I’m gonna do a couple of ASOIAF posts back to back. Both have to do with Dany.
First is that after months of reading posts by the Wars and Politics writers assuming that of course King’s Landing is getting burned to the ground when Daenerys returns to Westeros, Brynden BFish has finally convinced me that the city will be at least partially destroyed. He Tweeted this link to his Reddit post today, and it reminded me that there are some things I’ve missed by having read only parts of the first three books.
Previously, I wrote about my skepticism of the Chekhov’s Wildfire idea, my argument being that Tyrion appears to have already found and used most of if not all the wildfire King Aerys stored under the city. I still stand by my observation that Tyrion has already gotten rid of a huge amount of King Aerys’s wildfire, but now I believe most of it is still untouched and ready to do a huge amount of damage.
At the time of writing about the supposed Chekhov’s Gun of the Wildfire Plot, I was also assuming Jaime would be the one who kills Cersei, and that he’d live to tell about it, so of course the city wouldn’t go up in flames with him still in it.
Since then, I’ve opened up to other ideas of who will kill Cersei, and with another valonqar candidate in mind, I’ve become more open to the idea of King’s Landing going up in dragon fire.
In BFish’s analysis of the symbolism of the “red door” for Dany (in which she pictures a house with a red door as the place where she wants to return), he’s still assuming Jaime will be the valonqar, and I am not convinced. He also talks about the Wildfire Plot and the process of finding some of the Mad King-era caches under the city in A Clash of Kings, and I’m still ambivalent about how much wildfire is still there. This is what BFish says about finding the older wildfire in the siege preparations:
It’s only in A Storm of Swords that we find out why the wildfire is stored all over the city. Jaime reveals that Aerys II Targaryen planted wildfire all over the city to burn the city to the ground. And by the city, Jaime means everywhere in the city.
The pyromancers might have dug up some of the wildfire under Baelor’s Sept, but I can find no mention of wildfire being dug up from Flea Bottom, the seven gates, stables and storehouses or the Red Keep itself. In fact, it’s a bloody miracle that the city didn’t blow up during the riots of King’s Landing in A Clash of Kings.
And so my “well, actually” is to go back to this passage from Chapter 20, in Tyrion’s part of the siege preparations:
“How many jars do you have at present?”
“This morning the Wisdom Munciter told me that we had seven thousand eight hundred and forty. That count includes four thousand jars from King Aerys’s day, to be sure.”
With that “four thousand jars from King Aerys’s day” in mind, I think the text hasn’t told us about all the places, in so many words, where the pyromancers dug up the leftover wildfire from back in the day. They found 200 jars under the Sept of Baelor, and later stumbled upon 300 jars under the Dragonpit, and there were a lot more jars already stored in the Guild of Alchemist’s vault, but that still leaves some room for wildfire to have been found in other, less interesting spots in the city and safely removed.
The part that never really grabbed me before, though, was this text which BFish quotes:
“Yes, you have secret spells; how splendid. What of them?”
“They, hmmm, seem to be working better than they were.” Hallyne smiled weakly. “You don’t suppose there are any dragons about, do you?”
“Not unless you found one under the Dragonpit. Why?”
“Oh, pardon, I was just remembering something old Wisdom Pollitor told me once, when I was an acolyte. I’d asked him why so many of our spells seemed, well, not as effectual as the scrolls would have us believe, and he said it was because magic had begun to go out of the world the day the last dragon died.” (ACOK, Tyrion XI)
That the pyromancer has to talk about the relationship between dragons, magic, and wildfire? It’s noteworthy.
Then there’s this from my earlier post:
“These, ah, fruits of the late King Aerys, can they still be used?”
“Oh, yes, most certainly … but carefully, my lord, ever so carefully. As it ages, the substance grows ever more, hmmmm, fickle, let us say. Any flame will set it afire. Any spark. Too much heat and jars will blaze up of their own accord. It is not wise to let them sit in sunlight, even for a short time. Once the fire begins within, the heat causes the substance to expand violently, and the jars shortly fly to pieces. If other jars should happen to be stored in the same vicinity, those go up as well, and so—”
That also seems like foreshadowing for a great deal of death and destruction by fire.
This is the part, though, that I simply never read in the first place, so that’s what I get for reading all the books but only some of the chapters:
But it was not the plains Dany saw then. It was King’s Landing and the great Red Keep that Aegon the Conqueror had built. It was Dragonstone where she had been born. In her mind’s eye they burned with a thousand lights, a fire blazing in every window. In her mind’s eye, all the doors were red. (AGOT, Daenerys III)
I get it now. King’s Landing is going up in flames when Dany arrives with her dragons, and when the fire dies down, there won’t be enough left to be a real city. Maybe a few scattered villages. There’ll be a huge loss of some of the realm’s most developed real estate, though, there’ll be a death toll in the hundreds of thousands, and when the ash has settled, there’ll be no city from which to base a centralized power structure. Oldtown may still be mostly intact, though the Ironborn are busy attacking it in Feast/Dance, but there’s no substitute for the location of King’s Landing.This says a lot about the viability of Westeros as a country; it’ll probably go back to being Seven Kingdoms, though hopefully a more cooperative, inter-dependent confederation than they were before Aegon and his sisters showed up.