Of course, we’re talking about Games of Thrones here. The final series of the immensely popular HBO series caused some viewers some deep irritation and we’re here to address that. In the first of a series of blogs, we take a look at that all-important issue: how should you defend your capital city from a dragon-queen and her army?
Obviously, there are spoilers ahead…!
So, the battle for King’s Landing was less of a battle and more of a one-side massacre. We asked a bunch of writers how they would have done things differently if they’d been Queen Cersei.
Steve McHugh (author of urban fantasy series, The Hellequin Chronicles and The Avalon Chronicles.)
Firstly, I probably wouldn’t have made the dragon-riding queen angrier by murdering her friend. That seems like a bad decision. I would have also made my dragon-killing machines load quicker, and capable of turning 180 degrees. The dragon seems like he had a fairly easily time of avoiding what had before then been a serious threat.
Anna Stephens (author of the Godblind trilogy – Bloodchild, is available to pre-order now)
I wouldn’t have cut off Missandei’s head like a dork. However, if I HAD cut off Missandei’s head and thus brought down dragon-fire on my people, I wouldn’t be throwing stupid big arrows at the dragon. I’d get out my trebuchets and stark chucking wildfire at that bloody lizard. I’d also be wildfiring the enemy, with a particular emphasis on Jon as, with Missandei dead, he’s Dany’s only other weak point. If I could get her to fly down to save Jon, I’d then concentrate all my firepower on Dany and the dragon. Big nets! I’d use big nets.
Kit Power (horror, crime, and sci-fi author)
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because Cersei, in common with almost every single other major player in the show, suffered a gigantic IQ plummet in the final season. It turns out her entire plan for defeating the dragon was to stare at it while doing The Eyebrow (which, sure, has served her well to this point, but come on).
And the solution is obvious; don’t defend King’s Landing. Send your army up after Jaime, and hit Winterfell as soon as the White Walkers fall. You’re taking out the enemy at their weakest, and you can even re-write the history afterwards to make yourself the saviour of Westeros. Sure, it’s a high-risk strategy, but I still think it was the way to go – and worse, I think Cersei would have thought of it.
Iain Grant (comedy writer and co-author of Exit the Dragon)
I think Cersei should have just been glad the dragon didn’t attack at night. Dragonfire coming out of the dark would have been nearly impossible to counter. As it was, she faced a nearly overwhelming aerial assault. I don’t think Qyburn could have knocked up some barrage balloons so, instead, she probably needed a smoke screen: burn piles of damp wood along all the city walls to blind the dragon.
Also, the scorpion ballista things were great but too few and too unwieldy. She should have equipped and trained every citizen in King’s Landing with the longbow. I don’t reckon that dragon would have stood much chance against Henry V’s Agincourt army!
Failing all that, she should have played the long game, abandoned the city and then killed and poisoned every sheep, cow and deer within a hundred miles and just wait for the dragons to die of fatal indigestion.
Joel Hames (crime fiction writer and author of the Sam Williams series)
Set a trap. Herd the populace into King’s Landing and then use the tunnels and catacombs beneath the city to hide the cream of my troops and my all-important self. I would sacrifice the civilians and the mercenaries to dragon fire, and when the triumphant forces arrive, and the dragon finally lands, blow the whole place up with wildfire. Sure, King’s Landing will be a ruin, but it’ll be my ruin, and that’s what counts.
Justin Lee Anderson (author of comedy fantasy Carpet Diem)
Cersei blew her chance. The time to attack was when she held Missandei, and Dany came to parlay. Drogon was grounded, her armies were knackered from the battle of Winterfell and the Northmen were weeks away from arriving on foot. She may as well have rolled over and exposed her belly at that point. The only chance Cersei really had was to bugger the rules of parlay and kill them all there and then. Have the scorpions ready to target Drogon at some subtle signal, and the archers to target Dany, who seems to think she has dragon’s hide, wandering around a battlefield in a pretty dress. They were behind the walls of King’s Landing, they had the fresh Golden Company and the rested Lannister army – if they had taken out Dany and Drogon, they were easy winners. For some reason, Cersei decided that while blowing up the entire Sept was a perfectly reasonable way to take out the High Sparrow, breaking the rules of parlay when your deadly enemy sits her nuclear weapon right in front of you is just a step too far. Also, though, she was arrogant. Clearly failing to understand physics, she believed her scorpions made her invulnerable to dragon fire. And people complained that Tyrion made stupid decisions in the final seasons!
Jacey Beford (author of the Psi-Tech series and the Rowankind series)
If I’m Cersei, and if I have a modicum of common sense, I won’t try to defend King’s Landing against a fire breathing dragon AND a superior army. I’d leave Qyburn in charge and I’d be heading for the nearest unobtrusive (but comfortable) boat with a bucket of gold, jewels and (hopefully) my best brother. I would skulk in a hidden cove until all danger of being flamed from above by Drogon has passed. I would, of course, have laid very nasty (explosive) traps as revenge for losing my hold on the Seven Kingdoms. Should Qyburn and the Golden Company prevail I will, of course, slip back into the Red Keep again as unobtrusively as I left. I have already stashed a large amount of Lannister gold with the Iron Bank of Bravos against such an eventuality.
David Watkins (author of the werewolf novel Original’s Return)
I wouldn’t try to defend the city. I’d open the gates and welcome them all in. Once inside, I’d poison Daenerys at the victory feast and conspire to make it look like one of the Starks had done it (Sansa would do). My evidence would be devious and compelling. Jon would be overcome with grief at losing his Queen and would go along with the needed execution of Sansa. That way, it would echo the first series, with Sansa’s head rolling to signify the end of the Game, like Ned’s rolling started it.
RE McLean (author of the Multiverse Investigations books)
Given that I clearly have an inexhaustible supply of wine (and the grapes to make it), I would pelt the dragon with grapes until it gets very annoyed, then soak it with wine using my secret water cannon I’ve been hiding in Fleabottom. When the dragon crashes drunkenly into the tower of the Red Keep, I would get my brother to push it out of the window.
Such sound military strategy is nowhere to be seen in Exit the Dragon, the latest book from Heide Goody and Iain Grant in which the wizard, Newport Pagnell, and the city’s privy council have to work out how to rebuild the capital once the dragon and the dragon queen have gone.