This is from a quick reading of the book. Many more details will likely be added after a more through reading and pondering. But that will probably not happen for many months.
-New section "ADWD intrigues".
-New section "The FM visitors to Braavos".
-Updates to the "After the Doom" section due new data regarding improved FM advanced disguise ability as well as the magical disguise and sensing of threats abilities of Mel. Also that wargs can detect one another immediately and that Ghost seemed to sense the attack against Jon.
-Prophecies section. Second "Slayer of Lies" prophecy updated.
-Bloodraven is a likely now a greenseer so removed that section. Moved NW library material to "After the Doom" section.
-Changed to definitive confirmation of different scripts for the two horns in the "Dragons and the Wall" section.
-Added Barristan's thoughts regarding Varys influencing Aerys to became suspicious towards Rhaegar to the "Varys's intrigues" section.
-Split "Varys" into a "Varys" and "Varys's intrigues" sections.
-Added additional motives for causing Robert's Rebellion to "Varys's intrigues" section,
-Added that Varys opposed opening KL to Tywin to "Varys's intrigues" section.
-Added a paragraph to "Overall story structure" about the theory not adding any new magic to setting.
-Added similarity between House of the Undying and FM temple decoration style regarding ebony and weirwood to the "Daenerys and Euron" section.
The Grand Faceless Men Conspiracy Theory
"We bring the gift of death."
The kindly man
We are told that the Faceless Men (FM) originated among the slaves of Valyria. The kindly man implies that they killed their masters which would seem to implicate them in the Doom of Valyria. The dragonlords of Valyria were powerful sorcerers. Marwyn has stated that all Valyrian sorcery was rooted in blood or fire. The slaves lived in horrible fiery mines plagued by dragonlike firewyrms. It seems natural that they would have turned to opposing cold, anti-dragon magic. It is difficult to say if there really exist a "Great Other" god or if there simply is a cold/ice/death magic force somewhat like the Dark Side in Star Wars. My personal opinion is the later but for the purpose of this theory it does not matter. The slaves needed the help of a powerful force to be able to defeat the powerful dragonlord fire sorcerers of Valyria and the opposing force/god is the logical choice.
The FM is a death cult. The gods in their temple seem to be the various local death gods like the Stranger. Arianne has heard that in Qohor followers of the red priests, opponents of the Great Other, had rioted and tried to burn down the Black Goat which the kindly man says is one of the local names of Many-Faced God like the Stranger is in Westeros. The FM see death as a gift and an end to suffering. The kindly man describes the world as a "vale of tears and pain". But if we take this to its logical conclusion, something probably only a very small, select group even among the followers of the Many-Faced God know, then the "gift" should be given to everyone. Again this fits with them using/following the death/ice force. So how can this be achieved? How to kill humanity? The answer is to help their natural allies, the Others, who is also using the cold/death magic, take over the world and exterminate humanity.
This gives a new meaning to the phrase "All men must die".
Suffering and wights
Are the FM just unrealistically evil in this view? If an animal is in pain and cannot be treated, then it is accepted that it should be killed out of mercy. Similarly, at one point the Hound kills a dying and suffering man out of mercy. Now, if you consider that life as whole is mostly suffering, then death is preferable. This is not actually an uncommon view. In Buddhism life is viewed as mostly or only as suffering. In Buddhism however you cannot escape this with death. If you kill others or yourself you will very likely end up in much worse position in the next life. Similarly, there are ascetic views in Christianity who view life as mostly suffering. But again, suicide or murder will most likely mean that you end up in hell. But if you do no have such views regarding the afterlife punishment for murder then the logical and kind thing is to help all of the suffering humanity to leave this painful life. Just like you would with a suffering animal.
Another objection is that a death cult would not support undeads such as wights. Wights would only be a problem for the FM is they see them as being sentient. If they are viewed as mindless robots then there is no problem. The wights seem to be completely fearless and unaffected by painful wounds which supports the later view. Even if wights really feel pain, then remember that wights seem to decay after a while. Like the hand taken to KL. Some temporary pain would always be accepted for the greater good of always ending all pain and suffering.
Dragons and the Wall
The Wall is more than a mere physical obstacle for the Others. If that was the case then the Others have had thousands of years to build a tunnel under it. Or they could have used ships/rafts or gone around it when the waters close to it freeze over. The Wall itself is clearly magical (magical portal, blocks warg telepathy, and would likely collapse otherwise under its own weight). So likely the Wall itself functions a magical seal imprisoning the Others.
In order the free the Others the FM must bring down the Wall. This is likely no easy task considering the many millennia it has existed. According to the legend of the Night's King even when the Night's Watch seem to have been at least partially controlled by persons friendly to the Others this could apparently not be done. So how to do this? A logical solution would be that magical ice requires magical fire or in other words dragonfire.
This can explain several things. It explains why Valyria never conquered the rich lands of Westeros. They know about the danger. Similarly, it can explain why some group among the maesters may have been trying to kill the dragons. They, as the most learned, probably also had learned about the danger.
There is an interesting interpretation regarding Mance's horn and Euron's horn. The Horn of Winter is supposed to have the ability to bring down the Wall. The horn that Mance found is very similar in appearance to Euron's horn. Both are black, not straight, of similar size ("taller than a man" vs. "eight feet long"), and have bands at least partially made of gold. This may indicate that both are made from dragon bone (or horn) which is known to be black. We know of no other animal in Westeros having horns or bones such size and color. However, one horn is described as "twisted" and the other as having a "curve". But, even assuming that the words are not used synonymously and are mutually exclusive, we know that dragons vary in appearance. Furthermore, the bands and inscriptions on the bands are different (runes vs. glyphs). Regardless, before industrialization hand crafted objects very rarely had identical ornamentation even if the objects had the same function. Compare with different colors and shapes for Valyrian steel swords. Especially if the ornamentation for a functionally similar object were made by two different cultures (like the First Men vs. Valyria). Which brings to mind the possibility that the two horns do have the same function.
So yes, the Horn of Winter can bring down the Wall as Mance said. But it is indirectly, by controlling dragons.
After the Doom
So why did the FM not immediately after the Doom bring some dragons to Wall? Probably because at this time its defenses were at full strength. Also, even after the Wall has fallen the Others can be defeated as happened when they tried before the Wall was built.
Furthermore, the FM are not the only players in the larger game. There are are also fire magic users such as Mel and the Red Priests more generally. There are suggestions that they can see through disguises. Mel: "It is well you did not lie to me. I would have known. The Other’s servants oft hide black hearts in gaudy light, so R’hllor gives his priests the power to see through falsehoods." Mel also could detect that an eagle flying high above a battlefield was somehow unnatural and fried it. Drogo, in the House of the Undying, saw through the illusions and spontaneously attacked the Undying. Grey Wind seems to have sensed the treachery before the Red Wedding. Ghost the same regarding the attack on Jon. Wargs seems to able to sense one another immediately. So, it seems possible that other magic users and magical creatures can see through magic illusions which may severely restricts what the FM can do. Among other things it is possible that they cannot be near dragons themselves but must use proxies. Their magical disguise ability must not be revealed or every king will have a Red Priest present at all times in order to prevent infiltration.
In ADWD it is revealed that the FM can make an advanced disguise by using another person's cut off face. This is better than the "glamors" that "dissolve before sharp eyes" and are "as true and solid as that face you were born with". This apparently also transfer some memories of the victim. But it still likely involves sorcery; Arya cannot feel the changes that others see on her new face. Exactly to what degree this disguise hide the FM from other forms of magic and magical creatures is unclear.
Another limitation is the ability of the Red Priests to see the future. Especially regarding direct threats to themselves.
So there are limitations to the FM's powers. They needed time. Time to weaken the Night's Watch, time to remove knowledge about dragons and how to fight the Others, time to make themselves and the Others stronger.
So they allowed some dragons to be saved and brought to Dragonstone. When the memory of the dangers of dragons has faded they allowed the War of Conquest to take place. That the memory had to fade and be erased can explain why the Targaryens did not attempt a conquest immediately after the Doom.
More time passed with the FM growing stronger and the Night's Watch weaker according to plan. The FM have a front cover of being powerful but non-magical assassins who kill powerful men for payment. We also know that the lifeforce of the powerful can be used for powerful magic. Perfect combination for the FM. The FM received money and reasons for killing the powerful whose lifeforce they can use for powerful magic. At least in Braavos they also seem to be collecting corpses which could possibly be used for a Wight army.
There is something strange regarding the Night's Watch library. Sam can find old inventory lists and descriptions of the daily bowel movements of old Lord Commanders but not a single text regarding the origin of the Others and not much useful information that would not be already be quickly known from fighting them. This suggests that the library has been careful censored of all really useful information regarding the Others.
However, the dragons died before the FM were ready. This may have been due to some faction among the maesters or to some naturally occurring cycle in the magical "climate". The FM may have been the ultimate mover behind some of the attempts, like Summerhall, to revive the dragons with some maesters opposing them. Maybe without the groups knowing about one another.
The FM with their shapeshifting ability are the perfect spies and infiltrators. It would be preferable if they had a man at the center of power in the small council. Even better would be to know and control the flow of information. In short, Varys is the perfect candidate. Now Varys has told various stories about his background. Some of this information may well be "correct". We know that the FM can take over other persons' appearance, job, and even fool their friends. Like Jaqen H'ghar did with Pate. Maybe this even involves taking over some part of the killed persons' memory. So a FM may have killed Varys and taken over his identity at some stage in his life.
Varys's quarters and lifestyle seem to be extremely ascetic with only water in his flagon and a stone bed. Does not fit with a perfumed fat eunuch, as Tyrion notes, but fits well with a member of a death cult who finds little pleasure in this world. Arya also has a stone bed in Braavos.
Varys did use small children to spy. To quote the kindly man, "Why use a spell, where mummer's tricks will serve?" This also likely applies to his disguises. But I think some cases of his disguise as the prison guard Rugen who over a long period was in contact with other guards is hard to explain by natural means and medieval technology. At least when Eddard could feel the Rugen's stubble with his fingers and did not think it a disguise. Yes, Varys said he was a mummer, but mummers at least in traditional plays did not use elaborate disguises but at most stereotypical masks.
Varys has stated that he hates magic. But we know that the FM train very hard to be good liars. Also, when Varys has apparently revealed some personal details it was to Tyrion and Eddard. Persons who would have trusted another person more if this person apparently trusted and revealed personal details. Which apparently worked since both for all their doubts followed Varys's advice until and even after he betrayed them.
While thus everything Varys says, and especially everything regarding himself and his motives, should be viewed as suspect, maybe somewhat more insight can be gained from his general philosophical outlook which seems not incompatible with that of death cult seeing little value in the world:
"You are an honest and honorable man, Lord Eddard. Ofttimes I forget that. I have met so few of them in my life." He glanced around the cell. "When I see what honesty and honor have won you, I understand why.""
"The High Septon once told me that as we sin, so do we suffer. If that's true, Lord Eddard, tell me . . . why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones?"
Riddles and wordplays by Varys
Varys states a riddle to Tyrion regarding a sellsword and three powerful men and who dies. Later he answers the riddle as the philosophical statement that power resides where men believe it resides. But there is more to this riddle. Varys states that the sellsword is "no one". This is of course the exact phrase FM use regarding themselves. Compare with JH's reply to Pate's question: "Who are you?" "A stranger. No one. Truly." Varys here states another solution to the riddle. In this world the FM are the true power. They are the sellsword who decides who dies and can take over identities and powers if they so decide.
A possible ironic double meaning is the reference to the Others riding ice spiders. No trace of such beings have been seen but Varys is sometimes called the Spider.
There is an interesting double meaning from this statement where peace can be interpreted in several ways. "Your own ends. What ends are those, Lord Varys?" "Peace," Varys replied without hesitation."
Varys first appeared in Westeros at a time period relatively close to the time when the FM and the Others would be ready. At this point the realm was strong and united. So Varys was likely the prime mover behind Robert's Rebellion. He poisoned Aerys's mind and turned what could have been diplomatically resolved into a full scale war which killed Rhaegar. Stannis states that "Ser Barristan once told me that the rot in King Aerys's reign began with Varys" and Jaime notes that "He saw traitors everywhere, and Varys was always there to point out any he might have missed." Ser Barristan himself thinks that Varys influenced Aerys to became convinced that Rhaegar conspired against his father.
One goal was to kill the Rhaegar who would likely become a very able king which would be a bad choice during the invasion of the Others. Other goals would be general weakening of the realm from the killing leaders, soldiers, civilians, and causing general ill will and dissension. Maybe even more importantly, Varys also likely inspired Aerys's plan to turn King's Landing and himself into a fire sacrifice. The plan may have been that after the failed Summerhall attempt something really big was needed. Sacrificing the whole city and Aerys and his relatives together with some appropriate use of the dragon eggs Illyrio later gave to Daenerys would be a big enough sacrifice to make the dragons reappear. Varys advised Aerys not to open KL to Tywin. However, the Pycelle and Jaime stopped this sacrifice from happening.
More currently, weakening especially the North and also their closest neighbor the Riverlands before the invasion of the Others was important and has been achieved. Petyr with his ability and hatred of the Starks was a useful puppet. One may suspect that Petyr rapid advancement and success may not always be solely due to his own ability but also due to influence and information from the FM and Varys. Fitting irony if the man who remarks that some who think they are players are actually pieces is himself another piece. Varys also helped Petyr by increasing Eddard's suspicion of the Lannister in their conversations likely hoping this would in the end escalate to warfare.
Preventing Stannis and especially Melisandre from taking power was also of high priority and successfully achieved through puppets such as Tyrion and Petyr.
However, with this achieved the very effective Tywin had become de facto ruler. In my view Varys had planned to free Tyrion and murder Tywin. That Jaime appeared was a probably not planned or at least not taken for granted but did not change the overall plan. Similarly, Varys may have hoped that Tyrion would kill Tywin but if he had not then Varys would have killed Tywin through some other method and Tyrion would still be blamed. Tyrion strengthening the still relatively weak expedition force of Daenerys before and during a destructive civil war is better than him dead or him strengthening the rule at King's Landing. Regarding himself, the identity of Varys had become somewhat restrictive and a change was in order.
Alternative Varys theories
Let us look at the common notion that Varys is simply a Targaryen supporter as apparently revealed very early in the series in book one out of seven in the Varys and Illyrio scene. Varys as an eunuch who can hardly rise further so why should he commit treason and risk his life? There is the idea that he is Targaryen himself who selflessly works for his family but why then did he undermine Aerys's regime? Why did he save Gendry, when if he was a Targaryen supporter he would want to remove all other claimants?
Furthermore, Varys acts contrary to what he says to Illyrio. Illyrio, in the famous conversation with Varys, says that it is to early for a civil war since the Dothraki are not close to invading yet. Varys says he will do what he can to stop this for now. Instead, Varys seems to do everything he can to fuel Edward's suspicions of the Lannisters and thus promote the civil war, claiming that the Lannisters planned to kill Robert during the tourney, going along with Petyr's lie regarding the dagger, stating to Eddard that Jon Arryn was killed for asking questions, support Eddard's theory that the Lannisters helped kill Robert during the hunt, and rejects Illyrio's suggestion that they should assassinate Eddard in order to buy time.
Another notion is to trust another of his statements at face value and argue that he is selflessly working for the good of the realm. But why then work for bringing the rotten egg Viserys and a horde of ravaging and plundering Dothraki to Westeros? Why hide the threat of the Others, an enormous danger to the realm, from the small council? Obviously he must have some spies at the Wall in order to keep an eye on a somewhat independent military force with not unlikely several important nobles (Aemon for one) and the foreign threat of the wildlings. He should at the very least have corroborated Alliser Thorne's story in KL.
Daenerys and Euron
Robert was an improvement upon Rhaegar. Viserys would be even better (worse). So Varys planned to help him return using Illyrio as a proxy. As known from the scene where Arya watches two men under the Red Keep Varys and Illyrio are working together. A civil war which would be extremely destructive when including the pillaging Dothraki would also weaken the realm in time for the invasion of the Others.
He also via Illyrio gave the dragon eggs to Daenerys. Maybe because he planned some new sacrifice. Or maybe the FM had noticed a slowly general increase in the magic level as witnessed by extreme events such as the long summer and the appearance of the Stark wolves. Such a change in the magical "climate" may have been part of a natural cycle or possible caused by the FM themselves if they are using very powerful magic such as to awaken the Others. They may have hoped or at least considered it a possibility that such an increase and extreme events would also be followed by an awakening of dragons. Probably a good idea to keep Targaryens nearby in this case since they seem to have some form of bond with dragons. Which incidentally is probably why the Targaryens practiced incest in order to preserve this ability.
Viserys died but the dragons were reborn. The plan now is likely to use Euron to take one or more dragons away from Daenerys and use it to bring down the Wall at the right time. Victarion thinks that "Every man there knew that the Doom still ruled Valyria. The very sea there boiled and smoked, and the land was overrun with demons. It was said that any sailor who so much as glimpsed the fiery mountains of Valyria rising above the waves would soon die a dreadful death" Euron claims that he found the horn there which at least the Reader (Lord Harlow) seems to think is unlikely. More likely, the FM would have saved powerful artifacts from Valyria so Euron probably received the dragon horn from the FM or a proxy such as the Undying Ones. In return for this, the FM have likely invented some story that at some point involves bringing a dragon to the Wall.
The Undying Ones in Qarth are probably also using death/ice magic. They are described as "blue and cold" and with "cold hands". Aemon noted that ice preserves so death/ice sorcerers may be able to extend their lives. They seem very vulnerable to fire. Both they and the FM use illusions. So not unlikely an ally or puppet. Interestingly, the doors to the room with false illusions of the Undying is made of ebony and weirwood. A style also appearing in the front doors and meeting room chairs in the FM temple.
The FM may have made an initial attempt to control Daenerys and the dragons through them. When this failed Euron was called in. That Euron is accompanied by Qarth warlocks is noteworthy.
Daenerys will be very useful if she with or without dragons create further destructive civil wars and confusion before or during the invasions of the Others. Obviously the dragons and also the able Daenerys must all be killed at some point when they are no longer useful and instead become a threat to the Others.
Many of Daenerys's servants were gifts from Illyrio and are probably thus under indirect or direct FM control. It seems likely that the two assassination attempts were planned to fail by Varys. The assassins themselves likely did not know that they should fail this but Jorah and Barristan likely were told their identities and could thus stop the attempts. Thus gaining Daenerys confidence. In the first case also provoking Drogo to plan an invasion.
Arya and Jaqen H'ghar
The able Lord Commander Mormont should preferable be removed. The attempt with the Wights placed outside the Wall failed. Therefore Varys placed Jaqen H'ghar in the Black cells and arranged for him to be taken by Yoren to the Wall to assassinate Mormont.
Varys also arranged for Gendry to follow Yoren when Gendry was not longer protected from Cersei after Robert's death. Can be explained by magical power in powerful men's blood. So saved for use in future magical rituals. Compare with Edric Storm and Melisandre's sacrifices of the powerful in rituals.
Varys also planned for Ned to be saved and follow Yoren. Possibly for the same reason as for saving Robert's bastards. Another possibility is that the Starks are also connected with Wall which was created by a Stark and its destruction may possibly involve Stark blood or actions. Yet another possibility is that maybe Jaqen H'ghar was supposed to kill and take Ned's identity and then become Lord Commander. Taking Mormont's identity may have been difficult since so many people knew him very well at the Wall. Taking Ned's identity would be relatively easier if his two relatives at the Wall could be removed.
However, Ned and Yoren dies. Jaqen H'ghar after escaping contacts the other FM and learns that the Mormont mission is now unnecessary since he will be killed while ranging. Jaqen also reports of a highborn girl following Yoren who may be FM agent material. She is determined to likely to be Arya Stark. Jaqen is ordered to find her and possibly corrupt her. As could be expected he finds her at Harrenhal.
Jaqen tells a strange tale that the Red God is owed three lives due to three people almost being burned. Jaqen supposedly must follows Arya's orders regarding who to kill. Very strange, does this mean that Jaime could have ordered 500,000 people to be assassinated if he had saved a FM when he stopped King's Landing from burning? Jaqen later swears an oath "By all the gods of sea and air, and even him of fire, I swear it." and "By the seven new gods and the old gods beyond count, I swear it." Again strange, if he was serious a FM would likely explicitly swear by or at least mention the Many-Faced God he worships or the death gods seen and mentioned in his temple. More likely, Jaqen wants to give Arya a taste of the great power the FM have. She promptly orders three gradually more corrupt murders. First a criminal, then a bad but not criminal steward, and at last someone who helped her. Jaqen then shows her still more of the FM powers by showing her his shapeshifting ability. Arya is still not ready to go to Braavos due to her remaining family ties. Jaqen likely knows that the outlook for the Stark family is bleak but due to a new mission he must go. If Arya is FM material she will be able to find her way to Braavos on her own in due time.
Jaqen goes to the Citadel and takes over Pate's identity. Possible reasons include that the FM have learned about a faction of maesters killing dragons, that the Citadel library needs a cleaning of all valuable information about the Others, or simply that a FM is needed to counter whatever response the maesters may make to the invasion of the Others. More ambitiously, he may have been sent there to help Euron's forces take Oldtown. If a FM puppet takes over the Citadel and its maesters then this is good news for the Others.
At the same night Varys disappeared Qyburn seems to have undergone a dramatic change in personality and ability. Before this the only thing he had managed to achieve was becoming a member of a particularly vile sellsword company. Now he suddenly becomes a major player, a member of small council, seemingly without problem takes over Varys's intelligence network, and can use powerful magic. There is no evidence that Qyburn successfully used magic before this. According to Qyburn in AFFC he was exiled from the citadel not because of using magic (which on a theoretical level is a legitimate if frowned upon subject which gives a link of Valyrian steel) but because "I wished to understand the nature of death, so I opened the bodies of the living". This suggests that the night Varys disappeared he killed Qyburn and took over his identity. Made easier by the circumstance that not many people were acquainted with Qyburn in King's Landing. An important reason for this change is probably that as the invasion of the Others approaches he needed an identity that could more openly use magic than the Varys identity could.
Varys/Qyburn probably did not oppose Joffrey being killed by the Tyrells. While Joffrey would have been a very nasty king he would likely be so obnoxious to even those close to him that he would quickly be murdered regardless by someone he had offended. More importantly, he was headstrong, impulsive, and difficult to control. In contrast, Qyburn seem to be able to influence Cersei rather easily.
Qyburn and Varys trivialized the information coming from east about Daenerys's dragons in a very similar manner. First they mention a long list of rather uninteresting gossips like that a kraken has been seen off the Fingers and then they slip in some mention that there are also stories of dragons. These stories are then quickly dismissed as small folk fantasies but if information from other sources should arrive then Varys and Qyburn can still claim that they did attempt to inform about the dragons.
Varys was involved in removing Janos Slynt from the City Watch as seen by Tyrion immediately naming Bywater new Commander on Varys's suggestion. He may have suggested to Tyrion to send him to the Wall. Where he would not unlikely become Lord Commander which would be excellent from Varys's view. When Jon becomes Commander Qyburn persuades Cersei to send a hundred men to remove him.
One of the important things happening after Cersei taking power is the rise of the Faith. This is likely Qyburn's doing since the Faith will likely be militantly opposed to help from sorcerers using either fire magic or nature magic (like the Children of the Forest) since such magic is associated with other gods. Cersei at one point recalls that Qyburn has in fact pointed this out regarding Stannis and the Red God. Very useful for the Others.
The involvement with the Faith also suggests that the imprisonment of Cersei was not a surprise to Qyburn. Likely this was predicted or planned for a long time which is the reason for building Gregorstein. Qyburn giving Cersei the coin implicating the Tyrells with Tyrion also suggests wanting to increase Lannister-Tyrell tensions. The pliable Cersei is preferable to the Tyrells and their women taking effective power so Qyburn would likely prefer for Cersei to return to power. Maybe now with more concessions given to the Faith and with Cersei now more paranoid and dependent on Qyburn. A possible war between the Tyrells and the Lannisters/Iron Islands as a result from the duel would also be good since it would further weaken the involved parties.
Victarion almost dies due to the hand injury which may have been aggravated by maester Kerwin/the Dusky Woman on the orders of Euron/the FM. The appearance of the red priest Moqorro will likely be an important obstacle for the FM plans regarding Dany.
The Unsullied are excellent fighters. That they are assassinated in so large numbers despite being on guard and going in groups and without traces regarding the culprits point to excellent assassins. Possibly FM assassins.
The FM only need one dragon in order to bring down the Wall. Three dragons are two too many. So it is likely the FM who are the ultimate force behind the intrigues in Meereen against Daenerys with the aim of killing two of the dragons. Another goal being to make her position in Meereen impossible in order to spur her to accept help from whoever was supposed to end up controlling Victarion's fleet and dragon horn.
Young Griff seems likely to be a fake from the second part of "Slayer of Lies" prophecy. See the prophecies section below. Yet Connington, who knew his relatives, is absolutely convinced that Young Griff is Aegon. So a disguise must be very good. Right appearance and likely right subtle Targaryen behaviors. We have also learned that the FM can make an especially good disguise, including transferred memories and impressions, if they have the cut off face. Aegon had his face cut off! The FM would support a false Aegon in order to create more chaos before an invasion by the Others.
The able Kevan is of course killed by Varys in order to stop him from bringing peace and strength to the realm. Yes, Vary once again speaks about serving the realm. Creating chaos and trying to insert an unproven and inexperienced king (not to mention likely restoring Cersei as current ruler) in the place of a proven good regent right before a potentially world-ending invasion is not serving the realm. Varys is speaking with his "small birds" as the intended audience. He needs their loyalty since they can betray him. Yes, they may be mute but they can write.
Seems somewhat dubious that the are FM directly involved in the plot against Jon while Mel is nearby and watching for dangers in the fire. If anything she likely has given a silent approval in order to be able to save Jon and convince him to be guided by her. The real FM attack against Jon seems more likely to involve the men Qyburn is sending to the Wall with the goal of assassinating Jon. On the other had, Ramsey and/or Arnolf Karstark may be FM agents (see the next section. The FM are/were of course interested in removing the Starks from power, weakening the North (successfully done), and opposing Stannis.
The FM visitors to Braavos
Arya sees several FM who visits the FM temple at Braavos. They are described as "secret servants" in the appendix. They may of course have changed their appearance just for the visit but it is still interesting to speculate if we have seen them before. Note that many important characters have been seen before by Arya who does not recognize the visitors as known to her (Varys, Rugen, Illyrio, Roose Bolton, Pate's killer, most of the northern nobility).
*The Stern Face, "The stern face never smiled; his eyes were pale, his lips full and dark" - Ramsey Bolton, who is described as having thick lips and may have his father's pale eyes.
*The Handsome man, "a beard of a different color every time she saw him, and a different nose, but he was never less than comely" - Young Griff who is described as dying his beard and maybe being ordered by Connington to use other tricks in order to hide his appearance.
*The Starved man - The High Septon, "a scrawny grey-haired man with a lean, hard, half- starved look, his face sharp-featured, lined, his eyes suspicious."
*The Fat Fellow, "Fierce black eyes, a hook nose, and a wide mouth full of yellow teeth" - One of the Kettleblacks? Hooked nooses, big, Oswell is described as having crooked teeth. Osmund or Oswald traveled to Pentos to hire Penny and his brother so they have some time for traveling. Keeping an eye on LF is a good idea. Although they are never really described as fat. Or it could just be the stout Varys using some easy mummer's tricks to create a new appearance which he has done several times already.
*The Squinter - Arnolf Karstark? "squinty grey eyes". Close to the NW and access to the sea for traveling to Braavos. Or Euron? Wild speculation if he looks squinty due to some eye injury/disease without his eyepatch which is why he ordinarily uses one.
*The Lordling, The Plague Victim - ? The first could be anyone in the nobility, the second is so distinctive that it is likely no one seen.
The first Faceless Man
There is not much information given about him. However, the timeline seems strange. If he was the first he should have lived before the founding of Braavos since the kindly man states that the FM existed before the this date. But he was also involved in the Doom according to the kindly man. Arya was later told by the kindly man that Braavos existence had been a secret for a century; its location had been hidden thrice that long. This can be resolved if the first Faceless Man is in fact very old. At least 400 years old at the time of the Doom. Aemon said that ice preserves as an explanation for his age. If so, then an ice sorcerer may well be able to live for a long time. Can also be compared to the Undying Ones who also seem to be very old. If this is correct, then the first FM may still be alive. Varys/Qyburn may thus be the first Faceless man. If so, then after perhaps close to a millennium of experience and with the ability to change bodies Varys may be the somewhat surprising winner of all best swordsman contests and similar events.
If the First FM/Varys/Qyburn uses death/cold magic to extend his own life this would seem to be hypocritical. Of course, hypocrisy is not uncommon in religion. Religious leader may claim and even believe that they may do what is forbidden to their followers. Of course only to bring about a greater good. So if Varys must extend his own life this would only be temporarily and for the greater overall good of all.
Bran in his prophetic dream, after images regarding the Starks, dreams that "Over them both loomed a giant in armor made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood." There have been various interpretations of this larger threat but the best is likely that this threat is the FM. The giant in stone armor indicates Braavos (the Titan) and the lack of face the FM there.
Aemon states while very sick that "the sphinx was the riddle, not the riddler". This is among references to prophecies and may refer to some as usual cryptic prophetic statement. A sphinx is composed of body parts from different animals and humans. FM can assume many different shapes. They also seem to be fond of making riddles or otherwise obscure statements. So this may be a subtle hint that the identity and the goals of the FM are of central importance.
One of the prophecies in the House of the Undying is "Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow. A cloth dragon swayed on poles amidst a cheering crowd. From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing, breathing shadow fire. . . . mother of dragons, slayer of lies"
This indicates that there are three important lies for Daenerys to slay. Obviously very interesting for any theory regarding the FM. The first lie is obviously that Stannis is the Prince the was Promised and has Lightbringer. Regarding the second Daenerys later states that a mummer’s dragon is a cloth dragon on poles that is used by mummers in their follies in order to give the heroes something to fight. This seems to be about young Griff and Varys. Alternatively, fits with Varys or the FM (the consummate mummers) taking concealed control over one dragon. In either case, maybe the FM using this threat as a distraction for the heroes. The third lie is unclear but one possible interpretation is that the smoking tower symbolizes the Doom with only smoking volcanoes being left behind, taking flight indicates something being born or gaining power as the FM did in connection with the Doom, the stony beast again indicates Braavos, and shadow fire (seemingly a contradiction) indicates the FM enveloping the world in their illusions.
Overall story structure
There is apparently an strange disconnect with the series. Most of the series seem to be about the politics and family affairs of the high nobility. Then there are also the Others who seem to have very little connection with all of this intriguing. We have now reached more than the halfway point of the series and the Others seem still not to be really important to anyone south of the Wall. They will seemingly not become important in ADWD either since there are no news of an invasion in AFFC. As such the Others, despite being the greatest threat and being in very the introduction to the series, seem almost to be a largely unnecessary and unrelated fantasy gimmick. In contrast, in this theory the Others and their allies have been behind most of the political intrigues from the very beginning.
One objection is that this theory adds too much new, powerful magic to the setting. As well as too much power to a specific group. Actually, the theory does not add any new magic that is not already known. What the theory does is pointing out the logical implications of enormous power that the FM have from magical ability that they are already known to possess.
Another story structure reason for the theory is that the story would be greater for showing the true range of human evil. Who are evil men? There are sadists like Joffrey who enjoys seeing the face of the person suffering. Terrible if you are in such a person's power. But since they want to see the victim's pain they will not gain by killing many anonymous persons.
Then there are persons like Tywin who have no problem with letting his men and sellswords cause ordinary people much suffering if he can gain some tactical advantage from this. Such persons have probably caused more damage than pure sadists. But self-interest will limit such men. Such a person must treat those he rule somewhat well or they cannot provide taxes and resources for him.
Finally, there are those not acting out of obvious self-interest. These are the Hitlers and Stalins who see no problem with truly grand scale mass murder. Even if this goes against rational self-interest by killing large groups who could provide useful services. This in order to achieve what they see as a just, higher goal. These are persons who cause the most suffering. So in order to include the full range of human evil, the story should not be content with just the evils of sadism and self-interest. To quote Varys himself: "There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man."
Edited by Toe, 17 July 2011 - 11:00 AM.