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‘House of the Dragon’ Episode 7 Mailbag: How to Claim Your Dragon

Spoiler-free answers to dragon-oriented questions about a dragon-oriented episode

HBO/Ringer illustration

Episode 7 of House of the Dragon inspired so many questions about the new attachment between Aemond Targaryen and the mighty dragon Vhagar that we’ll aim for an all-dragon mailbag this week.

After all, “Driftmark” won’t be the last Dragon episode to show a dragon bonding with a new human. There are still dragons we haven’t yet seen roaming around without a rider, including Vermithor (the dead King Jaehaerys’s old mount) and Silverwing (the dead Queen Alysanne’s), plus more dragon eggs waiting to hatch.

To appear in future mailbags, message me at @zachkram on Twitter or each week after the Dragon episode airs.

Patrick asks, “How is dragon succession supposed to work if a dragon rider dies?”

Many possessions in Westeros pass from fathers to sons after death: castles, titles, Valyrian-steel swords. But that isn’t true of dragons, who would probably resent being called “possessions” in the first place.

Instead, a survey of dragon bonds over the course of Targaryen history reveals no rhyme or reason to succession plans. Basically, whichever living Targaryen doesn’t already have a dragon can claim a beast with a deceased rider (albeit not always successfully).

Sometimes the bond travels via a simple direct relationship. The now-dead dragon Quicksilver passed from King Aenys to Aegon, Aenys’s son. Caraxes passed from Prince Aemon (an heir when Jaehaerys was king) to Daemon, Aemon’s nephew. Meleys passed from Princess Alyssa (Viserys’s mother) to Rhaenys, Alyssa’s niece.

Yet the relationships can also be much more complicated and distant: For instance, Dreamfyre passed from Princess Rhaena (King Aenys’s oldest daughter) to Helaena, Rhaena’s great-grand-niece.

Two of the oldest dragons had more than two riders, with multiple passes of the torch. Balerion passed from Aegon the Conqueror to Maegor the Cruel (Aegon’s second son) to Viserys (Maegor’s great-grand-nephew). And as Riley McAtee documented in his piece this week, Vhagar has bonded with the most riders of any dragon on record: She has now passed from Queen Visenya to Baelon (Visenya’s step-great-grandson) to Laena (Baelon’s granddaughter) to Aemond (Laena’s cousin).

Jack asks, “I get losing an eye is bad but why wasn’t there more outrage over that punk kid stealing a dragon?!? Why didn’t Vhagar just drop him in the ocean?”

If Laena had still been alive, Vhagar would have indeed dropped Aemond in the ocean—or barbecued him before they’d even taken flight. We don’t know all the mechanics of dragon bonding, but we do know many of the outcomes, and one is that a dragon with a living rider will try to dislodge anyone else who attempts to hop on.

As the dragonkeeper tells Jacaerys in Episode 6, “Once they’re fully bound to you, they will refuse to take instruction from any other.” There’s no kidnapping (dragonnapping? Or would it be dragonjacking, as in carjacking?) allowed.

But if the rider is dead, then the dragon is free for the taking and, as I discussed in the last answer, not beholden to any particular person. So Aemond didn’t “steal” Vhagar, even though Rhaena, Laena’s dragonless daughter, wanted her too. Dragons are not passively inherited; they are proactively taken.

But now that Aemond and Vhagar have gone for a joyride and forged a new bond, the “living rider” clause applies: Anyone else who tries to ride Vhagar would need to have a death wish.

Sang asks, “Would Vhagar have accepted anyone with Targaryen blood after Laena’s death, including Daemon’s daughters or Rhaenyra’s sons? Could someone potentially have control of multiple dragons like Daenerys did?”

Targaryen blood doesn’t automatically mean an attempted bond will stick. Some wild dragons are loners who never take a rider, no matter the identity of the person, and other adult dragons are picky about whom they allow upon their backs. Vhagar accepts Aemond, but Fire & Blood contains examples of characters with Valyrian ancestry who try and fail to tame a riderless dragon.

As to your second question, Daenerys was the mother of multiple dragons, and they might have all listened to her, but she did not ride all of them. She only ever took flight on Drogon, while Jon briefly rode Rhaegal alone, and the Night King rode Viserion. Perhaps that means Daenerys never held a true bond with Rhaegal or Viserion in the same way that she did with Drogon.

That’s an important distinction to make because as far as we know, no human has ever bonded with multiple dragons—not just simultaneously, but at any point in their lives. There are only a few characters in the story whose dragons die before them, and none ever tries to ride another dragon afterward. That includes King Viserys, who bonded with Balerion shortly before the Black Dread’s death and never rode again.

Now, there are some components of this tenet of the dragon-human relationship that we don’t understand because they’ve never really been tested. If, for instance, Dany had tried to ride Rhaegal or Viserion while Drogon was off hunting one night, would they have allowed her to do so? Would Drogon have grown jealous? Could she have hopped from one dragon to another in midair like Thor and Valkyrie jumping from ship to ship in Thor: Ragnarok? We won’t know unless George R.R. Martin tells us.

Brad asks, “Vhagar is ostensibly the most powerful weapon in the land. So how is it that a child is the only one who thinks to nab her?”

I’ll answer your question with a question: Who else could have tried to mount Vhagar?

Almost every Targaryen on the show already has a dragon. Rhaenyra and Laenor both do, in Syrax and Seasmoke, respectively. Their two oldest sons, Jacaerys and Lucerys, do as well, and their youngest son, the infant Joffrey, has an egg incubating.

Rhaenys, son-in-law Daemon, and granddaughter Baela also have dragons of their own. And Aemond’s siblings both have dragons already. The only Targaryens without one are Aemond; Rhaena, Daemon’s other daughter; and Viserys, who hasn’t ridden since Balerion died before the events of the show.

Aemond and Rhaena are both children, with Rhaena telling Aemond after he stakes his claim that Vhagar was supposed to be hers. Though on second thought, I would have liked to see old, bedraggled Viserys try to ride Vhagar, just for giggles.

Burnin Bearcat asks, “I swear I saw 3 dragons leaving Driftmark with [King Viserys] and the greens. Why would there be 3?”

We’ll end with a simpler, less philosophical answer. The three dragons currently allied with the greens are Vhagar, with Aemond; Sunfyre, with Aegon; and Dreamfyre, with Helaena. (The show hasn’t explicitly told us that Helaena has a dragon, but HBO’s website has.) All three of the greens’ dragonriders are young and inexperienced, even if Aegon “hold[s] mastery” over Sunfyre, according to the dragonkeeper in Episode 6.

Meanwhile, Rhaenyra has her own dragon, Syrax, on her side, as well as Daemon’s long-necked Caraxes. Her kids’ young dragons, and perhaps Baela’s Moondancer as well, are too small to ride for now—though that might change after the time jump between episodes 7 and 8.

The final living dragonriders are Laenor, who apparently abandoned Seasmoke, and Rhaenys, who for now appears to be a free agent in the coming conflict.

This breakdown emphasizes the importance of Aemond’s power play. If young Rhaena had claimed Vhagar and allied with her father, Team Rhaenyra would have boasted an overwhelming majority of the realm’s dragonpower. But Vhagar is so powerful that she’s sufficient to (pardon the pun) even the scales.