It was once so unknown and out of the way, cartographers failed to include it on their world maps. But due to the global popularity of the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” the vast continent of Westeros has become a common dream destination for vacationers and exiles alike.
But if you’re thinking of booking passage to bask on the sunny beaches of Dorne or to climb pristine peaks of The Vale, or if you decide that you want to sample the lively culture and nightlife of King’s Landing with its infamous brothels, or if you are kidnapped by a wayward knight who is looking to cash in on an expected ransom…
Traveling The Seven Kingdoms will present dangers to your life and limb like no other place you’ve ever been. (It’s part of Westeros’s charm.)
So if, for whatever reason, you should find yourself traveling in Westeros, here are 20 helpful tips that will greatly improve your odds of getting out of The Seven Kingdoms alive.
20 – Avoid Weddings!
If you’ve received an invitation to a wedding taking place in The Seven Kingdoms, DO – NOT – GO! If asked to RSVP, make up any conceivable excuse that you can think of as to why you cannot attend. Lie, if you have to.
Westerosi weddings are deadly affairs. The newly arrived Dothraki believe that a wedding that doesn’t have at least three killings is a dull affair. A recent royal wedding saw the King spew blood and bile, dying a horrible death resulting from the cruelest of poisons, The Strangler. And at what became known as The Red Wedding, a groom was unceremoniously dragged from his bedding ritual and thrown in a dungeon while the rest of his family was being slaughtered in the reception hall.
Even if you were to survive the wedding, you’d have to deal with the sad knowledge that over half those newlyweds will be dead within the year. This makes buying an appropriate wedding gift a tricky proposition.
If you choose to disregard this tip and are attending a seemingly festive Seven Kingdoms wedding, should the house band strangely start playing the mournful tones of “The Rains of Castamere”, say your prayers! You’re a goner.
19 – Don’t Drink & Hunt Boar!
Drinking and boar hunting has always been dangerous. Yet, as is common in any society, it took someone famous being killed by this reckless behavior for it to be seen for the dangerous practice it is. Several years ago, the death-by-pig of the drunken King Robert Baratheon saw the risks of drinking and boar hunting being brought out in the open.
Drinking and boar hunting is not illegal in The Seven Kingdoms. (Drinking and doing anything is not illegal there.) But most reputable Westerosi hunting outfitters actively discourage the consumption of alcohol during boar hunts, practicing a “Drink Wine, No Swine” policy (which includes abstinence from all intoxicating drinks.)
So if you are inclined to go hunt some pigs, don’t make Robert Baratheon’s mistake. Stay sober!
And if the Lannisters have assigned a squire to attend to you on your boar hunting trip, then…
a) Decline any offered wine he may attempt to sneak to you
b) Realize Cersei Lannister is seeking to murder you
c) Try not to take this personally. Cersei Lannister seeks to murder just about everybody, and she is not always successful.
18 – Burn Your Dead!
If, while touring The Seven Kingdoms, your traveling companion happens to die on you, it is strongly advised that you burn your companion immediately.
That’s because, in The Seven Kingdoms, the dearly departed are no longer as ‘departed’ as they may first appear.
With tales of wights having long been dismissed as the stuff of timeworn myths, it turns out, having slumbered beneath the ice beyond The Wall for thousands of years, blue-eyed wights are quite real. In fact, now that a Long Winter has begun to settle in over The Kingdoms, the dead have begun rising at an alarming rate. And now that The Wall has fallen and its spells have been dispelled, an army of the dead marches upon the South. And with them rides the original White Walker, The Night King. Possessing the darkest of necromancer magic, The Night King can and will raise any dead man, woman, child, or giant left unburned so that they can join his growing army of wights.
So, make sure that your dead travel companion does not join their undead ranks. Burn them as soon as their last breath has been drawn.
17 – Stay Off Arya’s List!
If you should encounter Arya Stark, or any of the remaining Starks, for that matter, whatever you do, act honorably! The Starks are known for their honor. They’ve died for their honor. And now, Arya Stark is killing for their honor.
Trained in the Braavosi temple known as The House of Black and White, Arya has been schooled to serve the Many-Faced God as a Faceless Man – an assassin who changes faces more often than most of us change our undergarments. But having found the amoral Faceless assassin’s code to lack honor, Arya has returned to Westeros. And she has a list of names.
Once a name is added to Arya’s List, that person is not long for the known worlds. Not all of those on Arya’s List die by her hand. Sometimes, others murder them first. But whether killed by others, or by Arya herself, appearing on her list means certain death.
If, for any reason, you learn that your name is currently on Arya’s List, it may be worth noting… The Hound was once on Arya’s hit list, but she later removed his name. Mostly likely because he gave her a pony.
16 – Never Work For Littlefinger!
If working abroad is something you may be considering, be aware that in The Seven Kingdoms, labor laws are rather archaic and greatly favor the employer. And one employer for whom you definitely do not want to work is Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish.
Whether Littlefinger’s hirelings work as whores, assassins, or confederates in kidnapping plots, Baelish views them as “investments”. And he expects a good return. If the price is right, he has no problem in selling off a working girl to be tortured and killed. If having contracted a conspirator to nefariously smuggle a highborn maiden from the Red Keep, Baelish reserves the right to alter payment terms upon her delivery. — “Money buys a man’s silence for a time. A bolt in the heart buys it forever.”
Petyr Baelish didn’t rise from humble roots to great wealth by offering attractive benefit plans and generous retirement packages to his employees. In fact, there is no retiring from Littlefinger’s employ. There is only death, and usually, it’s a cruel one.
15 – Get Yourself A Direwolf!
There’s nothing like having a direwolf loping at your side to discourage any roadside reavers. Highly loyal to their masters, direwolves are larger and more intelligent than standard wolves. They are also very rare, with the Stark family recently finding the first direwolves south of The Wall in some 200 years.
So should you happen upon an unattended litter of direwolves, adopt one! Raise the pup yourself, and you will have a loyal, long-fanged bodyguard for life. They grow very quickly so even juvenile direwolves will offer you lethal protection.
Aside from offering their protection, there is an added benefit to having a direwolf to call your own… If you are out in the wilderness and short on food, they will even share their kills with you. To encourage this, it is advised that you also share your kills with them, allowing them to have a meal before you dispose of your victim(s)*. — *(see section on “Burn Your Dead”).
14 – If You Take Down The Mountain, Don’t Get Cocky!
If you should find yourself in combat with the massive Ser Gregor Clegane (aka “The Mountain”), here are few things worth knowing….
a) You’re having a bad day
b) You don’t stand a chance
c) On the off-chance you wound and get The Mountain down, whatever you do, DON’T GET COCKY!
That’s what Prince Oberyn Martell did when he felled The Mountain during Tyrion Lannister’s Trial by Combat. A regular whirling dervish armed with spear, “The Red Viper” mortally wounded the massive knight and had him at his mercy. But then, Oberyn began to taunt “The Mountain”. Demanding Clegane confess to a past crime spree, Oberyn’s overconfidence cost him most of his teeth, both of his eyes, and then his brain as it exploded from his skull, which The Mountain crushed with his bare hands.
So if faced off against The Mountain, stay humble, kept the insults to a minimum, and, for the sake of the Gods, if you get him down, finish him off immediately.
13 – Bend the Knee For The Mother of Dragons!
No one felt sorry for Lord Randyll Tarly when he met his fiery end. Here was a man who was as harsh a battle commander as he was a father, having threatened his oldest son with death if he did not renounce his birthright while saddling his second-born son with the name “Dickon.” But still, it was a terrible way to die – to have been incinerated by Drogon, the dragon favored by his mother, Daenerys Stormborn.
But all Randyll needed to do was to bend the knee, to swear fealty to this returning Queen, to have been spared.
So let that be your guide, should you ever encounter Daenerys and her two remaining dragons. If asked to bend the knee, bend deep! If you do, realize, you will not be enslaved, nor will you be forced to fight in her army. You will just be required to call Daenerys Targaryen your rightful Queen.
And if still unconvinced, talk to those defeated Tarly soldiers who quickly bent the knee when they saw Lord Tarly and his too-loyal son catch a blast of Drogon’s fiery breath. That was a father-son barbecue none will ever forget, though most will wish that they could.
12 – Never Work As The Hand of the King!
It’s a dirty job. As Jaime Lannister put it, “The King shits, and The Hand wipes.” Were you to ask any man who has served as The Hand of the King, they’d tell you, it’s the most stressful job in The Seven Kingdoms. But were you to ask a former Hand that question, you’d likely need to be communing with the dead. Over recent years, the King’s Hand Jon Arryn was poisoned. His successor, Ned Stark, lost his head. Next, Tyrion Lannister was sentenced to death by his successor father, Tywin, who Tyrion then turned around and offed with a crossbow bolt to the heart.
While serving as The Hand of the King is considered a great honor and bestows great power upon its officeholder, should you ever be asked to serve as the King’s Hand, find a way to respectfully decline the posting. Because while the job title may look good on your resume, it’s actually a terrible career move. The chances of a King’s Hand ever surviving the job are slim to none.
11 – Don’t Take A Shortcut Through The Ruins Of Valyria!
While abroad, it’s common that travelers book boating trips to see the sights or visit other nearby cities.
But never book a day trip to see Old Valyria. And if considering visiting one of the other Free Cities of nearby Essos, make sure your ship will not take a shortcut through the ruins of Valyria. This once-great city is to be avoided at all costs. It’s where those unfortunate souls afflicted by the dreaded Greyscale disease are sent to suffer, die, and to attack any foolish enough to sail The Smoking Sea.
A disease that first causes the skin to dry out and grow scaly, Greyscale quickly rots the mind as it consumes the bodies of those afflicted. Highly contagious, it can be caught on mere contact.
If, for any reason, you find yourself afflicted with Greyscale, immediately seek out Samwell Tarly, currently residing at Winterfell. Book an appointment for immediate treatment. Be warned: Treatment for Greyscale is not for the faint of heart, and you may want to bring a large supply of Milk of the Poppy with you. (Consider bringing a blindfold along as well. Because you just don’t want to see Greyscale being removed.)
10 – Never Face The Dothraki On An Open Field!
The vast plains of Essos have long been ruled by the Dothraki Horselords of the Great Grass Sea. Dothraki bloodriders are born on their horses; from infancy, are trained to fight from their horses; and they even make little Dothraki babies on their horses. Their cavalry army has no peers.
And, now, they ride the plains of Westeros.
Legendary battle commander Robert Baratheon once stated, “Only a fool would meet the Dothraki in an open field.” Another experienced general, Jaime Lannister, recently defeated by the Dothraki, reported, “They’ll beat any army I’ve ever seen. Killing our men wasn’t war for them. It was sport.”
That’s why it is strongly discouraged that you face the Dothraki in an open field.
If you are marching an army through the rural regions of The Kingdoms, or even if traveling alone, it is recommended you stay to the woods or mountain passes. Because should you find yourself out in the open and you hear thundering hooves and piercing war cries rising over the horizons, you’ve got a horde of Dothraki screamers bearing down on you. At that point, you will have but two options: Yield, and hope that they enslave you. Or die running.
09 – Don’t Kiss Dornish Women On The Mouth!
Former sellsword Ser Bronn of the Blackwater has been with women all over the Kingdoms. And he claims Dornish women are the most beautiful of all. Occasionally, he even sings of their beauty, “The Dornishman’s wife was as fair as the sun. Her kisses were warm as the spring!”
BUT BE ADVISED: The kiss of a Dornishwoman can also be lethal -– especially if delivered by one of the deadly Sand Snakes. Led by their mother, Ellaria Sand, the Sand Snakes are the bastard daughters of Prince Oberyn Martell, a master of exotic poisons. And they have learned well from their father, coating their weapons with the slow-acting toxin called “The Long Farewell,” deadly on mere contact of their victim’s skin — or their lips, as was the case when Ellaria Martell kissed young Myrcella Lannister goodbye as she set sail from Dorne. Young Myrcella never saw land again.
Lipstick has proven an effective way to transfer this poison, so don’t allow yourself to be seduced! Because these deadly Dornish beauties have no qualms about giving their victims “The Long Farewell”, then bending them to their will as they dangle the antidote before them.
08 – Decline Invitations to Stannis Baratheon’s Family Reunion!
If Stannis Baratheon requests your presence at a Baratheon family reunion, be advised, it will not be a pleasant day at the beach, enjoying good food and good times.
If you were to attend, you will be asked to convert and pledge your soul to The Lord of the Light. If you decline to do so, Stannis will have you burned at the stake as he did with his brother-by-law and other followers.
But even if you do accept The Lord of Light as being the one and true god, if he believes you to be a blood relative, Stannis will still have you burned at the stake.
Having been led to believe that he is The Lord of Light’s prophesized savior king, Stannis Baratheon has taken to burning any person (or leech) that carries his “king’s blood” as a sacrifice to his newly adopted God. Several of his family members, including his only child, Princess Shireen, have been sentenced to that fiery fate.
So should you receive an invite to a Baratheon family gathering, avoid attending at all costs. Deny that you are family. Forge adoption parchments, if you have to!
07 – Avoid the Streets of Braavos If The Faceless Men Want You Dead!
If you’ve chosen to voyage across The Narrow Sea to visit the free city of Braavos, it is advisable that you avoid contact with The Faceless Men. These assassins-for-hire serve The Many-Faced God, whose death pronouncements can be bought for a bag of silver.
Not all Faceless Men are men, actually. As Arya Stark discovered, some of the most relentless faceless assassins are nameless women such as The Waif. And, as Arya quickly learned, once you have a willful killer like The Waif on your tail, you’re just not going to shake her. The Waif will just keep coming, and coming, her relentless pursuit never lagging. (This is a gal who has kept up her gym membership.)
So should you find yourself racing through the streets of Braavos with The Waif on your tail, don’t bother trying to outrun her. You won’t. Instead, make sure you have a trap set up, a sharp blade readily available, and hope that the pointy end of your sword finds The Waif. Failure to prepare and spring this successful trap will see your face decorating the walls of The House of Black and White.
06 – Pay The Corking Fee!
In Westeros, wine flows quite freely. And you’ll likely want to sample some its finer vintages. But be aware, death-by-wine is a leading contributor to The Seven Kingdom’s shockingly high mortality rate.
So when visiting one of Westeros’s many taverns, eateries, or even receptions, always bring your own wine. If they charge a corking fee, pay it. Because drinking wine offered from unknown sources may see you pay with your life.
Poisoned wine has become a leading cause of death in The Seven Kingdoms. In recent years, two kings and all the men in House Frey have consumed wine offered by others, and none were alive to suffer a hangover.
So, if wine is your fancy, be it an imported Essos Blackberry, a Dornish or Arbor Red, or a luxurious Arbor Gold, always make sure you are buying from a reputable wine merchant. And have him sample it before you have a taste.
If supplying your own wine at an event, never leave your flagon unattended.
Better yet, abstain!
05 – Don’t Seek To Convert Cersei!
The Seven Kingdoms are awash in gods and religions, with its citizens worshipping the old gods as well as the new gods such as The Seven, The Drowned God, and even the recently imported Lord of Light.
So if you’re a dedicated believer in any religion, you may be tempted to travel to Westeros, hoping to bring converts to the light that your particular god offers.
If so, whatever you do, do NOT knock on the front door of The Red Keep. Because Cersei may answer. And though the most zealous of missionaries may see converting Cersei Lannister as a great and worthy challenge, attempting that conversion will be the doom of not just yourself, but of your entire faith. The last holy man who sought to bring Cersei into his fold to embrace the laws of The Seven went up in a green blaze of explosive wildfire that blew the massive Sept of Baelor halfway into The Blackwater Bay.
So, evangelize at your risk. And while there may be potential converts waiting to hear from you throughout The Kingdoms, don’t expect one of them to be Cersei Lannister. You’d stand a better chance of converting The Devil.
04 – Befriend Brienne!
Should your path through The Seven Kingdoms cross with the path of a freakishly tall, blonde woman dressed in armor, that’s Brienne of Tarth. Make Brienne your friend! Get on her good side! She’s a highly honorable warrior who has few rivals when swords start swinging – and her sword is made of Valyrian steel. (She’s even defeated The Hound.) Not only is Brienne always willing to fight for those whom she respects, she is relentless in avenging wrongs inflicted upon those whom she serves.
If at all possible, see if you can get Brienne to swear her fealty to you. (She likes doing that.) If Brienne kneels, laying her sword, Oathkeeper, at your feet, and pledges her loyalty, here’s what you say back…
— “I vow that you shall always have a place by my hearth and meat and mead at my table, and pledge to ask no service of you that might bring you into dishonor. I swear it by the old gods and the new. Arise.” —
Do that, and your chances of getting out of The Seven Kingdoms alive will double.
03 – Have The Raven Address To A Red Priest Handy!
The following is not so much a “survival” tip; it’s a “revival” tip. As in, once killed, it is now possible that you be raised from the dead. But you will need to know a Red Priest, and make sure they attempt to raise you shortly upon your death.
Several believers from Red Temples of Essos have been sent to Westeros on a quest to bring new followers to R’hllor, The Lord of Light. And two such red-robed missionaries have recently raised slain men from the dead. Thoros of Myr raised his commander Beric Dondarrion six times, while the Red Priestess, Melisandre, surprised even herself by bringing Jon Snow back from the dead.
Now, should you be murdered or fall in battle, there is no guarantee that you will be resurrected (you need to be one of the Lord’s choosing). But wherever you are in Westeros, it is still recommended that you know the whereabouts of the nearest Red Priest. Have their raven address, and carry it on your person, with a request that they be summoned upon your death. It’s worth a try. After all, what will you have to lose?
02 – Never Deny The Hound A Chicken!
If dining in any of The Seven Kingdoms’ countless eateries, should a tall brute of a man with a melted face happen to show up, demanding you give him your chicken, pass over your poultry without hesitation. This is Sandor Clegane, The Hound — and he really likes his chicken. Offer any protests about surrendering your plate, and he’ll demand two chickens. Complain some more, like kingsman Polliver once did, and The Hound will inform you, “…if any more words come pouring out of your cunt mouth, I’m gonna eat every chicken in this room.” Polliver and his fellow kingsmen made the mistake of denying The Hound their chicken, and they paid for that with their lives.
So if supping out in an area where The Hound is rumored to prowl, keep this in mind when choosing from the menu. If you do order a chicken, realize that you may find yourself either surrendering your plate to a hungry Sandor Clegane or dying while defending it.
This is why, when The Hound is about, most Westerosi restaurant-goers order sausage, or kidney pie, or roast boar, or anything BUT chicken.
01 – Don’t Crown Yourself King!
If you heed but one tip from this survival guide, heed this one! Under NO circumstances crown yourself King.
Throughout Westerosi history, kingly coronations are almost always condemnations to death. This has proven especially true in modern Westerosi history. When King Robert was killed, his murder led to The War of the Five Kings. Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy, and Reny and Stannis Baratheon all declared themselves kings. Within just a couple years, all those crown-bearers were dead, and none died of natural causes.
King Joffrey’s murder saw sweet Tommen assume the Iron Throne, and he ended up jumping out of a Red Keep window within a year on the job. In Westeros, the expected lifespan of a newly crowned kings is now counted in months, not years.
So should you have an army at your disposal and you have the desire to rule over the smallfolk, find yourself some out-of-the-way castle, take it, and declare yourself Lord or Lady of the House. But never march on the capital, and let no man ever place a crown upon your head. Because if you do, your head may soon be decorating the walls of The Red Keep.