I haven’t come that close to a panic attack during a TV show since Breaking Bad staged a train heist in its nerve-wracking (the lukewarm ending aside) final season. As a genre, horror aims to elicit a physical response from its viewers, and few sights can compete for raw, appalling disgust with the charnel house Drogon and the Dothraki make of the banks of the Blackwater Rush. Add to that the tension of watching virtually half the cast placed in mortal danger and the mouth-drying suspense of seeing Drogon, a creature as achingly beautiful as he is hellish, a living icon of the majesty and cruelty of fantasy that is the show’s beating heart, in the sights of one of Qyburn’s scorpions and the episode’s climactic battle sequence is a physical and emotional ordeal.
Just before hell breaks loose, Bronn and Jaime speak to Dickon Tarly, Sam’s dashing hunk of a brother, about his take on the storming of Highgarden, his first ever battle. Dickon at first pretends to have found it stirring and glorious, but after some prompting his face falls, confusion creeping into his voice as he admits the smell of spilt bowels unsettled him. There’s no glory to be found on the battlefield. There’s no virtue in conquering your enemies. The ruin Drogon unleashes on the Lannister army is a visceral nightmare, a wasteland of boiling smoke, flying cinders, and men transformed into screaming, flailing torches. For all Missandei’s talk of a queen the people chose, Daenerys is as much a butcher as any of her enemies.
The battle sequence is a work of dreadful art. From the ululating charge of the Dothraki, to the panicked screams of two horses stuck in the traces of a burning wagon, to Tyrion’s helpless terror and frustration as he watches his brother charge Daenerys as she tends to the wounded Drogon, the camera places us squarely in the quaking boots of the battle’s participants and observers. Bronn’s flight from a particularly persistent Dothraki screamer, a scene that reads like a flame-wreathed remix of Jon’s immersion in the mud-spattered chaos of the Battle of the Bastards, stands out as a brilliant example of the show’s ability to spin stories in which no possible conflict could leave us feeling good. There’s a thrill, of course, to seeing Drogon loosed on the world, but does anyone really want to see Jaime and Bronn run down or incinerated? In letting us live for so long with each of these characters, in taking such care to let our empathy for them grow, Game of Thrones helps us understand the truth of war as the death of love. No joy can come of it.
No less moving is Daenerys’s first scene. Her journey with Jon into the obsidian mines under Dragonstone is like something out of Fellowship of the Ring’s Moria sequence as Jon reveals by firelight not just the dizzying galleries of stone hidden away under the earth but an ancient chamber decorated with the carvings of the Children of the Forest. His tale of the alliance between the First Men and the Children against the White Walkers is poignant, but behind it hovers the ugly truth that to the Children, the First Men were the same apocalypse the Walkers and their army now represent to Westeros. Even the blood-soaked weight of history, though, can’t stop the chemistry blooming between Harington and Clarke as the slow thaw of last episode’s first impressions gives way to a frisson of lip-biting sexual tension. The lighting, the paradoxical intimacy of the cathedral-vaulted cavern, the wonder Daenerys feels at knowing they stand where the Children once did; it all imbues the scene with a deep, gorgeous heat.
In another season Arya’s return to Winterfell, her thrilling practice duel with Brienne, and her reunion with her siblings would have been an episode’s centerpiece. Here it’s part of a mosaic of wonder, sorrow, and human connection leading into the literally searing climax. It’s a treat to watch the two women square off, Brienne a juggernaut of destruction, Arya a reed in the wind. To Sansa, though, there’s more than a little melancholy in the sight of a sister transformed into a weapon by her experiences during their time apart. The three Starks in Winterfell have been reforged by life’s cruelty, broken down and reassembled as people who in essential ways no longer recognize each other. Sansa a canny and paranoid manipulator, Arya a dyed-in-the-wool killer, Bran no longer even truly Bran. His empty, emotionless farewell to Meera Reed, his tireless companion and a woman for whom he once harbored an embarrassed, boyish affection, is one of the episode’s saddest notes.
Arya should never have had to learn to kill. Bran should never have been forced to break his own mind on the altar of destiny. Sansa may have been groomed for command by her captors, but at what cost to her soul? In their power, as in the furnace hearts of Dany’s dragons, is a reminder of the essential ugliness of the world in which they live and a warning not to let the horrors of the battlefield become our heart’s desire. The spoils of war aren’t glory or freedom; they’re fire and blood.
For the flash-fic prompts, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan having an adventure?
This one is a little rough, but I hope you still enjoy it, Nonny!
this sort of thing happen a lot?!” Ahsoka demanded, ducking down behind an
overturned table, and another volley of blaster bolts shot past her head.
than I like to admit!” Obi-Wan called back, and he jumped over his own
table-shield, and planted his boot squarely in an approaching guard’s face. The
woman fell back with a shout, and Obi-Wan spun to redirect a blast bolt that
would have otherwise hit him square in the back.
thought you said this was a peaceful, diplomatic mission!” Ahsoka shouted,
darting out from behind her table, lightsabers already a set of coloured blurs in
the air as she made her way towards where the panicked slaves had hidden
themselves behind a row of large colums near the double doors, when the initial
fight had started. “That why we didn’t bring back up!”
supposed to be!” Obi-Wan replied, grunting as a blow from another guard
narrowly missed his face. “Anakin and I― Oof!― Though it would be good for
you to see what―” He cursed and sent another two guards flying across the room. “Normal
Jedi life was like!”
worked well!” Ahsoka snapped, ducking behind the largest of the collums. A
child, no older than five, stared up at her with wide, silver striped eyes.
Ahsoka said gently, “We’re here to help you.”
group of slaves was an anomaly, a ‘gift’ of sorts, in an attempt to bribe the
planet’s ruler into joining the Seperatist cause. As such, no one had thought
to fit them with control chips, just chains, and those were easy to deal with.
Once all five
of the young people had been freed, Ahsoka scooped the Noorian girl into her
arms. “I’ve got them, Master Obi-Wan!”
There was a shout, and then the room fell quiet. Obi-Wan heaved a sigh, and
disengaged his saber. Ahsoka looked around. The room was a mess, but all the
guards were either dead or unconscious.
alright, Ahsoka?” Obi-Wan asked, walking up to her and giving her, and then the
others, a concerned once over. Ahsoka nodded.
And none of the kids seem too hurt. Just scared and underfed.”
“Good. Let’s get out of here. I would like to be long gone by the time
her agreement, and turned to the rag-tag group. “Come on, let’s get you all
cleaned up, and then figure out how to get you home.”
As they all
walked, Ahsoka glanced at Obi-Wan. “Master Kenobi?”
things like that happened a lot to you?”
her a wry smile. “I’m afraid this trip was a better example of a typical Jedi
mission than I had hoped to show you.”
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He’s tired and cranky and oh so tempted to drag his feet along the gleaming floors and slouch forward because every step sends a fresh lance of aches through protesting muscles. But to loosen one’s posture in the corridors is to invite the wrath of the Marshal, and having just escaped a training session with him, Nyx is in no mood to return to feeling like a ping-pong ball battered around by a group of Hobgoblins.
He’s so tired (and perhaps just a touch dehydrated, if he’s being honest with himself) that for a moment he honest to gods thinks he’s hallucinating the small form running straight for his legs in a mess of wind-tousled hair and flailing arms. But Scientia’s kid does collide with him and rebound with an “oof”, sprawling on the floor at his feet and panting like he’s run a marathon. Given the fine tremble in his limbs and the seriously red face (any moment steam’s bound to come out of his ears or his head will pop off his shoulders and rocket into the clouds far above the Citadel’s rooftops) maybe he has.
“Ignis, right? You okay kid?” He asks, prying thin shoulders up off the floor as he crouches beside him if only to give the kid an easier time at breathing. A shaking hand reaches up to fix glasses that have been knocked askew in his tumble, so much like Scientia that Nyx is given a glimpse of him in adorable miniature, and then he’s prattling on a mile a minute between huffing and puffing for breath.
He only needs to hear the words courtyard and accident and Prince to know why the kid’s just about signed his own admittance to the medical wing to find a Glaive (in training), hoisting the slight boy into his arms and taking off at a jog just the wrong side of leisurely to avoid funny looks by those he passes. Honestly – the King might as well quit beating around the bush and hire him as a babysitter already, with how often he goes to his son’s rescue.
He laughs. Hysterically. So hard that he has to wipe tears from his eyes and clutch at the stitch in his side, and then grab Ignis and hold him at arm’s length when the kid boots him square in the shin for the “audacity” (he’s seven, a kid his age shouldn’t know such a word for crap’s sake). There the Prince is, a tiny little speck twenty-seven floors up, curled up on the window frame of the office belonging to one infamously bad-tempered Clarus Amicitia. He’s almost tempted to shout up if Noctis is enjoying the view, but he’s not that much of an insensitive asshole, and Ignis is probably too young to appreciate sarcasm. He doesn’t want the kid busting into tears.
Okay. Time to act the hero, Nyx. You’ve got this. Just aim high and keep climbing. He shakes out his fingers, rolls out any tension in his shoulders, and slips one of the kukris from his belt. He holds it at an angle, lets his eyes glance along the blade as he lifts it higher, and higher again, looking for the perfect handhold to aim for. Finding it more than half the distance below Noctis isn’t great, far from it, but hey. The Marshal is always harping on about finding a lesson in even the small things. Good experience, right? Doesn’t matter that his muscles are screaming bloody murder, right?
On the plus side – if he goes splat on the ground at least they’d carve on his gravestone that he died in service to the Prince of Lucis.
“I’ll be back in a minute. Stay right here.”
“Where else –” The rest of the kid’s words are stolen by the electric-snap of magic bursting along his skin and through his bones, yanking him from here to that someplace other where gravity is non-existent and the general rules of physics don’t apply. And then he’s back at the Citadel again, blinking away the blue clouding his vision and holding onto his weapon for dear life, scrabbling along the brickwork with his free hand until he finds the gap and anchors himself to the wall. He ignores the temptation to look down, knowing full well that seeing any distance between his feet and the ground will make him upchuck in ways the merry hell of warping hasn’t succeeded in just yet. Another handhold to locate, another calculated toss of his blade, laughter because it’s the only thing keeping him from screaming at himself for this idiocy. Another warp, then another, and another, and another.
By the time he’s carefully easing his feet onto the windowsill and bracing his hands on the frame, he’s less concerned about the Prince accidentally kicking in the window and more worried that he’s about to paint the detailed glasswork with every meal he’s had in the past week. But he does his best to keep the queasiness from his face as he fixes Noctis with what he hopes is a cheery smile and oh so slowly inches his hand down to wiggle his fingers in front of the boy’s face.
“So. Wanna tell me how you wound up stuck up here?”
“I… uhm… I sneezed?”
He blinks once. Twice. Three times for good measure. Absolutely sure he didn’t hear that right, but Noctis is the picture of sincerity (and barely contained panic), and the absurdity of the entire situation almost has him laughing again.
Instead he grabs hold of the Prince’s arm quick as a striking snake, hoisting him up to balance on his hip and just as Noctis starts screaming, Nyx jumps from the windowsill and straight into what he sincerely hopes is his last warp for the rest of the bloody year.
Much to his despair, it isn’t his last one of the year. And accidental-warping-by-sneezing isn’t the worst predicament the young Prince lands himself in.
And the King never does hire him as a babysitter, but he somehow still ends up being the one who hauls Noctis and Ignis out of trouble. Every time.
And all before he reaches his seventeenth birthday.