A year ago this week, Tyrion Lannister gave his now-famous speech, Bran became Bran the Broken and the king of Westeros, Jon Snow ventured north, and Game of Thrones came to an end. In honor of the conclusion of the last piece of monoculture, The Ringer will spend all week looking back on Thrones—focusing not just on its final season, but celebrating its entire eight-season run, reminiscing about its host of memorable characters, and pondering where some of them may be one year later.
The final glimpse of Arya in Game of Thrones showed her sailing off toward adventure, determined to discover something no one else ever has: what is west of Westeros.
That gave Arya one of the most open-ended conclusions of any character in Thrones. She’s not locked down running a kingdom or patrolling the Wall—she’s free to do whatever she wants. Immediately, fans speculated about a potential spinoff series, which HBO just as quickly shot down. But what would Arya find to the west of Westeros? “No one knows,” Arya says in the series finale. “That’s where the maps stop. That’s where I’m going.”
Arya had her own adventure in Game of Thrones that led her across one body of water, but that one involved death, violence, and trauma. In this one, an adult Arya would have more agency over her travels, and would be better able to wield her unique curiosity, grit, and determination to explore not only the wider world, but herself. And there is still plenty to discover about both.
Despite HBO’s reluctance to continue Arya’s story, we can still think about what happens as she travels west. The maps may stop, but the world doesn’t. George R.R. Martin has confirmed that the planet Westeros is on is round, meaning that we can at least confirm that Arya won’t sail off a cliff. And given that in Martin’s universe, Westeros feels a bit like the United Kingdom and Europe and Essos feels like Asia, Arya may be heading for an unexpected landing on a continent that resembles the Americas. Or, the sea may wrap straight around to the eastern edge of Essos.
The Sunset Sea isn’t completely empty. Let’s start with what’s closest to Westeros: Islands like the Arbor, Bear Island, and the Iron Islands dot the western coast—but these are well-populated strongholds that are part of Westeros itself. Visiting them would hardly be considered exploring—and not the kind of adventure Arya is seeking. For that we have to go a bit farther out. The island furthest to the west that is still considered part of Westeros is called Lonely Light, and it’s an eight-day sail from the Iron Islands. It’s ruled by a family called the Farwynds, who are considered a group of weirdos even by Iron Islander standards. Just to give you an idea of what I mean: At the Kingsmoot in A Feast for Crows, Gylbert Farwynd practically got laughed off of the island by the same people that elected Euron Greyjoy.
But Lonely Light isn’t even the end of the known world. That would be a trio of small islands called Aegon, Rhaenys, and Visenya, located well to the south of Lonely Light—even more south than Westeros itself—but also far to the west, several weeks away from Oldtown. They were discovered only some 250 years before Arya’s voyage, and are uninhabited, but have fresh water and wildlife.
That gives Arya two conceivable paths to begin her journey: up north and through the Iron Islands or to the south and toward that group of uninhabited islands, which would likely allow her to get as far west as possible before being in truly uncharted waters. Going up north would mean interacting with Yara Greyjoy, and Arya didn’t exactly leave their last interaction on the best terms:
So let’s say Arya sticks to that southern route. It’d be a bit poetic for her to do so. While Arya says that “no one knows” what’s out there, she’s not quite correct. Arya is following in the footsteps—or, the wake, I guess—of Elissa Farman, who traveled west some two and a half centuries before Arya. Elissa was an adventurer who likely once possessed the three dragon eggs that eventually turned into Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion. It was she who discovered that trio of islands in the first place, after a terrible storm knocked them off course. And after finding those islands and continuing west, she was never seen again …
Unless she was! Some years later, fabled seafarer Corlys Velaryon said he spotted Elissa’s ship, Sun Chaser, at dock in Asshai. That would confirm that the planet can be circumnavigated—and would seemingly confirm that there is no Americas-like continent waiting for Arya, either.
But before Arya can follow up and find the far east, she has to deal with the Sunset Sea itself. It won’t be easy. There will be storms, of course, but also possibly encounters with krakens, leviathans, and even sea dragons. There is a reason no one has ever tried to do what Arya is attempting and returned to Westeros to tell the tale. But assuming Arya did make it through all that, she would presumably arrive at a place called Yi Ti, an advanced civilization that resembles ancient China. This is where the real meat of Arya’s adventures begin.
Yi Ti has endless treasures and mysteries for Arya. Supposedly, there are houses of solid gold. There are basilisks. There are enormous ancient fortresses. There’s a god-emperor who we know little about. There’s an exiled sorcerer who is trying to usurp the god-emperor. There’s a general who’s also trying to usurp the god-emperor. Of course, most of what Westeros knows about Yi Ti has likely been embellished. The tales told about that side of the world come via the longest game of telephone imaginable, carried along trade routes that span tens of thousands of miles. And they come from the mouths of untrustworthy narrators like Euron. But there is still so much for Arya to discover there.
And there’s so much that could go horribly wrong there. No one knows what a “Stark” is in Yi Ti—and it’s not even clear if the people there speak the common tongue. Think about how Daenerys’s travels went in the early seasons of Thrones before she’d truly built up her khalasar. Arya wouldn’t be quite as helpless—and she wouldn’t have anything as obviously valuable as three dragon hatchlings—but she almost certainly wouldn’t be welcomed with open arms.
Does she meet the god-emperor and find out he’s actually mostly powerless? Or the sorcerer? Does her crew fall into trouble? Does she? Whatever might befall her there—probably some combination of the above—the far more interesting development would be what might happen after Arya’s stop in Yi Ti.
Just as Season 1 of this imagined HBO series is wrapping up, Arya sees a woman with shining eyes beneath an ornate mask. The woman brushes Arya on the wrist, and Arya glimpses a familiar ruby-adorned necklace beneath the gaps in the woman’s mask. “I know who you are, Arya Stark,” the shadowbinder whispers. “And I know what it is that you truly seek. To find it, you must pass beneath the shadow.”
One year into her journey, Arya will arrive at Asshai by the Shadow, beginning the next chapter in her adventure—one that could uncover the still-unexplored mysteries of Quaithe, Melisandre, and perhaps even the adventurer Arya is unknowingly following: Elissa Farman.