The Price We Pay for What We Don’t Know 

Disclaimer: this essay contains spoilers from The Lost Women of Ballantine Castle

My newly self-published novel on Amazon titled The Lost Women of Ballantine Castle chiefly centers on the disappearances of undocumented maids dating from the 1980s to the pre-Covid Trump era, the time the story takes place. Almost all of these maids are Hispanic, range from their late teens to their late twenties, worked for a Mrs. Bartlett at either her Ballantine Castle estate or The Commodore Hotel, and all disappeared while leaving the former. Anyway, despite its subject matter mainly focusing on undocumented immigrants and their vulnerable position in American society, I devoted a significant chunk of the story on racial violence against minorities and how little attention it receives in our society both in our history classes and in the media, especially if the victims were poor, had little to no legal standing in society, or in the maids’ case, both.  

However, there’s a critical flashback scene in the novel where a college archives intern at Ballantine Castle named Julia Scarnatti explores some records in a file cabinet where the estate’s curator told her not to open. Naturally, she does. Among her finds consists of a series of photographs dating from the 1920s, many depicting Mrs. Bartlett’s ancestor great-grandmother and her friends torturing and killing her black servants for basically no good reason. Naturally, Julia is horrified such people could commit such brutal acts. Later on, Agent Rashida Owens sees a black minister named Dr. Scott and addresses the matter to him (which her partner Beattie MacKillop found in Julia’s diary during an investigation into her disappearance and murder). Dr. Scott discusses how the Ballantines would engage in an all-too-common practice during the time called lynching and his description is nothing short of horrifying. One chilling passage is as follows: 

“Now I don’t like thinking white people as monsters. But it blows my mind how normal white men and women can live with, participate in, and defend such atrocities to their fellow human beings. Even reinterpret them so they wouldn’t see themselves or be perceived as less than civilized. These people who tortured, dismembered, and murdered our ancestors like this perfectly understood what they were doing and thought themselves as perfectly normal human beings. Few had any ethical qualms about their heinous actions. To them, lynching was the highest idealism in their service to their white race, a triumph of a horrid belief system defining us as less than human. These perpetrators of these crimes were just ordinary folks who’d go to church with their families and believed keeping black people in their place was nothing less than a way of combating a plague that if not checked, would hurt the community’s health and security.” 

So what do lynching black people back in the 1920s have to do with missing undocumented maids in the Trump Era? Well, while some forms of racial violence may fall out of favor due to momentous historical events like the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s to the 1960s, other forms of racial brutality don’t go away so easily. The brutality could also take another form like mass incarceration in connection with the War on Drugs, stand your ground and open carry laws, stop and frisk, the “welfare queen” stereotype, and lingering systematic racial disparities that never get resolved. Not to mention, racial violence extending to people with less legal protection than most Americans, namely the undocumented who are relentlessly demonized by right-wing news outlets as pathological criminals. And yet, they also perform variety of essential low wage work at a pittance in our country while living a very precarious existence prone deportation, family separation, and crime. As many Americans firmly but wrongly believe that undocumented immigrants aren’t supposed to be here and don’t have any rights (which isn’t exactly true).  

Sycamore Springs, Pennsylvania is a fictional city for no such place exists between Erie and State College. While the disappearance of undocumented maids at a Gilded Age era estate from the 1980s to the pre-Covid Trump Era is based on the 400-year-old Bathory child murders in Renaissance-era Hungary and the LaLaurie slave killings in antebellum New Orleans. Black lynchings, however, were an endemic feature during the Jim Crow Era when whites would flat out murder black people just for any excuse just to keep the local blacks in line. Sure, these killings were anti-black terrorism and hate crimes but the white establishment never prosecuted them mainly because local authorities often took part in them. Although whites could also be lynched as well as most famously demonstrated in the notorious Leo Frank case. According to the Tuskegee Institute, about 4,743 Americans were lynched between 1882 to 1968, including 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites. Nonetheless, lynching was white society’s effort to maintain white supremacy in economic and political dominance after the American Civil War during Reconstruction and Jim Crow. Furthermore, lynching blacks was a way to emphasize the Jim Crow social order where whites acted together to reinforce their collective identity along with blacks’ unequal status through acts of violence. And despite being associated with the South, they also occurred in the North as Ballantine Castle entails. According to the great Ida B. Wells while sexual infractions against white women were widely cited, such victims with sexual assault allegations occurred only 1/3 of the time. Instead, the most prevalent accusation related to murder followed by a list of infractions like verbal and physical aggression, spirited business competition (like successfully competing in business against whites), and independence of mind among victims. If you think the infraction list consists of bullshit terms, you’re absolutely right. And tragically as of June 6, 2021, no federal anti-lynching legislation has passed both houses of Congress despite racial violence remaining a serious problem. 

Despite the prominent role lynching played in maintaining white supremacy in the United States during Jim Crow, most white students will never hear about it in their American history class. Until recently, racial violence incidents like the 1921 Tulsa Massacre weren’t even known in the American public consciousness. Only because of shows like Watchmen and Lovecraft Country. Obviously, American schools don’t teach students about racial violence during segregation because no one wants to see themselves as the bad guy, white people especially. Nor does it paint the US in a positive light. Nonetheless, given how white supremacy is still a major problem in the US within every part of our society, it’s a subject everyone must learn if only to dismantle the systemic racist infrastructure that perpetuates such violence against people of color. Particularly when it comes to police brutality and stand your ground laws. Lynchings may not be as accepted or prolific as they were under Jim Crow, but the legacy is still with us. And it’s important all students know that legacy. 

As I write in the summer of 2021, all over the United States, Republicans are up in arms over the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory and have sought to have such measures banned within their local schoolboards to their state legislatures. The Heritage Foundation has recently attributed a whole host of issues to CRT including the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, LGBTQ+ clubs in schools, diversity training in federal agencies and organizations, California’s recent ethnic studies model curriculum, the free speech debate on college campuses, and alternatives to exclusionary discipline like Broward County, Florida’s Promise Program that some parents blame for the Parkland shooting (instead of lax gun policies that allowed the shooter to easily get them in the first place). The organization claimed: “When followed to its logical conclusion, CRT is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based.”  

With beginnings within the New Left school of American history during the 1970s and 1980s, Critical Race Theory’s crux is that racism is a social construct. Yet, unlike many white people would like to think, racism isn’t just a product of individual bias and prejudice, but also something embedded in systemic policies. Slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow are among the biggies that we learn in American history class. A good example Education Week discusses a 1930s practice of government officials drawing lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often due to the inhabitants’ race. As a result, banks refused to offer mortgages to black people living in these areas. Today, despite facially-race blind policies, these same patterns of discrimination live on. For instance, single family zoning prevents building affordable housing in advantaged, majority white neighborhoods, and thus, undermines racial desegregation efforts.  

Ballantine Castle illustrates this through Sycamore Springs confining their black and Hispanic populations to the Sticks for much of its history, its history of black lynchings, racist law enforcement practices, and federal immigration policies, especially during the pre-Covid Trump era. CRT also has ties to other intellectual currents like works by sociologists and literary theorists studying the links between political power, social organization, and language. While its ideas have since informed other fields like humanities, social sciences, and teacher education. You could also see the same in Ballantine Castle in which Sycamore Springs’ harsh treatment of Latinos by the local police department leads to more undocumented maids disappearing at the titular estate. Mainly because the living undocumented maids are in no position to testify out of deportation fears. Donald Trump’s decision to cancel DACA resulted in FBI agents Beattie MacKillop and Rashida Owens having such a difficult time tracking down Estella Rodriguez in regards to her white roommate’s disappearance and murder. After all, as a Dreamer attending college within a city that’s got a Joe Arpaio-like police chief and a general hostility toward undocumented people among the general white population, Estella has no idea what Trump’s DACA cancellation might mean to her if she talks to law enforcement. So, when the cops and federal agents scramble for her testimony, Estella either shuts herself in her dorm room or runs off. In addition, the Sycamore Springs police department’s inexcusable actions during the white supremacist Charlottesville-style “America First” rally at Liberty Park results in a white counter-protesting student’s death and a heroic priest named Father Anthony Carlisle nearly losing his shit.  

Critical Race Theory states that racism is part of everyday life so white and non-white people who don’t intend to be racist can nevertheless make choices fueling racism. There are plenty of examples in Ballantine Castle, particularly when Rashida Owens breaks up an altercation pertaining to police mistreating a black man outside a Starbucks in Sycamore Springs to her partner, Beattie MacKillop’s dismay. When Rashida climbs back in her car, Beattie glares at her FBI partner and says, “Why must you stop and waste our time?” As far as she’s concerned, they’ve just arrived to the city to investigate a white college girl’s disappearance, an assignment Rashida has clearly expressed doesn’t want to work on. Stopping police from using excessive force on a black man will only delay their investigation. Now Beattie doesn’t intend to be racist here. But she certainly comes across as this and her chiding Rashida over the incident fuels racism as well. Which is exactly the point. 

However, a lot of critics claim that CRT advocates discriminating against white people in order to achieve equity (except it doesn’t), mainly aiming such accusations at theorists calling for policies explicitly taking race into account. Yet, the disagreement fundamentally springs from different conceptions of racism. While popular notions of racism take individuals’ own beliefs into account, CRT emphasizes outcomes and calls for people to examine and rectify them. And no, neutral “color-blind” policies won’t eliminate the America’s racial caste system. Many white people obviously have a problem with this, especially since they mostly don’t want to seem racist. But they don’t want to think about racism whenever Colin Kaepernick takes a knee to protest against police brutality, which they consider as an attack on the flag and the military (except that it’s not). Because white people in general want to live their lives pretending that racism died out in the 1960s with the Civil Rights Movement (except it didn’t). Since racism is so ordinary that white people benefit from it and their refusal to dismantle the racist status quo and resistance to racist policies makes them complicit in racism. The idea that someone can be racist by doing absolutely nothing is very triggering to say the least. After all, no one wants to be the bad guy. 

Due to CRT’s popular representation in schools being far less nuanced, a recent poll by Parents Defending Education claimed some schools were teaching that “white people are inherently privileged, while black and other people of color are inherently oppressed and victimized”; that “achieving racial justice and equality between racial groups requires discriminating against people based on their whiteness”; and that “the United States was founded on racism.” As a result, much of the current debate chiefly springs not from academic texts, but from critics’ fears that students (particularly white ones) will be exposed to supposedly damaging or self-demoralizing ideas. Doesn’t help that whenever white people hear even a whisper of “white people” and “racism” they can absolutely lose their shit, completely blocking them from hearing anything else. If in their mind, America is the greatest country in the world, any criticism of their beloved country is a personal attack, especially from anyone who’s not white. Sure, they’re fine with “a more perfect union” or “making America great again.” But they can’t handle an entire field of black scholarship based on the idea that their sweet land of the free is inherently racist. And all I have to say to them is tough shit.  

As of mid-May 2021, legislation to outlaw CRT in schools has passed in Idaho, Oklahoma, and Tennessee as well as proposed in various other statehouses. The bills are so vaguely written that it’s unclear what they’ll affirmatively cover, whether they’re constitutional or violate free speech (I’d say yes on the latter two). Could a teacher who wants to talk about state-sponsored racism a la Jim Crow (which prevented blacks from voting or holding office while separating them from white people in public spaces) violate such laws? Although it’s extremely difficult to police what’s taught in hundreds of classrooms, social studies teachers fear such laws could have a chilling effect on educators self-censoring their own lessons out of concern for parent or administration complaints. One Tennessee English teacher notes: “History teachers can not adequately teach about the Trail of Tears, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement. English teachers will have to avoid teaching almost any text by an African American author because many of them mention racism to various extents.” The laws might also be used to attack other pieces of the curriculum like ethnic studies or “action civics,” which asks students to research local civic problems and propose solutions.  

In American history, cultural debates have focused on the balance among patriotism and American exceptionalism one end and the exclusion and violence toward Native Americans and African American enslavement on the other. As in our country’s ideals and practices. A current example that’s fueled much of the recent round of CRT criticism is the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which seeks to put slavery’s history and its effects as well as blacks’ contributions to democratic reforms front and center in American history. Nonetheless, we must understand that learning history isn’t always supposed to feel good. There are parts in our history that are downright painful, disturbing, and jarring to know about like slavery, native displacement and genocide, Jim Crow, racial violence, immigration restrictions, Japanese internment, and more. But they’re absolutely necessary to know about so we can grow and rectify such injustices as a society. For the old adage says, “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” If we want to avoid the past’s mistakes and create a better society, then we must teach kids about race and racism. This goes especially for the students whose parents protest against the teaching of the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory and buy into whatever conspiracy theories or culture war garbage the right-wing media screeds into their heads. Knowing about the past is hard. Not knowing is even harder. The price we pay for what we don’t know could be steep, as we learned from all the police shootings and white supremacist demonstrations. And for too far too long, the price for our collective historical ignorance has been way too high. White people may have the luxury to forget about all the awful legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation. But if they consist of the majority of who we elect into office at every level, it’s time they start as early as possible. 

The Final Season of Game of Thrones: Part 3 – Tossups

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Finally, considering the nature of Game of Thrones, are the tossups. Given this is a show where fantasy tropes are subverted and anything can happen, you can’t be sure whether these figures will live or die in the final season. Besides, since we’re getting close to the end, main character plot armor may not be as reliable as in earlier seasons. Hell, even the characters I’ve guessed could live or die may not face their predicted fate. Seriously, who knows what will happen. Though as they say in Hamilton, you have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.

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Tormund Giantsbane– as the last real leader of the free folk, Tormund needs to survive to bring them into a new time of peace and prosperity and romance Brienne of Tarth. As a savagely fierce warrior, Tormund has fought tooth and nail against the wights beyond the Wall. But it’s also thoroughly fitting for Tormund to die in battle alongside Jon Snow, the man he’s chosen to follow. Since fighting’s what he knows best and there’s little for him in a ruined world. Hell, we’re not sure if he survived the Night King’s break through the Wall. Since he was last seen standing atop of it. Either way, he’s come painfully close to death plenty of times before. So it can be either way.

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Bronn– as his world’s Han Solo with less moral scruples, he’s a survivor who’s got a knack for picking a winning side in a fight while managing to remain likeable, it would be nice to see him get his own dream castle. However, given how Season 8 will be the show’s most dangerous, it’s a bad time to be a mercenary since a lack of loyalty on one side for money will come back to bite him. One mistake and it can be his life. But since he genuinely cares about others, he’ll be back fighting for the right side no matter how much he’d complain about it or say otherwise. Above all else, Bronn is a man who loves to fight which he’s best at. He may not get his castle (since there won’t be many left by the end), but dying with a sword in his hand seems like a good consolation prize. Nonetheless, even if he fights the wrong side, we’d like to see him live.

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Sandor “The Hound” Clegane– from child-killing Lannister lackey to stalwart defender of the living, The Hound has changed more than almost any character on Game of Thrones. Given his figurative “death” in Season 4 and all the hardships he’s suffered, it would be nice to see him enjoy a peaceful retirement. Assuming if he survives the White Walkers and his undead brother the Mountain. But now he’s weary of the battles he’s had to fight and the people he’s had to fight them for. While there are few people he genuinely cares about, it would make more sense for him to die on the battlefield. Since he may not have a purpose once his brother dies. Though it would be nice for him to have some happiness in his life.

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Brienne of Tarth– as one of the most loyal and honorable characters who will be on the front battle lines against the White Walkers, defending her charges from harm with her fighting prowess and her Valyrian steel sword. Though she’s already filled her purpose in protecting the Stark sisters. On one hand, being noble and true can get you killed on Game of Thrones. On the other hand, since Brienne is so self-sacrificing, killing her off would be a low blow. Besides letting her live will give the opportunity for Jamie Lannister to die in the arms of the woman he platonically loves. Also, I’d like to see her marry Tormund Giantsbane.

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Daenerys Targaryen– as the only character with dragons, she will be an integral part of whatever plan of the living make to take down the army of the dead. Since this is Game of Thrones, the plan won’t go off without a hitch. People close to Daenerys will die and she will be in constant danger. But will the White Walkers take down the Mother of Dragons herself? Given that the show has a reputation of killing off characters who seem like heroes. After all, anyone can go away at any moment.

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Jon Snow (Aegon Targaryen)– now that he’s been revealed as Aegon Targaryen, he’ll certainly be important in the endgame. But will he get to rule the Seven Kingdoms or will he nobly die to prevent the Night King from obliterating humanity? Now it’s probably a given that he’ll marry and have a child with Daenerys. Yet, Jon has no problem throwing himself into battle, no matter who the enemy is. From the moment he joined the Night’s Watch, he’s been in dangerous situations every other minute of his life. Since he’s a tested battle commander with more experience fighting White Walkers than anyone living and knows it’s the right thing to do, Jon will lead the army of the living against the army of the dead. Given his plot armor as one of the main characters, he may survive the wars as they come. But his importance to the plot hasn’t always saved him. After all, if it weren’t for Melisandre’s magic, Jon would’ve ended up 6 feet under in Castle Black’s cemetery. And as we get close to the end, Jon’s plot armor may not be as effective as it used to be. Even if he survives the battle, there’s no guarantee he’ll survive the scramble for leadership that will follow. Even more than his uncle, Jon has always tried doing things honorably. And we know how that worked out for Ned. Then again, maybe he’ll combine his claim with Daenerys and let her handle Cersei so he won’t have to die. Of course, given that it’s Game of Thrones, we know nothing.

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Drogon– since hatching from a dragon egg, Drogon has taken part in some of the most important moments of Daenerys’ journey. Since he’s shared a tender moment with Jon Snow after Viscerion’s death, he’s more than a one-dimensional death machine. Drogon and Rhaegal are Westeros’ best hopes for surviving the coming war with the White Walkers. Since things will have to get worse before they get better, one of them may have to go. And given that Drogon is Jon and Dany’s biggest weapon, odds don’t look good.

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Rhaegal– while Drogon got to do all the exciting stuff, Rhaegal usually played second fiddle with his brother Viscerion. If Drogon falls to the White Walkers, Rhaegal can step up to the plate and help Daenerys and Westeros in dire need. But even if he survives the war, his future in a post-Night King Westeros could be in doubt.

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Ghost– sure he hasn’t been seen since the start of Season 6, but he’s implied to be alive though not at his master Jon’s side. Yes, money could be a reason but CGI dragons cost a lot while we’ve seen Arya meet up with Nymeria and her family. Though if a character isn’t on the show, can he really be killed? Let’s hope not. Still, killed or not, expect him to have at least some heroic moments on-screen.

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Davos Seaworth– he’s been clear he’s not a fighter. He’s also an old man and doesn’t have all his digits (or at least finger ends), which makes him less likely to survive the carnage. But with the Night King and his army marching, the Onion Knight may not have a choice but to get the sword and go right at it. Sure he may enjoy Daenerys’ and Jon Snow’s protection as one of Jon’s closest advisors. But the army of the dead won’t care. Should Winterfell fall, Davos may sacrifice himself should things go south, noble soul he is. Since there will be heartbreaking deaths in the series, it’s likely his will tug at the viewers’ heartstrings. And there will be plenty of opportunities for him to bite the dust. Still, it’s possible Davos could survive since he’s lived through the deaths of the 2 men he’s chosen to follow. As the wizened adviser, if he lives, he can go on as Jon or Dany’s right-hand man.

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Arya Stark– a trailblazing in the high stakes world of reparation and murder, a connoisseur of vigilante justice, and a stone-cold, blood-lusting assassin with serious moves. But more importantly, she’s a young woman with a big heart who’s suffered through more loss and pain than most people will deal with in a lifetime. Such losses have left her lost, scared, and forced to carve her own way in the world with little or no guidance from anyone who could’ve served as a nurturing influence in her life. Losing her dad Ned, her mother Catelyn, and her brother Robb have affected Arya deeply and set her on a dark, dangerous path to no return. But when faced with the choice of vengeance or return home, she went back to Winterfell. Sure, she’ll take down a few more. But her arc is about a loss of identity and by prioritizing family, she gave herself a new beginning, not an end. It seems downright foolish to kill her off when she’s got a whole new world of potential. Besides, given that she’s led a life of violence, there are 2 outcomes: either she falls by the sword or settles down to a quiet life and starts a family. As of Season 7, she seems heading toward the latter, especially given that Nymeria’s leading her own pack and that Gendry’s back. On the other hand, given that she puts herself through the most dangerous situations, she also has the least purpose in a post-war Westeros world, aside from having a family with Gendry. So if another Stark child has to die, it will probably be her.

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Podrick Payne– squire to the rich and famous, he’s a magical instrument of pleasure. Podrick may not be overly clever, great with a sword, or even chatty, but he must be doing something right. Since he’s made it to the final season. Lately, he’s been following Brienne while she’s smacked the crap out of him. Besides, he’s so good-natured, affable, and kind-hearted, that we can’t think of who’d want to hurt this guy. Okay, everyone. Still, chances are he’ll survive and get his knighthood, but barely. But once Brienne returns to Winterfell, he’ll be facing the army of the dead and unlike her, he won’t have a Valyrian steel sword to protect himself. So killing him off might make more sense, especially given his ineptitude on the battlefield as well as tug at fans’ emotional heartstrings.

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Yara Greyjoy– since Season 7, she’s been her uncle Euron’s prisoner and is in a lot of danger. So we’ll have to hope that Theon rescues her soon (despite that he’s headed in the wrong direction and that he failed the first time he tried due to PTSD). Then again, she might be dead already since she’s a threat to Euron’s rule. Yet, seeing that seeing Euron emerge victorious is too nightmarish and that Theon seems destined for heroic sacrifice, Yara could be the one Greyjoy to make it out alive.

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Daario Naharis– now that he’s no longer in a relationship with Daenerys, I don’t see him appearing in the show anytime soon. He’ll live since he’ll be running Meereen with the Second Sons, anyway. On the other hand, since Cersei has enlisted the help of the Golden Company from the East and the Second Sons wouldn’t let them invade Westeros unchallenged. So Daario may join the fray with his own band of mercenaries and he may not survive it.

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Hot Pie– the only way he’ll die would be if the army of the dead ransacks the Crossroads Inn and kills everyone there. Still, he probably won’t appear in Season 8 at all. Then again, since the Crossroads Inn is along the Kingsroad in the Riverlands, he’s not really out of the woods. Besides, he doesn’t have any impact on the story anymore.

The Final Season of Game of Thrones: Part 2 – Who Dies

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As it’s said on Game of Thrones, all men must die. But during the show’s final season, some will bite the dust sooner than others. With the army of the dead marching towards Winterfell with an intention to wipe out humanity and Cersei trying to cement her power in the Seven Kingdoms, plenty of characters will not make it. Some will fall to the army of the dead. Minor characters will put on redshirts to show how much danger everyone’s in. Some will get killed in gruesome ways. While some will get what’s coming to them. Nonetheless, expect fans to shed tears on some of them. Because when you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. And even if you win, you won’t be on top for long since you’ll end up dead.

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Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane– given that he’s a giant, intimidating, zombie killing machine who does Cersei’s bidding, he’ll have to swing his sword at someone who matters at some point. When he does, the show will milk it for all it’s worth, especially when he falls. The only question is who’ll take him down and whether he’ll take anyone down with him. Still, if he doesn’t fall to his brother the Hound at Cleganebowl (which will most likely happen since the showrunners have teased it for a couple of years), someone will get him. And it’ll be after Qyburn goes so there will be no way to resurrect him again.

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Ellaria Sand– given now that she was last seen headed for a Red Keep dungeon, she’s probably dead already. Sure Cersei said she wouldn’t let her die even if the guards have to force feed her. But that promise probably isn’t going to stick after she watches her daughter Tyene bite the dust to poison.

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Cersei Lannister– now that she’s sitting pretty on the Iron Throne, she’s been setting herself for a huge fall from the jump, making nothing but enemies and the wrong kind of friends. Daenerys wants her throne and has dragons. Arya’s vowed to kill her for years. The Night King wants to kill everyone. While her brother, lover, and confidante Jamie has abandoned her. Even her allies are dangerous, like Euron who wants to marry her. Furthermore, she’s pregnant, which won’t go well with Euron. For all the evil’s she’s done, Cersei needs to go. Thus, the only question is how many more enemies she’ll have to take down before she bites the dust.

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Melisandre– at 400 years old, she’s got a lot of blood on her hands. Melissandre’s blind devotion to the Lord of Light and belief that she’s saving the world has inspired her to commit terrible atrocities. But in recent seasons, she’s been wrestling with her guilt and it’s difficult to imagine a situation she’d try hard to avoid meeting her maker. Hell, she’s admitted that she’s been ready to die for many years while she’s scared the hell out of Varys by proclaiming they’d both die in Westeros. Though Melisandre is so powerful that it’s hard to picture a mere mortal taking her down, she’s made an enemy of Arya Stark for taking Gendry to Dragonstone. And while we know that Gendry is alive and well after a multi-season absence, Arya thinks Mel killed him and his death must be avenged. While the red witch has assured the two will meet again. If not, then she could sacrifice herself to the White Walkers.

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Theon Greyjoy– now that Ramsay neutered him after he’s made just about every wrong decision he could possibly make, Theon’s only purpose in life is rescuing his sister Yara from his evil uncle Euron. Yet, whether he may succeed is another matter since he failed the first time due to his PTSD and he’s headed in the wrong direction. Sure his betrayal of the Starks have paved way for the Boltons taking over Winterfell, which he’s paid for dearly. Yet, he ultimately helped Sansa escape from her monstrous husband Ramsay. Nonetheless, his story may end in 2 ways. He could die saving Yara and atoning for his sins. Or he could live after Euron and Yara as the last Greyjoy leader of the Ironborn. But more likely, he seems to be on the path to a redemptive death, which will be a fitting end to the unluckiest guy in Westeros.

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Jorah Mormont– despite initially serving Daenerys in order to secure a pardon and return to Westeros, Jorah fell in love with his queen and spent the next 6 seasons by her side. Though considering he’s much older than his Dany, he knew that any romance with her wasn’t going to happen. So he stuck around as her adviser instead. Due to his grayscale things looked bleak for Jorah in Season 7, but a trip to the Citadel and Sam Tarly cured his illness. Only for him to head to the North for a suicide mission before returning to Dany’s side. As a secondary character, his place in the narrative puts him in the crossfire. Since Jorah won’t sit on the sidelines when his queen’s under threat from her many enemies, expect him to become his world’s version of Sidney Carton.

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Edmure Tully– otherwise known as the Groom from the Red Wedding, we’re not 100% if he’d make an appearance. Though with Walder Frey and his heirs dead and being the last Tully to change himself, someone has to fill the leadership vacuum in the Riverlands. Though he might be rotting in Riverrun’s prison dungeon at this point. Still, if he does show up, the show probably wouldn’t gain much from killing him since we don’t know the guy very well. On the other hand, this makes him expendable which isn’t a great thing to be when an army of zombies bears down on you. Nonetheless, the show will need someone to rule the Riverlands after the main conflict is over and Edmure is the prime candidate. Though he has a son who could fill the role. Either way, he’s not much of a fighter and doesn’t have a knack for strategy. But he’s honor-bound to fight with his Stark in-laws against the White Walkers. But unless being stuck in prison has knocked some sense into him, he’s going down.

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Jamie Lannister– though he started the series pushing a kid out the window, he’s slowly morphed into a character we could cheer for. After he’s spent some time with Brienne and got his hand chopped off. At the end of Season 7, Jamie’s headed north to join the fight against the army of the dead, which will be very, very dangerous for a man with one hand. If he survives, he has to deal with his sister. Jamie and Cersei both said they would leave together as they were born. Perhaps he could spend his days with Brienne or alone. But since Jamie has crimes to answer for, he probably can’t escape his fate.

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Varys-he’s an enigma who’s intent on placing a Targaryen on the Iron Throne. But we don’t know whether if he truly cares about the realm or if it’s just a self-serving desire. If he’s an all-seeing altruistic manipulator seeking a peace that will last beyond his own life, he might have a chance at a comfy retirement. But he could just as easily die in the service of it as well. Yet, if Varys is serving his own nefarious purposes, he’s sure to meet an untimely end. After all, he did very little to advance Daenerys’ cause in Seasons 2-4. And in Season 7, Dany threatened to burn the eunuch if he betrayed her. On top of that, Melisandre prophesized his death. “I have to die in this strange country, just like you.”

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Grey Worm– we’ve probably seen his death coming for awhile since he’s on the front lines in every engagement. But fighting the undead in the wintry North is different than what he’s used to in combat. Besides, one can only escape death so many times. But don’t feel bad since dying fighting is what he’s prepared his whole life anyway. Also, he has a beautiful love story with Missandei so you’ll be shedding tears on this one.

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The Night King– well, he has to die, doesn’t he? But we don’t really know much about him or his motivations. Perhaps deep down he’s a man who the Children of the Forest turned him into an ice monster against his will and he’s only knocking down the Wall to escape a prison he didn’t deserve. Then again, he could just have no feelings whatsoever. Though most likely Jon will drive Longclaw into his chest. Though it’s possible that he could be driven back or even win.

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Eddison “Dolorous Edd” Tollet– a fan favorite for his dour wit, friendship with Jon Snow, and a knack for staying alive in a show known for redshirting (killing off minor characters). As of Season 7, new Lord Commander Edd and the remnants of the Night’s Watch are holed up in Castle Black. While the White Walkers have broken through Eastwatch and are heading south. Should the Night King brings his forces to bear on the castle’s unprotected side, the acting Lord Commander and his men might as well be the redshirt army. Sure, Edd has fought wights before, but when the army of dead comes knocking at their door, it’s over. The only way he can avoid death is if anyone summons him before the White Walkers descend on Castle Black or if the army of the dead skips the place entirely.

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Beric Dondarrion– now that Red Priest Thoros died in Season 7, the next time the Brotherhood Without Banners leader dies will be his last. In fact, he’s already dead in the books. A champion of the Lord of Light, Beric has been fighting the Great War against darkness since the series began. Given he’s a walking dead man who’s got nothing left but to live and die for the cause, he doesn’t stand a chance of surviving past victory. Since he’s not a big part of things.

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Euron Greyjoy– with Jamie’s departure and Cersei’s promise of sharing her bed and kingdom, things might be looking up for this Ironborn king. When he returns from Essos with the Golden Company, he’d want to cash in those IOUs. But with the army of the dead along with Daenerys and Jon’s forces, and Yara and Theon still around, Euron’s number coming up. Besides, Cersei doesn’t make the best ally, given what happened to the Tyrells. So it’s only a matter of when Euron will bite the dust and by whom. Since it’s difficult to see such an irredeemable villain being left alive in the end.

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Qyburn– he’s one of those supporting characters who’s been slipping directly under the radar for years since he’s been on the show since the beginning. In the show, he’s saved Jamie from losing his arm, brought the Mountain back to life, and helped Cersei to blow up the Great Sept of Baelor. He may be a quiet man, but he’s got tricks. Given the projected high body count in Season 8, he’s sure to have a great opportunity to examine fallen White Walkers. Still, once he’s hitched a ride to Cersei’s star, he’s destined to fall. Chances are, he’ll stand with her to the last. Maybe the Mountain can hulk out and lash out some poetic justice to his Dr. Frankenstein.

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“Bronze” Yohn Royce– a sturdy secondary character since Season 4, Royce is steely and no-nonsense. But we haven’t really delved into his inner thoughts and feelings. Nor has he ever been the head of his own storyline. Since a clash at Winterfell is inevitable, not every character will survive. Sure a couple major characters will die but not right away. So we must kill off some from the supporting cast and Royce is the ideal candidate. He’s a military commander so it’s all too easy for him to meet the end of a White Walker’s ice spear. Or the writers could surprise us. Since there won’t be much fallout on whether he lives or dies. But chances are good that he dies.

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Visceryon– now that he’s an undead ice dragon who’s broke down the Wall, his destruction has become a top priority for the good of humanity in Westeros and the known world. Chances are, either one his brothers or that giant dragon killing contraption will.

The Final Season of Game of Thrones: Part 1 – Who Lives

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Of course, one of the more important questions of HBO’s Game of Thrones is who’s going to die next? Given that this show has been notorious for killing off major characters we’ve come to know and love as well despise. For God’s sake, the show began with Ned Stark as the main character. Only for King Joffrey to chop off his head just before the first season finale. The list goes on from there. Now some characters did get resurrected like Jon Snow and the Hound. While others got saved in the nick of time like Jorah Mormont. However, given that the show’s approaching the end, the stakes have been substantially raised. So it’s only fair that I make my own list on who will survive the series or who will die in the final season.

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Note: Most of these will be guesses based on what I know about each surviving character in the show and what may happen in Season 8. So take each with a grain of salt. Also, if you haven’t made it to Season 7, there will be spoilers.

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Given that Game of Thrones is infamous for killing off characters, we should expect some to make it through the series alive. After all, even as everything goes to hell, some will have to stand. The ending may not what we want, but after the White Walkers and Cersei is gone, people will have to roles to play in the Seven Kingdoms. Some have reasons to survive. While with others, there’s no way they’ll be in the thick of the action, especially against the army of the dead.

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Jaqen H’gar– since he hasn’t been on the show since Arya left the House of Black and White to Westeros, he’ll probably live since she didn’t kill him in Braavos. Yet, remember those who live by the sword die by the sword. But he’s not likely to get it since we won’t be seeing him again.

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Sansa Stark– past the Long Night and into the future of Westeros, she’s one of the only major characters with the political savvy to lead what will be left of the Seven Kingdoms after the Great War has ripped them to shreds. Throughout Season 7, Sansa grew as a ruler demonstrating empathy, humility, and dedication to her role and her family. Along the way, she gained the respect of the Northern lords and bannermen, and the lord of the Vale. Sansa’s title as Lady of Winterfell isn’t just her birthright, but one she’s earned. This season, she was the only person in power to tackle the mundane, everyday tasks that are essential to a functioning household and kingdom. When she wasn’t busy spurning Littlefinger’s advances, Sansa was seldom seen without a ledger or other such documents in hand, showing that leadership isn’t just about battles, but also organization and community. She asked questions to the lords in order to improve her own knowledge, and made suggestions for how to better their circumstances as she prepared Winterfell for the Northerner influx she expects to host before war hits. Essentially, Sansa knows the threats surrounding all sides and she prepares accordingly. Once the Long Night is over, this is exactly the sort of leadership Westeros will need.

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Samwell Tarly– since he doesn’t get his hands dirty, abhors violence of any kind, and would rather run from a fight if he can avoid it, he’ll certainly survive. Besides, he has a family now and will be happy to assist in the evacuation efforts before the armies clash. But more importantly, Sam needs to survive so he can tell the story of A Song of Ice and Fire. While he’s the most unlikely and perfect survivor as the intelligent, loyal, and often overlooked character who comes great in the end. Still, there’s no telling what will happen at the Citadel when the Maesters find out he stole all those books, which will be more than revoking a library card. Also, he’ll unquestionably sacrifice his life to save Gilly and Sam if need be.

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Gilly– all Gilly has done in this show is try to get away from her abusive family and support Sam. Yes, I know Game of Thrones may be tempted to kill her or her son off since they’re totally innocent people in a danger zone, but seeing them die would just seem callous. Besides, being Little Sam’s mother and in a relationship with Sam, she’s the link to make the show’s most functional family. One family has to endure.

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Bran Stark– considering that he got flung from a tower in the first episode, it’s such a feat that he’s made it to Season 8 at all (though Meera Reed should get a lot of credit for that). For the first time in years, Bran is formally ensconced in Winterfell as well as surrounded by friends and family. But given that an undead army led by a dragon-riding ice demon’s heading south, he’s not out of the woods yet. However, Bran’s foresight power could give him and the army of the living an advantage in the wars to come. He’s incredibly focused in the fight to the point where he’s tuned out all human emotion. For now, that’s a good thing. The last Three-Eyed Raven lived for an incredibly long time, Bran will likely follow suit. And at least he’ll know that it doesn’t end in the hands of the Night King.

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Tyrion Lannister– he’s unlikely to be in the line of fire since he’s more of a battle strategist than a fighter since he won the major battle for the Lannisters during the War of the Five Kings. Furthermore, unlike in Season 2, he’s likely to be planning and organizing behind the scenes. So he’ll be safer than most. Besides, he needs to be around to advise the new regime once the Night King and Cersei are gone. And as the series wraps up, Tyrion is perfect to give the narrative weight and the God-given eloquence to give a believable speech summing everything up. Besides, he’s such a fan favorite that fans have sworn they’d stop watching the show if he’s killed off. So he needs to live.

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Robin Arryn– given that he’s a sickly child who usually spends most of his time in a castle up on the mountains, he’ll be fine. Though with White Walkers on the prowl, we can’t be sure of anything.

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Archmaester Ebrose– unless the army of the dead directly threatens the Citadel or he succumbs to natural causes, Ebrose will be fine. Besides, he’ll most likely not appear in the final season at all.

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Gendry– now that he’s back fighting the White Walkers, there’s no point of killing him off. He’s the last true Baratheon (biologically speaking since he’s a bastard), it’s possible that Daenerys could legitimize him and give him a big promotion so he could marry one of the Stark girls (though more likely Arya unless she dies). It would be cruel to kill him off after returning to the show so soon. Seeing him still standing will be a nice sign of how history repeats itself and things come full circle, which are recurring themes in the show. Seriously, after all the misery we’ve seen, there needs to balance some happiness.

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Nymeria– after years in the wilderness, we finally see her meet with Arya in Season 7. But now she’s the leader of her own pack and we hope she’s too busy raising a new litter of pups to get involved in human affairs. Though it’s possible she could die saving Arya from a mortal blow.

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Little Sam– all little Sam has done was be a baby while we’ve seen at least one baby fall to the White Walkers already. Killing him or his mom of off would just be exploitative though killing innocents might be a way to drive home the life-or-death stakes in a war against the dead.

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Missandei– though she’s been in the show for years, we don’t know her very well and she hasn’t been vitally important to the ongoing plotlines. So she’s more expendable than most, which isn’t a great thing to be. Redshirting one of Daenerys’ oldest friends would emphasize out heroes’ dire circumstances. But Daenerys can still do everything she wants with or without Missandei’s help. On the other hand, the show would have to go out of its way to put Missandei into any life-threatening danger. While she’s following her queen into a war, she’s not on the front lines. So her death may come off as a shock and it would be better off not happening. She’s more likely to survive. Hell, she might be democratically elected ruler of Meereen after the war is over since she’s proven to be an intelligent, insightful, and capable leader in her own right.

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Lyanna Mormont– she may only be ten, but this lady of Bear Island is the only character everyone’s afraid to cross since she possess the same might as men twice her age and her size. Nor is she afraid of being on the front lines and call everyone for battle training. But a battlefield is no place for a child and Lady Mormont might put herself in serious danger unless her Bear Islanders can protect their endearing grizzly. Nonetheless, killing this pint-sized spitfire and fan favorite would be cruel and won’t advance the plot. Besides, fans were not happy when Stannis let Melissandre burn Shireen at the stake as a sacrificial offering that went nowhere. Not to mention, there’s something quite delightful in seeing so many hardened warriors die but a plucky little girl survive.

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Meera Reed– the daughter of Ned Stark’s most trusted bannerman, Howland Reed, Meera has stuck through the gravest dangers with Bran, which left her brother Jojen, Hodor, Summer, Leaf, and the Three-Eyed Raven dead. She fought off White Walkers and brought Bran to the outer reaches of Beyond the Wall, doing what no one else could all in the memory to her dead brother. Hell, Bran would’ve been dead if it weren’t for her. Fortunately, she’ll be safe at Greywater Watch which isn’t worth the trouble to try and conquer it since it’s in a swamp. So the only threat facing it are the White Walkers. Thus, Meera’s most likely fate would be staying gone without further mention. Still, she could get the Blackfish treatment of being reintroduced to be unceremoniously killed off by White Walkers, possibly offscreen. Since the series has a habit of killing off characters who’ve outlived their usefulness to the plot. Though she may have a role to play should Howland Reed show up to save the day. But that’s unlikely.

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Aeron Greyjoy– a Drowned Man who’s also Euron’s brother as well as Theon and Yara’s other uncle, Aeron doesn’t really involve himself much in dynastic squabbles on the Iron Islands. And since he’ll have to preside over at least 2 funerals in the final season, I’m betting he’ll most likely survive. Yet, the question is whether he’ll be the only Greyjoy standing.

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Roslin Tully– she may be the infamous Walder Frey’s daughter and the bride at the Red Wedding. But given that her niece Arya Stark murdered the men in her family and has a son to raise, she’ll probably be fine. Though she might need to find a hiding place since a lot of battles take place in the Riverlands. Besides, we’ll probably never see her again anyway.

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Kitty Frey– as Walder Frey’s last wife and a teenager, Arya Stark spared her life so she could tell others that the North remembers. Nonetheless, given that she was forced into a marriage to an old treacherous man, Kitty will most likely not seek revenge against her husband’s assassin and will certainly live. Since we’re unlikely to see her again. Besides, Arya did her a favor.

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Melessa Tarly– as Sam’s mother, she’ll probably be in mourning for her husband and son who Daenerys had burnt to a crisp in Goldroad. Still, as long as she doesn’t leave her home at Horn Hill or the White Walkers don’t come knocking at the door, she’ll be fine.

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Talla Tarly– given that her brother and father are dragon ashes and her brother is a Maester in the Night’s Watch, she’ll be the Lady of Horn Hill and head of her family. So as long as she doesn’t leave home with an army or have any White Walkers show up, she’ll be fine.

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Tycho Nestoris– working for the Iron Bank of Braavos, he’ll probably not visit Westeros very often except when someone owes him money, he’ll be fine. Unless Cersei goes batshit crazy and has him put to death. Though that’s unlikely given the bank is in Braavos. What’s questionable is whether he’ll get paid.

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Orell– okay, he’s got killed off before as a Wildling. But he still lives on as warg in an eagle. So he can expect to spend the rest of his life in the forest settling down with an eagle family of his own. Thus, he’s unlikely to appear in his new form.

The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 14 – Qarth

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Finally, we go to the eastern trading hub of Qarth, a mercantile city that boasts one of the greatest ports in the world. Separated from land-based travel from the Red Waste, the Qartheen use their strategic position to conduct brisk maritime trade with merchants of every land between Westeros and Asshai. Defended by immense stone walls and strong gates, the Qartheen tend to be kind of snobbish to travelers. Specifically, they have a reputation of barring entry to those who don’t meet their approval. And due to Qarth’s isolation entry denial often spells doom for travelers since their bones are often found around their walls. Fortunately, Daenerys isn’t one of these unwelcome visitors. Though she does lose her cool when someone steals her dragons from her at the Warlock-ruled House of the Undying.

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Location: South of the Red Waste and in a narrow strait between the 2 continents of Westeros and Essos.

Size: It’s not incredibly large.

Capital: The Hall of a Thousand Thrones

Climate: Tropical.

Environment: A coastal city oasis surrounded by desert.

Resources: It’s more of a trading center of exotic goods than anything else.

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Population: It’s possibly one of the most populous cities in the world whose inhabitants call “the Greatest City that Ever Was or Will Be.”

Key Cities: N/A

Culture: The society is built on skill of business and trade. Ruled by a council of merchants called the Thirteen. Merchants who aren’t Pureborn and The Qartheen look down on foreigners and close doors to let anyone they don’t like die in the Red Waste. People are known to wear extravagant outfits to show off their fabulous wealth.

Religion: Various religions are practiced.

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Great House: N/A

Vassal Houses: N/A

History: An independent city state once ruled by the Kings of Qarth before they were deposed. Later ruled by The Thirteen, a council of Pureborn nobles and merchants. Any non-Pureborn member of the Thirteen must appear wealthy and powerful before the other members or else be quickly removed and replaced.

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Current Status: All of its leaders are dead as of Season 2, which would be detrimental to its economy. We don’t know what’s happened to the city since.

Best Known for: Its port is one of the greatest in the world, which opens to trading centers further east. Defended by immense stone walls and strong gates.

Home of: Xara Xhoan Daxos, Quaithe, Pyat Pree, and The Spice King.

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Landmarks: There’s the Hall of a Thousand Thrones and the House of the Undying.

What to Avoid: Stay out of the grounds round the city called the Garden of Bones, where unfortunates are said to die. Also, don’t mess with the magic using Warlocks who sport blue lips and rely on shade of the evening.

For Those Who Want to Visit: Don’t be surprised if people close their doors to you. But you’ll probably be staying at an inn, anyway. If there’s an inn available.

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The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 13 – The Dothraki Sea and the Red Waste

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In the interior of Essos, there are vast sparsely populated lands. The largest section of plains and steppe is known as the Dothraki Sea, home of the fierce nomadic horsemen known Dothraki. During the first season of Game of Thrones, Daenerys was married to a Dothraki Khal named Drogo. This people migrate across the plains in large hordes called khalasars to plunder neighboring lands. South of the Dothraki Sea is the peaceful hill country of Lhazar, home of shepherds. But they’re often targets of Dothraki slave raids since they don’t fight back. South of that is the Red Waste, which is a harsh desert region with ruins that not even a Dothraki would dare cross.

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Location: North of the Bay of Dragons and east of the Free Cities of Essos

Size: It’s quite vast, covering most of what’s known of the continent.

Capital: Vaes Dothrak, which is basically the only Dothraki city. Despite being a warrior culture, the Dothraki are forbidden to carry weapons through the place since it’s frowned upon to spill or shed blood there. Unless someone dies a particularly stupid death or the Khal in charge of that Dothraki who died doesn’t really care.

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Climate: Temperate to arid.

Environment: The Dothraki are an array of nomadic tribes so it’s quite clear that the great steppe of central Essos doesn’t provide much arable land. While there are vast plains and rivers with the occasional mountain. The Red Waste mostly consists of desert.

Resources: There’s not a lot of resources here aside from basic agriculture in Lhazar. Also, the Dothraki don’’t really believe in money.

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Population: This is a sparsely populated region since it mostly consists of nomadic horseback riding Dothraki and Lhazaareen shepherds.

Key Cities: Other than Vaes Dothrak, there’s not much else. Though the inhabitants of Lhazar are peaceful shepherds and perfect targets for slave trafficking.

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Culture: The Dothraki are a nomadic culture who plunder the settled peoples for resources. Although sometimes the mere threat of force will suffice and they’ll be paid to leave. Unlike the many states, the Dothraki follow people for their physical strength, not bloodline or wealth. And the Khal will always be male since despite that they may love their women, their ladies aren’t treated much better than slaves. Though equestrianism is one of the most defining traits of a man’s worth. For if a Khal can’t ride, then he’s no longer a Khal. Also have a deep hatred for witches and blood magic.

Religion: The Dothraki worship the Great Stallion. Their religious leaders are the dosh khaleen and consist of the widows of former khals. Though they command great respect even from the khals and live in luxury, they’re sworn to celibacy and can’t leave Vaes Dothrak. The Lhazaareen worship “the Great Shepherd” in the sky.

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Great House: N/A

Vassal Houses: N/A

History: The Red Waste used to be inhabited but no one has lived there for centuries as the buildings have been abandoned.

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Current Status: Well, 100,000 Dothraki pledged support for Daenerys.

Best Known for: The Dothraki, obviously.

Home of: Khal Drogo, Qotho, Cohollo, Haggo, Mago, Qhono, Khal Jhaqo, Khal Moro, and Miri Maz Duur.

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Landmarks: There are some ruined and lost cities in the Red Waste which were once able to flourish using large irrigation works. But they’ve long been abandoned and reclaimed by the sand. Vaes Dothrak has a gate with giant horse statues.

What to Avoid: Well, the Dothraki for one since they’re a hostile presence. Also, stay out of the Red Waste if you want to live.

For Those Who Want to Visit: If you want to see something spectacular at Vaes Dothrak, remember that most of the important buildings are made out of straw and mud, are lit with huge flaming braziers, and lack ways to quickly put out a blaze. Also, despite being stadium size, it only has one exit. Also, the Dothraki usually barter and raid for stuff they need and don’t believe in money.

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The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 12 – Bay of Dragons

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East of the Valyrian Peninsula is the Bay of Dragons which is on the southern coast of Essos. Until Daenerys took over this area in Game of Thrones, it was once known as Slaver’s Bay since it was the heart of the continent’s slave trade. On its eastern side, the region is dominated by 3 Ghiscari cities consisting of Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen. Out of the 3, Meereen is the largest with its large pyramid skyline. At one point, this area was home to the Ghiscari Empire, said to be the oldest civilization of the known world in the show. After a series of wars, the Valyrian Freehold took over and obliterated much of the Ghiscari culture. And like the Free Cities, the largest cities in the Bay of Dragons would reassert their independence after the Doom of Valyria.

 

Location: It’s a great bay in south-eastern Essos.

Size: It’s of moderate size.

Capital: Meereen which is the largest of the major cities of Slaver’s Bay. Known for its retaining much of its ancient Ghiscari culture and architecture. Has a skyline dominated by large pyramids.

Climate: Semi-arid to sub-tropical.

Environment: It’s a coastal plain backed by mountains to the east.

Resources: Slave trading and training is their main resource, which is why Daenerys finds it so difficult to eradicate slavery there. Yunkai specialized in bedslaves trained in the “Way of the Seven Sighs” when ruled by the Wise Masters.

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Population: It’s very densely populated, given it’s a slave trade center.

Key Cities: The biggest cities in the area are Meereen, Astapor, and Yunkai. Other towns include Tolos, Elyria, Bhorash, Ghiscar, and New Ghis. Old Ghiscar was once the seat of the Ghiscari Empire before the Valyrians conquered it.

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Culture: Each city in the Bay of Dragons speaks a dialect of Valyrian. Slavery is very much a way of life in this region since its former name was Slaver’s Bay. People still cling to the culture of their Ghiscari ancestors. Many believe themselves as above other peoples due to their wealth and cultural posturing. Meereen’s fighting pits are famous for pitting fighters against each other as Daznak’s Pit is the largest.

Religion: Primarily worship the Ghiscarian religion with other local imported faiths including that of the Red Temple. Temple of the Graces is the Ghiscarian religious center in Meereen where citizens can buried after proper funeral rites are observed.

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Great House: House Targaryen with Daenerys Targaryen as head, who seized the region for herself. She tried to alter the status quo of these areas but with limited success.

Vassal Houses: N/A

History: Was once the home of the Ghiscari Empire which was the oldest civilization in the known world. Was destroyed and conquered by the Valyrian Freehold (thanks to dragons). Though its people overthrew their Valyrian overlords and become independent city-states after the Doom of Valyria.

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Current Status: Under the regency of Daario Naharis as Daenerys is currently based in Dragonstone, setting to conquer Westeros for the Iron Throne.

Best Known for: Well, it’s a major center for large scale slave trading.

Home of: Hizdahr zo Loraq, Yezzan zo Qaggaz, Oznak zo Pahl, Fennesz, Daario Naharis, Vala, Malko, Kraznys mo Nakloz, Greizhen mo Ullhor, Cleon, Razdal mo Eraz, Mero, and Prendhal na Ghezn

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Landmarks: Meereen’s skyline is dominated by large pyramids. Astapor has the Plaza of Pride where the Good Masters take their customers to deliver their purchases and the Walk of Punishment where unruly slaves are tortured and put on display in chains as a warning to others.

What to Avoid: Stay away from the Sons of the Harpy, since they’re a group of assassins and consist of disgruntled slaveholders who aren’t happy with Daenerys upending the area’s status quo.

For Those Who Want to Visit: You might not enjoy the fighting pits very much.

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The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 11 – The Free Cities of Essos

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During the Game of Thrones series, Daenerys Targaryen practically 6 seasons on the immense landmass of Essos, that’s across the Narrow Sea from Westeros. On the west coast of this large continent are the Nine Free Cities which are powerful, independent city-states which engage in extensive trade and contact with the Seven Kingdoms. Like the regions of Westeros, each of the 9 free cities has its own unique history and culture. Yet, at one point, all but Braavos were once colonies of the Valyrian Freehold. When the Freehold and its dragonlords were destroyed during the Doom of Valyria, the empire fragmented in a chaotic period called the Century of Blood. Unlike Westeros, the Free Cities have a much more urbanized and mercantile culture.

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Location: These are 9 merchant city-states on the western side of Essos. Consist of Volantis, Braavos, Pentos, Qohor, Myr, Lys, Tyrosh, and Lorath.

Size: It’s of considerable size since each city controls a large swath of territory. Said to be equal to the entirety of Westeros south of the Neck.

Capital: N/A

Climate: Temperate in the north. Sub-tropical in the south.

Environment: Has hills and river valleys in the north. While the south is sub-tropical with coastal plains.

Resources: Some of these cities are known for a special article or product. Myr is famous for lenses and fine lace. Tyrosh specializes in color dyes. Qohor has blacksmiths who can reforge Valyrian steel while smiths and Volantis can reforge ice. Norvos produces axes. Tyrosh is known for extravagant clothes, fancy armor, and rich tastes. Volantis produces wine.

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Population: Volantis is the biggest in the lot. The city of Lys has almost every inhabitant sport the purple eyes and mystical white hair of Valyria. But they don’t possess the dragons, magic, or knowledge the Valyrian Dragon Lords once did. In fact, you’ll see plenty of Valyrian descendants in the Free Cities. Some towns can be bigger than Westerosi cities. You’ll also find plenty of descendants from Westerosi wars there, too, since the losers in them are known to flee for refuge and fortune.

Key Cities: Lys is often seen as this world’s equivalent to Las Vegas and enjoys a reputation for their prostitution scene. Pentos has a prince who rules in name only while the Magisters have all the power. Founded by escaped slaves, the abolitionist canal city of Braavos is guarded by the massive Titan statue. While it’s home to the Iron Bank which is perhaps the single largest economic force in the known world. Too bad the Iron Bank is essentially a loan shark that essentially owns several states and will work for one’s enemy faction if they default. Also has a band of super-assassins. Not to mention, has formidable swordsmen, shipbuilding, and religious tolerance. Volantis is the oldest and most populated of the Free Cities, which tried to conquer and reunify the others. But the other cities formed alliances against it and subdued it. It’s also the most corrupt as well as boasts a vast slave market. Norvos is a theocracy ruled by the Bearded Priests. Qohor retains a garrison of the Army of the Unsullied. Tyrosh is known for producing mercenaries.

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Culture: Slavery is widely practiced with the sole exception of Braavos, which doesn’t participate in the slave trade. Though just as class driven as Westeros, the Free Cities don’t put as much emphasis on bloodlines. Rather Braavos’ class system is based on wealth so it’s more mobile. Still, the general population seems completely unfazed with blind beggars getting beaten up, teenage girls parkouring through town in deadly hunts, girls limping around with heavy stab wounds, abject poverty, and urban segregation.

Religion: Many worship the Lord of Light with prominent Red Temples in Myr and Volantis. While Braavos is home to a band of super-assassins that operates like a Mystery Cult called the Faceless Men who live in the House of Black and White. There’s also a sizable population who worship the Faith of the Seven.

Great House: N/A

Vassal Houses: N/A

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History: In its heyday, Valyria was once the seat of the Dragon Lords and House Targaryen’s ancestral home. Once a tribe of shepherds, the Dragon Lords tamed and harnessed dragons, forged Valyrian steel, built an empire stretching from Essos and Westeros, and created wonders of architecture. At its height during as the Valyrian Empire capital, it was widely considered the greatest civilization to ever exist. Until a natural cosmic event destroyed the entire landmass to the point that it broke into several islands surrounded by a smoking ocean. This event was known as the Doom of Valyria and the islands became inhabited by victims of advanced Greyscale disease, called the Stone Men. Originally the Free Cities were colonies, offshoots, and outposts of the Valyrian Freehold. But after the doom of Valyria consumed the famous capital, these cities became the only remains of a great civilization. Since then, Valyria has been reduced to a diseased and smoking ruin while remaining uninhabited and abandoned. But the other cities continue to thrive.

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Current Status: Despite thriving, the Free Cities involve themselves in numerous petty wars with each other seeking to install a new hegemony to replace the Freehold. As for Valyria, it’s a burnt out, ruined world, that’s permanently gray and converted into a leper colony that’s scary enough to frighten away pirates.

Best Known for: Being former colonies of Valyria as well as engage in extensive trade and contact with the Seven Kingdoms.

Home of: Illyrio Mopatis, Clea, Talisa Magegyr, Syrio Forel, Thoros, Ternesio Terys, Lhara, Jaqen H’gar, Greyworm, Tycho Nestoris, and “The Waif”

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Landmarks: Braavos has the Titan Statue that can come alive. While its Iron Bank is a massive white building that looks straight out of the Renaissance, The Temple of the Moonsingers and the Sept Beyond the Sea also exist in the city. Volantis features the Long Bridge.

What to Avoid: Stay away from Valyria since it’s filled with advanced greyscale victims and is still a smoldering mess. Also, while in Braavos, keep away from the House of Black and White.

For Those Who Want to Visit: Aside from being the richest and most powerful Free City, Braavos is also seen as the most beautiful.

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The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 10 – The Wall and Beyond

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Guarded by the Sworn Brothers of the Night’s Watch, the Wall is a giant ice barrier to protect the rest of Westeros from the White Walkers. Though until the Games of Thrones series started, they mostly fought skirmishes with Wildlings. Headquartered at Castle Black, they were once highly regarded but their reputation to that of a glorified penal colony and its numbers have plummeted to an all-time low. Just south of the Wall is the Gift meant to provide food and provisions for the Night’s Watch. Beyond the Wall, is outside the realm of the Seven Kingdoms. Mostly consisting of uncharted wilderness, it’s a frozen tundra with a Haunted Forest, Wildling settlements, giants, and the Children of the Forest.

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Location: The northernmost border of the Seven Kingdoms and the northernmost region of Westeros.

Size: It spans at least 500 miles.

Capital: Castle Black, headquarters of the Night’s Watch.

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Climate: It’s always winter here.

Environment: This is a very harsh snow-covered wilderness. Beyond the Wall, there is very little arable land or vegetation but a lot of dangerous animals, along with the Haunted Forest. Even further north is the Land of Always Winter where the White Walkers live. Also home of wights, giants, and the Children of the Forest.

Resources: There’s not much here since it’s always winter.

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Population: Mostly inhabited by the Night’s Watch and at least 90 tribes of Wildlings who regularly invade the Bay of Seals or Bay of Ice and sometimes climb over the Wall. Though some live in settled villages and town. There’s also a section of towns and farms known as the Gift, which mostly consists of peasants.

Key Cities: Though more of a township, the Gift is a stretch of land meant to help sustain the Night’s Watch. Beyond the Wall, there’s the Wildling port town of Hardhome and White Tree.

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Culture: The Wildlings have an egalitarian and libertarian view on leadership, though chieftains do exist. Wall administered by the Night’s Watch.

Religion: Most in the Night’s Watch worship the Faith of the Seven while everyone else the Old Gods of the Forest. As for the Wildings, who knows.

Great House: N/A

Vassal Houses: N/A

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History: Before the lands Beyond the Wall were reduced to a blasted tundra, it used to be lush and green. But the Children of Men performed some sort of ritual that turned a man into the Night King. Yet, whatever magic the Children of the Forest used to create the White Walkers also brought eternal snow to them (or the White Walkers brought it with them). In addition, creating the White Walkers was also what screwed up the seasons in Westeros.

Current Status: Since Jon Snow came back to life, the Night’s Watch doesn’t have much going for leadership save for Dolorous Edd.

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Best Known for: The place where they try to contain the White Walkers.

Home of: Ygritte, Mance Rayder, Tormund, Craster, Lord of Bones, Mag the Mighty, Gilly, Sam, Styr, Orell, Three-Eyed Raven, Leaf, Josera Snow, Elsera Snow, Karsi, Loboda, and the Night King.

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Landmarks: The Wall itself is at least 700 ft high and spans at least 500 miles from coast to coast.

What to Avoid: You might want to stay away from the Night’s Watch. They were once highly regarded like the Order of Maesters and attracted the most elite of Westeros. But in recent centuries, the Wall has essentially become a dumping ground for bastard or unfit sons of Lords along with various criminals, rapists, and those who joined the wrong side of a war. With the latter joining to receive a full pardon. Actually don’t go near the Wall period since the Night’s Watch has become grievously undermanned, numbering less than a thousand which is an all-time low. Definitely watch out for White Walkers and don’t run into the Children of the Forest. Oh, and you might want to beware of the Wildlings, though they’re more of a nuisance south of the Wall than anything, especially in the Gift.

For Those Who Want to Visit: Just stay in the Gift at all times, even if it’s overrun by Wildlings. Actually, you might want to stay out of the region entirely.

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The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 9 – Dorne

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Out of the constituent regions of Westeros, Dorne is kind of a wildcard area on Game of Thrones. Unlike the rest of Westeros, the Dornish are an ethnically distinct mix of Andal and First Men with a great degree of Rhoynar refugee. As a result, their customs and society are different. For one, their leaders are known as Princes and Princesses instead of Lords and Ladies. Second, rulership is passed from parent to oldest child regardless of gender in keeping with the region’s equal inheritance laws. Third, they have a more relaxed attitude toward sex and bastards. In addition unlike the other Westeros regions, Dorne never fell to Aegon the Conqueror’s invasion and instead joined the Seven Kingdoms through a marriage alliance. So it’s no wonder the that Dornish seem rather independently-minded and have a stronger sense of “national identity” than the rest of Westeros. Once ruled by House Martell at Sunspear, the death of Prince Oberyn at the hands of the Mountain has compelled Ellaria Sand and her Sand Snakes to commit revenge upon the ruling prince and his son by killing them.

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Location: South of the Stormlands and the Reach and is the southernmost region of Westeros.

Size: Well, it’s pretty extensive.

Capital: Sunspear, which has a 150ft shining steel pinnacle Spear Tower.

Climate: Temperate to arid.

Environment: The west consists of the Red Mountains and the Dornish Marches. Has rolling sand deserts in its midland. While the east is made up of semi-arid hills punctuated by river valleys.

Resources: Well, its river valleys provide substantial agriculture. Provides citrus fruits, spices, and Dornish wine.

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Population: The Dorne people have a mix of Andal and Rhoynar blood due to its establishment by Rhoynar refugees from Essos whose ancestral land burned under the Valyrian Freehold. Has the smallest overall population of Westeros since most of it is concentrated in the east.

Key Cities: There’s the port city of Planky Town at the mouth of the Greenblood. Only part of Westeros where citrus and spices grow. The region is also known for its wine.

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Culture: Noble bastards have the Sand surname and are treated better than those in the other kingdoms (though they can’t inherit anything). Considerably more liberal when it comes to sexuality and are more tolerant of same-sex relationships. Very independently minded and hot-blooded, the people have a greater sense of national identity than the other people of Westeros as well as taken a more isolationist path since the Sack of King’s Landing.

Religion: Worship the Faith of the Seven, but in their own variation.

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Great House: Formerly House Martell who practiced absolute primogeniture where the oldest child inherits regardless of gender. Unlike the other houses, all members are addressed as “Prince” or “Princess.” But since the recent-led Sand Snakes rebellion, all known legitimate members have been killed. So the region is under Ellaria Sand’s rule as of Season 7. But she’s in the Red Keep prison with one of the Sand Snakes after Euron Greyjoy attacked her and Yara’s fleet. So there’s a void in leadership.

Vassal Houses: House Blackmont, House Manwoody, House Jordayne, House Dayne, House Yronwood, House Qorgyle, House Allyrion, House Garglagen, House Uller, and House Dalt.

History: Founded by Rhoynar refugees who intermarried with the local population of Andals and First Men. A sovereign kingdom before the Targaryen conquest, Dorne weathered the attack to retain its independence. It joined the 7 Kingdoms through a peaceful marriage alliance 2 centuries later, which allowed the region to keep many of its local customs and laws.

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Current Status: Since Ellaria’s in prison, Dorne may be in a leaderless vacuum. Unless the remaining Sand Snakes take over.

Best Known for: The last of the 7 Kingdoms, Dorne was the only one to initially resist the first Targaryen conquest and remained independent until the Martell ruling family joined the Targaryens through marriage nearly a century before the War of the Five Kings. Because of this, the land remains considerably autonomous compared to the others.

Home of: Ellaria Sand, Oberyn Martell, Tyene Sand, Doran Martell, Trystane Martell, Obara Sand, and Nymeria Sand.

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Landmarks: The Martell retreat at Water Gardens is certainly worth seeing.

What to Avoid: Watch out for the Sand Snakes who are vengeful assassins. Look what happened to Hosue Martell after the Mountain smashed Oberyn’s head.

For Those Who Want to Visit: Travel through the desert is possible through overland caravan.

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