On Sunday night’s Game of Thrones, Varys got an unpleasant message: He is going to die, and Melisandre knows how. The only thing she told him before skipping off to Volantis was that he’d die in Westeros, as would she. Varys reacted to the news with his trademark expression of close-mouthed apprehension, but to his credit, everyone’s favorite eunuch appears to be staying put for now. (Maybe he thinks Dragonstone doesn’t count since it’s an island. Might as well hope for a loophole!) Still, you can’t serve up a scene like that without getting the speculation machines all fired up. So, how will Varys die?
First, some background to get everyone on the same page: In the books, Varys is not on Team Dany at all. Instead, A Dance With Dragons reveals that he’s secretly been working to crown his own claimant, a young man who’s supposedly Aegon Targaryen, son of the late Rhaegar. (Most readers assume this Aegon is an impostor, akin to something that happened in real-life medieval politics.) Varys and his allies trained the young man his entire life in the hopes that he’d become the enlightened monarch the Seven Kingdoms need, and at the end of A Dance With Dragons, Aegon lands in Westeros. The preview chapters for The Winds of Winter indicate that he eventually takes Storm’s End; from there, it’s not very far to King’s Landing and the Iron Throne.
Of course, George R.R. Martin did not wait until the fifth book of a seven-book series to introduce the guy who’ll end up on top in the end, so it seems that Aegon’s time on the throne will be brief. Throughout the books, Daenerys has had a series of visions and prophecies that warned her about a “mummer’s dragon” (Varys was a mummer) and told her she was “the slayer of lies.” All this has led many fans to assume that Daenerys will not be happy to arrive in Westeros and find out her ostensible nephew got there first. If Dany decides to rain down fire on Aegon in King’s Landing, kaboom, off goes the wildfire that the Mad King hid under the Red Keep.
So, that’s probably how Varys will die in the books.
But Aegon has been left out of the show, so the Spider’s death could very well be changed, too. Let’s run down the possibilities for how it’ll go down. Which one of them is most likely? To quote a meme: It Varys.
Just because the circumstances are markedly different doesn’t mean Varys has to shuffle off this mortal coil in an unexpected manner. In “Stormborn,” Varys told Daenerys she could burn him with her dragons if he ever proved unfaithful to her cause. In the moment, it was a stirring declaration of loyalty, but knowing what’s happened in the books gives it a darker edge. Varys is a card-carrying member of Team Dany right now, but it’s not hard to imagine him jumping ship if she edges a little closer to her dark side. If so, his mention of dragon fire may prove prophetic.
Their conversation in “The Queen’s Justice” seemed to indicate that Melisandre had seen both of their deaths in her flames. Although they’re both on the same side for now, remember that Varys hates magic and prophecy with a fiery passion, and magic and prophecy are, you know, Melisandre’s whole deal. If they butt heads, my money’s on the woman who can see the future.
The White Walkers
What could be more fitting than having the political mastermind and most anti-sorcery man in Westeros go out fighting a magical threat that makes a mockery of all his scheming? Well, I suppose Littlefinger going out the exact same way would be more fitting. But if the show wants his comeuppance to come at Stark hands, Varys making a last stand against the White Walkers could be a fine substitute.
As we’ve seen at various points through season seven, Euron’s magical, teleporting fleet has the ability to pop up unannounced in any body of water in Westeros, at any time. (Doing the dishes? Drain the sink quickly, or else Euron might show up! Need a bath? Take a shower instead, less room for Euron’s fleet!) The demonic Greyjoy has already taken out half of Team Dany in a fashion only slightly more improbable than that of the Jaws sequels, so who’s to say Varys won’t be next? After all, everybody knows that pirates hate mermen.
He is looking very tan.