Varys: Men called me "the Spider" long before I came to Westeros. As a young thief in Pentos, I seemed to have eight hands, each dipped into a stranger's pocket. But the other thieves didn't appreciate my skill, and they had size and strength that I couldn't match. When they discovered why, I was beaten and told that a eunuch boy doesn't belong in the streets, but in the brothels as any slaver would know. I managed to escape them, and took to sleeping in the sewers by day and prowling the rooftops by night, barely one step ahead of starvation, much less slavery. Then I met Illyrio Mopatis. He was a Bravo who lived by his sword, but his mind was sharper than his blade. I proposed an arrangement. I would spy on lesser thieves and steal their takings. Illyrio would offer help to the thieves' victims, promising to recover their valuables for a fee. Soon, every honest man knew to come to Illyrio, whilst the city's cutpurses sought me, half to sell me what they had stolen, and the other half to slit my throat. Sadly for them, Illyrio needed my throat more than he needed theirs.
Most thieves, like most men, are fools, who think no further than turning a night's plunder into wine. Luckily, as the other thieves had reminded me, I was not a man. Nor were those I hired with the gold we earned. I chose the smallest orphan boys and girls, the ones who were as quick and quiet as me, and taught them to climb walls and slip down chimneys. My little birds left the shiny trinkets for common thieves and instead stole letters, ledgers and charts. Secrets are worth far more than silver or sapphires. Later, I taught my little birds to read the letters themselves and leave them where they lay so no one would know of our intrusion. Illyrio and I grew so rich that Illyrio wed a princess of Pentos, whilst whispers of my talents reached the ears of a very anxious king across the Narrow Sea who did not trust his son, nor his wife, nor his Hand.
Nor should he have, as I told him once I arrived and raised more little birds. They thought it the most amazing game to discover all the secret tunnels underneath the Red Keep, and listen to all the whispered secrets from within the castle walls. I often wonder what became of my little birds once I left King's Landing. Most likely they returned to Flea Bottom, or worse, grew up. One day, I'll hear their song again. Until then, well, the world never lacks for orphans. Little birds sing in the west, and little birds sing in the east. And a Harpy flies into a spider's web.
- The history that Varys has given for himself in the novels has a few steps, which might be confusing, though the TV series has actually never contradicted itself on this. First, Varys was born a slave in Lys, and became part of a traveling troupe of actors. Second, when the troupe was in Myr the leader sold him to the sorcerer who castrated him, after which he worked his way up from the slums of Myr begging and stealing to survive. Third, at some point or another, he made his way from Myr to Pentos (which is relatively nearby, up the coast to the north). In Pentos, young Varys perfected his skills as a thief of gold and jewels and, in time, thief of valuable information; there he partnered with the young sellsword Illyrio Mopatis. Eventually the Mad King heard of his skills as an information broke and invited him to King's Landing to serve at his court.
- Varys has recounted parts of his life story in the TV show, just not in chronological order:
- In Season 3, he explained to Tyrion that he was born a slave and was castrated in Myr. He also says that he was part of an acting troupe which moved between different Free Cities, and Myr is just where they happened to be at the time.
- In Season 4, Oberyn Martell notes that Varys has hints of a Lysene accent, and Varys acknowledges that he was born in Lys.
- In Season 5, in Pentos, Varys explains to Tyrion that in his youth he became an associate of Illyrio Mopatis (which occurred after he was castrated in Myr).
- Illyrio Mopatis
- Illyrio Mopatis' first wife (mentioned)
- King Aerys II Targaryen
- Prince Rhaegar Targaryen (indirectly mentioned)
- Queen Rhaella Targaryen (indirectly mentioned)
- Lord Tywin Lannister (indirectly mentioned)