[Warning: this story contains spoilers for episode two of Game of Thrones' seventh season, "Stormborn."]
"If they can be wounded, they can be killed."
This is the conclusion Maester Qyburn (Anton Lesser) has reached in regards to the Mother of Dragons (Emilia Clarke) and her fire-breathing companions. He takes his cues from the reports of Daenerys and Drogon's great Meereen escape at the end of season five, noting that the massive black dragon sustained multiple spear wounds in the process. If spears could cause significant harm, imagine what a bunch of massive crossbows might do to Drogon and his brothers? Qyburn punctuates the point by having Cersei (Lena Headey) puncture a dragon skull with one simple flip of the crossbow's lever. Between acquiring dragon-slaying weaponry and Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) absolutely annihilating his niece's fleet, "Stormborn" looks like a decisive victory for Cersei over her Dragon Queen rival.
That's the bad news. Here's the good news: Cersei's crossbows are far from a surefire success, based on the history of the very dragon she shoots in the skull.
In case you missed it, the skeletal remains belonged to an ancient dragon known as Balerion the Black Dread. It's the very same winged beast Aegon the Conqueror mounted as he fought his way across the Seven Kingdoms centuries ago. Balerion existed long before Aegon's conquest, and lived for a long time afterward, passing away from old age nearly 100 years after the start of the Targaryen regime.
During the course of his many years, Balerion scorched countless battlefields. In The World of Ice and Fire, the fictional encyclopedia written by George R.R. Martin, Elio M. García Jr. and Linda Antonsson, there's a detailed account of a battle known as the Field of Fire: "Aegon flew above the ranks of his foes upon Balerion, through a storm of spears and stones and arrows, swooping down repeatedly to bathe his foes in flame." Sounds like arrows aren't Balerion's kryptonite, despite the crossbow bolt to the skeletal face suggesting otherwise.
It's worth pointing out that Cersei shoots Balerion at pointblank range from a reasonably close distance. What's more, the Balerion we see in "Stormborn" is a long ways away from the Black Dread of legend. Again, The World of Ice and Fire details another one of the dragon's most legendary tales: the battle against King Harren the Black at the once revered castle known as Harrenhal.
"Aegon Targaryen took Balerion up high, through the clouds, up and up until the dragon was no bigger than a fly upon the moon," writes Archmaester Gerold, the fictional character responsible for chronicling Aegon's conquest. "Only then did he descend, well inside the castle walls. On wings as black as pitch, Balerion plunged through the night, and when the great towers of Harrenhal appeared beneath him, the dragon roared his fury and bathed them in black fire, shot through with swirls of red."
Drogon still has a ways to go before he reaches Black Dread levels of infamy, but he's certainly the most ferocious creature Westeros has known in quite a long time, White Walkers notwithstanding. Indeed, he's grown considerably since the Fighting Pits of Meereen that Qyburn references. If he can execute a move even half as breathtaking as what's described of Balerion in The World of Ice and Fire, then Drogon should do just fine in the face of Cersei's new weapon.
With all that said, doesn't the sight of Cersei with a gigantic crossbow ...
... remind you of someone?
It would be so perfectly Game of Thrones for a Joffrey analogue to ruin our happiness on as large a scale as slaying a dragon. Maybe we should be a little bit concerned after all.
Watch the video below for the Game of Thrones cast's preview of season seven's battles.
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