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Floki of the Ironborn

If Varys Really Serves the Realm, Why Did He Serve the Mad King?

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It's something that really makes no sense to me. Varys seems so determined to protect the realm, whatever that means, and works to help the people's condition by pushing for deals and conspiracies to ensure that the realm is protected and peaceful.

So why in seven hells would Varys ever support Aerys II Targaryen?

I admit, Rhaegar is still an ambiguous figure, but assuming that he really was a good guy who was plotting to push an abdication out of his dad for reasons of insanity, then why would Varys oppose him? Rhaegar managed to bring the large part of the great and noble houses in the Seven Kingdoms together at Harrenhal. Surely a man as clever as Varys could realize that Aerys was the fading figure, and clearly unworthy of sitting the Iron Throne? One way or another, Rhaegar was going to succeed Aerys. Why would Varys undermine all the peaceful efforts to get a decent man in charge of the Seven Kingdoms? It just feels like it undermines everything else that Varys claims to do.

Edited by Floki of the Ironborn

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Aerys was the rightful king and Westeros was doing very well despite his mental problems.  It would have been for the best to endure his reign and wait until Viserys or Rhaegar to get crowned.  Hindsight proved Varys correct.  It took less than 20 years for Robert, Cersei, Jon, and Ned to mess everything up.  

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There are rather easy answers to this.

One would be that Varys originally did not 'serve the Realm' but himself and/or King Aerys II. This would then be called 'character development' since Varys would then have realized how wrong it was to serve this Mad King and how devastating effects the Rebellion had on the Realm at large - especially on the people of King's Landing who were brutally butchered during the Sack.

It doesn't make sense to treat Varys as a static character who had the same goals twenty years ago than he has now.

This is also the one who helps make sense of the Aegon plan if Aegon is not Rhaegar's son because if Varys went to KL to undermine the Targaryens and work for a (secret) Blackfyre takeover then it is very odd that Illyrio and the Golden Company weren't ready when the Rebellion began.

In a scenario where Varys helped Rhaegar and Aerys and Tywin to take out each other we can reasonably assume he wouldn't have been surprised by the Rebellion - if he was even a fraction of the player he is during the main series he would have not only seen that coming but would have actively worked to cause such a struggle. And then some Blackfyre pretender should have been ready by that time.

Another take is that 'serving the Realm' means for Varys 'serving the rightful dynasty' which is the only one powerful enough to keep order. Hence, the reason why he makes his ideal king a Targaryen and not a Blackfyre or a Baratheon. People do believe power resides with the Targaryens, and not any of the other houses.

Insofar as the political game during the last years of the reign of Aerys II is concerned we don't have to believe that Varys was Rhaegar's enemy or was trying to undermine him. We have no indication at this point that the Mad King was a great danger to the Realm or its people as such - if Varys cares about the common people then Aerys II is as good a king as any since Aerys II did, for the most part, only target high lords and great knights and some privileged servants serving in the Red Keep. He did not run around murdering peasants left and right. And up until 281 AC the reins of the government were firmly in the hands of Lord Tywin, meaning Varys had no need to remove the king to better the overall government of the Realm. Although I must say I like the idea that Varys fed Cersei the idea to convince Jaime to join the KG to convince Tywin to resign, but if he did that, he could have planned to convince the king to choose Rhaegar as his new Hand.

As I tried to do a couple of times recent postings - you can make a case that Robert Baratheon was a worse king than the Mad King if you consider his spending habits and the way he set up the Realm for explosion in his last years.

That being said - if Varys didn't side with Rhaegar openly at the Great Council idea thing there are quite a few possible explanations for this - for one, Rhaegar's chance to convince the lords to move against his father may have been pretty bad, especially prior to Harrenhal itself (where Aerys II first showed himself to the Realm at large in years). Varys may have simply wanted to prevent a civil war between father and son, knowing that Rhaegar didn't have the stomach to actually challenge his father openly or moving against him in a manner that made him look like a bloody usurper. I don't think Rhaegar ever wanted to depose his father, only take the reign of the government from him while allowing him to keep his crown (i.e. the regency scenario, not the forced abdication scenario). If it was Varys convincing Aerys II to go to Harrenhal himself it may have been a way to subtly undermine the man rather than strengthen him. We don't know how whether the lords and Rhaegar talked much about the king at Harrenhal, but chances are that there was some such talk, and if the Lyanna thing hadn't happened chances may have been better and not worse that Rhaegar would have been able to seize power 1-2 years later - and by peaceful means with minimal violence. After all, all the Realm saw how mad the Mad King actually were during the time he spent at Harrenhal.

Later we know that Aerys II and Rhaegar reconciled and Rhaegar was allowed to command the troops in the right against the rebels. Who is to say that Varys didn't play a considerable role in bringing father and son back together? It wouldn't have been Jon Connington who was in exile already, and most likely also not the other courtiers who didn't like Rhaegar very much.

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9 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

 

As I tried to do a couple of times recent postings - you can make a case that Robert Baratheon was a worse king than the Mad King if you consider his spending habits and the way he set up the Realm for explosion in his last years.

 

That's not exactly fair. Aerys' reign was only a success because of his Hand, and because Aerys, despite having harebrained schemes, never actually tried to make them happen. Honestly, that's one aspect of GRRM's writing that I take a bit of an issue with. Why wouldn't Aerys have spent bucketfuls of money on those wacky ideas he had, or the many women he slept with during his younger years? Even if you acknowledge that he had some kind of attention disorder with those big plans of his, what was he doing all those days that Tywin was effectively ruling? Sitting on his stomach playing chess? We know he was a womaniser during his younger years, and even a king will need to spend some amount of cash on that pursuit. He travelled across the realm, so where are the expenses for all that?

GRRM wanted Aerys to be an insane ruler whose reign nearly tore the Seven Kingdoms apart without actually having any real financial consequences, even during the huge civil war that was Robert's Rebellion. So, he turns Tywin into this ubermensh who somehow managed to quietly and passively do his job amazingly well while Aerys did... what? Make jokes behind his back? And even though a war lasted for over a year and caused thousands upon thousands of deaths (as well as at least five kingdoms either staying passively neutral or openly rebelling) there was still a huge vault of gold waiting for Robert to squander?? 

By all means, say that Robert was a terrible king. I agree. But his reign is more realistic than Aerys' reign. Aerys and Robert both had peaceful rules for most of their time as king, and they both had competent men as Hand of the King. But the difference was that Jon Arryn couldn't stop Robert from burning through money while Tywin somehow could stop Aerys. Why? At least Robert was of sound mind, Aerys was genuinely crazy. What did Tywin have over Aerys that allowed him to keep Aerys neutered in a corner spending no money?

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31 minutes ago, Canon Claude said:

That's not exactly fair. Aerys' reign was only a success because of his Hand, and because Aerys, despite having harebrained schemes, never actually tried to make them happen. Honestly, that's one aspect of GRRM's writing that I take a bit of an issue with. Why wouldn't Aerys have spent bucketfuls of money on those wacky ideas he had, or the many women he slept with during his younger years? Even if you acknowledge that he had some kind of attention disorder with those big plans of his, what was he doing all those days that Tywin was effectively ruling? Sitting on his stomach playing chess? We know he was a womaniser during his younger years, and even a king will need to spend some amount of cash on that pursuit. He travelled across the realm, so where are the expenses for all that?

GRRM wanted Aerys to be an insane ruler whose reign nearly tore the Seven Kingdoms apart without actually having any real financial consequences, even during the huge civil war that was Robert's Rebellion. So, he turns Tywin into this ubermensh who somehow managed to quietly and passively do his job amazingly well while Aerys did... what? Make jokes behind his back? And even though a war lasted for over a year and caused thousands upon thousands of deaths (as well as at least five kingdoms either staying passively neutral or openly rebelling) there was still a huge vault of gold waiting for Robert to squander?? 

By all means, say that Robert was a terrible king. I agree. But his reign is more realistic than Aerys' reign. Aerys and Robert both had peaceful rules for most of their time as king, and they both had competent men as Hand of the King. But the difference was that Jon Arryn couldn't stop Robert from burning through money while Tywin somehow could stop Aerys. Why? At least Robert was of sound mind, Aerys was genuinely crazy. What did Tywin have over Aerys that allowed him to keep Aerys neutered in a corner spending no money?

You're forgetting that Robert also had two wars instead of just one. The Greyjoy Rebellion caused a significant amount of damage and lives. And it's not like anything was actually gained with Balon Greyjoy's defeat. The Greyjoys rebelling was a loss to the Seven Kingdoms and bringing them back into the fold only cost more money.

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Aerys is an individual but the Targaryen dynasty is the system, the government.  You don't throw out the system because of one king.  Unfortunately you cannot remove the one king without doing a great deal of damage to the government.  Varys would know this.  The rebellion was not worth the lives lost.  The greater majority was not served well by the rebellion.  The rebellion overthrew a working government and replaced it with an ineffective one.  I would have sent Robert and Ned to King's Landing for judgment.  Whatever happens to them happens.  They get what they deserve if they were really plotting against Aerys.  They were both old enough to know what Rickard was up to.  If Ned knew of his father's plan to overthrow the Targaryens and did not report this to his king - - - he is supporting the conspiracy.  

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Let's not make this another Robert vs. Aerys thread. The point just was that Aerys, while mad, wasn't particularly cruel or ineffective as the head of his own government while he had Tywin to guide him. He was trying to do stupid stuff and he had occasional lapses where he executed a bunch of innocent people when he couldn't cope with the loss of another child, but prior to Duskendale he wasn't particularly erratic, and even afterwards he became more a danger/liability for himself and his family and courtiers, not the Realm at large. Because frankly, a king hiding in his own castle is a danger to no one.

And that means that Varys - if he was already saving the Realm back in the late 270s and early 280s - was actually in no rush to replace Aerys II with Rhaegar if his goal was to give the Realm peace and prosperity. Because that's something the system in place could manage with a mad monarch at the helm.

The problem with Robert isn't the man's personality, it is his personality and the system Robert set up. His government simply did not function, while the government of the Mad King actually worked - despite the king's mental issues. And that sadly means that Aerys II was a better king than Robert in the pre-Duskendale era. While he was still sane enough man to be responsible for his own actions he did a better job at appointing people and delegating tasks than Robert did throughout his entire reign. There is a reason why Ned has trouble telling the dying Robert he was a good king - and him saying he did a better job than Aerys is hardly a neutral assessment considering his love of Robert and the things Aerys II did to Rickard, Brandon, and tried to do to Ned and Robert (not to mention that the war also effectively killed Lyanna).

48 minutes ago, Canon Claude said:

That's not exactly fair. Aerys' reign was only a success because of his Hand, and because Aerys, despite having harebrained schemes, never actually tried to make them happen. Honestly, that's one aspect of GRRM's writing that I take a bit of an issue with. Why wouldn't Aerys have spent bucketfuls of money on those wacky ideas he had, or the many women he slept with during his younger years? Even if you acknowledge that he had some kind of attention disorder with those big plans of his, what was he doing all those days that Tywin was effectively ruling? Sitting on his stomach playing chess? We know he was a womaniser during his younger years, and even a king will need to spend some amount of cash on that pursuit. He travelled across the realm, so where are the expenses for all that?

Well, we do know the treasury wasn't full throughout all of Aerys II's reign - in fact, the king inherited debts from his father which Tywin in his magnamity took upon himself. Aerys II may have wasted money during the first few years of his reign, but he clearly didn't seem to have thrown one tourney after another the way Robert did it, and after Duskendale the Crown would have pretty much financed not a single entertainment thingy - no tourneys, no balls, feasts, no spectacles of any kind. That should have saved a lot of money.

And Aerys II never traveled the Realm as far as we know. He visited the West a couple of times, but he didn't do any formal progresses we are aware of.

One should also not imagine Aerys-Tywin as Tywin acting as king in his stead. They were partners for the greater part of the time, and even things started to go really bad, Aerys didn't do the Hand's job himself and employed a Hand who had no longer any access to the government stuff. We should also not imagine Aerys as Robert - who never bothered to attend his own council. We know Aerys II attended council even in his late years when he used the opportunity to have his cronies mock Tywin.

This means that Aerys II never messed with the government in such a manner as to ruin prosperity and peace even when he directly contradicted Tywin over an issue - especially since unlike a man who wouldn't give a damn about being popular he decided to actually change things back to the Tywin way when he realized he had made a mistake (although not admitting it was his mistake, of course).

Bottom line is that this 'Mad King' was just not that bad a guy. He was an ass, had a short attention span, was not very bright, but he wasn't a war monger or particularly cruel until paranoia and a fear of his very life caused him to do really bad things. And even then it was fear ruling his actions, not a desire for cruelty. Just think how he is too afraid to fire Tywin after Steffon's death rather than actually moving against the man. Or take how he shits his pants in fear when he suddenly realizes Jaime Lannister is his bodyguard now.

48 minutes ago, Canon Claude said:

GRRM wanted Aerys to be an insane ruler whose reign nearly tore the Seven Kingdoms apart without actually having any real financial consequences, even during the huge civil war that was Robert's Rebellion. So, he turns Tywin into this ubermensh who somehow managed to quietly and passively do his job amazingly well while Aerys did... what? Make jokes behind his back? And even though a war lasted for over a year and caused thousands upon thousands of deaths (as well as at least five kingdoms either staying passively neutral or openly rebelling) there was still a huge vault of gold waiting for Robert to squander?? 

That is not surprising in light of the fact that Viserys I's treasury was also full when the Dance began, and the Greens had only wasted a quarter of that money by the time Rhaenyra took the capital - three quarters were still around at the end of the war. Or think of Jaehaerys I's empty treasury after Maegor. His wars and building projects were expensive, and one imagines that King Aenys' fancy court on Dragonstone also didn't come cheap, draining on whatever reserves the treasury had.

KL only raised two armies throughout the Rebellion. It couldn't have cost the Iron Throne all that much.

48 minutes ago, Canon Claude said:

By all means, say that Robert was a terrible king. I agree. But his reign is more realistic than Aerys' reign. Aerys and Robert both had peaceful rules for most of their time as king, and they both had competent men as Hand of the King. But the difference was that Jon Arryn couldn't stop Robert from burning through money while Tywin somehow could stop Aerys. Why? At least Robert was of sound mind, Aerys was genuinely crazy. What did Tywin have over Aerys that allowed him to keep Aerys neutered in a corner spending no money?

One imagines that the Mad King simply wasn't much of spender. Especially not late in his reign. I mean, if you want imagine things so that Tywin only made a decent surplus each year up until Duskendale, so the treasury filled very slowly, but once the king essentially shut down court life and lived as a virtual prisoner in his castle for years (and possibly had Rhaegar pay for his own wedding) they would make a massive profit each year.

And to get on back on topic:

If the Mad King wasn't endangering the Realm and the government all that much - and if there were means to resolve the tensions between Aerys II and Rhaegar peacefully - then there is actually little reason why Varys should involve himself in a conspiracy to destroy the king.

The criteria to measure the success of a king in a medieval setting is whether the land is at peace and, especially in Westeros, there are no famines, plagues, cruel winters killing a lot of people, etc. And it seems all that was pretty fine during the Mad King's reign.

Even for Aegon IV - who apparently was the worst Targaryen king - we don't have any reason to assume his corruption and deliberate misrule made, say, the North or a Vale a bad place suffering from tyranny. His misrule would have focused on his court, his capital, and the places he visited to dispense justice there. Which Aegon IV - unlike Aerys II - may have done more often (we know he visited the Riverlands quite often). And unlike Aerys II Aegon IV would have likely surrounded himself with men as mean and corrupt as he himself was.

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58 minutes ago, James Fenimore Cooper XXII said:

Aerys is an individual but the Targaryen dynasty is the system, the government.  You don't throw out the system because of one king.  Unfortunately you cannot remove the one king without doing a great deal of damage to the government.  Varys would know this.  The rebellion was not worth the lives lost.  The greater majority was not served well by the rebellion.  The rebellion overthrew a working government and replaced it with an ineffective one.  I would have sent Robert and Ned to King's Landing for judgment.  Whatever happens to them happens.  They get what they deserve if they were really plotting against Aerys.  They were both old enough to know what Rickard was up to.  If Ned knew of his father's plan to overthrow the Targaryens and did not report this to his king - - - he is supporting the conspiracy.  

How can you possibly have that attitude about Ned?? Do we ever once have an inkling in Ned's own mind that he was aware of a massive conspiracy between his father, his old friend, and the bloody Prince of Dragonstone to depose the king?? That's absurd even for the tin-foil conspiracies that we come up with on this site. Canon is canon, Ned often thinks about the history of his family in his own mind, where he has no reason to lie or omit the truth. And it never comes up. Not once.

To be clear, I'm not against the idea that Rickard was conspiring with Rhaegar. It's definitely a possibility. But if this be treason, then why would Rickard include Ned in the knowledge when it can only do harm? Ned adds nothing to the conspiracy except another possible person who can spill the beans, either by accident or under torture. Rickard's conspiracies died with him. Ned wasn't involved, Robert wasn't involved (far as we know), and Brandon definitely wasn't involved. Brandon rode all the way down to King's Landing to tell Rhaegar that he was going to kill him. You don't trust an over-reactive idiot like that with any secrets. Plus, I suspect that Lyanna went willingly with Rhaegar and might even have had Rickard's blessing. If Brandon was aware of that, why would he make such a fuss about it and get himself captured by the king? I suspect it was Brandon's rash action which forced Rickard to King's Landing when he knew full well that Rhaegar and Lyanna were going to be together, but he had to keep the secret because he figured he'd have a worse fate than anything Aerys could come up with to punish him for his son's behaviour.

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53 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

If the Mad King wasn't endangering the Realm and the government all that much - and if there were means to resolve the tensions between Aerys II and Rhaegar peacefully - then there is actually little reason why Varys should involve himself in a conspiracy to destroy the king.

The criteria to measure the success of a king in a medieval setting is whether the land is at peace and, especially in Westeros, there are no famines, plagues, cruel winters killing a lot of people, etc. And it seems all that was pretty fine during the Mad King's reign.

Even for Aegon IV - who apparently was the worst Targaryen king - we don't have any reason to assume his corruption and deliberate misrule made, say, the North or a Vale a bad place suffering from tyranny. His misrule would have focused on his court, his capital, and the places he visited to dispense justice there. Which Aegon IV - unlike Aerys II - may have done more often (we know he visited the Riverlands quite often). And unlike Aerys II Aegon IV would have likely surrounded himself with men as mean and corrupt as he himself was.

You've been making a lot of good points, I admit that. Though I do still question this part about Varys' actions while he was the Master of Whisperers. From what we know of what happened, it's clear that Varys, either inadvertently or willingly, added to the Mad King's paranoia when he suspected his son of treason. Varys is constantly the one warning Aerys about trusting people, and he's doing that to a man who eventually thought cutting his nails might kill him somehow. Again, not making an accusation that Varys acted maliciously, but surely we can agree that he didn't help things. Aerys got worse and worse while Varys was at the Small Council. Even if Varys didn't think Rhaegar should depose his father, then feeding said father's paranoia wasn't a good solution around that. Why not talk to Rhaegar in private? Read him the riot act and warn him what trying to take the throne prematurely will do for Westeros. Then again, maybe he tried that and we don't know about it yet, but I hope that was the first thing he did.

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Varys is not consistent because Varys changed. He had an arc.

He began a loyal servant who did his job and nothing more, he would not overstep his bounds and would let the chips fall where they may. He served Aerys faithfully, believing this was the right way to go about things.

It ended in tears, for the realm, and particularly for the royal children, which not only faced a brutal death but didn't receive any justice under the realm's new king. The children symbolise to Varys the failure of his loyal hands off approach.

The Varys we know now is a response to that failure. He changed from doing just his job faithfully under Aerys, to fully engineering the kingdom himself. The problem to his eyes have been the kings, to right the realm's wrongs he has created a better king in Aegon. That Varys must cause some suffering (war) to create and sit Aegon on the throne is in his estimation the far lesser evil than the continuation of the current regimes and kings, and collateral damage he's willing to accept.

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3 hours ago, Floki of the Ironborn said:

It's something that really makes no sense to me. Varys seems so determined to protect the realm, whatever that means, and works to help the people's condition by pushing for deals and conspiracies to ensure that the realm is protected and peaceful.

So why in seven hells would Varys ever support Aerys II Targaryen?

I admit, Rhaegar is still an ambiguous figure, but assuming that he really was a good guy who was plotting to push an abdication out of his dad for reasons of insanity, then why would Varys oppose him? Rhaegar managed to bring the large part of the great and noble houses in the Seven Kingdoms together at Harrenhal. Surely a man as clever as Varys could realize that Aerys was the fading figure, and clearly unworthy of sitting the Iron Throne? One way or another, Rhaegar was going to succeed Aerys. Why would Varys undermine all the peaceful efforts to get a decent man in charge of the Seven Kingdoms? It just feels like it undermines everything else that Varys claims to do.

Maybe Varys hadn't crystalized his ideas at that point. He would have a been a young man and not quite clear on how to steer the reigns of power to benefit the smallfolk. I think Aerys was his first encounter with a monarch and Varys might admit that he made mistakes, if asked to reflect. He might not have seen the warning signs and when he finally did, he might have judged that he didn't have had power to resist, perhaps because he was afraid of being burnt alive himself. He didn't speak up then and he's now making up for that. He might be trying to learn from these mistakes by plotting to have Tyrion kill Tywin and taking out Kevan, perhaps. We really need to get him drunk to get him to reveal more of this. ;)

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42 minutes ago, Canon Claude said:

You've been making a lot of good points, I admit that. Though I do still question this part about Varys' actions while he was the Master of Whisperers. From what we know of what happened, it's clear that Varys, either inadvertently or willingly, added to the Mad King's paranoia when he suspected his son of treason. Varys is constantly the one warning Aerys about trusting people, and he's doing that to a man who eventually thought cutting his nails might kill him somehow. Again, not making an accusation that Varys acted maliciously, but surely we can agree that he didn't help things. Aerys got worse and worse while Varys was at the Small Council. Even if Varys didn't think Rhaegar should depose his father, then feeding said father's paranoia wasn't a good solution around that. Why not talk to Rhaegar in private? Read him the riot act and warn him what trying to take the throne prematurely will do for Westeros. Then again, maybe he tried that and we don't know about it yet, but I hope that was the first thing he did.

We actually have no concrete evidence that Varys fueled Aerys II's paranoia in the Rhaegar deparment. The men cited as to pushing the king against his heir were Symond Staunton and Qarlton Chelsted. Sure, could be they were mouthpieces of Varys, but since Varys himself actually had the ear of the king it would be odd if he were needing other men to push this anti-Rhaegar agenda.

And overall you have to think about who and what Varys is in those books: He is a foreign eunuch of the lowest birth who clawed himself to the top of Pentoshi society only with his brain and, presumably, an iron will. At court he plays the role a slimy, effeminate eunuch to hide his true persona but he was still hired to serve a paranoid king as a spymaster. To remain in that position - and to keep his head once the king's mental state turned from bad to worse - Varys had to do his job. And that job was to point out traitors and uncover conspiracies. I mean, when Aerys was at his worst I assume even a man who can read people as well as Varys would have to be very careful. With a sane person Varys would likely know in advance when he would be arrested or executed, but Aerys II was mad, so pretty much everything would have been likely to trigger his rage, especially bad news and no good idea how to deal with it. Thus Varys most likely would have to make compromises in what to say and do when bringing Aerys II news or advising him in council or in private.

People who don't really understand Varys' true persona in the slightest (Barristan and Jaime) claim the rot of Aerys II's started with Varys. But is that true? Or are they confusing cause and effect? It was the Mad King's increasing paranoia that caused him to hire Varys, so the paranoia and mistrust were already there. Did Varys make it worse? Perhaps, we don't know. But if you look at the Varys we meet in the series he still has the reputation of a bad guy and is blamed for all kind of things he has nothing to do with. I think chances are pretty good that Varys has about as much to do with Aerys' paranoia as Tyrion had with the misrule during Joffrey's reign. Yet people will blame him for that all the same, even people at court.

And in those cases where Varys actually pointed at traitors and conspirators who were then burned ... he may have been right. Because it was his job to uncover conspiracies and traitors and as the king descended further and further into madness, especially during the war itself, there may have been those at court and in the city and elsewhere who may have wanted to betray or murder Aerys II. The Antler Men we meet in ACoK may not have been the first...

It would be great to know what the hell Varys' advice was during the entire Brandon-Rickard thing - and when Aerys II demanded the heads of Ned and Robert. But we don't know. My gut feeling is that he wasn't advising the king to go through with either of that ... although he may have kept silent after he realized he could not win that battle.

Oh, and to clear: Aerys II was afraid his barbers might murder him. That's why he no longer cut his hair or nails - he didn't allow any people with blades near him (KG aside) and having never cut either hair or nails himself, he had no other choice but to turn into the freak we see on the pictures. This is, again, a sign of extreme fear.

One should also keep in mind that aside from direct assault the means to murder the king would have been extremely limited in the last years. He was so paranoid that it should have been very difficult to poison him, Maegor's Holdfast cannot be entered from a secret passageway so an attack while the king sleeps wouldn't work, either. If Varys ever considered turning against Aerys II he may have just not had the means to do it when he wanted to.

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Very good points here. But, naturally, this is all assuming that Varys actually does want to serve the realm.

While it would be refreshing and welcome if Varys' chief concern was for the betterment of the entire realm as it were, it is also far too clean and frankly deeply suspicious and disingenuous.

Varys came to Westeros as an adult. He was neither born nor raised in Westeros. According to him, he has no ties to any part of Westeros prior to his installation as the king's spymaster.

Why does he care so much? Especially when he murders Kevan Lannister who was in the business of trying to heal the realm? Apparently, he feels like breaking the realm and allowing Aegon to take the credit for putting it back together is the best way to serve the realm.

Nonsense!

If there is any master player-politican who truly cares for the welfare of the realm, it is Doran Martell and that's a bit of a stretch considering that Dorne is his #1 and #2 priority and based on how slow-moving he is.

The fact that GRRM has pointed out that Varys' true motives will be revealed in the last book tells us all we need to know.

I read a tinpot theory a while back how Varys is an non-human interloper in disguise (some say merman a la Patchface) who wants to poison/destroy the realm so that it can be easily overran by his ilk. There is also the theory that Varys is actually a woman, that this is all an elaborate revenge plot and/or that it's all just for fun.

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31 minutes ago, BlackLightning said:

 

I read a tinpot theory a while back how Varys is an non-human interloper in disguise (some say merman a la Patchface) who wants to poison/destroy the realm so that it can be easily overran by his ilk. 

Fitting that we're talking about ocean creatures because that would be the jump-the-shark moment for this series as far as I'm concerned. 

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There was no Blackfyre backstory back when AGoT was published. This might be the case even for the majority of ACoK. Then ask yourself, what were Varys and Illyrio up to at that point? What was their game before the retcon?

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Well he was just doing his job back then: discover conspiracies and inform Aerys II about it. He's not responsible of the king's action afterwards, Aerys was paranoid and overreacted everytime Varys talked to him. But after all the events who happened after the rebellion, he decided to change things and use fAegon as a puppet when he was born. I still think that both of them are Blackfyre.

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7 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

Very good points here. But, naturally, this is all assuming that Varys actually does want to serve the realm.

While it would be refreshing and welcome if Varys' chief concern was for the betterment of the entire realm as it were, it is also far too clean and frankly deeply suspicious and disingenuous.

Varys came to Westeros as an adult. He was neither born nor raised in Westeros. According to him, he has no ties to any part of Westeros prior to his installation as the king's spymaster.

I dealt with that kind of thing above. It is quite possible that Varys originally didn't saw himself as 'serving the Realm' but only his king or himself.

However, the Epilogue scene is written the way it is - with Varys giving Kevan a rather longwinded explanation of his motives - to give the reader a pretty good view of his motives behind the Aegon plan. Of what the point of all that is.

Most likely not the only point, mind you, but a rather significant point. We are not likely to ever get Varys' POV so what motivates him deep down is something we can only know when he lets down his guard and talks to a person in private not holding anything back.

Varys is as honest with Kevan as he was with Tyrion when he told him the story of his castration. His voice changed the same way, and he dropped all pretense and acting and spoke as the man he truly is, not as one of the many roles he plays.

What we are missing so far is why the hell Varys should care about Westeros at all, why he would be invested in that kingdom to the point that he hangs out there at a court where half or more of the powerful people would gladly see him dead? Those are the unanswered questions at this point.

7 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

Why does he care so much? Especially when he murders Kevan Lannister who was in the business of trying to heal the realm? Apparently, he feels like breaking the realm and allowing Aegon to take the credit for putting it back together is the best way to serve the realm.

Kevan Lannister wasn't healing the Realm, he was strengthening the rule of King Tommen, making it more difficult for a dragonless and Dany-less Aegon to take the Iron Throne. Kevan was in no way healing the Realm at large, nor pacifying the war-torn regions. But if he lived Aegon may have faced more obstacles and a united Lannister-Tyrell front, making Aegon's defeat in battle more likely.

6 hours ago, Mithras said:

There was no Blackfyre backstory back when AGoT was published. This might be the case even for the majority of ACoK. Then ask yourself, what were Varys and Illyrio up to at that point? What was their game before the retcon?

There is no retcon there, just an elaboration. Aegon is already in AGoT, although merely implicitly. Dany realizes that Illyrio Mopatis subtly mocks her dear brother, and it is quite clear he doesn't care about her as a pretender, either. And the talk Arya overhears only confirms Illyrio and Varys want a Dothraki invasion, it doesn't tell us anything who they want to install as king.

Prior to Dunk & Egg Varys/Illyrio connection to the Targaryen family tree - assuming Aegon is a Blackfyre descendant and not Rhaegar's son - would have been less elaborated with there not being five Blackfyre Rebellions and stuff, but still an exiled/passed over branch of the family which wanted to get back into power.

It is pretty much the same with the Bloodraven thing. George confirmed that the three-eyed crow always were some Targaryen bastard, Dunk & Egg allowed him to play around with Bloodraven, but he was always the three-eyed crow.

3 hours ago, Willam Stark said:

Well he was just doing his job back then: discover conspiracies and inform Aerys II about it. He's not responsible of the king's action afterwards, Aerys was paranoid and overreacted everytime Varys talked to him. But after all the events who happened after the rebellion, he decided to change things and use fAegon as a puppet when he was born. I still think that both of them are Blackfyre.

That is not unlikely at all. It would be what I had as 'character development' up in the posting.

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17 hours ago, Floki of the Ironborn said:

So why in seven hells would Varys ever support Aerys II Targaryen?

It was his job.  It was a time of plenty and whatever mischief the fool king has done does not justify a war that will destabilize the economy and kill thousands.  Varys is not to blame.  Jon Arryn is the one we need to blame.

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Posted (edited)

I think Varys is serving the realm in the way he thinks the realm should be served. Varys does his job, and we see him do his job, then he turns around and follows his own agenda.

For instance, he and Illyrio discuss Drogo taking his sweet time to make good on his word to invade the 7Ks, while things between the Starks and Lannisters are escalating too quickly. So he informs on Dany's pregnancy knowing that Robert will want her killed, and light a fire under Drogo's ass. Then he turned around and sent a letter to Jorah to inform him that there are assassins coming after Dany. So he gives her up, but tries to keep her safe at the same time.

Varys tells the small council about the rumors of three-headed dragon that hatched in Qarth, but he hides the information under a kraken pulling down an Ibbenese whaler, fighting in the Stepstones, Tyrosh and Lys going to war against one another. He throws the dragons in with information Tywin is not interested by (at least not in that instant).

He mocks Alliser Thorn with the rest of the small council when he tells the court what happened at Castle Black with the wights, but he takes into consideration the messages coming from the Wall. He is the one who suggests that the gold cloaks that deserted their posts during the Battle of the Blackwater be sent to the Wall instead of being put to death. 

He tried to protect Gendry by sending him out of Cersei's reach, which is a really good parallel to what he might have done with Aegon. (we have the whole sending the boy away, but keeping the girl behind as well)

I think Varys worked the same way in Aerys's court. He did his job up to a certain point, but it doesn't mean he wasn't looking to support Rhaegar. And I think he did. Him telling Aerys whatever he told him about the tourney at Harrenhal got Aerys out of the Red Keep for the first time since Duskendale for all the world to see. Lords, knights, smallfolk. Everyone got to see him, and witness what he had become.

If Rhaegar approached the lords with this idea of a great council with only rumors of Aerys's physical and mental state, he might have been looked on as a usurper. Them seeing Aerys with their own eyes might make them more open to a change. I think he gave up Lyanna's identity as the KotLT and then did the same thing he did with Dany, tried to protect her by getting Rhaegar involved. Once you have the daughter of the Warden of the North, a man with excellent connections, threatened by the king, maybe he and the other lords will be more open to whatever Rhaegar had to say about a great council. Maybe he gets their support. I just think he underestimated one of those pieces (Brandon) on the board.

Edited by Alexis-something-Rose

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12 hours ago, Floki of the Ironborn said:

Fitting that we're talking about ocean creatures because that would be the jump-the-shark moment for this series as far as I'm concerned. 

You sure?

Patchface has been prancing around, singing songs about the creatures that lie under the sea since A Clash of Kings.

The first Davos chapter in A Dance with Dragons and the Brienne chapter from A Feast for Crows where she explores Crackclaw Point both deal with people with webbed hands and feet. Cotter Pyke and many others issue warnings about dead things in the water.

In the North, the Ironborn invaders are commonly referred as squids. Euron talks about raising krakens from the deep and he's not one for just talk.

There also is the lingering mystery of what kind of monster in Valyria nearly killed Balerion.

4 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Kevan Lannister wasn't healing the Realm, he was strengthening the rule of King Tommen, making it more difficult for a dragonless and Dany-less Aegon to take the Iron Throne. Kevan was in no way healing the Realm at large, nor pacifying the war-torn regions. But if he lived Aegon may have faced more obstacles and a united Lannister-Tyrell front, making Aegon's defeat in battle more likely.

You're right. You can't heal a broken realm by supporting an unjust king. It's impossible.

Tommen should not be king and the Lannisters do not deserve to be in power and that Cersei deserves to be punished. The fact that Kevan knows all of this and continued to support it is mindblowing and disappointing.

2 hours ago, Alexis-something-Rose said:

I think Varys is serving the realm in the way he thinks the realm should be served. Varys does his job, and we see him do his job, then he turns around and follows his own agenda.

For instance, he and Illyrio discuss Drogo taking his sweet time to make good on his word to invade the 7Ks, while things between the Starks and Lannisters are escalating too quickly. So he informs on Dany's pregnancy knowing that Robert will want her killed, and light a fire under Drogo's ass. Then he turned around and sent a letter to Jorah to inform him that there are assassins coming after Dany. So he gives her up, but tries to keep her safe at the same time.

I'm sure Dany is going to be oh so very deeply appreciative of all the years Varys spent toying with the lives of herself and her brother. Whoops, did I say "toying with their lives?" I meant, protecting. Dany is going to be deeply appreciate of all the years Varys spent protecting her and her brother.

I can't see to what happens the two of them cross paths. Varys might very well have to come clean about everything.

2 hours ago, Alexis-something-Rose said:

Varys tells the small council about the rumors of three-headed dragon that hatched in Qarth, but he hides the information under a kraken pulling down an Ibbenese whaler, fighting in the Stepstones, Tyrosh and Lys going to war against one another. He throws the dragons in with information Tywin is not interested by (at least not in that instant).

That's a different issue.

It just goes to show how awful Tywin actually is because it is all very important news. Especially news of fighting in the Stepstones.

3 hours ago, Alexis-something-Rose said:

He mocks Alliser Thorn with the rest of the small council when he tells the court what happened at Castle Black with the wights, but he takes into consideration the messages coming from the Wall. He is the one who suggests that the gold cloaks that deserted their posts during the Battle of the Blackwater be sent to the Wall instead of being put to death. 

He tried to protect Gendry by sending him out of Cersei's reach, which is a really good parallel to what he might have done with Aegon. (we have the whole sending the boy away, but keeping the girl behind as well)

I think Varys worked the same way in Aerys's court. He did his job up to a certain point, but it doesn't mean he wasn't looking to support Rhaegar. And I think he did. Him telling Aerys whatever he told him about the tourney at Harrenhal got Aerys out of the Red Keep for the first time since Duskendale for all the world to see. Lords, knights, smallfolk. Everyone got to see him, and witness what he had become.

If Rhaegar approached the lords with this idea of a great council with only rumors of Aerys's physical and mental state, he might have been looked on as a usurper. Them seeing Aerys with their own eyes might make them more open to a change. I think he gave up Lyanna's identity as the KotLT and then did the same thing he did with Dany, tried to protect her by getting Rhaegar involved. Once you have the daughter of the Warden of the North, a man with excellent connections, threatened by the king, maybe he and the other lords will be more open to whatever Rhaegar had to say about a great council. Maybe he gets their support. I just think he underestimated one of those pieces (Brandon) on the board.

I don't know what your point is but this track record, this modus operandi of his is simply no good. Who is going to be able to respect this? He does and says one thing but then turns around and does something completely different.

And yet we are supposed to trust that his motives are for the good of the realm. Why? He does the exact opposite of what's good for the realm most of the time.

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