ALL MEN MUST DIE: Why Games of Thrones kills its heroes
FEAR NOT, NO SPOILERS HERE.
VALAR morghulis: All men must die.
The grim greeting spoken in Game of Thrones' fictional "High Valyrian" language underpins so much bloodshed and grief not just for the characters of Westeros, but for us the viewers and readers.
Game of Thrones shocks in a way foreign to so many others because it kills its most beloved characters.
No noble hero or warm-hearted rogue is safe when Thrones author George RR Martin wields his scythe.
So why must they die?
Martin has told online fantasy writing publication Galaxy's Quest that the flow of blood from his characters is about honesty, and to not kill them off would be "such a cheat".
He says he an obligation to tell the truth, even as a fantasy writer, and that truth is about war.
"You can't write about war and violence without having death," he said.
"If you want to be honest it should affect your main characters.
"We've all read this story a million times when a bunch of heroes set out on adventure and it's the hero and his best friend and his girlfriend and they go through amazing hair-raising adventures and none of them die.
"The ones who die are extras.
"That's such a cheat. It doesn't happen that way.
"They go into battle and their best friend dies or they get horribly wounded. They lose their leg or death comes at them unexpectedly."
Giving perhaps an insight into the mind of Martin himself and the universe he created, he continues:
"Death is so arbitrary. It's always there. It's coming for all of us.
"We're all going to die. I'm going to die. You're going to die.
"Mortality is at the soul of all this stuff.
"You have to write about it if you're going to be honest, especially if you're writing a story high in conflict.
"Once you've accepted that you have to include death then you should be honest about death and indicate it can strike down anybody at any time.
"You don't get to live forever just because you are a cute kid or the hero's best friend or the hero.
"Sometimes the hero dies, at least in my books.
"I love all my characters so it's always hard to kill them but I know it has to be done.
"I tend to think I don't kill them. The other characters kill 'em. I shift off all blame from myself."