Daenerys Targaryen's slave

Varys: Spy Network Makes No Sense

31 posts in this topic

4 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

That would depend on his age. Varys is only in business in KL since the late 270s. Nor sure, though, that Biter was ever intelligent enough to have been a little bird.

He would probably have to be 30 or younger, which is certainly a possibility.

As for the other point, that is the specific reason I found the idea interesting. Biter clearly doesn't have enough intelligence now, but what if that is from years of abuse from someone with telepathic/skinchanging powers? Incredibly crackpot here, but what if Varys actually skinchanges his little birds to get information from them? If "know their letters" simply means able to read, and not write, then Varys could ensure his information is safe, but the end result could be the little birds growing up to be like Biter. It could also explain why Illyrio calls him a sorcerer.

Probably complete nonsense, though. ;)

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15 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

snip

It still seems awfully far-fetched. A headquarters deep below the black cells, with barracks and such for the LB's and a team of overseers to keep them in line and process their data? Little children who spend their entire lives in darkness, sneaking around in tunnels and climbing up and down multi-story ladders on a daily basis? Do they get any downtime? Are they allowed out in the sunshine? Even in Pentos, they were street children who were paid for their information and were able to blend in with the other rabble. In this case, they would have to remain completely isolated -- at least if they are mutes.

It seems like a system with multiple risk factors and points of failure. First, it would require little children to accurately memorize and report on complex matters of war, statecraft, diplomacy and sex that they would be too young to understand. Second, all it would take is just one malcontent to begin to imagine that there must be something more to life and then spill everything to the queen and the jig is up for Varys; hence, the notion that they are drugged. But even that would inhibit their ability to function reliably. He'll also need to either ensure lifelong loyalty among his followers or commit himself to routinely murdering children while constantly recruiting new ones, and then disposing the bodies so thoroughly that suspicions aren't aroused -- particularly among the LBs who notice that their compatriots tend to suddenly vanish once they reach a certain age.

But, hey, it's fantasy, so I'll roll with it.

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On 1/8/2017 at 2:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

Most importantly, he must have access to his own ravens to send and receive messages as quickly as he apparently does. For instance, in AGoT Varys is the first in KL to learn about Tyrion's abduction in the Riverlands (he knows it before Yoren arrives at the Red Keep at the very end of the Arya chapter where she overhears Varys and Illyrio under the castle). It is very difficult to imagine how a rider carrying the news should have reached Varys before Yoren reached Ned (who told Ned that he is the first rider to reach KL starting at the inn). If the message had spread and a raven had reached Stokeworth or Rosby the entire court and not just only Varys would have known about the whole thing, thus it is likely that one of Varys' agents was at the inn and later informed him via raven or carrier pigeon.

Or he has littlebirds/prostitutes/people in his pay that read the messages soon after Pycelle does 

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The story would have been better without this "Little Birds" Nonsense.

 

The best way would be if his nickname "Spider" had more meaning, like if his mind was one spider web with millions of threads. He has a group of small magical spiders that climb into the ears, then brain, of his targets, and he is able to hear their thoughts.

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This always made no sense to me,  but Illyrio calling him a sorcerer explains it to me.  I wouldn't be surprised if Varys removed his own genitalia and uses sorcery to obtain the secrets.  I sometimes wonder if he is a Warg and he is literally controlling the birds and mice in the rooms of the conversations he overhears. It would explain why he doesn't know Jon is a targ, because Ned never spoke a word about it

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14 hours ago, HoboJed said:

Probably complete nonsense, though. ;)

Most likely, yeah.

5 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

It still seems awfully far-fetched. A headquarters deep below the black cells, with barracks and such for the LB's and a team of overseers to keep them in line and process their data? Little children who spend their entire lives in darkness, sneaking around in tunnels and climbing up and down multi-story ladders on a daily basis? Do they get any downtime? Are they allowed out in the sunshine? Even in Pentos, they were street children who were paid for their information and were able to blend in with the other rabble. In this case, they would have to remain completely isolated -- at least if they are mutes.

I assume they would have some downtime and would also enjoy some time in the sun, so to speak. There are hints that the birds are occasionally much more visible in the castle than one should think. Remember Arya's interaction with Tommen and Myrcella's septa in AGoT? The guardsman she is talking to about Arya gives us the impression that young urchins of unknown origin are a rather common sight in the Red Keep.

One also assumes that they are working in shifts, possibly not so long shifts considering that they are young children. Perhaps 4-6 hours a day? Varys most likely wants accurate information. That could also be helped with if there are routinely 2-3 birds assigned to each listening post.

5 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

It seems like a system with multiple risk factors and points of failure. First, it would require little children to accurately memorize and report on complex matters of war, statecraft, diplomacy and sex that they would be too young to understand.

That is why Illyrio makes it clear that the kind of children Varys wants are hard to come by. They have to be both small and very clever. And it is also quite clear that they must have a system in place to train them, possibly veteran little mice from Varys' days in Pentos. Varys wants another fifty birds back in AGoT, suggesting that there are 'bird schools' somewhere at Illyrio's holdings in the Flatlands.

Whether it is realistic that children can be trained to do this kind of work is, of course, another question. It is a rather common trait in George's books that children grow up early and have to shoulder a lot of responsibility at an early age. But one assumes that they are trained not to interpret things but to write down the conversations they overhear in a shorthand code.

That is essentially confirmed by Varys' testimony during Tyrion's trial where he essentially presented the court with detailed protocols of Tyrion's conversations with various people - information he could only have acquired via his little birds.

5 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

Second, all it would take is just one malcontent to begin to imagine that there must be something more to life and then spill everything to the queen and the jig is up for Varys; hence, the notion that they are drugged.

I'm not sure about that. It is not that the little bird system is completely unknown by the powers in KL. Aerys II would have known about them, and Robert and Jon Arryn might have known about them, too. Littlefinger certainly knows, and Olenna at least suspects, knowing about the secret passages the Targaryens built into their castle.

Even Cersei and Jaime might sort of know - but both clearly did underestimate the how many secret passages were in the Red Keep.

How much the average bird knows about Varys and Illyrio's plans is difficult to say. One assumes that they have veteran birds they trust whereas the children who are doing the actual work first have to earn that trust. Providing Varys and the Iron Throne with information is their job, so they have most likely no reason to believe that the powers that be would be interested in what they have to say.

Things only changed for the birds as a whole, one assumes, when Varys freed Tyrion and decided to go underground. But Varys presumably explained to the birds why this was necessary. Those who help him murder Pycelle and Kevan clearly are on board with his plans.

5 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

But even that would inhibit their ability to function reliably. He'll also need to either ensure lifelong loyalty among his followers or commit himself to routinely murdering children while constantly recruiting new ones, and then disposing the bodies so thoroughly that suspicions aren't aroused -- particularly among the LBs who notice that their compatriots tend to suddenly vanish once they reach a certain age.

There is no confirmation that Varys actively kills any birds. The conversation Arya overhears indicates that they die easily, especially the younger ones Varys wants. The corpses Jaime finds in the walls of the Tower of the Hand seem to confirm that this tunnel climbing is a dangerous trade.

We also see that birds are not only used in the Red Keep tunnels but also, for instance, on the ship that carries Tyrion to Pentos. The cabin boy who feeds and cleans Tyrion is also one of the birds but Tyrion fails to realize this, thinking the boy will talk later on. He never says a word to Tyrion, though.

In general I'm with you that the idea is not completely plausible but it is realistic enough to swallow it in an fantasy story. But George could expand on the whole thing in future books. I mean, Varys is likely to step out of the shadows for Aegon's coronation and reign, and we might see Aegon, Arianne, and Jon Connington comment on the whole system.

4 hours ago, Dorian Martell's son said:

Or he has littlebirds/prostitutes/people in his pay that read the messages soon after Pycelle does 

That doesn't make sense in that particular case. Varys knows about Tyrion's abduction before Ned hears about it from Yoren, but nobody at court aside from Ned knows about it on the next day when the Small Council discusses Dany's assassination. Robert, Renly, Littlefinger, etc. are all there yet Cersei and Jaime have not yet pushed Robert to punish Ned for his transgressions. They only learn about that later in that chapter and then Jaime rushes into the city to confront Ned when he is returning from the brothel. Even Littlefinger seems to have had no clue about the abduction.

If Pycelle had had a raven about the abduction he would have gone to Robert, Cersei, and Jaime at once.

Varys most certainly has access to the rookery and Pycelle's chambers (we get proof of this in ADwD, after all) and thus it is also likely that little birds routinely copy all the messages Pycelle receives but he also must have had his own system to receive and send messages by raven.

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7 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

It still seems awfully far-fetched. A headquarters deep below the black cells, with barracks and such for the LB's and a team of overseers to keep them in line and process their data? Little children who spend their entire lives in darkness, sneaking around in tunnels and climbing up and down multi-story ladders on a daily basis? Do they get any downtime? Are they allowed out in the sunshine? Even in Pentos, they were street children who were paid for their information and were able to blend in with the other rabble. In this case, they would have to remain completely isolated -- at least if they are mutes.

It seems like a system with multiple risk factors and points of failure. First, it would require little children to accurately memorize and report on complex matters of war, statecraft, diplomacy and sex that they would be too young to understand. Second, all it would take is just one malcontent to begin to imagine that there must be something more to life and then spill everything to the queen and the jig is up for Varys; hence, the notion that they are drugged. But even that would inhibit their ability to function reliably. He'll also need to either ensure lifelong loyalty among his followers or commit himself to routinely murdering children while constantly recruiting new ones, and then disposing the bodies so thoroughly that suspicions aren't aroused -- particularly among the LBs who notice that their compatriots tend to suddenly vanish once they reach a certain age.

But, hey, it's fantasy, so I'll roll with it.

They obviously weren't memorizing anything. After all they were required to be able to write. And they didn't need to understand what the adults were talking about. All they are required to do is report the words said. Varys decides what is important in what is reported. If the children are only taught a type of cryptic shorthand (like Jorah was taught a code), then there is no danger of them betraying Varys. However, I think the children were true believers in whatever Varys' scheme is.

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5 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

That doesn't make sense in that particular case. Varys knows about Tyrion's abduction before Ned hears about it from Yoren, but nobody at court aside from Ned knows about it on the next day when the Small Council discusses Dany's assassination. Robert, Renly, Littlefinger, etc. are all there yet Cersei and Jaime have not yet pushed Robert to punish Ned for his transgressions. They only learn about that later in that chapter and then Jaime rushes into the city to confront Ned when he is returning from the brothel. Even Littlefinger seems to have had no clue about the abduction.

If Pycelle had had a raven about the abduction he would have gone to Robert, Cersei, and Jaime at once.

Varys most certainly has access to the rookery and Pycelle's chambers (we get proof of this in ADwD, after all) and thus it is also likely that little birds routinely copy all the messages Pycelle receives but he also must have had his own system to receive and send messages by raven.

The littlebirds that were in Pycelle's room at the end of dance had access. They could intercept the ravens if he was out on official business or spending time at a whorehouse. There is time 

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6 minutes ago, Dorian Martell's son said:

The littlebirds that were in Pycelle's room at the end of dance had access. They could intercept the ravens if he was out on official business or spending time at a whorehouse. There is time 

Sure, but then the little birds would steal letters addressed to Pycelle, the king, or the queen. That's not the modus operandi of the little birds. They would just copy the information.

Varys really knows things earlier than anybody else in the capital. That's confirmed in that case.

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2 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Sure, but then the little birds would steal letters addressed to Pycelle, the king, or the queen. That's not the modus operandi of the little birds. They would just copy the information.

Varys really knows things earlier than anybody else in the capital. That's confirmed in that case.

It was also the first book, and many of the mechanisms the author worked out later are not fully in place. You might be reading too much into that 

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1 hour ago, Dorian Martell's son said:

It was also the first book, and many of the mechanisms the author worked out later are not fully in place. You might be reading too much into that 

There are other such hints, though. Varys also learns rather early about Dany's dragons. If he was strictly limited to the information flow based on ships and message riders, he would be a pretty bad spy master. And that's the case for any spy master in Westeros, not just Varys. Bloodraven, Tyanna, Mysaria, Larys Strong, etc. all should have had ravens of their own, or else they would have been dependent on the maester to do their jobs which, in turn, should mean that the Grand Maester should also be the spy master.

But he isn't.

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