The cast of Game Of Thrones appears on the latest cover of Vanity Fair, and besides giving Vanity Fair readers their first taste of a genuinely interesting “royal intrigue” story, their profile also attempts to clear up some lingering questions about how the show hopes to conclude—especially as the show rapidly approaches the point in the Song Of Ice And Fire saga where George R.R. Martin just has a Garfield Post-It note with some doodles of swords on it.

For their part, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss say they would definitely like to see Game Of Thrones wrap after seven or eight seasons. “It doesn’t just keep on going because it can,” Weiss says. “I think the desire to milk more out of it is what would eventually kill it, if we gave in to that.” And with that deadline in mind—as well as the advancing age of the show’s child actors, who may all have child actors of their own by the time Martin gets done—Martin tells Vanity Fair he’s well aware that “this is a serious concern… Time is passing very slowly in the books and very fast in real life.” And so Martin is currently doing everything he can to address it, by sitting down for another interview, instead of actually writing those books.

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Fortunately, he’s also sat down with Benioff and Weiss, who say they recently spent a whole, non-writing week with Martin in Santa Fe in which they attempted to pry the ending out of him. “If you know the ending, then you can lay the groundwork for it,” Benioff says. “And so we want to know how everything ends. We want to be able to set things up. So we just sat down with him and literally went through every character.” And while Martin says he couldn’t get give them the details, at the very least “I can give them the broad strokes of what I intend to write,” adding, in a statement not exactly brimming with confidence, “I’m hopeful that I can not let them catch up with me.”

In the meantime, at least the show now has a general idea of what sort of finale it’s working toward, three or four seasons from now—even if that only gives Martin three or four years to finish two books, which would mean significantly stepping up his one-book-every-five-or-six-years pace. Or maybe Martin wisely hedged his bets, telling Benioff and Weiss, “In the next book, the dragons kill everyone, and then the last book is just dragons, y’know, eating and setting things on fire, and definitely not talking or plotting.”