Updated: Nov 21, 2018
Lord Varys and Magister Illyrio plan a new rebellion, entirely unaware the the least important issue in the kingdom is the Game of Thrones.
There are aspects in A Song of Ice and Fire that follow a clear intention and objective. Although GRRM has expressed several times that he likes to write about “the human heart in conflict”, there are two other elements about his writing that cannot be dismissed: “History repeating itself” and the idea that “deep down, people don’t change”. Obviously, they evolve and learn and mature, but the deepest and most ardent desire of their hearts remains unchanged. We can see that in all characters, from Lady Cersei Lannister to queen Daenerys. From Shae to Lord Tyrion. From Lord Stannis to Lord Petyr.
One easy character to associate with all those elements is Lord Varys. Despite his "mysterious" behaviour, the reader can clearly see that he has an agenda and is willing to do anything to attain his objectives.
Throughout the story of Ser Duncan the Tall, many notable events took place in Westeros and the realm paid a high price for the actions of King Aegon IV Targaryen, known as the ‘Unworthy’. Westeros had to deal with the consequences of his inconsequential behaviour and fight time and again to end consecutive rebellions that reshaped the country. What made King Aegon “unworthy”, was his total and complete disregard for the law of the land and his obstinacy to be the law unto himself. He had several natural children who far outnumbered his legitimate ones. He married his frail sister Naerys, but she loved her other brother, Aemon, the Dragonknight, who joined the Kingsguard shortly after her wedding. Her, being a queen married to a lecher while a brother who loved her joined the Kingsguard is one of the examples of history repeating itself throughout the story, currently with the Lannisters.
King Aegon had two children with his wife: Prince Daeron II Targaryen, known as Daeron the Good, and Princess Daenerys, who would one day be wed to the Prince of Dorne to cement the union of that country with the Seven Kingdoms. His bastards came from women of high birth, among them Lord Brynden Rivers, called Bloodraven, who raised to become Hand of the King and then Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch; Daemon Blackfyre, a peerless warrior who launched the first Blackfyre Rebellion that nearly toppled his half-brother, King Daeron, from the throne; Lady Shiera Seastar, (read about her here) and who was considered to be the most beautiful woman who ever lived; and Aegor Rivers, called Bittersteel, who founded the Golden Company and a unique character whose sole objective was to destroy the Targaryen dynasty in favour of a reign of illegitimate children.
Generally speaking, rebellions hurt the Kingdom. They cost a lot of money for the crown and many lives are lost through a process that is invariably developed to protect a traitor’s ego. Obviously, any person can understand the appeal of the crown, but to the bastards of King Aegon the Unworthy, that appeal was truly strong, especially as Daemon was born first and as the King legitimized all his natural children before his death. The Kingdom, however, would never have accepted bastards to take place before heirs. The threat to countless Lords and Ladies would be much too great and the financial consequence to the crown would have been inestimable.
The Blackfyre descendants troubled the realm for over five generations, until they were considered to have been defeated for good by Ser Barristan Selmy, bringing peace and prosperity to the country.
House Blackfyre has been proven to be extremely resilient, but the sheer fact that they are called “House Blackfyre” could also be used to exemplify that they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, rightful heirs to the Targaryen throne, and as such, the issue of “succession” is entirely irrelevant.
It seems, however, that George R.R. Martin did not write such intricate story with rich history and details for a shaggy-dog ending. The most logical explanation is that the constant theme of history repeating itself is at play through the crafty hands of “Lord” Varys.
The obstinate need of Lord Varys to make this so called “Aegon” the rightful heir to the throne speaks volumes. Evidently, his worth is not the point or purpose of the actions. He could be unworthy as Joffrey or as fantastic as the Daemon Blackfyre himself. Both illegitimate children, but entirely different ones in their qualities, bravery and value. Worthiness has never been a reason to be the heir to the throne, otherwise the country wouldn’t have had to suffer the likes of King Aegon the Unworthy or “Mad King” Aerys. The line of succession has always been the primary objective which ignited the passion of so many supporters of the Blackfyre Rebellions. Should the Blackfyre care so much for worthiness, they wouldn’t be allowed to claim any position at all, considering that their only reach comes from an unworthy monarch.
It’s the continuous fight for that objective that makes Lord Varys rather transparent to the readers. If I may be excused for repeating myself, the ideas are “human heart in conflict”, “history repeats itself” and “deep down, people don’t change what animates their passions”. If the Spider is representing the interest of the rebels, then he clearly fits all three points.
There are very curious details to the Spider’s plans. Lord Varys and Magister Illyrio truly came a long way into finding the correct strategy to overtake the throne. Primarily, developing the most evident paranoia into the head of the King, likely hoping that he would kill his own son and leave the country up for the taking, then choosing Westerosi to raise a kid in Essos, claiming he was someone that simply nobody could validate or refute while time and again losing and adjusting the plans to maintain an objective that brings credence to all three points so clearly developed by the author. The ‘heart in conflict’ is that of the Blackfyre Rebels wishing to have what they see as justice brought forth while they are dismissed as a mistake; ‘history repeating itself’ shown in five rebellions for an objective that they believe can be fulfilled once and for all, and this time under the disguise of legitimacy; and the ‘deep down people don’t change’ shown by the inability to let go of plans and desires, no matter how much time passes, how much they learn, how reality unfolds and how unlikely things become the more they move closer to (what they expect to be) fruition.
Undoubtedly, Lord Varys and magister Illyrio have some sort of Blackfyre connection. What the connection actually is, is a matter of speculation and not what I am here to do, but logically, certain aspects must be discussed.
The reader is told time and again that “there is power in King’s blood”. The only justifiable explanation is Lord Varys had some royal ancestor. He claims to have been born a slave in the free-city of Lys, and to have traveled with a troupe of mummers up and down the narrow sea until a “mysterious man” approached his master and offered a vast sum of money for him. Evidently, in Essos, as we all know the tragic and cruel story of the Unsullied, a young boy isn’t worth a vast sum of money. The mysterious man could have simply bought any boy at all if he simply wanted his parts. This man, however, not only paid a large sum for a slave, but offered the parts he cut to the fire in a clear demonstration of blood sacrifice. There is indeed power in King’s blood.
From that traumatic experience, which unfortunately is repeated throughout that continent on a daily basis in the forming of the outstanding soldiers they train and sell, Varys did not get to go on with life as all the other gelded victims, but instead, he somehow united with magister Illyrio who was then, a sellsword. There is nothing in that relationship that is natural, but their loyalty to one another is unquestionable. Illyrio’s second wife, a woman called “Serra” who is clearly described as a Targaryen look-alike, was fantastic enough to justify his fall from grace in the Pentoshi court. Two men who claim to have come from the pits of the world manage to grow into positions of power, influence and affluence all the while they maintained a single common thread – a connection to something that seems Targaryen, but is not defined as such, simply described for the readers to unravel.
Once the Spider, with the help of his friend, ends up in court working for a fragile minded monarch, he gets to reach something else that is a Targaryen characteristic, the capacity to understand the secrets of the Red Keep, a castle built with the use of dark magic and blood sacrifice.
Throughout the story, the plans for this last Blackfyre rebellion are shown to be in place for over 15 years and for every step forward, they have to give two in retrieve. The idea to stabilize the crown, get rid of the future King and leave the Kingdom in the hands of someone weak like Viserys seemed smart, as the children of Prince Rhaegar could be easily killed - but that plan failed. They adjusted it by making Daenerys marry Khal Drogo to give Viserys a Dothraki army, feeding him the idea that he was going to rule while they had kept the so called “Aegon” for years on end under their wing, hoping Viserys would simply yield to someone claiming to be his brother’s son, which is a gross underestimation of who Viserys truly was. With his death, the plan moved on with small changes as Daenerys would still have Khal Drogo’s army fighting for their son’s right to the throne, but Khal Drogo also died, which forced them to reformulate the plan, this time around counting on the dragons she brought to life to add to their might. Later, the reader is introduced to their objective, but the master planners didn’t count on other hearts in conflict, such as Jon Connington’s, and his desperation to get home after contracting greyscale. Losing Aegon’s power of the claim by marrying Daenerys, who, at this point, remarried, is another great loss, so as we clearly see, the plans changed time and again and again and again, always playing catch to the new reality that they were unable to foresee with every move on their cyvasse board.
Despite their certainty that this time around the plan will work, that reality shall unfold differently, for as history repeats itself in the intent of the characters, so does it repeat in the manner of the failure or success of their endeavors, which will not only leave the readers’ hearts conflicted, but will also point to the fact that, deep down, all we want is to keep on reading about this fascinating universe.