The Old Tongue

Illyrio's motives in GoT

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As noted upthread, in Cersei IV, Feast 17, we get a hint about a plot Cersei is cooking up with Balon Swann for Dorne, and we note that the passage suggests that the plot is known only to Cersei and Balon. In The Watcher, Dance 38, we learn what that plot is...

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Prince Doran took a jagged breath. "Dorne still has friends at court. Friends who tell us things we were not meant to know. This invitation Cersei sent us is a ruse. Trystane is never meant to reach King's Landing. On the road back, somewhere in the kingswood, Ser Balon's party will be attacked by outlaws, and my son will die. I am asked to court only so that I may witness this attack with my own eyes and thereby absolve the queen of any blame. Oh, and these outlaws? They will be shouting, ‘Halfman, Halfman,' as they attack. Ser Balon may even catch a quick glimpse of the Imp, though no one else will."

That the plot is known only to Cersei and Balon strongly suggests that Varys is the source of Doran's information. 

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While Varys might be feeding Doran Martell choice intelligence, it appears to be a one-way street. In Daenerys VI, Dance 43, we learn of the secret pact between Oberyn for House Martell and Ser Willem Darry for House Targaryen to wed Viserys to Arianne in exchange for Dorne's support to reclaim the Iron Throne. In an SSM, the storyteller advised that Varys and Illyrio were not aware of the pact. We should also note that the Sealord of Braavos witnessed the pact. 

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On 3/29/2017 at 5:19 PM, Lost Melnibonean said:

While Varys might be feeding Doran Martell choice intelligence, it appears to be a one-way street. In Daenerys VI, Dance 43, we learn of the secret pact between Oberyn for House Martell and Ser Willem Darry for House Targaryen to wed Viserys to Arianne in exchange for Dorne's support to reclaim the Iron Throne. In an SSM, the storyteller advised that Varys and Illyrio were not aware of the pact. We should also note that the Sealord of Braavos witnessed the pact. 

Its possible to work together and still keep secrets from each other.

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1 hour ago, Lord Wraith said:

Its possible to work together and still keep secrets from each other.

Absolutely. 

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The Red Keep had its secrets too. Even Rhaegar. The Prince of Dragonstone had never trusted him as he had trusted Arthur Dayne. Harrenhal was proof of that. The year of the false spring.

The memory was still bitter. Old Lord Whent had announced the tourney shortly after a visit from his brother, Ser Oswell Whent of the Kingsguard. With Varys whispering in his ear, King Aerys became convinced that his son was conspiring to depose him, that Whent’s tourney was but a ploy to give Rhaegar a pretext for meeting with as many great lords as could be brought together. Aerys had not set foot outside the Red Keep since Duskendale, yet suddenly he announced that he would accompany Prince Rhaegar to Harrenhal, and everything had gone awry from there.

The Kingbreaker, Dance 67

If Illyrio sent Varys to destabilize Aerys's rule, perhaps Varys recognized Rhaegar's coup-plotting and warned Aerys, fearing that Rhaegar would be harder to undermine? 

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As discussed way up thread, Eddard promised Robert that he would take care of the king's children, so surely, Eddard made Gendry a part of his agreement with Cersei. As discussed here and here, in Arya II, Clash 5, Cersei sends gold cloaks after Gendry, apparently reneging her agreement with Eddard after her son had the Ned's head chopped off. In Tyrion II, Clash 8, Janos confirms that Varys did not expect Joffrey’s command to behead the Ned. On Tyrion's order, Varys sends Janos to the Wall, and Tyrion learns that Janos's man did for the babe Barra, Varys, of course, knows that Cersei sent the gold cloaks for Barra and Gendry, and Varys confirms that he did send Gendry to the Wall. Presumably, neither Eddard nor Varys saw any need to protect an infant bastard girl born to a whore. Varys laments the untimely deaths of Jon Arryn and Eddard Stark, which reminds us of Illyrio's order to delay the war. In Tyrion III, Clash 15, Varys admits that he has known of the “twincest” for quite some time...

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"... Besides, the bastards were there for all to see."

"Robert's bastards? What of them?"

"He fathered eight, to the best of my knowing," Varys said as he wrestled with the saddle. "Their mothers were copper and honey, chestnut and butter, yet the babes were all black as ravens ... and as ill-omened, it would seem. So when Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen slid out between your sister's thighs, each as golden as the sun, the truth was not hard to glimpse."

After finishing Storm, it seems clear that Petyr set in motion Jon Arryn's discovery of the twincest, and that Varys was holding back the information about the bastards. It seems likely that Varys kept tabs on Robert's bastards to parade them, or at least point them out to the lords around the realm, when he was ready to initiate a crisis of succession that would benefit Aegon's arrival in Westeros. 

 

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Posted (edited)

Varys's evil monologue in the Epilogue to Dance is one of the most intriguing passages in all of ASOIAF. So, what was the George telling us? This is where it begins (I only omitted a short, non-relevant exchange with Cersei)...

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He might have said more, but the dark-haired novice with the round cheeks returned to say, "My lord, my lady, I am sorry to intrude, but there is a boy below. Grand Maester Pycelle begs the favor of the Lord Regent's presence at once.

If we suspect that the boy below was one of Varys's little birds, and that he could not speak, then how did he pass the information to the dark-haired novice? Did he give a written note to Ser Meryn, who kept him waiting below, with Meryn then relaying the summons to the dark-haired novice? Or was the dark-haired novice working for Varys? 

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Dark wings, dark words, Ser Kevan thought. Could Storm' s End have fallen? Or might this be word from Bolton in the north? . . .

The summons said nothing about a raven, yet The George, through Kevan's thoughts, has us thinking about ravens right off the bat. 

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The messenger was a boy of eight or nine, so bundled up in fur he seemed a bear cub. Trant had kept him waiting out on the drawbridge rather than admit him into Maegor's. "Go find a fire, lad," Ser Kevan told him, pressing a penny into his hand. "I know the way to the rookery well enough."

Since we know the boy was sent by Varys, and since the boy did not speak when he was met by Kevan, we can assume that he is one of Varys's little birds, whom we assume have their tongues removed and learn their letters before arriving in King's Landing.

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The snow had finally stopped falling. Behind a veil of ragged clouds, a full moon floated fat and white as a snowball. The stars shone cold and distant. As Ser Kevan made his way across the inner ward, the castle seemed an alien place, where every keep and tower had grown icy teeth, and all familiar paths had vanished beneath a white blanket. Once an icicle long as a spear fell to shatter by his feet. Autumn in King' s Landing, he brooded. What must it be like up on the Wall? 

The author is clearly setting a creepy mood here, with a full moon, stars shining cold and distant, an alien landscape with icy teeth, no familiar paths, and a spear of ice falling near him.

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The door was opened by a serving girl, a skinny thing in a fur-lined robe much too big for her. Ser Kevan stamped the snow off his boots, removed his cloak, tossed it to her. "The Grand Maester is expecting me," he announced. The girl nodded, solemn and silent, and pointed to the steps.

We know this girl is working for Varys, and her silence is pointed out by the George. Notice that she does not depart from the room.

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Pycelle's chambers were beneath the rookery, a spacious suite of rooms cluttered with racks of herbs and salves and potions and shelves jammed full of books and scrolls. Ser Kevan had always found them uncomfortably hot. Not tonight. Once past the chamber door, the chill was palpable. Black ash and dying embers were all that remained of the hearthfire. A few flickering candles cast pools of dim light here and there. The rest was shrouded in shadow except beneath the open window, where a spray of ice crystals glittered in the moonlight, swirling in the wind.

Now, we know that something is very wrong since the window has been left open and the fire has been allowed to die on a cold night. And consider that imagery... dying embers in black ash--not gray ash, but black ash. Burning embers are red, but as they die, the red turns to black.  

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On the window seat a raven loitered, pale, huge, its feathers ruffled. It was the largest raven that Kevan Lannister had ever seen. Larger than any hunting hawk at Casterly Rock, larger than the largest owl. Blowing snow danced around it, and the moon painted it silver.

Not silver. White. The bird is white.

The white ravens of the Citadel did not carry messages, as their dark cousins did. When they went forth from Oldtown, it was for one purpose only: to herald a change of seasons.

"Winter," said Ser Kevan. The word made a white mist in the air. He turned away from the window.

This is our first confirmation that winter has finally come. And notice that Kevan's breath upon speaking made a white mist in the air. So now the reader has been told to think about ravens and mists and ... Bloodraven? Recall what we learned from Dunk...

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How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have? the riddle ran. A thousand eyes, and one. Some claimed the King's Hand was a student of the dark arts who could change his face, put on the likeness of a one-eyed dog, even turn into a mist. Packs of gaunt gray wolves hunted down his foes, men said, and carrion crows spied for him and whispered secrets in his ear.

The Mystery Knight

Turning back to the passage at hand...

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Then something slammed him in the chest between the ribs, hard as a giant's fist. It drove the breath from him and sent him lurching backwards. The white raven took to the air, its pale wings slapping him about the head.

First note abrupt change from creepy to the quarrel slamming into Kevan's chest, like modulation in a musical composition. But why would the raven, chilling on the window seat, fly across the room to slap Ser Kevan Lannister--formerly the right hand man of the late Tywin of House Lannister, Lord of Caterly Rock, Warden of the West, and Hand of the King--about the head with its pale wings? Earlier in the Epilogue...

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sweet Tommen burbled about the exploits of his kittens, whilst feeding them morsels of pike off his own royal plate. "The bad cat was outside my window last night," he informed Kevan at one point, "but Ser Pounce hissed at him and he ran off across the roofs."

"The bad cat?" Ser Kevan said, amused. He is a sweet boy. "An old black tomcat with a torn ear," Cersei told him. "A filthy thing, and foul-tempered. He clawed Joff's hand once." She made a face. "The cats keep the rats down, I know, but that one … he's been known to attack ravens in the rookery."

And that, of course recalls the one-eared tom that Arya chased...

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"That's the real king of this castle right there," one of the gold cloaks had told her. "Older than sin and twice as mean. One time, the king was feasting the queen's father, and that black bastard hopped up on the table and snatched a roast quail right out of Lord Tywin's fingers. Robert laughed so hard he like to burst. You stay away from that one, child."

Arya III, Game 32

And this, from another evil monologue by Varys...

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"Rhaenys was a child too. Prince Rhaegar's daughter. A precious little thing, younger than your girls. She had a small black kitten she called Balerion, did you know? I always wondered what happened to him. Rhaenys liked to pretend he was the true Balerion, the Black Dread of old, but I imagine the Lannisters taught her the difference between a kitten and a dragon quick enough, the day they broke down her door."

There is a theory of course that Rhaenys's kitten grew into the one-eared tom, and that Bloodraven skinchanges the one-eared Tom. Perhaps he was also skinchanging the white raven here? 

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Ser Kevan half-sat and half-fell onto the window seat. What ... who ... A quarrel was sunk almost to the fletching in his chest. No. No, that was how my brother died. Blood was seeping out around the shaft. "Pycelle," he muttered, confused. "Help me ... I ... "

Then he saw. Grand Maester Pycelle was seated at his table, his head pillowed on the great leather-bound tome before him. Sleeping, Kevan thought until he blinked and saw the deep red gash in the old man's spotted skull and the blood pooled beneath his head, staining the pages of his book. All around his candle were bits of bone and brain, islands in a lake of melted wax.

He wanted guards, Ser Kevan thought. I should have sent him guards. Could Cersei have been right all along? Was this his nephew's work?

"Tyrion?" he called. "Where ... ?"

"Far away," a half-familiar voice replied.

He stood in a pool of shadow by a bookcase, plump, pale-faced, round-shouldered, clutching a crossbow in soft powdered hands. Silk slippers swaddled his feet.

"Varys?" The eunuch set the crossbow down.

"Ser Kevan. Forgive me if you can. I bear you no ill will. This was not done from malice. It was for the realm. For the children."

I cannot take that last sentence at face value. The first statement, the plea for forgiveness, and the testament that Varys is not murdering Kevan out of malice appears believable. Kevan's good works are an obstacle to Varys's effort to pave the way for the Blackfyre. And that ties into the penultimate sentence, that he murdered Kevan for the realm, not for the good of the realm, mind you, but for the realm. The king and the land are one, after all. But for the children? Which children would those be? The ones Varys has mutilated and disabled to serve his purpose? The little ones that were slaughtered or traumatized and left for dead, especially in the Riverlands, during the War of the Five Kings, like poor Weasel? Meribald works for the children, not Varys. 

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"I have children. I have a wife. Oh, Dorna. Pain washed over him. He closed his eyes, opened them again. "There are there are hundreds of Lannister guardsmen in this castle."

"But none in this room, thankfully. This pains me, my lord. You do not deserve to die alone on such a cold dark night. There are many like you, good men in service to bad causes but you were threatening to undo all the queen's good work, to reconcile Highgarden and Casterly Rock, bind the Faith to your little king, unite the Seven Kingdoms under Tommen's rule. So ... 

Again, I ask, if Kevan is laying the foundation for a lasting peace, and if Varys wants a lasting peace, why did Varys murder Kevan?

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A gust of wind blew up. Ser Kevan shivered violently. "Are you cold, my lord?" asked Varys. "Do forgive me. The Grand Maester befouled himself in dying, and the stink was so abominable that I thought I might choke."

Ser Kevan tried to rise, but the strength had left him. He could not feel his legs.

"I thought the crossbow fitting. You shared so much with Lord Tywin, why not that? Your niece will think the Tyrells had you murdered, mayhaps with the connivance of the Imp. The Tyrells will suspect her. Someone somewhere will find a way to blame the Dornishmen."

Is more war, on the heels of a horribly destructive conflict, and at the onset of what will most likely be a brutal winter, truly in the best interest of the children?

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"Doubt, division, and mistrust will eat the very ground beneath your boy king, whilst Aegon raises his banner above Storm's End and the lords of the realm gather round him."

"Aegon?" For a moment he did not understand. Then he remembered. A babe swaddled in a crimson cloak, the cloth stained with his blood and brains. "Dead. He's dead."

"No." The eunuch's voice seemed deeper. "He is here."

Now, we learn, without doubt, that Varys, along with Illyrio, supports Aegon. And there is no denying that the George is leading us to believe that Kevan and Varys are referring to the same Aegon. But is the George actually telling us that these Aegons are one and the same, or is he only leading us to this conclusion? The ambiguity suggests the latter. 

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"Aegon has been shaped for rule since before he could walk. He has been trained in arms, as befits a knight to be, but that was not the end of his education. He reads and writes, he speaks several tongues, he has studied history and law and poetry. A septa has instructed him in the mysteries of the Faith since he was old enough to understand them. He has lived with fisherfolk, worked with his hands, swum in rivers and mended nets and learned to wash his own clothes at need. He can fish and cook and bind up a wound, he knows what it is like to be hungry, to be hunted, to be afraid. Tommen has been taught that kingship is his right. Aegon knows that kingship is his duty, that a king must put his people first, and live and rule for them."

Based on this passage, and Vary's rise from a challenging childhood, many readers believe that Varys wants to install a benevolent sovereign. But I interpret this as Varys saying something like, "Oho, our claimant is better than your claimant." It reminds me of Eustace's monologue to Dunk about the virtues of Daemon Blackfyre over Daeron Targaryen, albeit for different justifications. But do the ends justify the means? Did Varys spend the last couple of decades putting the children first? 

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Kevan Lannister tried to cry out ... to his guards, his wife, his brother ... but the words would not come. Blood dribbled from his mouth. He shuddered violently.

"I am sorry." Varys wrung his hands. "You are suffering, I know, yet here I stand going on like some silly old woman. Time to make an end to it."

Notice how the George acknowledges the evil monologue to the reader. 

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The eunuch pursed his lips and gave a little whistle.

Like Jiminy Cricket. Does Varys have a conscience? 

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Ser Kevan was cold as ice, and every labored breath sent a fresh stab of pain through him. He glimpsed movement, heard the soft scuffling sound of slippered feet on stone. A child emerged from a pool of darkness, a pale boy in a ragged robe, no more than nine or ten. Another rose up behind the Grand Maester's chair. The girl who had opened the door for him was there as well.

She never left. 

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They were all around him, half a dozen of them, white-faced children with dark eyes, boys and girls together.

I would assume they are white-faced because Varys keeps his mutilated and disabled little children toiling in the tunnels of the Red Keep so that one day, a king will come to put his people first, and live and rule for the children. (How can I set the font for sarcastic?) 

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And in their hands, the daggers.

Bye-bye Ser Kevan Lannister. 

Edited by Lost Melnibonean

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