This article is from the archive of our partner .

After binge-watching HBO's hit show and tearing through five long books, fans of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones series received a happy surprise this morning, as publisher Tor released a preview and excerpt of Martin's new 35,000-word novella from the A Song of Ice and Fire universe.

The piece, titled "The Princess and The Queen, or, The Blacks and The Greens," covers The Dance of the Dragons, a massive civil war from 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, back when the Targaryens ruled all of Westeros. In this sense, it follows the style of Martin's three Dunk and Egg novellas, which are already favorites of Thrones wonks.

Game of Thrones George Martin

The faux-historical story means that none of the books' or TV show's main favorite characters are present. As such, the story likely won't appeal to TV-only fans of Thrones — and there are plenty, as it's HBO's most popular show since The Sopranos — but for fans of the books, it's a welcome reprieve from the torturously long periods between books. However, part of the reason for those extensive breaks between books is that Martin (left) spends part of his time writing these novellas, and as The Atlantic Wire reported last week, HBO executives said recently they would rather Martin concentrate on finishing the main series so that the show doesn't run out of material.

Even so, the excerpt shows that the violent, blood-letting binge that Thrones is known for will certainly remain:

The Dance was a war unlike any other ever fought in the long history of the Seven Kingdoms. Though armies marched and met in savage battle, much of the slaughter took place on water, and... especially... in the air, as dragon fought dragon with tooth and claw and flame. It was a war marked by stealth, murder, and betrayal as well, a war fought in shadows and stairwells, council chambers and castle yards, with knives and lies and poison.

Savage battle! Dragons! Murder! Betrayal! Poison! Bridget McGovern of Tor says, "Be prepared for a body count that makes the end of Hamlet look like Care Bears on Ice." Those who may have read Hamlet or a summary thereof know that the play ends in carnage, making this quite a claim.

The full novella won't be released until December 3rd as part of a fantasy fiction anthology called Dangerous Women, but even this little glimpse into the new story has fans ecstatic.

So if you have any Thrones fans in your office, expect them to be salivating with delight. Or, if Martin were writing this story, salivating with poison. You know what we mean.

And though the novella takes place long before the main story's plot, the new piece does still have some hints for what's to come in Thrones world, as McGovern explains (SPOILERS THROUGH THE FIVE MAIN BOOKS):

Since dragons will only accept and bond with riders of Targaryen blood, the story chronicles the search for bastard-born “dragonseeds” to join the fray (with mixed results)—a subplot which clearly holds some potential relevance for Daenerys and her trio of dragons as events continue to unfold in the novels…

As with anything Thrones-related, speculation has already started on Reddit and Westeros.org. But for desperate fans, it's at least something new to speculate on. That should hold them over for, oh, a day or two.

Photo: Jack Dempsey/Invision for KINGS OF CON/AP Images

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.