Preferred Aerys Viserys to Rhaegar
Why do Varys and Illyrio support these two people?
This is a valid question and there is no answer available. I think the answer lies on a meta level: Author George RR Martin (henceforth GRRM) initially expected that A Song of Ice and Fire would be a trilogy, which means the original main plot pieces and characters were set at an early stage. In this case, it's not so strange that they pull an ace up their sleeve late in the game: Aegon.
It is important to note that Varys & Illyrio did not start the events that led to the destruction of the Baratheon royalty - that was Littlefinger. He murdered Jon Arryn, turned the Starks against the Lannisters, and caused Cersei to kill Robert. Varys and Illyrio refrained from too many assassinations by the end of the ADWD. In a way, they only benefited from the mess Littlefinger created.
In my opinion, it doesn't make sense to secretly support Viserys and Daenerys while maintaining Aegon as a real candidate. One could argue that Viserys is good bait, but then one might as well argue that keeping him alive keeps the threat against House Targaryen alive. Viserys and Daenerys have lived in fear and poverty all their lives. It's actually pretty hard to expect that they should be grateful to Varys & Illyrio should they ever come to the throne. While they have some positive feelings towards Illyrio for helping them with the Drogo Alliance, they always thought of Varys as an enemy. And as Ser Jorah Daenerys once pointed out, Illyrio sold Daenerys to Drogo.
What would happen if Viserys made it from Dothraki to Westeros at the head of an army? For one thing, as Ser Jorah emphasizes (again), nothing unites a kingdom like an invading foreign army: it would unite the followers of the House of Baratheon. Dorne could continue to support Viserys as Prince Doran hates Tywin Lannister, which would spell civil war.
We know this in ADWD:
Jon Connington and The Golden Company
expected Viserys "at the head of an army of Dothraki shouts". Although it sounds like they expect him to of their Side is.
Logic seems to me to be stuck at a dead end: If Varys & Illyrio were to say, "Oh hay, King Viserys, meet King Aegon, your nephew and heirs- the rightful heir. We have kept him safe and look after him to take the throne you always thought was yours. Sorry about that I ... you Incidentally, not protected in all these years have . "- which they almost have to - then Viserys would surely be angry. In any plan in which both Aegon and Viserys are alive and are responsible for an army, he fails at this simple point: Varys & Illyrio have Viserys and Daenerys almost you Neglected and endangered all of their lives while pampering Aegon. There is no way to mitigate or explain this fact. So essentially what we have is: If you want Aegon involved, you have to expect Viserys to be your enemy And we know from ADWD that Illyrio didn't really expect Daenerys to survive.
But as we know above, they expected Viserys and the Army of Dothraki on their side ...? To me, this seems like a crack in the GRRM logic. It started with the rightful heirs on the run and ended with them clashing with the hidden applicant. As I said earlier, this is probably because the main story was meant for the much shorter length of a trilogy. When pulled out and expanded, it looks a lot more buggy.
One way that could hold it all together would be if we went back to what Jorah said about an invading army uniting the kingdom and, in passing, peek at Stannis in ASOS as he tells Samwell Tarly why he is came to the wall
“Without my hand, I might not have come at all. Lord Seaworth is a man of humble birth, but he reminded me of my duty when I could only think of my rights. I had the cart in front of the horse, said Davos. I tried to win the throne to save the kingdom than I should have tried to save the kingdom to win the throne. "
If you look at the hard facts, Viserys and Aegon would have been competitors, and if Varys secretly supports Viserys while neglecting and actively rejecting Viserys as Robert's master of whispers, they would be enemies. So Varys sets up Viserys to invade with a Dothraki army, a young, arrogant, and not very popular Targaryen. The kingdom unites against him and war (and possible civil war) breaks out. Who would emerge at this time but King Aegon, who was not dead after all? He rides with much valued allies (spoiler ADWD):
The Golden Society Returning in Glory, Jon Connington - Rhaegar's hand and friend - and Septa Lemore aka Ashara Dayne and other random allies like Tyrion.
..to save the kingdom and defeat Viserys. As such, the plan would be masterful. Keeping Viserys alive would keep Aegon alive: if one Targaryen escaped, why not another? If instead they had been dead and gone all these years, it would be all the more difficult to claim that Aegon was the real deal. And what better way to return to Westeros in style than rid the kingdom of the vengeful Viserys and its Dothrakis?
Anyway, that's one thought one could have on the subject. Getting around the fact that Varys & Illyrio supported both claimants to the throne is a difficult obstacle. However, one thing that is clear is that Aegon is who they prefer, who they want to rule. It is tempting to suspect a Blackfyre conspiracy here. For example:
- The Blackfyres have made very many attempts to take the throne, but it was believed that they were finally stopped when Ser BarristanMaelys killed the Monstrous, ending the line of Blackfyre pretenders.
- The Golden Company's express goal is to reinstate an heir to the throne of Blackfyre.
- Varys, like Egg, shaves his head from the Dunk & Egg novels. Might be hiding Targaryen's dyed hair.
- Varys is from Lys, the same place Shiera Seastar came from, a well-known lover of the brothers and foes Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers and Aegor "Bittersteel" Rivers - the founder of The Golden Company.
We know the mad king sent Aerys II to Varys because he was concerned about hidden enemies. Aerys was eventually consumed with paranoia, with many reports from Varys "always pointing out new enemies," and Aerys's reign came to an end. At this point, Varys could pick any boy with the right looks and claim he was Aegon. If he's actually related to Shiera Seastar and an ally or relative of Bittersteel, he might pick a Blackfyre baby.
There are many specific references to the Blackfyre theory. So far, however, it is premature to assume that this has any value. However, it's always fun to speculate.
One would have to wonder what revelations are Bran in the coming The Winds of Winter will have considering who his mentor is. Spoiler ADWD puzzles:
Bran's mentor is Bloodraven, Maester Aemon's uncle and Bittersteel's brother
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