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I first saw the TV series, then read the book, and now I am rewatching the series. In one Arya chapter, she chases cats through the Red Keep and

sees two men, talking about killing the Hand of the King (Eddard).

Was their identity revealed in the first book? When I was watching again, I saw

that they were Varys and Magister Ilyrio, I was surprised to see Ilyrio (I did not recognize him the first watching).

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They were not mentioned by name, but they were described in such a way that it wouldn't be terribly difficult to figure out who they were.

"There was a fat one with rings and a forked yellow beard, and another in mail and a steel cap... The one in the steel cap, he had the torch, he said that they had to hurry. I think he was a wizard."

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    hmm, that it was Ilyrio could be figured out with careful reading (forked yellow beard). But from those lines, why should the other one be Varys? – Till B Oct 23 '11 at 15:57
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    The other has the same "voice" as Varys. He is always talking in vague terms, refers to shadows, keeps things cryptic. He refers to manipulating things and people and maintaining elaborate plots. To me that screams of Varys, scheming his schemes and plotting his plots. You may have to read the whole Arya chapter to work it out. I don't think G.R.R.M would be thrilled if I posted the whole chapter here. I thought you were more concerned with Ilyrio. – erdiede Oct 23 '11 at 17:31
  • Also the history between Varys and Illyrio, which is developed much later, lends credence to the idea that if Illyrio is meeting with anyone in Westros, it would be Varys – Holdsworth88 Aug 15 '12 at 20:36
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    Also, the Mail/Steel Cap disguise is used by Varys later in the story (when taking Tyrion to Chataya's, IIRC). – Theoriok Oct 23 '13 at 12:19
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This scene also gives a hint that:

Varys was behind Jon Arryn's murder.

However, there's another likely culprit behind BOTH that isn't revealed until near the end of book 3 (likely Season 4 of the series). It's not too much of a surprise in retrospect (beware spoiler below):

Lysa Tully-Arryn, manipulated by Littlefinger. She poisoned her husband and was the one who sent the "Lannisters are behind it all" letter to Cat in episode one, which started their suspicions. We also see evidence later on that she's losing her mind (including using her son as an emotional crutch as well as breastfeeding him well beyond his toddler years). Thus, Littlefinger was likely the string-puller behind the assassination of BOTH Hands and the whole war. Varys probably knows all of this and let it happen because he supports Dany Targaryen conquering a weakened crown. Hence the meeting with Illyrio, who also supports Dany the very first ep.

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    I really need to learn to stop mousing over spoilers... – Mkalafut Apr 14 '14 at 18:56
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I almost agree with psvt, but reading the first book, I had the feeling that Varys let the first Hand die (and hated to do so, but let the second one be imprisoned, concocted the whole "go-to-The-Wall" scheme and ended up facepalmed by Joffrey's egotrip execution) so as to not weaken the throne, but to prevent Cersei's children being revealed as bastards, since the next person rightfully in sucession (Stannis) would put the kingdoms at war and destroy his carefully plans.

Varys states clearly to Ned that he would save him, if it wasn't for the fact that Ned Stark honor demands that Joffrey is pointed as a bastard, bringing Stannis to court, and that Stannis would immediately wage war against half of Westeros, including but surpassing Lannisters, the last Targaryens across the sea, the dozens of lords and lord heirs now peaceful and forgiven that sided Aerys decades ago and that Stannis, kind of bitchy, always tried to convince Robert to burn Cersei alive or something as sweet...

Long talk short, Varys says that he had his share of "righteous war" when he had to witness the Targaryen childrens killed, specially the little girl's raping and awfull death, and that he would prefer to see a stupid bastard as king instead of a rightful but, ultimately, war-driven king. The "just king" would also probably lead to his execution (himself a very probable victim for Stannis' hatred, as a spy and a former Targaryen councilman).

It's quite the moment for me, since Varys, 'til that moment a bidimensional, scheming for sport guy, finally acknowledges that Stark is such a righteous, honest, trustworthy man, who will never live enough to use these facts to manipulate the Spider, that he can take a break on pretending and tell him something from the heart about his mental state, process and traumas (he does it less freely to Tyrion, and with some disguising smiles).

In his words, he wants Westeros at peace, and Joffrey is an adequate lazy king to warm the throne while other plans are unfolding across the sea. I'm not sure if he can imagine Daenerys' outcome or if he was hoping for Viserys, but he clearly is rooting for Targaryens, since Ned gets infuriated and says he can't trust someone who is always changing loyalties, only to be met with Varys' smile and a kind of cryptic "I'm still loyal to the same house" answer.

Sorry for my lame English, I'm still learning. Hope it didn't sound cocky or stupid because of my language.

  • The Targaryen daughter, Rhaenys, was not raped. Her mother was. Rhaenys was pulled out from her hiding place under a bed and stabbed half a hundred times by Sir Amory Lorch. – ladylad Aug 15 '12 at 16:28
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Both can be figured out by reading. Ilyrio just based on the description. Varys on the fact that, as stated above, he used the same disguise when he visited ned in the dungeon.

Some clues in language are given, he uses the same words to describe his "stubble of a beard" and to describe the leather half cape and steel cap. Also, the fact that he needs 50 more "little birds" which varys uses to describe his spies.

Also the reference to him as a wizard or sorcerer in both the encounter with ned and with arya.

With all the subtle foreshadowing in the book, this is one of the more obvious connections and seems like a handout to the reader.

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