the creatures. And when Euron reveals that he knows of three dragons and where to find them, the members of the Kingsmoot scream his name in an almost unanimous validation. Similarly, in Dorne, Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons are at the heart of Prince Doran's plan to exact revenge on the Lannisters and gain the Iron Throne. Although wedding his daughter, Arianne Martell, to Viserys Targaryen was at the heart of the prince's original strategy, Viserys's death has made Daenerys and her dragons an even more powerful key to achieving his heart's desire for "fire and blood." Doran sends his son to Essos to locate the dragon queen and bring her back to Dorne.

It is Maester Aemon who realizes that Daenerys and her dragons are not the means to power but power itself—and possibly the salvation of the realm. Just before his death, Maester Aemon realizes she may be the "prince" that was foretold, who would unite the kingdom and, along with her dragons, save it from the terrible oncoming winter. He urges Samwell Tarly to go to the Citadel, the headquarters of the maesters, and entreat them to send Daenerys the training and support she needs.

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