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Astronomy of Planetos: Fingerprints of the Dawn

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------======o))) SCIENCE AND MAGIC (((o======------

In Part One and Part Two of this series, I outlined my view of the balance between science (astronomy, geology, etc) and magic in A Song of Ice and Fire. As I am proposing an astronomical scenario to explain some of the deepest world-building in an epic fantasy series, it seems worthwhile to clearly reiterate my view on this subject. In short, I believe this entire celestial event was magical, no mere act of physics and astronomy. I think the sensible way to look at the use of science in a fantasy novel such as we have here is that author has rooted his magic systems in scientific, astronomical, and geological concepts, and then taken whatever liberties he deemed appropriate to suit the story.

The lightbringer comet struck the moon, yes, and the impacts and the associated debris caused the Long Night, but that was a magical comet, and a magical explosion... and as I plan to show in the Part 4, the moons were / are magical as well, each having a specific magical nature - one of fire, one of ice (this concept is already a half written essay soon to come). The destruction of the fire moon had massive magical ramifications for the planet, which is one of the major themes of this series. Admittedly, it's a bit of a stretch for a comet to cause the explosion of a moon - the comet would have to be very, very large (which is possible but rare) and the moon fairly small (and I do think the destroyed moon was smaller). But I believe we are talking about a magical comet striking a magical fire moon, causing a kind of magical version of a nuclear chain reaction explosion. This would be problematic for a hard sci-fi novel, but I think works fantastically well for a fantasy novel.

Almost all ancient peoples of earth viewed the celestial bodies and the forces of nature (the elements) as sacred, divine or magical in some way. The personification of these forces into god-forms is one of mankind's ways of informing himself about their nature, which was critical to survival as well as deeply meaningful on many levels. I believe this is what George is re-creating here: he has personified the elements themselves into sources of magic. Ice and Fire, obviously, and we've heard of the water magics of the Rhoynar; the Fourteen Fires seem to have been a source of magic and dragons both for the Valyrians, and certainly the Others are deeply intertwined with the raw cold, winter itself, and the Long Night. Shadow magic pops up now and again, and everybody is using blood magic - the symbol of life itself. Thus, the only problem with using the forces of nature and basic astronomy and geology to explain the world-building in ASOIAF would be if one were to cut out the magical aspect and claim that purely scientific explanations account for things like the Long Night, the messed up seasons, the destruction of the moon, etc.

Which I would never do. Ever. I love magic.

Because George has rooted his magic in the elemental forces of nature, we must consider the two as being intertwined. This is the basic mindset behind the Astronomy of Planetos series.

If you havent read parts One and Two but are really excited to plow into the Great Empire of the Dawn stuff, then by all means, charge ahead, but just be aware that some of my conclusions might seem to come out of nowhere. To briefly, briefly sum up the basic idea of this series: I believe the ancient legends of Planetos have their origins in a world shaking celestial even - the destruction a formerly existent second moon by a magical red comet. These celestial events created patterns and archetypal roles (like that of Azor Ahai) which in turn manifest in events on the ground, a version of the hermetic / alchemical concept of as above, so below. The patterns and roles will be replayed again and again until cosmic balance can be restored, and thus exploring the ancient past informs us about the roles of the characters in the main story. Parts One and Two death with the basic astronomy of this Long Night-inducing event, Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa, Lightbringer, The Bloodstone Emperor and the Amethyst Empress, comets, dragons, Morningstar deities, and more. Also be sure to read Durran Durrandons companion piece, Daenerys is the Amethyst Empress Reborn. Part three will focus on the Great Empire of the Dawn.

------======o))) FINGERPRINTS OF THE DAWN (((o======------

Ghosts lined the hallway, dressed in the faded raiment of kings. In their hands were swords of pale fire. They had hair of silver and hair of gold and hair of platinum white and their eyes were Opal and Amethyst, Tourmaline and Jade. "Faster," they cried. "Faster, faster!"

She raised her feet, melting the stone wherever she touched.

"Faster!" The ghosts cried as one, and she screamed and threw herself forward."

A great knife of pain ripped down her back and she felt her skin tear open, and smelled the stench of burning blood, and saw the shadow of wings.

And Daenerys Targaryen flew.

"Wake the dragon."

- A Game of Thrones, Daenerys

This is our introduction to the Gemstone Emperors of the Great Empire of the Dawn, right in book one of A Song of Ice and Fire. Although we are not given their names until the release of The World of Ice and Fire, George has had them in mind since book one, in some fashion. How do we know these gemstone-eyed ghosts of kings with silver and gold hair holding flaming swords and urging Daenerys to wake the dragon are the rulers of the Great Empire of the Dawn? How do we know the Great Empire of the Dawn even existed, as opposed to being some fable from Yi Ti? Well let's briefly review what we know about the supposed gemstone emperors of the GEotD:

In ancient days, the god-emperors of Yi Ti were as powerful as any ruler on earth, with wealth that exceeded even that of Valyria at its height and armies of almost unimaginable size.

In the beginning, the priestly scribes of Yin declare, all the land between the Bones and the freezing desert called the Grey Waste, from the Shivering Sea to the Jade Sea (including even the great and holy isle of Leng), formed a single realm ruled by the God-on-Earth, the only begotten son of the Lion of Night and Maiden-Made of Light, who traveled about his domains in a palanquin carved from a single pearl and carried by a hundred queens, his wives. For ten thousand years the Great Empire of the Dawn flourished in peace and plenty under the God on earth, until at last he ascended to the stars to join his forbearers.

Dominion over mankind then passed to his eldest son, who was known as the pearl Emperor and ruled for 1000 years. The Jade Emperor, the Tourmaline Emperor, the Onyx Emperor, the Topaz Emperor, and the Opal Emperor followed in turn, each reigning for centuries... Yet every rain was shorter and more troubled than the one preceding it, for wild man and baleful beasts pressed at the borders of the Great Empire, lesser kings grew prideful and rebellious, and the common people gave themselves over to avarice, envy, lust, murder, incest, gluttony, and sloth.

When the daughter of the Opal Emperor succeeded him as the Amethyst Empress, her envious younger brother cast her down and slew her, proclaiming himself the Bloodstone Emperor and beginning a reign of terror.

- The World of Ice and Fire

The rest is about the Blood Betrayal and the Bloodstone Emperor, which I covered in Part 2, so let's focus on the Great Empire of the Dawn. First off, the gemstones of the 8 emperors who followed the first God-on-Earth (who is apparently so divine he does not need a gemstone):

  • Pearl
  • Jade
  • Tourmaline
  • Onyx
  • Topaz
  • Opal
  • Amethyst
  • Bloodstone
Returning to the scene of the gemstone-eyed kingly ghosts of Daenerys dream vision, the four gemstones she sees are opal, amethyst, tourmaline, and jade, which are all matches to gemstone emperors. Given that the kingly ghosts had hair of silver, gold and platinum - distinctive Valyrian features - this introduces the possibility that the gemstone emperors of the Great Empire of the Dawn had Valyrian looks, at least as far as hair color.

Now let's take a look at the other potential sighting of these gemstone emperors, from a Damphair (Aeron Greyjoy) chapter, with Euron as the speaker:

His smiling eye was glittering. "Who knows more of gods than I? Horse gods and fire gods, gods made of gold with gemstone eyes, gods carved of cedarwood, gods chiseled into mountains, gods of empty air. I know them all."

- A Feast for Crows, The Prophet

Golden gods with gemstone eyes? Well that's certainly got our attention, reminding us of the gemstone-eyed kingly ghosts of Dany's vision. Twice now, the gemstones of these gemstone emperors have been associated with the eyes - does this refer to eye color? Later in AFFC, Euron describes Daenerys to Victarion, as he asks him to go to Slaver's Bay to bring her back as Euron's Queen:

What dragon? said Victarion, frowning.

The last of her line. They say she is the fairest woman in the world. Her hair is silver- gold, and her eyes are amethysts."

- A Feast for Crows, The Reaver

It seems Euron certainly identifies purple eyes as being like amethysts, strengthening the idea that the gemstones of the Great Empire of the Dawn rulers have a connotation of eye color. Euron may even have ideas concerning Daenerys and her connection to these GEotD rulers - I can't believe it's a coincidence that someone who has seen the gemstone eyed golden statues would then refer to Daenerys' eyes as amethysts (the only references to Dany's eyes as amethysts is here and one other occasion when Victarion repeats Euron's words to himself). So where did Euron see these statues? Well, he's been to the right sort of places. Euron and his Silence have supposedly been to some pretty remote and exotic locations, including Asshai by the Shadow and even the ruins of Valyria (all these from AFFC):

He took the Silence east. A lengthy voyage.

[...]

From Ib to Asshai, when men see my sails, they pray.

[...]

"Only one living kraken has never known defeat. Only one has never bent his knee. Only one has sailed to Asshai by the Shadow, and seen wonders and terrors beyond imagining.

[...]

That horn you heard I found amongst the smoking ruins that were Valyria, where no man has dared to walk but me."

We aren't sure where exactly Euron saw these golden statues with gemstone eyes, but it's safe to say it was somewhere in the Far East, just where you'd think to find them. The statues he saw had gemstone eyes, just as the kingly ghosts of Dany's vision, and the ghosts of Dany's vision match the gemstones of the gemstone emperors. This makes it overwhelmingly likely that the gemstone-eyed golden statues Euron is referring to are those of the Great Empire of the Dawn, or copies of such.

While gold is hardly a rare choice of material for a statue of a god, the golden statue does fit with what it likely the outfit of the gemstone emperors: cloth of gold, green pearls, and jade. Those are technically the the raiments which "tradition allows to the emperor alone," although we are speaking of the "God-Emperor" of YI Ti and not the Great Empire itself. The first ruler of the GEotD was the "God-on-Earth," and I think the Yi Tish, as well as the Lengii, preserve this tradition by calling their rulers "God Emperor" and "God-Empress." Thus, there is a good chance that cloth of gold, green pearls, and jade may have been how the Gemstone Emperors attired themselves, and how they were remembered.

Euron gives us another clue that the idea of gemstones as eyes are significant to him:

And then he saw her: a single- masted galley, lean and low, with a dark red hull. Her sails, now furled, were black as a starless sky. Even at anchor Silence looked both cruel and fast. On her prow was a black iron maiden with one arm outstretched. Her waist was slender, her breasts high and proud, her legs long and shapely. A windblown mane of black iron hair streamed from her head, and her eyes were mother- of- pearl, but she had no mouth.

- A Feast For Crows, The Iron Captain

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------======o))) PROTO-VALYRIANS ARE IN BOOK ONE (((o======------

We are introduced to Ser Arthur Dayne, Sword of the Morning, in A Game of Thrones:

They whispered of Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, deadliest of the seven knights of Aerys’s Kingsguard, and of how their young lord had slain him in single combat. And they told how afterward Ned had carried Ser Arthur’s sword back to the beautiful young sister who awaited him in a castle called Starfall on the shores of the Summer Sea. The Lady Ashara Dayne, tall and fair, with haunting violet eyes.
[...]
Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, had a sad smile on his lips. The hilt of the greatsword Dawn poked up over his right shoulder.
[...]
“And now it begins,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light.


We are told that Arthur Dayne is a legendary swordsman, and carries a greatsword, Dawn, which has a unique appearance. It's appearance matches very closely the description of the Others' swords in the prologue of AGOT, curiously. We aren't yet told of Dawn's origins in the heart of a fallen star, but we are given the name "Starfall." Perhaps most importantly is the mention of his sister Ashara's violet eyes. It's made clear in the very first Daenerys chapter Game of Thrones that Dany's violet eyes are a hallmark of Valyrian blood:

“Look at her. That silver- gold hair, those purple eyes … she is the blood of old Valyria, no doubt, no doubt … and highborn, daughter of the old king, sister to the new, she cannot fail to entrance our Drogo.”

Thus, attentive readers will already be wondering who this legendary knight with a potentially magic sword and purple eyes is, if Dany's Valyrian looks are so important and distinctive. Very attentive readers might wonder about the "swords of pale fire" held by the ghostly kings of Dany's miscarriage dream towards the end of book one, and compare them to the pale blade, "alive with light" which Arthur holds.

In A Clash of Kings we get this from Ned, about the origins of the magic sword Dawn:

“The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who fought with a blade called Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star. They called him the Sword of the Morning, and he would have killed me but for Howland Reed.”

Now we know that yes, Arthur Dayne's sword Dawn is indeed unique, carved from the heart of a fallen star. That's pretty much all the info we get on the Daynes until A Feast For Crows, where we are introduced to Ser Gerold Dayne, aka Darkstar, and get the complete picture about Dayne looks and the antiquity of their house, including the giant flashing-light clue that Darkstar has silver hair, as well as purple eyes. Arianne even mentions the comparison to the looks of dragonlords, to hammer the point home:

Arianne watched him warily. He is highborn enough to make a worthy consort , she thought. Father would question my good sense, but our children would be as beautiful as dragonlords. If there was a handsomer man in Dorne, she did not know him. Ser Gerold Dayne had an aquiline nose, high cheekbones, a strong jaw. He kept his face clean- shaven, but his thick hair fell to his collar like a silver glacier, divided by a streak of midnight black. He has a cruel mouth, though, and a crueler tongue. His eyes seemed black as he sat outlined against the dying sun, sharpening his steel, but she had looked at them from a closer vantage and she knew that they were purple. Dark purple. Dark and angry.

The mystery comes right out in the open with this statement, delivered by Darkstar as an aside in the middle of a conversation about something else entirely:

“My House goes back ten thousand years, unto the dawn of days,” he complained. “Why is it that my cousin is the only Dayne that anyone remembers?”

At this point, the reader has all the information he needs to know that Valyrian looks date back to the “dawn of days," several thousand years before the Valyrian empire (which began approx 5,500 years ago), and are associated with luminescent, magic swords. At this point attentive readers should definitely be thinking about the ghosts of Dany's dream in book one, since their hair was "silver and gold and platinum," and they also held pale, luminescent magic swords. We already noticed the obvious likeness of their hair to that of Valyrians, but now that we know that the 10,000-old house Dayne also has the platinum hair genetics to go with the purple eyes, it should become apparent that those ghosts really existed once, and that silver haired, purple eyed, pale fire sword-wielding people were running around ancient Planetos 10,000 years ago, and are likely connected to house Dayne.

The World of Ice and Fire confirms that the Daynes are a First Men house, date back to the dawn of days, and that the first Dayne "followed the track of a falling star and there found a stone of magical powers." This stone would be the fallen star from which Dawn is made.

The first "fingerprints" of the Great Empire of the Dawn are to be found in the ghosts of Danerys vision and the existence of House Dayne, both introduced in A Game of Thrones.

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------======o))) NOT JUST SOME YI TISH LEGEND (((o======------

How long the darkness endured no man can say, but all agree it was only when a great warrior - known variously as [titles, titles] - arose to give courage to the race of men and lead the virtuous into battle with his blazing sword Lightbringer that the darkness was put to rout, and light and love returned once more to the world.

Yet the great empire of the Dawn was not reborn, for the restored world was a broken place where every tribe of men went it's own way, fearful of all the others, and war and lust and murder endured, even to our present day. Or so of the men and women of the further east believe. - TWOAIF


This is a crucial passage to understand. The GEotD ”was not reborn" - that means the Golden Empire of Yi Ti is not the Great Empire of the Dawn, and the GEotD is not ancient Yi Ti. The Yi Tish preserve the best memory of the GEotD, and they certainly like to consider themselves the heirs to their legacy, but there was in all likelihood a significant gap between their empires.

Consider what we know about the Long Night, just the basic facts: the sun did not shine in any meaningful way for at least several years. This would lead to a famine so severe that MOST of the people and living things on earth would die. This is what is called a genetic and cultural bottleneck, and we have certainly had several in Earth's history, usually in connection with a nuclear winter due to a comet strike or supermassive volcanic eruption. It's likely that a faint, hazy sun did shine through the black and purple clouds of the Long Night, so some of the toughest plants must have been able to grow (they didn't all die, after all). But before long, food stores would run out, most of the animals that humans depend upon for food would die, and then humans themselves would begin dying. And that's just from the darkness - remember that my theory dictates the darkness came from several large moon rock impacts on the surface of Planetos, so you can add in tsunamis, volcanism, earthquakes, etc. "The restored world was a broken place.." - and indeed it was, since it suffered a multiple-stage, compound natural and magical disaster. Thus, it makes sense that most if not all existing power structures would collapse or be toppled - and again, that's what we are told occurred: "..every tribe of men went it's own way, fearful of all the others..” It was total political upheaval: the worst kind of anarchy to go along with the unprecedented famine and a wide assortment of natural disasters. Sounds like a good time was had by all! The point being that the Great Empire was completely and forever disintegrated, and that Yi Ti as we know it must have been established sometime after the world had recovered from the Long Night.

The Great Empire of the Dawn is said to have held dominion over the land "between the Bones and the freezing desert called the Grey Waste, from the Shivering Sea to the Jade Sea (including even the great and holy isle of Leng)." That's essentially every piece of inhabitable land in eastern Essos. Such a huge empire would almost HAVE to be multi-ethnic - large empires such as these almost always are. Thus, the Yi Tish were likely one of many ethnic groups that were part of the GEotD, and were the ones to successfully establish a lasting kingdom in the void left behind by its collapse. It makes sense that they would bolster their claim to power by taking on the trappings of the Gemstone Emperors, and I believe this is what they did. This is of course a standard practice all throughout real history and A Song of Ice and Fire history - new rulers tend adopt whatever symbols of power exist in the newly conquered land (“Man wants to be king o’ the rabbits, he best wear a pair o’ floppy ears.”)

Yi Ti has adopted the history of the GEotD, so when the priestly scribes of Yin declare that "in ancient days, the God emperors of Yi Ti were as powerful as any ruler on earth, with wealth that exceeded even that of Valyria and armies of almost unimaginable size," I belive this is likely referring to the GEotD, with the phrase "in ancient days" being the tip off. Even if they are talking about ancient Yi Ti being wealthy here, there is little doubt their greater forerunners were just as wealthy and powerful, if not more so.

Another clue that Yi Ti is not the Great Empire of the Dawn lies in the fact that Yi Ti has a habit of moving their capital around quite a bit. No other civilization in the Martin-verse does this, so I believe it may be important:

Over the centuries, the capital of the Golden Empire has moved here and there and back again a score of times, as rival warlords contended and dynasties rose and fell. The grey emperors, indigo emperors, and pearl-white emperors ruled from Yin on the shores of the Jade Sea, first and most glorious of the Yi Tish cities, but the scarlett emperors raised up a new city in the heart of the jungle and named it Si Qo the Glorious (long fallen and overgrown, it's glory lives now only in legend), whilst the purple emperor is preferred Tiqui, the many-towered city in the Western Hills, and the maroon emperors kept their martial court in Jinqui, the better to guard the frontiers of the empire against reavers from the Shadow Lands.
- The World of Ice and Fire

What this means is that there is no reason to think of Yin as the capital of the GEotD. If Yin really was the first Yi Tish city, then that means it probably wasn't built by the Great Empire, which of course did not reform after the Long Night. Rather, Yin was likely built by the Yi Tish when they were establishing their empire sometime after the Long Night, as human civilization began to recover and re-establish itself. It could perhaps have been built upon the ruins of a GEotD city, as Colloquo Votar, "the best source available in Westeros on the lands of the Jade Sea, wrote that beneath every Yi Tish city, three older cities lie buried." Even given that it established itself sometime after the anarchy of the post-Long Night world subsided, Yi Ti has been around for thousands of years, so these ruins could be from GEotD cities or older Yi Tish cities, but Yin itself, as we know it today, is a Yi Tish construction. Yin is currently the capital of Yi Ti once again, but the capital itself has moved around "a score of times," which means the ancient capital of the Great Empire of the Dawn almost certainly was not Yin, and could be basically anywhere inside the confines of the former empire.

Logic would dictate that the capital of the greatest empire in the history of Plaentos would have been the greatest city in the history of Planetos. If it still exists, there's really only one contender.

Easternmost and southern most of the great cities of the known world, the ancient port of Asshai stands at the end of a long wedge of land, on the point where the Jade Sea meets the Saffron Straights. It's origin are lost in the mists of time. Even the Asshai'i do not claim to know who built their city; they will say only that a city has stood here since the world began and will stand here until it ends.
[...]
Asshai is a large city, sprawling out for leagues on both banks of the black river Ash. Behind it's enormous land walls is ground enough for Volantis, Quarth, and King's Landing to stand side by side and still have enough room for Oldtown.

Yet the population of Asshai is no greater than that of a good sized market town. By night the streets are deserted, and only one building in ten shows a light.

- The World of Ice And Fire


We know that King Landing and Oldtown are the largest cities in Westeros, and we know that Quarth is much bigger than either, as is Volantis. So if Asshai can hold all four of those cities within its walls... Ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about the largest city in the world.

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------======o))) DAWN AGE METROPOLIS (((o======------

Large cities, in general, dictate that certain things be true:

It seems obvious, but it needs be said that large cities are built for large populations to live in. The fact that Asshai is huge, yet depopulated, is a smoking gun piece of evidence that the current residents of Asshai are truthful when they say they did not build it. There's really no reason to have such a large city just for a market-seized town's population's worth of Shadowbinders and red priests to study necromancy or whatever.

Large urban populations require a lot of food, and thus can only exist if they have a rural, agrarian population to grow food nearby. The fact that Asshai is so huge implies that at one time, the peninsula surrounding it must not have been a magical version of a nuclear wasteland, and must have been fertile, in order to provide the necessary food for such a large population. The current residents of Asshai may not even need to eat at all, save for their servants, as Melissandre and Beric both don't seem to need to eat. This would explain how a port city with no animals and no plants can continue to exist at all, in any capacity.

Large cities indicate an accumulation of knowledge and culture. You don't go from a nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to metropolis in a day, and neither do you go from small villages and towns to giant metropolis in a day. Centuries are required for a civilization to build up to the point of either needing or being capable of building a large city. Whether your building technique is more standard stone-working and masonry, or magical building techniques like stone fused with dragonfire, it takes a long time to develop the skill to build something like Asshai.

Large cities take time to build. Even when a great conqueror like Alexander the Great or George Washington lays out the plans for a new capital city before the first brick is laid, it takes decades for the city to be "finished," and it usually is never really finished anyway - it keeps building up over time. "Rome wasn’t built in a day," you know? Asshai, the largest city in the world, almost certainly was built up this way. Even allowing for magical building techniques, i believe it would still take a long time and a LOT of magical resources to build Asshai.

Large cities are built by wealthy nations. This also seems obvious, and the more magnificent the city, the more it is true. The enormous land walls testify to wealth, as poor cities and shantytowns aren't known for such. The one reason we are given for non-magicians to come to Asshai: gold and gems. "Beyond the walls of Asshai, food is scarce, but gold and gems are common.." If gold and precious gemstones are still easily found in the area, it stands to reason that 10,000 years ago Asshai was extremely wealthy. This is consistent with a golden age empire like the Great Empire of the Dawn ("with wealth that exceeded even that of Valyria") and consistent with the builders of a great city like Asshai.

Also, consider the name of the straights between Asshai and Ulthos, the next continent to the south: the Saffron Straights. Saffron is a valuable spice with a high trade value, in both the real world and ASOIAF. The name probably came about because of trade which flowed through those straights at some point in the distant past, or the name could have been given with the connotation of the color yellow or golden yellow in mind. Nothing there is golden yellow anymore, and we don't know of any trade flowing through these straights at this point in time, but I think the name is another clue that it was not always so. The “Jade Gates,” the straights next to Quarth, lead to the Jade sea, and a golden empire which reveres jade as sacred, another clue that the Saffron Straights once saw trade flow through them. Of course the world doesn't end with the Grey Waste and Cannibal Sands and all the rest - Martin has said that his world is round, so there are other lands farther east. Asshai surely used to trade with them - it would improbable to think they did not - and probably grew richer off the trade, fueling the expansion of their empire and metropolis.

All of these requirements of building glorious mega-cities such as Asshai-before-the-Long Night are easily met by the Great Empire of the Dawn. We are given no other civilization that meets these requirements, no other which is old enough and located anywhere near Asshai. One certainly could exist, but the only one we are told about is the GEotD, a civilization which seemingly has not been equalled since the fall of the Long Night, and one which we are introduced to in book one. If we are meant to guess at the location of the heart of their empire, the only possible guess is Asshai. It may not exist anymore, or course, but if it does, I think it can only be Asshai. If the GEotD existed for thousands of years in power and glory, dominating eastern Essos and the entire Jade Sea, it seems odd there would be a huge, ancient metropolis right on the Jade Sea and within or right on their border that wasn't part of their empire - one that still exists today when all the GEotD cities have crumbled. We should be hearing about this other civilization as the great Dawn Age empire, in that case.

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------======o))) WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED? (((o======------

If this is correct, and Asshai was at one time the crowning glory of the Great Empire of the Dawn, then what happened to it?

Well, two things. First off, the Bloodstone Emperor usurped the throne and began a "reign of terror," bringing on the Long Night:

When the daughter of the Opal Emperor succeeded him as the Amethyst Empress, her envious younger brother cast her down and slew her, proclaiming himself the Bloodstone Emperor and beginning a reign of terror. He practiced dark arts, torture, and necromancy, enslaved his people, took a tiger woman for his bride, feasted on human flesh, and cast down the true Gods to worship a black stone that had fallen from the sky. (Many scholars count the Bloodstone Emperor as the first High Priest of the sinister Church of Starry Wisdom, which persists to this day in many port cities throughout the known world).

In the annals of the further east, it was the Blood Betrayal, as his usurpation is named, that ushered in the age of darkness called the Long Night.

- The World of Ice and Fire


It's possible the sheer scope of his dark magic, or perhaps some magical-experimental disaster akin to Summerhall or the Doom caused the peninsula to be as it is today. Certainly, there's an obvious connection between Asshai-by-the-Shadow as it is now and dark magic, so it must play a part, at least. But since I believe the stories of the Blood Betrayal and that of Azor Ahai's forging of Lightbringer to have their roots in an astronomical event, which then in turn manifested on the earth in form of these interpersonal dramas, let's consider the state of Asshai with this in mind.

Remember that the Bloodstone Emperor worshipped a black stone which fell from the sky at the time of the beginning of the Long Night: “..it was the Blood Betrayal.. that ushered in the age of darkness called the Long Night."

If my initial hypothesis is correct and the explosion of the second moon is the initial cause of the Long Night, then it seems overwhelmingly likely that the black stone he worshipped at the onset of the LN was a piece of exploded moon rock. That’s why his reign of dark magic is associated with the cause of the Long Night - it was empowered by the magic of the black moon rocks which fell from space at the begging of the Long Night, likely on Asshai and its surrounding peninsula. This is the other "thing that happened to Asshai": it got hit by a truly hellacious meteor explosion of some kind. If there’s a deposit of this moon rock, it’s likely to be found in "The Shadow," which is just upstream from Asshai proper. The polluted and toxic river Ash flows from the Shadow, so perhaps the moon rock is polluting the river and the entire peninsula.

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------======o))) CASTING DOWN THE TRUE GODS (((o======------

The phrase "cast down" is used for the Bloodstone Emperor's overthrow of the true gods, as well as that of the Amethyst Empress. I think this is intentional. If the destroyed moon was equivalent to the Amethyst Empress as I suggest, then he did indeed cast her down - from the heavens to the earth. But this concept goes much deeper.

The celestial bodies - the sun, moon, planets, and stars - have always been considered to be gods by ancient cultures. The Andals' Faith of the Seven is based on the classic 'seven celestial wanderers' of antiquity, which are the sun and the moon, and the five planets visible from Earth - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. They are called "wanderers" because they do not move with the backdrop of stars. From the perspective of person on earth, the planets essentially look like stars, but they are the only ones moving independently, or 'wandering.'

So many stars, he thought as he trudged up the slope through pines and firs and ash. Maester Luwin had taught him his stars as a boy in Winterfell; he had learned the names of the twelve houses of heaven and the rulers of each; he could find the seven wanderers sacred to the Faith; he was old friends with the Ice Dragon, the Shadowcat, the Moonmaid, and the Sword of the Morning. All those he shared with Ygritte, but not some of the others. We look up at the same stars, and see such different things. The King’s Crown was the Cradle, to hear her tell it; the Stallion was the Horned Lord; the red wanderer that septons preached was sacred to their Smith up here was called the Thief.
- A Storm of Swords, Jon

The formerly existent second moon would have made an eighth wanderer, and thus an eighth god, who was then truly cast down. The Amethyst Empress, not coincidentally, was the eighth ruler of the Great Empire of the Dawn. Comets are also considered a celestial wanderer, because they too move against the backdrop of the stars. The comet which destroyed the moon would have been the ninth wanderer, which cast down the eighth wanderer. The Bloodstone Emperor was the ninth ruler, who cast down the eight ruler.

The moon rocks which fell to earth are the corpse of a goddess. Let that sink in for a minute.

True, according to my hypothesis, the comet split before striking the moon, and so technically there were 10 wanderers for a brief time - but the two halves of the comet would have been so close together that from Planetos they would have appeared as one. It would have appeared as though the comet smashed into the moon and keep going, when in actuality one half hit the moon and the other half missed.

Now, consider that when Nissa Nissa was stabbed by Lightbringer, "her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel." That kind of makes Nissa Nissa's corpse a dried husk. Not just dead - but everything vital and lifelike has been completely sucked out. Again, husbands - not a good way to treat the wife. But the point is, I believe this this phrasing informs us about the nature of the moon rock which fell to earth. Whatever it was before (I believe it to be a magical fire moon of some kind), it's been transformed by the wonderful experience of being exploded and hurled to earth from outer space. It was a thing of life before, and now, death.

Thus, and this is the important part in regards to Asshai and its current state, when these magically-radiated dead goddess meteors struck, they caused a lot of damage, and potentially unleashed magical mayhem. It is my hypothesis that this fire moon was the original 'three-headed dragon' - three flaming pieces of moon fell from space and impacted on Planetos. This is another complex concept which necessitates its own posting (which is also partly complete), but suffice it to say that I believe one of these three landed near Asshai and the Shadow, perhaps the one which exploded in the atmosphere, and unleashed deadly fire-magic mayhem.

When a meteor falls through the atmosphere, it compresses the air in front of it, building up a dome of heat and fire and pressure. Frequently this causes the meteor to burst asunder right before it hits the ground - the famous recent example of this is the Tunguska Event which occurred in Russia in 1908, which was relatively small, all things considered. Sometimes the meteor totally vaporizes, sometimes thousands of smaller fragments impact. This kind low-atmosphere meteor explosion, as you might expect, is quite violent and is accompanied by a large firestorm (the dome of heat and fire trapped in front of the falling meteor). The concept of "firestorm" is used in the books from time to time, and it's a nice merger of two of Daenerys' identities, "bride of fire" and "stormborn."

Similarly, when a larger meteor impacts the surface, rock is vaporized and liquified and thrown up into the atmosphere, frequently taking the form of small pieces of obsidian as they rain back down on earth (of course we know that the obsidian in A Song of Ice and Fire is a magical version, building upon the idea of it as "frozen fire"). This event is also quite violent of course and accompanied by firestorms as well as the falling meteor burns up the very air in front of as it makes its descent. A firestorm with dragon glass rain sounds a lot like the Doom of Valyria, I can’t help but notice. Valyria seems to be more toxic than Asshai, and I think the source of the disasters in these places were different, but both involved combination magical / natural disasters involving blood and fire magic, which may explain the similarities.

I think that Asshai, the glorious city of the Great Empire of the Dawn, may have been incinerated in a firestorm - a magically radiocative firestorm - and that the stone of the city was somehow transformed into greasy black stone. This is essentially what happened to the falling moon rocks also, during the initial explosion of the moon - magically radioactive incineration. Thus, the greasy black stones found elsewhere - at Yeen, Toad Isle, and the Seastone Chair on Pyke - may be pieces of moon rock themselves, or they may pre-existing structures which underwent a similar process of magical incineration somehow. It's even possible that other events in the past could have caused a similar effect, producing greasy black stone long before the Long Night that resembles the stone of Asshai. Volcanoes, blood magic rituals... perhaps if we went to Valyria we would see some greasy black stone as well, but this is pure conjecture.

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------======o))) THIRSTY, THIRSTY STONE (((o======------

Another connection between Azor Ahai, the Bloodstone Emperor, the Great Empire of the Dawn, and Asshai is the concept of “drinking the light”. As we saw in Parts 1 and 2, the meteors of the million dragon meteor shower caused by the destruction of the second moon drank the sun's fire:

"He told me the moon was an egg, Khaleesi,” the Lysene girl said. Once there were two moons in the sky, but one wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat. A thousand thousand dragons poured forth, and drank the fire of the sun. That is why dragons breathe flame.”
- A Game of Thrones, Daenerys

...while the city of Asshai drinks the light of the sun and everything else:

Travelers tell us that the city is built entirely of black stone: halls, hovels, temples, palaces, streets, walls, bazaars, all. Some say as well that the stone of Asshai has a greasy, unpleasant feel to it, that it seems to drink the light, dimming tapers and torches and hearth fires alike. The nights are very black in Asshai, all agree, and even the brightest days of summer are somehow gray and gloomy.

- The World of Ice and Fire


The other thing that drinks the sun’s light is Ned’s sword, which we’ve seen in part 1 represents the Lightbringer comet, symbolically at the least:

“The colors are strange,” he commented as he turned the blade in the sunlight. Most Valyrian steel was a grey so dark it looked almost black, as was true here as well. But blended into the folds was a red as deep as the grey. The two colors lapped over one another without ever touching, each ripple distinct, like waves of night and blood upon some steely shore. “How did you get this patterning? I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Nor I, my lord,” said the armorer. “I confess, these colors were not what I intended, and I do not know that I could duplicate them. Your lord father had asked for the crimson of your House, and it was that color I set out to infuse into the metal. But Valyrian steel is stubborn. These old swords remember, it is said, and they do not change easily. I worked half a hundred spells and brightened the red time and time again, but always the color would darken, as if the blade was drinking the sun from it.

- A Storm of Swords, Tyrion


The purpose of describing Ned's sword in this way could be purely symbolic, to give us the idea that the Lightbringer comet has some aspect to its nature which drinks light - this idea is reinforced by the description of the meteor shower from the moon which the Lightbringer comet destroyed as "drinking the sun's fire." The fact that Asshai also drinks the sunlight from the very air indicates a potential tie to the meteor shower and the moon rock, as well as the comet, and the water imagery along with the "blood and night" reference does kind of evoke Asshai (a port city) during the initial blast of the Long Night.

It could also be true that Ned's sword has something in common with the sun-drinking stone of Asshai. Perhaps a similar spell, perhaps a common material? If the Bloodstone Emperor was Azor Ahai, as I have suggested, then he has to forge a sword, doesn't he? He worshipped the black moon stone, sat on the throne of the Great Empire of the Dawn which I believe was at Asshai, home of sun drinking black stone... Ned's sword is unusual, even for a Valyrian sword, and drinks the light... Ok, I'll stop insinuating. An essay on this topic is forthcoming. Suffice it to say that sun-drinking stone may be another link between Asshai and the Great Empire of the Dawn by way of the 'Red Sword of anti-Heroes.'

In Part 2, I put forward the idea that all the greasy black stone locations are pieces of moon rock, and that the moon rock can be thought of as a magical form of bloodstone, also known as heliotrope. Admittedly, real bloodstone is green, and although some pieces can appear very dark, and it does have that oily sheen, it is not black. It's defining characteristic is the bright red inclusions form whence it gets the name bloodstone. My original idea was that the moon rock doesn't look 'green with red flecks' because of the explosion and incineration, which is possible, but I'm beginning to think George has actually taken a bit more liberty here with the term bloodstone.

I've shown that the symbolism of bloodstone (heliotrope) has been used heavily by George here:
  • it's definition of "sun-turner" - an allusion to the corruption of fire magic
  • the belief that it darkens and reddens the sun's reflection - Asshai "drinking the light," Ned's former sword (symbolizing Lightbringer) drinking the sun from the red coloring, meteors which drank the sun's fire
  • the association with alchemy (transformation) and communing with the stars - Bloodstone Emperor and the Church of Starry Wisdom
  • the heliotropium plant "valerian" which has purple flowers - Valyrians with purple eyes, Danaerys
..but there actually one more I skipped. Many believe that bloodstone, a type of chalcedony, was at the foot of the cross and that Jesus' blood dripped on the rock and gave it the distinctive bright red spots. This idea of blood sacrifice to create bloodstone may be more what George is intending with his magical form of bloodstone - meaning that the moon wasn't made out of bloodstone, but that the dead pieces of moon goddess, once she had been sacrificed, became bloodstone, or that if blood sacrifice is performed using the magic of the moon rocks, it then becomes bloodstone. The greasy look may be representative of a bleeding stone. This makes a nice parallel to the bleeding weirwood trees, potentially.

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------======o))) THE FIERY HEART OF DARKNESS (((o======------

But wait, there’s more than just Asshai on the peninsula, it’s called Asshai-by-the Shadow, with a capital ’S.’ What’s all this about ’The Shadow?” Is George a fan of the early 1900’s radio-drama crime fighting hero?

I think I may have a more specific answer here about why Asshai is the way it is.

"The Shadow" seems to be heart of darkness and dark magic, a source a both which dark magicians of all stripes come to Asshai to draw on. Let's reverse engineer this, based on the idea that Asshai was once a majestic city in a rich and fertile land, the capital of the greatest empire in the world's memory. If this is true, then "The Shadow" must have been something else at one time. It could have been nothing - merely a fertile land with no source of any kind of magic. But perhaps it was at one time a source of not-so-icky magic, and was corrupted to become "The Shadow." If so, what was its nature? Probably something having to do with natural fire, light, and summer, I would guess. Then a piece of a corpse of a dead fire-moon goddess dropped on it (either the meteor shower / firestorm or a large meteor impact), corrupting the heart of fire to become the heart of shadow.

He lifted his eyes and saw clear across the narrow sea, to the Free Cities and the green Dothraki sea and beyond, to Vaes Dothrak under its mountain, to the fabled lands of the Jade Sea, to Asshai by the Shadow, where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise.

Finally he looked north. He saw the Wall shining like blue crystal, and his bastard brother Jon sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him. And he looked past the Wall, past endless forests cloaked in snow, past the frozen shore and the great blue- white rivers of ice and the dead plains where nothing grew or lived. North and north and north he looked, to the curtain of light at the end of the world, and then beyond that curtain. He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.

- A Game of Thrones, Bran

The Frozen North is the Heart of Winter. Does an opposite 'heart of summer' exist? "The Shadow" obviously isn't the opposite of the heart of winter, but if "The Shadow" is merely its corrupted form, we might have something here. If a 'heart of summer' does exist, it would be along the equator, in the tropics, the warmest part of the world. Valyria was known as the 'lands of the long summer,' so that's pretty close. But we have seen that the Valyrians had ancient predecessors - the Great Empire of the Dawn, with its proposed capital of Asshai. Asshai sits next to an ancient source of magic which seems to parallel the frozen north, and we've seen the evidence that it used to be a rich and fertile land, perhaps extremely so. If Asshai was the capital of the GEotD, then it was the home of the Bloodstone Emperor, and thus was heavily involved in the events of the LN and battle for the Dawn, as was the frozen north (the Last Hero confronting the Others, which I associate with the cure for the Long Night). Valyria wasn't a player at this time.

I think Valyria was likely a re-flowering of some part of the GEotD culture. It makes a lot of sense that this re-flowering occurred on a source of uncorrupted fire magic, but I don't think it was the original 'heart of summer' or source of fire magic. Whatever "the Shadow" was before its corruption is a better fit. Even today it is still tied to some sort of fire magic, albeit a very shadowy variety, as we have seen that dragons roost there in the Shadow (TWOAIF seems to confirm this part of Bran's vision). It's also on a similar latitude to Valyria, seemingly close to the equator and certainly in the warmest part of the planet.

George gave us a clue about dragons and what the the heart of darkness looks like in ADwD:

At her command, one produced an iron key. The door opened, hinges shrieking. Daenerys Targaryen stepped into the hot heart of darkness and stopped at the lip of a deep pit. Forty feet below, her dragons raised their heads. Four eyes burned through the shadows— two of molten gold and two of bronze. Ser Barristan took her by the arm. “No closer.”

“You think they would harm me ?”

“I do not know, Your Grace, but I would sooner not risk your person to learn the answer.” When Rhaegal roared, a gout of yellow flame turned darkness into day for half a heartbeat. The fire licked along the walls, and Dany felt the heat upon her face, like the blast from an oven. Across the pit, Viserion’s wings unfolded, stirring the stale air. He tried to fly to her, but the chains snapped taut as he rose and slammed him down onto his belly. Links as big as a man’s fist bound his feet to the floor. The iron collar about his neck was fastened to the wall behind him. Rhaegal wore matching chains. In the light of Selmy’s lantern, his scales gleamed like jade. Smoke rose from between his teeth. Bones were scattered on the floor at his feet, cracked and scorched and splintered. The air was uncomfortably hot and smelled of sulfur and charred meat.

- A Dance with Dragons, Daenerys

I think this is indicative that the Shadowlands beyond Asshai, home of dragons and demons, may in fact be a kind of "heart of darkness." But there's an interesting silver lining suggested here - the dragon's flame can turn "darkness into day for half a heartbeat." This may suggest that dragons and the source of magic now known as the Shadow were once sources of light and fire instead of darkness and fire.

Returning to Bran's vision, I don't think it's a coincidence that Asshai by the Shadow and its dragons are seen right before his glimpse of the frozen north and the heart of winter. The dragons are fire made flesh, and the Others certainly seem to be ice made flesh. I'm not saying they are exact opposites or analogs, but they do seem to be fairly pure incarnations of Ice and Fire Magic, respectively. The North is the source of Others - could Asshai and the Great Empire of the Dawn, camped around this hypothetical "heart of summer," be the source of dragons? Why yes, absolutely they could.

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------======o))) DRAGONS OF THE DAWN (((o======------

In such fragments of Barth's Unnatural History as remain, the septon appears to have considered various legends examining the origins of dragons and how they came to be controlled by the Valyrians. The Valyrians themselves claimed that the dragons sprang forth as the children of the 14 flames, while in Qarth the tale states that there was once a second moon in the sky. One day this moon was scalded by the sun and cracked like an egg, and a million dragons poured forth. In Asshai, the tales are many and confused, but certain texts - all impossibly ancient - claim that dragons first came from the Shadow, a place where all our learning fails us. These Asshai'i histories say that a people so ancient they had no name first tamed dragons in the Shadow and brought them to Valyria , teaching the Valyrians their arts before departing from the annals.

Yet if the men in the Shadow had tamed dragons first, why did they not conquer as the Valyrians did? It seems likelier that the Valyrian tale is truest. But there were dragons in Westeros, once, long before the Targaryens came, as our own legends and histories tell us. If dragons did first spring from the Fourteen Flames, they must have been spread across much of the known world before they were tamed. And, in fact, there is evidence for this, as dragon bones have been found as far north as IB, and even in the jungles of Sothoryos. But the Valyrians harnessed and subjugated them as no one else could.

- The World of Ice and Fire


Well there's certainly a lot to unpack here. Starting with the last part first, the maesters are telling us that dragon bones have been found all over the world, and that dragon presence in Westeros predates the Targaryens by thousands of years (meaning the Dawn Age). The maesters of the Citadel are the first archeologists of Westeros, digging up bones of animals, humans, and more "fanciful" creatures to learn about them. They verified the existence of giants, for example, and their approximate height, by digging up bones. So I believe that although they are mistaken on many things concerning magic because of their obvious bias / agenda, their confirmation of the dragon bones in Westeros and elsewhere should be viewed as highly credible. It seems that dragons probably existed in the wild before ever being tamed by anyone, and flew where they would and made lairs where they would, although we will find specific evidence of ancient dragonriders in Westeros in the Dawn age, and not just wild dragons.

When Maester Yandel, the 'author' of the TWOAIF, says that "our own legends and histories tell us" that dragons existed in ancient Westeros, the legends he's referring to the ancient tales of dragon-slayers such as Davos the Dragonslayer, Serwyn of the Mirror Shield, Ser Galladon of Morne, and perhaps others. It's easy to explain these ancient stories of dragonslayers if there were in fact dragons in ancient Westeros. There is more evidence for this, but let's go through the rest of this juicy quote full of speculation about dragons.

We are given several ideas about the origin of dragons here, and I think each one may have part of the truth. The Valyrians claim the dragons sprang forth as the children of the Fourteen Flames - I take this to mean that the dragons were native to the area, and the Valyrians found them there. An alternate interpretation could be that the Valyrians performed the necessary magic to get them to spring forth from the flames, or that some external event triggered this to happen. I think the truth here is that dragons are either native to all volcanic regions, or that they can "spring forth" from volcanic regions under the right circumstances. It could also be only certain volcanic regions that are magical and can produce dragons.

Qarth has their legend about the million dragons pouring forth from the scalded and cracked moon, which of course I believe to be an interpretation of a true event - a comet destroying the second moon followed by a hellacious meteor shower, with the burning meteorites seen as dragons. Additionally, if the Bloodstone Emperor performed any sort of magic with his black moon stone that he worshipped having to do with dragons, there could be another layer of meaning to this story. I don't think he invented dragons because there's abundant evidence of their existence before the Long Night, but he may have had something to do with the original "blood of the dragon" experiments, somehow introducing reptilian blood into humans, or something along those lines. Azor Ahai reborn is supposed to "wake dragons from stone," which to me sounds like using bloodstone magic to wake dragons or control dragons.

Saving the best for last, we have the impossibly ancient texts which say that "dragons first came from the Shadow," and that "people so ancient they had no name" first tamed them, brought them to Valyria, and taught the first Valyrians their arts before disappearing from history. I don't *think* there was a direct connection / transfer of knowledge between the GEotD and Valyria, but rather that the Valyrians rediscovered some of their arts. Mithras has suggested this knowledge may be stored in glass candles, providing a means for rediscovering lost knowledge. If it's true that the Bloodstone Emperor founded the Church of Starry Wisdom, which still exists today, we are talking about a 10,000 year old cult. This is an fiendishly juicy topic worthy of further exploration, but at the least, it provides another method of transmission of magical knowledge from the GEotD to Valyria.

I do think that dragons are native to the area now known as the Shadow, and I do think the first to tame them were in fact a very ancient race for whom we have no name.. but we do have the name of their empire - the Great Empire of the Dawn. They did after all "conquer as the Valyrians did," creating a huge empire and building the greatest and largest city in the history of the world right next to the "heart of summer," original source of fire magic and dragon-taming. They were brought low by the catastrophic celestial events of the Long Night, the usurpation of the throne by the evil Bloodstone Emperor, and the resulting transformation of the heart of summer into the heart of Shadow.

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------======o))) THE SMOKING GUN IS FUSED STONE (((o======------

The single best evidence to prove the existence of dragonlords in the Dawn Age, before the Long Night, are two fused stone structures: the Five Forts and the ancient fortress on Battle Isle, which now serves as the lowest level of the Hightower of Oldtown.

Fused stone was used by the Valyrians of old to build roads and various types of structures, from city walls and fortresses to buildings and castles. The only method we are given for making such stone is with dragonflame and sorcery. Dragonflame to heat the stone to melting, and presumably, sorcery to shape the molten stone into the desired form and fuse it together. The description of the mysterious Hightower fortress sums it up nicely:

How old is Oldtown, truly? Many a Maester has pondered that question, but we simply do not now. The origins of the city are lost in the mists of time and clouded by legend. Some ignorant Septons claim that the Seven themselves laid out its boundaries, other men that dragons once roosted on the Battle Isle until the first Hightower put an end to them. Many smallfolk believe the Hightower itself simply appeared one day. The full and true history of the founding of Oldtown will likely never be known.

We can state with certainty, however, than men have lived at the mouth of the Honeywine since the Dawn Age. The oldest running records confirm this, as do certain fragmentary accounts that have come down to us from Maesters who loved amongst the children of the forest. One such, Maester Jellicoe, suggest that the settlement at the top of Whispering Sound began as a trading post, where ships from Valyria, Old Ghis, and the Summer Isles out in to replenish their provisions, make repairs, and barter with the elder races, and that seems as likely as supposition as any.

Yet mysteries remain. The stony Island where the Hightower stands is known as Battle Isle even in our oldest records, but why? What battle was fought there? When? Between which lords, which kings, which races? Even the singers are largely silent on these matters.

Even more enigmatic to scholars and historians is the great square fortress of black stone that dominates that isle. For most of recorded history, this monumental edifice has served as the foundation and lowest level of the Hightower, yet we know for a certainty that it predates the upper levels of the tower by thousands of years.

Who built it? When? Why? Most maesters accept the common wisdom that declares it to be of Valyrian construction, for its massive walls and labyrinthine interiors are all of solid rock, with no hint of joins or mortar, no chisel marks of any kind, a type of construction that is seen elsewhere, most notably in the dragonroads of the Freehold of Valyria, and the Black Walls that protect the heart of old Volantis. The dragonlords of Valyria, as is well known, possessed the art of turning stone to liquid with dragonflame, shaping it as they would, then fusing it harder than iron, steel, or granite.

If indeed this first Fortress is Valyrian, it suggests that the dragonlords came to Westeros thousands of years before they carved out there outpost on Dragonstone, long before the coming of the Andals, or even the First Men. If so, did they come seeking trade? Where they slavers, mayhaps seeking after giants? Did they seek to learn the magic of the children of the forest, with their greenseers and their weirwoods? Or was there some darker purpose?

Such questions abound even to this day. Before the Doom of Valyria, maesters and archmaesters often traveled to the Freehold in search of answers, but none were ever found. Septon Barth's claim that the. Valyrians came to Westeros because their priests prophesied that the Doom of Man would come out of the land beyond the narrow sea can safely be dismissed as nonsense, as can many of. Barth's queerer beliefs and suppositions.

More troubling, and more worthy of consideration, are the arguments put forth by those who claim that the first fortress is not Valyrian at all.

The fused black stone of which it is made suggests Valryia, but the plain, unadorned style of architecture does not, for the dragonlords loved little more than twisting stone into strange, fanciful, and ornate shapes. Within, the narrow, twisting, windowless passages strike many as being tunnels,rather than halls; it is very easy to get lost amongst their turnings. Mayhaps this is no more than a defensive measure designed to confound attackers, but it too is singularly un-Valyrian. The labyrinthine nature of its interior architecture has led Archmaester Quillon to suggest that the fortress might have been the work of the mazemakers, a mysterious people who left remnants of their vanished civilization upon Lorath in the Shivering Sea. The notion is intriguing but raises more questions then it answers.
[...]
The reasons for the abandonment of the fortress and the fate of its builders, whoever they might have been, are likewise lost to us, but at some point we know that Battle Isle and it's great stronghold came into the possession of the ancestors of House Hightower. Were they First Men, as most scholars believe today? Or did they mayhaps descend from the seafarers and traders who had settled at the top of Whispering Sound in earlier epochs, the men who came before the First Men? We cannot know.

When first glimpsed in the pages of history, the Hightowers are already kings, ruling Oldtown from Battle Isle. The first "high tower," the chroniclers tell us, was made of wood and rose some 50 feet above the ancient fortress that was its foundation. Neither it, nor the taller timber towers that followed in the centuries to come, were meant to be a dwelling; they were purely beacon towers, built to light a path for trading ships up the fog shrouded waters of Whispering Sound. The early Hightowers lived amidst the gloomy halls, vaults, and chambers of the strange stone below. It was only with the building of the fifth tower, the first to be made entirely of stone, that the Hightower became a seat worthy of a great house. That tower, we are told, rose two hundred feet above the harbor. Some say it was designed by Brandon the Builder, whilst others name his son, another Brandon; the king who demanded it, and paid for it, is remembered as Uthor of the High Tower.


Let's briefly sum up what we learned here:
  • fused stone building technique requires dragon flame and sorcery
  • the only known civilization to use it are the Valyrians
  • the fused stone structure on Battle Isle predates the Valyians by thousands of years
  • the fused stone structure on Battle Isle does not match the Valyrian building style
  • tales of dragons roosting on Battle Isle exist, the first Hightowers may have slain them
  • the first settlement there was likely a trading post, established in the Dawn Age
  • there may have been men on Westeros before the "First Men," seafarers from afar
  • the first Hightowers lived in the chambers of the fused stone structure

It's not hard to put together the broad strokes: dragonriders from a seafaring culture came to Dawn Age Westeros, before the Long Night, and built the fused stone fortress on Battle Isle. We know it had to have been pre-Long Night because it's certain that the First Men were in Westeros before the Long Night, and the First Men seem to have found the Battle Isle fortress there already when they arrived.

This of course it totally consistent with the existence of the Daynes in Dawn Age Westeros, a Dawn Age house with distinctive "Valyrian" looks, and consistent with the idea of the Great Empire of the Dawn being a Valyrian looking, dragon-riding, pre-Long Night civilization. I'm not sure what the Great Empire folks were doing there - perhaps engaging with the children of the forest in some way, perhaps something else. But fused stone only comes from dragonflame controlled by dragonlords and magicians, so the existence of a fused stone structure like the Hightower Fortress in Dawn Age Westeros is very strong proof that the Valyrians were not the first dragonlords.

As for that battle at Battle Isle, The World of Ice and Fire says something interesting while speculating as to why the gold-hungry Valyrians never tried to conquer Westeros, a very wealthy land:

Archmaester Perestan has put forward a different, more plausible speculation, suggesting the Valyrians had in ancient days reached as far as Oldtown but suffered some great reverse or tragedy there than caused them to shun all of Westeros thereafter.

I think Archmaester Perestan is mostly right, excepting that it was actually the Great Empire of the Dawn who reached as far as Oldtown (by sea and dragonback) and probably the Bloodstone Emperor who suffered the great reversal or tragedy. Perestan is attributing the deeds and works of the GEotD to "ancient Valyrians" because he doesn't know of the existence of the GEotD. But again, we know for a certainty that the Valyrian Freehold arose many centuries after the Long Night, so it could not have been them.

As for the Bloodstone Emperor, he has to lose sometime, because the Long Night and his "reign of terror" didn't last forever, and it doesn't seem that he conquered Westeros. The Battle at Battle Isle, lost to memory, must have been significant for its name to have been preserved for 10,000 years, and the Bloodstone Emperor's defeat must have likewise been a very noteworthy event. Perhaps it's coincidence, and perhaps it's the first battle of the War for the Dawn. If the Bloodstone Emperor is in fact Azor Ahai, then he's got an evil red flaming sword of some kind, drawing on the corrupted fire magic of the Shadow. The Daynes, almost certainly descendents of the Great a Empire of the Dawn, posses a pale white sword that is alive with light, matching the GEotD gemstone Emperors of Danerys' vision, and were in Westeros at the time. This is another idea worthy of further exploration, but just to put it out there:

I think the "Battle" at battle isle was between the forces of the ancestor of the Daynes, who wielded Dawn against the forces of the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai, who wielded Lightbringer, red sword of villains.


Is this George's ode to Star Wars, a bad guy with a glowing red sword vs a good guy with a glowing pale white / blue sword?



To wrap up our examination of mysteriously pre-Long Night fused stone, here is what we know about the Five Forts, back in Great Empire of the Dawn territory:

No discussion of Yi Ti would be complete without a mention of the five forts, a line of hulking ancient citadels that stand along the northeastern frontiers of the Golden Empire, between the Bleeding Sea... and the Mountains of the Morn. The Five Forts are very old, older than the Golden Empire itself; some claim they were raised by the Pearl Emperor during the morning of the Great Empire to keep the Lion of Night and his demons from the realms of men... and indeed, there is something godlike, or demonic, about the monstrous size of the forts, for each of the five is large enough to house ten thousand men, and their massive walls stand almost a thousand feet high.
[...]
Certain scholars suggest the involvement from the west have suggested Valyrian involvement in the construction of the Five Forts, for the great walls are single slabs of fused black stone that resemble certain Valyrian citadels in the west... but this seems unlikely, for the Forts predate the Freehold's rise, and there is no record of any dragon lords coming so far east.

- The World of Ice and Fire

Here again is a confirmed fused black stone structure which predates the rise of Valyria and the Long Night, and this time guarding what would have been the border of the Great Empire of the Dawn. The Five Forts are the only specific structures attributed to the GEotD, who would have had both the means and the motive to build them, and again, we find no other candidate that we know of who could have built them. These structures more specifically identify the Dawn Age dragon-riding, fused stone-building culture as the GEotD.

This is also a good place to note that the Great Empire was not some perfect, Eden-like paradise. They had their issues well before the Bloodstone Emperor and the Long Night came along, practicing a list of sins very closely matching our own "seven deadly sins," and clearly they had very serious border issues with those grey waste folks, serious enough to warrant building nearly-1,000 foot high fused stone fortresses. I just wanted to make sure readers don't get the impression I'm proposing something outside of the bounds of Martin's universe, i.e. some unrealistic utopian civilization. Clearly they were ancient and glorious, but Martin is also telling us that they weren't perfect. The Bloodstone Emperor and all his followers had to have been Great Empire citizens themselves, so that tells you something right there.

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------======o))) RELIGION OF THE DAWN (((o======------

Working off of the general premise that the Bloodstone Emperor, usurper of the throne of the Great Empire of the Dawn and founder of the Church of Starry Wisdom, corrupted the magic and knowledge of the GEotD, it's likely that astronomy and or astrology was practiced there, or even a part of their religion. I've also connected "casting down the true gods" with the casting down of the second moon, the eighth wanderer, so the "true gods" of the GEotD may very well have had something to do with the celestial bodies. Of course most ancient peoples on earth were adept astronomers and viewed the forces of nature as and heavenly bodies as divine - Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, ancient Chinese and Vedic cultures, Mayans, Incas, and other Native American populations, Celts, Persians, Sumerians, Babylonians, many cultures whose names are lost to history and many more whom I haven't named. When you think about it, it would really be quite strange if the GEotD religion wasn't rooted in astronomy to some extent.

The one bit of lore from the Great Empire that we do get is the legend of the Maiden-made-of-Light and the Lion of Night, who were once in harmony and gave birth to the first God-emperor, who was simply called the "God on Earth." He reigned for a thousand years and then ascended to the stars to join his forebearers. Working backwards, we see the concept of the stars as the final resting place of dead souls, or stars as the dead themselves, which we've seen in a couple of places on Planetos. That's certainly a "religious" idea rooted in astronomy and veneration of the stars.

The idea of a god descending to earth is a very common element to religious mythology around the world, so that's hardly distinctive. It does however fit with George's use of Morningstar deities (as we saw in part 2) and "Corn Kings / sacred bulls." This descent of the God to earth is usually followed by a golden age, as it is here.

The Maiden made of Light and Lion of Night are more interesting. The Lion of Night has people confused so far - the Lion is always the sun in these analogies, but here the Lion is night associated, while the sun seems to be this Maiden Made of Light. It doesn't make sense for the Lion of Night to be a moon, if only because there was two moons back during the time of the GEotD. I've always had a feeling that this Lion of Night is still connected to the sun somehow, perhaps as some kind of dark sun (cue the Soundgarden). During the Long Night, the Lion of Night was said to have "come forth in all his wroth to punish the wickedness of men" as the Maiden made of Light "turned her back on the world." I think that is a good description for the darkened sun as it would have appeared during the Long Night. Remembering something similar in the Biblical book of Revelation, I searched for and found this, as well as similar quote from Matthew:

Revelation 6: 12: When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13: and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale; 14: the sky vanished like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain
and island was removed from its place
.

Mat 24:29: The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.

Obviously that's some pretty similar imagery to my idea of the Long Night brought on by meteor impact: stars falling, the earth shaking, the sky no longer visible, mountains and islands removed, and most of all, a dark sun. Notice the wording: the sun "became black," and "become darkened."

Having a vague memory of some kind of night sun deity, I went looking on the internets and found an excellent one, the Mayan Jaguar God of Terrestrial Fire, sometimes known as Ak'b'al or Akbal (which means 'night'). The Mayans have several concepts of solar deities, as does Mesoamerican myth in general, but the concept of the Jaguar God of Terrestrial Fire is that he is the form the sun (Kinich Ahau) takes on his nightly journey through the underworld - the Night Sun. The notion of terrestrial fire - volcanoes, torches, incense burners and fire rituals - is connected to the notion of Akbal as a nocturnal or subterranean sun (the fire under and on the ground: terrestrial fire). Thus he is known as the jaguar god of the underworld, somewhat akin to a Hades or Osiris figure. There one other Mayan deity associated with the underworld, but isn't particularly relevant here.

Akbal, the night sun, is the black jaguar, while Kinich Ahau, the daytime sun, is the yellow jaguar, and both are seen as a necessary part of life. This is a highly dualistic concept which runs through most of mesoamerican myth. The underworld was a necessary part of life and rebirth - a notion clearly in harmony with George's cosmology in ASOAIF. Akbal, as the night sun, represents the "flame in the darkness," and he's also seen as the guardian of the dawn, when night gives way to day. Both of these concepts reflect the notion of the underworld as part of the cycle of life - gestation and rebirth.

This Night Sun deity also seems to have some kind of connection to a star, but Mayan myth is not well understood and it's hard to have clarity on many things. Akbal is however definitely seen as the Mayan war god, and his fearsome dark jaguar visage was often seen on their warriors shields. He is also associated with the number seven.

The Black Sun concept pops in most mesoamerican myth, including the Mexica (Aztecs). They believed in two suns, the young Day Sun and the ancient Dark Sun. The dark sun, on its nightly passage through the underworld, was associated with the butterfly, which is of course a symbol of transformation and rebirth, and may have been viewed as the original female mother deity, representing the womb and the tomb both.

Things get really scary when we consider the utterly terrifying Aztec deity named Itzpapalotl, the "Obsidian Butterfly." Don't be fooled by the term butterfly - this is a black butterfly with obsidian claws on its wings and an obsidian knife for a tongue. She's sometimes depicted as a kind of bat, as bats are sometimes called "black butterflies." Itzpapalotl is one of the tzitzimime, female star deities (some say demons) who were believed to descended to earth during solar eclipses and... well... devour people. They also had a role protecting the divine feminine and women in childbirth, to be fair - they were powerful and terrifying both. The Mayan dark sun deity Akbal may be married to the Jaguar Goddess of Midwifery (with both of them being war gods), a similar concept. Giving birth and war are both bloody affairs requiring great sacrifice (sometimes the ultimate sacrifice) - another idea that resonates with the themes of ASOAIF.

An obsidian-clawed bat creature isn't that far from a dragon, particularly considered obsidian's magical nature as frozen fire in the Martinverse. In Mesoamerica, obsidian mirrors were used by shamans for sorcery, another relevant connotation. Associations with stars as well as death and childbirth all line up pretty well with Daenerys and the lore around the destroyed fire moon, original mother of dragons.

While we are briefly examining mesoamerican myth, it should be noted that the Aztec underworld had nine layers, with the first level being earth's surface, and the entrance to the underworld from the surface was - and you're going to like this - the face of a gigantic toad which devoured the dead and have access to the other eight levels. I'm not sure what to make of the huge greasy stone toad statue on the Isle of Toads or if it is connected to the GEotD, but perhaps this is a clue as to its nature.

Stepping away from the Mayan and Aztec myth, I discovered one other bit of "night sun" lore which George may have been thinking of with his "Lion of Night as dark sun" concept. In the interest of not butchering this with paraphrase, here's an excerpt from sacredtexts.com :

"At midnight I saw the sun shining with a splendid light." The midnight sun was also part of the mystery of alchemy. It symbolized the spirit in man shining through the darkness of his human organisms. It also referred to the spiritual sun in the solar system, which the mystic could see as well at midnight as at high noon, the material earth bring powerless to obstruct the rays of this Divine orb. The mysterious lights which illuminated the temples of the Egyptian Mysteries during the nocturnal hours were said by some to he reflections of the spiritual sun gathered by the magical powers of the priests.

Some pagans and hermeticists believed the sun that we see in the sky is actually reflecting the light of this "spiritual sun," visible at night to the adept. This may give insight as to how the Lion of Night may have been associated with a source of "starry wisdom" to the sorcerer-king Azor Ahai, the Bloodstone Emperor.

We spent several paragraphs there exploring the admittedly freaky concept of a Night Sun, so what about the Maiden Made of Light? A female solar deity? Isn't the sun usually a man, man? Well no, actually, sun goddesses are all over the place - too many to count, really. The rising sun of the Japanese flag is the Shinto solar goddess Amaterasu, head of the Japanese pantheon. Hathor, a very ancient Egyptian solar deity / cow goddess and goddess of the sky, is an interesting one we will mention in the upcoming moon goddess extravaganza that is Part 4 or 5 or something. The Egyptians also have Bast, lion goddess of sunset, whose is symbolized as the fertilizing Rays of the sun, and Sekhmet, who represents the destructive qualities of the sun.

Earlier forms of Medusa had her as a solar deity. There's a Phoenician solar goddess named Shapash, "torch of the gods," who was able to travel through the underworld (no surprises there). Australian Aboriginal sun goddess Wuriupranili who lit a torch and carried it through the sky, east to west. Coming to the sea, she extinguished her torch in the water but used the embers to guide her way through the underworld.

Perhaps the most famous of solar goddesses is the Celtic Brigid. She is the the sun goddess and the fire goddess, and is associated with light and inspiration. Aditi is the Hindu solar Goddess who has a fairly important title - "keeper of the light that illuminates all life and ensures consciousness." That's probably a good place to stop, as I think that last one nicely encapsulates the Maiden Made of Light.

You may notice that many of the cultures where we find female solar deities are very, very old. This is a reflection of the global shift away from matriarchal societies to patriarchal ones which occurred few thousand years ago. The very oldest statues of any god-form to found anywhere in the world are mother goddess statues, pregnant, with heavy breasts to signify fertility and procreation. Thus, it makes perfect sense for George to choose a feminine deity to personify the daytime sun in the case of the Great Empire of the Dawn, with its implications of gender equality or even elements of matriarchy. It's notable that many places in Essos tend to be less patriarchal and more gender-equal than Westeros, which may be a remnant of GEotD culture. Furthermore, I find it highly fitting that Daenerys seems to be the last hope for righting this ancient wrong committed against the Amethyst Empress and the fire moon. I do believe Westeros may have a healthy dose of empowered femininity heading it's way, with characters like Daenerys, Brienne (the beauty), Arya, Sansa, Melissandre, and Arianne poised to shape the outcome of A Song of Ice and Fire. And can we get some more Asha Greyjoy, please? Please?
Bringing these two idea together, we have a religion that is consistent with the basic moral tenet of Planetos - balance of opposing forces, or dualism. There IS right and wrong - “right” is these forces in balance, and “wrong” is an imbalance. These ideas are well known to most ASOIAF readers and do not need further elucidation here, but its certainly no surprise to find that “in the beginning,” we find that the sun, high god of all gods, has a dual nature in balance - the Maiden Made of Light and the Lion of Night, whose perfect union leads to the presence of divinity on earth and a golden age. The stars are the repository of ancestral wisdom, glittering like the spark of the divine inside in eyes of every incarnated soul.

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------======o))) CHILDREN OF THE DAWN (((o======------

As hard as this may to believe, this very long (and hopefully interesting) essay was broken in two, and this was the first (and longer) part. Shortly following Part 3 here will be an attempt to identify the dispersal patterns westward from eastern Essos as well as cultures which may retain some cultural legacy of the Great Empire of the Dawn. It was originally part of this essay, but simply had to but separated for length concerns, which we've already made an absolute mockery of. That one will be considerably shorter than this one, but will hold some surprises and controversial ideas. It's going to be a lot more speculative in nature than the three parts so far, so it should be a great conversation starter. What's better than secret Targaryens? Secret GeoDawnians! Yeah baby. Don't roll your eyes at me! Stop that! Show your buddy LmL a little faith, I won't abuse you.
I’d also like to get everyone excited for what was going to be Part 3, an exploration of the moon goddesses which I believe George has used to create his two magic moons and the lore surrounding them. I had to put it off because the topic went deeper than I thought at first, and I realized if there’s one thin you don’t want to do, it’s give short shrift to someone like Ishtar. So I’m studying up a bit on my moon goddesses and I hope to do the topic justice. I’m very excited about it because i think it informs quite a bit about both he backstory as well as the main story arc of ASOIAF. Stay tuned for that as well as the other half finished and much promised essay on the magic swords.
Thanks as always to Durran Durrandon , as well as Crowfood’s daughter who helped me revise the draft on this one. Check out Durran’s new one concerning melissandre and the Night’s Queen, possibly the best titled thread in the history of westeros.org, “One God, Two Gods, Red God, Blue God.” Crowfood’s daughter is of course the place for everything Selkie, the conspiratorial Number 9 and the curse of the Barrow King. A big shout out and thank you to everyone who has participated in Durran’s and my threads. I’m going to name a few, but if your name isn’t here please know I haven’t forgotten about you. I am so overwhelmed by all the helpful input that’s it’s nearly impossible to keep track. Thanks to Mithras, J Stargaryen, Mychel_Redfort, Equilibrium, Ramsay’s Penguins, Lord Martin, Kingmonkey, Greymoon, Ygritte, Lost Melnibonean, Voice of the First Men, Avlonnic, Waters Gate, Modesty Lannister, White Corvus, Ser Creighton, and Mother of the Others got in there at the end with some great stuff too. Much love to all you guys and everyone else who made it through yet another LmL production.

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Man, you are the king... This is huge and I have no doubt spectacular.



I have some work now and Pillars of Eternity won't play themselves but I will cut the first and skip the other just to read it.



Expect detailed feed back later today.


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Man, you are the king... This is huge and I have no doubt spectacular.

I have some work now and Pillars of Eternity won't play themselves but I will cut the first and skip the other just to read it.

Expect detailed feed back later today.

Thanks brother, and yes, if I was looking for instant feedback, it’s probably several hundred words too long. But hey, it’s a big topic.

Pro tip: highlight the entire thread or copy and past it into a document and have your computer read it to you with the text-to-speech function. Most computers have this. If you have a Mac, I prefer the voice of Alex by a longshot, its clearly the best one. Anyway. Instant podcast.

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Thanks brother, and yes, if I was looking for instant feedback, it’s probably several hundred words too long. But hey, it’s a big topic.

Pro tip: highlight the entire thread or copy and past it into a document and have your computer read it to you with the text-to-speech function. Most computers have this. If you have a Mac, I prefer the voice of Alex by a longshot, its clearly the best one. Anyway. Instant podcast.

You're welcome.

I prefer to read it, it is faster and easier to manipulate, it's not like I can do something else while reading it and not sacrifice detailed comprehension.

Just a few things to take care of and then your post has undivided attention :)

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Still reading, but your proto-valyrian post above... I was wondering if the House Dayne look is potentially more related to Rhaenys actually surviving the fall on her dragon in Dorne?



Enjoying the reads - thanks for putting the time in to your posts.


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Still reading, but your proto-valyrian post above... I was wondering if the House Dayne look is potentially more related to Rhaenys actually surviving the fall on her dragon in Dorne?

Enjoying the reads - thanks for putting the time in to your posts.

Well that would be a mighty fly in the ointment! I can't think of a reason why it's impossible, other than the other Dornishmen and Seven Kingdoms lords would notice a 10,000 old Stony Dornishman house suddenly manifesting strong Targaryen looks all over the place. This would also necessitate Rhaenys not only surviving the fall, but remaining healthy and strong enough for childbirth... Seems far fetched. But having never thought of it, I can't rule it out I suppose.

You're quote welcome, this one did take a lot of time, as it was more research intensive than the first two. But it's a topic everyone has been hitting on it various threads, and to many it's not even clear that the Great Empire of the Dawn really existed or is anything more than a funky Yi-Tish legend. As so much of the on the ground translation of my theory manifests in the GEotD, it seemed like time to definitively prove their existence and see what we can discern.

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So, apparently I had the good timing to release this on the same day as a new Winds of Winter sample chapter. No worries though, as these longer threads and conversations tend to run for a few weeks. But, there is an very helpful but of info in regards to Saffron and the Saffron Straights by Asshai.

If you haven't read the new sample chapter, it's an "Alayne" one, and it's up on George's website.

Say something, she urged herself. You will never make Ser Harry love you if you dont have the courage to talk him. Should she tell him what a good dancer he was? No, hes probably heard that a dozen times tonight. Besides, Petyr said that I should not seem eager. Instead she said, I have heard that you are about to be a father. It was not something most girls would say to their almost-betrothed, but she wanted to see if Ser Harrold would lie.

For the second time. My daughter Alys is two years old. Your bastard daughter Alys, Alayne thought, but what she said was, That one had a different mother, though.

Yes. Cissy was a pretty thing when I tumbled her, but childbirth left her as fat as a cow, so Lady Anya arranged for her to marry one of her men-at-arms. It is different with Saffron.

Saffron? Alayne tried not to laugh. Truly? Ser Harrold had the grace to blush. Her father says she is more precious to him than gold. Hes rich, the richest man in Gulltown. A fortune in spices.

Saffron isn't just a valuable spice - it's more valuable by weight than gold (that's why the father named his daughter Saffron, to signify that she is more valuable than gold), and merchants who trade in the stuff (recall the Spicer's Guild in Qarth) become ludicrously wealthy. This is another indication that the name "Saffron Straights" indicates that a thriving trade in this oh-so-valuable spice once flowed through those straights, and that Asshai, a port city at the mouth of these straights, would have dominated this market and grown wealthy. It indicates that yes, lands do lie beyond Asshai with people and civilization and stuff.

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If you haven't read the new sample chapter, it's an "Alayne" one, and it's up on George's website.

I didn't see that, been swamped with work all day.

You know what I will still read your posts first, starting just about now.

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I didn't see that, been swamped with work all day.

You know what I will still read your posts first, starting just about now.

Cool, see you in an hour. You're really going to like the Heart of Darkness section, as it builds on some of the ideas you've put out there.

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