The arrival of two huge, furious dragons has changed much for the ghosts. Suddenly the space seems full; while a few spirits are eager to see them, most — understandably — prefer to keep their distance. The dragons were fire made flesh, and although their flame has gone out, they are no less a wonder — a great and terrible wonder.
Viserys: Aren’t they beautiful?
Robert: [uncharacteristically nervous] It’s not the word I would have chosen…
Rhaegal turns and glares at Robert.
Robert: [hurriedly] They are fierce and powerful…and glorious!
Rhaegal lowers his head, with narrowed eyes. Robert exhales.
Viserys: Unlike you, Baratheon, I am a true Targaryen. We have a natural rapport with dragons.
Grinning smugly, he approaches Viserion’s head, and reaches out his hand. Viserion snaps at it. Viserys yelps and steps away.
Robert: Yes, I can see that.
Jorah: They are not tame, Viserys.
Viserys: [Rounding on Jorah with sudden, humiliated rage] I know that. You can never tame a dragon.
Shireen: I think they are beautiful.
Viserys beams at her. For a moment, it sounds like the dragons are purring.
Ned: It’s time.
Robert: It’s been a while since there were traitors burning on the beach at Dragonstone, eh brother?
Stannis: A quick death for a traitor.
Dickon: It’s not quite as quick as you might think…
Shireen shudders and turns her attention back to the dragons, who have been shifting impatiently at the sight of their mother.
Shireen: It’s alright. Drogon’s watching over her. He won’t let anyone hurt her.
The dragons are soothed by the girl’s voice, and settle.
Shireen: Did she ever tell you stories of the dragons that came before you? I’ve read all about them. Would you like me to tell you about them?
Rhaegal tilts his head and for a moment looks like he is smiling in assent. Viserion moves closer and lies down at her feet. As she starts to tell them about Balerion the Black Dread, the other ghosts smile fondly and turn back to watch the action. But Renly is furious.
Renly: [hissing] Where that girl got her sweetness from, Stannis, I’ll never know. Robert, Dickon — If you ever talk about burning to death in front of her again, I’ll make your eternal existence here more miserable than your tiny brains could ever imagine. Do you hear me?
His brothers and Dickon look thoroughly ashamed. The awkward silence is only broken by the sudden intrusion of an unctuous voice.
Varys: Did I come at a bad time?
Olenna: Careful everyone. There’s a spider in the garden.
Varys: [approaching Missandei] You are sorely missed, my dear. I fear for her without your influence.
Missandei turns her stricken face towards Varys, and her expression changes to one of contempt. She says nothing, and joins Shireen with the dragons. Varys sighs.
Olenna: She made her feelings quite clear. D—
Robert: DON’T SAY IT! [He gestures towards the dragons, eyes wide and fearful]
Olenna: They can’t hurt us here!
Robert: Are you sure?
Most of the gathered spirits look uneasy. Olenna rolls her eyes.
Olenna: You promised me fire and blood, Spider. I’m still waiting.
Varys: I’m afraid you won’t be waiting for very long.
Jorah: (softly) You are still loved, Khaleesi…
Tywin: Love won’t win her the city, or help her keep the throne.
Olenna: …And now the rains weep o’er his halls…
Tywin and Olenna share a look.
Tywin: Fear is a weapon.
Olenna: Indeed. It is not our usual way. But these are unusual times.
Tywin: Sacking a city is an unpleasant business. To pretend otherwise is folly.
Varys: It’s one thing to sack a city, my lord. It is another to claim the hearts of those lucky enough to survive.
Olenna: Yes, one should distance oneself from the worst of it.
There is an uncomfortable silence again. Ned looks at Robert, accusingly.
Ned: You know how I feel about sacking cities, my friend.
Robert catches Tywin’s eye, and looks down. Tywin purses his lips.
Ned: Arya should be far away from here.
Cat: Never underestimate little girls, Ned.
Ned: I don’t. But I’ve seen what happens to men when they take a city.
Margaery: Perhaps it will all be alright! There are other plans now. Arya could kill Cersei. The city could surrender. It might not come to— [she falls silent when she sees the expressions around her.]
Robert: Gods, this is dull. What are we doing? We’re about to see the last war! What we really should be doing is working out a plan to scare Euron Bloody Greyjoy and that Lannister woman when they get here.
Ros: It’s all taken care of, your grace. We weren’t short of volunteers.
Varys: I suppose I should be grateful I was spared such a welcome.
Robert: Now, if we could persuade the dragons to roar at them the moment they arrive…
Twyin: Is this what we have become? Harmless spirits leaping out of the darkness to make them jump?
Olenna: Fear is a weapon…
Olenna: Ugh, King’s Landing. You can almost smell the shit from here.
Robert: Here she comes! Yes! She’s got him! Quick, get ready to scare the Greyjoy bastard!
A group of terrifying but giggling ghosts slip away and prepare themselves. Chief among them are Hodor and Wun Wun.
Olenna: She should have done this weeks ago.
Robert: Whoa! Drogon just burned the wall down!
He is enjoying this so much that for a moment, he doesn’t immediately realise how quiet and tense the others have become. When he does, he frowns.
Robert: [annoyed] What is it?
They gesture behind him. He turns and yelps when he sees Rhaegal and Viserion just inches away, watching over his shoulder.
Shireen: They wanted to see.
Robert: Of course, of course! [His voice becomes unusually high pitched] Good dragons, yes? Look! Isn’t this brilliant? [Through gritted teeth, to Shireen] Do they have to get so close?
Shireen laughs. But as she watches with the dragons, her face starts to fall.
Renly: War is terrible, sweet girl.
Shireen: I know. I’ve read about it.
Renly: Reading and seeing are two different things. Look away, love.
Robert: [to the welcome party] Any sign of Greyjoy yet?
Robert looks disappointed.
Viserys: She’s done it! They’re surrendering!
Renly: Why isn’t she pleased?
Margaery: [with sudden clarity] She wants them to cheer…
Olenna: Oh my sweet summer child…
Renly: The bells are ringing!
Margaery: It isn’t enough…
Renly: We aren’t going to watch any more. Come away.
They leave the others. The dragons turn to watch Shireen, but she doesn’t look back at them.
Robert: [still watching the action] What in seven hells is she doing?
Olenna: Being a dragon.
Cat: Jon is trying to hold the troops back.
Ned: I remember that feeling well…
Varys: I kept my promise, Lady Olenna. It gives me no pleasure to be right. Now, if you will excuse me, I think it’s high time I paid a visit to an old friend.
He folds his arms and turns to walk away. He pauses when he passes Ser Jorah, who is staring, aghast and unblinking, at the scene below.
Varys: You’ve seen her do this before.
Jorah: Not this. Not like this.
Varys: Madness can be-
Jorah: [interrupting] My Queen is not mad!
Varys: Grief and rage then, Ser Jorah. Are they so far from madness?
Jorah: She was in pain. She needed to heal. And all you gave her was poison.
Varys: Grief and rage are ordinary, it’s true. But she is no ordinary girl. She could drown the kingdoms in tears, and burn them to ash with her rage.
Jorah: This was your doing, Varys. Get out of my sight.
Varys bows his head, and disappears into the shadows.
Robert: Oh gods, just kill him, Jaime!
Robert: [getting excited] Get ready!
Cat: Arya suddenly looks so young!
Oberyn: And now it’s time for the Mountain to face justice…
Qyburn appears suddenly, right where the welcome party is gathered. They surround him, and make a terrible noise. Dwarfed by broken giants and hollow-eyed horrors, he lets out a piercing scream and flees into the darkness. The ghosts fall about laughing.
Robert: Brilliant! Next time, try it a bit louder and with more howling.
Oberyn: The Mountain is a hard man to kill…
Tywin: It would have been easier for you if you had talked less.
Oberyn punches the air as the Mountain finally falls, and Robert cheers. Moments later, the Hound appears. The welcome party springs into action again. This time, as instructed, it is louder and with more howling. Even beside the hulking figure of the Hound, the spirits look enormous. It is a sight and a sound that would reduce even the bravest man to rubble.
Sandor: [without a flinch] Fuck off.
Robert stares at him with a newfound respect. Ned catches his eye, smiles and nods. Sandor nods his head in reply.
Cat: Sandor, for our girls…
Sandor: I didn’t do it for you.
Cat: I know. We thank you anyway.
Sandor: Where is she?
Cat: She’s still in the city. I think she is going to make it out.
Sandor: She’s a tough little wolf, that one.
Ned: Yes, she is.
Sandor: Where’s my brother?
Robert: Most of him has been here for a long time.
Sandor: How the fuck does that work?
Olenna: And now it’s time for Cersei…
Cat: Part of me is starting to feel sorry for her.
Olenna: Squash it, Lady Stark. Cersei chose violence long ago.
Robert: A dragon, an assassin and a Hound — and Cersei is killed by the keep falling down. [He shakes his head]
Olenna: Two Lannisters at once — those rocks are efficient.
Tywin’s face is unreadable. Without speaking, he turns and walks away.
Jorah: [to himself] Khaleesi, what have you done?
Robert: Greyjoy here yet?
Robert: Cersei? Jaime?
Robert: [sighs] We never get what we want, do we?
Margaery: Perhaps we should discuss the relative merits of Daenerys and Jon again?
The ghosts groan.
Ned: What she just did… [he shakes his head]
Cat: Jon was horrified.
Olenna: Doesn’t his face always look like that?
Margaery: [tightly and with unconvincing brightness] Perhaps Daenerys is going to be the greatest queen the kingdoms have ever known!
Robert: They are behind me again aren’t they?
Margaery: Everybody, just smile and nod. Smile and nod. That’s a grimace, Stannis. Gods, did no-one ever teach you how to smile?
Rhaegal and Viserion had narrowed their eyes at the suspicious tone of the voices, but having never been taught to recognise a courtly smile, they are reassured by the display from the ghosts. They leave the others, searching for their friend. Desperate and afraid, she had called for them. They had all called for dragons. Were they really surprised that dragons had answered?
Robert: [still grinning, but with a fearful look in his eyes] I’m starting to remember why we, uh, you know… [whispering] deposed…
Olenna: Hush, you fool!
Viserys: So she’s burned some peasants. It’s no great loss. Right?
No-one answers. The ghosts won’t make eye contact with each other. Olenna sighs.
Olenna: Well, the cow’s been milked. There’s no squirting the milk back up her udders.
As the ashes fall like snow below, Shireen thinks about dragons. She had loved the paper dragons in her books, adorned with bright colours by a maester’s hand. She had played with wooden dragons, carved and polished, smooth to the touch. She had visited the stone dragons on the walls of her home, and given them names. When the ghost dragons came, she was delighted. How she had dreamed of meeting a real one. Now she was glad that she never would.
It’s always summer, under the sea
I know, I know, oh, oh, oh
The birds have scales, and the fish take wing
I know, I know, oh, oh, oh
The rain is dry, and the snow falls up
I know, I know, oh, oh, oh
The stones crack open, the water burns
The shadows come to dance, my lord
The shadows come to play
The shadows come to dance, my lord
The shadows come to stay
Far away from the main group, the spirits of two golden-haired children appear. In the gloom, it is almost impossible to tell them apart. They are running. The first, a girl, is laughing, the light, carefree laugh of a child who has known no pain. The second, a boy, calls out — ‘Wait for me!’ The girl turns and smiles, and the boy catches up. Breathless, they grin at each other.
The boy: Let’s go again. I will win this time.
The girl: You won’t. You’ll chase after me forever.
The boy: I will always catch you.
The girl laughs again, and starts to run. As promised, her brother follows. Unseen in the shadows, Tywin Lannister watches. The faint hint of a smile tugs at the corner of his mouth. But his eyes, wearing an unfamiliar shine, tell a different story.
Header Image Source: HBO