Warning: This post contains spoilers for season seven of Game of Thrones.
The third episode of Game of Thrones‘ seventh season saw Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen finally come face to face, Bran Stark return to Winterfell and Olenna Tyrell serve up some iconic last words. But before any of these moments went down, the show slipped in a scene between Melisandre and Varys that also seemed to have some major significance.
As Melisandre watched Jon arrive on Dragonstone from afar, Varys walked out to speak with her on the island’s cliffs. She proceeded to reveal her plan to head to Volantis — a Free City of Essos that is the location of a prominent Red Temple — before making an ominous declaration concerning both their fates. “I will return, dear Spider, one last time,” she said in reference to Westeros. “I have to die in this strange country, just like you.”
This isn’t the first time an encounter with a red priestess has taken Varys aback. Following his season six conversation with Kinvara — the High Priestess of the Red Temple at Volantis — in which she recounted the story of the night he became a eunuch, the Spider was left visibly shaken.
“Terrible things happen for a reason,” Kinvara told 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 himself mentioned this mysterious voice when he told Tyrion about his castration in season three. “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.”
Although we don’t yet know what the voice said, it seems as if Varys is well aware of how Melisandre believes he will die. He also seems determined to avoid that particular end at all costs, even if it means betraying those he has sworn allegiance to — namely, Daenerys.
After all, in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series on which the show is based, Quaithe — the prophetic shadowbinder from Asshai who appeared in season two — warns Daenerys to beware of the “perfumed seneschal.” As book readers know, no one is described as wearing more perfume than the Spider.
“I think he’s not gonna make it. But that’s my personal thought,” Carice Van Houten — who plays Melisandre — told Elle of Varys. “Some things, terrible things, have to happen in these last seasons! It’ll probably be one of those where he’ll try run from it, but he’ll get it in the end.”
As for Melisandre’s death, it seems likely that Arya Stark will be crossing another name off her kill list.
The fourth episode of Game of Thrones‘ seventh season airs Aug. 6 at 9 p.m. on HBO.