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The Price of Magic

Updated on June 15, 2015

Melisandre strikes again

The most recent episode of Game of Throne's Season 5 "Mother's Mercy" has left more deaths in its wake, namely Stannis Baratheon, Ser Meryen Trant, and Jon Snow (allegedly). We all expected some pretty heartbreaking deaths and fans of the show and the books were not disappointed, although most people seem to be more interested in seeing Lena Headey naked; personally I didn't find anything enjoyable about her penance walk beyond the satisfaction of seeing a horrible woman get a taste of her own poison.

However, the effect of one central character continues to weigh on me as the chief navigation force behind all the destruction in Westeros and the rest of the Game of Thrones world: Melisandre, the Red Woman.

Through her use of magic, she has both endeared herself to royalty and made a great many enemies, particularly with Stannis's court, gaining a reputation for great power and insight, as well as delusions of grandeur on a scale so grand it's not even pitiful, just insane. Personally, I consider her to be one of the greatest liabilities, not mention the most destructive force in the Game of Thrones world, to Westeros.

Melisandre, the Priestess of R'hllor sent to Stannis to turn him to the Lord of Light. However, she saw him as more than just another wayward royal and anointed him as the Lord's chosen champion, bestowing on him both the right to rule Westeros and save the world, or so she thought. However, her certainty in her own interpretation of ancient and modern prophecies resulted in an extremely clouded judgement. Believing the Lord of Light had chosen her as his conduit to his supposed champion, she shunned the interpretations and criticisms of others and disregarded all council, even to her own jeopardy.

After Stannis declared himself King, Melisandre accompanied him on his quest and helped him to destroy his brother Renly Baratheon using a magical phantom. This had the immediate side-effect of the Tyrells breaking from Renly's camp and joining the Lannisters. An overconfident Stannis led his armies into a trap set by Tyrion Lannister and exploited by his father Tywin, which ultimately cost him the chance to take the Iron Throne. She later used more blood magic to execute the remaining declared kings, Robb Stark and Joffrey Baratheon, in Seasons 3 and 4. Again, this had unanticipated problems, each king being replaced by someone more ruthless and dangerous to the Realm and setting in motion events which continued to weaken it's structure from within. In Season 5, Cersei was left to rule the Seven Kingdoms in her son Tommen's name and Tywin was killed by his own son Tyrion. Based on a prophecy by Mesiandre, Stannis then launched an attack on Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, who was in the process of making a deal with Jon Snow for safe passage across the wall. With the Wildlings scattered to the wind, the White Walkers then took the opportunity to increase the size of their army by slaughtering the tens of thousands that took refuge at Hardhome. And most recently, in the episode "A Dance with Dragons", Melisandre convinced Stannis to burn his own daughter, Shireen Baratheon, as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light in exchange for melting the snow enough for her king to attack Winterfell and defeat the Boltons. Again, this presented unintended consequences in the form of half of Stannis's men deserting him and his wife Selyse hanging herself. Not taking into account the culture of the person she was burning to a god none but herself and Stannis believed in was a gross oversight.

Starting to see a pattern here? As the witch said to Daenerys: All magic has a price.

So why does misfortune seem to follow this woman around? Melisandre's interpretation of both her own prophecies and the ancient ones has been more metaphorical than literal. She believed that because Stannis was "reborn in the Lord's Light" that it meant he was "born amidst salt and smoke", so he could fulfill the prophecy, take the Iron Throne, and save the Realm. However, new evidence, and coincidentally Stannis's death in the episode "Mother's Mercy" destroys this interpretation entirely. Even Melisandre seems to have realized her mistake, albeit too late for her champion and his army.

There is only one person in the whole of their universe that has fulfilled the prophecy to the letter: Daenerys Targaryen. She was quite literally born amidst salt and smoke when a battle raged on the seas around Dragonstone during a great storm. She hatched dragons from their fossilized stone eggs and walked through fire without being burnt, which Melisandre would have known had she bothered to keep in touch with the home office. Instead, she's running around saying spells and performing blood magic at an enormous cost and taking the kingdoms down with foolishness. It is something of a miracle she hasn't been excommunicated from her order. Then again, her background as a prostitute might be an indication of why she's stayed in the Red Temple's good graces for so long, not that I'm suggesting anything.

So now that Season 5 is over and Season 6 is fast approaching, what's next for our favorite Fire Priestess? Well, she may raise Jon Snow from death, but beyond that I have no idea. Her purpose for being in Westeros is dead, quite literally, she has no real contacts and is surrounded by people who hate and fear her. If I had to venture a guess, Ser Davos Seaworth will learn of her actions and put her on the chopping block. My advice would be for her to get out of town as quickly as possible.


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