The fourth episode of Game of Thrones The Spoils of War has been deemed as one of the best ever and the reason is the battle sequence in last fifteen minutes or so when the Dothraki and the largest of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons Drogon descended on the unaware Lannister and Tarly soldiers. It would have passed for an ancient battle between the Roman soldiers (Lannisters) and Mongol hordes (Dothraki) except for Drogo. The fire-spewing reptile finally got the chance to prove himself in a full-scale battle and rained death and destruction on enemy soldiers who would have been forgiven if in their dying breath they were thinking that the world was ending. It is fair to assume that baring a few possible remnants, the entire Lannister force has been decimated.
Lannisters, however, had a trick up their sleeve for this very eventuality. It did not work, but there is a reason for hope. Under Cersei’s blessings, the disgraced maester Qyburn had built a ballistae kind of weapon that shoots crossbow bolts as big as a spear. It is a weapon ancient Greeks and Romans would have recognised. One of the giant arrows that Bronn shot using the weapon seemed to wound and astonish Drogon to a great extent, but not gravely enough to kill him.
Qyburn in his demonstration in the second episode of this season had made Cersei fire the ballistae against Balerion the Black Dread’s skull in which it stuck deep inside. Balerion was a legendary dragon and biggest of the Targaryen dragons (so big that entire towns are said to have fallen under his shadow) when they fled the Doom of Valyria and landed on Dragonstone. Aegon the Conqueror subjugated the whole continent of Westeros with him and it were his flames that forged the Iron Throne. But he is long dead now.
So, can dragons die in the world of Game of Thrones? According to the lore, by which I mean A Song of Ice and Fire series of books written by George RR Martin, the one-word answer is yes. After all, before Dany’s dragons hatched, all the dragons, at least on Westeros, were dead more than hundred years ago. But just because something is possible doesn’t mean it will happen. Killing a dragon in most cases needs other dragons. By other means, it is almost impossible.
In The Princess and the Queen, a short story by George RR Martin published in a collection titled Dangerous Women edited by Martin himself and Gardner Dozois, there are gloriously destructive dragon battles involving rival Targaryen women vying for the throne. Several dragons (and dragonriders) die before the war is over. So, what the Lannisters ought to do is control Rhaegal and Viserion – Dany’s other two dragons – and turn them on Drogon. Of course, that is implausible for it is not just a matter of just controlling them, they would also need to be smuggled from Dragonstone.
What about dragons dying of old age? Balerion was born in the ancient Valyrian Freehold and was already hundreds of years old before he was brought to Westeros. He lived for another 94 years after the conquest of Westeros. So, all the Lannisters should do is hold out for half a millennia in the Red Keep. Well, tough luck.
What else? The ballistae Bronn used against Drogon might work especially when operated by an expert marksman like Bronn but it would need lots of concentration which is hard when people around you are being turned to ashes en masse. One of Aegon the Conqueror’s sister-wives had a female dragon called Meraxes. It was smaller than Balerion but still large enough to swallow horses whole. He was killed by a Dornishemen by a Scorpion, the same weapon Qyburn built and which served as artillery in European armies before guns were invented. The said Dornishman targeted one of creature’s eyes and it went straight through the skull. The eyes of any creature, not just dragons, are extremely vulnerable and that’s where the ballistae should be targeted. Even if it doesn’t kill the target, a half-blind dragon would be much less effective.
So, what do you think? Will we have a Bard the Bowman in Westeros who shoots down a firedrake? One thing is almost sure to happen. By the time the show is done, we will witness the death of at least one dragon. If there is one thing we have learned in Game of Thrones it is that nobody is spared – recall the deaths of countless important characters and even mythical direwolves – and that includes these fire-breathing giant reptiles. My prediction is the Night King would have a hand in it.