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Varys

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Power resides where men believe it resides. It's a trick, a shadow on the wall, and a very small man can cast a very large shadow.
~ Varys, talking to Tyrion Lannister about power.

Lord Varys, also known as "the Spider", is a character from the A Song Of Ice And Fire / Game Of Thrones series.

He is the enigmatic member of the small council and Master of Whisperers, or spymaster, for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. He served for 4 kings before disappearing: Aerys, Robert, Joffrey, and Tommen, the latter for a short time.

He is played by Conleth Hill.

History

Though nothing that Varys says can be completely trusted, he claims to have been born a slave in Lys that was sold and apprenticed to a traveling folly, a troupe of mummers who worked the Free Cities, Oldtown, and occasionally King's Landing, by means of a fat little cog owned by the troupe's master. During their stay in Myr, a man offered a large sum of money for Varys, an offer his master found too tempting to refuse. The man gave Varys a potion that made him powerless to move or speak, but did nothing to dull his senses as his manhood was cut off at the stem, then burnt in a brazier in a Blood Magic ritual. Varys claims to have held a hatred for all things magical ever since.

With the ritual complete, the man had no further use for Varys and tossed him out on the streets. Varys asked the man what he should do, to which the sorcerer replied he supposed that he should die. Varys to spite him vowed to live.

By that time the mummers had sailed and Varys was left alone. He resorted to begging, prostitution and thievery and soon was as good a thief as any in Myr, eventually becoming recognized as the best thief in the city until a rival forced him out and he fled to Pentos.

In Pentos, Varys befriended a poor sellsword named Illyrio Mopatis and they started a business where Varys would steal objects from lesser thieves and Illyrio would get the objects back for their original owners for a small fee. Soon, every man and woman in Pentos who ever had valuables stolen from them all knew who to ask to get their valuables back. In addition, the thieves in Pentos soon began to seek Illyrio and Varys out, half to try (and failing) to kill them, the other half to sell them the objects they stole in order to prevent Varys from stealing them back. Varys and Illyrio grew very rich.

Varys came to the realization that information was much more valuable than gold and gems and began training his spy network, then known as "little mice", to acquire the information, letters, ledgers and charts of the wealthy and powerful. The "mice" were orphans purchased by Varys; he chose those that were small, quick, and quiet, and taught them to read and write, as well as the skills required for sneak thievery such as climbing walls and slipping down chimneys, so that they might copy the information Varys desired without disturbing or alarming their targets.

These secrets increased Varys and Illyrio's wealth tenfold, and in time Varys became so infamous that word of his talents reached the ears of King Aerys across the Narrow Sea, who in his growing paranoia no longer trusted his son, his wife, or his Hand. 

As spymaster in King's Landing, Varys's influence grew with Aerys's paranoia, as he was quick to point out traitors and schemers to his liege. Varys mastered the secret passages within the Red Keep and made good use of them with his spy network, who became known as his "little birds". He had them memorize the passages and come to him whenever one discovered something of importance. Notably, Varys alerted Aerys to the possibility that his son Rhaegar was using attendance at the Tourney at Harrenhal as a pretext to rally Lords to his cause in removing Aerys as king, causing Aerys to attend the tournament, the first time he had left the Red Keep in years since the Defiance of Duskendale.

Following the Battle of the Trident during Robert's Rebellion, Varys counseled Aerys to close his gates to Tywin Lannister, as he could not be trusted. Aerys, however, listened to Grand Maester Pycelle and opened the gates to the Lannister forces, who proceeded to sack the city and kill the remaining Targaryens present.

Though he continued in his post for King Robert, Varys's loyalty seemingly remained with House Targaryen. He kept a secret arrangement with Illyrio Mopatis, who seeks to put a Targaryen back on the Iron Throne. In fact, it was revealed that Varys switched the baby Aegon with that of a peasant baby. With the realm and Robert falsely believing him dead, Varys had Aegon smuggled across the Narrow Sea to be raised by Rhaegar's friend and exiled Hand of the King, Jon Connington. To conceal Connington's activities, Varys concocted the false story that Connington had drunk himself to death after being caught stealing from the Golden Company.

When Aegon crosses to the Stormlands and begins his invasion, Varys murders Grand Maester Pycelle and Tommen's regent Ser Kevan Lannister. As Kevan is dying from a crossbow bolt (which Varys thought would be fitting, considering Kevan's brother), Varys tells him Aegon has been trained for the Iron Throne since birth. He says Kevan's death will plunge the realm in chaos, as Kevan was undoing Cersei's incompotence and antagonism with the Tyrells, and Kevan and Pycelle's deaths will lead to more suspicion. Apologising to Kevan, Varys then calls in some of his "little birds", who finish off Kevan.

Trivia

  • In the TV series, Varys has more heroic traits than his book counterpart. For example, in the series, even saying it was not right to disobey the Kingslayer, Varys behaved much more willingly to follow Jaime's order to rescue Tyrion, while in the novels he was unwilling to do so.
  • Varys' claim that he serves the realm and his sudden loyalty to the Targaryens seems quite odd, leading to fans believing Varys has ulterior motives. Varys helped to fuel the paranoia of Aerys II Targaryen, even though Aerys was becoming increasingly insane and his rule was clearly not good for the realm. Varys also likely prevented a possible attempt by Rhaegar to remove the Mad King peacefully, leading to Robert's Rebellion and the overthrow of the Targaryen dynasty. Also Varys and Illyrio's conspiracy didn't assist Viserys and Daenerys until relatively recently.
  • Varys is theorised by some fans to be loyal to the Blackfyres, a cadet branch of Targaryens founded by Daemon Blackfyre, one of Aegon IV's legitimized bastards. The Blackfyres were apparently wiped out when Ser Barristan Selmy slew Maelys "the Monstrous" Blackfyre on the Stepstones in 260 AC. However Illyrio telling Tyrion Lannister this was the end of the male line of House Blackfyre was led to theories the Blackfyres survived in the female line. According to this theory "Aegon VI" is a female-line Blackfyre. This would explain why Varys was assisting Aerys, Varys was aiming to overthrow the Targaryen dynasty in favor of the Blackfyres.
  • It is theorized Varys may be descended from the Blackfyres himself. The name Varys sounds Targaryen. Also in favor of this theory is that the reason Varys shaves his head is to hide his Targaryen hair, similar to "Egg", the future Aegon V Targaryen from "The Tales of Dunk and Egg". When Varys first appears, he is even compared to an egg. His Targaryen blood might explain why the sorcerer used him for the ritual, as King's blood is apparently useful in magic. It is even though Varys' sister may be Aegon's mother, and that Illyrio is Aegon's father.

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