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Who is Alys Rivers? Why she might play a major role in House of the Dragon

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In House of the Dragon season 2, we’ll meet many new faces, including some from noble families and others who aren’t. Alys Rivers is one such character, born a bastard of a noble house.

Besides the dragons we have seen, magic hasn’t been a big part of the show yet. But with Alys, that could change.

She is like Melisandre from Game of Thrones, a proficient magic user. George R.R. Martin wrote about Alys in his book Fire and Blood. This article will explain everything we know about Alys Rivers.

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Who is Alys Rivers?

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Alys Rivers is a sorceress who becomes the mistress of Aemond Targaryen, the second son of King Viserys I Targaryen. She is an influential figure during the Dance of the Dragons. Her magical abilities and relationship with Aemond make her a key player in the power struggles and conflicts during the Civil War.

Alys Rivers claims to be Lord Lyonel Strong’s bastard daughter, though she is never formally acknowledged as such. The books written by Grand Maesters Munken and Eustace tell us that Lord Lyonel Strong sired Alys “in his callow youth.”

This would make her a natural half-sister to Lyonel’s sons, Harwin Breakbones and Larys the Clubfoot. However, Mushroom, the court fool of King’s Landing, insists that Alys is much older.

He claims she was a wet nurse to both Strong boys, perhaps even to their father, a generation earlier.

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Who plays Alys Rivers in House of the Dragon?

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Credits: Netflix

Gayle Rankin, a Scottish actress, will play Alys Rivers in House of the Dragon. Rankin gained prominence for portraying Sheila in the Netflix series GLOW (2017–2019) and Emily Dodson in the HBO series Perry Mason (2020). Her film credits include The Greatest Showman (2017), Her Smell (2018), Blow the Man Down, and The Climb (both 2019).

Born in Paisley and raised in Eaglesham and Kilmaurs, Rankin attended Mearns Castle High School before completing her sixth form at Knightswood Secondary School’s Dance School of Scotland. At 17, she earned a scholarship to study at the Juilliard School in New York City, becoming its first Scottish student. She also received an international fellowship to study in Sydney, Australia.

Rankin made her acting debut in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2012. She gained widespread recognition for her role as Sheila in GLOW, a character known as Sheila the She-Wolf. The series premiered on Netflix in 2017 and was renewed for a third season in 2019.

In addition to her television work, Rankin has appeared in various films. She starred in The Meyerowitz Stories (2017) directed by Noah Baumbach and The Greatest Showman (2017) alongside Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams.

In 2020, Rankin portrayed Emily Dodson in Perry Mason, a role that showcased her versatility as an actress. Rankin has also showcased her talent on Broadway, starring in the 2014 revival of Cabaret as Fräulein Kost. She is set to star as Sally Bowles in the 2024 revival alongside Eddie Redmayne.

Alys Rivers during the Dance of the Dragons

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Credits: Aleksandra Skiba

Alys Rivers, despite being around forty, looked younger during the Dance of the Dragons. When Prince Daemon Targaryen attacked Harrenhal, she was the only survivor. She stayed at Harrenhal even when Prince Aemond Targaryen took over the castle and killed many people. After the Greens regained control of Harrenhal, Aemond spared Alys’s life and kept her as a companion.

People say Alys was a sorceress who used potions to charm Ser Criston Cole and Aemond. Later, Lady Sabitha Frey found Alys at Harrenhal, claiming to be carrying Aemond’s child. Aemond believed Alys had special powers to see the future, so he asked for her help to find Prince Daemon.

Before Aemond fought Daemon during the Battle Above the God’s Eye, he kissed Alys goodbye. Alys stayed at Harrenhal and watched the final battle between Aemond and Daemon. Both Aemond and Daemon died in the fight.

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What happened to Alys Rivers after the Targaryen civil war?

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Credits: Fkaluis

After the war, Larys Strong, Lord of Harrenhal, was executed during the Hour of the Wolf. Aegon III Targaryen ascended the throne after the death of Aegon II.

During the regency of Aegon III, Harrenhal became a gathering place for outlaws and broken men under ‘the influence of a sorceress.’ Ser Regis Groves and Ser Damon Darry, with a hundred men, were tasked with reclaiming the castle by Ser Tyland Lannister, Hand of the King.

The alleged sorceress turned out to be Alys herself. She claimed to be the widow of Prince Aemond Targaryen and presented a young boy as their legitimate son, challenging Aegon III’s claim to the throne.

After insulting Alys, Ser Regis died suddenly. Conflicting reports surround his death. Many believe Alys used magic to kill him, whereas others claim crossbowmen killed him. Alys’s forces overpowered the loyalists, with Ser Damon leading survivors back to Castle Darry.

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The next day, Alys sent a captured loyalist as a messenger to Darry, who said all the men had been tortured and killed. He claimed Alys had placed a lethal curse on him and that he would die if anyone laughed at his story. He warned that anyone approaching Harrenhal without submitting would die and claimed to have seen a dragon within the castle’s walls. Despite everything, an onlooker laughed at the story, and the messenger choked to death, allegedly with the marks of a woman’s fingers on his throat.

In King’s Landing, Tyland Lannister was troubled by Regis’s death, but Lord Unwin Peake dismissed Damon’s claims of magic and dragons. The regents decided to gather a more significant force to retake Harrenhal, but the Winter Fever disrupted their plans. Lord Tyland passed away from the Winter Fever, and the fate of Alys Rivers is unknown.

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A dedicated writer, enamored with comic books and television shows. Also interested in animation and art, seeking inspiration and fostering creativity. Deeply invested in the medium of storytelling and narrative fiction.

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