When I was a child I had a recurring dream for years. Even today, I can remember it with such vivid clarity that I feel it clotted in my stomach like a rag drenched in old frying oil. I feel it around my neck, squeezing.
The dream was quick. Not one of those all-nighters where you travel from place to place, long into the wee hours of the night. It came like a slap in the face, or like a jump into a cold lake… and yet it seemed so benign.
I dreamed a coil of thread.
It was just a simple spiral of thread, but it filled my entire frame of vision from top to bottom, from left to right, as if I were very very close to it. It was a tattered brown-red coil of frayed fibers, and it was all I could see. At first, it wouldn’t move at all, and I would peer into the center of the coil, the dark abyssal center, my vision panning forward so it seemed to widen and gape.
Then, suddenly, once I couldn’t get any closer, the coil would spin. It spun like madness, so fast I thought if I blinked it might be gone. But the coil never went anywhere, it just spun, the end of its thread being pulled somewhere out of the picture.
Eventually, it would feel as if I were the coil, moving a million miles an hour but going nowhere. Every aspect of my being was rushing, rushing, panicked, rushing. My breaths came quick, rasping, desperate, and I felt like I was falling, falling--falling forever.
It terrified me to be motionless and yet feel like I was racing so fast I would explode in a crescendo. All I could do was fixate on the dark center of the coil as it spun like a vortex, turning faster and faster and faster, while my chest grew tighter and tighter and tighter until I thought I would die or go mad. Then everything would just--
And this is when you would say the nightmare was over; when I would wake up. You would think that. A normal person would think it was all just a strange version of the classic falling dream, where the person wakes up just before they smash against the ground. For years, when I remembered the dream, I would tell myself that was where I woke up. I would tell myself that when the coil stopped spinning, the nightmare ended. Yet as I grew older I realized that was just a lie I told myself, because that’s not really what happened when the coil stopped, when the racing panic stopped.
You see, I was still there when the coil stopped, when the thread disappeared, when all that was left was the black vortex in the center. I was still there. Still trapped. Still dreaming. And the worst part of the nightmare, the part I sometimes repressed in later memory, was the feeling that I was dreaming of death.
I dreamed the panic of knowing an end was coming and then continued to dream that end. I experienced the blackness. I felt it. I breathed in the vacuum of nothing. I existed in that non-space where nothing exists, where the simple idea of nothing is too much of anything.
I remember feeling at that moment that my heart was a shadow, and it would never be more than a shadow again. I remember settling in that dark place. I remember existing there. I remember thinking I was dead inside.
Yet… I was so wrong about that dream.
What I never realized until now, until this very moment, was the power in living through the end. To absorb all the darkness and endure is to show strength indomitable. To be surrounded by such emptiness and still be full is power. To be riddled with fear but continue to find courage is might. To take the abuse of the world and still be left standing means I am made of so much more than can ever be taken from me.
In the darkness, I am light kept alive by a heart of flame.
Thanks for reading and please check out Everflame: Mystic Wild for kindle!
– Dylan Lee Peters
The evening before the night of the earth’s demise was beautiful. I found my mother watching the sunset while sitting on the long cushioned bench on our back porch. The golden sun and the light pink sky reflected off the surface of the small pond behind our house. Ducks played with each other in the water. They seemed happy and unaware of my mother’s presence. She seemed happy and unaware of mine.
I walked out onto the porch quietly. I always walk quietly.
The air was warm, but not hot. The breeze swept my hair into my eyes and I pushed it away. I looked at my mother, and she looked old. I guess I had never really considered her age before. We had celebrated her forty-seventh birthday about a month ago. We had celebrated my sixteenth just a week before that. She wasn’t old, really. But this evening she looked—well, she looked wise.
She looked peaceful.
Once my mom noticed me, she smiled warmly and waved me over to her. I sat down on the bench next to her and stared at the purpling sky. She stared at me in the way mothers stare at their sons, the way a sculptor might stare at her work. Is it finished? Does it need a final touch?
“Arthur, you look more and more like your father every day,” she said.
“I wouldn’t know,” I said.
My mother shook her head. “Okay, go ahead, be the victim. Be the poor young boy always afflicted by the absence of the father he never knew.”
“I was just kidding,” I said without joy.
She didn’t respond right away, but sighed and joined me in staring at the vanishing sun. I could sense something weighing on her mind. I wish I had been more willing to talk to her about it.
“Your life is not going to be like this forever, Arthur,” my mother said. “The world is bigger than high school, and I know it’s hard to see that now, but it is. It will be for you. You won’t always have to worry about—”
“It’s okay, Mom.”
She looked at me with deep concern in her eyes. It hurt for a moment because I knew she was blaming herself for things I had done, things that were my fault.
“It’s not okay, Arthur,” she said. “And I don’t think you think it’s okay, either. Maybe not having a father in your life has left you without certain… resources. If it has, that’s my fault, and I want you to know I’m sorry.”
“Mom,” I said in my annoyed voice. I didn’t want to have this conversation. I didn’t want to have to think about why I was awkward, or why I was different, or why every other kid I came across sniffed that difference out like a predator, pounced on it, and exposed it for everyone else to see and abuse. And I never ever again wanted to have to talk about what happened as a result of coping with that suffering, what I did. “It’s fine,” I lied. “Just let’s leave it alone.”
And she did. She left it alone.
The sun set and we went inside for the night. I sat in my room and read a book, and I don’t know what my mom spent her night doing. Everything was quiet until I got tired and fell asleep. Everything was normal until I awoke to hear my mother shouting.
“Get up!” I heard her cry. “Arthur! Get up!”
I sprung out of bed, pulled on a pair of jeans, and ran out onto the back porch. What I saw in the night sky was both the most beautiful and terrifying thing I could imagine. It looked like a thousand clouds of multicolored light were exploding in slow motion. I noticed my mother standing against the porch railing, and she looked overwhelmed.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
My mother just shook her head with her mouth hanging wide.
The colored clouds slowly grew all across the sky, blooming like a celestial fire. Immense billows of yellow, blue, green, and pink drifted and pulsed the way sand kicked up underwater does before it settles again and the water clears. Yet this wasn’t sand in the water, and the sky gave no sign of clearing.
The colored light grew more and more intense, and now a loud rumble came from the sky. I looked at my mother and the colors reflected off of her face the way a fireworks display might. We were mesmerized, petrified, and unable to explain what was happening other than to wonder if we were somehow in a dream. Though it was beyond obvious this wasn’t a dream. My body felt more awake than I can ever remember. It was as if every vein in my body was flushed with adrenaline.
Then, as we stood on the porch in the glow of the impossible, the clouds broke open, and the fires fell to earth.
“Should we run?” I shouted above the increasing barrage of sound coming from above.
“To where?” my mother asked, though I never heard her words. I merely read her lips, as the roar of the sky falling upon us was all that could be heard.
The ground shook fast and terrible, and we fell down on the wooden slats of the porch. It was like being underneath a rocket as it prepared to blast off. The world was nothing but tremor and dissonance. I yelled for my mother and tried to reach for her, but the last thing I saw was her face disappear into the blinding white light.
And I lost her.
And then there was nothing but black.
I can’t remember what came next.
• • •
“Hey, get up,” I heard someone mutter. My head hurt and my mouth was dry. I didn’t want to respond, but the voice came again with more urgency. “C’mon get up, please. We need to get away from the Nullwood. We’re way too close, and if they see you…” I could hear the fear in the voice, a girl’s voice.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Seriously, please get up,” the girl said with mounting panic. “We need to get out of here.”
I slowly opened my eyes to a vast blue blur that was painfully bright. I shaded my eyes as they adjusted, and soon realized I was sitting under a blue sky in the middle of the day.
“We need to get away from the Nullwood,” the girl repeated.
I shook my throbbing head and swallowed hard against my dry throat. In front of me was a girl in a wheelchair who wore black-rimmed glasses. Her hair was long and light brown, pushed back with a thin white headband. She stared at me with green eyes, and her lips were pursed tight. It was obvious that she was upset I was being so slow. Her arms were tensed and ready to propel her wheelchair, her hands hovering just above the top arc of each wheel.
“Quick,” the girl said and spun the wheelchair around. “Follow me.”
She started wheeling her chair away from me, but I was disoriented. My head still hurt, and my back hurt too. As I lifted my arms to stretch I realized I wasn’t wearing a shirt. In fact, I didn’t have shoes on either. I was only wearing a baggy pair of jeans. I looked behind me, wondering where my other clothes might be, and received another shock.
Stretching out before me was a forest of gnarled black trees, so thick you could barely see into it. I stood up and staggered back from the massive growth. The trees looked dead, and the forest looked out of place in contrast to the green grass and blue sky. It was as if the trees marked a border into another world, a dark world. I took a couple more steps away from the tree line and felt a chill. Had I been in that place? Is this what the girl had been calling the Nullwood?
The girl was still wheeling herself away from me, and away from the Nullwood. I gathered myself and then ran after her.
“How long were you in there?” she asked me as I approached.
“I was in there?” I asked incredulously.
“Yeah,” she answered. “I saw you running out of the Nullwood before you collapsed onto the grass. So how long were you in there?”
“I don’t remember being in there,” I said, and suddenly felt afraid to tell the girl more. Yet I kept talking as if I had no control of my own mouth. “The last thing I remember is the sky opening.”
The girl stopped wheeling herself forward and turned to me with one thin eyebrow raised.
Immediately, I felt like an idiot who had just told a stranger about a bad dream. The sky hadn’t opened up. I realized how stupid that sounded only after it came out of my mouth.
“That can’t be the last thing you remember,” the girl said. “That happened like a month ago.”
I was shocked and speechless. Here I was, just outside a ghoulish black forest I had never seen before, sometime after an event I was ready to convince myself was a dream, and I was now being told that it wasn’t a dream, and I might have been in the woods for a month without recalling being there.
“You really don’t remember anything after the sky opened?” the girl asked after a moment of awkward silence. A bit of sympathy had entered her voice for the first time.
I simply shook my head.
The girl started wheeling herself forward again. What else could I do but follow?
“My name is Anna Leona,” she said. “If you want, I can take you to where I’m staying now. There are clothes that’ll probably fit you, plus food and water. What’s your name?”
“Arthur Kage,” I answered.
“Well, nice to meet you, Arthur who doesn’t remember anything,” she said in a brighter tone, almost as if she were amusing herself. Yet the brightness disappeared instantly as she continued. “I promise I’m not a danger to you, Arthur… but before we go any further, you should know that you can never tell anyone you came out of the Nullwood.” Anna turned to look at me again with her serious green-eyed glare, though I could see compassion behind its intensity. “Never.”
“Okay,” I said. Though I really wanted to ask why. Not saying what I wanted to say was a problem I had, as well as sometimes saying things I didn’t want to say.
We continued to move away from the Nullwood, but I turned briefly to glance back at it again. It was massive, stretching as far to the right and left horizons as I could see. It looked like something out of a Halloween nightmare. Tall barren trees, black as iron, and twisted like dead roots.
When I looked forward again, the scenery was both brighter and somehow more depressing. The grass was green and the sun shined in the clear blue sky, but life was missing. We were walking through a neighborhood, but it was a ghost town. The pavement was a ruin and every home looked like it had suffered in a terrible earthquake. A charred home on the left had half of its roof caved in. Another house on the right had walls that had fallen away, leaving it looking like a giant dollhouse. Back on my left, an abandoned car was left crashed into someone’s living room.
“What happened?” I asked, knowing full well that this is what had happened the night the sky opened.
Anna stopped and put a finger to her mouth. “Shh. Did you hear that?”
“Do you want me to be quiet, or tell you if I heard something?” I asked, even though I knew people didn’t like it when I asked questions like that.
Anna frowned at me, but then her head snapped around and she looked down the street. “Quick,” she said, now lowering her voice. “Wheel me over to that broken brown house. We need to hide inside.”
I did as she asked. I was in no position to argue.
As we reached the house, I had to lift Anna and her chair up over a jagged lip of foundation, floor, and exposed framework. I never would have described myself as strong, but Anna was light and the chair wasn’t very bulky. Once we were up onto the cracked tile floor of the house, she wheeled herself behind a large brown sofa and waved me over frantically.
“Please get down and don’t make a single sound,” she said in a whisper. “I really don’t want them to hurt you.”
I did what she said, getting down on my hands and knees. Anna stayed in her chair but slouched down so she was hidden behind the couch. There was a dusty throw blanket on the couch. She snatched it and quickly threw it over us. I held my breath, not knowing what we were hiding from, but then I heard voices out on the street.
“Dinner still two hours off,” a male voice grumbled. “I prefer six o’clock to seven. We should change it to six.”
“Doesn’t matter,” a female voice replied. “We can’t go back until the perimeter check is complete, and I’m guessing we’ve got two hours or more before we get it finished.”
The man grumbled something unintelligible, and the woman laughed.
“Did you complain this much before the Demise?” she asked.
The man didn’t answer.
Anna slowly lifted her cover just enough to peer out. I was racked with curiosity, so I parted the blanket enough to see and ducked my head just slightly around the corner of the couch. To the left, the broken wall of the house granted me an unimpeded view of the Nullwood off in the distance. Then through the open front door of the house, I could see two people walking down the street in drab clothing, both carrying long black guns at their sides.
I had so many questions I wanted to ask at that moment. Who were those people? Did Anna know them? What were they checking the perimeter for, and what were they walking the perimeter of? But most importantly, why did two innocent teenagers need to hide from them?
Then Anna sneezed.
We both ducked quickly back under the blanket. By the bit of dim light coming through the fabric, I could see Anna’s face twisted in frustration, and she was silently mouthing swears.
“Did you hear that?” the woman asked out on the street.
“Sure did,” the man answered. “Look over there. We got a couple coming out of the Nullwood.”
Anna’s eyes shot open, and she slowly peered out of the blanket again. I followed her lead and looked out the broken wall toward the Nullwood. Sure enough, there were two people coming out of the black trees, but they were far enough away that it was hard to see much detail.
“Stop where you are!” the woman yelled, as she and the man raised their guns.
They jogged out toward the people emerging from the Nullwood, and after a minute it got hard to see what was going on. I certainly couldn’t hear what anyone was saying. A moment passed as I watched, and then there was some shouting.
“Don’t watch, Arthur,” Anna whispered.
I didn’t listen to her, but I should have. Gunshots rang out, and one of the people who came out of the Nullwood fell to the ground. The other screamed. Then came more gunshots and that person fell also. I tucked myself back under the blanket and tried to calm my breathing.
They shot them. They shot the people who came out of the Nullwood.
“They’ll shoot anyone that comes out of the Nullwood,” Anna whispered as if she had heard my thoughts. Her voice was laced with shame. “We have to stay silent and under the blanket until they go away.”
There was no part of me that was ready for this. Somehow I had landed, half-naked, in a new world, and I understood none of what was happening. I couldn’t even ask the first person I met to explain it for fear that making noise might get me killed, and killed for what, I didn’t even know. All I knew was that we were lucky those people had come out of the Nullwood just as Anna had sneezed. Those people might have saved my life.
We spent a long time in silence before Anna finally moved and peered outside of the blanket. I couldn’t move with all of the thoughts racing through my mind, and waited for her to report back. More minutes passed, and then she pulled the blanket off of us. Anna sat up in her chair, and I sat on the floor with my back against the couch. I hugged my knees into my chest and stared at Anna. She must have realized I couldn’t find my voice because she started explaining.
“A lot of people died the night the sky opened,” Anna said. “Fire and rock fell down on everything. That’s why these houses are the way you see them, and it’s like this everywhere. There are not a lot of survivors. There’s no electricity. It’s like the end of the world. David has the survivors calling it the Demise.”
“David?” I asked.
“He’s the guy who sort of runs things now,” Anna said. “Most survivors live in the high school with him. I guess he used to be in the military or something. He has a lot of guns, and he’s the one who decided to kill everyone who comes out of the Nullwood.”
I just shook my head in confusion. It was too much to comprehend. I didn’t even know what I wanted to know, or what question I wanted to ask. I guess the silence got awkward because Anna kept talking.
“The Nullwood was just there the morning after the Demise. No one knows why or how it grew, but it’s massive. Scouts have traveled north and south along its border to find the end of it, and can’t. No one will go into it though.”
“So, is this still…” I was afraid to ask my question.
“This is Florida,” Anna said. “Flagler County. Is this where you’re from?”
I nodded silently, completely awestruck. I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to admit this had happened to my home. It would somehow have been easier to imagine I had been transported to another world, or another place. At least then I could dream of a way to get back to where I belonged; I could dream of a way to get back to the way things used to be. But this… I couldn’t reconcile this.
“How long did you say it’s been?” I asked.
“Some of the survivors have been counting the days,” Anna answered, and then looked down. “I haven’t. It doesn’t really seem to matter anymore, but… I think it’s been maybe a month since the Demise.”
“How have I lost that much time?” Tears welled in my eyes, but then shame kept them from falling. I couldn’t cry in front of Anna.
“You really don’t remember being in the Nullwood at all?” Anna asked.
“No.” I couldn’t remember a thing. “Where are we now? I mean, what parts of Flagler County are Nullwood now?”
“The Nullwood starts about where Belle Terre Parkway used to be,” Anna said. “The scouts say the tree line sort of runs north and south. I’m guessing you lived west of Belle Terre.”
“So you’ve been in the Nullwood for a month,” Anna said, looking as pale as I felt.
I nodded again.
“You can’t tell anyone,” she added. “Ever.”
“Why?” I asked, tears threatening to return.
“They’ll kill you, Arthur,” Anna said.
“I know that.” I was getting angry now. “I saw that. But why? Why? There might be millions of people still alive in the Nullwood who need help.”
“Some bad things come out of the forest,” Anna said meekly. “People are scared. No one knows what to do.”
“Bad things?” I asked. My anger faded because Anna seemed genuinely afraid.
“Monsters,” she said, and I could see she felt foolish saying it that way. “Mynahs, we call them. They come out of the Nullwood at night, and they kill people. Sometimes they take people. David says that people who go into the Nullwood eventually turn into mynahs. So he thinks we should kill everything that comes out of the Nullwood… even if it’s people.”
Stupidly, it only now occurred to me that I had come out of the Nullwood, and Anna had not killed me. She had helped me. She had protected me.
“You don’t agree with David, do you?” I asked her.
Anna shook her head and paused before speaking. “My parents always used to say that when people don’t understand something, they get afraid, and then they get dangerous. We don’t understand what happened to us, but that doesn’t mean that our decisions should be made in fear. It doesn’t mean we should kill people just because we’re afraid.”
A tear fell down Anna’s cheek.
I wanted to hug her, but I didn’t. I wanted to thank her. I didn’t do that either.
“Why were you near the Nullwood?” I asked.
Anna brushed her cheek with the back of her hand, and then grabbed the wheels of her chair.
“We have to get to Esteban’s Bar before the sun goes down,” she said.
“You mean that old bar on the beach that always has a special on crab legs?”
“It’s where I stay now,” she said. “Come on. Let’s go.”
• • •
The sun had almost set and only dim light remained, but even in the twilight the familiar sound of the waves breaking against the shore and the smell of salt in the air would have let me know where I was. My mother and I had come to this beach hundreds of times over the years. I grew up here. So it was devastating to see the state it was in now.
Restaurants I had eaten at dozens of times were leveled. Even the road along the beach was missing massive chunks, like a hurricane had swept through and eroded the land. It felt like a foreign place when contrasted with my memories. I used to read books on the other side of the dunes. I used to draw sketches of the crabs that came out of their holes to try to scavenge a meal. I used to watch people play in the water with their dogs, or walk along in the wet sand, hand in hand. I used to hear the music coming from some of the patio restaurants and bars. I used to smell the fried fish.
It was all gone now, but Esteban’s still remained.
I had never been inside Esteban’s. I was too young to drink, and my mother didn’t like crab legs. She said it was a dive, and I think one time she used the adjective scummy. Honestly, all I remembered about Esteban’s was that everyone except for my mother raved about their crab legs. Well, that and the old wooden sign they had over the front awning that had the name of the bar painted in big white letters. It was pretty ugly, really, but at this moment it was something familiar and comfortable to hold onto in a world that had turned into a nightmare.
At the service entrance to Esteban’s, Anna knocked on the red metal door. She said the front doors were barricaded, and the only way Jim and Kay would know it was her was to knock four times on the back service entrance. Anna had been staying with Jim and Kay since the Demise.
The door swung open, and a big guy with wavy blonde hair and a decent tan stood in our way.
“We were wondering where you had gotten off to, Ann– whoa, whoa, whoa.” The big guy reached for something just inside the door, and then the spade end of a shovel was thrust right up under my chin. “Who are you?”
“He’s obviously with me, Jim,” Anna said in annoyance. “Would you put the shovel down and let us in?”
Jim looked me over with caution before slowly lowering the shovel. “Who is this guy?” he asked.
“His name is Arthur, and I found him on the beach to the south,” Anna said. “He must have fallen and hit his head because he doesn’t remember anything. He doesn’t even remember where his shirt and shoes are.”
That sounded prepared, I thought.
“That sounded prepared,” Jim said.
“Would you just let us in,” Anna griped. “It’s getting dark out here.”
Jim stepped out of the way, and Anna wheeled herself inside Esteban’s. It was odd to see Anna regard Jim with such scorn. She had been gentle and compassionate with me. Her change in attitude was unexpected. I made to follow but Jim barred my way with one of his massive arms. He turned and stood over me, and I had to look up at him. Jim must have been at least six-foot-five.
“If you try to hurt her,” he said. “I will break you in half.”
Jim dropped his massive arm after his threat and shot me a fake smile. I wanted to say something witty and condescending to him. But I didn’t think of anything, and I probably wouldn’t have said it even if I had.
I walked past Jim into Esteban’s and followed Anna as she wheeled herself down a hallway. When I caught up to her we moved through a side door into a large room. It was the bar room, and all of the tables and chairs had been pushed up against the doors and windows as barricades. The sun was setting outside, so there was a small fire in an iron bowl sitting in the center of the room. A girl sat next to the fire, and she looked up at me as Anna and I approached. She had pretty blue eyes that stood out in the dim room, and suddenly I felt very aware that I wasn’t wearing a shirt.
“We’re taking in strays now?” she asked with a crooked smile.
“His name is Arthur,” Anna said. “Arthur, this is Kay.”
“He has amnesia,” Jim said sarcastically from behind me. He appeared out of the darkness and tossed me a white shirt. “Here. I’ll get boots for you in the morning.”
“Thanks,” I said and quickly put the white tee shirt on. It was much too big for me. I assumed it was Jim’s.
Jim sat down next to Kay and crossed his legs. He was barefoot, in red shorts and a white tank top. He looked like the stereotype of a good-looking blonde guy at the beach, sitting down next to his girl to roast marshmallows on an open fire. When he casually put his hand on Kay’s thigh and she barely reacted to his touch, I realized my guess wasn’t too far off.
“You really have amnesia?” Kay asked.
“You’re lucky,” she said. “There are things I’d certainly like to forget.”
Kay’s eyes grew wistful, and Jim put an arm around her shoulders to comfort her. Though he was very tan, his arms were pale in the firelight against Kay’s brown shoulders. She looked up at him and his tough facade melted at her gaze.
I realized everyone here must have lost quite a bit recently, and then I thought of my mother. My breath caught and I couldn’t believe myself. How was this the first time I had thought about my mother since waking up? Was I that terrible of a son? Before I could shame myself into stopping, I ended up crying in front of three strangers.
Silent minutes passed as the small fire flickered before us. Outside the wind whipped off of the ocean and against the front of Esteban’s. It howled as night fell, as if in response to my sadness.
The guilt of not looking for my mother immediately stung, and was compounded because I had been so cold to her during our last night together. Why couldn’t I just have had a real conversation with her? I never told my mother anything that would have mattered to her, at least not the way she would have wanted to hear it. She wanted to know that she had done all right by me. She wanted to know I appreciated her. In our last night together on the back porch, she was giving me another chance. Now, I might have lost my chance forever. What if I couldn’t find her again? What if she was…
I wiped my eyes on the back of my hand and then realized I wasn’t the only one crying. Jim was red in the face, and wet in the eyes, but he refused to let his tears fall. Kay leaned against him sniffling, staring into the fire, her cheeks wet. Anna’s glasses were on her lap, and she was rubbing the wetness from her eyes just like me.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m worried about my mother. I don’t remember anything that happened after the sky opened. I don’t know what happened to her.”
“She was all you had?” Jim asked.
He stood up and left the light of the fire, but only briefly, returning with four rolled sleeping bags. He dropped two next to Kay, tossed one to me, and then walked over to Anna. There he held out the last rolled sleeping bag.
“Can I help?” he asked her.
“No,” Anna answered curtly. “I wish you’d stop asking me that.”
“Sorry,” Jim muttered, seeming sheepish for the first time.
He turned and walked back to Kay, and then everyone laid their sleeping bag out. It was obvious they were finished talking for the night. I was hungry and thirsty but didn’t want to talk any more. In truth, I wanted to close my eyes and be done with the day more than I wanted to eat or drink, so I followed suit and stayed silent.
I’d never prayed before, but as I lay in that sleeping bag, in a world that had almost completely been destroyed, I prayed for dreamless sleep. I prayed for a never-ending dreamless sleep so I would never have to deal with this changed world, so I would never have to think about the things I had lost, and so I would never have to figure out what came next. I prayed because, in a world that had grown so dark, I didn’t know how I would ever find a guiding light again.
Laying on my side, I stared at the flame in the center of the room. I watched as it flickered and shrank, and as I did, I slowly fell asleep.
END OF CHAPTER ONE
Everflame: Mystic Wild will be released Summer 2019. To make sure you know when follow me on social media or sign up for my newsletter.
As always, thanks for reading! – Dylan Lee Peters
This past Memorial Day weekend I went with my wife to see Disney’s live action Aladdin. Only one day after our niece saw the same film. Let’s give a little back story before we dig in:
When Disney’s Aladdin released in 1992, my wife was seven years old. She was at the perfect age to fall completely in love with Disney films and was well on the way to her Phd in Disneyology, with a concentration on films of that era (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King). Somewhat coincidentally, our niece is now almost six years old and beginning her own career in the field. However, my niece has the advantage of attacking her course work with advice from a Disney doctor already in the family.
“Make sure you don’t skip over Aladdin,” my wife would counsel. “Don’t waste too much time on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And this fork is actually called a dinglehopper in certain circles. By the way, beware any people that emanate a green glow.”
Now with my sloppy metaphor aside, you get the picture. We’ve got multiple generations of Disneyphiles who were eagerly awaiting the release of live action Aladdin. What a wonderful situation for the giant that is Disney. A firm stranglehold on multiple generations of girls forever dreaming of musical princesses. What could go wrong?
Well I’ll tell you exactly what went wrong and it wasn’t Will Smith as the Genie. In fact, it was Jafar. He missed the mark quite terribly for both my wife (and me), as well as my niece. But for polar opposite reasons.
For myself and my wife, Jafar was toothless. A sorry excuse for a “bad guy,” and in our opinion not nearly scary or evil enough. We even felt that the cartoon version from 1992 was more creepy, menacing, and impactful than the live action version. Jafar was where the movie fell the most flat for us. Especially considering a large part of the audience already knows the outcome, a compelling Jafar could have really helped.
As a fantasy adventure writer, I have to interject another opinion here. The bad guy is the second most important part of a story. It’s not something that should ever be handled lightly or brushed aside as an afterthought. Obviously your hero is the most important thing, but what makes a hero shine is how they deal with their conflict. The bad guy is the conflict. Unfortunately, in this instance Jafar felt poorly cast, and boring.
But that’s the thirty-something perception. The five-year-old perception… well…
Jafar was absolutely terrifying. When he pushed Aladdin out the window and into the ocean my niece wanted to run for the exit, and when he turned into the most powerful genie in the world it was all over. She was running for the doors before finding out a happy ending was in the works. Jafar scared her out of the room. The cartoon version doesn’t do that to her though because it’s a cartoon. There was too much realism for her in the live action remake, and when contrasting that with my wife’s opinion something occurred to me.
Seemingly, all is not well in the Magic Kingdom.
Now, I’m sure you’ll scoff at that evaluation. Disney made more money this weekend than I even know how to imagine, and they’ll do that twenty times this year alone. Even so, I’ll stick to my premise. Disney shouldn’t sit back and think everything is fine. After all, Disney’s business is core memories, and the nostalgia that keeps people coming back to them. The only core memory made this weekend in our family was one of terror, and on the other end of the spectrum the nostalgia wanes a little more with each remake. I can see my wife a little less excited to see each new live action film, and a little more ready to expect some disappointment.
And that’s really the point. I know I’m the fool trying to shout over the category five hurricane that is the Disney money machine, but they really shouldn’t lose sight of the future. Because you can’t please everyone, and when you try… you will fail. Disney will either ruin some great cartoons for a new generation of kids, or a generation of woman will finally become exhausted with a company that leverages their childhood against their purses, and it could be both.
Disney should also remember that this coming generation of students has a generation of masters to provide them with counsel. Keep going back to the same well, over and over, and Disney might not like the wisdom these women pass down to their successors.
Thanks for reading,
Dylan Lee Peters
I’m not one of the million-plus who signed a petition begging HBO to redo this season of Game of Thrones. The whole concept of a redo is unreasonable and impossible for a multitude of reasons. But it just goes to show how upset over a million people are. I can’t say that I’m upset anymore… just resigned.
I sat watching the series finale much like Bran Stark has sat watching the world for the past few seasons: still, unimpressed, apathetic. My wife asked me just before the finale aired what I wanted to happen, and my response was something akin to what Bran Stark would say. “I don’t want anything anymore.”
So congratulations to HBO and the GoT writers! I began the season excited for what was to come, and ended the season with Bran Stark as my spirit animal. Kudos! (And by the way, I noticed that little charge come through this morning for another month of HBO NOW. Way to sneak that in before everybody unsubscribes!)
I really don’t want to pile on the writers anymore though. It was probably never in the cards for HBO to succeed with this season. All the expectations, all the money, all the egos, and never enough time. Of course, time will tell if George R. R. Martin can do better, and if nothing else we know he will use the advantages of time.
And to be honest, the finale wasn’t all bad, was it?
Hey, Bronn got his castle! Jon, Ghost and Tormund are gonna be best bros forever! Our man Tyrion is running the show! Arya is going out into the world to have adventures! Brienne and Pod are gonna get to write all sorts of cool knight stories! And Sam Tarly just gave a huge middle finger to the entire Citadel! (Look who’s Grand Maester now, bitches!)
It was all really… really… happy. Oddly happy.
We entered the season with four Starks, they all survived and get to live the rest of their lives pretty well, considering. All the bad guys died (Night King, Cersei, Batshit Dany). I mean, as the show panned out on the small council with Bronn joking (probably not joking) about prioritizing the funding of brothels, I couldn’t help but have a happy little song playing in my head. It was a tune from my childhood, when everything had a mellow golden glow, and all things were full of hope, dreams, laughter and love.
I’d like to share it with you now.
But wait, wait, WAIT a second… Hold the door… this wasn’t a happy ending. Now that I think about it, the bad guy won. Seriously, why is everyone so damned happy?
Bran Stark is the most self-centered, sociopathic MFer in all of Westeros. Let’s lay it out:
EVERYTHING IS BRAN’S FAULT! He is likely aware that everything is his fault. AND he’s smugly accepting the royal nomination with jokes. Damn that’s cold.
So there you go. Our watch has ended, and the bad guy won, after all. Show me that smile!
Thanks for reading,
Dylan Lee Peters
A brief warning: if you are not up to date with the show, having watched season eight, episode fi—aww seven hells, does it even matter at this point?
I’m not boasting, but I did get a fair amount of predictions right last week. (Though they were fairly easy to peg as we get closer to the end).
I predicted Dany would become the Mad Queen and torch King’s Landing, and though I did not predict the correct manner of death, I did predict the deaths of Euron, Qyburn, The Mountain, The Hound, Jaime, Cersei, and Varys. I also predicted they would bring the show back to Winterfell for the final episode, as Arya would escape the ruins of King’s Landing to let Sansa know the Mad Queen is coming for her.
So I did get some things right, amid the morass of things I got wrong.
I invite you to read last week’s blog post here. I hope it’s at least entertaining if not clairvoyant.
• • •
But moving forward and setting our sights on the series finale, I find myself pondering the epic amount of disappointment this season has wrought. I have my own opinions, of course, but I’ve also talked to a fair amount of GoT viewers and have yet to find someone who thinks the writers have been hitting home runs all season long. People are disappointed with the ending. It’s moving from opinion to fact as fast as Daenerys Targaryen turning from Breaker of Chains to Murderer of Children.
I mean, we all knew it wasn’t going to be a happy ending.
But did we think we were going to be left unsatisfied? I can’t say that I did.
Mother of Dragons fans were prepared for their heroine’s death, but were they prepared for her story arc to be far less than heroic, and logically problematic. Tyrion Lannister fans thought they would see their man go out as the “god of tits and wine,” not as the biggest fool in all of Westeros. We wanted to see Jaime dead, but redeemed. We wanted to see Cersei dead, but through Stark vengeance. We wanted another Red Wedding. We wanted Joffrey’s poisoning.
What we are getting this season can only be described as limp.
Quick side note: I’m not advocating for the happy ending. I’m comfortable with “things going wrong” such as the idea of Daenerys breaking bad. But it needs to be earned, and feel organic. With a shortened last season, and so much to tie up, they were never going to have enough time for added character building. They needed to lean on the character arcs of past seasons, so unfortunately Dany going cray-cray just doesn’t make sense. She’s been alone in the past; she’s lost loved ones in the past, yet she still maintained her cool, and her purpose. I mean we just watched her torch a city full of kids and innocent people because she couldn’t get laid. WTF? It was highly out of character, and I’m sorry, but that’s just lazy storytelling.
Think of your favorite character, large or small, and tell me you’ve been satisfied with their story this season. There are a few, sure, but mostly you can’t. From the Night King down to Ghost we wanted more. From Varys to Cersei we expected greater intrigue. From Jaime to Jon Snow we just wanted it all to have more gravity.
So I’m left to wonder. Is this incompetence? Are the show writers mailing it in? Is this just what happens when there are too many egos, too much money, and not enough time?
OR is disappointment the intended theme.
Maybe the existential battle we wanted was the Night King versus the living, but the existential battle we’re getting is our heroes versus the inevitability of failure.
So that is the theme I’m going to use for predicting episode six. Disappointment and the inevitability of failure. We wanted Jaime dead, but also wanted him to stand as proof that people can change. Except what we got was a reminder that change is hard, and more often than not people don’t change. More often than not an arrogant, callous, incestuous prick is just that and nothing more. Jaime doesn’t learn from his mistakes and make a life with Brienne, he tucks tail and runs back to his sister to be buried under the mess his family made.
It’s depressing… but that’s Game of Thrones. Here’s my predictions:
Tormund Giantsbane, Yara Greyjoy, Samwell Tarly, Gilly, Little Sam, Ghost and Nymeria – These characters are actually just gone. They won’t pop back up for the final episode to play some important part in defending Winterfell. We won’t get to see what’s going on with their new lives. It’s just done, because sometimes people leave and there is no closure. Sometimes people just go, and it’s awkward or depressing. Sometimes Jon doesn’t pet his dog goodbye, and it just ends that way. Stop crying! There’s no crying in Game of Thrones! Just stare off into the void and do nothing under the unbearable weight of existence like the rest of us…
Podrick Payne – Oh he’ll get like thirty seconds of camera time, standing behind Brienne or something, and that will literally be all he does. Because Game of Thrones wants to remind the try-hards of the world that no one actually cares.
Bran Stark – Speaking of doing next to nothing, that’ll be what Bran does too. He’ll probably just crawl into a hole under the Weirwood tree in Winterfell, get all comfy in the roots, and spend a generation seeing the world through other people’s eyes. Bran is that one friend you had in high school who was a really smart kid with a bright future, then smoked weed one time and it was over. That kid turned into a burn out, forever lost in a cloud of smoke, talking about weird shit like three-eyed ravens. Someone get Bran a bag of Cheetos for episode six.
Greyworm – is going to commit suicide amid the ashes of King’s Landing. This will be the intro scene for the episode. Good times.
Davos Seaworth – Davos will be the misplaced coffee cup in episode six. He won’t even be in costume. He’ll just show up in jeans and crocs, throwing out modern jargon like YOLO and resting bitch face (that’s for Daenerys). Jon Snow will laugh like he knows EXACTLY what his man Davos is talking about.
Drogon – Dany will inexplicably fly her dragon into the outer wall of Winterfell for some totally illogical reason like she saw Sansa glaring at her, and it just made her lose her mind. Because we all know, when Game of Thrones needs to get rid of the fantasy element of a show, they do so quickly and without any logical reason at all. Can I get a ‘hell yeah’ from the children of the forest?
Brienne – is actually going to die from shyness.
Tyrion Lannister – is going to get stabbed in the heart by a prostitute.
Sansa Stark – is going to stay alive forever just so she can tell everyone she meets “I tooold Jon not to trust her,” and “no I don’t feel sorry for him, he’s stuuupid.” And she’ll say it all in that Sansa Stark voice that sounds like what you’d imagine an eye-roll to sound like if an eye-roll had a voice. She will also do a lot of cross stitching.
Gendry and Arya Stark – Arya will hunt down Gendry and try to accept his marriage proposal, because for some reason she inexplicably decided there’s more to life than killing people, even though her character has literally never had one on camera moment of thinking that way, but you know, the Hound said some shit so everything changed. Then Gendry will rip off his face to reveal Jaqen H’ghar, (no I’m not letting this prediction die) who will kill Arya for the many-faced god, because even in our fantasy fiction there will always be assholes killing people for no reason because some god "told" them to.
Jon Snow – will do nothing important or intelligent or heroic in episode six. His destiny will be to travel north of the wall and build cabins for underprivileged wildling youth. No one will ever see him again, but he will die one day in an avalanche caused by a dire wolf.
Daenerys Targaryen – In the final episode of the series Daenerys will continue losing things, because that’s what she does. She’ll lose her army, lose her dragon, lose her alliance with anyone in Westeros, and continue to lose her mind. She will then be kidnapped and dropped off the side of a boat in a bundle of chains she will be ironically unable to break.
And who will do the kidnapping?
Bronn of the Blackwater – The final scene of Game of Thrones will be Bronn walking into the deserted former home of the Umbers, Last Hearth. You remember, the place the Night King tacked that dead kid to the wall in a spiral of body parts? Turns out Sansa gave it to Bronn in exchange for the kidnap and murder of the Mad Queen. Bronn will stroll in, arm in arm with some former brothel worker, and sit down in a big chair. He’ll pour himself some wine, raise a glass and then look at the woman.
“Don’t look so fucking disappointed,” he’ll say. “I’ve waited a long time for this.”
Thanks for reading,
Dylan Lee Peters
A brief warning: if you are not up to date with the show, having watched season eight, episode four, you probably shouldn’t read on.
Last week’s episode brought an end to poor Rhaegal, as well as Missandei. Unfortunately for me, I predicted neither of those events. However, some ideas I wrote about last week are still alive and kicking. Though I may be a fool for it, I’m not giving up on them.
I pegged the long-awaited Cleganebowl for episode five, and that event is still on the table (and seems more likely with every passing minute of screen time). I also argued there would have to be a group of characters that survived the show, and with the presumed departures of Sam, Gilly, and Tormund, I have three predictions, at this moment, in my favor.
I also had a prediction for Bronn and Brienne that did not play out in episode four, but still has a chance to play out in episode five. That also goes for my bold prediction for Arya, which seems more likely for episode six now.
I invite you to read last week’s blog post here.
• • •
But now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. Only two episodes left. Episode four spent its run-time attempting to turn Daenerys Targaryen into the “Mad Queen,” and very well might have succeeded. She was left without another of her children (she is now just the Mother of Dragon), without her best friend (Jorah), without her most trustworthy ally (Missandei), and her relationship with Jon Snow (and everyone is Westeros, for that matter) is about to go from awkward, to downright homicidal. Poor Emilia Clarke must have had a massive headache after filming, as it looked like she was trying to make her own head explode in each and every scene.
Episode five is shaping up to be a music video for Five Finger Death Punch’s “Burn It Down” starring Daenerys Targaryen and Drogon. (I won’t type the lyrics here, as they are rather profane, but it’s a heavy metal song about burning everything to the ground, so… yeah, you get it). So I’m grouping my predictions into larger categories for this week, and the first is what I’m going to call…
The King’s Landing Inferno:
Dany and Drogon are going to have a Southern Bar-B-Q and a lot of innocent people are going to burn. In fact, I’m not sure King’s Landing or the Iron Throne will even be around once it is all done with. Unhappy with how dark episode three was? Well, you might have to turn the brightness down on this one.
First to the flame? I’m picking Euron Greyjoy for death by Drogon. This seems like a simple enough revenge sequence. He killed Rhaegal, after all. I’d also throw Qyburn in here as next to get torched. Why, you ask? Frankly, because I don’t know why he’s still around, and Dany needs kindling for her fire. I expect both these characters to die early on amid the burning of the city, ultimately setting up King’s Landing as the flaming backdrop for the rest of the episode.
Now that we have our fiery city, it’s time for Arya and The Hound to reach King’s Landing and hunt down Cersei. I had thought it would be poetic if Sansa were the one to kill Cersei, but things don’t seem to be shaping up that way. Arya is going to make an attempt, even if she’s not successful.
The Mountain will be protecting Cersei and it will be up to the Hound to dispatch him. I believe he will succeed, but in doing so suffer an excruciating and inevitably fatal blow. This will give Arya a second opportunity to put the Hound down. This time she will be merciful and kill Sandor Clegane. The Hound Kills the Mountain, and then Arya gives the Hound a merciful death.
Enter Jaime Lannister. Cersei will look to Jaime for protection from Arya, but Jaime will turn his back on his sister, and instead the Captain of the Golden Company will come to Cersei’s aide just before Arya can reach her. Fighting ensues, but only as a means to change scenes. Cersei can’t die just yet.
Moving on, I believe Jaime Lannister only said what he said to Brienne in episode four to keep her from following him to King’s Landing. I don’t think he really meant it. I think Brienne will ultimately come to that conclusion, as well, and come looking for Jaime. Here is where I think my prediction from last week will come into play.
Cersei will find Bronn and expect his protection. Bronn will play his Highgarden hand, as discussed with the Brothers Lannister, and want to know just why he should protect her. If Cersei knows Euron has been killed, she will be able to offer Bronn the greatest reward anyone could: If we win, I’ll marry you. You’ll be a king. Cersei will be desperate and mostly unhinged at this point, so nothing is off the table.
So, Bronn and Cersei will find Jaime just after a reunion with Brienne. Then, Bronn will take his shot, Brienne will step in the way and tragically die in Jaime’s arms. Bronn and Jaime will then fight, and Jaime will win, but sneaking up behind will be sister, and… Cersei will be the only one to exit this scene after slicing her brother’s throat.
Meanwhile, Arya, Jon, and Greyworm fight through the Golden Company giving Dany passage to find Cersei for a final showdown.
Here, I expect Cersei to do something shocking in front of Daenerys, and I think it will be to reveal her double-agent as… (buh-buh-buh-boom) VARYS. There has to be a reason why Euron and Cersei have always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Whether it’s taking Yara Greyjoy, or Killing Rhaegal, or allowing the Unsullied to take Casterly Rock while the real army slips into Highgarden. Cersei has been making all the right moves for a while, with seemingly little info to go on. We’ve heard time and time again that Varys works for the Realm, and if he has always had doubts about Daenerys, he may have been playing Cersei and the Dragon Queen against each other for the benefit of the Realm.
Cersei will reveal Varys, and reveal that she knows about Jon’s parentage, and this will bring the “Mad Queen” to the forefront.
Daenerys will fry Cersei, and then she will begin tracing the whispers back. Varys got his info about Jon from Tyrion, who got it from Sansa, who obviously got it from Jon. The Mad Queen will turn her fire on Varys, and then on Tyrion. Then, in possibly the most stunning moment of the season, if not the series, Daenerys Targaryen will cook her nephew/lover, Jon Snow.
This will all set up the last episode and…
Where I’m placing My Gold
They will bring the show back to Winterfell for the final episode. Arya will escape the ruins of King’s Landing and let Sansa know the Mad Queen is coming for her.
Maybe Samwell, Gilly, Davos, Podrick, Tormund, Ghost, and Yara will have their stories ended through absence, but I just have a hard time believing that. Especially when Bran and Sansa are still away from King’s Landing, and such important characters.
The Mad Queen will march what’s left of her army north, the Three-eyed Raven will have a final purpose, Yara will bring the Iron Islanders to the fight, and a Sansa vs. Daenerys showdown will come to pass. Hey, maybe even Ghost and Nymeria will bring a pack of dire wolves into the fray.
It might just be the fantasy writer in me, but I’ve had a hard time with the HBO show waving away the supernatural elements of the story so easily. We never learned enough about the Night King, or his connection with the Three-eyed Raven. We never learned enough about the Lord of Light, though it seems he had a heavy hand in the way everything played out. Even the Children of the Forest seem to be oddly absent.
I may be pinning for something that will never be addressed, but bringing the story back to Winterfell, and putting Bran at the forefront, could help to tie up a lot of these holes.
But… given Game of Thrones’ penchant for pulling the rug out on my assumptions, I’m going to hedge my bet here.
Not-so Bold Prediction:
George R. R. Martin will have the last laugh.
We, fantasy fans, will be forced to wait for his conclusion before we get any sort of satisfying explanation for the “fantasy-heavy” elements of A Song of Ice and Fire.
Game of Thrones will serve as the soap opera version of the tale, ever-popular with those interested in person against person dramatics, and political gaming. Those of us who were always on Jon’s side, putting our petty differences aside for the true battle, the profound, existential battle, will have to wait for Mr. Martin’s final book. And he will laugh all the way to the bank.
After all, gotta sell those books. Am I right?
CLICK HERE NOW to get The Hands of Ruin: Book One by Dylan Lee Peters – FREE for your kindle!
Thanks for reading,
Dylan Lee Peters
A brief warning: if you are not up to date with the show, having watched season eight, episode three, you probably shouldn’t read on.
My predictions took some major losses in last Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode. I had the Night King as a “definitely NOT dying” character, Melisandre as “most likely not dying,” Beric Dondarrion as “can’t die yet,” and I predicted a lot of characters would die that didn’t. My predictions were mostly made under the assumption that the Night King would survive until the final episode and lay waste to Winterfell. Obviously, Arya Stark put all that to bed.
I did predict Ed, Theon, and Jorah would meet their ends last Sunday, but honestly… who didn’t see those departures coming? I don’t feel especially proud that I was able to guess those correct.
Truly, the premature end of the Night King busted my entire theory about the show, as I’m sure it did for many others. I guess the Night King had served his purpose and the Lord of Light was done with him, just like he was done with ole’ Beric. Speaking of the Lord of Light–it seems the Lord has a heavier hand in how the Game will play out than I previously thought. Melisandre lit the night up like it was a Rob Zombie concert, and her prophecy about Arya played out so smoothly she decided to go out on top and become dust in the wind. Mic drop. Last week’s GoT MVP might have been Melisandre, might have been Arya, but when you think about it, was definitely the Lord of Light.
So that’s going to be the theme of this week’s predictions, because it seems the Lord of Light truly has a plan for all in the world of GoT. At least until someone else’s god decides to get in on the fun, anyway. (I’m looking at you Drowned God of the Iron Islands. Can we get a Biblical flood for episode five, please?)
Anyway, let’s get on to predicting where the Lord will lay his light.
The Lord is Definitely Not Done With:
After pulling the plug on the Night King so early, it feels like these are the only two characters we can definitively say will survive episode four. The Lord is not done with them (more on that in a bit).
The Lord is Probably Not Done With:
I was wrong about Bran. I thought his character, after helping along the Aegon Targaryen reveal, had satisfied his purpose and needed to be removed. But there is something more going on with Bran that we just haven’t seen enough of yet. Hopefully we get more clues in episode four.
Here’s an early prediction for episode five: Sansa Stark will be the one who kills Cersei. I believe that is the Lord’s plan for her. The Lannisters are responsible for taking her childhood fantasy and turning it on its head. While it would be heartbreaking if Jaime killed his sister, it would be just and poetic for Sansa to kill her. After all, Cersei is the woman who is more or less responsible for making Sansa the hardened woman she is now. It all goes back to Cersei.
If Jaime has any role in his sister’s death, I believe it will be through inaction rather than action. The things he has “done for love” have defined his character, but his final act will be about what he refuses to do going forward, namely, kill for Cersei. Cersei will look to Jaime as her last line of defense, and he will not be there for her. While all of this could happen in episode four, it feels much more like episode five fare.
I also think episode five will give me the main event I’ve been waiting for… (can you hear them chanting? Two men enter; one man leaves. Two men enter; one man leaves). I give you CLEGANEBOWL!! If Jaime is not there as Cersei’s last line of defense, that means the Mountain will be and he’ll need to be taken down. Unleash the Hound!
The Shepard Needs a Flock:
Gilly and Little Sam
In my original theories for this last season of Game of Thrones I conceived of a story where no one wins, no one lives, the slate is wiped completely. However, if this is all about the Lord’s will, doesn’t our shepherd need a flock? Some people have to survive to move the world forward in the light of the Lord. So he’ll take a little bit of this, a little bit of that, sprinkle in some Unsullied, add a dash of Giantsbane. Shiny happy people holding hands, et cetera, et cetera. I specifically wonder about the group of Tyrion Lannister, Davos Seaworth, and Lord Varys–a new small council, perhaps? Three wise men? (cough, cough). Or maybe the new world will not need a monarch, but an oligarchy?
The Lord Should Be Done With:
These characters seem more than extraneous, at this point. I’d wager some gold on their deaths if I thought they were important enough to care about. They might die, they might not, but I’m not betting either way.
And of course that leads me to…
Where I’m Placing My Gold (and my faith if we’re talking about gods)
Brienne of Tarth
Bronn of the Blackwater
Bronn was given a directive: kill the Brothers Lannister. I don’t expect him to achieve this goal, but I do expect someone to perish by way of his attempt. I am conjuring a scene where Bronn spies Jamie from a distance, and with crossbow in hand the shot is there for the taking. Alas, just as his finger hits the trigger our favorite mercenary has an affliction of conscience. He jerks the shot just a bit, knowing his shot will graze the one-handed man, and not kill him. Unfortunately, at just that moment, Brienne spies the assassin and dives in front of the crossbow’s bolt. It finds its way into Brienne’s heart, just as she found her way into Jaime’s. Poor Brienne of Tarth will pass from this world in the arms of Jamie Lannister. Bronn will be revealed as the assassin, and before he is executed he’ll spill the beans on Cersei as the hiring hand. Brienne’s death at the hands of Cersei will give Jaime the motivation he needs to let his sister go in spirit and in life. A Shakespearean tragedy unfolds, and sets up Cersei’s demise in episode five.
But a good tragedy needs a true shocker.
Bold prediction for Episode Four
Arya Stark will die at the hands of Jaqen H’ghar while he is using Gendry’s face. (which means Gendry is dead too, because… well… his face will be gone). After all, if the Lord of Light was done with Beric Dondarrion, and he was done with Melisandre, then he is definitely done with Arya Stark. He gave that girl more light than anyone. She got to kill the Night King. That will live in the lore of the land for ages upon ages. Besides, a man needs a name… and a paycheck. The fiery Lord giveth to young Arya and the fiery Lord taketh away. Remember, this dude has a plan.
And speaking of that plan… what’s his plan for Jon Snow? After all, Melisandre was very clear that Beric was brought back to fulfill a purpose and be done. Well, Jon was brought back, too. After seasons and seasons of build up, I think a lot of viewers assumed that purpose was to take down the Night King, yet here we are, left with no Night King, and a lot of Snow. If Jon’s purpose wasn’t to come back just for the Night King, who was he brought back for? And more importantly, if the Lord of Light takes you down after you’ve fulfilled your purpose, doesn’t that mean Jon won’t survive the season?
Looks like we have more questions than answers, yet again. The Lord is kind of a dick, isn’t he?
Thanks for reading,
Dylan Lee Peters
It seems my predictions for episode two did not come through. I predicted both Euron Greyjoy and Bran Stark would die, and neither of those characters met their maker (or is it makers?). Euron wasn’t even in the episode. Needless to say, I can claim zero points for last week.
However, I’m not giving up on my theories. In fact, the only thing I may have really gotten wrong was the show’s pacing. I expected episode two to be filled with more action given the time crunch for this season. Yet Thrones writers decided to give us one more episode filled with reunions and foreshadowing. So, I’m not admitting defeat on last week’s predictions, I’m going to fold them into this week, add a little salt, maybe some herbs, and throw the pot back on the fire. It’s time for episode three predictions.
A brief warning: if you are not up to date with the show, having watched season eight, episode two, you probably shouldn’t read on.
Definitely NOT Dying in Episode Three
The Night King
(new addition) Jaime Lannister
I probably should have had Jaime in this category last week due to his needing one more dramatic scene with Cersei. I just wasn’t willing to go 100% on his survival, given that Bran could have easily told his family what Jaime did all those years ago, effectively throwing Jaime to the wolves. (See what I did there? Wolves? Starks? Throw him to the wolves. I know, I know. You’re impressed. Let’s move on.)
A side note: I’m changing the categories a bit for this week, because the show has made it quite obvious they intend episode three to be a giant battle at Winterfell between the living and the dead. This means certain characters are not likely to die this week purely due to absence. This also means more characters could die than what you might see in a normal episode. With one third of the season in the books, and very little action having taken place (unless of course we’re talking about Arya and Gendry ;) Episode three is set up to be a game-changer.
So, for our first category:
Most likely not appearing in Episode Three = not dead yet.
Bronn of the Blackwater
Now, on to the next:
Will be at the battle, but just can’t die yet.
Where I’m Placing My Gold
Bran Stark will die in episode three.
Bran was my prediction for episode two, and nothing has happened to make me change my prediction of HOW he will die. In fact, the events of episode two only served to reinforce my idea that the Night King will kill Bran.
I predicted last week that Bran was referring to the Night King when he said he was “waiting for an old friend,” and Bran basically confirmed that theory in episode two by announcing that the Night King always comes for whomever is the three-eyed raven. That was my first reason for thinking Bran would die. My second reason deals with Bran’s ability to essentially see all, and how that ability can ruin a plot line. (Note how Doctor Strange was killed in Infinity War because they couldn’t have him spoiling the Endgame).
The third reason I’m predicting Bran to die uses logic I applied to my Euron Greyjoy prediction from last week, and that is Game of Thrones loves to reward arrogance with severe punishment. Using a crippled boy as bait to win a battle is arrogant if not completely reckless, and this is the exact kind of drama GoT thrives upon. Jon using Bran to smoke out the Night King is sure to backfire in the bloodiest of ways, give Jon a reason to doubt his leadership skills, and possibly even a reason to keep his birthright a secret, relinquishing his claim to the throne. Plus, it just feels like every one of our major characters at the Battle of Winterfell should lose someone symbolic of their journey. (More on this in a second).
Bold prediction for Episode Three: Everyone loses at the Battle of Winterfell.
Whether it’s your life, or the life of a loved one, almost everyone will feel the sting of death.
Episode three promises to be one of the show’s darkest ever. However, I think I’ve found a way to inject a little levity. Try this on for size: The crypt scene begins with pure silence, no screaming, no zombie noises, just silence. We see Davos scramble down into the crypts because he realizes what is about to happen too late. His eyes grow wide as he sees all the dead woman and children, the camera closes up on his face, and then the bass and drums drop from Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The dead begin to rise and dance toward Davos as Vincent Price’s voice echos over Winterfell:
“The foulest stench is in the air,
The funk of forty thousand years,
And grisly ghouls from every tomb,
Are closing in to seal your doom.
And though you fight to stay alive,
Your body starts to shiver,
For no mere mortal can resist,
The evil of the thriller.”
Cut to the Night King cackling, his arms raised in the air, as he stands next to Bran Stark in his chair, his decapitated head lying upon the snowy ground. (END SCENE)
(I know, I know. You’re impressed.)
Thanks for reading,
Dylan Lee Peters
Game of Thrones is back for Season 8 and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. I guess I just wouldn’t know what to do with myself if the night wasn’t dark and full of terrors, as those who have read my novels can attest. It’s once again time to raise a glass of wine, take the black, and cross names off our lists. What else does one need?
And speaking of crossing names off our lists, I thought I would share a little prognostication with you. As I tend to do while watching Thrones, I try to predict who will have their names crossed off next. I imagine I’m not alone in this endeavor, so let’s see if our picks match up, shall we?
A brief warning: if you are not up to date with the show, having watched season eight, episode one, you probably shouldn’t read on.
I think the best way to lay this out, in order to make it less painful, is in categories. You don’t really need to read a paragraph on why I don’t think Jon Snow will die in episode two. It’s all fairly obvious, so let’s get on with it.
Definitely NOT Dying This Episode
The Night King
These are the main characters, obviously, and their stories can’t end until we are closer to The End.
Have they fully served their purpose in the story? Not yet, so probably not dying this episode.
Brienne of Tarth
Bronn of the Blackwater
We didn’t even see Melisandre or Brienne in episode one. It’s difficult to imagine their first season eight appearance would be their last. Jaime might be considered a main character, though I haven’t placed him there. I do feel that he needs one more scene with his sister, at least, before he’s offed. Bronn was given a mighty task in the first episode, and it’s hard to imagine that plays out completely in episode two. As for the Clegane boys–let’s just say if we don’t get Clegane Bowl this season I might be forced to try my hand at fan fiction for the first time.
No clear purpose to this season’s story yet, so an early death would feel cheap. Unlikely to die this episode.
I don’t really need to say much more than the category title. If any of these characters die from an errant arrow, or a hungry dead man this early on it would just feel so cheap. I suppose something could happen to them within the space of one episode to meet a fitting end, but I’m just not betting on it.
Could satisfy their purpose through dying at this point. Might die in episode two.
You could sell me on any of these characters dying in episode two:
Have probably satisfied their purpose. Likely to die.
Now shit’s getting good. Something episode one gave away is that a major plot line of this season will be the wedge everyone is trying to drive between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, and our boy Samwell Tarly is just the man to hammer that wedge home. Khaleesi fried his dad and brother and Sam didn’t take that news well. It, in fact, pushed him to tell Jon who his true parents were, and reveal Jon’s birthright to the Iron Throne. I can see a scene where Sam gets pissed at Daenerys, announces to a room of important people that Jon Snow is actually Aegon Targaryen, then Dany cooks our doughboy under Drogon’s broiler, and then Jon has to pull her aside for a private conversation in the kitchen to say, “babe, why are you being such a bitch right now? Sam was my best friend, and I thought you’d be a little cooler about the whole ‘right to throne' thing. Why can’t you ever support my dreams!?”
Yet, I will concede that this scene looks better a couple more episodes into the season, so I’m not placing my money on it. Where am I placing my gold?
Where I’m Placing My Gold
Euron Greyjoy will die in episode two. If there is anything Games of Thrones has done consistently over the years, it’s to take arrogant men and put their heads on pikes. Euron is just the next in a long line. This wide-eyed weirdo has satisfied his purpose and his libido. He delivered the Golden Company and took his queen to bed. I see Yara marching into the throne room, battling Euron to his knees, and when Mister Mustache looks to his queen for help, she’ll simply shrug and suggest that if the Golden Company had delivered those elephants she so wanted, maybe she would have been more inclined to help. Yara wins, Euron dies… and then the Mountain crushes Yara’s head because I need to see the Mountain crush at least one more head before #CleganeBowl. #TeamHound #TalkersMakeMeThirsty
But… I’m not done.
Bold Prediction For Episode Two
Bran Stark will die, and there are two reasons I believe this to be true.
There we have it. I’m picking Euron Greyjoy and Bran Stark to go down in episode two. I’d love to read what you think and see your predictions in the comments.
And… I’ve got great news to report on the Everflame: Mystic Wild front. Revising and editing of the manuscript is progressing wonderfully, and I hope to have the novel available in early summer. If you haven’t already, please check out my page dedicated to the new book. It currently has a map, a book blurb, and a cover image. Sample chapters to come! I expect this to be a great adventure for fans of my previous Everflame series, as well as for new readers. You will not have to have read the last series to enjoy this new novel. I promise!
Thanks for reading,
Dylan Lee Peters
I thought a lot about doing this, and weighed the pros and cons in my mind. There are arguments that it’s tacky, or in poor taste. There are arguments that it invites negativity (negativity on the internet? Who knew?). But at the end of the day, online reviews drive business in the modern world. At times, not having reviews can be more damaging than negative reviews. People want to see that a product is at least gaining opinions. So I’ve decided to do something that I, at first, thought was a bad idea, and even still feels a little uncomfortable. I’m going to ask for reviews, and even give you reasons why they are very important.
So yeah, if you’ve read one of my books, please go to either Amazon.com or Goodreads.com and review it. Pretty please.
Reasons why you should review books you've read:
1. You’re tired of the entertainment industry rehashing the same old stuff.
Are you sick of getting a new Spiderman movie every five years with all new actors and the same old origin story? Can’t believe they’re trying to turn another TV show from the 80s into a movie? Can’t help but wonder why they never seem to give a chance to new and original stories? It’s because the people in this world with power and money are not necessarily great creators. They’re not even people who have great opinions. They are just people with a lot of money, and they don’t want to invest money in something that won’t be successful. So they stick to the same old stuff that has worked in the past, because all they care about is making more money.
Your review is the only way you can let those people know you’ve found something new, original, and worthy of their investment. Seeing a review is the only way those bigwigs will give something new a chance.
2. Do you believe in the Shop Small principle?
Independent authors are the “little guy” of the novel market. We aren’t backed by big publishing houses with a ton of money to sink into advertising. We don’t have big names that will help us sell books for years and years. It’s hard for us to get readers, because it’s hard for us to get people to notice us.
The only way the little guy gets noticed is if people give us reviews. It’s the same principle as with your favorite local eatery, and your favorite local boutique shop. Independent authors have the same struggles. Reviews are our lifeblood.
3. Did you read a book that was free?
Why do you think the author is giving their book away for free? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not because we think of ourselves as a non-profit organization just trying to increase the readership of the poor or downtrodden. We are not literary Jesuses. (Is Jesuses plural for Jesus? Or is it Jesi?). We are trying to get reviews.
It’s an unspoken social contract, just like the food sample booth at a festival. “Here’s a taste. If you like it come back and buy some, and please tell your friends.” Giving a review is an incredibly easy, quick and free way to reward someone who gave you something for free.
4. Did you really like a story/character and want to see it/them continue?
Authors usually won’t keep going with something they don’t think was very successful. Let them know if you want more. Don’t be shy. I mean, don’t get weird about it like that lady in Stephen King’s Misery, but you know what I mean. This is one of the instances where someone really wants your opinion. Take advantage of it. Review the book. You might very well be the reason a series goes one book longer, or the reason a character is resurrected for another book.
So, there you go. I asked nicely (did you notice the pretty please?), and gave you four good reasons why you should take two minutes to review the books you read. Who knows, your review could help make a career, or your lack of a review could help end one. You have a lot of power. Use it.
And if you have read and reviewed one of my books, thank you. I will always be sincerely grateful for the time you took to do so, and you may have improved my life and warmed my heart in ways you’ll never know. Again, THANK YOU!