Nothing can stop the White Walkers. "Our enemy doesn't tire," Jon Snow says in the trailer for the final season of Game Of Thrones. "Doesn't stop, doesn't feel." But that's not quite true; there is one thing that can stop them. Who has Valyrian steel on Game Of Thrones? This valuable and rare weapon is the only man-made substance that can kill the White Walkers, so it's important to take a close accounting of which characters are in possession of it heading into Season 8.
Samwell Tarly found out in Season 3 that dragonglass (aka obsidian), a natural substance that can be mined from places like Dragonstone, is capable of killing a White Walker, when he stabbed one in the back with a dragonglass dagger. But it wasn't until Season 5's battle at Hardhome that the show confirmed what George R.R. Martin's readers have long suspected: Valyrian steel can also destroy the terrifying creatures.
Before the Doom of Valyria, the blacksmiths of the ancient city discovered a way to work metal that resulted in swords that were lighter and sharper than normal steel. Perhaps this process involved magic, perhaps it involved dragons; no one will ever know, because the secret of making Valyrian steel was lost when Old Valyria sank into the sea, along with all the dragonriders except the Targaryens. While a few expert smiths remain who can re-work old Valyrian steel (including Gendry's old master, Tobho Mott), no one in Westeros or Essos can create new Valyrian steel swords, making them exceedingly valuable, sought after for centuries by Westeros' most powerful families.
In Martin's books, only a dozen Valyrian steel swords ever existed in Westeros, some of which have since been lost to history. (The number increased to 13 after the Stark ancestral sword Ice was melted down and re-forged into two new swords). Which of these 13 swords remain, and where are they now? Let's take an inventory.
1. Jon Snow: Longclaw
Of course, the Valyrian steel sword viewers will be most familiar with is Jon's blade, Longclaw, with which he killed his first White Walker at Hardhome. The sword was gifted to him by the former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Jeor Mormont, who had the pommel refashioned from a bear (his house's sigil) into a white wolf. The sword had belonged to House Mormont for centuries, and would have passed to Jeor's son Jorah, had Jorah not disgraced himself by selling slaves. Fortunately, Jorah had enough honor to leave the sword behind when he fled Westeros into exile. Jon offered to give Longclaw back to Jorah when they ventured beyond the Wall together in Season 7, but Jorah declined.
2. Brienne of Tarth: Oathkeeper
After Eddard Stark was arrested for treason, Ice — the ancestral sword of House Stark — was confiscated and given to the King's Justice, Ilyn Payne. In a stroke of irony, it was with Ned's very own blade that the executioner cut off the Stark patriarch's head. Later, Tywin Lannister had the "absurdly large" sword melted down and re-forged into two new ones. The larger of the two he gave to his son, Jaime… who immediately re-gifted it to Brienne, making her pledge to use it to protect Catelyn Stark's daughters. Brienne accepted the gift and the pledge, naming the sword Oathkeeper. She offered to give Oathkeeper back to Jaime after she had fulfilled her vow in Season 6, but (like Jorah) Jaime declined.
3. Jaime Lannister: Widow's Wail
The second and smaller of the blades forged from Ice was presented by Tywin to his grandson Joffrey on his wedding day. Taking suggestions from the crowd, the young king decided to name the sword Widow's Wail. Although the sword went unseen for several seasons after Joffrey's death, it was revealed in Season 7 that Jaime has taken to carrying his dead son's blade. Olenna Tyrell pointedly asked if Jaime intended to execute her with it when the Lannister forces took Highgarden. (He poisoned her instead.)
4. Samwell Tarly: Heartsbane
When Sam stopped by his family home, Horn Hill, with Gilly on his way to Oldtown, viewers learned that the Tarlys are in possession of a Valyrian steel sword, Heartsbane. Disdainful of Sam's sensitive nature, his cruel father Randyl banished his first-born to the Night's Watch so his second son, Dickon, could inherit his sword and titles instead. But, knowing its importance, Sam stole Heartsbane on his way out of Horn Hill — and both Randyl and Dickon were burnt alive by Daenerys soon after, anyway. (Spoiler alert!) Keen-eyed fans have noticed a quick shot in the Season 8 trailer that reveals Sam will apparently give Heartsbane to his old pal Jorah, who he cured of greyscale in Season 7.
5. Arya Stark: Catspaw Dagger
Way back in Season 1, eyebrows were raised when it was noticed that the assassin sent to kill Bran had been armed with a Valyrian steel dagger. Littlefinger told Ned and Catelyn the dagger was his, but he'd lost it to Tyrion Lannister in a bet. (This led to Catelyn kidnapping Tyrion and accusing him of the attempted murder, kickstarting the War of the Five Kings.) Ned carried the dagger for most of Season 1, but when Littlefinger betrayed him in the throne room, he pulled his old dagger from Ned's belt and held it against the Hand's throat. Six seasons later, the dagger resurfaced again when Littlefinger gave it to Bran, attempting to curry favor with the Stark boy. Bran then immediately re-gifted it to Arya… who ended up slitting Littlefinger's throat with it in the Season 7 finale.
(Note: this dagger is not one of the 13 swords in the official tally of Valyrian steel in Westeros.)
6. Other Swords In Westeros
That's four swords and one dagger accounted for. What about the other nine swords? In the books, there are five more currently floating around Westeros: Lady Forlorn, belonging to Ser Lyn Corbray of House Corbray of the Vale; Nightfall, belonging to Ser Harras Harlaw of House Harlaw of the Iron Islands; Red Rain, belonging to Lord Dunstan Drumm of House Drumm, also of the Iron Islands (believed to be the ancestral sword of House Reyne, the family that was infamously wiped out by the Lannisters); Orphan-Maker, belonging to House Roxton of the Reach; and Vigilance, belonging to House Hightower, the lords of Oldtown.
Will any of these swords make an appearance in Season 8? Given that Houses Harlaw, Drumm, and Roxton have never been mentioned on the show, the inclusion of Nightfall, Red Rain, or Orphan-Maker seems unlikely. One member of House Hightower has played an unseen role on the series: Lady Lynesse Hightower is the estranged wife of Jorah Mormont, whose extravagant lifestyle led her husband to sell slaves, resulting in his exile. But expecting her to show up in the final season wielding Vigilance is probably a bit of a stretch.
However, one member of House Corbray has appeared on Game Of Thrones: Vance Corbray, who participated in the inquest into Lysa Arryn's death in Season 4, alongside Lord Yohn Royce and Lady Anya Waynwood. While it's unlikely this minor character will return, perhaps his family's sword could end up in the hands of another, more familiar character from the Vale? Might young Lord Robin Arryn turn up in the final season, having grown into a fearsome fighter, and bearing Lady Forlorn on his hip? Stranger things have happened…
7. Lost Swords
That still leaves four swords unaccounted for. Speaking of the aforementioned Lord Yohn Royce, his family used to have their own Valyrian steel sword, Lamentation, although it was lost when Ser Willum Royce carried it into the Storming of the Dragonpit during the Dance of Dragons and was killed in the bloodbath.
Another of the lost blades is Brightroar, which was the ancestral sword of House Lannister — but it was lost to them even before Aegon's Conquest, when King of the Rock Tommen II Lannister sailed to the ruins of Old Valyria with the sword at his side and was never heard from again. The fact that the Lannisters didn't have a Valyrian steel sword was a constant annoyance to Tywin, whose many offers over the years to buy one from other families were constantly rebuffed. He finally got his wish when he confiscated Ice from Ned Stark and turned it into not one but two swords for his family: Oathkeeper and Widow's Wail.
Then there is Dark Sister, the sword that once belonged to Visenya Targaryen, the wife and sister of Aegon the Conqueror. It was passed down to various members of her family over the years, but its last-known possessor was a Targaryen bastard named Brynden Rivers, also known as Lord Bloodraven. He served as Hand to two kings before joining the Night's Watch and rising to the post of Lord Commander. However, the Bloodraven disappeared (along with Dark Sister) while on a ranging north of the Wall and was never seen again… until Bran met him in a cave, now going by the title of the Three-Eyed Raven.
Finally there's Blackfyre, the legendary sword of Aegon the Conqueror; it was wielded by every Targaryen king until Aegon IV, who gave it to his bastard son Daemon, who also took Blackfyre as his last name. When he tried to claim the throne for himself, it led to a series of conflicts known as the Blackfyre rebellions. The current whereabouts of the sword are unknown, although the exiled descendants of Daemon Blackfyre eventually founded the group of mercenaries known as the Golden Company… which Cersei just sent Euron Greyjoy to hire at the end of Season 7.
Given that the Dragonpit, Old Valyria, the Three-Eyed Raven, and the Golden Company are all prominent figures in Game Of Thrones, it's possible any of these swords could show up in Season 8. Might someone find Lamentation in the ruins of the Dragonpit, where the armistice took place in the Season 7 finale? Could Daario return to Daenerys' side, having traveled through Old Valyria on his way from Meereen and picked up Brightroar on his way? Is it possible that the Three-Eyed Raven gifted Dark Sister to Bran at some point during their time together, to be revealed at a critical point in the final season? Could Euron return from Essos to present Cersei with both the Golden Company — and Blackfyre, a Valyrian steel sword to call her own?
8. More Noteworthy Swords
There are a couple of other swords of legend that deserve a mention here. One of the most famous swords in Westeros is Dawn, the ancestral blade of House Dayne, whose wielder is always referred to as the Sword of the Morning. While it's not made of Valyrian steel, it is forged from the heart of a falling star. Could that rare substance prove to be equally effective against White Walkers as dragon-forged steel? If so, where's the sword now?
Dawn famously figured into the events at the Tower of Joy, since Ser Arthur Dayne was one of the two members of the Kingsguard stationed there to protect Rhaegar Targaryen's and Lyanna Stark's newborn son and heir to the Iron Throne, Aegon (aka Jon Snow). After slaying Arthur Dayne in combat, Ned supposedly returned Dawn to the knight's sister, Ashara Dayne, in Dorne. (The idea that Jon is the bastard son of Ned and the beautiful, grieving Ashara is a popular theory amongst the citizens of Westeros.) But could Ned actually have kept the sword? And if so, could it be buried with Lyanna in the crypts of Winterfell as proof of Jon's true lineage?
Finally there's Lightbringer, the sword of the fabled warrior Azor Ahai, who used his flaming Red Sword of Heroes to defeat the Great Other during the Long Night. He had to try three times to forge his great blade: the first time, it shattered when he tempered the hot steel in water; the second time, it shattered when he tempered it by thrusting it into the heart of a lion; the third time, he succeeded when he plunged the blade into the heart of his beloved wife, Nissa Nissa, sacrificing his love in order to fulfill his destiny.
The Red Priests and Priestesses of R'hllor prophecy that Azor Ahai will return one day as the Prince (or Princess) That Was Promised. Melisandre originally thought that hero was Stannis; now she believes it's the resurrected Jon Snow; or maybe it's Daenerys. Fan theories about the hero's identity include everyone from Jaime Lannister to Sandor Clegane to Beric Dondarrion. Who will turn out to be Azor Ahai born again? And which sword will turn out to be Lightbringer? Will it be Longclaw? The lost blade Blackfyre? Or the aptly-named Dawn? Will the two halves of Ice have to be reunited in order to kill the Night King?
There are only six episodes of Game Of Thrones left in which to answer all these questions and more. Don't miss a moment when the eighth and final season premieres on Sunday, April 14.