Episode 7 of house of the dragon has sparked so many questions about the new connection between Aemond Targaryen and the mighty dragon Vhagar that we’re aiming for an all-dragon mailbag this week.
After all, “Driftmark” won’t be the last dragon Episode to show a dragon bonding with a new human. There are still dragons we haven’t seen running around without a rider yet, including Vermithor (Dead King Jaehaerys’ ancient mount) and Silverwing (Dead Queen Alysanne’s), plus more dragon eggs waiting to be hatched.
To appear in future mailbags, message me at @zachkram on Twitter or [email protected] each week after the dragon episode aired.
Patrick asks: “How should dragon succession work when a dragon rider dies?”
Many possessions in Westeros pass from father to son upon death: castles, titles, swords of Valyrian steel. But that’s not true of dragons, who would probably resent being called “possession” in the first place.
Instead, an examination of the dragon bonds throughout Targaryen history reveals no rhyme or reason for succession plans. Basically, any living Targaryen who doesn’t already have a dragon can claim a beast with a deceased rider (though not always successfully).
Sometimes the bond travels through a simple direct relationship. The now-dead dragon Quicksilver passed from King Aenys to Aegon son of Aenys. Caraxes passed from Prince Aemon (an heir when Jaehaerys was king) to Daemon, Aemon’s nephew. Meleys passed from Princess Alyssa (Viserys’ mother) to Rhaenys, Alyssa’s niece.
But relationships can also be much more complicated and distant: for example, Dreamfyre passed from Princess Rhaena (King Aenys’ eldest daughter) to Helaena, Rhaena’s great-grandniece.
Two of the oldest dragons had more than two riders with multiple torch changes. Balerion passed from Aegon the Conqueror to Maegor the Cruel (Aegon’s second son) to Viserys (Maegor’s great-grandnephew). And as Riley McAtee documented in his article this week, Vhagar has bonded with most Dragon Riders of all time: she’s now gone from Queen Visenya to Baelon (Visenya’s step-great-grandson) to Laena (Baelon’s granddaughter) to Aemond (Laena’s cousin).
Jack asks, “It sucks when I lose an eye, but why wasn’t there more outrage about this punk boy stealing a kite?!?” Why didn’t Vhagar just throw him into the sea?’
Indeed, if Laena had been alive, Vhagar would have thrown Aemond into the ocean – or grilled him before they even took flight. We don’t know all the mechanics of dragon binding, but we do know many of the outcomes, and one is that a dragon with a living rider will try to displace anyone else trying to jump on it.
As the dragon keeper Jacaerys says in episode 6, “Once they are fully bonded to you, they will refuse to take orders from others.” Kidnapping (dragon napping? Or would it be dragonjacking like carjacking?) is not allowed.
But if the rider is dead, then the dragon is free and, as I discussed in the last answer, is not beholden to any particular person. So Aemond didn’t “steal” Vhagar, even though Rhaena, Laena’s dragonless daughter, wanted her too. Dragons are not passively inherited; they are taken proactively.
But now that Aemond and Vhagar have gone for a spin and forged a new bond, the “living rider” clause applies: anyone else trying to ride Vhagar would have to have a death wish.
Sang asks “After Laena’s death, would Vhagar have accepted anyone of Targaryen blood, including Daemon’s daughters or Rhaenyra’s sons?” Could someone possibly have control of multiple dragons like Daenerys did?
Targaryen blood does not automatically mean that an attempted bond will last. Some wild dragons are solitary creatures who never take a rider regardless of the person’s identity, and other adult dragons are choosy about who they let on their backs. Vhagar accepts Aemond, however Fire & Blood contains examples of characters of Valyrian descent attempting to tame a riderless dragon and failing.
As for your second question, Daenerys was the mother of several dragons and they may have all listened to her, but she didn’t Ride all of them. She only ever flew on Drogon while Jon Rhaegal briefly rode solo and the Night King rode Viserion. Maybe that means Daenerys never had a real bond with Rhaegal or Viserion the way she did with Drogon.
This is an important distinction because, as far as we know, no human has ever bonded with multiple dragons – not just at the same time, but at any point in their life. There are few characters in history whose dragons die before them, and none ever attempt to ride another dragon afterward. These include King Viserys, who bonded with Balerion shortly before the Black Terror’s death and never rode again.
Now, there are some components of this tenet of the Dragon-Human relationship that we don’t understand because they’ve never really been tested. For example, if Dany had tried riding Rhaegal or Viserion one night while Drogon was out hunting, would they have allowed her to do so? Would Drogon have become jealous? If she could have jumped from one dragon to another in the air like Thor and Valkyrie jump from ship to ship Thor: Ragnarok? We won’t know unless George RR Martin tells us.
Brad asks, “Vhagar is said to be the most powerful weapon in the land. So how come only a child thinks of snatching it?”
I’ll answer your question with a question: who else could have attempted to climb Vhagar?
Almost every Targaryen in the series already has a dragon. Both Rhaenyra and Laenor do this in Syrax and Seasmoke, respectively. Her two eldest sons, Jacaerys and Lucerys, do the same, and her youngest son, infant Joffrey, has incubated an egg.
Rhaenys, son-in-law Daemon and granddaughter Baela also have their own dragons. And Aemond’s siblings both already have dragons. The only Targaryens without one are Aemond; Rhaena, Daemon’s other daughter; and Viserys, who has not ridden since Balerion died prior to the events of the show.
Aemond and Rhaena are both children, and Rhaena tells Aemond after making his claim that Vhagar should be hers. Although, on closer reflection, I would have liked to see old, run-down Viserys try to ride Vhagar, just for giggles.
Burnin Bearcat asks: “I swear I saw 3 dragons that left Driftmark with them [King Viserys] and the greens. Why should it be 3?”
We’ll end with a simpler, less philosophical answer. The three dragons currently allied with the Greens are Vhagar with Aemond; Sunfire with Aegon; and Dreamfyre with Helaena. (The show didn’t explicitly tell us that Helaena has a dragon, but HBO’s website does.) All three of the Green Dragon Riders are young and inexperienced, though Aegon “stop[s] Mastery” over Sunfire, according to the dragon keeper in Episode 6.
Meanwhile, Rhaenyra has her own dragon, Syrax, on her side, as well as Daemon’s long-necked Caraxes. Her children’s young dragons, and perhaps Baela’s moondancer too, are too small to ride for now – although that could change after the time skip between episodes 7 and 8.
The last living Dragon Riders are Laenor, who seems to have left Seasmoke, and Rhaenys, who appears to be a free agent in the coming conflict for now.
This breakdown underscores the importance of Aemond’s power play. If young Rhaena had claimed Vhagar for herself and allied with her father, Team Rhaenyra would have had an overwhelming majority of the dragon power of the realm. But Vhagar is so powerful that it even outweighs (pardon the pun) the scales.