Warning: This post contains spoilers from both the Game of Thrones TV show and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.
While most Game of Thrones viewers were focused on the depressing backstory of the beloved Hodor Sunday night, the episode also offered a glimpse into the past of another important side character: Varys.
In an attempt to spread word that Daenerys is responsible for the (tentative) peace in Meereen, Tyrion and Varys decide to meet with the High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis, a new Red Woman named Kinvara who informs them that she believes Dany is the One Who Was Promised — a prophesied savior who is the reincarnation of legendary hero Azor Ahai. However, Varys questions her religious motivations, referencing Melisandre’s misguided belief that Stannis was the Chosen One.
This leads to one of the most interesting scenes in the episode, as Kinvara quickly dresses Varys down by recounting the story of the night he became a eunuch, including details she would have no way of knowing. “Terrible things happen for a reason,” she tells him. “Take what happened to you, Lord Varys, when you were a child. If not for your mutilation at the hand of a second-rate sorcerer, you wouldn’t be here helping the Lord’s chosen bring his light into the world. Knowledge has made you powerful but there’s still so much you don’t know. Do you remember what you heard that night when the sorcerer tossed your parts in the fire? You heard a voice call out from the flames, do you remember? Should I tell you what the voice said? Should I tell you the name of the one who spoke?”
Varys is left visibly frazzled after her speech, a state viewers have so rarely seen him in. Of course, we’ve heard the Spider himself mention this voice before. Back in the fourth episode of season three, he tells Tyrion the tale of the night he was cut, explaining, “I still dream of that night. Not of the sorcerer, not of his blade — I dream of the voice from the flames. Was it a god, a demon, a conjurer’s trick? I don’t know. But the sorcerer called and a voice answered and ever since that day I have hated magic and all those who practice it.”
The slave boy from Myr turned Master of Whisperers turned staunch Targaryen supporter has always been one of the most enigmatic characters of the show, leading fans to theorize that there’s more to him than meets the eye. Some speculate his revelation about the voice indicates the sorcerer was attempting to perform an act of blood magic akin to what Melisandre did with Gendry, implying that he is a descendant of a royal bloodline and possibly even a Targaryen himself.
Others believe Varys’s motives are as simple as what he told Ned Stark in season one: he only truly serves the realm.
“Blood of My Blood,” the sixth episode of Game of Thrones‘ sixth season airs Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO.