Big GoT puzzle that still needs solving
It is the most important question left in Game Of Thrones, far more important than whether Jon Snow is a Stark or a Targaryen or whether he is even alive - who is the Azor Ahai?
The Azor Ahai is a theory that has been a major part of the George RR Martin book series but has somewhat flown under the radar in the TV show.
However, next week's pivotal episode will tell us who is the Azor Ahai - the hero with the power to kill the Night King.
Prepare for a spoiler-filled examination of the pivotal question for the final season of GoT.
At the moment our heroes have set a "trap" for the Night King. Bran is the bait and then they plan to use the dragons to roast him.
Obviously things won't be that simple. The Night King is either going to prove himself to be impervious to dragon fire or his undead dragon Viserion will protect him. Plan B is the Azor Ahai.
The fact they haven't asked: "Who is the Azor Ahai?" yet this season seems to be a serious omission. I put it down to the absence of Melisandre, which is itself a mystery.
She went off to Essos for a mysterious mission at the end of last season. Euron was able to sail to the east and back and Theon was able to sail to the Iron Islands and to Winterfell in this time and still there is no sign of the Red Witch.
She's been the one most obsessed with Azor Ahai. At first she thought it was Stannis (oops) then Jon. Missandei threw a spanner in the works last season by suggesting the title doesn't mean Prince That Was Promised but could be either Prince or Princess.
Basically it means they are a mythical hero reborn to defeat the Night King with a magical sword named Lightbringer. Only there's a bit of a catch. For Lightbringer to work, it needs to be plunged into the heart of Azor Ahai's true love, in order to meld their soul with the blade to create something powerful enough to strike down the Night King. Now that's a catch!
He also took 50 days and nights to make it, which suggests our heroes are going to have to take some serious shortcuts to get it ready in time, given the Night King is already here. Sure they have Gendry, a master smith to make the sword but can he forge a sword as faster as he ran across the northlands last season?
And will Melisandre arrive just in time to remind them about this option? Or will it be a job for Bran and Sam? Those two have just been sitting around for two episodes, when they could have been doing a bit more work to defeat the Night King.
In the books, Melisandre says: "When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amid smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone".
Like all prophecies, this is easily twisted to mean just about everything. So let's look at the three main options.
He's Melisandre's pick, which could rule him out right there. He was born beneath a bleeding star as his mother Lyanna Stark bled out while giving birth and beside her was Ser Arthur Dayne's sword, placed there by Ned Stark in Bran's vision. Dayne's sword was reputedly forged from the metal from a fallen star and was called Dawn. He's obviously been reborn, thanks to the efforts of Ser Davos (salt) and Melisandre (smoke - well, she's a fire witch anyway). And now we know he can ride dragons. So that's ticked off the little prophecy bits.
Then we have his brooding hero looks. It appears he has been set up as the man to save the day.
Also, there have been many hints early on, with the likes of Maester Aemon Targaryen telling him that his greatest test will be when the life of the one he loves is on the line. In other words, can he kill Dany to save the world?
Well, she was literally reborn under a red comet, when she burned Drogo and hatched her dragons (thus the smoke). She brought them to life from stone (the eggs). She was born on Dragonstone (full of salt water) and thus easily fulfilled the prophecy.
She does love Jon and she would be willing to do what it takes to save the world. It's also telling that she has seen the scar over his heart, almost like an aiming point. It would also make for greater drama having her as AA.
After all, in a sword fight, you would back Jon to take down the Night King. But Dany, for all her courage, has not trained with the sword. A lot more would be riding on a sword fight in that case. Could Brienne or Arya teach her a few tricks in time?
Thanks to the prophecy being nice and murky, just about anyone could be AA. One theory is it is Jaime Lannister, another that it is The Hound. The big sticking point with this theory is that you need a true love to complete the sword. You have a love triangle of sorts between Jaime, Tormund and Brienne, which puts them a little in the running. Although Tormund drinks so much, the AA he is associated with is more likely to be Alcoholics Anonymous than Azor Ahai. Well, there is Sam and Gilly of course but he's certainly an outside chance to be AA. Ser Jorah is in love with Dany but that's not reciprocated and so again could be crossed off. The Hound is another option but who is his true love? And we need him for Clegane Bowl against his evil brother. It could be a surprise - GoT loves surprises - but it really looks like being Jon or Dany.
Beric Dondarrion. He's not Azor Ahai but he does have the power to bring someone back from the dead. In the books he is already dead, having resurrected Catelyn Stark into Lady Stoneheart. So what will he do with this power? Well, if Jon or Dany is lying dead with a bloody great sword hole where their heart used to be, he could bring them back.
That would create an unusual ending, especially if he has brought Dany back to life. That would make both Jon and Dany effectively wights at that point, having been brought back from the dead.
So could they survive in the new world that will be created by the end of the Night King? Or is their time limited as well?
Or could they then use their new-found power to bring someone else back to life - perhaps their unborn child?
The speculation can get pretty wild from that point but it all starts with Azor Ahai. And while we might not see the defeat of the Night King in this next episode, we shall at least discover who is AA.
And everything will flow from there.