Wildfire is a volatile, flammable liquid which can burn for a long time once set on fire. It is created by the Alchemists' Guild, who refer to it as the substance, and keep its recipe a close-guarded secret. Wildfire has a green flame when it burns. Wildfire is said to be a close cousin to dragonflame. Wildfire is sometimes called "pyromancer's piss", "alchemist's piss", or "the jade demon".
Appearance and characteristics
Wildfire is a murky green liquid. Once set aflame, the wildfire will burn with dark, emerald and jade green flames. Cold will thicken liquid wildfire, but heating it will make the liquid flow.
Wildfire is considered a treacherous substance. The pyromancers claim the only things that burn hotter than wildfire are dragonflame, the fires beneath the earth, and the summer sun. Wildfire cannot be quenched by water, but can be smothered by sand. Once it takes fire, it will burn until it is exhausted, and in large amounts, beyond the control of men. Even a thin layer of wildfire will burn for an hour. Wildfire can burn on water, and it seeps into most materials, like cloth, wood, leather, and steel, which will then go up in flames. Clay pottery jars are used to contain wildfire, but it eventually seeps into that material as well.
Aging impacts the characteristics of wildfire. While it is implied that new wildfire can still somewhat be controlled, as claimed by the alchemists, old wildfire is "fickle"; any flame or spark can set it off. Too much heat—such as being exposed to sunlight for even a short time—could cause a jar to take fire on its own. Once the fire begins within the jar, the heat will make the liquid wildfire expand violently. Jars of such aged wildfire, if stored together, will go off in a chain reaction. Older jars of wildfire are transported from place to place only by night, in carts filled with sand to lessen any jostling, and then sealed in wax and placed in rooms pumped full of water.
Making wildfire is a lengthy, dangerous, and time-consuming process known only to the Alchemists' Guild, who claim it involves magic. According to Wisdom Pollitor, the spells used for making wildfire are presently not as effectual as they once were, due to the extinction of the dragons and the effect this has on the strength of magic.
Though in ancient times, pyromancers helped found the Citadel in Oldtown, today the Guildhall of the Alchemists is located in King's Landing, on the Street of the Sisters, close to Visenya's Hill. The Gallery of the Iron Torches is the receiving area for guests. It is a long chamber, with black metal columns holding iron torches lit with columns of wildfire. The walls and floor of polished black marble allow the flames to reflect on their surface, and bathe the hall in green radiance. Nevertheless, the torches are rarely lit except for important guests, and extinguished as soon as the guests leave, as wildfire is too costly to waste.
Wildfire is prepared by trained acolytes in bare stone cells in the Guildhall. They place the wildfire in small jars of pottery, the clay roughened and pebbled to improve grip. During the days of King Aerys II Targaryen, jars shaped in the form of fruits were used. Once a jar is filled, an apprentice removes it from the stone cell and brings it down to the long, dank vaults. Above the work cells are rooms filled with sand. If a mishap causes the wildfire to burn in one of the work cells, a "protective spell" will cause the ceiling to collapse, allowing the sand to immediately extinguish the blaze.
In 174 AC, King Aegon IV Targaryen tried to conquer Dorne, using seven wooden "dragons", siege engines created by the pyromancers, fitted with pumps that shot jets of wildfire. The attempt was a complete failure, as these "dragons" went up in flames in the kingswood en route to Dorne. Hundreds of men died, a quarter of the kingswood burned, and Aegon never spoke of Dorne again.
During the Great Spring Sickness (209–210 AC), so many in King's Landing died so quickly that there was no time to bury them, and the bodies were placed in the Dragonpit. When the corpse piles reached ten feet deep, the Hand of the King, Lord Brynden Rivers, commanded the pyromancers to burn them with wildfire. The light of the fires shone through the windows of the Dragonpit, making it look like it did when dragons lived there. At night, the green glow of wildfire could be seen throughout the city. A quarter of the city went up in flames along with the corpses, but there was nothing else to be done.
By the end of his reign, King Aerys II Targaryen became fascinated with wildfire. The pyromancers became a regular fixture at court. By 280 AC, Aerys was executing traitors, murderers, and plotters by burning, rather than hanging or beheading them. In 282 AC, when King's Landing was struck by a massive blizzard, Aerys charged his pyromancers to drive off winter with their magic. Huge amounts of wildfire burned along the walls of the Red Keep for a month.
After the defeat of the royal army at the Battle of the Bells in 283 AC, Aerys realized that Robert Baratheon was the greatest threat to his rule and to all of House Targaryen. Aerys commanded his pyromancers to place caches of wildfire all over King's Landing, as the king was willing to burn the whole city rather than letting the rebels take it. When his Hand of the King, Lord Qarlton Chelsted, discovered the plan, he tried to reason with the king, without success. Finally, Chelsted resigned his office, and Aerys had him dipped in wildfire and burned him alive, and made the pyromancer Rossart his new Hand. The plot was stopped when Ser Jaime Lannister of the Kingsguard slew King Aerys, as well as the pyromancers involved, Wisdoms Rossart, Garigus, and Belis. The only person remaining alive who knew of the plot was Ser Jaime.
Remnants of King Aerys II's wildfire plot were discovered at various times during the reign of King Robert I Baratheon. In 298 AC, two hundred jars were discovered in a storeroom beneath the Great Sept of Baelor, and safely removed by the pyromancers, though they had no idea how the jars came to be there.
The red priest Thoros of Myr, when battling in tourney melees, would dip his sword in wildfire and fight with a flaming sword, despite the damage it did to the metal. Thoros also bore his wildfire-flaming sword when he was the first over the wall at the siege of Pyke, during Greyjoy's Rebellion in 289 AC.
A Game of Thrones
A Clash of Kings
Tyrion Lannister, acting Hand of the King for Joffrey I Baratheon, learns of the properties of wildfire from Wisdom Hallyne at the Guildhall. He also learns that the pyromancers have hundred of aged wildfire pots from the era of King Aerys II Targaryen. There are men training to defend the city with spitfires, and Tyrion has them practice with pots filled with green paint, dismissing anyone who spatters. After the men have mastered loading and firing, they are to use pots of lamp oil and practice at lighting and firing flaming jars.
One of Lord Rossart's caches of wildfire, containing more than three hundred jars, is found below the Dragonpit, when a client of the whores working there falls through a patch of rotted floor into an underground cellar. The man is so drunk that he mistakes the jars for wine, drinks some, and dies.
Hallyne notes to Tyrion that the Guild is producing much more wildfire much faster than expected, and wonders if there could be any dragons around to make the alchemists' spells so much more efficient.
Stannis Baratheon prepares to attack King's Landing via Blackwater Bay and the Blackwater Rush. Ser Imry Florent, admiral of his fleet, warns his men to expect the city to be defended with wildfire, but assures them that the defenders will soon run out.
Tyrion Lannister uses the thousands of jars of wildfire provided by the pyromancers to defend King's Landing during the Battle of the Blackwater. Spitfires rain wildfire on the fleet, though that has little effect. However, Tyrion has filled an old, rotting hulk of a ship with the old jars of wildfire, and when it is rammed by the Swordfish, it explodes violently, setting nearly all of Stannis's fleet aflame. Other hulks filled with the aged wildfire also explode, until the entire mouth of the river becomes an inferno. Hundreds of ships and thousands of men burn.
A Storm of Swords
A Feast for Crows
Cersei Lannister has the alchemists burn down the Tower of the Hand with wildfire. The pyromancers brew fresh wildfire for two weeks in preparation, and place fifty pots of wildfire within the tower. Jaime is disturbed by the sight of his sister's excitement while the wildfire burns, as it reminds him of how King Aerys was sexually aroused by burning people to death.
The substance flows through my veins, and lives in the heart of every pyromancer. We respect its power.
Once it takes fire, the substance will burn fiercely until it is no more. More, it will seep into cloth, wood, leather, even steel, so they take fire as well.
A wise man did not pour wildfire on a brazier.
Piss on wildfire, and your cock burns off.—Davos Seaworth, recalling an old seamen's saying
Directly ahead, drifting toward her and swinging around to present a tempting plump target, was one of the Lannister hulks, floating low in the water. Slow green blood was leaking out between her boards. When he saw that, Davos Seaworth's heart stopped beating.—thoughts of Davos Seaworth
—thoughts of Davos Seaworth
He saw another of the hulks he'd stuffed full of King Aerys's fickle fruits engulfed by the hungry flames. A fountain of burning jade rose from the the river, the blast so bright he had to shield his eyes. Plumes of fire thirty and forty feet high danced upon the waters, crackling and hissing.
—thoughts of Sansa Stark
Jaime: If these flames spread beyond the tower, you may end up burning down the castle whether you mean to or not. Wildfire is treacherous.
Cersei: Lord Hallyne has assured me that his pyromancers can control the fire. Let all of King's Landing see the flames. It will be a lesson to our enemies.
The wildfire was cleansing her, burning away all her rage and fear, filling her with resolve.—thoughts of Cersei Lannister
The flames are so pretty. I want to watch them for a while.
Behind the Scenes
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aerys II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 20, Tyrion V.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 59, Tyrion XIII.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 61, Tyrion XIV.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 5, Davos I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 12, Cersei III.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 62, Sansa VII.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 13, The Soiled Knight.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 3, Tyrion I.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 60, Sansa VI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 37, Jaime V.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 49, Tyrion XI.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Oldtown.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon IV.
- The Sworn Sword.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Daeron II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 6, Jon I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 54, Davos V.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Maekar I.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Fall of the Dragons: The Year of the False Spring.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 11, Jaime II.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 16, Jaime II.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 30, Eddard VII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 34, Arya VI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 22, Arya IV.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 29, Sansa II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 40, Daenerys III.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 58, Davos III.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 67, Tyrion XV.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 4, Tyrion I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 6, Sansa I.
- George R.R. Martin Talks Season Two, 'The Winds of Winter,' and Real-World Influences for 'A Song of Ice and Fire' (March 26, 2012)