Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Game of Thrones season 7, episode 2
Only two episodes of Game of Thrones season 7 have aired but already the series is breaking ratings records and blowing audiences' minds. This past week's episode, "Stormborn", demonstrated just how fast the wheels are turning in Westeros, with more of its characters coming face to face than ever before.
For the recently arrived Daenerys, she's been meeting a lot of new faces - Ellaria Sand, Olenna Tyrell, and most recently, the red priestess, Melisandre. Her arrival, as Daenerys put it, came at a most auspicious time, but not just because it was an evening of forgiveness. With the Long Night fast approaching, the Lord of Light needs its champion, and Melisandre believes that Daenerys has a role to play in the war to come.
Melisandre has been around for a long time (an incredibly long time, given her true appearance) and she has devoted her life to finding the Lord of Light's champion - the prince that was promised, Azor Ahai reborn, a savior who will defend the world against the darkness. For much of Game of Thrones, Melisandre believed Stannis Baratheon was that champion, only for it to turn out she was dead wrong.
Then something truly miraculous happened - Melisandre resurrected Jon Snow. In that moment, her faith was renewed, believing that if someone must be the prince that was promised, then Jon's the best candidate yet. But having learned from past mistakes, she isn't proclaiming it across the land. She's playing it cool, only admitting to Ser Davos her belief that R'hollr brought Jon back for a reason. And when she arrives on Dragonstone, Melisandre still doesn't reveal the whole story, instead telling Daenerys of the prophecy of the promised prince (or princess, as Missendei correctly translates) but never admitting she believes it refers to Daenerys or anyone else. She only suggests that Daenerys should summon Jon - another she believes has a role to play in the war to come - and have him tell her all he's been through.
So what is Melisandre's angle here? Her comments to Davos suggest that she believes Jon is the prince that was promised, not Daenerys. But then the red priests and priestesses across the Narrow Sea seem to all believe that Daenerys is Azor Ahai come again, so who is right? They can't both be the Lord of Light's champion, can they? To try and make sense of all this talk of prophecy and saviors, we need to first go back to where it all began.
Who Was Azor Ahai?
Azor Ahai is a legendary hero who was able to defeat the darkness and bring an end to the Long Night. He accomplished this by forging a magnificent sword - Lightbringer. Not as easy a task as it sounds - Azor Ahai had to try three times to craft the sword. On the first attempt, Azor Ahai worked at it for thirty days and nights, but when he went to temper the steel in water, it shattered. On his second attempt, Azor Ahai worked for fifty days and nights, and when he went to temper the steel he drove it into the heart of a lion. But still, the sword broke into pieces.
On his third attempt, Azor Ahai worked at forging the sword for 100 days and nights. To temper it, he knew a greater offering was needed, so he called his wife, Nissa Nissa, to him and had her bare her breast. Azor Ahai then drove the sword into her heart at which point her soul fused with the steel, creating Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes. And it is with that sword that Azor Ahai defeated the darkness and led the world into a new dawn.
Sometime after these events, as Azor Ahai grew into legend, a prophecy emerged which predicted that when the world was again plunged into darkness there would be a second coming of Azor Ahai. This person is said to be the prince that was promised, that they would be born "amidst smoke and salt" and "wake dragons out of stone." The prophecy continues:
"There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him."
In the timelines of Game of Thrones, the world has just finished with its "long summer" and the "cold breath of darkness" is likely the coming winter. In season 2, a comet was seen the world over streaking across the sky, leaving a red trail as if the falling star was bleeding. So according to the prophecy, the time for Azor Ahai to be reborn is now, but prophecies can be tricky to interpret. As Melisandre cautions when she meets Daenerys, "prophecies are dangerous things."